Mark Gardener talks about collaborating with Robin Guthrie on Universal Road

3 July 2015

Mark Gardener from Ride talks about the new LP he and Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie recently made, 'Universal Road.'

Interview by Alice Severin

Ride and the Cocteau Twins – two iconic bands, each with an unmistakable, unique sound. You could call them legendary, with a fan base no less devoted than they ever were. Ride has reformed and is touring again, playing festivals and small venues, to ecstatic fans. The Guardian gave their live show five stars and said that the band “plays…with the care and passion of musicians who made – and still make – an emotional connection.” Meanwhile, Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins has been touring as a trio and demonstrating his mastery of the ethereal, powerful sound that made the Cocteau Twins so special. Now take Mark Gardener from Ride and Robin Guthrie, and put them together in a room in France, to work on songs together. The end result was Universal Road, the album that they recently released together. Lyrically emotional, sonically euphoric, the combination of their energies reveals a shared musical passion that’s melodic and complex. Shoegaze may be experiencing a resurgence of interest, but this album both encompasses and transcends that energy. Whether you were devoted to these bands back in the day, or never heard of them, the album is an unmissable listen, with a timeless quality that looks towards the future. Northern Transmissions wanted to hear the story behind the album. Alice Severin spoke with Mark Gardener about working with Robin Guthrie, life after Ride, and the unexplained.

Northern Transmissions: How are you and where are you?

Mark Gardener: I am in Oxford at the moment, I’m back in the studio, just doing little bits of mix work between all the Ride shows, and stuff like that. Obviously doing interviews, and just being close to home, things like that. My other life. My other world. (laughs)

NT: You have a studio there?

MG: I have just a small mix room in Oxford, it’s my kind of thing, it’s not like a commercial big studio. It’s just where I do mixing and production and overdub stuff. I don’t have bands here, or anything, it’s not like that. If I do that, I use a different studio in Oxford or somewhere else. This is just my own little thing really.

NT: How did you start working on the album with Robin Guthrie? What gave you both the idea of doing something like this?

MG: Well, we’ve known each other for years, really. We used to see each other on occasion back in the day, when he was in the Cocteau Twins and I was in Ride. Robin worked with some bands that we toured with, Lush, and people like that. So… At that time I was a big fan of the Cocteau Twins, in fact Ride were big fans of many of the 4AD bands. I think if we’d not been on Creation, we’d have liked to have been on 4AD. So there was always that kind of mutual respect in place from an early time. I have to say that one of the very early CDs I bought was Treasure by the Cocteau Twins, I think it was like my third CD that I bought. So yeah, basically that was then. Robin came to Oxford to do a tour, he was doing a tour of picture houses, I think it was a Lumière tour that he was doing, for one of his records where he was playing music to visuals. Basically, I went to that, and I was asked if maybe I wanted to DJ there, although that didn’t really happen. But we did end up just going and having some food together, and properly having a chat. Maybe that was 8 years ago. It’s quite a long, long time ago. It was then that we sort of said, because we were both doing quite a lot of mixing and production, I’d obviously been doing quite a lot of collaboration work with various artists and people. More of that will come out soon as well. But basically it was there and then that we said, I’d like to come out to France, maybe we should try and do something together.

So maybe a year after that, I went over to France and that’s when we did the single which was called “The Places We Go” which you can find online. It was just an online single, a sort of test the water thing between us. Then we got a lot of positive response from that and we both thought it was really good, and it worked quite well, my voice with Robin’s orchestration and stuff. Then about three years ago, or a couple of winters ago anyway, Robin said, look, I’m going to go on tour with my band, he tours a three piece, just doing his instrumental stuff. And he said, come over, let’s try and do another song or two. And then basically we can do that live on stage as part of the tour. So I went back over, and that’s when we did “Dice” together, which we did play live at the end of all of those concerts. We did a UK tour during February, which was quite a tough tour but it was great to play with him and the band. And then we said look, we’ve got to try and get together and do an album, because it’s worked really well.

A few months after that, I went over to France. And we got another four or five songs together very quickly, within 10 days I guess. And I just said, look, why don’t I just stay, and let’s carry on, you know? And sure enough, in another couple of weeks, just me staying in France, we did the album. So the album actually happened pretty quickly. But it was just finding…we’re both really busy doing production stuff, which is obviously how I’ve been, how we’ve both been paying the bills, post being in the Cocteau Twins and Ride. It was just tough trying to find time and space within our schedules, because obviously we’re not being paid to do this, it’s just something we did for the love. So we just had to find that sort of good bit of down time to kind of do it, really. And basically, that’s how it all happened, really.

NT: Did you have a specific idea of the sound you were looking for, or was it more experimental, the process of writing songs?

MG: No, you know, Robin kind of has the sound, you know. I love that sound. Obviously, Robin was the Cocteau Twins minus Elizabeth Fraser, so I understand the sounds that Robin makes, and obviously his instrumental work also, I love that, it’s beautiful. So he has a way of doing things, and he has a sound which I think is beautiful, and I always have done. So I kind of knew that’s what you get with Robin Guthrie and I love that. Neither of us are kind of into plans, or saying look, this has to be a certain way. I think there’s a good, nice kind of mutual respect between us. I really respect what he does, and he obviously respects me as vocalist and song writer, and you know, a guitar player. So with that in mind, that’s how we just sat about, writing the songs. Either Robin or I would come in with some chord progressions, or a half idea of something that maybe you’ve had knocking around, not knowing what to do with it. We’d sit and get an initial sort of song structure together very quickly, and as soon as we had that, then I’d sit back and Robin would do the drums, bass, and electric guitars, and I was ready to do the acoustic guitars. And as Robin was getting the music together, I’d sat listening to it with my laptop, and notepad, and I’d basically be working out some kind of word ideas, really. And I have to say, sitting in that environment, with Robin, as the music was coming together, was very conducive for lyrics, and for me to come up with lyrics and ideas I thought could fit in harmony with the music. So basically, normally by the end of the day, we’d have a bottle of red wine in the evening, or something, then I was usually ready to throw some sort of vocal line idea at it. Then we kind of bounced those ideas around, and usually the next day, or the second day, I’d be trying to get some kind of final vocals happening. It kind of just rolled right out, really well.

NT: There’s a quiet intensity to all these songs. Like “Amnesia” and “Universal Road” seem to have a personal kind of feel.

MG: Yeah. I think we both love the beauty of the sound, of music, how it can take you away, you know? I think there is a kind of intensity there with both of us, because I think we both feel that…it’s kind of strange when you’ve been in a band like Ride or the Cocteau Twins, and then when you’re not in those bands, it’s just weird, how it’s tough. You know, people are always ready to accept Ride, they’re always ready to accept Cocteau Twins, but generally people find it quite difficult to accept the people who played a big part in those bands can do other things. (laughs) You know? And the subject matter is pretty soulful for me. Like “Universal Road” the first song, is about me sitting on the night, with my dad when he passed away. That’s kind of what that song is about. And then, some of the other songs were from conversations I was having with Robin. He’s got loads of books, and stuff all around, on the walls. Just conversations we were having about that, you know? It’s tricky, once you’ve done something, once you’re known for something. So some of the other subject matter is about that, and I think with that there is an intensity, and with that comes a more soulful sounding thing. Because I certainly feel that, I think we both feel that.

NT: I thought the lyrics on the album were very philosophical, in the best possible sense.

MG: Yeah, absolutely. For me, that’s the thing – you’ve got to write about things you know, and that move you. It has to raise emotions in me to sing, to stand any chance of connecting with any emotions in people, you know. And also, that’s what some of the music sort of suggested to me, the way I was hearing some of the music. I think it fits together really nicely. Obviously, we’re both really happy with the outcome.

NT: There’s that beautiful line in the title track that says “I carry you wherever I go.”

MG: Thanks. I guess a lot of songwriters write that song. You know what I mean? About that time. And it’s obviously, that’s a real trip, that people don’t talk about. Obviously we all talk about people and celebrate babies coming into the world, but when people pass out of the world, that’s something we tend not to talk about so much. I knew what was happening, I was actually in that situation, not totally unprepared for that, but with a weird kind of feeling that it was my duty to be there. He brought me into the world. And I think it’s right, although it’s not talked about, if you can be there to help people say goodbye… Yeah, it’s strange. It’s something beyond, and something very powerful. And strangely, though it might sound a bit weird, there’s actually a lot of life and energy in death as well. So, it was one of those…it’s something that, there’s bigger forces at work. So that’s kind of what I was getting at, about yeah ok, the physical body goes, and, in a way, universally those people are always with you.

NT: It’s a powerful line, and emotion.

MG: Yeah. And referring to the fact that the songs will live on, whereas the people who made them won’t. Do you know what I mean? I don’t want to sound morbid, but I think there’s a positive thing in there. I think it’s trying to find positivity out of something that’s really pretty crazy situation, really. But I was glad that I was there. And then you realize when you talk to your family in more detail, then I realized that my dad was there when his dad passed, and that’s the cycle and reality of life. Then ok, that’s even more sensible that I was there. At the end of the day, it’s all good, because you can say that energy is always there, always sort of continues. And that conversation is always there, strangely as well in a way.

NT: It’s true that what you said that people don’t always spend as much time talking about that part of life.

MG: Yeah, and I’m not…when I talk about energy and stuff, I’m not really a religious person. And what happens in the name of religion sort of appalls me, actually. It’s quite topical, especially as I find out about Tunisia and what just happened there. It’s more of a…it’s kind of bigger than that in a way for me. It’s just an energy thing for me. I just think that certain energy comes into you, and certain energy of yours goes with that person as well, so it’s a weird kind of exchange that happens at that moment. Yeah. You know, it’s one of the great unexplains for me, and I’m all right with it being like that. It’s another sort of mysterious thing for me, it’s something that you feel. So again, a lot of things in life I’m quite confused about, and I find quite mysterious. All sorts of stuff. And that’s generally what I’m singing about, is more my confusion than somebody that has answers. (laughs) You know what I mean? And even though you get older and you get better at dealing with certain things, there’s still a lot of confusion out there, and that stuff is what I generally sing about in a way.

NT: Listening to the album, you get a sense of questioning and thinking about things, rather than some conclusion.

MG: I think it’s good that people find that solace in believing in god and all that, that’s great. I’m happy for them. But too many people killing in the name of god, and I just don’t get that at all.

NT: It’s crazy, and tragic.

MG: Yeah, well if that’s what believing in what your god is telling you to do, then I just don’t need that in life. My dad was a scientist as well, so I guess part of that is involved as well. There’s a kind of slightly more, logical ideas, and stuff like that.

NT: Being open to questioning, but also being analytical.

MG: Yeah, in a way yeah. I think people make …You know what? For me god is in the nature, nature is incredible and mindblowing. I don’t believe in immaculate conception…I mean, I don’t want to get too into this(laughs) but I think a man and a woman make babies, and I’m good with that. And I’m sure there was someone called Jesus who loads of people listened to, who was a very interesting dude. But I see it more in terms that I can understand, rather than all the immaculate stuff, which doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. They were dudes. (laughing) Interesting people to listen to, you know. Anyway.

NT: You lived in France for a while, but now you’re back settled in the UK. And Robin Guthrie is still in France. What do you think is the appeal of France and what’s good about being back in the UK?

MG: Well, I think – from Robin’s point of view, he’s got a French wife, so they live there. For me, I just kind of ran away, post-Ride. My life got a little bit, my house was like a nightclub. I think, post-Ride, I found it really difficult and I probably tried to… I think when you’re used to a life that was a wild and adrenalin fueled as Ride, then when that bubble’s burst afterwards, I think it’s strange. I tried to party a lot, do lots of things to try and keep the buzz going a bit. And then you suddenly realize that the house is now a nightclub, and I’ve got to stop this crap and get out for my sanity’s sake. I’ve maybe always had a bit of a romantic idea of running away to the wilds of France, and finding a new life there, and then happily ever after, which didn’t quite happen. (laughing) I mean, that was my thought process then. And at first, I had some friends in France who I was at art school with, some really good friends, who I met at the same time as I met the Ride guys. It was a place I used to go to during the Ride days and it always refueled me. You know, when I felt everything in life was draining, I just spent some time in the wilds of France, in nature, in the middle of nowhere really, and I just found it really just great to put something back in the tank. And some of the Ride songs I wrote about that, like Medicine is about partying with my friends in wild chateaux in France and just feeling medieval and mad and crazy, so it’s great. I don’t know. I thought it would be a good place for me to go and I thought that would be exactly what the doctor ordered, just to give myself some time and space to kind of get peace with my past, and just to realize that Ride was what it was. Just to chill out a bit, really. (laughs) And for a couple of years it worked really well. I always went to India during that time for six months, and then I spent another few years in France and it kind of started…I think I’d gotten all the good I could putting myself in the middle of the wilds. And then I started to travel, I felt good about playing music again, and started the acoustic shows. I spent some time in New York, in Brooklyn after being in France, as you do to rebalance. The extreme countryside to extreme city life. Which is great too, that’s why I’m kind of, at the time when I did my solo record, These Beautiful Ghosts. That all kind of worked. I think France is the opposite of England in many ways, because England a smaller place with so many people. You can still find places to be in the wilds a bit here, but it’s quite crowded, Britain. France is the opposite, because it’s a kind of massive, maybe two and a half, three times the size of Britain, but with half the population. I love the nature thing, it was good to be away from it all for a while. So that’s the appeal of it for me. I see it as a second home in a way. I even managed to learn to speak some French as well, which helps. (laughs)

NT: Ride has reformed now and you’ve been playing shows. Is this project with Robin Guthrie something that’s going to go on alongside of Ride? And do you think that doing the album made you rethink playing with Ride, or did it all happen at the same time?

MG: For the last three years, I kind of felt that Ride, I didn’t know for sure, but after a lot of years of thinking Ride would probably never play again, in the last three years, I started to realize that it would probably would, once the stars had realigned a bit and things had cleared with what we were all doing individually. But when I did that record with Robin, I wasn’t thinking about a Ride reunion. Also, the album came out and I realized that I was going to be touring. We did that three weeks with Ride when we were going from Britain to America to Canada, it was pretty full on. So I just waited for that initial period to calm down a bit before I could properly start talking to press, and doing what I’m doing now to help the Guthrie/Gardener album, because I think it’s a little bit lost in the, you know, in the shadows of what was going on with Ride. I hope, it depends really what happens with the album. We love working together, and I’m sure we’d love to do more. But, look, I don’t think either of us are expecting this to be a bit hit, Robbie Williams type album. (laughs) We understand that, we both feel that it’s quality and we hope that word of mouth can work. And we’ll know, because at a certain time, I’d love to do some live shows with Robin, even if they’re smaller shows, playing songs from this album, I’d love that. And if we can get to that place, I’m sure then we’d consider making another record. But we believe in the quality of the record. We’re both out of pocket from doing it, but it doesn’t matter because I don’t think either of us is doing what we’re doing to try and make lots of money. I think we both gave up on that idea years ago (laughs). Because it’s like the music industry these days is not the place for that. But we love what we do. It’s an artistic project to us. If I can keep ticking along, doing music and cover the bills, and keep things intact, then I hope to continue to do that. And for me, that’s success. I don’t have big expectations on anything, because I think you just always end up disappointed. And it is tricky, these days where everybody shares files, people don’t really buy records, it doesn’t make a project like me and Robin that easy. If we can do enough to know we’re not losing from doing this, then I’m sure there will be more.

NT: It would be great to see a live show with the two of you. But it’s true, the music industry has really changed.

MG: I still buy CDs, you know. I’ve got a studio, and if I love bands, I’d still happily buy CDs. But I think I’m few and far between. And it’s weird, you know. I was thinking about this the other day, it’s like when you think about the festival culture now, and festivals basically used to be free. And the bands would play free festivals, so that people would go and buy their records. Because they realized if they played to a lot of people, the chances were that they’d go and buy their records. That’s a total turnaround on that now. Bands play festivals, they get paid pretty well, which helps them live, or whatever, and then obviously now people aren’t really buying music, they’re sharing files or whatever. And when you think about 20 odd years ago, there used to be a filter, which was labels, you had to pass a certain sort of standard in a way to be considered, invested in to make a record, because of course it was expensive to make a record, you had to go to a studio. Of course, people can now do that in their bedrooms. And that can be really good, I didn’t think a lot of the filters in the old days were right anyway, a lot of people got it wrong. At the same time, it means everyone is releasing records these days. My postman’s just released an album. (laughs) But I think a lot of people are realistic. Like some of the bands I work with. They don’t want to be pop stars, but they’ve always wanted to get together and make a great record. That’s quite good. I think sometimes when people are a bit too concerned with being stars, or famous, or something, it’s really just stupid. The whole cult of celebrity to me is just ludicrous. So I think some beautiful records are made by people who have no desire to be a celeb, or something, they just have got songs and things that they want to say, you know?

NT: And five albums that you return to.

MG: Albums that I always return to. Well, let’s think. Some albums that I’d always return to would be like Scott Walker, some obvious ones I guess. Like I’ll listen to a Beatles album now and again, Stones. But some of those obvious to me, rock pop people who just are always there. Just thinking in the last few months, I bought the Beck album, I’m a Beck fan, I like what Beck does. I bought Death Cab For Cutie who just did a festival with Ride, where they played before us, I really like that band as well. And I just bought the Leftfield album, Alternative Light Source, which came out over here. Leftfield, I was a massive fan back in the day. The more dance sort of side of things. I think there were some real pioneers in that, like Orbital as well, made musical interesting beat records. Obviously, there’s a line there from something like Kraftwerk, which I’ll come back to as well, which I love. And also, I love people like Yann Tiersen for the more French style instrumental style stuff. I listen to a lot of classical music as well, and Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain, albums like that. I never tire of listening to those. Yeah, even Cocteau Twins would fit into that, for me. There’s loads really, when I think about my CD collection, it’s huge, and very eclectic. Beach Boys as well. As soon as I think of one, I think of another ten.

But I just think music as a whole is something that I’m madly passionate about. It’s a really powerful force. I really believe in that, and I think that’s something we have in common in Ride, we all like music, music freaks. Beyond that, Robin Guthrie is the same, I realize I’m doing music with other people who are music enthusiasts as well, great musicians. I think it all feeds each other, in a way. And the great artists can be inspired by all of that stuff, and then turn it into something of their own. Create their own environments. I think that’s the challenge, is to do something which is rich and strong enough to create its own environment. And to hopefully be interesting when there is so much music. There’s a hailstorm of new bands now. It’s tough, obviously, to still stand out in that hailstorm. But I love that challenge, and I love writing words as well, so I think if you can marry those two things together well, that’s still my drive, I just want to keep creating and writing, keep writing about all that confusion.

Interview by Alice Severin

Beautiful music…check it out on You Tube…

Big Deal – Sakura


Big Deal

Sakura EP

In this world of Tumblrs and selfies, it’s quick and easy to display emotions. Not quite as simple to find something that stands out, rings true. One in the morning then, facing down the rest of the night, of life, should be the perfect time to run a litmus test of authenticity. Uncertainty prevails. Inoculated against expectation. Halfway through the first song, it doesn’t matter. Four songs later, music has performed that magic trick it pulls out when it’s very good. Everything, yet nothing, has changed.

“Big Deal” is one of those phrases that can mean its exact opposite depending on how you say it. That makes it a perfect name for a band that plays with aural contrasts and flirts with the paradox of speaking internal emotions out loud. Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood wind up the highly-strung tension between the stripped bare emotion of two individual, unadorned voices and the raw power of the holy trinity of electric guitar, bass, and drums. On “Sakura” the production values are brilliant. The music reaches out for you. The sound has texture. Not many albums do, not like this.


The gaps and spaces only add to the energy. “Seeing you fucks me up” could be the line that sums up everything. The alarming, insistent bass, and the build-up to the chorus interrupted by stillness multiplies the impact when it finally comes. These are emotions striking back. This is how it feels. A song to play to your ex. It’s irresistible. Or you could just play it to yourself. If the drums alone don’t make them yield, you’re better off without them. Either way.

Always Boys

The acoustic guitar introduction sounds as though you are inside the instrument; you can smell the wood, you’re being strummed. Then it all kicks off. The same way you can’t quite focus when you’re around someone you fancy, everything is a little blurry and wonderful. And you want it again. There’s the gorgeous echo of Alice Costelloe’s voice pulsing through the indecent fury of the band. They sing “boys that play guitar” and that guitar sound is why they break our hearts. Maybe there’s a hint of Françoise Hardy, and the way her songs expressed wistful regret at walking away while holding on to a thread of hope. The raw simplicity at either end makes it philosophical, rather than narcissistic.


A star, a diamond, a meteorite. Kacey Underwood sings out first, then the two join together. “You are not alone, we’re all alone.” The guitar notes wouldn’t sound out of place on a pedal steel. There’s an almost country vibe to the song, but the Duane Allman, sunlight filtering through the trees, spotlight on exquisite suffering version, the echo creating something hopelessly sad. Drowning in harmonies and textures, no rescue is necessary.

Figure It Out

This has more of an in your face punk feel, with a T.Rex flavored chorus – “Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know.” The sounds are closer together, packed in a small room. The vocal has a hint of Iggy Pop for a moment; that lost, defiant rage. The bass and drums are taut, like one of those child’s toys, the paddle with a ball on a rubber band that you have to keep snapping back constantly or you lose.

Is this it? It is, but I want more. Sakura, as it turns out, means cherry blossom, but the brief, fragile beauty of the delicate flower is linked to the symbolism of “mono no aware” – the awareness of impermanence. The ephemeral nature of things. Now I’m happy that I’m sad.
The world’s just perfect after all.

Alice Severin

Mercury Prize Nominees – my interviews with Wolf Alice and Jamie xx

Congratulations to Mercury Prize Nominees – Wolf Alice and Jamie xx. I did interviews with both over the summer. See what they each had to say about their music and why they do what they do.

Jamie xx

Jamie xx
Jamie xx

Jamie Smith, better known as Jamie xx, has had a meteoric rise in the music world. He’s accomplished so much already – first with The xx, whose debut album, xx, won them a Mercury Prize, and grabbed top position in a host of end of year lists. Their second album, Coexist, was released to major acclaim, and The xx were in demand. Shows like the limited run series in New York City at the Park Avenue Armory attracted a range of high-profile fans from the art and film world. And Jamie xx has created remixes of artists as diverse as Adele and Radiohead, and worked as a producer with Drake and Alicia Keys. After releasing a number of singles, his first highly anticipated solo album, In Colour, is finally going to be released in June. As he said, “I’ve gone from being a fan of electronic music, admiring great artists and producers, to feeling like I’m a part of their world.” There’s no question that this release will only confirm his status. Northern Transmissions was able to connect with him as he arrived here to prepare big summer of festivals, both here and in Europe and the UK. Alice Severin talked with Jamie xx about the brilliant new album. Soft spoken, he gave the impression of an individual with an encyclopedic knowledge of musical artists and a deep connection to what he does.

I guess when I first play them, I really don’t know how well…basically if they will make people dance or not. I never expected things like “Girl” to work so well live, because it’s not like, it’s not even the same tempo as anything else I’ve played. But it does work. It’s nice, it probably takes people by surprise in a way, it’s a bit different, yeah.

Jamie xx keeps talking – click link

Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice

London-based Wolf Alice fears no genre. As the repressive need for boundaries evaporates, the four piece has jumped into the fray with an array of songs that casually parades their mastery of the free range. From pop to garage, grunge to folk, the band stamps every song with their inventive energy, like on their first official EP, Blush. Songs like “White Leather” scored them comparisons with The xx. No surprise that right from the start, the band has been one to watch. Now Wolf Alice is due to release their first album, titled My Love Is Cool, on June 23 through Dirty Hit/RCA, and the latest single, “Giant Peach,” was one of Zane Lowe’s hottest records in the world. They’ve been on tour in the US and UK, and are now gearing up for festival season, which gave Northern Transmissions a chance to hear from the hard-working band. Ellie Rowsell, the front woman of Wolf Alice, talked about creativity, challenges, and cute pets with Alice Severin.

We just have a lot of influences and we all have a hand in writing, so it makes sense that our sound is quite varied. It’s important to us as we don’t want to be pigeonholed, and we like the freedom of being able to take our music to different realms.

More right this way…

Interview with Fred Macpherson of Spector

A very enjoyable interview with the affable, sharp, and nicely bittersweet Fred Macpherson, who also wins a prize for his Twitter tribute to the great Alan Rickman. 

Spector. The Guardian described them as being “somewhere between Roxy Music and The Strokes”. Enjoy It While It Lasts, their first album, stormed through the UK charts. “All the Sad Young Men”, the first single off the second album, was Zane Lowe’s hottest record in the world. They’ve played Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds. How to follow up? Well, August saw the release of Moth Boys, album number two that takes all the promise of the first and builds from there. Sharp and witty lyrics that unveil a laser vision of life burn through a mix of pop and rock that frequently soars, showcasing a clever reworking of 80s influence. Spector, and their front man, Fred Macpherson, deliver hook filled choruses and melancholy moments with a decisive boldness. When they arrived in New York City a couple of weeks ago, Spector played a storming set at Mercury Lounge that saw the usually tough crowd seduced by the sheer energy and verve of the singer and the band. Northern Transmissions wanted to hear from Spector about their year. Alice Severin talked to Fred Macpherson about the album, his influences, and plans for the future.

Northern Transmissions: Hi, how are you doing and where are you this morning?

Fred Macpherson: I’m good, thank you. I’m in London, in my house. I’m trying to meet my cousin online. Which is quite a good way to waste the morning, especially if you could see the weather in London right now. But I imagine New York isn’t much better.

AS: It’s not too bad here. And you’ve had terrible weather over there. Big storms.

FM: Yeah, it’s not great.

AS: Over here, we’re just having global warming. So it’s 60 in December. So thanks so much for doing this. I saw you at Mercury Lounge – was it just last week?

FM: It was, yeah. This time last week.

AS: How was it for you, and how was the New York trip?

FM: I really enjoyed it, actually. We very much enjoyed it. That night…we were in celebratory mood after the gigs, it was our last gig of the year. And then kind of…the wheels fell off a bit later in the evening and I ended up…I don’t know what. (laughs) But it was a great night. We really enjoyed the show. The NY crowd was quite sympathetic. I thought people might be, one of those cities where people can just kind of stand still and you really need to convince them. It seemed like people were quite warm, actually.

AS: I think that can definitely be true. I thought you were quite convincing though – there was a tremendous amount of energy that you all had.

FM: Thank you very much I think so much of gigs just depend on the people who are there really. Like we played in Brooklyn on Tuesday and it was a completely different vibe. It was fun. But Thursday it felt quite special, I guess. Like what one would want for your first gig in a city like that, or a country that you’ve kind of grown up knowing a lot about and being a big fan of. It was exciting.

AS: It’s a huge thing. I always think it’s kind of fascinating because you come over from the UK, you’ve played big festivals, Reading and Leeds and then to move to a small club. What does that feel like?

FM: It’s quite good. We have the same thing like when we go to other places, like countries in Europe where we don’t play to that many people. So we’re kind of used to playing to bigger crowds and small crowds. And actually sometimes it’s more humanizing and more real just playing to a small room without a big light show. Because it makes it more about you and the music and it’s fun to have to prove yourself to people rather than just being complacent and resting on your laurels.

AS: The new album – Moth Boys – I wanted to ask you more about that. But first of all – is it going to be released over here?

FM: It is. We’re just kind of working out what’s going on with what we’re going to release where, as in which label. So we just need to sort out the boring stuff, and it will get an official release. I think it’s on iTunes and Spotify now. What we might do is a kind of compilation of some of our best songs from both albums, which might be something cool to do to kind of bring people up to speed.

AS: Yes – because your first album was fairly huge in the UK.

FM: Yeah, it was quite big. I don’t know about huge, but it seemed to…people were aware of it. I think this album is a nice step on musically, and so we just need to keep working to get people hearing our songs. I think especially a song like “All the Sad Young Men” which is the first track on it, and probably the best song we’ve done, so. We just need to keep working hard to keep getting the music out there, and get people hearing it, I guess.

AS: And Dev Hynes co-produced the album with you.

FM: He did, three or four songs. He co-wrote a song on it called “Cocktail Party”, he co-wrote a song called “Decade of Decay”. He kind of had an influence on it production wise, and writing wise. But we also worked with two producers in London called Duncan Mills and Adam Jeffrey, who we had met through various people. But the thrust of a lot of the production was done by ourselves at home. It was quite a long journey from beginning to end and often we were kind of carried by ourselves which was good, and there were great influences from people like Dev along the way.

AS: How do you go about the process of it all? Does it depend on the song?

FM: Yeah, it does, because we, especially on this album we have more of us writing songs. But my process generally is working on instrumentals at my flat in London under my bed where I have a very, very small studio set-up. I don’t even know if it could be described as a studio, but a computer and speakers and microphones and a piano. And I kind of just start making bits of music, and then I persevere with the ones I like. And then I write loads of lyrics all the time on my phone. And when I feel a song is worthy of completion, then I start putting lyrics into it and vocal melodies. It’s a slightly disjointed collage-y kind of process. I don’t sit down with a guitar and write a song from beginning to end. But I think the style in which we write suits the lyrical content and mood, fragmented, momentary thoughts or musings on different bits of what life is.

AS: Your lyrics are quite unique in a way because you incorporate regular, day to day phrases and things that people say in this way that’s very ironic and witty.

FM: Yeah, I think that’s been influenced by things like Twitter, and text messages, and the way I communicate with people on the internet. And the phone stuff. Because it creates a kind of, what’s the word for it – aphorisms – little one liners, trying to say things, like quips, kind of thing. And that, as I grew up, even before I was making music, it was always kind of jokes and one-liners that were what I got the most of joy out of. So I think it’s just taking that approach of like kind of how people make jokes on the internet or how they communicate with each other on the internet through these kind of short, witty lines. That’s kind of what’s been as big a lyrical inspiration as lyricists and musicians I love.

AS: Some of the lines…it’s almost a little like Oscar Wilde in a sense, but very modern.

FM: Yeah, and when you read something like Oscar Wilde now, it sounds a stupid thing to say, but you can see how much he would have loved something like Twitter, this outlet for smart, funny one-liners. And for me, lyrics don’t always have to be one-liners, but it’s just a good chance to say something honest. And if you say it in a funny way, sometimes that makes it something – like with dark subject matter, you get to engage with it.

AS: You grew up in London.

FM: Yeah, I was born in London, I’ve never really lived anywhere else. It’s probably about time I should.

AS: What was it like for you growing up there? Do you think that coming from London, gives you a certain world view?

FM: Potentially, yeah. I think I didn’t realize when I was young that I guess growing up in a city like that is quite a unique thing, or potentially privileged. It gives you, doesn’t it, a certain outlook to what a lot of people have. And now, being this age, I realize how few people who I know were actually born in London, who live in London now. But I think England has had a bigger influence on me than London, although obviously being amongst the kind of… It’s so densely populated and so many buildings, there’s been a kind of urban influence, but for me, the influence is really England and its humor. It’s the most important thing to me about being English and a kind of ability to laugh, even in the darkest situations, and a kind of irony and just a sense of humor that I think helps carry the whole, everyone, through all sorts of situations, going back to world wars or whatever. Sometimes English people aren’t as emotional as they could be, maybe, but I think it’s definitely shaped my world view. I know I feel that more when I speak to American people. And you realize that even though on paper we’re so similar and we speak the same language, we have the same culture in terms of a lot of the music and cinema and stuff. But actually England is quite is kind of unique place. Not without its problems, obviously, but I think I like the kind of attitudes that we have here.
AS: So are there plans to come back over here and do some more touring?

FM: Yeah, I think it’s just…depends on who wants to see us and whether it’s cost-effective and everything, because I know English bands who bankrupt themselves touring America just for the sake of doing it, just to kind of prove something to themselves. And I think we’re quite keen, it took us a few years to get back to America. We’re just conscious that we only want to go to places when people want to see us rather than necessarily kind of forcing ourselves upon people. But we’ve got visas now, so I hope we’ll be back in America next year.

AS: Tell me more about the album and writing the songs. Is there one song that was particularly easy or difficult that stands out?

FM: Some come really quickly. There’s a song called “Don’t Make Me Try” which is one of my favorites and one of the most honest songs on the album. And that I wrote in a few minutes – it just came out. Like a few chords, and all the lyrics came pretty much immediately. Then there’s one’s like “All the Sad Young Men” where we wrote the music of it quickly but the lyrics we agonized over and were still changing single words right up until the last couple of days of recording. And then there’s a song called “Lately It’s You” on the album, that it ends with, that I’ve had in kind of fragmented forms for years, even before our first album. These bits of kind of electronic choir chords and stuff, and melodies. I’d been writing all these bits never really knowing what to do with them. And I had the idea to put them all together, because I felt that lyrically, it could act as a good conclusion to the record. So it’s a kind of boring thing to say, but sometimes songs come really fast and sometimes you have to agonize over them. I think the way we write isn’t always very helpful, because we don’t have someone writing a song on guitar and then taking it to the band, saying let’s learn the song. We are kind of sometimes slowed down by our songwriting process being quite blocky, in terms of building things up from lots of different strands of ideas and samples and drum loops and stuff put together on computers and then almost kind of deconstructing them. Our writing style is quite digital, you know, the lyrics are all quite personal. We don’t write as a band and we don’t write in the traditional way, guitar piano, but maybe we’ll begin to absorb a bit more of that as we go on and make it, make the process a bit more human. Because the process always has a big effect on the vinyl thing.

AS: Are there influences that you think of, or does everything come together in a big melting pot?

FM: Well, I mean, there’s influences, but I think some of our influences we don’t necessarily sound like. You have Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry, Nick Cave, and Tom Waits – those kind of lyricists, but also modern, more pop hip hop stuff like Drake and Kanye West. I like characters in music, where any song you listen to you feel like you’re tuning in to some part of the story, whether it’s them telling their story or someone else’s story, more in your Nick Cave and Tom Waits’ case. But someone like Drake, I feel like every time he puts a song out he just gets another angle on his life or another piece. And that kind of inspires me. Even listening to Frank Sinatra, whose subject matter was essentially the same for fifty years. It never worries me, writing songs about the same thing because I think there’s always another way to say it. It’s kind of not what you say, but how you say it. My biggest influences are artists who kind of have careers that feel like they just continue to unfold even when they are singing about the same stuff.

AS: It’s a progression. What you’ve learned.

FM: Yeah. Variations on a theme.

AS: Your stage presence is very interesting. And the image is obviously different from the standard front man, out there. But you also have these elements of intimacy and theatrical intensity. I wanted to ask if you had any background in theatre at all.

FM: Well, a lot of my family are actors. And two of my cousins are actors. My grandparents both worked in films. I was never planning on doing it but there was kind of always a sense of just showing off in our family. And entertainment. Especially growing up. I had four cousins and my brother, and we kind of just spent a lot of time trying to entertain each other and trying to create these kind of …as I’m sure a lot of kids do, you’re making films or putting on plays, making bands and writing songs, even going back to when we were like 4 or 5 years old. And I guess some people grow out of that, and maybe I didn’t. But also the people I love on stage, once you bring that kind of theatricality, people like Nick Cave, where it really feels like you’re getting more than just a band playing songs but someone trying to tell a story, physically as well, I guess. So it was never kind self-conscious, that there would be a theatrical influence, but I think that’s just where my style fits naturally. Like I don’t think I’m a kind of “sexy pop star” so I can’t really play it in that way. I think it’s more, I think I have strengths in other places, more just kind of trying to work out how to tell the story in a way that’s personal to us, and human.

AS: It’s funny, I saw Nick Cave playing solo, a show at Town Hall, and he’s definitely one of these people who has presence, even simply coming out onto the stage. When I think of theatricality, that’s what I mean. And I think you have that. You come out and the stage gets smaller – and you get bigger.

FM: Haha. Well, that’s nice of you to say. You were lucky to see us at a good gig. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. I do see a concert in a sense as an event, especially if people are paying for it. And also especially when you’re on tour, you’re offstage 23 hours a day and you’re onstage for one. So it’s kind of like your only real chance to exhibit the things you believe are the most important in the world. So it’s not an opportunity that you really want to waste. That sounds a bit pretentious. Obviously it’s still entertainment, but if there’s an hour in every day to entertain then I think, yeah, you’re going to try and take the bull by the horns, as it were.

AS: You had said, which I really liked, ‘it’s the journalist’s job to theorize about the musicians, and not the musician’s job to theorize about what the journalist is thinking.’ It seems now that artists are asked to do everything. They’re going to do their own PR, they’re going to tell their own story, their own meta-narrative to the whole thing. Do you think that the constant stream of comments that’s out there makes it trickier to be creative?

FM: I think it makes it trickier for the audience to take the creativity at face value. Because it’s been filtered through a constant stream of comments. I think it only makes it more difficult for the person being creative if they’re aware and they engage in that stream of commentary. And in the past, I’m sure we’ve been guilty, as many people have and will be, of kind of tuning into that stream. And when you do, that’s dangerous. Undoubtedly, we, and many artists, will be at their most creative when they’re at their most disengaged with all the feedback. But that’s what’s getting harder and harder to do. Especially with the all the technology that’s at our fingertips the whole time. And so my goal for the next year is to just try and disengage a bit more with that whole stream and engage more personally with the creative element and not…kind of almost not be hearing that feedback the whole time. That background noise. Because it’s can be pretty tough to take if you try to engage in it all. It’s like in The Man Who Fell to Earth, when David Bowie watches like 10 TVs at the same time. It’s too much. It’s like, you should never google yourself because you just fall down a kind of rabbit hole. The opinions of your friends and family and a critic or something that’s personal to you, what they say might mean something to you. But how can everything that everyone thinks about you hold meaning? It would be like saying everyone has a right to define a color in their way. Or a flower, or whatever. Everyone’s going to see it slightly differently. And that’s a great thing. And it’s great for audiences, in some ways, to be able to communicate their feelings about music and art, because it allows underground things to really spread as well. But, yeah, I’m trying to engage in that less, even though I find the internet so addictive.

AS: It really is. I agree with you. Because everyone’s got a different opinion, you can’t possibly take it all in. It drives you mad. And gets you further away from what you were thinking on your own, which is what got you there in the first place.

FM: Yeah.

AS: Are you working on new music at the moment?

FM: Yeah, we’re writing now. And next year, depending on what we wrote, we’ll work out what and how, where, and when it will get released. But I still kind of feel like there’s still work to do on this second album to spread the songs. But yeah, we’re writing and we’re starting to think about what direction we would move in and what the next thing we want to say is, I guess.

NT: And five albums that you return to.

FM: Alright.

Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden
It’s one that…I just think it’s one of the best albums of all time and it chills me every time I listen to it. And I hear something new in it and it feels very human and very joyful and very painful. That’s the sort of album that makes me think it’s worth keeping making music, to try and get closer to something that feels that honest and true, I guess.

The Strokes – Room on Fire
I would say Is This It, but it’s kind been almost overplayed in my life and is too associated with certain times growing up, it makes me feel uncomfortable to listen to, whereas Room on Fire, it’s kind of like the underdog of those two albums but I think it’s as good, and it’s one that I return to more because it’s less harrowing, in terms of…it’s less like a trip down memory lane. I can just enjoy it more on a surface level. All those first few Strokes albums are just classic.

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
It’s an album, there’s so much in it. It’s like going to a party every time you listen to it. If I ever need reminding why life is worth living, that’s now my go-to. It’s one I completely love.

Nick Cave – Push the Sky Away
It’s one of my favorite albums, probably my favorite album of his. And he’s my favorite artist, one of my favorite artists, and so it’s great to have a desert album that’s so recent by him. I can go back to it, and just lyrically, it’s just a masterclass, it feels like he’s on the top of his game.

Throbbing Gristle – 20 Jazz Funk Greats
If I want to listen to something slightly more for the mind, and just be challenged and remind me when art should be challenging I guess. An album that was one of the first albums that really proved to me that it’s worth pushing boundaries, especially knowing that that was made around the time when there were all these three chord punk bands. And Throbbing Gristle were making something genuinely uncomfortable and transgressive, in the sense of fun and irony at the same time.

Interview by Alice Severin

Link to Northern Transmissions page – Spector interview

Bardi Johannsson returns with Bang Gang

Bardi Johannsson of Bang Gang

From June 10, 2015

Bardi Johannsson is one of those artists who is in constant motion. From film scores to television commercials, theatrical productions to concerts with orchestras, his creative output is prodigious. Johannsson has worked with Keren Ann on their joint project Lady & Bird, and with Jean-Benoît Dunckel of Air on Starwalker. He wrote the score for the film De toutes nos forces directed by Nils Tavernier, son of Bertrand. He wrote the score for the controversial re-release of Haxan, a Swedish film. He created music for three productions at National Theatre of Iceland and Centre Dramatique d’Orleans in France, and released a compilation album of his work for other media under the title Selected Film & Theater Works Of Bardi Johannsson. But his first band was Bang Gang. It’s been 7 years since the last album under that name, but he is finally ready to release the latest offering. With the evocative title of The Wolves Are Whispering, the album pulls you on a journey of moody intensity, alternately sad and happy. The music has the effect of sweeping you away into an unexpectedly emotional world. Impossible to listen to without feeling the wild and wide horizons of sound soak into your very being, The Wolves Are Whispering leaves the listener somewhat altered, the original mood dissolved in the careful plotting and construction of composition. Beautiful, cinematic, and yet weirdly poppy, Bardi Johannsson has created another atmospheric dreamscape.
Alice Severin was able to speak to the soft-spoken musician/composer/filmmaker/television personality/clothes designer about his latest project and music as a visual and physical experience.

I picked the songs that I liked more (laughing), and I had a lot of unfinished ideas, also. And I went through all the demo ideas that I had, and I decided I was going to wake up in the morning and listen to some ideas, and if I didn’t feel like working on them on that day, it was not worth finishing.

AS: How are you? And where are you?

Bardi: Good. I’m in Iceland, in my home.

AS: How is the weather?

Bardi: It’s becoming summer. It was snowing maybe 10 days ago. And today we had a few snow
flurries. It’s like 7 degrees C.

AS: Is that usual for this time of year?

Bardi: It’s a little bit colder now than usual.

AS: The weather everywhere is going a bit crazy.

Bardi: I think there’s something called global warming, and it’s not very nice to us here.

AS: I wanted to ask you about the cover of your second album, Something Wrong. It’s such a beautiful, striking image. Where was it taken?

Bardi: Thank you. The picture was taken close to my grandmother’s house. The neighbors were a little bit disturbed during the shoot.

AS: Why?

Bardi: Because I think they had never seen a nude woman before.

AS: It looks so natural in the picture.

Bardi: Well, it is very natural. There’s nothing I think that they haven’t seen at the swimming pools.

AS: Did you used to go up there a lot?

Bardi: Yeah, I spent a lot of time there as a child, and also in this area of Iceland, it’s in the southwest, near Snæfellsjökull, which is the glacier Jules Verne used in the story Journey to the Center of the Earth.

AS: It’s been a very long break between Bang Gang records. What made you feel it was time to resume work on this particular project?

Bardi: Basically, when I finished the other album, I was planning to do another one quite quickly afterwards. I was playing – me and Keren Ann played a concert with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, where we played a few songs of mine, and a few songs of hers, and then Lady & Bird songs. And this concert was released on EMI, under the name of Lady & Bird, so suddenly we had that release. And we also performed a concert with an orchestra in Paris. And then I ended up producing other artists, did a few film scores. I started the project with JB from Air, the EP, and we have an album coming out.

AS: Great – a new album from Starwalker! When is that going to come out?

Bardi: In November.

AS: So you’ve been very busy.

Bardi: Each time I was going to sit down and finish the album, something else came up. I worked on it a few days here and there, and then it was a few months until I could sit down and listen to all the demos that I had made, and decide which songs I wanted to finish. Then in the last few months I worked on completing them.

AS: How did you pick which songs you wanted to finish?

Bardi: I picked the songs that I liked more (laughing), and I had a lot of unfinished ideas, also. And I went through all the demo ideas that I had, and I decided I was going to wake up in the morning and listen to some ideas, and if I didn’t feel like working on them on that day, it was not worth finishing. And then I ended up choosing songs that had some form of variety, but still made sense as an album. I finished about three more songs than are on the album. So basically, that’s how it was. I did a few days in between other projects.

AS: The title is very atmospheric – The Wolves Are Whispering. Why did you choose it?

Bardi: I think it describes the content very well of the record. It’s sort of my most dark album, but at the same time, there are the most happy lyrics that I’ve written. It brings probably the darkest and brightest lyrics, but in general it’s a little more dark than the others. And I thought it was a little bit more cinematic than the others. Even though there’s pop songs in between, there’s like – I didn’t want to be restricted with time limits, I wanted really long songs. And even the long songs are edited. (laughs) So the eight minute song is edited from ten minutes.

AS: Like “We Will Never Get Along”?

Bardi: Yeah. But that’s not an edit, that’s like the whole thing – everything in there. But for the song “Lonely Bird”, I removed two minutes.

AS: And you’re working with Keren Ann on that track, which has a beautiful, really haunting vocal. The two of you have collaborated a lot as Lady & Bird. How do you work together, and what do you think makes it such a good partnership?

Bardi: Well, we met in a bar in Paris, I think in 2000. And a friend of ours told us that we should meet. We met, and we swapped CDs, and we left – it was a very short meeting. (laughs) Then we got in touch by email and we met again. We ended up quite quickly as really close friends. And we’ve been like that ever since. And we always such a pleasure to see her, and most of the time when we meet for work, it’s like the first day is just catching up about life. And then we start working. We also wrote an opera – that’s what we did in between. We wrote it for opera houses in France, and this is now in development to become an animated film.

AS: That’s fantastic.

Bardi: A classic opera. So we’ve always been working. On this track, it’s like the foundation of the opera. I finished all the rest, and she came in with the vocals on top of mine. But I really like how our voices sound together. It sounds like one voice.

AS: It does have this special quality to it. It’s very clear, but layered at the same time.

Bardi: It’s very strange, because people sometimes listen to Lady & Bird songs, and they don’t realize that our voices are equally loud. (laughs) But there is, when we sing together, something like one voice. Something that we noticed, it’s like the voice of Lady & Bird, so I think this song is called the “Lonely Bird” and I think it is the song most like a Lady & Bird song that we’ve ever had on each other’s albums.

AS: Do you play all the instruments on the album?

Bardi: I don’t play drums, but I program drums. It depends on the song. Like on “We Will Never Get Along” I think I played everything. Then I have a French bass player on some of the songs, and some keyboard players. But I mixed it myself, and I think I played all the guitars.

AS: The guitar sound in “Silent Bite” is really striking.

Bardi: Yeah, I play all the guitars, and some keyboards and some bass.

AS: A lot of the album feels sad, with a certain solemn quality, but there are also songs like “Out of Horizon” has a kind of driving, poppy feel to it, even though the middle section is very dreamy. And then you’ve got the lyrics – “let’s take a ride into the unknown”. Did you consciously think about fitting lyrics and music and a certain landscape for the album?

Bardi: It’s sad, but there is hope in it. (laughs) I put a lot of myself of myself in it. Yes, basically, when I did this album, then I went further in thinking about lyrics, and what they meant. And also like describing – when I write the songs, I start imagining some situation or ambiance, almost like a short film or a movie scene. And then the lyrics are like describing what’s happening. And sometimes the scene is something that I’ve actually been in myself, like a real situation, a little bit like, three or four situations put in one song. Or something that I’ve seen or heard, or whatever. When I write music, it’s really visual in my head when I do it.

AS: You’ve done three short films yourself. How do you approach the visual side, for example the videos that accompany the songs?

Bardi: Basically, what I see visually is going to be too expensive to do. (laughing) Because like I think when I see something, when I write the song, I know exactly what everything looks like in the song, and what is going on. And I put myself, a lot, in the song. And I imagine myself in that situation, or maybe I was in that situation, and I see the surroundings and I see the lighting, and everything. Still, I haven’t made a video that’s exactly how I saw or how I thought about the song. Because when you get a film director involved, then they bring their touch to it. But maybe at some point I will do my videos myself, and then I will try to get as close to what I was seeing as I can.

AS: You’re involved in so many different types of creative output – you’ve done work for films, television. The film De Toutes Nos Forces (The Finishers) was hugely popular in France. And you’ve written music as well to accompany theatre, for plays. You worked on the sound for a play by Ibsen?

Bardi: Yes, the Ibsen piece. I did three plays, two in the National Theatre of Iceland, and one for the National Theatre of Orleans in France.

AS: Do you have different concerns when you’re scoring for live performance as compared to film?

Bardi: Yes. Because I can place speakers. I placed speakers under the seats, so you would feel like you were standing exactly inside the music. I wanted to make it ambient. But I wanted, especially for the Museum of the Sea piece, that I worked on with the National Theatre in Orleans – I was really thinking about making people be inside the music, because they were sitting in the hall. But when I work on music for theatre, I film the rehearsal, and then I work on it.

AS: So it’s a little similar in that respect to a film, except that it must be reproduced live. Have you ever released films of the theatre pieces, with the music?

Bardi: No. Well, one film that I did in France called De Toutes Nos Forces (The Finishers) used part of the Museum of the Sea. And the Museum of the Sea was released on the compilation CD of music from theatre and film.

AS: Do you spend a lot of time in France?

Bardi: Yes, I spent a lot of time there before. But I’ve been spending more and more time here in Iceland. But I spent a lot of time there last year. It depends on what I am doing. When I was recording with JB for the Starwalker album, we spent a lot of time there, because we recorded in his studio, Atlas Studio. And when we were mixing it, I was mixing it here, and he was mixing it in France. I work on the film scores in Iceland. It’s easy to score movies, it’s easier than to work on theatre in different countries. (laughing) Because it’s so easy to score movies with the director on Skype. With the technology, you can watch the movie with the director, like in real time, going over all the scenes and having discussions on the same files, and it’s really easy.

AS: Do you have a studio in your home? Where do you work here?

Bardi: I have a studio really close to my home.

AS: And The Wolves Are Whispering is now due to come out near the end of June.

Bardi: Yes, on the 23rd of June.

AS: Will you be touring? How do you think you’ll stage it? Will there be other musicians?

Bardi: Yeah, I think there will be four or five. I’m actually starting to work on it. I’ve started discussing it with the agent. So I’m looking into touring from September.

AS: Will you be coming over to North America, or will it be mostly in Europe?

Bardi: I’m still looking into the options. I hope. I’ve always liked playing New York and LA. There have always been amazing concerts, especially in New York. So I think I will aim to play there.

AS: That would be amazing.

Bardi: I hope I play in New York. I’m really excited to play the album live actually. I think it’s going to be really fun to play live.

AS: And five albums that inspire you, that you return to.


Master of Puppets – Metallica
Alina – Arvo Pärt – he’s a classical composer, and he made an amazing piece called “Alina”. It’s really ambient and minimalistic, a little bit like a modern Erik Satie.
Transformer – Lou Reed
The Photographer – Philip Glass
Spiritualized – Lazer Guided Melodies
And I want to add one more also –
Sonic Youth – Dirty

Alice Severin

Link to interview with Bardi Johannsson on Northern Transmissions tap here…