Gotski bend (u bližem srodstvu s bendovima kao što su Joy Division, Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees) koji već 30 godina objavljuje albume ali kao da namjerno želi ostati nepoznat, i u tome izvrsno uspijeva. Njihov lanjski album jednostavno je čudesan. Nova anatomija melankolije i bezuvjetne tuge.
Nešto između The Nationala, Tindersticksa i Nicka Cavea.
The rag and
|Nailed EP||Silver Soul||Angelfish|
|The Klaxon||Green is|
|Virus Meadow||And also|
AND ALSO THE TREES
(LISTEN FOR ) THE RAG AND BONE MAN
The little buggers have done it again! After the relaxed eerie brilliance of the ‘Further From The Truth’ albums comes something similar in tone, but of a weirder bent. They’ve lost Steven Burrows, replaced by Ian Jenkins, with piano from Emer Brizzolara, and have almost upped the old picturesque element, as the title suggests. The ominous qualities are darker and hotter, the more measured are dreamier, and the end result is remarkable.
‘Domed’ is eddying softly behind still vocals which have a steady but swiftly nagging rhythm as strings saw and keyboards twinkle, the tone doomier but bewitching, drawing you in easily, steadily closer, wondering what the Hell is happening and then it starts to simmer with some scrubby guitar, boiling over briefly with punitive drums and steadily sluiced keyboard and guitar froth, before it is snuffed sharply out. A fine start.
‘The Beautiful Silence’ is one of their cutely observed landscape songs, spinning a pertly detailed vision of some house he’s wandered into, like a leisurely thief, studying a snapshot of life before him, delightfully light guitar sliding around steady percussive guidelines. ‘Rive Droite’ is twitchier, luminous guitar peeking over the double bass and capering, shuffling drums, brushed with dexterity. Lyrics of being transported to a house, a chapel, family, a bit like Nick Cave (in tune) bathed in sunshine, and gradually enveloped in a viscous, fluid musical power. Amazing, really, how they’re able to invest something so dignified with such heat.
In ‘Mary Of The Woods’ it’s crouched again as he sings of watching kites and washing lines (obviously no x-box in his gaff), lost in emotional reverie. There’s a quaintness here too, as he walks to the parson’s house, meeting a cooper and a priest along the way. I have that problem. It snaps shut alarmingly, and a doleful, twanging ‘The Way The Land Lies’ rushes onwards, with a returning protagonist surveying a place he once loved, the guitar beckoning coyly beneath the sturdy detail.
‘The Legend Of Mucklow’ is superb, and blessed by disturbing percussion, with horrible imagery (‘Waist high in the wild oats, Goose-grass burns on his old coat, A knife tears through his throat’) and the urgent cries make little sense, adding to the awful tension of a strange but compelling piece. ‘Untitled’ is just a tasty instrumental morsel, leading to ‘Candace’ which rolls along with pictures of a wayward sister, into ‘Stay Away From The Accordion Girl’, which is always wise advice; an almost punky bass rumbling alongside the winsome guitar and a harmonious, elegant wash.
Blimey, in ‘The Saracen’s Head’ he’s off down the pub. Seriously. Being led by a little girl, apparently, in the rain. Watch out for the chavs, they know an easy target when they see one, although I’m sure they don't have such creatures in this world. In this world people travel by penny-farthing bicycle, which plays merry Hell with tour itineraries. Due for a gig in Cologne and they’re still somewhere by a Belgian river, eating sandwiches. I don’t know! ‘On This Day’ is another heavenly instrumental, just as moody as the songs, simply minus lyrics. ‘A Man With A Drum’ is a curious and superbly searing thing, lolloping along, sparkling brightly about some weirdo banging a drum in the street, although it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s their idea of an audition (‘Drummer required, with a steadfast Proustain allegiance, and knowledge of hopscotch. No flibbertigibbets.’). ‘Under The Stars’ crawls along, more fleeting glimpses of people in diverse and appealing settings in semi-sadness and luscious sounds. Of course they also throw in a fat man shaving, a milkfloat, starlings swooping and we find we’ve ended on an optimistic note, which is lovely.
Another stunner from them then, and enticingly weird, as though Wim Wenders was brought up in the Midlands.- Mick Mercer
MELODY AND MELANCHOLY
Image: And Also The Trees
In an appreciation of Worcestershire goths, And Also The Trees, Eugene Thacker digs the 'unconditional sadness' which connects their music to a melancholy continnuum stretching back to the 17th century
As a student I was convinced I knew goth – it was Joy Division, Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and so on. That was until I heard And Also The Trees – by accident really, walking into my friend's room one late afternoon. What I heard was a lush, almost baroque sound made up of an eerie, swirling, mandolin-like guitar, breathy and sorrowful vocals, all punctuated by a tight rhythm section that managed to somehow move through the thick, shimmering chaos. The lyrics were reminiscent of Romantic poetry, evoking a haunting narrative of rural decay and lost landscapes. The song was 'Shaletown', from the album The Millpond Years, by a band I'd never heard of before. Looking at the CD, I saw that the band photos were right in line with the sound – skinny young lads looking like they had stepped right out of the 19th century, waistcoats and all, standing in front of the ruins of some estate, full of ennui and extremely world weary. Even their name – And Also The Trees – sounded like a line from a poem. Okay, now this is gothic, I thought. Not the gothic of carnival make up, frumpy black clothes, quirky pop jingles, and sprayed-out hair. Instead, this band seemed to refuse the entire modern world; they seemed to live in ruins and brooding melancholy. And they seemed to be enjoying it. It was strangely inspirational; it made you want to feel sad too, but not for any particular reason. This was a sadness hovering between a withering past and a refusal of the present. Their exhaustion and their sadness seemed unconditional. Their romanticism was unapologetic. ‘They look like they take themselves too seriously’, someone else in the room said. ‘Exactly...’ I replied, ‘that’s what’s so great about them...’
My reason for writing about And Also The Trees (hereafter AATT) is twofold. The first reason is, quite simply, as an appreciation. AATT is one of the few bands I still listen to to this day. Their career spans some 30 years, from their initial formation in 1979 in a Worcestershire village, to their most recent album, Hunter Not The Hunted (2012). They are one of those bands who has never stopped making music and evolving, all the while retaining that melancholic thread that is evident in all their songs. All the while, AATT have remained under the radar; for them there are no number one hits, no top ten albums, no reunion tours (I like to think they prefer it this way, though age teaches us to discover inspiration in resignation).
The second reason is to try to draw out some of the themes in AATT, which for me centre around the idea of melancholy and its relationship to melody, song and lyric. One of AATT’s gifts is to find different ways of allowing melancholy to shape, form and deform melody – often to the point where a song becomes so infused with this unconditional sadness that it must either take flight into a reverberant sky or huddle itself acoustically into a hushed world of delicate timbres and half-sung syllables. For me, listening to AATT ultimately takes us back into literary history, from the 17th century ‘cult of melancholia’ to the ‘dark romanticism’ of the 18th century.i Much of this material is completely forgotten today, or only occasionally taught to listless English majors as part of tedious literary surveys. But much of it is quite relevant, especially as we struggle to comprehend the uncanny, unhuman world in which we are embedded, and which seems continually occluded from our understanding. In the poetry of the Graveyard School, for instance, one can already detect a view of the world as irremediably unhuman, full of strange weather and shifting climates, ruins that seem to be full of promise and vitality, and memories that wither with the same certainty as the surrounding landscape. That consciousness was readily apparent to those poets writing in the 18th and 19th centuries, and I think the insight of AATT’s music is to have extended this awareness to our present day.
This attentiveness to melancholy in all its forms is what makes AATT stand out from their post-punk and gothic contemporaries. Typically, when it comes to music the gothic is understood either as a genre or a style, either as musical form or subcultural content, gloomy synths or tattered black lace dresses. This is all fine, but AATT are unique in that they understand the gothic in its literary context, in which the gothic is centrally concerned with an affective relation to mortality, finitude and temporality, a relation that can be described as melancholic. I would argue that melancholy – the kind of ‘unconditional sadness’ found in bands like AATT – this melancholy finds its fullest historical expression in the gothic sensibility of the 18th century, and particularly in the so-called Graveyard School of poetry of the period.
In literary history, ‘gothic’ as a term has had a wide range of uses.ii It usually refers to a type of fiction writing popular during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, of which Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764), Anne Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and Matthew Lewis' The Monk(1796) are oft-cited examples. Many elements of the gothic novel have become the stuff of modern horror films – labyrinthine castles, gloomy cemeteries, tempestuous storms and dreaded hauntings. The gothic novel also typically contained a veritable litany of transgressive themes, from madness and suicide to sorcery and demonism. It was perhaps because of this that gothic novels were both critically disparaged and immensely popular.
However, the gothic novel drew heavily on the poetry of the preceding generation, and in particular on a loose grouping of poets that have come to be known as the Graveyard School. Historically the vogue for graveyard poetry was brief, exemplified by poems such as Thomas Parnell's ‘Night-Piece on Death’ (1721), Robert Blair's ‘The Grave’ (1743), Thomas Gray's ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ (1751), and Edward Young's epic The Complaint; or Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality(1742). Because the setting of the poems tended to be among tombs, ruins and wintry landscapes, the name was given, and seems to have stuck. Reading the poems today can be difficult – not only because no one seems to read poetry these days, but also because many of the motifs have become the clichés of the horror genre and what we often think of as ‘goth’. But the Graveyard School is also part of a larger discourse in the 18th and early 19th century around the role of the aesthetic, particularly in the face of scientific progress, emerging industrialism, and an ongoing crisis in traditional religion.
Image: Gwenda Morgan, wood engraving for Gray's 'Elegy written in a Country Churchyard', Golden Cockerel Press, 1946
What both the gothic novel and the graveyard poets have in common is an ambivalence towards the legacy of the Enlightenment. I say ‘ambivalence’ here because critics of the period were perpetually divided on the value and relevance of the gothic sensibility. For some, the graveyard poets and gothic novelists signaled nothing less than an all-out critique of the over-reliance on human reason and the proprietary interiority of the individual, humanist subject, a critique launched through an aesthetics of excess and transgression. For others, the plethora of gloomy meditations on death and the supernatural were really ways of grappling with and even affirming religious experience outside of traditional religion; the terrors were there simply to teach, smuggling in religion through the back door. The truth probably lies somewhere inbetween; while such poems and novels do evoke a sense of an absolute and unhuman dread, often this is resolved through a chivalric code of righted wrongs (villains ousted, victims saved), or through the philosophical fiat of reason (illusions revealed, order restored).iii
Whether these works were essentially progressive or conservative is a debate that preoccupies scholars to this day. What many agreed on, however, was that the key to the gothic sensibility lay in the way that aesthetic form – and hence aesthetic experience – was constantly undermined by an affective content that remained continually in excess of it. Against the neoclassical emphasis on form, the gothic ululation of the formless; against the aesthetic obligation towards a unified whole, the gothic predilection towards the incomplete and fragmentary; against the neoclassical adherence to boundaries, the gothic fascination with transgression.
It is one thing to make claims of efficacy for a literary work – that it does this or it does that, that it is critical or that it undermines, that it reveals or illuminates, that it succeeds in communicating what cannot be put into words. But what is one to do with, for instance, a poem so weighed down in its affective content that it crumbles in on itself?
Flow, my tears, fall from your springs!
Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
Where night's black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.iv
These lines are from the opening of John Dowland's poem ‘Flow My Tears’ (1596), and they express neither the constraint of later neoclassical aesthetics nor the exuberant adventure of the chivalric-gothic style. They express a sadness that seems without cause and without resolve; a melancholy that is almost depersonalised, seeping into the very environment.
Such a sadness has a rich cultural history, from its association with the bodily humors in Greek medicine, to the brooding tragic figures of Elizabethan drama. Against the backdrop of religious conservatism, melancholy during the Reformation blossomed into a fully-fledged ‘cult of melancholia’,and sentiments like those of Dowland's poem found their religious analogue in Thomas Browne:
Oblivion is not to be hired: The greater part must be content to be as through they had not been...The number of dead long exceedeth all that shall live...Every hour adds unto that current Arithmetique which scarce stands one moment...Since our longest sunne sets at right descensions, and makes but winter arches, and therefore it cannot be long before we lie down in darknesse, and have our light in ashes.v
Robert Burton, whose The Anatomy of Melancholy has remained a reference on the topic to this day, noted the ambivalence of melancholy when he referred to it not simply as sadness, but as a ‘pleasurable sadness.’vi
Image: Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621
It was this troubling aspect of melancholy – the way it continually threatened aesthetic form, consuming a text and causing it to crumble from within – it was this aspect that 18th century poets inherited. Melancholy was, for Enlightenment science, a strange condition – it was a despondency from which one has little or no desire to escape; it seemed to have all the contours of religious experience, except that it expressed a disenchantment with traditional religion; it seemed to be highly sensitive to external conditions and yet no real cause for it could be found, let alone a ‘cure’. The problem was ramified by the popularity of melancholy in the poetry, prose and drama of the period. If melancholy was a cultural and even a medical problem, then to write melancholic poetry was simply adding fuel to the fire. What Joseph Addison, writing in the Spectator, famously called ‘the Fairie way of Writing' threatened to unmoor the self from the world, and to blur the distinction between the real and the imagined, the boundary between reason and faith that constituted the underpinning of enlightenment philosophy.
On the one side the detractors of melancholy tended to view it as a medical condition, resulting in overwrought and uninspired poetry; on the other, the proponents of melancholy wanted to align it with the poetic imagination, making claims for its ability to raise the reader to almost religious heights. What both sides missed however, was the way in which melancholy tended to be characterised as an inner mental or psychological state – a feeling interior to a subject who would then externalise this feeling through poetic expression. But a survey of the poetry during the period shows a different picture. It shows poets who, while they do play into the stereotype of the poet-as-expressive-subject, also allow for the unhuman, impersonal world to seep through. James Thomson's poem ‘Winter’ (1726) provides one example of this turning-away from the human world:
Low, the WoodsBow their hoar Head; and, ere the languid SunFaint from the West emits his Evening-Ray,Earth's universal Face, deep-hid, and chill,Is one wild dazzling Waste, that buries wideThe Works of Man.vii
This is not simply a shift towards nature-poetry, many of the graveyard poems rigorously refuse naturalistic realism in favor of specters and hauntings, and neither is it a glorification of nature as seen in and through the human subject – a hallmark of British Romantic poetry. Instead, the graveyard poets invert this model of the expressive subject, allowing the self to dissipate and disperse into the anonymity of the world, rather than acting as a super-charged channel for ‘Nature.’viii Many of the techniques are familiar – allegory, metaphor, personification – but the results are different, they are tragic rather than heroic. The graveyard poets sing the unhuman, they even sing the unhuman of the human, and this constitutes their melancholia.
This transformation of the human into the unhuman is seen in Thomas Wharton's The Pleasures of Melancholy (1747). Wharton begins with the requisite evocation of the Muses, though his are of a darker sort:
O lead me, queen sublime, to solemn gloomsCongenial with my soul; to cheerless shades,To ruin'd seats, to twilight cells and bow'rs,Where thoughtful Melancholy loves to muse... .ix
But the poem quickly moves from a depiction of melancholy as the inner thoughts of a subject, to melancholy as something akin to an impersonal, inorganic force, pulling the subject into the nocturnal environment around it:
While sullen sacred silence reigns around,Save the lone screech-owl's notes, who builds his bow'rAmid the mould'ring caverns dark and damp,Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leavesOf flaunting ivy, that with mantle greenInvests some wasted tow'r.x
Wharton's poem not only evokes a melancholy of mortality and finitude, but it also shows us a strange vitalistic melancholy, encapsulated in the fruiting mold of the caves and the ivy overflowing the tower ruins. Everything – including the corpse, including the living body of the poet – everything becomes imbued with this impersonal sadness. This is literary personification, but in reverse.xi David Mallet's poem 'The Excursion' is emblematic of this kind of impersonal personification:
Night hears from where, wide-hovering in mid-sky,She rules the sable hour: and calls her trainOf visionary fears; the shrouded ghost,The dream distressful, and th'incumbent hag,That rise to Fancy's eye in horrid forms,While Reason slumbering lies.xii
Mallet, like many of poets of the supernatural, deals with the commonly found motifs of night, darkness, the tomb and spectral beings. In poems like these, melancholy is found everywhere, not simply in the brooding, depressed brain of the human subject writing the lines of poetry. Melancholy is environmental, melancholy is climatological, it is at once the night sky and the slow moving seconds of twilight, and it also infuses the spectral domain of fears and dreams, ghosts and demonic shapes – and the blurred line between them. In Mallet's poem, for instance, it is not always clear if we really are in the domain of the supernatural, or if the spectral and creaturely shapes are merely figments of an overactive imagination. And in a way it doesn't matter, since much of the poetry of this type relies on this confusion – at once horrific and pleasurable – between what is thought and what thinks through us. In the poetry of the supernatural, melancholia makes possible this pleasurable confusion.
This confusion – which Edmund Burke associated with the sublime – reaches a pitch in Robert Blair's poem ‘The Grave’, a poem that contains some of the most grotesque and ‘gothic’ imagery of the period:
Ah! how darkThy long-extended realms, and rueful wastes,Where nought but silence reigns, and night, dark night,Dark as was chaos ere the infant sunWas roll'd together, or had tried his beamsBy glimm'ring through thy low-brow'd misty vaults,Furr'd round with mouldy damps and ropy slime,Lets fall a supernumerary horror...xiii
I've always been fascinated by Blair's almost awkward phrase ‘supernumerary horror’, but it makes a certain sense within this impersonal and chaotic world of mould, stone and slime. It is almost as if graveyard poetry allegorically performs the process of the corpse's decay, an awareness of the inorganic world within our very own living bodies. Blair's obsessive interest in the details of the sepulchr are more than merely the products of a morbid imagination; they serve to emphasise the impersonal materiality to which corpse, mist and stone are ultimately all subject.
This little detour into literary history is simply meant to suggest that there is another tradition of melancholy aside from that of the possessive and expressive individual of Romanticism.xiv That other tradition deals with a mood – ‘mood’ both in the usual sense of a state of mind or feeling, but also ‘mood’ in the environmental, ambient sense, mood as an impersonal, affective space. As such, this mood need not simply be the subjective expression of a depressed individual, but something that is more and less than the subjective individual, a mood that precedes and exceeds the subject.xv And it is this ‘mood’ that we can call melancholy. Melancholy in this sense is, first and foremost, unconditional. It is not the result of particular conditions or a reaction to particular events (there's plenty of this to go around, to be sure...). The sadness of melancholy is without cause or resolve; it is not just an expression of a personal sadness, but an impersonal sadness, a melancholy that is inseparable from the physical (and metaphysical) world – a sadness of the world.
This is the type of melancholy that I find evocative in a band like And Also The Trees. No band likes to be put into a box, and it's a mistake to simply label AATT as ‘goth’ since both their music and the goth subculture have drastically changed over time. But if AATT's music is gothic this is because they understand the term in its literary and poetic sense, as an anonymous melancholy, as an unconditional sadness. And it is a thread that is evident, though in different guises, in each of AATT's albums.xvi In their early works AATT map out a kind of melancholic, post-punk sound through instrumental sparseness and haunting lyrics, calling to mind Joy Division, Gang of Four, and Killing Joke (best exemplified by their inimitable song ‘Slow Pulse Boy’; one song from a demo tape contains the line ‘Green is the sea / And also the trees’).xvii Melancholy exudes from these albums by virtue of their subtractive quality, shards of sentences, fragments of melodies, rhythms that hit the ground running and then come full stop.
This shifts during the late 1980s and early 1990s, as AATT adopt a more lush, baroque sound, characterised by guitarist Justin Jones' reverberant, mandolin-like guitar, and vocalist Simon Huw Jones' fuller, almost breathless vocals. The lyrics in albums like The Millpond Years (1987) andFarewell to the Shade (1989) often evoke despondent, rural landscapes, and the almost archetypal figures lurking within them.xviii In the 1990s AATT's sound shifted again, this time away from the aesthetic of 19th century Romanticism and its evocations of ghostly, rural landscapes and towards an urban melancholy, producing albums that called to mind film noir, Bernard Hermann and Nick Cave. The sound is more raw, resulting in a kind of industrial crooning against a backdrop of fuzz and electricity. And, at the turn of the millennium AATT shifted yet again, with a more intimate sound, bringing in elements of jazz and chamber music with new instrumentation (evidenced in 2003's Further From The Truth and (Listen for) the Rag and Bone Man from 2007, the former of which contains the elegiac ‘Feeling Fine’). This emphasis on intimacy and solitude has recently been complimented by two acoustic albums, When The Rains Come (2009) and Driftwood (2011), both of which feature unplugged renditions of early AATT songs.xix
In his lyrics, Simon Huw Jones pays homage to the tradition of the gothic sensibility in poetry and its ability to glean emotional insights from seemingly innocuous details and everyday gestures (in one song Jones sings ‘His box of birds / Weighs him down / As he walks / Far from this town’; in another ‘Far from the lantern swaying / Summer dusk, your seaweed breath / Screams brine out of the bay’; and in another ‘Cathedral quiet and narcotic seas / In a mind of tide-mark memories...’). At times his lyrics turn to narrative, constructing impressionistic scenarios of mythical characters, objects and scenery, culled from a bowl of rotting fruit, a hand on the shoulder, the slow meandering sunlight across the walls.xx At other times the lyrics evoke unpopulated spaces, broken landscapes and empty rooms, filled only by dusty memories and a kind of wayward, delirious nostalgia.xxi All of this is complemented by the music, much of which is characterised by Justin Jones' guitar, be it the shimmering swaying of songs like ‘Mermen of the Lea’ and ‘L'Unica Strada’, the skeletal lyricism of ‘Sickness Divine’ and ‘Feeling Fine’, or the plaintiff and elegiac sound on the acoustic albums.
The most recent AATT album, Hunter Not the Hunted (2012) is a kind of summation of the band's ongoing musical reflection on melancholy.xxii The song I've been listening to over and over is ‘My Face is Here in the Wildfire’. For me it represents one of the most distilled expressions of what AATT are all about. It also whittles the song structure down to two basic elements, voice and guitar, word and melody, the lyric and the lyrical (returning to the ancient Greek notion of a song rendered to the accompaniment of a lyre). The lyrics themselves are abstract, an almost surrealist juxtaposition of an impersonal, anonymous face melding perfectly into the natural world: ‘My face is here in the maelstrom / My fossil bones jutting out into the night air / And the insects, sacred / Whirling through my green black life-riddled hair’. On paper the lyrics read like poetry – but it's still the written word. When sung, the words take on a new form – they are almost emptied of semantic content and themselves become lyrical form. For instance, when Jones sings the line ‘I can hear the rooks in their light sleep crow’ the last three words are spaced out – ‘light....sleep...crow’ – so that they become detached from the grammar of the sentence, almost stochastically released, like rain drops on a window when it begins to rain.
In moments like these AATT take up lyrical form and in essence weigh it down with melancholy, so much that the words break apart, becoming so many scattered remains, strangely tranquil in their non-human habitat. This is not a lyricism of an expressive, emotional subject, but a lyricism turned outwards into the world, a kind of inverted lyricism, weighed down and rendered inorganic through this special type of melancholy. And it is this that I find resonant with the tradition of the gothic and graveyard poetry. A band like AATT takes up graveyard poetry's turn towards melancholy as a unconditional sadness, and in so doing they produce something that is actually an inversion of the traditional notion of lyric, in the sense of a poem uttered by a single speaker, and expressing a state of mind or feeling that is constitutive of that individual subject. Lyric is, in this traditional sense, interiority and solitude. Instead, AATT, like the graveyard poets, offers the exteriority of a world that persists in spite of us, but also an exteriority that we discover is always within us. Likewise, the solitude of these melancholic songs is not the solitude of the individual or even of the lonely crowd, but the solitude of the world, glimpsed in the numerous pauses of silence on which the graveyard poets endlessly dwell. What results is a lyricism of the impersonal, of climate, cloud, moss, river, stone and ruins.
iThanks to Josephine Berry Slater and Mira Mattar for their helpful comments on this article.
The term 'dark romanticism' is used by G.R. Thompson in his anthology The Gothic Imagination: Essays in Dark Romanticism (Washington State University Press, 1974). Thompson uses the term to describe British poetry and prose in the period between Enlightenment neoclassicism and the emergence of Romanticism, and which is inclusive of both the Graveyard School of poets and the gothic novelists.
ii Innumerable student theses and scholarly books have been written on the literary gothic, and I will not attempt to summarise them here. Contemporary surveys include David Punter and Glennis Byron'sThe Gothic (Blackwell, 2004) and The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Literature, ed. Jerrod Hogle (Routledge, 2002). Earlier critical works that are still interesting include Montague Summers' The Gothic Quest – A History of the Gothic Novel and Mario Ppraz's famous study The Romantic Agony. From a perspective of cultural theory, see Fred Botting's many writings on the gothic, such as Limits of Terror: Technology, Bodies, Gothic (Manchester University Press, 2010).
iii One of the few voices to speak on behalf of the gothic sensibility was Richard Hurd, literary critic and bishop of Worcester. Hurd's Letters on Chivalry and Romance (1762) appeals not to the contemporary literature of his time, but to the earlier examples of Shakespeare, Ariosto and Milton. Against the neoclassical emphasis on form, symmetry and balance, Hurd argued for the influence of a medieval gothic sensibility characterised by more vigorous, chivalric codes of honor, adventure and a religious temperament. Hurd is conclusive in his analysis: '...you will find that the manner they paint, and the superstitions they adopt, are the more poetical for being Gothic.'
iv John Dowland, 'Flow My Tears', in The Lute Songs of John Dowland, ed. David Nadal (Dover, 1997), p. 58.
v Sir Thomas Browne, 'Urne Buriall; or, a Discourse of the Sephulchrall Urnes Lately Found in Norfolk', in The Religio Medici and Other Writings (J.M. Dent & Sons, 1945), p.135.
vi Though Burton's massive tome was ostensibly presented as a medical textbook – meaning that he, like the Hippocratic authors, viewed melancholy as a disease – much of it is a compendium of the different views on melancholy in literature, art and the sciences. Nevertheless, the title alone of the 1621 edition is enough to make one a little depressed: The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up.
vii James Thomson, 'From The Seasons', in English Romantic Poetry and Prose, ed. Russell Noyes (Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 5.
viii While many of the key works of the Graveyard School pre-date the mainstream of British Romantic poetry, I would argue that this inversion of the subject continues, less as a 'school' and more as a tendency, even within Romanticism – for instance, in Bryon's poem 'Darkness', Shelley's 'To Night', and Keats' poems 'Ode to Melancholy' and 'After Dark Vapours.'
ix Thomas Warton, 'From The Pleasures of Melancholy', in English Romantic Poetry and Prose, ed. Russell Noyes (Oxford University Press, 1956), p.61.
xi This idea of depersonification invites a comparison with the notion of pathetic fallacy in literary criticism, especially as laid out by Romantic era critics like John Ruskin. Whereas pathetic fallacy may involve the attribution of human qualities to non-human things (or, as a variation, the attribution of animate qualities to inanimate things), I'm pushing here for an inversion, in which the human is discovered to be non-human, and so-called human affects such as melancholy are presented as properties of the world as such. Of course, in these sorts of discussions one never really gets away from the most basic fallacy, which is that it is ultimately human beings that make a claim at all, one way or another.
xii David Mallet, 'The Excursion', in The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper, ed. Alexander Chalmers (J. Johnson et al., 1810), vol. XIV, p. 17.
xiii Robert Blair, 'The Grave', in English Romantic Poetry and Prose, ed. Russell Noyes (Oxford University Press, 1956), p.23.
xiv This is unfair, I know, since much of Coleridge and Wordsworth can be profitably read in this way (Blake is another case altogether). The problem is that the figure of the poet is often so over-determined in Romanticism that it occludes the myriad, non-human elements at play in their work; the graveyard poets happened upon their poetry, whereas the Romantics felt destined to write their poetry. For a counterargument, see Ron Broglio's book Technologies of the Picturesque (Bucknell University Press, 2008).
xv In a way, the ancient Greeks already intuited this. The texts in the Hippocratic Corpus talk aboutmelancholia as a condition at once psychological and physical – as an imbalance in the bodily humors, a sense of being overwhelmed by 'sadness, fears, and despondencies' caused by an excess of black bile. For Greek medicine (and philosophy) balance was everything. If the substances of the body tipped to one side or the other – through diet, lifestyle, or simply obtrusive thoughts – then the result could be a form of sadness beyond respite.
xvi AATT were, for many years, a quartet, comprised of brothers Simon Huw Jones (vocals) and Justin Jones (guitar), with Steven Burrows (bass) and Nick Havas (drums). In recent years the AATT sound has been filled out by the addition of Ian Jenkins' wonderfully thick double bass playing, Paul Hill's delicate jazz drumming and Emer Brizzolara's precision on dulcimer and harmonium.
xvii Their 1983 debut And Also The Trees (produced by The Cure's Lol Tolhurst and which crashes in with the track 'So This is Silence') and their follow up Virus Meadow crystallises this combination of musical sparseness and stark, impressionistic lyrics. For me, AATT's debut album stands right alongside Bauhaus' In The Flat Field, The Cure's Seventeen Seconds, and Siouxsie and the Banshees' Spellbound as a classic of the post-punk, early goth sound.
xviii The opulent soundscapes of albums like these, along with Green is the Sea (1990) look askance to the mid to late ’80s sounds of The Cure, Siouxsie, and many of the 4AD projects, while also bringing in 'neoclassical' elements found in many darkwave bands associated with the Projekt label.
xix One can only appreciate these by comparison with their originals, as with the songs 'A Room Lives in Lucy' and 'Dialogue' – I long to hear acoustic versions of 'Slow Pulse Boy' and 'The Ship in Trouble'...
xx Cf. the songs 'Vincent Craine', 'Wooden Leg', 'The Legend of Mucklow'.
xxi Cf. 'Gone...Like the Swallows', 'The Street Organ', 'Mary of the Woods'.
xxii Songs such as 'Only', with its Spanish sounding guitar and rich textures of voice, dulcimer, and percussion, have all the drama of earlier albums like The Millpond Years, but it is a more muted drama that gradually contacts and expands, much like the expansive reverberations of Simon Huw Jones' trademark vocal style. Some songs, such as 'Burn Down This Town' look back to the lulling, waltz-like melodies of Green is the Sea, while 'Hunter Not the Hunted' adopts a more chamber music approach in its pared down instrumentation.
From a rural village in Worcestershire, England, brothers Simon(vocals) and Justin Jones (guitar) formed And Also the Trees in 1979 with bassist Steven Burrows and drummer Nick Havas. In response to an ad by the Cure looking for support bands on their English tour, the Jones brothers sent a tape and ended up doing several dates and later an entire tour with Robert Smith and co. in 1981. And Also the Treesstill hadn't released any material at that point, so the Cure's Lol Tolhurst produced a single ("Shantell") and the band's eponymous debut album, released in February of 1984. Tolhurst's work made the Cure an easy pointer for And Also the Trees' sound, though the fragile beauty of Joy Division and the Chameleons also lend comparisons. The band contributed a session toJohn Peel's BBC radio show, and Continental critics lavished praise on subsequent albums Virus Meadow(1986), The Millpond Years (1988) and the live LP The Evening of the 24th (released 1987). The notoriously fickle U.K. music press, however, deserted the waning Goth fad and the group was left drifting. Farewell to the Shade, released in 1989, was And Also the Trees' final British release, as well as the only album available in America (on Troy Records). The group moved to the German label Normal for 1992's Green Is the Sea and The Klaxon, released the following year. - allmusic.com
An exclusive interview with
Simon Huw Jones
AND ALSO THE TREES
Sometimes I think that it’s a miracle a group like And Also the Trees exists and keeps coming up with such delicate and fine romantic music. Every release has individuality, depth and a unique supernatural element. Doesn’t everyday life and its un-poetic aspect, affect your songwriting? Don’t any happy moments find the way to become songs?
Simon Huw Jones: First, thank you for the compliment in the question, but if you can’t hear any joy or happiness in our music we have failed you. There has to be light in the darkness. And everyday life is in there too – a fat man shaving, a girl standing in a garden, walking to a pub in the rain, the smell of fried fish and beer, answering the telephone – it’s notthat poetic is it?. We try to create a balance… these are the final words from the second song on the album, I think they sum up what I’m trying to say – “I came upon a house, somewhere I’d never been before, and in this place of light and dark I feel my heart sing joyously inside me”.
Nature is an endless source of inspiration for your music. The changing scenery through the seasons, mirrored on the still surface of a millpond... But the references to persons are much less and very different, people are like abstract souls, like an aura. Do you find depictions of human characters less attractive, or more difficult to be described?
Simon Huw Jones: I hadn’t realized this before but you’re right. When I listen to the music, before I have written a vocal melody and words, it tends to take me to places… landscapes or rooms, towns, the ocean… whatever. As a lyricist I like to move into and through theses scenes but also I like to leave a lot of the details, and characters left open to interpretation.
That said, we could try and create some portraits in the future… it could be an interesting experiment.
The Millpond Years is difficult, dark, poetic, angry and haunting. How was the atmosphere during its recording, or the concerts of this time? So much tension, and creativity leads sometimes to unexpected situations within the borders of a band.
Simon Huw Jones: The atmosphere was very exciting at that time. It was a time of great discovery for me. As we all grew up together the atmosphere within the group was always reasonably stable, this made touring and recording a really enjoyable experience as we could easily be our selves, we had nothing to prove to each other.
The concerts were very intense but they always had been… we were drinking too much at that point but in general we got away with it. When I listen back to ‘The millpond years’ I wish I had controlled my emotions more as the vocal sounds too intense to me now, but it didn’t at the time… not to us anyway. I didn’t realise then that even when I try to sing without emotion there it is still enough.
French and German audience accepted your music really well, but your homeland didn’t ever seem to care a lot. At a glance, it seems rather disappointing. But do you think that this fact protected you from any popularity pressure and helped you to express and advance your unique sound much more healthier and easier?
Simon Huw Jones: These things have contributed towards making us the way we are and our music the way it is yes… but I’m not sure how healthy it was to live for so long in such isolation. Had we moved somewhere where our music was better recognised it could have been helpful creatively and spiritually and our overall conditions as a working band might have been better too if we’d been in touch with other people who were involved in music or the arts in some way.
There was something special about living out in the countryside of course, we drew inspiration from it, and still do as its now part of our lives.
“Blind Opera” is an exceptional song, like a theatrical part, the monologue of the doomed. What kind of pictures emerge when you play this powerful piece of music live?
Simon Huw Jones: I think of the ancient apple trees in the orchard that used to be in front of the house where we lived and I think of them being cut down… which was a very disturbing experience for me. All the branches were cut of and the trunks of the trees stood for a few days, jutting out the earth like tortured figures under the flat winter sky. I think of the lords of Morton, whoever they were and I think of the ancient people who were said to be buried beneath that orchard when it was a grave yard in the medieval period. I think of the trees when they were covered with blossom in the spring and the birds that flew between them. ‘Blind opera’ is about the darkest song we ever wrote.
Your live appearances are very tense, you seem to communicate with the audience though not in a conventional way. How do you feel when playing live?
Simon Huw Jones: When it’s going well I feel more alive than at any other time. The point when we communicate best with an audience seems, strangely, to be when we forget they are there. It takes a special kind of harmony for that to happen.
Klaxon was said to be a turning point in your sound, like a big step in time, or a move from the quiet countryside to the noisy nightlife of a city. What kind of influences led you to compose these specially flavored songs? Are you afraid of changes in life and how do you deal with them?
Simon Huw Jones: Yes, we needed to get away from our roots before they trapped us. ‘The klaxon’ was like the beginning of a musical voyage that took us away from the countryside and out into the world beyond. Justin’s guitar led the way and the rest of us followed.
I don’t think we are more afraid of changes in life than the next person.
So we’re in 2008. In a parallel space, four young boys from a small village decide to form a band. In your days, there was punk. Now, where should they try to find the musical sparkle which would be able to cause that creative explosion in their hearts?
Simon Huw Jones: I have no idea, we were lucky to be around when punk rock came along, it changed everything – I suppose the general rap, house, hip hop scene did something similar in that it is artistically accessible… by that I mean that you don’t need any musical training to start making that kind of music… it’s a good vehicle for raw expression.
So a group in a parallel situation would probably start by writing hip hop songs with a typically urban feel then realize, after a while, that they were writing songs about something that was not a part of their lives… then they would start taking influence from their actual environment or at least stop trying to be something they were not.
Do you feel that you are always open to musical and lyrical influences, from the early years till today? Or do you think that you have come to a final aspect that helps you listen and create music?
Simon Huw Jones: We are always open to influences.
How easy was for Simon to dress up lyrically the 50’s guitar sounds and the American sound of Angelfish and Silver Soul? I mean, as far as I know, first comes the music and then you go on with the lyrics. Did Simon had any difficulty in following the change of the musical context?
Simon Huw Jones: It wasn’t easy at all, although I don’t ever find lyric writing easy. It was an alien landscape to me that conjured up images of Edward Hopper and scenes that reminded me of passages I’d read in Fitzgerald novels or beat novels. The only way I felt I could do it was to look upon it as a voyage.
Your latest album "(Listen for) The Rag and Bone Man" continues in the same vein as your previous "Further From The Truth", but one might say a little darker, maybe dreamier. What was the band’s approach towards the new songs while recording?
Simon Huw Jones: The general opinion, and ours too, is that the latest album is quite different to the one before it – although I accept that we don’t all hear things the same way. Apart from the musical and instrumental differences, ‘(Listen for) the rag and bone man’ has quite a different lyrical feel to it too, the words certainly came from a different area of my head.
What’s a “Rag and bone man”?
Simon Huw Jones: Originally rag and bone men went from house to house collecting rags (pieces of old cloth) which were used as an ingredient to make paper, and bones - which were used in the making of china. Times changed and rag and bone men turned to collecting just about anything they thought they could use or sell.
Why so much violence in “The Legend Of Mucklow”? The voice, the lyrics, the sounds, they are scaring. An astonishing, unexpected murder ballad, for sure, but quite unusual.
Simon Huw Jones: There is an undercurrent of violence in a lot of our music, although it doesn’t usually come to the surface. In ‘The legend of Mucklow’ it does, there was something very menacing about the music and the more I heard it the more my mind was drawn to this character. I’m not really sure what is going on in this lyric, the violence is quite abstract and what part Mucklow takes is unclear. He was actually hung for the theft of livestock (so the legend has it) and his phantasmic figure does still ride the lanes, but what he is doing in this song I don’t know. I actually like this ambiguity.
When do you think that something could be described as “classic”? Is it a matter of time, quality, popularity, or …
Simon Huw Jones: I suppose it is a combination of all those things although I’m not sure about ‘popularity’… I consider ‘No more shall we part’ to be the ‘Classic’ ‘Bad seeds’ album, for example, but I’m not sure it is his most popular.
Have you ever felt inspirationally and musically exhausted?
Simon Huw Jones: Yes, many times.
Which are your favourite poets? Which poem could sometime stand as lyrics in a song of yours?
Simon Huw Jones: Actually I am not a good reader of poetry… my favorite are probably collections of Haiku poems.
What was you opinion of the Greek audience when you first played here in Athens in 2004? It was a concert that many had been waiting for a long time.Any chance to come & play again some time soon?
Simon Huw Jones: We had a very good time when we came to Athens, we got on wellwith every one we met and had a very strong feeling from the audience. We want to come back but of course the traveling is problematic. We have been talking with our contact about returning sometime this year though. I really hope so.
Please give us a word or two, (a characteristic, a name, a person, a feeling…anything!) that occurs to your mind, when reading the followings. I always liked that little game!
Inkberrow - I now spell it ?nkberrow
Robert Smith - Good guy in a knackered biker jacket
Slow Pulse Boy - A Belgian backstreet
England - home, unrealistic green hills dotted with sheep.
The Fruit Room - jasmine and the bed with sun light over it. Home.
Romance - An old book I flick though the pages of but never read
Art - The wonderful Tate gallery
The Young Gods - Good neighbors to have
Lol Tolhurst - Sun glasses
Stay away from the accordion girl - stars above a vineyard.
And also the trees - Standing outside a fish and chip shop after doing our first gig - amazed and happy...
where do you take me my little girl - indeed.
Interview by: V. Giannakopoulos
AND ALSO THE TREES - Lady d'Arbanville video 1989
On the rust red lane ...
And Also The Trees new album is called Hunter not the Hunted and was released March 26th, 2012.» Other Projects:
November, Simon's collaboration with Bernard Trontin of The Young Gods had been released on the swiss label Shayo Records (Martyn Bates, Sally Doherty, Julia Kent a.o.)Steven Burrows currently is working on a solo project (called 'Black River') and will be featured as guest musician on the upcoming Dark Orange album as also Emer will be.
» Beyond The Horizon
...A Homage to And Also The Trees
e-mail me for infos if you want to contribute with a song
DECEMBER 01, 2012
OCTOBER 23, 2011
OCTOBER 10, 2011
JUNE 09, 2010
Twenty years of work, fertilising, harvesting and also the trees. Such jubilee.
Steven: "Yes, it should be the cause of some celebration. We seem to have survived by some beautiful accident rather than by design. When we began our only hopes were to make one record and play some shows! But the time has passed very quickly. It's been an exciting & often magical journey, and one that will continue for as long as music has an importance in our lives. I think we have a lot to be proud of. We have never made a record that we didn't like...we have never compromised our music for commercial reward...and we have never been part of a fashion or 'scene' (although others have tried to put us there!). We have an incredible bond of friendship within AATT & this has been the key to our longevity. Even the ex-members (Graham, Mark, Will, Emer, etc) remain great friends"
Does Byron & Constable done in the field what you did in the meadow?
Steven: "I'm flattered that you would consider us in the same league, and it's a fair observation, but one that I think now belongs in our past. In the period between Virus Meadow & Farewell To The Shade we lived & breathed the countryside. Nature was our everyday enviroment and it was absorbed completely into our music. It seemed impossible to avoid it. Our home village of Inkberrow was - and remains - a beautiful place, but over the years it has changed, like everything else. There are more people, bigger roads, more noise, and it's connection with AATT has gone. We all live in urban landscapes these days. Enviroments that have a poetry & beauty all of their own...."
Something about you l'unica strada way of living...way of playing. ?
Steven: "AATT has taken us halfway around the world. These journeys have altered our lives to the point where music & life have become one entity. Each has an influence upon the other. 'Farewell...' for example was written after lengthy visits to both Italy & Germany,and had an enormous effect on the way that we wrote the album, both musically & lyrically. If you listen hard you can hear the influence quite clearly. This process carries on even now, in the Americana of our last two albums 'Angelfish' & 'Silver Soul'. Music as memories. Quite a juxtaposition from the englishness we've become famous for, and one that's not lost on us....it's bizarre that I can feel so English when I visit the USA, but when I am home I feel more European than English!"
Does urbanisation bring crooked emotions?
Steven: "It brings more emotions & different emotions, but no more crooked than in the countryside...our lives are shaped by the people we allow into them & by default we experience more people in an urban enviroment. On a personal level I think we are all much happier living in urban landscapes. The isolation of the rural world can be wonderful, but like everything it has it's dark side..."
The fragrancy of Lady d'Arbanville & tenderness of The Woodcutter becomes our regular repertoire & response of audience is very well. How important to you are peoples reactions on your songs?
Steven: "It's very important as this is the proof that we are making a connection on a personal level, that what we are doing is as important to someone else as it is to us. And sometimes the audience is our objective ear. They instinctively know if a piece of music is good or bad (and sometimes they will let us know!) But we have never let our audience dictate to our musical direction. We have often been told that we could have been more successful if we had given our audience exactly what they wanted, but we have always felt the need to be honest with our music. We are instinctive artists, sometimes with little control over our direction. Only once did we try to make a popular record -The Secret Sea - but in our opinion it was not a success, a lesson learned. It would be impossible to be passionate about our music if we were not honest in it's creation...
Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination about your new album...
Steven:"It is in a very early stage so it's difficult to give a true picture. There have been personal tragedies in our lives that may shape its colour. I anticipate it will be much darker than our last album....our fascination with Americana seems to be disappearing & is being replaced with a sparse, dark, jazz feel. We're trying to experiment with new sounds and of course we have a new drummer - Paul Hill - who replaced Nick last year, so there will be some changes that are completely natural. We're listening to Miles Davis, John Cale, Tom Waits, Kraftwerk & Underworld, & I detect a return to a more 'European' sound..."
Interview of Simon Huw Jones
by Ivor Thiel
October 12, 1998.
Hello. So, this was the new album, Silver Soul. Took nearly two years, about two years. Why did it take this long period to get the album out? I heard you changed labels, was it all because of this?
Simon We usually take two years, anyway, to write each album. But we did change the label, and did have a few difficult times with the business side of music.
Well, a lot of people were frightened because they thought that maybe there never would be another album. In the past few years when I'd play And Also the Trees, people phoned up and asked "When will there be another album?" All that I had heard was that you didn't have a new label. Now, finally, you've found one. How did you manage to get to them? Why them?
Simon : It's our own label. The first CD on our own label.
And who is doing all the work? It's a lot of work, I think, running your own label.
Simon : Guitarist and brother Justin. We're doing distribution through EFA.
Why did you do your own label, and choose to produce your own work?
Simon : We'd had a lot of trouble with other labels. In fact, the English label we signed to were enthusiastic and convinced that they could make us more popular in England. Now, this wasn't Reflex, this was the one before Silver Soul, we just had the one CD with them. But they didn't get very far, because we have not really spoken with the media in England for about eight years. So, I think they've fallen out with us forever. And we don't really care about that, but the record company had a lot of trouble and we decided to sort of leave them and go on our own.
Well, when you do it on your own, I suppose at least you know exactly what happens to your CDs, because you have all the work in your own hands.
You just said that you didn't talk to the media in England for about eight years. I know that a lot of bands are telling me that if the media likes you there, you're the best band for a week or a month, but if they don't, then they don't speak to you. What's the media situation in England?
Simon : I don't know. I think it was about 1986 or 1987 the first time we came to Europe, and we had a very good time, and at that point we were getting pretty good press in England. When we got back, we didn't speak to the media and they didn't speak to us. We really couldn't be bothered to do all the running around and telephone calls, trying to be friends with people who you're not friends with. All that falseness. And we just decided that we weren't going to bother.
So you didn't care at all about that.
Simon : Not really, no.
I saw on the tour, you only had one gig in England, and it's right where most of the band lives.
Simon : It's near to where most of us live. In fact, it was our first gig in England in six years.
But, I heard it was a good gig.
Simon : It was a good gig. We really enjoyed it, and the crowd really enjoyed it. I was quite pleased because a lot of people who knew nothing about And Also the Trees came ready to criticize us, and they liked the gig a lot. So, for me that made it particularly worthwhile.
So maybe there will be an English tour soon.
Simon : There was an agent who asked us afterwards if we would do a tour, but of gothic clubs, which we're not so keen on. But maybe, maybe we will.
The Obvious. Something special to say about this song?
Simon : Lyrically, I thought of the lyrics when I was in Bern. I was living there for six months. I loved living there. The idea come to me as I was walking home from the supermarket down the big old main street one night. For me, it's quite special for that.
T Isn't it difficult for you to live most of the time in Switzerland, with most of the band in England, in Inkberrow, I believe, to produce the new album? How did you manage it?
Simon : Well, what happened, Justin and Steven wrote the music, and then last spring, Justin came to Lugano ,on the Italian border near where I was living then with some recording equipement. We cleared the flat that I was living in, and I surrounded myself with books and bits of writing that I'd done, and just sang whatever came out of my head or the books or whatever. We got a lot of the vocal melodies written there, and then he went home. So, yes, it's difficult, but we always manage somehow.
So Justin and Steven do the music first, the bassist and the guitar player, and you later do the lyrics.
Simon :The lyrics and the vocal melody, yeah.
And finally, you produced it in your studio in England, or where?
Simon :No, we went to Cornwall to do that.
Ah. So, ten tracks on the new album. Perhaps you can say something about it? You just talked about The Obvious lyrics you wrote in Bern, is there a special story about Nailed or Rose-Marie's Leaving?
Simon :Nailed. Now this is something that is just very... The music wrote that in my head for me, I think. It had to be urban. And it's almost like this character called Red Valentino from a song of about three or four albums ago, his spirit seems to walk in and out of all of our albums. I think this is a reincarnation of him. And Rose-Marie's Leaving is one of those blissful songs that I wrote the lyrics for as I sang them. It came straight out of my head. It took no time at all. If we could do all the tracks like that, we would do an album every six months instead of every two years.
You say one album every two years, but the band started in the beginning of the eighties. Now we are at 1998, and there should be more albums than eight.
Simon : Yes, when we first started, it was a period of time when bands were recording 12" singles, this is a good excuse this one for being lazy or not prolific enough, but in those days bands were doing 12" singles with two tracks on the B side, and one on the A side, and not including those songs on the albums.
Thiel That's right, I remember. I even have here the box of all the singles and 12" maxis. I remember the only cover version I know from And Also the Trees was from a Maxi, it was in the sum of Cat Stevens. Why did you cover this song, and have never done another cover?
Simon :Yes, Lady D'Arbanville. Well, that was a song that I'd grown up with. My sister was a bit of a hippie in the sixties, and she used to be in love with Cat Stevens and would play that song, and it stayed with me for a long time. And that was a time when the group, we were quite influenced by the romanticism and color of the pre-raphealite paintings. That was a song that just seemed to fit in.
The last time I played Rose-Marie's Leaving, someone phoned me up and asked me if this was a new song from Nick Cave.
Simon : Really. Oh, well...
It's probably the first time that someone has told you this. I don't see too many common things between this song and Nick Cave. Perhaps it's because it's a little bit slower.
Simon It's the blues influence, isn't it?
Yeah, probably. So, let's have a last few words about this wonderful song, it's called Highway 4287. Listening to your last two albums, the lyrics, for one, are getting more urban. And also, it's incorporating different musical types, a little blues, a little jazz. Can you say something about this?
Simon : Well, the way I see it is that if And Also the Trees has a spirit as a group that's the music rather than the members, then it's almost as if it emigrated to America about three albums ago, and it's now coming forward in time, I think. At first, we were interested in the F. Scott Fitzgerald 1920's and 1930's America. And now it seems to have gone forward after the jazz age and it's sort of going towards the blues period and a bit of the 60's America with the wah-wah guitars coming in as well. It's not preconcieved, but it's just the way it seems to be happening.
Something about the more urban character perhaps, is because civilization is getting nearer and nearer to your parents house?
Simon : No, I don't think it's that, I think it's because I have been travelling a lot, and the rest of the band have been travelling.
I see. So, do you want to say any last words about the concert, or what people can expect tonight from the Silver Soul tour?
Simon : Well, I think if you've seen And Also the Trees before, then you'll enjoy it tonight, because it will be a bit different. People are saying that there is a sort of power and energy that wasn't there before. And the people who haven't come to see us before, I think that the Trees are quite a different experience.
Stylishly living in times of chaos
Interview by Christian Cerboncini
From Entry (August 1996)
From Entry (August 1996)
One of the most positive appereances on the this year's Zillo-Open-Air in Hildesheim was surely And Also The Trees, who only had their second festival gig in Germany since their appearance on the bizarre festival years before. Unfortunately they must do this always in the afternoon at glistening sunlight, which does not fit so completely with the atmosphere of the songs.
Wasn't it rather hot on stage with your coat?
S.H.J.: No, it was OK. In a night club it is more hot with the whole lights in such a small room.
Have you been satisfied with your gig, with the sound, with the people?
S.H.J.: Yes, I was completely satisfied. It was not fantastic however, but under the circumstances, we have done the best possible. Our playing was quite OK and the sound was evidently in order as well. It was fun for us and it appeared to me, as if it has pleased the spectators also, therefore what do we want more ...
S.B.: It is always remarkable, if one goes on stage in the middle of the day and plays without sound check.
And it is unusual for the spectators to see you in the lightest sunshine, club athmosphere fits your music better.
S.H.J.: l believe too that we are more of a club band, but it is also fun to play in front of so many people, especially if they are like here.
How is it like to play old stuff, as e.g. "Slow Pulse Boy" which is approx. 13 years old; isn't that odd?
S.H.J.: No, no, it's not, especially since this is a song we like to play again and again, because it is fun for us to play it. "Slow Pulse Boy" is a song where something can go wrong everytime, today, for instance, something went wrong and in the middle we lost it somehow ...
S.B.: ... totally lost it ...
S.H.J.:... and that is the exciting part: we can play the song 287 times live and nevertheless we can always do something wrong and correct it and still enjoy it somehow.
S.B.: It is also not a simple song to rehearse. We did it a couple of days ago and we realized that we had played it too often, somehow it did not work.
As you've said a little while ago, you enjoy more playing in small clubs than large festival?
S.H.J.: I think we are more suitable for clubs.
S.B.: But festivals also have advantages: You see and hear several other bands and also you can finally see the spectators: in clubs you can at most recognize the first three rows, which however sometimes can also be good.
S.H.J.: It is our first festival since 5 years. Besides such an appearance is also always a chance for people, who absolutely would not go to one of our concerts, to see AATT live once.
: Did you have contact to any other band?
S.B.: A few times yes. Near the stage I spoke with some of the Walkabouts, and also Frank Black stood around there and everyone had a good time and seemed to enjoy it. But it is a strange place here; at festivals bands are normally housed together in a large area. Here everyone is separated from each other.
Yes, the whole thing reminds me of a prison cell. What have you been doing since the last album and why did it take you so long to finish "Angelfish"?"
S.H.J.: Well, we finished the recordings for "Angelfish" already in the last fall. The whole record company nonsense took a long time. We namely changed the label.
Previously you were on the label Normal; any problems there?
S.B.: It is difficult to talk about it, because there was not only a problem between us. It simply somehow didn't work no more, so we decided to try something new, and now everything is in order.
Is Mezentian a new label?
S.B.: Yes, it is the first release on this label, and although it is too early to say something about it, I believe that it is going to become totaly good.
S.H.J.: Up to now there were only some dance and ambient releases in England and in this area it has a good name. It has been the first time they have signed a band which is not into dance music.
S.B.: It is always difficult for a band to like the label...
S.H.J.: Yes, it is especially difficult if pleasure and fun meet with business. And if a record company sells many records it is not liked for it, if it doesn't sell any records, the people don't like them for that reason.
Do you still have to work on a farm because your record sales do not earn you enough money as it has been years before?
S.H.J.: Nick and Steven live and work in London now. I still work in the country as a 'craftsman'. 15 years later and nothing has changed.
Why is the new album called "Angelfish"?
S.H.J.: Really only because it sounds like a good title. One evening Justin said 'Angelfish' and that was it! It just came to his mind and he asked us how we liked the name. We thought that it fitted us rather well.
How did it come to the American themes, both in the texts, as well as a musically?
S.H.J.: Everything has begun with the guitar. It was therefore the first instrument on the album. Justin found this 50's guitar sound and somehow we then continued in this direction. Textually it was very difficult because it was something which I had previously never tried. I couldn't just look out of my window and write what I see or what comes to my mind anymore. I've been several times to America ... and I have then tried to somehow combine the lyrics with the sound of the music.
So, the music was there first?
S.H.J.: Yes, that's the way we always work.
S.B.: And it was interesting as we began, I believe it was with "Brother Fear", when the first ideas for another sound came up and suddenly everything began developing by itself. It was a beautiful thing to try something different.
S.H.J.: We weren't trying to sound american. Everyone of us is interested in the most different forms of american art, whether that is painting, like Edward Hopper, or literature, Scott-Fitzgerald, or also different films and directors, Twin Peaks and David Lynch, and we are interested in it. It is like we try to include these media into the music. We therefore do not try to be americans and know that we could never be like them. If somebody would criticize this process intellectually, one could say that it is a Brit's perception of "Americano", an American would have never been able to write the same things than we did.
S.B.: At the same time however, London is just as important as the US: if you go to any bar in Soho, it's all rather american. Justin and Simon have visited us many times in London and the excursions to Soho were always an interesting experience.
S.H.J.: ... and Switzerland of course ...
: ahem, what?
S.H.J.: Yes, 'Paradiso' is the name of a place in the Italian Switzerland with the same name. I believe that the interesting thing there is the absence of everything English.
Could you explain what you have meant exactly with the following statement: "We have always defended ourselves against the american culture and their nature of penetrating everything and are proud about pulling our inspirations from our english roots. The feeling of the hypocrisy is surprisingly pleasant".?
S.H.J.: In the past it has been important for AATT not to be influenced by the american culture like all the other bands. There are bands from north-Scotland who on stage accidently speak with an american accent - that is absurd! We got our influences only from our english environment. That was alright and I am glad that we have worked that way then. But then we came to the point where we started to develop an interest in areas of american culture. His is hypocrisy but it's been fun however.
S.B.: One also forgets quickly that there are many good things in the american culture.
Yes, and people sometimes think that everything bad comes from the US...
S.B.: There is both, even if the bad often covers the asset.
But the bad is also that the US-culture comes over the ocean and suppresses everything else quickly, so that the local culture is pushed to the edge.
S.H.J.: Absolutely, yes. That is the danger and I believe that in the past we have reacted to it. I hate it how the american culture dilutes all others. We have been driving around today and the young people ran around with inline skates and baseball caps - and we are in Germany here. But it is just as in Switzerland, England, or Italy. There is this overrunning US-culture and that is the thing I don't like - but you can not stop it.
S.B.: I just remembered that Justin and I had been to the US for a while before the recordings for the new album while Simon was in Vietnam, so both parties could experience american culture from first hand in the most different places and situations. Especially in Vietnam it must be completely mad, where they just have opened themselves for the US again ...
S.H.J.: ... they seem to like the Americans very much despite everything ...
S.B.: There is also something absurd in the US-culture: When I go there I always feel absolutely English, it feels as you somehow get more conscious of your own backgroung, as if you had landed on a foreign planet ...
Like in the Sting song "Englishman in New York"?
S.B.: Exactly, I can not feel like the Americans feel, no matter how hard I try. There I still feel and think very English and that makes it somewhat strange. I like that!
S.H.J.: The US are the only place outside England where it is a pleasure for me to be English - in France, Germany, or Italy I don't have much pleasure in it.
And in the States you do?
S.H.J.: Yes, it is very impressive there, if you feel like an American ... aehm like an Englishman.
Your music has always been very romantic. How would you explain the word "romantical" and what does it mean for you?
S.H.J.: Oh, I have never though about it... difficult...
S.B.: I think that the four of us have something like a romantic nature. It is difficult to give a definition of the word, perhaps that sounds now like a hippie, but the whole thing is more a spiritual matter...
S.H.J. (suddenly after long ponder): None of my girlfriends has ever thought of me as romantic, actually they complained that I was not. Perhaps I only express this with my music ...
S.B.: I think there is a big difference between 'romanticism' and 'romance'...
S.H.J.: Yes, besides I do not believe that we are a romantic band, or at least no more. We have been in ther past. We have been through different phases with the band where we had a romantic element. Definitely with the 'Millpond Years' and 'Farewell to the Shade'.
Therefore the cover of "Farewell to the shade" looked like a crack from the 18th century, including Keats, Shelley, and colleagues.
S.H.J.: That's true.
In which country do you have the biggest success?
S.H.J.: In Germany
: And in England you are not appreciated?
S.H.J.: In England people don't know us at all. We haven't played there for a rather long time and and haven't released a record there, since we were on a German label.
S.B.: That changes however, there was once a time, when we were more liked in France and before this also in England.
And in the States, you have played there once?
S.H.J.: Yes, once we made an East Coast tour, New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston...
And how did the people welcome you?
S.H.J.: It depended whether the local university college radio had played our music. In Chicago for example it was superb, since the people knew our songs and for that reason many came. In Detroit almost nobody was there because there is no university at all as far as I know.
S.B.: The tour was really good however since we did not come to present an album, but to play only a couple of songs. It was funny, it occurred to me that it was as if we were in a film and everyone knew the script - except us. I hope we'll soon go abroad again, perhaps on the West Coast, because the people there cannot see us that often.
Do you like electronic music, like e.g. FLA?
S.H.J.: I do not know FLA at all. I don't like some techno stuff, especially the industrial part. Steven, you are listening to more music however, what do you say?
S.B.: Yes, I have listened to this kind of music and I like some of the techno stuff, like Underworld and Leftfield for example, but I do not like the hardcore part that much. There hasn't been very much improvement during the years.
S.H.J.: These things give you if you hear them a certain feeling. For me it was that way that I, after I knew the feeling, wanted to go somewhere else. If I hear such music today, then I feel just as the first time I heard it and that is already rather long ago - not very satisfactory
In Germany, what is known of the music scene in UK gives you the impression that there are only two large streams: the Brit Pop, with bands such as Oasis, Blur, Pulp and on the other side the intelligent electro, like Underworld, Orbital, etc. Is this impression correct?
S.B.: In England it is very interesting, that everything is compatible somehow; there are the two large streams, Brit Pop and techno, and they don't have any problems coming together like one can see at festivals again and again. There, the same fans listen to both styles with pleasure; a couple of years ago it would have been somewhat unthinkable, but nowadays it is nothing special if the same people go to a Leftfield and an Oasis gig.
S.H.J.: It seems to me that right now in England everything works, both in music as well as in fashion. We were recently in a club, in which you could see all people possible: some dressed like punks from 77, including safety pins, others ran around like in the beginning of the 70's with large collars, shrill colours and plateau shoes, but also transvestites, etc., 1000 different types. On one hand I think it's ok, on the other hand it seems so undifferentiated.
S.B.: A little bit like a stew...
S.H.J.: Yes, you have 50's culture, 60's, 70's, 80äs, 90's and everything between them and everything together. Somehow it's nice.
S.B.: The question is also, whether there is a 90's culture or just the absorbing of all that, which was already there once, because there is nothing new. The whole Brit Pop thing comes from the 60's, and many techno things seize ideas from 70's german electro pioneers. Many ideas are really very similar, to spot something really new is very difficult.
S.H.J.: I believe that I like everything however, that one for example can wear shirts of all possible shapes, lengths and colours, without being out of fashion. With trousers etc. it is the same, it is always ok as long as you wear it with a certain style indeed!
That certainly is not unimportant!
S.H.J.: Otherwise I think it's ok that you do not look awfully uncool if you once don't wear white trousers.
Especially in the 80's it wasn't difficult to be "uncool" like, if you did not wear the "uniform" which was hip.
S.B.: We were, I believe, always out of fashion.
S.H.J.: At any rate we have always tried...
What are your favorite authors?
S.H.J.: My new passion is Scott-Fitzgerald. Before that, it was Ernest Hemingway, and before that, Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence...
What are your inspirations for the lyrics then. Movies as well, for expample?
S.H.J.: Well, I get my inspirations from everywhere. I, however, have never seen a movie, gone home and written for that reason a new song. You get parts from everywhere, which you gather somehow. The ideas come from movies, thoughts, experiences, television, newspapers, life.
Are you still in contact with "The Cure"?
S.H.J. (without hesitatation): No, since 7-8 years no more.
You're not familiar with their new album then?
S.H.J.: No ... I believe I am not really interested in what The Cure are doing, not because I would not like to be brought in combination with them, but because I am really not interested, because I don't like his voice and because I don't like where they have moved musically. They really have moved nowhere.
Hasn't it been overwhelming to be in their shadow again and again during the beginning years?
S.H.J.: Yes, it was frustrating. In the beginning of our career, they helped us somehow, but then it wasn't working that well and we felt really a little overwhelmed to be put in the same context as them over and over again.
S.B.: Like so often, there are both sides of the medal.
Do you really still live in the country and if so, don't you want to live in a city like London like Nick and Steven do?
S.H.J.: Yes, I still live in the country but I don't want to move to London. Besides half of the time I live in the south of Switzerland, since my girlfriend is Swiss. I spend the remainin time in my home town in England.
Still in this haunted house?
S.H.J.: Well yes, to say it is haunted is a small exaggeration, like ever so often in the past.
S.B.: Somebody wrote once that we lived in a haunted castle. No idea where that came from, not from us anyway.
Which part of England would you recommend in the first place to a traveler?
S.H.J.: Cornwall is really very beautiful and attractive, the whole coast there. In the summer, though, there are a lot of tourists there.
S.B.: However, you should in any case go to Cornwall. Cornwall and London, so you can see both sides of England!
S.H.J.: But then also to Herefordshire and Worcestereshire and the boundary to Wales, really very beautiful areas. Concerning the north of England I can't say really much because I haven't been there.
I have heard that in comparison with the Englishman from the south the Scots should be very much more hospitable.
S.B.: Yes, in the south the people sometimes are reserved and cool, but not as much as in the south-east. That is the area around London, even though there are also the nicest and friendliest people there.
S.H.J.: In the north the people outside the cities are really nice.
Do you already have some reactions to your new album and which?
S.B.: The best reactions came from Germany. In England and the US, the album hasn't been published at all: first it will be in the fall in England and next year in the States. In Germany there was a couple of good critics, like in the Intro, and also the fans' reactions, which have written to us were positive.
S.H.J.: It needs a couple of runs, but then they like it.
In Germany however the fans remain faithful: those who listened to your music 10 years ago still do so; they get old with the band!
S.H.J.: That's the way it also occurs to me. If we have lost a group of fans, it's from the gothic corner. I already have met people from this scene which have said to me: 'you should really become much darker and release a really gothic album because the market for this music is gigantic in Germany and you could make more money that way.' As I have seen today, it is true. But we don't make music following market laws. Consequently we perhaps have lost a couple of fans.
E.: If you think about making money, just concerning Germany, you should do electronic music, this market is gigantic...
S.B.: ... or something like the Kelly family...
or become the new "Take That". What is the band name"And Also The Trees" all about?
S.H.J.: Nothing, there is no story behind it, like so often concerning us.
And where did the idea come from?
S.H.J.: It was a line in the first song we had written, so we called the song AATT and afterwards the band as well. It was a rather stupid idea as we were still young, but we got used to it and lived with it. Somehow it is a handicap: If you publish a new album under this name the people who like our music are immediately happy but the disadvantage is that the other people who don't pursue our music only think: 'AATT, aren't they a 80's band?'. They don't even want to listen. That is too bad since I believe that many people would like what we do. They think we were a kind of dark wave band. But we can't change the name anymore.
Besides it is also a beautiful name.
S.H.J.: I like it too, but it is the association, I think it's a name of the 80's. If we would be called "Jason", or "Tarquin", no one would think we are from the Sex Pistols era.
Is the sculpture, which is on the "Green is the sea" cover the only one from your brother Justin or is he a little sculptor?
S.H.J.: He has only manufactured that one for the cover; our big brother is a sculptor.
: What are your favourite songs on the new album?
S.H.J.: Fighting in a lighthouse
S.H.J.: I like them all, but this song gives me a good feeling
S.B.: The same Song.
Everybody knows Simon Huw Jones as singer of And Also The Tree, the essential English band that's been an absolute and attaching reference for twenty years, but few know about his work as a photographer. Living in Switzerland for many years and the proud father of two babies, a tremendously important aspect of his life he keeps referring to, Simon unveils for us an unexpected side of his personality.
Do you consider yourself first as a photographer or as a musician?
A musician... I trained to be a photographer and worked as one professionally. But instead of dedicating myself to photography, I quit my job and dedicated the next 20 or so years to writing and performing music with “And also the trees”.
During your studies, did you study photography?
I went to art college after school but lost my confidence when I saw how brilliant at drawing all the other students were. Then I lost the plot with life in general. The photography lessons were a kind of saviour, my pictures seemed to capture a mood or atmosphere and composition was something that came to me as second nature. But still they threw me out of college, I was a teenager from hell and deserved it. I went to a photographic school later though when I was working as an assistant photographer.
I've read in your biog. that you were employed by the Cadbury/Schweppes design studios as a commercial and industrial photographer. Has that always been your professional activity?
No, I worked there for just four years. It was great experience, I learnt how to take photographs in a professional way... to make products look better than they really were, factory sites look cleaner, safer and more organised than they really were, and people more attractive than they really were. It turned me into a commercial photographer who took pictures like all other commercial photographers, which is exactly what most clients want of course. Creatively it was stunting but it was still a useful experience as it at least gave me a sound foundation from which to deviate. I didn't take any photographs for a long time after that. I'd got to the point where I saw everything as a possible photograph and it was beginning to piss me off. I needed to rediscover how to see things for what they were rather than seeing them as possible photographs. And also the Trees hadn't signed to a record co. by then but we were playing live and we'd toured with 'The Cure' for the first time who at that point (1982) were considered by just about everyone that mattered to be about the coolest band around. We wanted to be in an 'underground rock band' who released records and went on tours of our own so we all left our jobs and schools, and spent our days playing football in the yard outside the room where we occasionally practised and wrote music. We were very young and very naive. We lived for our music rather than from it most of the time and took a variety of dead end jobs from time to time to enable us to get by. I worked on farms quite allot - a pig farm, a fruit farm and plenty of general farm labouring. I worked as an archaeological excavator a few times, a path digger and I worked planting and harvesting vegetables and driving them to the market, which I loved but the money was unbelievably bad. I did start as a freelance photographer but my heart wasn't in it.
You have never made exhibition before 1996 and your visit in India?
No. I needed a reason and the Indian connection presented it.
Could you tell me more about this visit in India?
It was actually my girlfriend (now wife) Aline's, idea. We had travelled together in Asia a few times and she wanted to go back to do some social work. Our previous visits had been so rewarding she felt that she wanted to try to give something back. I decided to go with her and help in any way that I could. I didn’t know how I’d get on with social work so I suggested that I could take photographs which I'd later exhibit - promoting the charity involved and donating any money I made from selling the pictures. We asked around in Lugano, where we were living at the time, and were put in touch with a guy called Claudio Romano who had created an organisation called "Fondazione Umanitaria Arcobaleno". We met him once and liked what he was doing, the next time we saw him was out in Hyderabad where he'd set up a hostel for girls who were orphans or physically handicapped or both. It was allot of fun actually, the children were really charming and despite their disadvantages had an incredible lust for life. What really struck me was their passion for going to school and the pride they showed in their uniforms and books. That might give the impression that they were very well behaved and studious but they weren’t at all, they were as naughty as any other children, but going to school is seen as an opportunity for the privileged in most parts of India and they were very aware of it. Some days we drove for hours with Claudio to villages in the countryside to visit families who had appealed to 'FUA' for help. It was an extraordinary experience, we went to places that as a tourist you'd never think of going to and this meant that we saw another side of the country and its people completely. We experienced great warmth, kindness and generosity, but as in all societies there are people who are mean and brutal. To some people a westerner, no matter what he or she is doing, equals money and they don’t care what they do to get it. I’m not talking about individuals here, I’m talking big "Mafia" style organisations, but that’s another story. That there are truly good and bad people everywhere is not news to anyone. Neither is the fact that India is a country of extremes. One evening, as we were driving back after a long day, Claudio asked what my group was called as Aline had mentioned that I was a singer. It was then that we made the discovery that he was an AATT fan and had got all our CD's. So as one after another insane, overtaking, Indian lorry driver hurtled towards us, klaxon blasting and lights flashing in the darkness, we talked about AATT for a few hours. We went back to India a second time, on our own, to visit "FUA" hostels and schools in Calcutta, Monsada, a region near the border of Bangladesh and Kuarmunda a village near a steel town in the East, and had an equally rewarding time. The villages we visited there were very remote and often when we arrived all the inhabitants were waiting for us with garlands of flowers and tables of food. Often, there was traditional music or dancing under the shade of trees or in school halls. It was a totally humbling, and occasionally surreal, experience which I feel very privileged to have had. If ever I needed the motivation to get off my ass and exhibit my photographs - there it was.
You seem to be very attracted with these Indian children portraits... can you tell me more about this attraction?
Yes, my last exhibition was called "21 boys" and consisted of 21 portraits of Indian boys, face on, against a white background. It was the diversity of expression and features that attracted me more than anything else - but I would be equally interested in photographing 21 girls from a village in Iceland or 21 fifty year old men who worked in the same factory in Poland.
You have two children, don't you see children in a different way now?
No. It could be that I understand the behaviour of other children a bit better now though, but that hasn’t changed my feelings towards them. I’m not someone who you’d say is "good with children" but I’ve always felt passionate about the way children are treated.
What other kind of photographic subjects do you work with?
I enjoy landscape photography, especially when there is time to put the camera on a tripod and watch how the scene changes with the changing of the light or the movement of people, animals and birds. The changes can be very subtle but you discover that a scene, no matter how still and tranquil, is constantly changing. Abstract, colour photography is something I’ve always been interested in and would like to experiment more with.
Who are the photographs that you most appreciate?
There are many photographers that I admire but I'm more inclined towards the more documentary style photographers like Eugene Atget and Don McCullin to take two from opposite ends of the spectrum.
Have you always taken care of the art work and photography for the “Also the Trees” albums?
Yes, it’s become part of the process. By the time we’ve finished writing an album we know the music intimately, of course, and usually have a pretty firm idea about how the cover should look. It would have been great to have been able to commission artists or photographers to work with us but they weren’t around. Neither was the money.
You told me that you have neither scanner, nor web site, are you not familiar with contemporary techniques, numeric photography and software retouching?
Well, I do have a computer, printer and digital camera but I haven't had time to learn how to use them properly yet. I'm looking after my two babies and they take up just about every moment of the day. And having discovered that child care is more tiring than hard, agricultural labour, when they are in bed all I want to do is sleep. There was a time when I was almost in a panic about being left behind by the computer revolution but it doesn’t bother me now. I’m not keen on sitting in front of a screen for hours but if I need to learn these techniques I will learn them. Some of the results I’ve seen from digital cameras, scanners, printers etc. have been stunning and I look forward to the time when I’ve got time to experiment.
You told me that you are working with the Young God's drummer. What kind of sound do you create? Is it different to the And Also the Trees sound?
The music is different but the vocal is me, I can’t hide from myself even if I try. Bernard Trontin is a drummer but he also works allot with samples, loop, keyboards and other sounds, in fact there is no percussion on the material we’ve worked on so far. Over the past few years Bernard has been writing music for films and TV dramas. He had some unused ideas he wanted to develop by working with different vocalists on different tracks and I was one of the vocalists he had in mind - then he discovered we were living in the same town, Geneva, so we got together. We’ve got some pieces that work pretty well and now we just have to decide what we want to do with them. We might write more and record an album.
Some news about the new And Also The Trees album?
Well, we decided over a year ago that we wanted to make another album. With the others living in different parts of England and me living in another country we knew it wouldn’t be easy but we all felt that AATT was something worth struggling for. Our circumstances have changed but we still feel pretty much the same way about our music. The ideas came more quickly than ever before and the first few months, despite the fact that I was often working apart from the others with tapes, were very productive and exciting. All the preconceived ideas we’d had about the way the album should sound went straight out of the window and the music started to write it’s self. To me, it sounds and feels like a very pure form of “And also the trees” as it is without any outside influence. And rather than it being another step in our evolution it feels more like we are writing from our original creative source. The biggest difficulties have been with the arrangements of the songs, which is the stage we are still at now. We are learning that for this we need to be together, in the same room, playing our instruments and communicating. When we meet up in London the sessions are pretty intense... we don’t take the football along anyway. We keep bravely announcing on our web site that the album will be recorded in month X, but really, it can only be ready when it's ready. Autumn and winter are traditionally creative months for us. - www.premonition.org/