(Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City TGTF stage 2012 flavoured!) Interview: Dan Armstrong of Clock Opera

By on Friday, 11th May 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Clock Opera will be appearing as part of the programming for the TGTF stage at the Liverpool Academy of Arts on Friday 18 May, playing at 20.30, as well as performing at Brighton Dome tonight (Friday 11 May) at the Great Escape at 20.30. I got together a bunch of questions for the band, including asking the band how the band formed, how SXSW this year went for them (including an unfortunate run-in with an oil painting), about all those unusual percussion bits they use live and much. Also, I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask about Guy’s beard. Read on.

Tell us who each of you are and what instruments(s) you play.
Guy Connelly – Vocals, guitars, plethora of bizarre objects sampled
Andy West – Bass, guitars
Che Albrighton – Drums, glockenspiel
Dan Armstrong – Piano, vocals. I’m answering these questions, as Guy is busy remixing…may the rest of the band forgive me.

How did you guys find each other? School, mutual mates, etc.?
Guy started Clock Opera in his own warped mind. He’d already formed a close bond with his laptop (thanks to previous bands/production) and the two of them decided to take their relationship to the next level. Shortly afterwards, other humans were invited to join in the form of Andy West (bass/guitars/looks) and Che Albrighton (rampant rhythm/height). Andy and Guy had been part of the obligatory Shoreditch-warehouse-living scene and Che was in a band with Andy at that time. The two were handpicked for the bracketed reasons. I was subsequently brought in to complete the quadrangle (keys/vocals/availability).

Who came up with the wild name “Clock Opera”, and what does it mean to you now? Does it indicate a love of Thomas Cook timetables or Italian arias?
I’ve known Guy mention in interviews a piece of music once written as a symphony for clocks. Apparently it was never performed but he liked the idea. I’m not convinced the symphony story is true though. I have a feeling Guy dreamed all that. Anyway, to me it’s Clock Opera because of the infinite ticking rhythms and because we like to sing grandiose and emotive melodies.

Some of my blogging compadres have compared your sound to Friendly Fires, the first band I chased around the world as a blogger. Do you agree or contest this comparison? Explain.

I haven’t personally seen our style liked to Friendly Fires but I’d be happy enough with that. Our music is in many ways different to theirs but the attention and passion they put into their live performances is something I would tentatively compare with us. Plus we like euphoria, driving rhythms and hitting objects too.

Going along with that, if you had to explain to someone what you sounded like in 10 words or less, which words would you choose to describe yourselves?
I’ve never been able to answer this question. Many have tried. Music is music. It’s better to listen to it than describe.

Before I heard your music, the buzz around you seemed to be a product of all the remixing you’ve done of other people’s tracks (for example, a pretty high profile one was of Metronomy’s ‘The Bay’). Who in your band are the remix princes? How did you get into remixing, have you always been naturally drawn towards fiddling around with other people’s songs and making them your own?

All the remixes are done by Guy, the remix prince. I’m pretty sure he started by doing one for Marina and the Diamonds (free download of the ‘I Am Not a Robot’ remix below), which people went mad for. Mr. Connelly’s production techniques are definitely suited to the process; he chops everything up into tiny pieces and makes something completely new from it. The Metronomy [one] (stream it below) was high profile, so too his Feist creation (free download of the ‘How Come You Never Go’ remix below too). I still point people towards two others which I love….one for the Drums and another for The Phenomenal Handclap Band. Both are great tracks in my opinion.

Marina and the Diamonds – ‘I Am Not a Robot’ (Clock Opera remix)

Metronomy – ‘The Bay’ (Clock Opera remix)

Feist – ‘How Come You Never Go’ (Clock Opera remix)

How does your remix work come about? Do you hear something and say to yourself, “I really want to put my stamp on that one!” Or has it been more of a word of mouth thing, like “those Clock Opera blokes really know what they’re doing, let’s ask them to remix our single”?
The latter. People ask him. Plead. Beg. Demand. It would be pretty difficult to just remix whoever you choose using Guy’s methods because you need the stems of a track to do it…each part in a separate file. Without them it’s hard to do much more than just add a beat and other sounds….whereas Guy wants parts he can break down into tiny fragments.

When I saw you at SXSW this year, I forget which song it was, but at one point you all reached down on the floor to grab what appeared to be part of mum’s cookery set and then started banging on these pieces. Was this commandeering of kitchen supplies borne out of necessity for the live performance, or have you always been banging on pots since the recording process of ‘Ways to Forget’ (John’s review of the album here) and/or before?
The song is called ‘A Piece Of String’. People often call them pots and pans, but they’re actually extremely sophisticated commemorative tankards and ornate trays. There’s no necessity in it. We do it because we like to. I attended music and movement classes as a toddler, which makes me the crockery equivalent of Vanessa Mae. But yes, the way the samples on the album begin life is often from striking, dropping and pounding strange objects. A World War II amp case, a basketball, a hand fan, etc., etc.

What did you think of SXSW this year? Which of your performances stood out, and why?
SXSW this year was incredible. Truly. Hot, relentless, strange. The whole city is taken over by music in a way that’s hard to describe. Nothing compares. The average bar there takes 40% of its annual takings in those 2 weeks. Every day starts early and ends late. Some days we’d play three shows and for me that’s when the performances stand out. You develop a special momentum where the sweat from one show becomes the hair gel of the next. It’s liberating. Another memorable aspect for me was playing on the same bill with other quality British bands. Slow Club, Django Django, Breton, Dutch Uncles and many more….all different but all part of something (but don’t say ‘scene’).

Did you play any strange venues, and if so, where did you play and how was the reception? Compare/contrast with any weird places you’ve played in London/UK.
They’re nearly all strange venues in their own way. At one an oil painting fell on Andy mid set which isn’t exactly a standard gig scenario. The only recurring theme was a stage, an audience and us. The reception was brilliant. I’d rather not compare and contrast it with London though, because that becomes like a piece of homework and I’m not at school anymore. Unfortunately.

Did you think the largely American audience “got” what you do?
They did.

Did you see any other bands in Austin you particularly enjoyed and/or that impressed you? And if so, how so?
The British ones I’ve already mentioned. My personal favourite was Slow Club (pictured above). [Read about their appearance at the Huw Stephens showcase on 17 March here. Clock Opera also performed. – Ed.] I’d never seen them live before and their music sounds so good in that setting. As a singer of harmonies, I’ve got a lot of respect for how they do it with such energy, beauty and ease. Class, unique performers.

Bass player of Fanfarlo Justin Finch admitted on the Thursday night of SXSW at their show at Club de Ville that upon seeing one of their fans sporty a massive beard, he had beard envy. Guy has a pretty epic beard (see photo above). Any other famous beards out there he covets and/or aspires to develop one similar to?
Guy’s beard is unique. It elicits a lot of envy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Finch crumbled in awe too. Unfortunately some people think it’s all right to use that awe as fuel and just walk up and have a feel. You don’t touch people you don’t know without asking first**. But be prepared for a refusal. (**If someone starts touching you first that often means it’s ok to return the favour.)

You’ll be playing our stage at Liverpool Sound City on the Friday night. Have you played in Liverpool before? If yes, what’s the Liverpool crowd like?
When I go to a gig and enjoy it I tend to stand in silence and then applaud at the end of each song. So if you get a thousand mes at a show what you basically have is a pretty average crowd. With that in mind, I try not to judge. What I will say though is that Liverpool is without question my favourite city in England and the people are a big part of that.

“Advertise” / “plead your case” to our readers why they should come and see you play Friday at the Liverpool Academy of Arts.
Is there somewhere I can leave my dignity to collect later?

Be sure to catch Clock Opera live at the TGTF stage at the Liverpool Academy of Arts on Friday 18 May. They play at 20.30.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

5:51 am
12th January 2015

[…] a b c d e Chang, Mary. “Interview: Dan Armstrong of Clock Opera”, There Goes the Fear, 11 May 2012. Retrieved […]

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it. If you want a track removed, email us and we'll sort it ASAP.

E-mail us  |  RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us