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Great Escape 2018 Interview: ONR.

 
By on Thursday, 7th June 2018 at 11:00 am
 

The Paginini Ballroom of the Old Ship Hotel in Brighton is one of the more atmospheric places to play during The Great Escape Festival. This is where I find myself sat next to Robert Shields, the Scottish mastermind behind the electropop act ONR. (pronounced “honour”). “I can’t remember having played a ballroom before”, he says. “My ballroom dancing days were a long time ago, so…” he quips with a grin. Shields and his band have just come offstage following their set at the BBC Introducing showcase Friday night during The Great Escape 2018. I ask him how it felt to be so high up on the stage, far above the crowd. “I loved it! I absolutely love being so high up, it brings out of your inner rock star!”

It’s good to be Shields at this very moment. Things with ONR. have moved rapidly, and even Shields himself acknowledges the flight path for him and his band has been highly unusual. “It was so bizarre because I was literally signed off the back of a couple of demos. It was the weirdest thing. There was no live show at that point, no production, no nothing. I hadn’t played a show, I didn’t have a Facebook page, it was so embryonic. Everyone really believed in these two tracks. It just went from there.

“The beauty of doing it that way is that you can give yourself time: there’s no pressure to fulfill anything, so you can take your time to cultivate the music and [ensure] the production is on spec and strategise what’s going where. So I’ve been really lucky to be able to do that as well. A lot of artists are out there chasing the next single or are on tour, so to be allowed that time has been amazing.”

ONR. at Paginini Ballroom, Great Escape 2018

How Shields describes it explains well why, at least over the last year, there’s been a minimalistic approach with ONR.’s social media channels. Everything has been monochrome. As mentioned in this SXSW 2018 Bands to Watch piece, his face wasn’t even revealed until this past February. “For us, we wanted to keep it small to begin with and very Joy Division-like, nondescript and mysterious. So hopefully, when the bigger songs start to come out and the bigger production start to evolve, then that look will evolve with it as well, and you’ll start to see colour behind it. That’s the idea, at least. I’m a big fan of the image of everything matching an artist’s evolution.” It’s a fascinating idea and something to look forward to.

Hearing the irrepressible, electronic bombast of the ONR. songs released so far – including first single ‘Jericho’, ‘Five Years Time’ and the more recent ‘American Gods’ – it comes as a major surprise that electronic was not Shields’ favoured genre until relatively recently. “It’s odd, because I’m a keys player. It’s like my thing. I’ve always used synthesisers and been into them. But I think almost because of that, I rebelled against myself for a while and got into ‘New New Wave’, like Interpol and that kind of stuff. So I came back to electronica through David Bowie’s ‘Scary Monsters’ and Gary Numan.” Bowie, he says, is his biggest musical influence, with quite the legacy to look up to.

One of the most daunting things for an electronic act to sort out is making sure the live show provides the kind of experience worthy of the music on record. Given that I felt their live performance this evening was even more powerful than the songs as they are presented and available now on streaming services, I wanted to know his philosophy towards delivering a live experience. “I like of the idea of it [of ONR.’s sound as] as being as big as a rock band. That’s the kind of upwards scale that I want to be able to have, and that totally works for that [gigs]. With the production and the recordings, you have more freedom to ebb and flow there. For a half-hour set, you really want to go in and hit people between the eyes. We’re still building it, and that will evolve again and again, and we’ll never stop evolving.” The massive stage at the Paginini Ballroom allowed for Shields as frontman to roam across its wide expanse and play to the audience, and you could tell he was massively enjoying himself the entire time.

So how did this priceless BBC Introducing slot come about? “It was great, I really didn’t expect it to be honest. It was a real bolt from the blue. We’ve been lucky to put things out. Then I heard [Vic] Galloway on BBC Radio Scotland played one of my tracks, which is amazing. From that, it just really snowballed.” To elaborate, ONR., along with acts Alacai Hartley, Mahalia and Ten Tonnes, were asked not only to appear in Brighton but in a series of shows advertised as the UK-wide tour for the Biggest Weekend UK Fringe that took place days before the second May bank holiday, culminating in key appearances bank holiday weekend. “Then a couple weeks later there was talk about this show, and this little BBC [Introducing] tour that came after, and finally we got the call that we were playing Biggest Weekend in Perth as well, so it’s five BBC Introducing shows back to back.” Shields is so humble, he’s quick to point out his luck. “I know so many incredible artists from BBC Introducing, the uploading is so insane, to have made the cut, it’s great.”

ONR. at Paginini Ballroom, Great Escape 2018

Electronic music is one of the more detail-minded of today’s genres, but Robert is well-equipped in personality to handle this. “I think people would call me a perfectionist. I would call myself a control freak, absolutely. I absolutely love being in control!” How does this go over with his bandmates, who all hail from his current hometown of Dumfries? He’s eager to give them kudos. “My band are the most patient people in the world because I am not the easy taskmaster. It’s little things. It’s not like I never turn off. I just like things to be right. With electronica, you have to be careful, it’s all triggers and timings, so you have to be on it.”

I finish our interview asking Robert what’s the biggest aspiration for success he has with ONR. “It’s hard. When I was a kid, I would have said absolute superstardom. No questions asked. All the time, like the Flintstones, it’s always playing somewhere. A few years ago, I probably would have said that, too.” He laughs, probably at the folly of youth, then turns to a slightly more serious tone. “But to be honest, we want to get it [their music] to people who love it. See crowd reactions, and see people really connect to the music. It does mean a hell of a lot, it really does. You can see it. So to take it out to different places is a massive ambition of mine, to bring it to different countries, and hopefully it connects the same way there as it does elsewhere. That would be the big thing.”

What’s eminently clear is Shields’ eye on the prize and his willingness to work hard to get where every musician dreams of. “I have no lack of ambition, I totally want to push it as far as I can. I’ve been doing this for a while. I feel like I’ve served the apprenticeship, I’m ready to go. It feels good.” We here at TGTF are right behind him.

Robert Shields and ONR. begin their string of North American appearances tomorrow night, the 8th of June, with a headline show at San Francisco PopScene. The next ONR. single ‘Love in Suburbia’ will be out on the 15th of June, the same day they’ll be in Washington, DC at DC9 (yes!).

 

Great Escape 2018 Interview: Hollow Coves

 
By on Tuesday, 5th June 2018 at 11:00 am
 

As mentioned in a few of my roundups from The Great Escape 2018, nearly all the afternoon showcases I attended were rammed. This included Sound Australia’s takeover of both the downstairs main room and the upstairs Studio Bar spaces at Komedia on Gardner Street. Like a dolt, I forgot, again, that we had to enter through the back entrance of the building to get to the live performances.

In case you haven’t been able to enjoy a past Sound Gallery event at SXSW, The Great Escape or at another event, let me explain to you the general premise. The acts who perform are generally on the lighter, more acoustic side of things than hard rock or electronic. Attendance was high at both stages of Sound Gallery by the time I arrived, but I was lucky enough to be present for most of Hollow Coves’ set upstairs, sneaking around people and making it to second row from down the front. What I’ve branded as their style of music, ‘ethereal rock’, easily mesmerised the assembled crowd, the duo’s harmonies sounding gorgeous, even angelic. Hailing from Brisbane and The Gold Coast, the sea is important to them, so it’s not surprising they’ve written a gorgeous number called ‘Coastline’, which you can enjoy in an acoustic form below.

We hear stories all the time from artists who say they’ve been writing music all their lives and music is the only profession they’d ever consider. The reality is that so many musicians you may not have heard about had other successful careers before luck or happenstance intervened. Ryan Henderson and Matt Carins’ previous professions were both quite far off from music: Henderson was a civil engineer and Carins was a carpenter. So how did two guys from very different professional spheres meet in the first place? “It was a mutual friend [who introduced us]”, Henderson explains. “I’d been playing music at home and recording a few things. Matt had been doing the same in a similar genre. A friend of mine showed me his music, and I didn’t know anyone in the local area that I live who was doing that sort of music, so I started chatting with him. We got together and had a jam, and it just worked. We wrote some songs, and it just went from there!”

Hollow Coves Thursday The Great Escape 2018
Hollow Coves performing at Sound Gallery, Komedia Studio Bar, 17th May 2018

“We had no expectations, really”, Carins interjects. “We were just doing it for [our own] enjoyment. Put it on SoundCloud.” He claps his hands and grins. “And then went travelling!” I ask him where they’ve been travelling and which places they’ve loved the most. To my surprise, he says, “we’ve actually done more travel overseas [than in Australia]. We’ve only really done the East Coast of Australia. We’re going back at the end of July to start a tour in August, so we’ll be seeing more of Australia then.” During their set, the pair mentioned they would be going to Plymouth, about 350 kilometres east of Brighton on the south coast of England, to record. “We’re going to aim for an album, but sometimes things don’t work out in the studio. It’s definitely going to be an EP or an album”, says Carins. “We’re going to do 10 new tracks.”

I have to ask, why Plymouth of all places? In all my 12 visits to the UK, I’ve still not made it anywhere in the West side of the Britain, including Wales. It sounds like from Henderson that their management are pretty great and open to their ideas. “Our manager said to us, ‘who are your influences, what are some albums that you like the production on?’ We sent him a bunch of albums, and they came back to us with, ‘we’ve been talking to a few of the producers of the albums you mentioned, and this guy in England is interested in working with you. He actually came to Australia and we got to meet him over there. He was such a nice guy, and he plays drums and bass. Before we even mentioned that we don’t play drums and bass, he said, ‘I love playing on the records I produce’, so it was the perfect fit, really.” The producer in question is Chris Bond, Ben Howard’s producer and former bandmate; they’re both big fans of Howard’s work (“Ben Howard’s earlier stuff”, Carins clarifies). “We recorded our latest song ‘Ran Away’ with him late last year, and it went really, really well. We’re super excited.”

It’s still really early days for Hollow Coves. But judging from the rapturous reception they received at their first performance at The Great Escape 2018, the future looks as bright for Henderson and Carins, just as the sunlight gleams and smiles upon on the Northeast of Australia. I wish them the best.

 

SXSW 2018 Interview: Allman Brown

 
By on Thursday, 31st May 2018 at 11:00 am
 

My first interview at SXSW 2018 was with English singer/songwriter Allman Brown, who I met before his very first SXSW showcase on the Tuesday night of the music festival, at Austin’s Seven Grand. We had already featured Brown as one of our Bands to Watch leading into SXSW, and he kindly answered our Quickfire Questions ahead of the festival, but this interview was a nice chance to chat with Brown one-on-one, and to get quick preview of what I was about to hear from him on stage.

Brown had already had a bit of an adventure leading into the music festival, which he related to me in the beginning of our chat. “We flew to Dallas, and we were supposed to have a gig in Dallas but I had to cancel that, sadly [due to illness]. So, then we drove, we got the Greyhound, because we’re English, so we thought we had to hit that American stereotype and get the bus to Austin.” It turned out that the 4-hour bus trip from Dallas to Austin was less than scenic, but being an avid reader, Brown took the opportunity indulge his favourite hobby. “I was reading ‘The Nix’ by Nathan Hill,” he explained. “It came out, I think, like two years ago. It was a big hit in the States. It was brilliant. It’s all centered around a lady who abandons her son. And it’s the back story of her through like, the 1968 Chicago riots, and why she did it. It was quite intriguing.” He further described the story as a “multigenerational family drama, but also quite funny, and (it) dealt with pop culture as well.”

I mentioned that we don’t always get such detailed book recommendations at There Goes the Fear, and Brown smiled a bit sheepishly. “Reading is breathing, I live to read. I just read today, actually, the novel of the new Joaquin Phoenix movie, ‘You Were Never Really Here’. I just read the novella it’s based on. It was pretty savage.”

Brown’s readling list recommendations naturally led the conversation into possible literary influences in his music. When I asked him if he has consciously introduced his reading into his songwriting, he demurred a bit. “I think if I read a book that I really like, that gives me a certain feeling, I might take that feeling and try and put it into a song. But I try not to imitate anyone because it doesn’t feel organic to me.”

From there, the discussion turned to Brown’s own repertoire, which at this point includes his 2017 album ‘A Thousand Years’ and his most recent EP release ‘Bury My Heart’, which came out on the Friday of SXSW. In discussing the EP, Brown mentioned, rather casually, that it was his first release as a full-time musician. “I was always working in restaurants and bars and stuff for like 10 years, but I managed to go full-time music just after my daughter was born, actually.” Like any proud father, Brown was clearly eager to talk about his family, and I expressed surprise that he would choose to turn to music full-time just after having a baby. “She brought all the good luck,” he beamed. “She’s now 15 months. But it was okay, I didn’t rush into it. It happened gradually, but I felt secure to make the change.”

Brown was away from his family for only eight days on his trip to Austin, but he jokingly described it as being “horrible.” I told him that, based on my own experience, eight days at SXSW would go by quickly, and he agreed. “Honestly, eight days in Austin is not the worst place to be,” he admitted, “it’s a beautiful city, nice people.” But getting back to his wife and daughter, he says, “I did a tour [once] for about 10 days, and that’s kind of my limit. Anything longer, I’ll just bring them with me.”

The background music and chatter at the Seven Grand got gradually louder as the start time for the evening’s showcase approached, and I took that cue to ask Brown about his set list for the show. “It will be a bit of a selection really, because it’s just me,” he confided. “I don’t have the band, which I quite like sometimes, because it’s good to sort of keep your chops. I spent years just playing by myself. So, a couple of new songs, and some old favourites from the album. I mean, they’re my old favourites,” he laughed.

“But you kind of have to gauge,” he continued. “South by Southwest seems quite quite rowdy and upbeat so far. You know what I mean, like the crowds are quite energetic. So, if there’s no space for the really, really delicate fingerpicking songs, I won’t play those. I’ll just try and read the room.” Talking about gauging the audience, I asked him how familiar he thought the crowd might be with his songs. “I have no idea,” he confessed. “There’s a couple of songs off the album which are doing well on Spotify, I think they’ll probably be well known. I’m guessing it’s the newer stuff that they won’t have any idea about. I try and imagine that every gig I play, I have to convince the audience that these are songs that they should enjoy. I try not to take it for granted, like I’ve got to do my best every time and that’s all I can do.”

Following his Tuesday night show, Brown played a handful more shows during his time in Austin, including a second official showcase at the Barracuda on the Saturday night and a potential Sofar Sounds show, which was yet to be confirmed at the time of the interview. I haven’t yet found any evidence of that show online, but Brown is a Sofar Sounds veteran, having performed shows in London, New York, and Paris in the past. Just below, you can watch a vintage clip of his 2012 NYC performance, courtesy of Sofar Sounds.

Brown did a brief tour of North America at the start of May, following on the success of his SXSW appearance, and played a short string of shows in the UK at the end of the month. His new EP ‘Bury My Heart’ is available now.

 

SXSW 2018 Interview: Rachel K Collier (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 11th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Part 1 of this interview feature with the fabulous Rachel K Collier is through here.

We chat a bit about her performance at Latitude 30, which I was lucky enough to witness. Collier emphasises that her live show is very much a work in progress. “Without four cameras on me [to film and for the audience to see what she’s doing], I need to be interacting with the crowd. So I’ve had to simplify some of my live set. Otherwise, I’m just standing there, pressing buttons. Where’s my connection with the crowd? If I’m constantly triggering, I have be behind Push all the time. I’m still working on it, I’m constantly refining my live show. I realised quite quickly that I’m a performer. I want to be out there with the crowd. I’ll do whatever I can to combine both things. I never want to hit Play on a track. That’s just boring. Someone once asked me, ‘why don’t you just press Play?’ I want to have the freedom to trigger the clips whenever I want to bring them in. I want to loop whatever I want to loop. I want to be able to do things on the fly. I get a bit of a buzz from it!”

The Welsh artist is also eager to lift the veil over what is all too often a black box for electronic music fans. “In the future, we’d like to get cameras on the Push, so people can really see what I’m doing. No one can see the lights on the Push and what I can see.” I point out that as a female producer, songwriter and performer, she’s an all too rare breed these days. The very existence of Rachel K Collier and the success she has garnered so far can only be a positive thing for the future of electronic music, I explain. Having someone like her out front, showing a woman can make it in the electronic genre and have fun doing it is a huge thing.

“I trigger a new scene at the end of a song to trigger the tempo of the new song. If you trigger a clip, you stay in the previous song’s tempo. When I go from ‘And I Breathe’ mid-set, I have a big pitch drop before I drop the tempo from 123 to 94 for ‘Poison’. If I talk over the clip, I lose where the 1 [count] is, but then I need to bring in the next clip in, and it could come in anywhere. Maybe I should have a marker somewhere so I know where I am, but really, that’s part of the fun. A year ago, I would have been like, oh gosh, everything has to be perfect. Now I’m like okay, you know what, I’m triggering the clips, sometimes it’s going to go wrong, and I can actually now laugh about it. It’s live! Sometimes it’s good when stuff goes wrong. Actually, something did go wrong Tuesday, in the intro for ‘And I Breathe’. The controllers were moving, and I hit the BPM knob by accident. Luckily, where I was in the project, new scene, boom!”

She starts to laugh. “I’ve gone all nerdy on this. Is that okay?” I assure her it’s perfectly fine. To be honest, her being so detailed and ‘getting in the weeds’, so to speak, on her live show is further proof just how complicated her process is and how she’s taking it in her stride. Collier is also very adamant about making sure her music has meaning. Referencing her Quickfire Questions answer about a song that makes her laugh, she conveys her appreciation for Everything Everything’s ‘No Reptiles’ and the way Jonathan Higgs writes his lyrics. “With a lot of their music, I’m like, did he really say that? I like stuff with loads of imagery, because I do that in my lyrics as well. I’m really happy with reviews of my music when people say, ‘yeah, it’s dance music, but it has meaning. It has words, it has real lyrics. That’s what I didn’t really like about writing generic top lines, in any old time signature. It didn’t mean anything. Yeah, it’s going to make people dance, but it doesn’t really mean anything. I want to be able to dance, but I also want to be able to sing something that means something. As an artist, I had to get my head round that I need to be saying something.”

She is quick to point out the potential contradiction she has in her own preference for music. “I love straight dance. I’m a raver. You could probably tell from my set!” Everyone says, ‘you have so much energy’. I’m really a passionate musician. And I made that music! This is so nerdy, but that actual groove of ‘Poison’ is a fast groove at 124, and I shoved it into MetaSynth. It’s this really nerdy granular synthesis program, it’s my secret weapon now. If I want something that’s a bit edgy, I chuck it in there, it’s like a playground. You can go in there and mess stuff up. I slowed this 124 down, I pitch shifted it down. I liked it and brought that sound back into Ableton, put my own kick and snare [drums] into it. I’m really fussy, there’s three kicks in there, I made one of the kicks in my Korg MiniLogue, sampled it, cut it up perfect. I like taking bits of the other tracks and resample it. See, this comes back to Ableton. You can’t do that in Logic or ProTools. That’s what I mean when I say it [Ableton] helps me express myself.”

There have been a few bumps this week in Austin, but nothing serious that could dampen her mood. “South By has been a bit of a learning curve. Some of the sound engineers are not as familiar with this kind of electro vibe. Some of them are like, ‘what is all this?’” It’s a nice segue to my next question, asking Collier how she’s been treated in the electronic world as a woman. So far, Grimes has been the most vocal female artist in the electronic genre to complain about the sexist treatment she’s faced. “It definitely happens when [you’re a woman and] you’re a producer. When you’re performing, they probably think someone else produced it, or whatever. My first EP, I remember playing it to someone. ‘Oh, who produced it?’ Uh, me? He just went on, thinking that I was the featured artist on the record. I was like, what the hell?”

Rachel K Collier Words You Never Heard EP cover

“I’ve had a few things [like that] happen. With my first self-release, I did it on Love & Other, a really small label. [That EP, ‘Words You Never Heard’, got a review of 8/10 on Mixmag. Not bad at all straight out of the gate – Ed.] That was really cool, a nice starter. I look back at that stuff and go, gosh, that’s really basic. Then my first-ever self release on AWAL, I got a comment, ‘great track! Whoever produced this for Rachel should do a whole album with her.’ I said to Ben, email them now, tell them I bloody produced it! Get that message through. Some people just don’t connect girl and a bass line. Girl and drums. Girl and computer. There’s a girl called Nightwave, she’s a female DJ, she did a Boiler Room and people totally slated her [read more about that incident here]. She’s now set up this whole thing [with other UK female electronic producers] called Producergirls. She does her lecture with quotes like ‘Who did she do to get there?’ and ‘Oh, she must have a ghost producer’, all this crap boys say.

“It [being a woman] works in my favour, in a way. Red Bull has their #NormalNotNovelty [music workshop], I’ve done some stuff with those guys as well. So I’m proud I’m a girl and doing it. Screw you guys. It’s funny, I’ve helped many guys with their Ableton sets. I’ll tell them we’ll FaceTime later. I love teaching it as well. Every single person I help is a guy. It’s really cool, because they’re like, ‘Rachel really knows her stuff about Ableton, let me call her.’ I might actually apply to be a certified trainer now. I might as well just do it. I’m already helping people.”

Reaching out in such a way seems entirely natural for Collier, although her initial foray into YouTube “started off slow. But people are really into it now. My single’s out today. I filmed a little talk-through inside the screen and put that on YouTube last night. ‘Here’s the project using Ableton Live 10. It looks beautiful. Here’s the bass, here’s drums, here’s the keys. Here’s the riff I did.’ I want to be transparent as well. I want to be honest. I couldn’t be anything else. Some other people are like, I don’t talk to anyone, I don’t tell anyone my secrets. That’s just not my character. I’m better being myself.”

She’s very excited for the work coming up for the rest of the year. “I’m going to be producing my album now, and then I’ll be making an Ableton video for my single ‘Darkshade’ that was released today.” Although Collier is based in Wales, she’s very cognisant of staying in the public consciousness in territories beyond where she’s from. “We’ve learnt we need to keep building our presence here in the States.“ Sounds like us Americans might be seeing much more of Rachel K Collier in the coming months. Fingers crossed! Massive thanks, Rachel, for taking the time for this interview.

 

SXSW 2018 Interview: Rachel K Collier (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 10th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

By the time I manage to pin down Rachel K Collier at SXSW 2018, she’s already had a busy week. It’s Friday afternoon, we’re sat with drinks in the swanky bar at the Omni Hotel, and the electronic phenom from Swansea is so comfortable being in Austin, slang that’s only used by seasoned veterans of the festival is already rolling off her tongue. Positivity is exuding out of every pore of this up-and-coming Welsh artist. “I’m going to be bringing out my album in September. We wanted to release two singles [ahead of that] and I thought, what perfect timing! There will be loads going on at South By, I might as well release a single today [‘Darkshade’]. My Instagram followers have gone up since I arrived, [up by] about 130?” She flashes a grin, even though her time in Austin has been totally chockablock. “Loads of little things with the press, with radio, BBC Wales did an interview with me last night. It’s all timing together quite nicely.”

Collier began her time in Austin at Hotel Vegas, a venue with big names all week but a bit out of the way, east of the city centre. By her account, her maiden voyage to Austin clearly began on a high note. “It was like the crowd was on fire. They were so energetic! I did one filter and they were [all] like, ‘whooooo!’” She raises her arms up for added effect. “And at the end, I had an encore. You know, at South By, you have 40 minutes, that’s it, isn’t it? But because I was last, it was crazy.” She’d already been through all her songs and asked the audience what to do. “Play ‘Paper Tiger’ again!”, they shouted. “I got all the audience singing, and I looped them [in]. It was an amazing show.”

She appears both surprised and chuffed by the local reception. “Monday night, it seemed to be all Austin and American guys [in the audience]. It was totally rammed…that’s actual exposure, then, isn’t it? You really are showcasing to new people. Monday was cool because there were fans there who follow me on YouTube. Monday night, they were dancing like mad, they were loving it. Tuesday night [the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation-supported showcase at Latitude 30], they were more of an industry crowd.” Collier already has her sights set on returning to SXSW. “Next year, I want to play to people who have never heard of me. I met this guy who said to me, ‘oh, best South By find this year!’, so it’s like yay! He’s discovered me! The response has been amazing.”

When you’re far from home, it can be astonishingly validating to get approval from crowds you’ve never encountered before. “It’s funny, Mary, I feel like I’m in the right place. I feel like I should be here, it’s important for my career. Also, because I’m Welsh, it is great, because the press back in Wales is like, pow pow pow! Rachel K Collier! They’re pushing it constantly in Wales. There’s only six Welsh artists here, which really helps, to be in the minority. Being female, doing electronic music, again, it’s different. But I’ve been really lucky, Ableton is supporting me, and PRS Foundation, BBC Introducing, yeah, it’s been really cool!”

2017 proved to be a pivotal year for Collier, the live artist. “Last year was a really awesome year because I did my first UK tour. Last year was my transition from making the YouTube videos to the stage. It happened [all] very fast. I was doing my YouTube video, and then I was doing my first college performance and I was opening different Projects, different songs. Then I had another show and thought, okay, I need to do three songs, and they need to be in the same project.” Soon enough, she found herself needing to take her music up a major notch. “By July, I was playing in the Czech Republic at Beats for Love Festival. I had to do an hour set. So it was like, right, okay, now I need to have songs. It took a year to take the live show and refine it, refine it, refine it, refine it.

“In December, we played a sold-out show at London Koko. It was an amazing way to finish the year, to go from that little college show, to all these little workshops, to bigger shows, to the UK tour. I thought, oh god. I hope it’s going to continue into next year, and then you get the email from South By. Ben [her manager] called me and said, “You’re not going to believe this. We’re going to South by Southwest!”

With a fresh perspective of how her music has been received on this side of the pond, she says almost with a tear, “I felt quite emotional this week. The response from the crowd on Monday! There were some guys from Monday night, they were saying, [changes to American Texan accent] ‘we follow you on YouTube and saw you were coming to Austin, like no frickin’ way!’ One of them, Alex, he was so cool. He posted a pic [from the show] with the caption, ‘Rachel, you crushed your first American show!’ …they could come to the first show because it was an unofficial showcase. When we were planning for SXSW, of course we were interested in all the official showcases, but I was like no, man. The unofficial ones are cool because they don’t require the industry / wristband thing. It’s been really cool, I hope it all continues.”

Unexpectedly, Collier has become an ambassador for music software giant Ableton. But perhaps maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a big surprise? She’s a self-described “hardcore fan” and “diehard enthusiast” of their products, so I ask her just what she loves about it so much. It sounds like she could talk for days on how much it makes her work easier, though she went through a period of not using it at all. “I studied Music Tech at uni, it was all about making music with technology, that was the whole kind of vibe. We’d have to do these recitals that were innovative and new and no one had seen before. I thought, I want to do something on stage. I don’t want a looping pedal, I want to loop stuff, I want to make up some weird stuff. My teacher introduced me to Ableton and said, ‘try this’. I was working in session view for performance. I thought, this is cool.” Turns out, unbeknownst to me, Collier had been in a different part of the songwriting world for a while. “Fast forward a few years, moved to London, I was doing a lot of top-lining kind of work, recording in Logic and ProTools. I thought, you know what, I hate this, I want to produce again. I met Ben and he asked, ‘do you produce in Ableton?’ ‘I haven’t used that in ages, I love Ableton! But I thought that was only for live stuff.’ ‘No, you can produce in it.’

“For the first time ever, I saw Arrangement [View], I have no idea how I missed it. So then I started producing in Ableton. It sounds cheesy, but I felt like I connected with it. This is how I can express myself. I’m just a super fan! I absolutely love it. I started producing again, I was really happy. I released the first EP I made myself, I produced it myself. But then I was like, ooh, I want to perform it, though! That’s what I love about Ableton. You can take this production that you’ve done – I’ve obviously started everything in Session View – go to Arrange View, and then you can simply go back into Session View and construct this whole Project.”

Collier’s next step was to share her music with the public, and in a way so many bedroom producers do these days. “I started my YouTube channel, still loving Ableton. Then I decided I wanted to meet them. I need to meet someone there, tell them how much I love it and thank them, show them my work. I went to ADE [Amsterdam Dance Event] 2016 – I played this year – and I went to ADE purely to meet someone from Ableton. I went to the Ableton stand and I met this amazing guy named Jan from Dutch Ableton. By then I’d had 400,000 views of ‘Nothing is Forever’ on my YouTube channel [There are now over 1.4 million views of this video of Collier’s – Ed.]. He said, ‘cool, email me.’ He replied straight away, that really doesn’t happen in our industry. He introduced me to the UK team, Mike, Simon, and Danny, and they replied, “hi Rachel, come in for a chat.” They said, will you do a convention with us, can you do a performance? And that was my first-ever outside of YouTube performance with my APC [Akai Professional Ableton Performance Controller] and my [Ableton] Push.”

Since taking that chance to find Ableton staff at ADE 2016, she’s “really bonded” with not only with the London Ableton team but with the team at Ableton HQ in Berlin, who asked her to front their Ableton Live 10 global campaign. “It was so cool, because it was the first time ever [for an Ableton release], as a female producer, ‘would you come over and produce, and make a track for our Live 10 release?’ It’s not, ‘go and do the top-line because you’re a girl and you sing’, it’s ‘go and produce the music’. I was like, hell yeah! I flew out to Berlin a couple of times and got to go to Ableton HQ, use Ableton 10, use the new plugins, Pedal, the Echo, the Groups Within Groups. I was meant to be second on the video because my BPM was around 130, and the structure of the video was such that they were going to showcase this tempo, and then this tempo, and then this tempo.

“Because of the way I write and I sing, and they have this new Metronome feature, they said, oh wait, we’re going to put you on first. It was such an amazing experience. They are just so cool and so supportive.” It’s evident from the smile on her face to see that Ableton is really a part of Rachel K Collier, the artist, and she’s wholly appreciative of their efforts. “When you on stage and you’ve got a slammin’ sound system, everything is running from the laptop into the sound card, everything goes into Ableton, through my sound card, and back out again. Vocals, all the synths, all the clips, all the samples, all the looping. So it’s mega that I can actually perform like that. And it’s all because they made that.” Ableton also introduced her to Indian online music magazine and community forum Wild City, who just began an initiative last November to be more inclusive in the music industry towards women. Part of the initiative is bringing Collier out to Bangalore, India, with support from the British Council, for a 2-day workshop where she will teach her most favourite subject. “Basically I’m going to hang out with young Indian girls and teach them Ableton. Dream! I spend most of my life looking at Ableton. It’s pretty bad. Someone once said to me, you talk about Ableton all the time. Well, it’s kind of my life, to be honest!”

Enjoyed this? Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Rachel K Collier, which will post here tomorrow.

 

(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Interview: David Gedge of The Wedding Present (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 6th March 2018 at 1:00 pm
 

To read the first half of my interview feature with frontman David of The Wedding Present, come through.

The garden-variety band, after they’ve achieved any kind of fame, are very happy to keep on with just their music. But as should already be evident as you’ve been reading this piece, David Gedge and The Wedding Present have never been like any other band. This year, Gedge and co. will be celebrating the 10th year running of At the Edge of the Sea festival, an annual event in August curated by the band. I inquire about its origin. “We were on tour, years ago, having breakfast in a café in Yorkshire, actually, and musing about how you meet so many nice people doing what we do. Like support bands who you see day-in, day-out for a couple of weeks, but then you might never see them again. So At the Edge of the Sea was a way to invite people to Brighton, where the band’s based, so that we get to hang out with them again.”

In describing the festival, like much of this interview with him, what comes across from Gedge is a genuine warmth and excitement, and a desire to contribute to the business in a positive way, his way. So it’s no surprise he’d want to take on the hard work of having their own label, Scorpitones, which has released nearly all of The Wedding Present’s records since 2005. “Having the final say over matters concerning our releases – artistic and commercial decisions, etc. – has always been paramount within The Wedding Present and, when you have your own label, you have total control over absolutely everything. That’s the most rewarding thing. I’m not answerable to anyone.” And ultimately, that’s what all artists wish for, isn’t it?

Next week, Gedge and his band will be appearing at SXSW 2018, an event where they’ve appeared a multitude of times in past years. He revels in participating. “I like the fact that it’s just this ridiculous hotbed of activity. It’s like a crazy beehive. Bands playing in every building, people from all over the world. And Austin’s such a cool place, too.” I venture that he probably gets recognised more often than not. But he’s the kind of cool bloke who takes it all in stride. And he’s not hiding out in a VIP hotel room somewhere. “Being ‘bothered’ is something I’ve never really had a problem with. I think Wedding Present fans are generally very respectful. So yes, I’m always wandering around at SXSW.”

Who’s wowed him in Austin in the past? He even has a recommendation for us this year. “Ringo Deathstarr, who are actually from Austin, are always worth catching. We’re playing with them again this year. And I loved seeing British Sea Power, who, coincidentally, are also from Brighton. That was only a few years ago, but I was a latecomer to their music. There was also a band called Razika from Sweden, I think… [they’re actually from Bergen, Norway – Ed.] and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart were great.”


David Gedge with a comic book circa December 2015
David Gedge enjoying one of the riveting issues of Tales From The Wedding Present
(photo from the band’s Facebook)

I have a final question for Gedge. After having accomplished so much in the over 3 decades, what does he wants to be remembered for? Without hesitation, it’s “My comic book! Tales From The Wedding Present.” It may sound like an unusual response, to not have named an album or a song. But on second thought, it makes total sense. While the songs and albums are Gedge’s bread and butter, putting himself and the band’s life on the road into a serialised comic series and indulging in his personal passion for the art form is David Gedge being David Gedge. And we wouldn’t want him to be anybody else.

Many thanks to David for being such a cool dude and answering so many of my burning questions!

 
 
 

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.

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