Hello Rachel, thanks so much for doing this….
Waves are Universal is a very personal album and a departure from your previous work with Mojave 3 and Slowdive. Can you give us some indication of the story behind these songs and how this album took shape over time?
I guess firstly the major difference is that I rarely have writing input into Mojave 3 and Neil & I write very differently to each other. I started really writing in earnest in the year 2000, having just come out of a 6 year marriage, I just picked up the guitar one day and it all just started to flow. I hadn’t really picked the guitar up much really (though loosely having played since) first learning at the age of 7 yrs! So I just wrote loads of songs over the course of a couple of years really until I was ready to start recording. I had met Joe half way through this process and he had a lot of music but no words, so we worked on those songs together. It all just eventually fell into place.
Since your recording of Waves, what songs are still your favorites and why? What are your favorite songs to play live?
Actually there are a lot I still really love. The majority of gigs have been acoustic over the last few months, and that has changed some of the song dynamically. I really love “Coastline”. The song just means so much to me on a personal level. It encompasses my two main loves in life, which are nature and my partner! I really enjoy playing this live, it has morphed into something else really! We also now have a version in ¾ time when the full band ensemble is playing! I also love “Thru the Dawn” (incidentally the track listing on Waves on first prints is wrong in that it has “Thru the Dawn” & “Beautiful Feeling” around the wrong way on the back sleeve). The guitar on this song took me a good 6 months to write. It was a real labour of love and the lyrics took even longer. I’m really proud of this song in particular. Having suffered from clinical depression a few years ago, it just serves as a reminder that there is light in life and for me at times, I have needed to remind myself of that fact.
Do you, at this point, plan on putting out more solo music? If so, when?
Yes, I’d love to! Don’t know when – the next Mojave 3 album comes first (which will be out sometime this year, possibly before summer). I fully intend to take my time in the writing processes again. I don’t feel any urge to bash out another record really quickly. For me this will take as long as it naturally takes.
I can hear a lot of influence from your previous bands in this disc, yet, there is so much more going on here. I hear innovative sounds like in Slowdive and the singer-songwriter elements in Mojave, but if I may ask, what influences do you see on your work outside of those experiences?
More of a folk influence really in my background. As I said before, I don’t really write many Mojave songs at all and Slowdive was a very long time ago. I grew up hearing a lot of John Denver (not that I would proclaim to be anything like him) but I suppose the sentiment behind his songs lyrically, is just pretty plain speaking and honest. Sometimes I can get a tiny bit abstract with it, but generally not!! I’m pretty straight down the line really and a bit of an old romantic. Far too sensitive for my own good! Joni Mitchell is a big influence too. I really admire her as an artist. She has written just so many wonderful songs and she really is a poet. I often sing along to the album ‘Blue’ which is easily one of my favourite’s, only around the house really, sometimes when I’m out in the garden getting mucky. It’s good practice for the old vocal chords if nothing else.
You introduce into your compositions a lot of “Mother Nature’s” work. Can you tell us a bit about that influence on the disc and how those samples came about?
At the beginning of this recording process there was me, joe and Dave Naughton (producer). Dave was an assistant engineer on Out of Tune (2nd M3 album). We sat down and had dinner one evening before embarking on the recording processes. Mindful of all the records I’ve been involved with over the years, and the different recording techniques that have taken place, I just really wanted to do something completely different and as natural as possible. I didn’t want it lathered in effects. I just wanted it to be pretty bare. The word ‘organic’ came up in the conversation. It kind of flowed from there. There is a lot of Dave’s influence on Waves. The waves on ‘Plucked’ are ones he recorded whilst out in Thailand. The traffic noises on ‘Hope’ were from outside his flat in Camden. I tend to be at my happiest if I am either singing, or out doing gardening. The Mother Nature element on the record is an extension of that. It really shows a big part of just who I am now. I’m not the same person that was in Slowdive, and I’m largely not the same person that has been in Mojave 3 either. Shit happens in life and it changes you. I’m just in a much better place these days! I absolutely embrace my 30’s. I’m glad to be out of my 20’s . It was far too confusing!!
What do you think makes a good song? Do you have a philosophy behind your songwriting approach?
What makes a good song for me is just when I hear a song that really touches my soul. It can easily be in the lyrical content, equally it can be in the instruments that are used. Something that makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. It could be over wide genres of musical styles too. I don’t have a philosophy behind the way I write I don’t think. Sometimes I will just have a melody in my head and pick up the guitar to try and find chords that fit ~ I’m not a great player either, so this can be pretty difficult!!, Sometimes it works the other way and I’m playing the guitar messing about with chord sequences and a melody comes into my head. Sometimes a line or two of words will come into my head or phrases.
I do a lot of lucid dreaming and there has been a few occasions where I’ve written some great songs in my sleep. Sadly I have not yet mastered the art of being able to remember the melodies when I wake up. I live in the hope though!
How do you feel about the new Mojave 3 album and the progression of your collective writing experience?
I have yet to hear the new Mojave 3 album. I have been promoting Waves whilst Neil, Ian & Al have been getting on with the new record. Consequently, my input is going to be pretty minimal on it. But I hear there are some cracking songs on it and I’m looking forward to hearing them in the next few weeks!
What is your personal take on the whole Slowdive experience?
Some of it was great, some of it wasn’t J I have only a few memories really of that period in time. You have to understand we were in our late teens / early 20’s and the booze et al really was flowing at times. Definitely killed off a few million brain cells in the process. It was what it was and I’m proud of every single record we released.
How do you feel about the music Slowdive produced, does it still hold some credible creative value for you?
Absolutey! See above!
Would you ever consider being part of some sort of ‘reunion’ tour with Slowdive? <br
No I wouldn’t. I just don’t think it would work at all really. I’m always skeptical of the bands that do reunion tours. It’s always for the money and honestly I don’t even think we would really pull it off with any grace!
I’m happy that Slowdive still creates interest and has a following ten years on from the split and for me that is reward enough. The music is standing the test of time, which is all we really wanted with it anyway.
If any, are there any authors that influence your lyrics or music?
No there isn’t. I’m a big reader but have never even thought of author’s having any influence on the musical side of my life. I really enjoy Margaret Atwood books. And have just read The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo…currently reading The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield along side The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time – mark Haddon. The latter is reading when travelling on the Tube, Celestine is bedtime reading and food for thought. The spiritual slant on life is infiltrating me more and more on a conscious level especially over the last couple of years…the time is just right for these things.
Who are you listening to now?
My most recent favourite purchase has been Jesse Sykes. Such great songs and that voice! Amazing stuff. Meditation music has become quite a staple too J