(Interview by János Janurik) About a year ago, I had the honour to ask Gareth Jones about his studio work on Erasure’s legendary “Wild!” album. Back then he mentioned his upcoming solo electronic music project. The long wait is finally over. The studio magician’s long-awaited debut album will be released on the 18th September. On that occasion, I asked him my questions again.
SL: In our last conversation last year, you summarized your memories of working on Erasure’s “Wild!” album. The Erasure guys have just released their new album “The Neon”. At the online launch party they also mentioned your name concerning a new remix to “Nerves Of Steel”. Could you please tell us a few words about this project?
GJ: Andy had an idea for an approach to a remix, and I was delighted to help him realise that idea. It is a mix full of respect. It’s an homage in fact. I love Andy and Vince. It’s family. It’s always amazing to work with them, so I jumped at the chance to collaborate on this remix. I also created a second ElectroGenetic remix, which is a different kind of thing. Darker perhaps.
SL: When we run back over the past and take a look at your massive CV, we can see that you have been active in the music biz for four decades. You were the sound engineer on John Foxx’s cult debut album from 1980. Do you remember how you got your first studio job?
GJ: A musician and record producer called Mike Finesilver owned a small 8 track studio in Newington Green called Pathway. He generously gave me a chance to work in his studio. Thank you Mike! I’m forever grateful.
SL: Your name is closely linked to the Hansa Studios in Berlin where you experimented with recording atmospheres and the method of sampling. In 2018 the film “By The Wall” was screened, which narrated as a kind of documentation what had happened musically in the Hansa Studios between 1976 and 1990. What are your most noteworthy experiences about these legendary Hansa times?
GJ: So many great musicians from whom I learned so much. Diamanda Galás, Depeche Mode, Einstürzende Neubauten, Adrian Sherwood, Ideal, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Conny Plank, Roma Baran, Daniel Miller, Fad Gadget, Palais Schaumburg, Wire, Holger Hiller, Crime and the City Solution. These are my teachers.
SL: Through your work with Depeche Mode, Erasure, Einstürzende Neubauten, and also with Nick Cave you have made a name for yourself among music producers. But your portfolio also includes younger artists and bands like Apparat, Wovoka Gentle, Compact Disk Dummies, and Polly Scattergood. Do you receive these requests for joint work directly from the newer generation of musicians? I mean, do they know you and your previous work well? And vice versa, do you have your finger on the pulse of contemporary pop music? Could you name some new pop artists who you think are exciting enough?
GJ: I do get approached directly and many of the younger generation know some of the amazing musicians I have worked with in the past. I don’t have my finger on the pulse. I’m a drifter. A feather on the breath of God.
SL: When I got the news about your solo album, I immediately got interested. I belong to the generation that not only appreciates albums of their favourite bands, but also the work of those who work in the production background. So you’ve always been a hero of mine. As I said, I was curious how this personal work would sound from you. How long have you been working on this album? What was the main motivation behind its creation?
GJ: I made a commitment to myself to complete an album in the year 2019. This personal contract with myself helped me to cross the finish line. I’ve been working on the album for 50 years. The motivation was not to let myself down.
SL: To what extent was this work different from your previous studio works on the albums of different artists? How did it feel for the first time being your own boss and that having an opportunity to realize your own ideas without compromise?
GJ: I really enjoy working with collaborators. And getting hired to work for other artists. One of the great things about it is that the person you are working with always inspires you and pushes you forward. My ELECTROGENETIC project is a solo work, so I was stuck alone with myself (and my dreams and fantasies) and this meant that I had to inspire and encourage myself. Not always easy. I learnt a lot about the creative process, the joy and pain of commitment, and had to negotiate intensively with my inner critic in order to get anything done. Also, I acquired an even deeper understanding of the challenges that so many of my dear friends and colleagues have been through over the years in making their own music and art.
SL: The album title “Electrogenetic” can have several meanings. Through creation we, humans, are similar to God – at least for a certain period of time. I thought of something spiritual when I had a first look at the album cover. What about you? What were you trying to say with it? What`s behind the title and the cover?
GJ: With the title I am trying to express my feelings about the generative power of modular electronic synthesiser patches. Often, when working with modular synthesisers, we build a patch and it offers something beyond what we could imagine or expect. This certainly happens for me often and it is part of the deep power of the modular synth creative process. So in a sense the electronics give birth to the music, and I am a kind of midwife, a birth father to the process. I am trying to emphasise and echo this process in my choice of name: ELECTROGENETIC.
The ankh and the wedding ring in the photograph on the cover hang of a lamp over my desk where I write my journal and create music at home, so I see them every day and when I took a series of photographs of these powerful symbols I realised I had my album cover right there. The wedding ring was my father’s. The font that I use for ELECTROGENETIC is from an old fashion stencil that I found in the basement of my father-in-law’s house. I love the dirty analogue outlines of the font – it enhances and reflects my aesthetic and music.
SL: When I first listened to the album, I immediately got a “this is the kind of atmospheric electronic music with goose-skin effect I’ve long missed” thought. Everything is very poetic and the listener is immediately tied up. Where did your ideas, themes and musical expression come from to this work?
GJ: This is my first solo LP, so it probably contains images and feelings from my entire life, and it is inspired by everything I have experienced, so that would be a very long list!
The album emerged because I made a commitment to myself to complete a project within that year. I found this to be a very powerful process, the contract with myself. I really wanted to honour that contract and this which drove me forwards to completion, to the finishing line. Also my mother and my mother-in-law had recently died (my father and father-in-law died some years before) so in some way everything changed. This experience distilled into the entire project. In some sense I hope it is a loving Requiem for my parents and all the ancestors, the four billion year chain of life that precedes me.
SL: It’s hard to choose “favourite tracks” from the album because it’s a coherent musical concept, but are there parts of the whole that are of very personal importance to you?
GJ: Every track on my LP connects to every other track. In some sense they’re all important to me, and in another sense it’s “all for nothing“ – supremely important, and completely insignificant at the same time. That’s my life. I hope some listeners will go the whole journey with me and listen to the LP from top to bottom, that is how it is designed to be listened to. And I hope you will enjoy the journey.
SL: The last thing I want to ask is about your collaboration with Daniel Miller under the pseudonym “Sunroof”. Your special performance of the Depeche Mode album “Construction Time Again” 10 years ago in Berlin attracted the attention of Depeche Mode fans. Just as popular are your joint remixes. Are there such works still to be expected from you? And what are your further plans for the near future?
GJ: “Sunroof” goes back many years now and I hope it will extend many years into the future. My musical relationship with Daniel is one of the great important relationships of my life and we have always enjoyed making music together, and I hope we always will. Watch this space!
- The Beginning
- Safe Travels
- I Believe
- Alone Together
You can pre-order / buy the album on Bandcamp.
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