Hi Erik, having just finished my review of from Darkness, Light, in all honesty, it’s a very strong contender for my favourite album of the year! I am so in love with this album and really so very happy you’re able to take the time to answer some questions.
Hi Nick! Really nice to hear from you! Thanks so much for taking the time to review my album, I really appreciate it.
Hopefully you’ll still appreciate it after you’ve read it!
Hahaha. Yes, very true!
Actually, in all fairness, I’ll let you read it before we go on. I’ll send it over now.
Very kind. Let me have a look.
I’m reading it now, and I am smiling, because I feel someone really “got it”. You coin my references, and the moods, and shall I say landscapes, I had in mind so well.
It’s such an incredible album that speaks so much to me, and I was aware I was possibly inferring much more than you might have been implying. It was honestly a joy to review. But it really does give a sense of place and mood, and I really did feel transported to the locations I mention in my review – even if I’ve never seen some of them other than in literature and film. The way you evoke the feelings of the landscapes, as you put it, is quite incredible.
I think for me, to see how my work has resonated with someone like this is a wonderful feeling.
It definitely resonates with me – very much!
May I ask you, what made you choose to review it? You did choose to review it?
I’ll be honest. I admit having never heard of you before this release, though I see from your YouTube page some of the songs are three or more years old. I did choose to review your album, but it was pretty much because it was released on Apollon Records, and that label has never really let me down. Apollon releases a fairly diverse array of sounds, but they’re always interesting.
Robin [Mortensen] is great, the guy who runs it. I played a show in Bergen, Norway, last night, my first show since March. The Apollon guys were all there.
I bet that must have been great. Apart from the fact that gigs are few and far between these days (live-streams excepted), From Darkness, Light strikes me as an album that ought to be heard live. When I listen to it, I tend to imagine I’m seeing it performed live anyway, I guess, given that the music and poetry transports me to the locations I mention in my review. I would absolutely love to see a live performance of the album.
Hopefully I can start doing shows in London again at some point… but feel it’s another six months away…
At least. Yeah, it could be some time. I’ll definitely make it if I can, though. London is not too far for me to travel. Speaking of London, when I was exploring your YouTube channel, one of my favourite videos was your ‘Manor Storage Session’ performance.
Yes, the storage one… It was weird, because that storage was like my home in London for one and a half years. I had all my stuff there after the breakup with my ex. Old toys and prams for my daughter, etc. And the piano, and all my gigging gear. So I had to go there every time I did a gig, to get my gear and to deliver it back. Meanwhile, I was staying at friends’ places. But I remember going there and sitting there for a couple hours, playing the piano each time, between all the boxes of my former life. As such, it felt like a makeshift home, a place with all my things.
I think everyone lives out of a box at some point in their life. Yours was just a very big one. I’m from New Zealand, so moving halfway around the world definitely left me with months in the UK with half my life in boxes.
Wow, yes, I can imagine! Well I guess there are things in my story that can resonate with a lot of people. And I hope I keep it abstract enough for people to live their own lives through my music.
Well, I definitely felt like I was. Through the music, and the poetry. Looking at the credits, is it that Chip Martin wrote the poetry, or recited it, or both?
Both. It’s his voice reciting. I see some reviewers thinks it’s my voice reading the poems, too.
I wasn’t sure. I deliberately avoided that in my review, as you possibly noted. I had a feeling it wasn’t you, but I had no way of knowing. I absolutely love those spoken word tracks though! The reason I wasn’t sure, is because the voice that recites the poetry is so different from that which sings. My natural thought would normally be that it is two different voices, but your image often heavily features a mask. I did wonder if maybe you were putting on another mask, in an aural, rather than visual sense. How important is the idea of the mask to your image?
The mask is from the video shoot of Emotional Outlaw, but it stuck with me. There is something scary about it. Like an identity within, which is concealed, and frightened to come out. But from the look of the eyes, it is not clear if it is the character behind the mask who is himself frightening, or if the character is frightened by the outside world. There is something existential, and identity-seeking about it. Becoming a musician and carrying this project was very much about removing my own mask, and letting my rawness come out, unafraid.
That makes a lot of sense. And some of the photos without a physical mask still look mask-like, by virtue of the manner of make-up worn – and even those still have that vague hint of horror where it’s not clear whether the horror is in the mask, or what’s underneath. So, in a way, there’s a consistency of image, even when an actual physical mask is not worn. It was that consistency that made me second guess myself about the identity of the poet, and made me think about the prominence of the mask in your image, and why that might be.
It was a good question. No one has asked that before.
The other thing about a mask is that it instantly proffers an air of mystery and intrigue. At the moment, your website seems to follow suit. Looks very cool, but gives away next to nothing.
I have been thinking of building a much better website, to be honest. I probably lose some potential fans by offering them so little. I do think the mask adds intrigue and mystery, and also helps create the world my music lives in. Something reminiscent of old cabarets and theatres, red and seedy.
Or the Bohemian nature of the Beat Generation. Chip’s voice is definitely that of an older man, and reminiscent of Kérouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg, etc., and there’s a strange transatlantic twang that’s American, but also European. It’s a voice that is clearly generationally and geographically distant from your own.
So Chip is from California, but has lived most his adult life in London, as part of the more literary, Bohemian circles. He is 70 now, I believe. Some of the sonnets on the album are from novellas he wrote in the ‘80s. He gave me some of his books to read, and I found some of these poems, and I loved them so much. Eventually I asked if he would be okay if I recorded them for the album. It started with Roselight, that I felt was the perfect opener for my album.
It really is!
Another thing which you may or may not notice, and gives maybe the album a slightly travel and arrive feel, is that the chords under Roselight are the same as Boulevards, just played on different instruments, and the voicings are more open in the latter.
I’d love to pretend that I recognised that immediately. I did notice it, but only because I was listening on repeat. I’m honestly not sure I would have otherwise. The two do perfectly bookend the album, though. I definitely get where you’re coming from with the travel and arrive feel.
Chip and I did gigs for a long time, where we basically did a stripped down version of most of the album as a duo – so a song/poetry performance. But it was only late last year he realised it was the same chords, hahaha.
I’m in good company then! Actually, the first time I listened to the album, I was surprised that Boulevards existed at all, as the album seemed like it could have ended perfectly with Everything Is Movement. But as soon as I realised the wrap-around effect, of Roselight and Boulevards, I understood.
Yes, to me it is a bit like the final chapter of a fairy tale, where things go back a bit to normal, but you still carry inside you the emotional journey that happened within.
I almost made a reference in my review to Bowie’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (my favourite Bowie song) because I found Boulevards quite reminiscent of that. Not in sound, but in mood. The realisation that everything is a bit shit, but you can deal with it and move on. In the end, I stuck to Space Oddity though, because I thought the Major Tom analogy would be more well known, and it also seemed seemed closer to that in sound.
Nice, well that’s an honour. I see people do compare this track to Bowie a bit actually. Mostly to Space Oddity.
It is very Bowie-esque – and I say that as a HUGE Bowie fan. (He’s my favourite artist ever.)
I struggled for quite some time to produce the track, what to add beyond the guitar and voice.
It really does sound a bit like the Stylophone Bowie used.
Interesting, I have to Google one now.
A fun thing. I am playing a Moog Prodigy, running it through a Roland Space Echo, and I am tweaking the speed of the delay, which makes it sound like the notes drift higher or lower.
I love your new track, too. The one you’ve just released, that’s not on the album, Rogue Oligarch. Do you plan on making a video for it at all?
Ah, thanks. My bastard offshoot track. I’d love a video but it’s all about budget and time. I will try to spend some money to market it to Spotify playlists. I would love to get people to pick up on it ahead of the U.S. election.
Yeah, that would be very cool! It’s definitely obviously relevant. That’s why I wondered about a video. A lyric video alone would really drive it home. And it’s catchy as hell, so if it did get picked up, it’d likely run. I love it. It’s full of fun and brass!
It was really fun to record the brass on that one. It’s a trumpet/trombone duo, playing in the same room, improvising over and over. I supervised them via video link, they were in Istanbul. And then at the end I removed probably 90% of it, and ended up with this.
It’s wonderful! And it brings me to another of the things I love about From Darkness, Light – the varied instruments used. When I was writing the review, I didn’t have the credits, so I was guessing at what was being played, but two of the instruments that really worked well for me were the tuba and the double bass. Such awesome tones!
The tuba was recorded in one take. The drums on Emotional Outlaw, Pale Gold, and Radiant Man (and the double bass) were also recorded in one take.
That’s quite amazing, but also makes sense. It’s perhaps one more reason why the album feels like being there, listening live. I’m aware of how much of your time I’ve taken, so I just want to say, I cannot express how much I appreciate you taking that time to answer all my questions. Thank you! It’s been a real pleasure.
I am really glad you reached out, and pleasure talking with you.
Thank you. And thank you again for taking the time to talk. Good night!
Good night! Looking forward to share your review! Thanks again!
You can read nick’s review of From Darkness, Light HERE.]