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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Interview with Stereophonics 2013

Interview with Stereophonics

IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL  |  MARY NIVEN

Q: What happens when you already did a pre-show telephone interview with the extremely sympathetic Richard Jones (bass/back ground vocals) of the Stereophonics, but they had a last-minute cancel of the show due to illness? 

A: Write it up because it’s cool! 

Mary:           Hi, how are you, when did you get into town? 

Richard:       We got in this morning around 10:00, but we had planned on being here a day earlier because we love Montréal and wanted to spend an extra day here, but our bus broke down, we had to have it fixed and lost a day to it. We all really love Montréal, we’ve been here quite a few times. 
     
When researching this band, my overwhelming feeling was one of respect for a hardworking, grounded, persistent, gracious group of musicians that love what they do and with whom they do it. Their media presence exudes a basic, solid love for their craft and it pays off. They have been playing music together for over a decade now and touring all the while. Their fans are loyal and they are loyal to them. Example: when I asked Richard how they keep the inspiration and the sincere desire to play the same songs night after night while on tour, he immediately responded that it’s the crowd that he wants to please and that when they get on stage, playing their music and connecting with the respective crowd overrides any monotony that there could have been. 

I asked him how their recent release Graffiti on the Train evolved differently from their prior albums. He responded that this album has a different feel and style, one with more breathing space: even the spaces between notes are longer. Furthermore, they had the luxury and time to incorporate two songs in one. This is so because Graffiti on the Train is their first album 100% made on their own terms, thanks to the advent of their own label; had they been under a major label’s wing, Roll of the Dice would have had to been separated in two separate songs. 

They also experimented with different instrumentation: for example, Roll of the Dice includes violins and tambourines. In general, they had more time, which equals more respite and energy to give to the creative process. They recorded in their apartment-type studio where, for the first time, they had a bed, making it possible to sleep over at the studio if need be. They even had a small refrigerator! 

I asked him if they had reached a kind of career pinnacle because they now have entire control on their musical production processes for the first time? He said yes in a way, but in another way it’s a lot more responsibility and stress. As liberating and exciting as it is to create and own your own record label, it also comes with the added pressure of greatly needing to succeed for livelihood’s sake as they no longer have the safety net of a major label in case things go awry for any reason.

When asked what is the best thing about his job as a musician, without skipping a beat, he responded, “to make a living playing music and sincerely loving the music that he plays.” En revanche, the worst thing is that they all have families now and leaving them becomes more and more difficult each tour. 

On a different note, I love straying away a bit from the sonorous nuts and bolts because music isn’t made in a vacuum. So many things shape the way music gets made, but I think one of the most important factors is literature. It is for this reason (and my curiosity) that I like to ask musicians what they think their band would be if it were an animal (consult Dream Tigers by Jorge Borges for more insight in to why this particular question). 

It always surprises me how people respond. His first response was that it would be an animal in the Sahara Desert, then he thought for a moment and said a rhinoceros or… and then elephant, as these big, pre-historic animals have been around for such a long time all the while heavily persisting, penetrating and providing for their environment and ‘community’ around them. Wow, what a spontaneous and spot on analogy for a band who’s solidly maintained longevity is the exception to the rule in the music industry; they started their career right about when grunge hit the scene and almost all of those enormously U.S. popular bands at the time like the Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Nirvana are gone and have been so for quite a while. 

I asked Richard if he could meet one person, who would it be? He rapidly replied the Dalai Lama. No comment; it speaks oceans, valleys, heavens for itself.      

Lastly, I delight when I can hear which books or authors bands are reading, or have read and they hold dear. Needless to say, Richard did not disappoint: he said Ian Banks for his crime novels and that Kelly Jones (lead singer) was reading a lot of Bukowski while making Graffiti on the Train and that he has since been reading Bukowski as well. How could there be any possible way that Bukowski would not get a raddest-as-they-get writing rating (Ham on Rye, takes me back, sigh)?  

Thank you Richard Jones, for your humble, gracious, sincere Q & A with me. I hope the illness that kept you and the Stereophonics from performing in Montréal was speedily fleeting. 

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