Interview w/ WHAT PRICE, WONDERLAND? was made 28 September 2009.
First published in JUST LIKE CAREBOO zine in January’ 2010.
Questions by Sergey and Anton.
Answers by Joe, Andy and James.
1/What is that “wonderland”? Tell us about it. How to get there and what is the price?
Joe – The wonderland doesn’t exist, the name infact was one of the many “hey that sounds kinda cool and as if it means something” type names bands have, it’s a chapter from a book. Andy will tell you more.
Andy – In all honesty, Joe summed it up pretty well. The name is a chapter from the book ‘Weaveworld’ by Cliver Barker, which is the same book the band On the Might of Princes stole their name from (their name is also a chapter in the book). Around the time we started the band, we were struggling for a name and i was reading the book, i saw the title of the chapter and thought… “hey, sounds good”. I suppose it has some kind of deeper meaning, but you can read what you want into it. I really and truly believe that half of the excitement in life comes from working those kinds of things out for yourself, even if your ‘interpretation’ isn’t the same as everyone elses.
James – Agreed in terms of what Andy was saying about interpreting the name for yourselves. I mean, I’m sure we all have our own ideas about what it could mean – to me I like the ambiguity of it; of a so-called “wonderland” that people spend their time struggling towards, consuming and consuming, doing increasingly spurious and anti-social things. It’s like, “what won’t some people do to get what they think they want?” – kinda like how I feel about the band name “To What End?”. That’s what I take from it anyway, the idea I guess is to take from it whatever you want.
2/ Tell about your band. Your names, age, instruments you prefer… What are the other interests in your life except WPW? job, studying, your hobbies? And how did you get together?
Joe – Im Joe Caithness and I am a 22 year old who feels about 45. I play guitar, until recently I was a Youth Worker but I quit when becoming jaded/bullied from my job, and started Subsequent Mastering, a mastering house based in my home town of Nottingham, UK.
Andy – I’m andy hemming, i’m also 22. i play bass in the band and i just began training as a secondary school teacher (ages 11-18). life is pretty hectic with that right now as i am essentially a full-time student who also works in a school 8am-5pm every day also. it’s tough but really rewarding work. outside of that, i try to find as much time as possible for my girlfriend, drawing and to relax i’m a big video-game nerd. i still live at home with my parents, in a small village called studley.
Joe – How we got together is a long one, but basically me and Andy went to high school together and me and James were in a band when we were 11(!), me and James got chatting after years of not seeing eachother and realise we both liked At The Drive-In and Burning Airlines and started jamming. We must have been 14 or something, we’ve played under many different names: The Entropy Therapy, Boy With No Arms, The Snowman, (just) Snowman. Our first show was with The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Army of Flying Robots in Worcester, UK, we were dreadful!
Andy – but thankfully nobody watched us so no one remembers how bad we were!
Joe – I don’t think many people even want to remember their early teenage bands, we just happened to be really good mates so carried on playing, growing up and renaming ourselves bit by bit. It’s mostly because no one round our area liked good music, and the people who were “into” music were a bit pretentious for my liking.
James – That’s pretty much all the band stuff covered…I’m James Wright, I’m 22 and I play drums and shout at the back. I recently finished a degree in History, focusing on West Africa. I am currently looking for work, which is impeded by needing to do community service every Friday because the police hate me. I am about 2/3s through 150 hours so far. I used to be more involved with political activism, but since all of this police stuff, I have not been able to be involved recently – but I also play drums occassionally with friends in London and I love reading and videogames.
2a/I know you’ve been together for a long time. What was your initial idea to get together? What kind of music you played at the beginning? Is what you are doing now a result of development of your music preferences or is it the music you always wanted to do?
Joe – I guess we got together out of boredom really, we’ve been going almost 7 or 8 years in some shape or form. Funnily enough the music we played to begin with is within the same “genre” we play in now, although we were REALLY trying to be Emo, not really influenced by any other music, whereas now I think our influences are more precise and at the same time more varied. What we are doing now just kinda “makes sense” to us I think, we learned how to make our instruments sound better, we worked out how to write better songs, and hopefully it shows. I REALLY don’t want to be in an “emo” band, to me the E word is a kinda wierd, it’s my favourite type of music, but people forget it’s a sub genre of a sub genre and it was a wave of music which has happened. I hate revivalism, and although I appreciated anyone liking our music, I hope too many people don’t think were trying to “bring anything back”. Andy Malcolm of Collective-zine hear our second LP (“it is true it is shakey”) for the first time and said “Whats up with all the “art-funk”?” and then a week or two later he said “nah I get it now”… I think that sums up what we’re going for! I find stuff like Desperate Bicycles, Scritti Polliti and Wire just as much an influence on WPW? as Mohinder, Assfactor4, Cap’n Jazz etc, which people seem to hear more. I love that raw, stripped down, dreamy but noisy punk. I don’t think we’re alone at seeing these two era of music as easily blended, just look at bands like Tubers, Reds and earlier on Calvary. Sorry, that’s a really long answer!
Andy – I think the music we’re making now is really a culmination of what all three of us have always wanted to do. When we were younger we argued a lot more about what should or shouldn’t go into a song stylistically and now I think we’re all a lot more comfortable and relaxed about making music so it flows a lot more nicely. The thing I absolutely enjoy the most about being in this band is that we constantly push each other to write better and more complex songs, it keeps things fresh and exciting. Not many bands of our style have stuck around for as long as we have, so I really see that as quite a huge achievement, it’s a testament to our commitment to making it work despite all our other commitments and the distances we live apart from each other. Frankly I suppose the very nature of the way the band exists (irregular practises and even more irregular shows) has contributed to that in a strange way, we haven’t had time to get sick and tired of it just yet.
James – Yeah, the distance and irregular practicing force us to push eachother to make music when we get together, but I think it also gives us time to stew in our own music tastes for long periods of time before we get back together. Like Andy and Joe have said, practices used to be quite functional when we were teenagers – always about wanting to make a song that sounds like “x” band, or “x” style. Now it is more like we appreciate that the roots of our band are in “emo”, but also not shutting out music, and embracing the wideness of it the older we’ve got and how our tastes have changed individually. When we don’t get to play together much, the time is too short for us to just sit there and ‘force’ a song out in a deliberate way – nowadays the songs just kind of happen, and there’s enough of each of our own tastes in their to keep us all (mostly) happy with everything. I also find it exciting to hear other bands’ take on things coming out of the moment, and really wanting to be involved in the interesting blends going on at the moment. As Joe said, bands like Tubers and Reds, but also Brainworms, Dead Friends, Marc Antony…lots of bands who clearly like and listen to a lot of 90s emo, but have brought their own tastes down on top of it and have creative fun with it.
3/As far as I know your band is from Stratford-Upon-Avon. And you’ve got a song on your first LP devoted to the place where you speak rather unflatteringly about the town as far as I understood. Could you describe if there is really to much shit as you sing in the song? (“i walked through the shit / and it fucked my shoe”). Do you have any favorite places there? Do you want to move from there? And if you moved where would you live?
Joe – Well, the lyric in that song is actually about Nottingham, it’s a comparison, the song reads a direct comparison between my two “homes”, me justifying why I am leaving one for the other. Stratford is dead to me, it holds nothing for me now my parents have left it.
James – Me and Joe used to hang out and get drunk in Stratford a lot when we were younger – and I empathise with what he’s saying, in terms how the place holds nothing for us. The “shit” is not so much physical – a lot of it is very pretty, and I would stress that the place has a lot of good memories for me – but we’re all just disconnected from it now. It is more that it just represents to us a place where nothing “happened” – we tried to make stuff happen there, it didn’t work – it just felt like a place where if you stayed there any longer, you’d just vegetate and end up doing nothing, just being bored and getting drunk every Friday. I guess lots of people have local towns like that – where you kinda feel like if you don’t leave now, you never ever will.
4/My favorite song from you record “Thirty With A Wink” is Staring At Shit Soldiers In A Shit Cave. At the beginning I did not distinguish that song until one of my friends translated the lyrics of it to me. Though I can’t understand the meaning of its title. What does it mean and what is it all about?
Joe – The song is another one of my lyrics. The lyrics was written in Derby, UK, where my girlfriend used to live, I was bored and walking into a Museum, which was free, then I realised how all this shit was paid for by our parents and past generations, and how they want us to know their past, and they have made it available to us and we should use it. It’s a very positive song.
Andy – shame you can’t play it without fucking up the intro!
James – LOL. But yes, I agree – even in the most contrived monuments to our past, there’s real life there, there are questions to be raised and explored, and we should cherish what’s been left as something to examine and pose discussions, rather than just relics.
5/I have not translated the lyrics from your recent album. Can you describe what’s the difference between these records for you? In what conditions you’ve made both your first and second albums? What was your life background during the process of recording?
Joe – “Thirty with a Wink” was kind of the capturing of our youthfulness, it’s us trying to capture where we have got to until then. It’s a nice introuction, “Shakey” is more like: “ok well this is what we can do when we plan something from scratch”. Seperate people said we got “funkier”, “faster”, “slower”, “more hardcore, “less hardcore”… which I guess means we did something right on that record. I am really proud of it. It’s like 19 minutes long too! I guess “Shakey” had a little bit more “I want to do this kinda song..” from each member of the band, I think it’s a quite democratic record influences wise… almost all the vocals on Shakey are improvised too, which is how we do them now.
Andy – At least for me, Shakey was a lot more fun to record. There sort of came a point where we became infinitely more comfortable making music than we were when we recorded 30 With a Wink and I think that is really reflected in Shakey. The songs are kind of all over the place, but so are we as friends and as a band. So much of Shakey was more or less made up as we went along, we can’t play a lot of the songs anymore and one of the songs was even totally improvised from start to finish in the studio (Cacombs). It sounds like I’m saying that is a bad thing I guess but I absolutely feel the opposite way, I’m incredibly proud of that record as it really feels in some ways like we put a large part of ourselves onto the record without any pretentions or ulterior motives.
James – Definitely agree with both of you. Like with Shakey as Joe pointed out, friends and people online and whatnot, would often be like “what’s with the change?” and all of this. And its weird, because we can 100% say that none of us sat down and decided to make a different “sound” or force something new. That LP is just the result of the three of us going off on our own, being busy, still loving music, coming back together as three friends when we could, and just seeing what happened – all of our lives were hectic and a bit messy, and I guess the inconsistency of the track styles reflect this. Lyrically, there’s not a whole lot of difference. We have always just written songs almost spur of the moment about something we’ve seen or thought about recently, or new feelings and changes in our lives. I don’t think we have ever really tried to fit them to a “theme” of our the song worked musically – apart from maybe on the title track of Shakey, I guess – lyrically it is still just us venting on our own, and then desperately trying to separate those words into lines, and force them into the song structure. I mean, there are a couple of tracks off Shakey, and other releases, that all stem from one long “song” I wrote when I was in a bad mood thinking about a lot of stuff, which we just cut about and used for different songs.
6/Do you like the band The Smashing Pumpkins? You music remains me of that band, it’s not about melodies but about some kind of spirit, the general mood. Do you listen to so-called main stream bands or you prefer only DIY-bands? What band was the main impression for you recently?
Joe – 1979 is a nice tune, other than that, don’t like em at all. Far from an influence to us. Oh man of course we listen to “main stream” music, I mean where is the dividing line even. “punk” is something we chose to operate with, it just makes sense, we havn’t conscripted to it, we don’t get a punk newsletter telling us what we can and can’t like. I like lots of pop songs, not so much albums, but I like that bat For Lashes song “Daniel”, it reminds me of Siouxsie and Kate Bush, two artists I admire. We all LOVE Alphabeat’s Fascination too, it makes me want to dance like a blonde Scandinavian indie girl.
Andy – I only really like the Smashing Pumpkin’s slow and dreary songs, which kind of sums up a lot of the music I like – miserable! I’m definitely with Joe on my ethos toward ‘punk’ music though, I enjoy a lot of it but I refuse to see it as some kind of rule-set to live my life. Not to say I don’t agree with and prescribe to many of the ideals shared by punks, but especially when it comes to music I tend to look much further for things to fill up my life. I can’t say enough about ‘Fascination’, what a song.
James – Definiely agree with Joe and Andy. We all love punk and DIY – but to me “punk”, whilst acknowledging the musical connotations, is more than anything just a set of ideals, principles, ethics that all three of us broadly agree with and have a lot of time for. I love the punk community and the sense of giving a shit, helping each-other out, not ripping each-other off and generally gearing our behaviour in a social-centric way when modern competitive society expects us all to accept a manufactured “dog-eat-dog” as some kind of definitive human nature or other bullshit. Similarly to the other guys, whilst I listen to a lot of stuff within the broad “punk” scene, I certainly don’t limit my tastes to not liking the music of a band because they are not DIY – just because I might not like a band’s huge major label, doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t enjoy dancing to it. And anyhow, with the internet, its not like you have to give them any of your money…
7/ On the covers of your LPs there are people without faces. On the first LP there is a man with a plate “product” instead of his eyes. And on the second LP there is a man with an octopus head. What does it mean? Is the cover design of your releases important for you? Who is the designer of your covers?
Joe – Andy will explain this best, although the octopus is a joke, we thought it would look hilarious but people might take it seriously. Pretty shakey shit eh?
Andy – The cover for 30 With a Wink was definitely one of those moments of artistic ‘happy accidents’, it was a doodle I did at Uni – Joe liked it, I brushed it up a little and ultimiately it became the cover for the record. When we were talking about the artwork for Shakey we talked about how it would be cool to keep a consistent ‘theme’ with our record covers and so the idea of having a ‘character’ on each record which obviously links to the artwork for 30 With a Wink. As far as the character itself, the whole record was kind of based on this semi-serious of idea of ‘shakiness’ which is to do with the way everything in the world is inherently shakey (electrons and all that good stuff), so we had the idea of some kind of crazy scientist. Joe said “can you make a dude with an octopus’ head, in a tweed suit going “HAROO!”?” and so I did. The real story behind the lack of human faces is mostly that I don’t like drawing faces unless I’m just drawing a face, so in any figurative work I have done in the past few years I’ve always used animal’s heads. There are definitely some elements of symbolism in there, but largely it is also just something I find aesthetically pleasing – not to mention I absolutely LOVE ‘Une Semaine de Bonté’ by Max Ernst.
8/Your band releases remain me of books by Jules Verne and Lovecraft (may be it comes from my association with octopus-head man). Did this authors influence you in any way? Do you like reading books and poems? What are your favorite authors?
Joe – I’ve never heard of them I’m afraid. I’ve probably read one and a half books in my life, I suffer from dislexia and find it impossible to read or write more than a page without getting angry and smashing stuff.. wierd eh…
Andy – I like reading, but I’m not much into fantasy writing so I haven’t read any Lovecraft to be honest. I also don’t read all that much, but I’d say my favourite authors are Haruki Murakami, Brett Easton Elis, Terry Pratchet and Charles Bukowski.
James – Similarly, I am not really into fantasy stuff…but am psyched on that massive MMORPG coming out soon inspired by the Lovecraft books if that helps…? Probably not. But I do love reading – I don’t read enough fiction or poetry, but there are people I like a lot – like DBC Pierre, Bukowski, Fante, Robert Frost, Salman Rushdie. But in terms of the influence on the band’s stuff, the main influence I take to the band (bar just things which happen in my day to day life) are reactions and feelings I get to the stuff I read most – history/politics/philosophy/aesthetics. I really enjoy authors who are pre-disposed towards uncovering the constructions that dominate the everyday patterns of life that we take for granted or passively resent – particular writers like Raoul Vaneigem and Hakim Bey. I am also really inspired lyrically by the brave and trail-blazing writers in academia who break down the walls (WOAAAAAAH YEAHAHAHA) of “African” history, deconstructing the colonialist traits that have affected our knowledge of the continent for so long, and treating the subject matter and the people involved with respect and equality, and fundamentally, neutrality – particularly Inikori, Tom McCaskie, Basil Davidson…Sorry, this is going on for ages…I don’t think any of us deliberately read books for inspiration, but when something “clicks” its nice to have the band as an outlet for your opinion on what you’ve read, or what something’s meant to you.
9/How often do you take part in gigs? What cities and countries did you visit with shows? Do you communicate with the listeners after the shows with pleasure? Do grateful listeners buy you
Joe – Rarely, we all live in different cities, it’s nigh on impossible, we can write and record an LP in about two weeks though, so we mostly just do that! We did just do a sick mini tour with Leeds geek super heroes TWISTED, Jon from them writes some seriously sick tunes, you should check his old bands FACEL VEGA and STATE RUN too.
Andy – Not enough sadly. It is always nice to talk to people after we play, though it doesn’t happen that often – can’t say I blame anyone who doesn’t fancy talking to three sweaty guys though. I haven’t been bought a beer yet! Here’s hoping.
James – Haha, yeah, buy us beer if you don’t think we suck in your town! In the rare times we get to play, we mainly play in northern England, but have been in Germany, France, Slovenia, Scotland, Belgium…touring in Europe was life-changing for all three of us – we had such a great time and I think we were stunned by just how friendly, helpful and well organised the shows were. That’s not to say that that doesn’t exist in England, it does – its just weird for three friends to go all that way, to countries we have never been, and be treated as friends. Up the punks.
10/Do you often get letters with some kind of feedback from kids who listened to your records? Do you take into consideration any criticism of other people? Or you prefer to create the music on your own absolutely intuitive according to the demands of you souls?
Joe – We get emails, yeah. We never take critism on our music, who does though? I produce our records so it’s not a matter of someone in that role picking the songs etc.
James – We don’t really get many explicit complaints or anything, but regardless – I think we’d be pretty unhappy people if we were just making music people told us to do. What’s the point in being in a band if its not “yours”?
11/Can you describe your process of songwriting? Do you make lyrics and music separately?
Joe – We all write lyrics, often not together though. Songs generally start with an idea, and we improvise around it for a bit, argue about the time signature, then play it thru, deciede if it sounds shit, if it doesn’t we keep it and try it out live. We DONT have calculators for this…we’re not a “math band”. We were using a sheet of James’ lyrics for years, he can explain that one to you!
Andy – It’s generally a process of friendly, yet heated debate. An ultimately rewarding one though, since (at least for me) the thought process for writing and learning one of our songs is generally trying to get from “I ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT PLAY THIS SONG” to “I ABSOLUTELY LOVE PLAYING THIS SONG”.
James – That’s pretty much it, yeah. As for that lyric sheet Joe mentioned, this was just this double side of A4 that I had scrawled all over upstairs when there was a house party in my old house. I was in a bad mood for some reason, and wanted to write stuff down – that flowed over 2 pages, and not knowing what to do with them, decided they might be useful as lyrics, and typed all of it up. To this day, as our songs are often only a few lines long, we still find stuff from that mass which we can use.
12/Thank you guys for the interview. Here you can say to the readers everything you want or to share with your latest news, anything you want.
Joe – Hopefully we’re writing our third LP now, we will see. We just recorded a split 7″ with TWISTED, it’s our fastest, shortest, most awkward sounding stuff to date. I want to make songs for people who like clever tunes to listen to drunk and bang their knees.
Andy – Hopefully once I settle into my teaching course we can practise again…
James – Excited for the TWISTED split, there stuff is sounding brilliant, and I am really happy with our stuff going onto it, so look out for that if you’re into that kind of thing. I am mainly going to try and stay out of jail, and maybe try and get us to practice some time soon
From Anton: And the last: there is a video on youtube.com of you performing a “new song” as it is written there, its about 5mins. I really love it. What’s the title of it? Was it ever recorded or will it be? Could you please send me the lyrics.
Joe – That tune is called “Residence”, pretty sure it will never come out, it has a 8 minute plus outro.
Andy – I’m pretty sure that song is lost forever, but don’t tell James.
James – Pffff… IT SHALL RETURN. Really glad you like the song Anton – I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find the lyrics though. It is definitely called Residence though, and if I can find the lyrics/work them out, i’ll definitely e-mail them to you. This is the problem with not being able to practice much..!