James Rawlings speaks to Harry Dartnell of Young Knives about their most recent album “Sick Octave”.
JAMES: The album was funded through kickstarter. How have you found that different to working with a label?
HARRY: you have to put a lot more stuff in jiffy bags. If we had to do an album which we didn’t think was great we’d have found it quite hard to feel like we could say to people “give us some money” because its only going to be hardcore fans who do something like that. We tried to get people feeling involved, which they are of course because they’re making it possible to do it. I was a bit wary of it because I think sometimes it looks a bit shit and I’ve seen some really shit ones. They try to sell it, it’s pretty weird. We treated it like a big pre order of the record and some other cool stuff, like t-shirts a couple of things we had kicking about. Mainly most of the things were vinyl, cd, picture disk or something. It’s scary, now we’ve had all these people give us some money, we really do have to make this happen now, otherwise we have to give it all back and if we’ve spent it how do we give it back if it doesn’t quite work. No one was saying “Where are your singles?”, we could do whatever we want.
JAMES: In the past you’ve recorded on your own label, was that different to doing it with a kickstarter?
HARRY: It was funded by a distributor so we didn’t have to ask anybody for the money because they were giving it to us but that was like having a label telling you what to do. This time it was a bit more like, this was our label. We found a distributor but after we’d done the kickstarter. Our manager wanted us to make a stadium pop record, and what we wanted to do was make a noisy as shit record, make a fun record. A record label can’t really afford to take risks so I think people get a bit more creatively squeezed. People don’t buy records unless they are big poppy records. I think it’s the way forward, but it’s a bit weird because you couldn’t be an emerging artist and use it very successfully. I don’t know how you’d do it nowadays, it will sort itself out. It just doesn’t create people or create fans. Music creates fans. You can’t really access a bunch more people using one of those things. How do you get people to listen to your music? It’s a micro-economy now, there aren’t the three big players.
JAMES: when you were recording it you used a lot of homemade percussion. What led you to choose tha?.
HARRY: Some of that was stuff we found around and about, scaffold pipes and stuff like that. And skips, I like getting in a skip. One was a barbeque I had that sounded wicked. We went up to this old air hanger with a bunch of stuff to record just to record the huge reverb and stuff in these big hangars that was insane. Used a load of software as well, a lot of free iPad apps. There’s a load of good free iPad apps, so if you think “I really need a toy piano” you can just download an app where someone’s sampled it and there you go, you’ve got a free piano. Used quite a few synths. We wanted to make it industrial sounding. A lot of my favourite bands use quite mechanical industrial noises. I like mixed that up with drums and other noises and synthy drum sounds and just mess about with production, you know have fun, something that’s quite difficult to do in a studio where you’ve got a producer who thinks you’re a three piece guitar band who sets the base up, sets the drums up and what if you want to do it in a different way know? I was quite happy for the idea we could try loads of stuff out. At least we’re trying it.
JAMES: You recorded a lot in the hangar, how did you run into that?
HARRY: There’s this old US air force base up the road from here, the air force was there until about ’94 so its quite Cold War and I’ve wanted to go there but we’d never found anyone who’d let us in, but eventually we found one and they have the old flight control rooms all fallen down and decontamination decks which is all still there, the flight rooms got one of those everyone sitting behind a desk with a computer then they all look at a big computer then they have lights which tell you what kind of attacks are happening. Kind of spooky.
JAMES: Did that influence the record at all?
HARRY: I think it fuelled recording really, at times we’d want a sound the guy would let us in and we’d find some stuff to hit, but I wanted to keep stuff fairly. I feel like I wrote some stuff that was inspired by military prowess, we watch the films up there about the pilots and all the ones who’d died and who the heroes were in this dead empty place. I think it inspired some of the lyrical themes, and some of the concrety sounds as well. I didn’t want it to be a bleak record, I wanted it to be fun.
JAMES: leading on from that were there any other key influences on the record?
HARRY: I guess a lot of it was reacting to the way we’d been pushed before, so this one was a bit of a reaction to begin with. We had a very slick sounding record last time we made one which isn’t really what we wanted, but I got the feeling we were told to make it big, poppy and slick. We wanted it like records where its harsh and fun, I don’t like being lumped in with this indie guitar thing. Not what I necessarily what I want to be doing. I don’t feel we need to be part of that, we need to be more out there. We want to be more out there. I’m just looking to make interesting, creative music. We’d never felt we’d had a chance to do that since major labels and you can feel the music industry falling apart. I wasn’t going to go around begging people for money, just make a record, that’s the way to do it. The attitude was quite influenced be being on our terms and being as free as want to be. Let’s make a gnarly record.
JAMES: The big industrial record this year would probably be Yeezus by Kanye West, was that any influential at all?
HARRY: I saw the Jool’s Holland performance and I was intrigued. It was a strong decision. He comes across as a dick and I think that’s brilliant, self assured and weird. Just doing what they want. It’s a pity that the hip hop or dance scene are the only ones really experimenting. I guess its something to do with being American as you have a much bigger audience, there are huge areas of land you can cover and gig. You have to look outside Britain, look outside to push boundaries. Whatever we do, people will say we’ve done an indie record.
JAMES: Would indie guitar music be something you’d ever want to go back to?
HARRY: I don’t know, I feel like you could take it, create it as a theory and create great music. I’m cool to keep it fluid, I would like to do some stuff that was devoid, you cant work out what the instruments are. That seems to me to be the word forward. I like using guitars, but I like it when you can’t work out whats playing and you’re not listening to the guitar, you’re just listening to the music. We have to try a bit harder, we’re not being an indie band anymore, we’re just making some music but that’s very difficult to do.
JD: In the shows for Sick Octave you say its going to be more of a performance.
HARRY: We’ve always rocked up and done it pretty natural and like a straight forward rock n roll shows, but sometimes you get lulls and you stay stuff and the audience are like, you know, its Monday night in Macklesfeild, its not a big night for them, they’re just watching. We thought we’d do this record a bit different, just throw everything at them. We do old stuff at the end, but in the context of doing a whole new album. Just make sure it looks good and things look good. Its quite structured. Let’s dress it up bright and throw stuff in between. We build a bit of a story out of it, its freaky and disjointed. The audience thinks, “what’s going to happen next” and things happen.