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New Album: Disasteradio

Last edited: 18.08.17 | Comment? | By

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘New Album’ is where a band or artist answers some questions about their latest release. Up next is Disasteradio who has just dropped new album ‘Sweatshop’, his 14th release, which is currently available for free/donation on Bandcamp. Any pay-as-you-like purchase of this album also includes a sweet 6-track instrumental EP “Sweatpants”

When/where was the new album recorded?
I started working on most of these songs as a collection pretty soon after putting out Charisma (in 2010) – some songs on this album go back as far as 2008. I have every session and idea I’ve ever worked on arranged by year, going back that far.. so I’m always churning over old material, figuring out and refining ideas. It’s a blessing and a curse, there is always something old to work on and obsess over, but also I’m in a dialogue with all of my previous ideas, so things can get quite interesting (or frustrating!) quite quickly.

I have always worked from home, in my bedroom, but more recently I’ve moved to a garage that I share with my partner Chloe – she’s a contemporary jeweller, so there’s always this comic mix of banging, blowtorches, beeping and drum fills in there.

Who produced/engineered the album? How did the tracks come together in the studio, or at home?
I’ve never worked on music in a proper recording studio (haha I have been in one once for drinks) .. having a close proximity to one’s working space is important. The way I see it, all creativity to me is a form of autobiography. Being able to capture ideas quickly and comfortably has always been at the heart of what I do. Often the process of a song is intense work on getting melodies, harmonies, rhythm and mix right as an instrumental, then I substitute the lead instrument for the vocal. This can take a week or it can take years. I started writing more instrumental stuff so adding vocals is a kind of hybridisation of instrumental and songwriting approaches. I record a lot of indistinct mumbling along to a song and try to hear what words want to come out on the melody.. like a flow-of-consciousness type exercise. If you get even one word right for a line of lyrics, you can build the words around it quite easily.

When I’m in this productive mode I do a lot of listening to half-finished albums when I’m walking somewhere on headphones, or when I’m driving. I’m always thinking how a given part of a song might distil down, to reduce what I mean lyrically or musically to the most direct thing possible. I mastered it myself and did the album art on my own basically because I’m a control freak, also thinking about how things work absolutely occupies my mind most of the time, so learning these skills is all part of it.

How did the songwriting happen? Are there any overall themes within the songs/album?
I have always loved the way synthesizer pop comments on technology, and that is always a theme, but lots of songs talk about that – “Modern Rock” is about my sort of frustrations with this essentialist, macho attachment to vintage gear, vinyl, guitar music being more “authentic” than anything else, that sort of thing. “Sweatshop” is more-or-less about how I couldn’t make a motherboard, or a cellphone, but I need one to do what I do – that without the labour of thousands of people I literally would be doing something completely different, and not knowing what to do with that knowledge as an artist.

The album starts quite angsty which was intentional, over the production of it I had a knee injury in 2012 which meant I couldn’t walk for a number of months, so I had to grow through that experience as well. I was stuck in bed for most of the summer of 2012 so that was part of the name of the album “Sweatshop”.. I remember one night feeling quite down but I came across the astronaut Sunni Williams giving a tour of the International Space Station and got quite obsessed with it – I found it quite heart-warming to know that these people were always floating around me in this tiny enclosed space when I was stuck inside my house, like they couldn’t go outside either.. kinda weird to say but anyway that is why the album cover has this space station theme.

The album ends quite optimistically and finishes with the song “Oh Yeah” which was the final song I wrote too. More recently I got into feeling more grateful in life and kind of letting go of my own attachments, that sort of thing. So there’s this kind of redemptive arc through the album I guess.. it begins with older songs that are quite angsty and ends with a kind of absolution.

Were you going for a different sound/approach on this album?
Working on this album over the last six years meant I’ve taken on a lot of different ideas and influences. The biggest early one was Electric Light Orchestra’s album TIME (1981) which I absolutely got obsessed with, I really love Jeff Lynne’s percussive, heavy layered pop approach from this period and still listen to that album all the time. Also I started my side-project Eyeliner in 2012 which is original MIDI vaporwave. Eyeliner put out three albums over the time I have been working on Sweatshop, and that project was much more of an exploration of jazz harmonies, lots of stacked chords and a big move away from a major-minor type sound into a much more delectable, ambiguous palette of notes. So Disasteradio has absorbed those ideas a bit as well. “Unleash The Free TV Revolt” was my attempt at Disasteradio doing a slowed-down vaporwave type sound, that almost “samples myself” if that makes sense.

I also was consciously moving towards more of a lyrical, pop song approach, away from more instrumental stuff as I was able to express those ideas more freely with Eyeliner (which has no singing). More recently I’ve really gotten into the lyrics and composition of Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) & Tom Petty. There are a lot of fake guitar power chords from an old VST plugin called ReFX Slayer in there too, and I made sure it was strongly timed and robotic, and helps to push this driving, power pop type pulse.

Was there any specific gear you used to capture that?
99% of the album is software – virtual instruments. I’m struggling to remember putting any hardware at all on it. Since Visions (2008) I’ve always composed on high-speed gaming type PC desktop machines that my good friend hands-me-down after he upgrades (it’s important to have patrons!) – I’ve loved working with computers since I was six years old – we got a Commodore 64 in the late 1980s – and being able to repair, maintain & upgrade my own hardware has meant I can keep things running for a long time. Music software is such that any mid-spec PC can do a lot of things, so using second-hand hardware makes things even easier, plus you give older tech a longer life.

Is there a particular single/track that you feel captures the essence of the album?
Really hard for me to single out any one song as I consider all of them so different, but I’m really glad I finished “Free WiFi” which I started in 2008, it begins with a snippet of lyrics but meanders off into a kind of jam / 12″ remix breakdown territory, with sounds that invoke radio and communication. I’ve always wanted to write a song like this that references the same sorts of things that bands like OMD, Kraftwerk and Thomas Dolby were doing in the 1980s – music about radio in a kind of romantic, nostalgic sense. That song covers a lot of territory for me, both time-wise and culturally.

Is there a physical copy available? If not which digital platforms is it available on?
We are working on vinyl later on in the year but it’s available on most streaming services (Apple, Google Music, Spotify etc) as well as iTunes, and free or pay-as-you-like on Bandcamp.

Are you working on a video/videos for any of the songs?
Me and my best bud and #1 video maker Simon Ward have been working on a video for “Oh Yeah” that should be out pretty soon. He moved to Melbourne but we work regularly together on some animations and art projects via the web, but because we are in different countries he has made a virtual me that we can use in videos with crazy 3D graphics. It’s at least as fun as the Gravy Rainbow vid, promise you that!

Posted in: GeneralInterviewsNew Album


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