‘New Album’ is where a band or artist answers some questions about their latest release. Up next is Ash of Secret Knives, who recently returned with ‘Snuff’, the first full length collection since his 2010 debut, which features other Wgtn artists such as Grayson Gilmour, Charlotte Forester (WOMB) and Cory Champion (Borrowed CS), with mixing and mastering duties from Jon Lemmon.
When/where was the new album recorded?
Wherever I was living over maybe five or six years? So a few houses. Most drums were tracked at now defunct Blue Barn studios. Jon Lemmon and I mixed it at his old studio – an incredible room on the top floor of a high-rise on The Terrace.
Who produced/engineered the album? How did the tracks come together in the studio, or at home?
Writing/recording/producing/mixing is pretty much the same thing to me and I do almost all of that from home. Sometimes I reach an impasse and walk away from it for a while to get some perspective or I ask other people to perform on works-in-progress to push it further towards the finish line. Jon added some production details in the mixing process and helped tie things together. James Goldsmith engineered drums at Blue Barn.
How did the songwriting happen? Are there any overall themes within the songs/album?
There’s often just a vague idea or sketch of a song when I start recording. I arrange things and design the sound of the song as I go along. Some songs – like Spinning Top or Franny – have multiple versions with different arrangements, different instrumentation, different chord progressions, alternate endings etc. I keep experimenting until I find the version that feels right. Thematically, lyrically, visually it’s all very deliberate. Words take the longest for me because I always want each line to really mean something, to have a purpose. The songs meanings are tightly braided together and hopefully compound across the album to paint a picture. But I’m not into spelling it out – it’s there for people to make of what they will.
Were you going for a different sound/approach on this album?
I just always want to grow creatively and broaden my palette. So that meant introducing new sounds and textures I hadn’t used before like live drums, piano, strings, brass, different effects… and also exploring new dynamics – making things prettier or more abrasive. It’s a bit more compact than the last records – no instrumentals. The more abstract, ambient moments I kind of let them breathe, let them be what they are, rather than try transform them into pop songs. They’re collected on their own EP now, which comes with the cassette versions of Snuff or Bandcamp purchases over $8NZD.
Was there any specific gear you used to capture that?
A lot of sounds come from random guitar pedals or effects units… but it’s mainly about playing with sounds once they’re in the computer and sculpting them into something interesting. With any gear I normally just start from the position of ‘what is the strangest sound I can get out of this?’. If you approach anything from that angle it usually leads to interesting results. I did buy a piano while making the record. That allowed me to sit down and develop songs differently than I would with a guitar. There’s always some certain habits I have writing on guitar. Moving a song onto another instrument helps hear it differently and perhaps push it in a new direction.
Is there a particular single/track that you feel captures the essence of the album?
Maybe ‘Spinning Top’ – it kind of traverses all the sounds and moods of the album. I hope that by the end of the song you’ve arrived somewhere sonically you didn’t necessarily expect when the song started.
Is there a physical copy available? If not which digital platforms is it available on?
There’s a limited run of cassettes and downloads are available via secretknives.bandcamp.com – and then yeah, streaming via all the usual suspects. [Spotify, Apple Music]
Are you working on a video/videos for any of the songs? Are you doing any gigs or promotion for its release?
Yeah there’s a couple of videos on their way! There’s some performances on the way, but I can’t say too much about that right now.