I absolutely love the 14 minute version of ‘Black Box’. Brilliant! Many thanks for throwing the MP3 on the site. What was your thought process on that version?
It was the original version, albeit having been through many changes along the way. I always imagined that the opening sequence was an onlooker’s reflection of events and when the electro section kicks in, the listener would find themselves actually on the ‘plane at the beginning of it’s fatal journey. In the end, the ‘journey’ section (which is very long) didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the LP and I preferred the idea of splitting the ‘reflection’ and the ‘aftermath’ into two parts while replacing the middle section with the rest of the LP, acting as a man’s life memories.
A couple of weeks ago my cousin was visiting me. It just happened that I played a certain ‘Liquid’ album to him. He had never heard Recoil before but the surprising thing was that when ‘Want’ began, he recognized the lyrics. I mean, he could almost sing along. I asked him again if he had heard Recoil before but he said no. The same thing happened with the other Nicole Blackman songs ‘Breath Control’ and ‘Chrome’. My cousin said that he really recognized the lyrics, but not the music. So, my question is, where could he have heard Nicole Blackman’s lyrics before? Have they been used in any other place?
It could be that he has heard her perform them live or has seen the lyrics printed in her book, ‘Blood Sugar’. The other possibility is that he just recognises her style from previous works such as ‘Dead Inside’ by Golden Palominos (more info: AFiles – collaborator). Other than that, I’m not aware that the words have appeared anywhere before. Why not ask Nicole?
I hate to seem like an insufferable, greedy suck but promos are the bane of my existence. Allow me to point out that I’m anything but a miser and I’m entirely willing to shell out unreasonable amounts of cash for something I’m interested in hearing. I nonetheless feel I must ask: Who does someone like me (who only found out about the give-away after it was too late ) have to sleep with in order to score a copy of that 14-minute full ‘Black Box’ promo CD? MP3 makes me…
Why not put this fabulous version of ‘Black Box’ on the next single from ‘Liquid’? I really would like to blow up my speakers with this great track. I played the MP3 version for some friends, oh man, were they stunned.
I have a small problem: I really really like the full version of ‘Black Box’ but I can’t get it. You see, I can download the MP3 in school but it’s too big for a normal PC diskette and I’ve got a PC (without internet) at home. So I thought about suggesting that maybe you could put ‘Black Box’ on the next single but then again it might not be fair to those who won that exclusive CD. Any advice as to how I can get the damn thing without buying a Mac?
I don’t really have a solution to Marit’s downloading limitations but it looks like there may be some good news coming very soon for those that missed out on promo copies of ‘Black Box – complete’. We are looking to make this available on a commercial release. Keep checking report-bulletin for details. You could also join the Recoil database to be kept abreast of latest developments (go to: forum-elists)
Why you make the end of ‘Strange Hours’ so threatening? What is the reason for the extreme change from melodic at the beginning into the stressful, hard to listen music at the end (by listening to the end we get fears of death)? Did you feel the same when you produced this song?
I felt that the song needed a kick to reinforce the drama of the underlying story. Our ‘man’ does kill somebody so a fear of death would be quite appropriate, no?
So, um, like, we were like talking shit on the Shunt list, you know? And somebody asked, like, what do you think the next single’s gonna be? You know, the one after ‘Strange Hours’, like? And I was like, the epic techno remix of Black Box, it’s totally massive, right? I mean, there’s something about ridiculously long tracks that’s so cool, you know? Anything over, like, nine minutes. And I thought, you could release that, with, like, a radio edit or something, and it could sorta be the next instrumental techno hit, like. You know, in Europe at least. Um, so whaddaya think?
Ouch !! … I’ve just shot meself in the foot.
I was wondering about the end of ‘Strange Hours’. My ear tells me that the vocals are from the same song being played backwards in various portions. Is this true?
No, the voices are straight Diamanda performances, chopped together from 3 or 4 takes.
Also, at the end of ‘Want’, it sounds like a portion of ‘Black Celebration’ except at a higher pitch. Is it?
Remember when you were working on a track you called ‘Bastard’? What song is that now? ‘Supreme’?
No idea – it was more of a generic term for all the work in progress that sounded like it was going nowhere.
Are there any pieces of music kit that you re-discovered during the making of ‘Liquid’? Funnily enough, I felt that, soundwise, this album gave more of a nod towards the Depeche days than ‘Unsound Methods’.
I had my EMS VCS 3 fixed but other than that, not really. It’s mainly sample-based. Structurally, I was harder on myself and the album’s a little tighter all round with any waffle cut out. Working within the pop format in DM for so long taught me a lot about how to cut the crap and get to the point – there’s much to be said for that.
I felt that the album has the same impact as the previous albums, but this was achieved in a more subtle way on ‘Liquid’. The vocals have the same intense impact as on the previous recordings but I thought that the production was slightly more melodic and approachable, whilst keeping a sense of drama.
I’m glad you mention drama – it’s something that is key to ‘Liquid’ but is so often interpreted as darkness. People always talk about the darkness in the LP. I see it as dramatic rather than dark.
I know that you had a terrible experience doing an ‘in store’ with DM in Los Angeles. Do you think that you will do one to help promote ‘Liquid’ in the States?
The background sounds during ‘Black Box’ (the sirens, a baby crying etc.) seem almost too real which, I believe, makes the song sound erie and very haunting. How did you manage to make them sound so realistic? Are the sounds from an actual accident or from any particular movie?
The sounds come from neither an accident or a movie but from many different sources such as effects CDs and so on. It is their mix levels and placement within the stereo image that hopefully creates an overall picture.
Could you briefly describe how you constructed the drums for ‘Liquid’? Songs like ‘Want’ and ‘Breath Control’ have a real kit-feel as if you played them live.
About 60% of the drums were derived from the original recordings at the beginning of the project. These drums were cut into loops, processed, stretched and then restructured beyond recognition from the source performance but hopefully, retain a continuity of sound. The other 40% came from many other sample sources and are often mixed together with Monty’s drums.
I was interested to read that you would probably not use any spoken word on the next album. Do you think the fusion of music and poetry works well or was it something you were just curious to try?
As I’ve said before, if I hadn’t been pleased with both the music and words on ‘Liquid’, I wouldn’t have released it or indeed even recorded it. My comments about spoken word are not a criticism in any way; I was merely suggesting that to do another spoken word album would be very predictable.
Although I will be buying the album on Monday, a journalist friend gave me a promo copy so I’ve been listening to it for the past few hours. All I can say at the moment is stunning and brilliant! The production is some of the best I’ve ever heard – the vocalists are perfect. I was wondering what Daniel Miller thought of the album when he first heard it? Also, you’ve said you are very protective of your music, so did he hear any work-in-progress or was the finished album the first time he heard it?
Daniel is usually kept regularly abreast of the work – this closeness is one of the advantages of the label. One minute he’s at a soundcheck for Depeche Mode in a US stadium, the next he’s in some shitty rehearsal room in Kilburn listening to a new signing. In Recoil’s case, he first listened to my work-in-progress just before the vocalists became involved and then again during the latter stages – both times he gave me useful feedback and was very enthusiastic. On the whole, Dan lets me get on with things though. He seems to be confident in my abilities and is aware of how much of a perfectionist I am.
Did you encounter any technical problems with your studio this time round or did everything work as it should? Do you plan to upgrade any parts of it for the next album?
No Lp gets recorded without some technical hitches. We experienced system crashes, software bugs, power amp explosions, chewed cables (those pesky mice again) and a host of other minor problems. Generally though, it was much less problematic than the Surrey Sound experience of the last album. At this point, I don’t plan any major overhaul of the studio for the next project.
What is the song playing in the background of ‘Liquid’s multimedia section? Will it be included on the ‘Strange Hours’ single?
Is the brilliant background track during the menu (of the Multimedia CD) a ‘leftover’ from the ‘Liquid’ sessions? Does it have a name?
What’s the name of the background title heard when starting the ‘Liquid’ enhanced cd?
What is the music in the background for the Enhanced CD portion? Is it taken from ‘Liquid’ or somewhere else?
Ok, ok…… it’s an excerpt from the full 14 minute version of ‘Black Box’. This version was too long to include on the LP.
Was it a conscious choice of yours NOT to have the ‘Ex-member of Depeche Mode’ stickers on the album this time? Plus, I was happily surprised at the number of copies my Paris French store had ordered – there was like a full shelf of ‘Liquid’ on display. How much did ‘UM’ sell and how do you think that affected pre-orders for ‘Liquid’? Lastly, in French stores like FNAC, you’re shelved in the ‘indie’ section whilst Depeche is in the more mainstream ‘Pop/Rock’. Anything to do with your distribution deals or is it again a conscious choice to be in a different place more reflecting the kind of music you play ?
Regarding the sticker, I was consulted by Mute and we decided it was unnecessary to sticker the album. Most conscientious licensees go along with our decision although some ignore our wishes and go with what they think is right for their market.
As for record stores, we have no control over which section they decide to display the album in. In some ways, it is probably better to let them decide for themselves since they know their customer habits. There are several different criteria that they apply when ordering stock depending on previous sales, current demand, media and press support, advertising and backhanders.
Aside from the album, which is brilliant, what kind of reaction do you think you would need to get from your audience to feel like it was a success? Would it be recognition by the mainstream press, gobs of interviews or great record sales? Or does your satisfaction come from the smaller things like your devoted fan base and recognition from your musical peers?
As I’ve said many times before, I make music for myself – not for anyone else but if others like it, then great. Over my many years in the business, I’ve learned that it is a complete waste of time to take any notice of press reviews – good or bad – quite simply because if you total them all up, you’ll find that they’re usually pretty equal on either side. A score of 10-out-of-10 doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve made a good record, it simply means that your work has appealed to a particular reviewer. Similarly, if your reviews are less than gushing, it can easily mean that your work is of more interest to those listeners on the outside – it doesn’t mean that it is worthless or that it’s ‘bad’. The worst thing is to have reviews that are indifferent. I’m very pleased that ‘Liquid’ is stirring some people up……..that’s partly the idea of Recoil.
When do you think you’ll start work on the next Recoil LP? Any ideas yet? Are you excepting applications/resumes?
Hep and I have just spent 2 days completely spring-cleaning the studio in readiness for a new Recoil project. I’m hoping to start laying something down around April but won’t be going hell for leather until later in the summer. Everything must stop for Euro 2000 obviously. No ideas about what I’ll be doing, let alone other collaborators.
Question for Hep:
Did you write the lines that you spoke on Strange Hours – “He kept strange hours…”?
We wrote them but they were based on a story we heard about.
Several people on the list find your violin playing on ‘Liquid’ (and ‘UM’) to be a highlight. Do you improvize in the same manner with your playing as Diamanda or do you play something which Alan then dissects and reorganizes?
Thank you. It depends what he wants but usually he’ll give me an outline and I’ll improvise in various different ways. Most of what you hear is an amalgamation of many takes..
On both ‘Jezebel’ and of course ‘Last Call For Liquid Courage’, aside from Samantha Coerbell’s emphatic “ENOUGH!”, I can also hear what sounds like a youngish, black male saying “Finally had enough?” Is that a modification of Samantha’s voice, an actual separate vocalist, a sample or perhaps a middle- aged Englishman with a few vodkas in him having a go at sounding street tough? ; ) In any case it sounds great.
There is a middle aged Englishman on ‘Last Call…’ but he’s not singing the line you mention (which is indeed Samantha through the pitch transposer). Can you guess which lines vodkaman sings?
Were you a long-time fan of The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet or did you stumble upon them through someone’s suggestion? I think they are great and the snippet of ‘Jezebel’ seemed to just kickass! The lead vocal sounded slightly reminiscence of Scott Walker and slightly ‘Motown’. Speaking of which, what do you think of Scott Walker and would you ever consider a collaborative effort with him?
I stumbled across the Jubilee Quartet the day before I started recording ‘Jezebel’. I found a compilation Gospel CD in a second-hand record shop in Brighton and when I played it in the car on the way home, I could hear immediately a way to give it the Recoil treatment. I also felt that the original version of the song was very lightweight considering the heavy nature of the lyrics and thought it deserved to be ‘darkened up’. As for Scott Walker, I love his voice. He would always be on a Recoil shortlist.
Knowing that Moby worked with you on ‘Bloodline’ and hearing his latest album ‘Play’, it sounds like he was heavily influenced by your track ‘Electro Blues For Bukka White’ . Do you remember if he commented on it to you? Also, your new album ‘Liquid’ has the track ‘Jezebel’ which is also in this same style. What draws you to re-work this type of song?
The use of the vocals in ‘Jezebel’ is similar to some of Moby’s recent work and I was just wondering if his work had inspired you to do something similar (although the music itself is obviously different)? Also, what do you think of Moby’s efforts to blend the new with the old?
Nothing wrong with the idea in principle – it’s just a question of how you do it, isn’t it?
I had actually finished ‘Liquid’ long before I heard any of Moby’s recent offerings – in fact, ‘Jezebel’ was the first completed track – so any similarities are purely coincidental. I seem to remember recording a track on ‘Bloodline’ called ‘Electro Blues For Bukka White’ back in 1991 (as per. George’s question above) – an album which included Moby……umm, interesting.
At the end of the Radio 21 interview, you said that ‘Liquid’ was, in a way, the end of a period and maybe in the future you would stop using spoken word. Does it mean that the next album will feature more ‘classic’ singers?
I can’t say at this point – maybe it will be entirely instrumental – who knows?
Will the remix of ‘Jezebel’ be completely different from the original? This one is by far my favourite song of the album.
Yes – it’s quite frenetic with Diamanda’s vocals featured more prominently.
On ‘Strange Hours’, during the first 1:10, you hear a person walking down a street, stepping into a club or bar of some sort and stepping back out etc. How was this part recorded? If it was done on location, where was it recorded? I especially like the sound of the lighter, it sounds so real with headphones.
The ‘scene’ was put together using different sounds from different sources. If it sounds like it was recorded on location then I’m pleased.
I’ve noticed that several songs on the album have a very ‘Southern’ sound to them that reminds me of ‘Red River Cargo’. The two that really jump to mind are ‘Strange Hours’ and ‘Jezebel’. Listening to these makes me feel like visiting New Orleans. What prompted this particular sound?
I just feel a very sinister vibe every time I visit New Orleans – a sense of a dark underbelly to the place. It’s good inspiration for my music.
On ‘Want’, during the line “I want to list the atrocities done in your name”, a male voice is heard (distorted) behind Nicole’s. Is that you?
No, it’s her original voice, copied and then affected using pitch transposition and distortion. The original is then cross-faded into the copied version. By the way, it’s “I want a list of atrocities…….”
Also on ‘Want’, there are many strange vocal tricks done with Nicole’s voice that are floating around in the background while she speaks. What did you use for these?
Many different techniques were employed depending on the effect I was trying to create for each line. This is often when PK comes into his own – he’s a wizard with plug-ins and other strange effects.
Has Orlandus Wilson heard your re-working of ‘Jezebel’ and if so, what did he have to say about it? I think it’s an incredible recording (the original as well). Thanks for introducing me to them, I love what I’ve heard so far.
We tried to contact the publishers and the group but received no reply. I would be highly surprised if any remaining group members are aware of the Recoil version.
Will the lyrics to ‘Vertigen’ be translated into English for the liner notes on the official release?
No, something is lost in the translation. I prefer the Catalan text.
I was a little bit disappointed when I realised that Douglas McCarthy isn’t involved in your latest project because I like his voice and unique way of interpreting songs very much. I was wondering why this is because you often mentioned that you enjoy working with him because he is so easy. After his contributions to ‘Bloodline’ and ‘Unsound Methods’ I thought that Douglas had already become something like a ‘permanent part of the team’ – obviously not. Did you take a working-break with him to avoid anyone getting this impression, did his voice simply not fit to any of the new songs or are there any other reasons?
The simple reason is that I wanted to work with all new people this time. I like change.
How long had you been programming your ‘machines’ for last Recoil?
I first started working on the ‘Jezebel’ track early in the summer of 1998 then had a 3 month break before starting the main bulk of the record in September. Most of the collaborators did their stuff between January and April and I mixed the thing during May and June. It was completed on July 7th and mastered in the following few weeks.
I’ve just put my hands on an advance promo copy of ‘Liquid’ (don’t be mad at me). I have to say the whole affair is just fantastic – FASCINATING sense of climax. Still, 1st thought after a complete listening was – Chuck’s probably not going to get tons of airplay. The structure in most of the tracks feels somewhat less than linear (even less so than in UM – very reminiscent of Bowie’s ‘Low’), i.e. not very easy for the average radio listener (that plunker) to catch up with. Obviously, using spoken word vocals does reinforce the non-linear feel – was that a conscious choice from the start?
As I’ve said many times, commerciality is not on my list of important criteria when making a record. If a track ends up sounding commercial, that’s ok as long as I like it.
Extracts of ‘Breath Control’ (my favourite for the moment), ‘Strange Hours’, ‘Vertigen’ and ‘Chrome’ were broadcasted during the show. Even if I DO agree we have to hear the whole album a few times before getting a good opinion on the songs and the global feel of the record, I have the strong impression that ‘Liquid’ starts exactly where ‘Unsound Methods’ ended. Was that meant to be or didn’t you totally succeed in your policy of changing from album to album ?
I didn’t really have any rules at the start of the project. It has turned out similar to UM I suppose but with more focus on the vocals this time. That’s ok by me.
Why in the name of all that’s holy have you left out the city of all cities, wonderful Copenhagen, on your forthcoming promo trip? Here’s a multiple-choice test.!
a: Isn’t Copenhagen a part of Sweden?
b: Because of the weather
c: I will come back later when the football league begins just to watch some decent football 🙂
d: There’s not a decent radio programme in DK that plays my kind of music – only snobby and self-obsessed DJ’s on Denmark’s Radio programme 3.
(I would go for d)
Where I go depends mainly on how many journalists are eager for an interview and basically whether there is enough interest to justify the expense of flying to and staying in a particular city. It’s entirely possible that there aren’t many Danish journalists who are interested or those that are, are prepared to travel to Stockholm or Oslo.
Is Reprise releasing the new album?
No. Reprise and I have decided to part company which I think is a very good thing for Recoil. The new LP will be released in America by Mute US, which I am very happy about. Mute US are much more geared up to deal with the kind of music Recoil produces and have considerable experience in marketing more unusual records.
How did you create the ‘talking timpani’s’ on ‘Chrome’? Is it a longer sample sequence or one short sample edited with a pitch bender?
They were single samples which were then sequenced using pitch bend.
You said in the past that your music composition was split at approx. 70% samples and 30% something else that I forgot because I am a moron. Anyway, having heard ‘Chrome’ and spoken in depth with people who have heard ‘Liquid’, I was wondering if the ratio had changed? As opposed to programming a bass sound on a synth, are you using more samples of Dean playing bass? Did you make a conscious decision to use more ‘real’ instruments?
The impression will be that ‘Liquid’ is much more ‘live’ or performed than any previous LP but, in fact, the process hasn’t really changed. Nearly every piece of the jigsaw has been sampled and manipulated in Protools whilst maintaining the feel of the original performance – this includes Dean’s bass playing. There are some synthesised bass parts as well as the usual array of other strange samples and electronic sounds.
Did you know that The Cure will release their new album on February 15th. That’s mid-February, the same time that your new album will be released. How do think this will affect record sales?
It won’t make the slightest bit of difference.
Can you tell us if you have any plans or ideas for your next project once your promo activities are accomplished and ‘Liquid’ is released? Do you think that a year from now you’ll be plugging away on the next record or perhaps something different from Recoil?
I’d like to do something quite different next but I’ve no idea what that will be.
I spoke to someone recently with connections in the music business and they said they could get hold of an advance promo. copy of any album – obviously I asked about Recoil and he said, “No problem.” How do you feel about fans getting their grubby mits on your record pre-release and how will you stop them passing it around all their mates?
Obviously, it’s very difficult to stop people obtaining promo. copies once they’re in circulation (which is absolutely necessary for licensees and press) but I feel that anyone who uploads any audio files or artwork to the internet without my permission, no matter how well-intentioned they think their actions are, is being grossly disloyal. So, I make a heartfelt plea on this ‘ere forum: Please do not do anything of this nature regarding any of the material from the forthcoming ‘Liquid’ LP that will jeopardise the marketing strategy we have planned and ultimately ruin the enjoyment of the record for others. If this gentle approach doesn’t work then let me put it this way: Anyone who does upload anything is in breech of copyright and will be dealt with by Mute’s legal department to the full extent of the law (not to mention Frank and Miguel’s personal visit to your home).
Now that you are finished with your new album, is it hard not to go over every detail in your head and think perhaps that should have done this or that slightly different, and on a scale to 1 to 10 how happy are you with the new album?
9.9……I wouldn’t release something unless I was happy about it. However, the perfectionist in me is never totally satisfied. This is the part of the whole essence of creativity for me – to always be striving to improve. There comes a time when you have to stop though.
What made you decide the name ‘Liquid’ for the new album?
It’s inspired by one of the songs called ‘Last Call For Liquid Courage’. Also seemed appropriate for most of the tracks and I like the sound of the word.
With the new album in the can, what do you do now – drink in front of the telly? Have Hep clean the studio (with her dirty boots on)? Go shopping? Burn demos by the fire? Without playing live, what does one do on a promotional tour besides handshakes and autographs?
Believe me, there is plenty to do. Yes, I am able to slowly catch up on some TV, go to see a few films etc. and take Paris to ‘Legoland’ (where I bumped into, yes….Little Jimmy Osmond, at the cash point machine), but most of the time is spent having meetings, sorting credits, artwork, catching up on e-mail’s and some serious web programing for the new campaign. Tomorrow (18 Aug) I am in London re-mastering certain tracks which I’m not quite happy with. Sometime this month I am going to be working on a couple of remixes and an extra track, and later in the year I will be spending several weeks travelling around the world meeting all the licensees and doing interviews and photo sessions etc. Oh, and then there is Q+A…………
With ‘Liquid’, the spoken word kinda spoils the meaning when it is in almost every track. I just can’t seem to make it my own. Do you think of entertaining the idea of releasing a non-spoken wordless version of ‘Liquid’? Or is there a ‘Liquid’ support group I need to join? Don’t get me wrong, I still think the music is superb!
If you remove the vocals (which are there to give the music some meaning and structure) you’ll be left with a load of unfocused sections and wibbly, wobbly noises. You will know when I want to do an instrumental LP because there won’t be any vocals on it. Until then, I suggest you re-think the expression ‘spoken word’. It seems to have become a sort of dirty word applied to anything that doesn’t conform to a pop song. I doubt you’d consider rap to be ‘spoken word’ and yet many hip hop artists use very few melodic vocals. Start listening to ‘Liquid’ in it’s entirety and most importantly, listen to the words and how they work in the context of the music. I guarantee that if you heard the music without any vocals you’d be unfulfilled.
Was ‘Manhattan’ the working title for the track ‘New York Nights’?