Broadcast: Ha Ha Sound, Warp Records - Interview with Trish Keenan and James Cargill
The Broadcast Crew; Trish Keenan, James Cargill, and Tim Felton
Aaron Reed: You've really nailed down a signature sound for Ha Ha Sound. How has technology changed your music, as compared to your album The Noise Made By People, or your other EPs?
AR: A very cool and unique thing about
you is the drums and live percussion on your recordings. Do you foresee
delving into electronic percussion in the future, or is that simply out
of the question?
T: Nothing's out of the question! We've
already used electronic percussion here and there...
AR: You mention the strong influence
of cinema on your work, is film-scoring something you'd ever do/be interested
T: We have a video shop close by that
stocks loads of European films. We record a lot of the soundtracks to
mini-disc, you know, soundtracks that never got released, and then edit
them together with bits of dialogue and background sound. They always
sound great, in fact I've even started recording soundtracks I already
have in this way. It sounds better than the official releases, there's
more atmosphere. I think cinema has become more and more important to
us because we have access to so many great films. I remember when we rented
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. That was incredible, and
we didn't really know what to expect before we saw it.
J: No, we don't really have an ambition
to score a film.
AR: There's a lot of post-production
that goes into your recordings. How do you bring that sound on the road
into a live setting?
J: I think we strip it down a bit, obviously
we can't recreate the album on stage and probably wouldn't want to.
T: We sample some of the electronic sound
and the guitar makes up some of it, Tim plays a lot of percussive sound
on his guitar.
AR: What's a cool English slang word
to use to describe you guys?
J: Proper Bo!
AR: Situationism plays a big part in
Stereolab's creative process, and even though I can think of no real reason
to compare them to you (ha!), is Situationism at all a part of your life/music/beliefs?
AR: Your recordings seem like the result
of painstaking hours of fine-tuning the perfect, pre-determined sound.
But for real . . . you come across some of that stuff by accident right?
Or I guess the real question is: How big a part does improvisation play
in your songwriting/soundmaking?
J: I suppose we aim for a kind of structural
precision in our arrangements but I wouldn't like to have an absolute
idea of every sound and musical part before we've even started.
T: For us, as with most musicians, everything
starts with a moment of inspired improvisation, and those moments come
more frequently with practice. However, there has to be a shaping process,
a period of carving out the possibilities of harmony and structure.
J: I think that over the years we've
learned to balance the two and develop the confidence to let them work
AR: On your bio, you list influences
such as The United States of America along with composers like Ennio Morricone.
Who's making music today that's encouraging or inspiring you? (or, the
simple version-who's in your CD player right now?)
T: Circle, Prospekt
AR: Who is Julian from Intro, and how
does someone become the graphic artist for all of Broadcast's releases?
T: Julian House is a long time friend
of the band, James met him at college in Wales. Julian did the first Broadcast
release (Accidentals on Wurlitzer Jukebox Records '96). In
fact, Julian did our first and only demo cover too, so we started out
at exactly the same time. He has since then gone on to become a pretty
successful sleeve artist. We have always considered Ju to be the invisible
member of the band; he is also a great source of inspiration . . .
AR: I see that you are coming to Southpaw
in Brooklyn in October. That's close to my house. Do you want to come
T: err . . . I'm not sure, we've heard
some bad things!
AR: From your experience on tour, which
crowds are cooler, American or European? (it's okay to say American .
J: American crowds are very vocal, I
like the way a person will just holler when he's just heard something
he likes. Can't say I've ever heard a girl shout anything yet, but I'll
keep my ears open.
AR: Has this interview changed you in
any significant way?
T&J: Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO
The sing-songy chanteuse is one of two
anchors in the band who are keeping Broadcast's material in the realm
of the known. The drums make up the other half. Even though
Broadcast are knee deep in electronics-living, breathing rhythm remains
a constant throughout; invoking a strange sort of noir-jazz-Krautrock.
Not unlike early Krautrock experiments,
this leaves room for Tim Felton (guitar) and James Cargill (bass) to explore
lesser-known sonic territory, not without the help of the rest of the
group on a great many analog synths and modelers. The basic formula is
not really new. Mixing Pop with Avant-Garde works better as an ironic
cliché these days-and there is certainly plenty of irony layered
into the record. Too many Pop experiments go sour when random sampling
and electro-noodling occur. But Ha Ha Sound is not a slap-dash
marriage of melodies and spastic Pro Tools effects. It's sheer mood-effectively
deserting this innocent vocalist into the unknown: heavily diluted with
space fuzz and chocolate milk. No one has ever been here before.
The highlight of the album, and also
the title of their recent EP, is Pendulum. A relentless, tripped
out beat that would have you singing about a white rabbit if it weren't
getting all Time of the Season up in between the beats. It's
the most amount of energy this group is about to expose in a single track,
and it rocks. The music to follow is comparably subtle and understated.
Lunch Hour Pops opens like a flowing, underwater music box.
A mesmerizing harp surges along with the subdued, tribal rhythm. Noises
become less and less muffled, drawing closer as the hook comes in, Let
the balloons go outside, let the balloons go outside. The song has
shifted from the submerged to the airborne without batting an eye. Hawk
is the album's chilling outro-a shower in an analog wonderland, as electronics
spew fuzz in agony, shorting out one by one. It's a hallow ending, and
perfectly suited for an album like this. The carousel has stopped, it's
time to step off and get back to the real world.
Ha Ha Sound is an intensely unique achievement any way you slice it. In a world of seemingly limitless manufactured sounds, it is refreshing to find a group so firmly established in their own hand-tailored sonic identity.