Following on from the revelations on and about the Soulsavers’ new Reconsidering the Madman album, the conversation with Rich Machin turns to more general matters regarding work previous and planned, with a bunch of questions that veer towards the eclectic and back again, as well as me just noticing as I was putting this bit together that I’d asked the same question twice. Moving swiftly on from that faux pas, I hope from a reader’s perspective that the questions that were asked and very kindly answered are among the very things that everyone wanted to know about what’s going on with the band and their various satellite vocalists…
With regard to the reset button as mentioned in the previous installment, is starting completely afresh something you look forward to doing?
– Yes, very much. It’s good to change. I’ve never understood bands that just turn out the same record time after time. I prefer it when bands evolve. I’d rather a band I like make a record I don’t particularly love, over just repeating what they’ve done on the last 3 records. It’s still more interesting.
Do you feel that you have a core element to your work that you keep throughout everything you do, or do you aim for as clean a slate as possible with every new record?
– I guess if I step back and look at it, no matter how varied the records are there’s always a darker and atmospheric undercurrent to them. I guess that’s something that naturally just happens. We certainly don’t try to make things sound that way.
When writing with or for vocalists, is any direction given with regard to where they go with their lyrics?
– No not at all. I think it’s really important to let them go with whatever they’ve connected with in the music. I’m not saying that redirection is out of the question if I was really perplexed – but fortunately that not really ever the case.
Do you have a wish list of ideal future Soulsavers collaborators?
– Ha. Well I don’t have a chalkboard in the studio with a list of names on it!
But of course there’s names that you have in your head of people out there who if the opportunity ever arose to work with that you’d be overjoyed.
We’ve gone backwards and forwards with someone recently that certainly is certainly around the top of that list that I’ve had in my head my head for a long time. I’m hopeful we can work it out, but it’s too early to say if we’re gonna pull it off. The desire to make it happen seems mutual though, so we’ll see.
Any plans to work with any previous collaborators in the near or distant future?
– Yes. I’m sure we’ll end up doing things, not necessarily as Soulsavers, with all 3 of the main collaborators again at some point. I’d certainly like to. It’s always really a case of time and schedules. The thing that all 3 of those guys have in common is that they are more interested in going forwards creatively rather than looking back & that’s what would make doing more things interesting.
Last time I was in LA I had breakfast with Josh Haden and we talked about wanting to do something again soon. He’s out on the road at the moment, touring a new Spain record called ‘Sargent Place’ which is really great. I think it’s the best album he’s made since their debut album. I’m sure we will get it together to do something at some point in the future though even if it’s just a couple of tracks for something.
Mark [Lanegan] is one of my best friends, we still see each other a lot. He’s certainly also always got a full schedule! I think we both know the kind of record we’d like to make if we managed to line up our schedules, but I couldn’t say when that’ll be. Again it’s something that will come together over time.
I’ve actually already been doing quite a lot of work with Dave [Gahan] recently on a new project.
I don’t think that’s any secret. Sadly we live in an age of social media, where a small rumour causes speculation to explode.
But at the moment there’s really nothing to tell still. I’m not sure if we have even decided on what that project is going to be yet. It’s a comfortable progression on from what we did on the Soulsavers record.
Our schedules have definitely synced up better this time around. Last time it clicked creatively between us very, very quickly & naturally. Dave had already got studio time booked in with Depeche Mode and then a long tour lined up after that, but we kinda knew we wanted to pick up working on something when that was done. It was something we talked about and felt had a great vibe that had a future, which is why I’m not really sure what the project is. It felt like we wanted to do something more than Dave be just guest on one of my records. He’s got a really strong idea and opinion on what the whole thing should sound like – so it makes sense to start something as a new project moving forward.
This time around we’ve got more open diaries so we can take our time, get a record out later this year or maybe early next year and then have enough material to get out there and play some shows. Were not in any rush this time, which is nice. But at the moment there’s not much else to tell. It all sounds great, were having a lot of fun and it’ll all come together in its own time.
When looking for new working partnerships, do you look for someone who fits a particular idea, or someone who will bring something different with them?
– It’s always cool when someone brings something new to the table.
Sometimes the people you think will be a great fit, just don’t work out.
We’ve got some music sat on the shelf that we did with a guy who really should have been a good fit. Creatively he was, but personally he turned out to be someone I didn’t really want to have around. So it got shelved. I’m sure at some point someone at the label is going to recall that were sitting on that & given the stature of the person in question they will lean on me to put it out, but it’s not going to happen.
It’s just as important that they fit in personally, your all gonna be spending a lot of time together & that’s just as important as the music.
When the band play live, you play with them but on record you’re just credited as producer. Do you also perform on your albums and if so, to what extent?
– Everyone is always listed as ‘additional’. The initial sketches of the tracks are always tracked out, but we have an amazing pool of session guys we work with. We often end up using them a lot, particularly on the last album – which had a complete live band sound.
The reality is that the tracks will always sound a hell of a lot better by getting those guys to then come in to re-track some parts of those demos, I’ve certainly got no ego about it! I just want them to sound as good as they can and doing that for certain instruments is essential!
After the re-release of your Tough Guys Don’t Dance debut, are there any plans for further reissues?
– Not currently in the pipeline.
We had planned to reissue It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land and Broken with Ipecac in the US last year, but the parts to the records got lost in Universal’s warehouse over here. So In order to do that we need to go back to the original tapes and remaster them & start production from scratch again. There wasn’t time to do that in the window we had, so we ended up having to postpone it – but hopefully another window will open at some point to make that happen.
On the vinyl edition of The Light The Dead See, the labels have the title spelt as “Sea”. What’s going on there?
– Well that’s something that still rubs me.
It was a total lack of attention to detail in production.
The problem you have nowadays is that even when your working with good staff, the nature of the business and all the cutbacks means that all labels are all massively overworked.
When mistakes happen – which they naturally do – there is now no time to fix them.
With that one – I didn’t get my stock of the record until three days before it came out, so when I called to say “erm, have you checked the label?” I was told the vinyl had already gone into the warehouse and all the orders had been packed. There wasn’t time to recall them. It had already been delayed by weeks too, so it was a real kicker on top of that.
I was really pissed off with the quality of the initial CD sleeves too to be honest, again it was too late to fix by the time I actually got to see one, but I insisted that it was improved for future pressings.
They did have to listen to me throw my toys out of the pram about all of that, and I’m still mildly sulking about it now. What they don’t realise is that when mistakes like that happen, it looks like the band don’t give a shit – which is frustrating and actually couldn’t be further from the truth.
Production problems are becoming more common, we are not alone. They are annoying, but something that every artist and every label runs into. You just have to hope that you have the time to catch them, that’s one that we didn’t unfortunately.
Going back to utilising electronics does seem to be tapping into a movement in very good health of late. Do you have any current favourite artists in that area?
– I’ve been listening to Boards of Canada a lot again since their last record, I loved that.
A lot of Tim Hecker too.
The last Holden album ‘The Inheritors’ was amazing.
The Loscil and Anjou albums were 2 of my favourites from last year.
Then bits of Vatican Shadow, Lussuria and The Sight Below.
It’s all slow, moody dark stuff I guess.
–Looking at many of your song and album titles, there’s a lot of literary references. Are non-musical references important as a songwriter?
Yes, certainly. I think cinema & literature are just as inspiring as music. I think the wider your scope of reference the better when it comes to your own creativity.
So there you have it. Thanks again to Rich for his insight and unflinching honesty with the above (especially the bit about the centre label – I honestly thought that it was some sort of secret code and maybe I’d won a competition!), I naturally can’t wait to hear Reconsidering the Madman and everything else that got mentioned, which should keep everyone busy for a few years!
This being the fast-paced world of the Internet or something like that, things have changed slightly. Reconsidering The Madman remains intriguing and on the way (albeit with a possible name change and overarching theme), but its release has been overtaken by the collaboration with Mr Gahan. Dave Gahan and Soulsavers’ Angels And Ghosts will be released on October 23rd and will be immediately followed by what is described as a “low-key” tour, although with a ten-piece band promised, I’m not sure just how low-key this could possibly be!
Preceded by All Of This And Nothing, the new record promises to be – as the album cover’s artwork and banner suggests – much more of a meeting of minds than before, the sound of this new song certainly illustrative of elements familiar to Soulsavers fans coupled with a whole load of “something else” coming from the other side of the partnership. Tickets for the shows go on sale this Friday (18th), this is something I can’t wait to witness.