BEORN: Vocals, Analogue
Synth, Vocal FX
"…they impart these stories of dark desolate lands, where ambient diversity is orchestrated by electronic mistrust…
...to puncture the membrane of its soul with riffs full of colour and strength and with words full of spirit...
... through eerie vocals and prosthetic rock jams, from insistent rhythms to electronic melancholy that blows out an atmosphere of progressiveness..."
An INTERVIEW with
ED and DAN
Assembling from such Mecca's of culture as Swindon and Wrexham, Twentysixfeet are five guys and a computer now based in North London. They have recently released thirty minutes of magical music on a six track CD entitled “Two Hours Of Passionless Tango” via Parasitic Recordings. They've also made forays into the visual arts with video's for 'my dead organ' and notably 'a pocket full of poses', which was directed, filmed and edited by Alex Walker of Brickwall films and features UK based French actress Aurelie Amblard alongside English legend Howard Sway. With a tour alongside IMMUNE just completed and further collaborations in the pipeline, we managed to interrupt their busy lives to get the low-down on the whole twenty six feet.
Hi there, could you please introduce yourself and your position in the band.
‘ow do, my names Ed (E:), I play guitar and shout a bit.
Hello. I am Dan (D:). I play guitar, and I believed I controlled the machines, until I read your review.
For someone who hasn’t heard TWENTYSIXFEET before, tell us how you see your music and how you think it sounds!
E: Well, for those sorry few, I think we sound like the underage drinker’s equivalent to Pink Floyd, Venetian Snares and Breach. But ‘eavy, like.
D: It’s a kind of patchwork made up of little rags from all the music we listen to, sewn together with threads teased and twisted from our hairs and skin, using our collective excrescences as glue. So there’s hopefully a balance of contrast and continuity.
Could you explain a little about the history of the band, where you’re from and how you all came to be together? I understand the bands geography be somewhat bohemian in nature.
E: I come from Swindon and frankly there is little or nothing bohemian about that. The others are from North Wales though and that’s the land of Druids and Hallucinogens so, y’know draw your own conclusions about the misty netherworld in which this band was formed.
D: Provincial is probably more apt than bohemian, I’d say! We hail from backwaters ridden with people-carriers, idle talk and tracksuits.
Is there a story behind the name TWENTYSIXFEET?
E: Yep. Poo
“To navigate the vast content at their disposal, people spin their mouse´s scroll wheel approximately 26 feet in an eight-hour day” (from a Logitech I.T. survey).
So, what’s this I hear about you getting bored and branching out into distribution in Central London recently? Please tell us all about it and why you did it!
D: We just did a bit of reverse stealing.
E: We had had enough of the posters on the tube and the adverts slapped in magazines advertising dreary cack for people’s mindless consumption and wanted a wee bit of sweet, sweet Chain-store action for us. Why not put your records in HMV et al’s racks. We're not on a large, swanky label so we have to do it ourselves.
I see you have a (with respect quite rudimentary) website for the band and you also have a presence on Myspace. Is this something that interests you or bores the shit out of you?
E: I think my attitude towards Myspace is the same as many other bands. Its there, why not use it. I’ve heard plenty of good bands and met several sound people through it. It’s a good tool. Sadly it appears to be royally screwing itself over through blanket promotion and a general commercial mudslide approach that is turning a lot of people against it. Also, there appear to be a great number of wankers that frequent it.
There’s a new website in the pipeline. Don’t judge us.
D: The whole website thing is a mess at the mo: we haven’t been able to get the design right. It will be sorted soon though. Myspace can be useful but is becoming increasingly saturated with bands who describe themselves as “pop-funk indie with Byrds-esque guitars and a soulful edge”. Sickening.
What’s your take on the whole issue of getting the music from band to listener? You know the record shop Vs electronic downloads, the record labels Vs DIY? Do you think from a bands point of view, things are changing for the better or worse?
D: I think it has encouraged a lot of diversity and fruitful experimentation in underground circles: having easy access to so much music means you can keep abreast of what other people are doing and push yourself harder. I think digital exchange of music has contributed to the fact that there are a lot of exciting bands on the scene at the moment.
E: There is an enormous dichotomy involved in answering that question. On the one hand, we want to give our music to as many people as possible and do it on our own terms but also, we’re skint as hell. At this point were happy to have people download tunes but the reason we started our own record label and sell our CDs for £5 is because we’d like to make a bit of cash back from what we shelled out recording it and maintain control of it. As far as the situation improving for bands, yes I think up to a point it has improved but there is only so much a band can do using the internet if your music is not overtly commercial. People on the internet are no more discerning than people listening to the radio. Mostly it’s easier to have a record label promote you and sell your ass to the Kids.
You have recently release “Two Hours Of Passionless Tango” on Parasite Recordings? Was it self-financed, was it your first recording and were you happy with it?
E: It’s Parasitic but I wont hold it against ya (Oops sorry. Rigsby). Yeah, we paid for it ourselves, that’s why were skint now. It wasn’t the first, there were a few made before I joined the band and to my ears they weren’t very good. In fact I heard the CDs before I saw them live and I thought the recordings were rubbish. How things change. I think were pretty happy with it, we’re never gonna be completely happy because we’re mardy bastards and very rarely happy. Especially Beorn. I hate Beorn.
D: It was done on a shoestring really: it’s our own label. I think it’s come out great. We’ve recorded many times before but this was the first time we were somewhere near pleased with the results.
Your music seems often to be compared to Radiohead (some even say it’s ‘Kid A’ Part II), I can only see quite tenuous links (vaguely Thom Yorke-esque vocals and you have some electronics!), but what are your thoughts on the comparison (apart from maybe being flattered, that is)?
D: I like Radiohead ‘n’ all, apart from when they do that insipid pseudo-Floyd ‘funk’ (I.e. Drunken Punch-Up…). We have guitars, drums, singing and computers, so I guess we’re kind of the same!? People who listen predominantly to guitar music often hear an electronically-generated/manipulated sound and are prompted to utter in suspicious, hushed tones: “Arrr, if oi’m not mistoiken, that there be that Techno Music gubbins”. There’s a distinct lack of familiarity with the vocabulary of electronic sound amongst some indie/rock fans, so consequently things tend to get unnecessarily grouped together.
E: They’re good aint they. Not like being compared to Kasabian or some such. If people need a way of describing us and they want to use Radiohead as an example I’ve got no problem with it. We’re better though.
Do you see yourselves as being progressive in your song writing - not just in a moving forward or advancing kind of way, but also in the ‘prog’ musical genre term? And is it intentional or just the way it comes out?
E: We’ve tried writing straightforward things. They bore the crap out of us. We just let it flow. Like Rush. Oh yeah, just like Rush.
D: I think to a certain extent it just comes about from trying to do lots of different styles at once! We’re not Rush fans or anything. I think the whole idea of ‘prog vs punk’ as two polarised aesthetics is no longer relevant: we see ourselves as being truer to a ‘punk’ ideal than most bands who are currently peddling the ragged (hackneyed) rock ‘n’ roll sound. It’s all very tenuous though: I say bollocks to both terms.
Where do you get the inspirations for putting together your songs? Many are dark and atmospheric, how much do influences or experiences colour that process or is it a totally organic thing that happens when you are together writing?
D: There’s no set way in which we write a track. It could start with a guitar or bass riff, an electronic beat or a rhythmic motive, etc. Most of the process is done with the five of us in a room playing, but Alex and I work at home on the programming side of things too. Beorn often comes up with a melody and adds lyrics at home. The ‘dark’ thing just seems to happen really: it’s a way of getting those emotions out. Hey, we just wrote a happy song though…well sort of.
E: I can only speak for myself and I’m a miserable gobshite so that explains some of it. It’s just that happy songs, on the whole, sound crap. Its true, ask anyone. Maybe with the exception of Girls Aloud, them tarts can sing.
What things really get to you - makes you angry - makes you want to do something about it?
E: Rudeness, waste, greed, disrespect of things that deserve respect, people who practice golf swings without a club, build up of plaque and Beorn.
D: Greed, arrogance, abuse of power, television, instant coffee…the usual.
How do you see the programming/keyboards/samples developing in the TWENTYSIXFEET sound? They are very much interwoven into your music and stamp quite a mark, is this something that will develop or do you see yourselves as more of a straight forward rock band?
E: Without the electronics, keyboards and effects we wouldn't be the same band. Same as if any facet of the sound wasn’t present. Except Beorn. He’s rubbish.
D: That side of things is always changing: some songs rely on it more than others. We don’t have any set ideas about what role the computer will play in any given track beforehand.
What exactly does the band (or you) wish to achieve with your music? And do you think it can ever be achieved?
E: I’ve never given it much thought to be honest. I know its something that I do because I have to. It makes me happy when I'm doing it but beyond that any ideas I had for concrete plans fall into a hazy mess of bigger speakers and more people listening.
D: We want our music to challenge people, but also to be accessible. Mostly I think we pull this off, but sometimes it feels as if we’re perceived as being too weird for a mainstream audience and too slick for the hardcore crowd. The abrasive elements are always balanced with melody and composition.
I hear that you maybe doing a remix project with IMMUNE. They would be an excellent match with yourselves as musically you both seem to be coming from a similar direction. How did that collaboration come about, how excited are you about doing it and what is the whole thing about - please tell us the details?
E: We met Immune through a combination of Myspace and hearing about them through the ether. We played with them in Nottingham and they were ace so we invited them to play our night and we played theirs in Leeds, we’re going on tour with them at the end of this month, should be reet good. Dan’s doing the Remix because he was the first one to grab the DVD of the wavs out of the letter box and bolted into his lair with them. It’s sounding odd, frankly. Sadly, our track is still being mixed so they haven’t actually got their hands on it. Sorry lads. Soon, we promise.
D: We got in touch through the internet and they invited us to Leeds to play a gig. We returned the favour at our monthly WRECK night. They’re good guys. We’re also touring with them at the end of October. My remix is a bit drum & bass!
Is there any thing else new in the pipeline, any new songs written, and plans to record further?
E: There’s a load of new stuff that we’ve got written and we should have a download single ready in the next month or two. Dan’s a bit obsessed with having THEBESTALBUMINTHEWORLD written by the end of the year.
D: We have loads of new stuff in the pipeline. Some of it is a bit poppy, some more obscure. We reserve the right to go in ALL directions at the same time! Some new tracks will get an airing on the tour.
How do you take the TWENTYSIXFEET sound into a live environment? With there being a significant amount of electronica, does it translate neatly to the stage or does it provide many challenges of its own?
D: I often find it a bit of a juggle, trying to do guitar and computer things simultaneously. As a result, the electronics are sometimes not really live enough when we perform. Our new songs feature some more exclusively electronic bits, so this should change: I’ll have time to really twiddle those knobs. Yay.
E: Yeah, the laptop sits there and gets prodded at while we thrash around like lepers in a salt mine. The electronics you hear on the album are pretty easy to recreate live using the infernal machines we carry around with us, its just a fuck of a lot louder.
Well, that’s everything we have to ask you this time around. Thanks so much for your time and we wish you well. Is there anything else you wish to add to finish the interview?
E: Don’t think so, cheers for asking us questions. Remember kids, stay in school.
by Rigsby (November, 2006)