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Baptiste - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 25 / 9 / 2002



Baptiste - Interview

intro

Brooding London group Baptiste are about to release their debut album 'Nothing Shines Like a Dying Heart'. Back for a second interview with Pennyblackmusic, frontman Wayne Gooderham chats to John Clarkson about its recording


Baptiste frontman Wayne Gooderham's West London bedsit flat is a personal tribute and homage to the arts. On one wall hangs a recent picture, pulled from a magazine, of New Order's Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner, drunken and jubilant at an awards party. Another still on an opposing wall in contrast shows the pair twenty years earlier, thinner and more intense and in Joy Division, standing in a monochrome Manchester with Ian Curtis and Steven Morris, all four of them staring at the camera with a brooding and awkward discontent. The paperbacks, which Gooderham keeps on a book shelf above his record player and television, are stacked two rows deep. Some are obvious keepsakes from his days studying English at Norwich University ; others are more recent acquisitions. Hermann Hesse, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf and Ken Kesey all rest near each other, while on another part of the shelf a well thumbed copy of Lou Reed's 'Between Thought and Expression' is pressed up between a history of LSD, and Peter Biskind's scabrous expose of 60's and 70's Hollywood, 'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls'. Records and CDs sprawl off further shelves and onto the floor, and define an eclectic taste which also extends to the Velvet Underground, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Dylan, the Talking Heads and Smog. A video cabinet is similarly overflowing , and, alongside Francis Ford Coppola's first two Godfather films and 'The Conversation', has films wedged into it by Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and Mike Leigh. Gooderham's own part in this world is signified by a PC, tucked upon a desk jammed into a corner, on which he writes his lyrics, and an acoustic guitar, placed gently up against a wall, with which he composes all of Baptiste's tunes. 28 year old Gooderham, who is the group's rhythm guitarist and singer, first formed Baptiste in the summer of 1997, shortly after he graduated from university, with his three years younger brother, Marc, who plays drums, and lead guitarist Colin Moors, who has been a friend of the Gooderhams since school. Baptiste, whom have drawn comparisions with the Velvet Underground, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Tindersticks and the Go Betweens, have to date released three singles, 'A New Career in a New Town' (1999), 'The Quiet Times' (2000) and 'Kissing With Your Eyes Open' (2001) and are now about to release their eight song debut album, 'Nothing Shines Like a Dying Heart'. The first and third of these singles were released on the band's own label, Linear Records, while 'The Quiet Times' came out on another London label, Sandman Records. All are limited to 500 copies, and have been put out on vinyl. Other than a single song 'Confessions of a Clumsy Man', which appeared earlier this year on 'Pop Volume 3', the latest compilation of the French music webzine www.popnews.com, 'Nothing Shines Like a Dying Heart' is Baptiste's first CD release. It again will come out on Linear and has an initial edition of 1000 copies. "Books, music and films. They have all had an influence" Gooderham says, back for a second interview with Pennyblackmusic, and talking to me on a hot July afternoon across a table at his local Wetherston pub in Acton, an hour or so after giving me lunch at the flat " The album opens with a sample from 'Prick Up Your Ears', (the 1987 film about the playwright Joe Orton-Ed) and there are quotes from various books throughout the lyrics, but not in a poncey, pretentious way. The references are there if you notice them, but if you don't it doesn't matter and you shouldn't be able to see the join." Like their namesake, the brilliant but socially awkward mime who twice over loses Garance, the love of his life, in Marcel Carne's classic 1945 film, 'Les Enfants du Paradis', Baptiste have, however, had a sometimes difficult price to pay for their art. A succession of early bassists failed to work out, and the band's line-up finally only stabilised with the induction of New Zealander, Scott Brodie, and keyboardist, Chris Ayles, into the group at the end of 2000. There have been other problems too. Both Wayne Gooderham and Moors lost their jobs at the beginning of 2001 when the company they worked for was taken over. The album, which was originally planned for release in the autumn of last year, had to be put on a temporary hold because of the resulting shortfall in cash. Earlier this year Gooderham was also beaten up and mugged, while his brother broke his hand , and this lead to further delays. A few days before I speak to him, in another mishap, Gooderham has dropped his camera while out taking photos for the sleeve of the album, and is now unable to remove the film from it. He rolls his eyes heavenwards, jokes about the "latest stroke of Baptiste luck", but his sense of frustration and irritation at this latest setback is evident too. "If we had been shit, then I think we would have broken up" he reflects, when asked, if amidst all this bad fortune, the band had ever come close to splitting. "When we started, we started more or less from scratch. Marc had just picked up his drumsticks. I had just picked up my guitar, and so had Colin. We all knew what we liked and what we didn't like though, and played our first gig something like three weeks after our first rehearsal. It was probably pretty awful , but the sound in some ways wouldn't have been a hundred miles away from what we sound like now." "Once you have done one gig, you know you can do another one, and once you have written one song, you know you can write a better one. If we had stayed at the same point though, if we hadn't got better over the last two or three years, then I think we would definitely have given up. " "I feel some sort of responsibility to Marc and Colin because we've all gone through so much together " he adds. "And I know they feel the same way too. We have all-Scott and Chris too-put a lot into this band, and it would have been defeatist just to stop, and a waste of years and money if we hadn't given it our best shot. I would have been absolutely gutted if we hadn't recorded the album. We have got the songs. They are good songs. We feel they should be heard, and because of that we have always carried on." 'Nothing Shines Like a Dying Heart' was finally recorded in two weekend sessions in London with a Dublin-based producer Tom Rixton, and then mixed in a third. The majority of its songs were recorded in straight takes , and this gives the album an added vibrancy. With Moors' robust guitarwork and Ayles' energetic keyboards both especially dominant in the mix, 'Nothing Shines Like a Dying Heart' owes its greatest debt to latter period Velvet Underground. Rather than simply being a straight copy, however, of some of Gooderham's favourite bands and other influences, it has a character though which is defiantly its own , and it runs through a wide gamut of moods and emotions. The opener 'You Know Everything' is a reckless, hedonistic rocker with angular guitars and scatty keyboards, and has its protagonists living their lives by chance and for the moment. The reflective, bittersweet 'Confessions of a Clumsy Man', which is Gooderham's own personal favourite track from the CD,in contrast chronicles the melancholic, introverted yearnings of a disillusioned romantic. The punchy, intriguingly-titled 'Give a Man Four Walls Long Enough and It is Possible for Him to Own the World' meanwhile is largely instrumental, and, employing a speedy rapidly escalating riff, concludes with a series of snappy, quickfire trick endings. The evocative, softly smouldering 'Tired Bodies', however, captures the exhausted 5 a.m. weariness of two malcontent lovers, still awake while the rest of the world sleeps, while the last number, the exuberant 'Love in a Southern City', contrastingly again is a breezy and optimistic love song. "We didn't consciously set out to do an album in a lot of different styles" says Gooderham. "You write a song though and, after a while, you tend to think 'Oh well, we've got a song like that', so you write another song another time which is a bit more upbeat or whatever. We didn't go out of our way to do that though. It was just whatever was natural, and whatever worked within the framework of each song." With the exception of 'Confessions of a Clumsy Man', which appears in its demo version on the POPnews compilation, 'Nothing Shines Like a Dying Heart' consists entirely of previously unreleased tracks. The band decided not to put any of the three singles or their B sides on the album. "It has taken us a long time to get this album together, and they seem like old songs to us now" Gooderham says. "We rarely play them live, even 'Kissing With Your Eyes Open'. We thought that it would far be more of a challenge to do an album from scratch. It is more value for money , not that that many people bought the singles, and it means that we have been able to keep our standards high." This want for perfectionism has carried over elsewhere too. Baptiste toyed briefly with the idea of putting the album out on another label, but, preferring to maintain the creative freedom that running their own label brings, have opted again now to release it on Linear. "We care about this stuff more than anyone else" Gooderham explains. "Details are the most important thing really. If you have got the details right, then everything else starts to fall into place. You want everything to be right. It can take me ages sometimes to write a song. Other people wouldn't perhaps notice if there was a line which wasn't right, but I would. It is really important to all of us that we have to be totally happy about each song if we are going to own it. There is not a false note on the whole album which we are all really pleased about." Baptiste have to date remained a modest cult success, highly respected and well regarded by those fanzines and webzines that have already picked up on them, but are little known outside this immediate circle or the London sector. For the last two years the group has run its own monthly club, Uptight. The group originally began Uptight, simply as an effort to create the kind of club that all its members thought that they would like to see, but which at the time did not exist on the London club scene. An average Uptight night can include music from acts as diverse as New Order, the Fall, Patti Smith, Joy Division, the Jesus and Mary Chain, David Bowie, the Slits, the Heartbreakers, the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Magazine, Brian Wilson, Tricky, the Sex Pistols, the Clash and Elvis. Uptight has since begun to shift the balance a little. The band now earns more money from it than it does from playing its regular gigs,and this has helped in part to pay for the recording of 'Nothing Shines Like a Dying Heart'. Gooderham and Baptiste now hope to continue to build on this initial success, and will be giving 'Nothing Shines Like a Dying Heart' a wide press circulation. One of the reasons the band chose to put the three singles out on vinyl was because they were never sure, amidst all the line-up changes, that they would hold together long enough to make another record. Now with the membership stable, they are hoping also that the album will bring about increased interest in the band simply because it is being released on CD. "Hopefully it will get some press" Gooderham concludes. "Hopefully people will listen to it, and hopefully it will get some radio play. The music scene has changed a lot in last few years. It was different when we first started. Our sort of music was definitely out then, but now it has gone through that change, and is back in. It should get listened to and played. Hopefully it will." The independent music world is unpredictable, with what catches on, and what does not, but Baptiste's success is long overdue. Baptiste have made an album that they should be and are very proud of. The interview finished, a promise to remain in touch given, Gooderham leaves the pub, and, with a final wave at the corner, disappears down Acton High Street and back to his flat, and his books, video and records collection. He long ago though made the transition from simply being a devout fan to also a serious musician. 'Nothing Shines Like a Dying Heart' will come out at the end of October. More information about Baptiste can be found at www.baptiste.org.uk



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