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Swans - Interview

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 6 / 9 / 2010

Swans - Interview


Influential shoegazing/ambient band Seefeel recently reformed. Anthony Strutt chats to guitarist Mark Clifford about the reformation and his group's first new release in fourteen years, a four song EP, 'Faults'

The influential group Seefeel recently reformed and are releasing their first new music in fourteen years, a four song EP, ‘Faults’, on Warp Music. The London-based group released in their initial lifetime three albums, ‘Quiqui’ (Too Pure, 1993), ‘Succour’ Warp, (1995) and CH-VOX (Rephlex, 1996) and originally comprised of Mark Clifford (guitar), Sarah Peacock (vocals and guitar), Darren Seymour (bass) and Justin Fletcher (1997). While Seefeel initially started out as a shoegazing band, their sound became much more ambient and dance-oriented. The group was reformed by Clifford and Peacock in 2008 when they were invited to play Warp20, the Warp label’s 20th anniversary festival, with Shigeru Ishihara (DJ Scotch Egg) on bass and former Boredoms drummer Iida Kazu on drums. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Clifford a few days before Seefeel played their first British gig since getting back together, a one-off at the London ICA, about both his band’s reformation and the ‘Faults’ EP. PB: Why did you choose the name, Seefeel ? MC: We had our first show booked and we hadn't really decided on a name so we took one of our song titles, 'See,Feel', and used that. PB: I believe the band or at least some of its members were based in Blackheath in South London. Did you record locally or play gigs in the area to start off with? MC: We played an early show at the Amersham in New Cross but we were never really a 'local band' as such. Justin was the only bona-fide South Londoner anyway. Sarah and Darren were both from Reading way and I was only in South London as I went to Goldsmith's College. After that we played a couple of small shows in North London. After that things happened quite quickly for us and we played venues such as the Garage. Likewise we recorded mostly in North London including demos. I think the only time we recorded in South London was when we did the'Fracture/Tied' EP for Warp which was recorded in Greenwich. PB: You reminded me in your early career of Slowdive. How much were you influenced by that early Creation records sound? MC: Well, Darren was friends with Neil Halstead from that group. I can't really say I was personally influenced much or at all by Slowdive though Creation had an impact on me in that My Bloody Valentine and Primal Scream were bands I listened too early on. I think Sarah was maybe much more into the likes of Slowdive and Ride than myself. PB: What lead you eventually to go in a more ambient dance based direction? MC: It wasn't a totally conscious decision but more of an inevitable consequence of becoming wrapped-up in that world of music and parties. It was a very enlightening time for me. Suddenly the 'song' structure felt like a straight-jacket. PB: The band originally recorded just three LPs. Why did you split up in 1996? Did you feel you had said everything you had to say? MC: Yes I think so. I think much of the optimism, both personal and in the musical world we were part of in the early 1990's, seemed to have evaporated. It was a struggle for us as it was as we felt we were always going against the grain, so in retrospect I think that when the whole Britpop thing emerged it was like a brick wall had been put in front of us and it was dispiriting. PB: How did the Paris reunion come about? MC: When 'Quique' was re-issued three years ago Sarah and myself did some interviews together and talked loosely about exchanging some ideas, which we did. We felt there was something there so we looked to expand the band. I already knew E-da and he was keen and soon Shige asked to join also. It was really just perfect timing that it was Warp's 20th and they asked us to play in Paris. We tried out a live set in Kiev where we felt we could play without too much pressure and it felt really, really good so we said yes to Warp. PB: Darren and Justin are not involved now. Why is that? Do you have their blessing to take the music beyond what you have done? MC: It's hard because both Darren and Justin were living far away and their circumstances were very different, but I think it also proved to be a blessing because it enabled Sarah and myself to start from a new point, untethered to our previous history. And it made it exciting again. PB: How did the two new members come to the band? MC: As I mentioned, I already knew E-da as he was living in Brighton where I am now based and I had occasionally jammed with him though nothing too serious. When we started to take the idea of Seefeel seriously again he was the obvious choice. I also knew Shige though not so well and musically only from his Scotch Egg stuff. When he came running up to me one night asking to play bass for Seefeel I have to admit I was a little doubtful but I also knew he had strong musical ideas so was happy to at least give it a go. He fitted in pretty much immediately and he understood the music. It was really all very fluid. PB: Do you see the new material carrying off from where you left off, or this is a new century, new direction, new sound? MC: I really have no desire to look back except in terms of playing older tracks live. It's not something that is necessary or that interests me. I like new ideas and I feel we have so many new things to try. If people like the older Seefeel sound then those albums exist so why repeat them? PB: Why reform now? Has the rise of the Nu-gaze sound which is very healthy influenced the band? MC: No not at all. It is really just circumstance. If 'Quique' had not been re-issued then myself and Sarah might still not have tried out new ideas. If it had not happened to have been Warp's 20th anniversary or if they hadn't had asked us to play in Paris we might not have expanded those ideas. It's really nothing to do with what's happening musically right now though it perhaps makes life a little easier. PB: What are your future plans after the ICA gig? MC: I hope we will tour more extensively than previously, especially outside of Europe. Over the last few years I have received so many emails and messages from people from all corners of the planet who lament that they never got to see us play live and I hope that we can reward their dedication in some way. But I also have a lot more ideas musically as I know the others do so I'm excited to get back into the studio also. PB: Thank you. The 'Faults' EP will be released on Warp on Monday 20th September A streamm link to the title track can be found at http://soundcloud.com/warp-records/seefeel-faults/s-I0z5E

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