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Baptiste - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Baptiste - Interview


'Les Enfants du Paradis' is one of the landmark films of French cinema.Filmed during the Nazis' Second World War occupation of France, and finally released in 1945, it is set in the theatres, drinking

'Les Enfants du Paradis' is one of the landmark films of French cinema.Filmed during the Nazis' Second World War occupation of France, and finally released in 1945, it is set in the theatres, drinking dens and boardinghouses of 1820s and 1830s Paris, and tells of the lives and loves of an assorted group of theatre performers, criminals and aristocrats. Duels, illicit and unrequited love affairs and an attempted murder all enhance an elaborate plot, but it is the thwarted romance between Baptiste, a brilliant but socially shy and awkward mime artist, and Garance, a stage actress, that is the main focus of the film. It is a unique and unusual film. An epic with a running time of three and a quarter hours, featuring French Resistance members in its cast, and drawing thin parallels with the Occupation, it was, under Nazi regulations and censorship, lucky to be made at all, but it has since gone on to be seen as a classic and to appear at the top of many film critics' Favourite Films and Top 10 lists. Over fifty years on it continues to hold and to sway a great influence, so much so that the up-and-coming London-based band Baptiste have named themselves after its main character. As Baptiste's vocalist, rhythm guitarist and songwriter Wayne Gooderham tells Pennyblackmusic in an exclusive interview, it was a name that was chosen after a great deal of thought. "What I liked about the film and that character is that he can only express himself on stage" he explains. " The thought of giving it all and putting everything into your art really appealed to me. When we were choosing a name for the band, I wanted something that meant something. I didn't want something meaningless. It is a good film, and it is nice to have a reference that people can go to." Baptiste was first formed in the summer of 1997 shortly after Gooderham graduated from university. The group has recently expanded from a four piece into a five piece and has been through various line up changes. Since its inception, however, Gooderham, his younger brother and drummer Marc and lead guitarist Colin Moors, a friend of the Gooderhams since school, have all been regular members. The band have a growing live reputation in London, having played support dates in the last year to both Cotton Mather and Six by Seven, and have drawn comparisions with The Velvet Underground, Tindersticks, Nick Cave, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and The Go Betweens. Like their namesake, reinterpreting the world around him to create something unique, Baptiste, rather than simply imitating their influences, have, however, reworked and redefined them into something that is original and inventive. The way that cinema, and novels, such as for example Virginia Woolf's 'To the Lighthouse' which Gooderham namechecks as one of his favourite books, often concentrate on just brief moments in their characters' lives has had an effect on his lyric writing. "The songs each look at a moment in life" says Gooderham. "The whole modernist movement, and the way it focuses on a single moment has been quite an influence. The lyrics concentrate on a moment of being, and quite a lot can happen in that moment. Often they deal with just one thought, which is then expanded across the song." While the lyrics are an integral component in each Baptiste song, they never dominate over the tunes. Gooderham, when writing songs, tends to concentrate on the music first, composing it on an acoustic guitar, and then adds the lyrics afterwards, before bringing the songs into the band's rehearsal room for the rest of the group to develop and to build on. "The lyrics always come with the music." he ponders. " I don't want ever to be in the position in which I have a beautifully written set of lyrics, but for which I have written the tune around them. The music should always be the main thing and then you can embellish on that by saying something that means something to you personally. If it is means something to you, then the chances are that it's going to mean something to someone else as well." The band have now released two singles, each of which have come out on vinyl only and which are limited to 500 copies. The first of these 'A New Career in a New Town' was released in May 1999 and was put out on the band's own label Linear Records. The semi-acoustic title track, a song about dislocation, is a quiet, introspective mood piece with dreamy, melancholic vocals and a fluttering guitar sound. Its B side 'Icarus ', which takes its name from a Greek mythological figure who fell to the ground and was killed after flying too close to the sun, hints at impending breakdown and is louder and more forceful. It begins with rattling, folky acoustics and builds, with rapidly accelerating vocals and bursts of wall-of-noise guitar, to a dynamic and powerful conclusion. The second single 'The Quiet Times' came out just under a year later in April 2000 and manufactured on white vinyl, was released on a small London label, Sandman Records. 'The Quiet Times', which runs to over six minutes, is another mood piece. Reflecting on the need to be alone sometimes, it is mournful, funereal and tense with a crescendoing tolling church bell guitar sound. Its second side, the much shorter 'A Small Victory', is slightly more up-tempo and is a twisted love song. Alongside releasing the two singles, the band has also recently started running its own monthly London club "Uptight", which takes its name from a Victor Bockris penned biography on The Velvet Underground. The aim of Uptight is to promote "songs you don't usually hear in a club" and to give them " a chance on the dance floor" An average Uptight night can include music from bands like New Order, Tindersticks, Orange Juice, Television, St Etienne, The Modern Lovers, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Patti Smith, The Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, Mercury Rev, The Go Betweens, Joy Division, David Bowie and The Smiths. " We've been running Uptight for about six months now" Gooderham reflects." You know when you are playing a record in your room and you're thinking "I'd love to hear that record in a club" , but you know you never will or maybe just right at the end of quiet night. That's the basic idea behind Uptight- to promote those kind of bands and to play that sort of record." Baptiste will be spending a lot of this year recording, and will release a single firstly in its inital half, and will then follow this with their debut album in the late Autumn or Winter. The single and the album will be the group's first recordings in their new line-up. The band has had trouble keeping bass players in the past, and has been through several. Gooderham admits that this is a problem that has been caused in part by the bond and links that have existed between him, his brother and Moors since childhood. It is one that they have tried to solve by this time around by adding not just another bassist, Scott Brodie, to the line-up, but also for the first time a keyboardist, Chris Ayles. Both musicians have been playing with the band since the summer. "It is definitely the best line-up we've had so far' Gooderham enthuses. "Musically both Scott and Chris are quite clued up. We're all into the same sort of music, and that just makes breaking things in a little easier. For the first time we can drop a reference and say " Make the keyboards or the bass a bit like so-and-so's songs" and they'll know what we're talking about. With our previous bass players, we haven't clicked reference-wise so well. Bringing in two people together has really helped too. Instead of having one new person against three people (four if you include Anthony, our manager, who is quite involved in everything we do) we've got two new people, which almost evens things up. We're all getting to know each other now, and we've got a lot of stuff to show one other." Baptiste have decided to return to Linear to put out both the single and the album, preferring the creative and financial freedom that running their own label brings. The single, which the group will be recording in February, will be 'The Half Light', a " feedback drenched pop-ballad which is already a favourite of live shows, and they will back this with an instrumental 'A Worthy Grudge is a Beautiful Thing'. It will be released on both CD and vinyl. The album has a working title of 'A Life So Blue', and consisting of eight or nine all new Baptiste tracks, will come out as a CD. "It is our dream now really to do everything on our own label, and to really make something of it" says Gooderham ."We're going to make 'A New Career in a New Town' Linear 001, and Uptight Linear 002. Our website (www.baptiste.org.uk) will be Linear 003. I want to get the rights back to 'The Quiet Times', so that will be number 004 or maybe number 005. It just depends how long it takes. There will also , of course, be the new single and album to add to that list as well." By aligning themselves with such an important film as 'Les Enfants du Paradis', Baptiste have set their standards high. Ironically, just as the film was made in extenuant circumstances, the group have similarly struggled to survive. Recording amidst line-up problems has proved a challenge, and one of the reasons why the band decided to release both 'A New Career on a New Town' and 'The Quiet Times' on vinyl was that they were not sure that they would stay together long enough to make another record. The future has, however, now never looked more certain. The new extended line-up of Baptiste has been attracting good live reviews. The Uptight club is beginning to take off, recently having won a Londonnet Club of the Week Award. With both the single and the album also due out, more new Baptiste recordings will be released this year than on any other occasion. "I'm the most excited now that I've ever been" Gooderham concludes. "I can't wait to get out all the songs we have been playing live. I want to just get them down and get get therm out there. It's been frustrating. We don't even have demos of them or anything. They've been until now just in our heads." Like their namesake, Baptiste are full of ideas and enthusiasm. The forthcoming year promises to be the most important one yet in their development, and the independent music world will be hearing much more from them over the next few months. More information about Baptiste can be found at their website www.baptiste.org.uk

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Baptiste - Interview

Baptiste - Interview

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