# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Last Harbour - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 10 / 8 / 2002

Last Harbour - Interview


Melancholic, brooding and thoughtful , Last Harbour have drawn comparisions with Arab Strap, Nick Cave, Low and Tindersticks. John Clarkson speaks to the band about their recently released debut full-length album 'The Host of Wild Creatures'

First formed in 1998, Last Harbour are a revolving Manchester-based collective that is focused around vocalist Kev Craig and guitarist David Armes. Described by one journalist as journeying into "regret, melancholy, heartache and other darker emotions", Last Harbour have drawn comparisions with other such similarly experimental acts as Arab Strap, Nick Cave, Low, Michael Nyman, Will Oldham, the Swans and Tindersticks, and have played support dates with the Dirty Three, the Telstar Ponies and Boxhead Ensemble. Lauded by both the public and critics alike , Last Harbour have received praise for Armes' methodical acoustic guitar work, Craig's enrichened baritone vocals and its inventive use of keyboards, piano and strings. The group currently consists, as well as Craig and Armes, of Gina Murphy on keyboards and secondary vocals and Sarah Kemp on violin, and put out its debut full-length CD, 'The Host of Wild Creatures', its first release in this line-up, in early August. Last Harbour have released two other recordings also. The first 'Hidden Songs', a four song 7" vinyl EP, which featured original members, violinist Hilary Caprini and drummer Grant Painter, came out in a limited edtion of 500 copies on the Norwich-based label, Liquefaction. The second, 'An Empty Box is Inside My Heart', a CD mini album, was released at the end of last year, and, with Armes and Craig backed by the three members of a Leicester group, Lazarus Clamp, was recorded in a two hour session at an Amsterdam radio station. 'The Host of Wild Creatures’, and ’An Empty Box is Inside My Heart,’ have both been released on the French label, Alice in Wonder. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Last Harbour about the new album, its back catalogue and its unusual touring plans for later this year. The band opted to do the interview collectively by e-mail. PB : Why did you decide to call your new album ‘The Host of Wild Creatures’ ? LH : We were looking for a suitable name for the album, going through lists of possibles and that was the one that stuck, that summed up some of the themes and atmospheres we wanted to look at in the album. The original quote comes from 'Orpheus in the Underworld'. 'Host' is quite an ambiguous word in this sense. We'd like people to decide upon which of the three meanings they like. PB : Both 'The Host of Wild Creatures’ and ’An Empty Box is Inside My Heart’ have been released on the French label, Alice in Wonder. Why did you decide to release these CDs on Alice in Wonder, rather than perhaps something nearer home ? LH : It was simply a case of them being interested in us and wanting to get to work straight away. We have a strong work ethic and we’re not willing to wait around while other people spend aeons getting their houses in order. It’s better to be active in some way than sat on your hands always waiting for something to come to you. PB : ‘An Empty Box Is My Heart’ was recorded quickly in Holland after you were flown to Amsterdam to do a recording session for a Dutch radio station. Did you expect to come back with an mini album ? Can you say more about this session ? LH : The Amsterdam session was a joy to do. The band was just Kev and David at the time as Hilary and Grant were busy having a baby. So, the weekend before we went over we played for about seven hours with three friends from a Leicester band - Lazarus Clamp; Michael, guitar; Huw, drums; Tom; violin. It worked straight away because they’re such great players. We recorded the session in two hours in Amsterdam and played the VPRO Amstel festival the same evening (same songs, looser, more ragged due to greater alcohol intake). Then we all went our separate ways and didn’t think about it again until six months later when Yann at Alice In Wonder heard our contribution to VPRO’s Christmas album and wanted to release the session. It’s that simple and we never expected to end up with a record. Because it was so fast It feels pretty special, but also strange, looking back on it. It became like a postcard sent to yourself, to remind you what a good time you were having. PB : ’Where was “The Host of Wild Creatures’ recorded ? How long did those sessions take? Was it longer ? LH : It was recorded over about a six month period on an 8 track machine in Manchester, Nottingham, Salford (in an incredible sounding wood-pannelled room) and a shack in a country park outside Stockport. We just grabbed time wherever we could and it was quite a dislocated process. We were all amazed that the record ended up with some level of coherence. PB : ’The Host of Wild Creatures’ seems to be a far more complex and detailed album than either of your previous two offerings. Were you aiming for that when you recorded the album ? LH : Completely. We wanted more from this album. This was the first time we knew that our recording was for a specific purpose and not just random. The liberating feeling of creating an artefact from scratch is incredibly powerful. We felt like we could do whatever we wanted with the tools at our disposal and our ambition was only held in check by the limitations of our equipment. The aim was to push ourselves, push our abilities, push our skills of arrangement, writing, playing... We were trying to make the album a complete work to be seen as a whole, rather than capturing a live performance and the idea was to incorporate a lot of ideas without losing control or coherence; ie, include found sounds as an inherent part of the music or challenge ourselves to create a song/piece each on our own (which ended up in practice as 'Housewarming Song', 'From The Sea' and 'Bookseller Song'). PB : The album, like its precessor, is “ a journey into regret, melancholy, heartache and other darker emotions.” Where do you get your inspiration for your lyrics from, and how much of it comes from personal experience ? LH : All the lyrics are narratives of some description. Like any narrative, the sources have to be coerced in some fashion to form a cohesive whole. On some of the tracks, the music was in place first and the words just seemed to appear from the interplay of the other instruments, certain notes and progressions intimating moods which in turn suggest a scene or part of a story. These slowly get built into the lyrics. Kind of in a cinematic fashion. Other tracks had more prepared words ready for them. Every creation bears the mark of it's creator. Not sure if that works the other way around. PB : The current line-up of the group consists of Gina Murphy, Sarah Kemp. David Armes and Kev Craig. How long have you been playing together in this line-up? Does the group have any other current additional members ? Who else appeared on “The Host of Wild Creatures’ ? LH : It has been this core of people since just before Christmas 2000. Others have come and gone but nothing is ever etched in stone. The other people on this record are Huw McPherson (drums), Alex Hannan (violin and guitar), Vanessa Lewis (oboe) & James Youngjohns (lap & pedal steel) - we’d love to do something again with all of them. There are people who we can call on when they’re available and that feels really good. We’ve learnt to relax about who’s playing when and what and just enjoy those moments when it all works. Everyone has their personal lives outside of this. PB : You have said in the past that the band brings all its members individual personalities into the music. How does the group write its songs ? Is there a standard pattern, or is every one different ? LH : By the third bottle we all tune in. Or a longer answer might be: Without going into specifics, we don’t have any standard patterns. The day you write from a pattern is the day to stop and learn something new. The point is that this band is meant to be a way to express what you can’t express any other way and there’s no one right way to do that. You can start with a whole concept for song and be very clear how it will progress and what the instrumentation should be or you can all sit down and go back and forth over two chords til that special something clicks. Ultimately it’s some kind of balance between instinct and intellect, between having raw ideas and shaping or controlling them in some way. But then your question ‘how?’ melts into ‘why?’ and the answers spread out further from there. PB : The group has drawn comparisions with a whole multitude of bands inlcuding Arab Strap, Black Heart Procession, Nick Cave, Dirty Three, Low, Michael Nyman, will Oldham, the Swans and Tindersticks. What do you see your influences as though ? What sort of thing can be found in individual members’ record collections ? LH : We could reel off bands we like but influences aren’t just musical. What makes somebody come home exhausted after a day at work and try to create something? We don’t know. Of those bands you mention, Dirty Three, Swans and Low are pretty important but you have to realise we’re not just one person; it’s a whole bunch of different ideas and personalities. You could go from there to Tom Waits, Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Smog (which might make distant musical sense) and then to hardcore gigs, orchestral concerts, doing lights in North-East working men’s clubs, playing Irish reels, Charles Bukowski, Captain Beefheart, Krysztof Kiewslowski films, graphic novels, the Canadian writer Anne Michaels... Some of us like these things, some don’t, but it all adds into the band in some small way. Some of us feel like they've lost touch with so much music and that they’re falling through time, but you shouldn’t read too much into that. PB : The group’s live shows to date have been fairly rare, yet you have drawn some pretty spectacular support slots with, among others, the Dirty Three, the Telstar Ponies and Boxhead Ensemble. Has it until now been a case of less being more ? LH : We know that not everyone is going to like what we do. We guess that it can be an acquired taste. It would be foolish and wasteful to play some of the gigs we could have played, because we wouldn't have enjoyed it and neither would anyone else. We learnt that lesson early and it's worked just fine for us so far. We’re certainly not precious but you just have to be careful because it’s so much effort doing gigs. PB : You are going to play a special Elvis night show soon in Manchester to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the King’s death. Which Elvis covers might we expect to hear from that night ? LH : There's something about 'Burning Love'. A quality that can so easily be forgotten amongst the "Elvisness" of the track. There is a simply beauty to it. It's all too easy to be struck by the surface glitz of his career and the lazy, reproduced, repackaged, matching curtains, pillow-case and bed-spread reproduction image of Mr Presley, which ignores the quality of his later work. It’s something like a degree of desperation in his desire to communicate his grand ideas. PB : You’re also hoping to tour Britain later in the year. You’ve said in the past that you would like to combine gigs with “ slide show/films, theatre and social club bingo”. What can we really expect from these ? LH : If we can add more stuff to the live show and make it work and it improves the whole, then we'll try and do it. We just want to try a little harder without making it logistically impossible. Kev makes little films and we have other friends who make films so it would be good to show them. One friend bought a load of old super-8 porn films and just edited out all the specific action so it’s just a great sequence of people either ‘about to’ or ‘just have’. We’d like it to be something different from a band just playing song after song - powerful as that can be - so that it’s more creative for us. We don't think we'll end up in a nightmare of fake hangings and Gwar-style inflatables and monster costumes. Although there is the "socially aware" concept album in the pipe-line which may include a marrionette rock opera. With pyrotechnics. And exploding guitars, naturally. PB : Thank you More information about Last Harbour can be found at www.lastharbour.co.uk

Picture Gallery:-
Last Harbour - Interview

Last Harbour - Interview

Last Harbour - Interview

Post A Comment

your name
ie London, UK
Check box to submit


Interview (2012)
Last Harbour - Interview
In our fourth interview with them, John Clarkson talks to Kev Craig, the front man with Manchester alternative rock collective Last Harbour, who will be playing our next Pennyblackmusic Bands' Night', about their new album, 'Your Heart, It Carries the Sound', which was recorded in a church
Interview (2010)
Interview (2008)

most viewed articles

most viewed reviews

Pennyblackmusic Regular Contributors