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Anthony Reynolds - Interview Part 2

  by John Clarkson

published: 21 / 2 / 2011

Anthony Reynolds - Interview Part 2


...while in the second part he speaks about their third album, 'the End of the Way It's Always Been', his solo career and his return to playing live after an absence of eight years

3. Steamin’(‘Fall in Love With Me Again’ and ‘Yuka’s Life’) PB: Two of the more obscure songs that you have put on ‘Life’s Too Long’ are ‘Fall in Love With Me Again’ and ‘Yuka’s Life’. What are those songs about? Are they in the same sort of vein as the rest of ‘The Jazz Age’? AR: No, they are not. When you have been making music and then someone pays you to go into the studio you can’t believe your luck at first. You would be amazed though at how quickly that feeling wanes. It is not so much that you start taking the record label for granted - I don’t think that I ever took it for granted – but you loosen up a little and then you start experimenting more because you've been in the studio before and you're likely to be in it again. It was around that period for me that recording got really interesting. ‘Fall in Love With Me Again’ was recorded as a demo as part of ‘The Jazz Age’ demo sessions. What I wanted to do was write an Algerian bar band song or my idea of one. It turned out great for a demo, it has a really nice groove and the strings are simple and strong. It is not like anything else we did and ‘Yuka’s Life’ was written in the voice of a Japanese girl and was also originally a demo, recorded at Britannia row where all the Joy Division tunes were done amongst others…making demos are a lot more fun than actual proper recording sessions sometimes. I mixed ‘Yuka's Life’ alone with the engineer and that was the most fun mixing I ever had except for '…of Lights'. There were so many different influences at work on Jack that you couldn’t show them all on an album without it sounding like a compilation album. Everyone in the group had such wide ranging and passionate tastes. With these songs that were going to be B sides you could, however, really experiment. Some of the group liked that late 80’s/early 90’s vibe and shoegazing bands like Ride and Slowdive. Matthew loved Mudhoney and walls of guitar. Everyone seemed to like Spiritualized and a lot of the guys liked Spacemen 3 too. On a song like ‘Yuka’s Life’, which wasn’t going to be on the album, we could do what the hell we liked and it has a fifteen minute fade out of wall of guitar mixed in with samples from a Hector Zazou album about Rimbaud. Great fun. Neither of those tracks bear much relation to the album as I like things to be thematically whole. But as stand alone tracks they have a lot of worth to me. 4. ‘How to Make Love Part One (‘Morning Light’), ‘To Stars’ (‘Blue Party’,‘Sad in the Sun’) and ‘Romantic’ (‘Winterpollen’) PB: You once described Jacques as being “Jack’s slighter older, eccentric brother.“ Do you still see it that way? AR: No, I would put it the other way round now really. The whole point of Jack was that the songs were co-writes between me and Matthew. What I quickly found out, however, and what was mildly depressing for me was how much the songs depended on production in terms of how people heard them and related to them. I had no money to record the first Jacques album, but I didn’t care. I was just up for it. Momus was producing it at my request and that was a thrill for me as I'd been a fan. There was a mix up though in our intents. I wanted him to make the album sound like this 'Poison Girlfriend' album I'd heard by a Japanese girl he'd produced. But I think, mistakenly he was trying to make it sound a bit more like -Jack. I'm not sure we ever even talked too much about a common objective. The whole thing was done in a week and that included writing in the studio. This was the first time I began writing on cocaine. Some of those songs, however, while they don’t sound so good in those particular versions, are not any less of a song than, say, ‘Three O’Clock in the Morning’ or 'F.U' was. It is just that they had less time and attention and resources put into them and that kind of upset me when I realised that at least to a certain degree a song was only as a good as the money that I could get to record it. I wouldn’t say that Jacques is the older brother. I would say that Jacques is like the half brother, mutant to whoever lived within the dry wall or the attic of the house. PB: What was Matthew’s role in Jacques? You have said that Jack was about the songwriting between you and Matthew, but he was involved in Jacques as well. AR: He was. I was asked this question years ago and I said, “Jack is a collaboration between me and Matthew Scott. Jacques is a collaboration between me and anyone else including Matthew Scott.” It was all a bit of head fuck really. Jacques, however were not as lead guitar based as Jack were. PB: Was that the first time with Jacques that you had actually written songs on your own? AR: No, I had been writing songs on my own since I was thirteen and I had been in groups before Jack in which I wrote all the songs. Then I hooked up with Matthew and the only way that I could work with him was if he had an equal share. That said that wasn’t enough because I had to put Scott/Reynolds on the song credits - in that order - to appease him! He shouldn’t have been insecure as he was a brilliant, brilliant composer and guitarist, but he was insecure in some ways about his talent. No, actually I don't think that's true. I think he was wary of going public with the gift he had and was maybe worried that it'd be overshadowed by my contribution. In himself he knew he was good, no doubt about it. And so did I. I did write a few songs that got recorded on my own at the time of ‘Pioneer Soundtracks’ such as ‘F.U.' and I wrote B sides like ‘The Ballad of Misery and Heaven’ and ‘Ballad for a Beautiful Blonde Eye’, both of which appeared on the ‘White Jazz’ single. They again weren’t rich production jobs, they were throwaways actually - there was a sense that just after ‘Pioneer Soundtracks’, that Too Pure didn't want to spend any more money until they'd seen what it would do. So we recorded them on four track in an attic -a nice chap's attic, a fellow called Justin Spear - but they are good songs despite the budget production. Real curios. It started very quickly to get difficult for Matthew and I to get together and to write. We'd been doing so since 1992, but we didn’t get on very well socially. We had an odd relationship. It was like a marriage that was just purely justified by the sex (Laughs),the sex being the song writing. Then to have sex you have to be at least in the same room as someone and he started very early on not wanting to go on tours or turn up at rehearsals. It soured incredibly quickly. He would always be the last guy that we picked up to go on tour. He wouldn’t bother getting out of bed. He just wouldn’t come around when he was supposed to and so by default I would be writing songs on my own and I just needed an outlet for those songs, which was one of the reasons why I formed Jacques. I took it personally then but have since realised that in his heart he never truly wanted to work with anybody else ; it wasn't just me. The fact that he's done nothing since Jack split is the proof I guess. We had everything set up for us- Space, time, money - we were signed as songwriters to Warner Chappell - and he still couldn't be arsed. In fact he'd made more effort when we were just two more wannabees writing for the craic of it, on the dole in Grangetown, Cardiff… We got to a stage where we were no longer writing together and then of course you can guess what happened. By 1997 I was beginning to think, “Well, I have written songs that are better than the songs that he and I have written because we are not really trying anymore.” The major crux of the group was me and him and it was getting really frustrating. I was writing to tapes he'd pass on and was often relieved when he didn't show up as it was so uncomfortable when he did. This happened very quickly. Immediately after we recorded the first album in fact. By the time it was out, in the summer of 1996, me and he had a problem writing together based on the fact that he didn't want to seem to do it. I remember a rehearsal session where he didn't show and I said, “Fuck it! We'll write without him, as a group” and we tried and it was crap. Just extra CD track sounding stuff. So I thought, “Well, I have a bunch of songs ready I think are good but what's the point of rehearsing them with the group, because when he does turn up he'll refuse to play on it because it's not a co-write?” It was as heartbreaking as it was infuriating and I felt very alone - no one else voiced any concern probably because they had been excluded from the writing credits in the first place. And that wasn't so much to do with money but the fact that I wanted the group to be fuelled by a great - hopefully- songwrtiing partnership. Y'know Lennon/McCartney/Goff/King/Lieber/Stoller/Jagger/Richards/Morrissey/Marr…Reynolds/Scott! Imagine Keith Richards and Mick Jagger if they weren’t making millions how far would they have gone. If their first three albums hadn’t done anything - or more to the point their first few albums with original songs on - I doubt they would be still together. They had a similarly tortured relationship. I was envious of Morrissey because I always got a sense that Johnny Marr as well as being a brilliant guitarist was a reliable person. I felt the same too about David Bowie with Mick Ronson, not that Ronson wrote the tunes… I guess Butler and Anderson didn't work out though… Getting back to Jacques - it became a convenient outlet for me quite quickly and developed into a valid means of expression outside the politics and struggles of Jack. Some people preferred it to Jack and I wish I'd made it more distinct from my main group. But ‘Winterpollen’ was notable as it was one of the first tunes I recorded where I started to think I could sing a bit… 5. ‘The End of the Way It’s Always Been’ (‘The Emperor of New London’, ‘Disco Café Society’ and ‘Sleepin’ Makes Me Thirsty’) PB: On ‘The End of the Way It’s Always Been’ you took yourself off lead vocals and replaced yourself with the author Dan Fante on ‘The Emperor of New London’ and the writer and musician Kirk Lake on part of the title track. Why did you do that? Was it just out of desire to see how your songs sounded with someone else singing them? AR: I had done some writing for a girl called Grace just prior to that. I can’t remember her full name. She was in a band and part of a pop project I put together for Warner's. It was just a thrill having someone else singing my songs, my words. I had also become not so much depressed, but disillusioned by the lack of commercial success Jack had had. Maybe not even commercial success as such but the lack of commercial exposure. Especially in contrast to the critical notices we'd got ; Album of the month in ‘Uncut’, albums of the week in ‘The Guardian’, ‘Melody Maker’,‘The Times’ etc. If I am honest with myself, after ‘The Jazz Age’,there was a bit of me that was thinking “Fuck it” and that maybe there was something about my voice, something about it that doesn’t lend itself well to the radio - Just like Robert Wyatt’s doesn’t or David Sylvian’s and Tom Waits’ voices don’t. That is of course not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but there was a sense that it was going to get harder to get money to record if our songs weren't generating any money. And without TV and radio, unless you're exceptionally lucky, you don't sell. And the idea of not being able to record and release records terrified me then in a way it doesn’t now. But even sonically it was interesting to put Dan Fante's voice on a track ; just on a musical level it was more interesting. But I was also taking myself away from Jack. It also became on that third Jack album really, really difficult to work with Matthew because we had decided to make the album together in our own studio and that meant he was the producer. It was difficult enough for him and I to get together to write songs and to have him produce it was really hard, although I liked the result mostly. It was very, very wearying for me though. Even on a practical level. We found a space that was perfect for our studio and it just happened to be next to our friend James Cook’s studio - in an old East London mental hospital opposite my Dalston flat. But Matthew didn't like the idea that this place was “in my hood.” So we had to get another place miles from me and closer to him. What happened then was that we'd arrange to meet to record and he sometimes wouldn't show up. This would not only fuck up that night's recording session but also the next because I'd be furious and we'd have to work that out. It was horrendous. Still, we finished it and he did a good job. Most of the songs were written to tapes and that was okay. In fact it suited the mood and concept of the album better that way. I was ecstatic when I heard some of the music he sent - 'Sometimes', and the title track in particular.I got to go to New York and LA for the first time during the recording of it and we toured to promote it and that was a wonderful tour. London, France, Athens, Spain…the greatest group I'd ever been in. We had new musicians that I really vibed on and who I still work with to this today. Of the old group I missed George; he was in a way the heart of Jack in that previous incarnation but it was a wonderful musical tour and we use versions from this band on ‘Life's Too Long’; 'Lolita Elle' is from a humid Paris session for instance. I knew Matthew and I couldn't continue. We'd taken it as far as our sanity could afford. As a poetic ending I arranged our last gig to be where it had started in Cardiff and then broke up almost immediately afterwards. The day after I got a train to Hove from Wales to meet Vashti Bunyan who was recording one of my songs with Simon Raymonde. It felt like a new, long awaited beginning for me. 6. 'Neu York'(‘If July Were a Kingdom’) PB: From that you went on to record ‘Neu York’. Is it true that you released it on a fan’s label in the United States? AR: When I talk about some of these albums, I often talk about some of the downsides of making them. At the end of the day all things are a matter of triumph as far as I am concerned because I have got to do it. I have got friends who started out at the same time as me and who have never even released a cassette single, while I have got an audience, a small audience admittedly, but there has been a point to my purpose. I also do love making music just for the sake of it. It is my way of painting, I guess. Almost anything is a struggle, but that album, ‘Neu York’, for all its lo-fi sound, was recorded in fantastic circumstances. A much happier experience than the previous Jack album - not that that's the point. I had moved with my partner from war torn East London to Shropshire and I was living in a beautiful house in a beautiful rural landscape. I had also got a lovely new publishing deal with Rykomusic - as a solo writer - and it was a glorious time for me. We had seven cats at one point and had two horses and I also bought a studio off eBay. I bought an eight track Tascam reel to reel and keyboards, samplers and drum machines from car boot sales. I also bought loads of crappy albums which I sampled. I bought lots of kids’ toys and toy pianos and gizmos. Then this guy in America, a fan called Gregg Weiss, gave me four grand to make an album on his own label. Four grand is nothing compared to the Jack budgets, but this time it was just me mostly with no time restrictions and it was wonderful. Julian Simmons and Fiona Brice came down to contribute keyboards and violin and it was a lovely way to work. My partner at the time Anna even did a vocal. I recorded that album on analogue tape and it has a homely, soft organic feel. PB: There is crackling sound on ‘If July Were a Kingdom’. It sounds like something on an old vinyl record. AR: That was a sample that I took, a lift of the drum box from Japan’s 'Despair' from the 'Quiet life album'. I wanted a kind of lunar quality to the song to offset the romanticism of it. At the end of ‘Love to Love’, another song on the record you can hear the cat jumping on my lap and purring. There is a song called ‘Dear Melvin’ which is just full of creaks and air and the distant sound of the TV downstairs. I didn't want such a barrier between my home life and recording life. There was no real record company as such. It was just a fan who had some money to spend and had no idea how to market it, but it was a lot of fun and it was a lot better than I thought that it should be. It was a good exercise for me too, technically. It is funny but when I was a teenager I would spend hours in my bedroom recording between two tape decks but I had done no hands on production work throughout my professional recording career until ‘Neu York’. That said, it wasn't high quality enough to stand as my debut album. It was more a sketchbook. I knew it would go even further under the radar than usual and I was quite happy with that. And that's why I only used my first name for it… 7. ‘Io Bevo’ with Hollowblue PB: You recorded a single with the Tuscany-based post rock band, Hollowblue? How did you become involved with them? AR: Their front man, Gianluca Maria Sorace, was a fan of Jack’s records. He had seen us by accident. He was in London and walking along Cork Street with his girlfriend and we were doing a gig there in 1999 at a place called Legends and there on the billboard outside it said “Tonight. Appearing live on stage...Jack featuring Anthony Reynolds! In person!.” He was already a fan and was like to his girlfriend, “Oh my God! We have got to see that.” Fate I guess. That was the start of it. He put that gig in its entirety up on the web and….I didn’t have e-mail until 2000, but we had Broadband in Shropshire and when I was there Gianluca wrote to me, sending me the Legends link and saying hello. He also sent some of his own songs which I liked immediately. I suggested a collaboration and he sent me a file with the tune for ‘Io Bevo’. I loved it. He told me that he had tried to write something like ‘My World Versus Your World’. It didn’t sound like that to me, but I loved the music. I love Ennio Morricone and it had that kind of vibe, and I wrote some lyrics and a melody for it really quickly. I thought that it would be fun to give it an Italian title, ‘I Drink’ (‘Io Bevo’). Gianluca was really excited about it and then he said, “Now we’re going to make a video and I want you to come over and record it and do a show as a guest singer.” I'd only played Italy once before, in Bologna, which was great - with Jack - and I'd been to Italy as a child and I had very romantic notions of it, I loved the culture and its history. So I went over, saw Tuscany for the first time and Florence….and met a beautiful man and his world. The trip was very well arranged and efficient. I was impressed. We have become friends and done a lot of recording together and I introduced him to Dan Fante and they've done good work together and we’re going to do some more soon. It is a joy working with him. We played Paris together last week and it was a very warm, fun and creative time. One of the things that I enjoyed post Jack was being recognised as a vocalist. There was one song, ‘Summercries’, which I did with the Moscow Philharmonic and Franck Roussel and I can’t tell you what it meant to do that and to even to be thought of a singer. I didn’t really rate myself as a vocalist. I wasn’t Marvin Gaye. I wasn’t Nina Simone or even a David Bowie and it meant a lot to be recognised as a singer finally. I always felt derided in Jack as a singer - by the rest of the band - it was an unexpected and helpful and warm thing to feel a little appreciated for my efforts after that group. It was like a secret fantasy surfacing “Shit! Maybe I can sing,” because I've always loved a good singer with a good voice you know - Sinatra, Pavarotti, Mario Lanza as well as great stylists like Brel, Cohen, Aznavour and Nick Drake, David Byrne et al. 8. ‘Life’s Too Long’ PB: You have just recorded the title track, ‘Life’s Too Long’, in Athens. What kind of song is that? AR: That is my Boyzone soul ballad (Laughs). This guy called Dimitris Papaspyropoulos sent me some music, which is how a lot of my music now comes about. People get in touch and send me music, and this guy Dimitris sent me some pieces and I loved them. They reminded me of latter day Billy Mackenzie, but this song sounded like a massive ballad. I do like big songs and I do like soul stuff. If I like a bit of music, I like it. I don’t care what the genre is. The compilation ends with this big statement but just before it will be ‘Life is All There Is’, a weird, scary piecewhich I recorded with Colin Wilson…both are in me, you know? I can have both. I enjoy Erik Satie's ‘Gymnopédie No.1’ and I enjoy Motorhead's 'Ace of Spades'. But I believe in production, my kind of music needs it. I think of songs as sperm and production as the semen they swim in. You need the production to get my songs across- usually. So we begin with a bog production and end with one with all sorts in-between. We are just doing the artwork for the album now. I didn’t want the usual slew of archive photos, so we have got an illustrator called Virginia Head-Roberts to come in. How it works is I give her a photo from a different period in my career. Then I will tell her about what happened to me during that period and she will give us a drawing of that scenario, so she is illustrating things that I went through which were never photographed in these wonderful drawings that she does. So it’s a kind of mythologized account of my life which is of course, what all lives are. PB: Finally who will you be bringing with you when you headline the Pennyblackmusic Bands Night on March 26th? AR: I am bringing a lovely musician called Julian Simmons. He produced ‘British Ballads’ and has also produced a lot of hip and happening young groups that I know nothing about. He was also in Jack on the last tour. He'll be playing piano at this gig. Then there is Gina Harcourt on violin, and I will also be bringing a friend from Cardiff called Ed Mugford who is going to play acoustic. Maybe my old pal Doug Thorp who played on 'To Stars' will also join us. The last time that I did these songs in London was years ago in 2002 at the Arts Café on Jack’s last tour. These are lovely musicians and we are going to be doing songs from all periods of my career. I am sober now before shows (although not necessarily after!)and now that I have stopped being intoxicated during gigs I have found that I that the songs do the work on their own. I don’t have to do all the work as they have own power and strength. Booze just got in the way of this and made it all harder. It only took me about an ocean of Chivas and twenty years to figure this out…. PB: Thank you. The photographs that accompany the second part of this interview were taken as follows: 1. Paris 2011 by Cathy Boyce 2 Virginia Head Roberts 2011 3. London 2000 by Joe Dilworth 4. Reading 1997 with Matthew Scott 5. Swansea 2010 by Cathy Boyce.

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Anthony Reynolds - Interview Part 2

Anthony Reynolds - Interview Part 2

Anthony Reynolds - Interview Part 2

Visitor Comments:-
446 Posted By: Robert B. Davis, Los Estados Unidos on 20 Jun 2011
Thanks for sharing, Anthony, insights on these great songs. Grade A, tier one, top notch, creme-de-la-creme and the could go on forever. Hope to see you on a bright lit billboard this summer somewhere whilst traveling through Italy/Greece. Hell, I'd take a dull lit sign or even no sign at all.

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Interview Part 1 (2011)
Anthony Reynolds - Interview Part 1
In the first part of a two part interview, Pennyblackmusic Bands Night headliner Anthony Reynolds, who will be releasing a double CD retrospective 'Life's Too Long' in April, chats to John Clarkson about his former band Jack's first two albums, 'Pioneer Soundtracks' and 'The Jazz Age'
Interview (2010)
Interview (2007)


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