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Breathless - Interview

  by Carl Bookstein

published: 29 / 10 / 2012

Breathless - Interview


Carl Bookstein speaks to This Mortal Coil singer Dominic Appleton about his band Breathless' first album in nine years, 'Green to Blue'

Breathless are about to release their eloquent, evocative new double album, ‘Green to Blue’. fine mix of space rock and melancholia bathes the listener in a heartwarming sea of sound. The work is a moving and monumental career high point. Singer Dominic Appleton is joined by guitarist Gary Mundy, bassist Ari Neufeld and Tristram Latimer Sayer on drums and percussion. Breathless plays together with a musical telepathy, creating gorgeous textures and soundscapes. Dominic Appleton was notably a featured singer on the heralded This Mortal Coil’s 1986 second album, ‘Filigree & Shadow’. Appleton is This Mortal Coil originator and former 4AD label head Ivo Watts-Russell’s personal favourite singer - truly high praise. On ‘Green to Blue’, Dominic’s rich vocals are genuinely soul healing, making for a memorable and inspiring listen. Dominic graciously took the time to answer questions for Pennyblackmusic about Breathless, This Mortal Coil and ‘Green to Blue’. PB: The songs on ‘Green to Blue’ are steeped in melancholia, yet I find the music surprisingly very much uplifting. Was that your intention? DA: When I listen to music it tends to be melancholy. Listening to music can be so wonderfully self-indulgent and reflective, just wallowing in the beauty of it or in the emotions it provokes. Of course there’s stuff that makes you want to jump around and I enjoy that too. but I rarely listen to that at home. I like to just sail away with music, and I guess melancholia is key to that and, yes, it is uplifting. So I guess it is an aim in our music to do that and so I’m really pleased you think that. I think melancholia is what we do best. PB: ‘Green to Blue’ is a deep and fascinating double album. Does it feel like a possible career apex moment? DA: At the moment it really does feel like that but I am really keen to press on and write new stuff. Tristram’s just rejoined us and I want to see what effect that has. PB: The opening track on the new album ‘Please Be Happy’ seems to express mixed emotions about lost love - disappointment, yet not without hope. Is that accurate? DA: Absolutely. It’s about breaking up with my boyfriend after sixteen years. It’s very much about the regret and disappointment that the relationship failed, but it’s also about accepting that it’s over and about the future and the strength of love to endure these things. There’s still a really strong bond between us. We’re still very close and just want one another to be happy. PB: ‘Green to Blue’ conjures sounds that range from Pink Floyd like to those that bring to mind My Bloody Valentine. Can you speak to actual musical influences on the new album? DA: Pink Floyd have certainly been an influence. We all have fairly different taste. There’s common ground like Pink Floyd, the Velvet Underground, the Only Ones, Can, the Cocteau Twins and Brian Eno. I shouldn’t really talk for the others but I know Peter Hook and Jah Wobble have been influences on Ari’s bass playing and Tom Verlaine, Neil Young, Maurice Deebank and John Perry are probably near the front of Gary’s record collection. Vocally I tend to like female singers like Elisabeth Fraser and Billie Holiday. I am not a huge fan of many male singers, but I think John Grant has a stunning voice and I’ve listened to David Sylvian since I was a teenager. In fact I was in the Japan fan club when I was fifteen. I guess he must be an influence. A journalist once told me that Ivo asked me to sing for This Mortal Coil because David Sylvian knocked him back (Laughs)! Peter Perrett is probably my favourite lyricist. The lyrics on‘Miss America’by Mary Margaret O’Hara were beautiful, and Bjork has a wonderful way, at times, of letting you know how she feels. Oh, and I think Kate Bush has the most amazing musical imagination. The most played albums on my iPod for the last few years are Scanner’s ‘Pavillon d’Armide’ and Camera Obscura’s ‘My Maudlin Career’. I’ve played both of those to death. The Camera Obscura is pretty poppy but fabulously melancholy too. So there you are, obviously there are lots of influences but no obvious ones to me. At the end of the day we always sound like Breathless even when we don’t want to! PB: The band achieves a rich, lush sound. How long have these members of Breathless been playing together? DA: Our first single,‘Waterland’, came out in 1984 (Laughs) You do the maths! PB: Did actual personal events inspire all the songwriting on ‘Green to Blue’? DA: Yes, my lyrics are autobiographical. I find it really hard to sing about things that aren’t real or I can’t relate to. PB: Was your vocal work with This Mortal Coil highly influential in the sound developed by Breathless? DA: I think we had our own sound before I started singing for This Mortal Coil. Mind you I was very caught up in the music being put out by 4AD at that time. I loved Rema Rema, Mass, early Wolfgang Press and then the Cocteaus and Dead Can Dance. I can’t believe I failed to mention in that preposterously long list of influences that Mark Cox from Mass is my favourite keyboard player. I wonder what he’s doing now. Hearing ‘Song to the Siren’ for the first time was a monumental moment for me, and ‘It’ll End in Tears’(This Mortal Coil’s 1984 debut album-Ed) was stunning. Yes, This Mortal Coil are there in the Breathless melting pot, music that’s so beautiful and fragile. Yes, I really hope those things exist in Breathless’ music . PB: How are the songwriting duties in the band divided? Who writes the lyrics and who creates the music and instrumental compositions? DA: In the past our songs were generally built around guitar and bass ideas brought in by Ari or Gary. We’d jam for hours on those ideas, sailing away and playing with them until songs formed. I think Can and Pink Floyd had similar methods. I’d write the lyrics to the music. Between our last album ‘Behind the Light’ in 2003 and this album, Breathless had a bit of a crisis in that we weren’t happy with what we were doing. Ari suggested we take a long break from one another and when we reconvened we all had to bring two complete songs with us. At this point Martyn Watts left us. So not only were we writing in a different way by bringing complete songs to one another but also the whole album was written without a drummer. PB: How gratifying was the experience of singing on ‘Filigree & Shadow’? DA: I was absolutely thrilled to be asked. As I said earlier, I thought the first album was stunning, and so I was blown away when Ivo first approached me to sing ‘The Jeweller’. I’d never sung someone else’s song before so that was interesting for me. It felt like such a luxurious way to work, everything so considered and, to me, it felt like there were no financial/time pressures to get things done. There probably were those pressures on Ivo, but to me it seemed like his labour of love that he had all the time in the world to indulge. PB: What do you take most to heart about your experience singing with This Mortal Coil? DA: I feel really honoured to have been involved, and I guess it made me more confident about my voice. I started singing because I couldn’t play an instrument very well, and I wanted to make music there and then. That’s why I sang, I really enjoyed doing it but I wasn’t very confident or proud of the noise I made. PB: Is Breathless currently considering touring behind this new album? DA: Yes. We’ll play where we’re asked to. The others love to play live but I really don’t enjoy it. I get nervous and that can make me sing badly which embarrasses me. I’m nervous about it already. In fact after over 25 years singing I’ve just started singing lessons in the hope that it’ll boost my confidence. PB: Have the members of Breathless developed a musical telepathy in playing with each other? ‘Green to Blue’ certainly sounds that way. DA: It’s like telepathy between lovers! We’re very lucky because from the outset we’ve always really loved each others’ ideas. You have to be comfortable and confident to try new ideas in front of one another. PB: Thank you.

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Breathless - Interview

Breathless - Interview

Visitor Comments:-
684 Posted By: Stephen carb, Philly penn.usa on 17 Mar 2014
I think green to blue is their strongest album ever but I can't understand why no one in the states seems to have heard of them .I never tire of the lush and hauntingly beautiful sound of breathless

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