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Mineral - Interview

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 3 / 10 / 2013

Mineral - Interview


Mineral are an electronic quartet with members in both Dublin and Paris. Anthony Strutt chats to front man Craig Walker about his group's debut album 'Plastic Ekohastric', which is being released on former Creation Records owner Alan McGee's new label 359 Music

Mineral formed in Paris in 2012, and consists of Dublin-based Craig Walker and Paris-based musicians, Thierry Fournie, Sophie Armelle and Damien Li. They release their debut album on former Creation Records owner Alan McGee’s new label 359 Music at the end of October. ‘Plastic Ekohrastic’ is their debut album, and – the third release of 359 Music - is an album of modern intelligent dance music. We talked to Craig Walker about his previous bands, Mineral and the recording of ‘Plastic Ekohastric’. PB: Why did you call your new band Mineral? CW: Until recently myself and Thierry Fournie, my musical partner and co-conspirator in Mineral, were signed to the same publisher in France. We met two years ago in Provence on an album project set up by the publisher. We had been drafted in as writers for this project that the label was throwing money at. It was the first (and hopefully last) time either of us had been anywhere near the phoney world of reality TV music-making. It was an awful experience, and I was utterly depressed the whole time I was working on it. It was music by numbers that was orchestrated by executives with no taste. On the last day the big boss arrived wearing shades, took a seat in the main studio and listened to all the songs that had been composed. Awful. But I turned around at one point and noticed Thierry was wearing shades much better than the big boss had on and looked like a true punk. One of Thierry's songs was called ‘Mineral’, and it was the best thing I had heard in years, and we started working three months later on our album. The song ‘Mineral’ became ‘Cynical’ which is on the album and we kept the title as the band's name. The reality show album in Provence never got released. PB: What is your previous band history? CW: I started playing in bands from the age of fifteen, and loved it from the off. I formed Power of Dreams when I was sixteen, and we released four maor label albums. After that I formed a band called Pharmacy. The band signed a big deal with Red Ant Records in the States which was Randy Phillip's label. The night we signed we were sitting in the Hard Rock Cafe in Mayfair with the band, our manager and the boss of the UK label. Good buzz! The label guy left to take a call, and returned with news that the label had filed bankruptcy! Gutted! Pharmacy split, and the album was never recorded. Then I was in Archive for a few years and now Mineral. Not too many bands- I'm loyal! PB: I was aware of Power of Dreams. How long were that band going? I believe you were well loved on Greater London Radio at the time? CW: Power of Dreams lasted eight years from start to finish. We had a good crack at it. Yeah, GLR, man, they loved us! We were in those studios quite a lot! Happy days! PB: Power of Dreams entered the world at a difficult time, just before baggy, grunge and Britpop entered the world. Did that help the band? CW: Yeah, our timing was a bit off. We didn't really fit into any of the scenes that came and went. The changing trends didn't help either. I was also getting into acid house music and that whole subculture. We had some bands like Suede support us and then go on to bigger things, while we continued to play the Old Trout in Windsor. I'm really proud, however, of some of those records. Particularly the first two albums. Some of the songs stand up well, and I don't wince when I hear them. PB: Your mid-90’s band Archive was a trip hop project. Did that do well? CW: I was in Archive for about five years, and recorded three albums with them. Yeah, the band sold a lot of records in France and mainland Europe. We did a lot of touring and played big shows. It was great. Musically it was a whole new world for me, and I learned so much from spending basically six months of the year in the studio working on songs. It was the complete opposite of the punk attitude I had before of rehearsing songs once and recording them quickly. Archive are still going strong and releasing good music today. PB: How did the current band meet? As you are all based in different countries? Did you record the album via the internet or via group sessions in one country? CW: Thierry and I were in his studio in Paris working on songs, and he played me some music by his friend, Sophie Armelle. I was blown away by her voice and we got her into the band. Damien is someone I've worked with over the years, and we brought him in to help with the mixing. All three of them live in Paris, and I'm based in Dublin. We did all the work in Paris along with a ten day writing/recording session way up in the Pyrenees. I go to Paris with ideas, and Thierry has ideas and we start working on them. We play pretty much all the instruments between us. Thierry is a super-talented guy. It's great working with someone who can tell you the history of Baroque music in-between recording guitar tracks. I go home when we have all the parts we need and Thierry works on the songs. He sends me songs as they are developing, and we communicate a lot by Skype. The world is very small these days - I love it! It's possible to work with anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time! Mind-blowing if you are old enough to remember how it was before. PB: Why did you decide to call the album ‘Plastic Ekprastic’? CW: My wife is a writer and introduced me to John Ashbery's ekphrastic poem, ‘Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror’. It's pretty far out stuff. I loved the word "ekphrastic" and what it meant, so we wrote a song called ‘Plastic Ekprastic’ referencing some of our influences. I guess it sums up where we are these days in the digital age. Everything is starting to seep into everything else because of the internet and availability of information. These are interesting times we live in, and who knows where we are headed. PB: The music on this album varies a lot. How would you describe it yourself? CW: I think Alan McGee has nailed it by describing it as “electronic music made by rock n roll people.” We love the Kinks just as much as Kraftwerk, and see no difference in either as songwriters or as social commentators. We purposely tried at the beginning to create our own universe of sound. Pretentious as that sounds it really was the only kind of manifesto we had along with our absolute and resolute belief in good songs. For us, all the great bands we love had a sound that was identifiable with them as much as their songs were. Oasis had it. Aphex Twin and the Smiths had it, as did New Order. We actually had two albums worth of material to choose from. I think we were successful in creating our own universe, as varied as it is. The album takes you on a trip. We hope people enjoy the ride! PB: ‘Atoms’ is a stand out track. How did that evolve? CW: Thierry is originally from Toulouse and he grew up partly in the Pyrenees mountains. His family still have this really beautiful old house there, where we spent ten days recording/writing at the end of last winter. We had a friend of Thierry's, who works at the Toulouse Music University, bring a van load of weird instruments, some of which were medieval and crazy looking, and we wrote/recorded ‘Atoms’ during this time. The snow on the Pyrenees was melting more each day, and we could feel spring creeping in. It was beautiful. It was this setting that really inspired the song. It was creative freedom absolutely. We plan to go back soon for some work on the next album. It's the greatest location I've ever recorded in. PB: How did Alan McGee discover you? CW: I've known Alan since I was eighteen. We've stayed in touch over the years and had done some DJ'ing gigs together in Greece and Ireland. I wasn't surprised that he announced he was getting back into the game as I always knew he was still as passionate about music as he had ever been. He was just sick of the business side and the bullshitters and all that blah blah. I sent him the almost finished Mineral album demos on a Saturday,and he called me on the Monday and within five minutes we were signed. Pure McGee! I'm thrilled to finally get a chance to work with Alan and the Cherry Red guys! I'm buzzing, as is the band! I feel grateful to be working with people who care about music and art. It's great. PB: Do you have any plans for live work? CW: Absolutely, yeah! We play our first London show on November 9th at This Feeling in Hackney. We have shows in France also coming up in November and December, and we play Belgium and London again, I believe . PB: And, lastly, how close are you and the rest of the acts on 359 Music? CW: Well, everyone needs a hero in this life, and Alan is that hero to most of us on the label, I would say. He has always got the best albums out of all the artists he has worked with, and that's a powerful feat that doesn't go unnoticed. Alan sends us all mad photos from Neil Young shows saying, "Neil Young is the still the ultimate punk and he's almost seventy." I've only had email connection with the other artists on the label so far, but they are all cool, talented people and everyone is genuinely excited -willing each other on which is a great thing. Artists need to stick together these days. It's important. The powers that be would like nothing more than the absolute opposite! Fight the power! PB: Thank you.

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Mineral - Interview

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