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Union Of Knives - Interview

  by Cila Warncke

published: 24 / 12 / 2020

Union Of Knives - Interview


Glaswegian musician Chris Gordon talks to Cila Warncke about the return of his electronic project Union of Knives after an absence of almost fifteen years.

When Union of Knives released 'Violence & Birdsong' in 2006 its sinuous bass and scuzzy guitars duelling over danceable beats fitted neatly into a world of warehouse parties and comedown Mondays. That era faded but the songs stuck: the string-adorned "I Decline" that shimmers like an electrified Verve, the fuzzed-out boogie of "Evil Has Never" or the indie-meets-Massive Attack ballad, "Taste for Harmony". A decade and a half later, chief blade Chris Gordon is on the verge of releasing a new Union Of Knives album with co-conspirators Peter Kelly and Ant Thomaz. In the interim, he has continued unabated a musical career that began in the early 90s with Kerrang! favourite Baby Chaos and encompasses multiple bands, composing for adverts, TV and film, and producing numerous other artists. The new album, slated for an early 2021 release, is heralded by singles including 'A Tall Tale' featuring Ladytron’s Helen Marnie. Why return to Union of Knives after so many years? "A few years ago we came back to Baby Chaos and discovered there were still a lot of hardcore fans," he said. "I had a feeling that might be true with Union of Knives so, knowing I was doing something similar, it made sense to reconnect. ['Violence & Birdsong'] wasn’t huge but it touched a lot of people." Gordon spoke to Pennyblackmusic from his Glasgow studio, after postponing the interview to walk a friend’s dog. During the conversation he laughed regularly and heartily, spoke often and affectionately of his children, and bridled at the line of questioning: "I hardly listen to music," he said. "In the studio, when I'm working, sure. But almost never in the house. The only time... is in the car with my kids, who invariably say my music is fucking rubbish." Protest and critical progeny notwithstanding, Gordon gamely rifled his mental jukebox to share the songs that mark his moods. What do you listen to when... 1. You’re happy? The irony of that question is exemplified by car journeys with my kids [when we take turns putting on tunes]. My son will say, "why do all the songs you like sound so sad?" but they’re not sad to me. Jackie Wilson's '(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher' is obviously a happy song but has a deep spiritual feeling. 2. You’re angry? There's only one place to go, Rage Against the Machine. Take your pick, anything off the [eponymous] first album. Like 'Killing in the Name' – that "fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me" is the song for the youth in you, the defiance. 3. You’re celebrating? Something by Prince – maybe 'Kiss'. That's the kind of thing, when you're having a party you think, "what can I put on that everyone will dance to?" Prince was formative in my musical youth, which was way more varied than [my] ending up in a grungy band like Baby Chaos would suggest. Maybe that’s an explanation for how things developed. 4. You need inspiration? Sigur Rós. I came in on their second ['Ágaetis Byrjun'] or third album ['( )']. The scope, the feeling, the instrumentation, the way they were mutating sounds, drew me in. It was totally inspirational. It felt organic. 5. You're on a road trip? My youngest daughter will make us listen to Ariana Grande. My son has better taste, he introduced me to Portugal. The Man, 'Feel It Still'. I said my kids didn’t listen to enough music, didn't know enough. But as soon as we started on Spotify I realised they knew way more than I did. My [older] daughter introduced me to Nothing But Thieves' 'Is Everybody Going Crazy?' This happens on, like, one car journey. I went out on a limb for 'I Want You to Want Me' by Cheap Trick. It’s a great song but the production was so limp I found myself apologising to the kids. They slagged me off for weeks. 6. You’re heartbroken? The first song on Guillemots' debut album, 'Little Bear'. That's one of my favourite pieces of music ever. On any day, I could listen and it would induce tears. To me, it just – it expresses, it pulls a heart-string, it's a feeling of total heartbreak. Unlike my son, I find that quite appealing. 7. It’s 3am? Not that I'm often awake at 3am, but podcasts. I couldn't abide the radio any more. Musically, there was nothing of interest. Podcasts restored my faith that decent conversations were happening in the world, as opposed to snippy exchanges. It has become a total fascination, listening to long-form conversations between people who disagree with each other in the most reasonable way possible. Union of Knives singles 'High on Account of 0' and 'A Tall Tale' are out now.

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Union Of Knives - Interview

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