Incendiary interview Nick Diamonds from Islands.

"Well Paul Simon's Graceland that was a big influence, Fleetwood Mac, The Travelling Wilberrries, pretty much straightforward pop. My parent's weren't intellectually out there stuff like Can… but that trickles down. You know the door is opened and then you walk through it… "


Incendiary interview Nick Diamonds from Islands.


IN: Did you see the rain yesterday?


ND: No, we heard about it though. You get wet?


IN: It was bonkers... I've never seen a flash flood like it. The fire engines were out and everything. But we showed an intrepid spirit.


ND: Yeah you gotta dive into it. Anyway you're from England, you should be used to rain!


IN: I had never had the opportunity to see you live before today, though I love your LP, Return to the Sea. You sound like Amon Duul 2 at times.


ND: You know, I've heard of them, but I haven't heard them. Write the name down, what are they like?


IN: Hmm, good question. They (Amon Duul 2) are a sprawling, impressionist, percussive band, very punky at times, but very much in love with acid-inspired fantasy. You have to get their double LP Yeti. What made me think of them whilst listening to you was the similarities you share when it comes to actually setting down your music on record. You are both bold, and very willing to take risks, there's a bravado that is very noticeable. Is that a fair comment to make for Islands?


ND: I have been told I have a form of OCD. I really don't know why the songs are the way they are. I don't really have like, erm, a concerted song-writing mode and I don't have some kinda whispering angel on my shoulder, but I definitely don't go out of my way to work with people. Songs get written, I guess I just get bored... I do something and then I change it, and well, I dunno how it happens.


IN: You make a creative "areas" to make something?


ND: Yeah that's right. It's not like I don't wanna take any responsibility for song-writing; I do, but I guess I feel that - although there's meaning and intention and a willingness to communicate with my songs -I guess I don't mind fucking with a song's structure. It's a balance, I mean I wanna make a song that people like but at the same time its not the most important thing to me.


IN: You are a very musical band. By that I mean lots of bands want to be in a band to be in a band; to replicate a sound. I can see a great deal of musical reference points in your show, and you have assembled a very good band full of brilliant musicians. I mean you can all play and you have made a statement on that.


ND: I would because I am surrounded by musical people; you know who have grown up with music, the people who are in this band, every single one of them grew up surrounded by music. On a real educated level. I grew up on an observational level when it cane to music, not participatory at all, I'd listen to my parent's record collection. So I think it's a cool mix, me at the forefront with incredible support; musical diverse and creative... We're not the Troggs, though I love that too.

On the other hand it's not about musical dexterity it's about writing the right song and having it sound good. I mean you could just make things sound good, but that's a whole other can of worms...


IN: True enough... I'm sure lots of people have asked you about your name... Islands. Why the name Islands?


ND: Names are so obvious. And our name is obvious. It's loaded with meaning. It's a real metaphor for a band... I think Islands for me represents something that's uhm, surrounded by something else, in this case water that's foreign to it. Underneath the water you obviously have the element that makes up the islands themselves. I just like the idea that an island is defined by the "rogue" element - water - that effectively obscures what an island otherwise would be... In some ways it's also what a human is; a human effectively is an island. Alone but also connected. I don't know how to put all that in a poetic, pre-packaged way!


IN: What is the fascination with so many different instruments on Return to the Sea? Was it a pre-meditated decision to literally throw as many different instruments into the mix?


ND: It's a real love of music and different sounds. I think we could push it even further, I always have this desire to experiment with bizarre instrumentation and stuff You know you can only do so much, but its nice to have a variety of instruments on a record,  and I'm not terribly competent on the guitar, I'm not being self depreciating but there's only so much I can do with it, so J'aime, who's no longer with the band, he was drumming and doing a bit of keyboards and we got to a point where we laid down the songs as they were, and we got to a point where we had to fill the songs up and we thought why fill the songs up with more guitar, but why not use, say bass clarinet, because we knew someone who played bass clarinet and we loved the sound.


IN: As an artist you realise that when you create something the space you have created is yours, no one else's... I always get amazed by the idea that musicians get worried about having to use other people's preconceptions in their own music.


ND: And you know  you notice current aesthetics are swamping music too, you notice in England and here today too that there's a really British sound, and that's a real sharp aesthetic, guitar based pop-rock. That's a legitimate thing but you are limited by that and you can see that the lineage between the Rifles and the Libertines and the Jam. It's cool, it's a dialogue but it's just one thing you know? I'm not gonna bad mouth it because it can stand up pretty well, but it's just one thing. And you can trace what we're doing too... I mean we're not re-inventing music.


IN: That's why I mentioned Amon Duul 2


ND: That's right! Exactly! But I don't even know that band! There's just proof that there's a whole conversation going on there.


IN: Who was in your parent's record collection by the way?


ND: Well Paul Simon's Graceland that was a big influence, Fleetwood Mac, The Travelling Wilberrries, pretty much straightforward pop. My parent's weren't intellectually out there stuff like Can... but that trickles down. You know the door is opened and then you walk through it... and I acknowledge the founding forefathers and foremothers of the pop world, I like T-Rex a lot, you know it's weird in that we got a mention of T-Rex in the Haldern booklet and they were the first people to mention this. I always felt that there was an affinity between us and T-Rex, and that T-Rex themselves were gathering stuff from an earlier era themselves, stuff from the 1950s.


IN: There's certainly a subliminal chemical process there, between bands from different eras. I presume you've heard of Arthur Lee passing away...


ND: What?!? No way... See I am on tour, I never know what's going on... Arthur Lee, I saw him in L.A. the last tour he did, he wasn't good I have to say but his records are unbelievable. He was very sick and he did have that benefit concert. They all die young. I'm reading this book that claims that all heavy counter-culture figures from the 1960s were killed by the CIA. It's a bit of a schizophrenic book, it's called The War Against Rock. It makes you really paranoid...


Words: Richard Foster.