Of course we are out on a bit of a limb in Kendal, musically and culturally, so we encourage all our kin to exercise their will to be weird. Not in a contrived way. But us country folk have got a pagan duty to uphold… and dancing like a fool in an open field has never quite tallied with urban notions of nightclub cool… so why fight it?
Incendiary talk to Seven Seals
What is it about the Lakes? At present there does seem to be a crop of supremely talented bands hailing from Cumbria and North West Lancashire. British Sea Power, The Witch and the Robot and Lovers of The Arctic Circle have all produced fabulously diverse and bloody minded-minded music in recent years. And, as they are all a wee bit unhinged, we at Incendiary love them all the more. It would seem remiss if we didn't chase up another brilliant Lakeland outfit, Seven Seals (who describe themselves as experimental/psychedelic/punk, got that?). Incendiary got the chance to chat to vocalist Simon Pickering and bassist Jim Tyson via the wonders of the Interweb...
IN: Seven Seals; you state that you "are the country - the factory on the hillside" - sounds like militant North Western Ludditism to me! Explain...
SIMON: North Western Ludditism!? We are the factory. Didn't those dudes smash up the machines? Oppose change? Crumbs! No! The sound we make is most certainly aided by characters dwelling solely IN THE REALM OF MACHINES. They help us, we help them and the deal is No Smashing. They are no threat to our chances of putting grub 'on't table' as they say. Why, 'twas only yesterday I defended my miniMoog Voyager from a giant gang of ASBO 'soft' synths (oh the irony of the nomenclature) intent on smashing her brains out unless she hand over her car keys. Well, I saw to them punks and she rewarded me by oscillating like a dervish that very evening- making me, a mere tweaker of knobs and dials, look well smart. It started with the wheel and will hopefully progress far enough for me to get a bionic third arm so the message is: Don't fight the science. (I do confess however that we have been known to enjoy smashing up obsolete formats on the front porch while Jay claw-hammers away at the banjo, but that would have to go down as a leisure activity and no political call to arms.) No and another no.
If we were North Western Luddites we would want to smash the factory and we are the factory. That would be suicide and I'm not brave enough. Some people call it the coward's way out... I'm not sure. And anyway I'd only have to look out of my bedroom window and I would never be able to get on with my Luddite suicide pact. I can see the sun breaking the grey clouds throwing monster shapes onto those proud Cumbrian fells and no matter how many rejection letters I get from Hollywood I will never spoil my chances of seeing it happen again. No. The factory on the hillside is our own personal pretentious metaphor. Industry aided by nature. The robots are on our side.
IN: Do tell me about life in North Western England and its' conduciveness, apropos music making.
SIMON: Them there hills give us something. They speak to me, and I put their wisest utterances (they do moan a bit too much) in our songs. You say what you see don't you? And if all you see is blokes in skinny jeans and pointy shoes bumbling along like messed up flies round some farm yard shite, then you are very likely to write piss poor music. That is why despite our lack of new paper money we have avoided the pull of the metropolis. We do enjoy going there to work- to stare at the beautiful people as we bang on our drums, but it is always nice to come home and to be inspired again. When we are no longer inspired by nature, I suppose we may start singing about the 22 Grand jobs or buying a milkshake, but I hope that never comes to pass.
IN: Are you as psychotic as some of the other Lakeland bands I know (in a musical sense of course)
JIM: Have you seen most Lakeland bands? I'm sure given the chance, the constant barrage of dull and unimaginative cover bands sound-tracking endless nights of small town supping would INDUCE psychosis in the best of us, but for the most part, healthy doses of creatively inspired psychotic reactions and carburettor dung are in short supply round here. Save of course for the few exceptions who realise the amazing eccentric heritage of past Lakeland poets and artists, such as the wonderful TWATr, (that's the Witch & the Robot kidz, you can read their interview on here – ed) who uplift and terrify in equal measure, just like the mountainous terrain surrounding our valley habitats. Of course we are out on a bit of a limb in Kendal, musically and culturally, so we encourage all our kin to exercise their will to be weird. Not in a contrived way. But us country folk have got a pagan duty to uphold... and dancing like a fool in an open field has never quite tallied with urban notions of nightclub cool... so why fight it?
IN: The music press are going to have fun with categorizing your new LP and explaining it to the unsuspecting masses. Does that worry you unduly?
SIMON: It does worry me that we may be seen by some hacks to be the wrong side of weird. But it isn't contrived. It is real. With the exception of Jim, we all went to the same school and our development has been very natural, so I'm going to try not to worry. This from the Kid who would be certain his mother was dead every time she was a minute late back from work. The worry may be unavoidable then. It is what it is and it just comes out. We turn up, plug in, switch on the antennae and receive the signals and the moment we start to notice how un-cool our band of geeks is we may lose something. I might just not read the reviews.
JIM: It's a poor state of affairs when music can only be validated by referencing some other band's vision retrospectively. It seems that most of today's music has to be streamlined and dumbed-down so people can 'get it'. We find that very patronising and also so against the whole childlike state of creativity and 'play' that we strive for when music-making. People who become unduly worried about categorization need to relax their arses and take a huge shit.
IN: How do you think you sound?
SIMON: There are a few versions of Seven Seals. Live and left alone in a room we make what is to my ears, the best noise in the world, a creaking gurgling dribbling racket with a knowing smile and a rabid stare. In front of people we can (so far anyway) only play our songs. To me our songs could have been written by a twenty first century Hawkwind who've been listening to The Minutemen, an argument. Contradictions (I hope.) Juxtapostions. (I hope even more.) Then again, I've always been full of myself so perhaps I'm not the best person to ask.
IN: If I press you for some influences / inspirations, would you be content to provide us with some?
SIMON: We are parrots, so whatever happens to be parked next to the cage. Personally, my cage is right next to the lot and I mean the whole damn parsnip, so I could quite literally be listening to anything. I'll start off with my favourite band of Bavarians Haindling one day, Slayer the next, maybe move over to some EasyE or the Beastie Boys on the third day and by the fourth only Mozart's Die Zauberflote will suffice. Sorry! I don't know how to umlaut. (Neither do we, how sad is that? –ed).
Did I mention Kraftwerk? Sabbath, DEVO, The Beatles, Soft Machine, Dead Kennedys, Fugazi, Ween, They Might Be Giants, Genesis, Yes? Oh YES. And how about Werner Herzog, Lars Von Trier and The Dogme95, Jim Moir and his pal Bob; Ingmar Bergman, Kevin Smith and cats.
JIM: Nuggets, Public Enemy, Neu!, The Paps, Nick Drake, Julian Cope, Wire, Air, The Doors, Miles Davies, Bowie, Minor Threat, Jack Kerouac, Lao Tzu, Alain De Botton, Chris Morris, William Blake, Leo Baxendale, Back To The Future and Popeye.
IN: I think you sound like a demented Can of Bees era Soft Boys... or am I being too chin-strokey here?
SIMON: You can never be too chin-strokey. Chins, as far as I have been able to tell, are there to be stroked. I'm glad you think we sound demented though. The Soft Boys? Never heard of 'em.
IN: Would you be unhappy with being thought of as an "eccentric" band, because you do rock out in the best tradition of Rock, can't you?
SIMON: In many ways we are just a straight up rock combo but we revel in our eccentricities so you can't blame people for looking can you?
JIM: Despite our pretensions we write some real toe-tappers...
IN: What's your favourite biscuit?
SIMON: Sadly, it is the all too popular Titty Biscuit I'm afraid. How boring.
Seven Seals LP Cells is released soon I believe... so watch this space, or better still, check their myspace out.
Words: Richard Foster.