"I had huge fights with John Balance and Julian hasn't spoken to me for almost four years and I doubt he ever will again but conflict does spark creativity and I thrive on that."
Incendiary speak to the legendary Thighpaulsandra.
Its not often you get chance to speak to a genuine legend, but we were lucky enough to gain a chance to talk to Thighpaulsandra recently.
Thighpaulsandra has worked with some of the most inspired/lunatic/wayward talents (take your pick) in the field of modern popular music over the last 20 years or so. Names such as Julian Cope, Jason Pierce and John Balance. If you didn't already know about this truly inspiring artist (you should hang your head in shame at this point), here's his myspace biography.
Thighpaulsandra has worked with Julian Cope on various albums starting as an engineer with Cope in 1987 on the song Transporting. His influence also aided Cope's Autogeddon, 20 Mothers and Interpreter albums. He also formed the band Queen Elizabeth with Cope, releasing two lengthy albums. Thighpaulsandra has also produced and appeared on other records made by Anal, RocketGoldStar, and Brain Donor. In 1997 he joined the band Spiritualized for a U.S. tour and survived the cuts to the band made shortly thereafter. He can be heard on the studio records Let It All Come Down and Amazing Grace. He also joined COIL the next year and performed on such albums as Astral Disaster and the Musick To Play In The Dark albums. During the same period, Thighpaulsandra also worked on The Waterboys' album A Rock in the Weary Land. The artwork for his DOUBLE VULGAR album caused some controversy with several printers not willing to reproduce the homoerotic imagery. DOUBLE VULGAR II was delayed, possibly for the same reason, along with the passing of friend and colleague John Balance. Thighpaulsandras latest release is Chamber Music He currently remains in and still works with Spiritualized , while finishing off future releases for the now defunct Coil....
IN: You have always had an interest in the more ambient, abstract side of (for want of a better word) popular music. Can you tell us why?
T: My interest in music of all types is fairly wide but I suppose I'm drawn to more abstract popular music because of my musical background. From an early age I was exposed to a great deal of contemporary classical music and although as a child I sometimes found this boring and, on occasions, even laughable it has stuck with me and been an influence all my life. I have a very short attention span so music that I do not find challenging tends not to be given much of an airing. That is not to say that I don't enjoy some straightforward popular music. I am just as likely to play the Ramones or Bowie as I am to play Faust or Stockhausen but I quite frequently mix these things up. I often feel that I can appreciate the beauty of a Bach prelude better when listening to it sandwiched between some Subotnik and Meshuggah. I am unable to tolerate music as just background filler. Unless I am in the mood for listening to music I would rather have silence.
IN: Who inspired you to go down this path?
T: For my general musical inspiration I must thank my mother and my grandfather who were both extremely encouraging in my early years but later on I was greatly inspired by my next door neighbour, the conductor, John Carewe who, at the time, was conductor of the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra. He had a great interest in the composers Boulez and Peter Maxwell Davies and I remember hearing this music at his house and wanting to be part of it. As with many childhood fantasies, things didn't go quite the way I planned and I was sucked into the world of drugs and rock music.
IN: You worked as a sound engineer for a long time did you not? Do you find that creating music from the other side of the mix desk requires a totally different attitude, and if not, why not?
T: Both require a different set of disciplines but for me the two have become part of the same attitude and are now inseparable. I always conceive music with the recording process in mind and I try to make my engineering as organic and musical as possible. There is a certain obsessional mindset required to be a good engineer and this attention to detail has certainly infected my music. Conversely I have learnt that blind experimentation can produce amazing results when applied to the recording process. To me being a recording engineer has increased my musical vocabulary and being a musician has made me far more conscious of sound and, perhaps more importantly, silence.
IN: How on Earth did you conceive the Queen Elizabeth LPs? What was the vision behind them?
T: At the time Julian (Cope) and I were very excited about Krautrock. Julian had been writing Krautrocksampler and we were enjoying playing together and creating something outside of standard pop song or album track format. I had a large collection of synthesizers and Julian had bought a Mellotron so with all that equipment set up in a wonderful studio environment we couldn't help but be inspired. We were very much on the same wavelength at the time so the creation of QE was inevitable. It also acted as a release from the pressures of making a (conventional?) Cope album. We recorded far more than has been released and I am currently compiling a third QE album but Julian and I are no longer speaking to each other so I very much doubt if he will be involved or even approve of its release. Nevertheless QE2 still stands as one of the favourite albums I have made.
IN: I once read somewhere that you have an extremely large collection of knackered Italian cars, please, tell me it's true...
T: Yes that was true. Unfortunately, most Alfa Romeos and Fiats from the 70's and 80's were made from very poor Russian steel and consequently the Welsh climate has taken its toll on them and they have all rusted away. I still have a great fondness for the Italian classics and although they are not what they were I can't bring myself to drive anything other than an Italian car.
IN: You have a very glamorous, confrontational, in yer face image, yet your music is very calming, and spacious; very introspective at times. Why this dichotomy?
T: My image is quite confrontational but I don't feel that much of my music is calming and spacious. Those elements do exist in my music but don't seem to last for long. I am currently working on an album of spacious music that changes very slowly and explores the relationship between audible frequencies, waking dreams and various voluntary and involuntary bodily functions.
IN: Do you remember playing Burnley Mechanics with Cope? If not, any good live memories?
T: Yes I do. That was on the second Cope tour I was part of. I still have a towel with "Burnley District Council" on it. I enjoyed lots of the Cope shows but one of my favourites was a show Julian and I did together at the Pyramid Centre in Portsmouth. I think part of it ended up as the B side of a single but I can't remember which one. Our Reading Festival appearance was also great fun even though I almost fell off the stage after the first number.
IN: You have picked some very "determined" characters to work with; Messrs Cope & Pierce... Why is this? Do you need confrontation (in a strictly musical sense of course)?
T: I suppose Julian, Jason and John Balance from Coil could all be described as determined characters. I feel very driven myself and like to work with people who have that same level of intensity. This does lead to massive confrontations at times. I had huge fights with John Balance and Julian hasn't spoken to me for almost four years and I doubt he ever will again but conflict does spark creativity and I thrive on that.
IN: And, to end, could you please tell us your choice of biscuit?
T: It's always sad when Glam and biscuits mix. No matter how many sequins you've got those extra pounds will always wobble through. Sadly, biscuits are for other people. Having said that, my favourite biscuits were IKEA cafe oat biscuits. They come in large catering packs and are perfect with tea or coffee. Surely the only redeeming feature of IKEA.
Words: Richard Foster.