Violence is certainly a fascination of mine. I think it is an obsession in art in general.
Hayden from Wild Beasts kindly took some time to answer the following questions for Incendiary...
IN: I have to say I'm fascinated by what you originally set out to achieve as a band. And how you managed to create what seems your own perfectly formed musical world. (Reminds this old duffer a bit of the Cocteau Twins' vibe) Was this accident or are you master strategists?
H: I can’t say there was ever a master plan as such. That would have been far too unforgiving and rigid for us. I suppose we have always allowed ourselves a lot of introverted freedom, in that we would always go with what sounded most like “us”. What was “us” was often more of a feeling than something that can be objectively explained. We’ve always enjoyed an adventure, going into the dark and seeing what you have when the lights come on. Sometimes we might stumble across an album or book that acts as a torch, lighting up a certain part of the path. But before too long it’s been used it up like a battery and we have to keep moving on into the darkness. In a sense, the more we explore this dark world, the more familiar we become with our surroundings and the more able we are to plot paths around it. It’s a strange way of putting it, but it’s a strange phenomenon to try and explain.
IN: Do you feel that you have captured how you initially wanted to express yourselves?
H: Wild Beasts is a fantastic tool of expression for all four of us I feel. That, in truth, is its most vital function and the more we use it, the more dependent we become of it. But what we wanted to initially express has changed, of course. It changes from song to song even. I’m quick to forget what we’ve already done. Perhaps this is because once you feel you’ve sufficiently expressed what you needed to then there’s always something else to move into, it’s a real baton-passing kind of affair. There are patterns to what we do and sign posts that remain quite constant, but we would never want to begin lapping ourselves.
IN: And could you envisage doing something radically different musically? Is the dye cast?
H: The things you say you always wanted to do and the things you say you will never do are constantly pulling at one another’s shirttails. Sometimes one gives way and you find yourself in a surprising situation. I imagine that’s something we won’t want to loose, it’s pretty vital to keep ideas of yourself reasonably fluid, so I wouldn’t be overly surprised if by the end of this band’s lifetime, whenever that may be, we had taken some quite radical turns.
IN: I'm also fascinated by the way you seem to make statements or conjure up situations in your records. They're very theatrical... mini kitchen sink dramas at times.
H: I think kitchen sink dramas are a good way of putting it. Our songs tend to function almost like mini soap operas. They use mundane situations and normal characters, but once those things have been put into song they become these grand, romantic scenes. Just like a regular TV romance seems far grander than a real life one. I also think that people are really fascinated by themselves and their own world, so all we have to do in effect is hold up a mirror to ourselves and our own world and we have enough substance to last a lifetime.
IN: These "wordy" songs... who in the band has the literary ambitions?
H: Tom and I write the words, though separately, in rough terms he sings his words and I sing my words. I wouldn’t be surprised if both of us did harbour literary ambitions. I do in a sense that I know I’m compulsive enough about my writing to need to do it and if that draws me into that sort of world then I doubt I would fight it.
IN: And I'm interested in how such "gestural" music and verbosity come together in the studio. Pray enlighten us.
H: I have my theories how it works, but what exactly goes on I’m not entirely sure of, and I don’t really ever want to fully understand. We have to be protective of those things that only the four of us share. For me, when we’re in the studio together there is a child-like magic, we feel anything is possible. This approach does allow for a lot of cross-pollination and unlikely positions. Ultimately we do egg each other on, I want to be surprised and I feel the others want me to surprise them.
IN: You seem to sing about violence or use terms associated with violence a lot. Why? Thugs in frock coats?
H: Violence is certainly a fascination of mine. I think it is an obsession in art in general. I’m in no doubt that a lot of art subconsciously focuses on violence as a way of outing all those suppressed and inhibited primal behaviours. There’s also something to be said for capturing the beauty in the horribly ugly, because it’s there. Ballard’s “Crash” is an obvious but amazing example of that. You know that sense of staring far too long at what you know you really shouldn’t be looking at, as if’s it’s almost too much to take in? Well that vaguely explains our approach.
IN: Tell us about
IN: Incendiary has a tiresome tradition of asking bands they like what their favourite recipe is. Allowing, (so we suppose), the gastronomic divide between band and fans to be lessened. So, recipe please.
H: My death row meal, one of the greatest things my Mother ever taught me…
Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly oil a 9x9 inch square baking pan.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in spinach and parsley, and continue to saute until spinach is limp, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, and feta. Stir in spinach mixture. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough in prepared baking pan, and brush lightly with olive oil. Lay another sheet of phyllo dough on top, brush with olive oil, and repeat process with two more sheets of phyllo. The sheets will overlap the pan. Spread spinach and cheese mixture into pan and fold overhanging dough over filling. Brush with oil, then layer remaining 4 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with oil. Tuck overhanging dough into pan to seal filling.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve while hot.