I flipped it over and there was Loveless by My Bloody Valentine on the other side and I was just “what the FUCK is this?” – it’s my favourite start to an album ever, those four drumbeats and then everything just goes whooooaaaah, you know?
Incendiary interview Daniel Land And The Modern Painters – part one
The second week of January 2008, the post-Christmas gig slump where live music is so thin on the ground I’ll go and watch anything. Random unsigned night in the Roadhouse, I’m down to see a band called Daniel Land And The Modern Painters because they sent me a Myspace friend request and when I checked their page out Ulrich Schnauss and Sonic Cathedral were in their top friends. I haven’t actually listened to the tunes there; I’d rather just go and see if they’re any good. The verdict? “Three guitars build up sheets of shimmering euphoria which could easily have escaped from the first Slowdive album laced with the fluid tones of early Doves; Daniel’s sleepy-eyed singing drifting around in the middle distance. They don’t do many songs; they don’t have to – every one is a thing of beauty. If you failed to notice the dream pop revival gathering pace throughout 2007, 2008 should see it becoming unavoidable, and this rather fantastic band deserve to be right up there.”
Fast forward just eight months, and I’m in Manchester‘s Tiger Lounge with Daniel and guitarist Oisín Scarlett. Three days earlier they had a full page feature in the Manchester Evening News, in the coming week they’re off on a Sonic Cathedral managed tour including prestigious support slots for ex-Slowdive and Mojave 3 man Neil Halstead in churches in London and Salford, after which they release their debut seven inch on the acclaimed shoegaze label, mixed by none other than Ulrich Schnauss himself. Been quite a year then, hasn’t it?
DL: It’s been a hell of a year! I don’t think we ever imagined, a year ago when we were still effectively rehearsing in a bedroom, that we’d be playing with some of our heroes. It takes you by surprise really; things seem to be moving along at quite a slow pace and then one day you wake up and go fucks sake, I’m playing with a guy who I’ve been madly in love with his music for ten years…
OS: That’s it really, we would have been going to these gigs… in December or January we went to see Neil Halstead and little did we know…
DL: By the summer of 2007 I’d pretty much given up on shoegaze music, I had no idea that there was this big scene for it starting in America and then slowly moving over the Atlantic; it didn’t really become clear to me until I went to the Big Chill last summer quite how big the scene had gotten. What really crystallised it for me was seeing Ulrich Schnauss do a DJ set and he played 15 or 20 of the best shoegaze records I’d never ever heard in my life, and I struck up a sort of email relationship with him, asking him what the hell was this music you played, and he pointed me in the direction of these bands and said to me some very kind words about some shitty demos we had on the Myspace and I thought I really had to do something to do justice to this praise.
A few months later we’d released our first EP and Nat (Cramp, impressively bearded Sonic Cathedral mainman) was putting together the tour with Airiel and Ulrich, and Ulrich very kindly recommended us for the Manchester gig; Nat was impressed and suddenly we were working with them! It felt right, we got on well as people, that’s all there is to it really.
OS: An important point is this would never have happened without the internet – having that kind of access to someone like Ulrich Schnauss just via email, whereas before you’d have to go to one of his gigs and track him down afterwards, the ease with which you have access to these kind of people is crazy!
DL: I think the other thing is as well that worldwide we’re better known as recording artists than we could ever have been if we didn’t have the internet. We get these random sale receipts through saying we’ve sold two CDs to someone in Paraguay; it wouldn’t have happened ten years ago – even five years ago, before Myspace…
IN: So now you’ve got the single mixed by Ulrich Schnauss and Mark Peters from Engineers, is that something that’s been done electronically too?
DL: Yeah, we basically sent the multitracks down on a CD, Mark and Ulrich did their thing and sent it back…
OS: There were no intensive two week sessions in a studio or anything, we recorded it at our leisure and sent them off and that’s it, we got the email back two weeks later with the songs attached – “ding!” in your inbox
DL (in computer voice): You have… one… new remix!
IN: Do you ever just take a step back and thing hang on a minute, that’s mad!
DL: Oh totally, yeah. It’s just so liberating in so many ways. A lot of the true ways that technology has liberated us as musicians or artists or whatever still have to be discovered as well. One of the things Oisín and I have talked a lot about is setting up a label for our kind of stuff, for a few bands in our sort of area, one of the things we’d like to do is something like the 4AD This Mortal Coil project, where all the different artists on the label contribute in a kind of collective way. Now in times past, say 20 years ago, that would have had to have been done by people going into a studio together. Now we can work with these people all around the world, with people we love and admire, but we’ll probably never even meet them in person…
IN: So backtracking a bit, it says in your biography that you originally all bonded through the clubbing and dance music scene – it’s a bit of a journey to where you are now…
DL: That’s partly true; I don’t think we were all necessarily dance music fans; we were all originally indie music fans but the connection’s with myself more than anyone else, really, just going to clubs and taking Ecstasy and feeling the intensity of emotion in the room, especially in places like Gatecrasher which almost becomes like a church, I really felt I ought to try and do some kind of emotional guitar music that at least entertains the notion of connecting with people in this way. And so it’s kind of grown into an idea; my motto for the lyrics I write has always had this theme of love songs for the chemical generation.
OS: We really want that thing where we interact with an audience, but not in a really obvious all-clap-along U2 kind of way. We want people to really get into it and feel something from the music but without having to be coaxed into it.
DL: It’s something other people seem to pick up on probably more than us, though…
IN: A lot of bands in the modern shoegaze sort of area, people like Ulrich Schnauss and Maps, are very much coming from the dual direction.
DL: That’s an interesting point really, I’ve never really thought about it but its true – one of the reasons I don’t go to dance clubs any more is there’s a sparsity of music there that really connects with me any more, that’s all being done by people like Ulrich now.
OS: There are definitely areas of electronic music that have far more in common with shoegaze than commercial dance music; the more ambient side of dance music plays on the level we were talking about there, where people become totally immersed in it rather than listening out for lyrics like you would with, say, a Bob Dylan record, it’s the complete opposite of that.
IN: So the shoegaze thing then – you’re too young to have been out going to gigs in 90, 91 and the music spent most of the intervening period being buried underground as deeply unfashionable – how did you get into it?
DL: For me, when I first started making music I was doing keyboard things in the style of Brian Eno and then probably in the late 90s a friend of mine said “I was just given this CD by the Cocteau Twins for Christmas, you’ll probably like this…” I was so out of touch with indie music I thought it was a normal guitar record, I used to put it on at parties and try and get people excited by it but they were all listening to Black Grape or the Manics and stuff and it made them want to fall asleep – it took me a while to understand what’s so unique about it and by that point people were saying “you should check out early Verve” and I was like expecting to hear Urban Hymns so I didn’t even bother… it probably wasn’t until comparatively late like 2001, 2002 someone played me Slowdive, whom I’d heard of through Mojave 3, I’d always liked Mojave 3.
And then other bands like Chapterhouse and Ride and stuff, just as it was starting to get fashionable again I suppose through the Lost In Translation soundtrack. I came to it almost completely out of ignorance and I know most of the modern shoegaze stuff better than the old really.
OS: I was into Britpop, I was that age, and back in Dublin if you liked anything other than Blur and Oasis that was considered bizarre. I’d just started playing guitar and got a chorus pedal, and a friend’s brother completely out of the blue said “oh you’ll like this” and gave me a tape with Blue Lines by Massive Attack on one side and I was like yeah, it’s OK, and then I flipped it over and there was Loveless by My Bloody Valentine on the other side and I was just “what the FUCK is this?” – it’s my favourite start to an album ever, those four drumbeats and then everything just goes whooooaaaah, you know?
DL: You’re going “What’s wrong with the tape, surely it shouldn’t sound like this?!” Apparently isn’t it the most widely returned album in history, cos in 91 when it was made people largely still bought things on vinyl
OS: There are probably people been playing that thing at the wrong speed for years…
Part two (where mention is made of Manchestah & a pub of infamy) can be found here…