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INTERVIEW: HTB
Luke Turner , March 25th, 2013 11:26

We talk to the new improvisation trio, made up of two Savages and their producer, ahead of their gig at Corsica on Wednesday

Last month, Savages' Jehnny Beth and Gemma Thompson and their producer Johnny Hostile released their first 10" (artwork above) as HTB, an improvisation trio.

The self-titled debut, out on the Beth and Hostile co-founded Pop Noire label, is the result of each member performing in separate rooms and reacting to each other purely on the basis of what they could hear. Have a listen to 'Brid', an ace mixture of crepuscular spoken word and fractured noise-scape, from the 10" below:

They're playing a set at Corsica Studios this Wednesday, March 27 - get hold of tickets here - and ahead of that we asked them to give us a bit of background into the project:

When did the idea for HTB first germinate?

Johnny Hostile: We started just before recording the Savages album, in my studio. It was a way to express the stuff we always talk about between the three of us. It's a will to be in our world without anyone interfering, like kids without the adults looking, it's a precious free environment designed just for us.

Jehnny Beth: I don't remember talking about it much at first, we just did it. The HTB sessions have a sort of therapeutic effect to me, very playful. Still have this potential today.

Gemma Thompson: We were just sitting in Johnny's studio after much preparation for recording the album, playing around with the instruments we were holding at the time and after a while decided to press record and improvise. There was no discussion, it was nice to play with a kind of naivety again.

What does Mr Hostile bring to proceedings?

GT: We realised we shared the same oblivious contentment whilst focusing on the subtleties of creating a certain sound. He created a space, a bubble in which to do this.

JB: Johnny came up with the name and the concept. He proposed a playground to explore with no constraint of time and money.

Why record in three separate rooms rather than all in the same one?

JH: Two main reasons for that: first is the respect of individuals and their intimacy. Having your own comfort zone is important for creation. I never really know what they actually do but I'd say Gemma is generally on the floor with her guitar and pedals in the live room. Jehnny in her bedroom upstairs with her lyrics and computer and other stuff. I'm in the control room with the machines to create electronic sounds and record. We all communicate through headphones and microphones between the takes. That leads to the second reason: the magic, the feeling of communicating through walls is overwhelming, it gives a telepathic aspect to things and that is super fun. It also turns the house into the Joe Meek studio.

GT: It is great when you hear these sounds, some really physically-induced sounds, and you wonder what the hell they are and how they have been made. Sometimes they overlap and you don't know who is creating what.

What are three non-musical inspirations for HTB?

GT: Knowing how Johnny works with his chosen instrument, I would have to say 'Box with the Sound of Its Own Making' by Robert Morris from 1961, but that could verge on the musical.

JB: Lyrically, I use a lot of personal life experiences for HTB, some childhood memories... I also like to create different characters for each song and image what they could say or think. It is great for interpretation. I like to follow a sort of 'stream of consciousness', a narrative, but with a twist.

JH: I'm obsessed with Milton Erickson. A great researcher of the human mind through hypnotherapy. I relate to his work for everything. That and something between Alan Moore, Star Wars and Adventure Time.

Is HTB a release away from Savages? Or does it inform Savages at all?

GT: I would say both would have the opportunity to inform each other, maybe just be it a way of working, or by exploring a contradiction or tension in the sound. JB: Weirdly I felt the influence of HTB when we recorded 'Waiting For A Sign' in the studio. We recorded a background scream behind the noise guitar solo, something I experimented in HTB sessions. The sessions taught me self-discipline and focus. It gives a time and place for the inner voice to be where the outside distractions disappear...

What can we expect at Corsica Studios? Will you be improvising lyrics/music there?

GT: The idea and the basis of each track will be there, but there will be an element of improvisation. I think it is an interesting experiment for us personally - it is always interesting to work with how the audience can change the situation and meaning of what you play.

JB: We allow each track to never fully achieve their final form, it is one of the main excitements about HTB. The thrill is in the making.

JH: Also we invited the great Duke Garwood to play before us, who's a collaborator of Mark Lanegan and features on the Savages album too.

What future plans do you have for HTB?

JB: More HTB sessions...

JH: Releasing more on our label Pop Noire.

GT: To push ourselves with the performance aspect of it, this will be the most challenging.

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