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A Quietus Interview

An Interview With Dave Pearce Of Flying Saucer Attack
Joe Clay , September 2nd, 2015 09:01

Flying Saucer Attack are back. Joe Clay talks to the elusive Dave Pearce

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Portraits by Simon Snashall/Erin Pearce

At the start of the year, Ladbrokes would have given you better odds for spotting an actual UFO than they would for the release of a new album by Flying Saucer Attack. Nothing had been heard from Dave Pearce’s cult space/drone/post-rock outfit since 2000's Mirror, aside from the odd archive release.

Then, in July, completely out of the blue, came a new album, Instrumentals 2015, released with little hype or fanfare. Pearce's distinctive lo-fi approach to making music was perfectly preserved in this new collection – it was as if time had stood still and, talking to its creator, it seems that for Pearce it almost did.

The 15 instrumentals deviate between abstract noise and melodic soundscapes; some that envelope you warmly like a blanket woven from opiates, while others are discordant, atonal and abrasive, with every track built around Pearce's innate gift for manipulating feedback and distorted guitars.

Prior to the 15 years of silence, Pearce had been quite prolific, first in tandem with Rachel Brook (now Coe, who would go on to form Movietone) and other collaborators, including Matt "Third Eye Foundation" Elliott, but eventually on his own (aided by the “mysterious” Rocker), releasing four albums, several compilations and a plethora of EPs and singles.

Throughout their recording career, which encompassed a period from 1993 to 2000, Flying Saucer Attack always felt slightly out of step; operating in the outer reaches of the leftfield/indie music scene of the period. While not exactly ahead of their time, it is in 2015 that the FSA oeuvre, with its lo-fi analogue production, drones and repetition, and visceral, noisy soundscapes, is at its most modish.

Instrumentals 2015 is exactly the sort of album Pearce would have released in his first life, but if you were told it was from a new artist on Editions Mego or an obscure cassette-only label from Bay Area San Francisco, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But of course it sounds like Flying Saucer Attack in a way that nobody else does, and, if you’re a fan, you wouldn’t want it any other way.

I have loved many bands, but none have intoxicated me in the way that Flying Saucer Attack did – the otherworldly tape hiss that typified the production of FSA recordings seeped into me, inhaled like a gas, with the billowing gusts of extreme noise strangely soothing despite their savagery.

The late Nick Talbot wrote brilliantly on The Quietus about FSA’s revolutionary approach to making music in a piece to mark the 20th anniversary of the band’s self-titled debut album, (commonly known as Rural Psychedelia), revealing how FSA crafted “a sound that made a virtue of the hissy mechanics of four-track-cassette-to-vinyl duplication, celebrating it with sleeve notes and run out groove etchings stating ‘compact discs are a major cause of the breakdown of society’ and ‘home taping is reinventing music’.” Talbot’s piece is a must read (take it from Pearce, and he should know) if you want to know about the aesthetics and unique appeal of the Flying Saucer Attack sound, but Pearce himself remains an enigma; “a diffident visionary”, in Talbot’s words.

The truth is, nobody, other than his friends and family, really knows anything about Pearce. He never played the publicity game (“We had this awful reputation for being uncooperative,” he tells me when we talk) and in the scant interviews with the man still available to read online there isn’t actually much of him, bar an appraisal of the music and his recording techniques.

I had spent years trying to track him down for an interview, even once writing him a letter (with a pen, on some paper) when an old acquaintance passed on an address in Cheltenham where Pearce had once lived. He never replied, but is now living near Cheltenham, in a little village “in Middle England. I kind of grew up here. I’ve been back here for a while now because things didn’t quite work out. I’m in me dad’s spare room.”

The last line is delivered with a self-deprecating chuckle. Pearce says he doesn’t get out of the house much, but during our conversation he is hardly the reticent, reclusive figure I had built him up in my head to be. I had envisaged the interview being awkward and one-sided, with me doing most of the talking. I was even relieved, initially, when I was told that Pearce wanted to do the interview via email. In the end, it was Pearce who opted to actually speak to me, and he did most of the talking – as it should be.

“I hear that Mark Kozalek only does email interviews,” he explained. “It ends up being rather one-way – he’s trying to impose his will. That’s not really what this is about. Although talking to me in person also has its problems because I waffle.”

He’s being hard on himself – Pearce may be more verbose than expected, but he is also an intelligent, funny and thoughtful interviewee. This is a much-edited version of our conversation, but seeing as how Pearce so rarely does any interviews, it seems worthwhile to present a lengthy transcription of our conversation. Even if you are not a devoted FSA fan there is still plenty in here of interest. Pearce has strong opinions about music, so as well as touching on the history of Flying Saucer Attack and the genesis of the new album, there are also plenty of fascinating insights into music history, analogue vs digital recording techniques and the evolution of the music industry.

It’s been 15 years since Mirror, and as far as I’m aware Instrumentals 2015 is all fresh material. What inspired you to start making music again?

David Pearce: In many ways it doesn’t feel like 15 years, but I have had to confront the notion of time passing. It’s taken me from my mid-30s to just shy of 50. I seem to have blanked out that whole period in my mind. I certainly did stop [making music]. I wasn’t even really listening to any music for long periods of time because of personal reasons, I suppose. I’m not sure if it was about controlled bitterness or problems with my self-confidence – every time I put a record on I’d think, “I used to do records.” Some people say if you really care about something you get exasperated with it from time to time. Y’know, all this, “Hooray for the music” narrative we get fed all the time. I just feel like you’ve got to question it every now and then.

You were quite prolific during the initial period you were recording.

DP: For the first three or four years, yeah. Then it slowed down, partly because originally there were a lot of other people involved, and secondly, I had a backlog of ideas to get through. I’d been in a band when I was 18, 19 with a few people from school. They ended up being Rosemary’s Children, who were signed to Cherry Red Records in the mid-80s. I’d been removed by that point because I was a bit of a spanner in the works. After that I was involved in bands that were more other people’s bands [Linda’s Strange Vacation with Matt Elliot aka Third Eye Foundation, among others], and again I felt like I was something of a spanner in the works.

Is that because you needed to be in control?

DP: Well, bearing in mind that I could barely play the bass and I couldn’t sing at all… Yes and no.

But you turned out to have a very singular vision in terms of the music you wanted to make.

DP: Yes, but that singular vision could be one idea, couldn’t it? I had an idea in my mind of what the ideal band should sound like, but that was based on what little experience I had of life. I had an idea about this band that should be VERY loud when it was loud, and hauntingly quiet when it was quiet. But my capabilities at that time extended to just about being able to hang in there on the bass and also personally being a bit of a pain.

Flying Saucer Attack really started through my friend Acoustic John who used to come round my house because he wanted to learn the guitar, although he was actually better than me. He had more natural ability, but I used to teach him some basic chords. I was trying to write some songs and he was very encouraging. Then he borrowed his mate’s four-track. This was the late-80s, so four-track tape recorders still had that very clunky sound. We tried to do some four-track home recording, and it was a bit acoustic and percussive and some echoey electric stuff.

John was more about putting down notes and I was more about sound. Unfortunately I had to do the singing and this is where it all went a bit wrong. There were words and I was trying to sing, but it was just this kind of [makes moaning sound] because I’m not much of a singer. But it started to come together and gradually we built up some songs and some sound ideas.

By the early 90s I moved to Bristol. I had a backlog of songs and I met Rachel (Brook) and her brother and Kate (Wright) and Matt Crescent. They had all just left school so I was a bit older and I was working in the record shop [Revolver]. I played a little bit with them, but still hadn’t really worked out what I wanted to do. And then Rachel’s brother brought a four-track and encouraged us to have a go with it. So we did – and we had to use one of my songs.

The first song was ‘Soaring High’ and the second one was this kind of instrumental thing (‘Instrumental Wish’). They were the first two, so it wasn’t just a case of, “Oh we must do songs.” I immediately realised that the cassette four-tracks didn’t have that horrible clunky sound any more. I can remember being in Ha Ha Ha [who became Rosemary’s Children] and we borrowed this reel-to-reel four-track because gear was so expensive back then, and it had that awful boxy, clunky sound.

The new four-track still had a slightly thick sound, but that thickness was an advantage to a song like ‘Soaring High’. It certainly didn’t have that obvious, “This was done at home” feeling – that wrongness that somehow got into the sound – and we didn’t have to record 12 guitars parts to get the sound we wanted. I was thinking that we were at the cutting edge of technology – if you think sideways, we were. There was a new generation of cassette home recordings that were coming in.

Your early recordings don’t sound like demos.

DP: Well, no. If you think about the earliest home recordings I had loads of solo Peter Hammill stuff, and even going back to the earliest ones from 1972/73-ish some of that was home recorded. You can hear a little bit of that clunky sound, although he does manage to hide it pretty well. But you can still tell he has a home four or eight-track for some songs and you can hear when a track was done in a studio. It’s to do with that sound that always seemed to be on home recordings – you can just hear it.

But come the early-90s, it was different. So we recorded a couple of songs and that was going to be that. But then Simon who ran Heartbeat Records used to come into the shop to buy all these records by American lo-fi bands of the period. We had an account with Greyhound and Cargo was just starting up, and they were getting in all this stuff from America. There was this huge wave of homemade American singles by The Grifters and The Mummies… Superchunk. Those kind of bands. I really liked them, they were all rather wonderful. John Peel was playing quite a bit of it and Simon would come in, and he’d been re-energised by hearing this stuff on Peelie. I got to know him and eventually I played him the tape we’d made and nagged away at him and in the end he decided he wanted to put out some records again and he put out the first Flying Saucer Attack record. That was how it started.

Your early work was confrontational in its rawness and abrasive nature. Was this deliberate, or were you just working with the equipment you had?

DP: You didn’t need to put down 16 guitars at great expense to make the guitar make a big noise. With the four-track, you put down one track and it was a case of trying to pull back the sound of that one – seriously. It was this big, thick, distorted, abrasive sound. The other thing that I picked up was that you could make a big noise by just plugging straight in, and using a distortion pedal and a bit of echo. Directly injecting when I was a kid was kind of the anathema – the idea that any band would DI in a studio was heresy. But, in fact, you get this big noise. You didn’t need a load of expensive studio tracks. And there was no way that someone was going to fund me to go and do that.

So it was born out of necessity?

DP: Oh yes, absolutely. Necessity. When 1988 happened I never thought we’d have a moment like that again. I was like a lot of kids of about 14 or 15 buying ‘Empire State Human’ by The Human League. Then there was the post-punk era and bands like The Au-Pairs and The Mo-dettes. But I was always more into The Mo-dettes, but anyway… the point is, you had all these choices.

Most of it was played on Radio 1, either by Peelie or Mike Read and Richard Skinner. You’d hear all these things. Then the Mary Chain came along, but that was something of a false dawn unfortunately. Then came 1988. Loop came into their own, the Valentines found their new sound and AR Kane were at their best. And Spacemen 3 did their thing – I could never quite get me head round Spacemen 3. You could pick and choose which one of them you wanted to go for. Hüsker Dü had been going for a while by then, and Sonic Youth – for me it was always Sister, not Daydream Nation. There was also American Music Club, who had a very experimental side that was never acknowledged. They reminded me that I should be writing actual songs, because I’d always had a soft spot for Roy Harper and John Martyn – and Nick Drake, of course.

With Flying Saucer Attack you combined the two. There was a folky, elemental side to what you did, married to the extreme noise. If you described that to someone it might sound like it wasn’t going to work, but it did. It links in to what you said earlier about the perfect band “being very loud when it was loud, and hauntingly quiet when it was quiet”.

DP: Yes, that’s a good point. I had an idea it was going to work, because of American Music Club, but they never went as far out as me in terms of white noise. Except maybe the first track on United Kingdom. But Roy Harper at the time in the 80s had got into using lots of distorted guitar – even on his acoustic when he played live, so it there was very much a precedent for it.

But your take on it was so extreme, sonically. That was what set FSA apart. There were lots of people making a big noise with guitars…

DP: One point that I was trying to get to… Chapterhouse, Ride, Slowdive and Lush – all the shoegaze bands. That class of 1990/91 were going into studios, not necessarily with the budget for Loveless, but trying to make it all sound a bit sparkly. More sparkly than, say, AR Kane and Loop. What no one remembers about Loop is that they had a Top 40 album in 1990 – A Gilded Eternity. No one remembers that. You’d see AR Kane and Spacemen 3 on The Chart Show. ‘To Here Knows When’ [by MBV] got in the Top 40. That’s an incredibly strange record. I’ve got nothing against Ride getting in the charts – they were quite enjoyable, but it was very sparkly.

But the big thing for me was when Loop did a Nick Drake cover [of ‘Pink Moon’, for the Nick Drake tribute album Brittle Days] with just Robert (Hampson) singing and an acoustic guitar, which he put a fucking repeat echo on to make it sound a bit drifty. I don’t think I realised until recently what a primary influence that was on me. There were some acoustic guitars in MBV and AR Kane, but our sound was a kind of a kid in a sweetshop accident. I'd always had a liking for folk music as well as the noisy stuff, so the folky thing got fed in. That notion of a dream band came to fruition; the idea of it being both things, but not at the same time. It wasn’t two ideas – it was the same band.

It was cohesive – if you think about Further [FSA’s second album] – that was more of a move towards the haunting, quiet, folky aesthetic, but retaining the white noise.

DP: I’ve recently had to listen to listen to test pressings of Distance, Further and Chorus [for upcoming vinyl reissues on Domino]. It was the first time I’ve heard them for about 15 years – more probably.

How did it feel, hearing them again?

DP: I realised that we were essentially making the same record over and over again.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

DP: No, but I’m just saying that they are all the same record if the truth be told. Right from the word go – even from the first single. They’re all the same record, really. But then one is one’s self. Distance, I have to say, sounded incredibly innocent. I don’t want to say naïve, but there’s a complete lack of life experience on there. I can hear that in my contributions. I can’t speak for the others involved. That’s not a comment on them. I don’t have any kids now and I’m not married, but at least I’ve got a bit of life experience.

I actually really enjoyed listening to Further. I never used to be able to listen to that. It was recorded during a bit of a tough period for me, for various reasons. I always associated it in my mind with that so it was difficult to listen to. But I really enjoyed it – I’d stand up for Further. It had a solidity to it. It wasn’t just a middle-class kid faffing around. Some of the early stuff had a kind of hippy vibe, you know, “I don’t know anything about the world."

By Further, perhaps you had more of an idea of the sort of music you wanted to make. It’s feels like a more confident record.

DP: I had a near-death experience roughly about that time. I think that played into it. It gave me the confidence to say, fairly overtly, this is folky, acoustic, which in the noisy, post-shoegaze world – the beginnings of space rock, I suppose – wasn’t really the done thing. I wasn’t really classifiable at the start.

You didn’t make it easy. On the first album there’s a cover of ‘The Drowners’. That has always intrigued me. Did you do it because you liked Suede, or was it a reaction against them? It sounds really violent and angry.

That was about certain music press shenanigans. The diplomatic thing to say is that I didn’t entirely dislike their music, but it was really about this notion of announcing the best new band in Britain. That seemed very strange. In retrospect, of course that was the first attempted Britpop manoeuvre by the system. Up until that point the idea of the best new band in Britain was that they were going to make a racket like you’d never heard before. That was the criteria for being the best new band. So that cover of ‘The Drowners’ was more of a provocation, really. I re-read Taylor Parkes’s piece on Britpop on tQ recently. I totally agreed with it, he’s somehow pulled together a lot of thoughts that were in my head. Then there were moments he touched on things I’d never sussed out. He did a thing that I do a lot – he hated Parklife more for the track he liked. That attitude of, “This is clearly good, but it just makes me hate them more.”

So to Instrumentals 2015; when you picked up the guitar and started writing again, what was the intention?

DP: Initially I was actually writing some songs, but I didn’t have any words for them. But they weren’t the songs that became Instrumentals. They still don’t have any words. This has been on and off for about ten years. The guitar had been gathering dust, and the old cassette eight-track. And the cassette players that had three heads so you could do edits with them. They were slowly breaking down, through time and dust. It had been off more than on, really, over that time.

How did you get to the point where you felt ready to release some music again?

It was when I heard about the track [‘Three Seas’] being used in The Duke Of Burgundy, the Peter Strickland film. I didn’t have any self-confidence at that point, in myself or my music. I was probably feeling a bit forgotten to be honest. It was a long, drawn out process. I’d seen Berberian Sound Studio and thought, “This is someone I can understand.” He wasn’t just focusing on the sound aspect, but the way the sound was used. That was a catalyst. The record was probably 85 to 90 per cent there, but that made me want to finish it, though I had no intention of releasing it. The thing that made me actually want to run with it was the realisation that it was these instrumental pieces that had been happening on the side were the important bit. I was on to something. It was trying to write songs that had been winding me up.

It dawned on you that you might have an album there?

DP: Yeah, I hadn’t quite picked up on the fact that it was coming together. The instrumental stuff just seemed the right thing to be doing. The instrumentals were more stripped down than the songs I was trying to write, a bit more grown up. So post-The Duke Of Burgundy I managed to do some more tracks. I was starting to pull it together by that point. But it took me a while to get up the confidence to play it to anyone.

In terms of song writing, is it writing lyrics that is a problem, or is it structuring songs and writing melodies?

DP: The singing is an issue and I’ve always found the lyrics very difficult. I’m not entirely convinced by many of the lyrics that I wrote. Plus there were problems around analog and digital. The thing with home recording was, one minute you had all this great equipment and then suddenly you couldn’t buy it. By about 1999 or 2000, if you’d broken something or thrown it at the wall in frustration you couldn’t buy a new one, you could only buy digital – just like that.

I don’t want to get into a tirade, but I have a real problem listening to computers, basically. I’ve got nothing against digital stuff – the first thing that was credited to [FSA affiliate] Rocker and his computer was ‘The Drowners’, and that was on the first album. Rocker had a drum machine and a prototype Pro-Tools programme on his computer that drove the drum machine and maybe a keyboard or two. It put up bars and you had to put dots on the bars – something like that. That was his thing. I never went near it. It wasn’t going to keep me happy, doing all that. Then he got an early four-track digital so some of the stuff on New Lands and Mirror was done with that. Some of those tracks were effectively digitally recorded – confession time! [LAUGHS] Not that I ever denied it at the time. But I’d always have to take home a rough mix on a cassette to listen to. Rocker would always try and give me a sound file off the computer and I’d say, “No it’s alright, we’ll master it from the cassette.” I just couldn’t handle the idea of the sound. Our mastertapes – unless Rocker’s still got any of the original digital files – are actually cassettes. We always mixed to cassette, as a rule, because that just seemed to make sense.

Was Instrumentals 2015 recorded using you old methods? Or are new technologies creeping in to the way you work?

DP: I still had a cassette eight-track so some of it was recorded on that. The tracks I did post-The Duke Of Burgundy were actually recorded live straight to cassette, using the eight-track as a mixer. Then to the CDr player that I’ve got, which just about still works. The last thing I did for it was mono one-track to CDr – I think that’s the second track. The equipment has gradually broken down.

But I’ve not done this as a nostalgia trip, there’s just something about digital and computers that I don’t like at all. Beyond that, it’s about the nature of the music. Most of this came about because I’d have left the tape running after trying to do a song – fucked it up or got annoyed – and the tape would still be running and it would turn into this new tune or I might have tried to overdub something. Quite a lot of it was relying on this idea of just letting the tape run, but not in a hippy way.

So a lot of it is improvised?

DP: It is more improvised than it probably seems. And towards the end I set myself a “guitars only” rule. There are some tracks on there that have other things on them – percussion, for example. The “guitars only” thing helped get me to the final collection of tracks. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find a sequence for them, but finally I did. It was a blatantly obvious sequence once I’d found it. I’ve listened to this record almost as if someone else would, who isn’t me. I found it intriguing, which is a bit odd if you’re behind it all.

But if a lot it was improvised you were probably very much in the moment when you were doing it, rather than being considered and writing a chord sequence and playing that over and over again.

DP: Yeah, but I’d heard the tracks on and off over the years, because some of these date back quite a while. So I knew the music, though much of it had come from the subconscious. Something special that I couldn’t really account for seemed to be happening. Working by accident or with the subconscious, or even magic (you can either put that in inverted commas or don’t!) – that is a deliberate choice as a working method.

I’ve spoken to a lot of musicians and many have said that when they’re in the creative process they often feel like something takes them over. There are obviously lots of moments when they’re lucid and aware of what they’re doing, but then other times they’ll go back and listen to it and wonder where the hell it came from.

DP: Yes, absolutely, the so-called trance-like state or whatever you want to call it. But that doesn’t really fit in with the current political narrative of cause and effect and work and get paid and so on. We had it through the Blair era and we’ve got it again now. I can’t really cut it as a political commentator, but I do feel that compassion has disappeared a bit from the narrative in the world. I’ve become aware of that, from my experiences and people I know, and just from walking down the street or putting on the news. I think that has fed into my music.

I suppose at least with the Blair government at first there was a mood of positivity and prosperity – however it turned out. It wasn’t necessarily the most creative period in history, but New Labour always gave the impression of being supportive of the arts. With the Tories now it’s just about austerity – if what you’re doing isn’t driving the economy it’s not valid. There’s not even any attempt to act like they care about nurturing creativity.

DP: What this government don’t seem to realise is the old thing about cost and value – the value of something could be far greater than the cost. They’re not the same thing. We could go into the internet thing, I suppose…

That’s something I really wanted to talk to you about. I’m not sure this is phrased very well, but it's interesting to see the way that the music industry has evolved and how prescient you were. You were always staunchly pro-home recording and anti-compact discs – that format was the start of the process of the digitisation of music that has changed the industry, and the ability for smaller artists to make a living from their craft, irrevocably. Was your resistance to the major label’s digital cultural cleansing just sloganeering or was it something you strongly believed in?

DP: It was me being a bit mischievous and subversive, I suppose. But also the cassette home recording was affordable and the sound, as far as I was concerned, was perfectly adequate. It was an issue, but we didn’t get too many people complaining about it. People seemed to be able to go with it.

Nick Talbot, of Gravenhurst, who is sadly no longer with us, said that hearing Flying Saucer Attack for the first time was his “punk rock moment”. The realisation that the cassette four-track wasn’t just good for making demos, you could actually record proper music on it. That had a huge effect on him.

DP: I saw Nick’s piece on tQ and the one for Clash. I’ve read both. I thought he was spot on about a lot of aspects of what we were all about – he nailed it.

I exchanged some emails with him as a result of our mutual love of FSA and there’s no doubt in my mind that he wouldn’t have gone on to do what he did without having discovered Flying Saucer Attack.

DP: I’ve often gone back and re-read those articles he wrote when I needed to cheer meself up. They were the most perceptive articles about [FSA] I ever read.

He would be over the moon that you were recording again. He wrote to you once, asking for the lyrics to ‘My Dreaming Hill’ so that he could cover it. Apparently you replied, and on one line said, "Make up your own here, can't remember them, yours will be better."

DP: Well, I was planning on dropping him a line and letting him know about the album, but unfortunately that’s not to be. To anyone reading this, I would heartily recommend that you check out Nick’s pieces.

Going back to your original point, it is the digital thing that has ended up causing problems for musicians. I was very surprised when I pulled out a copy of ‘Soaring High’ recently – the first few of the homemade copies had a booklet cover that contained a short piece of blurb. It talks about “digital brain death”, and OK, I was probably talking more about computer games, but we can pretend that I was being prescient! I mean, we released stuff on CD, there’s no getting around that.

But if you go back to daguerreotype photos, they produced these spookily sharp pictures that in a way looked wrong. Then you get all the different types of film that used different chemicals to get the colours – so certain colours might be very bright, like with Technicolor. They all have very different looks to them. Some aspects are really attractive, but they look wrong.

And in the case of music, CDs sound wrong. DATs sound wrong. Downloads sound very wrong. Even vinyl sounds wrong. Go and sit in a studio and listen to a mastertape and it sounds wrong. It hasn’t got any bite, even at the mastering stage, because you might cut the grooves too loud, or whatever. Mastering is a very, very, very, very important thing. It’s a total art form, but unfortunately it never seems to be talked about really, except on that pedantic website that drives me mad – the Steve Hoffman forum. It’s not actually pedantic about mastering issues, but you get people saying things like, “I always thought it was mastered from analog”, when they’ve only ever listened to a fucking mp3. [LAUGHS]

When you were working with analog equipment, if you overloaded the sound or misused the equipment, it could end up being the most amazing thing ever. It’s amazing how so many of these sonic advances turned out to be because of like, “Oh we got this pedal and then it didn’t work” or “We got this pedal that people thought was useless and enhanced the way it was wrong even more”, i.e. the Mary Chain. The way he [William Reid] got those sheets of white noise with squeals in it as well – I could never work that out, but apparently he used these Japanese distortion pedals that you could get everywhere because they didn’t work. That was their trick.

At the outset, electric guitars were supposed to sound nice and go “plink”, but then people started slashing the speaker cones. The wah-wah pedal has been horribly misused – that screaming white noise you can get out of it probably wasn’t what the manufacturer intended. Or there’s the classic story about the people who did ‘Acid Trax’ – Phuture. They picked up some equipment from junk shops that wasn’t supposed to be used that way. They got that squelchy, acid sound out of the 303 that was designed to emulate the bass guitar because it didn’t actually do the job it was supposed to do!

What are your hopes for Instrumentals 2015 now that it’s out there?

DP: Well, I picked up the latest copy of Uncut, admittedly because there’s a small piece on me in it and I was being a bit narcissistic, but also there was a cover mount CD. And we’re on it, and our name is on the same line as the Sleaford Mods, and I like that because, well, just because… So that was good. I suppose I’m a bit intrigued by it. This record has really got its hooks into me. With everything I’ve been through in the past 15 years or so, this record has been a small force for the good for me.

Is it the start of something? If this turns out to be the footnote in your career, I’m perfectly happy with it. It’s more than I ever expected so I’m not trying to pile the pressure on!

DP: I would like to make another one, but I’m not sure that anyone needs to hear from me on my own ever again. I think it would be better next time if I did something with other people.

The response so far has been very positive.

DP: I’m really chuffed. The response has astounded me. I have occasionally Googled the band name recently and stuff has come up. It’s been very affectionate really, most of it, so I’m pleased that it’s touching people. I like to think that it takes the listener into consideration, even though I didn’t think anyone other than me was going to hear it.

It strikes me as being a very ego-free record.

DP: Yes, I don’t hear me in it – thank God. But I still hope it is saying something.

Instrumentals 2015 is out now on Domino/Drag City

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Rhodri
Sep 2, 2015 12:55pm

Fantastic interview.

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matt elliott
Sep 2, 2015 1:41pm

Pretty sure all of the FSA stuff was mastered from DAT tapes. Not that it really makes a difference but it pretty much negates a lot of what Pearce says here about his anti digital stance.

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Sandwell
Sep 2, 2015 2:25pm

Dave Pearce if you are reading these comments please carry on making music! "Further" is one of the best albums of the 90's, and the new album sounds fantastic! You truly captured the sound of the countryside with FSA in all its elemental, esoteric, melancholy glory and it has had a profound impact on my life. X

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Nick
Sep 2, 2015 5:59pm

I love how he complains about "being forgotten." After a 15 year lull he just released an album (doing something similar to what thousands of other musicians are doing) on one of the very best record labels in the world. Many people would give absolutely anything for that opportunity, but he seems to just take it as a given. The Quietus doesn't bother covering these other artists. We all want to live in the past and not dig in and support current artists.

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Mr Hall
Sep 3, 2015 6:37pm

Fantastic stuf, a real lump in the throat job! Get back out on the road Dave, even just a few shows as I never caught you back in the 90's. NE England would be nice, Cumberland Arms Newcastle is a cracking little venue. Perfect for sitting/lying down and letting the sounds wash over.

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McQuaid
Sep 4, 2015 11:45am

What a lovely and strange album, an album that is quietly blowing my mind. Art will tear your heart out, glad you got this out of you,
Dave. Some of the comments here though, FFS, tut tut!
Terrific and honest interview, well done.

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Jicky
Sep 4, 2015 2:09pm

In reply to Nick:

Great interview. I hope Dave makes some more records.

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PAC
Sep 4, 2015 2:33pm

In reply to Jicky:

What a treat to get this, after the record. Thank you Joe. Thank you Dave. Even the black mohair appears intact.. now that's what i call magic !

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Katarzina R'yleh
Sep 6, 2015 9:30am

What this music, and all music like it for the last 25 years, say is "I'm a weedy dweeb who can't take a deep breath and sing fully and carry a tune, but I live in a technologically dominant society in which I can make an aural impact by plugging in loud instruments - as an act of compensation. I'll pretend that making a shoegazey drone noise is sophisticated and dreamy but really it's just fucking lazy and relies on people smoking enough spliff to hallucinate something interesting over the top of it."

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ROOKSBY.
Sep 6, 2015 8:24pm

I was lucky enough to see FSA live back in the '90s. I vividly recall that somebody (not Dave) smashed up a rather expensive-looking guitar - was quite shocked at the time as they definitely didn't look like they could afford to replace it anytime soon. Spectacular amplified death-rattle obviously!

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Cathy marjoram (ex Price)
Nov 7, 2015 12:29am

Hey Dave...lost you for a bit there (24 years) found you again -still got your hand painted singles and albums. It'd be nice to see you again sometime! Love Cathy x

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Carl Wagner
Aug 9, 2016 3:59am

F'ing great interview. Seems like after a time and with the benefit of time to get used to the impact the music has had one can finally come around to their part in it without flipping the heck out. For those of you who didn't find these records when they first came out it may be hard to understand the impact they had at the time. The feeling they generated in fans of music. FSA ( and MBV and maybe SpMn3) saved rock and roll. I am sure it seems like an overstating of the case or melodramatic but it's not. And Dave Pearce did it. Maybe not alone but he was the architect. That can't be changed or commented away. He is right, it is only right, to make more music if there is more music to be had. Come out, come out wherever you are Dave Pearce. We all remember and we are all still waiting for more of that feeling.

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