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Eccentronic Research Council Talk New LP
The Quietus , February 11th, 2014 11:39

Adrian Flanagan fills us in on the band's new album, Magpie Billy & The Egg That Yolked (A Study Of The Northern Ape In Love)

We last heard from Sheffield's Eccentronic Research Council (discounting their Christmas anthem, 'Black ChristMass') with 2012's 1612 Underture, setting actor Maxine Peake's narration of a priest and nun's journey to Pendle, Lancashire to learn about the town's notorious witch trials within Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer's Kraftwerkian, psychedelic analogue synth soundscape. This week, the band have released their new album, the magnificently-titled Magpie Billy & The Egg That Yolked (A Study Of The Northern Ape In Love), which sees them reuniting with Peake and working with prolific Sheffield songwriter/producer/drummer Ross Orton to make, in their words, a "study of the complex behaviour patterns, communication calls, mating rituals, bad habits and eccentricities of two highly individual male apes living in the same house, but at different times". The record's available digitally or on limited edition vinyl via their Bandcamp - stream the first two tracks below - and, ahead of a Baker's Dozen on Thursday, we asked Flanagan to tell us more about the album.

What was the initial idea behind this album? There seems to perhaps be more of a personal anecdotal involvement to it than 1612 Underture and quite a large shift in theme.

Adrian Flanagan: It does come from a very personal place. A long term partner and I lived in this really eccentric house in Sheffield that we got off some family, previously owned by their Dad, who had passed away. He was an old Hell's Angel and a Heath Robinson-type: all his house and garden was made up of found objects, it was pretty cool. Subsequently, my partner and I split up, the pain of which manifested into this strange record!!

The first side is a little tribute to the previous house owner, someone who creates, makes things out of nothing, happy in his own world, but supported by his eternal backbone, his wife. The other side of the album is the couple who move in to the house, post-wake. I replaced the 'autobiographical self' with the simplicity of a regular guy with a regular job, a typical ape. It's not easy going out with a longtime outsider musician, whose life and breath is music. There's no life insurance... I'm undateable [laughs].

1612 Underture was a very feminine album - it's important to have balance and not repeat yourself and to do what you feel is right, be creative.

Where on earth did that title come from?

AF: I wanted one of them titles like Trout Mask Replica. Magpie Billy is both the main character of side one and haunts side two, The Egg That Yolked. I wanted something that suggested an easily breakable hard exterior, but one that bleeds yellow blood [laughs].

How was working with Ross Orton?

AF: Ross is great; we got him in solely to play drums on four of the tracks. He wasn't wearing his producer hat - my musical partner in the ERC, Dean Honer, and I produced the album ourselves. Ross and I go back a long way. When I first moved to Sheffield I'd go round his little home studio and record fun, daft, Northern electronic pop music under the alias of Kings Have Long Arms. He's a wicked drummer, Ross, and a top producer.

What did he bring to the record?

AF: Beef!!

You've cited the likes of Yellow Magic Orchestra, Goblin, Bernard Herrmann and White Noise as your influences for this album. What were your non-musical influences?

AF: I love a lot of old 70s and early 80s British TV stuff, like Beasts, Tales Of The Unexpected, the old Children's Film Foundation stuff and the Hammer House of Horror TV series, them programmes that are quite slow, mundane, drawn-out stories set in middle England, where not much happens until something very weird happens. That style is definitely a big influence on what I do. Which is why I wanted to draw it out using an almost internal monologue. It might not be for people who can't put their phone down for 30 minutes and want everything in a snappy 140 characters [laughs]!

Did Maxine have any input with the writing process this time around?

AF: No, Maxine, as with the other records, brings her impeccable narrating skills. She's the only person I trust with with my inner voice, she brings it to life. With this record I recorded Maxine's voice in her living room. She'd just done four incredible nights on her own, reciting Shelley's 'The Masque of Anarchy' at the Manchester International Festival. She was totally shattered, lying on her back in her garden, looking like she might die... It was at that very point I said: "Now is the right time for you to do the voice for our album!" I wanted her to sound how I was feeling when I wrote it [laughs].

There's somewhat of a celebration of primitive masculinity on the record. Do you consider yourselves the epitome of the modern male?

AF: I wouldn't say celebration and I wouldn't say either of the male characters are particularly nice people; they are relatively selfish, want to be left alone, base Northern males with old fashioned values.

Me? Epitome of modern male? I wouldn't even consider myself as being a man [laughs]!