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Eccentrics On The Periphery: Download Minor Characters EP Free
The Quietus , December 12th, 2014 12:36

With the release of tQPC's Minor Characters this week, we spoke with East India Youth, The Lone Taxidermist and English Heretic about their choices for the project and how their compositions came about... plus you can download the lot below!

This week the Quietus Phonographic Corporation is pleased to announce the release of an EP of new material made by five exciting British artists, in collaboration with Chris Bye from Arts Council England North West and the Liverpool International Music Festival. The tracks are based on sideline characters from the artists' favourite films, plays, and works of literature. Minor Characters includes tracks by English Heretic, Forest Swords, Luke Abbott, Ten Mouth Electron, The Lone Taxidermist and Mercury Prize nominee East India Youth. YOU CAN DOWNLOAD ALL OF THIS MUSIC FOR FREE BELOW AIEEEE!

The concept for the EP was originally conceived by Chris Bye from Arts Council England, who began by noting down source material in a little book, before approaching Quietus editor John Doran about the idea in Berlin. "I wanted to do something that gave a platform for decent artists which some may not have had the opportunity to hear," says Bye of the project. "So from the offset the idea was to do something that would be free to download and which would be pushed out through a respected and wide-reaching platform."

"People have been singing stories about characters since year dot. I have always loved tunes that take me on a journey through some sort of narrative. At the same time I've always been fascinated by eccentrics and those on the periphery. The sort of people who inhabit John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, or a Tom Waits number. I'm not saying it's some original break- through, I just wanted to kind of expand on it a little and see where it took people." The project has been funded by the Liverpool International Music Festival, and was recorded with help from the Merseyside Arts Foundation, who also helped with videos courtesy of Dan Hewitson; provided cover art through Gary McGarvey from illustration and design studio Horse. The EP was produced by John Tatlock, with the help of facilities and staff at Parr Street Studios.

East India Youth - 'Terminally Jangled' (Lucy from Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas)

East India Youth was selected by tQ's John Doran and Luke Turner. Speaking on the decision, John says, "We formed the record label specifically because of and for William Doyle aka East India Youth. We were made up that he had time to get involved what with the massive success of TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER and his well-deserved Mercury nomination. His excellent track acts as a tantalising stop gap before we get our hands on his much anticipated second album next year." Read Doyle's words on his choice of Lucy from Fear and Loathing and download his track 'Terminally Jangled' above:

How did you choose your character and why? What special resonance do they have for you?

William Doyle: I suppose it was on the original suggested list that was sent to me by the team before the project was announced. It occurred to be when I was reading the list and I saw Lucy's name on it that I hadn't watched Fear And Loathing for a while now so I wanted to revisit that and a few other films on the list before deciding. With that one it's one of the rare occurrences where I'm as big a fan of the book as I am of the film so I suppose my initial interest was less to do with the character and more the chance to represent one of the elements of this totally insane tale.

Why do you feel Lucy brings to the book or film?

WD: I guess despite a lot of the drug-induced paranoia brought on in the story Lucy is finally someone who might hold Duke and Gonzo accountable as a victim of their incredible excess. I've always like the idea that despite everything they've done up to this point in the story, Lucy represents having gone too far, perhaps. I just think that's an interesting element to add.

How did you approach writing the track? Did you do anything different to how you would normally work?

WD: Normally I don't really write about specific things and instances really. Everything I do in East India Youth is a bit more abstract than that and it's a bit more about capturing an atmosphere and sense of space. So writing about a specific thing is not something I'm very used to. With this project the context is already there before you, or at least some sort of context and it's your job to convey the specific properties of that character and maybe let the listener into that character's world a bit. I'm not actually sure if that way of working is for me really, but I've really enjoyed doing this as it's been a very interesting artistic challenge, definitely.

Did you get any insight into the character and their backstory or their motivation through the process?

WD: Not really, of course I had to focus on the character more than I would have as a casual watcher of this brilliant film. But I haven't felt that my writing a song about her has given her any more depth than what I see on the screen or have read in the book. I do wonder however – one thing that came across my mind when I revisited the film was that whether or not… basically Lucy is a massive Barbara Streisand fan and she was on her way to go and see her in concert and present these paintings that she does of Barbara Streisand to her and then she meets Gonzo on the plane and he feeds her LSD. And I wonder if the paintings were some kind of post-drug inspiration or did she have that eccentricity before she met Gonzo. Other than that I haven't been able to work that one out, maybe that's something I've covered in the work I've done, but not consciously.

Describe your first exposure to Fear And Loathing. Who introduced you to it what effect did it have on your outlook, where were you living and how old were you?

WD: I must have been about 16, I watched the film before I read the book. I was 16 at college and a new friend of mine there had given me a copy of Brazil on DVD and I totally loved that and I had no idea what was going on, but it was an amazing experience I thought. I wanted to serial watch all of TG films I could get my hands on, and I'd heard about this one because I think it has become quite a iconic pop culture interpretation of what I found a very influential book so it seemed perfect to me at that time. The film's always stayed with me since then really, I think because of Gilliam's style I am more in tune to the film than I am the book, although I am a big fan of the book but there's something about the style of the film that.. I guess having seen the film before I read the book sort of informed the way that I read it, because the visuals are now synonymous with the writing every time I return to the book.

English Heretic – 'Lavinia Whateley' (Lavinia Whateley from The Dunwich Horror)

English Heretic was selected by Chris Bye, who says, "I actually discovered English Heretic through a review on The Quietus. I was immediately struck by the way in which this guy immerses himself in the source material. As in fully submerged and possibly even out the other end. Minor Characters is also about mixing some more well-known names with incredible talent that might not normally be on the same bill. Plus it's safe to say he dabbles in the esoteric, which again, fitted nicely with the aesthetic of this project." Read English Heretic's words on his choice of Lavinia Whateley from Dunwich Horror and download his eponymous track below:

How did you choose your character and why? What special resonance do they have for you?

My character's Lavinia Whateley and I first discovered her through the film Dunwich Horror and it was actually in Liverpool when I was a student, I was actually falling asleep on my sofa and waking up at intermittent intervals and the film from 1970 was playing on telly and every time I woke up it seemed to be in one of those psychedelic scenes and I thought the whole film was like that. In the mid 90s I become very interested by the occultist Kenneth Grant who was massively influenced by HP Lovecraft and he drew Lavinia Whateley into his occult mythos in a very interesting way so he was blending fact and fiction really. Then I later moved to Suffolk and found there were parallels between Lavinia Whateley and the Suffolk witch trials so it's a character that has followed me for 26 years.

The character of Lavinia Whateley that I've portrayed in the song is actually an amalgam of Lavinia Whateley, a real Suffolk witch called Margaret Wyatt who features in occult mythos and another character from an Arthur Machen book called The Great God Pan and the character Helen Vaughan. Lovecraft was massively influenced by Machen's stories and particularly The Great God Pan is mentioned in Dunwich Horror so Lavinia Whateley in my view is much based on a Machen character and if you look at some of the unfortunate women who were interrogated in the witch trials I tried to create an amalgam of those characters. In actual fact, in English Heretic I do these concepts of black plaques to commemorate tragic esoteric figures and I had an idea of doing Margaret Wyatt about ten years ago so the project is very much an extension of these ideas.

How did you approach writing the track? Did you do anything different to how you would normally work?

The process of writing the song I was looking at location work because of the English Heretic project and I'm based in Suffolk. So I had an idea of transposing Lavinia Whateley and the DH onto Suffolk, and there's very good reasons for doing it as Lovecraft based a lot of his mythos on the Salem witch trials which were imported from Suffolk into New England. I also used field recordings that I'd taken last year in South Wales at a stone circle on a hill outside a place called Caerleon where Machen wrote a story in which there's a witch cult that operates on the hillside. Again this is related very closely to Lovecraft so I used some location recordings that I'd done there through a phone and a bit of software called Filtertron which picked up the ambience and create this eerie soundscape. I also used some recordings I'd taken at the cathedral of the black virgin at Montserrat in Spain. My idea was to invert the story of Lavinia Whateley as a demonic version of the virgin Mary, so the albino madonna, because in the story she's an albino. So this was the process for writing the track the actual musical element I wanted it to be quite ritualistic, but in an electronic way so its an electronic hymn from the future for this cult. It's also inspired slightly by some of the textures in in a Joy Division song 'Passover' which has a strong sacrificial overtones as well, then I wrote a very short story that sets this cult around Lavinia Whateley some time in the future, 2045 in Suffolk so this process of using filed recordings an aesthetic for the sound of the music and a kind of literary narrative as well.

The Lone Taxidermist – 'Marion' (Marion from Wings Of Desire)

The Lone Taxidermist was selected for Minor Characters by tQ's John Doran and Luke Turner. Speaking on the decision, John says, "The first time I saw Natalie Sharp performing was as the lead singer of a very theatrical group called The Bottom Feeders. During one song she made a skinny young lad come on stage, strip off and eat a pork pie whilst she was singing in his face. Now in 2014 she is making beguiling gothic pop music which sits somewhere between Diamanda Galas, The Slits and John Shuttleworth. I'm really blown away by how much effort and imagination she's put into her track." Read Sharp's words on her choice of Marion from Wings Of Desire and download her track 'Marion' below:

How did you choose your minor character and why?

Natalie Sharp: I chose Marion by scanning through the very exhaustive list of people that you gave us. It was the first one on there that I recognised if I'm honest, but then going through the list a few times it was just totally the right one for me to approach because first of all she's a woman. Second of all I've been sort of been flirting with aerial artistry myself by taking up aerial yoga which isn't quite the same, but it does still involve hanging off a piece of silk. I've since met real life model, a girl called Maxine and it's an art form that completely fascinates me, the closest thing you can get to being almost like a heavenly gliding graceful creature.

What special resonance does she have for you?

NS: I think I can relate to her feeling of being somewhere else an that feeling of loneliness of her character and that kind of way that she she has quite curious way of viewing the world but also quite isolating and meditative. I think the whole film itself is pure art and it kind of reminds me of this film Russian Arc where there is no specific plot line and it's more to do with a state of being than a state of, as David Lynch would put it, transcendental like being which I'm really interested in.

How do you feel she adds to the film she's in?

NS: Marion, I don't think of her as a minor character, in fact as soon as you're introduced to her it's really difficult to take your eyes off her. She's completely captivating and you can't really take your eyes off her once you've been introduced to her. She is a bit like Bruno Gantz' character in that she's also an angel but in human form, in mortal form.

How did you approach writing the track?

NS: I almost approached it like a piece of homework. I wrote down all the initial senses I got from seeing her in the film and the feeling of being up really really high and balancing on a very precarious thin piece of silk or rope or a swing whatever she's on at any particular moment. I just wrote down a series of words like "swing" and "high" and "dizziness" and "vertigo" and "nausea" and I think for me it was less about her relationship with Bruno Gantz' character and it was more actually just about that feeling of being completely lonely and isolated and very high up in the sky and looking down on everyone. That was more interesting for me.

Did you do anything differently to what you'd normally do in your own work?

NS: This for me was a massive form of self indulging exploration and I think the penny kind of dropped when John Doran said to me, "this can be whatever you want it to be, it does't have to be in any way commercially viable, it can be as long as you want it to be, it can be as weird and avant as you want it to be", so I was like "right then!". I really went with that, which is why initially the track is, I think when I first wrote it it was 21 minutes long and we managed to get it down to 12 minutes which I'm not quite sure how we did that. The track is mainly made up of my voice and it's been warped and transposed and delayed and we've added all kinds of weird effects to it. I think what I was trying to do was especially in the middle part of the song I was really kind of conscious of trying to get the devil note, which is where you get a person to hum a note and then you hum a note into their mouth that's slightly off pitch with their note and you get this amazing, oscillating sound and I was really obsessed with trying to get that. It very much doesn't follow any kind of verse chorus verse whatsoever, it was more about layering sounds and creating a sort of landscape of working out how to tell the story of Marion from start to end from the initial black and white sort of boom, all the way through to the colourful, showgirl explosion at the end.

Did you get any insights into the character and their backstory or motivation through the process?

NS: I think I made up my own insights, I didn't really look too much into how the film was made or into her. I was imagining what it would feel like to be Marion. The isolation and the loneliness that she experiences in the film was something that I was more interested in trying to recreate with the composition. I think for me it was more about making up a story as opposed to going into the background. I since found out that her character, well in real life, she's called Solveig Dommartin, she's the only person from the film to not be alive anymore unfortunately. I think she died of a heart attack and she was only 45 which is all the more reason to do a bloody good job.

Describe your first exposure to the film/book/play

NS: I think it was probably something to with going to Berlin and the city had quite profound and incredible effect on me. I imagine I was probably obsessively researching anything to do with Berlin around about the time I was there.

What effect did it have on your outlook? Where were you living and how old were you?

NS: I reckon it was about three or four years ago. I can't remember the effect it had on me at the time specifically, but I know that every time I watch that film I never get tired of watching it. It's kind of like going into a meditative state, it's really poetic and really beautiful and kind of unique in the way that it's portrayed as a series of whispers. I think there's been a lot of American interpretations that have made their own version of it but the film is definitely down to your interpretation which is something I really like about it. Weirdly enough, it sort of reminded me of the first time I saw Wizard Of Oz. Wings Of Desire goes from sepia tone and then at the very end where we see Nick Cave performing and there's a few moments throughout the film where the angels aren't looking and it is actually in colour. I've always had this fascination with when the world went from black and white, as I used to believe, to colour, and that's something I tried to translate into the composition as well. I think it's something you definitely notice when the rhythm comes in at the end of the song that's when she's in performance mode, all guns blazing. You see a very different side of her when she's in front of her audience to what you do when she's on her own and again I think that's something I definitely relate to.


Also picked for Minor Characters were Ten Mouth Electron, whose "references to Donald Crowhurst and love for The Third Policeman was more than enough to demonstrate they were right for this project" - they chose de Selby from Flann O'Brien's classic novel, Luke Abbott (who chose Organ Morgan from Under Milk Wood) and Matthew Barnes aka Forest Swords, who Chris Bye describes as "one of the best acts to come out of Merseyside" who did his song about Miss Lonelyheart from Rear Window.

Ten Mouth Electron – 'Lux Mundi' (de Selby from The Third Policeman)

Luke Abbott – 'Fantasy Wurlitzer' (Organ Morgan from Under Milk Wood)

Matthew Barnes (Forest Swords) – 'Miss Lonely Heart' (Miss Lonelyheart from Rear Window)

Minor Characters is available now digitally free of charge. Download individually from the embeds above