The Wayfarers Lament _ Interview with Blind Summit
Held on the Weight of Whispers is the title of Blind Summit’s magnificent debut album.
The music was shaped by a personal tragedy and this echoes strongly in it’s beautiful melancholia. The conclusion is a stunning album; one which fuses emotive palettes of sound with classical techno and electronic rhythms. Understandably, this is more for the head than the dance floor.
With the eve of release on Singularity Recordings fast approaching, we are lucky enough to have an early copy of the album, an exclusive free track and the chance to have a chat with the man himself.
Hi Chris, congratulations on the album – I was lucky enough to get an early copy and my ears are catching something new each time I listen to it. That’s the way it should be – so fair play!
Hello mate, ahh thanks man, glad you like it. I hope others feel the same way when it makes it’s way out into the world. It’s great to hear some of the early feedback from close friends and some of the other folk who have heard it. It’s serving to lessen my apprehension and nerves.
Your music is always packed with emotion and appears to be designed for the heart, mind and feet. So why decide to make an album now? Your style has always struck me as being ideal for a “long player” format by the way..
I try to put my personality into what I do, be that music or otherwise.. So I’m glad that you can identify with the emotion that comes through. I’m well aware I’m just a beginner, but it’s still been a long-ish process getting to this point.
The album was begun about a year and a half ago, after signing to Singularity with my first EP Motion Departure. I remember feeling really motivated to write and to achieve more than I had previously, which, whilst to some might not seem a lot.. To me.. It felt like a massive deal at the time. I started out writing seriously some time before, but getting those tunes out felt like an achievement in a personal way. I don’t think people necessarily need a bit of recognition to justify what they do, but it can often be the trigger for progress.. and this time it was.
At the time, I was living up in the North East while my partner studied to become a teacher. We knew nobody and due to the nature of her course commitments and me running my night down in York, we didn’t ever really extend into socialising with new people up there, like going out etc., which is a bit weird as we are both outgoing people. However for her the bonus was peace and for me it was the space, time and solitude needed to really pour myself into this work.
I wrote several of the tunes on the album in slightly different states.. hoping to have another EP. I got a few mastered to play out and it was then that Steve put the thought in my head about an album. I like to make pretty broad sounding music, so when I thought about it some more I got me head around the task and started thinking..
So how did you begin to approach it from there? What’s the pressure like when you’re trying to write a whole album worth of material? Was that stressful?
The previous question leads well into this as this was very much the changing point… As the promo blurb states, this one is born out of a very personal loss. The album is dedicated to the life and memory of my niece who died last year. I don’t want to elaborate too much on that for obvious reasons, but it was this tragedy that led to the wider concept for this piece of work.
This kind of knocked us all sideways. I naturally tend to think very deeply about things. I can’t help it and this led me peal back the surface of these most secretive and deeply personal of issues. This is where the album name came from: Held on the weight of whispers is really how it is. Thousands of couples suffer losses during birth and these are cradled in very deep personal emotions. That’s the reason why this topic isn’t really ever looked at. Hence “Held on the Weight of Whispers”.
In coming to terms with loss through my life I have found myself becoming a little detached. I see it in others too. I think this is quite normal and it’s actually healthy to do this. When trying to rational the feelings, it actually always seems to lead to some kind of truth. In this instance it was the wider concept that all life is perched so precariously. The planet’s resources and the atmosphere, likewise in the solar system and human life in its position in all of that… So yeah, that’s how the concept was born.
After that began the serious process of writing and progression of ideas around the theme. This was very stressful at times, mainly due to my lack of knowledge about how to put the technology and instruments I have to best use. But perseverance prevailed I guess. If ya set yourself a target of doing something, then it just gets done when it gets done. Thats the way I think and that was the way I went about it. There were frequent feelings of total self-loathing and fucking stress about not getting the sounds I wanted, or compression, or some shit, which led the way to actually starting to amass a fair bit of music and then eventually the album in its first state.
We then moved to just outside Leeds.. A total blessing on my part.. No more solitary drives back up the A1 after detached, and future past. That road at 6 am is a real test of any raver, hehe 🙂
It was on moving here and getting a more dedicated studio environment to work in, as well as few new bits and bobs that I mixed the album and added three of the final tracks.. as well as a few that didn’t make the cut. It was great going back over the work with my head in a really different place. New starts have been something of a feature in my life. I’ve always kinda moved around a bit and like they say,”a change is as good as a rest.”
Was it difficult narrowing down all the tracks down in the end, being so connected to them in a way? A lot of the tracks would fit into the electronica category.. so was it difficult to be strict to that aesthetic?
Like I kinda said the concepts ruled many of my thoughts, but I don’t think encroached too much into the way I made the tracks.. I experiment a lot with stuff as I am still learning all the time and so each tune I start is new and I try to either add some of what I know or do something really different.. The album has been a year or so in the making. The process of narrowing it down was right nice if I’m honest as I like a good ego bashing session at the best of times. Just sitting down with a bunch of tracks and going “right that was a waste of time..”, “that doesn’t work..” or, ” that is utter shit..” or, “that does work..” or whatever. So after ages of fretting about the nuances of the individual tracks, it was refreshing..
I wanted the album to be a mix of sounds ranging from some more danceable techno electronic stuff but also to try and show what I was doing experimentally as well. So striking that balance took a while, but that’s part of it. I guess you don’t just simply arrive a solution – Ya need a problem first!
Would you mind talking a little bit about some of the gear behind the music? Do you have a routine when it comes to producing?
Yeah that’s cool man; I don’t really have many secret weapons. I have a Mac which I run Ableton on as well as a select collection of some nice bits of “emulation” type kit. A few nice compressors and a couple of good quality channel strip type things. A couple of soft synths. I did have a Roland synth piano and that features in a part of the album but that has since to got broken and defunct. I also use heavy amount of recorded stuff from my Tascam DR100, which I love to just take out and about and capture bits and bobs. Lastly and probably the least well known about is the trusty King Trombone. I played for years in bands but lost interest in it when I got a guitar and then subsequently found techno and decks n that… But when I saw this Yamaha practice mute in a shop, I thought “Bang on! That means I can plug it into Ableton..” Fucking worked to an extent as well.
I have a spare room conversion studio space so it’s not ideal, but it’s on the way to being good and the walls are really nice and thick and I never get noise complaints – which everyone knows is nightmare. No schedule either just do it when I can and when I feel inspired I do the most.
I’ve heard you chatting about field recordings in the past – and got the impression that you were a bit of an enthusiast. What’s been the strangest situation you put yourself into to get a sound? Has anyone ever given you a dodgy look?
Haha I would really call myself an enthusiast but I do love taking recordings. It’s changed the way I approach sound a lot. Got some good ones on here actually.. The tune Megellanic Clouds has samples I got by climbing down into a big Victorian drainage tunnel on the North York Moors with the trombone and making a right old racket. I just recorded it at each end of the tunnel with Tascam. I don’t think the farmer on his tractor really knew what I was on about when I said I had a trombone in the case and not a camera. He were just “Ah reet – As ya like…”. That aside I think you always get weird looks when you are recording stuff in busy places. It’s only natural.. especially seeing as how some bright spark designed the recorder to look like a tazer or somit… “who’s that guy with the tazer and headphones and spaced out look on his face” haha
Chris has kindly made a free track to go along with this interview & ALBUM REVIEW.
You can also DL it from Bandcamp: http://blindsummit.bandcamp.com/track/stone-cutters-ghosts
And you are also a keen photographer.. Is aiming the recorder a bit like snapping a picture? Which came first – Photography or music?
Music came first and I’m not a professional photographer or designer.. it’s just something I like to do. I’m putting together a collection of pictures for a small show later this year, but nothing serious. It’s purely hobby focused and just nice to be able to get visual memories. I think it can be helpful with inspiration too.
It probably sounds like a right wanky question, but after looking at your photos & listening to your music, I get the sense that your brain is programmed to identify and create texture / shade / colour / depth / focus / balance etc.. Would that parallel be correct?
Yeah it’s a wanky question… 😉 haha.. nah… you’re probably right to an extent, I look for inspiration a lot in the world around me.. The tune shade analysis I did for fervent in Australia amongst others I guess could be testament to that…
Haha – So, are there going to be any “singles” released – or is it going to exist as a standalone album?
Yeah I hope so.. there was always talk of doing some remixes. I would love for that to happen and hopefully it will. There might be a couple of singles, but certainly there will be some remixes, if I can find anyone to remix for me hehe! That might be harder 🙂
Blind Summit – The Shadow of Locomotive No1 (Not on Album).
How did you feel when you shipped it off to the label to get mastered? Was it a relief to get rid of it, knowing that you could move on?
I was at first glad to see the back of it.. but then I decided that I needed to do more to it, so I mixed it again and then I sent it. I was happy and nervous at the same time, but yeah – It felt alright did that..
So after all the revision, which track are you most proud of? If you had to recommend a favourite to someone – what would it be?
Ah I don’t know to be honest… I was happy with the result of Wayfarers Lament as I used a small sample collection given to me by my mate Dijon on that one. In doing so I developed ideas that I carried through into the rest of that album. That was one of the early ones.
For the trombone sounds, Blissful Oblivion does what it says on the tin I think.
Then after this, have you got anything coming up over the next while? Or are you taking a breather?
No defiantly no breathers here. I’m already a couple of tracks into a new project focussing on a more ambient type of sound which I hope to be collaborating with others on. Also working on Hostile Summit stuff with Dave and a few other bits too. So yeah – hard work. I do as much as I can really.
Any plans for doing some dates over the summer?
I haven’t been DJ’ing as much as used to, solely down to writing taking priority. I still have my room set over to 1210’s and shed load of vinyl.. and I’m getting into digital stuff too of late. I get sent the odd tune from mates and digital and wax makes a great set up for me. Yeah, I think I will try to get to play somewhere soon as it’s been ages. I played in Holland for Hemlock nights last year and that was special; I’d love to do more of that. I’m in the process of putting together a Live/DJ show at the moment as well so all being well some gigs may present themselves it would be great to play out some more.
A stunning (and highly recommended) mix by Blind Summit can be DL’d from Future Past