The Waiting Room
There have been a lot of press photos with Stuart wearing a felted hat since the TWR release – Is there a special story around this special felt-hat?
SAS – For men of a certain age, a hat can become an essential part of their wardrobe. My hat found me in Vienna a few years ago, gradually we have been becoming friends.
Any reason why there have been no singles (CDS or 7″) released for the recent album?
SAS – Both ‘the something rain’ and ‘the waiting room’ were made in similar ways – the shape of the album being found and understood first then the pieces of the album honed – This doesn’t leave many finished songs left over (though many unfinished waiting for their moment)
On “Second Chance Man,” was the lead vocal put through a Leslie speaker?
SAS – It was. Earl gave me this idea from the Alain Toussaint’ track Southern nights’ he played me.
In one of the previous Q&As, the possibility of a “tindersticks in dub”- style remix EP was suggested. Given the rhythm-heavy slant of The Waiting Room, would you consider releasing a dub remix version of the album?
SAS – I know we live in an age when everything can be appropriated and a seam of the influence of reggae runs through our work, but no, this will not happen. I have too much respect, maybe from growing up in Nottingham in the late 70’s, early 80’s. Jamaican music is not like some kind of postcard for me, it was the heartbeat of where I lived for some time.
For Julian Siegel…
How did you approach writing the arrangements for TWR songs? “Second Chance Man” and “Help Yourself” in particular are great and very unusual for tindersticks.
Stuart sent me the songs, plus a few pointers for what he wanted, but he didnt say too much, I just think he wanted to see what I’d come up with, I really appreciated the freedom he gave me on the songs, to be able to try things out and experiment
I started by singing, playing + improvising along to the tracks to generate ideas, then scored these ideas up for the horn section ready for the sessions.
The main thing is to accompany the vocal and to follow and build on the shape of the song….. try to find something that’s in the vibe of the music whilst trying to do my own thing with it.
‘Help yourself’ was the first chart I wrote for the band. The groove, the tonality (when I first heard it it felt like I could hear it in two keys ) and also the space in the song gave a great opportunity to write something, to stretch out and experiment a little. I’ve been playing in the horn section with Jason, Byron and Harry for years and they were really quick to get the feeling I wanted here. tt was a big pleasure to work with them on the session, they are great musicians.
‘Second chance man’ was more of a collaboration with lots of input from Stuart. the more we’ve worked together the more I understand what Stuart is after. This arrangement was more of a ‘process’ in that I wrote one section knowing that it might not be played ‘as – is’ on the session. We ended up improvising in the ‘vibe’ of the written notes at one point…. I’m really happy with how this ended up.
I really enjoyed writing the chart for ‘How He entered’ and this came together quickly, it’s a beautiful song. The band have been playing with a great string section for years so theres a really warm feeling in this song. I just tried to compliment everything thats going on whilst leaving enough space.
For ‘We are Dreamers ‘ I improvised along to the whole track. At the beginning of the song we ended up using a fragment of the solo from the end of the improvisation, a kind of ‘pre-echo’.
How do you see instrumentals? Stuart said “Follow Me” had to usher the album in, partly because it was difficult to start off directly with his own voice. Do you think of instrumentals as moments that bring space in the album (like in TWR)?
SAS – Instrumentals can provide a kind of negative space within an album, but that does not mean that they become passive – it’s about relationships. Davids ‘Planting holes’ has been around for a long time, finding is place in between the intensity of ‘the waiting room’ and ‘dreamers’, it gained power (and brought space).
I am sure there is a story behind “How He Entered.” Could you tell us more about this song, how it came to be, why you did a video for this one track after the other films were completed? Incidentally, it seems to be the only film that does have a narrative. Come on, do tell us!!!
SAS – This song started from a musical idea from Dan. Though it wasn’t instantly exciting, it held something in the chord changes in the chorus that was fascinating. Myself and he took it apart one day and found something else within it – that time signature that gives the song its internal tension. Gradually, as we worked on the music, it pulled that story out of me.
The photo session with Richard for the album cover was a slender idea, but out of it a character emerged that we both wanted to find out more about. The film project was already commissioned and all the film makers were given a ‘non–narrative’ brief. This was something different and we made plans to make a film about this ‘donkey man’, to tell his story, show his life.
The Something Rain saw an expansion in the type of instrumentation the band uses to include synthesizers – what are your favourite synths?
DAVID – Did we use synthesizers on The Something Rain? Maybe a sample from an old sound module. And perhaps some strings from a string machine. Not really real synths in my book. The first keyboard I had was a Jen SK1000. The only thing I could afford. Paid for weekly from my sister’s Kay catalogue. I drooled over a Roland Jupiter8. But got a Korg Polysix. Again paid for in installments. Took me about five years. I swapped it for an old farfisa before I’d even paid for it and never looked back. Except for the Juno 6 used on City Sickness.
Stuart, as the producer and engineer of the last few albums, what would be your favourite piece of recording gear? (microphones, outboard, etc…)
SAS – It would be my desk, a late MCI 500 (1986ish). This really is the sound TSR and TWR , slightly fuzzy, shadowy, an object with a story that you can lean on while you think.
I do have bouts of missing our old MCI 400 (mid 70’s) – half the second album was mixed on this, lots of stuff after that. It had such a beautiful ‘top end’ – I even forgave it for making the first two Police albums – it’s the sound of ‘Trying to find a home’ and ‘Lucky Dog Recordings’.
I decided to make the jump from the 400 to the 500 with the new space in France, so everything from ‘the hungry saw’ onwards has been made on the 500.
If you are really interested, the basis of the core instrument sound paths remain kind of fixed – Bass AKG C28 through the dbx 160, drums AKG 202/C28s through the TG limiter, vocal SM7 through the LA2A, Neils guitar SM57/1176 – Other stuff floats around…
Earl and Dan, how do you approach playing together as a rhythm section? It sounds great on the last album…
DAN – I don’t think there’s too much thought about it really. Playing with Earl has always felt completely natural.
EARL – I don’t really think of Dan and I being a “rhythm section” in our music. The instruments are so interdependent on each other I never really considered the drums and bass to have any different function than anything else in a Tindersticks song.
What could you tell us about the recording of the The Hungry Saw version of “What Are You Fighting For?”
SAS – Magic takes place on this track, at least to my ears. The way the guitar and keyboard parts interlock, question and answer, compare and contrast, the vocal delivery, the tempo (which could not have been a fraction faster or slower), the slightly offkey keyboard, reminiscent of Lou Reed’s Berlin, all seems to point towards a particular moment in Le Chien.
My questions are: What happened there and then? When was the recording? What are your views on this track? How do you look at the Across Six Leap Years version today?
SAS – Being in the studio is all about catching those moments, even with a great song you still need a moment of connection between the band, the space, the equipment. So many moments recording THS – Tommy Belhom is a wild card, you never quite know what is going to happen.
‘what are you fighting for?’ is an important song (David at his best), it was the final song on THS right up until the final decisions, which were really about whether the album was a single or double, it was tough.
I see A6LY as a way to mark a moment in time and create a place to move on from.
Would you consider an official bootleg release of A6LP/Singing Skies/Claire Denis soundtracks tours? All of them seem very special, and all your new records are well represented in this series.
I love your live CDs and hope many more will be released. Bu, on San Sebastian, y the older tracks were not included, and on Philharmonie de Paris you did not include “Second Chance Man,” among others. Is there a reason behind these omissions?
SAS – I suppose they were both thought about as (very different) vinyl releases.
San Sebastian was hoped to be a credible live version of TSR. The Paris recording felt very special, a watershed moment for us as a band. We wanted to make something listenable and enjoyable as a single album and it worked out so neatly. Perhaps we should find away to give away the missing bits on-line.
In your last FAQ in 2012 you have hinted about a potential visual album release (which came true in form of the TWR film DVD in the limited edition of your recent album) & you are doing/planning a lot of visual related projects for the rest of the year or 2017 and beyond (e.g. the recent CINE concerts in UK and selected European venues, the forthcoming Claire Denis SCI-FI fim O.S.T. et al. projects). In this context, might there be the option of a first official LIVE DVD Video Bootleg release of one of the CINE concerts?
SAS – There are murmurs of something, though I am not sure what form it’ll take.
2016 is pretty much solid touring across Europe: what rituals do you have to stay sane and friendly with each other in the face of such a demanding schedule?
SAS – If the music is good, generally that carries the mood.
NEIL – Keep smiling…a happy mood is infectious.
DAN – Running for me, it has so many benefits when on tour. Not only does it keep me fit, but it’s often the best way to get out and get a feel for city or town we are in. I often head for the river or the sea, both to help me navigate and get a feeling of space.
EARL – For me it’s Motorsport Magazine podcasts. Hear no evil, speak no evil! Seriously we are all very respectful of each other’s space. The personalities make it work more so than any rituals.
Any plans to tour Australia again? North America?
SAS – There are always conversations, we are always looking for opportunities.
Music For Installations/Exhibits…
I like Ypres album very, very much. It’s one of my favourites. Could you tell us something about it? I read somewhere that it was partly inspired by Benjamin Britten and Gorecki work. Do you like Contemporary classical music?
SAS – At the end of our tour for ‘can our love..’ in 2001 David Kitt and Paul G. Smyth (of The Jimmy Cake), who were supporting us, gave me a CD of Arvo Parts ‘Tabula Rasa’ as a thank you present – it more or less changed how I listen to and what I want from music (you can hear its influence all over Ypres later) Coincidentally, this was also the tour that Al Macaulay ducked out of so we were forced to think about our music without drums for the first time.
Probably my most played tindersticks music over the past few years is the background music for the Singing Skies slideshow. I find it a really haunting piece that reminds me very nicely of Eno’s Discreet Music. I would like to know more about its conception, how it was developed, etc.
SAS – Great! – This piece is big on my mind at the moment. It has been in a state of flux for years and I’m getting close to finishing it off. When this happens we will find a way to release it properly.
When Claire Denis saw Suzanne’s ‘A year in small paintings’ she wanted to make a film of them and after experimenting decided on the 6 seconds per painting slideshow, making the year 38 minutes – the film really needed a soundtrack. I decided on a key and vague rhythmic loop and basically invited everyone who came through the studio to watch the images, have a talk about it, and respond – from there I stared to build the shape and relationships within.
Multimedia seems to be becoming more intertwined with the band’s music, from the Claire Denis film score tour, the Singing Skies showings and book, to the recent TWR films and current tour. Is this something that evolved over time as a natural progression, or something that has simmered under the surface from the beginning? Further, is this something that the band will continue to explore in the future?
SAS – ‘Minute Bodies: The intimate world of F. Percy Smith’ the archive film and music project I/we have been working on for a few years has started its life outside of the studio. It premiered at the London Film Festival in October and in 2017 we will work with the BFI to release the soundtrack and DVD and play a handful of special shows – More news very soon.
I am starting to realise that many of my songs and ideas come from a visual place – I have also learned to appreciate musicians – those for which playing is natural and flowing (Neil, Dan, Earl) – Myself and David are more driven by ideas and struggle to give them form – Perhaps somewhere in our teenage years the idea of music hijacked our creativity with a promise of escape. I feel that recently our ideas are allowed to be broader, flow in different directions.
2016 is a very busy year for the band. How long will we have to wait for the next album/tour? Will there be another one? 🙂
SAS – I hope so! I am unsure when at the moment. I do know that we are all looking forward to getting off the road and to having some time in the studio together. It’s been pretty impossible this year.
Can we expect at some point a b-sides/rare tracks compilation of the MKII era of the band?
Tindersticks’ EPs and b-sides are great. Is there a project to do some again soon? Would “Johnny Guitar” or “Into the Night,” for example, appear on a record some day?
SAS – ‘Something on our minds that might cover both of these questions…
The five members of the band live in five different countries, so you rarely see each other to rehearse or compose together. How does it feel to work this way?
SAS – Back in 1996, we all lived together and had our own rehearsal room not far away, we hardly did any work, there was always tomorrow – Now, minutes together in the studio are precious – it’s an effort to get to and to create the time so something always happens. It’s always alive.
NEIL – For me, the physical distance between us is unimportant – I think it’s made us stronger. By condensing the time we have in the studio, it makes things more exciting…and Stuart’s studio is such a great place to be; inspiring, in fact.
DAN – It’s just been the way I’ve always worked with the band, so it feels quite normal. It does mean that when we get together in the studio it’s often a really productive time, but it would be good to be able to get together a little more easily and often sometimes.
When you have a recording session in Le Chien, is it like an e-mail by Stuart going out to all tindersticks: See you next Monday at 9:00 in Le Chien, or rather that the various band members show up dripwise during the course of a day or two, depending on the individual travel arrangements? In that case, who is always the last to show up? Is it important to be all in the same spot in your recording process?
SAS – More the latter. ‘Depends on travel as to who arrives last. A huge element of our music, whether on stage or in the studio is about moments of connection between us – The sound of the air in between us is very important!
If we can catch an exciting moment, it becomes something that we can build on.
Do you enjoy talking with your fans, for instance, after a show, to know what is their opinion, or at this point of your career you just want to play the shows and go home?
SAS – Hmmm.. sometimes, very much. If people can accept me as a guy who writes songs and sings, it’s ok. If it begins as something a bit more mystical, it can be awkward for me.
NEIL – I think David, Dan & I are usually happy to go out after the shows and have a chat. It’s good to hear what people liked, or missed from the shows, and to sign LPs and CDs.
DAN – Most of the time, along with Dave and Neil, I like to pop out front after a gig. On tour, you can end up spending a lot of time in the same space with the same people, so it can be good to break that up and say hello to some of the people that have made the effort to come and see us play.
EARL – I do respect the audiences opinion but I’ve always preferred playing and getting away from the scene right away. Felt like that since the beginning of my career not just this point!
You bring out critically acclaimed albums, you produce soundtracks for arthouse movies and museums, you sell out medium-sized venues all across Europe, and you could probably continue along these lines for another 10 years or more, hopefully (speaking for myself). It this an appropriate level of success for your band? Is it enough to carry on? For a self-confessed grafter, is it worth the considerable effort? Could you imagine in a parallel universe another tindersticks with shows in the largest venues and chart topping albums or tracks?
SAS – I am depressed now, I thought it was going well…
I can’t say that money is not an issue – I look around at the people involved in this band and I want them to be rewarded more than they are – for sure, they all deserve more.
On the other hand, speaking for myself and my work, I have spent the last 25 years more or less doing what I like and more or less surviving.
I am sure that many other musicians, writers, artists would agree that it is primarily about engagement with an idea and the sense that the idea is progressing – Everything else is secondary – You could be the most commercially successful artist but without that engagement and progression you would be lost.
For Neil and Terry…
Neil, will you and Terry Edwards record an LP soon?
NEIL – Yes there will be an album. It’s already been recorded, but Terry and I need to find some time to sit down and finish it off – we’ve both been a bit busy this year…we’ll hopefully find some time towards the end of the year, or the beginning of 2017.
For Dan & Earl…
Can you tell us how you initially met the band and about what led up to becoming full time members?
DAN – When Stuart was starting to play his solo albums live he was talking to a friend of his how he couldn’t find a bass player that played bass guitar and double bass. That friend turned out to be a mutual friend and they recommended me. I met Stuart in a café in Shepherd’s Bush and then ended up playing with Stuart on nearly all of his solo gigs. It was just a natural progression from there really to recording The Hungry Saw, up to where we are now.
EARL – I came into the band via two separate coincidental channels. One was through Terry Edwards whom I had met in L.A. when he was performing there and we instantly hit it off. I think that was around 2005. Then later in 2008 Stuart and I both performed on a recording called “Handbrake” by our friends Micatone, a band from Berlin. We also hit it off immediately and shortly after he contacted me when Thomas Belhom suddenly became unable to tour at that time.
For all members, Terry, and Julien…
What record in your collection would surprise us the most? Any closet metal fans in the band?
NEIL – Impossible to answer as every record in my collection isn’t a surprise for me, so I couldn’t say if it would surprise anyone else!
What is your all time favorite album?
NEIL – Has to be Wire 154 (sorry Steve S!), but saying that, I haven’t played it for years.
If you could be another member of the band for a day, who would you be and why?
SAS – Dan, he always get stuck in.
NEIL – David, he gets to take the weight off his feet whilst playing.
EARL – I would be Neil because like most drummers I have guitar envy!
What is the best new release you’ve heard this year? If this is a difficult question to answer, do you find yourselves listening to less new music these days?
SAS – It’s not too difficult, maybe not this year but I feel pretty rich recently with new music – D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, Kendricks Untitled, unmastered, Nils Frahms, Spaces, Destroyers Poison season have all received much gratitude in our house.
DAN – I still like exploring new music. There’s a list of a few that I’ve enjoyed listening to: Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered; David Bowie – Black Star; BadBadNotGood – IV; Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool; The Invisible – Patience; Gold Panda – Good Luck and Do Your Best, as well as a few others I’ve dipped into.
EARL – It’s a tie between Kendrick Lamar’s “untitled.unmastered” or Earl Sweatshirt’s “I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside”.
What is your favourite hat-trick or triptych of albums? For example The Colour Of Spring>Laughing Stock>Spirit Of Eden, or tindersticks>tindersticks>Curtains (mine).
SAS – Never been much of a talk talk fan but off the top of my head – Tim Hardin 1,2,3, Wilder/WSYM/Fried, Pink Flag/Chairs missing/154, Good kid/ Butterfly/Untitled, (77) More songs/Fear of music/Remain in light, The Producers/Blazing Saddles/Young Frankenstein, Master and everyone/Greatest Palace music/The letting go…
NEIL – Has to be Pink Flag/Chairs Missing/154, Damned Damned Damned/Music For Pleasure/Machine Gun Etiquette, Roxy Music/For Your Pleasure/Stranded (Country Life, Siren), Dark Side of the Moon,Wish You Were Here, Animals!
DAN – Probably Talking Book/Innervisions/ Fullfillingness’ First Finale
EARL – Bill Evans Trio: Explorations/Sunday At The Village Vanguard/Waltz For Debby
Which track, if any, would you consider re-mastering, like you did for A6LY, or with The Big Silence/Raindrops?
SAS – ‘One more time’ from ‘Leaving songs’ – I would love to hear that song big and strong.
Are you “emotionally” attached to your instruments or it’s just another piece of equipment?
SAS – Of course, ‘though after years of carrying around big lovable items (Hammond organs, Leslies, pianos) we prefer to be as minimal as possible on the road these days.
Lots of beautiful things retired to the studio.. my Selmer Guitar amplifier, Neils Vox AC30, our Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer piano…
DAVID – We have an old Lowrey organ that’s very special. I did The Organist Entertains on it. And it’s on most recordings we’ve done in the past 13 years somewhere. The rhythm machine and golden harp are pretty unique. It weighs a ton (148Kgs to be precise) It’s in Le Chien. I loved it so much I tracked one down in Germany and got it to my flat in Praha. It took 2 Ukranian ex-weight lifting champions to get it up the 4 flights of stairs.
DAN – It’s more than another piece of equipment, even when, as is the case playing live with tindersticks, the basses aren’t actually mine. I’m quite attached to my double bass, 70s Fender Jazz and my Levin acoustic as much because they’ve been around since I started playing as a young teenager.
EARL – I don’t get attached to the point of anthromorphizing or giving them names but there are some instruments I have owned for some time and feel I know every nuance of.
Do you ever listen to your records (old and new)?
NEIL – Occasionally.
What do you think is the most underappreciated (either by the fans or the other band members) song in the Tindersticks canon?
SAS – Simple Pleasure?
NEIL – Curtains…under-appreciated by me.
How does it feel to be the best band in the world?
SAS – Shucks..
Neil – I’ll think about that when we don’t hear it anymore.
As a band touring Europe regularly and seeing more of it than most of us – do you see signs of the continent changing politically in any way or do we still as one would hope, have more in common than we do that separates us?
SAS – I genuinely hope that that is the case, though I would say that I have come to realize that we are an island nation with an island mentality.
As a British band living across Europe do the band have a view on the British exit from the EU? Could the band ever see themselves living in the UK again?
SAS – It was obviously a sad day for many because it felt so regressive and contrived.
Though really, it is another factor in this tumultuous time for Europe. I believe in Europe and find the idea of it fragmenting horrifying, though it needs to find a way to allow the differences of nations and to deal with each nations very different problems.
From a distance the UK does not give me a hankering to return at the moment, but that does not mean that I do not love being with the people.
DAVID – I have to say, growing up on a council estate, which was very mixed race. Life felt rich. As children we all grew together and I absorbed the sounds, tastes and style of everything around me. In fact, the only division really seemed to be rich and poor. Or posh as we called those with something more than us.
The late 70’s were full of tension. The immigrants we’d welcomed to help rebuild post war Britain were targeted and blamed for everything. Skinheads roamed the streets. But the worst racism was in the home. It was something that was accepted and we needed to stand up and fight.
The first time I travelled in Europe (or anywhere) was with tindersticks. And it was a wonderful and welcoming experience. England’s days as my home were numbered.
In a similar way to the shock the almost 50/50 split in leaving the EU. My thoughts of returning to the UK are about 50/50. The problem is the fifty percent I miss is mainly memories that no longer exist.
Neil, how do you find Antwerp as a place to live in? It’s famous for having a lively music, art and fashion scene, so I can imagine it’d be interesting…
NEIL – The best move I ever made was to Belgium. Living here has enabled me to become more free as a person. Antwerpen is a very special city; yes, very lively for art and music, It’s a very open city – I’ve met some great people here. The language (Dutch-Flemmish) is tricky, but I’m getting there…slowly!
Will you print posters of the The Waiting Room cover, and could you also reprint the Across Six Leap Years liquorice posters?
SAS – No plans at the moment, though I would like one of each please when the time comes.
Is there a project to work one day with another violinist full-time?
SAS – Do you have someone particular in mind?
Violins.. I love them but you have to be careful with them, they are super powerful.
Why do you never play Jism live anymore?
SAS – Maybe we will…