An interview with Gary Fawle of Silver Pyre
Having really enjoyed AeXE the first album from Silver Pyre and not knowing a huge amount about the project it seemed like a good time to put a few questions to Gary Fawle and find out more. The interview below was conducted by David Bourgoin via email. Thanks to Gary for his answers and to Nita at Gold Star for setting the interview up.
PR: You made two EPs as Silver Pyre and then spent three years on AeXE. Thatís a long gap and enough time for people who liked the EPs to think youíd moved on to other things. Was there a reason the album took so long to be finished?
GF: Well, I left Somerset after those EPs, moved to Norfolk for a short while, a bit in London, then Bristol. The moving around meant that things manifested over a good period of time. I just gradually worked things in geographically and structurally. I was trying to hone a sound too. It also took me a while to scale down some of the themes I wanted to get in there.
I never quite know how people do things so quickly, I don't really write a demo and then go into a studio, the whole thing is a long process that I need to tease out, reshape and live with for a period of time before its ready to be cast out
PR: Thereís a very English feel about your work. From the cover art of AeXE to the feel of the songs themselves and your voice. You grew up in Somerset, is it important to you to put across where you come from? And do you think where you were brought up has had any influence on what you do and sound like musically?
GF: I don't necessarily think its important to put across where you come from, not everyone feels that sense of connection. But I do think its important to be aware of where you are, what's around you, and underneath you, behind you. So much of our lives are lived in a remote and quite disconnected way these days. Music, literature and art that comes from a physical and psychological immersion with place is interesting for me.
Yeah I grew up in Somerset and everything about that place and subsequent places has probably shaped my minds eye. There's always a dissonance (and sometimes a harmony) between the pastoral, natural and the industrial. That comes across in sound as well as thematically I'd say.
The notion of Englishness is an interesting one, and not clearly definable, I'm quite interested in language and dialect. How it's subject to change for example. You can have recordings of voices in Somerset made 50 years ago and the language is so different to what people use today. but there's still a recognisable twang. People in Bridgwater now can sound different to people in Taunton. These variances spread nationwide. Yet something can sound English. We take the whole from the sum of the parts and hopefully its not like an homogenised broadcast voice.
PR: The first thing that struck me listening to the AeXE was how much your vocals reminded me of John Foxx and to a lesser extent David Sylvian. Were either of these two influences on what youíre doing? If not where do you see your influences as coming from?
GF: Ok, someone else has said that too. Well I haven't listened to either to a great extent. My mind is shaped by 80's pop songs from radio as a kid no doubt. It probably comes through subconsciously. That and a fondness for folk tinges I'd say. Influence wise a lot comes from the early 90's electronic music that the likes of Warp were putting out. There's a lot of melodies that echo 80's pop in that stuff of course. Robert Wyatt, is always there. I like the combination of very electronic syncopated sound and looser live instrument and percussive sounds. so then that probably nods back to the time before 'dance' music.
It goes back to this Englishness thing. Americana, the blues, country music, soul. that's a clearly definable musical heritage, It has a very strong identity that many Americans reference and regurgitate endlessly, but what are these with Englishness? There are far more variable and subtle forms.
PR: Is Silver Pyre your first musical project or have there been others? If so did any of these release anything and were they of a similar sort of style?
GF: It is of sorts, I went to art college and developed visually before I made a shift to music. I spent a long period of time finger picking an acoustic guitar and listening to the resonances around that in a pretty meditative way. I moved back to Somerset after being in London to concentrate on developing things. I picked up a Yamaha Electone from a Psychiatric hospital that was closing down. A 1930's accordion from an old farmer I knew, got some random effects pedals and worked away until rasping reed, organ, and my sense of self fused.
For me songwriting and music is like storytelling and literature, I didn't feel ready or knowledgeable or mature enough to complete things for ages, and I'm still honing it.
PR: AeXE whilst still sounding current seems to take itís sounds and rhythms from an earlier period of electronic music. Was this intentional, did you want to stay away from the presets and generic rhythms everyone else is using?
GF: This goes back to wanting to loosen things up. make them feel organic and archaic. I listen to African music a lot so there's probably a little bit of swing here and there. The themes in AeXE are about layers, geographical, historical, social, metaphysical. I think to give an impression of these things I've wanted to reach into the past, to give the present meaning.
PR: Youíve collaborated with Tom from Bug Brand on some pieces. How much does his input influence the tracks? Do you have songs ready and then try to use the Bug synths to fit in or do you take what you can get out of the Bug Brand synths as your starting point?
GF: We starting playing live as the songs were taking shape. So stuff was being developed with Tom along the way. He mainly played percussion and drums, but a lot of this was miked and processed, and some melodic elements were made that he would also play live. As I gradually honed the structures of these tracks, probably 50% of them featured some elements of what we'd worked here.
It tended to be him adding elements to things I already had. Time doing this was quite limited actually. we'd work quick to get a sound from what he was using and then I'd go away and work it all in.
Were you using the
Bug Brand modules, synths etc Tom sells on his site or were there unique
things specifically designed for Silver Pyre?
GF: The way he was using his own systems at this point meant that we didn't actually use them on this record I don't think. We used a Nord modular a lot. I put a bit of a Bugbrand Weevil in 'Urn Reconstruction'PR: Is your other instrumentation primarily analogue, digital or a combination of the two?
GF: A combination. Its all sound palette and tools. I don't have preferences on this. For me its as important aesthetically to use formats current as it is past. A lot of interesting things happen with lower budget digital things. Look at James Ferraro's Far Side Virtual, those sounds are used for that concept. I hated it at first, come on Skype start up sounds?!. But it is of this time and evokes my imaginings of Dubai, and it grew on me.
We're so plugged in to computers, some of these sounds probably change our perceptions and tastes. Its sinister but Apple products are fused very much with our consumption of music and culture and how we communicate. People love the interfacing of this and these interfaces have characteristic sounds and feels that definitely influence music making.
For me, the more I don't have to look at a screen the more I can look into the ether. The visual element of computers can be a hindrance. But processing things, sending them out and around the pipes always makes things interesting. A lot of that went on with AeXE
PR: Was Silver Pyre recorded at home or did you produce some demos and then rework the pieces in a studio?
GF: Always an ongoing development on this, no demos. It was recorded in many different places. The only traditional studio setting happened at the end when I mixed and processed a bit more in Portishead's studio SOA.
PR: Youíve done live work in various combinations of solo, duo and trio. What different things do David and Dave bring to a live Silver Pyre performance. Is there one of the variations which you feel works best for the audience and how easy is it to reproduce what you record in a live situation?
GF: The material always sounds different live, and has to be reworked depending on who I work with. This keeps it interesting for an audience I think. With Collingwood and Edwards the rolling live drum counter play happens. Edwards' angular sentiments come in more too. Solo its more paired back and minimal. I like each combination differently. Its easy enough once you work out what elements need to stay and what can change from the original recordings.
PR: Any plans to work with either of them on future recordings?
GF: Yeah, their both doing bits on a new record with me now
PR: Is your live performance based around the two EPs and AeXe or do you improvise at all?
GF: Mainly AeXE and improvisations and reworks around it.
PR: Are you now working on a follow up to AeXE and if so is it in a similar vein or are you exploring other areas?
GF: I am, I think its poppier, the aesthetics have been condensed to songs more, water features a lot. we've had a lot of rain this last year.
PR: I believe You did a remix for Outer Church. Is this something you want to do more of and have you any more remixes in the pipeline?
GF: No there's no remix, just a mix to go with an interview. There is actually a track coming out on a comp Joseph Stannards' put together in August.
No remixes at the moment, I have a couple of side projects on the go, they are vocal-less. I'd remix if I felt I could do something with a track.
To keep in touch with what Silver Pyre are up to visit this site: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Silver-Pyre