Thursday, 22 April 2010

Charlie Barnes - Voice of the Geekks

So looks like I'm getting my 'The End of Music?' article in Student Direct next week. Sweet. In the meantime, here's an interview with the excellent Charlie Barnes. Reminder: Bar 1:22, Huddersfield, Monday 31st May. You can check out the details here:!/event.php?eid=407772552673&ref=mf . 

In the meantime, I'll let the man speak for himself.

Charlie Barnes - Voice of the Geekks

1.    I first saw you supporting Amplifier- how did you end up there and was that your 'big break' in any way?

I pestered them on myspace for a while, and the rest is history!  I wouldn’t call it a big break, but I’m not really bothered about any of that stuff.  I got to tour with my heroes, play on their songs, and earn the respect of some of my other biggest heroes along the way.  Fuck ‘big breaks’, I’m happy.  (Though a bit of cash to pay the rent wouldn’t go amiss…)

2.    Have you ever been in any 'full' bands as opposed to playing solo?

Oh aye, loads.  I did have a sort of band briefly to play my stuff before I worked out all of the looping.  But two years down the line of wandering the north-west with only myself to keep me company has rendered me desperate for interaction.  Thus, ‘Charlie Barnes & The Geekks’ has happened.

3.    What are your biggest influences, musical or otherwise?

Oceansize, Radiohead and Pink Floyd all pretty much changed my life.  At the moment I’m listening to loads of Jeff Buckley, avant-garde jazz and David Sylvian’s latest album ‘Manafon’.  I get a lot of inspiration from books too.  They’re my little escape.  George Monbiot’s stuff has always had a big influence on my writing, and Mark Z. Danielewski’s ‘House of Leaves’ has been a huge influence on my newer stuff.  Memory and reality and that sort of thing.  Fucking insane book.

4.    What is your take on downloading? Does it help or hinder a young band/artist?

Dunno.  Musicians definitely don’t get anywhere near enough money for doing their job.  Except the ones who play whatever the big company wants.  My problem with downloading is the way that people (mostly younger) nowadays have instant gratification for EVERYTHING.  Films, music, TV on demand; there’s no waiting around for anything.  I even get angry when my internet takes more than two seconds to load a page up.  But because of this instant gratification thing, no-one can really be arsed to come to gigs.  They don’t have to pay for recorded music anymore, so why should they have to pay for seeing the band live?  And then you just get the handful of GOOD people who come to your gig, buy your CD, and have every knowledge that they’re literally paying for your food.

5.    How do you create your live sound?

200 odd metres of cable, a laptop, a looper, a vocoder, a delay pedal, and my big loud voice.  I never write with the live performance in mind; I’ll only do looping if it suits the tune I’m playing.  I can’t stand watching these noodly buggers layering boring guitar riff upon boring guitar riff.  Get some tunes!

6.    What are you upto at the moment, and what are your plans for the future?

I’m just finishing off my new album ‘Geekk’, and then I’ll be releasing that at a big album launch party in Huddersfield on May 30th with the band.  After that I’ll be living in Leeds and trying not to starve, and hopefully playing some more gigs with the band.  A tour or two wouldn’t go amiss either….they’re fun.  I’ve already got a lot of the next record sketched out, so I’ll pretty much get working on that straight away.  It’ll be a few years ‘til I’m happy with it though.

7.    What tracks will feature on 'Geekk'?

A City Built, Architects, This Boy Blind, Bedroom, Degas Dancer, Bluebell, Oradour, Geekk, Snakes, Ladders & Aeroplanes, Final Call.  10 tunes, 40 odd minutes; that’s how they’re supposed to be, right?  Some of these songs are about 5 years old!  It’s been nice re-recording the ‘No Offenkk’ stuff with real strings and drums etc.  It sounds a whole lot better!

8.    What's your opinion of the contemporary music scene? Any recommendations?

Some of it’s great, some of it’s shite.  I played with a band called Revere last night and they blew my socks off.  Sometimes playing bill after bill with dull indie bands you start to worry that there’s nothing interesting anymore, then a band like Revere reminds you that things are OK.  I hate the way that unsigned bands are all trying to…I dunno…’get noticed’ and do everything the ‘right way’.  Fuck it, have some fun.  I like the unexpected.  The best album of the last year was easily the Blue Roses album.  That’s a PROPER album.  No-one’s going to remember who this that or the other indie band is next year.  It’s a fad.  People like Blue Roses, Revere and Amplifier make the sort of music that you will listen to for the rest of your life; it actually has a bit of substance.  It isn’t the kind of rubbish that people dance around to in nightclubs when they’re off their face and can’t remember in the morning.

9.    Sell me Charlie Barnes in ten seconds.

Charlie Barnes does whatever he wants to do, and has a lot of fun doing it.  Charlie Barnes is not cool.

10.    Where can you see music going from here? (broad, I know)

I hope a lot more independent.  That whole Radiohead thing was obviously a bit of a turning point, and I hope it has a decent impact.  I like the idea of bands just doing it on their own.  You don’t need some big label or any of that shit.  If you can get 500 people to be excited about your new release, buy it, and come to your shows, what more do you really need?  It’ll just keep going in cycles, like it always has done.  Dance will probably be bigger in a year or two and the indie thing will die out, then metal and hard rock will get big again…blahblahblah.  I doubt big, orchestral moody pop music is going to be topping the charts anytime soon though….

11.    Live, or on the record?

Both.  I always think they should be completely different.  There’s no point in trying to fully re-create what you’ve done on an album onstage, because you can’t.  An album’s a fixed thing that you listen to on speakers or headphones and you have to imagine how they made it; a live performance is people playing stuff in front of you.  It’s a wholly different experience.  I love seeing bands play live who do things differently to the album/recorded versions.  Imogen Heap’s a prime example.  And MuteMath too.

12.    Favourite bit of kit?

My big, black Yamaha piano.  You can’t beat a real piano.

13.    Coolest brand/style of guitar?

Yamaha Pacifica 311ms.  It fits me like a glove.

14.    Finally, what do you love about music?

The unexpected. 

The above photo is (c) Simon Bray.

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