2000-03-01 Polskie Radio Program III, Warsaw, Poland
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Alan Wilder participated in a call-in interview with Polish radio host . A transcript of the interview and a related .MP3 copy of Wilder's radio greeting was originally hosted on a Polish . Please feel free to contact us if you have a recording of the full interview.
- Duration: 00:04
(To the listeners) Paweł Kostrzewa: I invite you to listen to my conversation with Alan Wilder, the leader of one-man band Recoil. Alan does all of the [production] work himself and later invites various musicians, usually vocalists, to complete the rest [of the production]. Alan Wilder was a member of Depeche Mode for years, and has recorded [several] solo albums [since leaving Depeche Mode in 1995]. The latest solo album [Liquid] is extremely interesting - we have been listening to it for weeks. Today is [our] long-awaited interview. The first question we asked was about the album title Liquid, because it is a word with many meanings.
Alan Wilder: That is what I like the most, that [the word] "liquid" is so open to interpretation. The title comes from the track "Last Call for Liquid Courage" — here, "liquid" refers to alcohol, more precisely to its impact on human behaviour. But "liquid" can also relate to "adrenaline" or "blood" - all of these meanings appear in different places on the album. You can also interpret it in direct reference to the music, its "liquidity". It is truly a word of many meanings.
Kostrzewa: When I was listening to this album for the first time — and my first impression hasn't changed to this day — I got the impression that it's a concept album. After all, the album starts and ends with a two-part track called "Black Box".
Wilder: At first, "Black Box" wasn't intended as the brace for the entire album. It was only at the end of its production, after I had gathered all the lyrics written by the various contributors, that I had to find something that would connect them in some way. And then I thought about a plane crash, about someone who is onboard a plane that is about to crash in a few moments. I once witnessed a similar event — a big military aircraft was nosediving right over my head. Two pilots passed away [in that crash]. The most moving thought for me was that, for a moment, this man knew that he would die. I wondered what he was thinking at that moment — was he recalling his entire life? I thought it would be a good idea to depict all of the stories [the songs tell] as [if they were] his memories. This idea bonded the whole album together.
Wilder: It's difficult for me to tell [what connections there may be between the songs] until the album is finished. When I write, I do it unconsciously, I follow my intuition. [It is] only after a certain atmosphere has formed that I [am able to] decide on the theme that seems the most appropriate, and [based on that direction], I then look for the direction [in which other songs] should go. Then, I rework the songs [to fit that direction], adjusting the voices to the music. And that is my role in Recoil. I don't tell [the contributors] what to write about, but they must allow me to adjust their voices to the music, to [create a sense of] continuity between the songs.
Kostrzewa: How were the [album] preparations conducted — was [the album produced in the usual way in that] that you wrote the music first and then you chose the lyrics and vocalists?
Wilder: Yes, that is how I usually work. The music is the foundation that tells me what kind of voice I need to create [an appropriate] atmosphere. Of course it can change over time, even quite heavily, but it must have a certain tension and atmosphere. It's during this process that I begin to adjust the voices to fit the music as best I can. Then, using modern technology, I start shaping it and often modify it [all the way through to] the final mix. It reminds me of working at a film editing table, where you can see the actors' parts and you have all the scenes you've shot in front of you. You can see how to perfectly fit [each scene] together. It's quite a similar process for me.
Wilder: ["Want"] was a track I didn't have an idea for for a long time, [it was] one of the last songs we completed. Nicole Blackman started working with us quite late, so all the tracks she appears on were made at the very end. I'm not qualified to interpret her lyrics, but when I read them they seemed to [touch on] memories of an old relationship that probably fell apart. And that's when this man from the plane crash came to my mind, [as if he were] recalling somebody he once split up with.
(To the listeners) Kostrzewa: [...] The sound of the album is very modern and progressive. I would like [Alan] to tell us a little bit about it. I told him that there are some sounds that remind me of Trey Gunn or Robert Fripp. Here is what he had to say.
Wilder: I know what you mean. This is what I try to achieve using modern technology. It allows you to mix genres such as gospel and electronic or classical and rock music. For me, emotion is the most important [factor], which is often hard to create using electronics. This is why I try to mix different influences, so that everything I love in music [can be] found in what I do. As I like very different things — I may listen to classical music one minute, the next [I may listen] to techno — [these influences are what inform] the Recoil sound.
Kostrzewa: How did Diamanda Galas [come to be] on your album?
Wilder: Diamanda Galas [is a fellow act on] Mute. I've come across her a few times, but I've never had a chance to meet her. When working on "Strange Hours" — a song with a strong bluesy feeling, I thought about her. Remembering her earlier work, I knew that she often sang on songs [with similar] blues and gospel [vibes]. I called and asked her if she's interested in working with us — I did so with everybody who appeared on this album. I was sending the songs to them on CD and asked for their thoughts on the music.
Kostrzewa: And the girl from Spain — your fan from Catalonia?
Wilder: I came up with the idea of finding someone who could speak in a foreign language, so I decided to experiment by putting a notice on our website. Of all the people who sent me cassettes with recordings of their voices speaking in a foreign language, I liked Rosa the most. What I liked was her [vocal] timbre and the Catalan language. I thought that [this unique combination of vocal timbre and foreign language] was especially interesting, so we invited her to our studio in England and recorded the whole track.
Wilder: [That doesn't surprise] me, because somebody has already [made the comparison to] Frank Zappa. I think I know why. This was the only case where we broke the rules we were following during the recording [of the album]. This time, the vocals came first. I bought a gospel music mixtape in a record store, and when I listened to it in my car, I liked this particular track the most. Hearing these fantastic voices, this amazing internal rhythm that reminded me of some very early kind of rap, I immediately thought about recording this track for our album. In the original version, the lyrics are rather cheerful, so I decided to change the story for a darker tone. But the most noteworthy [aspect] is that the song was made differently than the other tracks, and so it stands out [from the other songs on the album]. It's an out-of-place track for me. It seems that it's the most commercial thing we've done. For a while it was even supposed to be a single, but we changed our mind, as it's not representative [of the rest of the] album.
Kostrzewa: African rhythms speak to you, don't they?
Wilder: Yes. We tried to create something of a voodoo-like atmosphere. "Strange Hours" is the track that evokes the atmosphere of New Orleans, this dark internal fear I feel whenever I go there. I wanted to capture the atmosphere of this place, which is why I used voodoo rhythms. This style of music is interesting to me, especially ethnic music. It all depends on what it is and who performs it.
Kostrzewa: Recoil is a studio project, you've never toured. Will this trend continue with this album?
Wilder: Unfortunately yes. We don't have plans for concerts right now, mainly because it would simply be impossible to gather all the musicians and vocalists who appeared on the album. Recoil in a live context would require a structural change. As for myself, for now I would rather go into the studio and record another album or a film soundtrack, or something along those lines.
(To the listeners) Kostrzewa: I was warned that under no circumstances should I say a word about Depeche Mode in my interview with Alan Wilder, yet I took the risk. I tricked him a little bit and asked: [as] you make such [complex] music, what where you doing all those years in Depeche Mode?
Wilder: The process of working on Depeche Mode songs was very different from how we do it in Recoil. The starting point was always an existing song [demo], strongly focused on pop music. The arrangement stage looked quite similar, though — processing voices and instruments with technology using computers, mixing it with natural or prepared sounds. And that used to be my role in Depeche Mode. At that time I realised that writing songs isn't my thing and that I should [instead] take care of the sound and arrangements — this is what I do right now. I don't attempt to write lyrics, I know I'm not good at it.
Kostrzewa: And a word to the fans of Recoil, Alan Wilder, and Depeche Mode in Poland.
Wilder: I receive many letters and e-mails from Polish fans and it seems to me that they are very enthusiastic about Depeche Mode and about Recoil. They always ask me "Why don't you come to Poland more often, why don't you play concerts here, why there was only one?" I really don't know what to tell them. I suppose it's more a result of technical issues rather than anything else. Thanks to our unofficial website, I know that we have fans from Poland and that Polish fans take our music very seriously and very emotionally. I just hope that they like what we do and that they're able to find our music. I've received many complaints that [some fans have difficulty finding and purchasing] our music, and that is very irritating to me.
- Translation courtesy of Suzie Grant.