THE FANZINE THAT FEATURES SMALL AND UNSIGNED BANDS
Friday, April 2, 2010
INTERVIEW WITH SIMON RAYMONDE
Since The Original Sin has become a blog I can't complain about big names I guess. After Mark Burgess we proudly present you an interview with another hero : Simon Raymonde. Simon used to be the bassist from perhaps one of the best bands ever, Cocteau Twins. It's a bad thing to get stuck in the past but still there are times I wish they never went away. But it's their history and all that's left are some genius records (and memories of course). Today Simon isn't hiding himself in some castle but he's the spirit behind Bella Union Records, one of the finer labels you can find these days. I would like to thank Simon for taking his time for us. Simon knew we were a small fanzine but he treated my questions like we were the NME or Rolling Stone. So much respect to you, dear Simon.
WITH COCTEAU TWINS, YOU AND ROBIN, DEVELOPPED A VERY OWN SOUND OF GUITARPLAYING. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A GUITAR-ICON? Haha, I only played guitar on a few songs of ct, and I certainly wouldn't even call myself a guitarist really. Piano and bass were my instruments in this band mainly and though I did do a few things on guitar which I loved, iconic was not how I would describe it! Robin on the other hand, was and still is in my opinion, one of the great guitar innovators. While he was never one for lots of notes and solos and stuff, he defined the band's sound with his use of delays and such. The 'cocteaus' guitar sound is totally down to him. I came up with a few nice textural bits and pieces when needed but I would never take the credit for that guitar "sound". It was entirely Robin.
YOUR MUSIC WITH COCTEAU TWINS HAS WORLDWIDE FANS BUT I WAS WONDERING IF YOU ARE LISTENING YOURSELF TO YOUR MUSIC?
No, we never did. We did even listen to it much when we were making it! And we certainly never listened to it after it was finished. Unless we had to learn how to play one of our songs live. As our recordings were often improvised or made up as we went along, we had never really written 'songs' in a traditional way, so once they were recorded, we tended to forget them pretty quickly. I may have listened to about 3 cocteaus songs in the last 12 years? So, no. I am not listening! Not because I am not proud of the music, cos I am, but because I have more than enough music to listen to in my job running Bella Union!
SOMEONE WHO MENTIONS 4-AD AUTOMATICALLY MENTIONS EITHER THE COCTEAUS OR DEAD CAN DANCE, BUT IT SEEMS THAT YOU AREN’T THAT HAPPY WITH THE LABEL, NOT?
4AD did a lot for the band, and perhaps ultimately the band did a lot for 4AD. Ok so we had some problems, but Ivo was a wonderful man, and nothing that happened was really anyone's fault, I know that now. I don't think we'd have been happy on any label. We were probably a difficult band to work with at times, but without a manager for the first 8 years, it was a lot for us to deal with. I can't imagine a band today surviving 8 years selling the quantities we did, looking after our own careers, without a manager. This could have been part of the problem. Who knows. Hindsight's a wonderful thing.
PURE MUSICWISE, IF YOU COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN WOULD YOU DO IT AGAIN?
Hypothetically, yes. If nothing had changed, yes of course. We made some good records. I didn't think we were much good live but we did our best.
JUST WONDERING, WHAT’S YOUR FAVE COCTEAU TWINS-ALBUM, SIMON? I think blue bell knoll is a beautiful album. Heaven Or Las Vegas is the natural successor to it and some wonderful pieces on there. 4Calendar Cafe was the hardest to make and therefore maybe the one I am proudest of, but it is wrapped up in a lot of emotional, personal stuff so that may explain why that is so. Milk and Kisses I don't like so much.
THE LATER STUFF FROM COCTEAU TWINS PROMISED SOME GREAT THINGS FOR THE FUTURE. OF COURSE THERE WAS THE ABRUPT END, DON’T YOU REGRET IT THAT YOU COULDN’T FINISH THE UNFINISHED?
No regrets no. We did well to make it last as long as we did. The unfinished new album may well have been brilliant, I think it was going in the right direction, but nothing lasts forever, and if it wasn't right for one of us, then it couldn't be right for all of us.
AS A MUSICIAN
THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO PLAY THE BASS. ARE THERE ANY COLLEGUES AROUND WITH WHOM YOU HAVE ANY AFFINITY IN THE WAY OF PLAYING THE BASS?
Not really. I was never someone that bought 'Bass Player' magazine. I don't know many bassists by name. Peter Hook was unique and I liked the way he played melodies on the bass and I don't know if I was 'influenced' by this or just found myself also playing this way. Today, I love paul from midlake best, with rasmus from efterklang a close second.
MICHAEL CASHMORE FROM CURRENT 93 ONCE GAVE UP PLAYING HIS INSTRUMENT AS HE WAS AT HIS LIMITS AND HE STARTED PLAYING THE PIANO INSTEAD. HAVE YOU HAD SUCH FEELINGS AND WHICH INSTRUMENT HAVE YOU HAD IN MIND THEN?
I'll play whatever's to hand. I have never 'played' the bass as such. I just used it in the band. I have never liked practising or perfecting as I come from a different 'school'. I prefer to arrive at the studio having NOT played, having not heard music first, having not 'written' anything. It works better for me, to be EXCITED to be playing the instrument (bass, piano, guitar, whatever) for what feels like the first time. I have a piano at home but nothing else.
HAVE YOU EVER PLAYED UPRIGHT BASS AND WHICH FEELING DID IT GAVE YOU?
No, I am really not good enough or patient enough to learn. The sound doesn't really appeal.
I CAN, JUST LIKE YOU I GUESS, COME UP WITH AT LEAST 50 BANDS WHO ARE A COPY OF COCTEAU TWINS. HOW DO YOU REACT : “GET AN OWN SOUND!” OR ARE YOU RATHER FLATTERED?
I can't hear many! Flattered, no. Irritated, no. I just don't think about it very much. If people tell me they loved the band, I am pleased but I don't really have a feeling either way. That's not conceit, it's just that I am not valuing myself by the band I was once in, 13 years ago.
AFTER THE SPLIT OF THE COCTEAUS YOU RELEASED YOUR SOLO-ALBUM “BLAME SOMEONE ELSE” WHICH IS A VERY UNDERRATED RECORD I THINK. BUT DON’T YOU THINK YOU HAD THE CURSE OF COCTEAU TWINS, I MEAN PEOPLE WERE EXPECTING SOMETHING LIKE THAT….
I don't know. It was such an enormous trial to get it done. Engineering and recording yourself is not easy. Well today it's slightly easy with computers but in the days of tape, it wasn't. I had a little help towards the end with recording a few lead vocals cos I was driving myself mad doing it all myself, but all in all the last thing I was thinking about was what anyone would think. At the end I don't even know what I thought about it! As it happened, the reviews weren't so great, choosing to compare my vocals with Elizabeth's which seemed a BIT unfair, and it DID knock my confidence a lot. To the point where I have never considered a follow up
2EVER THOUGHT OF A 2ND SOLO-ALBUM? I've thought about it. But no. I prefer working with other people. I am not a front man. I am in general, a collaborator.
THEN CAME VIOLET INDIANA. HOW DO YOU SEE THAT PERIOD, I GUESS IF I MAY SAY SO, UNDERRATED AS WELL…..
It couldn't have been easy for Robin to start a new band with a girl singer, for obvious reasons, so I have to admire his bravery, but if I am brutally honest, I did find it difficult myself to hear those guitar sounds and those drum patterns with another singer. That isn't his fault of course, it's my problem! I think Robin is a tremendous musician and an artist, with a unique sound and a unique perspective and I have the utmost respect for his solo career and always enjoy hearing his pieces.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING MUSICALLY THESE DAYS?
I have a new band Snowbird (with Stephanie Dosen who is my long-term partner also) and we're super-excited about it, as we are close to finishing it. As it is the first band I have had since Cocteau Twins, it feels wonderful to be 100% happy with the way everything is. We are making this record for ourselves first, and then if we love it at the end as much as I know we do now, then it will be released. After that who knows? I produce a few bands here and there too and play a little bit on other people's records.
I ONCE READ THAT BELLA UNION WAS A LABEL THAT’S BEEN STARTED TO RELEASE THE COCTEAU TWINS MATERIAL AFTER THE DIFFICULT MERCURY YEARS, NOT?
Yes that's true
IT’S YOUR LABEL SO DOES IT MEAN THAT YOU ARE THE MAN WHO DECIDES IF A BAND COMES ON THE LABEL OR NOT?
Yes, that's true also.
ARE YOU IN SEARCH OF BANDS YOURSELF OR IS THERE SOME SECRET PO BOX WITH A MILLION OF DEMOS?
I look around and listen to demos, myspace, lastfm, blogs, go abroad to shows, listen to recommendations from other bands I like, and I recently have someone who works for me, who helps me too, and we look at things together sometimes too.
I GUESS YOU GET TONS OF DEMOS WITH A LETTER THAT SAYS : “HEY SIMON, WE HAVE A 4-AD SOUND”, NOT?
No, and if I did I wouldn't pay any attention. I am not here to create 4AD mk II
FOR A MUSICIAN WHO HAD SUCH MANY PROBLEMS HIMSELF WITH RECORDLABELS, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO RUN A RECORDLABEL YOURSELF?
I really love it. The challenge is every day. I love all aspects of it. I want to create a label that I would have LOVED to have been on. It's probably impossible but I will die trying.
IN THE 80’S YOU BELONG TO A GENERATION THAT WERE DIE-HARD RECORDCOLLECTORS (LIMITED EDITIONS, NUMBERED ALBUMS, ETC.), NOW YOU BELONG TO A GENERATION WHO’S HAPPY WITH DOWNLOADS ONLY. A SAD REGRESS OR NOT?
Re-gress or progress, that's hard to say. I am not a Luddite, I love vinyl still yes, but I realise the stream, the download is with us forever. The genie is out the bottle so why worry about it now? We should have done something about it 10 years ago.
FUNNY QUESTIONS (THROUGHOUT MY FANZINEYEARS, 20 NOW, I ALWAYS ASK THEM SO IT’D BE GENIUS IF ONE OF MY HEROES WOULD LIKE TO ANSWER THEM TOO).
WHAT’S YOUR FAVE RECORD OF ALL TIME AND PLEASE TELL WHY.
Changes every day. Today it is scott 4 by scott walker. Why? Cos the songs, the arrangements and scott's voice are irresistible.
WITH WHO WOULDN’T YOU MIND TO BE ALONE WITH IN AN ELEVATOR FOR EIGHT HOURS AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO THEN?