An Interview with 65daysofstatic (Joe Shrewsbury)

                     So, what’s the true story about the origin of the band’s name?

                     There’s nothing quite as boring as the truth.

 Your music is impressively complex and constructed in many layers. What’s the starting point for writing a song and what’s your compositional process?

More and more we’re trying to make music that is impressively un-complex. Everything’s a learning curve, and back in the day, I think we were guilty of throwing everything we had at a piece of music. At the time, that was really exciting, and I think the chaotic element of the music, the idea that something was being only just contained, was quite compelling. Listening back, I think that worked a lot of the time, but we certainly made some overly complicated music, or drowned some really good melody in an abundance of counter-melody, or what could more accurately be described as noise. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but being where we are today, it actually seems that the bravest thing for us to do is try and do less in a piece of music, and trust in the barest elements possible. Relatively speaking of course. We’re never going to sound like Phillip Glass. 

You say often that you don’t consider yourself a post-rock band, which come across in “We Were Exploding Anyway” and your latest soundtrack album “Silent Running”. How do you feel today about that characterization? Is it something you’ll avoid in your next albums?

To be honest, we’ve probably been around for too long to be that bothered anymore. Post-rock was clearly a useful term at one point to describe a certain kind of music that was being made, but it really became a bit of a stigmatized term, and one we didn’t really feel an affinity with. Genre definition is useful for journalists, and as a broad kind of umbrella to group similar music, but I think it can also be very divisive. People seem to become very wrapped up in defining what they’re hearing (or looking at, or watching, or reading) but in actual fact most of the really exciting ‘art’ that’s being made often defies a definition – it exists on it’s own terms. 65daysofstatic wouldn’t for one second claim to be important or cutting edge or genre defying, but we certainly aspire to make exciting music that demands a response from the listener. It doesn’t matter what it's called, it’s how it makes you feel. 

    Is it hard to find balance between the more rock/hardcore stuff, the instrumental film music sound and the programmed electronic beats and synths?
Yes. Again, our whole existence has been a learning curve really. We kind of stumbled upon our ‘sound’ almost by accident, certainly in the early days. Being young and being in 65 was a really exciting place to be – a kind of blissful naivety where we made things happen almost by accident, and it came together almost by chance, on ‘The Fall of Math’. However, as we get older, and we make more and more music, we have to find new ways to make it exciting, to make it different, and to push it in a way that feels meaningful for us. The more we think we know about music, the less seems possible. It’s almost about unlearning those rules, those reflex things you do with your instrument or playing with each other, and finding something new. And that’s really what it felt like making “We were exploding anyway”, like we’d finally freed ourselves up enough to try anything again. Likewise, with the ‘Silent Running’ soundtrack, we felt very liberated, because the project had it’s own parameters, it’s own defined purpose and outcome, so we were free to write whatever came naturally, if that makes sense. These two projects combined, the 65 album proper and the more experimental soundtrack project, have really opened our eyes to what we’re capable of together. We’re a lot better at playing together, at listening to one another, and to being more selective in deciding what sounds and ideas work together. If you were to walk into our practice room on a random Wednesday afternoon in early spring, you’d be a lot more likely to find that at least one of us knows what’s going, which wasn’t always previously true. So it’s a very exciting time.
Ultimately, you should never stop learning when making music; one should always be open to new possibilities. And writing music is hard, and it should be, it should push you to the limits of your imagination, otherwise you’d be bored, and you might make music that was boring. And that would suck.

 Tell us some things about the “Silent Running” soundtrack album. How did the idea of re-scoring it came to happen?

Glasgow Film Festival approached us to take part in a wider season of live re-scores they were programming. We chose to re-score Silent Running, mainly because we couldn’t think of a better idea, and a lot of the dialogue was separate from the musical interludes, so we thought we’d have a pretty good chance of keeping the narrative of the film intact while still being able to completely re-write the sound live.
The response to what were originally two shows was phenomenal, and because we were free of other contractual commitments at the time, we thought we’d conduct a crowd-funding experiment. Partly to see what the response would be, and partly as the whole issue of how records are going to be funded and made, and who is going to buy them and how they’ll be shared seems such a current question, at least in Western culture.
The response was phenomenal, and we ended up releasing the vinyl of Silent Running on our own label. The monetary gains weren’t really a motivation, which is good, because they weren’t of any significance, but it was a fantastically empowering operation that allowed us to interact without a couple of thousand people across the globe, directly and joyously. It kind of helped us to trust our own decision making again.

Any plans for another soundtrack? Would you do a sci-fi film again or try another genre?

65daysofstatic would absolutely love to work on a soundtrack again, and we are pursuing anything we can get. I think our music suits certain genres better than others, but we’re up for anything, in theory. 

Where are your next projects heading?

Currently we’re writing a new record, although it’s really early on it that process. It seems to be going pretty well so far. Just like everyone else in the rapidly shrinking future, we’re just heading forwards and holding on real tight.

Having playing so many live shows, are you satisfied with your tour this year? Does performing still have the same impact for you?

We didn’t tour as much over the last 12 months as we have in years previously. We decided we needed to take a bit of a breather following the last 10 years of dragging the 65daysofstatic carnival round the world. We did get to go to Taiwan and Singapore for the first time, right back at the beginning of 2011, and that was fantastic, as well as going deeper into Japan than we’ve ever been before. Performing Silent Running was also exciting, because it is so different from the regular 65 show.
Playing live is still as thrilling and terrifying and compelling as it ever was. We’ve always felt 65works best live. If we stopped feeling that way, we’d probably stop touring, as we wouldn’t want to charge people money to see a bunch of guys who didn’t want to be there.

 Does the heavy touring schedule alter the way you write new material?

It used to. One Time for All Time in particular brings back memories of writing and recording between tours. These days we’re lucky enough to plan out blocks of time to write between traveling commitments. It’s often a good idea to write for a while and then tour for a bit and come back to it, because whatever we’ve written sounds different with a little time and perspective. Like fine wine. The good shit gets better, the bad shit don’t. Obviously we’ve all got extensive wine cellars to back this metaphor up. 

What is that excites you about remixing other groups? Your Esben and the Witch remix was one of my favorites. A song that you would love to remix?

I can’t answer this as the 65remixing is left to Paul and Simon. I imagine there are two answers to this. One is ‘getting to tease out all the cool little bits in a song and reweaving them into a different shape’ and the other is ‘taking some shitty song by some shitty band and absolutely fucking with it until its broken, disfigured body resembles something half worth listening to. For cash’.
I love the Assault on Precinct 65 bootleg we did all those years ago, and I love the Dismemberment Plan remix Paul did. Because they were a fantastic band.
The Plaid remix of ‘All is Full of Love’ by Bjork is still awesome.

 You recently collaborated with Robert Smith. How did this come and how is to work with him? Other artists or vocalists you would love to collaborate with?

Mr. Smith sang with us because we asked him to…we toured with the Cure for a few months in 2008, and we figured it would be worth a shot. That particular track just sounded like it needed something else, so we thought why not, and sent it to Robert. Fortunately for us, the stuff he did was awesome, and he really let us do what we wanted with his finished vocal.

You are well-known for being quite political thinkers. Do you think we’ll get out of that economic crisis? What would you do if you were Greek?

I don’t think we’re particularly political thinkers. It’d be more accurate, and probably more arrogant to say that a whole bunch of people living in Western Europe have stopped thinking about, or are no longer engaged by politics, for whatever reason. If we were Greek, we’d be very angry, probably, that the government and financial system had abused our trust in them. To be honest, you don’t need to live in Greece to smell the shit that’s being dropped on us from above.
 If we knew the answer to these problems we probably wouldn’t be in a band, but I do know this: there was a time when it was taken for granted that the state should provide for the people who empowered it. That money, and the making of money wasn’t the ultimate accolade available to us as members of a society. That if something didn’t make a profit, like a train service or an education system or a healthcare system, that didn't necessarily make it bad, because it provided people with better lives. Those ideas might be naïve, or idealistic, but why shouldn't we be idealistic in the face of bloodless corporate lust?  A lot of everyday people still believe in those ideas, in this country and in yours, in all places. Somehow, the people in charge have forgotten that they are acting on our behalf, and it’s about time that was addressed. There are more of us than them right?

 What is your stance on the current collapsing recording industry? Is the offering of deluxe packaging, bonus discs, etc. an antidote to the crisis of the labels?

‘Life finds a way’ – Jurassic Park. 

Which are your influences and what motivates you at the moment?

Well, musically, we all come from fairly disparate backgrounds, and over the years we’ve listened to all sorts. As a band, the music we’ve been passing between each other has been instrumental – often film soundtracks or modern classical and that sort of thing. Which is interesting because as an instrumental band, we’ve never particularly listened to a great deal of instrumental music, until more recently. When we started out we listened to loads of the angry guitar music that was around at the time – At the Drive In, And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Atombombpocketknife, Refused, that kind of thing. Plus we all connected over classic (or what we termed classic) dance music like Orbital and Underworld. But really we listen to so much more music than that, so it’s all part of our musical hinterland, as it were.
Motive is such a strange thing to discuss. I mean, on a very pure level, music is a reflex, an itch that has to be scratched, and it fills a very real need. This is why you start in the first place, I think, and you don’t really think about why. So in that sense, we’re all here kind of because we have to be in 65daysoftstatic. How we got here individually, and why we’ve stayed? Well, that’s just a mix of blind luck and perseverance.

 What have you been listening to lately?

Ernst Reijsegers score for Werner Herzog’s ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’. The new M.I.A single.

Any teaser for the gigs in Greece?

I might do it naked if there’s enough ouzo.

Don't miss 65daysofstatic:
30/3 @ Eightball Club, Thessaloniki
31/3 @ An Club, Athens

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