Oct 15, 2006
The Dead Sea
City Centre Offices
For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights
Neo Ouija 2003
Where We're From The Birds Sing A Pretty Song
City Centre Offices 2003
Xela (John Twells)
Twells is greatly responsible for a good amount
of wonderful and innovative experimental soundscape
music available today. He is founder of Type
Records, has several
albums of his own music (Xela and Yasume),
has hosted many music nights in Birmingham (Default)
and currently works for cult-status online music
and distributor Baked
start with your long awaited new album "The
Dead Sea." This album seems quite a departure
from 'Tangled Wool'. Can you speak a little about
the journey between the two albums?
Journey? I don’t know about that… I
think people said the same thing about the previous ‘departure’ – I
just like to shake things up a bit. The truth is I’m
a rabid music fan, I consume an inordinate amount of music
and my tastes change week by week - when I wrote ‘For
Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights’ I hardly knew
a thing about electronic music, and then writing ‘Tangled
Wool’ was more of a ‘return’ to the sort
of music I used to write previous to that, albeit with
some more contemporary influences and stylistic flourishes.
With ‘The Dead Sea’ I returned to the idea
of writing a concept album which is something I’ve
wanted to do for years, my love of horror films (again
a long-term obsession) and a desire to shake things up
a bit. At the time I was planning and writing I’ve
been listening to a lot of free folk/noise/metal, or more
than I had before so it’s not surprising to me that
these influences seeped in – it’s the way I
work. Also I do consciously try when I pen an album not
to repeat myself if I can help it, there’s nothing
worse than buying three or four identical albums from
an artist, something that seems quite a hazard in the
independent music scene.
It seems that
we really depend on musicians to re-invent themselves,
and at the same time we desire a sense of familiarity.
Do you find yourself listening to music 'outside' your
interest and comfort level in order to get new influences?
Yeah I guess, in my job I’m forced to listen
to music from all genres really though, and that makes
me think in a different way about things. I have found
myself purposefully challenging my own ideas though at
times, but I can never listen to something I just don’t
like, I get bored quickly!
What is it about
concept albums (rather than just a collection of songs)
that you appreciate?
Maybe it’s sentimental value but I think
it’s more likely that I love the idea because I’m
such a film junkie. A concept album is about as close
as you get to a film without all the rigmarole of making
are greatly involved in the creation and promotion
of experimental music: with Type Records, Xela and
your work with Boomkat and Baked Goods. What inspires
this kind of dedication?
I guess it all boils down to my obsession
with music… when I was a student I was running
club nights and gigs in Birmingham and trying desperately
to get the label together while also trying to write
music… it was always something I dedicated most
of my time to, pretty much as long as I can remember.
Working with music inspires me, I get to hear more, I
get to comment on it, I get to be part of the scene which
inspired me so much growing up. I can’t really
imagine doing something not connected to the music scene
in some way.
that you spend so much time with recorded music,
do you miss 'Default' and putting together the gigs?
Sometimes I do, it was a lot of fun putting on
shows but it was also a hell of a lot of hassle. I don’t
know if the me right now would want to go through all
that again, I’m probably less patient than I was
Because of the greater exposure to more
music, do you find that you are more critical of yourself
as a musician than before?
I’ve always been very critical of my own
output, but yeah you’re right, the more I hear,
the more I adore, the more I question my own compositions.
That’s healthy to a point though, hopefully it
won’t stop me from composing altogether!
What do you find valuable about experimental
I haven’t really made my mind up
whether experimental music is more or less valuable than
any other kind of music, but for me it just so happens
that this sort of music stimulates something in my brain.
I like the sounds, I like to be challenged, and the deeper
I get into music the more I need that kind of stimulation
seems to be a parallel between that experimentation and
risk taking in music with the experimentation in Film.
Much of what is on Type definitely feels like soundtracks
to movies we would love to see. Would you say your love
for horror films and, say, Lynch, has influenced
Without a doubt, that was a conscious and very
strong influence for me from day one – studying
film and being totally addicted to cinema guided me somehow
into darker more textural material very early on in my
life and continues to be an important part of what I
do. I love it when a director gets that mix of the audio/visual
totally right –Lynch is a good example of a director
who has that power.