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INTERVIEW WITH
John Twells

DATE OF INTERVIEW
Oct 15, 2006


DISCOGRAPHY
Xela
The Dead Sea
Type 2006
Tangled Wool
City Centre Offices 2004
For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights
Neo Ouija 2003

Yasume
Where We're From The Birds Sing A Pretty Song
City Centre Offices 2003

INTERVIEWED BY
Merkur3

 



Xela
(John Twells)

John 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 store Boomkat, and distributor Baked Goods.

Let's 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 one! 

You are greatly involved in the creation and promotion of experimental music: with Type Records, Xela and Yasume,  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.

Now 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 back then.

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 music?
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 I think.
 
There 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 your catalog?
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.