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interview: Gravenhurst

Gravenhurst has had a recent release through Warp Records.

here we go ... please indicate who answered ...

(Nick does the interviews on his own; Dave is a mute and Paul is always smacked up to the eyeballs)

When you started, were you just about the fun of rocking out with guitars, or did you see some sort of gap you wanted to fill ... or both!?

Gravenhurst started out as me on my own, and then I got people in to play the other parts. Quite a lot of people have played at various points, including Chris Macartney who drummed in my old band Assembly Communications, my brother Sean who played bass for a while, but now drums in Geisha, and Simon Grant who played bass for a while and engineered my first album. Simon was in a band with Dave called the Signal, which has now morphed into Azalea City Penis Club.

Being loud and rocking out came later as I spent a few years being infatuated with Low so everything I wrote was quiet. Then I got back into my old favourites like My Bloody Valentine. I am currently undergoing a resurgence of my Kevin Shields fixation. That's quite a good name for a band. The Kevin Shields Fixation.

The guitar scene seems pretty healthy right now even if you wouldn't guess by looking at the charts. What do you think?

I think it's always been healthy, but sometimes it's more fashionable than others. For instance, in the height of synth-pop back in the 80's guitars were seen as a dying instrument, but in fact bands like Big Black, Swans and Sonic Youth were completely changing people's perception of the way guitars sounded.

If a band is as much a journey as a thing, where do you see yourselves going?

Deeper.

Brighton seems like a good place to be for a band, with its relaxed attitudes, venues, and plenty of students, not to mention proximity to London. Is that the way you see it?

Yes. We live in Bristol though.

As far as guitar sound goes, do you have some sort of ideal in mind? What sort of guitars and gear do you use?

What a fucking great question. I've never been asked that before, and nerds like me crave that kind of attention. I guess my all time guitar heroes are Kevin Shields, Jonny Marr and Bob Mould. Shields invented a completely new sound, a totally innovative technique; he challenged the listener's preconceptions as to what was acceptable. When Alan McGee heard 'To Here Know's When' he assumed something was wrong with the tape, because it kept going out of tune. Shields assured him it was meant to sound like that. Marr and Mould are quite similar to one another in that they displayed virtuoso playing within the pop format. Mould's solos are always consistent with the song itself. He doesn't wank around. Jonny Marr never really played solos; for him it was always about the song, though he couldn't help but be a total fucking genius at playing the guitar. I wish I could have Marr and Mould's virtuosity and innate pop sensibility, with Kevin Shield's subversion. I'm also a big fan of Bert Jansch, the fingerpicker's fingerpicker.

As for my guitars, I have a telecaster, which was all I played for years, only because it was all I had, and Kevin Shields, J Mascis and Sonic Youth only played single-coil guitars. But then recently I got a Epiphone archtop-semi, which is a semi-acoustic with humbucker pickups. I wanted to try a guitar that as the polar opposite of a Telecaster. I wanted something with more sustain, like a Neil Young sound. It's also better for fingerpicking than a Telecaster as the strings are further apart and the bridge is higher.

I borrow a terrible guitar from my friend Phil. It's called Da Vinci. It's dire. It's like a Woolworth's My First Guitar. It has a dogshit tremelo and never stays in tune, with the weediest sound you've ever heard. Every note sounds like an apology. It's great for droning sounds.

I own a lot of pedals, including a Subaquatron, which is an analogue delay that i modified myself; tremelos, various overdrive pedals, but I don't really use many of them anymore. The problem with effect pedals is that they sound like effects pedals.

As for my acoustic, it's a Simon and Patrick. They are pretty cheap, about 270. Very good value. Canadian guitars are the way to go. Insane value for money.

Yep, well, we have to ask who you admire, past and present ... who?

I guess i'm quite transparent about that. Mould and Hart, Jonny Marr, Kevin Shields, Bert Jansch, Neil Young. Guitar playing aside, i'm a big fan of John Cale and Martin Hannett's approach to arrangement and production. Lyricists I am influenced by would be Ian Curtis, Scott Walker, Robert Smith in the early days when he was writing stuff like Seventeen Seconds... I think Ian Curtis was probably the greatest lyricist the world has known. I feel like i've been influenced by writers and film-makers too. I'm a big fan of Alan Moore, M.R. James, Herman Hesse, Alexander Trocchi, Philip K. Dick, Gordon Burn, George Orwell, David Lynch, Andrei Tarkovsky, John Carpenter and Stanley Kubrick. I also like Lucio Fulci's films, but it has to be said that that is because they are such total rubbish.

Computer based studios have allowed bands to get a lot further along the track without having to get labels to fork out huge amounts of money for recording. Have these sorts of tools helped you at all? Do you use commercial studios at all?

All the records so far have been recorded at home, in a bedroom. The first two albums were recorded on digital 8-track machines. The latest was done on a mixture of that and a PC. The direction it's going in, I'm using a PC more and more as I'm manipulating sounds more. On Black Holes in the Sand I took a long improvisation I did with Black Forest/Black Sea and sampled bits of it up, to take them out of context, then threw them semi-randomly into the second half of the song. We're going into a Bristol studio, Toybox, to record most of the next album, because I want to get a good drum sound, and make the most of Dave's drumming skills.

What gigs have you got coming up in November and December? Any big plans for next year?

We've just finished playing for the year now. We'll be recording through december and I'll be mixing most of january I think. Next year I imagine we'll be touring a lot.

Cheers!

Thanks a lot Nick.

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