Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Royal We and Sexy Kids bassist, Multiplies synth wizard, Mogwai auxiliary, Flying Matchstick Men axe-smith…Graeme Ronald’s musical CV is impressive to say the least. But it’s as RememberRemember that Ronald has come into his own, spinning guitar loops and found sounds into densely beautiful compositions that suggest a post-rock Steve Reich, or Mogwai making mischief with Eno’s ambient works. His debut album, on Rock Action, is out now and the launch party takes place on Sunday at Glasgow’s Brel bar. To recreate the dense layering of the album, Ronald is playing with a special 10-piece ensemble.
For those who know you as a member of Multiplies or TRW, the sound of RR might come as a surprise. When did you start making RR music and why?
I don't think anyone, particularly now with the rate and manner in which music is consumed, listens exclusively to one type of music. I love pop music, and the Royal We was a great pop band, really fun to be involved with. Multiplies, for me at least, was all about repetitive rhythm, circular melody, propulsion and movement. I think the connection to RememberRemember is more evident there - slowed down a lot though, obviously! I've always doodled away on tunes in my bedroom whether it was tracking with two ghetto blasters, four track tapes, or computers. It was in the midst of the maelstrom that playing with Multiplies kind of became that I started developing these ideas a bit further, about four years ago I suppose, but it took me another couple of years to have the confidence to start playing them live.
Do you use loops and delay as a compositional tool or are they just a way of creating the arrangements?
I bought a looping pedal when I was in America with Mogwai and it was a godsend to me. I think they are the greatest invention since the television! I find writing music on a computer quite tedious and time consuming, now whenever I have a melody in my head I just stick it right down with my guitar and instantly start imagining what other melodies and textures could complement it. I actually find looping a truer rendering of the music that my brain is imagining because it's almost like being able to sing or play 20 melodies at once, which is quite hard to do in real life.
You also use toys, stationery and other gadgets as sound sources. What’s the thinking behind that?
Partly it's just a fun gimmick, it's hardly tremendously original, Matmos being the first obvious example that comes to mind, but I just like the idea that anything can be an instrument. I use the toys and everyday objects mostly to create rhythms, because I can't play drums and they just sound a lot cooler than drum machines. I also really enjoy those happy coincidences when you're listening to a record at home and somebody’s cooking in the room next door, or some building work is going on outside, or like now, I’m tapping the keys on my dad's laptop. So you hear all of those sounds alongside the music and it almost becomes part of it. There are a lot of "everyday" sounds on my record because I want people to be listening to it and not know if what they’re hearing is on the CD or happening in their house somewhere.
To what extent are your live sets improvised?
Since all the sampling and looping is done live, the sets are never identical performances, there's always some new mistake that ends up on a loop that has to be accounted for! The improvisation comes in as a response to making the mistakes into not being mistakes anymore. Every song has a set of four or five melodies that I really like and try and make sure I remember to play them at some point.
The live set has evolved from solo performances to a trio with violin and saxophone – how has this come about and what are the aims?
My very first couple of gigs were actually improvised "happenings" with random assortments of friends. I wasn't taking it particularly seriously then. When I wrote some pieces that I really liked, and realised I could do it on my own, I started playing solo. I met James (saxophonist) randomly smoking outside (Glasgow music bar) Nice & Sleazy's a while ago and we got talking about music and after a while started playing together. He can create some really rich, beautiful tones. Joan (violin) was in The Royal We and we'd been talking about working on Remember stuff for ages. I've been in too many more or less traditional "rock" bands, and wanted to incorporate tones that just can't be created with a guitar or a synth. I still play on my own from time to time though. I see RememberRemember being more of a fluid collective than a band, where people are free to come and go whenever they feel, apart from me, obviously.
Tell us about the album.
I worked at Green Door studios with Sam from Mother and the Addicts engineering. It was an extremely productive session. All of the gear in there is analogue, and it was recorded mostly to tape. I wanted all of the long looped sections to be played continuously live, so it was hard work...it sounds like it paid off and I’m super excited about it. The instruments, apart from the obvious sax, violin and guitar, range from mobile phone keypads to a Chinese harp, with a lovely smattering of Rhodes piano too! It's going to be fucking impossible...I mean quite a terrific challenge to recreate live!