Interview, October 2010. This is the Full English version of the fantastic interview Duncan Patterson gave to www.hit-channel.com There is also the exclusive for his new album called «Alternative 4».
Are you happy with the feedback you get for «Immaculada» album from fans and critics?How did Greek people respond?
I havent had much coverage for that album yet. There were a few problems with the promo copies at the pressing plant, so we missed the summer deadline for the journalists. Hopefully things will pick up now that everyone is back working again. In spite of that, the reviews that I have seen, and feedback, has been very positive on the whole, but I like to keep busy doing interviews and keeping things ticking over after all the energy I spent creating this album. I have a licence deal for the USA anyway, and Immaculada will be released there in January 2011, so maybe I will get more coverage over there, maybe not but life goes on. As for Greece, Im not sure how many copies are in the country. 99% of people who speak to me from there these days are more impressed with the fact that I know Vincent Cavanagh than they are with my music. When a band becomes a brand name, and some kind of mania is created, then it might as well be Boyzone or something. The irony is that the reason Anathema are so popular in Greece is down to the success of Alternative 4 over there. It’s amusing in a way, but its also boring to be asked the same daft questions over and over again by these «fanatics» that dont actually know anything about the band or the songs. Times have changed fairly quickly, as far as independent music goes, and I’ve been unfortunate to witness the decline and devaluation of music with a lot of people. I have made the choices to be doing what I do though, and I’m proud of where I am at the moment.
As I’ve heard, independent labels are equal greedy to major ones?Lower costs for them, and the biggest profit.Do you share the same view?
You can’t really generalise like that, though it is true in a lot of cases. I’ve only ever dealt with independent labels and I’ve encountered numerous problems with most of them, especially when it came to tracking down money. On the other hand I’ve been working with Equilibrium Music for years now and they are true to their word. A lot of ‘independents’ are owned by major labels anyway these days, and the structure is virtually identical. You check out who gets the coverage and big features in the main magazines etc. and see how many of them are on small honest independent labels. Business is business, and I’ve no problem with anyone trying to make a living, but I do have a problem with big labels monopolizing everything as that leaves no room for true independent musicians to get any decent coverage. Its music, and its a magical thing for many of us. And unfortunately most people dont realise that they can actually go and actively search for music that they may like, as opposed to being spoonfed whatever the bigger labels are serving up.
Do you think rock’n’roll is dead?So, Jim Morrison was right?
Ah no, rock n roll will never die haha. A lot of successful musicians would still be musicians anyway, regardless of whether they had a luck break or not. Others wouldnt even lower themselves to tune their own guitars because theyre so used to having everything done for them. That aint rock n roll in my book, its more like public schoolboy behaviour. Some people just have it in them though. Anyhow, I’m pure rock n roll and quite a lot of my friends are. We fly the flag of decadance (sometimes).
Do you think is a bit unfair that you’re an underground musician and for example, Chris Martin of Coldplay is multi-millionaire?Maybe someone has to invent the talent-meter…
No, fairness doesn’t really apply here. I have chosen to do things in a certain way and I’m happy with that. I could have took a chance and gone with a major label when the offer was there but I declined, as the initial conditions that were offered were not suitable for me at all. I was unhappy enough working within a large independent label previously, so there was no chance of me going further down that route. I don’t know much about Chris Martin or Colplay but they’re obviously equipped to be part of a huge media machine. Good luck to them, its just a pity that this machine actively prevents independent artists from getting airplay and coverage. At the same time I listen to, and have bought, many major label releases that I love. And there is surely a huge amount of people who feel the same way about their Coldplay cds as I do about my Bon Jovi records, or the Greeks with their Anathema MP3 folders.
Why Coldplay and other bands perfectly suit to major labels and not Scott Walker for example?Maybe because major labels made them what they are?
Major labels are there to sell as many albums and merchandise as possible. So the artists have to be marketable. I can’t really imagine the later Scott Walker stuff getting into the charts or MTV playlists, although it would be great to see.
You have the whole control of your music.Do you think that maybe you lack of P.R?Do you think that managers is something like artist’s pimps?
It would be nice to get more coverage, but again thats as much down to the magazines and radio stations as it is to the label. I dont go down the route of paying someone to tell everybody that I’m the new musical messiah and to conduct business in that way. I’d rather that people were just honestly into music, and luckily there are still people involved in music because they love it. When I was still in Anathema I went out and found us a manager. We really needed someone to sort out the chaos in the band because it had reached a ridiculous level, I tried and tried but it was like banging my head against a brick wall. So this guy came in and sorted out a lot of the mess. It was a huge relief to have somebody working on your side like that within the business, and I learned a lot from him and from all those experiences back then. Positive and negative. And that has been enough to carry me through the last 12 years managing myself and whatever projects that I’ve worked on. I think a good manager must work for the band/artists needs, but also you have to know what you want and what channels you wish to go down. Otherwise the manager will just do whatever they think is right. A lot of musicians haven’t a clue about the business that they’re in and are happy to take what they are given. Or complain about the lack of things, while being sat on their lazy arse doing nothing.
With who musician you’d like to work with?Maybe with Robyn Hitchcock and John Paul Jones?
I love to do a record with Lisa Gerrard, where I could just give her the music and trust her to do her magic over the top of it. Making a concept album with Roger Waters wouldn’t be so bad either.
Have you ever approached Lisa Gerrard to do a project with her?If not, I’ll send her an e-mail when the interview will be online.
I’d love to, but I guess it would be better if I had music written first before I approach anybody for a project. Plus I’m sure she has many requests for work anyway.
Have you ever thought to pick up the phone and ask Roy Harper to do tour together?
No, I’m not really sure how that would work.
Do you write music this period?Do you think that you should give more lives for «Immaculada» promotion?
I actually had a long break away from writing and creativity while I was recording and mixing Immaculada, and all year since then till now. It was the first time for many many years that I mentally stepped back from creativity, and it has done me good. I was away from Europe during this time too, which was ideal. Strangely enough I’ve recently started piecing an album together and I have already spoken to a couple of musicians to join me on this new project, including a really great singer. It’s taken me more than 12 years to have the energy for this type of album again, but I’m ready to go. Hopefully it will answer a lot of questions. The project is named ‘Alternative 4’.
Other than that, I’m working on an album of old traditional Irish and medieval tunes with a flute player that I met in Buenos Aires named Augusto Reinhold. I have a deal for that already, and we’re looking to release it in March 2011.
What kind of music you’ll play in your new project «Alternative 4»?Who ‘ll be the singer?
The songs are written in my own style, using some electric instruments and drum kit which I havent used for a number of years. I’ll speak more about it when it’s recorded. But I have some great musicians involved and it’s gonna be an interesting album.
Which is the top band in the world now in your opinion?Do you think that Radiohead are our generation’s Pink Floyd?
Radiohead? No, great band and I have a lot of respect for them but I can’t compare them with Floyd, personally. I do admire them for their creativity and I recognised some later influences from a lot of underground electronic music that I was listening to a while back. I prefer the original drafts though. But fair play to Radiohead. Karma Police could have quite easily fitted on The Beatles White Album and been up there with the best tracks on it. I dont say that about many songs like.
Do you think that Radiohead do a lot of things today that Can and Kraftwerk did in 70’s?
I don’t know really. Out of those 3 I’m only really interested in Kraftwerk.
Let’s talk about some rock’n’roll extravaganza. Did you heard «Chinese Democracy» album?What’s your opinion about Axl Rose?
I heard one song while I was in a taxi in Latvia. I don’t really have an opinion about it as I don’t remember the tune. I don’t know much about Axl Rose but I remember he had a nice white leather jacket back in the late 80s. Appetite For Destruction is a classic album but I didn’t like any of their stuff after that. So Chinese Democracy wasn’t on my list for Santa Claus.
You love traveling.What do you like the most in Mexico?What did you do in Mexican mountains riding a horse?Did you search for treasures?
I’ve always liked Mexico from the first day I stepped foot into the country. I have some great friends there, the food is lovely and there are many options to eat fresh nutritious fruit and vegetables. Theres a lot of sun, which is a great motivational tool for me haha. Theres something about the place, I feel at home and generally get along with the locals that I have come across. I decided to take a horse and ride off into the mountains, it was a great experience once I reached the top. My horse was called Violin, and she waited patiently for me while I went to see a Huichol ceremonial site which was right up at the peak. I always keep my eye out for treasures wherever I go, and I usually have no problem finding them, I’m blessed in that respect.
You have visited Argentina.I’m an insane lover of Argentina as country and culture.What is the special to Argentine people?Did you enjoy your stay there?Is it coincidence that Che Guevera had strong Irish roots?His father surname is Guevara-Lynch.
I liked Argentina and I spent a long time there to get to know the place, especially Buenos Aires. The main things that I noticed there are that the girls don’t finish their dinners, and the guys hardly ever introduce you to girls haha. I’ve always had a soft spot for Argentina though since the 1982 World Cup. I don’t know much about Che Guevara or his Irishness really. I know the basic story like.
Do you think that music press is manipulated by the recording labels? How independent would be a music «journalist» when you pay his tickets and hotels to do a studio report?Maybe economic crisis does something do for this, though.
Yes, and it’s very clear and obvious. All you need is a little bit of common sense to realise how it all works.
You’re a lot more focused person that many would think.Which was the last great book you read?
Many people think that I’m not focused? I dont understand. Anyway, the last book I re-read was ‘Cancer: Why We’re Still Dying To Know The Truth’ by Phillip Day. I’ve been studying nutritional healing for years and I’m a huge admirer of Phillip Days work and research. Other than that, I haven’t read anything for a long time as I was travelling all year in South America and playing gigs.
What news do you have from Stranglelight Records camp?Is it active?The «headquarters» are based in your laptop,I guess right?
The label has been inactive for a number of years for a few reasons. Firstly I have been travelling around and touring for a long time, so running a business hasn’t been in my plans. Secondly In between touring and that I have been recording my music and sorting that side of things out. The headquarters are in my brain, not my laptop as it may be stolen. I’ve banned mind-spies from my life now so my brain is well protected. People can only steal things that are outside of the secure place, and they do sometimes.
There is a phrase in Greek tradition which says that «pussy can drag a ship».Do you think that women always conquered the world, and that men do just the wars?
From my perspective no, but there are a lot of desperate men on the planet.
You must have seen many musicians went crazy. What is the main reason for these occasions: fame,money,drugs,alcohol or pussy?
It depends who you’re talking about. Everyone has their own reasons for going a bit nuts, and not just musicians.
Have you ever thought of doing an U.S tour? There are many Irish there.I guess it would be a success.
I did a tour of the west coast of the USA in 2003. We actually flew to Greece from there to play for the first time. I’ve been invited to play some shows on the east coast early next year, lets see what happens. It’s new territory for me as I’ve only been in Texas before, and obviously that tour that I just mentioned. There are a lot of Irish descendants on the east coast and I actually have some family over there. Maybe the album release there next year will open some new doors for me. I’m also speaking about a South American tour too.
Next week is what would be the 70th birthday of John Lennon.You are from Liverpool and you’re an Irish too.What means John Lennon to you?
Top man. Things would be different if he was still around. He was a mover and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind or push boundaries. I was actually born in the same hospital as him, so we have a connection there, not only our good looks and talent. I will go out and celebrate to pay tribute to his life for sure. The Beatles are the reason I wanted to play music, at a really early age, and they’re still the best. The masters.
You always liked Waters a lot more that Gilmour.Do you think that Gilmour is over-estimated a songwriter, as the last song who wrote ON HIS OWN,was «Fat Old Sun» from 1970’s «Atom Heart Mother» album?
I don’t think of Gilmour as a songwriter. Hes a decent guitarist, and a great great vocalist. To me thats his biggest talent. I can’t comprehend anyone who even thinks about comparing those two as writers, but again the media is a powerful tool as is the «brand name».
What music do you hear now?
At this very minute I’m listening to a soundtrack that my friend Shane Wearen has made for a documentary «The Curious Case Of Rosalie Roy». Sound good. Earlier I was listening to Lila Downs and some harp music.
Which is your favourite drink?Have you ever tried ouzo?
I like freshly squeezed orange juice, especially in the morning. Or carrot, apple, and ginger. Other than that its camomile tea, white wine, or Guinness. Though I usually drink water all day.
Do you think Greek women are so aggressive because the Greek male youth doesn’t rock’n’roll at all?
I don’t find them to be aggressive, generally, but I’m sure there are aggressive women everywhere as well as men. As for the Greek youth, I noticed that the internet cafes are full of teenagers playing online games and shouting. Then the rock cafes are full of young people drinking frappe and shouting. The only real rock n roll people in Greece that I know are my friends up in Thessaloniki.
Which place in Greece struck you the most?
I spent a long long time in Thessaloniki, so I have strong ties to the city. I made friends there and know many barmaids and club owners. Its nice up there and I miss it really. I know Athens well too, but its a totally different vibe there. I feel like everyones on show there when I go out to clubs, style over substance. Not really my favourite place on earth. I have mostly good memories of Greece though.
Tell something to Greek listeners.
Reduce your coffee intake, stop shouting «malaka» every 5 seconds, and good luck with everything. Make your own dreams come true, put your hands in your pockets and give something to the world – buy my cds! Efharisto and god bless ye :)
Thanks to Duncan for the great answers. People check http://www.duncanpatterson.com