HEADSHOCK interview 2013

It's been 10 years since you last played live... what have you been doing ?

Tim: Actually we have been very busy playing and recording LOTS of material, at least a few albums-worth. We enjoy creating it so much though that we find it hard to get organised into putting it out. Also the relative demise of the CD format hasn't helped in motivating us to release one. Our last real album was in 2005 and was called "Explorers of the Dreamworld". It wasn't released on CD but it is available with "Music from Peak Experience" in high qaulity digital format on Bandcamp.

Since EOTD we have been through a few phases. Around 2008 we did a set of more beat orientated tracks, I still really like them and they may make an appearance as downloads sometime. More recently we have amassed stacks of material, some of which fits in alongside our previous work, and some which is way more avant-garde and out-there. We may manage to get together an albums-worth compilation of recent tracks very soon before an upcoming "comeback" gig in April 2013 at Awakenings.

Paul: This and that! I've been trying to knit fog, juggle metaphors, write novels and evolve into a goldfish. I must admit some of those activities have occupied me more strenuously than others. I'm usually in some kind of gear analysis mode though, trying to remain portable without sacrificing the freedom I have when surrounded by a pile of my favourite equipment. You can't always win. I've played a fair few festivals over the last decade, quite a few solo, and when you're in a muddy field running off a dodgy generator and the rain is threatening to pour through the canvas, you really don't want your most expensive vintage synthesizers with you. It's taken me a very long time but I finally feel at ease playing to anyone and everyone. Having done that, metamorphosis into a goldfish has to be easy!


How did you meet and how long have you two been playing together?

Tim: I met Paul at school when we were 11ish. I remember later on in sixth form more when we sat next to each other in physics class. We spent more time talking about music than physics. We also played in a band together called Oasis ... yes, we were the original ones. We later started playing together again doing electronic music in the late 90s.

Paul: Ah Oasis. We did original material plus covers of material as diverse as Squeeze, Led Zep, Gordon Giltrap and Peter Gabriel. We had a small but loyal following who probably still have more recordings (and memories) of us than we have.

What are your musical influences?

Tim: An endless topic. Early on it was 70s pop like Bowie, then heavy and progressive rock like Zep and Yes. Electronic music snuck in early via Paul who was the only person at school listening to pure electronic music - I distinctly remember borrowing and liking Roedilius (Selbst Portrait) and Tangerine Dream too. Old TV series radiophonic workshop soundtracks and spooky, psychedelic music from childrens TV also. Sticking with the more synthy side of things, I later got into new wave stuff like Cabaret Voltaire, Magazine then New Order in the 1980s. My real love for analogue synths though really started in the 90s when the music on the Warp label made a massive impact on me - listening to the Artificial Intelligence compilations I became fascinated by the beautiful organic nature of analogue synths. Shortly after hearing the Warp stuff I then went back and investigated Detroit Techno and acid house - compelling machine music.

Paul: I'm influenced by everything to some degree, but I'd say the music of Cluster, Roedelius, Schnitzler and Shpongle are the most significant. I could list more: Tangerine Dream, Future Sound Of London, Boards of Canada etc. but you probably get the gist. I've always been negatively influenced by music that's too explicit or unsubtle - e.g. songs rarely interest me as they give too much away and conventional, easy-to-digest, every-note-perfect music tends to wash over me like a wave of mayflies.

Tell us something about Headshock's music, why you make it, what it has that's unique...

Tim: Well the main reason I think we make it is immense fun and it's addictive, a compulsion. I have played in all sorts of bands and done solo stuff but this project is turning into a really long term thing. Our approach is very much to just do it, improvise it, and see how it comes out. It's only later on when I listen back and then realise what mysterious magic has been made. I think our music is very unique and in the spirit of the earlier electronic music pioneers like F.C Judd (he did the soundtrack to Space Patrol) when there really were no formulas and it was pure experimentation. I think there is also a definite filmic element to it and I'd really like to see our music used in films. Our first album was called "Music from 'Peak Experience'" as a kind of acknowledgement of this. We never had a film Peak Experience but I have always wanted to make one and I think it may happen but it will be a growing and evolving backdrop to our future live gigs. I've already started it.

Paul: I'm not really sure how we started but when I look back to our first album, I still experience a kind of awe. It's not often that happens with music I've been involved in. Somehow, and I don't know that analysis is necessarily wise, we are able to spontaneously create freely, intuitively and naturally with no need to do anything except make the time to get together and play. Listening to each other is absolutely key, more so than having pre-conceived ideas and levering them in.
I think our strength is that neither of us considers there's any type of musical idea that should be excluded. All avenues can be explored with absolutely no worries when some turn out to be blind alleys. In this way we go places just for the hell of it and only start to think about what we made later. This lends the best of our material a quality I've only heard before in the music of Cluster, if that isn't too bold a claim. If you think it is, take a listen. A good listen.

How do you approach a live performance?

Tim: Most of my non-Headshock gigs have been solo or with various bands. We actually haven't done a gig together for 10 years, at a thing called Hampshire Jam. Before that we had the pleasure of playing at Jodrell Bank (though not as Headshock). It's very much like our normal improvised studio sessions really but with just a tad of preparation and the on-the-edge feeling of keeping a bunch of analogue synths under control. It's very exciting to do it that way. I'm much less experienced than Paul at using this stuff live.

Paul: The motorway? Sorry. Actually, I approach it in a similar way to any get-together which is to get the two of us in one place, the gear connected and play. We could prepare stuff - we have in the past - but improvisation and making music of the moment is far more fun, if slightly risky I guess. For our next gig I have some samples and sequences prepared in the Cirklon and Octatrack, but they may not be the driving force of what eventually happens. This will depends on our mood at the time, which also means there's no guarantee of the kind of slickness you'll get from someone gazing into a laptop. But I feel it's really important audiences should be given the chance to see live electronic music that grows and mutates before their eyes - even if it's into something none of us fully understand at the time.

What's behind your choice of equipment, what are you using and why? Is there something you would like to add? What should equipment manufacturers be concentrating on?

Tim: I am very into analogue equipment, mainly classic stuff from the 70s and 80s. My first synth was a Roland Juno 2 with programmer - it's a brilliant synth and I sttill love it. Lately I've been earning a few bob and been lucky enough to land some really classic synths like the Moog Prodigy, Roland SH-1, ARP Odyssey, Elka Rhapsody and, fingers crossed, a Jupiter 6 soon. I like the infinite and subtle range of possibilities they have and I think the sounds created by electricity has a kind of organic soul. I have recently started making my own synthesiser using some very basic circuitry and it's amazing how much variety I can get from two simple square wave oscillators mixed together. It's something I think I will carry on building on, an evolving personal instrument. I don't like using computers except for editing and post-processing, I find them boring and irritating and I spend enough time on the computer with my day job. I do have some digital gear which I like too, such as the Korg Microsampler - I can take it out into the park and mess around in the sun. The iPad is a useful tool - I made a whole track on it on a plane journey back from Japan last year - it featured a Koto I had sampled and Korg Monotron I had bought over there. I love the Korg Monotrons, I have them all and the Monotribe too - you can go out with a canvas bag full of analogue synths and make a track in the park with a beer. There's not much more gear I want if I get the Jupiter but I am sure something will crop up, it's a bit of an addiction buying gear. I think equipment manufacturers should be concentrating more on analogue gear again now, Korg are doing really well and I think Roland should be competing more with their class history.

Paul: For me it's about immediacy and putting together a palette of colours that I can quickly remix as I go. So I'm less into programmable instruments than ever before. I totally love my Synthi-AKS - it has to be my favourite instrument of all time for sonic exploration. And loads of effects. I'm using the Roland SH-101 and Moog Prodigy synths a lot too, the former because of the speed of creating new sequences, the latter has had a fair bit of customisation work done so it handles exactly as I want. I wish manufacturers concentrated on making instruments that were musically interesting and ready to be performed with first, rather than prioritising the number of features. As for adding anything, I get a great deal of gear through my hands thanks to the work with Sound On Sound. It's enough to confirm my belief that the gear doesn't have the answers. I reckon Headshock could make interesting music with almost anything except a saxophone. The new Korg MS20 Mini may prove irresistible even though I am running out of space.

Should music be free to download?

Tim: It's good to be able to try stuff out for free but I think if you genuinely like something and listen to it a lot then it should be paid for. One thing I don't like about digital downloading is the lack of physicality. I'd like to see vinyl continuing its comeback or collectable editions that add some value to digital music.

Paul: Good question. In many dodgy Russian sites it is possible to get music and bypass paying the artist for their time and effort. If music is free then the artist is forced to try and earn money doing something else. Do you honestly want Ozzie Osborne as your dentist or plumber?

Should music be instantly appealing?

Tim: Most of the music I really love has not been instantly appealing, it's always the stuff that grows on me gradually that endures. If you want to get to the masses though then instant appeal is what you should aim for. I think our stuff is very much in the former category, it requires quite a bit of "work" to get into. It's music for lying back too, closing your eyes with a glass of wine... on a regular basis.

Paul: Instant appeal can quickly fade. If you want a musical quick fix in order to move on to something else then perhaps Headshock won't appeal. Sometimes *we* only realise what we've made after repeat listens and that's how I like it. I'm old enough not to feel I have to try and be appealing but my wife does insist I shower occasionally.

How does the music you make individually compare to the stuff you do together?

Tim: I have done a lot of band stuff in the past, it's been more song-based, though I have done quite a bit of instrumental electronic music too. I think it's been a bit more beats-orientated, a bit more Warp-ish maybe.

Paul: The stuff we do together is better by far than anything I've done alone. Ditto for all my collaborations actually. I think I might be homeopathy personified because the more I'm diluted the better I sound.

What makes it still fun?

Tim: It's just the regular fix of getting together and having a blast as it always has been. We have never been out to get famous or make money but I think I would like to get some more recognition and get it out there more now.

Paul: Being constantly surprised and delighted by what we've recorded. And this last year or so I've been blown away by the hours of material we've generated. I just wish I knew what to do with it all...