My interview discussing the new album 'A Blue Sky at the Edge of the World'
speaking about my new 2015 Alien Skin album: an interview
by Julia Sassard
Your new Alien Skin album comes only 10 months after your previous. It's a surprisingly quick follow up, how did it come about so soon?
Shortly after releasing the Creature with the Human Face album in April of 2014, after many tiring months of meticulous work writing, refining and mixing the music, I was anxious to involve myself in something new as is always the case with me.
The inspiration came, in truth, around February 2014 while I was waiting for the CD to be manufactured. It was Australian summer, humid, mind numbingly hot and melting in my lounge room I stumbled across New York's 'Ghost of the Saber Tooth Tiger' on YouTube. They being Sean Lennon & his partner, the very lovely Charlotte Kemp Muhl.
Their magical, well cultivated melodies, fantasy lyrics, stripped down music and two voice harmony performances enthralled me. I continued checking out more of their songs, all the while feeling myself being pulled into a certain direction with my own new song ideas. This exposure to their music was consequently my inspiration for what became A Blue Sky at the Edge of the World.
How did this inspiration manifest itself in real terms?
My immediate response to discovering 'Ghost of the Saber Tooth Tiger' was the composition of 2 tracks: Singapore Girl and Strawberry Garden. The latter was included on the album, the former is to be found on my EXTRAS* CD. Working on these provided me the idea of adding a female voice to mine. I had recorded with Deity (from Los Angeles) before, on Vanishing Girl from the 'Ghost In The Rain' album, and so I asked her to record vocals for Strawberry Garden. At the time I had no plan of her appearing on the entire CD but as the song worked out so well, to my ears, it encouraged me to send her more tracks to record.
How did the recording of the album progress from this point, once you had established you were to share it with Deity?
Your Voice and Baltic Sea were the next two tracks I presented her, the results convinced me once and for all that the entire album should vocally feature both of us. This then, I thought, was going to be the chief distinguishing element of the album compared to everything I had done before. Baltic Sea expresses my fascination with lonely, sea battered lighthouses and was the first tune we sang together in its entirety, I had never done this before. In turn it also inspired me to produce a simple Youtube music video of both of us, she in Los Angeles myself in Melbourne and with some crude video programming I joined us together in one place at one time.
Another song we sing in unison, for the most part, is Eloise Woods. Its stimulus being my discovery of a natural burial park of the same name in Texas (google it for more info if you wish). Some tracks flowed and worked out without much fuss and this was one of them; it felt like teflon to produce.
Your respect of the 80s and your years of music during that decade is evident in some of the songs. Do you agree?
Well, She's Ephemeral is perhaps the closest hint of my 80s history and is my leading album track together with its accompanying video. I also have to mention The One with the Strangest of Eyes which is a personal favourite, my paean to the desperate fantasy of fan love with references to Depeche Mode & David Bowie.
How important was the inclusion of Deity on this album?
After 5 albums, although different to each other in degrees, I felt an intuitive need to broaden my work. It becomes boring to most artists to repeat themselves ad nauseum, and I tire of the one-trick pony path, so the choice to bring in another voice was a significant one for me as was the nature of the new songs themselves. Deity has done a wonderful job in adding vibrant colours to the tracks, giving them a sound I could not have achieved myself. She's helped make this album a unique Alien Skin release.
Any particular song you wish to give attention to; one you feel worked out best together?
I must highlight Monday Mornings I Abhor which has the most luscious vocal layering by Deity, after the middle break. Listen to the wall of voices married with synth pads reinforcing a strong chorus.
Another special track from our sessions, Fragments of Time [on the EXTRAS* CD), has one of her most endearing performances. To my ears the track is an electronic folk tune, at least a distant cousin, and her vocal arrangement helped me arrive at that opinion. It's one of my new non album favourites. And of course there's Baltic Sea and....really all the songs work so well!
How did you record the album together?
Our vocals were recording in separate countries and we swapped digital files by email. I sent her a version of each song with my vocals, she recorded hers and uploaded them for me. Upon receiving her recordings I married them to mine, mixing and fine tuning the song as I went along.
There's a naked & endearing piano song on the album, what can you tell me about it?
Hey Christine is a treated-piano based song with Deity's other worldly vocal and I agree it's one of the most tender tracks I've written. Thank you also to friend Patricia Robert, all the way from France, whose voice you hear during the intro.
I've always seen myself primarily as a songwriter who loves using electronics. I'm not obsessive about gear & devices or what the latest software is all about. I focus on songs and I apply the electronics to them rather than the other way around. I love songs!
Sad Lisa Smile, Happier Now and the title track. Can you comment?
Sad Lisa Smile is an obvious reference to the Mona Lisa painting and my admiration for the brilliance of DaVinci, a brilliance that transcends centuries. I also drew on a little help (in the title) from an early musical love, Cat Stevens, and his beautiful Sad Lisa from 1971's 'Tea for the Tillerman' album.
Finally, with the songs Happier Now & the title track, I achieved the precise finish I wished for the album. The latter is a somewhat unusual track, Deity commented that it reminds her of something from the 1930s. Perhaps, it may have been my attempt to summon the spirit of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'. The song is quite self explanatory and I think the treatment I gave it gives it a slight discomforting edge. Originally it was a short piece with only my verse, it was to be an addendum to the preceding full length tracks. I then arrived at the idea of also having the same verse sung by Deity alone, so the song features both of us at different times singing the same part.
Happier Now gives life to some of my music heroes from the 1960s: The Beatles, Pink Floyd & The Kinks & their respective albums from 1967/8. It's my rain -come- sunny day tribute to some of my earliest & most important inspirators, motivators and guides. Thanks to friend George Milhe for his vocal contribution on the song as well.
Album name: A Blue Sky at the Edge of the World
Artist: Alien Skin with Deity
Release date: February 2nd, 2015
Number of Tracks: Eleven
Format: CD & Download
Artwork: Todd M. LeMieux
Listen to the full album: BANDCAMP
Buy the album: BANDCAMP (CD & Download), over the counter, iTunes etc
01 The One with the Strangest of Eyes
02 Baltic Sea
03 Your Voice
04 Sad Lisa Smile
05 Hey Christine
06 Strawberry Garden
07 She's Ephemeral
08 Monday Mornings I Abhor
09 Eloise Woods
10 A Blue Sky at the Edge of the World
11 Happier Now
Preferred retailer: BANDCAMP (CD & Download)
'Ghost of the Saber Tooth Tiger': Watch them YouTube
* The EXTRAS CD was given away as a bonus to buyers of the CD version of the album from Bandcamp, while in pre-release status. It contains 4 tracks recorded during the album sessions: Fragments of Time, Newspaper Colours, Singapore Girl & Home by Another Name.
Watch previews from 'A Blue Sky at the Edge of the World'
Here we are speaking about the new album, Alien Skin & Deity