65daysofstatic were kind enough to let us distract them from their rehearsals for their January tour of Japan. Paul from 65daysofstatic spends some time answering our questions and talks about being a gangster. Mistakenly.
I was born in Manchester, UK. In the North. The band is based in Sheffield, UK. Also in the North. Two of us are from Sheffield anyway, the other two of us went to university there, and by the time that was over 65 had begun, so there we stayed.
For as long as I can remember. I had piano lessons when I was young, which I am really grateful for now. I never did any exams beyond my grade one, so I’m not really ‘classically trained’ or anything, but it definitely got me going. Then I was lucky enough to get a second hand Korg M1 for my 13th or 14th birthday and that’s when I got into sequencing. With the inbuilt sequencer and built-in multitimbral options you could make entire tracks with it. Mostly, I just made covers of Blue Monday and True Faith over and over again, but eventually started writing stuff of my own.
The motivation for me and all of 65, I think, is about the need to communicate ideas. There is so much in the world that can’t be adequately explained by words. Well, maybe it can if you’re Kurt Vonnegut or Kundera or somebody, but certainly not by us. Standing on stage and making tons of noise makes me feel like I’m actually sharing what I want to share with people more than anything else in the world. It’s not hard to stay motivated. It’s just sometimes hard to make your life work around it!
Right now I think it’s my Dave Smith Mopho. I’ve come at technology as somebody who grew up in the 80s and by the time I was a teenager and it was the 90s, I was getting into geeky music-making and it was all about drum machines and Akai samplers. Analogue was a totally alien concept to me. In fact, for a long time I had a really contrary disdain for anything capable of making ‘evolving’ sounds. I’d totally brainwashed myself into the discipline of writing songs using only a total of 20 seconds sampling time.
Also, of course, I could never really afford proper analogue equipment. I still can’t, really. I guess the Mopho is more of an entry level device. But to me, it sounds sublime. Despite not being able to own hardly any, I have got into analogue circuitry in a big way.
Ableton Live and Logic are the two staples of 65’s programming. Live for live, and Logic for writing. The Sugabytes plugins are pretty special. Vogue especially warms everything up nicely. I’m a big fan of Native Instrument’s Massive as well. It’s got a really great sawtooth sound. Also, the Sonalkis TBK3 is the nastiest, dirtiest compressor I’ve ever come across. It’s beautiful. Make sure you have the ‘fierce’ button pressed.
Workspace and Environment
We try not to let it the workspace affect us, but of course it does. At the time of writing, 65daysofstatic is on a bit of a high because for the first time in 9/10 years of being a band, we have just moved into a rehearsal room that is actually deserving of the name. The stories I could tell you about our previous spaces… Man, it sends shivers down my spine thinking about it. The worst was probably a warehouse that got raided by the police because of the Russian gangsters holed up next door and then later (because the police broke the padlock) raided by Russian gangsters who stole our equipment. Perhaps the miserable, damp and rotting holes we’ve been based in for most of our existence have actually influenced more than we ever knew – kept our music edgy – and now that we finally have a nice space to work in we’re gonna end up writing a coffee-table album that you can buy in Tesco/Walmart/Starbucks.
When a rehearsal room is so small that none of us has space to sit down it gets incredibly important. But beyond that… It really isn’t something we have ever thought about as a question. Music-making shouldn’t be too comfortable. We gotta keep telling ourselves that. RSI IS PUNK ROCK.
Perhaps our city affects us, perhaps not. I think some bands are more geographically-based than others. In Sheffield specifically, bands that have come out of there like Arctic Monkeys or Pulp wear their origins on their sleeves… I’m not sure we’re a band like that. For a start, the explosion of the internet over the past 15 years has led to a plethora of subcultures that exist online, not bound by location. I mean, this is arguably one of the most powerful things about the modern world, right? We are lucky enough to have fans all over the world. When I was 15, being into strange and abrasive music was such a divisive thing. At school, it could feel so isolating, liking music that nobody else liked, but then at the same time moments of shared understanding that you would get at gigs, or in record stores browsing the same ‘experimental’ aisles with fellow shoppers were incredibly exciting. Now you can find thousands of people who share your interests in a matter of seconds, whatever those interests happen to be. I have absolutely no idea what it is like to be a 15 year old now, or how this will shape music that’s being made by them in 5 years time.
That was a bit of a tangent. Of course a city where we live will influence the music we make. But not necessarily more or less than the infinite number of other experiences we have every day which also influence it..
There’s a secret vintage synth shop on the fourth floor of an anonymous-looking building in Shibuya, Tokyo. Probably if we could get ourselves accidentally locked in there for six months or so. Japan is amazing and crazy. And that shop is something else entirely.
We’ve had about a million locations. I can’t even begin to tell you. And also – it’s worth stressing this point – we have NEVER had a studio. We still don’t. We demo using a laptop with logic going through some battered microphones and a mixing desk with loads of faders and pots missing.
When we first started, we were mostly all always playing, all at once, making as much noise as we possibly good. It worked for our first two albums, which we’re incredibly proud of and helped us really develop our sound and as a band. But we reached a point where we need to change things up because we don’t ever want to make the same album. With our latest record, ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’, I think we really managed to hit a new level regards discipline. We just about managed to remove all our egos from the song-writing process. If a song didn’t need guitars, then nobody played guitars. If there was no need for live drums until the last 30 seconds of a track, then that was fine. Regards the electronics specifically, every song is always started with an empty palette, and we just take on board what we need as and when it occurs to us.
First and Last Gear
My Korg M1, I think, but I’ve already talked about that. The most important piece of hardware I’ve ever owned was probably the Akai S2000 I bought with my first student loan. This is what I learnt to program on. Back then, my thoughts were just full-on excitement. These days, I still think it’s a wonderful piece of kit. I just wish that it had the ability to take flash cards instead of floppy discs. If it did then I’d probably still use it as a drum machine. Can I mod it? Or, actually, could somebody else mod it for me? Is that even possible?
Harking back to my early days, the last piece of gear that I’ve got hold of is proper old-school – an Akai MPC1000. This is actually for a side project (my solo Polinski stuff) because I don’t want to just be another anonymous guy stood behind a laptop. Not my idea of fun for either performer or audience. For 65daysofstatic, I think the last thing we got was at the start of the year. We had spent 2009 running the live show with only hardware – MPC5000, v-drums and synths. It was incredibly satisfying to be able to achieve this, but incredibly inflexible in terms of swapping and changing sets. So at the beginning of 2010 we bought two Macbook Pros with Solid State harddrives and switched back to Ableton and software. It’s the solid state drives that make the real difference. Our sound engineer spent most of 2009 on tour with The Prodigy, and that is basically what they do. Before this we didn’t have much faith in relying on laptops – too many bad experiences of crashes, but we thought ‘if it’s good enough for The Prodigy, then it should be good enough for us’. And (so far), it’s been working just fine…
Hearing Your Work Publicly
Heard it on the radio and stuff and every now and then it pops up on UK tv. It’s nice, it’s flattering, of course…We used to text each other, ‘we’re on 6music right now!’ or ‘turn on BBC1!’, but these days twitter tells us where we are before we know ourselves.
We would love to write a soundtrack at one point. In fact – we kind of are already. In February we are doing a live re-scoring of Silent Running for Glasgow Film Festival. But we aren’t approaching it as an ‘art project’. We are keeping all of the dialogue in the movie. We want people to experience it as a movie as much as a 65 gig. We just want to prove to ourselves that writing a soundtrack is something we can do. And that movie seems absolutely perfect for us…But this isn’t something that is ‘outside’ of 65. Even the fact that I’m starting to do a side project as Polinski doesn’t feel like it’s really ‘outside’ of 65. I think we might be trapped inside this band forever. Or until we go deaf, at least…There’s definitely worse places we could be.