Interview with an interviewer- Colin Pender aka Synaesthesia talks to NHC Music - Jenny Tingle

Colin is always surrounded by, examining and creating music. He builds guitars from scratch, repairs them, and writes songs for his musical project, Synaesthesia. Now he’s taking a new direction as an interviewer of bands and musicians.

Colin, what made you decide to start doing interviews? And what’s the most exciting thing about it?

I thought this would be a hard question to answer but when I actually thought about it, it really isn’t. In truth I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time and it was one of those things I just never got round to it and recently I got to thinking well I haven’t done much for my youtube channel for ages so I decided now would be as good a time as any to start doing interviews. The reason I decided to start was because I write all the material for Synaesthesia so it’s all situations from my perspective and I wanted to hear about things from a different point of view, how do other musicians do it? Are their thought processes the same or completely different? I’m a great believer that, particularly where musicians are concerned we can all very much benefit from each others experiences, both the highs and the lows. As for what I find most exciting well really the thing with interviews for me is that sure you can prepare questions and maybe do a bit of research but ultimately your interview will only be as good and exciting as your guest. I love people with a story to tell that’s what really excites me most.       

What do you think is most important to get across to an audience about the people you’re interviewing and their music?

I could literally go on about this one all day so I will pick just one thing here. The most important thing I’d say is that firstly the audience should recognise that they’re talking about their music it’s their take on it and definitely by no means gospel it’s just what worked for them so I think people really need to open up their minds a bit and not fall into the mindset of person X said this in an interview I tried it it didn’t work therefore everything that person does there on in is complete rubbish because that’s simply not the case if all our perspectives and music tastes were exactly the same then music would be dead in my opinion and I probably wouldn’t be talking to you now because you’d get the same answers out of any member of any band music needs the diversity it needs the versatility to survive. Another thing of great importance and I honestly cannot stress this enough the people I interview who make music, realise that they have basically with that E.P , that track, that album probably put a part of their soul into it and if someone asks you to listen to their music they’re really inviting you to share in that journey with them so the least someone can do is give it a listen before forming an opinion and know the difference between something being rubbish (like auto tuned pop songs that have one rhythm and one line of lyrics) and something being good but just maybe not to your taste. If I can get that across to the audience even if I just manage to convince one person to open their mind a bit and give something a second listen then for me it’s been a good day.

How early on did you discover your love of music? Which albums and bands/songwriters have inspired you the most?

This is one I always love answering. You could technically say that I discovered my love of music right from day one because Queen was playing on the radio as I was being born. Queen was the first rock band I really got into when I was about 4 or 5 years old I’d sit on the couch with these massive headphones on and I’d get to pick one record to listen to before I went to bed and it was always Queen’s live magic  so I guess you could say Brian May was my first real guitar hero and although I was very young at the time I didn’t really know exactly what was happening to Freddie Mercury  I just knew he got very ill I was very inspired by the fact he wrote and recorded and made music right up until the very end of his life in fact I’d say the last Queen album Made In Heaven is easily one of their best because although it’s a very sad record (I challenge anyone to listen to that album and not have a tear brought to their eye) there’s just so much passion in there and Brian May did a wonderful job on the production side to capture all that emotion and get it onto a record. Other honourable mentions I have to include AC/DC particularly the late Bon Scott (I have a tribute to him tattooed on my shoulder) his voice blows me away every time I hear it and that’s another thing I believe that is the sign of a great band if you’re listening to an album for the thousandth time and it’s still as exciting and fresh as the first time you heard it Bon Scott does that for me he makes the listener feel like they’re part of the record like you’re singing every line with him and that’s beautiful. Guitarist wise Ritchie Blackmore is a massive influence on my playing those who know me know that if a discussion about music kicks off and I haven’t mentioned Ritchie Blackmore within thirty seconds then there’s something wrong with me haha. Jimmy Page because he did so much with so little those of you who don’t know what I’m on about just listen to Since I’ve Been Loving You from the live album How the West Was Won and you’ll soon know. Paul Kossoff because he could literally talk to you through the guitar it was listening to him playing in the band Free that taught me there was so much more to good lead guitar playing than going up and down the fretboard at a million miles an hour he showed me how to feel what I was playing. Tony Iommi because let’s face it who doesn’t find losing the tips of your fingers in a factory accident and going on to form arguably the best or at least most well known heavy metal band in Black Sabbath inspiring. Finally (otherwise we’ll be here all day) I have to mention the wonderful Emppu Vuorinen from Nightwish he was a breath of fresh air when I thought the guitarist is a thing of the past its dying out then I heard Whoever Brings the Night and wow what a relief. I’ve since seen Emppu live with Nightwish twice and both times he had me totally captivated and I love musicians that can have that effect on you.  I tried so hard to get into the mainstream bands of the day because that’s what everyone listened to but the day I found that when I went to a school disco and the only music I heard I liked was the tape Dad had on in the car on the drive there and back well I realised it just wasn’t going to happen. This is one of the reasons I want to do my part in bringing the underground scene into the public eye, there is so much musical talent out there and it’s just not getting recognised which is a real shame if I’m honest it’s something that makes me very sad.

You’re pretty handy at building guitars completely from scratch, and also repairing them. Where did you learn these skills?

I started to learn basic DIY when I was about 7 or 8 years old and I just took a great interest in it. My Dad is a genius in the DIY department and I have learned a lot from him he’s due a great deal of credit for this one. I think for him it was a case of he kind of had to learn because in those days after my Mum and Dad got married they didn’t have a lot of money so getting a man in to do something just wasn’t an option. So for him it was a case of necessity and when I grew older and he was willing to teach me I was getting DIY lessons free of charge like to learn to do the stuff I can do now you could easily pay hundreds even thousands of pounds doing courses and I could learn all this from him for free so it seemed silly not to take advantage. I took a particular interest in electricity perhaps not the safest interest for a 7 year old kid to have but there you go. That was my deciding I wanted to study Electronic and Electrical Engineering at university so I have my degree to thank for a lot of the electrical theory but really, and I’ll be very honest here, I could say for example fix a guitar for someone and they’ll be like wow oh my God that’s amazing but what they haven’t seen is my six previous attempts at the same job making an arse of it so I have learned a lot from getting things wrong and having to rethink I love DIY but seriously it can be the most frustrating thing and it’s like most things in life you’re going to get days where things just aren’t going your way. The best thing you can do sometimes is cut your losses and try again tomorrow or even five or ten minutes just having a cup of tea and a rethink can make all the difference. Easier said than done though when your temper is close to the edge and you want to get things done or it’s a big job in the house and you’re under pressure to get the water back on or the electricity back on. These are the bits you only pick up from experience the bits they don’t teach you at University or college. Wiring a circuit in a warm lab with a comfy seat a nice cup of coffee is one thing but when you have to do it in minus god only knows with howling winds and bucketing rain up a ladder, different kettle of fish. Also I kind of had to learn out of necessity as well because well for a start I’m clumsy I break things a lot so it helps to be able to sort them plus it comes in handy at parties when things get broken like if a socket gets kicked off a wall the next day it’s an easy fix for me. The building and repairing guitars I actually learned a lot from watching interviews with Brian May when he talks about how he built his guitar and all his gear. The thing to remember is when you get something wrong it’s not really wrong as long as you understand why it went wrong because that’s well you learned something so it was still worthwhile.           

Recently you released an album for your musical project, Synaesthesia. What are the main inspirations behind your songs? Where does your music come from? Which album do you think represents you the best?

Mostly I take my inspiration from things that have happened to me or at least have affected me or someone close to me, I’ll give a couple of examples in a second, as for what album represents me the best that really depends because I think each album is more or less an accurate representation of me at the time of making it. I’d say out of the two main Synaesthesia albums released so far I’m closer to the self titled first one than I am to My Wicked Heart simply because finishing the first one made things possible that I didn’t think were possible I learned about drum programming and a little bit about production things like double tracking vocals etc. My music comes from the heart at least that’s what I believe I’ve got to really feel what I’m writing about or I struggle to give all my effort to it. A lot of the time this can make my lyrics very sort of open and hard hitting for example from the first album tracks like Sin for Nothing and Lay Down it’s not hard to tell what they’re about same deal with most of the songs on the album stuff like My Open Arms and Heart’s Doin’ Time you know relationship break ups and people getting screwed over these are themes that a lot of people can relate to and it’s good to have songs where the listener goes yeah that could easily be written about me. One song I’ll make a particular point of mentioning here is the opening track after the prologue a track called the Prisoner which spawned a while ago probably the most bizarre yet hilarious question I’ve ever been asked which was is it about the Oscar Pistorious trial. Which it’s not it’s about Luke Mitchell (those of you who don’t know the story look it up) basically this guy was handed a life sentence with no actual evidence that he committed the crime his conviction was based on circumstancesone of which surprise surprise was he liked rock music. So that prompted me to write a song about it. The second album My Wicked Heart is totally different the lyrics are darker and more cryptic the overall sound is heavier but to sum it up it charts one person’s journey through the stages of depression and mental health issues an issue which is very close to me being a sufferer myself and yes it is suggested in the last song Crimson Tide that the character kills them self but its only suggested it’s not actually yes they do or no they don’t and that’s something I tried very hard to do with the second album leave the songs a lot more open to the listener’s interpretation because mental health is such a complex thing and is almost always different in each case there are always going to be grey areas and a lot of it is how a person views things. Actually a friend of mine (I won’t name drop because let’s face it it’s not a nice thing to do) she got it in one I think when she said you could ask me to paint a picture and I’ll do the best, neatest most careful perfect piece of work but I will paint it black because that’s how I see the world. That statement stuck with me so much I put it as a line in My Open Arms “you paint a picture, paint it black like me”. One thing I’m going to quickly clear up while I have the chance is the back cover of My Wicked Heart shows a slit wrist this is just an image I found that I felt fitted with the album theme it is not my wrist.

Synaesthesia is a neurological difference in people which involves a crossing of senses. Why did you choose this name for your project?

Ah I’m glad you asked this one. Basically when I found out I could taste colours and that in my mind’s eye I see the months of the year in a circuit but I see the days of the week in a straight line and see each day a different colour I thought that’s it Colin its finally happened you’ve gone completely round the twist and you’ll be carted off to the funny farm any day now. Then I found out from a shrink that Synaesthesia was an actual thing and I was fascinated by this concept of things being a certain way and a person sees them differently because they have an image in their head as to how they should be. When I wrote the title track Synaesthesia it took a while because I had to get the lyrics so that they made sense but didn’t at the same time to represent that conflict in the mind. So the track came first then I got to thinking hmmm this would be a good title for the album and then I was washing my hair one day and thought this would be a great name for the project. Like everything else with my writing it started as a little notion at the back of my head and it developed into something.

At some point in life, particularly in creative people, there can be a struggle to keep going and keep being creative. What advice would you give to anyone to help them get through this?

Write constantly. Get your brain into a state where you’re writing 24 hours a day even subconsciously. Believe me I know it’s hard and I’m sure this is one thing that every writer on the planet will agree with me on. Writer’s block is the devil and at some point it’s inevitable that it happens to you believe me if you were to go through my lyric drawer there’s some crap in there lyrics I was so proud of when I was like 15 or 16 make me cringe now. Ones that spring to mind are a song called Takin’ it Easy when it came to do the chorus I couldn’t get anything to rhyme with Easy so I wrote “I was just takin’ it easy, now I am alone and queasy” that makes me cringe it’s so cheesy the other one is a love song I wrote about a student geography teacher at my school all the guys fancied called Magdalena (it was a bit like Busted and Miss Mackenzie) .The meaning of my song took a whole new turn years later when I discovered Magdalena was Spanish for fairy cake. Anyway if you’re struggling to keep going like what I do if inspiration dries up is change my mind set and sort of shrink it right down get out of envisioning the finished article and focus on right here now today is about finding that next line or phrase something comes into your head you like immediately write it down you might not use it but at least that way you won’t lose it, write it on a notepad, put it in your phone, scribble on the back of a napkin, on the wall anything just get it written down and although writer’s block is evil it’s not permanent it will eventually shift and when it does hey presto you can write again and you have all these things written down to start working with. I’m telling you writing everything down is the way to go the truth of the matter is if a musician comes up with a riff or a lyric and says oh I don’t need to record it/write it down I’ll remember it ... they’re lying. Another thing you can do and this is a bit difficult with Synaesthesia because it’s a solo project is collaborate like honestly a fresh pair of eyes and ears can work wonders. Remember as I say writer’s block for me can sometimes last up to six months even a year but it’s not forever it will shift honestly you’re better with half a song’s worth of material you’re happy with than a full album of material that you aren’t happy with. If you put something out there that you’re not happy with the end result trust me you’re gonna regret it. If in say a week obviously it differs people tend to be most inspired to write when they’re either hurting or have a lot of emotion they want to get out so writing is going to be easier around those times one week you might write four songs next week might only be four lines but at the end of the day that’s still better than nothing. Also if you have someone rushing you to get something finished honestly tell them to piss off music will take as long as it takes there’s no need to rush anything.

What does the future have in store for you and Synaesthesia?

Ok I’ll answer the Synaesthesia part first. The third official full length album is about two songs away from completion and while I have no set release date I think I can safely say that it’ll be out before Christmas perhaps even sooner and the album will be titled “Stick or Twist” the only reason it’s on holdor has been on hold is because I’m currently recovering from a broken hand but I assure you it’ll be back to business very soon. I have also recently put a band together called Three Part Requiem and have already written all of the material for the debut album which will be titled “Symphony of Souls” demos of all the tracks are available on the Synaesthesia band camp but once the album is ready I’ll probably take down the demos and release the album officially under the band name Three Part Requiem. Recording sessions for Symphony of Souls are set to begin later this month so keep an eye on ye olde Facebook. 

Thanks Colin! Anything else you would like to tell NHC music?

Yes. Absolutely 100% keep doing what you’re doing because the music industry needs it badly. I’ve genuinely been thrilled to have had this opportunity to answer these wonderful questions and have my say so thank you very much to NHC music it really has been a pleasure and I hope it’s not too long until I have the chance to speak to you all again and if anyone wants any more information I’m always contactable via Facebook. Thanks again guys and remember music doesn’t always have to be a competition. Remember to keep the love going.    

You can check out Colin’s music here at

https://synaesthesiaofficial.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/synaesthesia2407/?fref=ts