Hello there Mouse Organ! It’s fantastic to get you in as part of our new NHC RECORDS series of interviews on the website. Can you tell us a wee bit about yourself, and your music, to start off the interview? A few of our readers may not have heard of you yet, so will be a good introduction to them!
I think a lot of your readers wont have heard of me so I am very grateful to be allowed to talk about my music and myself on a platform such as this. I'm 48 years old and was born and raised in the north of Glasgow, predominantly in Drumchapel. This is where my love of music was first discovered, from the age of 9. I loved Blondie, The Beatles, Pink Floyd (to whom I have had the pleasure of seeing live a few times) Jean Michel Jarre and in the mid 80's I was Introduced to prog-rock from a friend of mine in the shape of Van der Graaf Generator and Gong. Since then I have been on a musical exploration, everything from Monteverdi to Madonna, from JS Bach to Tangerine Dream.
Nowadays I listen to a lot of electronic music; John Cage, Boards of Canada and a lot of Japanese minimalist music too. I spend a great deal of time listening to film soundtracks of both old and new movies. My favourites being The Revenant, Psycho, The Proposition and a Polish composer whom you've definitely heard (if you've ever seen a Stanley Kubrik movie) called Krystof Pendereki. If you've never heard of him, give Radiohead's How to disappear completely a listen to, within that song you can hear a short sample of Pendereki's work.
My music (oh yeah, that was the original question) it has evolved from very minimalist soundscapes to quite complicated rhythm, percussion and keyboards. I have been asked many times how I produce and write the music, so maybe it's time I made a video of how I go about it!! I have always had the goal to write music for film, or TV, or gaming, or documentaries or even advertising. Playing live has not been a feature, yet, but I believe NHC may have something up their sleeve regarding this situation. With that in mind I am composing a specific set of tunes (with a film track produced by myself) to play live if the chance ever materialises.
So far, this new album release will be album number six, I seem to have evolved into a Boards of Canada, Van der Graaf Generator, Jean Michel Jarre and Beck hybrid. Beck being the ultimate musician for me. Another artist who I heard for the first time this year is Anna von Hausswolff, who's second album Dead Magic just blew my mind away. Amazing stuff!!
So Mouse Organ is somewhere along the lines of ALL that, if you can understand ALL that!
Why the shortening of your band name? I was sure it was a bit longer before; then again, my mind isn’t what it used to be… I blame old age, and possibly a bit of drink!
I changed the band name for a couple of reasons;
Firstly I am changing my approach to my music, as in, I now have a definite plan of action for the writing and production of my future albums so I thought this merited a change more than anything else. My first thought on this name change was changing the name to Modus Operandi, which shortens nicely to M.O. This has obvious tie ins with my current name. On second thoughts I decided to stick to what I started with but just to shorten the name to Mouse Organ. That name has brought about many a laugh for some who don't know where it comes from. For the record, it comes from a childrens TV program from the 70's called Bagpuss.
The scope of your music seems pretty epic as far as song writing goes, but did you initially plan to start off with such broad soundscapes? Or did you just kind of naturally grow into the distinctive style you have now?
I have grown into it. Everything so far has been experimental. If you give my first five albums a listen to there is a certain experimentation with all the sounds within the music. Each album is a concept in it's own right, I really like this method of writing music.
Compilation, my last album is just this, a compilation of music that I had never released before, so I stuck it all on this album to clear the decks, so to speak. So there is a lot of different music on that album, which is the concept of the thing.
Nexus was written with slide guitar in mind, it turned out to be a very ambient electronic slide guitar album. The definition of the word nexus is, a connection or series of connections linking two or more things. The things obviously are the tracks, linked by slide guitar. I wrote this album backward, the last song on the album I wrote first and the first song I wrote last, this for me strengthened the connection of the 'nexus' within the album.
Bardo is my most minimalist piece of music, a repeating message throughout the whole six parts. The six parts of Tibetan death, the in-between state of dying and being reborn. Can't say I believe in that theory but I found it very interesting to read about and had to share what I read in a musical sense. I believe it was Beethoven's works which brought about a new term for music called 'tone painting' and Bardo is very much in that sense of visual or a feeling of the subject matter.
Quattro punto del giorno is my classical music piece. I had the intention of writing the orchestration for this piece for it to be completed by it being played by a live orchestra. The concept being I write the piece from an electronic platform, then it is transferred to an analogue platform, in the sense of an orchestra, to be then transformed into electronic signals in your mind, thus completing the circle. As yet the piece lies dormant waiting for an analogue platform. Quattro punto del giorno means, the four points of the day. The four points of every day being; Sunrise, mid-day, midnight and sunset. I have to say that this is a very dystopic piece of music, it is where we are I'm afraid!!
Lilly 7, my first album was inspired by the single engine plane in the film Zabraskie Point. I view it as a kind of freedom, a symbol of intellectual property against a corrupt system. If you've never seen the movie, you should watch it, soundtrack by a plethora of great bands including The Pink Floyd. So, the music I wrote for this concept ranges from acoustic to ambient to downright psychedelic (in the case of Tripping under the Mojave stars)
Would you say there was a specific musician or band that inspired you to take up music? Or did the inspiration come from another source?
When I was young my hero was John Lennon, I can still remember the day he was killed, so I listened intently to a lot of Beatles music, from Revolver onwards. I was never a mop top. Throughout the years there has been a lot of bands and musicians who have clearly influenced me, such as; Bardo Pond, Portishead, Radiohead, Peter Hammill, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Beck, The Beatles. Really too many to mention. I am very much interested in the production of music, a nice example of this was when I listened to Noel Gallachers' High flying birds album. The production on that album ruined it for me. That has to be the worst. So it is important for me to get that side of things right and after three years I think I have arrived at a level I am completely satisfied with. Along with a definite plan for what I want the music to be I feel I can move forward with my next two works.
Do you get as many gigs as your average type rock bands? I would imagine it is harder to try and fir your sound around a couple of support acts! Don’t get me wrong, unique equals good in the overcrowded music scene, but I imagine it can make life a little bit tougher at the beginning of the journey!
Gig's are not something that is important to me just now. I would play live, but being one guy there is an awful lot of equipment to move around and set up so I find that puts me off more than anything else. Also being a solo artist, playing live would be great as long as I had eight arms, which is why I said earlier that I am writing specific tracks, quite minimal, if I ever get asked to play live.
So what’s the song writing steps for you then before you start to record a track? Do you need to come up with a melody and start writing from there, or is it a case of something inspires you and you just start working on a song from that point on until it’s done?
For me inspiration is everything. Record everything, little snippets and you'll slowly build a picture up of the track. Try, try and try again, sometimes it works, sometimes if fails. I have many abandoned projects lying around on my hard drives. First thing is a subject matter. It is very important for me to visualise what it is I am writing the album about; to feel the pace of the subject matter, its colours, its surroundings, what it means to me personally. This all reflects on the finished album and hopefully in that album there is a few pieces of magic that other people will like.
What next then for Mouse Organ, any plans for the rest of 2018 you can share with the readers?
2018 is going to be a big year for Mouse Organ. I have two albums in the pipe line, Lunar Cafe and The future of machines. Both very much 'electronic' albums in the style of The Prodigy, Boards of Canada. Although I say that, I hope the new music will remain very much Mouse Organ'ish and not too far away from my roots.
A different challenge for me was the art work for the covers of the albums, so I now use a company who will digitally design the next two album covers. I hope that these covers in themselves will be part of the package. My last five album covers were so-so and I'm hoping to raise the bar there.
Later this year a computer animated film is being released (I wrote the script) called Sammammish. I will be recording some music for this animation. It has taken 7 years to get it to this stage, very, very time consuming but hopefully worth all the effort. It is based on a rather infamous day in the history of Ted Bundy killings, where in broad daylight he abducted and killed two girls on a crowded beach at the shores of Lake Sammammish. Believe me, writing the script was the easy part. The animator has been plugging away at this for years and I hope this forty five minute movie moves me on to the next level, another level up the ladder so to speak. This is after all the medium which I which to work in.
I feel the time is good one for Mouse Organ and the future. I am upgrading my whole software to hope to produce music much more to what I want to do, to write more soundscapes and classical pieces, hopefully write music for TV and film in and around Glasgow. That is the goal anyhow.
My production company, KAMBlue: