Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Interview with Duncan Patterson
Having been in many highly acclaimed, very influential bands (including, but not limited to Anathema, Antimatter and Íon), Duncan Patterson's presence in the music scene over the past twenty years (almost as long as I've been around!) has been monolithic. Being a huge fan of all of his work, I jumped at the chance to interview such an important musician, as well as try to not be a bumbling fanboy in the process.
Hey there, Duncan! Thank you for letting us interview you; it's a real honor. So how have things been going with you musically? I see you've released a new Ion album (which is fantastic).
Thank you. I decided to take a break, at least mentally, from doing any music since finishing "Immaculada". For most of this year I was in South America and Mexico. I did a few gigs down there, but I made a conscious decision to clear my head for a while as for the past 18 years or so I always had a head full of musical ideas and concepts. Now I feel really refreshed and I can get down to piecing things together again. I'm actually in the process of putting a new album together using electric instruments again. First time really that I've had that energy in the past 12 years. With the Antimatter stuff it wasn't so much guitar-based, at least my compositions. So this should be interesting and I'm bursting with ideas again. I've named the project 'Alternative 4' after a track that I wrote in 1997.
In Íon you incorporate many different elements found in music around the world. What cultures' musics influence your songwriting the most?
I'm not sure really. I've always been curious about instruments that aren't so commonly used, since I was young really. When I walk through the centre of Istanbul there's a street full of music shops.
All kinds of percussion and eastern stringed instruments, wind instruments. I find all those sounds fascinating, and I kind of touch on that area in a few parts on the Íon stuff, although using the instrumentation that I have at hand. One day I'll go on a shopping spree there. Also I spent a lot of time in Greece and listened to a lot of bouzouki music, some of which I found amazing. Around that time I was also playing in a band with a guy called Shane Wearen (from Irish indie legends The Pale), who turned me on to the mandolin which is now my primary instrument. Other than that theres the obvious Celtic and medieval influences which have been with me forever.
Over your musical career in Anathema, Dreambreed, The Aftermath, Antimatter, and Íon, how would you say you've grown as a musician? Could you see these changes coming? Would 1991-era Duncan be surprised with the musician he's become? Where do you see yourself in ten years' time?
I don't think there are any huge surprises really. Back in 1991 I was listening to a lot of different music and trying to play the acoustic guitar. Actually the first thing I ever wrote on guitar was a medieval sounding piece. It was ok actually, thinking about it now haha. I'm happy that I found my own place as far as songwriting goes, as not everyone is a writer. I'd much rather be blessed with that than be a virtuoso musician who cant write a tune. I'm also glad that I didn't stay in a rock band playing bass for too long, I've had some great years playing all kinds of stuff with various different people. I could easily have been afraid of change and still been unhappily plodding along, almost like an unhappy marriage with my bass guitar. I've learned how to keep myself interested in what I'm doing and I still love playing the bass from time to time. I'm sure I'll still be doing music in ten years time. Who knows what is around the corner?
As a two-person band with many layers of sound, what was the writing/studio process like with Antimatter? Did it differ from your solo work in Íon? Which do you prefer?
Mick Moss always liked to demo everything, sometimes two or three times until he got it nailed. I started to fear demos after one of the Anathema albums where I preferred some of the demos to the final versions. So I would lay some basic pre-production stuff down and work from there for the album versions. I did one demo for the "Saviour" album, actually two but one of the tracks didnt appear on the album in the end. Mick and myself always wrote separately then just came together in the studio and pieced the albums together. It was only on one track 'Angelic' that I did an instrumental arrangement for the end based on Micks original guitar part. I think we did two great albums together, "Saviour" and "Lights Out". Then Mick started leaning towards more straightforward songs, and I wanted to go further on a tangent. I prefer working on my own projects really, then there's not the responsibility of keeping other people happy. Its music at the end of the day, and many people would love to be in a position to be making their own music for a living. So I learned to enjoy the process.
Twelve years after leaving Anathema, what is your relationship like with them? Do you see yourself working with any of them in any way/shape/form in the future?
I see them sometimes and have done a few acoustic gigs with Danny and Vinny [Cavanagh] on different occasions. I actually played on that "Hindsight" album a while back too. We haven't really spoke about working together. We're busy on our own stuff and they're gonna be touring a lot after the long awaited release of We're Here Because We're Here. But me and Danny have discussed getting into soundtracks sometime in the future. Like I said earlier, who knows what is around the corner?
Do you have a favorite touring/studio story? Care to share?
When we were trying to record the first Antimatter album "Saviour," it was as if there was an evil force preventing us. I'm positive that this was the case too, we had a lot of 'well-wishers' who really didn't want that album to come out. Anyway, we turned up at the studio in Wales and I had most of the pre-production files with me. We tried to sync everything up to record but the equipment wouldn't work. Turned out that the guy didn't know how to do it, but at the same time he wouldn't let me try and fix it. So we abandoned ship and he kept our deposit, so we paid for that pleasure. After moving to another studio with an engineer who know what he was doing, we had numerous power failures, people not showing up due to ridiculous misunderstands and accusations, and then a few days into it we were told we had to leave the studio as the record label hadn't paid any deposit. I remember walking away from there with Mick Moss, on one of the darkest nights ever, just drained of everything last bit of energy. Dark negative forces were against us and winning. Luckily, thanks to help from friends supporting us, and Les Smith (Anathema) actually lent me the studio deposit so we could continue and get the album finished. Fair play to Les like. It wasn't my favourite story as far as all the obstacles got in our way, but my favourite part is that some people stuck their necks out for us when others were doing their damndest to ruin us.
If you were to be stranded on a desert island and could only bring one book with you, which book would it be and why?
'SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea' by John Lofty Wiseman. I reckon this could be a handy one to have with me.
Where do you feel all of your musical drive stems from?
I think musical people who have ideas just naturally have it. Even some of the laziest bastards that I know still have a musical drive. Music is a primal thing anyway, that predates language, so all of us must have some kind of musical identity or something. God knows, really.
Having been a part of the "metal" scene in the early '90s, what do you have to say to the modern metal fan?
Retrace the path back to when the metal scene was actually good, ie. up until 1988 :)