British singer/songwriter Neil Halstead, founder of Slowdive and member of Mojave 3, talked with Sam Radliff (Music Video Programming) about his upcoming album entitled Palindrome Hunches, the recording process, bands he loves, and much more! Read on:
Sam Radliff: In a review on AllMusic you’ve been described as “one of Britain’s most respected songwriters.” That’s quite a compliment that people honestly love what you do.
Neil Halstead: NME also said I was “Britains best kept secret”‘ so they might like me but they wont tell anyone.
SR: You seemed to have a good deal of success with the recording of Oh! Mighty Engine. When making the record, you split time between America and Britain. Was this deliberate? How do you feel this impacted the sound?
NH: Well I recorded most of the record in LA at Brushfire’s (my record label) little studio. The rest I did at home in Cornwall, UK. The record definitely sounded better because I used a proper studio and there was an engineer (Robert Carranza…lovely fella). I think being in California for a while certainly imprinted something into the vibe. I wrote a few of the songs in a little cabin out near Little Dume north of Malibu and a little of that seclusion and calm seems to sit on the recordings. At least it does for me…
SR: I read somewhere that this particular album was partially recorded in a solar powered studio. What are your views on renewable energy?
NH: Well, I agree with most people that renewables are definitely the way to go. We’re obviously running out of our traditional energy sources and cleaner energy is in everyones’ interest if it’s at all possible.
SR: According to an article posted in The Guardian; your sound on Oh! Mighty Engine has been compared to Nick Drake. I’m sure many hear the comparison, and agree. Do you?
NH: I don’t know if the record sounds much like Nick Drake. But I love his music and I love Bert Jaunsch and Davey Graham and Jackson C. Frank. I love that period of British folk music, such as the early Fairport Convention stuff, Anne Briggs, and Sandy Denny. It’s all facinating music for me and a lot of it is based around cool modal acoustic guitars…which I love.
SR: Everyone is excited for the new record, Palindrome Hunches, coming out September 12th. Which gets you more excited: the studio or the tour?
NH: Rather boringly, I like both. It’s great to record a record. It can be fun and it can also be super frustrating. Touring covers the same range. I’ve had some of the best and worst of times on the road. I’m always happy to head out for more.
SR: Your new album title is intriguing; Palindrome Hunches. Can you explain what this implies?
NH: I felt like the songs on this one were a series of hunches…doesnt make any sense, I know. I also wanted to write a song that was the same forwards as backwards…didn’t do that either. I’m glad it intrigues though.
SR: When recording your solo work, do you still to allow the energy and input from other producers and band members around you control the direction of the music?
NH: In particular, this album was very much influenced by a very old friend of mine, Nick Holton, who produced things. I supplied the songs, guitar, and voice. I really struggled for a while to record the tunes in a way that worked. Nick took things in hand. I think he was possibly sick of my whinging about my lack of recording success everytime I saw him or called him. He found the musicians and set up the recording session, there was very little rehearsal, and I don’t recall needing to push people in any particular direction. The steady hand of Holton was the real rudder on this one.
SR: Who are some newer artists that really move you?
NH: I’m really digging John Murry’s The Graceless Age at the moment. His song “Little Coloured Balloons” is as beautiful and brutal as anything I’ve ever heard.
SR: Name some all-time favorite records.
NH: Isn’t Anything by My Bloody Valentine, Spirit of Eden by Laughing Stock, American Beauty by The Grateful Dead, Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan, On the Beach by Neil Young and I Am The Cosmos by Chris Bell.
SR: Is there a musical genre or artist that people would not expect you to be listening to; but that you love?
NH: I dont know. I like brass bands …..
SR: The digital media landscape has evolved, and art in all it’s forms seem to be flying at us from all directions. Has there been any artwork, motion pictures, or technology recently that has really gotten you excited?
NH: I got excited that they landed the Mars Rover and that Helen Glover, a Cornish rower won the first UK gold medal in the Olympics.
SR: Out of curiosity; when your new record is released, and you have your own personal copy at home for listening, will it be CD or Vinyl?
NH: Thats easy…vinyl!
– Submitted by Sam Radliff, Music Video Programmer