This interview was
originally done for PIEmag fanzine/
PIE-a-Site and therefore falls outside the
"old school HTML"-concept, since I wanted to keep
the original layout and design. Please forgive
this momentary sidestep from sound,
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(Made by phone in the end of last year)
DaN: OK, when I called you on monday you were in the studio. Working on what?
Tim: Doing our next album.
DaN: Your next album? Already?
Tim: Yeah, it's actually finished now, except for the singing parts. Hopefully it will be out around springtime, Februay-March.
DaN: You've been going on for about 20 years now...
Tim: Yeah, 1997 is our 20 year anniversary.
DaN: That's a long time without getting the attention you deserve...
Tim: Well, the kind of stuff we play isn't really gonna make us Massively Ballistically Famous. It's a choice we've made in order to play the kind of stuff that we play. We're never gonna have pophits... and the way the music climate is, especially in England, if you're a band not playing pop music as such, then you're gonna remain in the quiet mare of nothingness.
DaN: Do you enjoy being this obscure "Well Kept Secret" as people refere you to?
Tim: Well, err... I dunno... it would be nice to be popular anyway. To say that we would prefer to stay as secret as we are would be a lie, but it has it's nice side of it, because, since were not Massively Ballistically Famous we can play what the hell we like. We're happy just doing that, but more success would be handy on the financial front. However, we've chosed to do it this way and were quite happy with it.
DaN: You've been D.I.Y. almost since the start with The Alphabet Business Concern. Is it by tradition or by lack of label interrest?
Tim: It's so that we can have control over what we record and release it when we like. We've had offers in the past, but we prefer our freedom really. If an openminded recordcompany approached us with a large wedge of money and said that we could proceed in the way that we do now, I'm sure we wouldn't turn it down. Although we seem to manage quite nicely, we're working on our 12th album now, so...
DaN: You did the "Bellyeye" single for ORG. That's the first non-ABC CARDIACS-release since the 1st single, right?
Tim: There's been a couple... that's only a small release made by some friends who run a fanzine over here. Since we hadn't released anything for a couple of years they offered to put that out for us. That was a part of the new album that we were recording at the time anyway.
DaN: Were does the name "The Alphabet Business Concern" come from? What does it mean?
Tim: It doesn't mean anything, it's just a name.
DaN: How did you come up with it?
Tim: I can't remember, it was a long time ago (laughs)...
DaN: It sounds really beautiful and profound...
Tim: It is what it is. You can check out any title or any name on anything we've done. It's not really a massive amout of meaning to anything of it really. If it sounds nice or looks nice written down, so be it.
DaN: OK. It's been a gap of about 4 years between "Heaven Born And Ever Bright" and "Sing To God". From what I've heard that was due to economical problems. Now you've released 4 albums - the new double album, your solo-project OCEANLAND, THE SEA NYMPHS-project AND you've re-released the major part of your back catalogue AND theres 4 singles on the way. Did you win the lottery, or...?
Tim: (laughs) No, well, it's like this. The "Heaven Born.." album didn't come out on ABC originally, it came out on Rough Trade, which was unfortunate since as soon as it came out, Rough Trade went under. They ceased to exist, which put us in a bit of a financial trap, but in the years that have passed we all got up to other things. I've produced some other bands albums and things like that. From doing that we got the money to re-release our own stuff and carry on, so it was kind of a blessing in disguise in a funny kind of way.
DaN: You've been playing with a band called PANIXSHPERE together with some people from LEVITATION. Is that something that'll be released on ABC in the future?
Tim: Err... we keep threatening to record it one day, but the main reason we did that was, again in that few years period when we weren't doing alot. We did it for a giggle so we could go out in small clubs in England and thrash alot of racket out. LEVITATION weren't that busy at the moment and neither were we, so we just did it for a laugh really. It was Bic's (from LEVITATION) old band originally. He used to play this ridiculusly fast, manic stuff. We started it all up again and did a few gigs just for a laugh. I would be nice to record it really. If we get into another period of not being busy, then I'm sure we'll do it.
DaN: I hope so. I've only read about it, but it sounds so cool I pray I'll get to hear it some day. Another CARDIACS-related recording yet to be properly released is the MR & MRS SMITH AND MR DRAKE-tape. Will you ever re-release that one?
Tim: Err... I'm not sure really, I think that belongs on a kind of obscure little tape, but THE SEA NYMPHS, which is the same thing, the same line-up, is going to release more albums. We've actually got a whole lot of stuff that's already recorded. It just hasn't had the opportunity to be released yet. It's about another album of that finished and another album not quite finished yet. Over the next couple of years it's gonna leak out on CD. We did a few gigs with them some years ago but we got busy again and had to leave it.
DaN: You're very productive. When you write music, how do you know what's to become a CARDIACS-song, a SEA NYMPHS-song, an OCEANLAND-song or a PANIXSPHERE-song?
Tim: Well, the OCEANLAND thing for example was just done out of necessity. I'll try to cut a long story short: Years ago it got to the point when I got totally skint. I had no money what so ever. I gave myself a week to record an album, really quick stuff. I wrote it and recorded most of it in a week, just to be able to sell tapes at CARDIACS-gigs so that I could get some pocket money. Then things weren't so bad after that and it got shelved for a while. When we re-released all the CARDIACS stuff we stuck it out on that. It's not what I would call a "solo-album", it's just a bunch of songs that I did quickly. I quite like it, it's nice, but it was just done at home under the bed on a little 8-track thing.
DaN: It's a really great album under the circumstances...
Tim: You have it?
DaN: Yeah, I've got most of your (official) stuff. How has "Sing To God" been recieved by the media and the fans?
Tim: Oh, the media? No, we don't get recieved at all in the media over here. We did a couple of live radio sessions on Radio 1 over here. Luckily we've got this DJ, Marc Radcliffe, who's on our side, which is nice. I reckon he must be the only person in the media that sticks his neck out for us. I've think we've seen ONE review of it so far and it got nought out of ten...
DaN: 0 out of 10!? From who?
Tim: VOX I think it was, but the Brittish media are really not keen on us at all...
DaN: I've head that the editor of NME have ordered his staff to never ever mention CARDIACS in print...
Tim: That's true, yeah. We actually get deleted if anyone mention that they like us in an interview...
DaN: Why is that?
Tim: 'Cos you can't rock the boat in this country! It's really not allowed to play anything that might go against the grain of the current fashion. I think it's because we've been around for a long time and we refuse to go away. We really, genuinally do love what we do and there's a bunch of people over here who like it enough to make us carry on. But you know, Brittish media... I mean, every other country in the world know about the Brittish media and how thick they are. We're just a prime target for their dartboard (laughs). The fact that were not good looking, the fact that we're probably getting on a bit now, that kind of thing...
DaN: But it has made you sort of a cult band too. You have a VERY devoted following, very devoted fans...
Tim: Yeah, we do which is great and that's what keeps us going. I mean I can't see the difference between doing a gig where there's a 1000 people there or doing a gig where there's 15 000, except for the money it would bring in. The point is you're playing in front of a bunch of individuals who luckily get off on your stuff. There's no difference playing in front of 100 people or a 1000... But I'm contstantly counting my blessings, we all are, cos it would be so easy not to do it, to settle down in a suburb, having a more comfortable life, earning money and things like that but what's the point, we really like the things we do...
DaN: You wrote something weird on the "Manhoo" single, something about not disturbing commercial sensibilities, and you removed some more difficult parts from it...
Tim: Oh, that was because it was too long and when it's too long it won't be played on the radio, so we had to cut a chunk out. It was that middle bit where it goes off the wall a little bit, it comes off the rail and then lands back where it was in the first place. We thought we'd just keep it on the rail. I like both versions...
DaN: Another weird piece on the album is the "quiet as a mouse" piece. What exactly is going on there?
Tim: It's just somebody who left the tape running when we were doing these orchestral bits. We came across it kind of accidently ended up on the album.
DaN: Is that your mother speaking? I think I read something about it in the Organ...
Tim: No, it's not my mother. I think we told them that just for a joke. It's just this strange woman who was helping us out with a few things.
DaN: What's it like having a new songwriter in the band, John Poole? It's the first time you have someone writing songs for CARDIACS without your envolvement...
Tim: That's right. I really like the stuff he's written, we all do. We're really dead lucky to have someone like him. He's written some great stuff for the new album...
DaN: He's not an original member and his writing is still so Cardiacesque.
Tim: Yeah, but the stuff that Bill Drake wrote was very Cardiacesque as well. I think anything can be if we play it. The kind of stuff we play can come from all sorts of directions. It can be blatantly pop, it can be blatantly... whatever else. In the end there's so many different pieces of stuff in this bucket that we do, anything can be a CARDIACS-song. You could write a tune and we'd play it and it would sound like CARDIACS....
DaN: I've heard that you write all your music in notes. Do you still do that?
Tim: No, I'm to lazy now. I used to do it that way. Sometimes... it depends on what mood we're in. It was only ever written out in notes as a reminder to remember how the songs went. Not all in the band can read music. I can only do it because I taught myself out of a song book, "quadrophenia" by THE WHO. I bought it when I was about 14. If I pick up a tune I forget it within 3 minutes so I have to write it down.
DaN: So how and when do you come up with all this incredible music? Is all jammin' in the rehearsal room or does the music in your head keep you awake at night?
Tim: You have to think it up and then try and figure out the best way of doing it. If I just pick up a guitar and start trying to write a song, I instantly start playing the same 2 chords I always go for and then everything sounds the same. The only way to do it is to be nowhere near an instrument and just try to think it up that way...
DaN: I know you're heavily into stuff like THE WHO, GONG etc. What is your opinion on using drugs when making music? Do you do it 'that way' too. or...
Tim: No, I have to be absolutely straight when I'm working (laughs). If I have a drink or smoke a joint it just turns me into a wobblying jelly. It's fun to listen back to stuff when you're a bit, "three sheets to the wind", but I can't work like that, no.
DaN: If CARDIACS were to make a cover-album, which artists and songs would you choose to cover?
Tim: Ahh.. I don't know. I'd love to do that! I keep thinking about that just as a cop-out. Just to make a quick album of other people's songs, cause I like it when other bands do that. But I don't know, because all my favourite albums that I'd like to cover, I'd hate to cover cause I'd think we'd spoil the originals. I've got lots of favourite songs though... I can think of a DEVO song I'd like to do, but then I think "no you can't do that cause only DEVO can do that", or the usual thing like a BEATLES song, a cover of "I am the walrus" which I don't think anyone can successfully do. If we ever did something like that, we'd probably just pick up a bunch of really obscure tunes that aren't even necessary our favourite songs, and try and "spike them up" a bit I suppose. I keep thinking about it alot. It's funny you should ask that. I would be a fun thing to do, cause the songs are already written, so you don't have to worry about that. All you have to worry about is putting your mark on it.
DaN: Sounds like a fun idea. Hope you'll do it someday. Let's talk lyrics. When and how do you sit down and write them? They're really quite unique, the language is pretty unusual. Where do they come from?
Tim: I dunno... forgive me, but I don't really like to... I hate when somebody else explains the lyrics of a song that I really like. It always spoils it for me. I don't like to explain it, they're just words and pictures. Hopefully they create pictures in our head who weren't there in the first place. That's the only way I could see it, because that's what it does for me. Even if they're dead-nonsensical, it doesn't matter. This is the brilliant thing about the English language, you can really do what you like with it, especially in pop-lyrics. There's no rules...
DaN: CARDIACS lyrics can be real grammatic anarchy, that's why I love them so much. A thing that keeps popping up are these religious references, like in songs like "alphabet business concern-home of fadeless splendour", "dirty boy", and the title of the last album, "Sing To God". Is there any kind of faith behind it all?
Tim: No, it hasn't go any references what so ever. The title "Sing To God" was merely because Bill Drake had this little kid-hymn book and it was called "Sing To God" and we thought it was a nice title. "Home of fadeless splendour" is just a song in glorious praise of The Alphabet Business Concern that we are forced to sing at gigs every now and then. Anything else, it's just if the word "Jesus" appears, it's just because it mentions Jesus in the same way that anyone's name would appear.
DaN: OK, let's go back about 20 years. What can you tell me about the first ever CARDIACS, or back then CARDIAC ARREST, -gig?
Tim: (laughs) I barely remember... Yeah, it was in this funny little, kind of hostal, about 1 in the morning. We played about 20 and we were all about 15-16 years old, just straight out of highschool.
DaN: Which year was this?
Tim: Probably... '78, early 1978.
DaN: So you were 15 years old when you wrote those songs on the "Archive" album?
Tim: Yeah, more or less. It depends on what year they were done, but we were really only youngsters then. A few songs have popped up on the later albums that I wrote when I was about thirteen. The one on the latest one called "billion", I did it when I was 13. Sometimes I put an old one on that I made when I was little, just for luck. "interlude" on "A Little Man And A House..." is another one. I just found it laying around on a bit of paper and though "Ah, let's stick that one on it!" It's all for superstitious reasons, really.
DaN: When you started out in the late 70's, roughly you could say that you had one foot in the progressive rock-scene and one in the new wave/punk scene...
DaN: Back then you weren't really the only band doing that sort of thing. I'm thinking of bands like ESSENTIAL LOGIC, PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY, GLORIA MUNDI... Did you feel like you were part of a movement, a "prog-wave"-scene?
Tim: No, it would have been nice to be part of a scene, but when we used to play back then we did like three gigs a year in front of about 4 people, 3 of which we knew. We were never part of any scene as such. We didn't start getting audiences above 60-70 people until about '85, so It's a bit of a cheat to say to say we've been going on for 20 years. The first years we were just a bunch of kids fiddling around. We only ever started doing anything proper around '84-'85. It's just that we kept the same name... and it has always been about the same people involved.(At this time I let my friend and fellow CARDIACS-fan Tobias Lejdeby from the glorious "Old School" prog/pronk band GOBLIN ZOOLOGICAL take the phone...)
Lejde:I read about this "television-organ" on the sleave of "Sing To God". What is that and how do you build one "accidently"??
Tim: It's accidental because (Bill) doesn't know anything about electronics whatsoever, none of us do. It was just his television and he was... There was this rabbit that that had been knocked over and he was trying to build this little haven for it to get better. When he built it, he was decorating the edge of it with silver foil and matchsticks. If you pressed down one of these matchsticks it made some kind of contact with the inside of the television, which made this noise. We fiddled around with it so we could tune it and it made such really kind of strange noise. It was really nice, but it's going home a bit now, cause it's really old and it wasn't really built to last. But the thing is that the older it gets, the more fucked up it get's, the better it sounds...
Lejde: One other thing.. Playing in a band myself I wonder how long it takes for you to rehearse a song. It would take years for us...
Tim: We don't really rehearse alot...
Lejde: You don't??
Tim: We only rehearse when it's time to do a tour or something like that, just a few days before that... unless we're learning new stuff. We're not brilliant musos or anything (liar.DaN-ed) like that, we can only play withing the range that we know. We never try to do anything that we can't do. None of us could ever play in a Jazz band or anything like that. We try and do it quitely, just to learn the notes... and then we go to the rehearsal place. whack it up really loud and just blast it right out to see what it sounds like.
Lejde: So we won't hear any CARDIACS-improvising...
Tim: (laughs) No... I think we've done it once or twice accidently.
DaN: Alright, we'll soon wrap this up... This "little man & a house" design which has been in the CARDIACS logo all these years, where does it come from?
Tim: Again, that's another thing that was done for luck and superstitious things. One of us worked at a printer's years ago, and he stole some sticky black paper. We got a paintbrush and was going to write our name on it, we were about 15-16 at the time, and we were just gonna draw a little picture and stick 'em up all over the place... and that was the 1st one we did, with CARDIAC ARREST after it, only we took away the ARREST later.
DaN: It's really beautiful in it's simplicity...
Tim: Yeah... it's funny cause it could have been anything. It's all superstition... we're all quite superstitious.
DaN: So I've learned. Sara Smith has been playing on the 2 last albums, but she's no longer in the band...
Tim: She still records with us and she does SEA NYMPHS with us. She's playing in a band at the moment, it's Bill Drake's band, called LAKE OF PUPPIES.
DaN: I've heard about them.
Tim: Yeah, she's doing that at the moment. They're really good. I've just recorded a few tracks with them that they're gonna be releasing soon, hopefully.
DaN: OK, last question for this interview: Have you done anything nice for Jim lately?
Tim: No. We don't know where he is at the moment. We sent him off in hiding... we thought we'd better send him off so that he was alone for a few months ...and we forgot where we put him! (laughs) We actually drew sort-of a map where we kept him. We gave him food and some things to occupy himself with, some games and things, but we lost the map and we should have gone back and get him about six weeks ago. We'll get him eventually, he can't have gone far...
DaN: Alright, thank you.--
A final PS to this interview: If you're a CARDIACS-fan and enjoyed this inteview and want to give something back, PLEASE contact me if you've got any rare recordings of CARDIACS and their offshots you wanna share. Some items I'm looking for 1st generation-copies of early tape albums like "The Obvious Identity", "Toyworld" and "The Seaside", livetapes, the 1st RING tape, any recordings with PANIXSPHERE, LAKE OF PUPPIES, AD NAUSEUM etc... I'll settle for tape copies. Thank you!