With its 25 tracks, Jude Gwynaire has just released his lengthy new album, Music From Slate Bird, and takes some time to tell us about it.
Skope: What’s the significance of the album’s name, Music From Slate Bird?
Jude Gwynaire: ‘Slate Bird’ is the name of my recording studio/musical retreat – an enchanting old cottage built somewhere on a hill in the middle of the countryside. ‘Music From Slate Bird’ is a celebration of my recent music – hence the title. The album is an eclectic blend of folk, rock, ambient, electronic and minimalism. Does the physical house exist in ‘real time’? That would be telling!
Skope: Do you write and record songs with an album in mind, or do you create an album when you have enough songs to make one?
Gwynaire: Good question. Both really. It’s all dependent on time and money. Ideally, with unlimited time and funds, I would sit down and compose music for an actual album, and maybe release a few compositions from that album as singles later on. But what normally happens is that I compose a track, release it as a single, and eventually put out all my releases as an album – as long as they fit together to some degree of course. Three such forthcoming albums are ‘Stingray Island’, ‘Space Princess’, and ‘Hot Pineapple Sushi’. Each album has a different theme, so whatever I compose, each track will fit in somewhere. The ‘Sushi’ album, for example, will be more abstract, and contain a variety of styles. I don’t have a recording deal, so I can do what I want really. I’d prefer to have a recording contract, of course; but because so many people are making music these days, that dream seems pretty unlikely.
Skope: There are multiple mixes of “The Orb Forest” included. Why was it important to also include these various mixes?
Gwynaire: They’re not actual mixes of the same track, they’re completely different compositions. The ‘Orb Forest’ is a sci-fi thriller I’m writing. I wanted to compose a soundtrack to accompany the book – a soundtrack that could also be used for a film version of the story if that ever materialized. The musical side of the ‘Orb Forest’ hasn’t been an urgent priority so far, so only a few tracks have been released as singles over the months. However, I feel these tracks have somehow been ‘lost’ among all my other releases, so I thought it would be good to present them on the new album. Parts 1 – 4 appear on ‘Slate Bird’ and provide a sort of electronic/ambient alternative to the more ‘folk’ and ‘rock’ orientated tracks that dominate the album. More ‘Orb Forest’ compositions coming soon!
Skope: After compiling this album, does it add up to any theme? If so, what would you say is the album’s theme?
Gwynaire: Although the album’s content is fairly diverse, I think there’s a strong ‘organic’ feel to the album. There’s plenty of real instruments, as opposed to just synth and keyboard work. I’ve played a lot of acoustic and electric guitar on the album, which has been fun. I think I’ve been too lazy to do this in the past – it often seems easier just to turn on your synth than rig up your acoustic guitar with mics etc. I think there’s also an underlying ‘folklorish/mythical’ feel to the album. Check out ‘Fingal’s Cave’ and ‘King Sol and the Merwoman’. I think these tracks and, also, ‘The Swordfish’ and ‘Saturn-by-the-Sea’ have a strong connection with the sea/ocean, too. My favourite track is the opener ‘Blue-Eyed Girl From Kilkenny’, which, along with tracks like ‘Palaeolithic
Spirits’ and ‘Sirens of Atlantis’, take the listener to a storybook realm, far away from the reality of everyday life. There’s also a futuristic feel to the album, evident in the ‘Orb Forest’ tracks. The actual title of the forthcoming novel is ‘The Orb Forest – Where Androids Have Souls’. This full title is carried over to the tracks. A further connection with androids and ‘futurism’ can be heard on the track ‘This New World of Androids’.
Skope: Spotify includes a whopping 25 songs. This would at least be a double album (if not more), in vinyl terms. Is it because you just couldn’t leave anything off? Why the long length?
Gwynaire: My albums do tend to be long; I know! Because I like to release compositions as singles first, by the time I get around to releasing them on an album, there’s quite a few tracks to deal with. Last year, I solved the problem by releasing two new albums. But you’re right, I don’t like to leave anything off. If a track has been released as a single, it’s going to end up on an album somewhere. Very often, new material has to be written too – not to fill out the album, but to make all the tracks fit together better. ‘Music From Slate Bird’ has quite an organic feel, I think – primarily due to the inclusion of newly recorded acoustic guitar tracks, which reinforced the rock/folk feel of previously recorded tracks.
Skope: Speaking of double albums, what are some of your favorite double discs?
Gwynaire: The Beatles: The White Album. Fleetwood Mac: Tusk. Miles Davis: Bitches Brew. Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti. Incredible String Band: Wee Tam and the Big Huge. Bob Dylan: Blonde On Blonde. The Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland.
Skope: How long have you been planning to release an album?
Gwynaire: I released a couple of albums last year, so there’s nothing new in me releasing albums. I think this is my seventh or eighth album, give or take a couple that aren’t available right now. I had a little extra time on my hands, so it seemed like a good idea.
Skope: In this age of streaming, why do you think albums are still released and important?
Gwynaire: I’ve thought about this recently. I’m not so sure they are as relevant as they once were. But it’s nice to group a selection of tracks together, and make some kind of artistic statement with them, rather than just have single releases.
Skope: Have all these songs been previously released as singles? If some were not, which ones were these?
Gwynaire: Many have been released as singles, yes. As an album, however, I think they fit together very well. Many tracks that have been released as singles recently, were also composed with the album in mind. I like to release tracks with bespoke artwork. This brings them to life I think, giving the listener an extra image (other than the album cover), with which to create a story around the music. I’m thinking most of these tracks have already been released as singles. Like I said, each single has new, original artwork, which further reinforces the composition, giving it further dimension.
Skope: Do you have plans of releasing this album in vinyl, CD, or any other format? If so, which ones?
Gwynaire: I don’t have the funds to do this. I did release a compilation CD a few years ago but found most people prefer downloads. I’m not like that myself, I always prefer a CD, and will normally buy a CD rather than a download. I think ‘Music From Slate Bird’ would be too long to fit onto a CD as it is. I love the cover, however, and would love to see it in the shops one day!