Interview

Thought Creature
Smoke Machine (Radio Edit)
Smoke Machine (Radio Edit), by Thought Creature
From: Total Recall EP, (2012)
http://www.undertheradar.co.nz/interview/481/Thought-Creature.utr

Thought Creature

By Courtney Sanders

Thursday, 24th May 2012 9:24AM

Thought Creature have returned from Berlin as a two-piece and with a new EP, Total Recall. We caught up with front man Will Rattray to discuss their time abroad and why their new material is like a David Cronenberg film.

You guys have been overseas - in Berlin, right? Why did you decide to hear over there?

We wanted to go to somewhere outside of New Zealand to play music and have fun. Berlin seemed like a good destination because it was culturally different and musically vibrant while at the same time not being absurdly expensive to live in. It was a life style choice in a way.

Musically we basically just played as much as we could for whatever festival/ venue/ party we could get invited to. We had worked on a new approach before we left New Zealand that took about a year to refine and only really came together right before we left. So a lot of learning in Europe was getting good at the two piece Thought Creature as opposed to the three piece that we were before.

We were also traveling with a VJ which was cool because that gave us another element to explore next to the music.

Tell us a little bit about the Berlin creative community.

Berlin is incredibly vibrant, and creatively there is a huge amount going on, probably more visually than musically but in both fields there is an expansion of communities separate and intertwined. It's amazing to see and explore.

You've just released an EP: Total Recall. Tell us about the writing and recording process for it.

Total Recall basically stemmed from us diverging into a more electronic approach to sound and song writing. Both Danny and I are huge electronic music fans and are particularly fond of the crossover period you got in the late eighties with Acid House and British rock 'n roll and post punk.

The idea behind working with midi-based technology and synthesizers began a few years ago when Danny and I threw a party as an excuse to set up a few interesting pieces of electronic gear we had kicking around and play improvised electronic music. The party was super fun and I mentioned to the promoter Blink a few weeks later that we would possibly be interested in doing a live electronica set at his Camp A Low Hum festival.

We had initially intended it to be a side show in a small room somewhere in the late hours for people who wanted something to get down to when the main acts were over. Thank God we rehearsed because he booked us the main slot for the first night of the festival in a f##king huge indoor Olympic swimming pool that had had the water drained from it. It scared the hell out of us when we saw it. But we couldn't say 'Oh is it too late to mention that we have done this once and its kind of an experiment and well when I said we had done it a few times I was sort of over exaggerating???'

Way to put yourself in the deep end literally, and that really was sink or swim because there was around 1100 people partying in that swimming pool and they wanted a good time. To screw it up would have been a total disaster but we were terrified because we didn't know how it would go with a big system: would there be problems with the machines, would they all work, would it sound any good? The show turned out to be a lot fun and I think after that we had a lot more confidence working with different technologys and sounds.

So to get back to the initial question, writing Total Recall evolved from us experimenting with electronic music and blending this with what we had being doing as a three piece rock 'n roll band. When our drummer decided that his heart was not really into the music anymore instead of trying to replace him it became apparent that maybe we could maintain the live and improvised feeling of the current Thought Creature but at the same time add new layers of sound and groove that had not been there before.

When it came to recording we took this idea and tried to put down the initial songs in a very 'live' approach. We used a tape machine and basically just played takes until we were happy we had something. We would then add percussion, vocals and a lot of treatments but we wanted to avoid masses of overdubs as we had been working on the album 'Ocean Dream' and that was so heavily layered and took such a huge amount of patience that it was almost reactionary to try a different, less intensive process. We also wanted to avoid the inorganic feel that can be found in some electronica.

Your last release was Teleport Palace. How did you want Totall Recall to be similar or different to that album?

I see this EP as a shift into new ideas and approaches to how Thought Creature as a concept can be expressed. We had no desire to make it similar or different in any way, it is simply just the outcome of evolving processes partly within our control and partly without.

Was there anything in particular you wanted to achieve sonically or thematically on Total Recall?

Looking back I think there is a darkness in there that at the time of writing I didn't quite realise was so prominent, although Id like to think there is also a touch of absurdest humor as well. I also feel there is a kind of confusion in there that distorts the real from the hyper-real. Sonically I think we did want to do something that had a certain kind of washed ambiance with a pronounced element of digital biology - a kind of Cronenberg marring of humans and machines, hence the title.

Looking at Total Recall as a finished product: how would you describe it? What are your favourite parts?

I don't know really, to me it contains a theatrical quality that I quite like. The way I experience it is very connected to where I've been at emotionally and what I experienced leading up to going away and then being away. It's too early for me to properly hear it. I think I need to step away for a while, and come back later when I'm a little more on the outside looking in.

You've been a mainstay of the Wellington music community for a while now. Tell us about the Wellington music scene at the moment: good / bad? Supportive?

I've spent a lot of time in my room as of late, but when I've come out of hiding it seems great to me. Lots of new people in the city doing super cool stuff - Box Car Rattle, Sunken Seas and Shocking and Stunning to name a few.

A few venues have closed down around Wellington lately. Has this affected the scene there?

Well I guess in terms of free noise and experimental music yes it probably has but i think this is just a turning point as new things emerge from old ashes.

What are you guys going to be up to throughout 2012?

Total Recall, practicing telepathy, making waves, going back to Europe, partying, touring, making weird videos, shooting lasers from our eyes. etc etc.

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