Interview

Secret Knives

Secret Knives

Monday 9th August, 2010 1:33PM

Secret Knives is the recording project of Ash Smith. A perfectionist approach to making music has meant that only what Ash considers to be his best music has reached our ears. With a new EP on the way, we caught up with Ash to have a chat about what’s been happening with Secret Knives and what we can expect from his follow up to 2008’s The Wolves.

How long have Secret Knives been a going concern?

I've been making music as a sort of compulsive hobby for years so I couldn't say when it became a "going concern". Even after the EP came out it took nearly a year to play a show. We played two and then stopped for another year. Only this year have I made an effort to make it more of a thing, like with a regular band etc. Even still, we don't play often.

Where are you based?

Wellington.

Current line-up?

Myself, Richard Larsen on guitar, Jonathan King on bass and Ben Dalgleish on drums, who also play in the bands Vaults, Seth Frightening and New Friend, respectively.

How would you describe your sound?

Maybe its a kind of effects-heavy guitar pop. I'm quite influenced by shoegaze and post-punk stuff and I think that comes through a bit. The Chameleons is probably a good reference point for what we do since they have these two effects-laden guitars doing really melodic stuff. They're about 100% better at it though. Sometimes I think they're kind of like Television if they made reverby dream-pop...

Since the release of your debut EP The Wolves, you’ve been relatively quiet. What have you been doing lately?

After that EP was released I played with Over The Atlantic for sometime. Before then I'd never played in a band or performed at all, so I learnt lots but it also took up a lot of time. Aside from that I've been recording but I throw so much of what I do away, I'm sure there is a couple records worth of material between the last EP and the upcoming one that I've just given up on. Anyway, being in a band and having some sort of presence was never really important to me. I just enjoy the recording/creative side of it and since I'm rarely content with anything I make and really bad at finishing songs I haven't put anything out since (yet).

Where and when was that EP recorded?

That EP was a collection of some songs I recorded during 2007/2008. I did it on my computer using Adobe Audition and Ableton Live.

Is there a particular meaning behind the song names on the EP (i.e. all of the ‘the’ songs?)

The "The" was just supposed to indicate that those songs were thematically linked together. Like lyrically the songs are really closely tied together. It also separated the "real" songs from the instrumentals. So it was both a conceptually deliberate thing and just an aesthetic thing that I liked the look of.

Do you have any releases on the way?

There’s a new record that will be available as a free download again from A Low Hum. It's called Affection. It's nearly finished but not enough for me to say exactly when it might come out. Like the last one it's just recorded by me on my computer. Its quite similar to The Wolves EP but its more layered and there’s more diversity amongst the tracks. There are some bits that sound kind of like Slowdive, or maybe Ride, but in general I find it impossible to channel influences into what I do. Like I went through a phase last year where I was pretty much just listening to that Sharpie Crows record 'Greed', Burial's discography, and that track 'The Diamond Sea' by Sonic Youth over and over and over. The record I’ve made sounds nothing like any of those, much to my disappointment.

What else does 2010 hold in store for Secret Knives?

We will hopefully be playing shows around the middle of the year. I think we just want to take more of the new songs and work on them and see what we can develop out of the four of us playing those songs.

How do you write new material as a band?

The recordings and the live situation are totally disconnected. I do the recording and then take the songs to the band and we basically work out how we can make it fit with the four of us and how we can replicate certain things that are difficult in the recordings. When I record I don't think like "would this be performed easily?" because I think that doesn't lead to interesting recordings. So, as a band nothing is really 'written', it’s more like problem solving... but where the live stuff deviates from the recording we have generally all worked on it together and just discuss what we think sounds best and does service to the song.

You supported The Chills earlier in the year. How did that go?

Unfortunately The Chills had to pull out. The VBC gave refunds, made it a free night and got Die!Die!Die! as replacement headliners. We didn't play as well as we could have but I was still pleased because it was probably the only chance I'll ever get to open for Die!Die!Die! who I think are amazing. So for me personally, it worked out surprisingly well.

Have they been an influence on the band?

Not really. But I definitely admire how melodic and direct they are. I never listened to that many Flying Nun bands, though certain ones like Bailter Space left a really strong impression on me.

What is the most memorable gig you’ve ever played?

Camp A Low Hum 2009 was pretty significant. Having spent a year playing someone else's songs it was nice to do something that was more representative of myself.

Which NZ band would you most like to tour with if you got the chance? Why?

Probably the Shocking Pinks. They were my favourite band for a really long time. Also, they were probably my favourite thing I saw at Campus A Low Hum this year.

The state of music in NZ is….

Good?

Gareth Meade




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