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Craig Elliott

Craig Elliott

Interviewed by
Jenee Tibshraeny
Thursday 5th July, 2012 4:25PM

Wellingtonian experimental artist, Craig Elliott, is spreading his wings abroad in the wake of his second album release, Fire for the Red Corner. He gives us the lowdown on noise, bitter lyrics and DYI producing from an internet cafe in London.

First up, please tell us a bit more about yourself. Last FM says you got struck by lightning as a wee lad, and have been left with a permanent smile and no vision…

Haha, yeah that's not strictly true. I grew up in Wellington and studied music at Vic Uni. I was playing in a noisy alt punky band called Fanucman from about 2007 until the start of 2010. We were all noisy guitars and bleepy bloopy synthesizers. I started recording my own music which was largely acoustic guitar-based at the time, partly because I felt like doing something a bit different and it was just a way to kill some time, and that turned into my EP You Smell Like the Devil and You Sound Like a War which I released in 2010. Since then I gigged as much as I could around Wellington and carried on recording, and finally finished Fire for the Red Corner.

So you’ve gone with a less abrasive album name this time round…

Haha, I think You Smell Like the Devil... just became a real pain in the ass to type out all the time. I did actually have a working title for the album that was equally long and ridiculous, but then Fire for the Red Corner just felt like the right fit for the music and the album's aesthetic. Once I thought of it, it really got stuck in my head. It just seemed like a nice phrase. And the album still has its fair share of bitter lyrics.

Tell us about Fire for the Red Corner, what were you looking to achieve and explore?

With Fire for the Red Corner I was definitely keen to get into some more electric and louder stuff but I also wanted it to be a natural progression from my EP rather than a complete change in direction. I think it has a pretty good balance between electric and acoustic, between softer, prettier stuff and wall of noise. A song like 'St Elmo's Fire' has a dirty, lo-fi acoustic feel but then something like 'The Red Corner' has layers of finger-tapping and distorted live drums mixed with drum loops.

I also wanted to play noisier, more energetic gigs. I like to keep it varied; noisy gig one night, acoustic show the next, alienating effects odyssey after that.

I wanted to make songs that took a few listens to really get into. I love songs that have a lot of subtleties that gradually become revealed to you the more you listen. I wanted to do something like that. I think a song like 'Film Noir' is like that. I think it has kind of an eerie, off-kilter feel and a lot of small details. Same with 'Broken Arm'. I tried to squeeze a lot of twists and turns into 2 minute long tracks.

Do you think there’s a difference between noise and noisy music?

Yeah, although I'm not sure where the line is between a band that plays some variation of alt-rock that is a bit noisy and a band that would be termed noise-rock. I think in the future I could see myself incorporating more passages of full-on noisy stuff in my songs. It'd be great to do something that sounds a bit like Lightning Bolt.

You’re a bit of a musical “Jack of all Trades”. Tell us a bit more about how you produce your music?

To be honest there's not much to it. I borrow a minimal recording set-up when I need it, plug it into my computer that doesn't run very well and then hope for the best. I'm not really into gear or anything. I don't own like twenty guitars or racks of effects. I don't even own an acoustic guitar. Or a bass. I like having a minimal set-up though. Who can be bothered with a room full of gear? I spend most my time writing and by the time I get to the recording it's actually a fairly quick process. I record in spurts, adding guitar, bass, keys or whatever gradually. Most my recording time is spent recording layers of vocals, building harmonies and trying out counter melodies. I think the vocal production on the album is one of the defining characteristics of my sound and along with the abrasive guitar scrapes that pop up throughout the album, and kind of sound like another voice, give the album its' aesthetic. I really like working with a DIY ethos and I think bedroom recording, as well as allowing freedom from time constraints, gives my music a lo-fi quality that works well for it.

As for London, please tell us a bit more about what you’ve been up to?

I've been checking out the local music scene. It's great how there's always something happening. And it's true, pretty much everyone here loves Oasis. Like, they would die for Oasis.

Have you managed to play any gigs?

Yep, I've played a couple of house/warehouse parties. They were wild.

What bits of inspiration are you pocketing from your travels?

Hmm, specifically I'm not sure. I've been writing a lot though so something must be inspiring me.

How’s the rest of your year looking?

It's pretty up in the air at the moment. At the moment I'm pretty keen just to play some shows here, there and everywhere. I'll be back in NZ to play some shows soon too.


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