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Dear Time's Waste

Dear Time's Waste

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Monday 3rd September, 2012 8:39AM

Dear Time's Waste aka Claire Duncan will follow up  here critically-acclaimed 2010 album Spells with second full length Some Kind of Eden this Friday. In anticipation of the release we  caught up with Duncan to discuss the Cocteau Twins and Milan Kundera-infused isolation that led to the forthcoming record....

Hey Claire, how are you?

I’m in a café I hope it’s not too noisy!

No it’s totally fine! Let’s start by talking about the new album, Some Kind of Eden. The press release mentions you went into isolation: tell us about that process.

That’s very dark isn’t it haha? What it means by isolation is that I made the whole thing on my own, so it’s not abnormal for me: I always write alone and develop the things alone, but this is the first record I’ve made entirely by myself. It was made in between my bedroom at home and this big studio space that some friends of mine who have a production company were renting on Queen Street. So I kind of holed up in there for a couple of months over summer and I did a lot of recording and working on the record in there: so that’s how and when it was made.

Was doing everything yourself a particular challenge you set for yourself on this record, or is that just how it worked out?

When I started making the record I actually set out for it to be quite collaborative – I really wanted to work with other people. I started working with a couple of different people but it was the tyranny of distance: living in different cities and trying to do things over the internet really wasn’t working. I had a bit of a revelation where I knew what I needed to do to finish the record, and so at that point I just went back to square one and did what I usually did: write and record by myself.

Are there any sonic inspirations or cornerstones that influenced this record?

I was particularly absorbed by two early Cocteau Twins albums, Garlands and Head Over Heels, for their abrasive drum sounds, dissonance and stark minimalism. They work within a really limited palette of sounds and in doing so create a universe on their own terms, and I like being there. Another key record became Faith by The Cure, for its careful monotony and concentrated emotion. Lyrically both bands work in a way that I admire - Cocteau Twins for the nonsense glossolalia and The Cure for their precise yet loaded imagery.

And thematically I hear there were a couple of books that provided inspiration?

The first book that fed into what I wanted to make was Six Memos for the Next Millenium by Italo Calvino. He discusses five qualities that he values in literature (he died before he wrote the sixth) -- these being abstract, vague concepts such as 'Lightness', 'Exactitude', 'Multiplicity' and so on. hat strikes me most is how he contemplates these very mysterious, unfathomable ideas that have little or no way of being measured in a fashion that is succinct and precise, condensed and careful. He manages this without killing the beauty of the abstract idea -- that it resists expression in words. A second book similar in theme and style is Milan Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being, which more explicitly explores the dichotomy of what is tangible, physical and concrete and what is unseeable, ephemeral and abstract and the necessary tension and co-dependency of the two.

It kind of makes sense to explore these ideas in music, right, because music is something that is simultaneously exact yet ambiguous?

This dichotomy is possible to explore through music I feel because music is comprised of a series of continums: space, pitch, tone, dynamic, and so on. There are many ways to explore/express sounds in varying degrees of reference, from a sound that is recognisable to one that is completely unfamiliar. Part of this process of recognition happens through music's function as an aural measure of physical space (recording something up close as compared to something from a great distance, and every point in between). I wanted to sneak these ideas into every song, so that some feel totally earthbound and the sounds are recognisable, while others are echoing around in a more unfamiliar space. Lyrically my intention was to dance between these two poles, that which is heavy (physicality, objects, textures) and that which is light (that which can't be measured, atmospheres, particles, heat, light and so on).

Tell us about finishing Spells and moving onto a new album: were there things that you wanted to do differently, or similarly to Spells?

When I decided that I wanted to make a new record I knew that it would sound different to Spells - instrumentally more minimal and with a different kind of pace - something more measured and considered as a body of work, rather than a series of songs accumulated over time. The ideas mentioned above were important from the get-go as was the visual inspiration provided by Veronica Crockford-Pound who is pretty much a member of the band -- I would send her very early demos and she would send me back images that gelled, and so the record developed in tandem with a kind of visual journal which we have posted at The songs are lyrically more abstract and the instrumentation more precise and structured, purely by nature of working with beat-making and drum machines rather than live musicians.

At the time of making the album, I didn't really consider how it would be regarded in a critical sense (at least not consciously, I think making something intended for a public space means there will always be a level of awareness of the critic). I was trying to make a record that I myself would want to listen to.

Tell us about your future plans: it seems you have a unique outlook on the financial and career-oriented side of music-making?

I'm interested in managing my music to a point where I can make what I want, when I want and not lose too much money. While I do believe that the value in a lot of creative work is economically redundant, sometimes I feel that music industries can be guilty of sucking up a lot of juice and tossing away the cartons, especially when less mainstream artists necessarily have to move from New Zealand to find a wider market for their tunes.

And future plans? A couple of national tours and then...

We are touring Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch this month (September). Beyond that - a bit of soundtrack work and some collaborations are on the cards.