Last updated 07.07.07
ALEX: First of all, I would like to thank you for this great opportunity to meet you in Berlin, for the very first time in real, to sit right in front in you and to have very pleasant talk. Thank you very much, Alan! And my first question is: how it feels to you at the moment, when you are starting promo campaign for your upcoming new album?
AW: I enjoy this period generally although I've been living with «subHuman» for about 18 months now and, to be honest, I could do with a break from hearing it! Then again, there is a real sense of anticipation about how people will react to the final product. It can be frustrating trying to make the public aware of the album but, this time around, there are a lot more on-line outlets (things have changed drastically in 5 years) so we are all trying to think of innovative, more viral promotional ideas. Recoil is less reliant on record stores and radio play but nevertheless, that would also be useful.
ALEX: I hope all these years of music silence Mr. Alan Wilder enjoyed life in it's variety... So what did you do, how did you spend your 'vacations'?
AW: I spent time enjoying the fruits of my labours. I worked hard during my years with DM and also on the last 2 Recoil albums and I felt I needed some time away from the studio. Hep and I are very much a team and I wanted to be around for our kids during their formative years and to enjoy their childhood. We are very lucky to have a fantastic living environment so I just spent time enjoying 'normal' things like doing the school run (sometimes) and going to restaurants, cinema, playing and watching sports and so on. I did make some feeble attempts to write music on a few occasions but didn't posses the will to battle through - which I took as a sign that I needed a longer break.
ALEX: Was it difficult for you to start working on the new album after such long break? Can you imagine - you are returning into studio without that memorable Hep's 'push'?
AW: Well, I knew in my heart that I needed to return to something creative and Hep's 'push' did help me get my act together. The most daunting factor was the thought of upgrading a lot of the studio equipment as well as re-learning how to use it all. Once I got going though, it felt a bit like riding a bike - the work process became quickly familiar again.
ALEX: For me it was definitely clear that when you placed so much effort into trying to create something special with your last two albums, «Unsound Methods» and «Liquid», you had no identical response: public and label mostly didn't understand you and your music ambitions. How do you think, are there any improvements with your new album?
AW: The simple fact is that I make music for myself - and only when it's finished do I address the problem of marketing. I am extremely lucky that I don't need to rely on Recoil to support my lifestyle and so I can really do what I want. With this in mind, I didn't make any conscious decisions regarding the direction of «subHuman» - it was a natural development. I've said many times that it is dangerous to pander to other people's desires and expectations, to try and mimic the latest trend or even to look backwards and attempt to re-create past success. My only goal is firstly, to try to make people aware of the existence of Recoil and, secondly, to ensure that the music is readily available so that the listener can make their own minds up about it.
ALEX: Did you much spoil when your album was leaked even earlier than promos started to spreading around?
AW: The fact is that the way the promo business works is really tied in with the deadlines of magazines and radio shows. In order to get your product featured and reviewed by the press, you need to provide them with a promo copy of your album some considerable time ahead of release. This was not so much of a problem in the past but in these days of globalisation, once it's in the public domain, it can be copied and spread around the world in seconds. Look - I don't really care if fans hear the album early and then buy a copy later but, when I think about some two-bit journalist selling his promo copy on Ebay 2 months ahead of release, then it 'gets my goat'. Many of these people are leeches at the best of times but some of them stoop even lower. It is annoying that one can spend months and months working one's balls off creating a piece of art and planning a marketing strategy, only to find that an unscrupulous individual has taken it upon themselves to try and earn a quick buck. I also don't think it's asking too much to expect a fan to spend £10 on a record that took 18 months of my time to make.
ALEX: You had 4 guest vocalists on «Bloodline» and «Unsound Methods», and even 6 on «Liquid». This time you invite two vocalists only, one male and one female.. is there any idea behind this fact?
AW: No specific reason. Joe was suitable for much of the music this time and Carla provides the counterbalance to that. I didn't feel I needed any more.
ALEX: While you were composing your music, did you already have clear image what kind of guest vocals it needs?
AW: Well, as you can probably imagine, this comes gradually as the direction starts to evolve. It was clear to me from quite an early stage that I wanted an authentic blues singer because the music dictated it.
ALEX: «subHuman» consists of 7 tracks. Does this number mean something special for the album?
AW: Me, superstitious? Not at all. I just felt that the album worked best at this length. It's still quite a long record in fact. There were some other tracks from the «subHuman» sessions which may get finished in the future but they still need some work.
ALEX: You added in «Allelujah» the same samples as 15 years ago in Depeche Mode's «In Your Room», and it's very noticeable. I guess that some people could say that you do a kind of self-plagiarism. For me it's just right samples in right track, which works perfect - track is amazing good! What can you say regarding it?
AW: I have indeed re-used a few old DM sounds which, since I was involved in creating them in the first place, seems entirely appropriate. I often re-work old samples from my library and utilise new processing tools to give them a fresh meaning.
ALEX: I noticed new Recoil sound is much more electronic, still multi-layering, and - what is most important - has strong blues flavour. For me (maybe it's a bit strange comparison but it's really seems to me) this album is a kind of «Bloodline» continuation, in way of blues for sure. When I listened «Prey» first I remember was «Electro-Blues For Bukka White» ;) So I guess you are fascinated with blues for all last 15 years, yes?
AW: It's pretty obvious that I do like the blues, and gospel, and human performance, and Glam rock, and electronics, and classical, etc, etc. My point is that I try to encompass all genres and styles. There are no restrictions for me. The percentage of pure electronics on «subHuman» is actually quite low - much lower than «Bloodline» for example - but in the end it's not that important. The blues represents the main inspiration for pretty much all rock and roll and the raw emotion that it contains is a great counterbalance to modern technology.
ALEX: I heard that you found Joe via Google. But it's still interesting why did you choose this non-ordinary white blues singer from Texas, no one other?
AW: I always spend time thinking about who could provide vocals. Hep and I ploughed the Internet over and over again suggesting loads of different people - including just 'googling' styles and genres. It is not important to me whether they are big 'names' or unknown. I just want talented collaborators who understand the ethos of Recoil and are open to experimentation as well as willing to give their time and energy without compromise.
ALEX: Which is your favourite track on «subHuman» and why?
AW: I don't have a favourite track.
ALEX: When I saw CD/DVD edition track-listing, I was exciting to see «Electro-Blues For Bukka White» promo video listed. I never heard before that you filmed it in past...
AW: Nor did I !!! It was a total surprise to me that the film existed. Richard Bell, the director, is a good friend and he just put the music to one of his skiing films. It was only when we came to compile the DVD that I became aware of it's existence. The problem was that the visuals ended before the music so when we came to author the DVD, I made a decision to slow down the last shot so that the audio and film fitted together properly. I don't think Richard has seen that yet.
ALEX: Also interesting to know what 'ambient re-working of entire album' mean? ;)
AW: The 'reduction' version came about after we finished the 5.1 mix. PK and I enjoyed spreading out the multitude of sounds and decided that it would be interesting to do a complete version of the album where we strip the music down to its more ambient elements.
ALEX: It's really interesting how you started to work on your recent Recoil release. Did you prepare a kind of concept first, or at least a kind of mood for the album? Or the album concept/mood is result of putting all tracks together on final recording stage?
AW: It would be impossible for me to start with a concept given that I don't have songs or lyrics at the outset. The «subhuman» idea is just my way of interpreting the words and gave me a way to present the album. When I'm mixing and compiling everything, that is the stage when I normally try to create an overall narrative. It's much like a film director trying to edit all the scenes into a cohesive story. A kind of discovery process.
ALEX: Your theme with 'subhumans' is quite intriguing, and have to say, it's really actual theme. All that happened in the world in last 7 years, all these violence and terror, was caused by primary human feature: see other man as subhuman. What's more for you in it - philosophy or politics? Do you agree with me that your new album is more politized than any of prior?
AW: I do not have some great political message to bring to the world - the «subHuman» concept is much more to do with human nature. However, since I last made an album, we have seen 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, the London & Madrid bombings, the escalation of the Palestinian problem and many other conflicts and atrocities - mostly perpetrated in the name of religion or some other misguided ideology. Despite the wonder of modern communication technologies, in our so-called civilised world, cultural divisions seem to be worse than ever - and like many people, I get affected by it. As I said, the 'subhuman' idea (which I realise is not a new one) seemed to make sense of everything. It also felt unnervingly relevant to the world as it is today. The title is designed to be slightly provocative but not directed towards any specific group - it can also apply to racism and homophobia, class or politics and so on. The fact that it is not a new idea is really the point - in that it represents a repeating pattern of human behaviour (depressing though it may be) where subordination occurs in a seemingly endless cycle, often with tragic consequences, and where people are rendered as worthless.
ALEX: Design of your new release quite different to your prior albums. Instead of various abstract images as in the past it has so creative collages with mannequins. Why you decided to do such noticeable changes in your current art work?
AW: The artwork design came from Jesse Holborn who was given a basic synopsis of the album concept. He came up with various ideas and I was attracted to the mannequins, shown in everyday situations to represent recyclable life-forms. A photo session was arranged and Jesse then put together her collages from the results. I think it's quite striking and suitably different from the previous albums.
ALEX: Alan, do you ever took part in creation of your album/single covers, you personally?
AW: Of course, I don't directly design the art myself but creating music isn't just about what comes out of the speakers - it's about the entire package. I like to get involved in all aspects which includes the art, the web site, the promotional material and one's personal image. Quality control is very important and someone has to do it.
ALEX: As we know, your Thin Line Studio was totally upgraded before «subHuman» recording sessions. So which most important changes you had to do with it? And how it looks now?
AW: The environment itself hasn't really changed much. The main upgrades were software-based apart from new ProTools hardware and a new Power Mac + 2 screens. I installed the latest Mac operating system, Logic Pro, Native Instruments (soft-synths & samplers) as well as various plug-ins (Waves bundle and so on). I also added Ableton Live on Dan Miller's recommendation. Running as a slave to Logic, this proved a useful tool for time-stretching and pitch-shifting loops. I also enjoyed using Live's processing effects. Of course, it took me a while to acquaint myself with all these additions as well as trying to remember how even the most basic studio tools work! I'd forgotten so much in 5 years!
ALEX: Did you keep any old equipment or 'checked with time' techniques?
AW: Yes - plenty. I have a great sounding Neve console from 1970s, my VCS 3 synth which we use mainly for processing samples and loops, The Roland Space Echo is another favourite. Also, Lexicon PCM70 reverb / delay.
ALEX: I was very glad to see the launch of your official Recoil MySpace page some time ago. It was a great sign that you are still in music and you are ready to comeback. Recoil MySpace is still staying great opportunity to catch news regarding project, even know that Shunt 2.0 web site is ready to go too... Alan, do you check your MySpace page? Do you read comments etc?
AW: I keep an eye on Shunt, Myspace and even the Shunt mailing list - I need to know what you're all saying about me! Seriously, it's important since these are the windows through which one can see what's going on out there. After all, the Internet is where the music business mainly exists nowadays.
ALEX: As I see, this time you are trying to release new material not only as CD media, but also as Digital Download. There are information that it (and even complete Recoil back catalogue!) will go on sale via iTunes music store. So it means that you and label actually believe now that legal music downloading will help you in distribution?
AW: I have no problem with legal multimedia distribution (as long as audio quality continues to improve) and I think that it is helpful to a project like Recoil that cannot rely on more traditional channels such as radio, TV and record store awareness.
ALEX: By the way, are you ready to spread your music creations totally in digital, without any 'touchable' media?
AW: I very much hope not! But, in future there may be no other options. It depends if people will still want the physical product. I could imagine that perhaps a new version of vinyl might take off - you know, like a very high quality disc (not actual vinyl but maybe super-audio DVD) with large vinyl-size artwork which could become a collector's item. Maybe I'll start this new format for the next album!
ALEX: When I heard Carla, and have to say - I never heard her before, first I thought about it was Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins. These female singers have a bit close way to perform... Do you like this way or maybe you even fan of Cocteau Twins (just wonder)?
AW: I've always admired Elizabeth Fraser so I don't mind this comparison. Cocteau Twins were excellent with a unique sound.
ALEX: Did you listen any other music during your recording period? Or you tried to close your ears and to be concentrated only at your own sound creation? If yes (i.e. you listened) - which artists/albums/tracks etc?
AW: My music collection is vast and varied although I don't have much time to listen to other music when I'm working. If you were to request a playlist from me, it would be a mix of everything from the past 1000 years of music history! I am not a musical snob.
ALEX: Most of pauses in your recent music life were caused by your family and that big attention which little children are always requiring. Are you good papa, Alan? ;)
AW: Well, I love my kids and I'd like to think that I was a pretty cool dad ;-) Then again, I want them to have a realistic approach to life so I'm not a complete push over... they will eat vegetables and learn to speak properly!
ALEX: I can remember from your last interview to me in 2000 that Paris didn't disturb you during your music process, 'cos you "usually find an alternative arrangement". How about Stan this time? ;)
AW: Life was a little easier when Hep and I only had Paris to contend with. When you add a young boy, obsessed with Power Rangers and constantly seeking attention, then things are bound to become more complicated! We both believe that there's no point having children if you're not going to be involved in the whole experience so we've never employed nannies. However, dealing with both Paris and Stan has been more of a pressure for Hep because she has been mostly responsible for them in order to allow me to get on with working. It's important to give your kids love and attention but they should also learn a good work ethic. I don't think it's a bad thing for them to understand that their parents are creative people and this is a fulfilling part of their lives.
ALEX: Your T-Shirt is looking so cool! (and you in it of course too ;) Maybe you are interesting a bit of S&M theme? ;)
AW: Hep sometimes buys me t-shirts from a London designer called 'Savage' who create some interesting designs. Generally, I hate wearing clothes with designer's names all over them - why should I be used as a free advertising board?
ALEX: Last movie you watched with real interest?
ALEX: What perfume you prefer at the moment?
AW: «Acqua Di Parma»
ALEX: What Recoil releases we can expect in close future? Maybe back-catalogue re-release in 5.1 sound etc?
AW: I will return to the studio in the autumn after I've enjoyed a summer full of sport and lazing by my pool. I'm not sure what I will be working on yet.
ALEX: Did you ever have an idea to record your own song to your Recoil project, completely, or at least write lyrics?
AW: Probably not - maybe words but not singing.
ALEX: I guess, question about your possibility of return to Depeche is completely bored you with years... But I would like to ask different one - is it possible to you take part in any Depeche-related projects, for example on upcoming Gahan's new solo album? Or something else?
AW: This is the most asked question in the world and I think you know the answer already. I am really pleased that Dave has started to work on his own material but he's never asked me to work with him. I imagine he's quite happy as he is.
ALEX: Your press promo trip to Berlin comes to end.. how European press is reacting to your new release?
AW: So far - very well, but the journalists are always nice to your face. It's what they decide to write that counts ;-)
ALEX: Dear Alan, please tell something special for SHOUT.RU readers ;)
AW: I hope everyone who visits SHOUT will enjoy «subhuman». I know it hasn't always been easy to find Recoil products in Russia but, hopefully, this time round, things are a little different. Thank you all for your support!
ALEX: THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR ANSWERS!
YOU'RE WELCOME! Alan Wilder.
Official Recoil web site
Official Recoil MySpace page
[ © 2007 shout! - all rights reserved. Interview done specially for SHOUT! Online, taken by alex davie via face-to-face meet and via e-mail. All Alan Wilder's photos made by alex davie at «Q» Hotel (Berlin, Germany). We wanna thanks Mute Germany and Gala Records for help with organizing of this interview. ]
|‘07 - subHuman Era
‘00 - Liquid Era
«Prey» - new Recoil single
Some details of «subHuman»
«SubHuman» - new Recoil album!
Prey / Allelujah
subHuman [ lyrics ]
Strange Hours Jezebel
LIQUID [ lyrics ]
Alan Wilder / Recoil - «subHuman» release party in Moscow (01.12.07)
Alan Wilder / Recoil - Autograph session in Moscow (01.12.07)
Our special interview with Alan
Exclusive interview with Alan