‘To live a life without hope, that is to live BEYOND hope, is to experience true freedom.’
I could only compare my communications with the band, albeit email, how Neo and Morpheous corresponded in ‘The Matrix’; in which Morpheous retorted answers inspiring many m0re follow up questions. This was the basis of the dialogue until the precious point that I was politely told, ‘We have done our bit’.
Watch Repair are a cool collection of artists based in the U.K who live ‘off the radar’ barely existing; creating limitless, subtle masterpieces defying examination and definition. The bands creativity shows no knowledge of ‘trends’, and if it had not been for Michael at ONO records and chance, many, including myself would not have heard of them.
‘We create music because we create music. We don’t do it to promote ourselves, and there’s little relevant information worth the time it takes to disseminate.’
The band met in a bookshop a good few years ago, and have been exploring its possibilities since. They are as likely to be listening to 14th century madrigals, or 1960s children’s records, or British dance band 78s from between the wars than something on trend.The name, Watch Repair is mostly arbitrary, but has come to characterize their aspirations, ‘a complex construction of small and intricate parts, designed to work as a functional and useful whole.’
They use a mix of acoustic sounds and instruments, recently employing analogue electronics. ‘We use what’s to hand, from guitars to toys (as indicated in album credits); whatever will help provide the necessary atmosphere, and has a tonal range worth investigating. They are big on microtones.
‘One of the best 20 minutes of music I’ve heard in a long while in the form of Watch Repair’s Stopped Clock Chimes- GNOD, Paddy Shine’
The bands art work is woven together by long term collaborator John Coulthart and have collaborative photographic work (Deborah Judd) going back a few years, to accompany completed albums.
‘Each album is a discrete thing, and imagery is selected or created to suit specific themes; imagery (like the titles of all of our stuff) is never arbitrary.’
Authentic is an interesting word to describe the band and their music but it is worth noting that nothing about the band is simply about ‘getting heard’. They ignore social media besides a band camp page, and steer away from self publicity.
In fact not the band but their former label, ‘ONO’ have posted information on recently released THR EP’s unbeknownst to the them. This is bizarre and uncharacteristic for the majority of bands who unashamedly push their social media content, in a manner which can verge on the obtrusive.
‘There may be other THREPs in the future, if we stay interested enough in that idea.’
After listening, and meditating to their Bandcamp I contacted the band with many questions, including their background, inspirations, equipment, future aims and much more.
I hope through my interview that I have provided a brief introduction on a unique and exciting band. I urge you to listen and share their art galore, as they are a creative entity whom can revolutionize the music industry, in many ways.
Q: How did ‘Watch Repair’ originate?
We met in a bookshop a good few years ago, realised we had an affinity, and have been exploring its possibilities since.
The name itself was mostly arbitrary, but has come to characterise what we aspire to, a complex construction of small and intricate parts, designed to work as a functional and useful whole.
Q: What inspires your creativity?
Inspirations come from all over, when there is work in hand…musicians, artists, writers, we suck up or soak up as much fuel as we can, from disparate sources: books, films, sounds, conversations etc., plus recorded music (78s, LPs, tapes, CDs).
But the seed of a piece, the idea and the basic desire to do… this is a mysterious process, always. Where does it come from? Who knows. Blue cheese probably.
Q: I sense that your work is flavoured with coastal analogies would that be correct?
Only partially – ‘exploration’ has been a conceptual theme across a few of our tracks/albums (released or otherwise).
But the coast, the sea, waves, water: these are or can function as metaphors in themselves.
It’s fun to create the sounds of a ship at sea, but that isn’t the point of it so much as what they might stir in the listener.
Q: How do you create your songs, and what equipment do you use?
Our music uses a mix of acoustic sounds and instruments, and then more recently analogue electronics. We use what’s to hand, from guitars to toys (as indicated in album credits); whatever will help provide the necessary atmosphere, and has a tonal range worth investigating. We’re big on microtones.
There’s detailed editing and refining, but digital software is mostly a splice-free tape machine. And we don’t use ‘found sound’, everything heard is performed in a constructed or created sound environment, and to suit the intentions and needs of the composition. Clunks, bumps etc. are, for instance, a byproduct of the recording process, and intrinsic to any piece.
The pieces are composed over time, and before recording commences; the recording process of course allows a piece to grow and evolve; the editing, mixing, production etc. creates more possibilities – and if we need sounds, textures or input that we are unable to produce ourselves, we have able collaborators to call on.
Q: GNOD’s Paddy Shine singled out, ‘Stopped Clock Chimes’ as one of the ‘best 20 minutes of music I’ve heard in a long while’. Could you tell me a little about the release?
It runs for 39 minutes, which was about as long as it stayed interesting at the time; it’s a very simple idea – and far from original: Brian Eno discusses its exact methodology with Richard Dawkins here.
(go to 36:20)
and 1 / 2 is 40 years old; Eno would obviously be intimate with Poppy Nogood and It’s Gonna Rain…delay lines and systems music is fun, but nothing new. So the piece was just an interesting exercise.
And the sonic possibilities of the chimes being played (rather than ‘sampled’ as per SCC) became suddenly much more interesting, and we have used them since as part of our instrumentation (and throughout the next 3 releases).
Comments like the above are very flattering and encouraging (although we are mostly unfamiliar with GNOD’s work) – everyone needs a bit of encouragement from time to time…but we don’t pay a huge amount of attention to any of that.
Q: Would you agree with this description : “Watch Repair is the post Nwyvre come down back at the shack as your pulse slows and you can marvel at the strangeness of the early hours when most people are asleep?”
If that is what a listener experienced, and is trying to articulate, fantastic.
We don’t think in those terms though.
Q: Michael Holland of the Ono label is one of the most enthusiastic and genuine music collectors/sharers in Manchester. What is your relationship like with him and why did you decide to work with ONO?
We don’t work with ONO now, but Michael’s label and initial enthusiasm for Watch Repair were incredibly helpful as a home for our experiments – and a good reminder to get stuff out into the world and see what happens next (we can so easily forget to do that, and move on once work is completed).
Of course we are our own beast, so to speak. The music came first, and we have albums in our archive from before our time with Michael, and will continue to release music, through whatever means available to us.
Q: Where are you based?
We are based in the UK.
Q: Who designs and packages your releases, as they seem part of a grand concept between albums?
John Coulthart has designed all our releases since 2013, and, his time allowing, will continue work to with us into the future.
Imagery and iconography is always our decision however. We have collaborative photographic work (Deborah Judd) going back a few years, to accompany completed albums (but where ONO budgetary constraints precluded their use).
Each album is a discrete thing, and imagery is selected or created to suit specific themes; imagery (like the titles of all of our stuff) is never arbitrary. And there can be ‘grand concepts’ at work – and these themes should hopefully become apparent through close listening, and need not be signposted by sleevenotes – but ultimately our music has to sound interesting – and remain interesting – if it is to work as intended.
Q: Why do you create music, if there is such limited information out there about the band?
We create music because we create music. We don’t do it to promote ourselves, and there’s little relevant information worth the time it takes to disseminate.
Q: You released two EPs in 2016. Is there any time frame with your work, regarding releases?
None other than to get finished work out, and a then line can be drawn. We may make more unreleased work available – the free THR EP on bandcamp was a snapshot of unreleased work from past few years, and there may be other THREPs in the future, if we stay interested enough in that idea.
Q: What movies trip you out?
Movies? Man, there are so many… everything from silent films up to contemporary works from Nic Ray to NicRoeg, from Michael Powell to Guy Maddin, Cocteau to Tarkovsky, The Marx Bros, Carry On films, The Hour Glass Sanitorium and The Saragossa Manuscript, Blade Runner and A Field in England…
Books and writers are equally as important to us.
Q: Do you hope to release an actual album at some stage?
We have released actual albums.
CD-R releases should be fuss-free, and bandcamp has the possibility of immediacy – but, for home listening pleasure, we favour non-digital sound. It would be nice to release something on vinyl at some point. Or shellac.
Q: Any cool musicians you advocate?
Alas we’re pretty oblivious to current musical trends – other than collaborator Warper’s Moss, we’re as likely to be listening to 14th century madrigals, or 1960s childrens records, or British dance band 78s from between the wars.
Pinky and Perky? Roland de Lassus? Lew Stone and his Band?
Q: What are your hopes for 2017?
To live a life without hope, that is to live BEYOND hope, is to experience true freedom.
That aside, maybe clear out our archives a bit, complete ongoing work and move on…just to be allowed to keep doing what we do.
Books and writers are equally as important to us.
Q: Which books and authors?
M John Harrison: his Kefahuchi Tract has influenced a whole bunch of our recordings – for example the track Time-Slip on the THR EP owes a lot of its tonal colour to Harrison’s Nova Swing, as does Counterspace on The Polarities.
There are thematic and narrative concerns in common as well.
Also Harrison’s Viriconium sequence, especially A Storm of Wings and some of the short pieces in Viriconium
William S Burroughs, JG Ballard, Phil K Dick, Lewis Carroll (we have a whole Wonderland/Looking Glass soundtrack kicking around somewhere); MervynPeake, Michael Moorcock (or at least Jerry Cornelius and the Dancers at the End of Time); John Brunner (especially The Squares of the City and The Traveller in Black); Tim Jarvis, Raven J Demers…
Given that much of our music is in the vaults or still in process, some of our influences may not be obvious (Jean Cocteau for instance).
Kafka would be on our list (the original title for one part of Sea Shanty Town Ship was The Stoker, after the opening chapter of Amerika).
There have been nods to William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland and The Night Land; Robert W Chambers, Lord Dunsany and HP Lovecraft have also all made their mark
Anna Kavan’s Ice (specifically), Sleep Has His House, Julia and the Bazooka, Asylum Piece… all of Anna Kavan’s work in fact. Like Strindberg (another favourite), Kavan was also a very fine painter.
Then there are all the Arctic and Sea Explorers’ journals and bios we read for research purposes; many, many, many (even one by a cat, which was fab).
And Mark Valentine.
Q: Why don’t you work with ONO now?
Merely a question of personal and musical evolution. ONO was a door that opened – we are simply exploring the rooms beyond. Standing still would get us nowhere.
Photos by Deborah Judd.
Album Art by John Coulthart.