Sweet Solitude lable & Love Katy/ Small Hours project interview [2011-07-04]Sweet solitude is one of the most consistent, influentially and progressive HNW labels to appear in recent years, and the man behind the label is Uk based James Killick James also has two HNW projects of his own: Love Katy- a Katy Perry influenced HNW project and Small Hours-quiet ambient textured noise project. James kindly agreed to give M[M] an email interview.
m[m]What was your first introduction to noise & in particular HNW?
James First of all, thanks for the interview Roger, and a big thank you for being one of the few websites/magazines that spreads the good word about HNW!
My introduction to noise was fairly typical of many noise heads. In my youth, I was a big Metal fan (still am actually). I guess that listening to that sort of music was my form of ‘teenage rebellion’ (yes I know very cliché!). I was constantly searching for ‘heavier’ types of music, and in my quest for heavier sounds, a friend suggested that I try some music that has been labelled as ‘noise’.
At first I was reluctant to give it a go, as I was so ‘kvlt’ and could not accept that anything could be heavier or noisier than ‘metal’. How wrong I was later proven to be!!!
James I guess a few years passed, and I had grown up a bit (not much!), and I was open to trying new things, so I decided to give some ‘noise’ a spin. My first noise record (and I’m sure it was many noise fans as well), was a Merzbow one. I was instantly hooked (side note – Merzbow gets a lot of flack at the moment. I believe he is a legend, and who cares if some of his releases are not that good). From then on I began listening to every sort of noise I could lay my hands on.
A couple of years ago, in all the noise forums, there started to be some heated discussion about this new genre of noise called HNW. I thought I would check it out, and purchased Vomir’s – ‘Claustration’. If I’m being totally honest, first impressions were not great. It took a few listens to realise that it was supposed to be like that, and a passing interest became a major obsession.
m[m]Tell us a bit about how & why your label Sweet Solitude came about?
James As previously mentioned, over the past few years I developed an interest in HNW. I discovered that it had its own message board (now sadly departed). Apparently getting membership was nearly impossible. So, I decided to give it a go, and to my pleasant surprise I was given access to the board.
The board was very friendly and welcoming. If you asked stupid or naïve questions you weren’t instantly flamed by more ‘established’ members. Within this ‘scene’ I thought it was about time that I made a contribution. I decided to start a label.
My label ‘Sweet Solitude’ is named after a track by Vangelis from his soundtrack to the film ‘Blade Runner’. I think it describes quite perfectly how I feel about HNW. It is music that encourages solitude, but not necessarily in a negative way. In fact I think it is quite an enjoyable experience (hence the ‘Sweet’).
James Obviously a label needs material to release. I approached Dr. Alex (Dead Body Collection). I can quite honestly say that without his help and encouragement, I don’t think I would have ever started the label (or started recording myself, more on that later). He recorded ‘Maggot Kind’ for me, and the rest as they say is history…
m[m]What have been some of your favourite releases thus far on the label?
James ‘Maggotkind’ was my first release and hold a special place in my heart, but I think my favourite release on my label so far has been A View From Nihil – ‘The Eternal Present’. A truly amazing release from a very talented artist, who proves that digital noise still has it place in the scene.
m[m]Talking about Maggotkind (the six hour DVDR based ‘wall’ by Dead Body Collection). Were there any technique difficulties transfer and processing such a long track, and do you hope to release very longform ‘walls’ in the future?
James Yes ‘Maggotkind’ did present some unique difficulties (especially as it was my first release!). I believe Alex (DBC) recorded directly into his computer, which had enough memory to cope with a track of that size. It took a long time to convert to .Wav format, as we wanted to release it in the highest quality format possible.
With a file that size, it obviously took some time to upload it, and for me to download it (but I believe all the effort was worth it). The next problem came when I burned the files to DVD. I made a total mess of the first pressing, and had to redo the whole lot (very frustrating!).
I would like to do more long form walls in the future, and I have approached several acts – who knows what time will bring??). I think that a long form ANW would be excellent, and may work on one myself in the future. Watch this space as they say!
m[m]Which has been your quickest selling item?
James I’ve only just started to break even with the label (I certainly don’t do it for profit!), and I’ve been lucky so far as all of my releases so far have sold out. At the moment anything with the ‘Infinity Series’ label sells out in nanoseconds (thank you everyone!), and I suspect that forthcoming releases from some of the bigger names in the scene will sell out just as quickly.
m[m]All your release on Sweet Solitude look very pro & well thought out- do you have an artistic background & do you design all the covers yourself?
James I do put a lot of time and effort into producing quality releases. I do design some of the artwork (mainly for my releases), but mostly the artwork is designed by the acts themselves. I have also had some printing pro-done (on the Fatale, DBC and forthcoming Carrion Black Pit release). I would like to do all my releases like this, but unfortunately it is very expensive.
I have no artistic background no! My day job is as a teacher. Very different to the world of noise, but great all the same!
m[m]Tell us a bit about how the Infinity series came about, how long you hope to run the series for & are there any plans to reissues the out of print volumes?
James You may recall that last year there was a release on HFFL called ‘Wall Whores’. I was struck by how different it sounded too many other releases. It was still wall like, but at the same different. Rather than assault you with noise, it was more quiet and measured. I felt that it could be a new direction in HNW, and possibly a new sub-genre.
Once my label was up and running, I thought it would be a good idea to give established artists an opportunity to explore these new sounds. I felt that by freeing people from some of the constraints of HNW there were infinite possibilities to try new things, hence the name the ‘Infinity Series’.
At first I thought that people may not be keen on the idea, but the response has been overwhelming. Feedback has been universally positive, and the new term ANW (Ambient Noise Wall) has been coined to describe some of the sounds being created.
James I am very proud of the ‘Infinity Series’, and at the moment I don’t see an end in sight for it. I have loads of material to release and will try and get it out there as soon as possible.
As for the possibility of reissuing some material, I am thinking about it. I quite like the idea of a retrospective data DVDr. It may happen in the future, but at the moment I am looking forward not back!
m[m]You have two HNW projects yourself: Love Katy – your Katy Perry influenced HNW project and Small Hours-quiet ambient textured noise project. Which came first & how did each come about? & are these your first ever sonic projects?
James I have always nurtured the ambition to make noise of my own. My problem was a complete lack of knowledge about how to go about doing this (regarding equipment, recording etc.). I think that in some parts of the ‘noise’ scene there is a very snobbish attitude towards ‘newbies’ and if you do ask for help getting started, you are likely to get insulted and mocked rather than helped.
This change when I started chatting online with Alex (DBC). He gave me a lot of help, and graciously answered all my stupid questions. He gave me the confidence to get started with making noise of my own. Once again, a big thanks for this!!
James So, I started to record some noise of my own. I needed to come up with a concept that was different and would provoke a reaction. HNW is largely focused on giallo, horror and void worship. I wanted to do something a bit different, and inject some much needed fun into HNW (it does not have to be all doom and gloom!).
I noticed that Karl from HFFL had a project called ‘Skonhet’ which was dedicated to Audrey Hepburn. This inspired me to name my project after the beautiful and talented Ms Katy Perry. I thought it would be fun and different to name my project after her. How wrong I was proven to be…
I also began recording tracks that did not fit the ‘Love Katy’ concept. I created ‘Small Hours’ (named after a John Martyn track) as the project to release my other material. My focus is largely on ‘Small Hours’ now, but I will continue to record and release under both names.
m[m]Your Love Katy project has been quite controversial with-in the HNW
scene due to it been a tribute to US teen pop-ster Katy Perry. Why did you
decide to use Ms Perry as a influence/ focus & when did you first
become entranced by Ms Perry?
James I think I answered part of this question in the previous answer. ‘Love Katy’ arose to try and bring some fun back into the genre and to express my (perhaps unhealthy) obsession for Ms Perry.
As you mentioned some folk do not like LK. They think that I am somehow demeaning the genre by associating it with a ‘pop’ act like Katy Perry, or they simply don’t get the concept.
I think this sort of reaction is musical snobbery at its worst. Personally I really like Katy Perry. I think she makes great pop music (‘pop’ is not a dirty word), and is a very good singer. I also think that she is very beautiful and I wanted to create a tribute to her because of this.
I guess that ‘Love Katy’ is also a minor dig at complacency in the genre. HNW does not have to recycle old ideas and themes. It can be fun at the same time. I know this stance annoys a lot of people (and I suspect this is part of the reason the old HNW board suddenly disappeared), but I plan to continue with this project long into the future.
m[m]What kit do you use to create your ‘walls’ for your projects & does it vary between the two projects?
James Experimenting with gear and trying new setups is the best part of creating HNW. I guess it is easier to describe the constants in my setup. I use a Sirkut WNG 2 and an old hand radio for static sources. I have a DOD Death Metal and Grunge. I have been experimenting with Boss and Behringer pedals. I also use a Behringer Mixer when I have more than one line in my walls. I record into a little Tascam 4 track. I have also been experimenting with some new sources. In a recent recording I used a PS3 cooling fan as a sound source.
m[m]How often do you make ‘walls’ & is it split evenly between your two projects?
James I don’t get much time to record walls. I usually have a session once every few weeks. Normally I get inspired by a concept or an idea, and I try and record tracks to fit that idea. I mainly record ‘Small Hors’ material now, but I do intend to record some more ‘Love Katy’.
m[m]Your small hours project seems to have less defined influence or theme running through it- can you tell us what you think the themes
are behind this project?
James As I said before, ‘Small Hours’ is named after a track by the great and sadly missed John Martyn. He inspired me because he was a fearless explorer of sound who was always willing to try and record something different.
‘Small Hours’ does not have a specific theme or context. If I come up with an idea that does not fit the ‘Love Katy’ concept I will release it as ‘Small Hours’. I am not limiting myself to one genre either. I plan to do ambient releases and harsh releases and everything in between under this moniker.
At the moment ‘Small Hours’ is associated with ‘ambient’ music (or it has been described as progressive HNW). My first release ‘Pulse’ came about quite by accident. I recorded a wall and set the recording levels too low. The results were barely audible, but I really liked it, and chose to give it away as a free release on my label. Feedback on this release has been really positive, and I have chosen to explore this concept further.
m[m]Have you any plans to play live with either of your projects &
what would you see your live set-up/ stage show been like?
James I have not played live yet, but I would really like the opportunity to play live at some point. I would like to play live as either project but I think ‘Love Katy’ would be the most fun. As I saw at HNW fest in Paris you can introduce a lot of performance elements to live wall shows, and I think that a performance by me would involve lots of bright colours and ridiculous costumes (Vivian from Ecoute La Merde suggested that I perform in drag!). If anyone is putting on a show, I would love the chance to come and play!
m[m] I know you’re a big horror fan- do you think you’ll do a horror themed HNW project yourself?
James I’m a big horror fan yes. I particularly enjoy Zombie films. My favourites being the original Romero ‘Dead’ trilogy, and Fulci’s trilogy of Zombie classics. I also really enjoy the films of Dario Argento as well, but I’m not too keen on modern horror films as they seem to be more concerned with cheap shocks rather than good stories or a sense of style.
I had planned to do a Zombie themed HNW release (and may still do one day), but in a scene flooded with similar releases, I’m not sure if another horror themed release would be just re-treading old ground??
That being said I am planning a compilation release on ‘Jack The Ripper’. This one focuses on real life horrors, which are infinitely more terrifying than anything that can be found in a film.
m[m]What’s next release wise from Sweet Solitude?
I have got a lot of material to release, but unfortunately I have had to slow down the release schedule a bit, meaning that I have had to turn down submissions from a lot of promising artists. James In the near future I will be releasing material from Nightmare Castle (great new HNW project), Dead Body Collection, Carrion Black Pit and Static Mantra
On the Infinity series, I have tracks from Gomeisa, Lungwash, Sleep, Ghost, Reeducation, Vomir, Untitled and Insurgent.
m[m]Do you plan to put out any multi set releases on the label?
James In the works is a multi DVD boxset from ‘Static Mantra’. It contains 5 walls each between 2-3 hours in length. I’m very excited about this release and hope to get it out soon.
m[m]What next release wise from Love Katy & Small hours?, and do you
hope to release your work on other labels too?
James Small Hours has got some releases coming out on other labels. A split with Dead Body Collection on Victimology records, and a release on Breaching Static. There is also some other releases in the discussion stages…
There maybe a Love Katy split on the way (nothing confirmed) yet and I’m thinking of doing a box set for unreleased material.
Thanks to James for his time & efforts with the interview, and for supplying the pictures. Sweet Solitudes blog can be found here