Based around the brother and sister team of Jim and Alison Shaw, Cranes are able to successfully make dark, often haunting music that is also very catchy. Their earliest work was the cassette-only FUSE (1986), but it was the 1989 mini-LP “SELF-NON-SELF” that really started getting the attention of Britain’s music press and radio. Signing with Dedicated/BMG, they went on to make many more great albums and, among other things, opened for The Cure on a 100 date tour of America and Europe. Now they have their own label, Dadaphonic, and a new cd, “Future Songs.”
What is it like running your own label now?
Alison: “It’s been quite an interesting process for us. We were on BMG for years and years and just wanted to do it differently this time, I think. It just made sense for us to do it independently.”
Do you think not being on a major label had an effect on how “Future Songs” turned out?
Alison: “I think it did. We recorded over a much longer span of time. In some ways, it reminded us of the first things we recorded, because we used to spend a year or two messing with things until it felt right. That’s kind of what we did on this album. We recorded all of it at home, in our home studio. So we just kind of worked on it when we wanted to. We were under certain other pressures, but we weren’t under any pressure to keep up with a schedule that was imposed from the outside. It was only our own schedule that we had to keep up with. So it was quite nice to have that freedom.”
Do you think that the business side of things takes away from the amount of time you can be spending on music?
Alison: “Since the album came out, it has taken a lot of our time. It would be cool if we could afford to employ someone, but we can’t, so we just have to do it ourselves. But on the other hand, it was good to be in direct contact with everybody. We get lots of inquiries and it’s just interesting to see what comes along and being able to follow up on things.”
How has having a website been working out for you?
Alison: “I think it’s really helped us. It’s been quite nice to have our own little home. There’s still a lot we’d like to do with the website, but it’s nice to have as a focus point where we can let people know what we’re up to.”
What are some of the other things you want to do with the site?
Alison: “On some of the fan sites there’s message boards and you can put stuff up there yourself, but on our site at the moment we don’t have a message board yet. People can email us, but there’s no section yet where people can put stuff in. So we’d like to do that. And basic content we’d like to update. Eventually we’d like to do stuff with other groups, and let people know about other good music that we come across.”
How do you feel about online music distribution?
Alison: “I don’t mind the idea, but I think there’s something more complete about having the actual physical item. But I think it’s brilliant that you can listen to a stream of something or download something that you’ve never heard before and see if you like it or not. I went out and bought a cd yesterday that I’d heard a stream of and liked. I like the instant nature of being able to check things out via the internet. It’s easy to swap files and make cds of things. Generally, I think it’s really positive for music, but it probably affects album sales for record labels in the short term, I’d imagine. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing generally for music.”
The US version of “Future Songs” has an additional track, “In the Reeds.” Was that recorded at the same time as the rest of the album?
Alison: “It was done afterwards, actually. It was recorded a few months after it came out. The album came out last June in England, and came out in September and October in some other countries in Europe. So we had a bit of time. There were also 2 remixes on the American version that were done after, as well.”
Was it written specifically to be added to the album, or was it just a new song you were working on?
Alison: “It was just one of the tracks we’d been working on. We’d been asked to find 2 or 3 extra tracks and it just seemed to fit in well on the end of the album. But we do have another version with vocals, because I hadn’t finished the vocals at the time the track was needed so we just used an instrumental version of it. But there is another with singing on it that we might use at some point.”
Has the line-up changed since your last album/tour?
Alison: “Yeah. The line-up changed quite a lot. In 1997 when we finished the last album and touring period, it was a strange time for us all in quite a lot of ways. We’d come to the end of a whole sequence of things . Mark got married and moved to Norway, and is working as a web designer now. Jim and I were not really sure if we wanted to continue and just sort of did other things for a year. John, our new drummer, joined in 1999. He’s really got a great personality and has really become an important part of the group. Also, we’ve got a new bass player Ben, who joined more recently. And there’s Paul, who was on the group in the previous tour in 1997, but back then he used to only play on a couple of songs and now he plays on more.”