For over 30 years, Martin Bowes has been creating some of the finest dark electronic music with his project Attrition. He’s back with a new album, “The Unraveller of Angels,” and recently embarked on a tour to support it. In an email interview, Bowes discussed the new album, running his own commercial studio, feelings on the current state of the music industry, and more.
Was it always the intention to self-release “The Unraveller of Angels” over Bandcamp, or were you exploring label release but unable to find a suitable arrangement?
We have released our music with many labels over the years of course… from smaller independents at first to bigger labels recently like Metropolis in the USA…. i always enjoyed the support and enthusiasm of the better smaller labels… and i’ve always been totally involved myself in promoting my work.. i looked at different ideas for the Unraveller… and times have changed… limited releases in different formats are the key these days… so i have worked with a small German label on this release – Psych-KG – who have produced 2 different CD versions and soon a vinyl version of the Unraveller of Angels… Our deal has seen us being “paid” with a percentage of the pressing and so I’ve been promoting and selling it myself directly through our bandcamp page and through our contacts at DIG music on all the major download platforms…it has been doing really well so far so i believe i made the right choice…:)
While your music has been quite varied over the years, there definitely seems to be common threads, such as types of instrument sounds and vocal arrangements. Do you feel that there is an ‘Attrition sound’ that you are conscious of when you compose/record, or does it purely come naturally?
I know there is an “Attrition” sound…i think most established acts find their own voice and even when the instruments change or the producers or the guest musicians…that voice shines through… it has to come naturally…. i don’t see it as an attrition “brand” that i am selling… and even though there is a common strand running through all the releases i could never predict how it may change in the future…its a reflection of my life experience…
How do you tend to balance your time between Attrition and your work on other projects with your The Cage studio?
Well i’ve had the studio for 20 years but only took it up commercially 2 years ago after i finished teaching music technology at the college here… so the mastering and production work filled those hours at first… although its now getting busier and busier as more bands and labels are coming to me… and the studio is really my “day job”.. so sometimes it’s difficult to fit everything in… especially with the new ATTRITION album launch and promo video filming and touring…. it’s been crazy lately…. but having started the tour and with the album out things are getting a little easier to manage right now… at least for a while… but i love it…i wouldn’t have it any other way… 🙂
Do you feel that the other production and mastering work you do has any impact on what you do as Attrition? For example, have you been particularly inspired by any other project you’ve worked on? Have any led you to pick up production techniques that ended up being useful with Attrition?
yes of course… going back to the first remixes i ever did for other bands 20 years ago i always learnt from other peoples work, especially in the early days… the sounds and arrangements …although the production techniques have been mostly mine as i am producing their music but even then i learn all the time…it’s essential to keep growing… and there’s also the industry contacts that have increased so much since i started working with so many bands and labels… and it goes both ways… we all help each other out… that cooperation is important to me…
You started off with a fanzine, and I actually discovered Attrition through the zine Music From The Empty Quarter. How do you feel about websites and blogs taking over much of what zines accomplished in the past?
I ran 18 printed issues of my fanzine Alternative Sounds here in Coventry from 1979 – 81… and then ATTRITION took over… i loved that punk and post punk scene… again the cooperation was a wonderful thing…which slipped away a little… and now the fanzines are coming back as webzines and blogs…and it’s excellent… ok maybe we are bombarded with a million tweets and posts all the time…. but i think we adjust to the change… we can do things now that we could only dream about in the 80’s…
Could you discuss the various collaborators on the new album, and how you came to work with them?
As ATTRITION for many years has been basically my own project, i’ve also found it inspiring to work with other creative people as guests on my work… and not only musicians but also artists and filmmakers…. on this album i have worked with people from the UK and Germany and Canada and the USA… again with the ease of the internet bringing us together it’s so easy to collaborate this way… Mona Mur, Matt Howden, Anni Hogan, Erica Mulkey/Unwoman, Ian Arkley, Jyri Glynn, Joanna Dalin are just some of the guests… bringing some beautiful extra vocals and strings and piano to the mix… i’m really pleased with their contributions… and there were more that didn’t make the final mixes… but they may well see the light of day further down the line…
What are you feelings about music consumers who may now just be streaming on services like Spotify rather than buying physical or download releases? Is the current bonus remix album an effort to encourage to purchase rather than just stream?
Its interesting that not so long ago it was the cassette that troubled people..then the CDR… then illegal downloads… and as things adjusted to take on board the new, something else comes along… and now it is the streaming services… people no longer even need to own music…physical or virtual… as long as they find it on the streaming platforms…and that has a long way to go… and yes there are problems when music is virtually free all the time.. but there benefits too and it was never something i did for money anyway… one of the ways that people are supporting musicians these days is giving them that something extra…and i have been giving gifts and making extra tracks available for a little while now… it works… for now… until we are all a part of the matrix… 🙂
What are your touring plans? When you tour in support of an album, besides performing the new material, do you just try to do a cross section of what fans want, or are you thinking about what older material would work particularly well in a set with the new?
We have just started a series of live shows across the world in support of The Unraveller of Angels… we played Athens in Greece and it was an amazing start… we loved it there… next was the Roundhouse in London … i don’t base the live show on what the fans want, rather what we all want to play… and its usually a mix of a good amount of recent material with a few old songs in there too… and we also prefer a more uptempo set rather than the instrumental dark ambient tunes… usually…there are exceptions – we will be playing Invocation – the film score for the US horror movie we made last year at the upcoming Tower Transmissions festival in Dresden in September…a one off……and i’m looking forward to that..
What type of instrumentation do you currently use for the live shows? Has your approach to the sequenced parts (in live performance) changed at all over the years due to changes/improvements with the available technology?
Well it varies as i bring in guests on stage much like i do on the recordings… but there are usually pre-programmed backing of rhythms and sequences… my vocals and a female voice… currently Tylean or Kerri are singing live… and then one or two synth players, of which one is me…and very occasionally some strings or guitar… i don’t think my approach has changed all that much, it’s just that the technology has improved and made things easier and higher quality on stage…and that is as much to do with the PA equipment at clubs as it is with our instrumentation……
You’re working with French filmmaker Daniel Gouyette on a documentary and music videos to accompany the album. What is the status of that? Are you looking to do a physical dvd release, or distribute them online?
Daniel was over here in March and we spent 10 days filming, mostly for the promo videos for the new album… and he has enough footage for at least 3 videos it seems…he’s editing now!… the documentary will take a few visits and at least a year to make…Daniel is interviewing me of course…but also local people here in my hometown of Coventry for background information..and the plan is to involve other bands and labels i have worked with over the years to make a wider picture that i know will be an interesting documentary… i don’t think there has been anywhere near enough documentation of this “scene”…whatever that is… and i am excited about it… i think a short DVD run and online too…much the same way as music is, will be the plan…. we shall see…
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