PUNK GLOBE : Stephen, first, thank you so much for taking your time and accepting this interview. How are you and how is 2011 going for you so far?
BABYBIRD : A pleasure. I’m moving city from London to Manchester, so I’m getting ready for that. Lived in a flat for years so this will be like growing up, living in a proper house. With a basement studio. Been writing a lot of piano music, on a proper piano. Great meditation and escape from fucked up London Life. Music-wise I’m waiting for things to happen…. If that’s not too cryptic.
PUNK GLOBE : Last year, the successful Babybird LP “Ex-Maniac” produced by Bruce Witkin and Ryan Dorn was released on Unison Music. The album included unforgettable songs like Black Flowers, Like Them and Failed Suicide Club. How was the general feedback you got for the album and how was the tour?
BABYBIRD : The press was good and the video for “Unloveable” is still gaining viewers on Youtube. We just need to get those people to buy the album. The tours were small and low-key, but the 4 London gigs we did for “Ex-Maniac” were all pretty good. People still come out to see Babybird.
PUNK GLOBE : Let’s go back to the early days. Which names or what type of music were your family members listening to when you were a kid? Which T.V shows or cartoons were your favourites? And in means of influence, how much of those showed their reflections on your songwriting?
BABYBIRD : I travelled to New Zealand on a ship when I was 4 and there my parents played anything from Rolf Harris (“Sun Arise”) to Maori folk songs and stories about bush fires, on an old reel to reel ferrograth tape recorder. Cartoons I remember being Topcat, and shows like Raymond Kerr this Southern Hemisphere Chef. We watched stuff like The Italian Job on the ship. The only influence was having a piano around all the time and recording stuff on the old tape recorder.
PUNK GLOBE : Which bands are you listening to nowadays ? Are there any unknown bands that you like and recommend us to check out?
BABYBIRD : Mogwai’s new album, Olafur Arnalds, Epic 45, Clem Snide, M83, Phosphorescent, The Joy Formidible, Modeselektor, EPMD “Run It” (Duke Dumont Remix), Magic Magic, Mystic Chords Of Memory.
PUNK GLOBE : Your next album “The Pleasures of Self Destruction” with Unison Music is scheduled for late 2011. For the album “Ex-Maniac” you had mentioned that it was about trying to abandon demons, whilst not losing edge. What would you like to say about the new album? (In one of your recent interviews you said that you tried to make the new album a bit more political and it would have a more filmic feeling with explosive distorted brass and strings.) We would be happy if you can share more.
BABYBIRD : Ex-Maniac had a few reworked songs on it, so for me it wasn’t as coherent as it could be, some were up to 10 years old, but “Pleasures” is all new and written over a shorter period of time. It’s the happiest I’ve been about an album. I think my work has always been political, but political in the sense of things that relate directly to people, not party political rubbish. Music is a great way to stick two fingers up to the constraints of society, to confront the false freedoms we are lead to believe we have. “The Demons” are the things I like to use to mix up my own personal experience with all the things I see first-hand or in the media. Add it to an insanely addictive tune, and then, there you are, you have the essence of Babybird.
PUNK GLOBE : Stephen, during the songwriting process do you ever go back and pick some of your previous albums (or your favourite artists’ albums), listen them once again to help you re-imagine some of the moods-spirit you like about those songs or maybe to help you get inspired to also write different songs?
BABYBIRD : I never find inspiration in commercial music similar to mine…. I love hip-hop but that doesn’t find it’s way on to Babybird records. Film scores and films etc do have a huge influence. Mostly when I write, I empty my head and it comes from not thinking too hard about how songs are constructed etc. It should just blurt out. Strangely on this album, I saw Adele, who I don’t like, performing with just a piano at the Brit Awards and it was brilliant. Strangely moving which was weird at a corporate event. But that’s how things should hit you, as total surprises. I always aim at simplicity but working on Babybird studio albums (as opposed to “Death Of The Neighbourhood” etc. – another Stephen Jones project), it does seem to blow up, with, as you say, explosive brass and strings. There’s no art to it. Oh the temptation of things to hit, bash and blow.
PUNK GLOBE : When you were sixteen you used to write short stories, combine them with photo montage from magazines and illustrate them. Failed Suicide Club is one of the most touching songs in your entire discography. I wonder which images you would choose to illustrate it or what kind of video you would imagine for it. As no video was made and a new album is on the way, would you be thinking to turn some ideas into a movie in the future as Failed Suicide Club being a starting point, a part or an ending point of it?
Yes definitely. It’s just finding the time to do it. It would probably turn out very weird as that’s my squirmy performance art background coming out. I made a short film called “Ex-Maniac” which leaked out on Youtube etc. You should see that. Johnny Depp said at the time it was the best film he’d seen. It’s mental and he likes dark and mad. In my mind, Failed Suicide Club is flooded with imagery and maybe I should illustrate with film. Thanks for the idea!!
(check out this movie and more from - http://www.youtube.com/user/badpagesdk
- youtube user of the fan page and also Babybird’s official site http://www.babybirdmusic.me/