Members: Adrian "Ade" Blackburn; Jonathan Hartley
Current release: The new Clinic album Fantasy Island is out via Domino.
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Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
All those elements play a part and how they interact.
I’d say lyrically that people are the main inspiration, they’re endlessly fascinating.
The song "Take a Chance" is a good example, it’s about self-deception.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
Chance can play a large part and we don’t need a visualisation to get started. It doesn’t feel right to plan too much, that takes the fun out of things.
It’s rare that we’d have a fully developed theme when we start an album. The title and theme for Fantasy Island came later on.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
Yes, we usually record early versions of the songs, ranging from sketchy to more developed demos.
The song "Refractions (In The Rain)" we built on the early version and kept refining that. Keeping the feel of the early versions is really important.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Nothing too ritualistic, just smoking and talking. We’d always talk a lot before starting any music. That just felt natural and helped to go over new ideas.
The instrumental "On the Other Side" really benefited from us talking through ideas rather than diving in.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
We tend to just use any rough lyrics or verbal sounds to get started, rather than the lack of words getting in the way.
We usually start with notes and riffs. I might have a loose idea for the character of the song and just see where it leads.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
The lyrics mainly come after the music, if the melody and music aren’t strong enough then it’s doubtful people will hear the lyrics anyway. Once the music is up to a standard then the lyrics and music do grow together.
That was the case with the song "Feelings". The lyrics evolved with the late night mood of the music.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I’d say that humour and a different turn of phrase are really important. I was always drawn to lyrics that had a twist or hidden elements.
My aim with the lyrics is to avoid the obvious and do something which might make people think differently.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
By refining and establishing the character and feel of the song over time. After a certain point, ha if you’re lucky, it becomes clearer what to bring out in the song.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I think both are valuable and can work together. At certain times you can let go and see where it leads and from that strictly edit down.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
We usually see where the alternative roads lead. You just have to be careful not to spend too long seeing if they work. Being decisive is quite crucial.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
Yes, there can something similar to a spiritual element. When the music feels right, there’s a sense of otherness.
I think "Hocus Pocus" has that slight David Essex vibe which to me is very special.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
When the alternatives have been exhausted and we still feel happy with a song is when it feels finished. A lot of that is instinctive.
Alternatively, the end could be deciding to scrap a song.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
It’s important to have some distance from the music, that really helps to gain objectivity. We will keep going and pursuing ideas over months if we feel the original song is strong enough, that’s something we did with "The Lamplighter".
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
We like to get involved in the mixing and we produce ourselves, the two are an important step in the whole process and can be just as creative. There’s still a lot you can add (or take away) at that stage.
We mixed the LP with Claudius Mittendorfer who did a great job, The mixing on "Miracles" really enhanced the version.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I can relate to that feeling but we work on songs all the time, rather than treating an album like a project. That’s easier in that you don’t have to start up again after each album.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Yes it is different as complex emotions and thoughts as well as contradictions can all be expressed in songs. That’s in addition to the music itself so there’s far more layers than just making something successfully.
Ha and perhaps with music the criticism is a bit harsher.