What's your perspective on the relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema, for example – and for you and your work, how does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
For Border Scout there is a clear link to cinema. The goal from the outset was to make a soundtrack to a movie that does not exist. We had a theme of a peaceful alien cyborg who is on a scouting mission to the frontiers of the cosmos landing on Earth and trying to make sense of it all. The album art depicts this border scout and was actually taken by Dan in Maui on top of a volcano as the sun rose at the same time as the moon set. It looks like another planet, really otherworldly. So many musicians have a visual in mind I think and the challenge for us is making an aural representation of that picture we see. For example, there are bits of cut up static sounds on some songs that represent the image in our heads of a dying cyborg.
Also, as we knew we were not doing a live show, we put a lot of effort into the videos of which there are four. The final one you are kindly premiering for us. As the videos and artwork took shape they then started to inform the music and vice versa.
What's your view on the role and function of music as well as the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today - and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
Out of all the art forms music is arguably the most ephemeral, due to its transient nature in time. You can look at a picture for many minutes, but music is different - the moment a note arrives, it is gone. It is good to be able to enjoy music in this very primal and instantaneous way, as well as take any deeper meanings from it.
We don’t try to attach obvious political or social meaning to our music. It is a more gentle approach of merely suggesting ideas and themes. The most rewarding thing for us is if our album can take someone outside of their normal life for 50 minutes. Whether it can have any lasting impact beyond that is out of our control and in the hands of the individual listener.
Listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
I do a lot of listening practice with some students I teach and I always say there is more than one way to listen. It could be in an emotionally active way - no distractions, headphones on or stuck in between a great pair off speakers and absorbing the music like you would watch a film in the cinema or view a picture in a gallery. You are totally trying to connect and respond with what the music is doing on a holistic level. We don’t do nearly enough of this. Pretty sure my mind has been altered to have less attention these days!
Or you might listen passively with music as background. It is a soundtrack to your daily life as you email, wash the dishes, drive, write answers to an interview (James Blake at the moment!). In a faster, flimsy, forever catching up digital world this is how we all consume music so much more now, as a background vibe, a mood enhancer or mood changer because we are too busy doing other stuff to make time to only listen to music.
There is also the critical listen. I use this in my classes a lot, encouraging people to pick out individual instruments and think about what each element is doing and why. We love listening to and making music with a lot of hidden textures that is only discovered if really listening hard. I think many music fans need to be more savvy and invest in better listening gear, as it can really enhance the whole emotional listening experience. You just gotta battle past all the heavy marketing of over expensive lifestyle headphones and any hi-fi with words like Ultra Sonic Bass Management in the title!
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
PR companies can make a huge difference to the success of a artist. Unfortunately in order to make any real impact, you often need to spend equally huge amounts of money on it, far out of the range of most bands starting up on DIY budgets. Even then, sometimes PR does not work, because the press will sometimes simply take a dislike to an act for many different reasons. Other times the right press coverage can totally break an act. It used to be music fans would actively be searching for new bands, now they are inundated by new music and instead of searching are filtering.
The people who manage the top music blogs are really the new taste-makers who direct the musical zeitgeist. They are very powerful in creating musical trends by favouring or not favouring certain genres and artists, but it is really no different from what print media did for decades.
Do you have a musical vision that you haven't been able to realise for technical or financial reasons – or an idea of what music itself could be beyond its current form?
We have not done any live shows. In making such a complex record we made a rod for our own backs translating it live. We’d like to in theory, but in practice we would not do the music justice as a laptop type show and lack the budget for session players. As it is so orchestral heavy we feel we would need some string presence there on stage. The other fact is that bands like us in the early stages lose loads of money touring. This whole ‘live has replaced the record’ as ways musicians make a living is totally skewed by the financial figures from megastars who are charging extortionate concert fees. Only once you get to that mid-level status are you going to see live be a financially viable thing.
We have started some initial ideas for the next collection of songs. They are far more intimate and doable live. We are trying to pare things back and make a more cohesive piece of work, probably doing more songs. Who knows, we might even get out the guitars!
The future of music itself for us is having hybrid cinema/gig shows in Planetariums where there is full on auditory and visual overload. Ideally the attendees would be in floatation tanks and get a proper out of body type experience. In the home it would be Virtual Reality and combining those special goggles with hyper-real headphones for an intense musical trip.