Tuesday 16 March 2010

K&A with Beneath Us, The Waves

Its not often you come across someone that the phrase "talented b*****d" doesn't quite do justice to! Neil Milton, the man behind Beneath Us, The Waves is one that falls into this category. He's not content with composing some of the most captivating and atmospheric pieces of music I've heard in a while, and in the case of "Elegy For Tramway", one of the most beautiful too! He is also the man behind the Too Many Fireworks record label and one half of the great We Sink Ships. And I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting!

Neil was kind enough to answer a few (increasingly familiar) questions. Without much further ado, here's his answers:

Kowalskiy: How would you describe your music?
Neil: I'm asked this question a lot and I'm never sure what to say. I normally describe it as a mix of ambient soundscapes and contemporary classical music but some people describe it as minimalist post-rock, others as folktronica (I don't see that one, myself). My favourite description of it so far has been "glacial" but I think that's because ultimately that's what I'm going for.

Kowalskiy: Beneath Us, The Waves are getting some great reviews, you run the Too Many Fireworks record label and you've been working with a lot of amazing up-and-coming bands. How did it all start?
Neil: It all started with my parents... I think; neither is particularly musical but both love music. Growing up, I'd hear my mum's church music or her Scottish folk music and from my dad, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, The Grateful Dead - that whole "west coast" thing so melody and harmony became very important to me. I started playing guitar at 16, formed Troika (my old band) when I was 19 and that's where it all kicked off. The label, too many fireworks, began to release Troika's first e.p. but I enjoyed the experience so much I started releasing other records; amongst others, we had Flying Matchstick Men, Errors, Laeto, Findo Gask and Titus Gein. By 2006 I'd ran out of enthusiasm a little and too many fireworks - and music as a whole - was put on hiatus for a few years as I taught myself photography but We Sink Ships, a collaboration with a friend, pushed me towards music again. Since then, beneath us, the waves has been a gradual evolution from the music I wrote for We Sink Ships - people just seem to really like it.

Kowalskiy: Who or what have influenced you and your music?
Neil: It's no secret, I'm sure, that I'm influenced a great deal by some amazing Icelandic musicians and composers. My favourite band is Sigur Rós but I wouldn't say they influence me too much but I think Jónsi's collaboration with his boyfriend Alex is a definite influence in the way that I try to create the soundscape elements of the songs, using only acoustic or samples of acoustic instruments and found sounds to make the music. For the classical side of things, contemporary composers such as Ólafur Arnalds, Max Richter and Arvo Pärt are clear influences, though I also am affected by composers such as J.S. Bach and Chopin - a bit of a hero of mine, though I'll be damned if I can play a fraction of his music. Outside of music, I think I'm influenced a lot by my environment and surroundings.

Kowalskiy: What bands would you like to see do well this year?
Neil: There's an Icelandic band I'm friends with, For A Minor Reflection. Their new album is out later this year and I really hope it makes them a lot better known around the world because they really deserve to be. Scottish bands though? I think I'd like to see more from the Second Hand Marching Band and I'm very excited about The Last Battle. I've heard The Kays Lavelle album recently and I think people will be a bit stunned by it.

Kowalskiy: Incidentally, I seen FAMR at the Glasgow Academy supporting Sigur Rós and thought they were amazing! Next question, what would your desert island disc be?
Neil: ( ) by Sigur Rós. It's the most beautiful album I've heard and I listen to something from it at least once a day, I'm sure.

Kowalskiy: Last of all, what can we expect from you in the future?
Neil: I'll be coming back to Scotland for my first live shows later in March and I'm very excited. I've recruited some incredible strings players and we'll be playing once in Edinburgh and twice in Glasgow over the couple of weeks I'm back, as well as a podcast/radio session or two. After that, I'll be back in Warsaw until July working on my first e.p. and then album before coming back for some further shows in mid-summer. Later in Spring I'll be bringing the label out of retirement for too many fireworks' act II. We've got some really cool ideas and some exciting bands and records lined up but I don't want to say too much more than that. I've also began orchestrating for other bands - something I've wanted to do for a while - and I'm always up for discussing a collaboration or two.

As Neil mentioned, he'll be back in Scotland later this month to play a few shows. You won't be disappointed.

29th March - Roxy Art House, Edinburgh (DJ Set) with Benni Hemm Hemm
30th March - The Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh with Euan McMeekan and The Japanese War Effort
1st April - Liquid Ship, Glasgow for Elba Sessions Presents...
12th April - Stereo, Glasgow with Maple Leaves and The Last Battle

1 comment:

  1. hi kowalskiy. great post. never knew about him b4 but i'm hooked now