|THE ARCHIVE ORGAN INTERVIEW... CARDIACS - 1992 HOME|
early one morning (very very early one morning!) a Cardiac came around...
New guitarist John Poole was called to explain himself and to retract rumours spread by one Mr Tim Smith.
Tell us how you joined Cardiacs....
It all began in 1988 when we started pestering Cardiacs by giving them Ad Nauseum tapes, we gave them an Ad Nauseum tape with a cover of 'To Go Off And Things' at the start, and finished with a cover of 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'(!), just to get their attention(!!!) Ad Nauseum used to mess around doing Cardiacs covers in rehersal. When we did our first gig Tim Smith came to see us, and then at a later gig Dominic (Cardiacs drums) sat in and played with us. Apparantly Tim and Dominic would have liked to have got me into the Cardiacs line up back then but they didn't want to nick me from Ad Nauseum. And then I heard that Bic was leaving because Levitation was taking up too much time, so I rang up all nervous and left this message on an answerphone, Tim phoned back and in a roundabout way I ended up saying basically "You can tell me to f**k off if you like but are you auditioning people for Cardiacs?" Tim said he thought I'd be right for the band but he'd have to discuss it with the others.... so there were three days when I didn't know if I was in or out, it was really horrible waiting by the phone.... Then Tim phoned up, said "Yeah, I've discussed it with the others and it looks like it's not gonna happen", I went "Oh..." and he went "Hah, not really, you're in!" and that's how it happened. I thought at the time I'd be able to still work with Ad Nauseum, but the rest of Ad Nauseum were a bit worried that it wouldn't work, they wanted me to stop writing songs for them. I think what Bob (drummer and lead singer) writes in Ad Nauseum is great but I always thought that if either Bob or I left then it wouldn't be the same band anymore. Then one of the members, Giles, moved to Coventry, I moved to London so it became more difficult with us scattered all over the country, then there were a lot of differences in opinion, plus I was beginning to feel Ad Nauseum and Cardiacs were running along the same rail musically and if I was going to do something else outside of Cardiacs I'd rather it was completely different.
Did you ever think that you were getting too close to Cardiacs' sound in Ad Nauseum?
Well, there's very few people who are able to start with an individual sound, the only way you can get an original sound is by attempting loads of different styles of music - everything I listen to has an effect on me but I listen to so many different styles of good music it's unbelievable, things people would think I'm mad to listen to. I've picked something from all of them, but I'm still learning at the moment. It's gping to be some time before I can write a totally individial tune - I'm only 22, I'm only little, I've been writing songs since I was about 12 but I've got a long way to go. Recently I got together with this keyboard player who lived down the road and we made this really horrible pop music for the hell of it. It sounded like Stock, Atkins and Waterman and it really made us cringe, I was almost throwing up while doing it, still trying to put in the odd nice chord but basically it was just a laugh - I'm sure I must have learnt something from that, I don't know what.
We got onto the subject of what made the original Cardiacs' sound, the wholetone scale 'devils interval' type thing that would have got a musician burnt at the stake hundreds of years ago but more recent composers use to give an other worldly, spinetingling feeling. how Cardiacs are really the only band using the 'Devil's Interval' and that when another band does, such as Ring did they are accused of ripping off Cardiacs' sound.
.......It's like saying Van Halen and Dire Straits are exactly the same because they use the same scales! Cardiacs music seems to be more song orientated now. I think you're right, I think with all that mad time-changes sort of thing you can get to a certain level of doing it where you don't feel like writing any more stuff like that, not because it's difficult to do but it's almost boring if you do it all the time. It's really interesting to listen to but like anything, if you do it to excess.... and every now and then you think to yourself, god, it would be nice just to sit down and write a song. I think Cardiacs have always done that anyway, even in the maddest bits there's always a tune there to hang onto and they've always had straight songs up against the epics. That's right, it's like that really old fashioned idea of wanting to hear a good tune but I can understand that, I've been getting quite into that idea. The recent stuff I've written, I think are my best things because I've written them around vocal melodies and tunes and built them up around that which is the way I think a song should be written, now.
So you were doing it differently before?
Yeah, I was coming up with chords and not so much tunes as instrumental bits, now I've got the idea that a good song is when you can strip it down and it still sounds good on guitar and vocals. I was talking to Tim about it and he said it was best to try and concentrate on tunes which I'd never really been aware of, I just tended to write things and not tend to think about how I was doing it; I sopose when you talk to someone like him he tends to put it into words for you. Saying that, I'm sure that he doesn't sit down and plan everything that he does, I'm sure a lot of it just comes out. There's a hell of a lot of bands who do just build their stuff out of jams, or get all together and work it out on the spot it's all from the guts, which is really good but sometimes you need to put your brain to it, to make things more interesting or try and find new ways. Yeah, I think there's a certain kind of music you can write with other people - that's brilliant in some ways but there's also certain types that can only be written by one person and sometimes even arranged by that person, 'cause you get an idea on your head about how something should sound...... If it's something complicated especially you can't really introduce it to another bunch of musicians until its roughly recorded in its entirety and then if it sounds good in that form you shouldn't do too much more with it.
Do you think people become afraid of learning too much, becoming a muso and losing something?
Oh, yes, especially with this style of music, some people might say 'You're a muso, you're just doing it for the sake of it', but its not like that at all; I grew up listening to this kind of music and I genuinly like the sound of it. So although it's a case of actually having to sit down and think of it, to put your mind to it, the end product ends up sounding the way you like to listen to things anyway - there's nothing pretentious about that at all. I think we've had a lot of people being very pretentious about very straight things for ages There are people who really strip music down to basics, and they can be pretentious because they sit there and.........Well, there's one band in particular whose name I'm not going to mention, but they reviewed the 'They Might Be Giants' and said, 'Oh, it's crap, its all quirky with weird time changes, it sounds like Cardiacs! and they said they hated any kind of humour in music and that, basically, is what they were saying Cardiacs were doing. But they're all so serious they just knock out all these mindless three chord classics!
Who was it?
Er...... Manic Street Preachers! Well there they go, totally missing the point again I was very into the punk thing, the Sex Pistols and all that, there was nothing complicated about it, just a good feeling, that's what I liked. I think the Pistols were a lot better musicians than anybody said.. I know, it was really wierd the way everyone said they couldn't play cause they were quite good! That, I think is the difference in being a musician rather than just a muso, I mean a muso is only interested in putting things together or playing whilst a musician is trying to create things, express feelings, moving themselves or other people - there's this idea that you can only be 'real' or 'human' or 'emotional' in music if you do it off the top of your head, but it's a mark of being good at what you do if you can do that whichever way you constructed the thing. When you talk about classical music, some of that is the most moving music ever, but its taken AGES, someone's sat sat down and scored the whole thing!. No one calls that pretentious. Have you heard 'The Rites Of Spring' by Stravinsky? some of that stuff is pretty mega, apparantly at the time it was really off the wall, people were like getting up and walking out when they first started doing it. I think there's a heck of a lot of snobbery in classical music, but people like Beethoven and Mozart they were like the Status Quos of the day. What Stravinsky was doing was off this planet. That's what I like about it, it's something a little different I might be wrong but I suspect he pretty much invented really chopping and changing your time signatures - now you hear that everywhere, almost every bit of film music, TV themes, News At Ten..... whole chunks of Voivod! Film music can be brilliant, I'm really into John Barry (James Bond theme), so is Bob from Ad Nauseum....
So how are you fitting in with Cardiacs?
Oh brilliant, it's been really really good fun!... thing is I was a little concerned after Ad Nauseum, because we weren't getting on personally any more, we couldn't make decisions, get things done and do things together, I thought god, is it me? Once I joined Cardiacs I realised it wasn't..... Cardiacs is like a really tough little unit, the three of them have been together for years now, but I've come along and seem to have fitted in fine. And you feel really safe in it, you feel like nothing's going to come along and break it up.... Yeah, touch wood! It's been really good. I'm hoping to get together with Tim and write stuff, I've written him these five songs and I think he's gonna lift bits out that he likes - but this is all in the long future because there's the new album just coming out.
Do you ever worry that you might end up putting all your creative energy in Cardiacs?
I think what might happen now I've moved to London is that I might write the odd thing for Cardiacs if it's needed but I might get something going on the side, just for fun maybe......Actually me and Dominic are playing with Clive, Cardiacs' guitar roadie, he's written a load of stuff that's really very very good - It's a mixture of lots of things, - Killing Joke, Cardiacs, bits of Bill Nelson, we might well do some gigs at some point........
Have you fallen victim to anymore of Tim's wind-ups?
Well he's quite easy to wind up as it happens, I get him with the same one before every gig and for some reason he falls for it every time..... He goes up to everyone just before we go on and say's 'Oh, can I borrow a safety pin so I can stick my tie to my shirt so it doesn't get caught in my guitar' I go yeah, I bought some because I knew you would ask that' and he goes 'Oh have you really?! and his face lights up and he gets all happy and I go 'Nah, not really' and he gets so pissed off! I would have thought he'd be pretty on the ball seeing as he's so good at winding people up himself
Has he got you with any worse ones?
You can't get much worse than the first one well he can, a lot worse... but I can't talk about it.
Some of you may
wonder about Ad Nauseum, and what twist of fate prevented us from finding
them and telling the world about them until too late? Sean remembers this
sweet unassuming guy coming up to him at a Cardiacs gig with a flyer with
a big dodo and Ad Nauseum on it. "You'll love us, we're like Cardiacs a
lot!" Oh yeah? we thought, heard that one before... into the bag went the
flyer and let not the moral of the story be lost on you either... Ad Nauseum,
when we finally got a tape, were quite brilliant, a sort of Cardiacs with
big fat jazz chords under neath and fine folky vocals from drummer/singer