If This Is A Man Interview
Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview! When and where was If This Is A Man born?
In a bedroom in the middle of England.
Why do you write?
I think it’s the best way that I know how to express myself, with music you can take your feelings, your emotions, everything and anything you feel and experience and you can try to sort of distill that into a sound. It’s just a way of communicating, of saying this is our world and this is how I’m interpreting it and sharing that feeling and hoping other people feel it too.
Why the name If This Is A Man?
Most of the music that I’d recorded before this album I put out under my own name and it was quite sparse, mainly just live takes of acoustic guitars and vocals and I wanted to try and expand a little and incorporate more instruments and layers of sounds. I guess that’s why I wanted to adopt a new name for this project really. If This Is A Man was the book I was reading when I first put my music up on Myspace and Jon White was taken so I went with that. When I was trying to come up with a name it just kept coming back to me, I think it’s quite a powerful phrase that’s a little open-ended, open to interpretation and I like that.
What are some of your influences?
Musically I’ve been inspired by a whole range of different artists, I think OK Computer by Radiohead was a massive influence on me growing up, with that mixture of the dark and ethereal with the majestic and beautiful. I’m really into a lot of 60’s music, especially The Beatles and John Lennon in particular, his songs are so well crafted and arranged I think they set down the foundations that most of my favourite artists have built upon. Recently I got into shoegaze, bands like Ride, My Bloody Valentine and the first Brian Jonestown Massacre album, I think the style of the production struck a chord with me, the sort of swirling wall of textures and almost hidden melodies you have to listen to a few times before they jump out at you. I have a softspot for music that’s layered and produced in a way that makes it sound better on headphones. I like to put in elements of electronica aswell I think a big influence was listening to the UNKLE album Psyience Fiction and the mixture of indie and electronica, that got me into DJ Shadow. Oh and Daniel Johnston is wicked.
Were you in other bands before forming If This Is A Man?
Yeah I was in a band in high school we started out covering Oasis songs and pretty much followed along that vein with the songs we were writing. We had a good time, and played a few gigs locally with some cool bands but we were never really that good. Whilst I was at college I started writing with my friend Joe and we made some pretty nice lo-fi piano and acoustic guitar songs and I think we both learned musically from eachother, we were both really into Counting Crows and that came through in our writing. It was all kind of tender and melancholy and it’s still an element of how I write now.
You have an album out called There Is Hope In Small Things. Can you present us your new album?
I recorded and produced it myself at home playing in the guitar, piano and bass parts and then added the other elements using Reason and Wavelab. Music software opened up a new world for me, it enabled me to add all sorts of synths and drums, to make backwards guitar parts which are quite a big feature on the album, and the ability to mix the sounds together and layer them has been really important.
Would you also mind telling us about the songs themselves. If you can share a few words about the songs on the album? I really dig Into The Wind and Lazarus!
Into The Wind, along with Comes and Goes, was one of those nice moments where the songs pretty much write themselves, I was just playing around on guitar and stumbled upon the chord patterns and it just felt really natural. The vocal melody came really quickly sometimes the lyrics take a bit longer to work out. I think Lazarus is quite a good introduction to the album, the sample is from Sylvia Plath reading her poem Lady Lazarus that was cut up and edited a little to fit around the music. It’s pretty dark subject matter but how honest she is and how she evokes and articulates her world to you is breathtaking. I’m happy with how the album turned out I think that the more chaotic moments like Seek The Truth and the end of Whispers came out as I imagined them when they first popped into my head. I like the idea of structuring an album so it kind of ebbs and flows, I wanted to have some shorter instrumental tracks to blend between heavy and soft to try to bring the record together cos there are some quite different styles. All in all I’m pleased with it and I just hope that someone out there might really get it.
How about your future plans for If This Is A Man?
I’m working on the next album at the moment, it’s still relatively early days but it’s starting to shape up pretty nicely. I just want to keep developing ideas really.
What is your opinion about the psychedelic scene these days?
For whatever reasons I seem to find increasingly most of the music I really get into was made in the 60’s or 90’s, but if you’re looking for it there’s still some amazing psychedelic music coming out at the moment. I’ve just started listening to Film School and The Early Years who I stumbled across on Youtube who are both kind of moody, shoegazey, psychedelica with some Krautrock influences. I think The Brian Jonestown Massacre really embody the 60’s psychedelic sound and manage to still sound totally modern, and their most recent work has got even more far-out and they’re encorporating totally different genres, but it still has the mind-expanding essence of pyschedelica, highly recommended.
Thank you very much for your time and effort. Do you have anything else to say about yourself, that I didn’t ask?
Just to say thanks for the support, it’s appreciated.