Cartesian Jetstream interview with Simon Kilgannon

November 8, 2013

Cartesian Jetstream interview with Simon Kilgannon

I’ve been listening to music long enough at this point that
I can remember when, as an American, I felt extremely alienated from any
imported release.  Anything that wasn’t
made here on American soil, felt somehow illusive and out of reach.  The internet has changed all that though, the
walls and boundaries tumbling down exposing a whole new world of music to me,
and the rest of the world.  Cartesian
Jetstream are a prime example of what you can find; a perfect combination of
modern garage rock and snarling UK punk swagger.  From the opening song “My Captain” it becomes
obvious that Cartesian Jetstream doesn’t pigeonhole themselves or worry about
constraining themselves with genres or imitation.  Soaring builds and guttural drop outs lead
the listener on a pleasantly explorative, at times loud and brash, and others
quiet and contemplative, journey through the mindscape of Cartesian
Jetstream.  It’s not just genre either
though, it’s honestly difficult to tell where they’re from when you listen to
their music, and I love it.  It’s
refreshing to hear a band doing what they want to do and no one else, seemingly
unaffected by what’s going on around them. 
Take some time with me as I explore the strange and twisted world of
Cartesian Jetstream with our guide the ever talented lead singer and guitarist
Simon Kilgannon. Click on the link below for some music and read the interview
for everything else wink, wink, nudge nudge…

What’s Cartesian
Jetstream’s current lineup?  Is this your
original lineup or have there been some changes over time with the band?
We are Ben
Scott – drums, Philip Bell-Scott – bass and Simon Kilgannon – guitar and
vocals.  That has been our lineup as long
as we have been a proper band.
Are any of you in
any other bands or have you released any material with anyone else?  If so can you tell us a little bit about it?
Ben played in
a couple of bands as a teenager and Phil used to be in a death/thrash metal
band back in the day.  I spent years
messing round with 4-tracks, guitars, samplers and sequencers and it was all
pretty terrible but I guess that’s how you learn.
Where are you
originally from?
I am
originally from just outside Liverpool, Ben is from Birmingham and Phil is Isle
of Man born and bred.
Was your home
musical growing up?  Were your parents or
any of your relatives musicians or extremely involved/interested in music?
I don’t think
any of us are from particularly musical backgrounds but my parents were pretty
young and like beatniks so I was exposed to lots of great music from an early
age, although they also played the Eagles sometimes.  So nothing is perfect.
What was your
first real exposure to music?
My folks used
to have a red Volkswagen Beetle and I remember lying on the back seat for hours
while they played loads of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, always Leonard.  Thing was I loved it because  so many of those songs are like stories or
picture books, full of imagery and ideas and characters.
When did you
decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?  Why was that?
I have been
kind of obsessed with music since I can remember.  Who knows why?  I think one of the main things that pushes
you to make your own music is when there isn’t enough music around that is
exactly what you want to hear.  Like, I
want to hear a whole album like “Rain” by the Beatles, not just one measly

When and how did
you all originally meet?
I was one of
the two people who interviewed Ben for a job, exciting office IT stuff!  The fact that he mentioned he played the
drums has nothing to do with him getting the job.  Ben and I played casually with a few people
for years and then Phil just seemed to turn up as a gift from the lord and
immediately learned all our songs and we were off.
What led to the
formation of Cartesian Jetstream and when was that?
Back in 2010 I
turned my garage into a magical rehearsal space and as a result we ran out of
excuses not to play, practice and try to get good.
What does the name
Cartesian Jetstream mean or refer to? 
How did you go about choosing the name?
I grew up
loving all those 60’s Nuggets bands like the 13th Floor Elevators as well as
the bands from the 80’s who followed that up, like Echo & the Bunnymen and
The Teardrop Explodes.  The actual name
is from a Lester Bangs article where he reviewed all these Count Five albums
that never actually existed, he just dreamt them up.  I think Cartesian Jetstream was supposed to
be their third album.  It’s a great piece
and I love the idea of imaginary albums. 
I’d quite like us to be a semi-imaginary band, maybe we’ll achieve that
one day.
Where’s the band
currently located?
We’re located
in the Isle of Man, the deep south of the Isle of Man to be more precise.  It’s really not that deep though.
How would you
describe the local music scene there?
There are
people doing cool things but the scene is quite small and fragmented.  There are less than eighty thousand people on
the whole island and they are spread across six or seven towns, villages and
Are you very
involved with the local scene where you are at now?
There are lots
of nice people and bands who help us put on gigs, play gigs with us and come
out to see us but I’m not sure if I could say I’m involved in a scene, I’m too
much of an awkward outsider who wants to be off doing his own thing in a corner
somewhere.  Ben & Phil are nodding
vigorously at this point.
Has the local
scene played a large role in the history, sound or evolution of Cartesian
I think
strangely the lack of a thriving scene has helped us develop our own odd little
thing at our own pace.  If we had been
back in Liverpool I don’t think we’d have got off the starting blocks, there
are way too many cool people.  Think I
would have thrown myself in the River Mersey.
I love talking to
musicians, I love talking about music and I especially like listening to
music.  What I don’t like to do is label
or classify people’s music.  I’m not that
great at it to begin with and I just don’t think that these tidy labels and
classifications are applicable all the time. 
How would you describe your sound to our readers that might not have
heard you before?
I came up with
the label post-psychedelic; it was only partly a wise-ass comment on everything
being post-punk, post-rock, etcetera. 
Although I love proper full-on psychedelic music we’re trying to do
something a bit different.  The idea is
to be just noisy and weird enough that people who like freaky sounds can
tolerate us as a break from their deranged psych and we’re just poppy and
tuneful enough that people who like more normal stuff aren’t totally terrified
and run away screaming.  There are loads
of awesome noisy, freaky heavy bands out there but it can also be too easy to
create a wall of effects-laden fuzz and convince yourself it’s godly.  I wanted to try and write weird pop
music.  I think that’s why I love stuff
where the weirdness is only apparent when you look more closely the most, like
the Beatles, early Pink Floyd, Bowie, even later stuff like the Cure and Echo
& the Bunnymen.  We also try to make
it so you can dance to nearly all our stuff, you see too many bands at gigs
plodding along like they’ve forgotten that stuff is meant to be groovy too.
What about some of
your musical influences?  I can hear a
lot of different stuff rattling around in your music and a lot of it seems like
it falls outside of the realm of what most people would expect.  Can you tell us who some of your major
musical influences are?  What about the
band as a whole rather than individually?
Nobody knows
what Phil’s influences are, other than his intergalactic masters.  He’s the ultimate enigmatic bass player.  Ben and I share similar tastes, although he
claims to hate the Beatles and if we ever make any money we will be sending him
to a special Swiss clinic to have that fixed. 
I think we dig all the stuff that your average music nerd digs,
Krautrock, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Grateful Dead, Dylan, Jefferson Airplane,
Funkadelic, Miles Davis, Television, Love, Gong, Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell,
The Byrds, REM, The Stooges, Prince, VU, Galaxie 500, Mutantes, Talk Talk, Echo
& the Bunnymen and the 13th Floor Elevators; all the usual suspects.  The thing interesting thing about influences
is that if I had managed to make a record five or ten years ago it would have
been much more obviously influenced by whichever of the above I was currently
digging the most, but I think now it’s all been mashed down like bugs and
jungle to make a less recognizable sludge of influences.  One of my favourite records ever is Up On the
Sun by the Meat Puppets, and one of the many great things about that album is
that you can’t really tell from listening to it exactly what they have been
listening to.  Even now, years later, I
will hear a little phrase or sound in Yes or Rush or Talking Heads and suddenly
realise that they heard that at some point and it went into the big mixing bowl
and popped up in mutated form on their record.
Can you tell us
about Cartesian Jetstream’s songwriting process?  Does someone approach the rest of the band
with a riff or more finished product to work out and compose with the rest of
you or is there a lot of jamming and exchange of ideas during practice?
I am a
terrible control freak, so I generally record solo demos with words and
music.  Then when we rehearse we can all
fiddle with bits that don’t work and Ben and Phil bring their own feel and
personalities to the music.  The quote
that l live by is one from Johnny Cash about your limitations defining your
music, I think you can get more interesting stuff that way.  I don’t think any sensible bass player would
come up with the bass line to “Vatican City” but I love how it sounds.   As far as jamming goes I think it is harder
to jam stuff as a three-piece unless you are all totally killer musician, and
I’m certainly not.
Do you all enjoy
getting into the studio to record?  I
think most musicians can obviously appreciate the end result, there’s not a lot
in the world that beats holding an album knowing that it’s yours and you made
it.  Getting into the studio can be a
little stressful to say the least.  How
is it in the studio for you all?
We thought we
were really prepared going into the studio but after the engineer and producer
had spent five hours setting up microphones and taping wires to the floor we
got a bit freaked out, it was ok the next day though.
Does Cartesian
Jetstream do a lot of preparatory work before you head into the studio to
record or is it more of an organic experience where there’s room for variation?
I’m not
confident or wealthy enough to turn up at the studio without a pretty good idea
of what we’re going to do.  You certainly
want to have the song pretty nailed, although it can be cool coming up with
little extra guitar bits or backing vocal stuff.  You read all these books about bands in the
70’s spending months noodling and       fiddling
in the studio, basically playing around. 
That would be heaven.  Maybe one
Let’s take some
time and talk about your recordings for a second.  Your first album was the recent Sleep
Over.  What are your memories of
recording that album?  Was it a positive
and or pleasant experience for you all?
The recording
was great.  It was our first time in a
proper studio and the people there were really pleasant and tolerant of us
running around like excited seven year-olds on a school trip, crawling round
under the recording console, licking equipment, etcetera.  Due to our own inexperience and naiveté we
ended up messing around longer with mixing and mastering then we should have
but now we know how everything works so it was a really good education.  I got a B-.
When was the
material for Sleep Over recorded?  Who
recorded it and where?  What kind of
equipment was used in the recording?
The basic
tracks were recorded at the Chairworks Studio in the UK.  They have lots of very nice analogue
equipment, like Abbey Road style compressors, and a nice live room.  There are a few pictures of that stuff on our
website.  We then came back to a small
studio on the Island to do all the vocal and guitar overdubs and then went back
to the Chairworks to do the mixing, where I eventually learned the art of not
turning everything up to be louder than everything else.
I know that Sleep
Over is getting ready to come out extremely soon, you are actually just waiting
on CDs while I write this.  Who’s putting
that album out?  Is that a limited
release?  If so, how many copies?  When is the album scheduled for release?

The album is
coming out on September 30th 2013.  It’s
on a small Isle of Man label called Ballagroove, they’ve been keeping the flame
of independent music burning on the island for years and they are good friends
of ours.  We did an initial pressing of
500 CDs and if we manage to sell those we’ll do more.
What can our
listeners expect from the Sleep Over album?
Possibly my
favourite record ever is Forever Changes by Love, probably one of the finest
pieces of art in the 20th century.  So
I’m not going to compare our scruffy little record to that one except that the
first few times I listened to Forever Changes I liked just a few tracks, and
then a couple more and basically you start to get into their headspace and
notice how strange and twisted the lyrics are and how the whole thing is ‘of a
piece’; it’s more like a place than a record and if nothing else I think we
have that.  So basically our record is
just like Forever Changes but only about six-percent as good, but then I would
take six-percent of Arthur Lee over eight-nine-point-five-percent of most other
bands any day.
Does Cartesian
Jetstream have any music that we haven’t talked about?
I am about
seventy-five-percent done writing the next album but none of the songs are
totally finished or set in stone.  In my
head it has to be like Led Zeppelin II compared to their first album or Easter
Everywhere compared to The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, both
of which are basically browner then their predecessor.  People everywhere are looking at me and
shaking their heads sadly, but you go and listen to those four albums and it
will all make perfect sense.  And, in any
case, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon.
Are there any
other releases planned or on the horizon following the release of the recent
We’ve got a
few tracks that we recorded at the same time as the album that we want to put
out as a single or an EP in the next few months.  I like the idea of doing a 7” single.  They’re such an archetypal and iconic
thing.  If we do one I’m going to put
copies in with all the old piles of 7”s at the local charity shops along with
all the Perry Como and Doris Day singles, like releasing them back into the
wild.  Circle of life.
With the insane
international postage rate increases where’s the best place for our U.S.
readers to pick up copies of your music?
You can
download the album from iTunes and Bandcamp where you can also buy the CD from
Bandcamp.  For the CD we’re trying to
make the amount we charge for postage as low as possible, it’s still crazy
though.  If you live really far away just
buy a copy of the CD and burn a copy for your friend or lend it to them.  Somehow that’s much better than just
illegally downloading it from somewhere. 
When somebody used to tape a record for you and they would handwrite all
the song titles, may do a little doodle, nice, personal.
What about our
international and overseas readers?
As stated
above, pretty much everybody in the world is international and overseas to us.
Where’s the best
place for our readers to keep up with the latest news from Cartesian Jetstream
like upcoming shows and album releases at?
Our website is
probably the best place to go.  We are on
Facebook and Twitter but I like having our own website, it feels like it’s more
a part of our own little world without all the extra noise and icky stuff you
get with Facebook etcetera.
Are there any
goals that Cartesian Jetstream is looking to fulfil in 2014?
Regardless of
how our first record does I want to get our second record out in 2014.  I feel like we’ve learned so much doing the
first one, I want to get this next one absolutely nailed and out there.  I think that unless bands are either totally
genius or utter rubbish it can be hard to fully get into their world on the
basis of just one album, so it would be nice to have more of us out there.  I also want to get the next record out so I
can work out if the third album should be the big commercial sell-out record or
the crazy, experimental free-jazz krautrock space-opera.  Of course the ideal solution would be for it
to be both.
What do you have
planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?  What about next year?
We have a few
more local gigs this year, then next year we want to play some interesting gigs
away from the island.  It would be great
to play at some festivals, get out to Europe or beyond.   We all have jobs and stuff so any touring
would have to be instead of a holiday, so ideally we would need to go places
that sell ice cream and straw hats.
Do you enjoy
touring?  Do you all spend a lot of time
on the road?
We’ve never
done any real touring.  It’s impossible
to spend a long time on the road where we’re from unless you drive round and
round in circles.  Maybe we should do
that to practice.
Who are some of
your personal favorite musicians that you’ve had a chance to share a bill with?
We’ve mainly
played with friends, real proper musicians are freaky and scary with their
giant articulated fingers and their weird secret language with the dots and the
lines and the squiggles.
Do you have any
funny or interesting stories from live performances that you’d like to share
with our readers here?
Our fourth
ever gig was at an outdoor summer festival on the Isle of Man.  It rained, it mostly rains here.  So I’d just got a brand new beautiful Vox AC
15 amp, the expensive hand-wired one, and it is cream coloured.  So when they eventually let us in my amp got
dumped in some muddy trailer that went off to some demolition derby and was
then sat in the mud while we waited to go on stage.  Then as we were sound checking our mate is
trying to fix a rip in the marquee roof with gaffer tape as water drips around
the amps.  After that the power went out
and we stood staring at the crowd for fifteen minutes as half of them got bored
and went off to see the Ska band Bad Manners who were playing next door.  So next time we play at a festival we want to
be choppered in and out like the Stones at Altamont.
In your dreams,
who are you on tour with?
I reckon it
would be cool to tour Europe with the Grateful Dead in 1972, hanging with Jerry
and Phil would be fun but a bit mellower than all the groupies and sharks Led
Zeppelin type stuff.  Or maybe the Moscow
State Ballet, hanging with loads of crazy ballerinas who can only speak broken
English, bandaging their toes, darning their stockings, folding their
With all of the
various methods of release available to musicians today I’m always curious why
people choose and prefer the particular mediums that they do.  Do you have a favored method of release for
your own music?  What about when you are
listening to and or buying music?
At the moment
we’ve just done a CD with a digital download. 
I would love to do vinyl but it’s so expensive and I cleverly managed to
make our album just long enough that it would need to be double vinyl.  Thing is, if you are doing vinyl you have to
do a gatefold sleeve, that’s almost the entire point of the thing.  You open the sleeve and there’s like acres of
space.  You can literally put your whole
head in there and then you’re actually inside the album.  And I love those gatefolds like Jefferson
Airplane Volunteers where one side is a giant slice of bread with peanut butter
and the other is one with jelly on it and then After the Gold Rush, the Doors
Soft Parade, lousy album, great gatefold. 
Anyhow, saying all that, I still buy mostly CDs now because downloads
aren’t real but vinyl is just too inconvenient for day to day stuff.  We at least tried to make our CD look like a
little album with the cardboard gatefold sleeve, in some ways it is even better
‘cause you can pretend that it’s an LP and you have turned into a giant; “Ho,
Ho, Ho, what is this puny human music?” 
It would be cool to release an album in a 4’ by 4’ sleeve so then it
would be like you had shrunk!  Your mates
come round to your house and you hand them this giant LP, then maybe give them
the little CD sleeve, maybe tea from tiny cups, giant spoons…  Nobody comes round to my house much anymore.
Do you have a
music collection at all?  If so can you
tell us about it?
collecting since I was a pre-teen.  Lots
of vinyl but then I switched to CDs which I’m weirdly ashamed of, but it just
meant I could get more music and listen to it more.  I’ve got a few vintage and rare things but I
always took the stance that I would rather have three or four reissued LPs in
replica sleeves rather than spend the same money on one original 7” from the
I’ve got a ton of
music at the house.  There’s something
about physical music that is almost magical to me.  Having an album to hold in your hands, liner
notes to read and artwork to look at.  It
provides a rare glimpse into the mind of the artists who created it and, at
least for me, make for a more complete listening experience.  Do you have any such connection with
physically released music?
Ok, I would go
further and say music is not almost magical. 
It is magic, full stop.  Magic
works best if you have a physical link between the person casting the spell and
the target, like a witch stealing a lock of your hair, having a big old LP
sleeve with all those pictures and magical symbols and then the big black disc
that you can stare into as it spins hypnotically.  A CD’s not quite the same but at least it’s
something.  I’m amazed it hasn’t been
I love my records,
CDs and even my tapes but I cannot deny the ease and portability of digital
music.  When I was a kid the idea of
making a mixtape was really popular and it seems like they’ve just repackaged
and re marketed that idea in the digital era. 
The real game changer was the internet and I don’t think any inside the
industry saw the threat coming; they had their heads buried way to far
underneath the sand for that.  There’s
always good and bad in any situation but with digital music at least it seems
to be levelling the playing field a little bit for independent artists willing
to put in the extra time and effort to promote themselves and keep up an online
presence.  On the other hand as I touched
on a little bit before, it seems to be destroying what little was left of the
music industry; at least as far as we know it. 
As a musician during the reign of the digital era what is your opinion
on digital music and distribution?
It’s made it
easier to get your music heard more widely, we probably wouldn’t be talking to
people like yourself if not for the net, but as with the demise of physical
copies we’ve lost something.  I like to
think it is just a phase.  In the near
future we will all be sat around on our hover airbags listening to 5D
psychedelic sounds, holding perfect dusty stained gatefold LPs with holograms
of the band playing live on the sleeve taking requests.  You could make Neil Young play nothing but
“Cinnamon Girl” and “Down By The River” all night, every night.
I try to keep up
with as much good music as I possibly can and a lot of the best tips that I get
come from musicians such as yourself.  Is
there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I
might not have heard of before?
There are a
few local bands who look like they might do something interesting but nobody
else has really done a proper release yet, we’ll see.
What about
nationally and internationally?
That’s too
hard knowing that you and your readers are all going to be fairly hard-core
music geeks who will probably have heard anything I suggest.  As I drift further into total senility I do
find the greatest pleasure in going back to stuff I already love and finding new
things to appreciate, details, sounds. 
Like for example the 13th Floor Elevators.  I got the box set they did a couple of years
ago and became a bit obsessed with the sound of Stacey’s guitar, especially at
the start of the live versions of “Reverberation” and that unreleased track
“It’s You”, that goes “I don’t ever want to come down”.  And if I’m honest my favorite current band is
Thee Oh Sees so I’m kind of a hopeless case.
Thanks so much for
doing the interview, is there anything that I missed or that you’d just like to
talk about?
Thank you for
letting us ramble on.  I could say more
but I think I’ve already said way too much.
(2013)  Cartesian
Jetstream – Sleep Over – digital, CD – Self-Released (Limited to 500 copies)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013
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