This interview was published firstly on musicianguide.cn right before the post-rock band had their first China tour started in Feb, 2014.
Thanks to Newnoise, I had this opportunity to have an email-chat with the band’s front man and guitarist, Philip Jamieson.
“We’ve been waiting to get back to China for 4 years now and really try to make an impact out there with anyone that comes out to the show. If you plan on seeing us on this tour, all we ask is that you leave your cares at the door and let go of everything for 80 minutes with us, and maybe we can all go on a journey together. ” —Philip from Caspian
1. Please receive my greetings from China. As far as I’ve known, you guys have been to China in 2010 for a music festival in Qingyuan, Guangdong Province, didn’t you? What were your ideas about China back then and what are you expecting this time for the coming tour in March?
That was our first and only voyage to China as of today and we enjoyed the experience, albeit we hit some issues with organization and other logistical problems. It was a nice shot over the bow as they say and it made us want to come back and explore and see much more of the country. We are looking forward to doing exactly that next month.
2. How come Caspian connect with New Noise. How you both make this tour happen?
I’m not entirely sure how the connection started but I know that Jef has worked with our friends in This Will Destroy You and EF, so maybe that’s how it began. We were offered a festival in Singapore called Mosaic Music Festival and began building everything around that one appearance. When it came time to put something official for China, New Noise came highly recommended by our peers and it was an easy decision. We are honored to work with a company that has such a strong reputation.
3. Philip, please tell us about your musical upbringings. What got you into guitar and all these post-rock stuffs?
I accidentally stumbled across Post-Rock in 2003 when I bought Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s album, “Yanqui U.X.O.” on a blind buy at my local record shop. I had no idea who they were or what “Post-Rock” was, and decided to just pick up something random and give it a listen. Needless to say, my experience with that record changed everything for me and set me on the course I’m at now, over 10 years later. It was the most profound musical experience I’ve ever encountered and changed the way I listen to music.
4. Caspian’s last album “Walking Season” has received a lot of positive critics since its release in 2012. In an interview with Nothingbuthopeandpassion, Calvin Joss stated that the album is “anthemically about growth and change”. Do you agree with him? Can you tell us about the “growth and change” more specifically.
I would agree with that, yes. Our band has always been chasing depth with our music, to varying degrees of success. How to find that depth combined with what comes natural when we start writing music has been an evolving process and Waking Season was a record where we consciously slowed down and stretched the music out to try and find that deeper place within the sounds. We second guessed a lot of the material at first and approached it too self consciously. When that method put as an impass creatively, we threw everything we knew out the window and let go. That felt like true growth for us and a sea change in the freedom we feel when writing music.
5. There are three guitarists in Caspian. How do you guys arrange your own parts in one song normally? Can you show it to us by walking me through the song Walking Season(or any other song of Caspian)?
Most of our songs start based around a very simple, seminal idea. “Procellous”, for example, started around that analog guitar loop you hear immediately that I wrote during a hurricane in my basement. I added some bass chords over that loop and then presented that to the band. As the structure developed, we all had a say in where to take it and what to channel, and as we explored those dynamic changes, each guitarist adds whatever they think fits the mood of each part. We listen to what each other are doing, sometimes play off of another guitar part sonically or melodically, and let it develop. The bottom line is that we never, ever tell each other to not play anything that one guitarist has come up with, and to be honest we communicate very little about how they all mix together as the song is being written. What makes us special, just in my opinion, is that the way all 3 of us play guitar is so different and yet so complimentary naturally that it requires very little discussion. It just works and we are very lucky to have that chemistry as a unit.
6. How did you find your own sound in the beginning? Who gave you the biggest influence about making your own sound?
Early on we were all collectively very influenced by Sigur Ros, just to name one immediate, obvious choice. We realized that we didn’t have the patience that they did, but wanted to make music like them so I guess that’s where the more direct, heavier elements of our sound came from – that inability to be as patient as we wanted but the desire to channel more ethereal elements together as a band. I remember playing “You Are The Conductor” for a friend of mine after we had finished it and they described it as “Sigur Ros” with balls. It was the best compliment we’ve ever received just in terms of comparing it to another band.
7. Is that a Jazzmaster you are playing? Tell us more about your gears, you know, guitars and effects you normally use.
That’s actually not an official Fender guitar. It was assembled by hand from factory parts 12 years ago by a gentlemen in Western Massachusetts and I found it on eBay and bought it for $300. It’s a beauty and has a very distinct sonic character to it that I’ve not heard in another instrument. Very deep and full and lots of low/mid range so it sounds great for riffs and filling out the low end in our guitar wall of sound. As for effects, we have too many to list and they are always changing constantly. I’ve been very enamored with any and all effects from Strymon, and find that they’re changing the game when it comes to reverbs and delays.
8. I’ve been listening to you guys’ live recording EP ”Live at Old South Church” these two days. What is the biggest distinction between live performance and studio work to you?
The live experience is a much more ephemeral, temporal experience for our band, as it is with most bands. Both the live show and an album only exist in the moment in which you are there experiencing it, and the live show is a much more raw, hopefully uncalculated experience that has the potential to strike more immediate notes within the listener. Our albums are highly orchestrated, narratively complex pieces of work that take years to assemble. The live show is 80 minutes of stand and deliver, and we really go for it every single night up there like wild animals sometimes. It’s more raw, more immediate and more aggressive. We view both the live show and our records as an “experience” for the listener, and approach them with that in mind but channeled through different lenses. It’s hard to explain sometimes I guess.
9. What is your opinion about the digital music and streaming? And what’s more, what will the future of music industry be like in your mind?
It would be great if everyone still played by the rules and supported musicians like people support any other hard working person, but I guess it’s just not realistic anymore and we realize that. At the risk of sounding defeatist, we’ve kind of accepted that digital music and streaming allows thousands of people to hear our music who wouldn’t normally have the chance and for that we have to be nothing but grateful. Our driving force from day one has been to try and get as many people as humanly possible to hear what we are creating and these methods help us for sure. I’m old fashioned so in a Utopia, I’d love it if everyone had a vinyl player and sat down with our music for the first time with a cold beer and cranked it up and drifted away but at the end of the day, I’m just happy to hear of new people experiencing the music in whatever way is easiest.
10. What is your opinion about Crowfunding? (At the time of writing, on Kickstarter.com, 27,416 music projects have been launched with a 54% success rate.)
I don’t have anything “against” things like Kickstarter I guess, but I feel like bands and musicians only have one real opportunity to push that button and if you do, it has to be for an absolutely essential reason. I’m not activating something like that for Caspian unless we are in a position of utter desperation and have no other options, such as all our gear getting stolen, our being robbed or something like that. I also feel like good old fashioned hard work is paramount with everything, and if engaging in crowd funding makes musicians feel entitled and creates laziness, I’m not into it at all and think it’s evil.
11. Go ahead! Last words belong to you.
We’ve been waiting to get back to China for 4 years now and really try to make an impact out there with anyone that comes out to the show. If you plan on seeing us on this tour, all we ask is that you leave your cares at the door and let go of everything for 80 minutes with us, and maybe we can all go on a journey together. It is all about music and nothing else for this band, it will be an honor to share that music with people on the other side of planet Earth and we are excited!
By Jake Wu