kNIFE & fORK through the people that know them best
The duo return this September with their sophomore album, and we got some of their (famous) fans to grill them on what to expect...
On the cusp of releasing their upcoming album, 'The Higher You Get The Rarer The Vegetation' on September 10, kNIFE & fORK sat down to answer some questions put to them but some of their biggest fans and colleagues. With accolades already coming from the likes of PJ Harvey and Frank Black, it's not surprising that the indie world is excited about their next album.
The duo is one half Laurie Hall, who is also part of underground San Francisco band Ovarian Trolley. While the other 50% is Eric Drew Feldman, once part of Beefheart's Magic Band. In 1988 Feldman then joined David Thomas’s Pere Ubu line-up before ending up on the final Pixies album.
So without further ado, here's Eric Drew Feldman of kNIFE & fORK:
Charles Thompson (composer, singer, guitars w/Pixies, Frank Black Francis):
Eric, in your quest to make records, is there a giant upon whose shoulders you most frequently stand? Whose ghost will haunt your sessions?
There are two aspects to producing records that come into play. Some artists can write good songs but can use assistance in making it all sound like a record, such as determining which instruments to use, the structure and arrangements. And sometimes, what is needed most is to get out of the way and let it happen, moving quickly before inspiration evaporates, boredom sets in, and the spell is broken. So while I’m sitting there calmly I am channeling two shamans I look to for inspiration: George Martin, and Bob Johnston.
Polly Jean Harvey (composer, singer, multi-instrumentalist):
I’d like to know how the world you see around you has changed. Can you summarize those changes in a sentence or two for each decade?
As I was born in 1955, I’ll start in the late 1950’s. My world was solid and stable. Everything was made of steel, was big and heavy, even my rocking horse. The ’51 Chevrolet and the ’55 Buick that my parents drove were like tanks. Life felt secure.
The early 1960’s carried on in a similar fashion for a while. I remember this image or the still faces of JFK and Richard Nixon with numbers like on an odometer rolling along under their images on our television that took about five minutes to warm up. Next I remember being at school and everyone crying because Kennedy had been killed. I didn’t understand and it all seemed perfectly normal. And I now think it was a fairly normal occurrence in the world I was moving through. Music for me became an obsessive compulsion for me in early 1964 with my first exposure to the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. This came from radio, which different then. It seemed like the DJs were playing the music that they wanted to play. They only played (mostly) good music. Everyone was listening and talking about music. Growing up in the greater Los Angeles area, live music was very accessible from the time I was about eleven years old or so. I saw many concerts of importance to me, including Jimi Hendrix, Spirit, The Stones, Capt. Beefheart and His Magic Band etc. One didn’t have to try that hard to see this stuff back then, with ticket prices at six dollars. There was the Vietnam War going on, and it was not hidden from view, like war is now. Music and films were rough and harsh. This was new for me. It was an edgy time.
The 1970’s saw rock music become an industry, more professional. Things got more expensive, and less accessible. Politics turned more conservative, trying to regain control and turn back the clock to a calmer time that would never come back. By the mid-decade I was starting to record in proper studios and tour to new exotic places, such as New York, the UK, and Europe. Being in my early 20’s, I have no memory of international politics.
The 1980’s continued to be politically conservative. This is when I really started to realize and have this horrifying feeling that the dream of a pleasant and fulfilling life was going to be much harder than I had ever thought. I noticed the corporate, indifferent structure of things, though I don’t think I had those words for it yet. There started to be a more DIY, ‘indie’ business mode for music, which was just fine with me.
In the 90’s, something went wrong, and I was allowed to start working on records for major record companies, and I became quite absorbed with being involved with working and playing much as I could while it would last. I stopped worrying about politics and feeling like a victim. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen.
With the new millennium and the evolution of the internet, pretty much all of the old models have crumbled for business and the distribution of ideas, music and art. It feels like chaos, but a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.
Rob Ellis (drums, keyboards with PJ Harvey, producer):
What do you think has been the most valuable thing you have learned about the writing and performance of music throughout your career?
I have learned, a little at a time, not to be afraid to turn myself inside out, and express something revealing about myself, usually achieved by using minimal technique.
Moris Tepper (guitar with Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, Frank Black, PJ Harvey etc.):
Seeing as you were born into the analog era and came of age as a musician in the analog era; how did the digital era affect you as a composer?
Previous to the digital era, I composed using memory, cassettes, 4 and 8-track tape machines. The sound was good, but I quickly found the limitation of track count to be constraining to what I wanted to do. When I was introduced to midi sequencers, it was magic. I could hear musical ideas and layers quickly, without bogging down with engineering concerns, and experiment abundantly. But that is a trap in itself, the act of being non-committal. I now write more with a single instrument, and get more of the writing done before recording. That way, if I get bogged down with engineering concerns, I can hear my original idea to get me back on track. As far as how I feel about it, my feelings change all of the time. I love and hate it all.
Laurie Hall (composer, singer w/kNIFE & fORK, composer, singer, bass with Ovarian Trolley, composer, singer, guitar with Ruby Howl):
In all your travels across the mighty globe, what is the highest mountain you have ever climbed and what does the vegetation look like up there?
I am not one for climbing physical mountains, as there is way too much heavy breathing involved. But I once rode a gondola up a rather large mountain in Strasbourg, France (where W A Mozart lived in 1778), with members of the PJ Harvey band, in 1997 or 1998. When we got to the top, the vegetation looked like traps player/singer Rob Ellis, who desparately needed a drink, as he was suffering an acute bout of acrophobia. There were no drinks to be found.
We'll be back next week with more from Eric...