"There was still something very polite about us, so we just wanted to get away from that, be more theatrical about it." hmv.com talks to Young Knives
After 3 albums for the Transgressive label, Young Knives decided to go it alone for their fourth studio offering, Sick Octave. We caught up with singer and guitarist Henry Dartnall to talk about putting out your own record and the state of the music industry.
Why did you decide to take the D.I.Y. approach to making Sick Octave?
Henry Dartnall: “More fun, isn’t it? More betterer! Nah, people always get slightly involved and when people express their opinion about your music when you’re making it…producers, managers, whoever… it tends to have an impact. We’re all pretty suggestible people…not just us, but people in general. We were sick of people getting our music slightly wrong, and of course the record industry’s fucked anyway, so we just sort of thought: “Let’s embrace the brave new world.” But we knew that with a small amount of investment we could afford to do it. And it’s not just us, other people are doing it as well.”
How have you found the whole Kickstarter experience?
“Not too bad, I was a bit worried about it at first. When people first suggested it I thought ‘Ugh, don’t like those things, they’re always like: ‘buy stuff from our blog, here’s some hair, come and have sex with our Grandma for £300’ but then I thought ‘well, we can just treat it like a big pre-order’. It’s just a load of people of buying our music before we’ve made it.”
Did you find that it makes for more engagement with your fans?
“Yeah, we wanted to come up with some extras…some stuff like the little synthesizer we made to use on the record…we just thought, let’s make some more of them…stuff that’s a bit more interesting, as well as standard stuff like t-shirts. But I think we were so convinced that what we were doing musically was good, it didn’t feel like we were going ‘please can we have some money for our new album’, it was more like ‘look, this is going to be fucking wicked, come and get involved.” We had recorded most of it by then and we knew that we’d done something a bit more gnarly than normal, so we were excited by it and it didn’t seem too difficult a sell, maybe ‘cause we really believed in it.”
Would you recommend it to other bands?
“I don’t know if Kickstarter is the way forward or not…it depends, if you’re a new band then who the fuck is going to buy your shit if no-one knows who you are? We were still able to milk it a bit in that sense…but I think something will come out of the general approach. I mean, the way we look at the internet…at the moment it’s so scattered and everyone is still finding the best way to use it, but I think there will be a regrouping at some point and at that point there will be better mechanisms in place. I think you can use it as part of what you’re doing as long as you’re doing other things as well. You still have to do some of that traditional stuff. In our case it funded mixing, mastering, distribution and promotion."
Who mixed the record?
“David Wrench. He’s worked on a couple of Caribou records, done some stuff with Bat for Lashes, Everything Everything…he’s been doing some stuff with Nigel Godrich recently."
Speaking of Nigel Godrich, he’s been quite outspoken about Spotify recently. What’s your take on the whole streaming thing?
“I’m down on it, but for different reasons. I mean, I heard someone talking about how you get paid nothing for Spotify, and how’s it’s like going to a restaurant and having the full meal, but just leaving a few coppers in tips. My take on it is just that when I hear something I like and I go and look for it on Spotify, if it’s not there, I tend to go out and buy it.”
True. So you don’t think it’s the way forward?
“No, and you have a choice but distributors just give everything to Spotify automatically. Same with Amazon. That’s another thing: we did a limited run of picture discs and sold 100 to Amazon. Most retailers will have to mark up on what you sell by a certain percentage to make a profit. We sold it to Amazon for something like £13…’cause picture discs are reasonably expensive to make…and then they sold it on Amazon for £12. And it obviously won’t make them any money but they’re just fucking everyone on the high street. So we were like “Take it off. If you’re going to do that, you can’t have it.” They’ll sell in independent record shops or on our website, no bother. And they did. Anyway, no-one appreciates things they get for free.”
Musically speaking, what are the main influences on the new album, Sick Octave?
“Well, we sort of decided to try and get to the core of what our tastes are, and we realised it was quite industrial, bands like Einstürzende Neubauten, but we also like some of the approach of dance acts, bands that use electronics, even stuff like M.I.A. – y’know, slightly industrial pop. We kind of wanted to get away from being ‘indie’, but at the same time we didn’t want to just reject guitars and go ‘well, we’re not playing guitars anymore’. And we wanted to make it rude and nasty. Before, even when we did something that rocks out, there was still something very polite about us, so we just wanted to get away from that, be more theatrical about it. That’s the ideal anyway.”
What’s next for Young Knives?
“We’re touring the UK at the moment and the we’re going concentrate on Europe…we’re bringing the album out in Europe early next year. Beyond that I don’t know yet, I think we’re going to ride the wave of this one a bit. But I think we can progress the sound we’ve started on this record.”
For more information on tour dates go the band’s website: www.young-knives.com