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And Also The Trees

Shaletown: Articles - 1985

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the bark and the Bite

  Interview by Antonella Black
 From ZIGZAG (January 1985)


  "Sin is the only real colour element left in modern life." [Oscar Wilde]


       Debauchery has no place in the city. Only a lazy sleaze; a sluggish inarticulate debasement, an accumulation of dirty little minds in dirty little streets. I am a rational industrious product of the city; familiar with smokestacks and streets littered with cars. Great grey greasy London is my home. Visiting Worcestershire disturbed my polite and well structured little philosophies to their very cores. Denizens of the industrialized outhouse; welcome to the world that exists beyond our nightmares, beyond the realms of our senses. The world of And Also The Trees. Effusive? Justified. Listen and learn.

      Days crawl in the country; skies swept with clouds, and winds violent enough to rouse the dead. In the field adjacent to Simon's house, a chapel was demolished. The blood of pagans nurtures the earth; this is not a place for the timid. The countryside challenges you, threatens you. There is no familiar stench of rotting garbage, no stale air. The hum of traffic is absent, as is the comfortable red neon haze filters of the city sky at night. The stark landscape is disturbed only by the dawn, and the ancient cottages which freckle the green. There is no sane urbanity here; only heretic nature.
     Simon contemplates his cigarette. "We could go weeks without seeing anybody but each other. Even if we looked out the window all day, we'd only ever see the same ten people." The smoke whorls relentlessly about our heads. We are sitting in his study, an uneven, low ceilinged white room, built in the 15th century. Withered flowers are strewn across the bookshelf, tarnished silver candlesticks are reflected in the mirror. Justin, guitarist and Simon's brother, crouches warily on his chair; his anaconda eyes follow my hands intently. "I was sixteen when we did our first gig. That was 1981. We supported The Cure at Loughborough University. It was absolutely terrifying." Simon laughs softly. "You should have seen Justin then. He was a right wee little boy. The great thing, though , was that we reached the people we'd wanted to reach, rather than playing to people who had no interest or understanding of our music whatsoever."
       AATT formed in 1979. The lineup has seen no changes; Justin on guitars, Simon vocals, Steven Burrows on bass and Nick Havas on drums. Robert Smith played Svengali and 'discovered' them, hence their support of The Cure in 1981 and earlier this year. This proved to be a dubious blessing, though. As The Cure became progressively unhip, losing well deserved chart space to bands like Frankie Goes To Hollywood, AATT found themselves dismissed as second rate plagiarists. The media had no time for any music which was vaguely intelligent and didn't make you wanna  get down and boogie. The band released a single, 'Shantell', in June 1983, followed by their debut self titled album, which was produced by Lol Tolhurst. 'The secret sea' EP followed that, and they release another Ep in January. SImon fidgeted and nervously supped his tea as he played it to me. I can only describe the music I heard as captivating; a shimmering ocean of sound. "I think our musical progression is similar to that of Joy Division's. If you listen to 'Warsaw' and then 'Joy Division', their awareness of atmosphere increases." Justin pauses. "Creating an ambience is very important."
   "It was the whole punk thing.... you didn't have to be a god to play an instrument anymore. Music suddenly became accessible. When I first heard Justin play bits on the guitar, it really excited me. I had thought it would be impossible."
How do you feel about your early work?
"It's difficult. It's like reading an old essay. Cringeworthy. I haven't actually reached the stage where I cringe at our records..." Justin holds my gaze briefly. "I guess it's just matter of time..."
What effect does it have on you to produce a really good piece? justin smirks
  "It's great. I can't really draw any parallels." Simon interjects. "Elation. Pure elation. You become enlightened in moments like that. It's like sex. The problem is you can't sustain it." Simon changes the record. Francis Cutting's 'Greensleeves' fills the air with a determined wistfulness.

You're considered unusual around here, aren't you?

"I suppose we don't really conform." Simon sits up. "I don't understand how people can go out, get pissed , have a laff with the mates, pick up a bird, and maybe later have a scrap. I really don't understand how anyone can derive pleasure from that. We're removed because of our situation. I personally don't feel 'in' with other musicians. People inevitably hold grudges." He looks away. "People presume I'm aloof. I'm not. I'm just shy."
  "I find it easier to communicate through music. People scare me.." Justin murmurs. "I guess that's why I drink. It brings out a side of me that I prefer. It enables me to express myself." Both brothers choose their words carefully.
You seem surprisingly modest.
    "That's probably why we haven't gone as far as we could have. Unfortunately, we don't have the capacity to be really pushy. I mean, I'm just a musician, not a publicist." Justin muses.

 Who do you admire?

 "I think it's dangerous to have heroes. You become somebody else's projection." Justin says cautiously.

       I found myself intrigued by the pulse of the place; there was a subtle debauchery about them both, and yet no physical evidence of this perception. They are considerate, articulate, far more aware of the inference of words than most people. They are acutely attuned to their environment: AATT employ language to communicate, rather than to satiate. "There are moments when you forget time. Dawn this morning was utterly magical. I lay on the floor, blanketed, looking out at the dawn. Everything was crystallised, so calm. The anonymity of monochrome is very beautiful." Simon eyes me curiously, as if expecting derision. Listening to the wind howling viciously outside, I'm silent. Two steps away from being permanently purged of cynicism. The one problem is that I have to retain my city weapons. And only to my despair.


Taken from D.Pittman's site


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