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Shaletown: Articles - 1996

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  Stylishly living in times of chaos

Interview by Christian Cerboncini
From Entry (August 1996)

   One of the most positive appereances on the this year's Zillo-Open-Air in Hildesheim was surely And Also The Trees, who only had their second festival gig in Germany since their appearance on the bizarre festival years before. Unfortunately they must do this always in the afternoon at glistening sunlight, which does not fit so completely with the atmosphere of the songs.

 Wasn't it rather hot on stage with your coat?
S.H.J.: No, it was OK. In a night club it is more hot with the whole lights in such a small room.
 Have you been satisfied with your gig, with the sound, with the people?
S.H.J.:  Yes, I was completely satisfied. It was not fantastic however, but under the circumstances, we have done the best possible. Our playing was quite OK and the sound was evidently in order as well. It was fun for us and it appeared to me, as if it has pleased the spectators also, therefore what do we want more ...
S.B.: It is always remarkable, if one goes on stage in the middle of the day and plays without sound check.
 And it is unusual for the spectators to see you in the lightest sunshine, club athmosphere fits your music better.
S.H.J.:  l believe too that we are more of a club band, but it is also fun to play in front of so many people, especially if they are like here.
 How is it like to play old stuff, as e.g. "Slow Pulse Boy" which is approx. 13 years old; isn't that odd?
S.H.J.: No, no, it's not, especially since this is a song we like to play again and again, because it is fun for us to play it. "Slow Pulse Boy" is a song where something can go wrong everytime, today, for instance, something went wrong and in the middle we lost it somehow ...
S.B.: ... totally lost it ...
S.H.J.:... and that is the exciting part: we can play the song 287 times live and nevertheless we can always do something wrong and correct it and still enjoy it somehow.
S.B.: It is also not a simple song to rehearse. We did it a couple of days ago and we realized that we had played it too often, somehow it did not work.
 As you've said a little while ago, you enjoy more playing in small clubs than large festival?
S.H.J.: I think we are more suitable for clubs.
S.B.: But festivals also have advantages: You see and hear several other bands and also you can finally see the spectators: in clubs you can at most recognize the first three rows, which however sometimes can also be good.
S.H.J.: It is our first festival since 5 years. Besides such an appearance is also always a chance for people, who absolutely would not go to one of our concerts, to see AATT live once.
: Did you have contact to any other band?
S.B.: A few times yes. Near the stage I spoke with some of the Walkabouts, and also Frank Black stood around there and everyone had a good time and seemed to enjoy it. But it is a strange place here; at festivals bands are normally housed together in a large area. Here everyone is separated from each other.
 Yes, the whole thing reminds me of a prison cell. What have you been doing since the last album and why did it take you so long to finish "Angelfish"?"
S.H.J.: Well, we finished the recordings for "Angelfish" already in the last fall. The whole record company nonsense took a long time. We namely changed the label.
 Previously you were on the label Normal; any problems there?
S.B.:  It is difficult to talk about it, because there was not only a problem between us. It simply somehow didn't work no more, so we decided to try something new, and now everything is in order.
 Is Mezentian a new label?
S.B.: Yes, it is the first release on this label, and although it is too early to say something about it, I believe that it is going to become totaly good.
S.H.J.: Up to now there were only some dance and ambient releases in England and in this area it has a good name. It has been the first time they have signed a band which is not into dance music.
S.B.: It is always difficult for a band to like the label... 
S.H.J.: Yes, it is especially difficult if pleasure and fun meet with business. And if a record company sells many records it is not liked for it, if it doesn't sell any records, the people don't like them for that reason.
 Do you still have to work on a farm because your record sales do not earn you enough money as it has been years before?
S.H.J.: Nick and Steven live and work in London now. I still work in the country as a 'craftsman'. 15 years later and nothing has changed.
 Why is the new album called "Angelfish"?
S.H.J.: Really only because it sounds like a good title. One evening Justin said 'Angelfish' and that was it! It just came to his mind and he asked us how we liked the name. We thought that it fitted us rather well.
 How did it come to the American themes, both in the texts, as well as a musically?
S.H.J.: Everything has begun with the guitar. It was therefore the first instrument on the album. Justin found this 50's guitar sound and somehow we then continued in this direction. Textually it was very difficult because it was something which I had previously never tried. I couldn't just look out of my window and write what I see or what comes to my mind anymore. I've been several times to America ... and I have then tried to somehow combine the lyrics with the sound of the music.
So, the music was there first?
S.H.J.:  Yes, that's the way we always work.
S.B.: And it was interesting as we began, I believe it was with "Brother Fear", when the first ideas for another sound came up and suddenly everything began developing by itself. It was a beautiful thing to try something different.
S.H.J.:  We weren't trying to sound american. Everyone of us is interested in the most different forms of american art, whether that is painting, like Edward Hopper, or literature, Scott-Fitzgerald, or also different films and directors, Twin Peaks and David Lynch, and we are interested in it. It is like we try to include these media into the music. We therefore do not try to be americans and know that we could never be like them. If somebody would criticize this process intellectually, one could say that it is a Brit's perception of "Americano", an American would have never been able to write the same things than we did.
S.B.: At the same time however, London is just as important as the US: if you go to any bar in Soho, it's all rather american. Justin and Simon have visited us many times in London and the excursions to Soho were always an interesting experience.
S.H.J.: ... and Switzerland of course ...
: ahem, what?
S.H.J.: Yes, 'Paradiso' is the name of a place in the Italian Switzerland with the same name. I believe that the interesting thing there is the absence of everything English.
 Could you explain what you have meant exactly with the following statement: "We have always defended ourselves against the american culture and their nature of penetrating everything and are proud about pulling our inspirations from our english roots. The feeling of the hypocrisy is surprisingly pleasant".?
S.H.J.:  In the past it has been important for AATT not to be influenced by the american culture like all the other bands. There are bands from north-Scotland who on stage accidently speak with an american accent - that is absurd! We got our influences only from our english environment. That was alright and I am glad that we have worked that way then. But then we came to the point where we started to develop an interest in areas of american culture. His is hypocrisy but it's been fun however.
S.B.:  One also forgets quickly that there are many good things in the american culture. 
 Yes, and people sometimes think that everything bad comes from the US...
S.B.:  There is both, even if the bad often covers the asset.
 But the bad is also that the US-culture comes over the ocean and suppresses everything else quickly, so that the local culture is pushed to the edge.
S.H.J.:  Absolutely, yes. That is the danger and I believe that in the past we have reacted to it. I hate it how the american culture dilutes all others. We have been driving around today and the young people ran around with inline skates and baseball caps - and we are in Germany here. But it is just as in Switzerland, England, or Italy. There is this overrunning US-culture and that is the thing I don't like - but you can not stop it.
S.B.:  I just remembered that Justin and I had been to the US for a while before the recordings for the new album while Simon was in Vietnam, so both parties could experience american culture from first hand in the most different places and situations. Especially in Vietnam it must be completely mad, where they just have opened themselves for the US again ...
S.H.J.: ... they seem to like the Americans very much despite everything ...
S.B.:  There is also something absurd in the US-culture: When I go there I always feel absolutely English, it feels as you somehow get more conscious of your own backgroung, as if you had landed on a foreign planet ...
 Like in the Sting song "Englishman in New York"?
S.B.:  Exactly, I can not feel like the Americans feel, no matter how hard I try. There I still feel and think very English and that makes it somewhat strange. I like that!
S.H.J.:  The US are the only place outside England where it is a pleasure for me to be English - in France, Germany, or Italy I don't have much pleasure in it.
 And in the States you do?
S.H.J.:  Yes, it is very impressive there, if you feel like an American ... aehm like an Englishman.
 Your music has always been very romantic. How would you explain the word "romantical" and what does it mean for you?
S.H.J.:  Oh, I have never though about it... difficult... 
S.B.:  I think that the four of us have something like a romantic nature. It is difficult to give a definition of the word, perhaps that sounds now like a hippie, but the whole thing is more a spiritual matter... 
S.H.J. (suddenly after long ponder):  None of my girlfriends has ever thought of me as romantic, actually they complained that I was not. Perhaps I only express this with my music ...
S.B.:  I think there is a big difference between 'romanticism' and 'romance'...
S.H.J.:  Yes, besides I do not believe that we are a romantic band, or at least no more. We have been in ther past. We have been through different phases with the band where we had a romantic element. Definitely with the 'Millpond Years' and 'Farewell to the Shade'.
 Therefore the cover of "Farewell to the shade" looked like a crack from the 18th century, including Keats, Shelley, and colleagues.
S.H.J.:  That's true.
In which country do you have the biggest success?
S.H.J.:  In Germany
: And in England you are not appreciated?
S.H.J.:  In England people don't know us at all. We haven't played there for a rather long time and and haven't released a record there, since we were on a German label.
S.B.:  That changes however, there was once a time, when we were more liked in France and before this also in England.
 And in the States, you have played there once?
S.H.J.:  Yes, once we made an East Coast tour, New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston...
 And how did the people welcome you?
S.H.J.:  It depended whether the local university college radio had played our music. In Chicago for example it was superb, since the people knew our songs and for that reason many came. In Detroit almost nobody was there because there is no university at all as far as I know.
S.B.:  The tour was really good however since we did not come to present an album, but to play only a couple of songs. It was funny, it occurred to me that it was as if we were in a film and everyone knew the script - except us. I hope we'll soon go abroad again, perhaps on the West Coast, because the people there cannot see us that often.
 Do you like electronic music, like e.g. FLA?
S.H.J.:  I do not know FLA at all. I don't like some techno stuff, especially the industrial part. Steven, you are listening to more music however, what do you say?
S.B.:  Yes, I have listened to this kind of music and I like some of the techno stuff, like Underworld and Leftfield for example, but I do not like the hardcore part that much. There hasn't been very much improvement during the years.
S.H.J.:  These things give you if you hear them a certain feeling. For me it was that way that I, after I knew the feeling, wanted to go somewhere else. If I hear such music today, then I feel just as the first time I heard it and that is already rather long ago - not very satisfactory
 In Germany, what is known of the music scene in UK gives you the impression that there are only two large streams: the Brit Pop, with bands such as Oasis, Blur, Pulp and on the other side the intelligent electro, like Underworld, Orbital, etc. Is this impression correct?
S.B.:  In England it is very interesting, that everything is compatible somehow; there are the two large streams, Brit Pop and techno, and they don't have any problems coming together like one can see at festivals again and again. There, the same fans listen to both styles with pleasure; a couple of years ago it would have been somewhat unthinkable, but nowadays it is nothing special if the same people go to a Leftfield and an Oasis gig.
S.H.J.:  It seems to me that right now in England everything works, both in music as well as in fashion. We were recently in a club, in which you could see all people possible: some dressed like punks from 77, including safety pins, others ran around like in the beginning of the 70's with large collars, shrill colours and plateau shoes, but also transvestites, etc., 1000 different types. On one hand I think it's ok, on the other hand it seems so undifferentiated.
S.B.:  A little bit like a stew...
S.H.J.:  Yes, you have 50's culture, 60's, 70's, 80s, 90's and everything between them and everything together. Somehow it's nice.
S.B.:  The question is also, whether there is a 90's culture or just the absorbing of all that, which was already there once, because there is nothing new. The whole Brit Pop thing comes from the 60's, and many techno things seize ideas from 70's german electro pioneers. Many ideas are really very similar, to spot something really new is very difficult.
S.H.J.:  I believe that I like everything however, that one for example can wear shirts of all possible shapes, lengths and colours, without being out of fashion. With trousers etc. it is the same, it is always ok as long as you wear it with a certain style indeed!
 That certainly is not unimportant!
S.H.J.:  Otherwise I think it's ok that you do not look awfully uncool if you once don't wear white trousers.
 Especially in the 80's it wasn't difficult to be "uncool" like, if you did not wear the "uniform" which was hip.
S.B.: We were, I believe, always out of fashion.
S.H.J.: At any rate we have always tried...
 What are your favorite authors?
S.H.J.:  My new passion is Scott-Fitzgerald. Before that, it was Ernest Hemingway, and before that, Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence...
 What are your inspirations for the lyrics then. Movies as well, for expample?
S.H.J.:  Well, I get my inspirations from everywhere. I, however, have never seen a movie, gone home and written for that reason a new song. You get parts from everywhere, which you gather somehow. The ideas come from movies, thoughts, experiences, television, newspapers, life.
 Are you still in contact with "The Cure"?
S.H.J. (without hesitatation):  No, since 7-8 years no more.
 You're not familiar with their new album then?
S.H.J.:  No ... I believe I am not really interested in what The Cure are doing, not because I would not like to be brought in combination with them, but because I am really not interested, because I don't like his voice and because I don't like where they have moved musically. They really have moved nowhere.
 Hasn't it been overwhelming to be in their shadow again and again during the beginning years?
S.H.J.:  Yes, it was frustrating. In the beginning of our career, they helped us somehow, but then it wasn't working that well and we felt really a little overwhelmed to be put in the same context as them over and over again.
S.B.:  Like so often, there are both sides of the medal.
 Do you really still live in the country and if so, don't you want to live in a city like London like Nick and Steven do?
S.H.J.:  Yes, I still live in the country but I don't want to move to London. Besides half of the time I live in the south of Switzerland, since my girlfriend is Swiss. I spend the remainin time in my home town in England.
 Still in this haunted house?
S.H.J.:  Well yes, to say it is haunted is a small exaggeration, like ever so often in the past.
S.B.:  Somebody wrote once that we lived in a haunted castle. No idea where that came from, not from us anyway.
 Which part of England would you recommend in the first place to a traveler?
S.H.J.:  Cornwall is really very beautiful and attractive, the whole coast there. In the summer, though, there are a lot of tourists there.
S.B.:  However, you should in any case go to Cornwall. Cornwall and London, so you can see both sides of England!
S.H.J.:  But then also to Herefordshire and Worcestereshire and the boundary to Wales, really very beautiful areas. Concerning the north of England I can't say really much because I haven't been there.
 I have heard that in comparison with the Englishman from the south the Scots should be very much more hospitable.
S.B.:  Yes, in the south the people sometimes are reserved and cool, but not as much as in the south-east. That is the area around London, even though there are also the nicest and friendliest people there. 
S.H.J.:  In the north the people outside the cities are really nice.
 Do you already have some reactions to your new album and which?
S.B.: The best reactions came from Germany. In England and the US, the album hasn't been published at all: first it will be in the fall in England and next year in the States. In Germany there was a couple of good critics, like in the Intro, and also the fans' reactions, which have written to us were positive.
S.H.J.:  It needs a couple of runs, but then they like it.
 In Germany however the fans remain faithful: those who listened to your music 10 years ago still do so; they get old with the band!
S.H.J.:  That's the way it also occurs to me. If we have lost a group of fans, it's from the gothic corner. I already have met people from this scene which have said to me: 'you should really become much darker and release a really gothic album because the market for this music is gigantic in Germany and you could make more money that way.' As I have seen today, it is true. But we don't make music following market laws. Consequently we perhaps have lost a couple of fans.
E.: If you think about making money, just concerning Germany, you should do electronic music, this market is gigantic...
S.B.:  ... or something like the Kelly family...
 or become the new "Take That". What is the band name"And Also The Trees" all about?
S.H.J.:  Nothing, there is no story behind it, like so often concerning us.
 And where did the idea come from?
S.H.J.:  It was a line in the first song we had written, so we called the song AATT and afterwards the band as well. It was a rather stupid idea as we were still young, but we got used to it and lived with it. Somehow it is a handicap: If you publish a new album under this name the people who like our music are immediately happy but the disadvantage is that the other people who don't pursue our music only think: 'AATT, aren't they a 80's band?'. They don't even want to listen. That is too bad since I believe that many people would like what we do. They think we were a kind of dark wave band. But we can't change the name anymore.
 Besides it is also a beautiful name.
S.H.J.:  I like it too, but it is the association, I think it's a name of the 80's. If we would be called "Jason", or "Tarquin", no one would think we are from the Sex Pistols era.
Is the sculpture, which is on the "Green is the sea" cover the only one from your brother Justin or is he a little sculptor?
S.H.J.: He has only manufactured that one for the cover; our big brother is a sculptor.
: What are your favourite songs on the new album?
S.H.J.: Fighting in a lighthouse
S.H.J.:  I like them all, but this song gives me a good feeling
S.B.: The same Song.
J.J.:  Missing


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