MUSIC: Interview with The Wave Pictures: "I think they've got shit coming out of their ears, they’re so full of shit"

Photo by James Loveday. Via The Wave Pictures.

Posthumanism approaching. Robots play the violin better than your cousin already, and it’s a matter of time that they will take over everything else. A final android planetary crusade is just a click away, as it is the resurrection of a tinplate-bodied David Bowie with a short-circuited talent. No, this is not the pretext for a musical version of Terminator 7, but the latest oracle from David Tattersall, songwriter, singer and guitarist for The Wave Pictures. On the occasion of their new album release, Bamboo Diner in the Rain, as well as their forthcoming Spanish tour, we catch up with the three incombustible from Leicestershire about Deep Blue versus Gary Kasparov, the Internet possibly being Satan on Earth, Bob Dylan’s much undeserved Nobel prize and, in general, how marvellous the Wave Pictures are in every sense of the word and how full of shit all the rest seem to be. But these are just opinions, mind you.

Being the Wave Pictures such a famously prolific band since their very early and even-more-unpolished-than-now beginnings, 2016 has been a particularly inspired year even by your standards; before Bamboo Diner in the Rain last month came A Season in Hull in February, recorded with one microphone, no mixing and released only in vinyl. Don’t you think you have it tough enough these days, as a guitar-driven act in a contemporary music landscape widely dominated by computers? What was the intention behind this bold (if not self-sabotaging) move?

I wanted to make something that was not for the Internet. To me, it’s a very romantic idea. It's like a message in a bottle that you throw out to the sea. To listen to those songs, you have to listen to the vinyl record. It sounds really wonderful and I was very proud of the songs and I think it's a very lovely idea. I don't like the Internet anyway. I'm sick to death of it. It is eating away at everything that I like.

It seems like your trademark productiveness is not a quality that can be generally applied to most bands that fall under the category of rock of some sort, especially compared to the never-ending flow of work produced by their hip hop and electronic counterparts. Do you perceive a creative drought in the current state of rock?

Yes, I do. In fact, I think that there is very little music in any genre that is being made with fire in its belly. Everything seems complacent and commercialised, not just in rock but across the board. Everyone lives in their own little box. They have forgotten that music is for fun, and for expressing yourself. The robots have taken over the place. It would be very easy now to replace human beings altogether.

Bamboo Diner in the Rain is similarly described and felt as a battle “against the robot music apocalypse”. What is it that you categorize as “robot music” and why is it something that should be confronted? Or rephrased from a constructive point of view: why is an instrument-based recording style still worth reclaiming?

You want to hear the human spirit on tape. Machines can beat a man at chess, machines will soon beat a human football team at football. They will undoubtedly soon fight our wars for us, and not long after rise up against us, as you see predicted in the Terminator movies. People have a terrible weakness for technology. They think that machines can do everything better than people can. This is not true of the arts. A machine will never be able to play music like Skip James. Skip James was a true genius and his music could never be created by a machine. But people have been tricked into believing that people like David Bowie are great geniuses. Actually, David Bowie's music could be made by machines at some point. It is not unfeasible. If a computer can beat Kasparov, surely a computer could make Hunky Dory? I think I fear these developments and I think that the human spirit is the principle element that you want to hear on a recording. That's what it boils down to: the human spirit. Personal expression. Is someone expressing themselves? Does it move me? All the rest is just cleverness and commercialism.

You guys have talked repeatedly, and again in the means of pin-pointing the influences of this new album, about the impact that blues and other forms of primitive black American music has had in the Wave Pictures. Why do you think blues has historically appealed to British kids more than to younger generations in the US? With the likes of the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Alexis Korner and many more being regarded as the ultimate blues saviours during the 1960s.

I think that's something to do with the racial segregation that existed in America, nothing to do with music.

Having experimented with cover albums already, as you did with Daniel Johnston’s Artistic Vice in 2014 during a recording and two-week tour under Houston Party’s initiative “We Used to Party”, have you ever thought about publishing a collection of your own blues and American folk favourites? If so, how would the potential track list look like? I’ve heard you tried with the Stones’ England’s Newest Hitmakers, for instance, which includes some bluesy covers itself.

I think that Robert Johnson has truly extraordinary songs, the poetry is exceptional and mysterious. This is in addition to his extraordinary, supernatural guitar and vocal abilities. I have often thought of covering his songs, but instead I get inspired to write my own songs when I listen to him.

The Wave Pictures have been recurrently described as a band that writes songs for fans of songwriting, referring to the more often than not abstract, melancholic and complex nature of your lyrics. Anybody from an outer perspective would agree that this obscurantist motivation is still palpable in Bamboo Diner in the Rain, but as the creative minds behind it, what, if anything, would you say has changed about the way you wrote the songs for this album, style and subject-wise?

No, I don't write songs for fans of songwriting. I don't write them for anyone. I write them for myself. It's a fluke that later anyone likes them.

But when you are writing, you cannot think about what anyone else thinks, otherwise you will go wrong. It's enough to try to get it correct for yourself. You become addicted to this, and that's all there is to it. Then, afterwards, it's good if other people like it, but it isn't the essential part. Furthermore, I don't have any obscurantist motivation. I just have a motivation to make up songs. You put all your eggs in that basket, you put all your focus on it, and then you disregard absolutely everything else that would get in the way of doing it. And as long as you disregard everything that will stop you it is very easy and pleasant. Everyone wants to slow you down with theories and with work. That's the way people are. But as long as you focus, it is easy. It is not difficult. It is a great pleasure! You just have to block out all the other voices, then it's like turning on a tap and the water comes rushing out. I turn on the songwriting tap and out come the songs!

However, to write songs you need solitude and contemplation and I think that with the amount of time people spend on the Internet now, and with the Internet on their phones, there will be no solitude for people, and no good songs. I like to take long walks in the city myself. I think solitude is the most important rule of songwriting.

I have solitude. I have been able to make great advances in the song. I changed the syntax of songwriting altogether. I broke every rule of lyric writing that there was. I always did this. Nobody does it the way I do it. I'm a better poet than Bob Dylan. I was better than Bob Dylan at writing lyrics when I was 14 years old. I already knew at that age that you had to break the form. You had to break the form to give it life. What you want to get is not a reflection of life, but something as vivid as life itself, that in and of itself is as alive and as real as anything in the real world. Not a picture of life, but life itself. Truth itself. No one can touch my lyrics. They can't even understand them!

Three out of ten of the songs in Bamboo Diner in the Rain distinctively stand out for their non-blues infused sound: Bamboo Diner Rag, Meeting Simon at the Airport (the only instrumental piece in the entire album) and the title track, Bamboo Diner in the Rain. Why did you deem appropriate to place these more folkish, Appalachian-reminiscent tunes in the context of an otherwise straightforward house-rocking electric blues album?

I wanted the emotional heart of the album to be instrumental, to focus the listener on what the guitar was saying, to make them listen to the guitar as if it was a voice. I thought it worked personally, though I don't know whether people thought it. The heart of the album is Meeting Simon at the Airport because is it the most moving, the most emotional moment. That is the heart. It was an experiment, I like to experiment and to release the experiments.

The heart of the album is Meeting Simon at the Airport and the soul of the album is Bamboo Diner in the Rain. The whole album takes place within that song. It is the title track. It presents the key to everything that has unfolded before it. It is a very beautiful song. Mystery and emotion.

As for Bamboo Diner Rag, it seems totally real to me. I think you perhaps wouldn't consider it blues, but in fact it is a blues piece. It’s a blues piece in the ragtime style of Reverend Gary Davis. East Coast Blues, guys like Blind Blake, Barbecue Bob and Sylvester Weaver, they did a lot of blues pieces in this kind of style. I think we nailed it. I love that piece. I was very proud of it. If you want to learn more, there's a very good compilation album called The Rough Guide to East Coast Blues.

We opened up something inside of ourselves on this album, and we found there was a lot more in there than we had realised. I don't think anyone has ever put this kind of instrumental together with the kind of songs we do. I think it’s a totally original album, which I realise, does not interest anybody at all!

A sublime video for Now I Want to Hoover My Brain Clean, second single of the album, has just been recently released. Some of the most popular Wave Pictures’ clips succeed in pulling out very conceptually intelligent and subtle ideas in a lo-fi, rustic format (the one for “I Love You Like a Madman” comes to mind instantly as a very illustrative example). To which extent are you involved in the creative process of making these videos?

I hate music videos. To me, they are an insult to the art form. When you buy a novel, you don't get given a CD of music to listen to while you read it. Why should music have videos? It is saying that music is not interesting enough on its own, you need a film as well otherwise you will be bored. I hate them. I appear in them only to be nice and helpful. I have no interest in what they look like and I don't like to watch them. If you like one, it is the work of the director, not me. Same if you don't like it. I wish they didn't exist, not just for me but for anyone. Personally, I like to listen to music without a film to accompany it. Or I like to watch a proper film.

It’s been announced that you’ll be playing Primavera Sound 2017! Next year’s line-up has been an unbeatable surprise for some and a bit of a disappointment for others. I’ve been told you guys are not crazy about festivals as attendees, but what’s your opinion on it so far? Looking forward to seeing any specific band?

I don't like festivals because I think they should be free. I think that the idea of festivals should be free events for the local community. Instead they are terribly expensive. I think a nice hippie idea has been commercialised out of all recognition. I think people are being ripped off, robbed in broad daylight. There is no community spirit to festivals, just money men selling the faded image of Woodstock to new generations.

Last but not least, and as Nardwuar the Human Serviette would ask, why should people care about the Wave Pictures?

It's not for me to say. You can't beg people to like you! I can tell you my opinions, but they aren't worth any more than anybody else's. I really love The Wave Pictures. I think we're truly exceptional and totally original. I think we’re really a band of exceptional genius. I think that everyone else is full of shit. I think they've got shit coming out of their ears, they’re so full of shit. I think The Wave Pictures are the real deal. Totally honest. Pure genius. Pure innovation and invention. I think we are true artists, magicians, shamans, wizards. Gods. But this is just my opinion.

Lee aquí la entrevista en español con The Wave Pictures para Muzikalia.