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AAA Music | 20 May 2024

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A Chat With Paul Thomas Saunders

| On 19, Apr 2012

AAAmusic: Tell us a bit about yourself and your music.

My name is Paul Thomas Saunders. People often think I’m younger than I am. My music is written, recorded and produced from the same room in my house in the North of England.

AAAmusic: How did your interest in music begin?

I’m from a church going family; I joined the choir to get paid when I was 7. I suppose that was the first time I ever took part in the process of creating music. I’m not sure whether any of the intricacies of choral song ever became part of my subconscious though, Pop music is very basic, but it’s paradigms are the only ones I’ve ever really been able get my head around.

AAAmusic: Your music has a rather psychedelic sixties feel to it, are you particularly influenced by that period?

I’m in love with the production techniques of Joe Meek, I hope the spirit of his approach comes through in my music from time to time. I was listening to a lot of The Shadows and The Tornadoes when we made Lilac & Wisteria, I’ve got a bit of a weakness for Music Machine too. It’s hard to control what filters through to the music you make sometimes, but I’m glad that this aspect has surfaced somewhat.

AAAmusic: Who are your influences and inspirations, both in music and in general?

Musically, at the moment, Vangelis and Jean-Claude Vannier. They’re both composers of unattainable skill and vision. It leaves me in a constant state of dissatisfaction with my own work, which I find quite motivating. Jim Jarmusch movies have a purity and honesty that I wish I could convey in the music I make. They’re brutally to the point and direct, I’d like to learn how to do that in song. Other than that, when I get angry I pace and read Bukowski, I find that pretty inspiring at the time.

AAAmusic: Your EP, Lilac and Wisteria, was released last summer. How was that received?

People seemed to only have lovely things to say about it, which was a relief. I’m sure there were those who disapproved, but they must held their tongues on this occasion.

AAAmusic: Was it the first recording you’d ever produced?

I recorded and co-produced a four track E.P. of what were effectively demos a year earlier called Four Songs in Twilight. I’d consider Lilac & Wisteria the first thing I’ve ever done of any substance though. Not in terms of quality, that’s for a third party to decide, but I don’t think I had ever focused on a project in the way that I did with Lilac & Wisteria.

AAAmusic: Tell us about your first gig?

My first show was in Loughborough at a pub called The Greyhound. We were no more than 15, and my band and another booked out the upstairs function room for a night. Even though we both hadn’t played a show, we were great rivals. If my memory serves, they blew us out the water. We were all converse and Union Jacks, they had remembered to learn their instruments.

AAAmusic: What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?

We played at Bush Hall with The Head and The Heart last year, the crowd were so receptive and charming. I’m not always the keenest performer; I don’t feel like the stage is where I belong. But I managed to enjoy it through the nerves. That was something at least.

AAAmusic: Which acts have you played alongside?

We’ve played with some really wonderful people over the last two years. Blue Roses, Villagers, The Staves, The Head and The Heart, Joan as Police Woman and Low, to name but a few.

AAAmusic: Are you excited to play at the Camden Crawl? What material are you planning to play?

We are, we’re planning to play the Descartes Highlands in its entirety, and then we’ll nit-pick at Lilac & Wisteria. All the hits really.

AAAmusic: Will the Camden Crawl be your first festival?

No, not our first, but our first time at Camden Crawl though. It’ll be fun to be part of the chaos.

AAAmusic: Where else can we expect to see you over the coming year?

We’re playing at quite a few festivals over the summer across Europe; you can find all my dates and other happenings on my website.

AAAmusic: Descartes Highlands is out on the 16th of April. What’s the story behind the EP?

I think releases should feel like complete bodies of work, rather than just haphazard collections of songs, so I was quite ambitious with the content of Descartes Highlands. I tried to write all the songs about a character who is at a very significant point in her life. Approaching middle age, perhaps like a modern day Mrs. Robinson, she finds herself wrestling between who she is, who she’s been and who she wants to be.

AAAmusic: Are there any recurring themes and stories present in your songs?

I think there are many, but it can become quite vulgar and self-indulgent to talk about the subject of your own songs too much. The narrative in a song can be very abstract and still evoke the strongest of emotions. Sometimes they are there to describe the indescribable. I would never compare my music to it, but at the heart of impressionism painting, was a desire to capture something beyond detail. So with my music, perhaps people might not understand it, until they feel it themselves.

AAAmusic: What is your personal favourite out of all of your songs?

I think my favourite is Sante Muerte’s Lightning and Flare from Descartes Highlands.

AAAmusic: Which instruments do you play?

I’m the embodiment of that overused phrase ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. I can stumble around all manner of keys, buttons and strings, but I wouldn’t consider myself a real musician. I don’t really play them; so much as extort them of sound.

AAAmusic: Have you ever had instrument or vocal lessons?

Many, I’ve brought grown men and women to tears trying to perform the most basic of technical tasks under their instruction.

AAAmusic: Do you have any unusual talents or hobbies?

I can make really neat triangles out of crisp packets.

AAAmusic: What’s one of the worst things that you’ve ever been through?

The higher education system.

AAAmusic: And what’s easily the best?

Adolescence.

AAAmusic: What’re your views on illegal downloading?

It’s a grey area, undeniably. But I would never want my music to go unheard by someone simply because they couldn’t afford it. It’s a western indulgence to be able to make a living as a musician. So I don’t feel entitled to make money from it.

AAAmusic: How about Spotify?

I use it.

AAAmusic: Where can we hear your lovely music?

Thank you, you can hear my two latest E.P’s on my website www.PaulThomasSaunders.com.

AAAmusic: Which current bands and artists are you a fan of?

I’ve been listening to a lot of John Maus recently, and Spaceman 3, they’re not current actually, but definitely necessary for a wholesome and fulfilled existence.

AAAmusic: Any last words?

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

 

Author: Rose Benge