Cult With No Name's
Blank Point is proud to present an interview with Erik Stein who's half of the duo that comprises Cutl With No Name (the other half being Jon Boux.)
Blank Point: How did the two of you meet?
Cult With No Name: We were both working a central London branch of HMV, the music store. A long time ago now. I was managing the jazz section, Jon was managing the classical. I'd like to think there's something in that.
The interesting thing I suppose is that we were friends for many years before we started 'the band'. It's a different kind of glue that bonds us creatively. No auditions, no ads in the NME.
BP: How quickly did realize that you wanted to make music together?
CWNN: It took years! That's really my fault. I was arrogant enough to think that people out there would actually choose, or even like, to listen to my indulgent, neurotic 4-track recordings.
We didn't really say 'right let's start a band'. It was a very gradual process, with several small catalysts that ranged from doing a cover of the Nits' classic "In the Dutch Mountains", to actually having a car to transport gear. It's difficult to say whether we should or shouldn't have started earlier. To be fair, though, we've been pretty prolific.
BP: Is this really the first band for each of you?
CWNN: Jon has been in a multitude of bands, duos and travelling circuses. I don't know how CWNN compares, but obviously this has been his longest tour of duty to date. I'd never been in a band prior to CWNN, apart from with myself, which really was the hardest of all. We split because of musical differences.
BP: What's your song writing process? Is it truly collaborative or is one of you the principal songwriter?
CWNN: With the exception of the instrumentals, I generate the songs initially. They then get squeezed through Jon's creative filter; his style of playing, his dynamics, his endless cups of coffee. Arrangement really is so integral to the songwriting process. Any one of our songs could have ended up as ska or skiffle, but they haven't...yet. I do most of the programming and production, and am slightly obsessive about mixing.
In terms of my own songwriting process, it's amazing what a garbled answerphone message can trigger.
BP: Your influences range from classical composers to post-punk rockers, how do you manage to meld them together?
CWNN: Not intentionally, that's for sure! Jon and I listen to a wide enough range of different and overlapping music for these influences to leak out. Jon has a very particular style of playing piano, influenced largely by 20th century minimal composers. I don't interfere with it. I may or may not have a very particular style of writing songs and singing, influenced largely by post-punk. He's doesn't interfere with it. Giving each other space to breathe like this I think is what lets these influences come out.
You also have to be aware of your limitations. I love some seriously heavy music, but don't have the voice or temperament to ever succeed at something similar musically.
BP: Why did you choose Trakwerx as your record label?
CWNN: Because we were lucky enough that they chose us! It's an interesting story. I used to run an obscure post-punk music reviews site. Every week I used to post up a review of some long lost classic. One such long lost classic was 'Jedda by the Sea' by 17 Pygmies. Jackson Del Rey very kindly dropped me a note to say 'thanks' for the review and we built up a friendship, exchanging music that each of us thought we'd find exciting (and did).
Trakwerx was initially created to serve the newly reformed 17 Pygmies. The fact that the band had started up again was exciting enough for me, but then JDR asked us if we wanted to contribute to their '13 Blackbirds' album. Of course we jumped at the chance. We have been jumping up and down ever since.
BP: For those familiar with your first CD, "Paper Wraps Rock", how does your new album differ from your earlier work?
CWNN: It's interesting how things can change in such a short space of time. 'Paper Wraps Rock' was released only a year an half ago, but feels like an absolute lifetime. The new album reflects a growing confidence, I think. A greater willingness to try new things and lesser concern for what people will think of the outcome. Of course that confidence is expressed in a numbers of ways from the sounds we use, new technology, production techniques, ways of singing, ways of playing, instrumentation, tempos, time signatures. I have a low attention span and am easily bored. I've since found these to be useful qualities to have in a band.
BP: Your current recording is titled "Careful What You Wish For", this titled sounds like a bit of a warning. Was your intent to give your listeners a hint about what they were in for?
CWNN: I just liked the phrase, really. I certainly like the idea of an album title or cover art giving very little away about the music. Of course a title like "Careful What You Wish For" does invite you in, much in the same that a 'keep out' sign is a invitation for bored kids. In our case, the listener may wish they'd never tuned in in the first place, but, then, they can't say we didn't warn them, can they?
BP: You've chosen to cover one of my all-time favorite songs: "Golden Brown" by the Stranglers. Not only is it a great composition but it seems to combine your disparate influences. What lead you to covering this song?
CWNN: The Stranglers are probably my all time favourite band. Certainly the band that got me interested in music. Some songs are uncoverable and we were (and still are) mindful of that fact. In terms of how it came about , we played an event organised by a friend of mine called 'Smack Hits' (a pun on the british teen pop mag of the 80s, 'Smash Hits'). Each band had to cover a song about smack addiction. We premiered our cover of 'Golden Brown' and it went down a storm. Everyone was saying we should record it, so, for better or worse, we did.
A few months later we played a follow up event called 'Songs in the Key of Death'. We covered 'Godstar' by Psychic TV. I can't wait to hear what's coming next.
BP: Who do you think is the most underrated musician of the 80s?
CWNN: Wow, now there's a question. There are so, so many. I'm going to go for one of my very favourite bands, S.Y.P.H. They remain criminally unknown. They're the only band I've ever come across, EVER, that truly don't give a fuck about what anybody thinks of them. That doesn't mean they produce sheets of white noise, far from it. That alone is part of their brilliance.
BP: Do you have any live performances coming up?
CWNN: We're playing/ played Elektrofest in London. We don't gig as much as we should, but are open to all offers. I personally think our songs come alive through performance, but then I suppose I would say that.
BP: What's next for the band?
CWNN: We just contributed a track for DVD project on Trakwerx, showcasing the films of the ridiculously prolific and influential silent French film maker George Melies. Each band has chosen one of his films and produced an accompanying soundtrack. We chose a film entitled 'The Melomaniac'. It was interesting working to film (for Jon more than me). Again, it's given us the confidence to do more.
BP: Any final thoughts?
CWNN: Only that you should never eat anything bigger than your head. But if you do, don't talk with your mouthful.
Cult With No Name: