Sometimes you have your head turned. By money, by people you find attractive, by a job offer. For me it was much more simplistic. It was by records. So when I saw something made by the impossibly named Kitchens of Distinction (named, unsurprisingly I suppose on thinking about it) after a shop the band drove by, with this glorious colourful cover (it was the Elephantine EP), I practically smuggled it to the till, in case someone else saw me with it and tried to wrestle it from me.
The band comprised of Patrick Fitzgerald on vocals and bass, Julian Swales on Guitars and Dan Goodwin on Percussion. A lot of people were interested, intoxicated with Patrick’s lyrics. Stories, vignettes that often dealt with his own homosexuality, some with the stark angular guitar playing. Me, it was the melodies, these fragile things that transported the listener away to another land, and his bass playing; melodic, chords that I fell for.
Together, it was this part Joy Division part Cocteau Twins, part the jangly end of the 1980’s sound, that hinted at the shoegaze to come that I loved. It could be, listening to their records, that Interpol, Bloc Party, British Sea Power and the like also fell for it.
The 3rd Time we opened the Capsule
Four albums later and a handful of some of the most memorable moments of that time later (The 3rd time we opened the capsule is still one of the most fantastical songs I know) they split, the band going on to other projects, and Patrick settling on his Stephenhero moniker for a handful of albums.
And then, suddenly it happened. I got wind there was a new album. And more than that, that wind (excuse the analogy) brought truth with it, and out on September 30th it comes out, titled Folly, on the 3loop label. And from it they’ve released a video for the track Japan to Jupiter and it shows that the years haven’t dimmed their creative streak.
Japan to Jupiter
Heart in mouth with nerves, we spoke to Patrick and Julian about the album, their first in nineteen years, it’s recording and it’s inspirations.
BM: That was a bit of surprise (to me anyway) the news of the new album. How did it come about? Was it the right time? Was there a catalyst?
Patrick: Me and Julian had spoken over the years about meeting up and trying to do some writing together. This finally happened in 2011. He came up to my studio and we started. Straight away it felt like a good thing to be doing. And that’s the only catalyst I need.
Julian: Patrick was the driving force behind this. But for me I’ve been on a little bit of a journey so it did come at the right time. Guess I wanted to get into playing the guitar again as I’d neglected it over the years maybe, been concentrating on other areas, of music, of life….Being a superstictious idiot, when Patrick suggested I work with him again I decided it was ‘meant to happen’. There are some other reasons but they’re probably even more whacko.
Who drove the reunion – or was it a mutual thing?
Patrick: It didn’t start out as an attempt at a reunion. We wanted to write together. it became apparent about a year later that it was turning into a record, and that we should probably call it a Kichens of Distinction record. As we both have other job it took a fair amount of drive on both our parts to keep it going and see it through to the end.
Julian: Patrick’s the Lone Ranger, me Tonto. Actually, I’ve not seen the movie so maybe it’s not such a good analogy. Him Bowie, me Fripp. More seriously, what Patrick has done here is an amazing thing. I’m very glad to have been involved and shoot it through with sonic joy.
And the new album, what can you tell us about that? Is it a departure of a continuation of the solo work(s), or something new?
Patrick: Oh you know, same old! Ok it resembles a Kitchens record because I’m singing, there’s a lot of guitar textures, and we’re still aiming for that spiritual lift. It differs in that we’re older, wiser, more experienced, and our goals have shifted. For me it’s a definite departure from Stephenhero music, which by the last record had gone as far as I wanted down that avenue of quiet, piano-led ballads.
Julian: Something new I hope
BM: And how were those initial get together, had you all been in touch since the band stopped working together – it’s been quite a while?
Patrick: We’ve always been in touch. The initial get-together wasn’t like being in a band. No rehearsal room, and Dan wasn’t around when we were writing. He came over to mine one weekend to help out with the rhythms and to play cymbals/percussion. So his involvement was on a different scale to previous Kitchens records. It was a new process, and the only one that would work seeing as we lived in different parts of the country, Modern technology made the whole thing possible
Julian: We’d always stayed in touch and we did meet up about a couple of years before this album even started at my instigation to just jam for an afternoon for fun. We recorded it all. I still have it somewhere. It’s terrible! It was “Photographing Rain” I think, sent to me as a midi file for piano, that solicited enthusiasm from me in the first instance though. Just a riff. So Patrick wasn’t even in the room for the initial get together, haha. There’s something not quite right about that though is there? Where will it all end?
BM: What role did 3loop play in the whole thing?
Patrick: They took the pressure off me trying to put out another record on my own. Such a relief to have more people working with you doing the business stuff, which I confess to having very little interest in.
BM: I suppose the whole recording process is different from the way you were used to doing the last time you worked together. How did you find it?
Patrick: A joy and a curse. Great to be in charge and to have easy access to amazing equipment that now costs so little in comparison to the old days. But I would love to have had the luxury of a producer like Hugh Jones or Pascal Gabriel along for the whole thing.
Julian: Sending things down the Internet and placing them in the wrong place in the song, missing parts out entirely, using the wrong version of the song – oh yeah, great! But I’ve got countless more effects in software for a fraction of the price, and space, that my old rig cost me. It’s mad. I can record a sitar and make it go backwards before I’ve even got out of bed…what’s not to like?
And are there any themes lyrically or musically that run through the record?
Patrick: Love and Death, the usual.
And the writing process – was that fairly straightforward?
Patrick: The only song that caused trouble was Extravagance. I had a complete tune and lyric, which as the song was almost done we realised wasn’t working so well. So I had to write a new lyric and tune, something I’d never tried before. Extremely challenging but very much worth it. As ever, the new tune came to me on a walk out with the dog. She’s great at singing out new tunes.
Julian: Let’s see: the songs are like houses. Patrick has built them all and he’s asked me to come in and do interior design. In some houses I’ve done quite a lot, I’ve even added a room in the loft here and there, and without planning permission. In some houses Patrick had to do more of the decorating himself because well, you just can’t get the staff these days. Pascal Gabriel was the Feng Shui consultant and Dan did the plastering.
BM: And excited about the release now?
BM: Is there any chance of some live dates?
BM: Do you have any more plans post-release for the band, or are you going to go back to other projects, or has no decision been made?
Patrick: Carry on writing, always more writing and working regardless of the outcome
Julian: Planning some work on the house….
BM: With the benefit of hindsight, how do you look back on the days on the band? With pride? pleasure? Or something else?
Patrick: I regret almost everything most days, and absolutely nothing on the other ones. I think most decisions in my life have been horrendous or astute> I feel like a character in a Jonathon Franzen novel, whose life is lined with promises turned to equally fulfilled and missed opportunities. Particularly the offer of joining the Masons. Is it still too late?
Julian: Some regret. Some pleasure. Fondness. Disbelief. I really wish I’d bought a Les Paul. It might have been a different story then…
BM: Has it been gratifying to see how fondly you’ve been remembered, despite it being so long since you were together?
Patrick: Frankly I’m amazed. As warm as crumpets
Julian: Yes, it’s lovely thanks.
And so on Monday 30th September, I fully expect my head to be turned again, nineteen years after their last album Cowboys and Aliens did it before.