Those Lemon Jelly-makers have more jelly, only this time itís darker, more eclectic, and, as Fred and Nick assert, most definitely Ďnot like the old albumí. 64-95 is a sensual treat, in audio and visual format. Lemon Jelly has produced an hour-long DVD of synchronised visuals and music. Intrigued by Lemon Jellyís latest phenomena Rachael Clegg interviews Fred Deakin about the visual aspects of music and the concepts behind 64-95.
Rachael Clegg Interview with Fred Deakin from Lemon Jelly.
MM: I've encountered numerous descriptions about Lemon Jelly ranging from ĎChemical Brothers minus the drugs plus the CBBC charactersí to ĎBagpuss with BeatsíÖ
MM: Oh well! I wondered how you felt about these kind of descriptions?
Fred: Itís great, itís a precious giftÖwas it Robbie Burns who said Ďit is a precious gift Ö if only we could see each other the way others see usí? I am just happy people are interested I guess.
MM: You and Nick I believe, had previous careers, or you still do, on the commercial side of both music and graphic arts. I wondered how this fed through to the music...
Fred: Obviously we do all the design of the artwork ourselves; we were quite precious about putting together the way the shows look. My background is running clubs and DJ'ing, thatís where I got into graphic design and where I experienced music. We are a kind of classic DJ / Producer double act really. It all feeds in. Nickís immensely versatile as the result of working with a lot of people over the years and so itís always fun to see where youíre going to go next - itís always a bit of an adventure. Heís worked on such a lot of different projects that heís got a lot of experience about how to get from A-B basically, or A-F, or A-Z, or whatever. Having seen a lot of very creative people in the studio to see the way they work and everyoneís got their own way of working thatís kind of what it is to make music you kind of evolve your own particular process. If youíve had such a lot of experience working with all these people itís really useful when it comes to time where we have to make our music.
MM: Commercially it must be incredibly lucrative if you can cover the entire musical process rather than having to have lots of middlemen...
Fred: Well it helps on the focus of the whole project certainly and I think it keeps it much more coherent and consistent, but the downfall of course, is that we donít get a lot of time off, when most bands get to have a little rest at the end of the record and pass it onto the people that design the sleeve or make the video or whatever, thatís another part of our job.
MM: It seems that the artwork is not just about a cover; it appears that you are quite a visual band as a whole packageÖ
MM: ÖI wondered if the album covers make a statement as to what the listener is to expect, is this the case?
Fred: Absolutely, I donít know if you have seen the cover of the latest album..... the idea behind that [the new album cover] is, well firstly, the whole album is a love-affair with music and with records in their finished form, hence the circles, which is representative of record labels, or records themselves, or CDs. Thereís always a circle knocking about. There are nine different illustrations, they are all sampled in the cover logo: LJ, apostrophes etcetera, each of the nine tracks has got an image that peeps through one of the letters. Then you get the full illustration on the inside, but we havenít told you which illustration goes with which track. You have to work it out, a little puzzle [for the listener].
MM: You canít give away too much ?.
Fred: It gives [the listener] something to explore, thereís a different interpretation going on too.
Fred: Well, we havenít spelled it out anywhere, thereís no definitive answerÖyouíve got to work it out. There are some fairly obvious cluesÖ thereís about three or four that are really obvious.
MM: I read that the artwork is influenced by sixties art, but Iím intrigued as to what particular artistic influences are reflected in the album covers?
Fred: Well, I like West-Coast posters a lot myself. Iím also quite interested in stuff from the thirties, tram posters and stuff like that. But the whole psychedelic look - I mean in a way itís a bit like our music; people do describe our music as psychedelic but you certainly couldnít have made anything like that in the sixties because it just wasnít in the form of music then. You didnít have this whole kind of sampler thing then and the whole beats and loops, computer-based technology [which] has taken [music] somewhere else. I think the same is true of the artwork; it has got very psychedelic reference points [with] the colour schemes and the patterns and stuff but at the same time you couldnít have made artwork like that in the sixties because there just wasnít the technology around. It was a very different medium. The whole kind of feel of psychedelia [however] is definitely very influential but then as I say, there is the whole twenties and thirties transport stuff and holiday Riviera posters. Thereís a lot of Pop art that I am really into, a lot of printmakers, I like screen print art. I love Robert Indiana. One of my fantasies is to live in a villa in the south of France and do printmaking all day. Wouldnít that be fun?
MM: Yes, the thing [for me] about psychedelic art is that it is just fun, the fact you can put squiggles here and there is what art is all about because you can make as many squiggles as you like in the materiality of paint but squiggles are not going to happen in the real world.
Fred: Yes, youíve got to explore these arenas...
MM: Speaking of which, I was looking at a snippet of the DVD that you are about to release, I wondered if you visualised images when you are making music and how much you are connected to the visual world when you make the sounds.
Fred: Well, what I would say is that certainly in this instance the music was made first and the images were made after to respond to that, but at the same time there was an overlap with the surround mix [of the new DVD]. Thereís a 5.1 surround mix on that DVD, which was done to the visuals because that was so it was mixed watching the DVD and responding to the visual cues, so there was a certain amount of crossover there. What me and Nick find when we are making music usually is that we get to a stage where weíve got kind of a nice groove going on but the track isnít really about much and what usually takes it to the next level is some kind of narrative or an idea; Ďwhatís this track aboutí type thing. When we get that idea sorted out we can go back and write the beginning and then this is happening and something else happens and [so forth]. A lot of the ideas that you see in the DVD were certainly evolved and informed the music.
MM: I saw the video for the Shouty Track with the Humpty Dumpty moshers. What inspired the mosher characters?
Fred: It just seemed like a really fun track. Thereís a company called Zonked who do our club PR, And when put out the third EP out we werenít signed, it was on '.KY' - for the last three tracks, we kind of made a really conscious effort to make a really dark EP, because the first EPs were quite cuddly. We said to Sally at Zonked Ďthis is us getting really darkí and she said Ďwell yes, itís dark but itís still Jelly, itís still funí and we went Ďoh, is it, oh dear, we really tried our bestí. I think the same is true of the Shouty Track, weíve kind of embraced that now, it is quite violent [The Shouty Track]; itís quite grimy and nasty, and that whole fleshy bit in the middle but at the same time, itís fun violence. These things talk to you, you donít just decide but when we were doing that video there was a sense that this was cartoon violence, itís fun violence. These [characters] were hitting each other in the face but theyíre enjoying it. That is the spirit of the mosh really, because moshingís pretty violent.
MM: Yes it is.... but at least itís an exchange between those two people?
Fred: Yes, itís a fair exchange. Everyoneís in it for fun, but thereís a degree of support in it as well; everyone is looking after everyone else.
MM: You axe me and Iíll axe you !?
MM: I thought the Shouty Track had quite a dirty sound to it. How much does that relate to the tracks on the album?
Fred: Well I think they flow; the idea of the album is to get as eclectic as we possibly can without losing the flow and the sound of Lemon Jelly, we really wanted to push the various divisions; the various genres that we were sampling from and the various styles, and certainly with the DVD we were putting on a very different aesthetic. You almost literally donít know whatís coming next as you listen to the album. That was one of the ideas behind it.
MM: With the title, í64-95í, does it serve any kind of historical purpose as a chronological mapping of popular music?
Fred: Yes, certainly, that was our intention: that we would get as far as we could; we were definitely pushed to get a track from the sixties in there. We wanted to have that span, definitely. Obviously the numbers are very much dictated by the tracks that we ended working on [and] we tried a lot of tracks to come up with those nine. Also, the other idea is that it is our greatest hits album, and like a sort of U2 Ď1980 Ė 99í, this is our greatest hits album [if] we started in 1964 and split up in 1995 [in a] parallel universe. We have released fifteen albums and here are the nine [bonus] tracks.
MM: Going back to the Shouty Track video, the beats are synchronised with the bashings taken by each character, that must require a tremendous amount of patience, how long would it take, for example, to produce that video?
Fred: [We had] an incredibly tight turnover for the whole project, and a very tight budget as well. I think we had three months for the whole thing, [so we had] two or three weeks for each track over-lapping, so we started one one week and had it running-over the next week, it took a lot of people. So yes, it was a lot of work.
MM: Do you get an animation company?
Fred: No, fortunately I am part of a company called AirsideÖ
MM: Bit of a jack-of-all-trades ...?
Fred: Yes, and a master of a few I hopeÖyes, we made it in-house basically. Thatís kind of the way the Jelly thing works, we like to keep our hands on every little part of the process we can. Iíve just been designing lots of ads, you know, most bands donít get to bother with designing the ads but I like to really kind of dot the Is and cross the Ts so that it really reeks of me and Nick.
MM: It seems like a very tight package in which the entire aesthetic is completely interlinked with the music; I was trying to think of comparisons of other bands that have done it, particularly with the DVD and there are very few.
Fred: Underworld is a good comparison, possibly, because they have got the tomato. Other than that, I hesitate to mention it but Pink Floyd.
MM: The Wall ? - going back in time to the KY compilation, on the last listen it struck me as being quite cinematic - this relates to what you were saying about narrative Ė do you want it to be cinematic?
Fred: Well, I donít know. We make music that isnít conventional; theyíre not conventional songs and we donít have lead vocals a lot of the time Ė I think one of the reasons why Iím quite glad that we had this sample concept for the new album would be that it takes it away from that [cinematic quality] a little bit. Itís not that I have a problem with our music being cinematic certainly, but I think itís nice for us to have a range. Itís hard to know what to say about that really. I donít think itís conscious necessarily; if [Lemon Jelly] work as a soundtrack to [ones] life then thatís incredibly flattering and great. I suppose the downside for us is when it starts getting over-used as Ďbackgroundí music, whether it be for a dinner party or on TV, thatís been a bit frustrating, I have to say.
MM: Do you think being used as Ďbackgroundí music has hindered your progress at all?
Fred: I donít know, what I do know is that you canít do anything about it you just have to let these things happen. We donít have any control over getting used on TV; thereís a thing called the blanket agreement, which means they can basically use anything they want and we donít get paid very much of it. I think every time you hear a bit of Lemon Jelly on TV I probably get about 5p. A lot of people assume we make a huge amount of money from that and itís something that we will willingly participate in, but itís actually not the case at all. Iím sure as a result Iím sure a lot of people find our music a bit over-used in places but fortunately I think itís been isolated to specific tracks. Itís becomes less that [used as background music] the more weíve done because [it has] become more complicated [as we have become more involved in what we do] and harder to use as background music.
MM: With the shedding of the Ďbackgroundí aesthetic therefore in the new album, do you think listeners and the musical press will react positively?
Fred: I donít know, I think that we will probably shed some fans, we stickered the album to say Ďthis is different, this is our new album, itís not like our old albumí because I wanted people to check it out and not feel cheated that they had bought it expecting Lost Horizons 2.
MM: This is an obvious question, but an important one: whatís the next album that you are planning to buy?
Fred: I want to buy the ODB album, Iím very excited about that; Iím very keen to get my hands on the Chemical Brothers album; Iím waiting to [receive] the Eagles of Death Metal album, Iím always looking for new and interesting stuff, though old stuff is what I really get excited about. Thereís a guy called Don Ellis thatís like mad jazz that I am into.
MM: If you had a musical edict for people, what would it be?
Fred: My edict to all people would be that if you donít like a musical genre you better go and explore it a bit further because there is bound to be some good stuff that youíre deliberately [missing out on].
MM: What influences do we hear in the new album?
Fred: Itís a very broad time for music I think, thereís a real kind of Ďend of the centuryí anything goes thing. Itís great. The influences are all there [in the new album].
MM: If you were to situate Lemon Jelly in the current popular musical context, where do you see yourselves?
Fred: Well, I donít think we are particularly mainstream, at the same time we are not wilfully obscure. I think we are just doing our own thing really and kind of odd and interesting..........That will do it for me.
LEMON JELLY WEB :
UK OFFICIAL : http://www.lemonjelly.ky/
US OFFCIAL : http://www.beggars.com/us/lemonjelly/
FANSITE : http://www.jellyheads.info
words: Rachael Clegg
pix : (c) Lemon Jelly / XL
(c)(p) jan05 - my big mouth 4 musicdash 2005