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Engineers - The IndieLondon interview


Interview by rob Carnevale

MARK Peters, of Engineers, talks to us about the band’s latest album, Three Fact Fader, and takes us through some of the tracks and the inspirations behind them.

He also reveals his thoughts on how the Internet is re-shaping the music industry, why Engineers are indebted to fan support and which 10 tracks are almost always on his iPod at the moment…

Q. Three Fact Fader is another brilliant piece of work. Were there times when you thought it might never see the light of day? Or had you always kept faith?
Mark Peters: Yeah, there were times I thought it wouldn’t come out, but my family and later on fans telling me that it was too good to sit on the shelf spurred me on to get it released. I kind of got closure on it at one point with the idea of it as sort of a lost classic that people would eventually find out about through forums and blogs [which was starting to happen], but when we were approached by Kscope we felt happy that it would be handled in the right way, so we went with them.

Q. How gratifying was it to receive so much encouragement from fans?
Mark Peters: It was really nice. That’s the great thing about the Internet – people will always hear unreleased music eventually, and you get a genuine, instant and sometimes quite emotional response from people who would perhaps in person be quite shy and unable to express themselves fully. The amount of people who wanted this record to come out meant that it has, and that means so much more than one record company executive taking a punt on you for financial reasons.

Q. Did changes in the music industry and the way that more artists are going it alone, on their own terms, away from studios, also provide a source of encouragement?
Mark Peters: In this case not really, as we made the album with the producer Ken Thomas in a couple of big studios and the album is owned by Chrysalis with Kscope licensing it from them. I do think that is absolutely the way to go now though – the old methods of making records are changing. All of us have a set up in our home now on which we can finish a record individually if we want to…

Q. So, the Internet – a good or bad thing for new bands and current bands?
Mark Peters: Good for new bands, yes, as you can promote yourself and even make money from your own work if you have a following. Of course, the downloading situation is the biggest facet to this topic and I can’t see it changing, so the moral of the story is ‘be very good live’.

Q. Let’s talk about the album. It took a deliberately long time to assemble. Which tracks are you personally most proud of?
Mark Peters: There’s a few that I’m especially proud of… Emergency Room being the first that springs to mind. It came together really quickly and for me is the most effortless yet the most musically advanced track on the album. I also love the way Be What You Are and What Pushed Us Together sound. It was alot of fun finishing these tracks off at Brittania Row in South London earlier this year.

Q. What was the aim going in this time? It’s an expansion of the Engineers sound – and a thing of beauty…
Mark Peters: We were sure that we wanted to create an album that was rythmically more engaging than our debut. A lot of the ideas for the songs came from playing live as opposed to writing in bedrooms, so we focused on our dance and krautrock influences and later incorporated the typical Engineers embellishments later after defining the groove of each track.

Q. Album opener Clean Coloured Wire is an excellent starting point? Can you talk a little about the creation of that track, and was it always a first choice for album opener? What drew you towards the Watussi sample?
Mark Peters: I think the vibe of the single Clean Coloured Wire has a great atmosphere, and translates to a live situation in a very exciting way. The sample was so special to us because we were shocked that that Watussi was recorded in 1974, yet seemed so utterly modern.

Kraftwerk usually get the credit for the way modern dance music sounds, but to me Harmonia were there first, and the sleeve to Music Von Harmonia is also a pop art classic. The band themselves have incidentally been very kind about our track, with Michael Rother telling us it gives him goosebumps. How could it not be the opening track?!

Q. Hang Your Head is another barnstormer – I like the pounding, indie vibe. It reminded me of Doves and Stone Roses… can you talk about this track and how it came together?
Mark Peters: This track started as an acoustic demo after listening to all the Velvet Underground’s records back to back as I was in a bit of a fantasy realm after finding out we were to support Bloc Party in New York in 2005. We recorded an almost Glam rock version of it and Metric’s engineer John O’Mahoney completed a mix before we finally completed the final mix ourselves with our engineer Ben Thackerey. it’s interesting that you say it has northern connotations – maybe it’s our voices that give that feeling, but we were in a NY state of mind when we recorded it…

Q. Song For Andy, in contrast, is wonderfully tranquil – a shoegaze classic in waiting. Is this a personal favourite? And who is Andy?
Mark Peters: I think this one is closest to our drummer Sweeney’s heart. It is written about Andy Burke, a very good friend of ours who in the past was the subject of perhaps the best album ever by a band from Wigan…

Q. You refer to your own music in an interview as shoegaze. Does that mean you no longer object to that description, which could be a little derogatory a few years ago?
Mark Peters: People have to remember that the music press decides when shoegaze is OK to like and not to like. It’s a shame it has a derogatory association as there has been some amazing music made that has been given that monicker. I think it’s largely down to the name, which described mopey indie kids too lacking in confidence to look up from their effects pedals. I also think that the term was coined by journalists with ADD who needed a visual stimulus because they didn’t have enough musical appreciation to just go to a gig to listen to music. They must be very pleased with X-Factor now…

Q. You draw in classical elements on The Fear Has Gone, which also gives the album a cinematic quality. How deliberate was that? And how easy to accomplish and incorporate in Engineers’ sound?
Mark Peters: I think the cinematic elements in our music are second nature to us. We even play certain DVDs in the studio sometimes to give ourselves visual stimulus. The writing and recording of the string quartet passages on the album rate as some of the most enjoyable times of the recording of the album for me, and Knifedge (the name of the ensemble) were very sympathetic to our desire to not have a slick hollywood sound, so they played more similarly to how they might perform pieces by european composers such as Sergei Prokofiev, Avro Part and Jean Sibelius.

Q. Do you have a big tour planned? Any dates to reveal?
Mark Peters: We’re still planning our own tour at this stage for autumn, although we are confirmed to join Porcupine Tree on tour in October and December which we are really looking forward to as we feel their audience will really appreciate us and also our sound is more suited to the larger venues we will be playing at. Hammersmith Apollo is virtually sold out, so that will be very exciting indeed.

Q. Which bands/artists influence you? Who do you find yourself drawing from?
Mark Peters: Our influences come from deep and wide, with many of them not being instantly traceable in our music. I personally draw a lot of inspiration from Jazz artists such as Alice Coltrane and at the moment there are a lot of great acts coming out of USA such as Animal Collective and Deerhunter, who aren’t typical airbrushed pop stars and genuinely echo the thoughts and feelings of their fans.

Q. Will you be looking to continue working under your own steam from now on? And will you be intending to release the next album quicker than the time it has taken to deliver this one?
Mark Peters: The next album will absolutely come out much sooner than this did. It was finished at a time when the industry was going through a stage of radical transformation, but now we have found a way to adapt I feel like we will flourish in the current climate, as we are itching to take advantage of it.

Q. Finally, what are the 10 tracks that are never far from your iTunes player at the moment?
Mark Peters: Curt Boettcher – Lament Of The Astral Cowboy.
Jack Reiley and Machiel Botman – Stuck (the Circle).
Here We go Magic – Fangela.
Kate Bush – Get Out of My House.
Bill Callahan – Faith/Void.
Emmylou Harris – Still Water.
Ronnie Lane – Roll On Babe.
Deerhunter – Cavalry Scars ll/Aux.out.
Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – Little Shadow.
Serena Maneesh – Never.
Katharina Frank – The Wind Was Playing With My Hair

Read our review of Three Fact Fader