1. Aos. Hello ‘Fishclaw‘ – Welcome to ‘Architect of Sound’, 2020. Firstly I would like you to introduce each member of the band to the online audience and tell us what genre/s of music do you play as a collective unit?
Fishclaw: Alex Leming – Bass/Synth, Jos Dow – Violin/Viola/Mandolin, Peter Rowley – Drums, Rory Hobbs – Guitars/Mandolin, Shari Statcher – Whistles/Flute, Simon Keep – Accordion/Piano/Synth.
We find it hard to put our music into a genre. We think a recent review sums us up fairly well.
“There is a dark side to folk music that is hidden in back alleys and backwaters. It revels in not caring about what is fashionable and instead treads a path that follows unexplored senses. It embraces the powerful possibilities of rhythms and sounds to merge and build, inducing trance-like and hypnotic effects in those who hear it. Fishclaw exists in this murky world. It looks at the world with fresh eyes and helps others to do the same.”
2. Aos. ‘How did the band come about and how long have you all been playing music together for?
Fishclaw: The band was formed from a group of musicians from multiple musical backgrounds based around Colchester, a town we continue to love playing in. Fishclaw had its first jam with Simon and Jos in a caretaker’s cupboard back in 2012. Our first gig followed shortly after at The Waiting Rooms, a community arts centre in which we would rehearse in. The waiting Rooms was an amazing hub of creativity and like minded individuals which was a great help and inspiration to us in those early days. We also met Shari Stachter there, who had come to one of our gigs and soon after joined us!
3. Aos. Where did the band name, ‘Fishclaw‘ come from?
Fishclaw: A guitarist that used to be in the band.
4. Aos. Your music features many various musical styles ranging from Folk, rock, post-rock, hip-hop, jazz, blues and electronic music with slow and fast tempos. Any particular artists or bands who have influenced your unique musical style?
Fishclaw: We have always been into the more experimental side of folk music, bands like Shooglenifty, Lau, Spiro, Hawk and a Hacksaw and Dead Rat Orchestra helped to shape the origins of our sound. Overall we are influenced by a much wider range of music; Balmorhea, Tool, Penguin Cafe, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mount Zion Orchestra, Squarepusher, and Winged Victory for the Sullen to name a few!
5. Aos. I read a quote online from Richard Haugh, BBC Introducing, it said: “Fishclaw are a joy to behold – their music sucks you in and makes anything else you are doing irrelevant“.
What a great quote. When you play together as a band does it feel like an outer body experience? Do you feel almost hypnotised by your own vehicle of sounds?
Fishclaw: Yeah we try to make our music trancey with lots of repeats with small variations and builds each time. When we play it live, it’s pretty easy to get lost in where you are. We hope the audience picks up on that and gets immersed in that soundwall.
6. Aos. As a collective unit of musicians how do you write your unique folk music. Do you start with an idea and see where it leads spontaneously? Would a specific member of the band create the song or structure of the composition? Do you make room for improvisation?
Fishclaw: Our process is extremely varied. A lot of what we do is jamming an idea, a melody, maybe a bass part or chord progression, other times it starts with a set tune. We have the ability to record in multiple places so sometimes it’s a late-night idea quickly laid down. A recent tune came to a member while asleep and was recorded at 4 in the morning before it was forgotten! Once a rough sketch is laid down, we tend to work on our parts alone or in small groups before putting it all together and working on the structure and dynamics. We are all pretty involved in the process.
7. Aos. ‘Fishclaw‘ are an Instrumental band. Would you ever consider having vocals in your compositions?
Fishclaw: We would never say no, but at the moment, it’s not what we do. If we thought it would enhance a piece then we would think about it. As it stands we use lots of samples or visuals to help us convey a story/message. Mostly, we let the music tell the story.
8. Aos. I love the weaving whistles of celtic notes, high intensity drums, raw acoustic guitar & accordion, electronic sounds and ever changing tempos especially in your second and most recent album ‘Swift‘. It’s a terrific record – ‘Beaufort Scale to Swift Reprise’. It feels like a musical journey from start to finish.
Is there any particular tracks which stand out for you on this album? Who did the production behind ‘Swift’?
Fishclaw: For Swift we were able to work with local Tom Donovan who had a huge influence on the sound of the album. It was recorded as a live session over just 2 days. We would put Swift and Swift Reprise up there as it was a real step up to our current sound with drummer at the time Cameron Morell really putting his style into Swift Reprise. The artwork for the album was illustrated by Emmy Award winning Miles Donovan (no relation to Tom) His surreal landscape was a massive inspiration on the style of the record.
9. Aos. I believe there is a collaboration project on the horizon telling the story of the Ash Tree, a witch story set in Suffolk during the approximate time of the civil war. The story ties in with local myths and folklore of the cultural heritage of the Ash tree.
‘Fishclaw‘ are collaborating with an impressive array of people ranging from famous composers, producers, award winning film director and writer to bring this story to life through the arts.
Can you tell us a little more about this project? How did this project come about?
Fishclaw: The Ash project is a venture into the soundtrack audio visual world for us. Landscape is a theme that runs through our music. The Ash Tree and environment is in the folklore of East Anglia. Viking folklore, MR James to The Witchfinder General. We thought we would tie it in with the potential local catastrophe of loss of Ash Trees from Ash Dieback. This in turn will lead to the larger message of environmental issues on a local to national scale.
To produce the soundtrack, we will be working with the internationally renowned producer Jim Sutherland and 2x Emmy Award winning director Jason Arber amongst a raft of other people. We think that we have got a good story to tell and good people to help us tell it.
We are currently at very early stages and we are looking to promote the project through our social media channels so please follow us to be kept up to date on this one.
10. Aos. This project seems very suitable for younger learners of education highlighting the importance of nature and trees especially in our current world which highlights climate change. A great idea to demonstrate this story through art of literature, music, sounds, story telling & visual representation. What audiences do you hope to aim for with this particular project? Schools, communities, environmentalists, musicians, People of all ages etc?
Fishclaw: We are focusing on a wide range of groups; we are looking at places to host evenings with music and the projection of the film. We have already confirmed some woodlands and theaters and hope that the diverse nature of the spaces we play will attract a diverse group of people. Environmental issues affect us all.
11. Aos. Where can folk see you tour this exciting project and insightful collaboration in the future after the current world pandemic?
Fishclaw: It’s quite early stages for the Ash project, we are about to release a new LP in the spring. We are going to tour that around the UK first and play it at a few festivals. All of our dates can be viewed on social media and our website.
12. Aos. There are many musicians and bands currently in ‘lockdown’ due to the current world coronavirus pandemic, Have ‘Fishclaw‘ been productive & busy during ‘lockdown’? Found any new ways to share music? Been creative indoors? New musical ideas?
Fishclaw: We have been very busy during lockdown. Firstly we have been busy writing new music. All of us have access to recording equipment and Jos in particular has been churning out new tunes! We are about to release Monmouths 12 and we have had a lot of behind the scenes work to get that ready. We ave also launched our original LP Black Crown, White Crow onto bandcamp which until now was only available on hard copy.
Our social media accounts have been busy with competitions and we have loads of new ideas going forward. We are trying to get as many people listening to our work, giving feedback and basically becoming part of the creative process.
We have also been having weekly Zoom meetings with film directors, marketing agents etc with regards to the Ash project. We have used the time to push the project forward and we feel we are really working towards a strong storyline that will help direct the feel of the music.
All in all, we have been busier than ever.
13. Aos. Fantastic. Finally, Any past ‘Fishclaw‘ gigs that stand out in the memory and why? Any particular venue you would hope to play in years to come?
Fishclaw: We did the Nosferatu and 2000 Leagues Under the Sea projects for Firstsite Gallery which were really enjoyable. We always enjoy playing festivals such as Folk East, Latitude and Fire in The Mountain. It gives us some time to check out other bands which we don’t always have time to do!
Celtic Connection would be pretty high up our list to play as our first connection with Jim Sutherland was made there so it would be cool to go ‘full circle’!
Aos. Many Thanks to Alex Lemming, Jos Dow, Peter Rowley, Shari Stacher, Rory Hobbs and Simon keep for the talk today and wish you good luck with the new LP, Ash Project and any future shows.
To follow the fantastic 'Fishclaw' for any further news, releases, future tours etc
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~ Cheers ~