INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS -  the Separation Circle INTERVIEW

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In many of your songs, there's an upward or forwards progression where either words, music or both seem to be trying to grow towards something more positive e.g. 'Krog' and 'Kite' - in fact the name of the album "Emerging into the Brightness of the Day" illustrates that idea of forward and upward progress rather nicely.  I was struck therefore that in the song "Miss Japan?" you seem to have gone in the opposite direction, from a bright and breezy start developing into something which gradually becomes darker, more sinister and ends of with a sense of nail-biting worry.  Would you agree with that and if so, what's going on?
Yes I think that's spot on.  I've worked hard to transform an essentially depressive outlook from my teenage years, reflected in the songs of the Arteks, into something more positive.   The Bad Tune Men song "Krog" was about me trying to encourage myself to "look up and see the light (at the end of [my] tunnel vision)", to try to lift myself upwards towards a more positive, happier way of being.  "Miss Japan?" on the other hand recalls a relationship where I was trying to help someone, maybe trying to play a knight in shining armour, but I'd underestimated the strength of her self-destructive tendencies.  It was a bit like when you're holding onto someone who's hanging over the edge of a cliff. If the centre of balance between the two of you is well-grounded on top of the cliff then you can pull them up. However, if the centre of balance shifts over the edge of the cliff, you get pulled down with them.  There was a real danger of me getting pulled over the edge too; it felt like the centre of balance was shifting slowly but surely in that direction.  She realised it and persuaded me to let go.  The ending of the song is intended as a cliff-hanger where you don't know what's going to happen but you get a strong sense that the danger is increasing.

 

A number of people have commented about "My Name is Ana" as follows:  "really well done, with just enough wackiness to be interesting";   "the chorus doesn't seem to fit"; "there was a certain abandonment about the lyrics….. it was a song where you know, you wished you were the person in it..."   Would you like to respond to those?
It's flattering when people take the time to pass on their comments.  I always try to make my songs a bit different; it would be totally dissatisfying to me to produce anything completely formulaic and mainstream. Writing "My name is Ana" was a challenge because I wanted to convey, in both the words and the music, the feeling of childlike exuberance, the ability to discover sheer joy despite difficult circumstances so I worked hard on the presentation of an apparently simple chorus to mark that change.  That involved slowing things down relating to the moment of discovery, then picking up pace again as things take off.  I don't know if that makes sense; as is often the case, I'm struggling to find the exact vocabulary to describe what I mean.  That's another reason why it's really useful to hear listeners' comments; often other people are better able to put into words their own responses and sometimes their words hit the nail on the head of what I was trying to achieve better than mine do!  'Abandonment' - yes.  Abandonment of worries and inhibitions.

What do you think of love songs generally?
Well, many Separation Circle songs are love songs.  Love takes many shapes and forms and I enjoy exploring some of the less frequently visited aspects of it, or looking at more frequently visited aspects in different ways. The popular commercial aspects of it are the romantic beginnning of a relationship or one person's regrets over the end of a relationship but even together those present quite a limited portion of the full range of possibilities.  Many people confuse 'love' with strong feelings of desire &/or hoped for attachment associated with another person.  One song

which I felt really captured a much truer, altruistic love was Lee Anne Womack's "I Hope You Dance" which presents a wide range of hopes & aspirations for the loved person.  When people speak of 'love', that song is a great reference point to check against.  Sadly I remember reading a review of it on some Bible-bashing website the sum total of whose comments consisted of things like "one minor blasphemy" and "displays a distorted and inaccurate view of the nature of god".  I suppose that just goes to show how some people can completely miss the point and at the same time feel convinced that they are following the totally right path while doing so.  Anyway, one of the best songs I've ever heard about the romantic phase of love was The Jam's "Fly".  At that time they were considered a punk band, but they captured real tenderness, peaks & troughs, doubts & elations in that song.  Some amazingly touching love songs have also been written by people like Tom Robinson (e.g. "Martin", "1967", "Coldharbour Lane") & Peter Gabriel (e.g. "Come Talk To Me", "Blood of Eden").

And which of your love songs would you highlight?
Welll, "Separate Ways" was about a group of boys from the same neighbourhood who grew up and shared many experiences together.  I'm sure they wouldn't have used the word "love" for what they felt for each other because of homophobic reactions to the commonly misused interpretations of the word, but it was a form of love.  I've tried to look at lust, seduction & romantic love from different angles with songs such as "Step into Twilight", "The Pizza Song" and "Eastward from Krakatoa (Parahyangan)" as well as the more twisted, abusive forms of love such as in "Daddy's Girl Has Fallen Down" and "Miss Japan?".  "Friend of Disposed Bathwater" is about how circumstances disrupt the intense and basic attachment love of a mother & baby for each other.  "The Space Between the Stars" on the other hand looks at separation at the other end of the life cycle.  Actually I think films can probably better explore how different aspects of "love" develop because they have more time to do so.  Anthony Minghella's "Truly Madly Deeply" and "The English Patient" did that particularly effectively.

It has been commented upon that you rather enjoy employing a number of musical 'tricks' or even jokes in your songs.  What are some of your favourites?
(laughs) Yes I suppose that's a good way of putting it.  I quite enjoyed the swarm of B's & the predictive irony of a line from a certain national anthem in "Rumble Mountain".  I'm also rather proud of the key change occurring half-way through a word in the middle of a line in the middle of a verse in "I am Alone" as well as the Les Dawson- style piano solo in "Out of Your Shade".  It's fun to play around with time signatures too such as in "Happy Life" (15/8), "Out of Your Shade" (5/8), "Retreat" (21/8 possibly), and "Miss Japan?" (15/4).

What's behind the archaeic forms of English used in "Friend of Disposed Bathwater"?
I was struck by the elegance of that form of language when I heard The Divine Comedy's "Lucy", which sets to music some of Wordsworth's poetry.  The words of "Friend of Disposed Bathwater" are based on something which happened a long time ago and I like to feel that that choice of language is in some way an acknowledgement that it's now ancient history.  When I think about the words of, for example, "Neighbourhood Watch", some of its vocabularly and themes feel very dated - and that was set in the 1980s, a long long time after the events on which "FoDB" is based.  There's a sense of honour and respect conveyed by "thee"s and "thou"s which also felt very appropriate, even though that's in apparent contradiction to some of the emotions expressed.

 

TO BE CONTINUED...............

 

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