Andrew Liles is a prolific solo artist, producer, remixer and sometime member of Nurse With Wound and Current 93. Andrew Liles has been recording since the mid 80's. His music, which both eclectic and diverse is often minimalist, surrealistic, hyperreal, aereal, ethereal, concrete, obscure, transparent, contradictious, clear, open, outspoken, forthcoming, hypnagogic, misterious, broad, direct, open ended, self specific, site specific, field recorded, processed, fresh, surreal, ments come, dark, oscillating repetitive in constatn variation, highly organic, soothing and serene, inspiring, cinema pour l'oreille, expiring, poetical, direct but full of references, deeply acousmatic, experimental, dangerous and hypnotic, and attempts to transcend any noticeable style or clique, against cliche but very close to the soundtrack of a dream, never far from a nightmare.
'The Vortex Vault' and 'Monstrous' releases should be considered to have their own 'identity'.
He has been recording since the mid 1980′s and has appeared on well over 150 releases.
He has also worked in some capacity with the following groups and individuals: Darren Tate, Colin Potter, The Hafler Trio, Danielle Dax, David Tibet, Unsong, Band of Pain, Steven Severin, Maja Elliott, Current 93, John Murphy, Pantaleimon, Edward Ka-Spel, Steven Stapleton, Nurse With Wound, Cadaverous Condition, Voice of the Seven Thunders, Jonathan Coleclough, Jean-Hervé Peron, Bass Communion, Ernesto Tomasini, Frans De Waard, Freek Kinkelaar, Tony Wakeford, David Janssen, vidnaObmana, Joolie Wood, Jac Berrocal, Kenji Siratori, Freida Abtan, Hush Arbors, Alex Jako, Aranos, Faust, Ruse, Maniac, Lord Bath, Sion Orgon, Andrew King, Nick Mott, Daniel Menche, Paul Bradley, Aaron Moore, Nigel Ayers, Irr. App (Ext), Rose McDowall, Daniel Padden, Brian Poole, Fovea Hex, Annie Kerr, Elisabeth Oswell, Attila Csihar, Karl Blake, Damo Suzuki, Fabrizio Palumbo, Sutekh Hexen, The Sonic Catering Band, Razen, Alex Neilson, Lavinia Blackwall, Bobbie Watson, Michel Faber, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Kommissar Hjuler Und Frau.
Which was the first and the last record you bought with your own money? What were other early records you bought?
The first record I bought was 'Bright Eyes' by Art Garfunkel, I loved the film Watership Down. The last one I bought was 'Thank Christ for the Groundhogs' by the Groundhogs because I had been working with Tony McPhee and I am ashamed to say didn't know much about his music.
The early records in my collection were hard rock and new wave of British heavy metal, I had quite a large collection from a very young age, it branched out into many different areas by the time I was 16.
What is your relationship with the guitar?
When I was 12 my brother bought an electric guitar. It was off limits to even touch it, it was his and his alone - not to share. He saved up long and hard to buy it. Guitars were really expensive back in those days and he didn't want his kid brother playing on it. When he went out in the evenings I would sneak into his room and play it. He gave up playing - I continued and adopted his guitar.
This guitar was the first instrument I had ever played, I still have it. Its an early 80's Westone. I had no idea about tuning or guitar technique, and I couldn't play the chords I had been shown as my fingers were so small, I was a diminutive child. So without reading about tunings I figured out how to tune it 'my way'. I figured out how to play 'Smoke on the Water' on one string, so then I began to experiment and detuned all the strings so they in some way complemented one another in one strum, basically tuning the guitar to one big power chord. Then I barred the strings. I applied what I had learnt to play on one string to the whole guitar.
Over my teenage years I spent all my spare hours playing the guitar, I wouldn't say that I was good in any shape or form, even to this day I'm pretty mediocre. I have never read a guitar tuition book, I learnt stuff intuitively, how to pick harmonics, tap, solo and all about effects boxes. I discovered with a couple of effect units you could sound extremely good without much skill and do incredible things with echo and delay. I found a fast track way to sounding 'good' without all the trouble of studiously learning an instrument. I also experimented with feedback and 'prepared' guitar long before I had any knowledge of Cage or the avant garde.
I played guitar like this up until about 7 years ago. I then bought an expensive guitar (Gibson Explorer) and thought to myself if I am going to invest good money in a guitar I want to be able to play 'Rock Bottom' by UFO, so I decided to tune the guitar in a traditional way, to E. I started religiously playing the guitar for about 2 hours a day, learning guitar tabs from the internet, but even now I couldn't show a chord on the guitar. I wanted to improve my playing, not to integrate into my music but for fun, as a hobby, as an education.
I have no interest in being perfect on the guitar, I just love playing, and discovering new possibilities and new structures. I love learning guitar tabs and sitting down playing some of my favourite riffs. I wish the internet had been about when I was a youngster, I think I would have been a far more accomplished guitarist if I had the internet to learn from. Maybe it was good that I never become that accomplished on the guitar as I would have probably wound up being another mediocre guitar player in another pub covers band. I learnt how to convincingly 'cheat' rather than play 'correctly'.
I have never had a guide book on how to play, I just found my own way and continue to discover new patterns of playing on the fret board. I have never picked up the rudiments or the basics of the guitar and in some respects the guitar will always be a mystery to me. I am an accidental guitarist, I can play some things great - but only the once! A few very accomplished and respected guitarists have told me I am good, but I think most guitarists would be horrified by my playing and lack of formality.
I would describe my playing as a three year old playing Eddie Van Halen. Or as the Australian Guardian newspaper put it this year '...licks that could uncurl Jimi Hendrix’s afro'. I'm not sure if they meant that in a good or bad way.
In short I would say my relationship with the guitar is healthy, it is fun and I still enjoy playing it after 33 years. I'm not a an aficionado, or expert or a guitar snob, it is just something to play with, to while away the hours doing something constructive. Not a way of life or something to be worshipped. I know I'm never gonna be Michael Schenker and except my limitations as a guitarist, but I can still bang out a tune or pleasant noise to a reasonable standard.
What guitar gear do you use?
I use some pedals that I bought in the 80's, an American Metal and EQ from DOD, a Cry Baby and lately a Digitech RP355 multi FX unit. I seldom if ever use amps in the studio and DI straight into the desk. The Digitech has some great amp models and a fantastic Fender twin verb.The feel of the neck is the most important to me, tone can be artificially created, for me the guitar needs to have a nice slim neck and low action.
I have an array of guitars, a 12 string acoustic, a Fender 6 string acoustic, a Gibson Explorer, a Tokai Thunderbird bass, a BC Rich Warlock, a very good Epiphone Les Paul gold top, a Flying V copy (which for a very cheap guitar sounds great and is a treat to play) and a Strat copy which I have cut in half and shaved off the frets.
Which work of your own are you most surprised by, and why?
I'm never surprised by my own music, I spend so many months and years making it, I'm not really going to shock myself by what I do. What surprises me most is that I have made so many records and that I still have hundreds more to make. Also the hours and hours I invested in creating music way before digital technology came along, I find it difficult to remember how I achieved some of the results.
What do you need from music?
Originality, intrigue and accessibility. I like to listen to music that I want to hear again and again and again. I also like music with a 'how the fuck did they do that?' quality, I like to dissect recordings and figure out how they were made. I also like music that I would never be able to make intellectually, psychically or otherwise, for instance the choral works of Krzysztof Penderecki or the piano works of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji.
Where are your roots? What are your influences?
My roots are firmly in hard rock and metal, I wouldn't be making music today if I wasn't raised on a diet of rock. It made me want to create my own music. Some people laugh when they think of rock posturing and guitar heroes, but for me it was my gateway into music, and I am not ashamed to acknowledge that in any way.
I can't pretend to or tolerate fake pretentiousness and pseudo intellectualism. I think there is a lot of people who listen to music in the field that I am pigeonholed into that only enjoy music that is challenging, it's a badge of honour to claim to like incomprehensibly difficult music. I like original innovative music, not noise.
My four main influences are Heavy Rock/Metal and the producers Steven Stapleton, J.G Thirlwell and Martin Birch.
What's the role of technique in your work: playing, production, recording, internet sharing...
I storyboard my 'conceptual' music, writing down the phases of how the music will evolve and where it will go. Sometimes I start by improvising from an idea based on something I have read, or has made me laugh or inspired me in some way. I start with a concept - for instance the new recordings are all
based on horror films and soundtracks. I usually improvise something on the piano or find a noise or rhythm and build everything around that. It just grows organically and creates itself, most of the time I find it very easy.
Everything after the recording is studio technique and editing which I have been trying to perfect for the last 30 years. I work alone generally and invite people to contribute if I feel I need something else, this is generally voices as I play almost all the instruments myself.
What are the challenges and benefits of today's digital music scene?
The benefits of digital technology are immeasurable. They are amazing and something we could have only dreamt of 20 years ago. Home recording, i-Pads and i-Pods and are just incredible in what they can do and store.
Musicians generally moan about file sharing and how much more money they would make if people didn't. That really doesn't worry that much as I have a pretty dedicated fan base who much prefer the real product to downloads. I am a record collector and I think I know what genuine lovers of music want from a release.
I have had close to 100,000 plays on my download site, this in no way reflects the sales I have had, unsurprisingly the most popular downloads are the free ones. If you buy CD's and records you are a music fan, you like artwork and liner notes, you have invested in the artist and your collection. If you stream music on-line you generally hear it on insufficient speakers and don't really care about quality.
I would argue that a download is only half of the creation, artwork and notes and lyrics are the other half of the story, it is an incomplete picture just to own a digital file. If anything is free there is no investment, emotionally or financially, so you take it for granted, it ceases to have any value.
Depict the sound you're still looking for.
It hasn't been created... yet
Not in my imagination... yet
Or by anyone else.. yet
It may never exist
Which do you translate into music from other disciplines such as theater, painting, architecture, ballet...?
My music has been used in dance, film and art. I have made 4 albums of fake soundtracks for horror movies and also released an album based on the art of Hans Bellmer. Film is something I would like to do more.
What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?
I have never really been given advice from anyone. When I started recording my music as a teenager the people I played it to, friends and family were completely dismissive, disinterested and ridiculed it. I wasn't supported in any shape or form by anyone at all. So I created my own inner voice, I don't really need any judgement or words of wisdom from anyone. The testament to your worth is almost certainly not from friends, it is from strangers who write to you and whom you meet who say "that was amazing", but even then I don't believe them!
My wife is really good at giving me advice these days, she is the only person who hears the records before they go to press. She has no technical knowledge but has an amazing clarity and honesty a musician would never have, she listens to the music on its own merits not on its technical prowess.
My advice would be do what you like regardless of how good at it you are or whoever likes or hates it. Create your own path. Never make anything for an audience, your achievements should be measured by your own standards - no one else's.
Tell me one musical work which has provoked a change in your music?
'Hole' by Scarping Foetus Off the Wheel, aka J.G. Thirwell. It is an album of exquisite studio technique and editing. It is also very funny lyrically and sounds amazing. I was inspired by it as it was all played and mixed by one man. It taught me you didn't need a band or to be a virtuoso on any one instrument to make a record. It also taught me to be original and use the studio as your instrument. Along with this it also showed me that you could make a conceptually difficult and confrontational album with awkward and aggressive instrumentation yet still sound commercial and catchy.
What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?
I am massively productive and this year alone I have completed dozens of records, both solo and with Nurse With Wound and Current 93. Currently I am remixing a bunch of stuff for an assortment of bands and have a dozen releases to come out over the coming months.
Forthcoming solo releases are
A MILLION INFANT BREATHS | 10″
ANDREW LILES’ COVER GIRLS | CD
REACHED PREMATURE MATURITY (45 rpm) | LATHE CUT 7″ + DOWNLOAD
SNUFF BOX: THE MALEFICENT MONSTER & OTHER MACABRE STORIES | 3 X CD
WANTON WIVES, MONSTROUS MAIDENS AND WICKED WITCHES | L.P.
website - www.andrewliles.com
twitter - @monsterliles.com