Interview: Wanda Group

We’ve been fans of WANDA GROUP for some time, loving both his singular brand of field recordings and musique concrète and his unique mode of communication. Across social networks and even into email, every word he types is released into the digital world fully capped for maximum impact. It’s not a gimmick though, as one can see from careful reading of his curious observations: he just looks at the world differently. We’ve been waiting some time to do something with him, and he’s gifted us with a long-form piece, “IN ONE EAR AND THEN SHOVED IN THE BOOT OF A CAR”. To accompany this piece he answered some of our questions by email, covering his work this year, recording work for film and how his latest venture was inspired by his cats.

Hey there Louis, I hope you’re keeping well. How are you right now? “HELLO, AIDAN/TRUANTS ETC. NOT BAD, MATE. NOT BAD. JUST SITTING ON THE SOFA/SETTEE WITH MOYA. SHE IS ON HER IPAD AND I AM ON MY LAPTOP.  SHE IS ORDERING A REPLACEMENT BOILER FOR HER UNCLE.”

What have you been up to lately? “WELL, SIR. RIGHT… HERE WE GO. LAST TWO MONTHS HAVE BEEN BUSY AS I HAVE BEEN DOING MORE SHOWS THAN USUAL, WHICH IS GREAT. HAD A LOT OF LOVELY TIMES BUT I SEE THAT YOU HAVE MENTIONED THIS IN A QUESTION FURTHER DOWN, SO I WILL SHUT UP ABOUT THAT FOR NOW. OKAY. IN MY LIFE I HAVE BEEN SORT OF TRYING TO BOOK STUFF UP FOR ME AND MOYA’S TRIP TO VIETNAM. I SAW THAT YOU HAD RECENTLY BEEN ? (QUESTION WITHIN AN EMAIL INTERVIEW (NICE WORK, LOU)).

“I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON MUSIC AND ALSO DOING SOME SORT OF WRITTEN WORK FOR NORMAN RECORDS. NOTHING WILD OR THAT INTERESTING BUT IT PAYS SOME MONEY WHEN I AIN’T GETTING NONE. I HAVE MOVED AWAY FROM CARE WORK FOR A WHILE. DID IT FOR 10 YEARS AND IT KIND OF HURT MY HEART AND BRAIN, SO I HAVE STOPPED. HOPEFULLY I WILL GET THE ENERGY BACK INSIDE TO DO IT AGAIN BUT FOR NOW I AM JUST TRYING TO SURVIVE OFF THIS. WE WILL SEE.

How has 2014 been for you? “THE MAIN THING IS MOVING UP NORTH (AS YOU MENTION IN THE QUESTION BELOW THIS QUESTION). I LIVED IN BRIGHTON FOR AROUND FOUR YEARS. IT WAS NICE. BEING NEAR THE OCEAN AND BEING NEAR MY FRIENDS (WE ALL SORT OF MOVED DOWN THERE TOGETHER). SO YES. I NOW LIVE IN HUDDERSFIELD WITH MOYA AND HER TWO CATS. LIFE IS NICE, MAN. IT IS WEIRD BEING UP HERE AND NOT KNOWING ANYONE BUT THAT’S OKAY. I KNOW MOYA AND THAT IS ENOUGH. I ALSO GET ON WITH HER FRIENDS. THEY ARE ALL LOVELY. THIS IS QUITE BORING, I AM SORRY. YOU ASKED, THOUGH, MATE.  ALSO PLAYING LOADS OF SHOWS (SORT OF LOADS OF SHOWS. NOT MASSIVE AMOUNTS BUT THAT’S OKAY). I KEEP SAYING ‘THAT’S OKAY’ A LOT. SORRY, MATE.”

You moved up north, how has that worked out? “IT HAS WORKED OUT NICE, SIR. LIKE I SAID, IT’S WEIRD BEING AWAY FROM EVERYONE YOU KNOW BUT AGAIN, I HAVE MOYA AND I HAVE THE CATS.”

Can you tell me about Cat Sounds, your podcast with Moya? What brought that about? “MOYA BASICALLY SAW ME MAKING ALL THIS CRAP MUSIC AND SHE IS REAL-TIME INTO MUSIC. LIKE SERIOUSLY. SHE KNOWS FUCKIN’ TONS ABOUT THE STUFF.  MORE THAN ME. SHE LISTENS AND BUYS RECORDS, TAPES AND ANYTHING SHE LISTENS TO AND LIKES. IT’S REALLY LOVELY TO SEE SOMEONE REALLY FUCKIN’ PUTTING THEIR MONEY DOWN FOR SHIT THEY LIKE. SHE ALSO CONTACTS THE ARTIST DIRECTLY (WHEN SHE CAN) AND GIVES THEM THE MONEY. BANGS THAT SHIT THROUGH PAYPAL AND ZOOM.

“SO RIGHT. SHE WANTED TO DO A RADIO SHOW. I SAID OKAY AND THEN NOTHING HAPPENED. THEN TWO WEEKS AGO, I HAD A COUPLE OF DRINKS AND WE WAS RELAXING AND I JUST STARTED SETTING THE STUFF UP. IT’S VERY BASIC. A MIXER, TWO TAPE DECKS, MICROPHONE AND THEN WE JUST WENT FOR IT. I SAID ‘RIGHT. COME ON THEN. IT’S READY’. WE TOOK A COUPLE OF TAKES TO GET GOING BUT AFTER ABOUT THREE FALSE STARTS WE WAS AWAY. LIVE AND ON FIRE. (SORRY I HAD TO PAUSE THERE. ONE OF OUR CATS LIKES US TO THROW THIS LITTLE DRUM PAD THING AND HE CHASES AFTER IT. HE JUST BROUGHT IT TO ME SO I HAD TO GET THAT SHIT SORTED. DONE NOW. HANG ON. HE IS BACK. ONE SECOND.) OKAY. SO WE JUST STARTED DOING THIS THING. COUPLE OF DRINKS AND THEN IT HAPPENED. WE SORT OF HAVE THE OUTLINE THAT IT’S JUST OVER AN HOUR AND WE HAVE FIVE MINUTES EACH. SO I CHOOSE SOMETHING AND THEN AS THAT IS GOING ON SHE IS LOOKING THROUGH HER TAPES AND LISTENING AND THEN SHE PUTS SOMETHING ON. IT ALL KIND OF WORKS LIKE THAT. NICE AND LIVE, THOUGH. I REALLY ENJOY IT.”

Why cats? “I THINK IT WAS AS BASIC AS THE FACT THAT WE HAVE TWO CATS AND WE LOOK AFTER THIS OTHER STRAY CAT, SO IT MUST HAVE BEEN ON MY DRUNK MIND. I GUESS THE CATS WERE WALKING AROUND US WHILE WE WAS DOING IT. IT’S ALL DONE ON THE FLOOR AND I GUESS THEY WAS WALKING AND LOOKING AT THE TAPE DECK MOVING AROUND. IN THE FIRST SHOW I JUST CALL IT ‘CAT SHOW’. I FORGOT BY THE END OF IT AND CALLED IT ‘CAT SOUNDS’. AGAIN, MATE. I WAS JUST DRUNK, I THINK. I JUST BOUGHT A NEW MICROPHONE. THE ONE I USE AT THE MOMENT AIN’T SO GOOD FOR OUR VOCALS. IT’S EITHER WAY TOO LOUD OR JUST SHIT. SO WE HAVE THIS SORT OF SEMI-DECENT ONE. WELL IT’S 12 QUID. SO I GUESS IT’S ALSO SHIT. YOU CAN TURN IT ON AND OFF, THOUGH.”

You’ve been exceptionally busy this year, but largely under the radar – mixes and long-form works, tracks for compilations (ie Life Between Screens), putting out stuff on your own Bandcamp page – do you ever stop? What’s your approach to work? “I DIDN’T REALLY MEAN TO BE UNDER THE RADAR. ALONG WITH ALL MY OTHER STUFF I HAVE PUT OUT ON BANDCAMP, I HAVE FINISHED TWO MORE LPS. LIKE MOST THINGS, THOUGH, IT TAKES A WHILE TO GET IT PRESSED AND ALL THAT. SO ONE OF THEM IS TAKING LONGER THAN I THOUGHT. SHOULD BE OUT SOON, MAYBE. THE OTHER IS NOT GOING TO COME OUT UNTIL NEXT YEAR. I DON’T EVER STOP. NO. I HAVEN’T STOPPED SINCE I WAS ABOUT 14. WHEN I STARTED REALLY GETTING INTO IT ALL. I AM 30 IN 14 DAYS, SO I GUESS I AM DOING OKAY. MY APPROACH IS JUST THAT I MAKE THE STUFF. I STILL LOVE IT AND REALLY JUST LOVE GETTING INSIDE IT ALL. YOU START SOMETHING AND THEN IT TURNS INTO A RECORD, IT COULD ONLY BE A COUPLE OF SECONDS AFTER ABOUT FOUR HOURS WORK. IT COULD BE FOUR HOURS OF MUSIC AFTER FOUR HOURS. IT’S GREAT. I KEEPS MY BRAIN MOVING. YOU JUST GET LOST IN IT.”

You provided the soundtrack to Symirroretry, a conceptual film about skateboarding (or so I gather from the film’s website). How did you get involved with that project? “ANDREW CONTACTED ME. HE BASICALLY SHOWED ME SOME CLIPS OF THE FILM HE WAS WORKING ON. HE HAD EDITED IT ALL TO MY MUSIC. STUFF THAT HAD PREVIOUSLY COME OUT ON RECORD OR OTHER LITTLE RELEASES. I LOVED IT. THE BOY HAS AN EYE. REALLY. AN EYE AND AN EAR AND A GUT. I SAID COURSE YOU CAN USE MY MUSIC. I THEN SAID: ‘LOOK, SIR. WHY NOT HAVE SOMETHING TOTALLY NEW. HOW ABOUT I MAKE A WHOLE NEW SOUNDTRACK FOR YOU FILM ?’ HE SAID ‘YES, SIR’. SO I GOT TO WORK. GOING THROUGH OLD IDEAS AND BRAND NEW THINGS. I NEVER GOT TO SEE THE FILM WHILE I WAS WORKING. IT WAS ALL DONE FROM HIM SENDING ME EMAILS ABOUT CERTAIN CUTS AND IMAGES. I WOULD THEN WORK ON SOMETHING AND SEND IT OVER. HE WOULD GIVE ME FEEDBACK AND IT WOULD GO FROM THERE. IT’S A LOVELY THING. REALLY FUCKIN’ LOVELY. NOT MY SHIT BUT THE FILM, I MEAN.”

I noticed that as well as the familiar sound of WANDA’s field recording, there were bright, shimmering synth lines throughout this piece. What was your approach to the score? Was it much different to how you would normally operate? “AS I SAID ABOVE. IT WAS JUST BOTH OF US TESTING STUFF OUT. HE HAS A GREAT MIND FOR SUCH A YOUNG GEEZER. REALLY PUTTING EVERYTHING HE HAD INTO THIS. I WAS JUST IN FOR THE RIDE. I MADE THE STUFF AND HE SAID ‘YES’ OR ‘NAH, MATE’. THE CD WE RELEASED FROM THE SOUNDTRACK IS A COLLAGE OF ALL THE STUFF I MADE FOR THE FILM. SOME STUFF DOESN’T APPEAR IN THE FILM BUT IT HELPED HIM WITH THE EDITING PROCESS. SORT OF BEHIND THE SCENES PIECES. SOME STUFF IN THE FILM AIN’T ON THE SOUNDTRACK, AS HE USED SOME STUFF THAT HAD BEEN RELEASED BEFORE. OLD STUFF THAT I JUST LOST OR DIDN’T HAVE ANY MORE. I GUESS IT WAS DIFFERENT IN THE SENSE THAT I HAD SOMEONE TELLING ME TO CHANGE CERTAIN THINGS. IT’S ALWAYS BEEN UP TO ME WHETHER TO CHANGE ANYTHING OR NOT. IT WAS NICE TO HAVE SOMEONE STOP ME CRAWLING SLOWLY UP MY OWN ARSEHOLE.”

Meds, the label that put out the soundtrack, have only done three releases so far – a four-CD retrospective set of tracks spanning more than a decade, a cassette tape of electronically produced meditation drones and the Symirroretry CD, all in very limited quantities. How did it end up with them? “TOM, WHO RUNS THE LABEL, IS A LEEDS LAD. I MET HIM THROUGH MOYA. WE GOT TALKING ABOUT DOING SOMETHING FOR HIS LOVELY LABEL AND I SAID ABOUT THE SOUNDTRACK. IT WAS THAT EASY. SO SMOOTH. I GOT THE MUSIC ALL MADE UP. THEN IT WAS DONE. REALLY FUCKIN’ LOVELY. THEY ARE GOING TO BE DOING SOME VERY FUCKIN’ BEAUTIFUL STUFF.”

You played a load of shows this year, from Unsound to fellow Truant Tayyab’s living room. Do any shows stand out, for good or bad reasons? “UNSOUND WAS GREAT. I DIDN’T THINK ANYONE WOULD BE THERE FOR MY SET BUT I WENT OUT FOR A FAG AND THEN I COME BACK AND BANG. ABOUT 10,000 PEOPLE ARE STANDING THERE. ALL WAITING. I HAD TO GO TO THE BAR AND GET  A QUICK PINT. MY LEGS WHERE SHAKING. I WENT WELL, THOUGH. BAD SHOWS? WELL. I DUNNO. I HAVE HAD SOME SOUND ISSUES. SOMETIMES ITS MY FAULT BECAUSE OF MY SHIT LAPTOP. SOMETIMES THE SOUND JUST DOESN’T COME THROUGH THE MONITORS. AGAIN, I SHOULD TELL THEM TO TURN IT UP BUT I GET KIND OF LOST IN MY OWN LITTLE PROCESS AND FORGET. THE OPAL TAPES TOUR WE JUST DID WAS GREAT. STEPHEN [Bishop, Opal Tapes boss who records/performs as Basic House], JIMMY [Billingham, aka HOLOVR], KAREN [Gwyer] AND PATRICIA. ALL BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. MY FAVOURITE SHOW WAS ONE IN BRISTOL. IN AN OLD CINEMA. IT WAS SO LOUD. CLEAR AND LOUD. TWO SUBS (THANKS TO DEAN BLUNT). THE WHOLE ROOM WAS SHAKING. OLD CHAIRS SORT OF SQUEAKING AND SCREAMING AROUND THE ROOM. IT WAS LIKE ANOTHER INSTRUMENT. SO GOOD. EVEN A BAD SHOW IS FUN, THOUGH. YOU CAN ALWAYS TAKE SOMETHING NEW AWAY FROM IT. I CALLED EVERYONE ‘A BUNCH OF CUNTS’ AT A SHOW IN LONDON A COUPLE OF MONTHS BACK, THOUGH. NOBODY NEEDS THAT. PEOPLE SHOULD SHUT UP SOMETIMES.”

Of course I have to ask you about the piece you’ve shared with us, “IN ONE EAR AND THEN SHOVED IN THE BOOT OF A CAR”. You described it as “ALL MY OWN STUFF MERGED AND SPAT AROUND. FIELD RECORDINGS ETC”, but would you be able to elaborate on that? “I GUESS. RIGHT. IT’S JUST NEW THINGS I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON THAT NEVER REALLY FOUND THEIR WAY ON TO A RECORD OR A RELEASE. THIS IS ALL A LIVE EDIT OF THAT STUFF. ME JUST GOING FOR IT. LIKE A NEW LIVE RECORD, I GUESS. THE MAIN BULK OF IT (THE BORING PART) IS FROM DEN HAAG. IN MY HOTEL ROOM. MICROPHONE OUT OF THE WINDOW. THAT THEN JUST BECOMES WHAT IT IS. YOU GO FROM THE SOUND INTO JUST BEING WITH ME IN THE LIVING, I THINK. THAT SOUND THEN OVERLAPS WITH A RECORDING OF ME IN OUR BEDROOM BACK HOME.”

The sound of a piano jumps out at one point, where was that recorded? “YEAH THAT IS FROM THE RECORDING OF OUR BEDROOM. I GUESS I WENT DOWNSTAIRS AT ONE POINT AND PLAYED THE LITTLE PIANO THAT WE HAVE. I MEAN, I PROBABLY DID IT ON PURPOSE. WHO KNOWS.”

“IN ONE EAR” has some more melody in it, just hints here and there. Can we expect a trance opera from you in the near future? “MAYBE NOT A TRANCE OPERA. REALLY WORKING ON GETTING INTO DIGITAL RECORDING. HAVE NEVER DONE THAT BEFORE. DIGITAL RECORDING IN THE SENSE OF FIELD RECORDING. I HAVE ONLY EVER RECORDED WITH TAPES. I AM LOOKING AT GETTING A NICE DIGITAL RECORDER FOR VIETNAM. SO I THINK, IF I GET THAT, I WILL MAKE CLEANER SHIT. THAT THEN BECOMES THE NEW THING. NEVER BEEN USED TO IT ALL SO CLEAN. SO USED TO HAVING TAPE HISS AND ROT ALL OVER MY STUFF. SO THAT COULD BE VERY EXCITING. PEOPLE MIGHT HATE IT BUT THAT’S ALL GOOD.”

What does 2015 hold for Louis/WANDA/HERS/UMBRO G/CAT SOUNDS? “MORE MUSIC, SIR. JUST THE SAME. EITHER STUFF PUT OUT ON OTHER LABELS. IF NOT THEN JUST ON BANDCAMP. GOING TO START DOING CDR RUNS LIKE I USED TO WHEN I WAS  YOUNGER. SORT OF 50 COPIES. LIKE I DID WITH EARTH INSIDER.  I NEED TO GET INTO OIL PAINTING. BEEN MEANING TO DO IT FOR A WHILE. I HAVE ALL THE GEAR AND I JUST NEED TO SIT DOWN AND FUCKIN’ DO THAT. DO MORE WRITING, GO ON TRIPS. DO MORE SHOWS. KEEP DOING CAT SOUNDS. I WANT TO MAKE THE SHOW ALL OVER THE PLACE. LIKE A REAL IMPROV THING. JUST TALKING AND THEN SILENCE OR SOMETHING FALLING OVER. LOADS OF DEAD AIR AND WEIRD SPACE. I AIN’T SURE MOYA IS UP FOR THAT, THOUGH. I AM JUST GONNA KEEP DOING WHAT I HAVE BEEN DOING, SIR. MAKING THE SHIT AND THEN MOVING ON.

“THANK YOU, AIDAN/TRUANTS. GO EASY, MATE.”

Aidan Hanratty
Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ... @adnhnrt | @Bandcloud

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