Q&A SERIES - AGING
GZH100 - We Hovered With Short Wings is a compilation album celebrating Gizeh's 100th release. It features 21 exclusive tracks from artists who have been involved with the label over the past 18 years.
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GZH95 - Aging - Sentenced to Love
Can you remember how you ended up first getting involved with Gizeh
David McLean: Well, back in 2011 I opened for Barn Owl at Islington Mill and A-Sun Amissa also happened to be supporting. I remember casually daydreaming about collaborating with them whilst watching their set that night. Even then they had developed such an open, transformative sound. When Rich moved to Manchester a couple of years later, we naturally became friends, given the similar scenes we were operating in. I was really humbled to be eventually asked to play on A-Sun's next record, everything neatly coming full circle. I have the greatest respect for Rich's work ethic, he's incredibly organised, dedicated and disciplined in his approach to the label and his work as a musician, which is a huge source of inspiration. It was a relief and a privilege to put out my first proper LP with him.
What are you currently finding inspiring?
Tell us a bit about your workspace / studio / the place you create.
I've been really into Japanese popular music from the 60's and 70's for the past couple of years, but that's turned into a full blown obsession since I returned from Tokyo just before Covid-19 shut everything down. It's mostly late-night lounge music, lots of smoky saxophones, gorgeous orchestrations and impassioned vocals, but I can't get enough of it. It's gotten bad enough to start a regular radio show. The first edition of 'Sake and Tears' should be out by the new year. I've recently come across the work of photographers Greg Girard and Todd Hido, who both create eerily filmic images from really familiar suburban environments, their work just does something to me. The last book to really floor me was Affliction by Russell Banks. And Ross MacDonald.....forever Ross MacDonald. The hope is some of these interests filter down into the music.
Since none of us have been able to tour this year, what have you been occupying yourself with?
I've been trying to keep as active musically as I can, which for the most part has been drafting demos and finessing material for Aging and various other projects on Logic, farming out demos to others in the band and also recording odd bits of saxophone for albums I've been invited to play on. I've also just sent to press the next Aging album, 'Embassy Nocturnes', which is a collaboration with an electronic duo called Land Trance who released their debut on Forest Swords' Dense Truth label earlier this year. We're really proud of the record, which has ended up like a very moody genre-film soundtrack. That should be out in March/April 2021. I also do a project with my fiancé, Lauren Bolger, called Burn Into Sleep and we have an album of improvised ballads/torch songs out around the same time.
At home, I'm lucky to have a few rooms to work in as a makeshift studio as my setup is pretty minimal and very portable - pretty much just my MacBook, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, a midi keyboard and a guitar, which means I can get ideas recorded the minute inspiration strikes. If I'm doing something more intensive like mixing or editing, I'll usually set up in a specific area to hunker down. I'm lucky enough to also have a practice space in one of the old mills in central Manchester and we've managed a few Aging rehearsals when restrictions have allowed.
What does a regular day look like for you? Do you have routines or habitual ways you work?
My day-job keeps me busy from around 9 to 4:30pm, but that's not something I've ever begrudged. If anything, it makes the time I do have to focus on creative pursuits all the more valuable. Most days I'm doing admin for my label, Tombed Visions, which could be anything from shipping orders, drafting press releases, approving artwork and all the other tasks related to getting a record ready for release. During lockdown, I've been fortunate to work from home and I did attempt to take a more regimented approach to creating music, working on a new idea every evening. This just didn't really click for me, but made me realise that I produce my best work in creative bursts rather than toiling away for a set amount of time everyday. If the idea is worth pursuing, your natural discipline will come into effect and you'll make the time to realise it without it ever seeming like work.
What would be your dream collaboration?
I've always been more directly inspired by the musicians in my own circle/scene than anyone else. The last Aging record was simply an excuse to collect some of my favourite local musicians together and try to write the type of music I'd love to hear them play. Every musician on that record is incredible. That said, I would love to trade blows on stage with someone like Peter Brotzmann or Keiji Haino.....then record an album of ballads the day after.
What was your entry point into playing music?
Even before becoming an 11 year old metalhead, I was always fascinated by music, but in terms of wanting to actively pursue being a musician, seeing Fugazi's Instrument at 16 was life changing. That same year, my older brother took me and twin brother to the Shellac curated ATP weekend. Seeing set after set of amazing, mind blowing music just cemented the calling. I formed a band as soon as I got back and the rest is history.
How do you know when a record's finished?
The eternal question! I think everyone would agree it really depends on the album. Some records have a very clear process of construction and everyone involved knows when the album is complete. Other records you can spend years refining and tweaking and never be satisfied. The important thing in the latter situation is getting to a point where you can down tools and walk away with some level of satisfaction. It's often those records I learn the most from, even if that is largely what mistake not to repeat.
How do you balance health and productivity?
Being productive is essential to keeping me healthy, so for me, they are one and the same.
Do you have a favourite Gizeh release or one that particularly resonates with you?
It's hard to pick a favorite, which should be the case of any label worth its salt, so I'm going to pick several. I obviously have a very personal connection to the A-Sun Amissa albums I've been invited to play on, but it's particularly 'The Gatherer' that I have a lot of emotional attachment to. This was the record that I really found my own sound as saxophonist, allowing me to play far more melodically than I ever had before and really hone in on atmosphere and beauty rather than just the frenzied free jazz freakouts I was usually hired for. I was really touched that the song with my favourite saxophone part wound up being the tribute track to Jason Molina, even more so that this moment got committed to wax. I absolutely adore Astrid's 'A Porthole (I)' and their predictably amazing collaboration with Rachel Grimes, such a fantastic band that are still expanding into new territories. Charles-Eric Charrier's 'Petite Soeur' is an astonishing album and the production is just as incredible as the music, a kind of rustic chamber blues that has an ancestral timelessness. I love Shield Pattern's 'Mirror Breathing', an intelligent, dark, sensual and deliciously addictive record full of powerful hooks. And you can forget just how good Fieldhead's 'a correction' is, a gorgeously hazy trip that proves well composed electronic music can make your heart float out from your chest.
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