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Q&A SERIES - HUNDRED YEAR OLD MAN

In celebration of the label's 100th release we put together a Q&A for some of the artists involved to give an insight into their artistic world and how they connected with Gizeh.

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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Q&A SERIES
HUNDRED YEAR OLD MAN
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Related releases:
GZH77 - Hundred Year Old Man - Black Fire
GZH81 - Hundred Year Old Man - Rei
GZH83 - Hundred Year Old Man - Breaching

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Can you remember how you ended up first getting involved with Gizeh

Owen Pegg: It was fairly organic for us as we were already friends of the label with myself having played for A-Sun Amissa and having a solo record released on the label. With Breaching and Rei we had been shopping around for a home and had been discussing with a couple of labels about options, including Wolves and Vibrancy who we ended up working with along side Gizeh, and it just came up in conversation naturally in a friendly chat. At first, though we knew Rich was a fan of the band, we were a bit surprised by the interest and there was some worry we might be too heavy for the label but as we started working together with Gizeh and Wolves and Vibrancy it just made more and more sense. The label is so diverse, almost as diverse and Rich’s taste in music funnily enough, that I imagine we weren’t the first and won’t be the last band to initially worry about sticking out on Gizeh but actually that’s what made it such a good fit for us solidified some time later by the two awesome Gizehfest shows we did. Variety is the spice of life. 

What are you currently finding inspiring?

Despite the depressing and unrelenting disappointment and confusion of life and politics in 2020 it’s actually been a pretty good year for new music I think. With so many good new records, I’ve not only found the time to listen to most of them but actually found myself obsessing over music created by other people for the first time in a long time. Bands like Svalbard and The Ocean have floored me in the last few weeks but also just having time to discover things I wouldn’t normally listen to. I been back on a really synth and electronic kick again recently which I think is in part due to how synth heavy our new record is turning out to be. 

With our band knuckled down in studios across Leeds and Manchester to finish the new album it’s been great to have so much great new and varied music to be surrounded by but also it’s been really inspiring to hear solo projects and more varied works from artists who wouldn’t normally have time to focus on other ideas. One of the best surprises for me has been our very own Tom making time to make and release a great solo record:- If you haven’t already, please check out Mohr on bandcamp/FB etc. Think a more brooding, sci-fi infused Boards of Canada or a striped back doomy IIVII. Awesome stuff.

Since none of us have been able to tour this year, what have you been occupying yourself with?

We were supposed to be on tour in Europe right now actually but that tour has now been moved to later next year so we are working with Colossal, our EU booking agent, at the moment to move that with a slightly different route in mind and spending a fair amount of time thinking about how and where we would like to tour when we can next. We have had lots of Zoom meetings to discuss things and pencil plans in our diaries. But mostly we have been dealing with another slight lineup change (bringing in a new bass player and our bass player moving onto keys), due to our long time and founding member Dan having to step down due to his Cystic Fibrosis and of course working on the new album. 

Tell us a bit about your workspace / studio / the place you create.

The pandemic has forced us as a band to rethink the way we work, not only to finish the album but also just to keep our hand in with playing our instruments. We have only managed a handful of rehearsals this year as a full band but most of us now have studios in our homes thanks to the pandemic, as evident in our recent lockdown re-recording of the track Ascension, which means that we are all kind of working in isolation a lot of the time which has been a great learning experience for some of us. For myself, Tom and Dave we are very much used to working like this now and I actually prefer it. I need my own head space to concentrate when writing and don’t do well with other people banging around and trying to hone their own contributions. The way we are operating at the moment is actually a lot more like the way the band was in the beginning, with riffs and ideas being recorded to a click in the computer and then arranged as a group before being learnt and tweaked as a full band in a rehearsal space. We had briefly experimented with trying to write and then record to allow everyone more freedom to contribute earlier in the process but the process was infuriating and the end result needed a lot of work to the point where I think we all agreed that writing and recording needs to be the same process.

Earlier in the year the band moved into a new rehearsal space that doubles as a recording studio and has everything permanently mic’d up so much of my time is split between there and my home studio (depending on what I’m working on). This setup is also intended to allow us to move seamlessly from rehearsal to writing and demoing new material when we are all together to continue to peruse more of a group activity at earlier stages of the writing process. We’re yet to fully realise that dream as much of the new record was written by just myself at home or with a couple of us and then tweaked before hitting the studio but going forward into future releases we hope to work much more collaboratively right from the first note.

Both the bands shared studio and my personal one run on Pro Tools on a Mac so moving between the two is pretty simple for me and just takes a bit of planning as to what I will be working on to ensure I’m in the right place for what I need to do. It also helps me work out what headspace I or others are in. Sometimes I think we all benefit from leaving the house to record or write as it’s all to easy to be distracted at home especially when some of us are working from home in a day jobs. 

What does a regular day look like for you? Do you have routines or habitual ways you work?

A regular working day for me can vary a fair amount. I was working from home Monday to Friday from March but now have some office time in the week on a kind of rota which I very much appreciate. I was really struggling with the home and work life separation. I think the same applies to music also; I try very hard to make music time a set event in my day where I will decide at the beginning of the week what I want to achieve, where I need to be to do it and what day I will set aside to achieve it. I tend to try and make sure that busy and stressful work days aren’t followed by a writing or editing session but might go and play loud guitar for a few hours to wind down. Normally we would be have full or half band rehearsals twice a week which helps keep the stress levels down for us but sadly currently COVID restrictions make that difficult as we don’t all love in the same city, or indeed county.

I also don’t tend to do music every day unless I have a tight deadline or I’m on a roll with a new song or mix. I like to keep it as natural as possible so forcing myself to sit in the studio when I’m tired and just want to watch Netflix is never a consideration for me because then it becomes work. I’ve also taken up running again (had a good one this morning actually!) which I’ve found is great for creative juices though can be frustrating when I get in and have a great idea but need to do some proper work instead. I’ve taken to making a lot of notes to try and prompt me and pull me back into the same head space when that happens which isn’t always successful. Capturing a feeling in a memo on a phone isn’t easy.

What would be your dream collaboration?

Hundred Year Old Man actually grew out of an idea for a collaborative project and has always involved collaboration with other musicians on record and, where possible, live, so it’s something that’s always in the back of my mind. One thing I have loved in recent times is being able to work with past members again but this time as guests; one of the reasons we re-recorded Ascension was as a kind of passing of the torch between Paul and Dave. Dave originally appeared as a guest vocalist on that song on Breaching and now he is our full time vocalist. 

I feel that the question of dream collaborations is often considered to be one you didn’t think would happen but I’m not really one to dwell on things that I can’t have or goals I can’t reach so once I get an achievable idea in my head I would always try and make it happen, no matter how difficult to realise. So far pretty much every collaboration idea I have had we have been able to achieve. Last year we did some shows with our friends E-L-R where we got to play a song we had written with them for the new record. We were so incredibly happy that they agreed to play on the song in the studio that for a long time the big dream for us was to play it live, which we now have and I’m sure we will again once live shows return.

For us the next dream to realise is to be able to play the new record live with all the contributors who have been involved in it on stage together. We would need a really big stage and a patient sound engineer but I hope we can make it happen at some point. After that I’d love to push the boat out a bit further and rather than working on songs with individuals maybe do a whole album with another band or artist. I’m not sure who that might be yet or how it would work but definitely something to think about once the new record is finished.

What was your entry point into playing music?

I was on and off with guitar throughout my childhood. I wasn’t a natural and hated the learning and practice part and just wanted the instant gratification of being able to play. When my family moved half way across the country I pretty much gave up on playing music until I made friends with similar minded kids and we started swapping albums and going to gigs. My form teacher was a music teacher and my friends and I quickly made a deal that meant that while other kids were kicking footballs around we were in the music rooms smashing out bad Nirvana and Therapy? covers and beginning to try and write our own songs. I had several further attempts at guitar and bass lessons over those few years but it wasn’t until I bought my first electric guitar that I really fell in love with being in a band and was able to learn by just playing. In 6th form I arranged lunchtime concerts in the school hall to raise money for Amnesty International by selling cassette compilations of all the bands in our school, some of whom were the first victims of my recording and mixing skills.

How do you know when a record's finished?

This is a great question and one that I don’t think has one answer. Every project and then every record is different but a couple of points seem to ring true more often than not for me. 

The first being deadlines. Almost everything we do as a band including recordings for release ultimately ends up having a deadline attached to it. This is usually self imposed and part of a bigger plan we have in place with a release window, tour or other activities to promote the new music.

With Breaching and Rei we recorded and released everything we had and already knew the track listing as we had been playing everything live for quite sometime so the process was much simpler than it has been for this new record where we have intentionally produced a lot more music than will end up on the final release. This was mainly due to the fact that we hadn’t played much of this record in the live environment and were uncertain of which songs work next to each but also so we could be sure that we were able to release the best possible record we could.

The second point is when we are out of ideas or suggestions. I’m a great believer in the adage “a work is never truly completed but abandoned”. Having deadlines is important for us but also being certain that no stone has been left unturned. One of the things this pandemic has afforded us is a huge amount of extra time to revisit and rework some of the new record. We have been able to rewrite a song and split it into two very different songs, write a whole new song from scratch and re-record one track that wasn’t quite the right tempo. All of these things came about long after we had self imposed deadlines that have resulted in a much stronger selection of songs than we had originally recorded for this release so while planning and setting deadlines is important for us to be able to finish music we have also now leant how important and advantageous it is to make time to ensure that every idea has been exhausted and issue discussed and resolved.

With all of this in mind we are also not against allowing songs to continue to breathe after they have been released. There are tracks on Breaching that live have evolved over the years so I would actually probably argue that, to a certain extent, a record is never truly finished.

How do you balance health and productivity?

In all honesty I think the rest of the band are better at this than me. I tend to work in obsessive fits and spirts during which nothing else matters, including sleep and even food. I have to get to a natural end of something before I can take a break but that said we all have day jobs that mean that we can’t disappear down musical rabbit holes too often. I tend to run once or twice a week at the moment and have recently been swimming a few times which helps with both physical and mental health but in all honestly I don’t think I have to think to much about balancing the two as my life naturally dictates a need to be realistic about my aims and objectives with anything whether it is work or music or relaxing. I can sometimes struggle in work life in the same way as I do in my musical life now that I am working from home so much, often picking back up with work e mails at 10pm because something is playing on my mind but I actually really like having the ability at the moment to be a bit more flexible with when I’m doing music and when I’m doing other work.

Do you have a favourite Gizeh release or one that particularly resonates with you?

There are so many great releases that Gizeh have put out over the years from Profane, worriedaboutsatan and Fieldhead right through to Aidan Baker’s last couple, and of course the magnificent Wren. But I think for me personally my favourite release is actually a tie between two, the first being ‘Mirror Breathing’ by Shield Patterns. I remember getting a download or stream of it early and just knowing instantly it was going to be my album of 2016, which it was and Cult of Luna had an album out that year so that says a lot. I still listen to it regularly now and is easily in my top ten albums of all time (if I had one). 

The second one is ‘With Our Heads in the Clouds and Our Hearts in Fields’ by Sleepingdog. I obsessed over that album when it came out and actually have it on CD and Vinyl so I can listened to it anywhere in the house. If it came out on cassette I’d buy that too! I only got to see the band a couple of times I think but the stand out show was a house show in Leeds when they played in Rich from Gizeh’s old front room in Leeds. It was pure magic.

I'm sure the rest of the band will pick entirely different records which is one of the great things about the label; we all love it for different releases that we all also agree on. Andy our drummer still obsesses over Groundswells by Wren and I seem to remember Dan, our keyboard player up until last year was a huge fan of Nihil by Anders Brørby which, having written this I am now listening to again and remembering how awesome that record is.

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