November 16, 2011, by Matthieu Van Steenkiste (original link (in Dutch))
65DaysOfStatic were unusually quiet in 2011, but guitarist/pianist/beatman Paul Wolinski isn’t one for doing nothing. So the time had come to finish those electronic sketches that the band couldn’t use, and make it into an album as Polinski. The result is a trance trip called Labyrinths, and it’s an excellent occasion to take a look back at the rollercoaster ride that perhaps hasn’t made the band rich, but has left them rich with experience.
We’re caught off guard when he finds us from an unexpected direction in the busy hallway in the Brussels-Midi train station. He’s quiet and unassuming, heavily loaded, and rolling a keyboard as luggage behind him. As Wolinski has a few hours to spare on his journey from Lille, where he performed yesterday, to Manchester, we meet him in a quiet spot of this nearly 65Days-less year. Although that’s pretty relative. If 2011 was supposed to be the year in which the band took a holiday, that idea was binned even before the year had started: at the end of October 2010, the band announced that it would perform a new soundtrack to the science fiction classic Silent Running after an invitation from the Glasgow film festival. And as usual, plans got extended; extra performances would follow soon, and this week saw the release of the music on vinyl through the band’s own Dustpunk label.
enola: You got the money for the recording sessions and the vinyl pressings through crowdfunding. It turned out to be a big success: in a couple of hours you had already earned the target you had set. Were you surprised?
Wolinski: “Quite, yeah. To us, it was the ideal way of working. We wanted to make the Silent Running music available, but we definitely didn’t want people to think it was ‘the next 65DaysOfStatic record’. It was a gamble, because if we didn’t make the target, we’d have to pay everyone back. And since Indiegogo took a cut as an intermediary, we would have made a loss. But after only a couple of hours, that worry was gone already.”
“The hardest part was still to come; eventually, we needed to get 500 vinyls and t-shirts and other elements sent out ourselves. That took a couple of days of hard work with the band. We didn’t want to ask friends and family for help, as we’ve inconvenienced them so much, we were afraid to ask. Of course, we could’ve gone to Monotreme Records, our former label, and they would’ve wanted to release the album, but then it would’ve been treated like a release: promo, a tour, … and we didn’t want that. It would’ve been a bigger financial risk as well. It wouldn’t have cost us more, but a bigger cut from that money would’ve gone to promoting it. It just felt better this way.”
enola: You want to keep this album out of your “oeuvre” this way?
Wolinski: In a certain way. It had to be something different. We also made music for Inside, a dance performance by Jean Abreu, then we did this, then there’s a few separate little soundtrack things on a smaller scale we did, … That’s good. It feels like 65DaysOfStatic is no longer one thing, but an amalgamation of all these little bits. Even though big financial success will always evade us; it’s good that this is what it is. I like it, these loose ends. But it has to be separate from the real albums.”
“We only got involved pretty late on with the dance performance. Jean Abreu had asked us if he could use our music, but only way later did the question come if we wanted to play the music live during the performance. We wrote one new song, otherwise it was only existing songs. It was a weird experience. I’m not saying I didn’t understand any of it, but it went over my head a little. It was a weird idea as well, that we were there at a performance, in a theatre in the London South Bank (the cultural heart of the city) in front of a thousand people. Us, 65DaysOfStatic? In such a fancy place? Behind a curtain, while a couple of guys dance about being in prison? I never would have thought that would happen. But it’s really nice that we can do that too. At times like that, it doesn’t matter that we still struggle financially. When it comes to evolution, to be able to do things, things happen. That realization makes us really happy.”
enola: And now there’s your solo thing. Where did that come from all of a sudden?
Wolinski: It’s not something I thought long and hard about. I just finally had the time to stop procrastinating and finish those songs; it wasn’t more than that. Now it’s something real, and I feel forced to do as well as I can. The other guys in the band didn’t have an issue with it either. I can’t even remember if we had a conversation about it. There was a moment, when we were on the ferry back from Europe, when I was talking with Joe (Shrewsbury, guitarist, mvs) about the year-long break we were going to take, and I realized that if I wanted to do something with my solo work, it should be now. There was no masterplan. With 65DaysOfStatic, there usually is, but for me this was just a vague desire to make that album.”
“It’s actually refreshing to do it this way for once. With 65DaysOfStatic, it’s all about the live show. It’s nice not to have to think about that, not to have to consider that a song needs to be suitable to play live or to have to consider anyone else’s opinion. It feels completely different. I really hope Labyrinths makes sense as an album.”
“I’d love to juggle both 65DaysOfStatic and this, but that might not be possible. This might be a one-off, but that depends on what the band makes. I certainly won’t hold anything back from them because I think it’s too good. If I can imagine my beats working in the context of the band, I’m not going to save them for Polinski.”
enola: How does it feel to perform on your own now?
Wolinski: “It feels good. I’ve been spoiled the last couple of years, because performing with 65Days is a lot of fun, but so is this. But it’s all about finding the right balance: the last thing I’d want to be is another guy who’s just dicking around behind his laptop. But I can’t afford to carry around all of my equipment, so I limit myself to just my keyboard. I’m still looking, though. If I had the money, I’d want to work with light and projections. The shows have been really good so far, so that’s encouraging. I try to keep the laptop to the side as much as possible, and just jump around a lot.”
enola: I remember how you mentioned during our first interview that “a guy behind a computer doesn’t really incite wild behaviour”. Yet here you are.
Wolinski: (laughs) “Yeah, that’s right. Well, with what I know now, I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. It’s all a bit out of reach for me, but for a lot of those guys it should be perfectly possible. If you can program beats, it’s completely possible to synchronize lights and visuals to them. I exempt myself from that as I’ve only just begun, and because it’s only a side project, but everyone who makes this music at a higher level should be capable of doing something like that. It’ll never be a punk rock show, but as long as you accept that, something should be possible.
enola: As an electronic artist, I fear you can only become more Jean-Michel Jarre: having more keys and machines surrounding you.
Wolinski: (laughs out loud) “I’m not going to claim that I do things much differently from others. It’s still me, my keyboard and a laptop, but I try to keep things interesting. In the end it’s all about the music, whether that’s as Polinski or as 65DaysOfStatic. Although it can be about so many other things. To The Glitch Mob, who I performed with yesterday, it’s all about the builds and drops. That’s ok too. Unfortunately, I’m somewhere halfway: you can’t always dance to it, and it’s not always that amazing to look at.”
“It’s a struggle finding shows as well. I’m not doing a complete tour, I try to play support or a show here and there if there’s time, as it’s important that this doesn’t interfere with 65DaysOfStatic. That remains the most important thing. It might not help the prospects of this project, but the band comes first. It’s not easy doing it this way, but I hope there’ll be more people interested now that the record is out.”
enola: How’s 65DaysOfStatic doing meanwhile?
Wolinski: “Our last European tour, the one supporting the Heavy Sky EP at the end of 2010, has done wonders for the band. It had been a difficult year, because Hassle, the label we’d moved to for the release of We Were Exploding Anyway, had made a mess of things. We’d signed with them to get ourselves to a higher level after some good years of slow but steady growth at Monotreme, but in the end we faced a year-long fight to keep hold of what we had achieved.”
“During that last tour, that was to our advantage. We’ve always been pretty self-reliant, so the situation felt like back in our early years: the four of us against the world. I can’t really say what changed, but it felt good. Because of the whole Silent Running project, which had cost us a lot less energy than what we usually do, we started appreciating our regular songs once again. It’s not that we were tired of touring, but you start to feel a bit apathetic about all of it. It felt good to be reminded of how we love to rage on stage.”
“We’ve slowly started writing new songs. It was never our thing to just write an album so we could go on tour again – that wouldn’t be fair to the people who support us – but by taking a step back this year, we’ve noticed that we’re really hungry to get going again. So we figured we might go for it just as well. Sooner rather than later. Otherwise it’ll be 2013 before we release anything.”
enola: Have you reached the point at which you can survive solely by making music?
Wolinski: “Yes. None of us has worked a different job in the past five years. That was only possible through touring hard and selling enough shirts and stuff like that. Now that we’ve taken this year off, it’s been hard, but we knew that it would be. It’s a never ending fight. I wouldn’t know how we could’ve worked different jobs, as we’ve been working continuously.”
enola: I’ve always felt that you lost the momentum you had gained with “Radio Protector” with the release of The Destruction of Small Ideas.
Wolinski: “I get what you mean, but even if that’s the case, we can’t get hung up on that. If you let go of the “success” element as a checkpoint, you’ll see it’s not true: we’re a better band now than we were back then. I once had a long conversation about that with Metric’s Emily Haines. She told me about playing in South-America, and doing support for local bands she’d never heard of, but who had thousands listening in the audience. It proves that the music press, with its focus on London or New York, isn’t the alpha and omega.”
“It’s perfectly possible to never appear in NME or Q and still live off your music. It’s difficult to make it into those magazines anyway if you’re no longer the next big thing, so our moment in that spotlight has definitely passed. It’s in that context that attention can make a big difference, especially for a band like ours. But if you can reach a moment where you’re good enough as a band, that can be your momentum: people see you and tell others about it, you play festivals, and you build your own thing. There are so many music lovers outside the world of people who read the music press. Enough of them to do your own thing.”
“But you’re right in that we – especially at the time of The Destruction Of Small Ideas – tended to overthink things completely. It gets better. We’re able to call pieces of music ‘songs’ now, whereas we used to say “it definitely needs another three layers at least”. We’ve learned that a song isn’t less impactful because you’re doing less. Some things like “Radio Protector”, “AOD” or “Retreat! Retreat!” are very simple: just a couple of melodies that keep going, but they work through the dynamics and arrangements. Maybe we should rediscover that.”
enola: I have come to agree with you that The Destruction of Small Ideas features some of your best songs, like “These Things You Can’t Unlearn”. They’re just hidden underneath that dull sound.
Wolinski: “You know, a few months after the record’s release, a friend of mine cautiously told me that he thought the album was strange. He’d heard the recordings in the studio. ‘That record doesn’t sound like back then’, he said; ‘in the studio it sounded like something very exciting, but it just doesn’t translate on record’. It felt good to hear that, as it proved that we hadn’t made a mistake during recording. We hadn’t been crazy. Maybe it’s because we heard it on incredible equipment and incredibly loud that it sounded right, but that those circumstances can’t be replicated on a stereo.”
enola: You just made a record for audiophiles who can afford 100,000 euro amplifiers?
Wolinski: “I fear we have (laughs). It did inspire us to make something more direct and more danceable for the next album. And now, I’m not so sure yet. At the moment, it’s mostly loud and a bit slow, which is new to us. We’ll see. We have yet to find the big idea, the right direction. It’s still very early in the process. When we were writing We Were Exploding Anyway, it took us six months to take songs that sounded too much like old 65DaysOfStatic, trash them and start over. It feels better now. We’re very happy with We Were Exploding Anyway, and it feels like a new start. There’s excitement to continue. It’s almost intimidating to have to make something that can reach that same level. But the first efforts have been promising, so it feels good.”
enola: In that case we’re really looking forward to it.