While autumn is arriving, darker and more challenging albums start to arrive. As the wind grows harder and the world gets a more sepia tinge, bands who don’t exactly long for the sundrenched festival stages, show us their goods. They tour Europe, and sometimes even travel to different continents. They search for who they are, and who exactly they’re making music for. 65daysofstatic is the archetype of a band like that. They have earned plaudits all around, but that doesn’t make them easier to understand. These artistic and sympathetic guys from Sheffield don’t sell millions of albums. And yet they keep stubbornly reinventing themselves, working hard on their music. Their new record, ‘Wild Light’, is the result of a two-year search. We ask Paul Wolinski, the band’s talkative guitar player/keyboard player/sampler plugger what drives, inspires and surrounds a band like this.
From our last conversation, some six years ago, I mostly remember you sharing a house as a band, just outside of Sheffield. Is that still the case?
Paul Wolinski: “No, that’s no longer the case. I don’t even have a fixed address, I live in empty rooms at friends’ and family’s houses. But I don’t think I have a worse or better life than any of my friends who have a stable job or a more normal life. Everyone is just looking for their path through life, making it up as they go along, aren’t they? It’s a shame that being an adult means that you have to deny that. I’m a musician, with all the good and bad that entails. I gladly sacrifice some stability for the privilege of wriggling with strings, lugging heavy stuff and spending my days discussing which piece belongs where and at how many bpms that should be.”
Digital is not less real
Since ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’ work has been pretty stable for you though, it seems. You didn’t just make another album, ‘Wild Light’, you wrote two soundtracks and an EP!
Paul: “That’s right. Dave Sheasby, an amazing writer and our guitarist Joe’s father, who passed away far too soon, wrote a radio adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 for the BBC. He asked us if he could borrow some of our music for that, and he even had the right songs in mind. In the end, we had to adapt and fix a lot of things, but we’re really proud of the final result. Then Glasgow Film Festival asked us to write an alternate soundtrack to the seventies sci-fi movie Silent Running. That was a bigger challenge. We immediately wanted to make it a live experience, and that forced us to re-evaluate our group dynamics. We’re not a subtle band on stage. We prefer going on a full-on attack for an hour, so that we can exhaustedly pull the plug together with our audience afterwards. Now we learned to use different dosages for our energy, to build a song differently, and it became the basis for our new record and shows.”
Are you taking the movie on tour now?
Paul: “Sadly, we can’t. We’d love to be able to show off a Nine Inch Nails-esque production, with music, lights and visuals getting integrated as one. But we can’t afford driving three different trucks of equipment around the world, that’s not the league we’re playing in. We will be integrating an extensive lights element in our new shows. The record isn’t called ‘Wild Light’ for nothing. And we’ll be giving each other the spotlight as well. For the first time, I’ll be able to see my bandmates while we’re performing, we’re no longer packed onto a tiny stage.”
A Belgian state of mind
Which role does the city of Sheffield play in 65daysofstatic?
Paul: “There’s nothing special about the city. Just like every other English former industrial city, it’s being taken apart and stripped of any identity. The football is average, the most important event in one of the most famous theatres is a snooker competition, and aside from the fact that there are many kind people living there, there’s nothing really noteworthy about the place.
We don’t really have an identity that’s based in certain geography. If we did, we’d be a good fit with Belgian cities where we’ve performed regularly, like Leuven, Ghent or Brussels. It might surprise you, but the beer or the beautiful women aren’t exactly why we consider Belgium as a second home. It’s the Belgian state of mind that we immediately felt the first time we played here. As a musician, you’re regarded as an artist, with respect and openness, something we don’t really experience in and around Sheffield.”
That’s a wonderful compliment, thank you.
Paul: “I wasn’t trying to suck up, it’s just true. What I wanted to say as well, is that you don’t really need a musical home in the internet age. Subcultures and music communities can be completely digital. That doesn’t make them any less real. Technology is no threat to society or to music. But we have run into some kind of wall, this point in time where technology allows us to make just about anything we can think of. 20 years ago, Aphex Twin made an album that sounded like something you’d never heard before. Before that, we had more of these milestones: Jimmy Hendrix, Pink Floyd, the emergence of the first electronic music from Detroit, … That just doesn’t seem possible anymore! Within the tools to create music, there’s nothing you could use to make something sound out of this world. Everything has heard everything before. We want to play within that space, on the edge of what is possible and what remains comprehensible.”