Final Coil Interview
Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
To be honest, I find it difficult to put a label on it. Reviews I’ve read have labelled us everything from grunge to post-rock via prog and metal. I can see elements of all those things in our music, but my own tastes are so eclectic that I’ve never found the need to try and pin it down so succinctly.
I guess I like the idea of being labelled progressive in the sense that I try to write music that transcends my influences and that, to me, is the essence of what progressive music should be. That said, my first love was the grunge and alternative scene of the early 90s, and tonally a lot of our music fits with that.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
Well, Final Coil had a number of false starts, but it became a serious project round about 2008. We had the usual trials and tribulations of playing the smallest, darkest venues in the land whilst finding a line-up that was stable (these things become a lot harder as you get older because people start to have families and serious work commitments) and it wasn’t until late 2014 that things finally settled with the arrival of Ches, our drummer. I think his arrival really helped to spur the rest of us on, because he was fiercely committed from the get go – something we hadn’t really had before.
Once everything clicked, things actually moved very quickly, and we recorded the ‘closed to the light’ EP in a studio in Leicester. That was a pivotal EP, not just because it represented a much more ambitious side of our song-writing, but also because it caught the attention of our record label, WormHoleDeath. From there, we went through a tough A&R process, developing ‘Persistence of memory’ over the course of a year. It was incredibly exciting, and we entered Real Sound Studios in Dec 2016 to record the album. It took twenty days to get the bulk done, with a few extra days for additional mixing and mastering before we were able to start promoting it this year.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
There are a variety of influences throughout the band. Broadly speaking, my influences err to the heavier whereas Rich has marginally more indie-oriented tastes, but there’s a lot of crossover. We all agree on Tool, Alice in Chains, Deftones and Pink Floyd but you’ll also find elements of Anathema, Katatonia, Manic Street Preachers, Massive Attack and Genesis swirled into the mix.
I’ve tried, with little success, to articulate our approach to influences before, and it always seem to come up short when I read it back, and I think part of the reason is that my tastes are so diverse. Ultimately, I write the music that I want to listen to, and so, inevitably, a wide range of elements get drawn in. There’s definitely no one sound or style that I’ve ever tried to aim for in my writing.
Outside of music, I find myself influenced by a lot of literature. I love reading and I’ve taken influences from books such as John Fowles’ The Magus and Hemingway’s For whom the bell tolls (upon which, the lyrics of ‘Alone’ are entirely based) and I also take a lot from history. I’m fascinated by the development of culture on a broader level and on the impacts that societal change has on families and individuals. You can find a lot of those themes in our work.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
Honestly? I just want to have the opportunity to continue making music. I’ve never had dreams of making money out of this or becoming a ‘star’ and I’m happiest when I’m creating. What we achieved last year – twenty days in a studio in northern Italy, with a view of the Alps from the studio door and a vintage mixing console at my fingertips – what could be better than that?
Of course, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want this album (and our music in general) to reach as many people as possible and, because I love travelling, I very much want to take this on the road in Europe (and even further if possible), so I definitely have ambitions regarding live performance. Apart from that, the second album is my current focus. Life is such a transitory thing, that I tend not to think too far ahead. If you focus clearly on one goal at a time, you’re much more likely to achieve it, than if you’re always looking to some far-off point in the future!
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
Primarily it’s me. Rich wrote two songs on the album, ‘Spider Feet’ and ‘Moths to the flame’, and the rest were pieces that I composed.
Although it’s not a concept album, there is very much a coherent theme running through the album of the loss and regret engendered by an increasingly far flung and dissociated society. Increasingly, it seems that people are driven (by work, by fear of failure, by the simple need for money to survive) to leave their homes and their families behind and to start afresh, with only the cold light of their mobile phone screens for company. That sense of isolation and dislocation can then lead to further complications – the lies and half-truths of incomplete communication that slowly rip the fabric of a family (and, with time, society) apart – and the songs deal with various aspects of this.
A good example would be a song like ‘You waste my time’, which deals with trying to maintain a relationship with someone who’s utterly disconnected from you, both in terms of physical distance and emotional distance. The lack of communication and care, the lies that are told and the feelings that slowly fade to grey – a painful part of growing up is when that comforting blanket of naivety gets stripped away and you start to see people for who they really are. Like many of my songs it mixes personal experience and observation and I like to think that the point that is being made is rather more universal than introspective.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
Well, that’s the question isn’t it! If I knew the answer to that we’d be global mega stars by now!
Joking aside, we promote in a variety of ways. We have all the usual social media paraphernalia Facebook, Instagram, twitter, reverbnation, your own fine site… you name it, there’s a page with Final Coil on it. But social media is so misleading, and it continues to be the case that the best promotion we’ve had is via word of mouth. Play a show, talk to the bands and people afterwards and you’ll make more headway than through any number of targeted Facebook posts. Aside from that, we have our label, WormHoleDeath, who kindly send out press releases and who are exceptionally supportive, and we have just started working with Imperative PR, who are the very best at what they do and who have already been exceptionally helpful in terms of the advice and support they offer. I suspect you’ll be hearing a great deal more from us in 2018.
Ultimately, whilst we work as hard as we can to promote our music and our shows, it’s very much a lottery. *If* you can get people talking about you and your music, then you will grow, but short of engaging the services of Desmond Child as a hit doctor, there is no magic formula to getting the word out there.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
Oh dear. Here’s where I get into trouble!
Look, if that’s the way people want to listen to music, then who am I to criticise (insofar as its legal downloading), but it just doesn’t have the same resonance for me.
Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I grew up in at a time when music was being treated as an art form, and the cover art and liner notes were as integral a part of the experience of an album as the music itself. If you look at pretty much any Pink Floyd record, you’ll see this amazing collision of art and music in a way that requires the physical packaging to fully appreciate. You won’t ever convince me that a 300×300 digital representation of the cover to ‘Wish you were here’ in any way matches up to the glory of the vinyl, with its black shrink wrap and inner-sleeve. It just doesn’t compare. That’s why we put so much time and effort into the cover art and liner notes of our own record.
Admittedly, sound quality is less of a thing now with flac and so on, but I certainly agree with Neil Young that downloading or streaming has to be high quality or not at all. The difference between a 128kbps MP3 and a CD is monumental; the difference between a CD and Pure Audio is equally huge. As a music fan, I want to hear the music as close as possible to the artist’s intention as possible and a low-res MP3 doesn’t even come close. As I write this, I’m listening to the DVD-Audio version of Anathema’s latest masterpiece, ‘the optimist’, and it’s such an engrossing experience in high resolution – I can’t imagine denigrating that experience with some low-quality rip.
There’s also the fact that downloading seems to have made music far too ephemeral a thing. When I was growing up, buying an album represented a significant investment, both in time and money, and, as a result, you worked at it. If there’s no effort involved in finding any song, or album, then there’s a good chance that the best music – the challenging music – will simply be passed over. Why work at something, when something easier is just a mouse click away?
PD: What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
It’s hard to look at the record industry without a sense of creeping despair. Leaving aside the independent labels, who do an amazing job, the major labels are not interested in art or the creative process at all. As they’ve always done, they’ll package what sells and deliver it in the most convenient unit possible.
When streaming and MP3 came along, people touted the end of the big labels. How they must have laughed!
Now, they get to release huge albums and not worry about the expense of physical distribution to anywhere near the same extent. When I look online and see that a digital album costs almost the same as a physical one, and then I think back to the days when labels had to shell out for double gatefold vinyl, it’s hard to take seriously. They’re saving a fortune in rack space, production and artwork costs and they’re still selling their product at the same price. It summarises the avaricious nature of the industry perfectly.
However, there are a large number of smaller labels, such as WormHoleDeath, Peaceville, Napalm, Insideout, Pelagic, Epitronic and Mascot who use the distribution channels of the larger labels to actually allow for the creation and dissemination of great music. It is in these labels that the future of music, or at least music as a creative force, lies, but you have to make more of an effort to find their output. From my own experience, WormholeDeath is run entirely by passionate and caring people who want the best for their artists. They use the elements of the industry that work for them, and I know a number of great bands on that label who trust them implicitly. I think that says a lot.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
Oh wow! That’s such a tough question. I could name so many, but I guess that, at a pinch, I’d have to choose Anathema’s ‘one last goodbye’. It’s the most beautiful, poignant, heart-breaking piece of music and I have encountered few songs that channel such raw emotion with such perfect expression and graceful, timeless beauty. It was written for the Cavanagh brothers’ late mother, who had died the year before, and it’s just an amazing piece of music. It breaks my heart, but it’s also cathartic because their expression of grief is so balanced and universal in the sentiments it expresses. Anathema remain one of my favourite bands, and that song has brought me to tears before. It’s simply stunning.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
How long have you got?! Right now, I’d say a major pet peeve is the way that people seem to be utterly addicted to their phones / tablets or what have you. There’s nothing worse than talking to someone, only for them to get out their phone in the middle of the conversation to check their social media outlets. Quite apart from being exceedingly rude, it just shows how unwilling people increasingly are to be engaged in the moment. I try not to have my phone out at gigs or in the pub because I want to engage with the people right in front of me. I can’t quite escape the feeling, that if you have the time and motivation to post on facebook about how great your holiday / festival or party is, then it can’t actually be that great. Being in the moment is such an important part of life and social media is stripping that away piece by piece. Put your phones away folks – live the life that’s in front of you, you’ll get more out of it.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
Persistence of Memory, our debut album. The whole thing has been amazing. We spent twenty days in Italy. We had a great studio in a beautiful location, which was just a dream come true. Then there were the collaborations – Andy Pilkington who did the art; Magnus Lindberg, a long-time hero of mine, who mastered the album; Imperative PR, who helped with promotion and, of course, the label, WormHoleDeath, who worked so tirelessly with us to make it the best that it could be. I’m not so much proud as incredibly grateful to have been a part of it all and I will treasure the moments that led to this album forever.
PD: Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there.
Our next show is in Leicester, on January 27th with two excellent bands – Stormbringer and Temple of Lies, both of whom have blinding new albums out. We’re three bands, united by our love of the riff, but otherwise quite diverse in terms of sound and we’re all exceptionally passionate about creating powerful, original music. It will be a loud, sweaty night, and you are guaranteed to have a sore neck by the end of it!
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