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Cult With No Name interview


Inbetween words (Above) and music (Below). And vice versa.


ImageCult With No Name's main quality may not be instantly apparent. Sure, they have their own sound (we know it), some may even call it manner (even better), but when you listen to all five of their albums in a row you'll soon notice how they've changed. It's a journey through pop utopia, and one of pure enjoyment for their following.


CWNN literally started 2012 with their album "Above as Below", with the release date being January 1st . Like all four that have gone before it it's an album that is almost elegant in its variety. No wonder then they took up an offer from the USA to promote the album in venues overseas. And given the economic climate of the music industry, it's an offer of considerable significance.


For me personally, it's always been a pleasure (as a friend) and a privilege (as a fan) to talk with these guys, their explanations providing extra insight into their work and personas. Paul Morley once said that pop music has helped people to fill their time and improve their communications. CWNN is one such example.


So, why 'Above as Below'?
- Erik Stein: Oooh, album titles are always tricky subject. 'Above as Below' was one of a few album titles going round in my head. I liked the feel of it. In general, I like album titles that are open to interpretation and of course misinterpretation. In this case, the title can be thought of in at least two different contexts; the spiritual and the physical (check the packaging).


In your own opinion, what was the difference in the creative process between this album and the making of previous releases?
- In terms of the way that Jon and I work, very little. The creative process has remained pretty much the same since day one. What moves us on is the introduction of new technology. Keyboards get replaced, sounds get discovered, voices unearthed. Of course with this album we have a number of guest artists, which sets it apart from the rest of our albums. However, even then, we pretty much sent the finished tracks to everyone for them to add their genius. In retrospect this is probably not the right way of doing things at all, but distance dictates that we can't jam in the same room with everyone. Or anyone, for that matter. The exception to the rule was the spoken word track 'Losing my Elan', featuring Bruce Geduldig of Tuxedomoon. He sent us his piece recorded and we built the atmospheres around it. We loved working that way and I think you can expect more spoken word from CWNN in the future. Word up.


Did you incorporate new influences? What has impressed you lately?
- Nothing consciously as such, at least on my part. I'm constantly 'appropriating' (yes, stealing) ideas and building them into what we do. However, most of these ideas aren't new at all. For example, I tried very deliberately to make the backing vocals on the opening track 'One Kiss, Then Home' sound like side two of Bowie's 'Low' album. Hardly the first band that that album has influenced. It was more a case of right place, right time.


What is the expectation for first US tour?
- The tour represents the first time that CWNN have actually played outside of London, which is a little embarrassing to admit. We expect to loved, loathed, up, down, rich, poor, pumped up, exhuasted and above all, extremely well fed. Ultimately, as well as the absolute thrill of playing in the US, we hope the tour can open the way for tours of other countries, continents and planets. No only are we incredibly easy to transport, we're too weak physically to actually lift a chair and throw it through a hotel window.


It seems that CWNN has a small but somehow stellar audience. Does this help the creative process?
- I'm extremely interested in hearing detailed feedback on what we do and I'm not in the least bit afraid of constructive criticism. In fact, I wish we had more of it. It definitely influences the music on my part. I always question what we do at every single stage of the creative process. Getting feedback from fans helps you to ask the right questions, I think.


ImageHow do you see CWNN's place in today's music? You proudly wear your influences, but sound not up to date, rather out of time. Is this a compliment?
- It is a very big compliment, thank you. I don't know enough about today's music to place us, really. We've always experienced difficulties in being accurately placed within a genre, but then that's not our job to do. It's wonderful to think that we sound out of time, particularly as we're a band that's generally song-based - technically, it's a more restrictive medium to work in. Perhaps in the year 2035 our first album will suddenly go platinum. Hey, it's happened for lots of people. I can see any number of CWNN songs on an advert for Levi's. Probably.


It seems that both of you are different people. How do make it all sound so smooth and integrated?
- I don't think we're as different as people might think. Sure, our tastes and approaches to music might be different, but then that is what a band is for in the first place. As people, we have a fairly similar outlook on life, temperament and favourite flavour of crisp. Jon may disagree with this, which would be quite ironic.


On what basis did you choose the guests for 'Above as Below'?
- It was a case of matching up our address book with the songs really, and then sending very persuasive emails. We were extremely privileged to have the guests that we did. Kelli Ali took away the songs and disappeared. We hoped she might sing on 3 or 4 songs, but she came back with vocals on 8! Not only were all her contributions wonderful, it helped to give the album a theme i.e. 'who is that amazing female singer in the background?' John Ellis (Stranglers/ Peter Gabriel) is an old friend of the band. It made perfect sense for him to add soaring e-bow to the track 'Idi's Admin' - a part that took him about an hour to write and record, I might add. It was equally thrilling to have Bruce and Luc from Tuxedomoon participate. There's a curious logic and unbelievable satisfaction in having the very artists that have influenced your band then play on your record. Tuxedomoon are a good case in point.
Author: Mileta Okiljevic
Photo: Chris Dorney