Few bands in the Electronic genre can fit the bill as
both, experienced stage performers and accomplished musicians
all at the same time. In fact, The Nine has become
both. After touring with the likes of Gary Numan,
and on their second full-length album release, Dreamland,
released on A Different Drum, these guys are a serious
contender for the band that may one day push the scene
into mainstream. The Nine skillfully combine real musical
attributes along with synthesizers, guitars, and memorable
vocals to create a modern sound well-worth all of the
great reviews that the band has received, and we at the
Electrogarden Network rate these guys a must have in your
collection. We spoke to Geoff and the gang to try
and get some more insight into the band . . .
Hi guys. Lets start out with the who's who in the current
lineup and what are the main roles in band?
Ian - I wish to be known as - 'Ian Davies', In the studio - master of lyrics, occasional top line composer, drinker of weak coffee. Live - Dream
keyboard player (makes it look like nothings happening), 'high' backing vocals, admirer of those in front of him.
Geoff - Friends call me 'Geoff' among other things, In the studio - control freak, gadget freak and lover of all things with knobs and sliders. I
currently have a fascination with anything that has those funky new blue L.E.D's on it.
Responsible for all technical dealings with some song writing thrown in for good measure. Drinking too much 'strong', black coffee. Oh yeh, I forgot to mention that I am the main vocalist, lover of
Mac's, writer of emails, negotiator of deals and spender of money,
chief coordinator/ass kicker. Live - Frontman/singer, mover, wearer of large
boots, ex wearer of sun glasses, loved by all those in front of me !?
Neil - I'm Neil and I wield the axe.
Putting some perspective on the history of the band, what can
you tell us about GLASSHOUSE. What was that like? How did that effort
dissolve into The Nine? Musically, what was carried over from that project
into where you are now?
Geoff - GLASSHOUSE was interesting, it was a starting point for what has become The Nine. We learnt quite a bit through experiences we had along
the way but it never succeeded as a band. Musically it was quite dated. People say that The Nine has certain retro elements but Glasshouse was too
retro to succeed at the time. Admittedly at the time we did have our heads stuck too much into 80's music and that's one lesson we've learnt. The
Nine was a chance to break away from that and get our inspiration from a wider variety of sources. We were young then, we're older now and a bit
wiser but none of us have grey hair yet.
What was it like to do the tour with G.Numan? That gig must
have opened some doors? Was that little piece of "rock & roll" what you
expected? What was the largest venue?
Ian - It was a fantastic experience to be associated with Mr G. Numan. To be able to play to large numbers of people in great venues, the best of which I thought was
Manchester Apollo, because that is where I used to go to see bands as a kid, so to
play there was a great achievement.
Yeah, we had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends, a lot of whom follow The Nine. I learnt how to stay up late and drink a lot and never
to eat a curry before performing on stage. Gary has a great attitude towards his support bands and made sure we were looked after. It was good to experience how a tour should be run. We
always got a sound check and that's something a lot of bands don't get these days!
The audiences were always responsive. I never once felt that we weren't welcome although someone did throw 20 pence at us and another time it was
a rubber penis. All good experiences but they never led to anything for the band, except I think I got a few quid for the rubber penis. Ian had a
bad experience with a shower and nearly drowned himself. We found the entire contents of
someone's hotel room propping itself up against our room door, a nice surprise at 6:30 in the morning....Aaah, all those memories.... I sometimes think it would be nice to do it again but as The Nine.
And not to leave any stone unturned . . . Who are your
influences? I mean musically and for the vocals, who do you think inspires
Ian - Usual crew, Numan, Dep Mode, etc. however, there are many inspiring bands coming through
on the smaller independent labels that are exciting to listen to. For lyrical
inspiration we rely on each other and try to not look at others to provide us with
content. We write about whatever comes into our heads. There is no pre plan to write
about this or that.
Geoff - I get my inspiration from various sources. I don't like to restrict myself to a certain niche of influences. That's where we went wrong
with Glasshouse and now I am totally paranoid about listening to too much 80's stuff. I like the punchiness and energy of some of
electronic music and that's the stuff that I find inspiring. I tend to look at music from a technical point of view and would buy a track because
I like a certain sound or the drum programming, stuff that I can learn and incorporate into our music.
Neil - There are a lot of things that inspire me - from heavy guitar music to bizarre pop songs on the radio to irritating adverts on the TV. I
guess it's just anything that sticks in my head for long enough, really.
What do you guys do when you are not gigging and writing?
Professions outside of the music?
Ian - Currently work within training design for large corporations in and around London.
Geoff - Currently being made redundant from my Lab Technician's job at Nortel Networks. A chance for me to spend more time on my music career :)
Every cloud has a silver lining!
Neil - When not playing the banjo I entertain myself by collecting moss and rare types of seaweed. I also take care of my pet lemming (who is
called "Lemmy") and we regularly promenade down to the local drinking establishments together. Don't worry - he doesn't get drunk.
Centurion: You are currently getting released through ADD (A Different
Drum) in the US. How did you hook up with them?
Geoff - I was working with Glen Wisbey of Blue October fame, remixing tracks for Mark of Faith Assembly fame. Glen originally met Mark in London
somewhere. I sent Todd some demo tracks for his entertainment, which he liked and offered us a deal. That's the abbreviated version. The full
version contains tales of lies, deceit, anger and tears - not really.
Looking at the CMJ reports, I see that you are getting some
radio plays in the colleges around the US. Are you/ADD doing anything to
promote radio plays in the US or UK?
Ian - Buggered if I know what ADD are doing - Geoff you may know more about that.
Geoff - Yes, the reason it is getting some college radio play and showing up in CMJ
reports is because ADD serviced the album to college radio DJ's about 8
weeks ago (approx. 160 different stations). That's what ADD has done to try
and promote the album through public radio. Unfortunately radio stations in the UK are not interested in giving unknown bands airplay. If it's not in the top 10 or backed up by some mass
promotional campaign it may as well not exist. The UK really sucks when it comes to that sort of thing. We've decided to ignore that aspect of
promotion and use less political routes, like gigging, websites, mail outs, magazines and stuff.
From the angle of extending the fan base, do you think that
playing live is more important than getting tracks exposure on the radio in
Geoff - Yes, like I said, it's one of the main activities that we can use for promotion. We are building up a good reputation and following
through playing various large festivals here in the UK.
Ian - I think that it is very important to play live, so long as the venue and timing is
right. I don't believe that continuous gigging is a positive aspect. I'd rather play a few select
gigs which will, hopefully, draw a larger more committed audience. To play in front of a
large audience is a tremendous feeling. The exposure on airplay is great so long as the
product is easily available if the listener wants to follow up. this is where good promotion
and PR is crucial to the success of any band.
Neil - They are both equally good media. With a gig (whether it's yours or someone else's) you get to meet a lot of really cool people, and that's
really good because it's always nice to meet the bands that you listen to. On the other hand, radio is always good because potentially you can
reach a much wider audience that a gig alone would not be able to cover.
If you had to pick one of your tracks to get some
mainstram attention or commercial radio airplay, which one would you pick? Why?
Ian - My Fallacy or Poison - both are mysterious, yet identifiable to the listener. We have
received a lot of feedback from people regarding these tracks. they are also great to
play live (and very well received).
Geoff - I have to agree with Ian there. I too enjoy those tracks. 'I Won't' is another fave. So, you got three instead of one, ok, 'My Fallacy'
it is. Should have been a single!
Neil - I would choose "Breeze" because it has a "universal" quality to it, where you don't just have to be into synthpop to enjoy it. There's also
a lot of trance-related music around in the UK at the moment, so I think it would be quite a success.
This may not be fair, but how would you characterize your sound?
Is it Synthpop? What do you call it?
Ian - I don't really know what
everyone's perception of synthpop is. if it means totally synth,
then we cannot be in that category. If the next stage along is industrial, then the melodies
that we incorporate into our music doesn't fit in there either. We have been described as
techno-pop or Future pop, maybe they are right?
Geoff - Progressive Bubblegum Synth pop.
Neil - I would class it as a Synthy-electro-full-fat-chocolate-milkshake-pop. But less of the "pop".
How does The Nine craft a song? Give us some insight into your
Geoff - It generally starts with creating a drum loop on Cubase followed by either a rough bassline or chords, whichever comes first. It's in
these early stages where Ian will come up with a vocal melody and lyrics. This pulls the song into a certain direction and gives us an idea of the
songs structure. Everything's done on Cubase VST on the G4 for those who are interested. More ideas are added along the way but we tend to get to
a certain point with a track and then start another. For the album I took the 10 selected tracks, still unfinished, and went through them one at a
time adding all the production polish and mixing them down. I found this method of approach gave the album a 'uniform' sound because any new ideas
or techniques that I had learnt could be applied to all of the tracks so there is no really obvious change in quality, so to speak, between the
What is Dreamland about?
Ian - It is looking toward a place of tranquility, peace and harmony, yet realising at the same time
that this ideal is impossible to find, and when you are taken there it is as a result of
somebody's (maybe my) action. it leaves the audience with the question 'Where is this place,
can I recognise it, would I want to go there?' Is it really a pleasant place ?
Geoff - Sounds cool, Ian!
What was the biggest difference between the making of Native
Anger and Dreamland, or was it along the same line?
Ian - Structurally the songs were written in the same way. The main difference was the inclusion of guitar
which helped the album attain a more aggressive feel, but without losing the melodic influence
that we receive high acclaim for.
Geoff - Since Native Anger we had progressed both technically and as songwriters so there were changes in our approach to writing Dreamland. We were more creative and not scared to experiment with different ideas. The inclusion of Neil's guitar helped pull the tracks in a new direction.
For the most part, electronic artists do not
need to have any
real musical background, and in some bands it shows more than others. I
get the sense from your music that there is some of that traditional musical
background in the project. So, I'll go out on a limb and ask - Who plays
piano, guitar or maybe, drums?
Ian - We are all omnicompetent on the spoons, the bass washing board, using the black notes on the keyboard
and turning a computer on.
Geoff - My instrument has always been the synth from the age of 10 or
something like that. I've had no training in any instrument so everything I know is what I've learnt by listening and the occasional bit of reading. The only one
who plays a traditional instrument is Neil.
Neil - I know a bit of music theory, but on some occasions it's done us more harm than good! I believe that as long as it SOUNDS right, that's all
that matters. It's nice to be able to bend the rules a bit. :-)
Without too many details, the vocals in The Nine compliment the
music well. The range, expression, and timing are where they should be.
How did you develop as a singer? Any formal training? Who do you think out
there right now in the scene is a good vocalist?
Geoff - Again, no formal training, just a lot of hard work and a lot of practice really. After being criticized for having emotionless vocals on
Native Anger I made a conscious effort to get that right for Dreamland and that has obviously paid off, thanks :)
Good vocalists in the scene? - Marian Gold - great voice - great guy too! Midihead of Monolithic fame. He's got a very powerful voice and was good
to see live.
Ian - For me singing in the shower and car have helped me perfect what was really an undiscovered talent.
Geoff - thanks Ian.
What do you have to do to setup and play live? Do you prepare
seperate mixes and sequences for the live shows that differ from the
recorded stuff? What is that whole thing like for you?
Geoff - For technical and logistical reasons we can't take the entire studio out to gigs with us so, as many bands do now, we use backing tracks
for drums and the fiddly production stuff, but the majority is played live. All vocals are live and that's important. All the tracks are tailored
to fit into a live performance situation, so what you hear live will be different from CD versions. We put a lot of thought into our live
performances, it's not just a case of turning up and playing.
What do you think the future holds for the electronic bands? Do
you think the genre will ever see the light of day or will it always remain
an underground scene?
Ian - It has always been an uphill struggle for electronic bands, because they do not fit the stereotypical
image of lead, bass and drums. Live venues seem to find it difficult to deal with our type of music.
Fortunately there are some good promoters out there who are working with good venues to try to promote
the scene and at the moment it is working quite well. To try to expand the scene, we need the support
of local radio and record companies to promote what we have to offer.
Geoff - Here, here!
Neil - I think electronic music will have it's finest hour very soon. There are a lot of excellent up-and-coming electronic bands, and the way
musical trends change so quickly in the UK, it's only a matter of time.
Who do you listen to? Any favorites from within the genre?
All - System22, Alphaville, Icon of Coil, Beborn
If you had the cash, what is that dream piece of gear that you
would buy? Do you think it would make a big difference in the overall
product that The Nine put out?
Ian - I'll leave that to the technical expert. Any charity greatfully received !!
Geoff - Cheers Ian! - Probably a full blown Pro Tools system. Something that just gets on with it and doesn't complain if I throw too many plug-ins at it. Something that has decent sounding EQ and compressors, then I could stop
worrying about the technical aspects and just get on with writing the music!
Neil - When I'm rich and famous I am going to buy a Fender Jaguar in UV orange, and the biggest amp that Marshall make. Hear me roar. :-P
Where/How does The Nine record? Tell us a little about the
Geoff - We record at the Dreamland Studio which is a converted spare room in my house. The main tools are the G4 running Cubase VST, 01V, Trinity
Plus, Supernova II (love it!!) All vocals and guitar are recorded into Cubase and there's enough stuff for
every track to run live down to the CDr
(with a touch of compression of course!) It's great because I can go in there at any time and do little bits and pieces to tracks or spend the
whole day in there, whatever takes my fancy and it's not costing me anything ridiculous. The fact that I can produce stuff that sounds 'finished'
is good too. I'm planning on getting into music for tv, corporate video etc. So, having the studio at my disposal is going to be essential.
What is up next for The Nine? Any shows planned?
Geoff - We've got some festival gigs in the pipeline for next year but nothing has been confirmed yet. We've started work on the next album and
are hoping for it not taking 3 years this time!! Our new single, 'Control' is due out soon on ADD and Energy Rekords, Sweden, featuring various remixes and a previously
unreleased track called,
'Back to This'. Keep checking the website for any news on future gigs etc.
OK, thanks a bunch for taking the time to do this.
It has been great!
Ian - It has been an absolute pleasure.
Geoff - It has indeed.
Neil - Cheers!
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