This is way beyond exciting. I am tremendously lucky to be a host for this amazing album premiere and interview. IDIOTEQ has teamed up with Scottish post rockin’ screamo act KADDISH and Make-That-A-Take Records to give you a full stream of their newest full length album called “Thick Letters To Friends”! This engrossing outing marks the band’s second album and is limited to 300 copies on heavyweight (180g) black vinyl. The release of this record has been a collaborative effort betweenthe band, Make-That-A-Take Records, Scotland’s Black Lake Records, Cornwall’s Boslevan Records and America’s The Ghost Is Clear Records. I realize that I’ve already named a record of the month, but this one right here makes me want to change my mind, haha. Competitions aside, IDIOTEQ focusses on the best of DIY music and surprising experimentations within the network of independent artists from all around the world and this newest remarkable piece of work from KADDISH deserves a big stamp of approval and quality guarantee for every fan of passionate, emotional post hardcore.
“Thick Letters To Friends” will be released on Friday, August 29th. Listen, share and scroll down to read my interview with Dundee’s very own KADDISH!
Hey guys! Thanks for taking some time with IDIOTEQ and enhancing this excliting feature of ours. How are you? What’s up in Dundee?
We are very well thanks. Things in Dundee are good – we’re gearing up for the release of our second album, and the excitement is building. We’re all really keen to finally get this thing out – the fact is that we recorded it a long time ago (3 years ago!), and it was becoming something of a bad joke in the Scottish scene that it hadn’t yet seen the light of day. We can put the delay down to a mixture of reluctance and sheer incompetence – we have a navel-gazing tendency to see playing music together as an end in itself, which means that we’re really quite bad at the organisational side of things. Luckily, however, we do have some great friends in the Scottish music scene (such as Derrick from Make-That-A-Take Records, and Ewan from Black Lake Records). These guys are much better at the promotional side of things, and they deserve the credit for believing enough in our tunes to drag the album over the finish line…. On the upside, I should also add that the delay has meant that we’re quite close to having album number three ready for recording!
Oh yeah, let’s dive more into “Thick Letters To Friends”. The new track called “End, As In Aim” sounds so relieving. It feels like you’re in a good place now, huh? How does it feel to be back with a new record?
Yes, I think we’re in a good place. We’re very happy with the music we’re creating, and we’re certainly very happy with the way the record sounds. A lot of the credit for the final sound has to go to our friend Ross Middlemiss, who recorded the album, and to Carl Saff, who mastered it. We only had a shoestring budget for recording, but Ross was incredibly supportive, and put in way more time and effort than it was reasonable to expect of him; Carl, in turn, was a paragon of professionalism and efficiency in getting the tracks back to us, and, to our ears at least, he has done a great job in capturing the right sound and feel.
In many ways, this record is more straight-ahead than the last one, which came out way back in 2010. I think it does a good job of capturing the way we play live – lots of intensity and taking yourself too seriously! Mark, our vocalist, left the band soon after the first record was released – the rest of us (Dom on guitar, John on bass, and Chris on drums) knew that we wanted to continue the band, but knew that this would require writing entirely new material, because it wasn’t feasible to play the same type of songs as a three-piece. Some of the earliest stuff we came up with has made it onto the record, and, making a virtue of necessity, it’s a bit more driven and straightforwardly ‘hardcore’ in places than the last record was.
‘End, As In Aim’ is, in fact, a bit of an anomaly among the tracks on the album – it’s slower and has a bit more of a building dynamic, so I think I understand what you mean by it being an expression of relief (it ‘resolves’ itself, I suppose!) The reason that track was doing the rounds on the Internet in advance of the album is that one of the labels involved in putting the record out (The Ghost Is Clear) picked it for a sampler they were doing – it was quite surprising to me that they chose that track, but in a pleasant sense!
The rest of the tracks on the album are really quite ‘in your face’ and agitated, which will hopefully appeal to people who were into our first record. Of the other tracks on the album, there are one or two that more obviously resonate with what we did before (‘As Long As Your Life Is Long’ and ‘All Paths To The End’, for example), whereas there are others that develop in a somewhat new direction (‘Should A Word’ and ‘Is Not Ought’, for example). The stuff we’re writing for the next record is going in a different direction again – it’s a bit more drawn out and repetitive in some places, and a bit more technical in other places.
Besides continuing with a new vocalist, what is the greatest sacrifice you’ve made to keep it going and make this new album happen? ;)
The greatest sacrifice we’ve made, I’d say, is touring. What I mean is that we’ve come to the realisation that, due to the nature of our work and family commitments these days, we will never be able to do the big tours that most bands dream of when they start out. Most of the shows we play take place in the big four cities in Scotland (Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen), and we’ve been forced to turn down a number of really good show offers from England and the European continent recently, which fills us with a lot of regret.
I get a bittersweet sense of pride mixed with envy when I see our friends in bands like Carson Wells and Bonehouse hitting the road. We did a European tour in 2008, and a small tour of England around the same time. The most recent thing we did was a small tour of the North of England with Carson Wells, at the end of 2013 – it was immense fun, and gave us a taste of the kind of touring we would love to do, given more time and less pressure from other aspects of our lives.
How did you come to put together this particular set of songs? What concept did you have on your second full length?
As I mentioned, our sound became a bit more driven after Mark left the band, so the idea, in putting the album together, was just to create an organic set of songs that would flow well into one another, and explore the dynamics open to us as a three-piece. There was also a bit of a ‘we’re not dead!’ energy behind the writing of the songs. On a more intellectual level, I’d say the album does have a central thought or theme. This emerged slowly and ‘after the fact’, in the writing of lyrics to round off each song, and in coming up with artwork at the end of the whole process (I think that’s true, incidentally, of a lot of creative work – it’s only in retrospect that you’re able to see what has really been driving it). The thought behind the album, to my mind, has to do with communication – how can we turn the constraints imposed on communication today into weapons? By constraints, I mean, for example, that there’s a lot more communication going on today than at any other point of human history, and that a lot of it is in fact cynical, jaded, exploitative, or incoherent miscommunication (just look at the comments on the average Youtube video!) By weapons, I mean the capacity to turn the media we have available to us to more creative ends, in a way that, hopefully, resists all that poison (through recording songs and putting them out online, for example, or having an interesting chat with someone from Poland whom you’ve never met in person….)
I suppose I can flesh out the thought behind the album by saying that the title comes from the poet Jean Paul, who said that books are ‘thick letters to friends’. We like the sentiment of that statement – that trying to do something creative is like trying to send something on, to people you may never meet, who may pick it up a long time after it was sent, and who are also free to ignore it (the funny thing, of course, is that ‘thick’ can also mean ‘stupid’, so maybe that’s what the album is really all about, ‘stupid letters to friends’!)
Is it always important to understand the meaning of the words? Will you include the new lyrics in the inlay book of the new record?
We will be including a full lyric sheet with the album, plus two small essays developing some thoughts/musings. I certainly think lyrics are important – not just in terms of grasping meaning (which is a bit of a vexed term, because I think the process of communication I mentioned above always involves distortions and amplifications of meaning), but also in terms of providing rhythm and hooks. In comparison to the last album, the lyrics on this one are a bit sparser, and a good number of them tend towards repetitive vocal hooks (‘To Another’, from the last album, is a good pointer in terms of the direction that’s developed on the new album).
How does your day job and everyday activities impact your passion for writing? Do you find your other work somehow connected to your musical endevors? Do you balance you writing with other stuff you do?
We have quite different jobs – Chris manages a bookshop, John is an engineer, and I teach Philosophy at University. The most obvious sense in which our jobs are connected to our music, I suppose, is that playing loud music allows us to vent a lot of the frustrations that come with work! There are also other more subtle (but strong) connections: playing punk rock, I like to think, gives you a good sense of how to be on the level with people, and, in general, to have a good ethos (fighting back against racism, homophobia and sexism, for example); in many ways, I think hardcore has taught me as much or more about ethics than any Epicurus or Nietzsche could do.
I can’t speak for the other guys, but I know that, for me, there are a whole host of other crossovers between playing in the band and work: the intensity of writing music can act as a way of both channeling and giving me a break from ideas I’ve got rattling about in my head, and when I get nervous before I teach a class, I remind myself that I’ve played to a room full of 150 angry punks in Leipzig, after which the nerves tend to level out….
I think it’s definitely important to find a balance between writing and the other things you do, but to always keep practising and trying to develop your songs. When it looked like the second album might never come out (a year ago, say), I went through a period of fairly intense ‘writer’s block’ on the music front, and found it hard to keep motivated to keep writing. I now realise this had a lot to do with frustration: if it was so hard to put a recorded album out, I had thought, what was the point in writing another?!
In terms of balance, I personally enjoy walking, writing, reading, spending time with my friends and family – those are things that inform writing music, and that give me a break from it when I need it as well. The other guys like all of that stuff as well, and we have shared passions for other weird and wonderful things (Scottish football, for example!)
Ha! How come you didn’t make it to this year’s World Cup? :)
There’s a simple answer to that – Scotland really aren’t that good at football! Scots tend to be incredibly passionate about football, but also well accustomed to failure at it. Our new manager (Gordon Strachan) seems to have a good grip of the players, though, so we might have a decent qualifying campaign for the next Euro Championships (although our first game is against Germany, in Dortmund!)
We’re more passionate, in the band, about Scottish league football – it’s real backwater stuff in comparison to the money and glamour of the English Premier League going on across the border, but we love it all the same. Scottish football is like an obscure minority language: no one else is interested in speaking it, but it is capable of producing some really good farce, drama, and ‘in-jokes’!
Haha, nice one :)
Ok guys, back to KADDISH. A mythical Scottish post hardcore / screamo band is back, says the official promo release :) What’s the secret recipe to become legendary after being together for only 5 years? ;) And, more seriously, considering the great reviews of your previous work, do you feel any pressure?
Emmm, we’ve actually been a band for a lot longer than 5 years (we’ve been playing together for well over 10 years!) I suppose, however, that there’s a case for viewing KADDISH as 4 years old, given that we’ve only been a three-piece for that long. In terms of a description, I wouldn’t necessarily go with the ‘mythical’ or ‘legendary’ epithets, although I find it humbling that someone would want to describe us in those terms. I think ‘committed amateurs’ might be a better description – we’re very much into the music for the love of playing together and meeting interesting people/playing with good bands; we’ve certainly never had any pretensions to make money from the band, or of becoming ‘legends’ (!)
Given what I just said, I can only speculate/ grope around in the dark on the recipe for ‘becoming legendary’. For one thing, it seems to me that it’s too easy for bands to try too hard these days. That sounds like a paradox, but bear with me…. What I mean is that, despite how flexible the general music platform provided by the Internet can seem to be (for example: direct access to fans/promoters/ lots of grass roots labels, etc.), a lot of it can actually be quite limiting (for example: worry about how many ‘likes’ or ‘hits’ you’re getting on whatever site, worry about how much money you’re making/not making, or a sense of despondency that there always seem to be better or more innovative bands out there, doing more interesting things, etc.). My advice for getting more out of music (and I’m not putting it down as a hard and fast rule) would be: stop trying too hard, and see what comes of that; be interested in music for the right reasons, and see what comes of that (for example: playing together, making a noise, getting things off your chest, having a source of respite from work, having a focus for friendship, having a way of meeting interesting people, being creative, etc.). If you get those things right, then the band, to my mind, has already been worth it, and anything else can come as a bonus…. Of course, some people might see that attitude as just having limited ambitions; I’d admit that’s true, and I also ask them to think about how torturous and downright nihilistic unlimited ambitions can often be for a band and the persons it contains (think of the horrible conceits that some of the bigger bands seem to exemplify in their music videos these days, as if they’re really saying ‘ONLY I KNOW HOW TO PLAY’, ‘ONLY THIS BAND COUNTS, EVERYONE ELSE IS SHIT’, ‘ONLY MY FEELINGS COUNT’, etc.).
We don’t feel a great deal of pressure about how the album will be received. The time we feel pressure most acutely is when composing the songs – we want the songs to make the most of the dynamics they contain, and not let themselves down, so there’s a sense of responsibility to the songs themselves, if that makes any sense. The other responsibility we feel is to make sure that the other people who invested something into album, whether in terms of cash or time, get something from it (for example: that the labels make the money back that they put up for the pressing of the LP, and that Ross gets some recognition for his recording skills). To be honest, KADDISH is something we do to ‘let off steam’, so the band would be failing one of its core purposes if it became a huge pressure unto its own. Again, to the criticism that this is simply having limited ambitions, I’d respond that it’s important to have aspects of your life that aren’t about money and work, and that firmly resist becoming a chore.
Well said, thanks!
Ok, here’s a boring one, I know, but I’d like to unveil a bit more in this area. What is your own writing process like? What was new this time? Have you done any experimentation?
Our writing process is fairly straightforward in that it generally involves me coming up with riffs, which then get developed in practice with Chris and John. At that point new ideas and dynamics tend to get generated if the song passes the ‘band test’, and this can often take things in a direction I hadn’t initially envisaged for the song. If the song doesn’t pass the test of being jammed out in practice, then it might get stored in memory to get cannibalised for parts in the future, or just to fade away….
In terms of the writing process, I suppose both albums are consistent in that, instead of having conventional verse/chorus/verse structures, the songs are built around dynamic changes (i.e. I think it’s more important to get the changes between dynamics right, and to build a sense of cohesion and possibility through that, rather than structuring songs around obvious repetitions). None of that is particularly innovative or peculiar to KADDISH, however, and, on the other hand, there definitely are certain ‘background’/ less obvious repetitions in the songs (for example: in terms of the changes/returns between keys and chords at strategic points).
The novel thing this time is that we were able to come up with songs a bit quicker (although it wouldn’t seem that way to an outside observer!) Since I was writing the guitar riffs and the lyrics (as opposed to guitar riffs and only some of the lyrics, as was the case on the first album), it meant that we could jam out songs a bit quicker.
In terms of experimentation, I think the biggest thing was just having the confidence to go for a more ‘straight ahead’ sound – that is, trying to capture something more organic, more representative of our live approach to playing, and (hopefully) a bit more ‘catchy’!
Does releasing it through Make-That-A-Take Records, Black Lake Records, Boslevan Records, The Ghost Is Clear Records give you more freedom as an artist? Please tell me more about the details of your cooperation. How did you pick up these particular labels and what do you need these guys for?
The good thing about releasing the album through a number of labels is that it spreads the initial outlay and subsequent risk a bit further than would be the case if it was just one or two labels investing. We’re only getting 300 LPs pressed, but, even still, we wouldn’t one label to overstretch, only for them to be left with 290 LPs gathering dust somewhere 12 months down the line! Working with a number of labels also builds a good sense of community and links, so hopefully the labels will be able to use the connections they have built up for this project again in the future.
I suppose that working with different labels can make things a bit harder logistically, but the overall process has been very amicable and democratic from our perspective, and Derrick from Make-That-A-Take has lent a steady ‘overseeing eye’ the whole way through – he’s really been the glue holding the release process together, and we simply couldn’t have done it without him. He has our immense gratitude.
It was less a question of picking labels, than gradually putting the pieces of a jigsaw together. We got to a point of abject frustration when nothing seemed to be moving forward with the album a year ago, as it dawned on us that we didn’t have the time or vitality to force things through alone. It was at that point that we asked Derrick, whom we’ve known for years, to come on board and help us out. From there, it was a question of putting out feelers to labels we thought might be interested – we knew Mikee from Boslevan through other releases, we knew Ewan from Black Lake through gigging, and he put us in touch with Bobby and the guys at The Ghost Is Clear. The release is on exactly the small ‘DIY’ scale that we want, and that, in turn, is what we need most from the labels: a shared commitment to DIY values.
Ok guys. So what’s the plan to take your new music on the road? Any chance to meet and greet in Warsaw and other European cities later this year?
It’s sad to say, but I’m afraid there are no touring plans at the moment – we’d love to do something, but real life bites hard these days, in terms of our commitments beyond the band. All I can really say is ‘watch this space’….
Thanks so much for your time and insightful answers! Can you share some names or a recent piece of work that has inspired you?
Thank you for your time and the interesting questions, Karol. Our inspiration comes from diverse sources: life, literature, friends and family, and many different types of music. Off the top of my head, here are some things currently inspiring us: Georges Perec, David Foster Wallace, Ludwig Wittgenstein (!), CHRISTIAN SCOTT, FUGAZI, black metal, mountain biking, long walks, long dead North American emo bands (SHOTMAKER, 400 YEARS, MAXIMILLIAN COLBY)…. I’d also like to thank all the bands we’ve played with over the years, and all the bands in our scene who have inspired us, such as SANTO CASERIO, SNOWBLOOD, ME AND GOLIATH, BATTLE OF WOLF 359, LAETO, MESA VERDE, DIRTDRINKER, CARSON WELLS, BONEHOUSE, STONETHROWER, and anyone I’ve been remiss enough to miss out. Look out, in particular, for ripping new releases from BONEHOUSE, CARSON WELLS and STONETHROWER in the near future. Every band requires the oxygen of a scene, and no band can stand alone – the bands I’ve listed, along with many others, have really helped to keep us alive as a band. Thanks.
Thanks! Have a good one!
Thanks to you as well Karol, and thanks to anyone willing to give their attention to the album. We hope you like it.
Live high quality photos by Philip Laing.