In a world where Far Out finds itself surrounded by PR guru marketeers, ten-a-penny garage-rockers and scenes that are nine parts Instagram feed, one part talent, we occasionally need a point of reference from the true underground to bring us back down to earth.
Such is this yearning that we bring you the latest instalment in our series of interviews with Mancunian experimentalist Robert Paul Corless, who is currently working on a second trilogy of albums to be released since the turn of the year.
While 2017 has been a period of almost resigned unpleasantness, Corless has been hard at work combining his abstract electronica with some of the finest poetry Manchester has to offer. We sat down to explore his love of the trilogy, the need for a ‘fuck you attitude’, and the plight of image-obsessed rockers…
You’ve released 16 volumes of solo work made up of instrumentals, what made you decide to add lyrical content this time around?
It’s a wider concept that came from a project I did with a guy called Joseph Devlin called Love in Manchester Isn’t What it’s Made Out to Be, it had some spoken word on it and I wrote about 12 songs to go with it.
Once I brought it together, for some reason it just sat on my shelf for about 12 months. I approached the label, they liked it and from there it ended up as a trilogy of albums with a male poet on each. There’s Jospeh Devlin, a lad called Michael O’Neill – who’s a good friend of mine – and Steve Hunt. It turned into a fusion of electronic beats and soundscapes, just noises really, and saxophone.
And there’s another trilogy featuring female poets to come?
The third one [Volume 19], was the one with Steve. That came out so well that I fancied doing another one, this time with three lasses in the interest of balance! So that will be my next trilogy of upcoming releases.
I’ve already recorded the first with Marion Mucciante from Paris. I first worked with Marion on some recordings last year and we became friends, before she moved back to Paris. I asked her when she got back whether she could send me some spoken word via Whatsapp, because it’s free!
She sent me five or six and they were all in French, which I quite liked. It [not knowing what the poetry meant] was great. She was probably slagging me off to fuck! You can hear the background of her walking around the city, the subway and rain.
And have you found the other two poets for this next trilogy?
The next one [Volume 21] features a lass called Sarah Jane Paymter. I’m putting some guitars on that today actually, and then some bass. I think that’s all this next one will be – just guitars, bass, and electronic beats. There were a lot more musicians on the other records, but this time it’ll be more stripped down. The one with Marion should hopefully be out in August, then a month after that the next one, then a month after that the third one. No waiting around in between like Star Wars!
Where do you find the energy to be so prolific?
After fucking around with the one with Joseph sat there for so long, and to then get such good feedback, I thought ‘I’ve got to get the trilogy straight out,’ and it’s gone from there… Plus being a big fan of Sergio Leone, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and all that, and Star Wars, I grew up with all that shit so it was exciting to me! It seemed more adventurous to me as opposed to just doing a record and getting it out there.
Where did the music come from, was it a case of matching it to the poetry or did you write independently?
What I did with the first trilogy is come up with about ten or twelve songs, and matched them up. I probably did a few more for the first one, but I was going a bit crackers then! I wrote it all first and then dragged the lads in. I didn’t play them any audio back, I just got the vocal off them. I need a confidence there. I need the wording and the expression to come straight through, rather than have the music dictate it.
There was no real concept to start off with, just sat down at my desk. The main thing is that they come in with a confidence and tell me ‘fuck you, it doesn’t matter whether you like it or not, because that’s all you’re getting of me’.
I don’t record the vocal to a BPM. It’s just starts on ‘one’ and then wanders. That’s what I like, music that feels like it might fall off the edge at any moment. That uncertainty is part of the journey that keeps me ticking.
Does the delivery of the poem not ultimately dictate the music that fits though?
Not necessarily. Someone might have a softer, gentler delivery where the beat is ramped-up, and others might come in screaming and shouting then I drop it down a bit. But it changes, to start off with I’ve not got a fucking clue! I like just sitting and doing all this on my own. I’ve been in plenty of groups where as soon as someone else gets involved you’re told what to do. I don’t want anything to do with conformity in that respect. I like people who just come in and do it, but also listen to my input. Is that called friendship? I think it basically is.
When producing I get so many groups who aren’t focussed in on the one important thing, which is making music. I feel like saying ‘get your stuff and fuck off’. I had a guy in here [low-lit studio] the other week with sunglasses on. I turned from the desk and saw him and thought ‘for fuck’s sake’, after that you just zone out and start thinking about what you want to eat later or something!
Shall we fuck it off now?
Volumes 17, 18 & 19 by Robert Paul Corless are available now via Eromeda Records, with Volume 20 set to be released this August.
Questions by Patrick Davies.