Trumpets of Death - Interviews - Soundblab

Trumpets of Death

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

It is likely no other album released in 2011 will resemble Teeth + Teeth = Teeths, the debut from Leeds trio Trumpets of Death. Comprised of bleak, fragile soundscapes, avant-jazz freak-outs and mangled interpretations of traditional sea shanties, it's definitely not for the faint-hearted. Yet, despite such an uncompromising stance, TOD are an oddly fun band - witness 'The Paper Plough', which features the singer Benjamin Wetherill trilling, "Come on, take your clothes off/ We'll dance around in our underwear" to an oily rumba which sounds like death in an 80s wine bar. Anyone who loves Krautrock, the outer limits of 60s psychedelia and the songs where Radiohead really push the sonic envelope should make a point of checking out this band. Soundblab caught up with them to discuss their darkly brilliant music.

You were previously Benjamin Wetherill and the Trumpets of Death. How did the change name come about and how much does it reflect a shift in the band's dynamics?

We formed the band and needed a name and it was difficult with Ben's previous work and our respect for that and we didn't know how the band would work together in the long term. Then eventually we wanted to lose Benjamin Wetherill from the name because we got to a stage where we felt that it was a new thing, something seperate from the Benjamin Wetherill solo stuff and we wanted to lose any association, as much as possible, with what had gone before. We all make decisions equally and we wanted to get away from the singer/songwriter with backing band.

How did you go about writing the music for your debut album, Teeth + Teeth = Teeths? How did the music on the album evolve?

Ben had ideas for original songs and a couple of traditional tracks that were open to re-working before the band had really formed as a seperate entity. We began to incorporate and develop these pieces into the live set and when we got to approaching the album we started refining. We write parts and improvise always as a group during rehearsals but a lot of the decisions that got the record as it is now were made after the initial recording process as we were able to be more objective once we had the basic tracks down and see what else was necessary.

Did you improvise when recording the music for the album? Do you improvise live, and if so, how much freedom do you allow yourselves?

Yes improvisation plays a big part in what we do. It's exciting and just opens out the songs so that we can constantly change while still maintaining the core. When recording the album a lot of the overdubs came about from just improvising to the basic tracks and then editing. There are also a lot of sections which are the result of chance occurrences in the editing process which is a very important element of our sound; the chance cohesion of the unintentional and intentional often has a magic which is really exciting and inimitable. Because we now play to pre-programmed drums we have a set structure and sequence of songs. Within this framework we have both set written parts as well as lengthy sections where there is room for improvisation, it can be improvisation around themes as well as improvisation where anything goes. We like to blur the line between the improvisation and the pre-planned structure.

Do you rehearse much before a live gig or do you just see what happens on the night?

Yes we rehearse methodically and constantly make adjustments, pretty much on a daily basis. We want to play our music as tightly and confidently as possible, like machines, but on the night there is always an extra cosmic element which changes the way we play.

It seems like you can pick out a bit of a nautical theme in the album's lyrics and titles? Is that correct, or just typical journo projection?

Ben has had an interest in maritime sea songs for a while, and their presence within this album was really a bleed from him playing solo. We found the two folk songs on Teeth+Teeth=Teeths really worked well within the band context,, the starkness of the melodies, the brutal subject matter these songs, really lent themselves to where we wanted to go musically and thematically. The other three tracks on the record have no reference to the nautical theme but we felt worked really well alongside the 'Press Gang' and the 'Cruel Ship's Captain'.

What are you influences musically? How would you describe your music?

John Coltrane, Mike Ratledge, Billie Holiday, A.L Lloyd are some of the most important people in terms of having influenced each of our individual approaches to music both in terms of inspiration from artistic vision and style. We like to think that our music is changeable, expressive, open to interpretation, dramatic, has elements of light and dark and is often unconventional in form.

How do you find the Leeds music scene? Is it supportive of a band as experimental as you?

Adam Nodwell (organiser of the British Wildlife festival) is really nice... Leeds is better than most areas but also limiting in some ways because you expect it to be more diverse in a way, in that you would imagine there to be more opportunities to play alternative/experimental music. Having said that, people are friendly and there is a strong sense of community.

Benjamin, are you still pursuing a solo career?

No, despite the fact that at the moment the band is all-consuming, in that I almost don't have enough free time to do anything else musically, I think I got to a stage with playing on my own and recording where I had done what I wanted to and had to move on to something different to progress. Also, it wouldn't make sense to have separate things going on, if I write a song or have an idea for a piece of music it can just be worked into what we do as Trumpets of Death as there are no real limits or restrictions on what we will or won't do musically.

When you play live, how much do you think about the audience? You're not exactly a typical 'crowd pleasing' band (although I think you're fantastic live!)?

We have to really concentrate so it can look we are a bit distant but we want to play as well as possible for the audience as we have a specific goal in mind of what we want to achieve. We try to have a pre-ordained structure that runs logically and makes sense to us in terms of atmosphere, tension and release, so in that way we are aiming to please a listener but without compromising what we want to create.

What's next for Trumpets of Death?

Touring throughout spring and summer and recording our second album early summer.

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