Chosen One: Greg Gives Peter Space
Interview with Peter Broderick.
“I like to embrace the ever-evolving life of a song, and dub music is a very good outlet for that…”
Words: Mark Carry
Artwork: Peter Broderick
Greg Gives Peter Space is the long-awaited first collaborative work with Peter Broderick and Greg Haines, which was released last June (via download and vinyl release) on the ever-illuminating independent label, Erased Tapes. Inspired by the pair’s obsession with dub music, the gifted multi-instrumentalists create sublime soundscapes, derived from rhythmically driven tracks, evoking the spirit of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, King Tubby and Augustus Pablo. On the utterly transcendent track, ‘The Drive’, Broderick asks “Are you ready for this?” — Greg Gives Peter Space unfolds layers of stunningly beautiful violin passages, ethereal sounds from tape-worn synthesizers, celestial harmonies and a hypnotic bassline. Welcome to the ever-expanding and shape shifting sounds of this incredibly exciting new collaboration.
‘Greg Gives Peter Space’ is a six-track mini album which reflects the latest artistic endeavors of Haines and Broderick, who have both been heavily immersed in a seamless array of collaborations in the not-too-distant past. American-born musician and composer, Broderick has long been synonymous with Copenhagen’s Efterklang, in addition to magnificent collaborative works with close friends Nils Frahm and Dustin O’Halloran, to name but a few. British born and Berlin based composer, Haines’s collaborative work includes his ongoing work with the Alvaret Ensemble (whose carefully constructed compositions feature intricate layers of brass, electronics, piano, voice, guitar and percussion) and 2012’s collaboration with the Dutch National Ballet and choreographer David Dawson.
Interestingly, it is the respective artist’s latest solo works which gives traces to the dub-influenced sounds of Greg Gives Peter Space. ‘These Walls Of Mine’ (Erased Tapes, 2012) saw Broderick effortlessly fuse a myriad of genres — soul, hip hop, folk, modern-classical — and the album’s longest cut ‘Copenhagen Ducks’ feels like a distant companion to ‘The Drive’s similarly evolving dub-infused sound. A space and dimension is wonderfully attained. Last year’s Denovali Records LP ‘Where We Were’ (Haines’s most groundbreaking and daring work to date) reveals the British composer’s fascination with dub music (and, indeed, musical experiments) where seamless layers of synthesizers created a resolutely unique body of work. Greg Gives Peter Space feels like the natural next step, where two like-minded artists forge thrillingly new, enchanting sounds.
‘Greg Gives Peter Space’ is available now on Erased Tapes.
Interview with Peter Broderick.
Congratulations on the incredible Greg Gives Peter Space record, which marks a special collaborative project between you and your close friend, Greg Haines. The music stems from your shared fascination and love for dub music. I must first ask you to discuss your love of Jamaican music and what records provided you the gateway into this exciting world of sound? What have been the most recent dub discoveries for you, Peter?
Peter Broderick: I will admit that the dub influence probably comes more from Greg’s side than from me . . . Greg has been collecting dub records pretty seriously over the last few years, and there have been many nights of us sitting together at his place, him playing me record after record of obscure dub. I’ve picked up several records myself and really grown to love the dub, but I’m an amateur compared to Greg. I do really love pretty much everything I’ve heard from the Wackie’s label . . . recently I picked up a record by Joe Gibbs called Majestic Dub . . . it’s pretty amazing! I’ve also been getting into a local record label here in Portland called ZamZam . . . they only release limited 7″ vinyls of dub music. Very cool!
One of the most striking aspects of Greg Gives Peter Space is the intuitive nature of the music, something that has proved a constant in both your and Greg’s solo work to date. Can you please recount your memories of recording the album? In terms of the musical layers, did your vocals and arrangements appear first or was it a case of Greg’s synthesizers and tape machines providing the starting point?
PB: The process for each song was quite different . . . some of them started as songs that I wrote, and then Greg sort of de-constructed them and expanded upon them. Others started as improvisations and sound experiments… For instance, The Feeling Shaker basically started when Greg showed up at my apartment in Berlin a few years ago, saying he had recorded some synthesizers, and suggested that we try and make a song based around those recordings. I had this vocal melody in my head that I had been singing to myself while walking or showering, etc… So I sang my words over the top of his synths. Then we added another track where Greg played piano and I played bass. Then we played some percussion together. Everything was done in one or two takes. This song bounced around in many incarnations for several years, before we finally sat down together and made a final mix in early 2014. The mixing process was a huge part of the sound for this record. This is where the dub inspiration really came into play . . . sending the mixes to Greg’s old tape machines, adding live effects as the final mix was being recorded.
I feel ‘Electric Eel River’ is one of the most special songs you have written thus far. The intimacy, openness and sheer beauty of the ballad provides endless inspiration. Can you please recount for me writing this song? It serves the formidable centrepiece to the record.
PB: I’m so happy there has been a good response to that song. I remember very clearly how that song came about. I was in a hotel by myself in Oslo last winter, and I had my banjo with me. I was thinking about this night I had in the redwood forest last year, getting lost in the woods by myself, having the time of my life, realizing I wanted to move back to America. And I wanted to make a song about that evening. Originally the song was just called Eel River . . . but after Greg got ahold of it and “gave it some space”, he appropriately added Electric…
Rupie Edwards described dub music as “a way of life coming out of a people.” I think this could be the essence of the interstellar journey that Greg Gives Peter Space takes you on. Can you discuss the construction (or indeed de-construction) of ‘The Drive’? This song serves the perfect prologue to the album’s narrative.
PB: The Drive started out as a very basic song, just guitar and voice, just three chords over and over again. Greg actually thought it was kind of a boring and plain song, ha, and basically he wanted to mess it up and make it a little more interesting. In the end the guitar is hardly a part of the song any more . . . but we had a lot of fun playing around with rhythms and percussion, synthesizers, building a small little homemade orchestra for the second chorus . . . and of course, lots of dubby effects!
What is fascinating about dub music is the endless versions and re-workings of various songs depending on whose production marks are left on the record. For example, I love how there are two versions of ‘Clear View’ on the record. Is it a challenge to settle on one particular take (when honing in on a certain sound or feel) when I imagine you both effortlessly create many mutations of songs as they gradually evolve to its final entity?
PB: It’s always a little strange to make the decision or acceptance that something is “finished” . . . and in fact, I don’t like to think of recordings as “final” versions of songs . . . a song is basically just an idea, and it changes every time it’s played. Even when listening to a recording, it’s going to be different every time, depending on the stereo system, the setting, what you ate for breakfast, everything! I like to embrace the ever-evolving life of a song, and dub music is a very good outlet for that.
After playing several UK shows during the summer, how have the songs translated to the live setting and have they changed in any way from the studio recordings? I can imagine playing these songs live must be a real thrill.
PB: We had a lot of fun at the shows . . . the songs all became much longer. We save a lot of room for improvisation when we play live, using the songs as a starting point to try and create something new each night. And it’s been a real thrill to get people dancing…
The album artwork is amazing. It really conveys the ceaseless dimensions the music inhabits. Can you please talk about the artwork that beautifully adorns the sleeves and who is responsible?
PB: We’re so happy with the artwork! It’s actually kind of a funny story . . . Greg and I had this very concrete idea of a picture of Greg in a spaceship with his studio inside, then I would be floating in space connected to Greg’s ship. And we actually had several artists try and create this image before finally ending up with Henning Wagenbreth who did the final version. At one point I even tried to draw the image myself, but since my drawing skills haven’t changed since the 3rd grade, we decided to hire a professional in the end.
What is next for you, Peter?
PB: I am preparing for the release of my next solo record on the Bella Union label. I have a single/ep coming out in October (including a dub version of one of the songs by Greg!), and the album will be out next spring. I’ll be playing a lot of concerts around the release of the ep and album, with the help of three very talented musicians from Switzerland . . . it will be my first time touring with a band! But before all that Greg and I will be playing some shows together on the west coast of America. I’m really looking forward to showing Greg the area where I come from.
All artwork above by Peter Broderick.
Greg Gives Peter Space will tour across the east coast of the U.S. this month:
24.09. LOS ANGELES (US) The Echo
25.09. SAN FRANCISCO (US) The Chapel
27.09. PORTLAND (US) Mississippi Studios
28.09. SEATTLE (US) Decibel Festival