Interview #19: Conquering Animal Sound

Photo by Heidi Kuisma

Conquering Animal Sound are Edinburgh residents James Scott and Anneke Kampman.   Having met at University the pair have been working together for some time developing their sound and working on songs, which will eventually be released later this year as a debut album.  The album will be a split release on Gizeh Records and I’m delighted to say mini50.  Having built a reputation for being an excellent live act the guys are nearly ready to release the record, and from what I’ve heard so far it will not disappoint.  To top off being exceptionally talented, for ones so young, they are both super lovely people and it’s a total honour to be involved in their record.  Tour dates and music can be found here.  If they are playing near you please make sure you get out and see them.  Their live shows are not to be missed.  They play the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh on Saturday 15th May 2010 with support from Adam Stafford and Dead Boy Robotics.  I will be there.  However, my mood will be directly affected by the Scottish Cup Final that day between Dundee United and Ross County.  James, you have been warned.  🙂  In the meantimes folks, enjoy as James takes a moment to answer some questions I put to them in this the 19th interview for the blog.

TSP:  How did the pair of you meet and when did you realise that you wanted to write music together?

JS:  We met at Uni three and half years ago, but it was maybe a year and a half a go we decided to start playing together. We both had loop pedals, so it seemed like collaborating on some musical ideas was a fun idea. I’d been playing solo for a while, which was fun, but I was feeling a sense of limitation within that, and I needed someone to collaborate with to take to my music further. Then we had a bit too much to drink one night at a gig, talked about the Wu Tang Clan and what we wanted to write, and that was it really.

TSP:  Did things just click or was there a period of getting to know how one another work and trying to make that all come together?
 There was definitely a long period of trying things out and trying to make them work, and it took six months from us starting playing together to play our first gig. We write music at a reasonable pace now, but there was a long period where we just played a pair of songs and were working on getting a rational set-up that would help us achieve what we wanted to do. Our electronics set-up, which is now a mixer, a few effects pedals, a loop pedal and a Kaoss pad, took a long time to reach, and it is by no means the finished article. In the writing and performing process, these tools are great for allowing us to come up with new ideas, but we’re keen to continually challenge ourselves, incorporate new hardware and devices to continue changing our sound and keep us challenged. There’s nothing like dancing on
pedals to keep yourself entertained onstage.

TSP:  Do you share similar tastes in music? Would you say your influences are evident in the music you make?

JS: Anneke and I do have quite different musical tastes, but similar enough musical aesthetic preferences that we write well together.  I’m into a lot of guitar music in a way that she isn’t, and she can be a lot more discerning than I am. But we both listen to similar techno artists, and similar hip hop things, we’re both massive fans of the Knife, and of Stephan Bodzin. The mix means we come from quite different musical places, and end up somewhere we wouldn’t go alone. Which is the point of playing with other people I suppose.

TSP:  How does the writing process work? Does one of you take the lead or is it all about throwing ideas out there and shaping them together?

JS:  It’s a fine balance. With the album we’ve been writing this year, I took the lead in writing a couple of songs, Anneke has written a few herself, we wrote a lot of tracks together, then recorded and produced them all together. We’ll write our own parts specifically, then arrange and order these, and there’s a lot of discussion about things – not many parts go undiscussed. Exhaustive, but worthwhile.

TSP:  The debut album is out later this year. When can people expect this and what can they expect from the record?

JS:  Hopefully August-September time. The album is a lot more developed and considered than the mixtape we put out last year, and I think they are much stronger as songs. There’s a lot of new material, a significant amount of which we’ve written in the studio, mixed in with some material we’ve been playing live over the past few months. There’s a lot of content that is very electronic, we got into a lot of different production ideas when recording, and sequencing a lot of the loops in the laptop really gave us a chance to structure the songs differently, condense ideas, and examine the way our tracks were developing. So it might be a bit different from what people would
expect, those that actually have expectations of it, but I’d rather it was like that. I’m really pleased with the way we’ve developed as a band throughout writing it, and writing in the studio has been really positive for us.

TSP:  First up is a 7″ split with the wonderful Debutant on Gerry Loves Records. How did that all come about?

JS:  The chaps from Gerry Loves Records, Andy and Paddy, got in touch with us after seeing us play in Glasgow, despite being Edinburgh based laddies themselves. Andy is involved with the great Off The Beaten Tracks podcast, which films bands doing acoustic sets in interesting places. They’re big vinyl fans, and we were really up for doing a release with them, especially with Debutant being involved with, who we’ve played with before, and is pure dead great. The 7″ came out on the 5th of April, and we’ll have plenty copies available on our tour in May.

TSP:  The record is coming out on the excellent Gizeh Records as well as mini50. How did you get hooked up with Rich and has the experience of working with Gizeh been a positive one so far (might rephrase this – I kind of mean what have you learned? i think).

JS:  We played with the super fantastic Fieldhead from Leeds – seriously readers, check him if you haven’t already – who also plays in Glissando with Rich, who runs Gizeh. Paul has been really good to us, and I think he must have contributed to Rich knowing about us, who then got in touch, and has since been really helpful and supportive himself. I don’t know the full story, but they’re both really lovely lads, constantly emailing us and keeping in touch. They also run a booking agency together, and Rich has been great in getting us a release schedule and tour sorted out. Top bloke, we’re very fortunate to have someone with so much experience and knowledge helping us along. We’re also really pleased that mini50 are involved in releasing
the record too, you’ve offered us a lot of support through Trampoline and the blog, and it’s great to be working with a local fledging label as well. Love-IN!

TSP:  Other than the album, what does 2010 hold in store for the pair of you?

JS:  After the May tour, I plan to be in the pub, watching as much of the World Cup as I possibly can. I’ll be supporting Algeria, in an expression of solidarity with the Algerian lads from the chip shop beneath my flat – it’s just coincidence that they are also in Englands group… Then it’s a long summer waiting for the football season to start up again, which will involve us starting up the Conquering Animal Sound DJ remix project, and starting writing again, so we have a little more time to write than we did on the new record. Hopefully we’ll be out on tour again in autumn time to promote the album when it comes out.

TSP:  You’re about to hit the road on tour. Is this the first time you’ll have played shows across Britian and how excited are you about the prospect?

JS:  It is the first time, and I’m experiencing a mix of musical excitement and travelling trepidation. Personally I’ve only ever played shows in Scotland, so it’ll be really great to get out and about. But because I’m driving, something I haven’t done terribly much of since I passed my test, so I’m probably going to be a stressful wreck across the piece. We recently did three shows around Scotland to promote our 7″ single, and we kept leaving gear behind, so we’ll need to make an exhaustive checklist of our gear, what Andy from Gerry Loves Records so rightly refers to as “the Idiot Check”. And it could be a struggle to find Irn Bru in England I imagine. Will need to stock
up before leaving.

TSP:  In terms of Scottish music, are there any artists out there who you’d like to draw to people’s attention? Any particular favourites?

JS:  We’re massive fans of Cheer, from Glasgow, who writes some really wonderful ambient music, and deserves a lot more attention than he gets. We played with Fox Gut Daata at a recent show – he did a great remix of one our tunes – and he is pure dead brilliant.  Personally, I’m a big fan of Wounded Knee, Jonnie Common, Fordell Research Unit, Dam Mantle, Dead Boy Robotics and Field Mouse. There’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on around, and we’ve been lucky enough to play with some of these guys at some point as well.

TSP:  What’s on the stereo at the moment?

Theophilus London – This Charming Mixtape
Pulp – His N Hers
Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me (having devoted a month to each disc
since it came out, it’s taken me a while to get to grips with the
entire thing. Truly wondrrrful stuff though)
Odd Nosdam – T.I.M.E Soundtrack
Dam Mantle EP
Stephan Bodzin – Liebe Ist.. (An ever present)

TSP:  If you could work with one artist who would it be and why?

JS:  It’s never occurred to me to get someone involved in collaborating or producing the band, but there’s actually a lot of friends – especially those that have done some great remixes for us – who it would be great to get involved in producing our music, as they’ve had really interesting perspectives on our sound. Thinking about it now, it’s actually something I’d like to do in the future, perhaps on an EP or something. But no-one big or famous, can’t be
doing with meeting heroes or anything like that. Enya mebbe.

TSP:  Finally, the world’s about the end and you can only listen to one more tune. What would it be?

JS:  Arab Strap – Girls of Summer (Live). The infamous nine-minute version from the Mad For Sadness album. Blissful dancefloor beats meets miserly lo-fi indie, with a lovely bit of noise-out in the middle. Cannae beat it.


4 thoughts on “Interview #19: Conquering Animal Sound

  1. Nice interview, I enjoyed it very much 🙂

    Conquering Animal Sound is definitely another group from Edinburgh that should make it big as it rightly deserves so. Their music is very refreshing, and it’s always nice to have a break from the usual sounds being repeated again and again.

    James really seems like a nice lad, isn’t he. Also heard an interview with him on the Scotsman podcast and sounded like a nice fellow. I actually really like his other project as well, The Japanese War Effort (and what a brilliant name for a band it is!).

    Personally I never had any trouble at finding Irn Bru in England, you should tell him he shouldn’t worry too much 😉

  2. Ha. yes, I love The Japanese War Effort too. Have asked him to release future THWE records on mini50. We shall see.

    James is a lovely chap. And Anneke is a lovely girl. Two lovely people making exciting and refreshing music. I cannot wait for their album to be out there and for them to get the attention they really do deserve.

    I remember when I was wee Irn Bru wasn’t sold in England. I think times have changed though. English folk? Is it so?

  3. Nope, actually I’m a Scottish Italian, although I’ve spent most of my life outside both Scotland and Italy. Planning to return to Scotland this summer, though.

    I’ve lived 4 years in England and always found Irn Bru fairly easily – actually, I remember finding it even in Hong Kong. Just in those fancy import shops, mind you, but still, a pleasant surprise.

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