An electro-pop band from Manchester, The Whip, who have been released by such notable labels such as Southern Fried and Kitsune, had a live performance at Club Unit in Daikanyama, Tokyo last year. At the live show, which was more like a club event, they had Gildas & Masaya from the Kitsune label as their supporting DJ act as well as other musicians to go on the stage with them to amuse the crowd.
Following their appearance at the Fuji Rock Festival in 2007, this is their second visit to Japan and we (ShiftMag?) interviewed the members of The Whip: Danny Saville (Keys), Fiona Daniel (Dr), Nathan Sudders (Ba) and Bruce Carter (Vo) about their new album coming out in March and what else is going on.
First of all, could you tell us how the band started?
Nathan: Bruce and Danny were in a band called Nylon Pylon, we kind of made more friends through that band, and we were all hanging around together in different bands. Then that band split up and then we carried on writing songs together.
Dan: In an English pub’s cellar.
Nathan: In an English pub’s cellar that was haunted of all things. Actually, Bruce and Danny carried on writing songs, and when they got enough songs and wanted to do gigs and do it live. That’s when they got me and Fiona.
Why did you keep writing songs even though the band split up?
Dan: It was what to do. We love making music and we work together really well making music. It was just when the other band stopped, there was no kind of stopping point for us just because everything was winding down- our business was to write songs.
Bruce: We just carried on until two of us, and the other band kind of died.
Dan: It just seemed to be the right thing to do. We knew fully well that we were going to have another go at it and do it again.
How many members were there in the band?
Dan: There were four people in Nylon Pylon, the other two went off and did there own thing, playing all sorts of music and got normal jobs and whatever they decided to do.
Was it the same music style back then?
Bruce: Quite similar. The Whip is much more straight to the point and kind of simple and straight forward. The other one was kind of… everyone had their own opinion, and there were too many of them.
Dan: You got four people with different ideas trying to go on an album at the same time, and there were also all these other people who worked in it.
Bruce: It didn’t sound as coherent.
Dan: There were a lot of differences in the band and in all the songs, but the underlining element of it was that we got all the keyboards and four bands playing dance style music, and we just continued that side of it.
So, as Fiona and Nathan joined the band, the music became more dancable?
Bruce: Not really, it was more the actual songwriting. The drumming was really complicated with the other band. We wanted a simpler beat and everything stripped back down.
Dan: We just wanted to simplify everything. There were too many ideas going on. Bruce and I had a very specific way that we knew was very easy to work.
Bruce: It’s funny, around that time people didn’t understand hearing guitars with keyboards. I don’t think audiences were ready for that. I don’t think they still are, but I think it’s going a lot better.
I thought Manchester was open-minded for that sort of music?
Dan: Yes, Manchester [bands] have been doing that sort of stuff for ages even back to New Order, they were a band that used keyboards. It has been done in the past and it has been very successful.
Bruce: The thing is, there’s a lot of bands that use keyboards, it’s more the dance aspect of a band, not specifically just a band using the keyboards.
Dan: It seems like a live band is making dance music.
It’s probably fair to say that there seems to be a lot of dance music acts now with just one person using a laptop to play live performances.
Dan: We were saying to each other that having a live band playing is something visually you can see on stage. We like dancing and moving around as we play, and we’d rather it was one person like that.
Fiona: It gives a more spontaneous energetic feel to it, if it was all just come out of laptop, it’d be a bit flatter, you wouldn’t get that kind of energy.
Dan: In terms of the audience feedback as well, you’d just be standing there, interacting, you could talk to them if you were actually playing where as it’s all to do if it’s just one person playing on a laptop.
You released songs on Fat Boy Slim’s label. How did it happen?
Bruce: They just got in touch with us.
Dan: When we were looking at releasing “Muzzle no.1” as a single, our manager, who came on board then, had ignored a few people and gone onto smaller labels than Fat Boy Slim’s to release the small single. Some of the people were really interested and really keen, so they released the single. But then they wanted to do an album since they had a lot of love and appreciation in what we were doing. So we decided to do an album and it turned out brilliant, we’ve got a great team to work with. It’s a really small team but they are all really enthusiastic.
In Japan, it’s a rare thing to have a manager before you actually release, is it a common thing to have managers in England?
Dan: Yes, in the UK. It’s weird, there’s a lot of things happening, you can have people in the team before you can sign a record deal.
One of the first people that approached us was a lawyer to start off with straight away. He was helping us along with the legal side of things into various contacts that Dave made in the industry. We had a whole team in place before we had the record deal.
Fiona: A lot of the bands I know, they would just immediately get a mate in when they just formed to become a manager. We didn’t do that, we waited.
Nathan: We all had experiences of having bad management and not bad management, we’ve all been around enough to realise how things work.
Fiona: When they have friends in, at the end of the day, when it gets to the point of getting the record deal, and when things start moving, they don’t know what to do. They get in trouble for having gotten the wrong person. So we all knew it was important to spend some time to find the right person.
Fiona: It’s one of the most important things for a manager to negotiate the record deal and get it in place.
Nathan: A lot of the record companies actually like to deal with the business side with the band. In England, most bands like to do gigs and have drinks, but when it gets down to the actual business, they prefer to have someone that are managing rather than people who are just drunk in a bar.
Dan: It’s good to take the first manager at the time, but we did do as much as we could ourselves. But then, when it gets to a point where you spend more time e-mailing than writing songs, there was that much information to deal with and it was getting too tight.
You have been releasing records through Fat Boy Slim’s label through a management contact. The reason you released through the Kitsune label was because of MySpace, right? Did people contact you directly?
Fiona: Some people just come towards us, some people go through the labels, some people get in touch with our manager, if someone gets in touch with us, we’ll pass it on to our manager, or the label, or talk to each other. We’ve all got really good communication with each other, so it all ends up the same anyway.
Who’s in charge of MySpace?
Fiona: He’s (Bruce) obssessed with it- if you find him on a computer, he would be on Myspace.
Bruce: It’s really good to speak to the fans and it’s good to get feedback as well, like to know what songs they like and why they like the band, you know, it’s a really good way of helping the band as well. Actually, I speak to a few Japanese people, and last night we went out with some friends from Myspace. There was a girl I was writing to, and then I met her, but she couldn’t speak English, she must have been using a translation engine.
Bruce: This friend from Myspace sang “ichi, ni, san, shi” in one of our songs.
Dan: It’s on the album. She came to see us in London in the studio, and while she was there we got her to sing it down a microphone, and she sent it through the internet. She was in a band, so she came to London to play a gig.
Now we want to ask you about the album (to be released in March).
Bruce: When we did the album, it’s a bit different to a live performance. Live, its really energetic, it’s kind of clubby, but on the album, you can listen to it at home during the day. There’s a few songs on there that people might have heard already, there’s also a couple of more clubby ones as well. It just stands out as a good album rather than just boom, boom, boom.
You worked with the famous producer, Jim Abbiss, How did you work with him? What kind of procedure do you take when you work on your music?
Nathan: We knew Jim through an A&R guy at the label, Nathan, he was really good friends with him. Jim had done some other bands, Ultimate Pride, and when it came to choose a producer, Nathan said, “I think it’d be really good idea to work with this guy called Jim”, and obviously we knew who he was.
Bruce: So, Danny and I went for lunch with Jim, and he also came to our gig in London. He just wanted to get on with what he was doing, so we didn’t really try anything out, we just went straight into the studio. It was just a pleasure to work someone like Jim.
Dan: We went into the studio in London and spent the whole time in the studio re-recording all the live drums, the bass and the guitars and polished up some of the keyboard parts here and there.
Did he actually give you advice, like, you should do this and do that?
Dan: There was a lot of that going on. He was very good at pushing us to think outside the box more.
Did you arrange all the tracks with him?
Bruce: It was about 90% we arranged with him. We did one outro, the one end of a song, we added a new ending to it where it went off into this psychedelic mode. It was the most fun thing we did when we recorded because it was all kind of hands on deck, and then we came up with this really exciting bit, it was great. And then, there was one song that he said was a weaker song on the album. This was after we had already recorded it and he said that “You know that one, we could do so much better with it.” So we did a remix of the one song, and it’s much harder and danceable now. That’s the one with the Japanese girl in it.
Do you have any funny story or episode while you were recording?
Nathan: There were so many, it was a really a good laugh. The first day was a little bit awkward, but we kind of broke the ice by taking the mickey out of each other, you know.
Bruce: We started having a bit of a joke with each other and had a good laugh.
Nathan: We started a new band in there, and we started a band called Connections, which is kind of a joke title.
Bruce: It was supposed to be a jazz funk joke. We had 3 songs on the album, we used xylophone, a big old organ, and a piano. And we called that Connections. We used that on 3 songs.
Nathan: It’s not serious band, by the way, it’s a joke. There won’t be a Connections album. The Connections have split up. They split up due to musical similarities I think.
How long did you take to finish the album?
Dan: We started it in September, and finished it last friday.
Nathan: We spent a month recording it, or maybe a bit longer, 6 weeks, on and off recording. It wasn’t solid from September until now, we were gigging in between, going off touring. And we had 3 or 4 week tour in-between that as well.
Bruce: Some days I was in the studio in London, I would have to get a train to the gig, and then go back to London. A lot of traveling around. During the day and then night time we’d do the gig, so it was hard work.
Sometimes we worked on the train going back to London.
Then we did a small vocal in a dressing room in Norwich. In a toilet in Norwich. Really inspirational! We’ve recorded bits all over the place, at the back of the van, sauna, my kitchen, my bedroom, different houses, all over the place.
Do you have any message for creative young people who are interested in art, culture, music, fashion and other things?
The Whip: Keep going. Don’t give up and don’t stop, don’t let people say that you can’t do it… Fight the machine!!
Many people might associate Manchester with those rock bands from the Factory era such as Happy Mondays. Now that two or three decades have passed since then, we will be able to hear ourselves and how the sound of Manchester has evolved when The Whip’s first album comes out in March.
Text: Yasuharu Motomiya
Photo: Aya Watada
Translation: Kyoko Tachibana