To launch A Friendly Chat With, our irregular (ie we may do more but don't hold your breath for one every week) interview feature, the wide-ranging, occasionally electronically enhanced Transgressive Records singer-songwriter rapidly building a richly deserved reputation, as you'll know from our highlighing him on this week's Weekender or from hearing Phill Jupitus play Dirty Blue Jeans, the lead track from his forthcoming EP Other People's Secrets, as his 6 Music Breakfast single of the week a couple of weeks ago.
STN: How did the evolution into guitar plus electronics come about? Do you see a great deal of kinship with the recent wave of singer-songwriters wielding laptops (Patrick Wolf, Tunng, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly)?
JW: I've never used a laptop in my life, actually. I like Patrick Wolf, well the first album anyway. Not really heard anything by the other guys. I think my new record will surprise people - it's a lot less electronic and a lot more, erm, production-y, I think. The first record, I was very constrained by what I was able to do, and I think that lead to me expressing stuff in very particular ways; lots of electro beats and spiky guitars because that's all I had to hand. The new one, I had a lot more options, I used a lot of other musicians, there's loads more textures and sounds and stuff. (And better songs, too). There's still lots of synths and drum machine sounds and weird impossible noises but they're more integrated into the song, and there's other things going on.
STN: Is there a particular way you construct the songs? How important is the lyrical content in the great scheme of things?
JW: They come out different every time, really, but generally I'll have a lyrical idea and a musical idea and I'll put the two together and they'll develop together. Quite often both the original ideas will disappear in the evolution of the song. I'm very interested in lyrics, I like to tell stories or express things that I think are important, and obviously you have to have a certain level of literal meaning in your lyrics for that to be possible. And of course the sound of the words is very important musically.
STN: Name three albums that were crucial in your development and three recent ones that you've been listening to.
JW: Three important records: Radiohead - Kid A, Rain Dogs - Tom Waits, Kate Bush - Hounds Of Love.
Three recent records: 7 New Songs Of Mount Eerie - Mount Eerie, Everything Ecstatic - Four Tet and Campfire Songs - Animal Collective.
STN: What can we expect from the forthcoming tour, bearing in mind you've talked in the past about not wanting to sound like the records?
JW: It'll be me and a piano player, and I'll be switching between various instruments. Don't want to sound like the records, also can't, without resorting to backing tracks. (Backing tracks are rubbish). Anyone who saw me with Regina Spektor: it'll be a bit like that.
STN: What were the Mystery Jets' already fabled Eel Pie Island gigs like from the performer's perspective?
JW: A bit like a cross between an open mike night and the best club in London. They had some pretty dodgy bands on, and also some of the best bands around. And the atmosphere was incredible. Everyone knew the Jets were going places. Blaine & co are amongst the friendliest people I know; open to anything and possessed with a joy for life that infects everything they do. Also it was an enormous piss-up.
STN: There's been three very good videos so far - is that something you've had input with?
JW: Thank you. The first video was conceived jointly with my brother; the idea was to get four different directors to make four films that would segue perfectly into each other, and that was reflect the lyrical content of what was happening into the song at the time. It's a bit shambolic but quite endearing, I hope; I'm quite proud of it. The other videos were directed by Ben Rollason, who is an unbelievably talented man, and the ideas were all his, although we did talk them back and forth quite a lot.
STN: Is the talked about early EP compilation still on the way? What else have you got planned for the next few months?
JW: Yep, "The Art Of Fiction" should appear something in late summer, although it's not really an EP compilation any more - it has eight tracks off my first few releases and three new recordings. Everything's been remixed and edited a bit and played with, which will probably really fuck certain people off, but it was stuff I wanted to change so they'll just have to deal with it. Apart from that I'm on tour all of April which will be fun, I hope. Then I have my first proper single in June, a few festivals... I'm playing this weird arty festival in Denmark called Nova Forma that looks amazing. I'm also starting a label to put out some recordings by my piano player, Tom Rogerson, who is an inconceivably good piano player. So it's all looking good.
Many thanks to Jeremy, whose homepage is here and Myspace is here, both of which feature his April tour dates. Other People's Secrets is out in a run of 500 10"s on April 10th, available to pre-order through Transgressive. A couple more mp3s from his site while we're about it: After The Fact and I Keep The City Burning.