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Following our stellar review of Antony Raine's recent EP 'Farewell To Arms', we asked him about how his time in the forces affected his music, the influences he finds in modern and past sounds, his appreciation of poetry and future live plans.
TSOC: Thanks for taking the time to have a chat with us Antony. You've come to us with a wonderful EP of rather special songs and a quick flick through your bio tells that you have not just come to us box-fresh off some production line. How did your experiences while serving the places you've been impact and shape the music you write?
AR: Well, thank you first of all for your compliments on the EP! I think travel is always a good thing for anyone who is creative. The senses become conditioned to the environment you're in and the way you think about a variety of things is shaped by it. Personally, it made a man out of me and gave me a broader outlook, which then affected what I wanted to write about.
TSOC: Did you find the writing a cathartic exercise to allow you to manage things that you have inevitably experienced? Or did it enable you to escape? For there seem to be reflections, insights into the life of someone serving in some of your music.
AR: Yes, it is cathartic for sure. 'Desperate Times', is a song about redemption I guess, but mainly I wrote it as a kick up the backside to myself, to get myself out of a particular mindset I was in at the time. All art, one way or another, allows escapism and to some extent my songs are stories. Not all are autobiographical, but they're always reflections of an experience I may have had, or maybe even someone I know has had.
TSOC: Was there any indigenous music that caught your ear while away? If so, are there any elements that you have or are going to incorporate into your music? When you were away how easy was it for you to hear music? And what would get you through the days?
AR: I think wherever I have travelled there has always been something that has caught my ear. Although the EP is new, there are elements that were inspired from my time working out in Zambia, even though lyrically the songs are about other things. The vocal harmony at the end of 'Tommy' for instance, was inspired purely from the voices I would hear practising every day in the local church; and with the main guitar melody in 'Silhouettes', though a different rhythm, it is a reflection of a guitar sound I would often hear out there and it stuck in my head for years. Certainly in Afghanistan, I didn't hear much local music though I did once jam along with some local militia playing some home-made sitars, which was fun, but the noise we made was definitely not good on the ear! I had my iPod with me out there, and I remember listening a lot to the Gaslight Anthem's 'The '59 Sound', Laura Marling, whose voice I found/find so calming, Billie Holiday, Sigur Ros and Creedence.......
TSOC: Fundamentally it's just you, but was there anyone for you to bounce off, any figure that you found invaluable while making the EP?
AR: My sound engineer Dan Mizen was instrumental. I can't read or write music but I had all these sounds in my head that I wanted in the songs. We gelled pretty quickly, but he is so talented he somehow seemed to be able to translate my musically inarticulate ideas I had in my head and help me put them into what you hear on the EP. I had loads of ideas, limited time and money, but I'm very pleased with what two of us managed to produce. We'll be working together again on the next project which is great.
TSOC: There are some classic influences running through your music. Is this a conscious decision or more a case of your musical DNA coming through?
AR: I think probably a conscious decision because I have connected with these influences, but at the same time to me it kind of feels natural. Similarly, themes that have been dealt with by writers of the past will always keep repeating themselves, but in different ways. I think that is just human nature. Writers and musicians throughout the ages have always tipped their hat to their forebears as a means of self-education. Even Dylan did it, citing Woody Guthrie and Arthur Rimbault for example.
TSOC: Are you weary of comparisons to Springsteen, Brain Fallon, Ryan Adams or do you see it as a compliment? I remember a few years ago that Brian Fallon became quite worn by the Sringsteen comparisons, even though he had appeared on stage a few times with The Boss.
AR: I see it as a compliment certainly. They are all incredibly gifted artists and I cannot say I match up to them in the slightest. But like them, I aim to try and write songs that are lyrically interesting and tell a story, so I cannot claim to be wholly unique. Fundamentally I'm just a man singing with a guitar, and there have been men playing guitar, singing about love, war and telling stories for centuries. I just hope the way I do it connects with people.
TSOC: Who are you influences in all ways? Who inspires you?
AR: Wow, lots of things! Anything and everything from books, to art, to my friends. I listen to a wide range of music; one minute I'll listen to Elgar for example, but equally I'm quite happy listening to Rage Against The Machine.
TSOC: There is a very literary feel to some of your lyrics. You have poems and Hemingway is quoted on your site. Do you think that lyrics are poems? Do you approach them similarly? There are some very good and very bad examples of singers doing poetry. (Dylan-good. Morrison-Bad). Do you think that a musician can successfully write poetry?
AR: Yes I think that a set of lyrics can be a poem. But not all will fit to music. If I'm writing a poem I approach it differently and it usually it comes a lot quicker because you don't have all the different variables like verse, chorus, middle 8 etc. to contend with. With a song, I spend a lot more time on it, because I want to ensure that if I do use anything poetic, it fits with the melody, sounds good on the ear, and is also challenging the listener to question what it is I'm saying. Whether musicians can be successful poets, I'm not so sure. The fact there are not many speaks for itself! I enjoy writing it, but whether or not it merits publication is another matter!
TSOC: As lyricists, who captures your ear and why? For me Nick Cave, Richey Edwards from the Manics, Guy Garvey are a few who spring to mind.
AR: Matt Berninger from the National is currently my favourite. I find his lyrics often ambiguous which renders the listener to judge what he is actually saying. I also really like Justin Vernon of Bon Iver for the way he writes, his use of words to match the way he likes to sing. Willy Mason I think is also hugely talented.
TSOC: Is Hemingway an influence? If so how? Is it more in how he wrote, or his actions as a man? (The Spanish Civil war part rather than the Key West Gin lush). I visited his house there a few years ago, it's amazing and all the cats there have six toes!
AR: I like his themes. He drew a lot of inspiration from the places he lived and worked, which gave a lot of colour to his writing, and this is something I like to try and do. In respects to his writing style, no, because his use of language was deliberately kept quite simple. I probably take a bit of an influence from the way he liked to leave out key details of the story. There is always something underlying in his writing which allows the reader to question, which ultimately in my view strengthens the narrative.
TSOC: Are there any plans to tour soon? (Bristol is a pretty good place. Nothing to do with the fact I live here.)
AR: Yes that's the plan after the New Year! I'm in the process of trying to work out places I'd like to play, so if you have any recommendations I'd gladly accept!
TSOC: When you do tour will it be a full band or just you and guitar?
AR: Probably just me at the moment but I'd love to take a cellist with me. The ultimate plan/dream would be to have a full band.
TSOC: Are there any new acts that you'd recommend for us to check out?
AR: Hush Mikolka are a London based band I've shared the stage with once and have seen them play a few times, and another band called Ay Ducane I think are pretty cool. They've both got a great live sound and Hush Mikolka are bringing out an EP next month.
TSOC: And to the final question. Fantasy festival. You are headlining your own festival. You can chose any five acts past or present to be on the bill with you. Who would you have?
AR: Amazing question! Bob Dylan (of early 60s vintage), Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley, Sigur Ros and the National.
Antony Raine's website
Buy the EP
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