DATE OF INTERVIEW:
13th June 2017
METAL DISCOVERY: It’s interesting to see someone in a band’s lineup with the credit of “production/sound design”, and not credited with an actual instrument… so, what’s your role in the band creatively, aside from the production side of things?
VINCE: Yeah, people tend to be very confused about my role in the band. What I do exactly is a little hard to explain… at least in terms of the live show. In terms of what I do for the recording side, it’s pretty traditional – mixing and producing in the sense that those words are usually used in a rock band context. But, as far as what I do live with the band, to be specific about what I’m doing – I’m running Courtney’s vocals, when we’re performing live, through a laptop and, in a basic sense, putting effects on it. But, actually, it’s a little more elaborate and complex than what you might think with just that explanation. I also have a synth that I’m playing so there are some keyboard parts that I do, but the vocal thing is really the main thing.
(Vince Welch on creativity through production)
"The role of a producer… obviously, there’s a technical side to it, but it definitely has a huge artistic component."
Bent Knee - promo shot, 2017
Photograph copyright © 2017 Chris Anderson
Interview by Mark Holmes
Bent Knee Website:
Thanks to Freddy Palmer for arranging the interview
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MD: It’s kind of unique as well, in the context of a band’s live performance, for this kind of music.
VINCE: Yeah, exactly, and that’s why it’s a little bit difficult to explain because, you know, it’s not like a bass player or drummer. I’m kind of fashioning a little bit of a unique thing. Basically, it’s the kind of idea where you can use things like reverb, delay and distortion in ways where you’re using them rhythmically. You know, the vocal can be doing one rhythm but then the delay, I’ll be sort of modulating it to a separate rhythm, so then it becomes its own thing. So, yeah, that’s it, in a nutshell, what I do for the live setup of the band.
MD: Which is kind of progressive in itself, I guess.
VINCE: Yeah, exactly, trying to find new ways for the band arrangement, outside the normal thing of drums, bass, keys, guitar.
MD: Do you regard the production itself as a creative, as well as technical, process?
VINCE: Yeah, definitely. If we ever released any demos, you’d be able to hear that quite a lot changes in the structure of the song, even at a very basic level, from when we’ve finished writing them and when the recording is finished. I think the actual recording that we wind up with, I mean, I would consider that a whole different medium of art from our live performance of it. I mean, it’s a totally different thing. The role of a producer… obviously, there’s a technical side to it, but it definitely has a huge artistic component.
MD: In press blurb, Chris Baum states: “There’s a strange balance between our technology and our biology that’s tremendously difficult to find.” By extension, do you struggle to find a balance between organic artistry and technological creativity when it comes to actually recording the music?
VINCE: That’s an interesting question. I guess there are kind of a lot of ways you can look at that. On the surface, the first thing that pops into my mind to talk about is the balance between… basically, all these new tools we have, we can overthink things… you know, Auto-Tune and whatever. In my opinion, I think people make too much of a fuss about each technique because, ultimately, the job of a producer is to figure out the ways to use these tools to make it the best possible thing. You have to be aware of what all the tools can do and, like: “Should I use these tools? Will they serve the music here?” So, yeah, I’m definitely not opposed to using those, but they can definitely suck all the life out of music…
MD: Yeah, I mean, you can hear when someone’s been a little bit overzealous with Pro Tools where music sound sterile and over-produced. With ‘Land Animal’, it sounds very shiny and sparkly, but very organic, as well. I think you’ve struck a perfect balance between those two things.
VINCE: Ah, thanks.
MD: In your bio, the band’s described as a “democratic collective”, so do you see there being pros and cons to that kind of approach? Other bands that have a songwriting democracy always seem to talk about the painful creative process, where they get bogged down by endless arguments over the finest of details…
VINCE: Yeah, basically, I agree with that sentiment. The advantage of the democratic approach to writing is very much the same as the advantages of democracy in a political system, over where one person has all the power. You know, if one person comes up with a stupid idea then, usually, the other five will sort of fix that. But, yeah, the bad part of it is what you’re saying, that it definitely can be very tedious. We’ve gotten better with it over the years, as we’ve just learned to communicate better and learn how the process of writing songs works for us. Especially at the beginning, when we first started writing together, it was exactly like you’re saying – there’d be huge, long, drawn-out arguments over tiny, little details and, you know, really take forever for songs to be written. So, yeah, it can definitely be a big pain in the ass.
MD: Every single song on the album has such a wonderfully natural flow. None of the music sounds stilted or forced. So, did it take a lot of effort to find that natural flow within the compositions?
VINCE: Yeah, it definitely did take a lot of effort. I appreciate that comment because the flow of songs is also something that we pay a tremendous amount of attention to… specifically, song form. One of my musical pet peeves is hearing songs that sound very blocky, for lack of a better term. You know, the verse sounds like one block and then here’s the chorus and… it just feels kind of clunky.
MD: Yeah, patched together.
VINCE: Yeah, not very organic. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out what we can add there and what we can take out there, just to really make… because, you know, it’s the job of a verse to set up the chorus. The verse has to sound good on its own but it also has to be a thing which, when you go to the chorus, makes that a satisfying payoff. So, yeah, we do spend a lot of time working on the flow of the songs, trying to make them very natural and organic.
MD: I took a look at your touring history and, apart from a small number of European shows, you’ve primarily toured the States. But will you be looking to take ‘Land Animal’ out on the road, further afield?
VINCE: Yeah. It’s looking like we’ll be doing a fairly long tour of the States in the latter part of the summer… it’s not a hundred per cent confirmed yet, but it’s looking like a good likelihood. And then, definitely, we’ve been talking about… there’s a possibility we’ll be in Europe later in the year…
MD: Will you be trying to hop onto a tour as support band, or aiming for some headline shows… or too early to say?
VINCE: Either one is a possibility. We’re looking into both of those. If not this year, it’s pretty certain we’ll be in Europe next year.
MD: A final, ridiculous question to finish with, then - as human beings, we are, of course, land animals ourselves… but, if you could be any other land animal for a day, what would it be and why?
VINCE: [Laughs] That’s a good question… I was not expecting that one! I’ve gotta think about this one for a second… any other land animal… maybe I’d go with a hippo.
MD: A hippo? An unexpectedly random answer… why a hippo?
VINCE: Well, first of all, you don’t have to worry about other animals eating you, so that’s a plus.
MD: Oh yeah, good point, yeah.
VINCE: And they just seem like they’d hang around the swimming pool all day, eating grass… seems kind of relaxing. A nice, chilled lifestyle.
MD: As a hippo, what kind of music would you be listening to, do you think? What would a hippo listen to?
VINCE: For some reason, and I have no rational explanation for this, but the first thing that came to mind was reggae. That’s what a hippo would listen to. Nice and mellow.
MD: I was thinking drone… maybe some Sunn O))). Right, on that random note, thank you very much for your time.
VINCE: Alright, no problem, thank you for the interview. I appreciate the questions.