This is part 2 of a 7-part blog series.
(For part 1, click here)
Having discussed the conception of “Uncovered” in the last segment, October Project and I explore the artistic territory between the lines of lyric and staff: the place where the music of “Uncovered” lies. This is the place where the songs you like become the songs you love.
— J.W. Harvey
Interview with Marina Belica, Julie Flanders, and Emil Adler
(Continued from part 1)
J.W.: I am always curious to hear how an individual artist or producer decides that their work is “complete.” As October Project, when do you realize which version is the final, CD version?
Emil: In the days before the Internet, before the digital music era, artists would make albums and they would be concrete. The album version was the version the world would live with, and also the version that the band would have to perform. An audience would come to hear that version. And so, I think, albums began to take a long time to get created, because artists knew that what they put down on tape was that important.
Marina: It was definitive.
Emil: Artists today aren’t afraid to show work in its various stages. Today you might find 6, 7, 8 versions of a song. It’s the sort of thing that people who collect live recordings are familiar with. You know, “I have live recordings of ‘Paths of Desire’ from each time I’ve seen the band and there are slight differences each time, or a slightly different intro,” and they’re fascinated by that. I think the whole musical world is sort of turning in that direction.
Julie : People are sharing process more. Because our fans, a lot of them, are Musicians, are poets, and artists, and singers. They understand what process is, and this Uncovered album is really for them. It is for people that can hear with those ears, who can appreciate sketches as well as finished paintings.
Marina: Yes, once upon a time there was a definitive rendition, and that was it, and that was what people expected to hear. I also remember when artists like Todd Rundgren and Peter Gabriel first made it possible for people go and remix their tunes online, to change the bass volume, add reverb to the piano track, etc…making the tracks really malleable. Also, the tradition of artists stripping down to a piano vocal is nothing new. I mean, Sarah McLachlan did it on Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, right? At the end of the album, she reprises the first track, “Possession” with just herself and piano. It offers a much more intimate experience of the songs. Emil makes a really interesting point about how today, the making and experience of music is more fluid and open.
Julie:It’s about participation, in a way.
Emil:If you go all the way back to the pre-rock era, a song would have a dozen different interpreters, and they would vie with one another as to which version of the song would end up being the one that stuck in the public consciousness. Prior to the 60s, a song was simply a song, and many artists would attempt it. When I was a kid, I went to buy a 45 of a new Beatles single, “Yesterday.” I found it in the record store and bought it, thinking the only possible version that this could be would be by the Beatles. When I got home, I was astonished that it was Ray Charles singing “Yesterday!”
Marina: Oh wow!
Julie: Do you still have that?
Emil: No, I don’t think I have my 45s, but I’m sure you could go on the Internet now and get the Ray Charles version. Though I appreciate it now, I was really disappointed at the time because I was expecting the Beatles’ version and had no idea that there was another version. But that had been the history of music up to that point.
Marina: I think it’s really fun for people who are into the music to have several different versions of the same song. If we were really brave, we could trot out some of our earliest arrangements of some of the songs we have recorded before their final incarnations.
Emil: Oh, those are hilarious. (laughter)
Julie: There were people who knew the band before it was signed who were very unhappy with changes made on the finished albums. We had changed their songs. There are still people who are furious that Emil didn’t sing “Johnny?”
Marina: Or “Funeral!” Or “Paths!”
Emil: I have a good friend who has never forgiven me for giving up “Dark Time.”
Marina: You know what? We should do “Dark Time” again. That’s a good one.
Julie: There were also different demos, different approaches…all leading to what ended
up being what people know as the “final” version – but for artists there really is no final version. We just run out of time. It’s a process to get a song into its final outfit.
Marina: it has to try on different clothes…Like Olivia the pig!
To be continued. Follow the October Process blog for the remaining segments of this 7-part interview series.
J.W. Harvey on Twitter: twitter.com/xjwharvey
Contact J.W. Harvey: James@OctoberProjectMusic.com