How did SAND form?
The first recording took place in June 1995 after Hilary Jeffery invited John Richards, Ben Clark and Tim Wright to collaborate. The idea was to create a hybrid out of Ben and John’s frenetic rhythm section (as witnessed at a jazz workshop led by Keith Tippett) plus Tim and Hilary’s fusion of trombone, samples and live electronics (developed during the early days of GERM).
From thereon the music evolved in many directions. The crazed Greek singer George Adamis was brought in to scream against imposed national service in his native speaking-toungue, to impersonate a Tibetan monk and sing lullabies to a pregnant poltergeist. Matt Miles laid down some deeply driving and melodic double bass tracks and also provided much valuable compositional input. Ben Clark contributed intense fast jazz drumming plus a plethora of percussion and some very warped chords. Rowan Oliver also brought the contents of his percussion cupboard to the studio and played many much needed solid drum grooves. The live debut as Sand was at Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington for »The Graveyard Shift« – a concert we organised in mid-summer 1996. Neil Griffiths, current Sand guitarist, wasn’t in the band at the time, but he came to the gig and rolled around naked in the nettles – after that performance he was booked!
The concert was also attended by Stuart Baker of Soul Jazz Records who from the start was very enthusiastic and interested in the project. Many demos and discussions followed but seemed to come to nothing until one day Stuart called and said he was starting a new label where Sand might finally fit in(after being rejected by many other labels at the time). The label, Satellite Records, brought out the debut albums by Add N to(X) and Scott 4 plus an incredible range of less recognised releases.
Our first record on Satellite was the 12″ »Robins Wurl«, further singles came out and eventually the album »Beautiful People Are Evil« was released in October 1999. Tours around the UK and Europe followed sometimes to large and ecstatic audiences, at other times to the bar staff of dodgy rock venues. As exemplified by our debut venue it became clear from the start that we would probably be best received in unusual settings and subsequent performances included dates at a squatted car park in Paris, the Volksopera in Vienna and on an art-lake with Chicks On Speed in Birmingham. The experience of many live gigs fed back directly into the music of the second album which is more direct, rocky and hard hitting. The hope is to continue to bring in new musicians to play live and in the studio.
What does the band-title mean/indicate?
In a way it reflects our belief that the simple behaviour of tiny individual units can have a powerful and unpredicatable effect on an enormous system, or that the indivual can be totally swamped in a slowly choking immovable desert… Its also a suitably abstract and clear name. We wanted something clear and simple – the main thing is the music.
About 2 years ago, you were one of the few who would boycott the boycott of artists to play in Austria because of the political changes here. From that I got the impression that you see yourself as a political band, at least involved in political conciousness….
We are not specifically political but we are part of a culture which right wing politicians would like to eradicate. When he came into power Jörg Haider was clearly keen to take away support for the alternative music scene and instead encourage more traditional forms of expression such as yodelling! When we played in Steyr on our first tour we stayed in a hotel where there was some kind of traditional music and costume evening with brass bands and choirs. It was an interesting clash of cultures –
particularly as both parties carried trombones! No doubt George Bush will be wanting to encourage line dancing… We are not against traditional music but we have an instinctive distrust for reactionary encouragement of »tradition« as a political end.
What makes it for you so exciting to work together with other people?
All of the members of the band are involved in different musical fields and all bring different ideas and aesthetics to the way we work. Hilary and John work together as Kreepa, a project developing ideas for performance of improvised electroacoustic music and dance , Tim records and performs as Tube Jerk (Sativae Records/Tresor/PIAS) and Tim Wright (Novamute) and Neil Spragg runs Kraktronic Records and is a founder member of long running UK techno club, The House of God.
The music we make together always has something special – the sum of us working together is much greater than the individual parts. We had a lot of fun collaborating with Chicks On Speed for a concert together in Birmingham. It was an intensive week of sharing ideas and approaches. Each individual member of each group have their own idiosyncracies and styles so it was a complex group process. The eventual music meshed the lyrics and pop approach of the Chicks with our instrumental grooves. We created music which would have been impossible to make separately and the show turned into quite a party. We played in front of a lake and some members of the audience were inspired to jump in and swim sync with the Chicks/Sand sound.
We plan to continue bringing new musicians to play live and in the
studio. Possible artists to include in future recordings that have come up as suggestions are Chris Bowden, Diamanda Galas and Johannes Vester
(founder member of the original classic Krautrock Sand from the early
seventies, re-released and duly praised by David Tibet and Steven Stapleton).
Can you explain your relationship to Austria: political change, your relationship to Patrick Pulsinger, Christof Kurzmann, etc….?
We have found that Austrian audiences are very responsive to our music, there is a clear understanding and enthusiasm for what we are doing.
Our music is partly a soundtrack for the end of the world as we know it and partly one musical voice amongst many who concsiously resist conservative right wing take overs! The often angry mood of our music has found sympathy in Austria. Patrick was introduced to Sand by Si Begg who sent him the first single »Robins Wurl«. Patrick was blown away by it, bought loads more copies which he played everywhere. Through his enthusiasm we got introduced to Wolfgang Mitter – a superb agent in Vienna and key people on the Viennese scene including Christof Kurzmann who invited us to participate in his »Sounds and Files« exhibition.
We also appeared on Fritz Ostermeyer’s show for FM4 and played a set for »Audio Inn« a concert organised by Patrick, Erdem Tunakan and Cheap Records. Also playing were Atom Heart (also known as Flanger), the Mego Allstars, Christof Kurzmann’s Orchestra 33 1/3 and Louie Austen.
What can be expected from seeing SAND live?
The experience of many live gigs has fed back directly into the music of the second album which is more direct, rocky and hard hitting. The hope is to continue to bring in new musicians to play live and in the studio.
Rowan Oliver left the band recently and has been replaced by Neil Spragg – the Birmingham based DJ, drummer, record producer and promoter. Neil’s drumming has given the live sound a more heavy and direct feel. As usual we will be going for rock power but we also have many new developments with live electronics, some of the music will be a lot more laid back and we will be trying out brand new ideas. When we first came to Austria we were working with Ravi Deepres, who made the films we projected at the gigs. Since then we have developed the visual aspect much further. We have been working with a number of independant British film makers who have made short films for most of the tracks on the new album. We have recently completed a tour of cinemas in the UK where we have played in front of the screen while the films were
being played. So you can expect intense music with edges, spontaneous electronic departures and underground imagery.
What does the parole »Still Born Alive« indicate?
»Still Borm Alive« can have many meanings. In English stillborn means to be born dead, so there is a contradiction in the title – in some ways people born into 21st century society have no hope – war, maybe nuclear war seems imminent. But it is an optimistic title – maybe aspects of the human spirit are able to overcome the mental and physical oppression of society – so even when all the odds are against you, there can be hope. Stuart Baker, the guy who runs Soul Jazz, designs our covers. They represent his own understanding of the music and the way in which he wants to represent us visually.
SAND sind am 9. Mai im Wiener Chelsea zu hören.
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