Interview with Paul Wolinski of 65daysofstatic: “We had very little idea what we were doing”
10 years ago 65daysofstatic released their debut album, The Fall of Math and fans of wildly skittering synth beats married to epic sweeping vistas of grandiose guitar noise rejoiced. In an uncharacteristically nostalgic move, the band are revisiting the album for some live dates and re-releasing the album with several bonus tracks on CD and vinyl. Remfry Dedman asked founder member Paul Wolinski how the album has impacted on the bands career, then and now.
What are your abiding memories from recording The Fall of Math?
Attic rooms, concrete bunker studios, cold rehearsal spaces, repeatedly finding/quitting service industry/office jobs, building sample libraries on borrowed computers and broadband connections, a major distrust of reverb of any kind, loads of sofa-in-the-back-of-a-van touring, making it up as we went along.
You’ve made reference to the album being written ‘in the first year of the weird post 9/11 future’. Is it a direct response to 9/11 and the US invasion of Iraq?
It was not a direct response, no, but the reaction to 9/11, first from our government and then, just as significantly, a real failure by the ‘liberal’ mainstream media to hold the protagonists to account in any real way, signalled a really significant shift in how we perceived the world. Looking back, The Fall of Math certainly seems to capture a feeling of urgency/incomprehension that hits you when you realise so much of the infrastructure that you thought was designed to keep you informed and safe can be so precarious/nefarious.
Reflecting back, is there anything about the album that you wish you could change?
There are a million things that I would change, but also none. We made it in four or five days and had very little idea what we were doing. That’s vital, the not-knowing. You can’t re-create that. I think the song-writing stands up, which is good. It sounds ‘of its time’, but as the world of electronic music seems to have fallen into a bit of a weird, atemporal bubble insofar as new ideas go, maybe that’s not such a bad thing either.
The Fall of Math was originally going to be an EP titled ‘Fix the Sky a Little’ until Monotreme records stepped in and encouraged you to make an album. Is the idea of an ‘album’, as relevant to modern music as it was 10 years ago?
More questions: what is ‘modern music’? What does it mean to make something relevant to it? And relevant to whom, the listener? How many people have to enjoy/listen to it in order to cross a threshold into ‘mattering’?
When we were working on Wild Light, there was this one idea that we stuck with, which was stolen/adapted from Milan Kundera, who says of the novel: ‘What is essential in a novel is precisely what can only be expressed in a novel, and so every adaptation contains nothing but the non-essential.’
We focused on working out what is essential to the album – what can only be expressed in album form, rather than at a live show, or sound installation, or as a slice of an idea as one of the songs appears in some other playlist.
And that felt like a success. It felt like we made a record that played to its own strengths. The album as an art form remains a completely valid way to communicate something. It’s got a lot going for it. It might have stopped evolving in most ways, and maybe ten years from now we’ll be getting fully generative 3D music, based on personalised algorithms, piped straight into brains from our personal microwave satellites or something, but I don’t think that means that there won’t also still be albums.
Furthermore, from a musicians perspective, the building of an album is more than just writing some songs and putting them in a row. You get to build a landscape, a world, a new palette of sounds, a space in which you can explore similarly-themed ideas. It’s a useful tool, or study aid, in the quest to get any good at writing music.
The reaction to your debut was extremely positive and instantly put you on the map for a small but very dedicated fanbase. What kind of pressure did that put on you for the follow up One Time for All Time?
When we made One Time…, we wrote it really quickly. We needed to prove to ourselves that it wasn’t a fluke, that we actually were a real band and not just some kids that got lucky. It turned out we were both.
It’s interesting, because the big song off that record is Radio Protector, which is something that we had started writing long before even The Fall of Math was made. It took us a while to be good enough to actually finish that song. It makes me wonder how good we’d have been able to make it if we were only getting around to finishing it now.
You’re playing The Fall of Math live for some special shows in the UK and Europe. What challenges have arisen from re-visiting some of your earliest material?
The biggest challenge has been fighting off our dread of nostalgia. We don’t want to become a band trading on old glories. If the reaction hadn’t been so overwhelmingly positive from our fans then I’d be having second thoughts now. It’s not that I don’t like the record, but just don’t like looking backward too often. This is why we’re playing a second set alongside The Fall of Math, because our latest record, Wild Light, is the best thing we have made so far, in our opinion. I’m really excited to show that to people who followed us back at the beginning, but might not be keeping an eye on what we’re doing now.
Wild Light seems to be a new chapter opening for the band. How does this era of 65DOS differ from your previous work?
It’s starting to feel more and more ridiculous being in a band, given the current political/actual climate. Have you seen the world lately? It’s insane. The trouble is, being a band is what we are best at and, maybe I’m hopelessly romantic, but filling rooms full of noise does still seem to me to have some worth. So does using whatever tools you can effectively wield to try and reflect or even shape the world as you see it, however inappropriate they might be for that task.
Increasingly, as some of your questions suggest, the traditional mediums that music tends to exist in (live shows, albums) are perhaps starting to become somewhat antiquated. On the other hand, a lot of new mediums (Soundcloud, Spotify, etc.), require musicians to give up so much more control, and can be incredibly reductive in the listening environments they create. But that’s just the infrastructure; the music itself, the wild light, that’s as powerful as it’s ever been. That’s incredibly reassuring.
So the answer to us, if there is one, lies somewhere in redefining what being-in-a-band can mean. Wild Light spawned our first sound installation at Sheffield Millenium galleries, which was a huge success, and was something that was built alongside the album itself. This is what we were interested in doing these days – just pushing 65 as an idea as far as it will go. Albums and live shows will remain a large part of that, but it feels like it’s a good time to start learning how to use new tools too.
65daysofstatic tour throughout the UK, starting in Exeter on 25th March. Their show at Koko, in London, on the 27th, will include The Fall of Math in its entirety, plus a second set.Tagged in: 65daysofstatic
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