suddenly, just as we were about to publish this interview McCall publicly announced
that, fuelled by disillusionment, frustration that along the way has caused McCall
two near mental breakdowns, he is putting the Coreline project on indefinite hold.
Unexpectedly then, what we hoped would be an opportunity to share DSO's enthusiasm
for all things Coreline and perhaps help bring his talents to a wider audience,
now looks like it could be the last ever Coreline interview…
What was your earliest significant musical memory/moment of enlightenment?
I have an awful memory, though here's something from my early childhood: after whinging vocally enough to be bought a new toy, my father bought me a small plastic robot thing, I think it was a Transformer of some description, I took it with me to nursery school the next day and managed to leave without it. I think I buried it in a sandpit then got districted by a marble thingy, (an honest mistake I would make again). This upset me greatly, I imagined the robot would be lonely and quite disappointed that its owner neglected him so soon after he was commissioned, it still brings a little tear to my eye.
Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which I was obsessed with for a large chunk of my formative years, not in a 'look at my Goth' way but in a 'holy crap harmony everytfsjlevzla!1111' way.
2 Unlimited - No Limits (the album). My first album, on tape, I still have it, even though I have nothing which can play it!
The Chemical Brothers - Surrender, followed (temporally speaking) in fairly short order by their back catalogue.
So when did you first entertain the idea of creating music yourself and how did that manifest itself?
Pffffff, there are a lot of inter-linking bits to that question, I suppose if I should pick one of them it was a show on Channel 4 about drugs and the rave culture in the mid nineties, I was absolutely entranced by this pulsating tribal music filtering away in the background, I wanted the commentary to stop so I could examine it closer, I think the track may have been The Private Psychedelic Reel by The Chemical Brothers, though I may just be channelling that back there. I was curious to see the equipment used to create such a sound and started a quest to learn and acquire the bits to do it. More than a decade later I still can't manage it.
So, you started off solo? You never dabbled in the 'being in a band' thing?
Yep, I did want to get into the whole band thing, I still do to an extent, but my problem with that is that if your a mediocre player in a great band you end up just playing Hammond organ or string presets while everyone else noodles away, I don't play any instruments well.
Did you formally study music or recording? You made passing reference to studying - but guess that may have been self-led.
For my sins, yes, I'm formally taught. I have been at it now for nearly 20 years and I have this year completed a Masters Degree in obscure music featuring clicks and beeps which no one outside of the academic scene listens to. Technically, this means I have the right to drop 'artist' for 'composer' but I would probably explode in a gooey shower of sticky red arrogance if I did that.
What about beyond music itself, were you excited and inspired by art or other media?
Historically, I don't think so. I have been studying music for about twenty years now I think I'm well and truly blinkered! I recently have had a little bit of a literature bend. I suppose I support all art, but (probably because of my own experience) I find music much more accessible, and I think it reacts much faster, its much closer to society, recorded music has a much wider audience then the other arts, I think there is a kind of music, or at least a band or two associated with each cultural and counter cultural movement in history, from the troubadours up to The Clash. There is a vitality there which I just don't see in other art-forms.
You've mentioned a few early musical influences, but what did the path of your musical discovery look like? How eclectic are your musical tastes?
I was always into classical music, still am. During my early teens I started following the back end of rave, I spent a lot of time DJ-ing during the rise and maturity of trance music, and stopped as soon as I heard 'Superstar' (You're-A-Superstar by Love Inc.) I spent a lot of time at school pretending to like Rock and Metal as I ended up in fights if I professed to an enjoyment of popular stuff. Finally someone took me to a Goth night. I immediately drew a parallel between Futurepop, modern EBM and the trance stuff I had grown up with.
My music collection ranges from 12th Century early polyphonic choral music to the Crazy Frog. I like all music as long as it has some life in it, either by its message or its good humour. People who claim to be open minded about music but then apply a caveat concerning hip-hop or country and western or the like get on my ample man-wabs.
So how long did it take from wanting to make music to doing it, to your first release?
Well, please keep moving forward was 06 I think, so seven years? But then again there were three finished albums 'released' (but never distributed) before that. The earliest was 2002, again, I think, so that's three years, not counting the false starts, half finished EP's, school projects and pseudo-classical gumpf in between.
How did "Please keep moving forward" come together (that is did you have a clear vision for it and was it easy to write and record or the opposite?) and how did you get the deal with the Infekted label?
That album was a fairly random collection of tracks, not to imply that it was rushed, but I didn't give too much thought to how the tracks came together, I actually let the mastering engineer decide the final order. It was a collection of the 'best' tracks in my workspace at the time. The deal with Infekted came at the very last minute before release, they managed to cut the price of the pressing a bit and sorted out a few top notch gigs.
What did you learn from that process that you subsequently applied? And were those your first live performances?
I learnt about the business end of artwork, replication, distribution, mastering - all the stuff my studies had missed. How to do things right first time and how to talk to companies and convince them that you're a professional. Musically? I'm not sure in the grand scheme of things, though it was my first commercial CD, I had written several albums before, it was evolution rather then initialisation.
Likewise, those were not my first live gigs, I had performed in smaller bands during my studies and even a school orchestra or two, even once or twice with Coreline in a very experimental night in a little hippy cafe in Belfast called Arcadia, now sorely missed. The Infekted gigs however, Matt Noise took me aside and told me to ensure I gave a show, not just an appearance. What I came up with in the end wasn't really what he had in mind, but I must give him a good share of the credit for luring me towards performance.
OK - the live performances. Where shall we start?! I think Coreline's live performances are superb. Some of the best I've ever seen in terms of surreal entertainment and not just because I too have a robot fixation. ;-) Shall we tackle the robots thing now? You mentioned at the start that toy robots figured early in your childhood. Was this something that became a part of you as you grew up and seemed a natural choice for inclusion in your live performances? Does Coreline really build better robots?
Thanks for the kind words! Actually, on all counts, the genesis of the robots had a much more rock 'n' roll environment. I was at a lock-in celebrating the (comparative) success of the subCulture (a nightclub in Leeds). Myself, Sarah Orange, and a girl called Julie were sat on the giant bean bags discussing the upcoming gig, with Julie totally opposed to going to the show. Over the course of the evening we discussed what events would convince Julie to come. We all finally settled on a cardboard robot outfit and a fight with a kangaroo.
We do indeed build better robots. No other noise musician has accomplished so much with cardboard and gaffa tape.
Interesting... so is the robots thing confined to the live performances? I thought you may be a big Japanese robot anime fan, collect tin toy robots and regularly watch "Metropolis", "Forbidden Planet" and "Robocop" at the weekends?
There robots were an arbitrary selection. I like robots as much as the next dude (assuming the next dude isn't robosexual) but I wouldn't describe myself as robophilic. If anything the robots have taken Coreline off the desired organic tree-huggy message I set out with. I suppose the important thing about the robots is that there always smiling.
Have you seen the film "Silent Running"? - that's a fantastic hippy, tree-hugging + robots film?
I have seen Silent Running... I liked the spaceship a lot!
So is it possible then over time we'll see an evolution from robots to trees dancing on stage at Coreline gigs?
I really have no idea what will to happen to the live show, when doing stuff live I sit down with David Lawrie, Njall -x- Combatt, Jake from Chotto Okii and anyone else who can contribute. We will thrash out some ideas, Jake's input is fantastic, he does this sort of thing for a living, he can really drill down the ideas into the possible and the 'possible with a few hundred more quid and a week off work'. The only real rule, and its more of a guideline, is 'If it looks right, your doing it wrong' - we're not interested in slick and beautiful... we want shonky. The last thing I want is people taking the live shows seriously. Hell, I get uncomfortable when people take the music seriously these days!
I saw you recently at the Purple Turtle in London and as part of that show there was a fantastic routine where you were sitting in a deck chair reading a paperback and some guy walks up in a diving suit and mask and before you know it the two of you are in a dance off against each other. Supremely entertaining but I got a sense that there was almost a narrative behind the scenario - was there or am I just reading way too much into the 'shonky' stuff?
I suppose I put things in there to keep people entertained. Steer (the diver) was available, up for it and local so we kind of thrashed the details of his participation out on the night. I didn't go in thinking about a narrative, I went in with a list of people who would be willing to help out on stage and I built from that. The approach varies from show to show. Infest for example was quite literally years in the planning.
Also, what I liked about that particular skit was there was no attempt by you to 'pretend' to play anything. In fact I think the routine was performed entirely to the track unspooling on a laptop. That's a brave thing to do but far preferable to those many acts on the scene who try to cover up that they aren't playing much live.
I never 'pretend' to play live. I have my tracks in a state whereby it would all go wrong if I left the stage, either that or I have them entirely on playback if I intend to have something more important to attend to. In this case the track was Diz-Tanz a track I hate. I set out to create one ultra-bland middle of the road fashionable club track, the lyrics for this track were chosen by a poll on a forum entitled 'most generic lyrics in industrial'. I then worked for weeks making it sound as boring and run-off-the-mill as possible.
The objective of all this I suppose was to create something akin to a protest song against fashionable music.
Thank fuck for that, I thought "Diz Tanz" was the worst track on the new album! Never heard an artist say they've put a track on their new album that they hate, with the objective of making it as boring as possible! This reminds me of a question I wanted to ask after first seeing you live... from what I can make out you seem to write, record and release purely for your own reasons and if others happen to find it interesting or enjoyable then that's just fine - but not what's driving it. Is this completely wrong? If not - what does drive you to do it?
I write music because that's what I do, I'm not about to neglect twenty years of getting gradually better for any reason at all. I suppose I have messages I want to put across as well, but the messages have changed over the years, the music has as well. But I don't want to be in a position where I have to negate any of my previous albums for any reason other then they suck.
I release music (on CD) in order to get rich, famous, partake of expenses-paid trips to Europe at weekends for gigs, generally hang out with famous people, fail to attract any groupies who aren't certifiably mad, teach myself German and collect dirty looks from people who think I'm not being serious enough!
Where did the title for the latest album, "Blood and Bone as Stone and Mud" come from - and what does it mean??
It's not really from anything, nor does it mean anything, at least, nothing as profound as it sounds like it should be, if that makes any sense? (Sense is over rated anyway.)
So, the new album, assuming their was a plan, what were you thinking it would be, what it would sound like once you'd concluded it was finished? How do you know when you've got an album's worth of material and did you have stuff that you chose not to include? If so will that material see the light of day?
I had a plan for this one, surprisingly enough! Some people (most notably Udo from Hands Records (bbwwahahha! name drop ^_^)) really liked my more 'serious' non-melodic stuff, while others really liked the noisy trance ideas, so I decided to separate the two bits, trance fun choons first, and serious noisy tracks beyond track five-ish. A lot of this work was done about half way through the album so I think there are some tracks which sit quite uncomfortably betwixt the two.
An albums worth of material occurs when I have about 20 tracks ready to go and an obnoxiously vast amount of disposable cash saved up. I tend to weed out tracks I don't like/can't release on legal grounds and that generally brings me down to a workable album. Not that I have too much experience, my first three albums didn't sell a single copy, Please Keep Moving Forward was 40 minutes long, and my second one seems to be about as popular as the Labour party (topical political satire).
Stuff that 'drops off the end of albums' tends to surface on compilations, or, re-animated on later releases, and some tracks end up spanning more then one release to make sure enough people heard them (I like them, dammit, you should to!).
So, we know what your least favourite track is, but which one(s) are you most satisfied with now the new album is out there and people are consuming it - and why?
(Coreline Builds) Better Robots, it has a children's choir, A CHILDREN'S CHOIR, IN A NOISE SONG!, Also I'm happy with stuff at the end of the album, Middle, and This Is Not A Love Song, they just came together really well.
Do you think you'll stick with the trance noise field (if that's actually a sub-genre) with Coreline or do you see the style changing significantly over time? Or would that lead to other projects as an outlet?
I don't do side-projects, so as I move into the future I foresee the albums becoming more and more varied. I suppose I need to be in a good mode to write fundustrial / happy yay core, and this album was written in a bit of a bad patch. I suppose if people want me to write more fundustrial they should be nice to me and send me cake, if people want more of the 'Emo Body Music' they should continue kicking me when I'm down.
Coreline: will it lead to world domination by cardboard robots tending for the planet's greenery, or something altogether more modest - and which will satisfy your desires?
I'm a world domination kind of guy. Honestly, the real goal of Coreline, that which drives me, is to one day get to play Infest... oh wait... I guess I should retire now!
Is there a question I didn't ask you that you wish I had - if so what is it?
I'm glad you asked about the new album! It's currently available from www.musicnonstop.co.uk it's doing terribly, no one is distributing it in the US or EU at the moment and because thousands of pounds don't drop into my lap on demand I doubt I'll have enough cash to do another album independently. Please buy my stuff, I'm poor.
A few days after completing this interview, Chris McCall posted the following message on the Coreline MySpace webpage:
At this moment Coreline is on indefinite hiatus.
After the total failure of my current album my confidence and bank balance are both shattered. To attempt to put on a show or create new music now would mean that I would not be giving 100%, financially or emotionally. After 10 years of hard work I have burnt myself out managing, promoting, pressing and whoring this music, begging for sales and desperately scrabbling for recognition. Regardless of how hard I work, I do not seem to be able to make any more progress, I have come to realise that at present, the desire for progress seems to be more important than the art driving it. The most recent album has cost me two nervous breakdowns and additional stress-related health problems which landed me in hospital earlier this year. My leisure time is worth more than that.
I apologise for any trouble this causes. My thanks, go to those who have supported me over the last ten years from the lowliest mumbled thank you right up to those tireless workhorses like Dave and Richard. I'll let you know if my position changes over the coming months...
[Interview by Rob Dyer - With thanks to Chris Coreline for permission to reproduce the above extract and the interview - let's hope not the last...]
Coreline on DSO:
Reviews - Coreline
Music Reviews - Coreline
Coreline Myspace website: http://www.myspace.com/coreline