Our beloved And Also The Trees are returning once again to Greece for a double bill today (in Thessaloniki) and tomorrow in Athens at Death Disco. With a career spanning well over three and a half decades AATT are one of the true underdogs of British music. I have to personally thank Simon Huw Jones for taking the time answering our questions and of course Leonidas Skiadas from Death Disco, without whom this wouldn’t have been possible.
Let’s start! You are going to appear live in Thessaloniki (18th November, Mavri Trypa) and Athens (19th November, Death Disco). What should we expect from these live performances? Any hints?
SHJ – We have just played 14 gigs, had a couple of weeks off and now we are really looking forward to playing again. Playing live takes me to a different place – a different state of reality, and when a tour ends I miss it. So you can expect to see 5 musicians who are very happy to be on stage again and very happy to be in Greece. Greece is a great place to play for us… I don’t know how it will be in Thessaloniki but the audiences we have played to in Athens and Larissa were really a joy to be with. We have 2 new musicians playing with us since the last time we were in Greece who add a different vibe and there is a new instrument which brings something we’re pretty excited about.
This year you released your 13th full-length album ‘Born Into The Waves’. Tell us a few words about this one. In what way does it differ from your previous releases?
SHJ – We see each album as part of our evolution, so to people who are familiar with the previous album ‘Hunter Not The Hunted‘ they will hear subtle changes – changes in landscape and sound, changes in mood. We are very conscious about not repeating ourselves – there is no point in that for us, and we’re also very aware of the spirit of ‘And Also The Trees‘ which remains true to itself yet always moves on. When it was finished, mixed and mastered and everything and I put it on the record player and listened to it, I was pleased and didn’t have any doubts. I don’t usually feel like that.
Correct me if I’m wrong. Since late 90’s you’ve been releasing music through your own label And Also The Trees. Why have you chosen this? More freedom regarding your creativity? Please discuss…
SHJ – We felt we needed to be more in control of our destiny. The business side of things was becoming very unstable even then and after the 80’s band backlash that naturally happened in the mid to late 90’s we were as unsure of our future as any prospective record companies. So we decided to release the albums ourselves. We had always insisted upon creative freedom anyway so it wasn’t to do with that. To be honest we did approach a few record companies that we thought were cool but their reactions (I won’t name any names) were so disappointing and entrenched in the ‘music biz’ culture we felt we really didn’t want to work with wankers like that anyway.
Since your debut mini album back in 1982 ‘From Under The Hill’ released on cassette format till today’s digital era, what has changed for AATT?
SHJ – Well we’ve been through a technical revolution haven’t we. The creative process is not so different – working on music with computers has made things a lot easier than it was when we were pratting around with tape recorders, so that’s a bit of a Godsend. The live aspect isn’t that different for the performers and generally speaking the equipment has got better. Recording albums has become easier and it’s possible to do it more cheaply But of course the business side of things is all over the place as everyone knows. It has become more about survival than making money. And lets not forget the media… which in my opinion is an improvement on the old system where a few established magazines, newspapers and radio shows held all the power and influence, but this side of the music business is in a total state of flux too I believe.
You recently got back from Autumn Tour 2016. How did it go? Satisfied? What’s your feedback from the audience?
SHJ – We were happy with it. We played well and enjoyed the experience a lot. There were a couple of shows that felt exceptionally good… like up there with our best performances ever – and there were a couple that for one reason or another were disappointing. The audience reaction everywhere was really good, we seem to be a band that mean a lot to people… so they often travel for miles to see us, sometimes across the world – and they stay with us, like we’re on a journey together.
Would you like to share some words about the immaculate video of ‘Your Guess’? Who is the director and in general some credits for the video?
SHJ – We made it ourselves, Justin, Paul and I… mainly Justin as he works in film as well as music. We just wanted to make it look as live and uncontrived as possible – in fact we modeled it on the films made of us by the French music site La Blogotheque.
That was quite a strange thing as they were filmed for La Blogotheque by a total novice film maker called Gaspar Claus (who is actually a brilliant cellist who plays with Angelique Lonatos amongst other people) and he was kind of standing in for their main man, the famous Vincent Moon, because he was late arriving. Anyway, Gaspar made these wonderful films of us – actually the best live footage that has ever been made of us in my opinion – so we based our video of ‘Your Guess‘ on that. We later became friends with Gaspar and learnt that those films were actually a fluke and he was never able to do anything like it again.
A tricky one now! Many consider you as an underrated band. Would you agree with this?
SHJ – I don’t think it’s that we’re underrated, more like we’re not rated at all. In most countries our releases go under the radar, this is mainly due to our underground status and practically speaking down to a lack of promotion. It is one of the problems of having to do everything ourselves, how can we be rated or reviewed if the reviewers are not sent the album to listen too? And we can only blame ourselves for this because it’s our job and we don’t have the time, energy or resources to do it. Our energy goes into making the music and keeping the ship afloat. It feels like we’re a kind of secret organization sometimes.
A question you’d like to be asked in an interview and and you’ve never been. Now it’s the time!
SHJ – You could ask – “what is the one thing you would most like to add to your lyric writing capabilities?” – no one has asked me that before – and the answer would be Humour. There are very few lyricist that can be funny as well as moving us in other profound ways. Tom Waits and Bill Callahan make me laugh (and cry)… and Jaques Brel, but I can’t think of any others. It’s a rare and wonderful talent and I am pretty sure I’ll never grasp it.
Future plans regarding the band and a special message to Last Day Deaf readers…
SHJ – Well – in the future I’d love to come back to Greece and perform the ‘Brothers of the trees‘ set. This is a performance that is essentially just Justin and I playing semi improvised, rearranged and minimalist versions of AATT songs, but it’s an open project and has worked very well when the other members of the band have joined us. The aim is that it will always be changing as we add to it. And other than that we have to see if another album starts to materialize.
A Message to Last day Deaf readers…
…?… well…. thanks for reading, stay well, love and peace (man).