>WAR AGAINST SLEEP
Joy: Who’s who?
Duncan: Hi, I’m Duncan. I’m the singer in the band.
Guy: I play bass, I’m Guy.
Tom: I play drums, mainly, I’m Tom.
(the fourth member, also called Guy isn’t present)
Joy: You seem to bring a lot of yourself into the music. Do you see War Against Sleep as a tool to express yourself? Do you see it more as a band, a project, or an extension of yourself?
Duncan: The first record, 'Messages', which has just been released, is basically me recording stuff in my bedroom. Mostly on my own, but also with a few friends brought in, but not the live band we’ve got now. We’ve been playing live with a four piece band since the end of last year, and the new album that we’ve just finished making is recorded as a whole band.
Joy: On the War Against Sleep website there are links to Sephiroth, Kabbalah and alchemy. Are these things important to you and are you quite spiritual?
Duncan: I put it up as an information service for people who are interested in Kabbalah but it’s only tangentially connected to the band.
Joy: So are you into it yourself?
Duncan: Well, I put it up as an information service for people who might be interested.
Tom: And the orange colour as well
Joy: So, is orange your favourite colour?
AGAINST SLEEP ARE:
Duncan: It’s not my favourite colour
Tom: It’s THE colour!
Duncan: Originally I wanted the website to look like the Samaritans, so I copied their style.
Joy: There’s also a link to a guy called Bill Heidrick. Do you feel any connections with him?
Duncan: I don’t know Bill Heidrick personally, but he had some very useful notes on using ritual magic. I thought it would be good to
do a link to his website because it’s based on his own personal experience rather than just collecting facts and stuff, so I just thought it’d be useful.
Joy: Alchemy is quite symbolical, and uses a lot of imagery. Do you think symbolism is important in the songs?
Duncan: Yeah. Certainly all the War Against Sleep songs are absolutely steeped in traditional symbolism, traditional occult and alchemism.
Joy: There’s also a guy called Jean Dubuis, who said that to aspire to be an alchemist or a kabbalist you need to have a generous heart. Are you a generous person, and are the songs love songs or heartfelt songs?
Duncan: I think it’s a very bad mistake to identify yourself with any one human trait, like saying I’m a good person/ I’m a bad person/ I’m a nice person, because people are a mixture of everything including all the bits they want to hide, all the bad things as well.
Joy: The name, War Against Sleep, does it have anything to do with the philosophy of Gurdjieff? (Who thought we live in a waking sleep brought on by so called education and maintained by our surrounding society)
Duncan: Actually, I was very pleasantly surprised when I find out that War Against Sleep is the name of a biography that was written about Gurdjieff. Because actually I thought of the name just because when I started doing music I was working full time and staying up all night doing music, so it just seemed like an appropriate name for that. And then I found out by coincidence it was also the name of some eighties Goth band, and also the name of a book, and it was a surprise to me.
Joy: Have any of you had any reoccurring dreams or supernatural experiences?
Guy: Basically, at Banbury if you go to the top of the hill, near there was a big
battle. If you go up there in the forest, there’s no sound at all and no wind if you go to the top of the hill. If you walk in there you actually feel something pushing you back.
Tom: I dreamt that the Queen died last week but it was actually Ronald Regan who died.
Duncan: I had a reoccurring nightmare as a small child about being chased around a maze by three bears with swords coming out of their torsos.
Guy: I had one when I was little, it was a theme to a dream. The dreams would all be different but at the end I’d always end up walking up a hill and there’d be somebody sat on a horse.
Tom: I once thought I saw a ghost but it was actually a cloud of pepper, so still not sure if I saw a ghost or not.
Joy: You all seem to be quite involved with music in Bristol. Is there a big music scene there and is it important to you?
Duncan: It’s a very healthy, thriving music scene in Bristol, and from the outside it might appear like a clique but I‘ve never met such generous...
Guy: The other cities we’ve been to recently, they don’t seem to have had that same sort of people who love gigs, going out and listening to music most days of the week, and always having a healthy crowd of people coming to the interesting gigs.
Duncan: It’s genuinely supportive, rather than competitive, the way that the music works in Bristol. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to get together the stuff that I’ve got together without it, without being in that environment.
Guy: It’s a weird one, because a lot of people move to Bristol because they perceive the music to be a certain way, and it to be one of the few places with a healthy music scene. But when I got there I kind of thought maybe it wasn’t, but…it’s definitely good. Just recently there’s been a massive outburst of new stuff as well.
Joy: Any Bristol bands you’d like to recommend?
Duncan: Bronnt Industries Kapital, Knowledge Of Bugs, Gravenhurst which have been signed to Warp, Prick Taster.
Joy: Are there any instruments you like to use, traditional or experimental? I hear Knowledge Of Bugs (Tom) uses a Speak and Spell?
Tom: I don’t actually use them. I just sort of mess about with them and they just pile up on my shelves and I end up with loads and loads of them. They’re really fun to play with but I haven’t managed to get them at all musical really.
Joy: So you’re a bit of an inventor?
Tom: Yeah, I do make noisy little boxes and things like that, cheap microphones and whatnot.
Joy: Do you like to use the experimental sounds in War Against Sleep?
Guy: At the moment it’s quite straight up but I think the next album is gonna be a bit more twisted; it’s gonna be a bit more electric.
Duncan: It’s quite subtle the way that we’re just learning about creating atmospheres, creating emotional states by building up textures of lots of different sounds that come from extremely diverse places. It’s good that the live band we’re working with now, everyone plays quite a few instruments, and they’ve got quite an innovative approach to recording and playing. It’s pushing me a lot further as a songwriter.
Tom: It can change a lot as well, like there was a time when Guy was on holiday so we just did it going back to Duncan’s old solo set and then me and the other person called Guy doing some electronic messing over the top of it. Although with four of us in the band it does tend to be, we’ve got like a set, we play quite like a band.
Joy: How do you all get on together?
Duncan: We get on surprisingly well. I’ve worked with Guy playing bass with another band called I am The Mighty Jungulator, so we’ve toured before together. Tom and Guy are friends who’ve worked together. The chemistry is really good.
Joy: Will you all be collaborating together on the next album?
Duncan: Yeah. We’ve just recorded the second album, Invitation to the Beast, together, and we’re just starting work on the third album together as a band.
Joy: You had an old band, The Inseminators, can you tell us a bit about that and why you split?
Duncan: That was a band that I wrote songs and sang with about three years ago and we played for about a year and a half, and didn’t make a lot of recordings or play lot out of Bristol really. For me, it was just a way of learning about being in a band really.
Joy: So what made you start War Against Sleep?
Duncan: That band split and I was coerced into playing a festival on my own, and so I was just playing the piano. Singing and playing the piano, and I did that for about two years because I really enjoyed it. It was only really with being contacted by Fire Records that I was prompted to put a live band together again so we could bring to life the sound of some of the recordings in a live context.
Tom: The songs definitely come out quite differently from what Duncan originally recorded, like a lot of the stuff, certainly drum wise, I couldn’t play the stuff that was on his record so it was just like we twisted them into our own ways, and they’ve come out really well.
Guy: I just made sure I didn’t listen to the record, for a very long time. I only heard 'Messages' when it came out recently, I’ve heard some of the songs before but I made sure I didn’t listen to them while we were doing the band because we seemed to be changing them and I just get confused.
Joy: So the live experience is quite different to what’s on the record?
Guy: Having heard 'Messages' just the other week, yeah, definitely.
Joy: You’ve been going for quite a while, why did it take so long to make the album?
Duncan: It took about a month to make the album. It was chosen out of well over a hundred contenders. I’ve been writing songs and making recordings for about ten years, just for my own pleasure really, and just because it makes the gnawing feeling go away, and because it’s just something that I do. The album wasn’t made as an album. It’s an archive of what was thought to be the best, or most relevant out of the songs that I’d recorded, that didn’t take particularly long really...
Joy: So what did you want it to accomplish, just a collection of everything?
Duncan: Well if I had my own way it would be a ten cd box set, but it wasn’t gonna happen so we just chose an album’s worth of material.
Joy: What are your future plans?
Tom: I’ve just finished studying, so I’ve got to decide what I’m gonna do. Build things, play lots of different music, probably have to get a job pretty soon. There are lots of musicians in Bristol so lots of people who are after interesting instruments, so quite a good market there.
Duncan: I think I’m just gonna make a few more records, and then get it out of my system and go and be a beekeeper.
Interview by Nathania Hartley