/Talk Show Host/056/The Golden Age of Nothing

Many bands fly under the radar somewhat. Perhaps they never make the mainstream – and maybe they never wanted to. Perhaps they’ve decided that a particular niche is for them, and they are happy as a band doing just that. I listen to a lot of bands like that, and have written about most of them at some point or another.

The Golden Age of Nothing are one of those bands. Recommended to me by a friend a few years ago that’s from the same region as them, just hearing a couple of songs convinced me that they were a band that I needed to hear more of. Their single Black Wings was #10 on /Countdown/2016/Tracks, for a start, and I’ve since picked up each release, and finally seen them live.

Their most recent album – and their best yet – Ten Thousand Hours came out in the Spring, and I’ve been intending on doing an interview with the band for some time, but it’s taken a while to get the right questions together. This done, Graeme from the band kindly responded to my questions with an honesty that it’s rare to see from an artist in interviews, and thanks to him for taking the time. The photo is my own.

A note about the interviews on amodelofcontrol.com. This is now a long-running, occasional series, occasional because of the fact that I only interview artists when I have something to ask, and when artists have something to say. I don’t use question templates, so each is unique, too. Finally, I only edit for grammar and adding in links, so what you’re reading is the response of the artist directly.

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You’ve recently released your third album, Ten Thousand Hours. That’s 417 days or thereabouts. What’s the significance?

Graeme: It’s the first line of the first song on the album, You Wish You Were Bobby. The old saying goes that it takes ten thousand hours to become an expert in something. It’s not true but I found it amusing that someone might get suckered in and try it but no matter how much they practice, they’ll never be good enough. Bobby being Bobby Fischer, the quite mad chess grandmaster. It’s about failure and insanity.

It’s a short, sharp album, one of jagged edges and bitter asides, but also one of resignation. Were there any particular life inspirations for this album?

Graeme: I can never escape from the people who were close to me that have died. They pursue me endlessly… through normal life and in my dreams. It’s a fucking drag, to be honest. That is the common thread running through everything I write. My ex-wife dying of an asthma attack being the main one. That just knocked everything sideways forever. There are other more mundane events that get all twisted up and distorted into it all as well. The album is mainly about failure though. Never quite getting there. Failing at life, love, sex, going on holiday…

tGAoN have gone down what would be considered a different sonic route than many so-called Goth bands in the North of England. Did you have a concept for the sound, and image of the band from the off, as it’s become clear since that you havea very specific one?

Graeme: Yes, we did have a concept for what we wanted to at the start and it didn’t work very well. It soon became clear that if we continued on that direction the whole thing would be pointless. So I kind of pushed us back toward what I knew, which was guitar, bass and drum machine. The addition of Graham’s viola was very cool. That drone just kills me every time! For a while now we’ve been moving toward a noisier, more repetitive and nastier sound. We’re nearly there now.

I was surprised to find that You Wish You Were Bobby goes back to one of your earliest demo/CDR releases (and was clearly re-recorded for the new album). How come it was held off previous releases?

Graeme: We gave away a demo EP at our first ever gig. We only made 33 copies of it. We’ve re-recorded a song (or two) from it on all three of our albums. Only The Bruises Remain and I Am A Ghost on the first album Ghosts Destroy Us, Little Worm on the second Monuments and Bobby on this one. Bobby was done last because it was just pretty much consigned to the bin but I did a solo gig where I played it and it sounded pretty good so we brought it back and knocked it into shape. Which is great because I really like it now.

I love the idea of a “Patron Saint of Perpetually Falling In Love” that is St. Rowland (and is rather different to the rather more pious Saint Roland, I’d hazard). What’s the story behind that song?

Graeme: It’s about Rowland S. Howard, guitarist from The Birthday Party. I love Rowland. He pissed it all up the wall and he knew it. Whatever he did, he just never seemed to being able to break free of his demons. He regretted it all, I think. But had he lived longer I genuinely think he’d be massive now. Definitely worthy of being the patron saint of perpetually falling in love.

It’s never been particularly hidden that you’re a big Cure fan. How long have you followed the band, and how important were they to how the band has ended up sounding?

Graeme: Yeah, I adore the Cure (as should everyone else). I’ve followed them for over thirty years, all over the place. The ups and the downs. I don’t think we sound much like them but their importance to what we do is massive. The lack of compromise, the benign dictatorship (kidding!!), the lack of artifice and the idea of simple musical lines that intertwine to make something more than their parts all come from the Cure. But as much as I love them, there is no desire to sound like them. What would be the point?

The Golden Age of Nothing: Goth City: Wharf Chambers: Leeds: 19-Oct 2018

Playing live – or at least when I saw you at Goth City last year (/Memory of a Festival/031) – you play without a drummer, instead using playback for that. Is this just a means of stripping down the line-up live, or do you prefer the sound balance this way?

Graeme: We prefer it. We did try a real drummer. I got a great friend of mine who was a very, very good professional drummer (sadly, now another of the departed) to come down and play with us. He very kindly did, and did a great job too, but within minutes we knew we’d be sticking with the programmed drum backing. Live drums just felt wrong. Plus a few of our drum patterns are apparently unplayable by a real drummer. Everything Is On Fire being a case in point… drummers recoil in horror at the thought of banging that one out.

Teesside has always struck me as an unexpected place to find a goth/alternative scene, but I’m assured from other friends who’ve lived there that there is one. How has the “scene”, such as it is, worked for you as a band?

Graeme: Teesside has more of a noisy guitar indie thing on the go and we don’t fit in that at all. We played at the Georgian Theatre in Stockton one time and did Whip and it just emptied the room, which we thought was hilarious. But not as hilarious as the previous gig at the same venue where I got so drunk I kept missing the guitar pedals when I tried to stomp on them. Maybe one explains the other…

As far as a goth scene in Teesside goes, there are a few bands around but it’s very fragmented and when it does coalesce, it tends to be around Newcastle. Goth isn’t high on the agenda in Teesside. Luckily, we love playing outside of the area – and we’ve made some great friends from other places – so it’s fine. We’re quite happy with that.

Ten Thousand Hours is out now

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