Joe Volk is a musician from Bristol. He was the singer with the bands Gonga und Crippled Black Phoenix and released a fantastic solo-album in 2006, called ‚[amazon_link id=“B000E8R9RU“ target=“_blank“ ]Derwent Waters Saint[/amazon_link]‘. His new Split-EP with the Japanese All-Rounder Boris is out on 14. December 2012 – you can purchase it via Invada or on the Joe Volk / Boris – tour.
Heavypop: How do you do?
Joe Volk: „I do radical.„
You got a new Split single with Boris out these days. Where and when did you record the songs and with whom?
„I recorded it in February 2012 in my own studio space, which is within a building inhabited by artists called Mivart Street in Easton, Bristol. I rent my space from Jim Barr (Portishead bassist). My studio is in a room within his studio complex. The EP was then mixed at State of Art, and mastered at Optimum. It features Nadine Gingell on backing vocals, Guy Metcalfe (Thought Forms) on drums and Charlotte Nicholls on the cello. They all wrote their own parts. With the cello and the drums, I chopped and edited and layered them a lot. I recorded, engineered and produced it myself.“
How involved were Boris in your songs?
„Regarding the music, there was no involvement between myself and Boris. They worked in Tokyo. I worked in Bristol. Once we had both finished our tracks, we sent them to each other. There was faith on both parts that we would like each others tracks, otherwise the thing wouldn’t have happened in the first place. We are fans of each others work. The whole process was a pleasure. Their tracks are up there with their best work in my opinion. My tracks are what they are when they were that for the first time, and they are that now and will remain so.“
The Infosheet for the EP say: „This split album is a juxtaposition of styles from the same mindset. One story told two ways.“ Can you tell something about this story?
„I didn’t write that. I think it means that Boris and I are at polar ends of the music spectrum in some respects, but we still meet. Like a venn diagram. All genres meet in some respect.We are both Nick Drake fans. Maybe you could write Nick Drake in the area where the two circles join on a venn diagram. That would answer the question.“
The idea for the cooperation goes back to 2007: did you stay in contact with Boris since then, so is there a friendship between you guys, or „just“ a conection between musicians?
„Atsuo and I have been in touch. He was my first contact with the band. He initially showed interest in what I was doing, and I was also interested in Boris. We met at the ATP Portishead curated, swapped email addresses, and have been in touch since 2007. Boris then invited me to support them at Cargo in London in 2008. I was invited one or two other times as well, but I was touring with Crippled Black Phoenix. Boris are humble and polite people and it is a pleasure to tour with them.“
Do you have a favourite Boris-Album (or whatever of waht they have done in their huge discography)
“ ‚Rainbow‘ „.
Let’s talk about your second studio album: hows the work going?
„It’s going good. It’s been a long time coming. Many songs have been written and discarded that will never see the light outside of my face. It’s nearing completion.“
Do you already have any details – a name, credits, comparision to ‚Derwent Water Saints‚?
„The new album has a lot more instrumentation on it. It’s not as dark as ‚Derwent Waters Saint‚. The songs on that record were all written around the time my Father was dying. Many when I was actually at home helping my Mother nurse him just before he died. They are very sad songs for me. I started the new album with Adrian Utley again, recording the guitar and vocals for about eight songs. Three of these now feature the Bristol Ensemble Orchestra. The orchestration was by scored by my friend Ben Salisbury. He released a record with Geoff (Barrow, Portishead) earlier in the year as DROKK. I then spent a few months working with Ben on and off, adding bits and bobs to the tracks I recorded with Adrian. Then I started writing new songs in the summer, and now both Geoff and Ben are helping me. It’s taken time as I have been so busy with Crippled Black Phoenix for the last five years. Also the people I am working with are always busy with various other projects, so it can be hard to find time.“
Will ‚Call to Sun‚ & ‚Finnland‚ be found on the record?
„No. They were specifically for the split EP with Boris and they will not feature on any other release.“
When do you think it will be finished?
„It will be finished in 2013.“
How important is the use of „silence“ in your songwriting?
„As important as the use of music.“
How do you write your songs?
„The music comes first. First I write a piece of guitar music that will stand up as an instrumental, and then I play it over and over until I gradually form a vocal melody. The words are always a very difficult and time consuming process for me. The lyrics take the most time and come last. I add harmonies and other instrumentation as and when I record. Since the summer I have started writing in a completely different way. I write a basic guitar line and record it. Then I improvise vocals over the top, and record about six tracks of vocals. Then I listen back to each separate vocal track and edit them very harshly and quickly, without thinking too much. Then I piece all of the parts together until I have a song. If I like it, I learn how to play it. That’s how I am writing at the moment.“
Speaking about the moment: did your life change a lot since you leave Crippled Black Phoenix?
„I have more control over what I do now, and where I direct my energy. I miss touring as much as we did, and I miss the energy of playing with a large band like Crippled Black Phoenix, in the same way I still miss the intense energy of playing with Gonga. I miss my friends in the band. I miss writing with other people.“
Looking through the mercury-nominees (this year or any other), it seems your music is far away from most of those artists. Is it a major goal for you to create some kind of „timeless“ music without a, let’s call it „hipster„- or „Zeitgeist„-vibe (…)?
„No, not really. If I tried to create something specifically not ‚hipster‘, that is just as lame as trying to write something that is‘ hipster‘. Music is just what comes out. I think people who write music within a specific genre just because it’s in fashion or whatever are vaguely lame. That’s just my opinion on music and the reasons for creating it though, so if people are happy doing that, then fair enough. I just write music because I always have and I need to do it. It’s completely natural thing for me to do.“
In general: why do you make music professionally? When did you decide to do so?
„I decided to dedicate myself to music in an unfaltering way after my Father died. I do it because I love it, I think it is a good way to spend my time, and I get to see the world and meet lots of people, some more interesting than others.“
Can you make a living out of your music or do you have to do a daily job?
I work as a musician and I also work for a fool calles Jonathan Kay. I survive from that. I do as I please pretty much, and I am happy. Anyone reading this should do a Jonathan Kay workshop.
So, any other projects you are working on right now?
„Some fuckstep projects with the Mental Rides collective, as well as some projects in the pipeline with Ben Salisbury.“
How about a europe-tour? When will we see you again in austria?
„I am touring Europe from 14th December with Boris.“
Thanks for the interview!