Latimer House is Rages Us All

Written by on May 22, 2014 in Interviews, May 22, 2014, News To Shout About! - Comments Off on Latimer House is Rages Us All

Latimer HouseIndependent melodic driven literate pop act Latimer House, from Prague had gotten together to jam out music in a session, that would lead to what would be 10 songs to be placed on an album entitled “All The Rage”. Thus this would then lead them towards playing shows and creating even further material for even future results. Guitarist Joe Cook discusses the band’s latest album that’s just “All The Rage”.

All Access Magazine (AAM) First off, please introduce yourself and what you do in the band.

Joe: My name’s Joe Cook. To date I’ve written the songs and I play guitar and, er, sing!

AAM You guys are from Prague, what’s the music scene like? Are there any artists or bands you could recommend?

Joe: We’re actually all from different countries but, yes, we all live in Prague. This city, and the country in general, has many, many technically accomplished and well trained musicians, probably more so on a per capita basis than my home country, Britain. There’s quite a lively jazz scene in town and plenty of classical concerts, but as for inspiring or inspired local contemporary bands then I have to say they are few and far between, at least as far as I’m concerned, and I’m struggling to think of one! There’s quite a busy metal and grunge scene here, if you like that sort of thing, which I don’t. I do try to catch a gig by Justin Lavash every now and then, he’s a great blues guitarist and songwriter from England who like me has been here a while. Justin played on four of our songs in the studio, two of which, Eye Can See and Your Love, are on the album. There’s a guy called Ondrej Smejkal who plays didgeridoo, and his stuff is quite amazing. Derek Saxenmeyer, our recording engineer, turned me on to him. I’ll also namecheck Nocni Optika, which means Night Vision. They’re a far out modern jazz quartet of superb musicians; they’re an acquired taste and for me best taken in small doses, but man can they play! What I would say about Prague is that we have some good music venues, like the Meet Factory, Akropolis or Lucerna Music Bar, that regularly host interesting bands, established and new, so there’s never a shortage of interesting stuff coming through town. But as for happening bands that I find relevant, sorry to say that I draw a blank.

AAM. How do you describe your music to people?

Joe: Guitar-driven pop, is the phrase I always use.

AAM Latimer House, does this name refer to an actual house, if so who lives or lived there?

Joe: The name comes from Latimer Road, a street in west London, where I’m from. I like the idea of a ‘house’ – people move in and out, visit, hang around, grow-up, leave, return and so on. A good house has history and character!

AAM Why did you want to create your own record label, and go and call it Honk Records?

Joe: Independence, a desire to do things on our terms and partly because, well, how else were we going to get our stuff out? The independent music scene in Britain has always been an inspiration, the DIY ethic and so on. Artistic control, punk rock and power pop etc. I wanted to put our music out and the easiest and most uncompromising way to do that was on our own, which in reality was just a question of organizing digital distribution and going to the pressing plant with our acetates and CD masters and getting the job done, with our own name printed on the label! I think Honk Records is a great name for a label, and John our designer came up with a great logo, dontchathink?! When the records and CDs were ready Mike (our bass player, Mike Jetton) and I drove in his car to the plant, which is just outside of Prague, and picked up our vinyl and CDs. That was one helluva buzz, I can tell you!

AAM. You decided to make this label and then go and release your own material including “All The Rage” why release your own material on your own label?

Joe: As I said, independence. Artistic control. No compromise. No middlemen or hucksters to deal with, keep the industry at arm’s length etc. We did everything under our own steam, finding the studio, finding the mastering engineer, attending the mastering session with Derek, commissioning designers, going to the record pressing plant, organizing digital distribution (with London co-operative state51 Conspiracy, who are great by the way), engaging with press, radio and promo people. On our website we have our own shop, again via the splendid state51 Conspiracy. I got some budget together and then every aspect we did ourselves, apart from physical product distribution, which we need to sort out, although we’re slowly working on that: Rough Trade, Sister Ray and Flashback Records — three great London record stores — began stocking our records and CDs at the weekend (February 22/3) and that was down to me going into the shops with a box of records and talking to the good folk behind the counter! Luna Music in Indianapolis also took some of our vinyl! I was, and still am, very interested in demystifying the whole process, understanding and engaging with every step, and ensuring that the music we wrote and rehearsed and recorded remained true to itself, and true to us, and that it gets out uncontaminated by heavy commerce.

AAM. How has the reaction to your latest CD been?

Joe: Early reviews have been positive, which is really nice, encouraging.

AAM. What kind of “sound”, production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?

Joe: We had no hard and fast preconceived ideas about the sound, and to a certain extent we didn’t know how we would sound in a good recording studio with clean separation and great sound processing equipment as we had always rehearsed in a real noisy dive with a dodgy PA system and clapped out drums! So, we didn’t set out to try to capture a certain sound, although each of us certainly wanted to capture something: as rhythm guitarist I wanted to hear a kind of 3D guitar strum, with lots of texture between acoustic and electric, and very few effects; George (Kominek) our drummer was going for a big John Bonham-esque powerful sound out of his achingly cool vintage blue Vistalite kit – which he got, thanks to Derek. I knew I wanted strings and mandolin on some songs. An old friend of mine, Jim Thompson, came over from England for our first session and played mandolin and violin. I definitely wanted cello on some songs. Cello is one of my favorite instruments; it always gives a certain earthy, organic and powerful sound which I love. One of the first questions I asked Derek was ‘do you know a cello player?’ And didn’t he just – Jan Keller, from the Czech Philharmonic! How cool is that? We love the Hammond organ and luckily the studio had all these great analogue keyboards, Hammond, Rhodes electric piano, Wurlitzer and even a 1917 Steinway grand piano, which Anar (Yusufov) loved. So, we certainly had ideas about the sound ingredients. We also wanted our music to be recorded true to itself, with no overblown production, and Derek was spot on.

AAM. How long did this CD take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?

Joe: We had three four-day sessions, at each of which we recorded four or five tracks, meaning all the drums, bass, guitar, keys. Then we had several days for vocals and overdubs (cello, additional guitar parts, Tommy’s trumpet, Justin’s guitar, keyboards, mandolin, percussion), plus a few days for mixing. The number of total days I guess would amount to 20-23 days recording and five days for mixing, something like that, but it was spread out over the course of a year because we had to find the time in between work, families, commitments and so on. We recorded 15 tracks in all, including two versions of a song called Jigsaw. Of those, 10 made the album, one (Shake!) went on the flip side of our debut single, This Is Pop, one is in the can and ready for release, and two songs (or three if you count both versions of Jigsaw) weren’t right in terms of structure or arrangement, so we’ll come back to those later this year.

AAM. What kind of input did the producer have during the process?

Joe: I Googled “recording studios in Prague” and the one at the top of the list, Faust Studios, was literally within walking distance of all four of us, kind of like the neighborhood studio. So I called and made an appointment and was introduced to Derek Saxenmeyer, the house engineer, and I could tell immediately that he was the right chap to work with, and we just took off from there. Derek essentially recorded us straight and allowed us to be ourselves, like a tutor! I think he got better performances out of us, made us think about our music and sound and yet never got in the way or tried to force ideas upon us. He played bass guitar on one track and loud on another. He’s a pleasure to work with, he cares about what he does, knows his technical stuff and we all think he did a brilliant job. We don’t actually have a ‘producer’ credit on the album, as basically it was just us being recorded and engineered by Del. We’ll certainly record the next collection of songs with him, and we’ll probably do a bit of work with him on arrangements and stuff before we go in to record proper, so I guess that could make Derek ‘Producer’ or ‘Co-Producer’ on the next set of material. We’ll see.

AAM. Are you pleased with the final outcome? (sound – production wise).

Joe: Yes, we are.

AAM. Did the producer use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?

Derek Saxenmeyer: “For the most part, I didn’t get too experimental with mic placement, as I was more focused on getting the music down than getting wild sound-wise. What we did do, which might be worth noting, was that we used the basement as an echo chamber during mixing, to add both a bit of air and a bit of grunge to the sound. It’s most certainly not the most innovative thing out there, as studios of yesteryear frequently had purpose-built echo chambers, but it is amazing how much it contributes to the overall sound, considering how simple it is to do.”

AAM. How did you go on about capturing your ‘live sound’ in the studio, or perhaps you didn’t.

Joe: That doesn’t really apply as before going into the studio with our songs we were essentially getting to know each other through jamming and rehearsing the material, but hopefully we’ll be playing live before too long.

AAM. Please inform us about your favorite songs and lyrical highlights and why?

Joe: That’s a tough question. I like writing and word-play, and I write and re-write a lot, trying to hone the words. In fact I worry about the lyrics! This Is Pop is a favorite because it was the last song we recorded and the first we released; I’d had the chord structure for some time, but the words were written right at the end of making the album, so in that sense it’s the freshest song. Burn is a favorite, both lyrically and musically; I love the earthy cello and the rumbling strum of the acoustic 12-string, while the lyric, the core of which I’ve had for years, back to when I was living by the sea in Cornwall, south-west England, refers to shared experience and rites of passage. I’m pleased with how we stripped back Shake! in the studio. We initially recorded this with pretty much full-on rhythm guitars, it was like a wall of guitars, but then Derek and I were working with it in the studio on our own and trying different ideas and we dropped out all the rhythm guitars to leave the recurring, drone-cum-sitar-like transcendental guitar figure. This gave the song much more space, and allowed the mandolin to come through. Both Mike and Anar were away that day but the ideas were coming thick and fast so George added the Hammond organ stabs and I put down the bass. For the middle-eight I wanted the track to get a bit trippy and spacey, so in came Derek on oud, a Morrocan instrument that was in the studio, and his magic box of sound effects. The same approach applied to the lyric: I stripped out everything from the verses to leave one or two phrases that I repeated throughout. So, yes, Shake! was certainly a recording highlight for me, and a good lesson about how less is often more. Birdcage Walk is also a fave. It is essentially based around one chord, D, but the way we all lace the tune with hooks and riffs works really well. Anar’s keyboard playing on this track is amazing, he’s very talented and we’re lucky that he’s around.

AAM. Any overall theme of mood that you’re trying to capture while writing songs?

Joe: The usual gamut of emotions apply, at various times and to varying intensities.

AAM. Does your vision for coming up with music get affected at all by time?

Joe: I’m sure it does, the passing of time, age, etc.

AAM. Now you released this album yourselves, but did you yourselves interfere with anything on your “sound” and songs?

Joe: No, we didn’t. There’s hardly any effects or tricks or gizmos to our sound, it’s all quite natural, I’d say, and Derek allowed that to happen, he’s a great to record with, he has empathy.

AAM. Are there any “crazy” behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?

Joe: No, not really. We were quite serious about the whole project, I certainly was, wanting to get it right and do justice to our music and songs. That probably sounds a bit dull and boring, but so be it. Having said that, we did have a laugh and a lot of fun, but there was no hell raising!

AAM. How would you describe the sound of your new CD to any potential new fan?

Joe: That’s a tough one. We make guitar-driven pop music, I guess the sound revolves around rhythm guitar work and sparkling keyboards, underpinned by some powerful drumming. We’re all into different music, from classic 1960s and 70s through New Wave to the here and now of contemporary alternative. I guess our album reflects all those influences to one extent or another but, ultimately, it has a predominantly English pop sound because of my voice and the guitar-based structure to most of the songs.

AAM. If there’s anything you’d like to add, say, please do.

Joe: Well, your readers can listen to our music by visiting laitmerhouse.bandcamp.com or soundcloud.com/latimer-house. The album is also up on Spotify if folk want to check our stuff there. I try to keep our Facebook and Twitter pages lively, so if people like our music and want to keep up to date then that’s the best way to do so.