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INTERVIEW – Adam Spark, Birds Of Tokyo – October 2012

| 14 February 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar
Birds Of Tokyo 01

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Adam, thanks for your time talking to me today.

No problem.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Let’s get straight into it! You’ve released the teaser EP, This Fire. How indicative is this of the sound of the album you’re working on?

Well, yeah. It’s a good indication. I think the record is really quite textured and wide screen. It’s nothing really like Universes or Birds Of Tokyo, This Fire is probably the closest to our oldest material, I would say, than anything else.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Musically, having had a few listens to it now, it seems like you’ve pretty much almost forgone that indie-guitar anthem thing of the past, and there’s a lot more atmosphere and a pop sensibility there. Were they your goals, sonically, going in to it?

Yeah. We wanted to… I don’t know. We’ve done three records of the whole rocky thing with the similar kind of sound, to be fair. And with all due respect to that style, you know, we’ve done that now, it’s kind of a little bit… not in a negative way but we want to explore different sonic areas. The big talk a lot of the time is of the interplay between keyboard stuff and guitars, and just approach to guitars being much more atmospheric and having a sense of understated humbleness rather than bravado and all this sort of stuff. With the pop thing, we’ve always been shitty pop guys at heart, always have been, always will be. Our hearts really lie in that so it was pretty much spot on with that one.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: As a guitarist, is it more of a challenge for you to, using your words, “create a soundscape” rather than just play riffs and solos?

Yeah because you’re not really approaching it like a guitar player, you know, you’re approaching it… it’s achieving the sound. You are kind of approaching it more like a painter so you’re not just playing… “What notes am I playing?” and you know, “How’s my tone?” and all this sort of stuff. I don’t care about that stuff whatsoever. It’s more about where you play from your fingers and the effects and the soul to create a feeling. So preference for any sort of guitar ability or prowess kind of goes out the window when… you’re trying to create a three dimensional sort of space and a mood or a skill. So I think it’s harder, but it’s a different way of approaching it. I think…

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: A bit more experimental when you’re playing, perhaps?

Yeah, one of my big mission statements for this one, just personally, was just trying to avoid using any big chords, you know? So everything… there’s a lot of single and sort of two note guitar themes with massive amounts of reverb and with distortion, becoming more like a percussive sort of keyboard texture more than guitar guitar. It’s really fun. My heart is in it at the moment anyway so I’m digging it a lot.

Birds Of Tokyo 02

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: So what have you guys as a whole been listening to in order to get yourself into the frame of mind, I guess, to approach sonically things differently than you have in the past?

It’s what you could probably imagine. It’s a lot more ambient or textured things. There’s lots of post-rock, lots of shoegaze kind of stuff. There’s always stuff like that Eno’s Berlin kind of soundscaping or whatever. Pretty much try and take both elements by putting them with big sort of churchesque drums. A lot of… well I’m not calling them gospel songs at all, but listening to some church and choral things, and listening to Springsteen and stuff like this big anthemic songs with just simple kick drums and all that kind of stuff.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Yeah, like I said I’ve had a few listens to the EP and the reference points, the obvious ones that leapt out at me: Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Brian Eno’s stuff, that sort of thing.

Yeah. There’s definitely a lot of that in there. I mean there’s tons more than that; but there’s no point being a wanker and listing all the [influences] that no-one is going to know about, so [it’s easier] to reference the [more obvious] ones, you know?

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Yeah, sure. So reading on your website, there’s a big blog entry, I think you’ve used it on your Facebook page as well, saying that you’ve burnt to the ground your way of working. The way you’ve explained your approach to the guitar on your album sort of sums that up. But in terms of in the studio, how have things really differed this time around?

I don’t know. We worked in kind of a different way. It was always the same sort of approach to recording as a band and then going back and chucking parts on top of it. But we have a lot more time just to sort of… plugging in every little device and toy and noodle around with it. And do various versions of parts and stuff, so I think having the time we had… and one point we were occupying two different studios for about five weeks, so Kenny is doing vocals in one room and we’re in the other room just working on little sound effects and textures for weeks on end. We haven’t had the chance to do that before.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: It’s a bit of a luxury in the music industry nowadays to have that much time up your sleeve in a studio, I guess.

Yeah, I mean we’re all very fortunate. The place we worked at in California, the studios were really, really cheap so [laughs] it was a small sort of bedroom style place, so we’re very lucky that we could afford to have the two rooms going. There’s no way that we could do that at all with big slick studios, which generally don’t have any real vibe anyway, so that’s fine!

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Sure. So your music is, especially lyrics, very intense. Surely it’s not all work and no play in the Birds of Tokyo camp?

No. It’s pretty much… it’s probably 80% the other way around most of the time. [laughs]

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Well you sound like a very laid back guy, talking to.

Well man, here is the one thing that sort of keeps us afloat. If we didn’t have that in our weird little worlds that we sort of live in… if we didn’t have that then I don’t know man, you’d probably drive yourself crazy. We are very serious about our music and we’re not a happy, shiny sort of band but we’re very happy, fun people man. It’s basically five idiots [laughs].

Birds Of Tokyo This Fire EP

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: The album’s out in March – since your last album two years ago, you’ve got two new members on board with Glenn and Ian. How have they affected the Birds of Tokyo sound?

Well Berney… Ian [bass], he has really helped a lot. He put a lot more focus into the rhythm section of the band. He’s a different sort of player to Anthony [Jackson] in that he’s very sort of attacking and very, very rhythmic, very much like he’s just bursting out of his shirt [laughs]. And Glenn [Sarangapany, keyboards], Glenn has been my sort of musical partner in crime for quite a few years now anyway, so his role on this record… I guess he just sort of steps it up a lot more day to day in the studio in Sydney where we spend most of our time working. He’s in there a lot either by himself or with me, just exploring, exploring, exploring. It’s kind of what you get on the record as well, some really, really beautiful moments since Glenn serves very distant and dreamy piano stuff and whatever, so it’s certainly shining through more.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Yeah, cool. Now in that time also, you, Ian and the other Adam have all relocated over east. Was that just a coincidence of different desires or was that a game plan for the next step of the band?

No not sort of planned out, but since January when I was over here from Perth just kind of certain circumstances a few years ago and then Kenny moved over to the Gold Coast, now he lives down in Melbourne. Adam lives in Brisbane in a house. The other two actually live in a very nice little suburb in Sydney as well. Yeah there’s three in Sydney, one in Melbourne, one in Brisbane.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: And last year was pretty intense for the band. You know, Best Australian Artist at the ARIAs and a whole lot of other awards and stuff. How does the pressure of achievements like that affect the interpersonal relationships in the band?

It doesn’t really affect the relationships necessarily because we’re very fortunate that there is some accolades that sort of come along with the band or whatever. But we sort of share it together so… I think the main thing is we don’t really get carried away with them. I don’t know anyone in their house who has got any awards hanging up or anything like that. So that sort of stuff… it is what it is. It’s nice to get a nod, certainly nothing that we even really spend time discussing or acknowledging really.

Birds Of Tokyo 03

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: So it doesn’t stress you out? Going in to the studio and going, “Shit, we’ve got to do something that’s going to equal or better that.”

No man, because I mean we never expected things to go that way on the last record so the fact that that happened is still well beyond where we thought we should be. So I don’t imagine it’s going to happen again and so we sort of put that out of our minds straight away. All we’re interested in doing is creating a really big and beautiful connecting moment of a record which felt like it was a push against the stuff we’ve done before.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Yeah, cool. So just to wrap up quickly. If you could magically go back in time and be part of the recording of any album, what would it be?

It would probably be Loveless by My Bloody Valentine.


Yeah. Now I’ve been listening to that record for 20 years man [laughs]. That makes me sound really old. I’m not actually that old but you know…

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Mate I’m 46, it’s cool. I know I’m older than you! [laughs]

Yeah! You know, as a teenage kid the thing still breaks my brain apart man. It’s just unparalleled as far as I’m concerned so I just love that record. Actually the guy we worked with today… one of the guys worked in a record studio, had done some work with Kevin Shields once back in the ‘80s or ‘90s or whatever in the UK and showed me a couple of little clips of what they were doing.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Oh nice! And finally mate, what does “rock” mean to you?

I don’t know man. The word has been so violated [laughs] by so many opinions and… how it’s thrown out and whatnot these days so I don’t know. Rock to me is just sort of… I don’t really know any more, man. We all know what it means but I don’t know. It’s still playing with drums and guitars and bass in any format… it’s kind of rock isn’t it? We’ve always got distortion on, anyway, it’s always going to be rock and roll to a degree. It’s kind of lost its meaning to me man. Does that make sense?

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Yeah it does. The beauty of the question to me is that it means something different to pretty much everybody, you know?

Yeah, for sure.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Certainly what I think is rock with a capital “R” is completely different to ‘rock and roll’ of every decade that passed. Anyway mate, look, thanks so much for your time; that was awesome.

No probs, thanks man.

Category: Interviews

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