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15 Questions to Paul Bradley

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hello. I’m good thanks. I’m sat in my small and cluttered studio / office in Preston UK, looking out on a sunny spring day and watching two birds building a nest in a tree.

What’s on your schedule right now?

I’ve a CD due on Shining Day shortly and I’ve just helped Maja Elliott (Current 93) with some recordings that will be out shortly as a single on Precordings in Italy. I hope to be going into the studio with Monos (Colin Potter, Darren Tate) shortly and I’m waiting on a finished piece from David Wells for release on Twenty Hertz. A few other things planned as well.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
Artistically the time I spent at university was the single biggest influence on me, especially a lecturer called Colin Murrell. It is there that I was first introduced to music by the likes of Nurse With Wound and there was really no going back after that.

No I do not see myself as part of a movement.

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
I think music is currently in a period of change. As with cassette tapes and VHS video recorders in the 80’s, the Internet is seen as the death kneel for music. The music industry (meaning the bigger corporations of the music world) complain that music downloads are the ruin of the industry, but I have little sympathy with them. They fail to acknowledge that a drop in sales could be linked to the poor quality dross that is currently saturating the mass market. I do however have sympathy with artists who due to Internet downloads are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living from their craft (although of course, some circles would see it that such a crass and deplorable thing would never happen). I have no problem with downloads as such; they do have a positive side. For instance, they can open a world of music to someone who otherwise would never be exposed to it not to mention the portability and ease of use of the MP3 players. However what I do have a problem with is the lack of control over what happens to our own creations. It is not for someone else to decide how best they think somebody’s music should be distributed and presented by, for example, sharing files without the artist’s permission. You will never win round the ‘I will download everything for free because I can’ crowd, you can’t have a discussion or reason with people like that.

It is worth remembering here that MP3 files etc are a step backwards with regards to sound quality. What passes itself off as ‘CD quality’ is a long way short of that and it concerns me that there will be a generation of listeners unable to tell the difference between their crap quality sounds files and a CD. Poor quality computer files played through poor quality ‘in-ear’ headphones whilst on the train to work is killing the ability of people to actually listen.

I am sure we as independent artists will find our feet, it certainly is a challenge to look at new ways of presenting music, it keeps us from being lazy and is ultimately to the music buyer’s benefit. However I am not clever enough to offer any answers to all of this. In fact I have more questions than answers on this topic.



What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
I see composition as the act of arranging sound.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?

For me improvising can only take you so far. The musician and listener will almost inevitably find themselves going up the same streets and eventually hitting the same brick wall. It can be great fun to play and also to watch in concert but for me, it is ultimately superficial. Recordings of improvised music are rarely half as interesting as the ‘event’ itself. 
I personally use improvising as a great starting point, as a sketch board for collecting ideas and trying things out. What doesn’t work is discarded and what does I use and expand upon.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
What constitutes a good or successful live performance that I am involved in, is one that when I’ve finished I can smile about rather than complain about.

When I’m approaching performing it’s hard to find the balance between the boredom of watching some guys behind a laptop with what is traditionally accepted as a performance. People still expect a stage with people on it who are obviously doing something. One thing I do try to avoid is using visuals the sake of using visuals, to have ‘bells and whistles’ to essentially mask an inadequacy. I have done this once and I wasn’t happy with it at all. Those are practicalities though, for the actual performance itself it is about confidence, being comfortable and trusting your own capabilities and being secure in the knowledge that what you are presenting is good. The fact that the minutes rush past and you’re so involved in what is being created that before you know it, its over.

A lot of the above goes for being a spectator as well.

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border – and if so, where?
No I do not draw a border. Music to my mind is just organised sound. Anything that has human intervention and is organised, appropriately framed and placed within the context of music, is music. The human intervention can be as simple as raising and lowering the volume fader on a field recording. This simple act of fading in and out means a decision has been made to organise the recording and has therefore framed the work. Listening to this then places it within the context of music. However the ‘what is music’ discussion is so subjective that there is no answer.

Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
I’m taking the term ‘popular’ to mean anything that appears in the ‘rock and pop’ music racks in a general music store. I’m not sure what ‘serious music’ is to be honest. Music that is thought about? thought provoking? acclaimed? accomplished? pretentious? There is plenty of ‘popular’ music that are all these things.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
‘Should’ art have a political / social aspect? No. Art is made for numerous reasons, and political or social comment is only one. An artist has no duty to anyone unless they choose to take it on.

True or false: People need to be educated about  music, before they can really appreciate it.

False. I can appreciate a fine-looking woman without knowing how the nervous system works or a glass of beer without knowing how it was brewed. This knowledge would do little to improve my appreciation of them.

Imagine a situation in which there’d be no such thing as copyright and everybody were free to use musical material as a basis for their own compositions – would that be an improvement to the current situation?.
That would be disastrous for both artists and listeners and an enormous step in the wrong direction. Artists would find it ever harder to make a living from their work and listeners would find less music becoming available to them. The music world is already infested with lazy ‘sampling’ of other people’s music. I really don’t think we need anymore of that.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Performers would include Nurse With Wound, Andrew Chalk, Francisco Lopez, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Boredoms and as we are in fantasyland I would resurrect a few people from the dead for the day and add Jeff Buckley, Charles Bukowski and Miles Davis to the bill.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
I’m hoping I’ll know when I hear it.

All that was (Twenty Hertz)
Sepulchral (Twenty Hertz)
Anamnesis (Twenty Hertz)
Sophia Drfits (Mystery Sea/Twenty Hertz)
Liquid Sunset (Twenty Hertz)
Notes from the past - Scetches from Dust (Twenty Hertz)
Drone Works #1
Drone Works # 6
Twenty Hertz (ICR)
immure (mass 11)
Memorias Extranjeras (Alluvial Recordings)

Paul Bradley / Twenty Hertz Recording

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