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THE FLIES - Sean Cook Interview

Sean Cook was bass player in SPIRITUALIZED from 1992-1999, then he began working as LUPINE HOWL, with Mike Mooney and Damon Reece (all ex-SPIRITUALIZED). Now, with Bob Locke and Tim Norfolk (aka production duo the Insects), he is in THE FLIES and they're making completely different music than before.

Where are you now and what are you doing?

I'm in our studio in Bristol, drunk, listening to 'Back in the USA' by MC5.

First I have to say that I was a big fan of SPIRITUALIZED, not only because of Jason Pierce, but because of their music. I really liked LUPINE HOWL too, so I must be thankful to Jason that he "threw you out of band", I think. So, what went wrong with these bands?

Firstly, I'm glad that you like the stuff I have been involved with in the past. What happened to these bands? In the case of Spiritualized, it's a long story that has been covered with greater or lesser degrees of accuracy in numerous press articles. The basic story is that the singer was behaving like a total cock, we called it like we saw it, he didn't like that, so he sacked us. This kind of thing happens quite a lot in bands. Certain members, usually singers, disappear up their own asshole and get a bit carried away in terms of their perception of their own importance. When this happens the other members of the group either put up with it (in which case the group trundles on for a while and then fades) or they don't which leads to the whole thing rapidly going tits - often in quite a dramatic fashion. Spiritualized is an example of the latter.

Lupine Howl was a completely different scenario. The band actually hasn't formally split up - we are just resting! Various different factors conspired together to bring this situation about. Firstly, we parted company with our record label which created a fundamental financial problem. Secondly, Mike Mooney (co-writer and guitarist) had a child and moved back to Liverpool with his partner which made working together a logistical problem (although I totally understand why he had to do this). Thirdly, I think that during the whole time that Lupine Howl was together I was guilty of mildly losing the plot which can't have helped. We have actually recorded a third LP which really only needs a few overdubs and a mix and I think this LP is by far the best stuff we ever did - we should really finish it and release it someday.

How did it come to you to form THE FLIES?

The Flies began in an incremental way. At first (whilst Lupine Howl were still active) I was invited to sing on some instrumental bits and pieces that Bob Locke and Tim Norfolk (the soundtrack production team otherwise known as, 'The Insects') had lying around. These initial collaborations worked out well so, over time, we began to collaborate on a more formal basis. As a body of work began to build we began to get interest from record labels and eventually became, 'The Flies". We initially signed a digital distribution deal with Universal which led to a physical deal with No Carbon Records (a subsidiary of Universal) in 2007. Our debut LP, "All Too Human" was released in November 2007.

As far as I read songs on All Too Human are at least two years old and ready to be published. Why took you so long to release them?

Your understanding of this is partly correct but not entirely. Many of the tracks on 'All Too Human' had been very close to completion for some time before the LP was released. However, some tracks (for example, 'The Elements', 'Chills' and 'One of Them') were written and recorded only very shortly before the LP was mastered. It may appear that the LP took a long time to record but if you condense the hours and days we spent working on it I would estimate that it totals around the same amount of time it takes any band to record an LP if they do it in one hit. Perhaps the main reason that the recordings on 'All Too Human' were spread out over an unusually long period of time is that The Flies were never really a pre-conceived 'band'. Rather, they seemed to evolve over time.

If we can say that SPIRITUALIZED and LUPINE HOWL have some similarities, there is nothing of it in the sound of THE FLIES except your Sean Cooks voice. Why that drastic change?

Yes, this is probably true to a large extent. Personally, I felt that I wanted to do something different to the stuff I had done in the past. The input of Bob and Tim helped me to do this. There are many musical tastes and influences that all three of us share and many of these influences are present in the groups that I have worked with in the past but I think that Bob and Tim brought a lot of influences to bear that were not as prominent in my previous projects and this input has taken things in a new direction. Furthermore, I felt that I wanted to concentrate more on my vocal. As I worked more with Bob and Tim I could see that their approach to music production improved my vocal and augmented a different approach to making music which I felt was a natural extension for me. I felt that I had spent a long time creating various takes on psychedelic rock music and it seemed to me that, generally speaking, I had done as much of that stuff as I wanted to do. Although I still love noisy music, I'm not so sure that I want to make it as much as I used to. I feel that I have covered that ground reasonably well and that it is time to do something else.

I read somewhere that you were working with MASSIVE ATTACK on their fourth album, but all those sessions were rejected?

Yes, it is true that I did a reasonable amount of work with Massive Attack on what was intended to be the follow-up to their Mezzanine LP. We all went to Ridge Farm studios in Surry sometime late in 1999 I think. We recorded many hours of insane jams and had a great time doing it. However, I was aware during the course of these sessions that the sound we created was possibly a radical departure from the sound that people generally expected from Massive Attack. Even though Massive Attack make a policy of doing things differently on every record they make, I think they felt that these sessions were maybe not quite reflective of the direction they wanted to take. Mezzanine was a very difficult record to follow and this was compounded by various other changes in the Massive Attack camp and this led to a natural and understandable need to experiment with different approaches. Unfortunately, the experiment with us was just too extreme and too difficult to coherently blend fully into the Massive Attack sound. Despite this, bits and pieces of these sessions have emerged on some of Massive Attack's soundtrack work. Having said all of this, it would really only be proper to talk to Massive Attack if you want this question to be answered in a comprehensive manner.

Describe your album in few words?

The John Lennon Plastic Ono Band sellotaped to Eddie Cochran.

What are your favorite albums, movies, books of 2007?

This is a very difficult question for me to answer because I am not aware of anything (in terms of music) recently released that is anything other than a shameful disgrace and a stumbling block to progress. That is not to say that there is not anything of merit out there (afterall, very few people are aware of the existence of our record), it is just that I am not aware of it.
Modern bands that I like? err....I can only think of one - Figure 5 - a Glasgow mod/psyche band that are so good that no record company will touch them.
Modern books that I like? I haven't read many books that have been published this century but of those that I have read, Ian Brady's, "The Gates of Janus" was by far the best.
Modern movies? I actually watch a lot of movies - 'Inland Empire', 'Tell No One' and 'The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmicheal' are some of the movies that I have enjoyed recently.

Which do you prefer, cd, vinyl or mp3?

This is very simple. Vinyl is by far the format that I like the most. CD is good as well. MP3 is utter rubbish, pointless and to be avoided at all costs in my opinion. If I had any choice in the matter (which as an artist I obviously haven't) I would not release anything on this format. It often strikes me as strange the way that technology has 'developed' insofar that when it comes to watching mindless drivel on TV, the technology provided to pipe this utter crap into your living room is becoming ever more advanced. You can now watch your favorite soap in high definition, widescreen, 8-speaker surround-sound with super powered amplifiers that will blow your mind inside out. Yet when it comes to listening to music, the technology seems to be going in completely the opposite direction and you are given a degraded format to play over some tiny, shit device through terrible little speakers which are designed to be discretely hidden away so as not to unbalance the lay-out of your living room - bollocks.

What do you think about "Myspace" as service to promote yourself?

This is a difficult question to answer comprehensively. It brings into play a whole myriad of questions and unknown factors. Superficially, it would appear that a group could raise its' profile through Myspace and there are many groups who claim to have launched their career through Mypace. I question the simplicity of this. However, I think it is possible to raise your profile through these networking sites to some degree but precisely how effective the efforts of any band are in this area would require considerable statistical analysis. Even after such analysis had been carried out, the results would be arguable because one can always dispute the criteria of any such investigation and external factors would always cloud the findings. In the case of The Flies, I think that our Myspace presence has benefited us but exactly how and to what degree remains vague and a matter of opinion.

Are there any song that you would like to cover and any artist that you would like to play with?

I have occasionally been asked this question in the past and I have never been very good at answering it in a manner that makes good copy. The main reason for this is that I rarely think about such issues. However, that is not to say that The Flies do not enjoy doing cover versions - we have covered 'Ruby Tuesday' by The Rolling Stones and we were all very happy with the results and the process of recording it was enjoyable and creative. Enjoyable because there was a carefree ease involved with not having to write the track and creative because it was good to find ways to put a different slant on the song.

When it comes to working with other people, again this is not an issue that I ever dwell upon in any depth. The reasons for this are three-fold: Firstly, I am quite happy working with the people with whom I already work. Secondly, I have worked with a variety of people in the past (Dr John, Massive Attack, Elizabeth Frazer (Cocteau Twins), Beth Gibbons (Portishead), Jim Reid (The Jesus and Mary Chain) etc) and this fact, combined with my age, dictates that I am not as starry-eyed as one perhaps could be in one's youth when it is common to make statements such as, "wouldn't it be amazing to work with…..". Thirdly, wishes rarely come true so there is no point in having them.

What do you listen when you're at home, on tour, right now…?

I listen to a whole range of stuff. As I said earlier, right now I am listening to 'Back in the USA' by MC5. The LPs stacked in front of my record player at the moment include Neil Diamond, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Edith Piaf, The Perfect Disaster, Little Richard and Ted Taylor. Generally I listen to old records - to me they are generally more unusual, more authentic and more inspired than records produced by modern artists. I will qualify this by acknowledging that my knowledge of modern artists is limited.

Tell me something I would never guess about you?

There is nothing that you could guess about me - not even I can do that.

pedja // 24/01/2008


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