Is there a real "Gran Jukle’s Field"?
SE: No, or at least not that I know of. When I was around 15 I had this idea about a place called "Jukle’s Field", where this TRON-alien type zoomed around and messed with the town’s people. On our first real album "Wonderworld of Colourful" there’s a little excerpt between tracks where you hear me talking to my good friend and later drummer in the Nines, Aaron Nielsen, at 15, saying "tell me about Jukle’s Field" and then I go on about the "greens and yellows" etc.
For this new album, I had written a tune about a girl who was shunned by society because she was declared insane. The truth is that she simply was her own person, and refused to conform to what some call "normal" behaviour. In her loneliness she found solice in her Grand Mother’s field… So I brought out the "Jukle’s Field" name for that song and it became, "Gran Jukle’s Field". When it came to naming the album, I was trying to find some title that brought all the different songs and varied styles together. I liked the idea of "Gran Jukle’s Field" as a metaphor for escapism and solice. as most of my songs on a musical level are about escaping… hence
"Gran Jukle’s Field" as the album name.
Where did you get the inspiration for "Chantel Elizabeth"?
SE: My eldest daughter. Her name is Chantel and her middle name is Elizabeth and she’s 5 years old. The tune was a little melody that I would sing to her on walks in the park or around the house while we made lunch. I have come to the conclusion that children are great barometers for picking songs. The pub chant part came later and I was going to add a bag pipe at the end but unfortunately the song was in the wrong key for the bag pipe to work.
Did this album and the last one "Calling Distance Stations" overlap as you were putting them together? And how did Bleu and Jason Falkner get involved?
SE: I did have 4 songs that were mastered but didn’t end up on "Calling Distance Stations", not because they weren’t up to par, but because when it came to sequencing the album, the flow didn’t work for some. Those tunes ended up on the new album.The rest of "Gran Jukle’s Field" though was really recorded for the new album. I reconnected with Andy Webb, who was the original Nines guitar player and who played on "Properties of Sound" and "Wonderworld of Colourful" . This was great, in that Andy and I go back to elementary school so we’re very old friends and we don’t have to say much, when it comes to arranging the songs, as we’re 99% on the same page. I also reconnected with old friend, Aaron Nielsen, the other original Nines member, who played drums on a couple of tracks on this new album.
Jason Falkner had mixed a bunch of tunes on "Calling Distance Stations" and mixed "Find our way back home" on "Gran Jukle’s Field". I met Jason originally back in 2001. We opened for him in Hollywood at a club called "Club Vinyl". At that gig our guitar player accidentally mixed up Jason’s guitar after sound check. My guitar player at that time, Sam Tallo, was like,(opening up the guitar case) "hey, this is a really great guitar and a hell of a lot more expensive than mine…uh, how did I get this?" Jason, came back to the club pretty damn quickly when he opened up his case and saw this really really shitty guitar in front of him. I hate to say this, but we also ended up drinking all of his "imported" beer that club supplied that night, which we thought was our beer as it was in the band room back stage…nice start to our first introduction… but in the end, Jason really was and is a great person and is very charming and modest. I was a big fan of his solo stuff and his work with the Grays. So when I started on "Calling Distance Stations" I contacted him and asked if he wanted to get involved and he was totally into it.
I can’t remember how I found out about Bleu. I know that I had several people tell me to listen to his stuff. Someone gave me a copy of his album, "Red Head". When I listened to it, it really floored me. The production on it was just so big and the songs were SO strong. When I was starting to track songs for what would be the new album, I thought it would be great to see what would happen if we wrote together. I had just finished writing with Andy Partridge (XTC) and I was eager to co-write again. I flew down to Boston where Bleu was staying last January. We wrote and recorded "Dance just for me" literally in 2 days at his friend Ducky Carlisle’s studio. I loved the way the tune sounded so I asked Bleu to take a crack at mixing a batch of songs that I had tracked. He’s a real talent and it was great to
work with him hope to do it again some time.
"I’m Lost" is an amazing tune in the Gibb style. Were you thinking of any
particular album or moment in your life when you wrote it?
SE: Thanks. It was fun to do. I started playing a bunch of synthesizers and rented a Roland Juno G as well and I stumbled onto a bunch of disco sounding chords and sounds. Then I thought, let’s make a disco album. So I recorded "I’m Lost" and "Don’t be a fool" as songs for a new disco release that I was planning at the time. I wanted the songs to sound kind of like they were from 1979 or 1980. Disco, like new wave, around that time, had started to embrace synthesizers over more acoustic instruments…but there was still live drummers back then who played on sessions like they were machines..which I find so cool and also hillarious to listen to. Take a listen to the drummer on Gary Numan’s early albums. He’s rocking down and yet the whole vibe is this rock/android/machine thing. So many 79-80’s disco artists that had previously used real strings, started to play around with synth sounds and pads as replacements. Craig Lapsley, the main drummer on this album, is an amazing versatile drummer but his expertise is "disco" or dance music. He played a drum groove with a drum machine that I had programmed, that sounded like the Bee Gees "you should be dancing". Andy Webb, played this chunky Bee Gees guitar riff, and I wrote the lyrics as a tribute to that era…"lost in the memory" of that time period.
How do you feel that band has grown since the early days?
SE: I think that I am more confident now than when I started. I don’t think we have ever been too influenced by what was top 40 at a given time. "Wonderworld of Colourful" our first thing really had no tie to the grunge movement that was popular at that point in time. I don’t think any of our albums sound absolutely tied to the time that they were recorded, which is a luxury now as people are still discovering the Nines back catalogue as "new" albums . We still get tv and film placement from older albums, which I think is great, in that it shows that they don’t sound dated. Where I think I am more confident today is with respect to self editing songs. I used to edit piano ballads or dance tunes or songs that were not "nines" sounding enough in my head in the early days. I didn’t have the confidence to just do what I felt completely. I was very self conscious of the songs "working" within the parameters of a band. I now look at the Nines as something that stands for a certain quality, regardless of the style of the music. So it is open season for me in terms of what I want to do next and that is very liberating creatively.
Did you always want to be a musician?
SE: yes and no… yes in that it was always part of my life. I sang and worked on Sesame Street and other tv shows as a kid. I also was a boy soprano who sang in front of large groups in national competitions so I got used to performing in front of people and under pressure. I’ve been in a band since I was 12, and that’s when I started writing songs. The "no" part of the answer is that at one point I wanted to be a history professor. I have always loved history. In university I was on my way in that direction and I remember locking the door to the piano room that was right next to where I would study. I literally remember telling myself that the music thing was an
irritant and tried to just turn that part off in my head. The music thing didn’t jive with academics and often got in the way. I actually wanted to NOT do music, but of course couldn’t stop myself. I still suck at multi tasking.
Do you plan a full tour in support of this album?
What is next for The Nines?
SE: A full tour seems unlikely.. but you never know. The trouble with the "live" thing is that it’s very expensive and we are really quite independent, which is great creatively but not so great financially. In order to make a go of touring you need financing and marketing to back you up and I’m not 20 years old anymore, so I can’t afford the luxury of hopping into a van and just taking off. We have done mini-tours of the east coast of the U.S and west coast in the past. I really really do love playing live. We are looking to release this album in Japan, and if so, I would LOVE to play Japan. But we’ll see. I think I will approach the next thing I do either as a solo project, or a project outside of the Nines. The Nines has covered, I think, quite a bit of territory over the last 4 full length albums so I think I would like to try
something different next. Before I did this album, my plan was to do a traditional singer songwriter Americana album, that was influenced by the songcraft of a time gone by (1930s and 40s)… in the vein of Harry Nillson or Randy Newman. The Lewiston Smithe demo thing I did on Myspace (www.myspace.com/lewistonsmithe), was to test out these kind of demos and was kind of a light hearted joke and exercise…but I started to really enjoy the simplicity of it. Finish a song and put it up. I would like to go back to that idea. I have also been working with this guy Jackie out of NYC, who is deep into trip/trance groove stuff, that has always been of interest to me as well. So we’ll see. Either way, T.A.S Gold, our label, will expand next year, and so will the Nines, whether it is within the Nines brand name or outside of it.
Thanks for the interview, Steve I really enjoyed the album.