Graeme Ronald has been part of the Glasgow music scene for a good ten years as part of The Royal We, Multiplies and then launching the Remember Remember project. Starting as a solo venture and recording his self-titled debut album mostly by himself, the name took on more members as time went by, culminating in the current seven-piece band responsible for last year’s excellent The Quickening album. Influenced by minimalism, Krautrock and eastern music, that record was a wonderfully layered experience, lots of instrumentation and repetitive grooves, and it has now spawned a remix record, The Mixening, featuring re-workings of some of The Quickening’s tracks by the likes of The Twilight Sad, Dam Mantle and The Phantom Band. I meet up with Graeme at Glasgow’s Stereo bar on a surprisingly busy Tuesday afternoon to discuss that record, and Glasgow’s version of Rock Family Trees.
I begin by asking how Rememeber Remember’s recent tour with Errors went. “It was great fun,” says Graeme. “It was a really hassle-free tour; we get on really well with those guys. They’re old mates, so there was no sense of, like, ‘oh, they’re the headliners’. You know sometimes you do tours and you know your place…I mean, we did have to get asked to stop stealing beers occasionally!” So a pretty successful time then? “Yeah it was just like a bunch of mates hanging out on tour.”
As Graeme has been around the Glasgow scene for a good while, he must have a bit of history with Errors. “Well, James [Errors’ drummer], before he was in Errors me and him were in a band together called Multiplies,” he reveals, “and Errors poached him basically! So I’ve known James for over ten years and Errors first gig in Glasgow was in fact supporting Multiplies…which I believe is the gig where they got signed to Rock Action. There’s definitely a history there! So I’ve know the other guys for years as well, but they seemed like wee guys back then…I suppose I was a wee guy too, but they were about 19 or 20. There’s a mutual friendship and respect there, definitely.”
I ask Graeme whose idea it was to release The Mixening, a record of remixes. “I guess it just came about cos there was quite a few people we knew who were in bands who said they really liked the record, so it was just kind of natural,” he reveals. “We’d only really had one remix done before, and it was something I’d wanted to do with the first album, just get a bunch of people to remix. And, yeah, there were a lot of people up for it this time – either that we wanted to ask or had approached us. So it was just a natural thing to do as we were setting out on a tour, and the album [The Quickening] had been out for a while so we thought it’d be good to have a new release to sell.” I ask if there was an overriding concept to the record. “Originally it was meant to be an EP, maybe four songs, because we had the remix from Ben Butler and Mousepad, and the Twilight Sad one, I think we had those two – and the Dam Mantle – but because those three were so good we though why not just extend this out and get a whole album.”
The artists who remix the songs take them in a very different yet utterly perfect direction, moving them from the looped guitar and orchestration of Remember Remember’s originals to a glitchy electronic world where anything goes at times. Is Graeme happy with the direction it went? “Yeah, one thing I don’t like with remixes is when someone takes the tune and puts a 4/4 beat on it, push the tempo up a bit and make it an instant dance tune. Most of the tunes are electronic, but no-one’s gone down the obvious ‘turn it into a techno tune’ route.” That must be something of a relief when other bands are taking your music away and doing something with it. Graeme agrees: “I guess it’s testament to the versatility of that kind of music. I kind of started off in electronic music, or I tried to make some a little while ago, and found that I was more drawn to acoustic instruments and a natural approach, but I still love electronic music.”
But wasn’t Remember Remember just Graeme at the start, with loops etc? “Oh yeah, definitely, but a very primitive and basic understanding of music software”, admits Graeme. And how did he get on with his own remix on the album. “It’s not really a remix”, he reveals. “Well, it’s a cover! It’s basically when we recorded that song [‘A Larger Demon’] initially, on the album, it’s a slow ambient piano piece but I’d written it to start off that way: slow and minimal, and build up…thinking of, like, a Yann Tiersen song, a simple thing that develops into a faster, more arpeggiated playing.” So, did something happen to change this, I ask. “When I recorded it in the studio, the band and the producer were quite keen to keep it just as the ambient thing,” says Graeme. And was he happy with this? “Thinking back, I agree because in the context of the album it’s a break; it provides a moment of relief and space, because most of our songs are generally busy with melodies and stuff like that, so on the album it really works. It’s so minimal; it’s only got like four notes!” But the other version of the song was still recorded at Graeme’s insistence. “In the studio, I was like ‘can I record it anyway?’ so that I have it, and I was always keen to do something with it and this was the perfect opportunity to use it. I’m into the notion of a remix as being very broad – it’s a reinterpretation of the original song.”
Turning to the “remixes” not done by Graeme, I ask if he was happy to let the artists go off and do whatever they liked with the track. “Yeah, absolutely”, he confirms. “There was no sense of getting them and having to approve them or whatever, the brief was to do whatever you want. I didn’t want to end up with a bunch of remixes that sounded more or less the same as the original; I wanted stuff that would surprise me. I was really curious to see what people could do with something I’ve written and they’re putting their own take on it.” And speaking of surprises, the Twilight Sad remix of ‘White Castle’ must have come as a shock to Graeme. The hard electro/industrial pulse of the remix came before anyone had heard the last record from that band, itself a brutal electronic experience. “That one was one of the first ones we got, actually. And it was a real surprise; I wasn’t sure what to expect but I loved it, and it makes sense when you hear the album.”
I want to know whether or not there was anyone who Remember Remember wanted to do a remix but couldn’t get, or refused. Graeme is slightly reticent at this point: “I probably shouldn’t say….but Errors were meant to do one. They were an obvious choice being labelmates and mates generally, but they were like super-busy, obviously, because their new record has been really massive and they had a bunch of other commitments.” So there was no chance of them coming on board? “Well, Craig from Rock Action [RR’s and Errors’ label] was saying he’d be able to get them to do it. To be honest, I’m revealing a bit too much…but the reason we ended up getting The Phantom Band’s remix was because Errors said they had no time. Not that we didn’t want to get a Phantom Band one, it wasn’t someone I would have thought to have asked. “ It turns out, though, that Nobodaddy’s remix of ‘Unclean Powers’ is probably the standout track; a distillation of all that’s great about The Phantom Band and also an unexpected disco treat from the band’s guitarist, Andy. “On reflection, it’s one of my favourite remixes on the whole album,” agrees Graeme. “It’s a total journey, that one; it goes so many different places. That was the last remix that we received, and I was sequencing the album but couldn’t get the order right. But when that one came through I thought ‘right, that’s it!’ It was just what we needed. The last few that we got were a little gloomier so it was good to have an audacious disco-y one in there and I loved it.”
Alongside the more well-know Scottish faces (Errors, Twilight Sad, Phantoms) there’s also the less-known name of Ben Butler and Mousepad, whose remix of ‘John Candy’ shows off their videogame electro perfectly. I ask Graeme a little more about him: “I met him probably around the same time as the Errors guys actually; he used to do a project called Germlin way back before loads of people started doing the chip tune/gabba techno that sounds like it’s made on a Gameboy. So he was one of the people I’d first heard doing that kind of stuff. He’s this kind of small-statured guy but super talented; then he did Gay Against You who were performance art punk madness.“ So would Graeme call himself a bit of a fan? “I’ve just always loved his music,” he agrees, “and now his latest thing as Ben Butler is kinda like Herbie Hancock synth riffs. He’s genuinely one of the most talented people I’ve met, I totally love his music. He was one of the first people I asked to do one.”
Then there’s also FOUND, whose electronic leanings belies their place on the roster of Fence Records, who remix ‘Hey Zeus’. “I’ve got to be honest and say I’d not really heard of them,” says Graeme. “The label suggested them as they had a contact for them. I think I’d seen them live, once, and had been quite into it but I didn’t have any expectations; it’s a really cool remix.”
I move on to ask about having a new record out but not being able to play it live; is this something that Graeme finds strange? “That’s a good question actually, I hadn’t thought of it like that. I guess being able to sell the remix album [on tour with Errors in new places] helps draw attention to the songs themselves; that they’ve been remixed by a bunch of people that people are more likely to have heard of than us, so it gives the songs more attention.” Does it seem to be working? “By coincidence, Twilight Sad was on tour at the same time so we seemed to be hitting the same places either on the same night, or the night after. So the whole front row was these guys in Twilight Sad t-shirts! And that gave us the obvious cheesy promotional [Graeme adopts a dorky voice] ‘well if you like The Twilight Sad…’!”
As we end the interview we talk about a shared love of minimal music like Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and Krautrock, Graeme reveals his participation in Composition Marathon, part of Glasgow’s Minimal:Extreme festival which involved writing a new piece of music within a 12 hour period, then having it performed the next day by a group of musicians assigned to them. This is clearly a lot to take on in such a short period of time, but what’s next for Remember Remember? “We’ve had a couple of festival offers, so we’re trying to figure out dates, and we’re playing a couple of dates in April in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I try to always write, it’s always good to be working on things…”
The Mixening is avaiable now through Rock Action Records.