Search The Line of Best Fit
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TLOBF Interview // Blank Dogs

TLOBF Interview // Blank Dogs

14 September 2010, 18:40
Words by Adrian Mules

Some albums get such a large build up that you are often bored of them before you’ve even heard them. So it can be a pleasant surprise (and a bit of a mad panic) when they are sprung upon you.

This was true of the new Blank Dogs album Land and Fixed, which was only just announced, yet is due out in a few weeks. Adrian Mules had a last minute opportunity to speak to Mike Sniper before he set out on tour, with no chance to listen to the album or pack his toothbrush he set about putting some questions to the man behind the dogs.

Hi Mike, how are you?

Oh, I don’t know. I’m a horrible sleeper. I feel weird and achy.

Sorry to hear that. Your new album release is a bit of surprise and I haven’t even heard it yet. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yeah, it is a surprise, right? You’ll hear it soon. It’s called Land and Fixed I’ve been working on it for what seems like forever. Lots of mixing and overdubs. I think people who like the old stuff will hate it and people who hated the old stuff will also hate it.

Ha, okay, so how does it differ in content and process from your previous releases?

It’s definitely more cleanly recorded, there’s a lot more in the mixing and very little distortion. I wanted to create a feeling of space. I found when listening to Under and Under it became this continuous, gauze-like swamp. It was meant to be listened to one side at a time, 5 songs at a time, but of course, it’s the iPod age and so that’s not how people listen to it. It’s all at once or skipping around, if they listen at all. I suppose this LP is a reaction to that. It’s still the same style of songwriting, just… more expansive.

I’m struggling for the right categorisation here, but this is an “official” release of yours. But you’ve handed out tapes after shows etc, is the material on this record the same as what’s on those tapes?

No, this is a new album of new material. One song, ‘Blurred Tonight’ appeared on the Phrases EP. I stuck it in there a while ago as a placeholder, and although I wrote many more songs that could have been on it, it just fitted too well. The tapes I’ve been selling at shows are just the old discography re-packaged.

Thanks for clearing that up. Are you a prolific maker of music that has to get stuff “out there” when it’s done?

Yes. There was a long delay between finishing the 2xLP and waiting for it to come out, almost 6 months in fact. And I usually wait 2-3 months when putting out full lengths on the label. I’ve been living with this current record for so long, when it was completed I couldn’t deal with the agony of waiting, I would have chopped songs and added more, having it out will be like a much needed divorce from working on it.

Why do you favour physical releases like cassettes over putting stuff out over the internet? I know you’ve had tracks to download from your blog before, but are you moving away from that?

Well, I’m not opposed to tracks on the internet. The entire discography is on iTunes, for example. The blog, it just became a situation where people were not getting the point of it. You really can’t do anything these days without getting attacked for it. The only way to maintain a semblance of “cool” is to do nothing. Making things and trying; these are uncool things.

It does seem to be often perceived as that. What is your earliest musical memory?

Probably ‘Come On Eileen’ by Dexy’s. My sister had the single, and it was her only one, so it was played constantly, That or Prince, I suppose.

I can really remember the video to that, it was played (what felt like) almost constantly on UK TV. When did you make the move into making music yourself?

I would write songs as a kid, but they were just music and melodies. I hadn’t learned any instruments until my early teens. I was way into tracking software then. It was really primitive, it took forever. I made a tape of whatever I was making then. I forget what I called it, it was the mid-90′s, I’m pretty sure it was a one word name, which was pretty ubiquitous at the time. I made maybe 5 or 6 of these tapes. I mean quantity, not 5 or 6 different titles.

When you began were you writing for your own enjoyment or were you aware when these songs came together how well they would be received?

I don’t think I ever enjoyed it. It’s always a task. I kind of approach everything like that. Probably not a good approach, huh? In regards to Blank Dogs, no I never thought there’d be a reaction or attention of any sort.

You almost exclusively write and record alone and then play live with a band or are additional musicians involved in the recording process as well? I know The Vivian Girls have contributed in the past but can we expect the net to widen?

They just added vocals to one track, ever. But, I’m open to working with other people. I keep Blank Dogs mostly to myself, but that’s changed with the new line-up. We’re recording together a bit. Mayfair Set is a collaboration that I really enjoy doing.

What happened to TEETH that you were doing with Spider?

Took forever to get that single done. Just became frustrating, really.

Okay, so are you ever able to faithfully reproduce the sounds you hear in your head?

No, never. Never never never.

What about live? Was the transition from studio to stage one you struggled with?

Yes, the first shows were horrible. Then we became a full band for a while, a 5 piece, with drums. We became a good enough little garagey band, but it missed the point of the music. It should have been more weird and wimpy. Now we’re a 3 piece, mostly electronic and I think we’re getting there. I don’t ever see Blank Dogs as being this powerhouse live band. I think that’d be odd considering it’s electronic pop music with skeletal guitars. It would just be weird to be this crazy live band.

So you prefer creation and recording to playing live?

Of course. Playing live can be ok, but being a musician is one of the only professions where you’re expected to perform everywhere and tour, etc. I don’t ask architects to come over and replicate their building designs in front of me note-for-note.. I’m off track and missing the point. And probably wrong.

No, I think you are right some things need not be recreated in from of an audience. Would you be interested in producing other peoples work in the future?

Yes, that would be a welcome break. Although I think people would have the wrong idea of how it’d turn out to the point where they’d never ask.

What current bands are you into?

Everything on my label, pretty much. Off the label, I like Crystal Stilts, Xeno & Oaklander, Nite Jewel. I just got into Beach House because Pamela, who plays in the live band, loves them. I miss a lot of new music. I mean Beach House is a pretty huge indie band, I don’t know how these things get passed me, but, whatever, that’s how it goes. I still mainly listen to older music anyway.

Thanks for your time Mike, how does the rest of 2010 look for you?

Busy. Stressful. Already planned out, so it’s almost like it’s over already.

Blank Dogs are playing the following dates in October.

4 // BRIGHTON, The Albert
5 // BRISTOL, Start The Bus w/No Age
6 // MANCHESTER, Deaf Institute w/Errors
7 // GLASGOW, Captain’s Rest
8 // LEEDS, Nation of Shopkeepers
9 // LONDON, CAMP (Nail the Cross)
11 // KORTRIJK, De Kreun
12 // UTRECHT, Club Dbs
13 // FREIBURG, Kafe Atlantik
14 // FRANKFURT, Hafen 2
15 // COPENHAGEN, Loppen
16 // OSLO, Garage
17 // STOCKHOLM, Debaser
18 // BERLIN, Bang Bang Club
19 // COLOGNE, King Georg
20 // HAMBURG, Indra
21 // WURZBURG, Indra
22 // ST GALLEN, Grabenhalle
24 // GAMBETTOLA, Treesessanta
25 // ROME, Circolo Degli Artisti
26 // PARIS, Le Point Ephemere
28 // NANTES, Festival Soy
29 // BORDEAUX, Le Saint Ex
30 // BARCELONA, venue tbc
31 // LONDON, The Luminaire

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