Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Oliver Wilde: "I've never really seen myself as a musician..."

03 May 2016, 13:00 | Written by Laurence Day

Bristol-based artist Oliver Wilde has speaks to us about his new EP and drawing a line under the past two years.

We'd already heard "Bifida" and "Blit Scratch", but now a full EP has arrived out of the blue. It's called Long Hold Star An Infinite Abduction, and it's eight tracks long (including the bonus tune), and it was almost never released after a series of personal/health issues. Getting the EP out has been a complex journey fraught with obstacles, but it's here now and serves as a monument to catharsis.

Wilde's been away from the spotlight since the release of 2014's Red Tide Opal In The Loose End Womb - this is his way of telling us he's still here as he prepares to release a full-length record later this year.

Could you tell us about the EP and how it was made?

A member of the band, Hugo Bishop, his mum's got this place down in Cornwall, literally on Land's End. She's a bit of a hippy – in the '60s she went on a pilgrimage and just found this property in the middle of nowhere and stayed there working the farm. In more recent history she was able to buy the property and basically just turned it into an ever-evolving art installation.

After Red Tide... came out and we'd gone on tour and stuff, I gained a little bit more confidence in working with other people and the idea of collaborating. I thought that it'd be interesting to try something new. I wasn't ever sure if I thought it'd be part of my 'linear trajectory' I had planned myself, in terms of making records in my bedroom and comfort zone, but I wanted to see what would happen if we all went down to Hugo's Mum's in Cornwall for a month.

We had one of those mobiles you get at school, and we built a studio and a practice space in there. I went down with a bunch of songs, but we ended up being heavily inspired by the land... it's a really amazing place there. There's a mound just next door as well, where the last witch was legally burned in the UK, and then just this incredible panoramic view of the ocean. I've never used that sort of influence or inspiration, but I thought it wanted to see what we could conjure from ourselves there. It was a great exercise – we made lots of friends, and a few enemies... this record is a snapshot of that time.

If I'm honest, It didn't end well. It was going to be an album, but I ended up cutting a lot of it. I felt like I'd over-compromised... originally I wasn't even going to put it out, but Howling Owl, as per usual, managed to chat me around. I must admit, I don't see it as part of the path I was on.

These sessions were two years ago. After that, due to a lot of personal and health issues, I plunged headfirst into a confusing and unusual depression. I suppose it's a common defence mechanism to bury yourself away and disappear. I couldn't feel positive... I couldn't feel good without feeling guilty about making music. All the confidence I'd built up over the first couple of records got knocked back, and every time I tried to make anything, it was so self-absorbed and so self-aware.

So the music itself was actually recorded a long time ago. It took a few people to convince me and go into the studio to mix it... there's a lot of mixed feelings within the record, but I think that's quite obvious. As I was beginning to plunge into that world of depression and darkness, I think that's when I was writing this stuff. A lot of the songs come from quite a negative, confused place.

The one thing I am thankful of is working with the band and being in Cornwall influenced it in a way that it makes it maybe kind of beautiful. I suppose the string arrangements and everything that we did made my realm of darkness into a more beautiful place – I think that's at the core of what I try to do with art anyway.

Originally there was a lot more music, but it got shaved down until it felt like it was actually me rather than that person who was there two years ago.

How do you feel listening back?

A lot of it is quite sad to listen to really. I don't think we'll be doing too many shows, and I won't be reflecting on it like I did the other two.

People's reaction to it makes me feel good. I guess something that I always forget is that people listen to music and interpret it in their own way, and then it loses all relevance to me in the way I intended. It's almost irrelevant to all my stuff now that it's out there. People can make their own minds up and it could mean something completely different to them, so perhaps it is a good thing that I've put it out. I don't know.

Has it been a cathartic process to finally get it released?

After a weird couple of years in my life, releasing this record is a way of drawing a line under that period of time. It has been a catharsis. It's amazing to start feeling good about moving forward and trying new things.

It's also been a helpful reminder for me to know what makes me feel comfortable, and the ways I like to work and who I like to work with – definitely helpful in that respect.

How was it working with other people outside your comfort zone?

It was very difficult initially. Sharing my most precious things with other people was like reading my diary aloud – it was humiliating in a weird way – but I'd gained enough confidence after the first records to have some faith in other people's opinions. The record itself is musically more interesting and textured and dynamic than anything I've ever done because I've worked with other people. If people listening prefer this one to my other two, I can understand why.

I work quickly, and I work on instinct, and I build music from an almost subconscious place – it's not explained, it doesn't have a reason or a why, it just happens. In trying to articulate my ideas to other people... I don't know how to communicate that, or explain or articulate these things because they just happen without that much conscious thought.

But if I'm working with someone else, they add their own personality, and it can really complement what I'm doing. Particularly with the strings on this record, they really do something special. Take the simpler emotions you can create with a chord – when you introduce strings you can make things more complex and you can make things more surreal in terms of dynamics and harmony.

How does this EP work in relation to your trilogy of records?

I'm not even sure where the trilogy idea came from! I've never consciously thought of it as a trilogy. If it is a trilogy in the classic sense, it's more accidental than intentional. People have described my trajectory as being this series of records about personal development or transition or growing... I think when I write I write about the present, so naturally if I write an album every year or two years then that's going to follow my development in life anyway.

I think this record is not part of that. If anything, it's started a new trajectory on its own, parallel to the other two records.

I'm hoping to release another record later this year, which will be a full-length album, which will be of that first trajectory. This record is on a new path that I can explore – one where I'm working with other musically minded people... I think that's the difference. I've never really seen myself as a musician – I can't really play the guitar that well, I can't really sing that well – I see myself more as an artist using my means and tools to make pieces. With this new record I took some of those tools away and replaced them with other people, these people with their own thought processes and ideas and their own emotion. I couldn't really predict what they would contribute.

Do you think you'll be using similar methods or techniques on the next record?

I think it's probably safe to say that things I've learned from the experience, that are now ingrained, will be part of my process forever, but I'm going to be relying on more limited and primitive methods, which I'm more familiar and comfortable with. I think it'd be wrong to say that I'm going to take everything I've learned from that experience into everything I do in the future... I won't be relying as much on other people, and I'll be trusting myself a little more.

What's next?

The weird thing is that because it's been like two years, I've already been thinking about the next thing for about a year. I started writing this third record maybe a year ago... I'm already way ahead of that. For my own sanity, it's worth this record coming out just so I can draw a line under everything that's happened. I need to make it clear that my feelings towards it aren't negative, but it's just been a very complicated, weird time... not just me, but for everybody involved. I think drawing a line and feeling okay about moving on is important. It's a bit weird that I've popped up after two years and I've got an EP... it's hard to explain why I won't be doing any shows or just shouting about it and not putting too much behind it, but I just want to let it out and manifest in its own way with everybody who wants to hear it. I feel more relaxed not having the pressure of needing to go around singing its praises – I'm quite happy for it to go out in its own way. I think with the third record later this year it'll be a lot more traditional – touring, interviews, and everything – but with this, I'm happy for it to be its own understated piece.

Long Hold Star An Infinite Abduction can be ordered now via Howling Owl. You can stream it in full below, and read a "eulogy of sorts" on Stereogum.

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