We had interviewed Secret Knives last year post the release of his outstanding first EP The Wolves in 2008 but didn't have the opportunity to share it with you. So we got back to him a few weeks ago and he was kind enough to redo the interview and also update us on what he has been up to. So here it is:
I searched for hours on the net in search of any information regarding Secret Knives but found little if not nothing. So who is/are Secret Knives? And for how long have you been playing under that name?
Secret Knives is a solo recording project conducted from my bedroom in Wellington, New Zealand. I probably started doing it around 2006.
Why Secret Knives? Any knives involved?
There's no story behind it. I don't really like the name now but I think it’s too late to change it.
When did you actually get into writing and composing music?
I've always played instruments and I could never really apply myself to learn other people's songs. So I guess that involved into writing on my own. I can hardly apply myself to finish my own songs though...
You've managed to make your music garage with all the distortion, overdrive sound and experimental vibe but yet catchy like for "The Transformer"; was it the objective?
I think that comes from being really attracted to pop music and melody, but I listen to a lot of instrumental or ambient stuff and those are the kind of sounds that really capture me. I personally don't think my music has an experimental vibe though, I would say it’s closer to pop music than a lot of stuff that straddles that experimental/pop divide.
The record I'm finishing now, in my mind I wanted it to really reconcile my interest in more avant-garde stuff with my taste for melody and directness but I found that really hard to do. For me composing a tightly wound four minute pop song is hard enough when you have to write all the bits, play all the instruments, write the words, produce it, record it etc. It’s not an easy process for me. After all that it’s hard to then apply a really considered, progressive aesthetic. But I'm constantly fretting on anything I write telling myself; 'it’s too pop' then; 'it’s not pop enough'. I'm still a long way off from what I would like my music to be unfortunately.
The Cage, The Wolves, The Thief, The Skeleton, The Transformer; instead of Not In Love and Kerze why not The Not In Love or The Kerze? Do you see what I mean?
I named the songs that way as an aesthetic thing. I liked the way it looked and it separates the proper songs from the instrumentals. Also the songs are really closely thematically linked so it sort of visually linked them all together.
Since we're talking about the songs; which one's your favorite and why?
Well those songs are really old now. I probably have new ones that are my favorites but from that EP I would say The Wolves or The Cage. They feel like the songs that came closest to realizing what I wanted to do at the time.
What was the factor that made you decide to put your first EP up for free download? Was it the perspective of getting your name and music heard by as many people as possible? Because if so, you've succeeded in reaching Switzerland as you can see.
That was kind of a foregone conclusion from the start. I don’t see much point in selling it; I would make hardly any money. But I didn't aspire to get lots of listeners either, it wasn't part of some calculated marketing strategy, it was just my preference. Everyone steals music these days anyway, it seemed pointless to compete with that. Also, it’s not like I have any costs I need to recoup, the music doesn't cost anything to make, aside from my time, but I'd be making it anyway, regardless if anyone was going to hear it or not.
I recently saw that in your live shows you are now accompanied by 3 other members. Have you been recruiting or do they only play with you during your gigs?
They're all friends of mine I've known for some time. I still do all the writing/recording and they just help with the performing and fitting the songs into a live context. Jonathan (bass) plays in 'Seth Frightening' and Richard (guitar) plays in 'Glass Vaults'- two bands I really like.
Which band(s)/artist(s) have influenced you in your music?
Just bands or artists of any kind that musically, creatively or otherwise operate purely on their own terms.
Who is the genius behind the EP cover art?
That was done by me."Genius" is flattering but "amateur" is probably more accurate.
So, you're now signed under the A Low Hum record label, correct? Had a hard time finding a label that was interested in your music?
I never tried. A Low Hum was one of the first people to hear it, outside of a few friends. And I'm really lucky because I couldn't ask to be on a better label.
How is the rock music scene in New Zealand?
I think the independent music scene in NZ is really healthy, there’s lots of stuff going on that is so high quality. Most of it I'm not sure I’d label "rock" though. I could recommend long list of bands but my some of my favorites are Seth Frightening, Thought Creature, Red Steers, Sharpie Crows...
Any plans for 2010? Tour, Albums?
A new record called 'Affection' should be out shortly, hopefully August at the latest. It will be a free download again from alowhum.com.
Thanks for virtually sitting with us. One last question though; what's on replay?
Thank you! Stuff that's been on repeat for a while is Mount Kimbie's "Maybes" EP, Foals "Total Life Forever", the early Slowdive EPs...