Men On The Border, Syd Swedish version
Is it already over a year ago that this blog reviewed the Men On The Border's Shine! CD? Lots of things happened meanwhile to the Reverend who was recently spotted at an Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical. Since then, when he sits in the evening in his comfy chair, a glass of Amontillado in his hand, you can hear him murmuring the immortal refrain...
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then...
Thinking that we're getting older and wiser
When we're just getting old
But I have grown older and
You have grown colder and
Nothing is very much fun any more.
(Taken from: Memory [Cats] / Near the End [David Gilmour] / One of my Turns [Roger Waters])
Andrew Lloyd Webber sickens me. He's in your face all the time and what he does is nonsense. It has no value. It is shallow, derivative rubbish, all of it... (Taken from: Who The Hell Does Roger Waters Think He Is?, Q Magazine, November 1992, hosted at: A Fleeting Glimpse.)
But it is not because the Reverend deliberately ignores Roger Waters' warnings that he can't recognise decent music any more.
Shine! from Men On The Border is a splendid album that shouldn't be ignored by the redneck Sydiots out there. Luckily, neither did the Spanish Syd Barrett blog Solo En Las Nubes and that's how the following self-interview came into place, an interview with some old friends...
Men On The Border, who or what are they? Are they men or myth? With an album, artwork and history myth-busting/building, they have rocked the psychedelic foundations of the Syd Barrett world with a pop mentality. Yes, pop. This sounds too cool to be true. We decided to find out more.
Men On The Border, Syd Swedish version
So who are these mystical Men On The Border?
Phil: Well, wouldn't you like to know! We're just a couple of sticky
Swedes, except for me, because I'm just a Brit with Swedish tendencies.
Göran: And I am just a Swede with British tendencies.
Phil: I've now lived longer in Sweden than I did in Britland. I moved here because of my spiritual affinity with the elks and they're thin on the ground in London. Apart from that I've been a fanatic guitarist most of my life.
Göran: They are very thin is what I've heard.
Phil: Disappearingly thin.
Göran: Disappointingly thin.
How long have you been involved in music?
Phil: All my life, actually from a very early age and my earliest
memories are musical - banging on boxes, as I wanted to be a drummer.
Göran: I wanted to be an astronaut. The space age - and the music that came with it. Ahhh.
Phil: From age 10 and onwards, everything was guitars. My life is littered with musical tags which can take me back to specific events in seconds - like most people probably have.
Göran: Indeed. Some good events, some less good, some joyful, some simply embarrassing.
Phil: Music has also steered major life-choices, like my conscious decision to reject both schooling and religion in my teens.
Göran: My music universe imploded and exploded at the same time. I was a punk rocker, a prog rocker and a 60s pop fan – all at once. My first band was named Läder, the second one Yeah. Then I ditched music for education and... things.
Phil: My first band was at the age of 17. Unfortunately I was unable to also reject the other very basic family philosophy: you have to have a proper job! Getting a good education was obviously less important. If I'd put my energies into music instead of a string of shit jobs in my teens, maybe this album would have been made 20 years ago.
Göran: Maybe it WAS made 20 years ago in a time vortex kind of thingie.
Why did you make the album Shine!?
Phil: I love to make music, I love to play and I love to record in my
studio. If it's my music or someone else's doesn't really matter as long
as it has something to offer.
Göran: As it happened, Syd Barrett had something to offer.
Phil: I hadn't actually heard any of his solo material when we started. I was a Pink Floyd fan, but had completely missed out on Syd.
Göran: This helped to motivate me. I sent him a first primitive demo.
Phil: Making Octopus whetted my appetite for more.
Göran: And this in turn drove me further. To convince people like Phil! The joy of discovery. Squid for dinner!
Phil: Well, he was dead keen to continue, so to make a whole album was an easy decision.
Göran: We made an early promise to be ready for a festival the next summer.
Phil: Yes. The absolute deadline for mastering was June 8th 2012.
Can you describe the creative process of making Shine!?
Phil: Göran made acoustic demos which he sent to me. Sometimes I made an
initial draft recording, which I sent back for suggestions on how to
proceed and a few times we sat together and played.
Göran: It was a case of working out some new types of arrangements that would fit Syd’s songs without losing too much of the feelings behind the songs. Some of them were “road tested” in some acoustic gigs and more.
Phil: And more?
Göran: Dreaming in a forest, Phil. Then I just recorded on my smartphone and mailed over to Phil and he sent me some new amazing twists back. Every time was such a joy!
Phil: As an example of the process my string quartet arrangement in the Golden Hair part of No Man's Land was axed by Göran.
Phil: He came up with another suggestion, the one that ended up on the album. I thought that was SUCH a good idea, but was actually easily persuaded by Göran to ditch the strings....
Göran: Creative conflicts. We bounced things between us to create the right blend. Those strings were brilliant, but did not work in the context of No Man’s Land. It would have worked as a stand-alone.
Phil: I also waited until all the Shine! recordings were completed before listening to the originals and was thus not influenced by them at all.
Göran: Well, there was one where you cheated.
Phil: Yes! I actually listened to Gigolo Aunt because I couldn't figure out the timing from Göran's demo -there's a half-bar in there.
Göran: The fun and beauty of Syd's songs.
Phil: All-in-all there was a LOT of bouncing back and forth.
Göran: Happy bouncing!
Which are your favourite songs on Shine!?
Phil: All of the songs have elements in them which I love. But if I had
to choose one song it would be Opal,
because it has everything. Poignant lyric, great vocals from Göran.
Phil: And also my best performance ever on a recording. 7 minutes of stark beauty.
Göran: Opal was always special and I knew it had to be on the album. We saved it for last really. It's tricky and I had to record my demo to Phil in several segments.
Phil: Oh yes. A bit of a puzzle really.
Göran: I am very pleased with how it turned out. Personally I like the duo of Long Gone and No Man’s Land, moving in that punk/prog territory. Feel is also such a wonderful melody and we stretched that to tell a bit of a story, but with sound only. Wonderful guitar work from Phil.
Which great Syd Barrett songs did not make it to be included on Shine!?
which we recorded a week after the album was released. I love that song,
but because of the deadline we didn't have the spare week we needed to
record it. We'd planned to include that with a string quartet, though
fortunately the quartet idea wasn't included. I love the result on that.
There may be others....
Göran: Terrapin works best as a bonus track really. There is a thematic structure to Shine! and I am not sure how it could have fitted in. We had some ideas to include obscure Pink Floyd stuff, like Scream Thy Last Scream. I am sure that would have been really interesting, but then again it was never a Syd solo song.
What can you tell us about the artwork included with Shine!?
Göran: Back in March 1971, Syd admitted that at heart he was really a
painter. We just felt we should try to reflect this in our little
Phil: But none of us can paint.
Göran: We tried sonically to bring more colour to his rather bleak songs and also to illustrate the whole album with colourful art.
Phil: The cover was specially made for us by a wonderful Swedish artist, Kajsa-Tuva Henriksson. You can read all sorts of things into that painting.
Göran: Yeah. I first met her at a festival and played some of the early demos for her and she really liked it. Then later, I described the overall ideas and parts of Syd’s life. She made that painting to reflect all of this.
Phil: The booklet has one painting for each song in a sort of an exhibition, where you move through different rooms actually. The paintings were made by a Syd Barrett fan in the USA, Jennifer D’Andrea.
Göran: I really love those. I have Octopus framed as a constant reminder in my working room.
Now honestly, what is really so great about Syd Barrett?
Göran: It's all great. You cannot easily separate the life and the art
of Syd Barrett. It is all so interwoven, as indeed it is with many great
artists through history. Van Gogh springs to mind, but also many more.
Their art might not have reached their true audience during their life
time, but would grow in importance.
Phil: For me it has been a bit of a discovery really.
Göran: So Syd made some great stuff with Pink Floyd and got that band on track for stardom, but I think he actually did his best work after Pink Floyd. In a similar way that John Lennon did his best work at a very vulnerable stage after The Beatles. Their respective music is so extremely honest, but also very unpredictable and full of layered meanings. Entering the “Syd universe” is very worthwhile. We just want to help more people find it.
Phil: Turn on, tune in, rock out!
OK, you've convinced us. Where and how can we buy Shine!?
Göran: We have a few hundred copies left still, stored in USA, UK and
Sweden. Just visit our website and drop us a mail. We are quick to
answer and will happily send the CD to wherever you are.
Phil: By interstellar overdrive. We have fans on our Facebook page from all over the planet, but no worries, we can mail the CD to all locations!
Last question! Where is the pussy willow that smiled on this leaf - and if it’s there will you go there too?
Phil: I've been advised by my lawyer not to answer this question, but
Göran, being brave and foolhardy in equal parts, probably has an
exclamation up the sleeve of his kaftan.
Göran: The pussy willow is in springtime Cambridge, and yes we will certainly go there one day to gig and make recordings. Right Phil?
Phil: You’ll have to talk to my manager……
Göran Nyström and Phil Eheridge are preparing a new album called (at least for now) Jumpstart that will at least have two other Syd covers and own material. On the third of October 2013 they are billed at the Floydian Cruise gig in Sweden.
© 2013 Antonio Jesús, Solo en las Nubes. Pictures courtesy of Men on the
Border & Solo en las Nubes.
Translation mistakes, typos and all possible errors are entirely the responsibility of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.
The Holy Church review of the Men on the Border album can be found here: Men On The Border: full of guitars and no dust...
Deviant Art: http://missjennifyre.deviantart.com/
Flickr 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/missjennifire/sets/
Flickr 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jennyandbrett/sets/