An interview with Baltic Fleet

We spoke to Paul Fleming AKA Baltic Fleet, off the back of his new record ‘The Dear One’ becoming ‘Album of The Day’ at BBC 6 Music (Thur 24th Nov),  here’s what he had to say –

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Were there any songs that you dropped or added to the record last minute? We had quite a bit of material recorded for this album so there were various changes leading up to the final decision. The flow of the album and the story just seemed to fit right with the final 10, the cover art evreything just clicked.

What is the overall theme of the album and what does it reflect in your life? There’s a core running through the album based on diaries I discovered through a local church. A man in the 19th century had diarised how he’d built up a village, the church, school, houses, all for his wife who he referred to as The Dear One until the very last page when he called her by her name, Frances. He lost her and the writing stopped from there. I was intrigued and wanted to dig deeper using my imagination. The landscape where I am now is greener but still linked to the industry of yesteryear. This narrative intertwined with my life and I took the characters and places and brought them into my world. I think the album reflects the journey since my first release. Things have moved on creatively and sonically. 

What was it like touring with Echo & The Bunnymen? And how did you come to playing keyboards on their albums Siberia and The Fountain? It was a great experience, it was like my apprenticeship and I learned so much. Playing in front of huge crowds and touring the world was what I’d grown up dreaming of. I was touring and recording with them so the albums flowed out of that. Siberia was good experience and a learning curve. I’d be in the studio until 2amwaiting to lay down keys and at the end of the night Huw Jones the Producer would sometimes say, just guitars tonight.  I watched and listened closely though, I learned more still. I was like a sponge working with the Bunnymen, I knew I was lucky, Ian and Will had recorded classic albums, lots of them. I had to move forward with my own thing though so I was recording Baltic material on tour and I left the band to take it further. 

Your influences include Neu!, Brian Eno and ‘Low’ by David Bowie. What do you like about their work and how is your work different? With Neu it’s the beats and the expansive arrangements. Eno lets me escape and Low has got songs and the experimental side. There’s lots more influences coming through with this record, Tangerine Dream, Boards of Canada, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Movement by New Order and I suppose a 90s vibe is there too, KLF, early Daft Punk & Chemical Brothers. 

What are you listening to at the moment and what are some of your top albums of recent? There’s still a lot of older music that I’m discovering and being switched onto, like Cocteau Twins, Durutti Column, a lot of  80s soul stuff too, I feel like there’s a whole world of music still to find. Newer music I like some Erased Tapes stuff , Flying Lotus too. I’ve enjoyed Anchorsong and Illum Sphere lately. I like a wide range of stuff, I saw DIIV play this year who were great and then I enjoy Daniel Avery and Jon Hopkins at the same time. Tycho and Trentemoller I rate too. More guitar based stuff I like War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Band of Horses. 

At what point in your life did you go from a music fan to a songwriter? I’d say from when I was 16. I’d been in bands from the age of 12 but I started producing and selling music to friends at college and things changed then. I’ve always been a fan of music though. There were times when I played in the Bunnymen when I lost that, from a kind of tour fatigue. For a time I couldn’t go to gigs without analysing and breaking down the whole show and not enjoying the experience. It came back slowly though and music became magical again. I think that’s helped bring through influences for my new record, I’ve got clarity, it’s more like me.

How did you decide on your album artwork? We decided really quickly in the end. We’d had an earlier image set aside for a long time but then as the record became complete we weren’t as sure and then Claudia at the label offered up an amazing photograph she’d taken. It fitted perfectly for me with the feel of the record and the journey I’d been on, it was then a quick decision.

For more from Baltic Fleet, check out his website: www.balticfleetmusic.com

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