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Wednesday 23 August 2023

Bagging Area Interview: Eyes Of Others (And Remix EP)

Back in May I saw Eyes Of Others play at The Castle in Manchester, a memorable night in a small venue. Eyes Of Others make (self described) 'post- pub couldn't get in the club' music- synths and drum machines, bits of guitar, sing song vocals, occasional bursts of acid, music that draws on the space of dub, the pioneering electronic sound of early New Order, psychedelic in the way The Beta Band were,  with some sideways on lyrics. The self titled album came out in May on Heavenly, one of my favourites from 2023. Since then John has been on tour playing small gigs and festivals throughout the summer. Through a short series of connections John, who is Eyes Of Others, agreed to do an interview, the second Bagging Area interview this year/ ever (after the one with Duncan Gray of Tici Taci earlier this year). Thanks to Dan for being the fixer in this instance. 

Bagging Area: You’ve been on the road recently playing venues across the country (I saw you play at the Castle in Manchester and really enjoyed it) and some festivals. How’s it been? How have the gigs gone?

Eyes Of OthersIt’s been a fun trip. We’ve played lots of different types of venue from Churches to old Legions to record stores over the last few months or so. Had a really good one with Optimo Espacio just there too. The best bit has been chatting to folk after the gig, around the bar or at the merch stand. That’s when you get a good sense of how the tunes are hitting, what’s working and what’s not.

Bagging Area: Heavenly Records have a such a strong history and varied back catalogue. It feels like a good fit for your music and outlook. How does it feel to be on the label?

Eyes Of Others: I’ve been a fan of Heavenly’s artists since I was a kid so they have always been on my radar when I started to make my own music. I think I first heard of Heavenly after hearing they released the Manic’s Motown Junk. So it feels right to be working with them - good bunch of people. The roster is pretty diverse in sound at the moment so from my point view I feel kinda free to make the music I want, as there no box or genre that I’m expected to slot into. That’s what you want as an artist.

Bagging AreaI hear some early New Order in your sound and there’s a strong dub feel to the album, lots of echo and space along with the synths and keys. Is dub a big influence?

Eyes Of Others: Yeah of course. A lot of the dub influences came through Stuart Evans, who mixed and co-produced the album. He introduced me to a lot of dub a number of years ago when we worked together at Green Door Studio in Glasgow. Stu uses the Roland Space Echo like an instrument, inspired by the likes of King Tubby or Scratch Perry. I kinda wrote the tracks with his creative flair for dub in mind. It adds a wildness to everything as he makes the most of the Space Echo’s predictable unpredictability.

Bagging AreaThere are a lot of animals in your songs- a psychedelic cow on the cover of the album, a song sung from the perspective of a cow at an abattoir, a photo of you with an owl on your wrist, single art with sloths, dogs and pigs, lyrics about filling up your birdfeeder. Where does the strong connection with animals come from?

Eyes Of Others: Hmmm, I grew up on a farm so cows, dogs, birds etc were just part of my everyday. I think we look around at all the bullshit we have created as humans and then  we look at animals and realise something lost. Their lives seem much simpler. But who am I to say? We’re kinda lucky in the UK. No poisonous snake is gonna bite you (yes there’s the adder but come’on) or lion gonna dismember you. So I maybe have a rose-tinted view of animals because of that. …They’re probably bastards just like us aren’t they! There was talk of reintroducing wolves to Scotland. I’m up for that. That would give rambling an edge. Also I love dogs, really want one as a pet. But it’s weird isn’t it having a pet, when you start thinking deeply about it. Really weird dynamic; playing fetch, picking up poo, talking to it as one would a baby.

Anyway, still want one.

Bagging AreaWhat’s your favourite song about an animal?

Eyes Of OthersTom Waits - Dog Door

Bagging AreaThis blog is a big fan of Andrew Weatherall. His remix of I See You In The Shrubs was pretty out there even by his standards, weird, meandering dub. How did the remix come about? What did you make of it when you first heard it?

Eyes Of Others
My friend Davie had known Andrew for many years and passed him the track hoping he’d play it at shows, on NTS etc. Andrew then came back with a question: ‘Weatherall remix?’. So that was a bit of a surprise. The deal was in return I’d remix one of his tracks in the future…so I’m still due him one. When I first heard it I couldn’t really get my head around. It wasn’t what I was expecting. But that was Andrew Weatherall, he gave you what you didn’t yet know you wanted and it was marvellous. 

Bagging AreaIs there anyone else you’d like to remix your songs?

Eyes Of OthersAfrican Head Charge, Beatfoot, Callum Easter.

Bagging AreaI love the structure of the album, the ebb and flow, all leading up to Big Companies, Large Tentacles and the 303 acid squiggle explosion two thirds of the way through that song. It feels like a proper album and all done in 41 minutes. What’s next for Eyes of Others? 

Eyes Of OthersThanks, that’s great to hear. I have a remix EP that has just been released featuring Ana Helder, Decius, The Orielles and Fantastic Man. I love all that they did. I’m also writing some new tracks for an EP and will be announcing some shows for autumn soon. 

Bagging Area: Thanks John. An African Head Charge remix would be a treat, looking forward to hearing the new songs. 

The remix EP is out now, four new takes on songs from the album. You can get it here. The Ana Helder remix of New Hair New Me adds some hefty kick drum and a synth soundscape to John's original, the bassline breaking through before it takes off in different directions, synths and sequencers bouncing here and there. 

Decius, no strangers to fast and hammering beats take Safehouse and do just that to it, piling the thump factor up for a minute or two, then a bleep and a wailing vocal before John's voice fades in near three minutes. In a basement club, in a dark and sweaty room, this could cause pandemonium. 

The Orielles remix of Once, Twice, Thrice is in the vein of last year's album, twitchy, experimental and unpredictable, a glitchy reimagining of the song, with John's voice fed through filters and FXed, the synth melodies gradually working through to the fore. 

The fourth remix on the EP comes from Fantastic Man, a remix of Big Companies Large Tentacles is aimed at the floor, sleek techno rhythms and Eyes Of Others squiggly acid album closer. 


Ernie Goggins said...

Good interview

Swiss Adam said...

Thanks Ernie.

Khayem said...

I really enjoyed this interview, Adam, thanks for making this happen and for introducing me to John's music in the first place. Now, if you can see your way to making the African Head Charge remix of Eyes Of Others happen, that'll be marvelous ;-)

Anonymous said...

I saw Eyes Of Others, recently supporting Optimo in Edinburgh, a great opening and, a quality evening