There are many (perhaps too many) great artists and bands that are always kind of under the radar, that are an inalienable part of The Rift but whose names rarely come up when talking about trip-hop’s brightest stars. Not sure why that’s happening. Maybe they aren’t too shrewd in matters of promotion and distribution of their music, or maybe you (yes, you there, reading this blog) are too lazy too go and look up who actually is playing this tune that you’re hearing and liking. This is the story of pomegranate – the quiet explosion of sound from Glasgow, who invented their ambient awesomeness back in 1999 and keep reinventing it throughout 3 albums and the new series of 6 EPs. And really I shouldn’t be writing a FEA(U)TURE about them – you can hardly call pomegranate ‘a new name in electronica’, their past is rich and fruitful enough to earn them a place on the list of trip-hop favorites, but with the new project in development their future looks even more exciting. And it’s about time you actually learned their names. Vanessa Rigg is the wonderful vocalist and tortured by me with questions is the pomegranate‘s founder Stef McGlinchey.
tipkin – I guess let’s start with the history. It seems like quite a journey – from futuristic theatre to ambient electronica band. What are some of the highlights of pomegranate‘s biography from the very beginning to the present day?
Stef – It is an interesting question, especially since my current pomegranate project is the Outersonic series of 6 EPs (or mini-albums), the starting point of which were early project tapes and mixes which I perceived to be unfinished.
I have been recording music at home for over 25 years, so I have gathered mountains of tapes, as you might imagine. In September 2008, I signed a deal with Believe Digital to release my music. This gave me the opportunity to go back to the archive and put together some collections.
During the 1990’s, I had created lots of instrumental soundscapes for theatre, performance and various other art events – this was how I first met Vanessa Rigg. Anyway, I spent two years compiling the For Images series of 6 albums taken from these recordings, and they were released under my own name by Integral.
For Outersonic, I focused a lot on the 97-99 period (although not exclusively). I had no digital mastering facilities at that time, so a lot of those tapes were unique 2-track mixes. I collected about 4-5 hours of music which had pomegranate associations. (I was working solo at that time, and hadn’t named the project … in my head there was only the vague notion of making an album!). Then last summer, I sat down and began the daunting task of whittling this down to around 3 hours. At the same time, I took each piece and worked them digitally – editing, processing, filtering.
And that takes us to the start of this year, which is when I did the final remixes and mastering for Outersonic 1, which is digital-only, released on 31st Jan 2011 and subsequently Outersonic 2, released at the beginning of April.
I see Outersonic as a bridge between past and future. Obviously, I have gone back to those little time-capsules which were the roots of pomegranate, but in order to take them further, I’ve had to learn new techniques and software and this, I believe will form the basis of new, future work.
t. – You’re from Scotland and yet your music is being released abroad and I feel like most of your fans are also from outside of UK. Isthere a reason for that? What is UK electronic music scene like now? Is it different from when you have started pomegranate?
S. – I started my own label Integral in 2000 in order to release our first album. With previous projects, I had hawked stuff round various labels and publishers. This was, invariably, a soul-destroying experience of rejection and indifference, so I had vowed never to go there again. I’m a fan of the independent ‘do-it-yourself’ approach and wanted to emulate that. So, I managed to license the album to various territories like Germany, Russia/CIS and Canada. I think we’ve carried a lot of people with us from those areas, especially from middle and eastern Europe. Listeners from those parts of the world seem to ‘get’ our music a bit more readily!
Having said that, we’ve also had a decent press in Scotland, and the few live shows we’ve done have been very well received, so there’s no problem there, but we have always had an Internationalist approach, and the world is just a big village now, isn’t it?
t. – A mandatory question – how do you feel about being associated with trip-hop style? What is trip-hop to you?
S. – Well, I was discussing this with a friend recently and it made me do some research. From what I can tell, the term was coined for a DJ Shadow single in the mid 90’s, and we all know it soon started to be used to describe the Bristol scene. There’s no doubt when I was making our first album that I was influenced by those bands – the first two or three Massive Attack albums, Portishead’s first two and Tricky’s Maxinquaye were all fantastic. These, for me, are the essence of ‘trip-hop’, where the ‘trip’ is dirty and dangerous and takes you to unexpected places. Speaking of which, DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing album was also a big influence, although I think it’s stretching a bit to call it trip-hop, apart from “Midnight In a Perfect World”. Unfortunately, as we moved into the new Millenium, the term started to become associated with stuff that was way too safe for my liking – about as dirty and dangerous as a trip to IKEA in an SUV.
So, to answer your question, I don’t mind being associated with the style if it’s in keeping with its original trippy, psychedelic vibe. Also, there has to be a freshness and a re-generation to keep any style evolving healthily. I hope that through the efforts of blogs like this, that process has already begun.
t. – If you have to choose one word to describe each Outersonic, what words would that be?
S. – Improvisational.