Friday, May 6, 2011

In Conversation: Savage Furs


Savage Furs is a London based trio consisting of Del Jae(Vocals), JJD and Chris Flatline. Their music displays the image of shadowy eroticism melting with the music’s synthpop vanguard and industrial tones. In the recent interview for the Burning Flame Blog Del Jae, JJD and Chris told us more about the band, their influences , favorite music and their plans for the future.

1. What is the origin of your band name and what did you inspire to take this name?

JJD: There isn't really a specific story behind the origin of the band name so much as a lot of time hanging out in an inconveniently located, attached townhouse in East London and late nights with questionable beverages trying to distill the essence of the band down into a name that was simple yet visually representative. At the time we were looking for something a bit psychedelic and perhaps influenced slightly by science fiction. I think the name initially had a very Kenneth Anger vibe. It was really just one of those things that "clicked".

DEL JAE: It also had connotations of life from death which we also enjoyed the notion of. It's just a name though.

2. How did you guys meet and what did inspire you to make music together?

JJD: Savage Furs initially just started out with Del and myself late 2009. Back in 2004 I was living in Vancouver BC (Canada) and he in Northampton. We were in bands at the time that were signed to a promising start-up label in the UK. We corresponded with each other based on that as we had mutual tastes and although those bands broke up within a year or so after that, we kept in touch and with me moving over here a few years ago, we finally met in person at the start of an exciting creative vortex and we've been good friends and bandmates since.

DEL JAE: It seemed natural considering our tastes in music and aesthetics, we both liked 'outsider' music yet appreciated pop. Not to mention an array of films and literature that play a part in our music. We just needed another person to get it up and running live, hence Chris.

CHRIS: I knew Del and Jack vaguely from the East London 'wave' music scene but hadn't really talked until they gave me a demo at Endurance, a clubnight that I run, I've been given demos CDs before and generally they're a bit shit but I was totally blown away by this. They were referencing bands and themes that no one else on the planet is right now, let alone anyone in London!

3. Who do you consider as a major influence at the start of your musical career?

DEL JAE: The things that have had the largest influence has to be related to the pop music that shaped me as a child, a lot of which I still love now, and some of which make their way into our music in some shape or form. My dads Roxy Music albums I suppose as well...I enjoy clever pop and certainly see the merits in having universally appreciated music, as long as its from a skilled source. I also think my companion to that is the post-punk era, and the mind set that eventually could be traced into several streams of genres too long a list to mention. I don't personally think either are mutually exclusive necessarily, for example Bauhaus were on the cover of Smash Hits, growing up around their hometown of Northampton I didn't really understand that there was a difference between mainstream music and avant garde because there was a point when bands could be both.

JJD: It's a bit tricky to distill that down to one instance but to pick one thing sort of specific as a reference point. It was this one and only album called "Nervous Circuits" by a group called The VSS back in 1997. When I was young I was really involved in the punk and hardcore scene on the West Coast (Canada/US); going to shows, playing in a few bands, etc. As I neared the end of my teens in the mid/late 1990s that scene at the time started to feel a bit conservative and self-policing, as well as just emotionally and artistically limiting to me. I was starting a self-engaged mission of unearthing a lot of classic post-punk and synth/new wave stuff and there were some bands from the scene at the time that were starting to amalgamate that sound into their music, The VSS being one of them. That record, as well as a few others, appeared at the same time I getting into that stuff so it sort of all just clicked and all of those factors informed the direction I would sort of continue with from thereon in.

CHRIS: Personally my main influences have always been electronic sounds, starting with the Doctor Who theme when I was a child. Later it was ambient/electronic bands in the 90s like Orbital and The Future Sound of London through to industrial music and more recently a mix of old and current minimal wave, italo disco and cosmic / prog type stuff. I'm not so much into the actual technology  used to create the music (synths etc) it's more the ability to create environments and atmospheres with sound that are ... not of this world, I suppose !

4. What genre of music do you consider your work to be?  Main themes and topics of your songs…

DEL JAE: Genres don't really mean anything to us, but unfortunately you always have to use them to get other people to like you, which most of time is just ends up being a vicious circle. The main themes lyrically and aesthetically I suppose lie a juxtapose of influences from science fiction, fantasy, pop and art. Most of the lyrics have a simple theme running through them, but I prefer them to have an extra depth or a 'visual' element when reading or hearing them. By painting a more cinematic image with the words i think it entices the listener in on an different level, treating each song as though it were a movie of its own. The tone of the songs perhaps has an overall vibe you may get from watching a John Hughes film that had been directed by Kenneth Anger. I think perhaps the songs musically almost sit well with that description.  
JJD: I'm finding more and more, especially in the last few years, that the driving influences and inspirations in the music I'm involved in writing is less focused on music but incorporating other things as well: film, pop culture, art, mathematics, philosophy, humour, etc. Sounds a bit pretentious but it's true. When we started out we were more gearing up the sound based on moving forward with what we had observed each other doing in past projects; so it was a bit more aggressive and going for a more psychedelic angle. As we started getting to know one another our material is starting to get more synthesiser based so I guess "post-punk" or "new wave" apply.

CHRIS: This is an interesting one because I think you have to have a decent knowledge of a wide range of music to try and pinpoint what we're trying to do, or you fall into the trap of just calling it '80s'. The 80s label is complete rubbish, that's just the starting era of electronic pop, you wouldn't call all rock music '50s' just because that's when people started using electric guitars. But anyway, it's clearly a mix of genres but overall I have always thought of it as a form of space rock.

5. How do you promote your live shows and your music? What do you expect from your fits live shows?

JJD: All of our efforts have been a do-it-yourself thing and we as a band have been putting a lot of legwork into this early stage of what Savage Furs is. We've put organising and promoting shows with friends, DJs and musicians in East London that swirl together to create a general scene that's got some good things going on with promoters like Brave Exhibitions, Reeperbahn, Deus Ex Machina and many more. There's a lot of tweaking and getting things just right especially when you've got some complex mixes and instrumentation, live segues between the tracks and of course, a lot of sequenced lights and smoke. It seems to set the mood and engulfs other senses than just one's ears.

6. Who are you trying to address and entertain with your music?

DEL JAE: Marlene Dietrich's ghost.

CHRIS: The cosmos.

7. What do you miss in today’s music the most?

JJD: That's opening up a big can of worms for me so I'll just keep it sort as I can. But it might be harder to find something you like because there's a lot more people doing music and exponentially more connections from the artist to the listener due to the internet. There's lots of hybrids, genres within genres and scenes so it seems daunting really find something or a sound to latch onto when a lot of people have grown up with more classic artists from the past, in a time that seems a lot more simpler to understand where things were developing and moving forward. 

CHRIS: Nothing, I hate the idea that the only good music came from some point in the past, the 60s or the 70s or the 80s. I am someone who largely listens to music from 25-30 years ago but I realised the other day that my current favourite bands are all brand new. If you don't like new music then you just haven't looked hard enough yet.

DEL JAE: My favourite bands are undisputedly from the past so for me to say I don't miss aspects of what they did would be a lie. I suppose I miss how music has become a file and not a physical product which i'm hoping will change - I miss spending all my time in record stores rather than sitting on the internet being bombarded by audio, I miss having allegiance to a band to the point where it felt like a gang mentality. I even miss MTV as it were. I also think to a degree bands were far more skilled as musicians - even the bands that at the time were considered 'throw away pop' or misunderstood and passed off as 'experimental'. I miss how bands adapted to the newly emerging technology, which has since seemed to have leveled. I think because so many bands right now have just adopted a genre that has been tried and tested they lack the edge those original bands had, it does at times become just pastiche which I don't mind as long as its as good as the original source which unfortunately most of it isn't. That said there are good bands out there that deserve support, it's just become harder for them to get heard or at least make a career from music because the industry is afraid to take risks.
8. What is your all time favorite record, song, album?

CHRIS: I don't think I could name something as specific as a song but I usually name Throbbing Gristle, not necessarily as my favourite band but at least the band that affected the music I listen to the most, although I don't listen to them much anymore. 'Metamatic' by John Foxx is an album I've always been able to listen to through from start to finish with no distractions... I think the old length, 40 minutes for an album is perfect.

JJD: I probably should have some all-time favourite song, album or whatever but it really changes pending on what sort of wave I'm riding at the time. Given that, I have a number of favourite albums across a few of the genres I listen to most. We've got a few albums we as members of Savage Furs like across the board: Metamatic as Chris mentioned, 'Red Exposure' and 'Half Machine Lip Moves' by Chrome are a group like as well. 

DEL JAE: It's no secret 'Songs From The Big Chair' by Tears For Fears is one my favourite pop albums of all time, but as Jack just mentioned there are several bands we as a whole all appreciate, Chrome, Japan, DAF and Depeche Mode to name a few.
9. What do you listen to these days?

DEL JAE: In the last week all I have really been listened to is Psychic TV and The Psychedelic Furs. The last record I bought was Wild In Wildlife by Ulterior which was long overdue album but still good.

JJD: To be honest the main thing I've been listening to is Savage Furs as I'm constantly playing tracks back in progress I work on them! Other than that a lot of everything really. The new White Car and latest Xeno & Oaklander are quite good. The first few Girls Against Boys albums have gotten some play recently. Tangerine Dream soundtracks and 'Consumed' by Plastikman get a lot of late night play as well. I do happen listen to a lot of music when going to sleep and it usually tends to be more of the soundtrack-y, filmic drone kind. Some of that music ends up in mixes that I put up online once in a while through my softriot.com website.

CHRIS: I think I've already answered this but as well as the electronic styles I listen to quite a bit of doom metal, basically Black Sabbath and newer bands who follow that kind of model. I think it all links in with the same kind of prog / space vibe.

10. Any plans of further single releases, maybe an album?

JJD: The 12" EP that we just released was something to document the first stage of the band; picking tracks from two different sets of recordings we did in late 2009 through to summer 2010. We've actually got a lot of newer material that we're tuning up to fit into our future live performances as well as producing them into demos. When we first started writing we had barely known each other and were sort of using various directions we were into trying, as well as output from previous projects as a starting point. As you get to know each other as people and start seeing that certain things work better than others, you start to distill that into more focused tracks. I'd definitely like to get another EP out for sure, and perhaps an album of around eight tracks or something. We'll have to see how it all pans out over the next little while.

11. How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?

JJD: Well, the most surefire way to connect with our music would be through http://www.savagefurs.com/, where you can listen to tracks and purchase the EP in digital or vinyl format. Listeners in certain countries may find our music through the convenience of Spotify. It's not too difficult these days, especially once one finds how a inputting couple of search terms goes a long way!

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