Following the release of his stunning debut solo album ‘Psithurism‘ earlier this year, Michael Woodman will be joining Kavus Torabi on the bill at our first live event of 2021. I had a chat with him to find out what floats his boat.
Up to now, you’ve been best known as vocalist and guitarist with Thumpermonkey, what inspired you to step out of that and release your own solo material?
The Thumpermonkey creative process produces a lot of stuff that doesn’t always make it onto album tracks. This is healthy and necessary, and the whole ‘kill your darlings’ approach to ideas that don’t serve the band’s vision as a whole is one that I’m pretty comfortable with. Nevertheless, there were still some fragments that were necessarily excised from Thumpermonkey tracks that I didn’t want to let go of, and these also sparked off inspiration for additional compositions that were more Thumpermonkey-adjacent than Thumpermonkey.
Tell us a bit about the process of making the album – who was involved? Anything you particularly enjoyed about making a solo record that surprised you?
Initially I was looking to record everything at home and send files to somebody else to mix, even before lockdown started. It was after I worked with John Simm recording ‘Deep Time’ for his song in a day project that I felt he might be the best fit for mixing and engineering the tracks, especially given the fact that he is an excellent drummer with the facility to record and mix drum tracks out of his studio in Manchester. The project wasn’t initially conceived as containing full band orchestrations of the songs I had written, but that just naturally evolved out of the process of us working together. It was a rather odd process of me programming drums that sped up and slowed down in various places to try and keep it sounding organinc, which John then performed and sent back to me. I would then record guitar and bass over those drums, and John would then ‘reamp’ my dry guitar signal through his more expensive equipment in his studio. I actually really like this way of working as I usually feel so under pressure in the studio to nail the performances that I struggle to give the necessary attention to guitar tones. Working in this way means that we can just run the performance through different amps and pedals if the initial mix isn’t working quite right.
It’s been a very testing couple of years for everyone, but you had a couple of additional challenges during lockdown with your health (major eardrum surgery, yikes!) I think there have also been some surprising benefits and wonderful creativity that have appeared during these strange times. What has kept you going through the tough times?
I bought an expensive new computer and on Oculus Quest 2, and spent a large proportion of the end of 2020 hanging out in VR – largely in curated art spaces with some friends of mine who are digital artists / 3d sculptors. This was after an operation to fix progressive ear disease which left me unable to walk long distances due to the associated balance issues, much less work on music – so an escape into the metaverse was a welcome distraction. I would urge the curious to check out the Museum of Other Realities.
Which artist has been most pivotal to your development as a musician? Which track would you recommend to people as their first listen?
I grew up very much listening to guitar music, and it probably wasn’t until I came across the mournful and occasionally nightmarish soundscapes that Scott Walker was creating on 1995’s ‘Tilt’ that I began to appreciate that all technique should be in service to the emotional core of a composition. I would point new listeners towards ‘Sleepwalker’s Woman’ from his previous album, ‘Climate of Hunter’.
Which new musical discoveries have got you most excited recently?
Maud the Moth’s Orphnē, as well as the tracks she has just released with Healthy Living, The Utopia Strong’s Dreamsweeper, (I was lucky enough to attend the show that this recording was made at), Kowloon Walled City’s Container Ships, and Teleplasmiste’s To Kiss The Earth Goodbye.
Which artist or live band would you cross hell or high water to see?
If Shudder to Think reformed I’d be there in a shot.
What are you most looking forward to about touring with Kavus Torabi? Which tracks / artists do you predict will feature heavily on your tour bus (ok, car share) playlist?
I’m looking forward to pushing myself out of my comfort zone – as I write this I’m pretty nervous about the prospect of playing 40 minutes of material solo since having my eardrum rebuilt, but it feels like a very necessary thing to do after a pretty challenging few years. I’m also looking forward to Kavus’s gig shirts!
Kavus’s knowledge of wonky, elegiac, unclassifiable ‘funny music’ is so broad that I think I might just kick back and see what emerges from the stereo. I can guarantee that Vilna by Weidorje will be played at least once, if not several times.
Michael Woodman joins us for a solo live show on Thursday 7th October 2021
at Sidney & Matilda in Sheffield, alongside Kavus Torabi and New Ghost.
Tickets available at budsspawn.nutickets.com