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Wednesday 16 December 2020

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview With Gravity Machine By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

Gravity Machine: The lack of live shows (or being able to start playing live) has had a huge impact- probably the biggest impact will likely be on our ability to fund the recording of the next album- Gravity Machine is entirely self-funded and it's our own record label we release under. Playing live would have meant merch sales and CD sales much bigger than what we've achieved so far; and back in January I was planning for recording the second album sometime in early 2021; that's looking tricky (to say the least) now, so it might be a while before that happens. However, right now I am working through the idea of a strictly limited edition double LP to fund the next album- we'll see how that goes.

As far as practising goes; that's been totally impossible. Apart from performing together for the "Standing Stones" video, we've not been able to jam anything out, or work up the live set. I've been recording demos though- there are about 20 songs currently in consideration for the second album; that'll get whittled down to around 10-15 songs to take into the studio. I've also been working on different guitar tunings, working up new synth sounds and just writing stuff generally. There *are* some upsides- getting to grips with my bass technique, spending more time learning mandocello- all of that's great, but it's not the same as getting out there and doing it.

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

Gravity Machine: I was so involved with getting everything lined up for the album release that I'd not really gotten round to figuring out what was happening out there. I'm hoping to get to see Amplifier live once everything gets back to normal; if Martin Grech tours then I'm going to go and see him playing. I missed Emma Ruth Rundle's dates in 2019 and I'd been hoping for dates in 2020, but she's coming in 2021. I'd been either buried in studio or working (dayjob) during 2019, so pretty much I surfaced for air just as the pandemic hit!

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, livestreams?

Gravity Machine: Mostly just adjust our expectations- any live playing is out of the question; livestreams likewise. I've put a lot of work into the videos, but even that's difficult in a pandemic... Mostly I've focussed on getting more material written and just planning stuff- that's about all that's been possible really.

Having said all that, I think we've done quite well, all things considered- we've developed a small but growing fanbase right in the midst of a pandemic, which is fantastic; we've had extremely good reviews and for a band that's not yet played live, we've punched well above our weight. For me though the best part is seeing how much the album has touched people who've also had to deal with difficult emotional journeys- way back, one target I'd set myself was to reach people who were having a shit time, and to just gently touch that space as if to say "hey...you're not alone, and you'll get through this"- its a privilege to be allowed to do that.

MoM: I saw you were filmed and released a new music video during this time which has gained a lot of attention? Tell us a bit more about that?

Gravity Machine: Guessing you're referring to the new "Standing Stones" video- obviously we're Dartmoor-based and getting those visuals out there and working with that narrative form was great- Sarah (who stars in the video) is a very old friend and we had a certain amount of fun filming out there in the wilds. Even though I know the moor pretty well, it's quite eerie seeing that refers back to ancient history- it's impossible to know what would have been authentic in terms of visuals, but within the research we all did (and Sarah's probably most informed of all of us about that particular area) it was quite spooky seeing that. Most of the stone circles and standing stones on the moor are Bronze Age in origin, and it creates a lot of perspective to stand in any of those places and imagine that, although we collectively live in an extremely different age, there are still commonalities- feelings, the power of imagination and the power to transcend circumstances. The actual playing part of the video was also pretty good fun- a pitch black warehouse, full of concrete dust and a lot of work- but great seeing Bob and playing together and working with Harry- that's a great team right there. We've had views from all over the world- that's always a good feeling.

MoM: What are the plans for Gravity Machine going forward in 2021? (Obviously pandemic permitting)

Gravity Machine: Ideally- we'll be able to hit Middle Farm (the studio) in the first quarter and have enough funding to do that properly; then after that a couple of videos, while putting a live band together. I've got very particular views about live shows- the benchmark for me is those shows that are so good that they're hard to top; gigs where it's pretty special all the way through- I've seen a few bands do that over the years- Killing Joke in 2003, Them Crooked Vultures in Plymouth, I remember New Model Army doing a surprise pre-tour show in Tunbridge Wells sometime in the 00's and it was outstanding- tiny venue and they absolutely nailed it. I was lucky enough to see Rush in Montreal in 2008 and that was pretty special. So the bar is set pretty high. However, my biggest concern (after funding) is that there will be any venues to play; it'd be extremely disappointing not to be able to play live.

As I said, I'm hoping to sort out releasing a limited edition double LP, which will fund the next album- we've got some strong ideas already for that, so with luck that'll be happening.

I hope people will be pretty pleased with what's coming in terms of new material- extending and augmenting what's there on the first album- I never really thought about genres when writing the first album, and it surprised me quite a lot when Gravity Machine were embraced by the prog scene- obviously it's part of my canon of influences, but a far bigger part of my influences is leaning more towards really left-field stuff, the kind of stuff that definitely doesn't get featured in any discussion about progressive music! I think everyone will also see a little more of the heavier side of Gravity Machine in some of the new material, but it won't be coming from any kind of "conventional heavy" place; it will still be retaining that core focus on songwriting and tapping into more emotional spaces and capturing essences of something lyrically.....we'll see. There's also some much lighter material alongside that; some of it digs into the folk scene that's ever-present on Dartmoor, some of it is more ambient. We'll see.

I dunno- it's hard to tell ultimately what's going to happen in 2021; I'll be pretty happy to get the second album recorded; I'd be equally happy to get out there playing live. We'll see I guess...

1 comment:

  1. I've met both Niall and Bob and can honestly say they are two of the genuinelybnicest and most talented people I've ever met. The album RED is incredible and an outstanding tribute. Looking forward to album number 2.