Interview with Jane Weaver
English singer/songwriter and composer JANE WEAVER has just released her sixth studio album Modern Kosmology. From science to séance, Modern Kosmology sees Jane Weaver’s melodic-protagonist channelling new depths of creative cosmic energy within. AMNplify’s Emily had a wonderful chat with Jane about the new album and so much more – check it out below!
Hello, how are you going?
Good thank you. I’m OK, I just got back to Manchester after being in London for a few days.
How is it in Manchester at the moment?
I don’t really know to be honest, I mean I’ve just literally spoken to my husband because I’ve not really, I’ve only seen bits and stuff in the press and it’s all very upsetting.
It is just so devastating.
Yeah it’s devastating and especially you know, there are people we know who were there.
That’s so heartbreaking.
But they are only like 8 and 9 year old kids, and I am just devastated. So I’m going to look at that today, because I’ve been kind of avoiding it, well not avoiding it but you know…
I know what you mean.
Anyway, we will talk about something a little happier and exciting, your new album which you released last week, Modern Kosmology. Now that’s Kosmology with a K not a C. Can you tell me a bit about the title?
Yeah well I think cosmology is like the study of the history of the universe, and I think that last year when I was writing it I didn’t know what the record was going to be about, I didn’t know what the concept was. And then I decided to draw upon my own universe, my own cosmos and then put that into something good really. It’s just like a tongue in cheek thing Modern Kosmology with a K.
Very nice! Your last album The Silver Globe was very successful; now did that albums success have any effect on how you approached this album?
Yeah, it kind of did at first because I’d never really had much of a, well you know even though I have always been independent and I’ve never had that much success, for me that was quite successful. You know to have people asking me to do gigs and selling records and stuff, plus it was a big success for me so then drawing on that and doing a follow up I had to really sort of stop myself and just say look, don’t worry about that and just concentrate on what you are doing now because there is a pressure there. Like anyone who wants to do something that if somebody likes and you’ve done before, you want to sort of give something to those people but then I had to just say no. You’ve got to just take no notice of what you’ve done before and what you’re going to do in the future. You’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do now. There’s a lot of work to do, so I just had to pop my head down and work.
The first track on this album is interestingly named after the abstract artist Hilma af Klint. Could you tell me a bit about that?
Well it’s just one of those situations where I was looking for inspiration and I had been to a gallery and had seen a feminist avant-garde art at the Tate in Liverpool as I was waiting to get a passport or something. Then I was looking at other artists and she came up and she is a really interesting person because, I really didn’t know much about her, because she stipulated in her Will that she didn’t want her work to be seen for 20 years until after her death or something. Until people were ready to see it so, in fact it was about 40 years after her death and people had finally seen her work. But the interesting thing about her is the way in which she used to create. She was a trained painter but then she went rogue and she started doing more abstract work based on stuff that she got through séances and she used to do you know like automatic drawing and she used to paint exhaustibly for days and that kind of thing. Yeah so it’s totally inspired by that.
Wow, and do you think that this influence stretched across to the whole album and not just the one song?
I’d definitely say lyrically yeah, I mean visually, I like to see what I’m singing about and try and draw and describe a scene or describe what I’m seeing. So definitely, it was an inspiration and it was good that it happened like that because as I say, I was just struggling with what direction that I was going.
Well the album is very visual, and it has this sort of mysticism and spirituality to it. You have such a talent in the somewhat forgotten art of the first psychedelic era, what is it that gave you the inspiration for this psychedelic/cosmic feel for the album?
Well I think it’s just basically when I grew up, I grew up in a small town and there was not much going on. It was between Liverpool and Manchester, it’s like a chemical industrial town and there were just groups mid to late teens for instance, there were like pockets of people like punks, hippies and bikers and stuff like that. You are kind of drawn to those people because they look more interesting. So me and my friends would hang around with a lot of, I suppose, people who were into heavy rock music, psychedelic music and Hawkwind, you know, gong and stuff like that. I used to go to free festivals and that was probably a time in my life where I felt very free, discovering new awakenings of music and a world outside of the North West where I lived. So it is definitely drawing from that time, so it stayed with me and it is still music that I love.
Yeah, and you can definitely hear that through all of your music. There is something really raw and exposed about the vocals and the lyrics in this album Modern Kosmology. Was that a conscious choice?
I think the last record, I swamped a lot of stuff in space echo, you know that kind of effect where it’s like tape echo and it covers everything. It’s brilliant and I do love tape echo but it is very rich and it really covers everything. It makes everything sound psychedelic but I think it’s like a conscious production decision because so many bands are going down that route all the time by swamping everything in echo and I just thought I need to put a stop to this kind of thing with mine because it’s just not challenging. If everybody is doing something and you’re doing that something then it is probably…well that’s why I drew back to being more lyrically and vocally exposed, with cleaner vocals so it is kind of production wise using more digital delays as opposed to space echo.
I’m very intrigued about your process, music making process because there are so many layers to this album. Can you briefly describe your music making process?
Well yeah, I mean I get ideas like anyone, and I could be anywhere and I voice memo stuff or I’ve got like a little set up at home with Garage Band and I will kind of write stuff at home as well. Then I’ve also got a band, so I will either take something to the band like a raw skeleton of stuff and say like this, that and the other, and I will take that stuff into the studio and they will change stuff a lot. I will mix the drum patterns with a drum machine, so there are quite a few songs on the record which started out completely differently. Then there are some songs that I will create solely in the studio based on an idea and then I will use a mini Moog and it will create something entirely different. So it is a mixture of stuff but I don’t tend to go into the studio for two weeks and record an album and be organised with everything. I know what I want to do but it is kind of, I like to go in and out of the studio every couple of weeks for instance; two days and then come home and listen to stuff. So that’s the way, that’s the process, I mean that’s the way I’ve always done it really.
What has been the biggest challenge, or challenges, with this album?
I guess the fact that I’m working with a new label now, and they’ve been brilliant in the fact that they have just left me to it, they’ve not pressured me along the way saying look we want to hear what you’re doing, because you know you’re recording about 30 songs and then you’ll choose 10 of those and well it’s just not ready, I’ve not discovered what I want to do yet, so they were really good and left me to it. So that was the difference between last time anyway, sorry what was the question again?
What were the biggest challenges with this album?
So that was one challenge but also challenging myself as a songwriter to try and do something which obviously leads to thus record but is something new for me as well and it’s got to be challenging me and I’ve got to enjoy it as well. I get something from it so after you’ve delivered this you’ve got to do it live and if you hate the song, you know, it’s awful. So yeah it’s just got to be those kinds of things.
Is there a song on the album that you have as a favourite, if you have one?
The first track is always important to me you know the opener, the one that sets the heartbeat and the scene of everything and also because it’s kind of an ode to Hilma af Klint, so I guess the first one H>A>K that’s the one that I like the most.
Is there a track on the album that you found a bit more challenging or had a bit more trouble with writing?
I think the one that, not trouble with writing, the one that I chucked the most instruments on Ravenspoint, it started off as a small demo at home with me playing violin and I also used the drum machine and like a CASIO keyboard which I’ve used before on the previous album. So I went into the studio and then just started building that and then we got to a certain point and then I made the guitarist play the drums on top of it! I said just play like Ringo or something, and he was messing around and recorded a few tracks. I was like that’s fine and he was like; well it’s not very good and I was like no it’s good because he wasn’t thinking about it really he was just going with the flow. Then I got my friend to replay some violin and I got Malcolm Mooney to do the vocal on it so, at first, I didn’t know what was happening with it but it just kind of all came together in the end.
I was just about to ask what it is like working with Malcolm Mooney? He is featured on the album. He’s a very iconic in his field, yeah what’s it like working with him?
Malcolm is great, I mean Malcolm is an artist, aside from his work with CAM he’s an artist and he’s somebody that I’ve known and been acquainted with for a long time now. He’s friends with my husband so I’ve met him through him, he’s been to England a few times and you know we’re friends. I did ask him and I was kind of nervous because I just wanted that kind of strong spoken word narration in the track. I was saying just ignore the demo it’s crappy but I can hear that it’s going to be good, it will be good, just ignore the crappy demo. But he was very kind and said he would do it anyway so it’s good. He was over in England doing a festival so I managed to grab him for a few hours.
So the Guardian quoted you as the “Best songwriter of the latter-day psych revivalists” How do you feel about that?
I think it’s nice I mean especially because you know Alexis (Petridis), who does the reviews there is somebody that I respect, and the other stuff that he reviews I like what he says so it’s very nice of him to say that whether it’s true or not.
It’s quite a compliment and you should be proud of that. I know you’ve been involved in the industry from such a young age, and you’ve experienced it with a group/band and solo as well…What is it like being a woman in the Music industry?
Well, you know, it’s something that I’m certainly used to now. I’ve been in bands since I was like 16 and had record deals since I was 19, and I started out having deals with major publishers, and major record labels and bigger budgets and stuff like that. Now I’ve come through the system of being predominantly independent and then kind of coming out the other side of it. I think that the main thing with women in the music industry is just that you have to kind of learn about the industry and you have to use it to your benefit, and if it’s not working in one area just go to another place. There are plenty of places for everyone in certain areas but it might not be in the line you want to do but you’ve just got to work, work the system a bit really. Get what you want out of it but don’t be deterred by blockades in the way; just find another way around the route.
What is one word you would use to describe this album? It’s a tough one, just one word.
One word…I think that, I know it probably sounds weird but I think it’s honest. It’s an honest production because it’s drawing what’s been happening in the world at the time and then you know drawing from that and feeling out of control and not knowing what to do it’s like it is a bit of an honest open account.
That’s a really great answer… it’s a tricky one to sum up something so complex.
Just before you go I’ve got a few quick questions I‘d like to ask. Are you ready?
Tea of coffee?
Cats or dogs?
Sweet or Savory?
And last question? What song is stuck in your head at the moment?
Well I’ve just been in my daughter’s bedroom and she’s got one of those light boxes which you can put words in and she’s put Kiss It Better by Rhianna. So that’s what I was thinking of this morning!
Nice. Thank you so much for talking to me and I hope you have a really lovely day.
Thank you, it was nice to talk to you too.
I know you’ve got a lot of gigs coming up with the new album, so good luck with that and hopefully you might come to Australia soon.
Yeah definitely, my husband’s been a few times and I’m so jealous because I’m totally and Australian fan.
We’d love to have you Down under.
OK well lets go!