Evening Times Band Spotlight (22/3/07)
DESCRIBE THE BAND:
Having previously blended melodic ambience with subtle, gritty electronica, Pomegranate's new project adds layers of sparkling, electric guitar pop and up-tempo beats into the mix.
Vanessa Rigg sings and plays violin; Stef McGlinchey writes, mixes, programmes beats and plays guitar; Matthew Millership plays piano and synth.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU FORM?
Formed in 1999, composer/producer Stef and vocalist Vanessa actually met three years earlier when working on a futuristic theatre show. Stef had been asked to write the music for the show in which Vanessa performed, sang and played viola. When Vanessa arrived back in Glasgow after two years in Portugal, Stef persuaded her to sing on a couple of tracks he had recorded. And so, Pomegranate was born.
RELEASED ANY RECORDS?
Our third album, The Thrill of Fresh Paint is coming your way. Launch night is March 25 at The Liquid Ship. Limited edition copies have a free bonus CD. Our previous albums, This Illusion Sound and On Black Peak, were released in Germany, Canada and Russia and on our own Integral label.
SUPPORTED ANY MAJOR BANDS?
We find it hard enough to support ourselves!
WHAT MAKES YOU SPECIAL?
Our methods are distinctive, unconventional and a tad eccentric. Too many bands get filtered through the conventional channels then wonder why they sound the same as everyone else. All our music is recorded in our own strange, yet welcoming little studio. We please ourselves first and foremost. We release our own music on our own terms.
WHAT ARE YOUR INFLUENCES?
Dub, electro funk, pure pop, minimalist ambient or classical, post punk, 60s psychedelic jam bands, 70s new york new wave, cut and paste djs, bristolian trip-hop, fake jazz, songsmiths everywhere.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS SO FAR?
Playing our first live show and seeing our shiny new debut CD for the first time.
interview with German magazine ORKUS (July 2003)
How would you describe the vision of your music?
I try to be honest and reflect my own feelings as accurately as possible when creating music. For me, each piece of music is like a tiny baby. Given the proper nurturing, it will grow in the proper way and reach maturity. If I have done my job, I can then let it go and make it's own way in the world. I suppose my vision exists in perceiving the essential kernel of each piece and trying to protect that essence from conception through to completion. The bigger picture only emerges through the care and preparation of the small details, but the same applies.
Why did you choose the name Pomegranate? In some essays it´s said, the apple Eve gave to Adam was a pomegrante and not an ordinary apple...
The pomegranate is an alluringly seductive fruit. It literally means "many-seeded apple". Of course, it is symbolic of fertility in many cultures. I liked these associations. There was also a favourite film of mine called the colour of pomegranate, which no doubt influenced me.
What are your lyrics about and what do they mean to you personally?
I like to leave a little space for the listener to make their own interpretations. What the lyrics mean to me may not coincide exactly with what they mean to the listener, but I like this openness because it can enrich and enhance my own experience. This applies equally to Vanessa. She will interpret the lyrics her own way. So, ultimately we come back to the idea of essence. As long as that remains intact, interpretation is fine. The lyrics are always deeply personal. It is always a paradox for me that the more intensely personal the words, the better the chance of achieving a universal meaning amongst listeners. Some people might say my way of working is self-indulgent. I would have to agree, but only up to a point. I think it is healthy to bear in mind that the listener will complete the cycle, and if they can be touched by something in our music then the self-indulgent argument becomes redundant.
In THIS ILLUSION SOUND I intended the lyrics to be as unobtrusive as possible. I noticed that German reviewers never once mentioned the words, so I must have achieved my objective! The song-texts are printed on the sleeve of ON BLACK PEAK, and are certainly more noticeable upon listening. Vanessa's voice is more foregrounded on the new album, so perhaps it is just a case of hearing the words. This shift in emphasis was deliberate and reflects a subtle move from the more impressionistic nature of TIS into the crafted songwriting displayed on OBP.
Would you agree, if somebody would say: Your music is quite dark? Why?
If somebody said this to me I would have to ask them why. I never think in terms of dark or light. I drop the bucket into the deep well and if I'm lucky, there will be some cool, clear water in it when it comes back out. I am prepared to delve deep within myself in the creative process, to find out what is there as much as anything. The most interesting things for me usually have subtle shadings and resonances. Minor keys will often be used, but not necessarily. It would be pointless and boring for me if I knew what I was going to find before I began. There has to be a sense of exploration and adventure.
How did your musical skills develope? Can you still remember the first time, you sang your first and self "composed" litlle tune?
How and when did you realize you have to become a musican?
In the little L-shaped bedroom i shared with my older brother. When he was out, i would play his records and strum his guitar. He warned me not to, but I couldn't resist. His musical tastes were underground/alternative, so his collection was a good way to learn about lots of cool bands. I owe him a debt of gratitude, although at the time I just thought he was a pain in the ass. Anyway, eventually I learned a few chords and got my own guitar, wrote some songs, formed a band with my mates from school. The tried and tested route! What sticks in my mind now, is the dream-like state that I would enter into when messing around on the guitar. This is still the case today, and this is the time fresh ideas appear.
Music was my sanctuary then as it is now.
What are the best moments for you while composing songs or performing a show?
The best moments for me are when some special accident happens. Something that transcends or transmutes what was previously lacking. In the studio or playing live, it makes no difference, although one will be witnessed in real-time and the other some time after. I live for these moments.
What was the most obscur or funniest thin ever happened to you since you started out making Music?
I'm not sure what you mean by obscure, but if you mean unscripted, then I would have to cite starting to work with Vanessa on the pomegranate project. I really was in despair about finding the proper voice at the time. I had worked with her before, but I knew she had gone to Portugal and was not expecting her to return when she did. Her timing could not have been better! This stroke of luck or destiny or happy accident, whatever you want to call it, always amazes me.
What is the most important thing you´d like to let people know about Pomegranate?
That we exist! That we exist and that we are worth listening to. That perhaps we have something that will resonate with you. That perhaps we have something that will touch you.
If we manage to do that then the whole project will have some meaning.
Questions to Pomegranate from SPEX magazine, Germany (April 2003)
To bring more light into the darkness:
Stef is running Integral Records, right?
And Pomegranate is the only act there so far?
How long is Stef "working" as a songwriter and with whom did he work so far?
What is Vanessa doing beside the Pomegranate project?
A: We started Integral in 2000 simply to release our own material. Initially we are content to concentrate on the pomegranate material, but in the longer term we would hope to extend our catalogue. We are always looking and listening.
I was previously in the band Babel. It was a gigging band in which I played guitar and wrote the songs. We made a single (which was recorded in Berlin, believe it or not) but it is long since deleted/lost/forgotten. It did re-surface, however, as a sample I used on THE GOLDEN RULE from the first album. Anyway, I was frustrated by the confines of the band and wanted more time to dabble in the studio. At the same time, I was composing electronic pieces for an experimental performance group. What I really wanted was to bring these 2 strands together into one project, so I split Babel and started work on doing just that. This eventually (after several years) became pomegranate.
I had worked with Vanessa Rigg on one of these theatre projects, and remembered her when I was seeking a vocalist for some of my studio dabblings. She had gone off to Portugal for a couple of years, but, as luck would have it, had just returned to Glasgow as I was despairing of ever finding the right female voice. Some 6 months after our first session together THIS ILLUSION SOUND was completed.
You live in Glasgow, so one thing I know about this town is that there's a pretty well doing house music-scene (around the label "glasgow underground"). What else could you tell me about your home, what are your personal, social, musical or emotional circumstances (concerning Glasgow)? Was Glasgow your place of birth or a choice?
A: Both Vanessa and I were raised in Glasgow, although I spent some time in New York and London. Vanessa studied in Devon and had her spell in Portugal as I already mentioned. I guess there is something about Glasgow which makes you come back for more. It's friendly, raw, visceral, tough and passionate. The proximity to lochs and mountains gives it a sense of space and a certain romance.
The city has gone through quite a renaissance in the last 20 years. Glasgow was European City of Culture in 1990 and European city of Architecture in 2000. In the intervening decade, it seemed to grow in self-confidence. The demographic is also much younger now than it once was. This manifests itself in a vibrant and varied music scene around the city. There are so many clubs and venues now, with new ones springing up almost every week. As well as Glasgow Underground in the house music scene, there is also Soma Records who discovered Daft Punk, and for indie music there's Chemikal Underground, who have released Mogwai and Belle and Sebastian.
I remember that I did like your first album "This Illusion sound" a lot. Unfortunately I cannot find it anymore in my home`s chaos. Can you refresh my memory and compare the both?
A: THIS ILLUSION SOUND had certain ground rules to do with song structure, which essentially made me delete certain passages from some songs, and leave some others out completely. I was also keen to process Vanessa's vocals in certain ways. One track will finish, then another begins with a small ingrained memory of the previous. The album flows, asking to be listened to from beginning to end. The first and last tracks are different mixes of the same track, as bookends. Beginning or end?
With ON BLACK PEAK, these rules had to change. Who wants to make the same project twice? The change may not be overtly obvious at first, as the album draws you in and hopefully lets you become accustomed to any differences in a subtle, gradual way. ON BLACK PEAK is less dreamy and impressionistic. There is more in the way of song narrative and it displays a tougher, more nakedly spiky aspect. Vanessa's voice is the key. I just let it be, resisting the temptation to over-process. Her voice is also the over-riding unifying thread this time. For example, the track CANDY BLISS (SPEX 027 CD), is a ballad stripped bare. I had no need of lavish arrangements or processing because it is all there in her voice.
From my point of view, a lot of electronic music these days is pretty sad and introspective (and I´m not talking about any Triphop things, but generally). Would you say this is kind of a "sign of the times" or was there always a certain amount of "sad" music? What is, in your oppinion, the special thing about melancholic music and why is it so beloved?
A: The minor keys are usually more interesting, don't you think? I think depth is what I try to convey in my music.
Do you like being seen as "electronic music" or do you prefer seen as something completely different? ( I know this is about categories, but I like categories, sorry)
A: I want people to listen to our music and make up their own minds what it means to them. Categories can be a hindrance as much as a help sometimes. I play guitar, bass and some keyboards, Vanessa sings, plays viola, violin and some keyboards. These skills are as much a part of what we do as sequencing and sampling. I love the accidental atmospheres and flavours to be found in random sampling. I enjoy dabbling in the studio as much as I enjoy playing the guitar.
What I'm trying to say is i guess we are less electronic than some and more electronic than others. (What I'm also trying to say is i guess i don't like categories as much as you, sorry:-)
What does "on black peak" mean? A climax of blackness? Or is it a quoting?
A: At the time when a title was required, I climbed a mountain known to locals as BLACK PEAK. Resting on the summit, admiring the view, I realised i had found my title.
Are you familiar with any (electronic) music from Germany? (I`m not asking out of patriotism but because there is a lot of music which you would relate to and probably like a lot... )
A: There was a festival of German electronic music in Glasgow a few years ago, which introduced me to bands like TO ROCOCO ROT, KREIDLER, POLE and TARWATER. I have a friend who collects all the releases on the Compost label.
I still covet my vinyl copy of MOVIES by HOLGER CZUKAY. The labour-intensive task of tape-splicing shows just how spoiled we have become. I love those old Cluster LPs, and Neu, Can and (dare i mention it...) Kraftwerk.
There is probably a host of other things I should be listening to. If only I had a parallel universe to inhabit, I would do nothing else but listen.
It is far from being easy these days to make music and sell a couple of copies and then finally make a living out of it. How do you come along within this? Are you dependent from "normal" professions?
A: We are fiercely independent people. Everything we do revolves around music. We get by one way or another.
Are you worried about "music" in general, concerning the business, the industry, the internet... all the things which are - to others - reason enough to call it a "crisis"?
A: I remember my school-days, when we all made compilation cassettes and passed them round our group of friends. The phrase then was 'Home taping is killing music' which was usually accompanied by a skull and crossbones on inner sleeves of albums. Of course music did not die then and it will not die now. There is a problem for sure with internet downloads, but in a way this is just another form of promotion. True music fans will always want 'the package'. It is up to us to make this package as attractive as possible.
interview with sonic seducer magazine (august 2003)
1.Besides the often quoted parallels to Massive Attack and the like I am more reminded of Cocteau Twins and the "Twin Peaks" Soundtrack... your statement?
I think you're listening to the title track of ON BLACK PEAK as you say this. We turned Vanessa's vocal back to front on that one. The original lyric and melody were not working, although I knew the backing had potential. It was an experiment that worked for once. It certainly has a flavour of Angelo Badalamenti, but more by accident rather than any design on our part. On most other tracks however, the flavour of Angelo is absent! The unfortunate thing about comparisons is that, although they may be reasonably accurate for a moment here or a moment there, they do not tell the whole story.
2. Minimalistic sounds: the carrier of THE essential? Or a way of performing simply what you CAN do? (Be honest, please)
I always try to be honest! I suppose I could do many different things, so it must be a matter of choice. I have become very aware of the choices I face, and I think music has helped define this awareness. When I make music, I could go down this path or that path (or even where there is no clear path). Eventually, if you are persistent enough, you learn to have faith in your own decision-making. In other words, you trust your own sensibilities. My own sensibilities are reflected there in the sounds you hear, so this minimalism must come from some essential characteristic of mine, it's true.
3.If you had a guitar player in the band - would you sound like Garbage? (I know this is rhetorical, but...)
Actually we do have a guitar player in the band. Me! And I think I can say without fear of contradiction that we don't sound like Garbage! Did you think all the guitar parts on our albums were samples?
4.Would you define yourselves more as thoughtful or "funny" people? (funny in the meaning of enjoying life and the like) - I am asking because many musicians are not the way their fans putting the image of the always serious people into them...
It's an interesting question. We are very serious and thoughtful about the music we make, but we try to enjoy the process too. There is definitely a playful element to a lot of what we do, which could be simply playing with the meaning of some words, or messing around with a sound. Whether this playfulness is noticed by anyone else apart from us, I don't know. For example, on the track LMRX from the first album, I pitch-shifted my own voice down a few notches. Vanessa and I thought this sounded hilarious, but lots of people have commented on how scary or spooky that bit sounds.
5.What is more important to you: compositions, rehearsals or studio subtle, filigrane work on the songs?
Oh dear. It is very difficult to separate. Each element of the process has such importance and can enrich the other aspects. Let's say I come up with a basic idea with some potential, a chord progression and a little melody for example. The normal process could be writing some lyrics, rehearsing with Vanessa, then laying down some basic tracks. Improvising in the studio might continue this process or alter it in some unforeseen way. I love the explorative aspect of studio work, but there always needs to be some skeleton to work on.
6.Ever had trouble being "artists" - parents neighborhood..?
Only in the time-honoured tradition of not having enough money! No complaints about noise yet. (One advantage of creating fairly ambient music, I suppose). Parents and family have been generally supportive, apart from the occasional comment about getting a 'proper' job.
interview with Rob Vaarmeyer for Stylus magazine(winnipeg),March 2002
STYLUS: What else have you two worked on? This can't be your first release... I read the bio on your website that mentioned some theatre. Is there anything else I might be able to find?
A: Hi Rob. 'This Illusion Sound' is our one and only release so far. Vanessa and I did do some music together for a futuristic theatre show, that's how we met, but I didn't want to release those pieces. I did use some samples from that project on the pomegranate album though. The album was several years in the making. I had been in a guitar band, writing songs and also doing these computerised pieces for the theatre projects. My aim with pomegranate was to bring these 2 strands together.
STYLUS: Ever been to Canada?
A: My brother lives in Ontario, so I've been to visit a couple of times. I hung out in Toronto for a week last time I was over and also visited Ottawa. I'd love to see the rest of the country some day. Pomegranate are hoping to get a live set together to coincide with our next album (next year) so it would be fantastic to get a little tour of Canada arranged.
STYLUS: What is the local scene in Glasgow like? How does Pomegranate fit?
A: Glasgow has a very vibrant and varied music scene. We hate being compartmentalised though, so we don't fit neatly into any particular scene. We've got fans in the club scene and fans in the indie scene...so maybe we're creating our own scene!
STYLUS: What comes first, the words or the music?
A: With me it's usually the music that comes first. If I'm lucky the music will inspire a melody and I'll try to get a few lyrics to fit in with that. It's never cut and dried though, so I try to stay open to different ways of creating. If it works it works! We do have the odd instrumental track, so I'm not always trying to find lyrics.
STYLUS: Miss Rigg has a disquieting beauty to her voice. I guess that's not a question. Comments?
A: I agree!! That's why I enjoy working with Vanessa. Her voice is just perfect for pomegranate. I hear her voice when I'm writing. Am I going mad??
STYLUS: How do you describe the music you make? I think it has a minimalist element, and is provocatively simple but not simplistic. Childlke. Is that fair? Comments?
A: Fair comment, Rob. Less is more! On the surface, perhaps there is that minimalism and simplicity, but hopefully there is a depth to the music too, a subtle complexity.My aim is to make music that people can listen to over and over again and discover new things each time. Whether I've managed to do that, you'll have to decide.
STYLUS: What do you listen to?
A: In no particular order: To Rococo Rot, King Tubby, 4-tet, Billie Holliday, Mum, Yo-la Tengo, Beach Boys, Tarwater, DJ Shadow, Lee Perry, Broadcast, Nina Simone, Tricky, John Coltrane, Bartok, Cesaria Evora, Beck, Velvets, Boards of Canada, Massive Attack, The Byrds, Van Morrison, James Brown, Fila Brazilia, Bill Withers, Bob Marley, Steve Reich....I could go on....
STYLUS: What's next?
A: We're currently working on our second album, no fixed release date yet, hopefully some time this year. Rehearsals for the live shows...we've not played live yet, so we're looking forward to that. The first album has just been released in Germany in Jan 2002, so we hope that will lead to a few adventures. Whatever happens, we'll be treating it all as one big adventure.