How did you first encounter Karl O’Connor [aka Regis, on whose Downwards label EIG's new EP is to be released]?
MB: “Karl and I share the same TG [Throbbing Gristle] roots – all those interests from way, way back. I met up with him again when I was working with Mick Harris on the Murder Ballads trilogy, although I knew Karl from way before that, I used to write and send cassettes to him unless I’m mistaken. He knew my stuff, and acknowledges that aspects of Eyeless In Gaza’s work lock into some of the stuff he does. For instance, he name checked ‘John of Patmos’ from Photographs As Memories as being one of the first hard, electro/techno mash-ups – that ‘‘you two were there at the start’’. Eyeless in Gaza have always been eclectic, having many many diverse interests. It’s been our downfall, and it’s always been our main strength.”
“Eyeless in Gaza have always been eclectic…it’s been our downfall, and it’s always been our main strength.”
MB: “These days we mostly function as a small independent label, Ambivalent Scale Recordings. Karl approached us to do this release with Downwards, and the idea grew out of that. So, that’s great – why not? If it makes more people aware of the music then OK, provided that we are happy and don’t feel compromised. People with fresh ears are always welcome.
“As regards the relationship between the two records, we’d already found that on completing Everyone Feels Like A Stranger, we’d discovered we had a further body of work within several pieces from those sessions – pieces that shared qualities of the main or ‘brother’ album, yet were slightly outside or tangential to the central moods and thematics of the main album, and equally valid. The question was whether we should we release a double, or two separate-ish projects. We opted for the latter and the idea of the kindred spirit. Its something that we’ve done successfully before – with Saw You In Reminding Pictures and its sister/companion volume Streets I Ran, back in the World Serpent days.
“Butterfly Attitude is the sparsest thing we’ve ever released.”
“In a way, Butterfly Attitude is the sparsest thing we’ve ever released – with strange song-pieces that feature just voice and melodica, or acoustic guitar and bass, or ukulele, electric guitar and voice. It’s something quite different for Eyeless in Gaza, in some key ways.”
MB: “To answer this question, I’d have to first state that personally, my main interest lies in unmediated music and art. This surely feeds into the ‘folk tradition’, and I’d say yes, it’s been an influence – right from the start, even when I was fighting it. For me, it has to feed into it – as from my point of view Nature plays a big part in the general melee of English culture and in the gestalt of what might be called the ‘British imagination’. As far as I’m concerned, ‘Nature’ is a rich metaphor for the internal landscape…it’s a manifestation of the psyche. As a writer I am totally trying to clue into the intensity behind the ordinary, behind the everyday, and it’s not a passive process at all.”
“As a writer, I’m trying to clue into the intensity behind the ordinary, behind the everyday.”
Why was Eyeless in Gaza dissolved in the 1980s, and what prompted you to begin working together seriously again after that?
“Chronologically, so much has happened that it’s difficult to relate, beyond biographical stuff such as discographies…in some senses, nothing has happened to me personally, as an individual…I still feel as fucked-up and ecstatic as I ever did. I’m blessed, I’m cursed…I see it all, I see nothing…and I’ve only just begun to live – and I feel that every day, every day. And now, at my age, I’m wondering, ‘Where is my wisdom?’ It should be here by now! And I’m still waiting. Pete Becker and I, we like working together – simple as that. Sometimes you just need to come up for air, that’s all.”
MB: “To my mind, the aim of writing is to draw attention to a range of different phenomena: it is never just about cause and effect. You might say this is a protest of sorts – against those who would have you reduce the richness of experience into boxes and labels…’angst’, ‘ennui’, ‘happy’, ‘sad’, etc, etc. These places are real enough, they are the places where people live and have their being – but such containment can’t be anything but reductive and unhelpful.
“Next, all of this is crafted – of course! – and refined into songs, more so in some particular songs than in others. Songs are a mix of music and thought – they are a register of feelings that exist beyond definition – a wholly different place from the areas where ‘beliefs’ and attitudes rule the roost, those received wisdoms that run us all like automatons. It’s music that enables this register, much more so words ever could – there are whole schools of thought that posit the idea that the very first vocal utterances were more akin to song and speech, and that makes perfect sense to me, from my particular viewpoint.
“I still feel as fucked-up and ecstatic as I ever did.”
“In my writing, my feeling is that the songs, words and music here are not discreet entities – they are elements in the same discourse – where each casts certainty or doubt, illumination or shade, upon the other. And, probably, the overarching aim of all this writing is to communicate one thing: that sometimes you make decisions for yourself on an obscure level, that something in you is wise, old and wise – wise enough to take care of you. And that, always, the thing is to paint with words – effect is important and pivotal to the meaning, but meaning is essential. It is the most important factor in the writing – but also, importantly meaning is not fixed in place – and I do not see that as being the aim of art. The beauty of all this lies in its ambiguity.”
Have you settled on a specific approach to writing, recording and improvising these days, or is the process always changing?
MB: “It’s always changing. Our songcraft is the thing that concerns me most of all right now – we are recognised for many things, but the high quality of our songwriting is generally not discussed. It’s usually the many other elements that people speak of. I love to improvise, but especially together with quality songwriting – to create something extra. Baudelaire once pinpointed a particular site, a focussed objective of creative positioning: ‘Doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s out of this world’. This is how I feel today about it all, and it is how I have always felt – and you can bet that Pete Becker feels the same.”