Yellow6 (July 2011)

– What is the meaning of the moniker “Yellow6”?

– I guess the name has an origin, but not really a meaning. I never liked choosing band names in the past and was in some with terrible names, and when it came to choosing a name for my solo work, the initial choice was ‘Polar’. I quickly found that there were many other artists with that name, so chose to use the title of a track I had recently recorded. The title came from two things – Yellow coming from the fact that I had recently discovered I had Gilbert’s Syndrome – a generally harmless enzyme deficiency that can result in slight jaundice when sick/tired. The 6 part came from the concept that different people know different sides of your personality, such as family, friends, colleagues etc. The solo project became #6 as a facet of my personality, although in reality it’s an over-simplification as everyone sees you slightly differently. (The song ‘yellow6’ was released on the first Merry6mas cdr in 1999)

– Music-wise, I doubt there’s any hint in Yellow6 to your origins in Punk music, but are there any ways in which you let some notions of frames of mind from that era into your music nowadays?

– Musically Yellow6 is far from the punk bands I played in, but I think my attitude is still similar. I still have the diy approach to music making, the simplicity of structure, and the view that the overall effect is more important than musical perfection. I tend to write and record quickly and could point out mistakes in everything I do, although they may not be so obvious to listeners, but I think the accidental or unintentional adds to the human feel of the music and would much prefer this to over perfection and losing the emotion in the music. The punk attitude of just trying it to see what happens still runds through all my music, and the refusal to conform to expectations (part intentional, part not).

– You have released 2 albums with Thisquietarmy. How did you guys meet and start working together ? Can you explain the creative process ?

– We met through Jeff Rioux who runs the Under The Snow festival in Montreal, although we were both familiar with each others’ work. Jeff and I had been in contact for a long time through his label Where Are My Records, and emoragei zine. I had an offer to come and play the festival in 2009 and Jeff suggested I get in contact with Eric so we arranged to meet up and do some playing. We met at a gig as part of the festival and went to Eric’s flat to do some playing, with no real aim other than to play, record the result and see what we got. I had arrived from Philadelphia that day and only had a few hours sleep the night before, and Eric had been laying the night before as part of the festival so we were both sleep deprived. We set up our gear in Eric’s flat and improvised with guitar and effects for an hour, had coffee, then another hour. When listening back, we were happy with the results so Eric mixed them down. As it turned out, the tracks making up DEATH were all from the first hour and VALLEY from the second. We then did a short improvised set the following night at my gig for the festival and this track will be on the CD version of DEATH VALLEY out in the autumn.

– Seeing that Eric is based in Canada and you live in the UK, can we expect future collaborations ?

– We have nothing planned but then we haven’t discussed anything. Eric and I have both been busy with other projects but I would certainly like to work with him in the future. What form this may take I don’t know, but it will most certainly be different from the DEATH:VALLEY albums as those came about through a very specific situation which is not repeatable.

– How was working with Eric different than working with Larkian where you shared files ?

– I see the two ways of working as totally different. To be in the same room as someone and playing at the same time, you react to the environment and to their playing and how that changes. It’s a one-off moment that can’t be repeated. To work by swapping files, you get the chance to think about your contribution, try out ideas, record and re-record which you can’t do being in the room with the other musician(s). Both processes have their advantages and it would be hard to say which I prefer, although the interaction with other musicians has always been one of the things I enjoy most about playing music (possibly a strange thing for a solo artist to say!)

– You have also released some of your own material on Thisquietarmy records. How did you get to work on that. Who chose Absent Without Leaves as the other band part of the release ?

– Eric asked me to contribute to the diptych series where he pairs two artists, each contributing a 3” cd. It was Eric that suggested AWL as the other artist, which I was happy with having done a number of previous releases with George.

– There is a track I really like by a duo called “Der Einzige”, called “Yellow6 meets Yellow Swans”. I like it because it combines the atmospheric and emotional elements that can be heard in your music, with the harsh pounding that is similar to the music of Yellow swans. Do you sometimes think about making your music harsher? Humorous mentioning of your name and yellow swans’ name aside, that sounded like a good idea on the Der Einzige’s track!

– I’m very flattered by the use of Y6 in their title, and was also impressed by the track. I have started to use some harsher elements lately with distorted guitars and feedback making more appearances, but always in a melodic way. I’m not a big fan of noise music, or noise for the sake of it. I do like noisier music, but melody is always a part of my favourite music. In the same way, I’m also not a fan of a lot of ambient music as it is the direct opposite of noise. I see ambient and noise as very similar in a lot of ways (in very general terms of course).

– What can you tell us about the merry6mas compilations ? Do you contact the artists yourself ? How can someone contribute ?

– Merry6mas started as an audio Christmas card I sent to friends. The first one in 1999 there were 17 copies and all were sent to people who had helped out with Yellow6 by releasing, reviewing, booking etc. They have since grown and I now do about 200 copies each year. They are generally compilations of my own music featuring outtakes, alternate mixes, live recordings etc. I have only done one as a true compilation and that was in 2004 where it was made up of remixes for and by other people, and tracks recorded specifically for releases, all of which for some reason never got released.

– What about the Kanshin compilation ? You know that we also have released a charity compilation called “Noises For Japan” and donations go directly to JEARS. What was your involvement here ?

– This came about as I had been asked to contribute a cdr to the Hibernate Records postcard series (the recently released ‘Miniatures’ recorded with David Newlyn) and Jonathan at Hibernate contacted all the artists he had worked with for a track. I recorded mine along with a second track the following day, that one also being for a compilation to be released on mini50 records with all money going to Mercy Corps for Japan aid.

– What is your favorite Yellow6 album and why?

– Tough question – I don’t’ often listen to my music once it has been released so I guess the easy answer would be whatever the most recent release was, as I will be most familiar with it and have to like it enough to want to release it. On that basis, I’m really happy with the recent LP release on Tonefloat “In Time This Too Will Fade”, recorded in the same period as “CUT”. I recently listened to “Music For Pleasure” and still like that, and also like “When The Leaves Fall Like Snow”.

– You have quite a lot of releases on vinyl and also a lot of tracks through MP3 compilations. Why do you like these mediums ?

– I guess I have a nostalgic love of vinyl, having grown up in pre-CD times and once owning a large collection of vinyl (most of which I sold to buy a guitar many years ago).

mp3 isn’t a format I like, but it is a necessity at times. Aside from the fact that most music ends up in that form by some means, either through people ripping CDs to iPODs or by file sharing, it isn’t often commercially viable to release music in a physical format any more. I have seen my own CD sales drop from around 700 copies of an album, to an average of 200. CUT lost money, and only the smaller run and cdr releases tend to break even.

– what music do you listen to nowadays?

– I listen to a wide range from old music (punk, Stooges, Velvet Underground, Joy Division, New York Dolls, Stax and Motown soul, Beach Boys, Magazine, Devo) through shoegaze and post-rock (Bark Psychosis, Talk Talk, The For Carnation, Tortoise) to minimalism (Steve Reich, Philip Glass), alt-country (Giant Sand, Richmond Fontaine, Cowboy Junkies), Pixies, Sonic Youth, Wire, Labradford, Yo La Tengo through to more recent releases like The National and Arcade Fire, Grails, Earth and Anna Calvi. Among my all time favourites that get a lot of play are Low who can do no wrong in my eyes.

– Is there anything else you would like to add?

– Thanks for asking the questions and taking an interest in my music.

Photos by Marc Kokocinzki.

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