Eyeless In Gaza – Sixteenth of September
interview by Phil Clarke

The idea of this interview is for it to be a ‘second stage’ article assuming that people have already heard of, and heard, Eyeless in Gaza. This avoids dragging through details of “how did you get together”, etc which a person who knows of E in G will probably be fully aware of, and allows a more in depth look at the philosophy of the group. Incidentally, I use the term ‘interview’ very loosely, it became much more of a three way discussion between us at times.

Me: How do your audiences react to you? Does it vary from region to region, say in the midlands and London?

Martyn: Its a difficult one that…

Pete: I could approach it in two ways and say that around London there’s a bigger population, and gigs are more widely publicised, so we may get more people who’re into the music coming to see us. But that doesn’t mean to say that you get a bad or good reception purely on the audience, people usually accept what we are trying to do, and we usually get a fairly good reception. They don’t go bananas, but they don’t throw glasses at the stage.

Martyn: They don’t know what to make of us really. We were only thrown out once from some Futurist hovel. People expect a four or five piece group; then we turn up and they can hardly see the instruments, just a guitar and a snare drum, and when we start up they expect something more trendy but they don’t get it so they don’t know whether to clap or not.

Me: Do you think that you’ve reached where you wanted to get in the musical hierarchy? You’ve already got a lot further than most local groups have managed, stayed together and done LPs, and I wondered what your ‘ambitions’ were?

Martyn: We’d like to get involved in creative projects that work on more than one level, such as film soundtracks and doing music for dance companies, things that have more of a permanence about them. Not that I think that what we do is totally transient, but I’m very interested in interpreting what someone else has done. That’s why I think a film soundtrack would be great, to have someone else do that with our music.

Pete: They’re using our music for something and carrying on, which is what it should be for, not to just buy it because its trendy, which is awful.

Martyn: What do you mean by ‘Musical hierarchy’?

Me: Well, starting off with very small groups and working up to very big ones, Hammersmith Odeon types … .

Martyn: In terms of fame and large scale acceptance? I think it would be very difficult for us to ever get that far because …

Pete: We don’t pander to commercial taste …

Martyn: … and we’re too erratic as well, we like to do lots of different things, keep changing all the time. I think its hard for people to get a fix on us, to know how to relate to us because one minute we’re doing things like sound paintings and the next we’re doing an out and out pop thing. Hopefully there is a continuity there, its just that its coming from us. Its not a problem, something that we’re going to worry our heads about because it wouldn’t be natural. Just to make the music as it happens is the only way it can be a true expression.

Pete: Rather than falling into some accepted guidelines, just tailoring it, that sounds awful to me, like some ‘Consumer music’.

Martyn: Its great for selling records, but how would you feel yourself if you did that? I know how we’d feel.

Me: I was thinking about the groups involved in the Futurist thing, they’re gambling everything (on mass acceptance or bust).

Pete: They set a market for themselves and if they deviate from it they’re bloodyshot because they stylise themselves to a fine point, although they say they haven’t they damn well have. They know who their audiences are, and the kids who go to see them just like that sort of stuff. They’re stuck in one style, and if they ever get pissed off with it, its too bad, its their own fault.

Me: Do you align yourselves to any musical movement? I read something about the ‘Perspectives and Distortion’ LP and a thing called ‘New Puritans’ (to describe some of the groups on Cherry Red) came up.

Martyn: That’s just a publicity thing really. To a degree its true, in a way we are purists or we’d get four or five other people in and make a big pop sound in the way that a lot of people would like it…

Pete: …To popularise it…

Martyn: …but we’re only ‘Puritans’ in the way that we’re defiantly sticking to this two piece idea.

Pete: And in the way we go about things. Its also the Cherry Red information magazines title, but at the moment I don’t think that it encompasses x band, y band and z band, its just a name that someone’s put to it that seems to fit. If loads of people suddenly came out of the woodwork and say” yes I agree with what you’re saying” then the papers will stick a label on it, but at the moment its just a few people who’ve been put under this umbrella term, it just makes it easier for people to communicate an idea, although I’m against labels, to put people in a ‘bag’. I think its more the way you actually go about things, the things that you believe in.

Me: What do you think of the music scene in general these days?

Both: It getting worse … departmentalised …

Me: There’s a lot of revivalism & regressiveness about these days…

Pete: This revival thing is really bad, they’re trying to revive Psychedelia and the beat revival. At the moment they’re being pushed by ‘The Face’ and NME … y’know, “this is the hip thing kids, this is what you’ve got to listen to”, its sick.

Martyn: The thing is, it puts everyone in little slots and seems to remove the ‘instant’ thing from it, i.e. to be in that little slot, that cult, you’ve got to dress in the right things, say the right things, be the right sort of people, it just seems really restrictive.

Pete: Its almost fascist, it doesn’t give anybody any scope…

Martyn: I don’t doubt that a lot of people think its all bollocks, but the way the papers convey it is awful.

Me: (around the subject of influences) Would you agree with what Andy Partridge of XTC said, that most musical influences are absorbed early in your life and that its much harder for anything that comes after this to make an impact on you?

Both: Yeah, that’s pretty true, same as anything else really.

Pete: If you try to absorb things as they happen that’s just blatant rip off, ain’t it? If you sound like x record after you’ve been playing for years and years and you just rip it off blatantly, then you’re cashing in aren’t you? Its good to have influences because its something that fires you to do something. Otherwise if you’re isolated, never having heard any music, and suddenly come out of the blue, its like a naive statement.

Martyn: The best way to do it is for it not to be a conscious thing, you absorb it into your own character and it comes out as music that’s a composite of your own influence and your character, i.e. its something a little fresh.

Me: You. probably won’t be able to answer this in one word. What directions are you following musically? I noticed that on ‘Caught in Flux’ that you’d done some much slower tracks, and I like the idea of mixing relatively commercial tracks and some more experimental material together.

Martyn: Well its really odd, because the way we normally do the songs is just do them, mix them, and there it is an Album, a finished artefact. That’s the way we worked for the first two records, but we’re not doing it now. What we’re doing is recording material to a rough mixing stage and then when it comes nearer the deadline for an LP we’ll assemble it and mix it to a way that’s contemporary with our thoughts at the time … so I can’t really answer that, because, we’re always doing different kinds of stuff. About two weeks ago we really wanted to do abstract stuff, tinkley bonk stuff if you like, but then we came up with a bunch of really pop stuff. Sometimes it just throws us, we think “what the hells going on?” but in a way its nice that its that way. We can do both and enjoy them and still feel that its 100% us, and 100% honest. So,any direction is hard to pin down. I’ve got thoughts of what I want the third LP to be like, it’ll be part instrumental. arid part low key songs, a more reflective thing. That’s how I feel at the moment, but in three months I might feel that I want to do something extrovert, something loud and noisy, I dunno, it’d be a shame to pin it down now.

Me: This hinges onto my next question; do you think that, given the right circumstances you could have Top Ten potential?

Martyn: I think: some of our songs are catchy enough to sell to a lot of people. Its going to have to be on our own terms if they do, nobody’s going to compromise us, we’ve already had this …

Pete: Very recently…

Martyn: And its highlighted it to us. I think … it could happen, but its going to have to be free circumstances. Its a strange question because we cant be objective about it, obviously we’d love it but there’s a thing in me that says … the way we do things a large across the board range of people wont ever be able to get into it, and yet there’s a part of me that thinks …

Pete: Why can’t they? …

Martyn: Yes, some of this stuff like I played you last night, the ‘up’ stuff, its a question that perplexes me.

Me: It could be a valuable asset, the fact that you do such diverse stuff…

Martyn: I think its mo re likely to hinder us actually.

Me: It could hinder your progress if you got to, that stage, yes, but then again doing more commercial stuff you could get people onto the less commercial stuff via that.

Pete:True, that’s another route, but who’s to say which one most people are going to choose.

Martyn: We’re throwing out all this stuff to see what happens.

Me: Talking about Top Ten, I’m assuming that most people have a very straight taste in music.

Pete: A more commercially acceptable sound …

Martyn: When you’re talking about music like that, you’ve got to remember that to most people music isn’t what it is to us three, its just something pleasant, you whistle a tune, or listen to the radio while you’re doing the washing up, its not that deep, its not as important as it is to us three.

Me: Is the cover and other photos on ‘Caught in Flux’ establishing a tradition for using certain types of image associated with Eyeless in Gaza?

Martyn: Yes, I suppose so, its meant to convey a ‘feel’.

Me: I like the way that its nicely oblique …

Martyn: How do you mean?

Me: Its not just pictures of you going(pose) against a wall. You get a certain feel with your LP and single covers which is a bit formularised, I was wondering what you thought about the visual side of it.

Martyn: What you said about being formularised; we have been striving for continuity, because we feel its important for the visual representation to convey a warmth, a human feeling. I think we’ve managed to do it so far, but I see the danger as you say of formularising it. The main reason we did it was this ‘anti’thing, all these groups are all about their heads exploding off, and people dying … .

Pete: (Laughs)

Martyn: So they have a dramatic cover, something really over the top. By putting those pictures of Pete’s mum on as a low key familiar scene I thought it’d be against all those traditions. We always wanted to dictate the style.

Pete: Its important that nobody else gets a finger into the pie, and push us into doing something because they think: its best for your career. We don’t want that to happen.

Martyn: We’ve had people trying it, its inevitable really.

Pete: On all levels, independent or majors, it happens.

Martyn: You’ve got to be strong and tell them to fuck off.

Me: What purpose do you think gigs should have? Should they be purely music or music plus diversions, e.g. slides and films, or is that mostly to do with the music itself and what its got to say?

Martyn: Its all to do with the group & how they want to convey themselves.

Pete: If people want to use slides & film shows & dancers then that’s up to them, but I don’t think it fits in with us.

Me: Do you think it’d detract from your music?

Martyn: Well there’s no way we could go out and do it as Eyeless in Gaza, because its just not what we are about. We’re really stripped down. I think its important to come across so bare bones. It’s the ‘Anti’ thing again.

Pete: There’s nothing starting it up.

Me: Do you think that people who don’t know you personally could get a distorted view of how you both are in day to day life because of the impassioned way that you put across your ideas in your songs?

Martyn: Is that important? I think that’s the beauty of it as well, its like when a guy sits down and writes a book or a poem, it means different things to different people. That’s one of the reasons I’m doing it personally, you never get to hear about the feedback, but somebody can sit at home and get all these feelings that mirror themselves from what you’ve done, I think that’s fantastic.

Me: But what I’m going on to say is that people could think that you’re always very intense and serious about everything.

Pete: Well we are very serious about what we do … .

(At this point the tape knackers up, but I’d have had to cut it short anyway as we’ve ran out of room, but four sides is quite long anyway. Thanks to Phil & the Gazas)