The Gaza Strip
Interview with Eyeless In Gaza by Dave Henderson

THERE’S ALWAYS been stigma about Eyeless In Gaza. In more recent times they’ve become several people’s favourite whipping post for no apparent reason other than they were grounded in music that was somewhat less mainstream.

Their new Lp, ‘Rust Red September’, and current single, ‘New Risen’, should go some way to redressing the balance. They’re forged with a new conviction, a spirit of emotion which is evident in embryo on their last Lp ‘Drumming the Beating Heart’.

Martyn Bates and Pete Becker are very honest. Three years of working as a unit has spawned a democratic attitude where the prime motivation is their music. While Pete prefers a more quiet, thoughtful personality, Martyn is effervescent, the two sparring with ideas constantly.

Martyn: “I guess you could say we’ve redefined our approach to making music, now we’re really into songs, rhythms and melodies, and that’s what we want to project.”

Eyeless’ new attitude has resulted in numerous tactic alterations, most notably their approach to studio work which is well in evidence on their new releases.

Martyn: “We used to go into the studio and try to capture a performance, the first two albums really suffered from that, they’re very much adrenaline rushes. This time we tried to structure things a bit more.”

The reasons for this change in procedure seem to be manifold. Pete’s clockwatching with cash in mind and Martyn’s new found love of pop music are major factors but it seems that a reappraisal of their former glories was an important attribute.

Martyn: “Before we were trying to follow a misguided punk ethic, trying to capture everything in one take and keeping it raw. In hindsight it shows that we were just selling ourselves short, the songs weren’t reaching their full potential.

We just didn’t do ourselves justice, it seemed that we were being obscure just for the sake of it. Now we really feel that we want to communicate, we want to put our songs across to a bigger audience. To do that you’ve got to have a bit more clarity and with this new record we’ve actually managed to show what Eyeless are about without selling ourselves short.”

True, the album is a marked progression. Gone are the hesitant edges, to be replaced by a new certainty, a new professionalism which is portrayed through a sea of emotions. But could the Eyeless cult status be at risk? Possibly with this new translation of their ideas they could ostracise their many followers who have stayed with them from the outset.

Martyn: “All we’ve done is define everything a bit more sharply, it’s not such a drastic change.”

They are keen to let more people in on the reputation that has surrounded them though. Martyn’s education through radio orientated pop has certainly affected their attitude but there are only so many concessions that they’re willing to make.

Martyn: “We want success but we’re not desperate. I mean we haven’t dressed up in silver suits or anything.”

The Eyeless progression is in no way merely surface gloss, it’s a deep rooted reappraisal where the focal point is still the music (as it should be). The songs have more strength now, you can tell that there’s a lot more work involved.

Martyn: “We haven’t got any particular message in the music but we do believe in the power of music. We think it’s commercial and it deserves to be heard by a lot more people.”

Pete: “The very least we want to do, at the moment, is to get our music played on the radio, purely to give people a chance to listen to a different music, to give them freedom of choice to pick themselves whether they like it or not.”

Getting over to people is a problem. Rumours that Cherry Red had employed a plugger to promote the single led the duo to think, by its lack of airplay, that people either had a mental block on the name Eyeless In Gaza or the plugger wasn’t doing his job.

Self-promotion becomes a problem when you have to do everything yourself. If you’re running about trying to sort things out all day it doesn’t give you any time to actually concentrate on the thing of central importance, the music. But plans are afoot to rectify their ”small businessman” status.

Martyn: “The first thing that we want to do is to try and get ourselves a manager, doing it yourself is OK but it keeps you on just one level. If we want to get across to more people, which we do, we need to work with someone who knows how to do it.”

Pete: “Whoever this person may be I’d still like to feel that I had some kind of empathy with them and still be involved with what was going on.”

Martyn: “Yeah, we wouldn’t want some faceless bimbo telling us what to do.”

It’s a period of transition for Eyeless In Gaza. They’ve reached a limit where it’s very difficult to go any further without the assistance of managers, producers, etc. It’s also a testing time because their music could easily be dismissed out of hand by people who’ve heard them in their previous incarnations and who’re dismissive of any new product without the courtesy of a listen.

Pete: “If we had formed about six months ago and ‘New Risen’ had been our first single and this was our first album we’d be viewed in a totally different light. People probably think we wear long macs and live in a grey industrial town.”

Maybe Nuneaton is a murky setting but there’s not a mac in sight. Eyeless In Gaza have moved on and are still doing so, don’t miss them.