Photo by Stefan De Batselier
During the 1990's, the English quartet Seefeel made some of the most indispensable ethereal music in existence. By treating conventional instruments with various effects, Seefeel created subtly shifting, thinly layered compositions; aesthetically-charged, often palliative studies in repetition that eschewed narrative song structure in favor of more open-ended sonic modalities. Though countless artists in "ambient" and electronic music have worked along similar lines, the results of Seefeel's otherworldly efforts put them in a class all their own. Listening to the song "More Like Space" or their quiet masterpiece, Quique, for instance, it's challenging to pinpoint the group's present day contemporaries --- much less who their peers may have been in 1993, when these recordings were first unleashed.
Mark Clifford interview by Dave Andrae
For years I wanted to interview Seefeel. Partially in the hope that it would generate a wider interest in their largely overlooked music, but mostly because it simply seemed like the best way to learn more about a band that did few extensive interviews during its heyday. Here in the States, in particular, there's never been much information regarding the four-piece: even when Seefeel was still officially together, the only resources I could find about them were a terse but well-informed unofficial website (located HERE) and another site that continues to map various Seefeel offshoots to this day (located HERE).
Luckily, I managed to track down Seefeel's main creative force, Mark Clifford, in early April, a few weeks before he officially launched his new record label, Polyfusia Records (http://www.polyfusiarecords.com/). After Seefeel's informal disbandment, Clifford released material under the name Disjecta while doing the occasional one off, producing or remixing other artists. Though he's never stopped making music, 2003 marks Clifford's first official release in years (the True Love By Normal EP) as well as his first live show in quite some time (for the Autechre-curated installment of the All Tomorrow's Parties festival). Clifford politely endured all my questions while shedding light on such subjects as remixing the Cocteau Twins, working with other people versus working alone, why Seefeel broke up, and why he no longer drives a car. While I didn't go so far as to track down Seefeel's other three members (Sarah Peacock, Daren Seymour, and Justin Flectcher), they were definitely with us in spirit.
PSF: I'd like it if we could talk a bit about the origins of Seefeel. How did you meet and when did you begin making music together?
Mark Clifford: We met just kind of through the normal way. I put adverts up and just saw loads and loads of people, really. I was the one who kind of looked for people to start the band, and basically it ended up consisting more of people who I got along with personally than people who were great musicians or anything. It took about sixth months for me to get the band together. And this was in early 1992. That's basically when we started and just recorded a bit, and rehearsed a bit, did a few demos, and then got signed at the end of the year. So it was quite quick.
PSF: What kind of stuff were you listening to then? Did that have more bearing on your personal similarities than where each of you were at musically?
MC: Umm, there were touchstones between us, but I think we all had quite different tastes. I mean Sarah [Peacock, vocals and guitar] was much more into classic indie music, but she liked stuff like My Bloody Valentine, and Spacemen 3 as well. And Spirtualized. So she was into that whole kind of... I dunno what the word is... like space-rock or whatever. Daren [Seymour, bass] was more into krautrock like Kraftwerk and that kinda stuff, like Neu! and Faust. And Justin [Fletcher, percussion and rhythm programming] was kind of the most different, really. He was really into a lot of stuff that was also kind of like blues. Much more traditional music.
PSF: What did the band sound like initially? Is it true [as rumor has it] that you started out as a three-chord pop band?
MC: No, that's not true. No. [Laughs.]
PSF: That's not true? I was always curious about that because that just seems miles apart from where you ended up.
MC: The first demos we did and the first couple of gigs... there was probably more song structure to them, but they still weren't verse/chorus. They were less based around one chord. If you can imagine, it was more half-way between what Seefeel ended up as and maybe a song-band. It had more elements of kind of a regular band in there, but we were never like a pop band or like a verse/chorus/verse/chorus band.
PSF: Was there a definitive moment for you personally when you realized the aesthetic limitations of more traditional song structures?
MC: I can't specifically think of one moment... It was more like a cumulative thing, over a period of time, hearing more sample-based music --- some of the really early stuff --- and hearing what you could do with samplers and cutting things up rather than just like sticking to traditional music and those kind of formats.
PSF: It seems that a lot of indie groups experiment with their sound using filters, delays, and sequencing, but the results often sound dilettantish because the structure and function of the music are fundamentally the same. How do you think Seefeel's music differs from that of the average shoegazer or experimental guitar-based group that dabbles in droning and electronic manipulation?
MC: I think, one of the things... It's like you said, with a lot of bands, they tend to add electronic or production elements for the sake of updating a traditional format. I think with Seefeel... whatever effects or manipulations we used were more like a part of the music rather than an afterthought. We never did anything in the studio for the sake of it, just to kind of add the clever element to it. It was quite straight ahead really.
PSF: Yeah, it seems like with Seefeel [those techniques] were more the substance of your music than the style.
MC: Yeah, that's right.
PSF: How much of the source material for the More Like Space EP was recorded before you really started getting hardcore into experimenting with sequencers, delays, and filters and whatnot?
MC: Well, More Like Space... I was doing stuff at home, like just on a Tascam 4-track. More Like Space was probably [recorded] around the same time as most of the stuff from Quique, the basics of the tracks from Quique. There wasn't really a vast time difference. The thing with Quique is that a lot of the tracks were much more involved so we needed more time to do them. Whereas the tracks on More Like Space were much simpler tracks and it was much easier to get into the studio and do them. And that was our first EP.
PSF: When the band finally made the transition to a more experimental group, were you concerned at all that you might not be able to reproduce the sounds you were making in the studio or at home in a live setting?
MC: When we did the first EP's and the first album, when we were recording it, there were obviously a lot of samples going on there, but it was always done in way that we could play live because we were playing live all the time. A lot of the tracks were played live before they were recorded properly. I think with Succour and the later stuff, it's much more studio based. It was much more kind of, "Let's see what we can do in the studio and then try and recreate it live." But it's always live. The things on Succour were still always live. Ironically, on Succour, even though it sounds like more of a manipulated album, most of the guitar parts are actually more live on that than they are on Quique. There's much less sampling of guitars going on there than on Quique. So all the guitar parts, the main guitar parts, on Succour are completely reproducible live.
PSF: What was the song writing process like for the band?
MC: I dunno. It's just really quite instinctive really. It was not really very complicated. It's just... at particular moments we'd just be messing around with a particular sound and then that sound would quite often just evoke a melody. Because the sounds we used were very much based around harmonics and stuff. When your listening to a sound, or when I listen to a sound, I can tend to hear a melody in it. Even if it's just like one chord, I can hear things going on because there's so many harmonics going off in those sounds.
PSF: On average, how much time did you spend treating and processing sounds versus the time spent actually recording or writing them? Or, do you even distinguish a difference between the two?
MC: No, I don't see a great difference. I mean, the sound and the song come at the same time really. It's not a question of writing a song then trying to find the sounds to fit the whole thing. [Writing and processing] are like a whole thing. The two are completely alike. Inseparable really. The biggest part of it was not writing the stuff --- I mean, writing stuff is really easy, for me anyway --- the biggest, most time-consuming effort is mixing.
PSF: Mixing?!? Really? And not even arranging?
MC: No, not really. 'Cause again it's very instinctive. But mixing it.... especially on Succour, we spent hours, and days and days on the album. [Laughs.]
PSF: In a lot of your songs I noticed that, particularly with Quique, the drum and percussion sounds seem very Eighties like 4AD while the rest of the music sounds distinctively ahead of its time. Would you agree with that and were you consciously trying to do that or was that just the way it came out?
MC: No, that definitely wasn't a conscious thing. Probably, a lot of that just comes down to limitations. When the tracks were written it was just far easier for me to program rhythms on the drum machine. We didn't have the resources to go and record a whole drum kit --- or at least to record it properly, how we'd want to record it. Just because of the cost and the money involved. A lot of it just came down to keeping it simple... it was just limitations really. I mean I would have loved, on the first album, to have been able to have gone into the studio to record the drums live and record them really, really well. But because we couldn't do that, we didn't want some kind of horrible, lo-fi drum sound. And to record them properly would have cost us thousands and thousands of pounds.
PSF: I understand. The interesting thing though is that I think that as a result of that, your music doesn't sound instantly recognizable as being sort of 'hip,' you know? Like the emphasis doesn't really seem like it's on the beats, like some trip-hop sort of thing where you have these very loud, clubbier beats. It seems much more subdued. Would you agree with that?
MC: Yeah, yeah. Partly as well because we never placed a great emphasis on the rhythms. I mean in a sense that's kind of like a rock element to it, where in rock music the drums tend to sit behind the music rather than in front of the music. I think that... certainly on Quique, the rhythms were just meant as a backdrop really rather than just being in your face and trying to make a point.
PSF: Do you think that has anything to do with how the music was received, because it couldn't be instantly codified as being a hipster kind of music?
MC: Yeah, I think if we'd gone into the studio and put like Chemical Brother type beats behind it, it would have made it probably much more instant to people, but... that's just not something... that's just not what we're about. And when we were recording, we were never thinking, "Oh, let's make a record which the kids can dance to." There was no kind of thought despite that. It was just, "Make the music you want to make." None of us were particularly great rhythm programmers anyway. It wasn't really what any of us were about. We could have got some producer to come in, but it just never occurred to us. Even if it had, we probably wouldn't have done a thing about it.
PSF: Have there ever been times when you've wanted to express something more literally or directly than the ethereal palate of Seefeel or Disjecta allowed you to?
MC: Not especially. Sometimes, I will just think, "Oh I might try and write a more poppy song or a more traditional song," but inevitably I just end up cutting it all to pieces and then it ends up sounding like what I do anyway. [Laughs.] I never feel the urge... It's probably because I get off on making sounds, not on copying them. So, whatever music I love, I never feel the urge to copy it.
PSF: What are some things that you listen to that might surprise someone, knowing your background in sound manipulation?
MC: I like a lot of music. All kinds of stuff from very experimental music to very song-based music. I listen to a lot of Low and stuff like that. At the same time I also love Steve Albini and what he does with Shellac which again might surprise people. Or maybe not. Maybe Shellac isn't a million miles away from what we did. Obviously not the style of the music, but more the thought process behind it. But I listen to a lot of song-based music as well.
PSF: Have you ever felt that the music you were doing might have just as many, albeit quite different, creative constraints as more condensed or easily digestible forms of music?
MC: I'm not sure actually. I mean in a sense I suppose I could see it both ways and say there's no constraints because I can do whatever I want, in a sense. But then at the same time, one of the things --- especially with Seefeel --- is we actually put constraints on ourselves. We were very disciplined about the way we worked. I like to work within a framework rather than just [anything goes]. Say a band like Hood who kind of flip from songs to kind of regular electronic stuff within the same album. I mean... I much prefer albums which have a kind of sound or theme going through them.
PSF: Some sort of psychological consistency.
MC: Yes, something Autechre are very good at. They move on, but all their albums tend to have a process going through them. And I really admire that. That's the kind of music that I enjoy making. Rather than creating one song, and then another song, and then another song and hoping they kind of go together, I'd much rather try and create something which has a process and a thought going through the whole thing.
PSF: You mentioned something about self-imposing certain constraints. What do you think some of those were?
MC: Well, very simple things. For example, on Quique we had a rule about no drum fills. [Laughs.] Which sounds kind of like a [dogma]. It's kind of one of those things which seems very petty, but actually it makes a huge difference in the way you work. You kind of take away a whole dynamic element, for example, from the drums. Because having little rules like that, having those kind of constraints, made us work within a really disciplined framework. And that is one of the things that which really helped towards the sound I think.
PSF: To what extent do you think there was an audience for your music during the early to mid Nineties, when Seefeel was really beginning to take off creatively?
MC: Well, I would never have known apart from the record sales. We sold a reasonable amount of records.
PSF: [Not that it really matters], but I'm curious, how many albums did you sell?
MC: Well, I think Quique probably did about sixteen or seventeen thousand. Not a lot, but it's a lot more than we ever thought it would do. We never [had aspirations] to sell hundreds of thousands of records or anything, but at the same time, when we signed to Too Pure, we were hoping we'd sell five hundred records. We would've been happy with that because we enjoyed making music. It's like now I would still make music if no one bought it. Record sales aren't what motivate me. I just love making music. If people boycotted my records and said, "I'm never gonna buy any of your records," and no one ever bought them, it wouldn't stop me making music.
PSF: Do you think the general attitude towards your music has changed at all [since it was released]?
MC: I'm not sure to be honest with you. I think Seefeel's still quite a hidden band. I know the record's still selling in small quantities so obviously people are still discovering it. I'm sure that always happened. It's that kind of music that's not locked in a particular time scale so I think people will always find it. But, I don't know what relevance it has these days. I don't know how people perceive it or anything. I really have no idea. [Laughs.] I know people are out there who still like it 'cause I still get emails from people all the time... I'm always amazed that people still get in touch quite regularly and people are are saying, "What are you doing and when are you gonna release something new?" I half-expected to be forgotten, you know? Things are so transient these days that people just move on. Especially since it's not like there's a shortage of good music. There's a lot to listen to these days.
PSF: What do you think about the term "post-rock" and its association with bands like Tortoise? Do you think it's unfortunate that Seefeel might have missed the boat as far as the popularization of that supposed style is concerned, or would you just as well have had as little to do with it as possible?
MC: Well, the thing about Seefeel is that we just made music which we enjoyed making. Like I said, I happen to listen to all kinds of music, and all those elements came together and made Seefeel. We never wanted to be part of anything. We never tried to. It was never part of the process. We just made music and everyone else tried to put these labels on us afterwards. One of things, when Quique came out, we got put into so many different kinds of little groups. Like, "They're kind of dub-rock, kind of ambient.'" It was like they wanted to put us in every kind of brand of music, and it was kind of irritating to be honest with you. We kind of thought, "It's just music," and the whole labeling of it just seemed ridiculous. You know, we were just Seefeel. And we were never trying to be a particular brand of music. And nearly every interview we read, or every article about us, seemed to call us a different thing. As far as bands like Tortoise go... it doesn't bother me if we're put with them or not put with them. It really doesn't matter and as far as missing the boat I never really look at it like that because we did our thing at our time and they're doing their thing in their time. It kind of makes me feel like it's competitive which it's not, to me.
PSF: Sure. Definitely. The main reason I mentioned that is that... it seems like the popularity of certain groups has something to do with them sort of being instantly recognizable as being a part of a specific sound or movement. But it seems like one of the things that might have resigned Seefeel to a certain level of obscurity was the fact that its name couldn't be interchangeable with a particular style or regional sound.
MC: Right, I see what you mean. Yeah, I can see that. It's much easier to be a part of a whole movement, 'cause it's like you've had the legwork done for you by other bands. It's like, if there's ten bands doing the same thing and ten thousand people get into each band, then inevitably they're gonna always pass it on and say, "Oh, you should try this band out, and this band out, and this band out." And so the cumulative effect is that all those bands help you sell a hundred thousand records. I think with us... you either found Seefeel or you didn't. [Laughs.] It was as simple as that. You couldn't have another band and say, 'oh if you like this, you should listen to Seefeel' because I don't think there were too many other bands like us.
PSF: You mentioned something before about the comparisons to dub. Even a casual listen to some of your records will elicit comparisons to dub. How deep do you think these apparent similarities actually are?
MC: I think the most obvious influence... I mean I used to listen to a lot of dub music and Justin did as well. I think it was the bass, the bass sound, and the tracks being anchored to a really heavy kind of slow, grooving bassline, but I think really one of the biggest influences [of dub on our music] is that there's a lot of space in dub music, a lot of room. And also the kind of deconstructive nature of dub means that it doesn't... it doesn't really have hooks. And that to me, that's kind of one of the less obvious influences of it. I don't deny it. It's like with My Bloody Valentine, dub was a big influence and it's probably one of the more obvious influences in our music. But yeah, when you listen to a dub track it doesn't matter what's going on above you, it's always tied down by this heavy bass, and this sense of space and... room in the music.
PSF: When I was a junior in high school and I first got Quique, I got incredibly sick shortly afterwards, and I remember that a big part of my getting into the album was that it was one of the best records to listen to when I was feeling sick; it wasn't too obtrusive, but it wasn't just wallpaper either. Do you think your music has a therapeutic quality to it?
MC: For me, making it definitely does. I can feel really low and I then I can make music and within minutes, if I do something which I really like, it can just transform my mood instantly. Like I can just go though a complete mood swing, from being completely low to completely high. My music does that to me, personally, and so I would assume then that at least some of that comes out in the music [for other people]. I mean I know, for example, that Quique was used with autistic children. I have letters from people saying they've used it therapeutically with children. So I know from that point of view that it does have that effect.
PSF: Wow. Where was that?
MC: Well, the letter was from some place in Liverpool. It was just a letter saying, "Thank you, this has been invaluable with working with autistic children." And I know people have given birth to it. I've had letters from people who've given birth to Quique.
PSF: That's incredibly flattering. I have to say -- not to sound morbid -- but a song like "Ruby-Ha" [off Succour] seems like a really good track to die to.
MC: Right. [Laughs.]
PSF: Even if it was a "suicide track" like Leonard Cohen's "Dress Rehearsal Rag" or something --- to me, at least --- it really exists on that same level.
MC: Well, honestly I've never thought of that before, but yeah, it's good. That's really important to me, that people... that our music's not just "nice," that it kind of has some sort of emotional effect on people. Obviously, I don't want people to go out and top themselves, but at the same time it's good that it gives something to people rather than just being something you just put on in the background while your doing the ironing.
PSF: Who would you say are some of your contemporaries in music?
MC: Umm... I really couldn't say... I mean, I know there's a number of people on Warp who are very similar to me or work in a very similar way, but the end results are very different. I can think of people like that who have a similar mentality, but... Even an obvious band like My Bloody Valentine which is a band we always got compared to in a way... the more I listen to them, the more I think that actually they're incredibly different to us, and the longer time goes on the more that connection seems kind of ridiculous to me. Even though, obviously, I would never deny that they were a massive influence on me, as a band. But there's not too many bands [that I would see] as my contemporaries.
PSF: Do you ever hear your influence in other people's music?
MC: I hear bands and I kind of think they're working along the same lines. Whether or not they're influenced by us, I would never kind of say, "Oh yeah, they are." I mean I hear stuff by bands like Sigur Ros and stuff and I kind of think, you know, "They could have listened to Seefeel." But, having said that, they could just as well not have. They might never have heard of us. To be honest with you, a lot of people write and say that we're an influence on them. If they tell me they are that's fine, but I would never assume that we've directly influenced anyone really.
PSF: You're generally regarded as the leader of Seefeel. Why do you think that is and do you think that's an accurate assumption?
MC: Umm, it's difficult because it's true in one way, but then at the same time Seefeel was also the sum of its parts. I mean, even if there's a track where maybe the other members did very little on it, it still [ended up sounding] very different from the way it would if I was working on my own. So, on the tracks where I worked the most on them, there's still a kind of psychological attachment to the other three members and being aware of their kind of... taste, basically.
PSF: How democratic was the band and what do you think each member brought into the fold?
MC: It was democratic to the point that I would never force anything upon the other members. I would never say, "I like this track and we're gonna use it." I know that I tended to push ahead with ideas, and stuff and sometimes I worked I think too quickly for the others. But at the same time, Sarah's voice is an absolute key element to Seefeel. And then Daren did give a lot of ideas on the bass parts and also he provided a lot of little samples and little ideas which maybe grew into tracks. Justin was probably the least active in the studio, but then his personality tended to keep us all up. So just on a personal level he was a great person to be around when we recorded, certainly on the first album. And so it's not the obvious thing where, "Oh yeah Sarah's a great singer, Daren's a great bass player, and Justin's a great drummer." I think everyone brought quite distinctive things, and not always musically.
PSF: Yeah, it's like you need those people there, but not necessarily for the direct purpose of making music.
MC: Yeah, absolutely. If I'm raging ahead working on a track and I look around and the other three members are looking really bemused and kind of a bit "ehhh" then I kind of realize that maybe... I'm just getting off on the process and what I'm actually doing isn't that great. It's like people often say, "Oh you know if you did so much with Seefeel why did you need the other three?" but the simple fact is: it would never have been the same if I did it without the other three. Even if, like I said, on one particular track they never contributed anything --- which never happened anyway really, there was always some contribution --- I would just work very differently from that on my own. For example, at the moment I'm doing stuff with Mira Calix. She's basically singing and she adds a few sounds and ideas as well, but I'm doing a lot of the musical work on it. But because of the person she is, and because of her voice and the way she sings, it kind of pushes me into a particular area which I would never go to otherwise.
PSF: Do you think the darker, more skeletal sound of later recordings like Succour and Ch-Vox had anything to do with the band's starting to unravel?
MC: Probably, yeah. I mean, after Quique we did a lot of touring and... I for one don't really enjoy touring. I don't like being away for long periods of time, living in hotels and on buses and stuff. And there were definitely tensions appearing in the band. Not anything nasty. It was just not the kind of great, glamorous thing we thought it was gonna be. You know when you sign with a record label and get on tour and start doing everything [you think] "Oh this is gonna be fantastic," when actually it was hard work. I think especially for me, it was very stressful because going on tour and sound checking and having to get the sound absolutely right --- because the thing is about Seefeel is that it can sound awful live if you don't get it right. Because of the elements [we were using], the soundchecks were kind of stressful and the whole thing just became a bit of a nightmare sometimes, or for me personally. And I think the other three didn't kind of enjoy it either. I mean... I wouldn't have known at the time, but I think definitely in retrospect, when I think about it, it comes through in the music. When I listen to Succour now, whenever I do, I almost can't see where it came from. It's strange. Because... it's exactly the same as Quique, we didn't sit down and say, "Well, what are we gonna do for the second album?" It was just, "Go in and record something." And all of Seefeel's music, it all kind of reflected whatever state of mind we were in at the time.
PSF: Could you talk a little bit about that, how and why the group ultimately broke up?
MC: I think it was kind of a number of reasons. I'm a quite headstrong person and I think the other three, more and more, probably did feel that they wanted to have more imput, but then they never gave me anything to kind of work on. In a lot of ways, I would have been quite happy for them to have put a lot more ideas into the band, to take some of the pressure off me. But it was kind of like they were almost afraid to give me ideas and stuff.
PSF: So it was sort of a stalemate.
MC: Yeah. So it was kind of this strange thing where we were committed to do albums for people and I kind of thought, "Well, if I don't get on and do it, they're not gonna be done and we have deadlines and commitments which we have to uphold." So partly it was just me thinking, "Well, I'm just gonna get on with it." Like I said, our heads were all over the place anyway. I think it just caused a divide. It's funny 'cause... once there was a rupture there, it was very difficult to plaster over it. And I think they had to go and do their own thing. I think after Scala we could have quite easily gotten back together and done another album. We don't hate each other or anything. We're still kind of reasonably friendly towards each other. And we never actually formally split up and you know there's always a chance one day we might do something again. But I think they needed to do Scala --- or they need to do things on their own --- 'cause they felt like they needed to prove something to themselves. I think they felt that I proved myself and they needed to do something for themselves...
PSF: You mentioned Seefeel possibly getting back together. Do you think there's a need for that or do you think your recorded output speaks for itself as it is? Do you think Seefeel's unresolved?
MC: No, not especially. We'd only get back together again and record something new because we wanted to. I can think of the three albums, Quique, Succour and Ch-Vox, and it feels like a whole to me almost. I think the only reason we'd get back together and do another album would be just because we all really enjoyed doing it. Not for any creative reason. We got together a couple of times really, a couple of years ago, and a couple of years before that. We have intermittently gotten together and done stuff, but we just never really pursued it.
PSF: If you did do another project with the band, do you think you'd do it under the name Seefeel?
MC: I wouldn't be afraid of doing it under the name of Seefeel, but... I would never do anything just for the sake of it. I'm very conscious of what I put out and what I don't put out. Like I said, we got together and recorded some tracks, and they were good, but because it's four years on and we'd already done that, to me it just kind of seemed a bit regressive. I could turn Quique 2 out in my sleep. It's easy, it's a process and I know exactly how to do it, but it becomes really mechanical then and it's a bit pointless. Going back to what I said before about making music because I love doing it, because I love creating new sounds... I mean if Daren and Sarah came to me and we got together and they had some great new ideas and I had some new ideas and we put them together and it made a great record, and it was relevant, and it was a step forward, I'd be quite happy to to it. But I'd never make another Seefeel record just for the sake of it. It's pointless. I mean, if people want to buy Seefeel, the records are still there.
PSF: So, what are you up to these days? You mentioned something about Mira Calix. Are you still doing stuff under the name Disjecta, are you playing out live, DJing, anything like that?
MC: I haven't been. I did a show in Brussels about three months ago. It was the first time I played live in years, mainly because I agreed to do All Tomorrow's Parties with Rob and Sean of Autechre. I'm getting asked to do gigs quite a lot, well ever since Seefeel, really, but I tend to say no. But because Rob and Sean asked me to do this, I thought, "Well, I'll do it." It's good because I've made music all the time, I make music constantly, but I just never think about releasing any of it. So I've got like... just... you know, boxes and boxes of music. But playing ATP has made me realize I should release something. So I'm releasing an EP and then probably an album at some point. [Note: Mark has since released this EP, under the name Disjecta, on his own Polyfusia Records label.]
PSF: How did you hook up with the Cocteau Twins and end up remixing the songs for the Otherness EP? That must have been sort a dream come true for you.
MC: Yeah kind of. When I was about 13, when I kind of discovered the Cocteau Twins they were a really, really important band to me. At the time I remember thinking, "I wanna make music and I wanna work with the Cocteau Twins." So yeah it was. When we did our first EP, More Like Space, I just sent Elizabeth [Fraser, vocals] a copy of it, just basically saying, "I've been a lifelong fan of your music." It was kind of like saying thank you. I didn't expect to get a reply or anything. It was just a gesture really. I certainly didn't think they'd like it. So then I got a letter from Robin [Guthrie, guitar] saying they really enjoyed it and would I like to come and meet them. So I went up to their studio with Daren and sat there and chatted with them and they were really nice, friendly people. I kind of expected them to be a bit hostile and confrontational, but they weren't, they were the most chilled out people you could possibly meet. [Laughs.] We sat there and he played demos of their new material. At the time it seemed all really natural, but when we walked away it was like, "I can't believe we just sat there and we chatted to Robin and listened to his new songs while he was mixing them and stuff." I think we got on well with them from the start because it was a very short time after he just rang up and said, "Would you like to come and do some work with us?" And he basically just said to me that I could just pick whatever tracks I wanted to, to remix, and that was just... He took us to this little room with all these like tapes of every Cocteau Twins track ever. He said, "Mix two tracks off the new album and pick whatever two tracks you want from the back catalog." So I just kind of looked at all these tapes and thought, "Well I'll have that one and that one."
PSF: That's really cool.
MC: Yeah. It was a really, really uncomplicated process. It was a friendship thing almost, in the end.
PSF: What kind of car do you drive?
MC: I don't drive.
PSF: You don't drive?
MC: Well, I can drive. I used to have a mini. About two years ago I bought like a jeep and it was the only left-hand model they made. Like a classic car. But it was a really strange little car and it kind of started to fall apart. We had some really bad storms here, in Brighton, and the roof got ripped apart and the electrics got damaged. And my insurance company didn't sort it out for like ages. And the more they left it, the more the car kind of deteriorated. So this beautiful little car just kind of sat there, gradually decaying, in the streets outside. And finally the council took it away. [Laughs.] I came down one morning and it just wasn't there anymore and then I rang the council and they said it was taken away to their yard. So it sat in this yard, accruing like massive fees 'cause every day it sits there you have to pay. And eventually the insurance company, after about six months, went and had a look at it and by that time it was just past it. And since then, I've just not even thought about buying a car again. [Laughs.]
See some of Mark Clifford's favorite music
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