- Sun, 2005-10-30 15:06
With downloads now officially outselling all other singles formats, it would seem the time is ripe for internet-based labels like Protest and artists like The Sweet Chap to rise to the forefront of the music scene. I Like Music caught up with Mike Comber aka The Sweet Chap as he released his latest single Rummage.
“I Like Music because… it does something for me! It makes me feel electric and enables me to describe myself.” The Sweet Chap
ILM: Your new single, Rummage was released online via Protest this week. Can you give us your own personal description of it?
Sweet Chap: It’s a song about frustration for me; frustration in a relationship when people get really petty with each other over a period of time when you’ve been together for a long time, and have a go at each other over such minute things. It’s just that frustration and boredom about being in a relationship, and seeing other people in that kind of relationship and it’s quite hard to watch. And everyone’s been there.
ILM: Of all the Disco For Domestic tracks, which one did you have the most fun making?
Sweet Chap: Probably my most favourite is Delicate. It’s one of the saddest songs on there. I just got it and it felt nice when I was singing it; it felt like the mood I was trying to portray came across really well, and it really meant something to me. Even though it’s probably the most ambiguous song out of all of them (they’re all quite ambiguous and I want to keep it like that), but the lyrics just came out and it just felt right everything about it; whatever it’s about I don’t know, so it was very satisfactory creatively.
ILM: What piece of music hardware or software could you not live without?
Sweet Chap: Logic and a computer. This album was recorded on a PC that I built complete, not being a nerd, but I got this old PC and built it up and the software I use on it is Logic. In terms of writing if you’re a writer, you need a keyboard and my favourite keyboard is a Korg MX 2000, that’s one of my babies. It’s really old with models' analogue keyboards from the 70s, so it’s great, it’s fat, its thick and great for synth bass which I love as well.
ILM: Brighton has influenced you notably, what’s the best and worst thing about Brighton?
Sweet Chap: Brighton is very good to grow up in; once you’re in your early twenties the social life there is incredible, and you learn so much… you learn about the dark side of life, going out and getting drunk and going to clubs and meeting people. So the social life is incredible and brilliant, but I also think it’s quite a false place and can be quite pretentious. I think it’s changed a lot and so many people move in and move out. But when I was young there was a really crusty period, where you had dreads coming down and playing bongos on the beach, but they disappeared after a while, and there was another new group. But at the moment I think it’s quite pretentious. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s got a lot of style and vision, but I’m not sure how deep it goes after that really. But the live music scene is getting a lot better than it was, so that’s fantastic. There’s such a big DJ movement there too. Everyone’s a DJ in Brighton. You’ll ask people what they do and they’re like, ‘I’m a DJ’. But being a musician it’s quite nice that people are getting more into their bands.
ILM: It’s been said, and I agree, that it’s like "eavesdropping in on a private musical conversation between man and his mind." Can you describe the Sweet Chap process of making such beautiful evocative music?
Sweet Chap: Well it all starts off with an acoustic guitar. I call myself a singer/songwriter, but also a producer/performer. I start off with a riff in my head and then I need to intensify it, I need to be eccentric, because that’s how I feel about music, it has to be eccentric and slightly insane, and the only way I can get that and express myself in that way is to use electronic music: samples, beats, synths and synthetic sounds. I just love it and that really signifies how I’m feeling and expresses my emotions. So I concoct that together and often juxtapose sweet music against quite abrupt music and that’s how it forms. I might play a simple riff on the guitar and think how can I create that electronically, and you can get a really nice end result, and I like doing that. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s great to get creative in that way.
ILM: What’s your current favourite song to play live?
Sweet Chap: I love them all, I really do. We’re playing some new songs that are really refreshing and aren’t even on that album. But from Disco For A Domestic… Rummage, we love playing that. It’s a serious song, quite sad and downbeat. But it’s nice and we really put our hearts and souls into playing it. And Superman Three, that’s one of my favourite to play out live. It’s just so lazy.
ILM: What’s your favourite live experience as a punter?
Sweet Chap: I see so many good bands. But Radiohead in Fife when I was about 18 just blew me away, that was a brilliant experience. To see a band that just blew me away live was fantastic. They’re such a good band and they’re a big influence. And Elliot Smith, we saw him about a year before he killed himself, and I’ve always been a big fan of him as a singer/songwriter. That was great to see him, he was brilliant live.
ILM: In 2004 you partnered with Kazaa and 50,000 people downloaded your Disco For A Domestic album, how did that come about?
Sweet Chap: We approached them, me and my management company. We saw the Internet format of getting your music heard, and we liaised with Kazaa and it got on the site and people downloaded it for free. I believe some music should be free to a certain extent, as a kid I would often record music onto tape, but it didn’t stop me going out and buying the album, so there’s a free culture of music. I was amazed and really happy that people had downloaded the songs from all over the world. So we definitely wanted to be part of the Internet as a way to distribute songs. It’s really exciting to be on an Internet-based record label (Protest Recordings). You don’t just have to release an album how it’s recognised at the moment, as a collection of songs on a CD. You can change it on the Internet, you can release three songs now and then three songs a while later and still release an album. Also, if you’re an artist and you’ve got a song you can release it over the Internet straight away, so creatively it’s brilliant.
ILM: What advice do you have for young musicians trying to get into the industry?
Sweet Chap: You’ve got to be strong at first. If you know you’re a good enough writer and believe in yourself and others do, then get your CDs out there and get a manager, that’s really important. Everyone needs a manager,. All the admin stuff can kill the creative side for an artist, so you get someone who’s interested in managing the business side, that’s a big thing. So get a good manager and take it from there.
ILM: Novelty Mouse Mat is about a workaholic (such as myself). How do you relax?
Sweet Chap: I’ll be honest, I go to the pub. That’s my favourite place and I go down to Brighton a lot. I’ve got a ten year old daughter, so I go down there a lot and look after her. Well, she looks after me. It’s the nature of the job that there’s a lot of drinking and going out at gigs, so it can get a over the top sometimes, and she’s the stability that I need.
ILM: Can you describe your favourite place on earth?
Sweet Chap: The New Forest, Hampshire.
ILM: What is in your CD player right now?
Sweet Chap: I’m quite into I Am Kloot at the moment actually. I saw them at Glastonbury and they’re a really great band. I’ve just finished listening to Gods Are Monsters, and it’s a really good album. And a bit of Muse as well. They blow me away live. Really influenced by the way they play, they’re such a good band, such good musicians, he can sing really well, great guitarist and pianist, great songwriters. Really energetic and quite fierce as well.
ILM: Please tell me your favourite tune that makes you chill out.
Sweet Chap: A Tom Waits song on his second album, The Ghost Of Saturday Night, it’s called The Heart Of Saturday Night and is such a beautiful piece of music; really free. It’s about a guy who goes out on a Saturday night and tries to have a good time and ends up laying in the gutter somewhere really drunk, and he hasn’t had a good night, but that’s just typical, trying to go out and have a good time.
ILM: Future plans?
Sweet Chap: It’s really exciting. Rummage might be the last single, because we’ve got the album coming out, but I’ve got a backlog of new material that’s at demo stage now, so we’re looking to properly take these down to the studio and really beef them up, so we’re looking forward to starting releasing the new stuff off that with Protest. That’s going to be fantastic.