Jem Godfrey (FROST*) über Ängste, Midlife-Crisis und singende Bulldozer
Jem Godfrey ist ein vielbeschäftigter Mann. Der 44-jährige Brite ist gefragter Produzent und Komponist der nationalen Popmusik-Szene. Neben Radio-Jingles und Charterfolgen, fabriziert der Mann in seiner eigenen Band FROST* seit Jahren wundervolle Alben, die in ihrer Progressivität aber nur eine kleine Schar sehr treuer Musik-Nerds interessiert. Jüngst erschien mit „Falling Satellites“ (Hier geht es zur Review) das dritte Album der Neo-Prog-Pop-Electro-Cyber-Rock-Band. Wir konnten dem Maestro ein paar Fragen schicken, die er trotz eines engen Terminkalenders beantwortete.
Um Aussagen nicht zu verfälschen, haben wir das Interview in Englisch belassen und auch nicht die gesetzten Smileys gelöscht, die Jem Godfrey nach manchen Sätzen benutzt hat.
triggerfish.de: Congratulations to a fantastic record. “Falling Satellites” really blew me away. How where the reactions to the new record in general? I think the feedback was quiet positive.
Jem Godfrey: Thank you very much Hendrik! What little I’ve read has seemed to be very positive in general so that’s nice. I don’t really get involved in reading reviews and stuff though as it ends up being quite time consuming if you get too nerdy about it. Besides, it’s done now, I can’t change any of it!
Let us step into the songs! I really like the machine-sounds at the beginning of „Towerblock“. For me it sounds like robots of a car-factory singing. What is it that we hear? Did you sample in an industrial surrounding? And also the shattering glass is nicely woven in the sound-collage that follows!
That’s a great description! 🙂 I had something similar in mind, but mine were singing bulldozers! A lot of the opening stuff was recorded in John Mitchell’s (Gitarrist von FROST*) garden on my phone one morning after a party. I had some recordings of industrial stuff – servos and hydraulic machinery on a DVD so I put them into my sampler and started playing chords with them.
There is this crazy dubstep-section in „Towerblock“. Are you into this genre? After the huge success of Skrillex and co. it became very popular nowadays especially in soundtrack work.
I liked it for a while about 7 years ago, before it got very generic with the “wub wub wub” bass stuff. It sort of morphed into Complextro with artists like Eat Me, Madeon, Justice and such like. I was a fan of that for a bit too.
“Lights Out” in its softness is quite the opposite of “Towerblock”. I love your voice in the mix with the female voice. Who is the singer you sing duet? Is it Chloe Alper of former PURE REASON REVOLUTION? I remember you once posted something about a collaboration with her.
It’s a friend of mine called Tori Beaumont. Chloe and I tried a few things together, but it didn’t really kick off like I’d hoped. She’s doing amazing stuff now though with Tiny Giant.
„Do that thing you’ve been meaning to do for ages NOW and get it done.“
The epic title-track “Milliontown” on your debut was based on the book „The Apprentice“ by Gordon Houghton. Did you have a main topic in mind while writing the lyrics for “Falling Satellites”? Is there any concept or a story behind it?
In this instance – life. This is my midlife crisis album! The whole album is a message to enjoy life while you have it. My dad died 4 weeks before I completed “Falling Satellites” and I suddenly realized how fleeting life actually is. He’d been procrastinating for years while writing a book he’d always wanted to write when he died. But now it will never be finished and it made me understand that every single second of being alive is precious. The whole album is about that – do that thing you’ve been meaning to do for ages NOW and get it done.
Prog isn’t really political at all. This genre seems to have more like an escapist approach when it comes to lyrics. And FROST* doesn’t sing about the EU, refugees or Cameron’s politics. How do you feel about political bands?
It can sound to me sometimes a bit forced to me to have overtly political messages in songs. I think images are far more effective at conveying the horrors that happen on our planet and how we should unite to eradicate them. I’m not sure Prog as an art form could be entrusted to endorse the UK either leaving or staying in the EU, for example, through the medium of Mellotron strings, eye makeup and “interesting” visual backdrop projections. We’re just musicians at the end of the day, not politicians. Similarly I would like to actively encourage Parliament to not form a band ever, leave that to the musicians please.
You guys play some gigs in the UK. Are some more dates planned in the rest of Europe/maybe Germany?
Next year I very much hope. We need to get through the UK shows first!
When you tour, do you party a lot? Is FROST* a “party band”?
Less and less so. Firstly we’re getting older, secondly my voice is the first thing to go if I drink too much on a run of gigs. We’re also increasingly driving ourselves to and from gigs as we like to get home as much as we can individually. Bizarre as it may sound, touring is actually quite good for my liver!
In the beginning of FROST* you got in contact with John Mitchell by just writing him a mail. He joined the band. It seems that you have become really good friends that share a sense of humor (as far as I can tell by watching you on YouTube). Do you only meet when a new record has to be done?
No, but we don’t see each other a huge amount either, but it’s precisely as you say – we’re old and good mates now. We just immediately pick up where we left off when we last saw each other. We do like a good natter on the phone though. 🙂
„It’s not like a David Guetta gig“
You cross borders on your records and FROST*-songs are often technically on a level that most of us musicians don´t reach. How do you handle the tricky parts live? Are there parts you are “afraid of” to play live or do you cheat from time to time?
Great question again. We discovered that we can’t do “The Dividing Line” live, and also, strangely “No Me No You” from Milliontown, but there aren’t many songs we’re “afraid of” as you say. I do use a large amount of samples when we play live, but they’re more to do with capturing sounds on the albums that weren’t made on synths or made conventionally. We run things that are more obviously sequenced on the albums triggered from Craig’s SPD-SX sampler live. Things like the repetitive Dulcimer part on “Numbers” will be run that way otherwise I won’t have enough arms to play the rest of it, similarly the Lydian guitar riff on “Black Light Machine” is triggered. There are some songs that Craig plays to a click, which keeps him in time with samples I trigger live on the synths. It’s a variety of things really. If we weren’t onstage, the songs wouldn’t be able to run by themselves, put it that way, we’re very definitely making the songs happen by being there. It’s not like a David Guetta gig, put it that way.
I loved the FROST*-reports. They really were an entertaining mixture of British humor, nerdy-tech-stuff and insights in the band. You stopped them because of a lack of time. What motivated you to start blogging and will you continue them in the future?
Thank you. Blogging was very new back in 2005, new to me anyway so it was a way of keeping a diary really. People always like to see behind the scenes too so it made sense to start showing what went into making these records. The response was really amazing. We will be doing some new ones. Keep an eye on the website. 🙂
I am a huge fan of the Berlin-based band LOSERS. When I listened to their latest release I instantly thought of you. Later I read: You mixed and co-produced the record! I met the guys at their gig in Cologne and asked them about it. They were glowingly about the work you did for them. How did you get in contact and what where your contributions to the record in particular?
I’ve known Eddy Temple-Morris for about 20 years. He was actually my boss at BBC Radio 1 a long time ago and we’ve always stayed in touch. Losers was something he was involved in and I loved the first album. They liked what I did on a remix I did for them in return and we just leapt off the bridge together to see what would happen. Tom and Paul are incredible musicians with a vulnerable humanity that is so appealing to me. I see myself as being in 2 bands these days as a result, I love what they write and how they sound. It also gives me a much cherished change to not be “the bloke at the front” which I am with Frost*. I can be more of the mad bloke in the background who nobody’s looking at with the ancient Moog hooked up to a load of car batteries and an Echoplex. 🙂
Funnily enough the version of “Azan” on the second album is largely made up of a Frost song that I cannibalized as it went together so well with the original version of “Azan” from the first album. Otherwise that big intro and riff stuff that happens in the first few minutes of “Azan” would have been part of an 8 minute song called “System” that would definitely been on Falling Satellites.
Maybe you hate all the questions about ATOMIC KITTEN and your jobs in the “mainstream-popcorn-easy listening”-business. But are there any “bubblegum”-songs and radio hits you wrote in the last time no one of us knows?
I’m saying nothing. 🙂
Rivers Cuomo of WEEZER once said that he aims to write the perfect pop-song, because this would be the most complex thing to do. Some may disagree. And many music- and especially prog-fans separate between „good“ music (deep, meaningful, complex instrumentation, underground) and „bad“ music (popular and more simple). You are part of both „worlds“. Do you think this separation makes sense or counts for you?
Writing pop songs can be very easy or very tricky, it depends on a variety of factors such as what you’re trying to say, how you’re feeling that day, if you’re feeling inspired or not. The same applies to any genre though I think. It’s like speaking different languages, they’re all.
As I’m informed you live quiet in the countryside of britain. Why not in London – a hotspot for music?
Because I’m a Londoner! It’s on my birth certificate, born and bred, London is where I grew up. After 28 years of living there I couldn’t wait to get out. It was like leaving home and everybody needs to do that eventually I think. I love it in Sussex and I hope to see the rest of my days out within it’s fine and beautiful borders. 🙂