INTERVIEW

A decade in music, the hard way: Reef Younis meets 65dos’ sort of front man Paul Wolinski

65dos

Less a debut and more a salvo of barracking guitar noise, glitching electronics and foundation-shaking percussion, it’s almost a decade since 65daysofstatic emerged with the ‘The Fall of Math’. It quickly became their calling card, and a relentless trinity of sound that’s doggedly endured over the last ten years. Set to enjoy a second life in the form of a long-demanded vinyl release, and a handful of commemorative March live shows that’ll see ‘The Fall of Math’ performed in its entirety alongside a mirror set of more contemporary material, it’s a celebratory bookend for the partisan fans that have backed the band through the good and the bad.

See, 65days have forged their reputation by doing it the hard way. There’ve been no hypemachines, no handouts and no shortage of harsh lessons over the course of the band’s chastening history. From navigating the myriad of industry pitfalls to apathetic label troubles, they’ve made a career out of slipping through the cracks. “We know how lucky we are just to be hanging on with the current state of everything,” founder member, guitarist, keyboardist and sort-of frontman, Paul Wolinski half-laughs, “but there’s something about being in a band when you start out and that forced naivety of brainwashing yourself. We wanted to be the biggest band in the world even though we were playing this weird instrumental music. I’d still love for that to happen but it’s been tempered by a decade of being in 65days and the realities of that. We’ve played some huge arenas, big festivals and, on occasion, had 20,000 people in front of us, so it’s good to know we’re capable of pulling off shows like that. You do lose a lack of intimacy but it also makes you appreciate just how good shows to a few hundred people can be.”

It’s no doubt a familiar story for swathes of young musicians plotting their bold mission statements and dreaming of what they’ll splurge their first advance on. For the majority, it’s a pipedream, and the grim realities and the grind of gruelling touring schedules faces those not given a fast-track past the toilet venues.

“We’ve never really had that choice,” says Wolinski, “but a lot of bands that started out the same time as us have fallen by the wayside because they just can’t keep it going at the not-quite-breakthrough level. It takes a lot out of you and it is frustrating when bands who start a few years later sail past you and climb up festival bills, but we remember that we have this dedicated following of people who’ve never really cared what we’re classed as, and that we’re still here. That feels like a much sturdier foundation. Someone else might have a house because they got a big publishing advance but no one remembers they even existed. We’ve never had the chance to give in to that temptation,” he laughs.

We move onto the subject of the glut of tags that have tracked the band since that debut storm of post-rock instrumentation, heavy guitars, and jagged, slashing electronica. Carrying the weight of post-rock, math-rock, experimental rock, electronic (sic), for a band more focused on driving in a different direction with each release, there was always a sense that these Post-its were as reductive as they were referential.

“It is frustrating and we probably did ourselves no favours having this multi-syllable name when we started out,” admits Wolinski. “There are a lot of bands under the shadow of Mogwai and what they did with ‘Young Team’ and ‘Come on Die Young’ but we always felt we were chasing At the Drive In, or And You Will Know us By the Trail of Dead… but doing something electronic too.  It was always a surprise when we got called post-rock but then we don’t have any lyrics, and we’ve got a really long idiosyncratic name.

“We used to spend a lot of time trying to escape that whole scene because we didn’t want to get pigeonholed but now I don’t really care. I’d just like them to check in with the new record. It’s like I didn’t hear Trail of Dead’s last record and I loved that band for years, but I sort of assume I know what it’ll sound like, and that’s kind of hypocritical of me, because people could easily do the same with our music without taking the time to listen and hear it’s moved on. If you listen to someone like Tim Hecker and Haxan Cloak, there are people doing noisier, stranger stuff but I guess we’re a more user-friendly version of that… our own little party that not many people come to.”

It’s a party that felt like it was gaining momentum with last year’s release of ‘Wild Light’, though – an album that gloriously delivered on 65daysofstatic’s longstanding ability to create music of heft and depth. Energised by the band’s characteristic ferocity, it was a record continuously re-charging and threatening collapse at any moment but it also displayed a complexity and subtlety that allowed the album narrative to emerge. “I’m glad you said that because that was definitely one of the aims,” Wolinski smiles. “The big difference this time was that although we wrote upwards of 50 songs in various states of completion before we went to the studio, we ditched everything apart from the eight songs that ended up on the record and decided that for better or worse, they would be it. At that point we knew that ‘Heat Death Infinity Splitter’ had to be at the beginning and ‘Safe Passage’ had to be at the end. Although a few tracks got switched around during the mixing process, it was basically the record we’d thought it was going to be and it was really exciting to force ourselves to do it this way. I’m as bad as anyone else for skipping tracks but I think it’s an art form, and a great idea to have a collage of songs hinged around an idea. It doesn’t have to be a concept record, just broad strokes, and I think that helped focus the album in terms of making it a complete thing.”

Rewind to 2010 and the band weren’t feeling so content. In an intense seven-day blitz, they recorded their fourth album, ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’, and although it marked a more overt step towards the electronic side of the group’s split dynamic, record label troubles set them back in more ways than one. Wolinski explains:“The last proper record we did before ‘Wild Light’ was ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’ and we didn’t have the greatest relationship with the label [Hassle] because it felt like they dropped the ball quite a lot. It also felt like we had to work really hard just to maintain the ground we’d already made instead of taking advantage of the exposure of moving to a new label. It was a bad experience and we happily avoided the music industry for a few years. Then in those few years everything got harder and things like touring have become more expensive so we were very apprehensive about re-entering the industry.

“And then I suppose ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’ was uncomfortable because maybe we were prototyping the idea of getting off our traditional instruments. I came from the programming side first but the other three came from drums, bass and guitar so, as a band, it was a difficult thing to force ourselves to do. The album definitely had more of a programming aesthetic but it also helped us break down barriers because we became more comfortable using more instruments.

“It was definitely more of a production change as opposed to the actual writing, and also the record before that [‘The Destruction of Small Ideas’] was made without thinking about the live show. We couldn’t play half of it, which made it really unsatisfying trying to make it work so, ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’, that whole record, was written to make a great live show.”

It brings us back to the ‘The Fall of Math’ shows and the reasoning behind the decision to track back to their debut at a time when ‘Wild Light’ is still resonating with fans. “The four of us were immediately sceptical about the idea and of lapsing into nostalgia,” says Wolinski. “Just doing ‘The Fall of Math’ from start to finish felt a bit too specialised and this idea was suggested to us around the time ‘Wild Light’ was getting released and we were really excited about it and we just didn’t want it to feel like stepping back. There was a lot of internal indecision and we agonised over it but we decided we could do it as long as there was a second set. The idea then became that everyone could listen to ‘The Fall of Math’ and enjoy it but then the second set will remind everyone of what we’re about now.

“I think there’s also that thing that if bands that I love had announced something like this, I’d be dead excited, so I understand it on some abstract level but we find it very hard to see ourselves like that. We wrote that record not knowing what we were doing, like all bands who write their first records, so it’s flattering that people hear in that record what I hear in the debut albums of all the bands I love. But when I listen to ‘Fall of Math’, I just hear all the things I want to change.”

It’s an offhand comment but one that seems to underline 65daysofstatic’s overriding attitude to the decade since ‘The Fall of Math’s initial release, and the l3 years the band has been active. There’s pride in what they’ve accomplished and a sufficiency in the way they’ve done it but nostalgia doesn’t have a natural place. “No, it doesn’t really,” Wolinski laughs. “I’m really proud of everything we’ve done, even ‘The Destruction of Small Ideas’, because that’s the one I’ve got the biggest problem with. Although I’m proud of the songs we wrote on that, I think the way we went about making that record was questionable. As a bunch of records, and as a band, I really like how [the last ten years] shows an evolution, but hopefully a lot of sidesteps as well as forward steps. We realised quite early on we wanted to be one of those bands that genuinely tries something different with each record instead of refining the same sound over and over again.

“I don’t mean that to sound derogatory but take Godspeed You! Black Emperor, for example. I love that band and think the last record is as good as some of their other stuff but they’re just refining that one big idea they’ve got to this razor sharp point. I don’t think we found what we we’re looking for soon enough in our history to become that kind of band because we were too restless.”

On 20 September 2004, 65daysofstatic arrived with the message: ‘How shall we leave this dead-dog town? With the volume up and the windows down?’. Ten years on, they haven’t taken over the world but theirs is still a legacy of Richter scale ambition. “We’ve only ever played ATP once because I don’t think we’re that cool but the one time we did play was when they opened it up to the fans to choose and we were number one in the poll. There’s been lots of little moments like that where there’s all these cliques and boundaries that have been put in place, not out of malice, just in the way the industry works.It’s been quite hard over the last decade to move between them but it’s also great we’ve been able to do that for so long. There was one period where we ended up playing Sonosphere and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the same week,” Wolinski laughs. “One day we we’re surrounded by metal bands and winning over that crowd then a few days later, we’re in Edinburgh soundtracking some contemporary dance from behind a curtain. There’s something oddly satisfying about doing two things so at odds.”

dot

« Previous Interview
Next Interview »