The evolution will be televised
Attempting to “teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future” is a bold mission statement, but it’s one that Public Service Broadcasting are equipped to deliver.
Based on a commitment to digging through BFI and propaganda archives, the elegantly monikered J. Willgoose, Esq. is a sample snaffler of the highest order, marrying the transcendent builds of electronica and post rock with the stiff upper-lipped nostalgia of wartime Britain.
Each track is a mini-masterpiece of craft and consideration; a triumph of crate-digging and archive footage given a new, powerful lease of life. A combination of spontaneous inspiration and careful planning, Public Service Broadcasting is a testament to the virtues of patience.
“Each song takes a while,” J begins. “There’s a fair bit of watching old films, a fair bit of contacting the people and getting the rights, and of course some people are more accommodating than others. Then you’ve got to write the flipping song. I couldn’t put a time on it in exact hours but a few months per track. The whole of the ‘War Room EP’ [released May of this year and featuring tracks as emotively titled as ‘Dig For Victory’, ‘Waltz For George’ and, simply, ‘Spitfire’] started in October and finished at the end of March so, that was a stretch – five songs, five months. It can be done a lot quicker but it’s better to take your time over it.
“I’ve been doing it for three years now,” J continues, “but the first time it happened, I was listening to Radio 4 and Tom Robinson was interviewing someone from the national archives and they said they’d just published a lot of stuff from the 40s, 50s and 60s online. I went and had a listen, then in a very rudimentary, DJ Shadow-esque kind of way, put something together and played it to my friends. Contrary to everything else I’d ever played them, they said it was really good,” he laughs.
It’s a process that hinges on a dedicated tunnel vision to single tracks, as opposed to churning through and refining a voluminous amount of content. It’s an intense process for J to perfect.
“I only ever work on one thing at a time,” he says. “That isn’t to say everything I start I finish, but it’s not like I can churn out 60 tracks and whittle them down. I definitely need four/five hour chunks of time so that if something hits me I can run with it. Often it’s three or four hours of banging your head against a wall when you’re trying to work out where a song’s going but sometimes it just makes sense. It’s just working hard to get what’s in your head out there.”