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4 April 2011

Pen Cap Chew (2011)

Today we are joined by Adam Winship, founding member of York band Pen Cap Chew.

King Uke: Thanks for taking time out of your hectic calendar to do this interview Adam. For readers who haven't heard of Pen Cap Chew: Please can you tell us a little bit about the band? When did you form?

Adam: The band formed in York in 1995. As I remember it, it was all a bit spur of the moment really. I had some lyrics and Andy had some music, so we got together to see what we could do. 'Alone' was the first track we recorded and there is a funny story attached to it. Guitar strings were broken so the solo wasn't possible. The guitar solo was recreated vocally by attaching the microphone to a fuzz box. I think it works well.

King Uke: How much recording did you do in the 90s?

Adam: Enough material was recorded at the time to make a short album of around 35 minutes and, apart from a few outtakes, this was the only material recorded before Andy and I went our separate ways.

King Uke: What were your influences at the time?

Adam: At the time of the original Pen Cap Chew recordings, I was very much influenced by the alternative music scene; People like: the Melvins, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Sebadoh, Pavement, Dinosaur Jr, etc. All of those bands made great lo-fi recordings that appealed to a large audience. They made it possible to produce a lot of uncommercial music and make it popular. Sebadoh were a particular influence at the time as they recorded many songs in the garage on a 4 track recorder. Many people would have considered these to be demo recordings, but these were finished albums for Sebadoh. I love that home made feel in music, I find it easy to connect with, as the music is raw and has a lot more energy. We tried to capture some of this with Pen Cap Chew.

King Uke: It sounds like a very basic approach to making music.

Adam: Definitely. Mudhoney's most recent album, released in 2008, was recorded in just 5 days with no rehearsal, performed live in the studio. It's their best album in a while and I think this is due to the way it was recorded. Also, with Nirvana, there is now a box set of home recordings and demos available and to be honest, I listen to this a lot more than the albums that they released when they were active. Many of the songs were never released until now and you have to wonder why as they are great songs in this stripped down form.

King Uke: What happened to Pen Cap Chew after the first album?

Adam: The band has been pretty much dormant since 1996 now. Recently, I started recording some material at home in a lo-fi style, however, my musical interests have widened somewhat and I was trying to marry my beloved lo-fi sound to a more progressive style.

King Uke: That sounds like an interesting mix. Who are you listening to at the moment?

Adam: Over the past few years more influences have started to come into play. I am a huge fan of Frank Zappa. 94 albums are available, he was incredibly prolific. In one year he released 4 albums and not a duff one among them. Frank Zappa opened my eyes to many different styles of music, from psychedelia through to jazz and avant garde stylings. I also listen to people like Captain Beefheart, John Cale, Matching Mole, Robert Wyatt and the Soft Machine. Recently, I have also discovered many of the modern prog bands that are around; People like: Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Dream Theater and Bigelf. They all offer many different influences and styles. Some of which I have tried to incorporate into my music.

King Uke: How has this new mix of styles gone?

Adam: Some of the new songs were reaching the 30 minute mark and I started to lose interest in this a bit and felt it didn't really work with a lo-fi sound. As a result of this I started looking at creating a song cycle, one piece of music of around an hour which was split into very distinct sections. This seemed to work a bit better. I have written and recorded many songs over the past two years or so but felt that the material was a bit one dimensional, so again, I went back to the drawing board.

King Uke: It sounds like you've encountered the curse of the ‘difficult second album’. Tell us about your newest song: The Message of Christmas.

Adam: Recently, I have been in contact with Andy on Facebook and a new song has been recorded. This is a Christmas song and it was written and recorded in less than a day and is now available for people to listen to. It's a beautiful song and features no guitars at all and is mainly played on piano.

King Uke: It's a classic alright! And of course, it's got those trademark lyrics. Where do you get your inspiration?

Adam: I like that Pen Cap Chew can make people laugh and cry at the same time. It comes from being in touch with the melancholy side of life, but also finding a lot of humour in life too. These are two total opposites that can make a combustive combination, but work well together.

King Uke: What's your favourite Pen Cap Chew lyric?

Adam: That's a difficult question. I would say the track Biding My Time contains some of my favourite lyrics. That song was written about a very specific time in my life, that is memorable for the wrong reasons really, but I tried to turn it into something useful. I can look back on it and smile now, but at the time I certainly wasn't enjoying myself. It was a time where a lot of bad luck happened. The lyrics pretty much describe a typical day from that time when I was unemployed and the weekend didn't mean as much to me.

King Uke: What's your favourite Pen Cap Chew song?

Adam: I'm proud of all of them and the statement they were making at the time they were recorded, and the influences that were around at the time. I really like the Are you Sure track. I think that's a beautiful song and Biding my time for the same reasons that the lyrics are a favourite.

King Uke: You’ve made your back catalogue available on YouTube. How’s that being received?

Adam: So far feedback has been positive. Nobody's asked for their money back.

King Uke: Do you have any plans for any new songs?

Adam: There may be more new songs to come. I've got the lyrics if Andy has the music.

King Uke: Thank you Adam for spending time with us and good luck for the future!

You can find out more about Pen Cap Chew at their official Facebook page:

All songs are also available on YouTube

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