‘the area often described as the last ice area... is melting’ CUTS 2018
in many ways this interview wasn’t meant to happen. likewise the destruction of our planet doesn’t need to happen. the former change of situation is due to the musical endeavours of CUTS and the latter is brought into much-needed attention by CUTS. through CUTS music, visuals and dialogue, information is shared on all related subjects. perhaps making a change in listening and consequent thinking will enable the healing required to rebalance our world. CUTS is anthony tombling jr.
i hadn’t envisaged making for all and none a musical forum, or open space for regular new release information etc., there are bigger, bolder, established sites already serving these functions. it’s a place for me to indulge in mine and others’ past and new work, but only in the sense of their work being an inspiration or simply just loved. so when approached to write a piece on CUTS to coincide with the release of his major new work i initially declined. a tad hasty, a little rash, that’s me all over. CUTS has provided me with the most thrilling new electronic music in the past six months, so what the hell was i thinking? this year has been a really difficult one and i’ve often retreated inside CUTS and used it as a mechanism of necessary escape from the outside. i certainly owe more to anthony than just these few following words...
i’d gleaned little from a few press pieces and the latest a gradual decline film had already led to me wanting to know more so a rethink was obvious. about as obvious as knowing we as humans need to change, and change quickly, in order to save our planet. having discovered this year’s two exist vinyl volumes and worked back to CUTS’ debut ep1 [released in 2014 on geoff barrow’s invada imprint] via fair-weather friend and foe youtube it quickly became apparent CUTS’ sole progenitor anthony tombling jr. wasn’t merely interested in creating a sound. images, more especially the moving image plays a pivotal role in the whole purpose and meaning behind CUTS. musically, i personally glimpsed moments of boards of canada, early delerium ambience and the sheer volume and widescreen of mogwai, but these are merely my own theoretical responses to anthony’s CUTS. i also had no reference points from his previous musical creativity.
“my past work has no significance to this project. when i started CUTS in 2012 i was working from ground zero. i binned off the way i used to approach music completely. i can say previously, music never gave me anywhere near the satisfaction it does now. one of the main reasons for that is with this i’ve managed to harness my own creation that hopefully doesn’t sit so easily with comparison”. as a writer i have to raise my arm and acknowledge it’s far easier to make comparisons to a or b or a another, than to describe a unique specific entity, especially so with largely instrumental electronics. lazy journalistic tendencies! “when i started this i wanted to take my influences from the non musical. working with film helped that process. both disciplines work symbiotically and both inform each other. when i’m writing i tend not to listen to much music. i become enveloped in a world of film and imagery which informs my musical output. it’s a cathartic way of working and one that enables me to work in a much more organic way”.
a catharsis leading to processes beyond music too. “i spent most of 2015 making a documentary about a small village in south west wales that was fighting an approved license to frack in their village. i was struck by the community’s resilience, their plight and story and just wanted to help out. in 2016 i met an amazing man called javid iqbal. javid is a wonderful community leader, friend and all round good guy. he spends his weekends in birmingham feeding the homeless community. in the evenings after he does a street patrol to keep the community safe and organises clean ups to combat the fly tipping problem in washwood heath. i was interested in these modern day heroes. i then started to unearth modern heroes all over the country and wanted to tell their stories and highlight their work in the hope it would inspire others to seek a kinder way. the Idea of using film as a force for good is probably the only reason needed to take the camera out”.
these external projects i guess change the processes behind the musical releases. ep1 and exist 1/2 to my ears have clear, quite radical distinctions, so do you set out a plan of attack, theme or proposal for each? “when i started CUTS I always tried to take my influences from the external. i became obsessed with abandoned spaces for a while. i found the slow transformation and the way these buildings would decay alone in silence fascinating. i would say there was mixture of external influences and personal”.
i’ve read you were experiencing problems with nightmares after an accident. having been diagnosed with depression recently one of the side effects of medication i am encountering sound very much like your vivid, often incredibly disturbing nightmares. “with exist i tried to recreate some of my experiences i had with sleep paralysis. i had a bout of it for about three months where i would have these terrifying dreams and end up becoming a witness to your own dream”. yes, that sounds incredibly familiar. “i tried to recreate some of that with music and film. on this new record though i’m back exploring those external themes. i wanted to do something that was close to my heart and which fell in line and had a bit more resonance with my film work. music can be a terribly self indulgent process and i don’t think now is the time for self indulgence. we’re in a state of emergency”.
thus, unlike before, a gradual decline is your emotional response to situations outside of the self. what was your starting point? ”there were a couple of films i watched around the time of writing. one was the clip of the diver swimming in an ocean of plastic and the other was of a polar bear dying of starvation. the clip contains this bear scavenging inland in bins for food. it was heartbreaking, both films were. i scored the first thing i wrote for the record from here to nowhere to that clip of the diver and it went from there really. i then had the idea of using field recordings as part of the process. a lot of the percussion on the record is ice calving from its glacier and i really wanted to thread the sound of these geological collapses into the dna of the record. i spent some time recording out at the skaftafell glaciers in iceland. you couldn’t hear these collapses that well at the time. you’d just hear these haunted rumblings in the distance. luckily the mic picked up what the ear couldn’t”.
the utilisation of film is a perfect tool to align with the album’s recordings. do you see this as a way of steering the listener toward the whole meaning behind this project? “i just did my usual process. make some films. make some music and see how it fits as a coherent piece. i think my time spent in iceland really shaped the record. i had a bunch of demo’s when i went out there which I thought might be the album and listened to them whilst my partner and i travelled the island. it became apparent very quickly that the album i had written and these demos were all wrong. i think being out in this expansive, harsh and barren landscape influenced me greatly. this trip the most important influence on the record, to see the glacier and to witness it’s decline. the sound of it. i just tried to replicate that in a musical way”. any plans for long form cinematics to marry the whole album to the theme? “i have completed seven films for the record and another two are currently in production. the idea in the new year is to present these films in the live arena. that’s where they will have the most impact, when it’s deafeningly loud and the visuals are big and proud. i hope the weight of it will have a proper impact.”
having viewed external sources and witnessed first hand the destruction and level of ecological disasters do you remain hopeful for the planet’s future? persuading people and governments to change habits causing these problems must be key. “you have to be hopeful don’t you? it will take real effort though and everyone pulling in the same direction. we’re seeing with the extinction rebellion that there is real desire to hold governments to account. i can only see this swell of protest getting bigger. on a personal note you have to look at how you create a better footprint for yourself. everyone has to do their bit and there will have to be some sacrifice. the move to plant based diets. the way we harness energy and who we buy it off. limiting travel etc.”.
with the record finally released and being well-received are you making plans to take the complete experience on the road to get the full message across? “in the new year certainly. i’ll have to think about how we can do this that limits the footprint though. maybe a series of streamed events is the way to go”. and future plans? “none at the moment, i’ve worked flat out this year. i’m sure this process will lead me onto the next project in an organic way”.
the sheer volume in sound and visual language will be an ongoing journey i believe. anthony’s output has now taken a whole new level. way beyond music, a gradual decline is surely about life. especially a future for life. for all life, for generations to come. CUTS touches me in ways beyond the notion of a brain processing electronic soundwaves. as complex as that structure is anthony himself is straight-forward, gentle and genuine. despite the importance of the message his answer to how he hopes a listener engages with CUTS is simple and unassuming... “that it provokes the listener / viewer in some way. art is nothing without provocation. i’d hope that the listener / viewer are able to interpret their own narratives too and that’s its not predictable in that way”.
a gradual decline and precursor a slow decay ep are available now on vinyl and cd from village green recordings or as dl directly from CUTS. a full review of the album will follow shortly. in the meantime purchase on a format which best suits your equipment. play loud and feel it overwhelm you. immerse yourself in the passion of its maker and embrace the actions we all need to take. do it today. every day.