Last week, we introduced you to The Dandelion Set via ‘A Thousand Strands’, an intriguing album which isn’t for timid ears or the linear thinker. Rather than just leave it at that, PK and Glyn got in touch with us and the following piece took shape. Do enjoy!
[Interview by Peter Marks]
20 Tracks. 40+ years. How in the world did you manage to whittle it all down to what we’re now hearing?
PK: Firstly I should just point out that what you’re hearing now is still only perhaps half of the material in this release. There are extra tracks on the vinyl and cassette versions that don’t appear here.
Notwithstanding that, there was a lot of material left over. Our selection process was informed by a desire to make sense of it all – to weave it into a coherent whole.
GB: It was not that difficult because although we have written a fair amount of music over this period, we only seriously started writing together as the Dandelion Set in 2011, after a hiatus of nearly 20 years. Once we were up and running we found we were making new music that not only referenced our respective musical backgrounds – it also sounded like the music we’d always wanted to make. Then we had the idea to try and realise some of the music we wrote for the Alan Moore play, which had mostly never been played as the project was aborted.
A Thousand Strands most assuredly lives up to it’s name, but as for The Dandelion Set how did you two arrive at this. Is there some kind of connection to the classic short story The Dandelion Girl?
PK: No there’s no connection with the Dandelion Girl. Glyn’s partner, Romana, suggested the name and we both immediately said ‘That’s it!’ which is often the way it happens.
These pieces seem to have come out of nowhere in vast numbers, was there a particular moment over the decades where you and PK looked at one another and said ‘will this ever end?’ The sheer amount of revisions must have been mind boggling.
PK: It’s true that in the last three years when all this has been coming together there were tracks springing up all over, seemingly writing and recording themselves. It’s been an incredibly prolific time, due largely to the fact that in revisiting material we’d written in the mid 70’s we both became reconnected to our younger selves, our earliest musical identities,which is an incredibly liberating event. True, we did, at some point, say ‘Should we call a halt…?’
Inspiration comes and goes for every artist, but what you don’t do is chase it away…
How many more volumes worth of material in this vein would you say are sitting in your archives? Any personal favourites that didn’t make the cut?
GB: I think we managed to get the best tracks on one format or another. We like to do alternative versions and keep tweaking stuff into different shapes, which generates yet more material.
PK: We could probably do the same again without writing another note. Among the tracks that didn’t make it was the one that gave it’s name to the album ‘A Thousand Strands’ which strangely didn’t quite fit musically. It’s a great track, just different.
I noticed that PK is listed as being involved in a project called Mr. Liquorice, is he that Mr. Liquorice who played on David J’s ‘Etiquette of Violence’ LP years and years ago?
PK: Yes someone else asked this recently. It is indeed one and the same. I’m not sure I really ‘played’ on David’s album. I just made a few noises here and there and he wove them into whatever he was doing.I never even heard the finished product.
Having spent quite a bit of time with your debut album I must say that it is not only varied but versatile. You could play this any time of day or night and find something you hadn’t heard before coming at you… do you catch yourselves being surprised by the amount of details you’ve crammed into A Thousand Strands?
GB: Not really because this is the kind of stuff I’ve been wanting to do all my life and it reflects the range of influences we have.
PK: It’s mind-boggling sometimes in retrospect, but then I think of all the ideas we didn’t use. In the end we were very economical with what got left in there.
As Alan Moore has appeared on your record is there any chance we’ll see The Dandelion Set sneaking onto the next audio project he releases?
PK: It’s always been good working with Alan and I hope we can collaborate again sometime. As far as I know he doesn’t have any plans to do any more musical projects at the moment.
Your music is a heady blend of complex psychedelia and moody introspection, A Thousand Strands doesn’t really sound like much else out there so it leads me to ask: who or what were your respective muse(s)? How does some of it manage to have such a whimsical bent to it?
GB: There are lots of people whom we both like – Soft Machine, Faust, Broadcast, Stereolab – plus we both really love a certain kind of library music with nice beats, plunky bass, interesting melodies. We also both love certain keyboard sounds, like harpsichord and analogue synthesizers. Then there’s a range of stuff that is perhaps more specific to one or other of us. I think I’m more into guitar bands like Deerhoof and the Who whereas PK has a real affinity for exotica and easy listening stuff.
PK: I think I can answer both questions at once here. If you think about bands like early Soft Machine, Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, the Canterbury Scene,Faust, Gong, they all had a certain humour lurking behind their deft musicianship. I think this kind of music becomes pompous if it takes itself too seriously. Look at the ‘serious’ bands like Yes or Emerson Lake and Palmer by comparison.
Now we also know that you participate in the live stagings of The Delaware Road, what is it like being surrounded by that many creative types at once? Was the audience receptive to such an immersive production? It’d be an uphill battle to keep anyone’s attention for that long here in the US.
GB: The gig was a bit crazy logistically as there were so many artists plus it’s quite an epic show. But everyone just got on with their bit and then seemed to enjoy watching the rest of it.
PK: Well nobody was having any tantrums so I think we were quite a self contained lot. The audience was with us all the way. I mean nobody came expecting anything else. and the event was given just the right sort of publicity to make the curious curious. All thanks to Buried Treasure…
There’s some kind of subterranean movement going on in England at the moment without doubt, I’ve managed to unearth some of it thanks to labels like Buried Treasure, Stars, Dots and the “New” Junk, Test Centre and Mordant Music. Individuals like Bass Clef and Ekoplekz have also definitely broadened my musical horizons. What would you say is driving it, there seems to be no end of quality experimentalism happening on your little island.
GB: It’s always hard to feel you’re part of an actual scene – whether it really exists or not – when it’s all so fragmented and people are geographically very widespread – thank god for the internet! At the same time it’s nice to feel connected to a line of creative people going all the way back to the 60s, which is another nice thing about being involved with Buried Treasure.
PK: I think it’s always been there. We are a nation of explorers. There’s always people doing odd stuff and others who have a thirst for it.
Are we going to have to wait another four decades for the next album from The Dandelion Set?
GB: I sincerely hope not!
PK: I don’t think we’ll be around to make it if you do.
My thanks to The Dandelion Set for their time and also to Buried Treasure records for getting this beauty out into the wires.