Richard Dawson on his post-apocalyptic new album: ‘I must booby-trap a cave to outlive’

Richard Dawson doesn’t suppose he would survive for lengthy in a post-apocalyptic world. Would he get killed off within the pre-credits sequence of a film? “Most likely, and it’s arduous to confess that. I’ve sleep apnoea as nicely, so I’d need to go off alone as a result of I make such a noise once I sleep,” he says, over a pint by a crackling hearth in The Boathouse pub within the Northumberland village of Wylam. It’s “most likely the most effective pub on this planet,” in line with the signal exterior, and at this time it feels prefer it. “I’ve really given this plenty of thought. The one means I might survive could be to discover a cave, after which to booby-trap it, as a result of the quantity of my loud night breathing is immense. So not solely am I going to need to sleep in a cave that’s booby-trapped, I’m additionally going to be completely exhausted. I’m not going to final lengthy.”

He laughs fortunately. “I already mentioned to [partner and Hen Ogledd bandmate] Sally that when it occurs, she’s higher off doing me a favour and making it fast.”

Dawson’s extraordinary seventh album, The Ruby Cord, is the reason for this dialog about survival in a ravaged world. It’s not that it’s a musical rendering of Mad Max – it seems to be set in a future that bears extra in frequent with the previous than the current, with scattered reminders within the lyrics that that is certainly the longer term: “Alongside weedburst motorways we tear / Previous the tangle silence of our emptied cities,” he sings on the nearer, Horse and Rider.

A few of the inspiration behind it got here from the state of the world, some from gaming, which appears apt, given The Ruby Wire and its two predecessors – Peasant and 2020 – kind a tough trilogy of previous, current and future, and showcase Dawson’s dedication to worldbuilding. Simply as video games create their very own surroundings, so does Dawson along with his information, with their accumulation of lyrical element (for Peasant, he even researched dyeing at the hours of darkness ages, in order to make certain of getting it proper).

The three albums additionally share the thought of Dawson imagining them as refracted by a selected artwork kind: with Peasant, it was the work of Breughel; with 2020, “I envisaged a bit telly, the sort I used to have in my room, with a video recorder included. And this one I imagined extra like a pc recreation – it appears sensible, however it has a barely pixellated high quality.”

When he performs video games, he says, he likes to undergo them “at clip-clop tempo, as an alternative of racing by”. And he notices how they modify his interplay with the world. When he was enjoying The Final of Us, he realised he was ready for an x to seem in his imaginative and prescient to allow him to open doorways. “I don’t know in the event you’ve picked up a newspaper and tried to enlarge it” – he gestures transferring his fingers aside to zoom in – “it was like that. That felt scary, but in addition a bit thrilling, like my mind had began to alter due to my engagement with this stuff.”

The artwork for The Ruby Cord.
The art work for The Ruby Wire.

He talks about his first encounter with a totally imagined gaming world, enjoying Skyrim in his late 20s, along with his good friend Ben. “I went into it, begin of the sport, and was going, ‘The place can I’m going?’ ‘You may go anyplace you want, mate.’ What? I hadn’t performed a recreation in so lengthy that the very concept of an open world was so new. And out of the blue you will have the sense of: ‘Fucking hell, I can simply go and stroll within the forest and research the timber and vegetation which might be there.’ And likewise, crucially, you might resolve your individual character – that’s a staple of those video games – and inevitably you begin gaming and three hours later you’re nonetheless making an attempt to resolve the slant of their eyebrow.”

That looks like a good abstract of Dawson’s strategy to creating information, too – he writes all of the music first, then the lyrics, line by line. “I don’t write forward of the place I’m at, so I’ll wait till I’ve actually obtained that verse or couple of strains just about as they need to be.”). There may be virtually actually the slant of an eyebrow described someplace on certainly one of his albums.

What he received’t do is clarify what he’s making an attempt to say, and even why, actually. Asking a blunt, direct query of Dawson about his music is like asking a main minister once they knew of the allegations towards such and such a minister, as a result of the response leads you away from what you wished to know. “It took a very long time to reach on the phrases within the songs, and I may simply undo some spell if I speak an excessive amount of,” he says. “However I actually wished to make one thing – I do know it’s going to sound corny – that was very lovely.”

The Ruby Wire is as unpindownable as Dawson is. Songs reminiscent of Thicker Than Water or Museum or Horse and Rider are virtually conventionally fairly (the just about is essential; nobody goes to be mistaking this for Lewis Capaldi). However it opens with The Hermit, a 41-minute monitor, through which I dare recommend nothing a lot occurs for the primary 10 minutes.

“You say not quite a bit occurs, however it’s actually important to the story,” he says. “It appears like a little bit of an improv session, however there have been fairly clear directions to the musicians to by no means let it construct – it ought to solely ever be a suggestion of one thing occurring, like a frond waving, or a bit animal scuttling. The concept of that part is a forest on its most simple features, idling earlier than daybreak. However the weight of that sleep could be very essential to the character waking up or being introduced into consciousness. That wouldn’t imply something in the event you hadn’t had that earlier than. There’s a pleasure in excited about YouTube and Spotify and the quick tempo of all the pieces, which is all tremendous, however it was a pleasure to go in the wrong way and gradual it down. There was by no means any alternative however to steer with The Hermit, as a result of it’s such a powerful concept to have as a single.”

Regardless of releasing a 41-minute single through which nothing a lot occurs for the primary 10 minutes, regardless of his excessive profile, Dawson is incredulous on the concept he’s the poster boy for British experimental music: “I’m certain individuals from experimental music and improv would discover that ridiculous.” When he performs experimental music occasions, he’s usually probably the most standard artist on the invoice, he says, then accepts that when he’s on a extra standard invoice, he usually seems to be the outlier.

“I’m primarily an old style melody man,” he decides. “I do know that’s a humorous factor to say, however I consider it. I don’t need to blow my very own trumpet” – after all he doesn’t, he’s Richard Dawson – “however they’ve been good melodies on the previous few albums. Melody’s the factor. Melody combined with phrases.”

He laughs.

“Oh, I do need to blow my very own trumpet!” Good for him. He deserves to.

Richard Dawson: The Ruby Twine evaluation – a superb album attempting to get out

In an age of Spotify-led on the spot gratification, there’s one thing pleasingly bloody-minded about Richard Dawson’s determination to start his seventh album with the 41-minute The Hermit. It feels extra assertion than music, a suspicion that’s backed up by the actual fact it has an accompanying brief movie, to be proven at chosen cinemas. Up to now, so Michael Jackson’s Thriller. And but it’s curiously underwhelming, a full 11 minutes of instrumental noodling drifting by earlier than Dawson’s voice seems. There are additional twists and turns however little in the way in which of pleasure throughout the marginally leaden the rest, and it feels extra like an achievement to admire than one thing to like.

It’s a disgrace that it casts such an extended shadow over the remainder of the in any other case satisfying The Ruby Cord, the ultimate a part of a trilogy that started with the medieval-themed Peasant (2017) and continued with the good sequence of state-of-the-nation snapshots that was 2020. This time the setting is an immersive metaverse of the longer term – the poignant Museum appears to be like again on humanity in all its range (“throngs of cheering soccer followers, a physician crying alone”), a dozen centuries after folks have turn into extinct, and builds to a stunning climax that lightly echoes the closing riff to the Horrors’ Sea Inside a Sea.

As with a lot of his most interesting work, The Idiot finds Dawson combining the muscularity of his music with the fragility of his quavering voice to powerfully transferring impact. There’s sufficient good materials right here for this to have been a superb 40-minute album; as it’s, it’s a flawed 80-minute one.

‘A gambler’s moist dream and an accountant’s worst nightmare!’: the large attract of the micro-festival

“We began out with 5 of us placing £100 in a pot and hoping for the perfect,” says Henry Morris of the micro digital music pageant Discipline Maneuvers.

Together with Leon Cole and Ele Beattie, they’ve thrown their annual “no frills rave” in a secret countryside location since 2013 when 350 folks confirmed as much as get sweaty in a subject. “It began as a celebration for us and our buddies and it nonetheless is, it’s simply gotten a bit larger,” says Beattie. This yr’s occasion, that includes Kode9 and Overmono, will host 1,500 folks however there’s no intention to broaden additional.

There’s a rising need to maintain issues small. Experimental music and humanities pageant Supernormal hosts 1,500 folks in Braziers Park, Oxfordshire; simply 600 folks attended Sea Change in Totnes earlier this yr, and indie outfit Sea Energy are curating their very own pageant, Krankenhaus, for 750 folks in a fort within the Lake District, that includes the likes of Low and Richard Dawson, over the August financial institution vacation weekend. “Folks love that it’s so intimate,” says the band’s guitarist Martin Noble. “It feels actually magical for folks seeing nice bands on a tiny stage.”

Sea Power performing at Krankenhaus 2019.
Sea Energy acting at Krankenhaus 2019. {Photograph}: PR handout

In an period of numerous music festivals, with many attempting to be all issues to all folks, micro-festivals are a possibility to create one thing distinctive as an alternative of including to the bloat. “At some festivals you’re feeling such as you’re being herded like cattle to be drained of as a lot cash as you presumably could be after which herded out once more,” says Jimmy Martin of Supernormal. “We needed to be the antithesis of that.”

The company nature of some festivals may also be sidestepped. “You spend your life being advised to purchase issues,” says Morris. “If a rave is about something, it’s about escaping that world for a bit.” You received’t discover any costly VIP add-ons both. “There’s no scorching tubs or four-course sit-down meals,” says Cole. “We do have a pub, peanuts and a fruit machine although.”

Micro-festivals additionally improve bonding potential. “At an even bigger pageant you may share a second with any individual on the dancefloor however who is aware of if you happen to’ll ever discover them once more,” says Beattie. “At Discipline Maneuvers, by Sunday, while you attempt to introduce folks, they’re already new finest mates. We’ve seen some lovely relationships blossom. There are undoubtedly just a few infants which can be a results of the pageant.” Comparable micro-festivals have additionally been dreamed up there by attendees, equivalent to Twisted, Floorless and Above Below.

Organising one thing that leads to artistic collaboration is baked into the core ethos of Supernormal. “It’s making a discussion board for folks to specific themselves and have concepts spark,” says Martin. The synth-pop-punk outfit Charismatic Megafauna being a key instance: they met there, shaped, then returned to carry out a yr later. Martin describes it as an “huge catalyst for artists”.

These occasions additionally hope to interrupt the boundaries between viewers and artist. At Krankenhaus, backstage areas are ditched in favour of communal areas, the place you may munch on a burrito with Gruff Rhys or “stumble upon Stephen Morris from New Order strolling round watching chicken shows,” says Noble. Chicken of prey shows are one of many many different parts on supply, alongside guided walks, talks and steam railway journeys. “It’s like a vacation,” says Noble. “We need to showcase the wealthy panorama in addition to the bands.”

A scene from Field Maneuvers festival 2020.
A scene from Discipline Maneuvers pageant 2020. {Photograph}: PR handout

In addition to a need to foster a way of group, it’s additionally the distinctive settings of those festivals – bands enjoying in a barn inside fort grounds for Krankenhaus, whereas Braziers Park is in a Grade II nation home and property – that determines the cosy capability. “We’re not ready to do it wherever else however this has labored to our profit as a result of we’ve prevented numerous the opposite pitfalls that hit festivals, numerous that are linked to over-expanding and the pressures that include that,” says Martin.

Crucially, revenue doesn’t look like a key motivation. Krankenhaus affords an additional free ticket for individuals who require carers and decreased ticket costs for many who are unemployed or on a low wage. “We don’t see it as a money-making enterprise,” says Noble. “It’s like our annual get together. If we break even this yr then we’ll be very happy.”

Equally, Discipline Maneuvers operates inside tiny margins. “It’s a gambler’s moist dream and an accountant’s worst nightmare,” says Morris. “However yearly we’ve received a bit larger and tried to pay folks as pretty as doable, with any cash going immediately again into making it the perfect get together doable.”

Supernormal bought out inside minutes this yr – an irony not misplaced on Martin that in trying to make a super-intimate and inclusive pageant you danger inadvertently turning into unique.

Nevertheless, it represents an actual urge for food for one thing extra intimate, genuinely counter-cultural and idiosyncratic. “Folks construct an emotional connection to it,” he says. “There’s a giant group right here and hopefully folks come away from the pageant not feeling fleeced of each penny however being moved by the transformative energy of artwork.”