Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Bill Ryder-Jones Interview

The following interview is with Bill Ryder-Jones, former guitarist with The Coral and someone that has been praised and lauded by rock royalty for his guitar playing skills with the group. He left the band at the height of their popularity in 2008 after previously deciding not to tour with the band on live dates. Since then he has guested with artists such as Alex Turner (see 'Submarine' soundtrack) as well as created his own solo material. Below is the transcription of our recent Q&A session.

Q) Listening to both ‘If…’ and ‘A Leave Taking’ it is surprising that there is so little guitar in the forefront as this is something you are mostly regarded for (and indeed praised for from people such as Noel Gallagher and Graham Coxon) Is your guitar purposely taking a back seat for the time being?

A) I guess I stopped playing guitar properly and for fun a good few years ago. I didn’t realise there wasn’t much guitar on the record until we mixed it. I’ve always played other instruments though so I don’t think I've ever thought of myself as a guitarist y’know.

Q) I’ve read that ‘If…’ was influenced by the book of the same name and acted as an almost alternative soundtrack. Do you prefer working to an already established frame work such as a novel or instead starting an album with a complete blank canvas.

A) The record is meant to be a soundtrack to the novel ‘If on a winter’s night traveller’ by Italo Calvino. It’s more of an interpretation than anything, the canvas was still pretty blank mind. It started out as a little idea and just grew really, it became the perfect start really. I didn’t want my first record to ‘say’ too much about myself and would hate to have to give away more than I need to. I’m a pretty private person I guess.

Q) Your departure from The Coral was surprising for the fans and I’m sure the group as a whole, do you feel it was a necessary step that had to be taken for this side of your song writing to flourish and come into existence?

A) No I wasn’t thinking about songwriting or careers when I left the group. I just felt that I needed to leave, and that was it to be honest. Whether I’d be writing like I am now if I had stayed I don’t know, probably not. Now it’s all I do, all the time.

Q) Do you feel the groups ‘sound’ and format restrained you too much in this area? (song writing & arrangement)

A) Not really. I’d co written a bit with the band but they’ve got Jay (James Skelly) who writes so much and is so brilliant and all the other lads are great writers too so I guess there wasn’t that much room. I’d arranged strings with them too but it wasn’t until I left that I started to think about who I was musically I think.

Q) Listening to the arrangements there seem to be sonic footprints from people such as Robert Kirby and his work with Nick Drake as well as more recent ‘Coles Corner’ era Richard Hawley. Has either been influences on your work?

A) Well I still see myself as a blagger really. Someone like Robert Kirby I’d be embarrassed to be compared to but yeah his scores for Nick Drake are unreal. I think the arrangement that Harry Robinson did on River Man is the best on 'Five Leaves Left' mind. The first time I heard that tune it kind of made me feel silly about playing my guitar. The strings moved in this really unpredictable way and did this that I didn’t understand. That was probably the start of all this thinking about it.

Q) Who are you currently influenced by? Either musically or culturally (i.e. books, film etc)

A) I'm obsessed with Elgar 'Cello Concerto in E-minor' at the moment. It reminds me of poppy day in school somehow. I think if I wrote something that had like 10% the light that that piece has then I’d die happy. Other than that Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci are always there, Pink Floyd, Michael Galasso, Chopin.Book wise I mostly read history books. I like reading about European cities.

Q) The fact that a good portion of the music is instrumental didn’t seem to restrain the lyrical aspects to the melodies and the fact the vocals were only used sparingly throughout the album didn’t lose anything in translation. Do you think there is a stigma to ‘instrumental’ music in rock and roll rather than classical and jazz where it’s regularly accepted as ‘the norm’?

A) I've not thought about it really perhaps there is. I guess something like ‘The Rumble’(Link Wray) is a good example of not needing words to make an impression.

Q) Are there any plans to take either album out on the road? Do you worry about requests for ‘Bill McCai’ or ‘Dreaming of You’ from some of the die-hards?

A) Not yet, the album would be hard to do live. Maybe a one off show if I can blag an orchestra. I don’t pretend that I don’t hate playing live though so if there’s any way I can duck it then I probably will. I doubt people who want 'Dreaming of You' would come and see me, they’d be disappointed if they did.

many thanks to Paul Sandell at Domino Records
photo by Sophie Jarry

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