Feel-good rave Cirque Du Soul stops off at Birmingham. Greg Woodin previewsWritten by Greg Woodin on 20th February 2017
Redbrick Meets: Toothless
Phil Jones chats to Toothless about songwriting, artwork and musical nightmares
What would you say are the primary differences in composing music as a member of a band and for a solo project?
You've pretty much summarised it with your question! Making music with a band means that everyone has a say or an opinion whereas with a solo project the song starts and ends with one person.
Do you feel that through the record you have achieved all that you had hoped to explore through your response to Powers of Ten in the records artwork?
Yeah, Im super happy with how all the single and album artwork turned out. I feel they look great as covers themselves while getting across the Powers of Ten ideas and the themes within the songs. I especially love the 'Palm’s Backside' cover which is a recreation of the Eames video and also a literal depiction of the song's title.
You’ve worked with numerous musicians on the record – do you view music writing and performance as largely a collaborative process?
The writing of this record wasn't particularly collaborative, it was just me in my studio for the most part and then me and Jack worked on the arrangements together when the bulk of the song was done. All of the collaborations on this album were to add to the themes or arrangements of the song, for example The Staves sing the part of The Sirens. That's not to say that I don't like collaborative writing, it totally depends on the type of music being made and what makes you comfortable. “
“All of the collaborations on this album were to add to the themes or arrangements of the song, for example The Staves sing the part of The Sirens
Who were/are your primary musical influences, both over the record and your career as a whole?
When I started to learn guitar at 13 I became obsessed with classic rock and guitar solos, in particular the work of Randy Rhodes. I spent all of my spare time learning his solos note for note… While not the coolest of pursuits it pretty much taught me to play guitar and gave me a basic idea of how music works.
Where did the initial idea to base Sisyphus around a Greek myth come from?
I find it very hard to write about my own life directly so I like to use stories or metaphors as a way in, I find it far easier using the preexisting framework to get my ideas across. The myth of Sisyphus is about a man who is punished by being made to roll a boulder up a hill every day only for it to roll back down, I thought this was a fantastic premise for a songs because it's so relatable. The song is about a relationship where you will be there for someone no matter how many times they mess up and no matter how inevitable it is that they will do it again.
You’ve gone on record saying Sisyphus was almost a J-pop track – can we expect to hear you experimenting in more left-field genres such as this in future?
Ha. It's a very good thing Sisyphus didn't remain a Jpop track! I'm not sure I will venture that way again… Maybe I will try Death Metal next.
The Toothless moniker is derived from a Raymond Pettibon drawing. How did you first get introduced to the artist?
The first time I came across his work was the cover for the Sonic Youth album Goo. I started to see his work crop up on loads of other record covers that I loved and thought I should explore his work further. Throughout his career he has been consistently amazing, I especially love his recent work which is very rare with artists who have been around for decades.
What was your top record of 2016?
I loved the Angel Olsen record, I've always been a huge fan of hers and think she really outdid herself with this record.
What artists have you been listening to recently? Who do you think deserves more attention?
I got into podcasts really late so have spent a lot of my time over the past year catching up on all the classics instead of listening to music! At the moment I'm going through all of the Sam Harris and Desert Island Discs back catalogues. In terms of music my friend Sivu is about to release an album and I think its going to be amazing.
How do you envision the Toothless project panning out over the next few years?
I'm planning to tour as much as possible over the next year, it's the thing I missed the most while making this record. I've also started writing the next record, hopefully I can finish that within the year. No time to rest. “
“I'm planning to tour as much as possible over the next year, it's the thing I missed the most while making this record.
You are of course primarily known as a member of Bombay Bicycle Club. Would you say your work with the band has informed the choices you have made on your own record?
I think it would be crazy to say that it hadn’t! Its something I did for ten years and was a huge part of me growing up, even outside of music it has had a huge impact on me.
Teeth loss-based nightmares are very common. What would be your personal musical nightmare?
I walked on stage the other day and forgot to turn my amp on! It was warming up when we started the songs and I looked like an idiot playing with no sound coming out for the first minute.
The Pace of the Passing by Toothless is available now on all good streaming services