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Six by Seven  interview by phone June 2, 2000

Chris Olley is the singer & guitar player for Six by Seven.  I guess some people call them an emo band, whatever that’s supposed to mean.  They’re aggressive & melodic & at times distant & droning.  Kinda just what people should be after in a rock band….

QRD – Have you had horns & keyboards from the start in Six by Seven or were those added later on?

Chris – What we used to have was one of those little Casio keyboards & basically we used to tape down one of the keys to get it to drone.  It used to drone in the background all the time because we were sort of into bands like Spacemen 3 & all that.  It was a case of James, who wasn’t in the band at the time & he used to come to watch us play all the time & he was really into what we were doing, he asked if he could join the band to play this keyboard.  He said, “What I could do is take the tape off & then I’ll play different notes so you guys don’t have to have the same drone in the background the whole time, I could change it.”  So we thought, “Wow, that’s a great idea.”  & he played saxophone as well & we got him in the band.  & he got fed up with playing this tiny Casio thing; he got embarrassed by it.  So he went out & bought a proper Hammond from Vicar in Birmingham for 300 quid.

QRD – What instrument is predominantly used for starting your song structures?

Chris – Generally guitar or a drum beat.

QRD – You have a couple harder song on The Closer You Get than on the first record, do you think this is because of touring so much?

Chris – I think we’ve always been a hard sounding band.  Unfortunately that was never captured on the first record.  When we made the first record we didn’t have a clue when we were going in the studio & I don’t think the producer ever captured the aggression of the band.  Even songs like “European Me,” on stage when we get to the end of the song it’s pretty wild, massive, & full on & it never did that in the studio.  So on the second album we got much closer to capturing what the band sounded like live & that’s sort of the idea.

QRD – Also on The Closer You Get you have more experimentation with loops & samples, is that something you’d always wanted to do & became financially able to?

Chris – Once we got some money Chris Davis went out & bought a sampler straight away.  All of us are really into bands like Aphex Twin, especially Sam & Chris who are into a lot of contemporary dance music.  We always try to incorporate that in what we do.  I think on the first album the repetition of beats & the long drawn out songs come from us listening to dance music.  People think we sit around listening to Pink Floyd, but we don’t.  I still don’t know why we get compared to them.  The NME called us “Punk Floyd” which is annoying.

QRD – What’s your favorite thing about being in a band personally?

Chris – I actually like to create songs.  For me that’s the most exciting process, it’s very frustrating at times, but it’s what makes being in a band interesting.  They say variety is the spice of life & if you get up & do the same thing all the time it just becomes repetition & that starts to get boring no matter what you do.  Songwriting never gets boring because you don’t know what’s just around the corner so it’s always exciting.

QRD – Do you think depression is a terminal disease?

Chris – I hope not.  It only leads to one thing & that’s suicide.  That’s what you’re saying isn’t it?

QRD – Yeah.

Chris – The true suicidalist only thinks about suicide & never actually does it.  It’s the thought of doing it that keeps him going, otherwise you’d just do it & kill yourself.  Someone in our family killed himself years back & there was no indication he was going to do it.  He just did it.  That was that.

QRD – Ideally how many hours a week would you like to work & what would you like to do?

Chris – I’d like to write music every day of the week all day long forever.

QRD – What band do you most like to be compared to & what band do you least like to be compared to?

Chris – I think we don’t like being compared to bands that we don’t actually like or listen to.  Pink Floyd is quite annoying.  I like it when people compare us to bands like Magazine & the Who.  People have been comparing us to the Sex Pistols lately….

QRD – What do you most like to think people do while listening to your music & what do you least like to think people do while listening to your music?

Chris – I think when people listen to our music they should get a message from it & get out what we put into it which is basically everything we’ve got.  I just hope that people sit listening to it full blast; hopefully with their head on the floor with the two speakers on either side.  That’s what I used to do.  Least like to do? I don’t know.  Not listening to it properly I guess… talking over it.

QRD – Do you have an interest in starting to record yourself or do you prefer to keep working in studios?

Chris – Two songs on the album we recorded ourselves in my cellar, “Another Love Song” & “New Year.”  When we signed a publishing contract I went out & bought some songwriting kind of studio stuff like a desk & an 8 track & I just kind of got into it & built it up a bit & now we got our own kind of studio & we sort of pieced together two songs down there & put them on the album.  But going to the studio is fun because down in the cellar there’s only the studio desk & then a tiny room next to it that you can only just get a drum kit into & that’s how we’d record.  He plays to a click & then we sample it & loop it up & use Cubase or Logic to run it.  & then there you go, the rest is guitars.

QRD – Do you think you’ve found the Six by Seven sound yet?

 Chris – No, I think we’re moving towards it.  I always thought we should make five albums, but three albums might be okay.  I think what we’ll do is work really hard on this next album to try to find what we want out of music.  The next album is going to be a lot more up-tempo & a lot more dancey.

QRD – Are you a fan of what Neil Young is doing now or just of Rust Never Sleeps?

Chris – I’m not a fan of Neil Young’s anymore.  If he’s playing a festival I’ll go & see him.  I’ve got about eight or nine of his albums that I love from beginning to end.  I bought an album called Reactor in 83 or 82.  I tend to sort of get into a band & explore that band & then I kind of get into another one & just try to keep finding new stuff really.  I’m not the kind of person that listens to Neil Young & every time he makes a new record rushes out & buys it.  I went to see him in Reading when he played with Pearl Jam & I didn’t think the band was as good as Crazyhorse.  I got the album Mirrorball but there’s only one good song on it.

QRD – Do you think there have been special segments in the band’s history that have never been properly recorded?

Chris – I think the entire first album really, but I think we’ve moved on since then.  On the contrary there’s more stuff right now that’s been recorded quite well.  Like there’s  an EP we did called 2 ˝ Days in love with you & I thought that was brilliant.

QRD – What does the name Six by Seven mean?

Chris – It’s from the Hubble Telescope.  It was a song I did called “Six by Seven.”  The universe is currently expanding at a rate of six by seven & that’s it.  Also if you times six by seven you come up with forty-two which is the meaning of life in Douglas Adams’ book The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which is funny.  We didn’t realize that until somebody came up to us until somebody came up to us & said, “I know why you’re called Six by Seven.”

QRD – Why did you choose to cover David Bowie’s “Heroes” & what’s going on with the different vocals on it?

Chris – I’ve always thought that was one of the greatest songs ever written.  I think that song & “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division are probably my favorite songs.  If I had to pick two songs that described what music should be, I think those two there.  We were mucking around with it in the studio & we ended up being able to play it really well & it sounded awesome & we went to a Peel session & we just recorded it at the Peel session.  I have a single of Bowie actually singing it in German.  The song is actually about Berlin & the Berlin Wall & the Cold War.  It was actually recorded in Hans Studios which is right next to the Berlin Wall or where it used to be. So on the back of the single all the lyrics are in German, so I just sang in German because I lived in Germany a long time & I’m bilingual.  So I just sang it in German for a laugh & it did really well in Germany because it just came out in October & coincided with the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  All the DJs in Germany started playing it & then “England & a Broken Radio” & “Ten Places to Die.”

QRD – Why did you put your lyrics on your website, but not in the liner notes?

Chris – Basically we wanted this record to look like it was a punk rock record really.  We wanted it to look sort of a bit dash, a bit crap, a bit black & white.  The record company would’ve given us a double spread thing & we could’ve had a really posh looking record.  We wanted something that looked really cheap & looked like we put it out ourselves.  I didn’t want to put the lyrics on it; I just wanted to put photographs of us live.  Now you’ve got the internet so you can download the lyrics.  You can always get them & I think you can hear them on the album anyway.

QRD – Do you personally see the internet as a resource or a form of entertainment?

Chris – Well, the internet was originally designed by the military as a weapon.  That’s kind of how I see it.  It’s more of a tool that sends information around the world at lightning speed & literally has made the world smaller.  As far as entertainment, entertainment is true information.  But it’s not quite what it’s all cracked up to be.  It’s gone ballistic lately in this country.  In the last month there was something like a million new internet users.

QRD – Do you think your sound has any definitive relationship to where you live or grew up?

Chris – Yeah, I guess we all carry our past around with us.  Sometimes I think of something that happened to me years ago & they make it into a lyric.  Nottingham is quite an interesting town & quite a big town, also at the same time it feels quite small.  You could walk from one end to the other in an hour & everyone kind of lives in the same area.  Sometimes that really sucks because it’s got kind of a provincial attitude, but other times it’s quite good because it doesn’t have the anonymity of a bigger city.  I don’t really know how that reflects in our music, but I think it must.  Your environment shapes your outlook & what you are.  I think it effects more in the sense that we are isolated from London & London is where it all happens.  Like I was down in London yesterday & the guy from the record company wanted me to stay an extra day because he was going to meet The Chemical Brothers  & he wanted me to come along to meet them & he wanted to invite them to do a remix & stuff.  They were DJing with Saint Etienne who are on our label.  It’s like if you’re in London & you’re doing music you’re in this business & you will meet all these people & you start swapping ideas & I could’ve maybe met & shook hands with one of The Chemical Brothers & then all of a sudden you got a remix by The Chemical Brothers & that kind of has a snowball effect & things start to happen for the band.  In Nottingham that doesn’t happen.  We just kinda stay up here & do our own thing really & wait for everyone else to follow.

QRD – How do you think Six by Seven would sound if you’d formed in the 60’s instead of the 90’s?

Chris – That’s a good question.  Probably a bit like Love or MC5 with a little Kings thrown in.

QRD – What’s your favorite Swans song?

Chris – I don’t know to be quite honest.  The Swans are a hard band to get into.  I have Soundtracks for the Blind & there’s some stuff on that that is absolutely mind-blowing.  My next door neighbor is a really big fan & he brought round a stack of their stuff & I sat & listened to it & I had to stop listening to it because I was getting suicidal.  Then I went to see them on their last show ever & wow.

QRD – Is there anything else you want people to know?

Chris – I just hope that people in America.… What they want from this country is a really loud rocking guitar band & that’s what we are.  I think live we’re one of the best bands in the country & people over here know that now & our reputation as a live band has always been excellent & I just hope when we go to America that we just knock people down with our sound or that we at least get the opportunity to.