interview October 2000
For almost twenty years Martin Bowes has been working under the name Attrition doing experimental electronic music varying from dance to soundscapes. This is his fourth interview with QRD, so you know he’s cool. Simon is his current live keyboard player & he said two sentences in the interview….
QRD – You recently switched record labels from Projekt to Invisible; do you think this will cause any major positive or negative effects on Attrition? Will your back catalog once again go out of print?
Martin – The back catalog will not go out of print that’s still out on Projekt & still just as easily found as it ever was & that’ll be fine. With Invisible I guess I’m taking a chance. A lot of our music isn’t really suitable on Projekt & so I thought it was time for a change & it’s still early days so ask me the question again in six months’ time or a year’s time & I’ll tell you. I don’t think it does any harm to change things every now & then.
QRD – Why did you decide to do a remix record instead of a new album? & are the remixes of the original recordings or more recent versions?
Martin – It’s all of original versions. I did a remix album because I’ve got no new songs. I liked being asked to do a few remixes of people like Die Form & Regenerator & a few people over the years; the Stromkern bloke. I’ve done a few remixes & I enjoy doing remixes of other people. I think actually Ned Kirby did the first remix of ours. I mean I remixed a few just to get different versions, but I think Ned was the first other person to do a remix & I really like his mix & it’s on the album. I just asked loads of people, it’s been on the go for about three or four years really & I had about two albums worth of mixes & of course I don’t really like them all; so I cut it down to an album I like, which means some people don’t speak to me anymore. That’s the problem with remix albums. A lot of people put them out with all the remixes they get & they’re not necessarily all that good. I really cut it down & edited some mixes as well. So I actually like this album a lot. It’s nice because it’s like working with someone else in a modern way. If it’s done right, it’s part you & part them.
QRD – You’re known as somewhat political, canceling shows due to pro-fascist bands playing on the bill, but you don’t seem to mix politics in your actual music, do you feel it doesn’t belong there?
Martin – I do really. Like the animal liberation comp song “Monkey in a Bin.” Even “Lip Sync” is against certain political views. But I don’t have the style “this is crap, this is crap, blah-blah-blah.” I try to look at what people are thinking & what’s behind it & the reasons. So there’s a lot of political thought in all my songs though it doesn’t come out as a central slogan. In that way “Monkey in a Bin” was an exception.
QRD – What side projects do you have going on now?
Martin – I haven’t got a lot of side projects at the moment. I don’t have enough time. I’m working on a new version of the old punk song “Gary Gilmour’s Eyes” by the Outskirts, but that’s Attrition really. I don’t have any at the moment because we’ve been doing so many live shows for the past two years that I’ve been spending most of my time working on that. Side projects are something I do when I get the time really.
QRD – What Attrition release do you wish had been more publicized & what one not released &/or re-issued?
Martin – I had control of them being re-issued. I’d want them all to be more publicized. It’s almost like picking a favorite album.
Simon – I think Etude. Because a lot of people that might not really be into Attrition might like Etude.
Martin – There’s a lot of different reasons for them being publicized. I don’t think I could pick just one. For not being released I think I can pick odd tracks, but on the albums & even the singles there’s stuff I like & don’t like or criticize; I think that should be the case. I can’t ever go back & let them not be born again.
QRD – Do you think any of your records sound dated because of your keyboard tones & do you think this is necessarily bad?
Martin – It’s funny because the very early ones sound the least dated because they’re all analog & all trendy. The ones from the late 80’s with those 80’s sounds will probably sound trendy in five years time. There are sounds where you can go, “it’s from the 80’s with the gated drums that everybody used,” but there’s always an era ten years after where they’re out of fashion. If you listen to something from the 50’s you don’t think, “oh, that’s dated.” It’s just a fashion thing to call things dated.
QRD – Would you rather be known for your live shows or studio recordings?
Martin – If I had to choose, it’s obviously both, but I think in the end the recordings. Cause you can hear a little more clearly what all goes on.
QRD – How much longer do you think you’ll tour/record under the name Attrition?
Martin – I think at least fifty more years & then I might give it a rest.
QRD – How old were you when you first found out about zombies & what did you think of them?
Martin – Have you asked me this question before? No, that was my favorite monster. Zombies, that’s a tricky one. I was a teenager. Wait, what kind of zombies, real ones or fictional ones? The ones in the shopping malls or in the movies?
QRD – Like Night of the Living Dead.
Martin – A teenager. I liked to shoot them in the head.
QRD – I know you used to do a zine & that this somehow vaguely links to the start of Attrition. What was the zine called, about, like, & how did it lead to Attrition?
Martin – It was called Alternative Sound. It was me writing about all the punk going on in Coventry at the time & then ska bands like the Specials & Selector. It was a big scene & it was a mostly local things. As time went on it got a bit wider as I got a bit bored with what was in Coventry. & I decided to have a go at it because I didn’t know if I could write a song or not. I still can’t write a song & that doesn’t stop me. I got bored with writing about it & I thought I’d have a go.
QRD – Is emotional turmoil beneficial or detrimental to you as a songwriter?
Martin – Detrimental at the time it happens & beneficial a bit later when you’ve had time to reflect.
QRD – The last couple of records have had the addition of live strings, would you like to involve more live instruments to the recordings or live show?
Martin – I would always like to have more. I’d like to have an orchestra in the back & people dancing around on stage & films & angels singing in harmony, but I can’t afford it.
QRD – Have you found out what your favorite Swans song is yet?
Martin – I did hear an album with bunnies on it & it was good & I liked it, but I don’t remember the names of any of the songs. But I bet it’s on that album. So I’m getting closer. In another three years I’ll have an answer for that one.
QRD – What country would you most like to play in that you haven’t?
Martin – We should be going to Russia soon & that’ll be good. I don’t really care about that, I just want to go & playing is just an excuse to go & I’d like to go everywhere I haven’t been.
QRD – What’s your favorite piece of musical equipment?
Martin – My old Korg MS-20. It isn’t even mine really. It’s my old keyboard player Ashley’s. He never picked it up; he’s gonna let me have it in the end. It’s been eighteen years since we started & it’s still wonderful & makes lots of great sounds & you never know what’s gonna happen next.
QRD – How many members has Attrition had total?
Martin – Quite a lot, but only a few core members really. There was me, Julia, & Ashley for a few years. & Julia skipped one album & Ashley faded out & Gary came in. Then it was based on me really & who I wanted to work with, but Julia did a lot. & now different people play live. There are a lot of people who’ve come in & just been in a couple shows, you’d have a lot if you put all of them together.
QRD – How many compilations do you think you’ve appeared on?
Martin – About eighty. I know that because I counted them recently to be on the website & anyone who answers it right could get a prize couldn’t they? We were on about twelve last year. A lot of them aren’t available anymore & a lot of them were exclusive & that’s awkward when they’re not available very long. Now I haven’t really got the time, so it’s often stuff from the albums or rare ones or alternate mixes are quite popular. I think they’re good promotional tools.
QRD – Anything else?
Martin – Try our website, www.attrition.co.uk. The film Shower of Blood is coming out soon. We have a “Mercy Machine” remix on this vampire-goth-soft-porn movie. Art movie, I mean, with Playboy models. It’s coming from Troma Films & it’s coming soon & it’s got a sound track album with goth & industrial bands on the soundtrack & we’re going to be very famous. So that’s something to mention.
Simon – We’re available for weddings.
Martin – We were offered a wedding, so
we might be playing a wedding.