The Monochrome Set 3

The Monochrome Set’s lead songwriter, guitarist and singer, Bid, talks about his band’s recent and upcoming album releases.

The Monochrome Set 1

Compilation album ‘Volume, Contrast, Brilliance…(Unreleased & Rare Vol.2)’:

In the past 10 years or so a lot of tapes have come into our possession. I myself have transferred all cassettes onto my computer and I’ve received a lot of CDs. Other people have coincidentally done the same. There’s a lot of things which I haven’t heard for a long time.

For example, ‘The Greatest Performance Artist In The World’ was originally going to be on ‘The Lost Weekend’ album and was partly recorded, but wasn’t released. We didn’t finish it for various reasons and those tend to be fairly complicated. We weren’t happy with it at the time because we wanted an orchestra and couldn’t get one. We had a synthesiser, but a cheap digital orchestra with a huge array of instruments, which you can now get for nothing, in those days wasn’t available…you’d have to actually use real people and we just didn’t have the money to do it. Although the track sounds very good and could have worked with just organs and keyboards, we were really disappointed with it and left it off [the album]. ‘I Want Your Skin’ was a core song to the ‘Dante’s [Casino]’ album from which all the other lyrics came. And if that had been on the album then that became a concept album lyrically. It was a kind of concept album about a total psychopath. But we left it off for whatever reason.

Certain things were recorded at a period when we were between record companies or the band had just split up. A song got forgotten or discarded and we ended up doing something completely different. There’s a lot of songs which end up being partly discarded. It’s very typical of any songwriter or artist to write a lot of stuff and then forget they ever wrote it.

The songs are all written by me on guitar and they’re developed by the people around. They sound like [they do] because of the people there at the time. We’re always doing something that to us isn’t boring. If it’s about a year or two before the actual recording then you go through a process of deciding to use different instrumentation. We released [the demo] ‘Jack’ because it’s actually better than on the album: it’s a better saxaphone solo. The saxaphone player didn’t really know what he was doing on the demo and he just did a wild solo. When it came to actually recording it, he thought about what he was playing and was a bit more boring. It’s often the case with a lot of bands that the demo version has more energy to it and then they get worried about what they’re doing when they go into the studio, so they tone things down a bit.

It’s also the case that we wanted to wait for the right record company, which Cherry Red partly is, but Tapete are better. They were very interested in [‘Spaces Everywhere’]; they really wanted to do it. It’s rather unusual for them to release a compilation of older material: they tend to be releasing new stuff all the time. So we shared a lot of faith on their part to do it.

We had been discussing that [compilation] for some time before we met Tapete, but the first two albums that we released when we reformed, ‘Platinum Coils’ and ‘Super Plastic City’, we self-released and we didn’t really want to pay for a compilation. And our distribution and press was crap – it was me doing it. So as soon as we got onto Tapete, we half mentioned it and they became quite enthusiatic after ‘Spaces Everywhere’ sold quite well.

The Monochrome Set 2Forthcoming studio album ‘Cosmonaut’:

It’s about disassociation with yourself, your environment and everything. It’s not exactly a trippy album or psychedelic bona fide. It’s about yourself as separate.

It all comes out in a splurge; it’s really difficult to describe. I don’t really know what my songs mean, I just write about them. I figure out what they mean after the event. If you speak to any artist who’s a bit more relaxed about themselves, a bit more mature, they’ll tell you the same thing. When you see interviews with [for example] Neil Young and Lou Reed, they’ll often talk about themselves in the third person because they don’t really have any control. It’s a separate identity in yourself that does all the creating and you don’t have any direct contact with it. The act of creation is not just having a separate identity which you create when you don’t have to diet or you don’t have to do sports, and your consciousness switches off and that other person takes over. This is something else inside you which you don’t have any control of which is creating things that have never been done before.

And now because of my stroke I’ve become aware of it because I quite often write lyrics and I’m not in control of my arm…so I’m just sitting there watching my hand write the lyrics, but it’s not my consciousness that’s doing it. It’s separate identities inside you that you don’t have direct communication with. It’s not part of the dream identity or subconscious: it’s a separate, cut-off identity which comes from a certain part of the brain. You can only deal with it via arranging things that it does or suggesting things to it to do. It sounds insane but it’s totally true. This explains why some artists write such fantastic things and they’re as thick as shit.

The [Monochrome Set’s] most productive time is right now because since I had my stroke, it’s cracked open a part of my brain. I have to stop myself writing; I can write anytime I want now. The new album is fantastic. I’ve broken down the part of me which supresses creativity. Everyone suppresses creativity to a degree, but I don’t have that anymore. I can just write whenever I want.

The Monochrome Set’s 13th studio album, ‘Cosmonaut’, is available now on CD, vinyl and digitally on Tapete records.

Photo © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.