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Interview with Alison Shaw
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The Cranes have been around since 1986. After producing a self-released, cassette-only album, 'Fuel' (1990) , they signed to Dedicated Records, an indie offshoot of the major label BMG, and toured the world with the Cure on their 'Wish' tour in 1992.
The Cranes, which consisted initially of sister/brother team Alison (vocals, bass) and Jim Shaw (guitars, programming, drums), and Mark Francombe (guitar) and Matt Cope (bass, guitar), released six albums on Dedicated, 'Self-Non-Self' (1990), 'Wings of Joy' (1991), 'Forever' (1993), 'Loved' (1994), 'La Tragedie d' Oreste Et Eloise' (1996) and 'Population Four'.
When Dedicated folded, the Cranes, in a new line-up which now consisted of Paul Smith (guitar), Jon Callender (drums) and eventually Ben Baxter (bass) as well as the Shaws, formed their own label, Dadaphonic Records.
The band hit the road again recently to promote their new studio album, 'Particles and Waves'(2004). This followed on from 'Future Songs' (2001) and 'Live in Italy' (2003). Pennyblackmusic interviewed Alison Shaw at the London ICA.
PB : The best way it seems to me to describe the music on this new album, 'Particles and Waves', would be as dreamy pop.The Cranes often get tagged as being Goths because you have toured with The Cure, which I don't think is fair. This new album is a bit wacky in a Kate Bush sort of way, but, however, more trippy. Are you happy with the term "dreamy pop" ?
AS : Yeah, I don't mind that. I think dreamy certainly.
PB : Not pop as in popular.
AS : No, I think there's some quite experimental moments on the album like 'Here Comes the Snow', which is quite discordant. People have been saying that it is more electronica-based and not as guitar and drum-based as our earlier stuff was.
PB : It reminds me a bit of post rock.
AS : Right.
PB : And it also reminds me of Slowdive but, of course, done in a different way with different instruments.
AS : Really?
PB : Yeah, it is similarly hypnotic and trippy.
AS : People have also been saying that this record feels like a follow on from 'Future Songs'. 'Future Songs' was nothing like the album before that, 'Population Four', which was the last album we did with BMG. We really did have to a break after that. That to me is our worst album. We had a complete break and we have got pretty much new members in the band now. The old group finished in '97 and it is a different group that formed in 2000. It's still Jim and I that write everything, but definitely the personalities of John, Ben and Paul who have joined us in the last three years have moved us into a new phase.
PB : Are you all still Portsmouth-based?
AS : I was in London for about 3 and a half years, doing a Physics course but last year I moved back to Portsmouth, so we could work on this record. We are now based in Southsea.
PB : When the original group ceased to be why was it that you split ? Was it because you didn't like the last album and because Dedicated went bust?
AS : It was a combination of things. Dedicated lost their funding from BMG and they were ceasing to exist. We had the option to stay on with BMG. We would have been merged into some subsidual, which wouldn't have been good for us. We had also been together for seven years, and had toured very intensely with album, tour, album, tour. Mark was getting married and moving to Oslo. Jim and I were also going through different stuff, so it was like a natural end to that cycle.
For two years we didn't expect to record any more Cranes records at all, but because Jim and I are related we couldn't split up completely. Someone in Belgium started to contact us in about '98 or '99, and he wanted us to do a festival and he kept on e-mailing us for months. We had written two or three new songs. We didn't have a set. We didn't have a band,but he was so persistent that we thought it might be fun. That's when we asked Johnny, our drummer, to join, and that gave us the core of the group again. Everything followed on from there, and that was the beginning of the new phrase.
PB : Is the Cranes now full time?
AS : It is for me and Jim.
PB : But you're not going to do what you did last time, and tour constantly and record all the time. You're going to give yourself some time off.
AS : That's right. We are doing everything on our own label, which is called Dadaphonic. It's been interesting. It does take a lot of energy just sorting out the business side of things. It's a balance between making enough income to exist and being able to do things when
you want to. It's tough touring. You have to make sure enough comes in to cover that.
PB : I believe that you're published by Mute. Do they help out?
AS : Our publisher is indeed Mute. That is seperate from the recording side of things. They signed us in 2001 after 'Future Songs'. They do help out. They gave us a decent advance and they are very supportive.
They also asked Jim, to do some soundtrack music for a CD compilation to be sent out to the film industry. It's called 'Terms and Textures'.We did this one track. We chose it. We gave it to them. It's partly a Mute project and it also involves a label called Music House and Jim's track has now been chosen for the new ilda (Car) advert.
PB : Back to the album I would say, that it sounds wintry, but then you have got bits on it that like make you jump. Was that done on purpose?
AS : It wasn't really done on purpose. The record came together over a period of months. We didn't set it up to sound one way or another. The songs just bubbled up and. if we liked them, we just developed them more. The last few weeks of recording were crazy, because we had a problem with the hard drive on our computer and we had a deadline on it because we had to go on tour.
That pressure was good though because we had to have a finishing point. I think Jim and I could have spent another year on it otherwise.
PB : You have also started to play with The Cure again.
AS : Yeah.
PB : You supported them at their Hyde Park gig in London in 2002.How did that come about?
AS : It was a phone call. They phoned us. We hadn't heard from them, in years. The last time we saw them was when we went to their party when 'Wild Mood Swings' came out in 1996, and then we got a call out of the blue asking us if we would like to play in Hyde Park, and so we, of course, said yes.
Then a similiar thing happened, recently. We got a phone call from a promoter in Koln. The Cure had requested us to play with them there so we did that and then a couple of days after that the people at the Move Festival in Manchester got in touch saying that the Cure had requested us to be added to that bill. It was brilliant. It was really good fun.
PB : Thats it. Thank you.
AS : Thank you. You're welcome. Thanks a lot for coming down.
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Long-serving shoegazing act the Cranes recently released a new album, 'Particles and Waves'. Frontwoman Alison Shaw speaks to Anthony Strutt about running their own record label, Dadophonic, and their recently renewed relationship with the Cure
Cranes:Jazz Cafe, London, 7/4/2010
At the London Jazz Cafe, Anthony Strutt watches ethereal group Cranes at a rare gig play a powerful set that incorporates songs from all periods of their career
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