Bittles‘ Magazine | Interview
To say that Tone of Arc have created one of the funkiest records of 2013 is something of an understatement. Said album The Time Was Right contains 11 tracks of fantastically freaky sounds that would make LCD Soundsystem lie down and give up the ghost (oh wait, they already have). Trust me when I tell you that this is music readymade for the shuffling of shoulders, the nodding of heads, the movement of feet, and the eruption of huge face-dominating grins. By JOHN BITTLES
The duo of Tone of Arc are made up of Derrick Boyd, otherwise known as Dead Seal, who produces, plays numerous instruments, and sings. Joining him is partner and vocalist Zoe Presnick who adds a somewhat melodic balance and dynamism to the songs. After delighting all manner of clued-up hipsters everywhere with some very well received EPs they are now ready to take that next step towards world domination through the release of their debut album.
The Time Was Right comes out on the 13th of May on that fabulous purveyor of house No.19 Music and was executive produced by label head and one half of Art Department Jonny White. Yet if you approach this album merely expecting to hear some rigid 4/4 beats and house clichés then prepare to have your mind well and truly felt-up. With this album our daring duo have used house as a very loose template to explore funk, soul, hip-hop, and all manner of strange musical genres for which no name has yet been found.
Opening track Surrender sounds like something on DFA with a bassline that buzzes and grooves in all the right places while next song Love Kissed resembles Talking Heads blissed-out on E. The whole album makes up a surprisingly varied listening experience that will rock any block party and make you feel cool as fuck as you listen to it walking down your street. Even my mate Dan appeared hip while I played him the album and he’s into Bastille for fuck’s sake.
Other top tunes include Where you Belong, an uplifting new age anthem that seems to have been created with the singular intention of making the world appear a better place. Goodbye Horses sounds more Depeche Mode than Depeche Mode do now, and if someone presented it to you as a lost new wave classic you wouldn’t immediately think they were talking shit. Leftfield is the only track on the album that is recognisably house and it rocks like a 16 year old boy who has just lost his virginity while in Ibiza for the very first time. This is a good thing of course!
In short the album is really pretty darn ace and is good enough to get a tired and jaded old hack like myself so excited that I didn’t use sarcasm for an entire week. So when I was offered the chance to do an interview with the band I was smiling so much my girlfriend started thinking that something was seriously wrong. In the resultant interview we deliberated on various subjects including star seeds, Bowie, fans, music and a lot more. Enjoy!
For those who have so far lived a life of blissful ignorance, can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
We are star seeds, put here to fulfil a musical mission to inspire purpose and meaning into the lives who are drawn to our music. We are a husband and wife duo from San Francisco. I (Derrick Boyd) produce and play all the instruments, guitar, bass, drums, keys, and male vocals and Zoe balances my work out with her input and strong, effortless female vocals. I’ve been producing music for most of my life purely to fill my life with joy, and joyous we are. :)
New album The Time Was Right is a fantastically funky listen that really brings a smile to the face. Who should listen to the record?
I think the people who should and will listen to our music are the romantic, adventurers seeking love, health, reliable and funny friends, who enjoy sophisticated and classy sound waves to fill their lives.
It’s hard to find music which genuinely sounds different yet still maintains that dance floor oomph. What’s your secret?
Good use of EQ and creating original sounds and loops. Staying true to what lessons musicians/rockstars have already learned which is staying analog, take your time to do it right, trash parts that aren’t necessary and be as simple as possible. If you have too many sounds that means you have a bunch of crap sounds all trying to do the job that one sound can do by itself if it has the balls and confidence that it should. Being true to your inspirations but trying not to copy what they do but adding on to the collective consciousness that is music. Nothing we do is anything that hasn’t been done before and we would never claim otherwise.
Did you purposely set out to record a full album, or did the tracks just come together naturally?
One song at a time the album came together but three albums were made in the process of making one that was cohesive to the project. I write what I write and I don’t try to control my feelings to make something happen. I prefer to channel the sounds and vibe through outside spiritual and organic sources and sometimes magic happens and sometimes you get a muppet circus paradise.
What’s your favourite song from the record?
The title track The Time Was Right is the best and my first really funky song I made four years ago. My intensions shifted to create music that made people happy around then. I used to make some dark techy stuff and cleared a few dance floors in the process. I’ve been told it was because the music was ahead of its time but that’s not for me to say. In second would be Love kissed they might actually tie for first.
At times the album almost sounds like vintage Prince. Would you agree with that comparison?
Not as much Prince as Bowie, The Clash, Caribou, Dire Straights with a house kick and geez everything I’ve ever heard and liked. That’s a tough one to say. Its a mutt of all the best I hope.
While Leftfield is recognisably ‘house’ the other tracks on the record veer away into a vast variety of directions. How do you think regular fans of No.19 Music will react to the record?
Regular fans will be thrown for a loop. I think they will understand that we are moving forward and that music should not be confined so tightly to floors walls and ceilings. Good music is good music. NO.19 will become a more dynamic source for musicians and fans to find inspiring music.
What’s it like working with the guys at No.19 Music and Jonny White who executive produced the album?
Um it’s awesome. Doesn’t get better. They are my family. Before I met Jonny I was just looking for my sound and making endless amounts of music and putting them in the closet to be forgotten. Jonny got me inspired just because one of my great inspirations was into my music. I was finally free from the torment of an artist thinking he wasn’t good enough. We are really blessed to be with them.
You’ve gained quite a reputation for your awesome live shows. Are you going to tour the album?
We are touring the album right now throughout Europe and introducing many other new workings as well. Unfortunately a couple songs could not be played live as I would need a full band to do so. Soon I will be able to get a band in effect to make up for any questionable doubts that real musicians might have in our live performance. We can only carry so much with two arms.
What makes a good live show?
Clean, loud sound system, perfect lighting, a stage, a good crowd but not over crowded, affordable drinks, costumes on the artist, live musicians and vocals, and good sense of order and flow mixed with diversity in selection. An hour and a half time is perfect to get it all done.
Who or what is inspiring you right now?
The fans. That’s it. Knowing I have people listening is so inspiring. All I want to do is write, write, write. I’m going through major withdrawals of making music being on tour. Its a catch 22. I’m not the idolizing type and always found my inspiration from playing a guitar or buying a new shaker or finding a new sound on a synth. The rest just happens naturally.
The album has a very striking cover. Who did it and what do you think it says about the album?
I came up with it. Our No.19 team-mate Teeloo made it manifest. I’m obsessed with life and death so a skull is a perfect symbol of that and the angels are strong with us so we have one playing a guitar.
What setting do you think would be the perfect place for listening to The Time Was Right?
There is a time and a place for our songs to be played. It’s up to the listener or the Dj to play these at the right time to be able to appreciate it to the fullest. These are like last songs to play at the party. An after party with people you love is the best place so you can dance in comfort. If you get a good buzz it will really set in and hit your soul. It’s designed to be enjoyed wherever you are though. I’ve been sad, happy, in clubs, at mom’s house and it always works. But that’s just me.
Finally, what advice would you give any readers out there who are wishing to create some tunes?
Start producing right away. Don’t do it for the fame or money or pussy. Do it because you have to or else you would die. We need real musicians willing to take the time to learn how to play instruments and learn to sing. People are getting too lazy and reliant on technology to do basic and easy tasks. DJ’s are teaming up and making bands for a reason so you might as well get a head start and pick up the coolest looking instruments you can find and start wailing on it. The pussy and cash will naturally follow. If your heart is in the right place you can have anything you want but it helps to want to help others before yourself. The universe wants you to be happy. Don’t let your mind or any one tell you other wise. Surround yourself with people who challenge you but love you. And never let anyone take the piss out of your work. It’s for your happiness and they have no right to be jerks.
I would just like to thank Derrick for taking the time to answer these questions and to urge every right thinking individual to go out and buy the album now.
| JOHN BITTLES