After drawing a line in the sand with the final edition of his ‘Volume’ series of solo projects, Manchester recording artist Robert Paul Corless sat down with Patrick T. Davies to discuss the next phase of his journey, which begins January 2023. Photography by Chinese Francis.
So you’re starting a new series of albums simply entitled ‘Audio Recordings’, what can we expect from these?
I’ll have a new album out January 2023. They’ll be no album titles, just ‘Audio Recording 001′ and so on. I’ve got enough albums for 3 years’ worth of releases. These will be coming out every 1-3 months. I’ve already got 18 ready, and more that I’m working on.
In addition to that I’ve got some samplers that are each around 20 minutes long. They’ll be released every solstice for the next 3 years. The samplers have gone down well so far, they’re just tracks glued together really, made in the moment.
How will these new releases differ to the ‘Volume’ series?
The first will come out the first Monday of January, the next the first Monday of March. It’s a different approach. These tracks were all done on a laptop, with a low bit rate. But a lot of the instruments are more than 20 years old, they could be run by steam!
I don’t use many plugins, they were all recorded through a laptop mic and monitor. It’s a pain in the arse to do to be honest! In a studio you’ve got everything at your fingertips. With a laptop I’ve got to rely on my shit eyes. It’s all lo-fi, but the lower bitrate offers a different energy.
Where and when did the writing process for these albums take place?
There’s a theme to the new album, it was all done when the ‘cough and sneeze’ (Covid lockdown) was at its height. I would go to meet a friend of mine at the feet of the Queen Victoria statue in Piccadilly Gardens. I’d always be there a bit early, it’s just in my nature.
During those 20 minutes or so I would just sit and observe, and take down notes on the dance of the human condition. Both mentally, and physically with voice notes. That’s how the album developed. They were done in these short sessions, then I’d bring them together, not really with any clear beginning or end.
An example would be ‘Goose Step Girl’. The street was a catwalk to her. It was just what I was viewing. Or another would be ‘Sleeping Spice Shells’. I was seeing people on spice laid out on the floor like shells on a beach. But a beach in hell!
That’s what influenced this album. It was a bit cathartic. The Volume albums had personal history. Like (the now defunct) Butterfly Studios and my work with Tim Walsh Jr. (guitarist who sadly passed in 2019). Volume 50 was time to close the book.
So what’s the next move with so much material already written?
The next phase is to go back into the studio with bigger equipment. It was all written in Manchester and then monitored in Spain. The kitchen sink was thrown at the writing, but I want to keep the recordings as close to the originals as possible, you can twiddle your way to nowhere in the studio! I just try to find balance.
Once they were together, all the albums had a theme or story. I’ve never had my own laptop before, I had to work all that out, full Frank Spencer! I thought while the cough and sneeze was going on, it was an opportunity to get all this done. I constantly wrote.
I thought I would carry on as normal and see what comes of it. Working in Europe was the only time it hit me really, when I realised flights were stopping. Apart from that it was all just studio time.
Each track is a sensilla, a divine spark. I’m really proud of the new work, and the past work too but that seems like another life. I don’t listen to that anymore. It’s a door closed. A toilet door!
Is there any particular direction you see this new approach leading you towards?
I’m working on some film projects. At the moment just negotiating with production companies. I’ve also been asked to do some live work in the new year. We’ll see what happens with that. I need a big heart for that. I’m getting a bit old for it! But you have to constantly reinvent to stay relevant.
Obviously it’s all digital so you need a way of doing it on the stage without it going tits up. It’ll just be me on my own. A laptop, a 4-track, all buttons, no band, a mixing desk and two keyboards. I’ll combine all that and just see how it goes.
But I’m a distance from that right now, I’m still learning the equipment. I’ll work it out in the rehearsal room. I want to be on the ball with it though.
The thing is you know where you are with humans and instruments but machines can fuck up. So I guess I could bring in other musicians further down the line. Fuck it, I might just bring in a ventriloquist to fill in the time if there are any hiccups!