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RECOIL (ALAN WILDER) INTERVIEW [2010]

PERHAPS WE SHOULD START OFF BY TALKING ABOUT THE 'SELECTED' ALBUM THAT CAME OUT EARLIER THIS YEAR… I'VE BEEN LISTENING TO IT A LOT AND WHAT SURPRISES ME IS THAT IS DOESN'T REALLY SOUND LIKE A COMPILATION, IT SOUNDS MORE COHESIVE THAN THAT, MORE LIKE AN ALBUM OF MATERIAL THAT IS SUPPOSED TO FIT TOGETHER. WAS THAT SOMETHING YOU WERE LOOKING TO ACHIEVE WHEN YOU WERE COMPILING IT, AND IF SO DID THAT MAKE THE SELECTION PROCESS DIFFICULT?

Yes - that was the aim from the moment that Mute suggested putting together a collection. They told me they were planning a series of compiled albums for a number of their artists just to bring people up to speed. When I realised there weren't any restrictions, the collection idea started to appeal and I kind of knew it would be possible to create an album with continuity, atmosphere and pacing.

Even though there were a few interesting discoveries - or re-discoveries - along the way, my inclination that it would mainly consist of material from the last three Recoil albums proved correct after I attempted to fit in older material, and noticed that there had been a significant sound change around the time of 'Unsound Methods'. I put this down to a couple of things: a - I had much more time to concentrate on the project after I left DM, and b - I had by then, under my belt, the experience of making 'Songs of Faith & Devotion' with Flood, where we had experimented much more deeply with looped performance.

So while there is a decent cross section of Recoil's overall output, the 'Selected' album is more about my own favourites rather than a 'cater to all' concept. Talking of the concept - the project evolved from what was initially a low budget, designed-for-retail 'best of' into something much more - a complete retrospective multi-format package with higher art values. Over the time spent discussing the release, the climate was almost changing in front of our eyes and it became clear that making different formats available is not only desirable to both artist and consumer, it is also viable financially. And then the idea of the tour capped everything off.

ARE YOU ABLE TO LOOK BACK ON YOUR RECOIL CATALOGUE WITH SATISFACTION AFTER GOING THROUGH THAT PROCESS, OR ARE YOU SOMEONE WHO JUST WANTS TO GO BACK AND TINKER WITH EVERYTHING ALL OVER AGAIN?

I am never fully satisfied with anything - it's the perfectionist in me: sometimes restricting in that everything takes forever to complete but ultimately it is that which drives me to always try and improve and produce better music. Whether I succeed in that is for others to judge but, for my own creative satisfaction, I am bound to try. Having said that, there is much that I am happy with from the catalogue.

THE SPECIAL EDITION OF 'SELECTED' ALSO FEATURES A BONUS CD OF REMIXES AND ALTERNATIVE VERSIONS, WAS COMPILING AND CURATING THAT DISC AN INTERESTING PROCESS FOR YOU? A MORE INTERESTING PROCESS PERHAPS?

In some ways yes because there is fresh material there and one can experiment a bit more. In fact the live set we prepared has been the real interesting experiment - trying to translate those mixes - sometimes made by PK & myself and sometimes produced by others - into versions which are specifically designed to be heard at a venue, through a loud PA, by attendees who are obviously in a different frame of mind to when they listen at home. It is this process that I also used to enjoy when putting together the live DM sets.

UNTIL THE FIRST 'SELECTED' DATE EARLIER THIS YEAR YOU'D NEVER TAKEN RECOIL ON THE ROAD, WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO TOUR THIS TIME?

There were a number of reasons - with all the new and old remixes at our disposal, the fact that it is 25 years since Recoil began, and also the fact that these days it is cost effective to use film. For me, this was always a 'must' for any live performance of Recoil. And with the advent of cheaper, portable HD cameras as well as affordable editing software, to make films has suddenly become viable. I have been collaborating with 4 different directors for this project using a central server where we could all upload - and feedback on - our work-in-progress. Without a band or vocalists, this provides the main visual focus.

HOW HAS THE TOUR BEEN FOR YOU UP THIS POINT? HAVE YOU ENJOYED BEING BACK ON THE ROAD?

It's been a lot of fun and a lot of work too. I have been much more hands on with everything. Working on a fairly lean budget, our every whim is not catered for like in the old DM days! - which is fine but it means a lot of emailing, favour-coveting, organising and logistical planning. During the performances, I have enjoyed being nearer to the audience, being able to actually see people's expressions. With DM one felt very removed at times, enveloped within a huge production which almost seemed to run itself at times. I did enjoy those shows though - I mean how could you not playing to so many people, with the power of those massive events?

WILL THE FORTHCOMING US AND SOUTH AMERICAN SHOWS BE ALONG THE SAME LINES AS THE SHOWS EARLIER THIS YEAR, OR HAVE YOU USED THE BREAK IN THE SCHEDULE TO CHANGE THINGS AROUND AT ALL?

There will be some changes to both music and film - tweaks and improvements mainly after the learning curve that playing shows for the first time ever inevitably provided. A few new pieces of music have been added to make the set more snappy, and the film makers have been hard at work re-editing footage and also shooting new sections. There are limits to what we can do within out set up and unfortunately, we are not in a position to be able to bring in many extra vocalists and musicians. This is still very much a 'presentation' rather than a 'band'.

RECOIL HAS FEATURED A LOT OF GUEST VOCALISTS OVER THE YEARS, SOME OF WHOM HAVE POPPED UP AT SHOWS THIS YEAR… IF A PARTICULAR VOCALIST ISN'T AVAILABLE DOES IT MEAN THAT PARTICULAR TRACK CAN'T FEATURE ON THE SETLIST?

No - the set has been designed to work without vocalists, including a few pre-recorded voices here and there. We had the foresight to prepare completely non-vocal versions too, for when a singer shows up. As I say, I'm not in a position to just fly each singer around the world to perform say 2 minutes of material.

I GET THE IMPRESSION THAT IT KIND OF SUITS YOU TO WORK ALONE IN THE WAY YOU DO WITH RECOIL, JUST PULLING IN PEOPLE AS YOU NEED THEM, BUT HAVE YOU WORKED WITH ANYONE WHO HAS TEMPTED YOU TO FORM A MORE PERMANENT WORKING RELATIONSHIP? COULD THAT EVER HAPPEN?

I haven't really - even though I've been lucky enough to have some very talented people involved, like Joe Richardson or Diamanda Galas for example. I kind of like the merry-go-round approach of bringing in fresh voices and styles, mainly for reasons of variety and surprise. It's not that I'm SO difficult to work with that nobody will stay for long!

WHO DO YOU FEEL RECOIL'S PEERS ARE? I WAS THINKING PERHAPS SOME SORT OF CROSS BETWEEN JOHN FOXX AND PHILIP GLASS BUT I'M NOT SURE QUITE WHO THAT PERSON IS, PERHAPS IT ACTUALLY IS YOU!

Hmm - there would be parts of so many different people, ranging from blues and gospel artists, Hendrix, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Eno through to Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Kraftwerk, Krautrock, the whole punk movement, Massive Attack, U.N.K.L.E. Many others.

YOU LEFT DEPECHE MODE IN 1995 I THINK, AND STARTED CONCENTRATING ON RECOIL FULL-TIME. HAS YOUR CAREER SINCE THAT POINT BROUGHT YOU THE PEACE, IF THAT'S THE RIGHT WORD, THAT YOU WERE HOPING IT WOULD BRING?

I'm content generally but, after two divorces, I could use some of the cash back that I thought might set me up! On a musical level, I'm in a very lucky position to be able to indulge myself without compromise, and with a record company who fully support my choices. It's a struggle to be heard sometimes but I'd had my fair share of exposure over the years so I'm not complaining.

IS IT FRUSTRATING TO STILL HAVE THE 'EX DEPECHE MODE' TAG APPLIED TO EVERYTHING YOU DO? IS IT JUST INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING, OR IT SOMETHING THAT'S VERY USEFUL IN THAT IT OPENS DOORS FOR YOUR CURRENT WORK?

It's both. I never deny or denounce my connection. As I say, it's been good to me.

YOU KIND OF REINFORCED THAT WHOLE CONNECTION AGAIN WHEN YOU REJOINED THE BAND ONSTAGE FOR A COUPLE OF NUMBER EARLIER THIS YEAR AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL! WHO INSTIGATED THAT REUNION AND HOW WAS THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE FOR YOU?

Dave, and then the others, asked me to do it - and I was interested in seeing everyone - band and crew - to catch up with their news, see how they were all fairing. The fact that it was for a worthy cause was also important of course, and I felt there would be a warm reaction from the people - which there was: - It felt strangely familiar - maybe not surprising considering how much touring we used to do - but it was like I'd never been away! I had forgotten just how it feels though when a large audience is behind you like that.

While I was on stage, I was just trying to concentrate on not making any mistakes. The song is almost 'too' easy to play and that's when you can get complacent and fuck it up. Luckily, I got through it, even though the hands were a bit shaky. 'Somebody' was chosen because Martin and I could both have done it without any rehearsal, in our sleep, and there was very little time to sound check on that day.

AND YOU'RE HOOKING UP WITH MARTIN GORE AGAIN WHEN RECOIL PLAY SANTA ANA ON THE TOUR AREN'T YOU? HE'S GOING TO BE PLAYING A DJ SET AT YOUR SHOW… IS THAT A RESULT OF SEEING HIM WHEN YOU APPEARED AT THAT SHOW?

I guess so - I mean we had a good chat that day, and he was in impressive shape having been on the wagon for about 3-4 years. He seemed like a completely different person - much more confident and outgoing. I liked the new Martin.

ONCE THE 'SELECTED' TOUR IS DONE, WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?

I'm planning to get back into the studio, fix my very ill studio computer and get to writing some new Recoil music. I hope to maybe show up at one or two events next year and that's about as far as my plans go.

OCTOBER 2010

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