Interview / Seahawks
Jon Tye & Pete Fowler form the core of Seahawks: A partnership born of “A Psychedelic Guide To Monsterism Island” - the soundtrack to Pete`s illustrations, toys and figures - cemented by gigs playing records by Boston, Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac at The Big Chill Bar, fuelled by a passion for vintage music-making machines, and given a name after a weekend spent in sailors outfits at Bestival. From tracks synthesised around AOR samples, Seahawks now record pretty much as a full band - which includes members of Hot Chip and The Horrors. In a short span of only six years they`ve produced 15 odd singles, over 20 remixes, countless super-limited mix CDs, and have just released their fourth studio LP proper, “Escape Hatch”. Jon & Pete did a nice interview with The Quietus a little while back (check the link below), but we took the opportunity to fill in a few blanks and catch up.
Jon, how long have you been in Cornwall? What prompted the move? Would you ever consider living in London?
Over 12 years now…I never felt I had any time in London and my daughters were growing up…better to be by the sea and there’s so much more time and space here. Not sure if I’ll always be in Cornwall but as for London…There’s NO WAY BACK.
Pete, you`re based in London. How does the Seahawks` creative process work?
I visit Jon as much as I can and it’s always a good way to escape the city and work together in his studio. Other than that we work a lot sharing files over emails, which is the way it is but you can’t really beat being in the same room together, making decisions and working with spontaneity that you don’t get in isolation. However, that can add another angle to the music and allow you to work at our own individual paces.
Seahawks seems have evolved out of a DJ gig at The Big Chill Bar. How did you get that gig? Do you still play there?
Jon: I played at the very first Big Chill festival and some of their events at the Union Chapel before that, so when they opened the bar I was one of the first to DJ there…I had a residency for over 10 years! We haven’t played there for a year or two now…it’s good to move on.
Pete: I really like that we both got to know each others tastes in music over the years DJing there. As Jon said, things have moved on since but it was a good run and gave birth to a lot of ideas and records!
You both collect gear like old synths and vintage oscillators. What started this hobby?
Jon: I remember playing a Wasp synth when they first came out and loved it but it was when I made a library music album for Bruton in the late 80’s that I really got into synths.
Pete: I had a Casio VL Tone when I was a kid, not quite the Wasp but it got me interested in weird sounds. The ADSR adjustments on that would keep me occupied for a while. Years later I got into buying circuit bent gear and home/garage made electronics and plugged them all in together.
What was the first piece you purchased, where and why?
Jon: a Roland SH-101…to make sweet house music. It worked nicely with the the 909 drum machine.
Pete: I guess the Casio, which I remember was a present from my parents. Quite random really!
What was the last? And what would be your favourite? And why?
Jon: The most recent was a Yamaha SY77 for those lush digital sounds that you hear on Escape Hatch…My fave is probably the Realistic (Moog) MG-1…i’ve had it so long and it always has a really warm vibe…
Pete: The mini Roland JU06 was the most recent. I love the sound of the Juno synths and this does a pretty good job for the money. We’ve used Jon’s Juno 6 a fair bit on this current LP and other pieces and that chorus is so sweet! It was more a case of convenience with that purchase because of the price and size but it sounds superb.
When you first started you constructed your “demos” from samples, and then replayed them to produce the finished tracks. Do you still work in this way?
Jon: Not so much now although other tracks are often the starting point for inspiration.
Pete: That was our way in initially I suppose, but we’ve been working with a solid group of musicians for a good few years. As Jon said, quite often we’ll get inspiration from other music, even if it’s just the atmosphere of a song or a sound that more often that not turns into something entirely different! We’ve been quite radial at times, and have started on a different tack even though we’re halfway there. Heavy weather sailing at it’s finest!
Seahawks pays tribute to the music of the `70s and `80s, the Laurel Canyon of Joni Mitchell and Judee Sill, and David Crosby, but Jon, you`ve been running Lo Recordings, for over 20 years, whose catalogue contains an arm-long list of contemporary leftfield electronic and improvisational artists, from Luke Vibert, to Derek Bailey, to Thurston Moore to Four Tet, to Jean-Jacques Perry to Susumu Yokota, to Cherrystones to Grimes. What new music are you both currently into?
Jon: There’s so much amazing music…Abul Mogard, Pye Corner Audio, Andras Fox, Bo Ningen, Black Peaches, The Pattern Forms…
Pete: I love PCA also. He’s just got a new LP out which is supposed to be his finest. Cantoma’s new LP is great, super balearic. I buy a lot of Disco and House to DJ as well as the outer reaches of both genres and there’s always an endless list of gots and wants. I really like Apiento, anything on Golf Channel, Claremont 56 as well as reissue labels like Be With Records and Numero. Tom Furse’s new music is great too.
Jon: I like music that transports me…it’s a good time now, it feels quite open and flowing…electronics seem really integrated into all areas of music…when I started Lo there was a real divide between Rock / Dance / Jazz,etc…
Pete: For different reasons. To work to, to DJ and to relax although it gets mixed up at times.
What`s next for Lo Recordings?
We’re heading back to some kind of dance floor…12” vinyl…Mr G, K15 and World Air releases coming soon…
“Paradise Freaks” was full of collaborations (Tim Burgess, Nick Nicely, The Horrors, Peaking Lights) while “Escape Hatch” is really focused on the Seahawks` “band”. Was this a conscious decision?
Jon: I don’t think anything is overly “conscious” when it comes to Seahawks…the vocal project started when Tim offered to record a vocal in return for a remix…with Escape Hatch it was listening to a lot of `80s New Age releases and then exploring those kind of digital Yamaha sounds mixed with the more analog vibe of a Roland Juno 6…all Seahawks releases are explorations of one type or another…an attempt to get lost in music and emotion…
Your collaborations to date seem to have operated in a kind of barter system, trading remixes and vocals with the likes of Jonny Nash / Land Of Light, Tim Burgess, Cos / Mes, Rune Lindbaek, Tom Furse / The Horrors. Is more of this “trading” on the cards?
Jon: We always like to barter…it’s great to exchange ideas and vibrations…we’ve just collaborated with Black Peaches, creating a 12 minute track from parts from various songs…I think we’ll always continue to collaborate…I’m really enjoying working with live players and in particular brass sounds…more flugel horn and trumpets on the way and of course more saxophone.
Are “Escape Hatch” remixes on the way?
Jon: We have some amazing mixes by Nick Mackrory and Len Leise.
Is there anybody you`d really like to collaborate with?
Jon: Andreas Vollenweider and Frank Ocean would be class and Kenny Loggins of course…
Pete: I still think Michael McDonald has it in him. Thought his part in the Grizzly Bear song was kind of underplayed. It’s definitely time for him to get more cosmic. Maybe bring Donald Fagen along too, hang on, maybe not!
You`ve talked about working with Iasos in the past. Do you think this will happen? Have you been in touch?
Jon: We need to make it happen…we’ve tried telepathic communication but nothing back yet…
Pete: He was interviewed on NTS radio earlier this year and he is indeed awesome. I have no idea how that would go if we ever got the opportunity. Hopefully lots of giggle energy.
Do Seahawks have any live gigs arranged to promote the new LP? Will the gigs involve laptops and / or musicians?
Jon: We played at Latitude festival with keyboards, filters, sax and guitar…it was great, really deep with a nice flow.
Pete: Live gigs are always a little intense in the run up but they’re always fun. Particularly when Alik and Dan join us. We’d like to play more and certainly the Latitude gig was a highlight but we always like to keep it as a treat. It’d be fun to find an amazing spot to play. I’ve always loved caves, maybe a sea cave, on a boat?
What happened to Pink Fluid, and the cover of Clapton`s “461 Ocean Boulevard”?
Jon: The first Pink Fluid release ‘Pipe Dreams’ is coming up on Prins Thomas’ Horizontal Mambo imprint, we don’t know when but we know it will be beautiful when it does…We lost the Clapton vibe some time around march 2014 but it may return soon…
Jon, digging around on the net I discovered that you were in Funtopia, responsible for the House classic “Do You Wanna Know?” which was remixed by Derrick May. Do you have any other House secrets?
We (Funtopia) did a gig at a night called Confusion with Jimi Polo singing…Jimi told us that Robert Owens was coming along…he did and joined us on stage for “Do You Wanna Know”…it was truly far out.
Did you get to meet or work with Mayday?
Jon: I met him at “Theatre Of Madness” (Spectrum) in Heaven, and I remember he really liked a record we’d made called “Freedom”…”believe me that’s a great record” he said. We later worked together in a studio in South London with Danny Arno, and that’s where the “Do You Wanna Know” track came from along with another called “Lotus”. He was a real cool cookie.
Seahawks` "Escape Hatch" is in shops now, and I`ll be broadcasting a radio show around the album and its "sound" this weekend on FM Karuizawa.