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 Post subject: Interview: John Parish
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:44 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 7:44 pm
Posts: 1121
Location: Sussex, England ... hn-parish/


posted March 20, 2013 / No Comments

John Parish is certainly a jack of all musical trades. Although he may be best known for his 20 year-plus working relationship with PJ Harvey (last under the spotlight on 2011’s Mercury Music Prize winning album Let England Shake), he includes film composer, songwriter, producer and collaborator among his job titles.

His musical CV certainly makes for an intriguing read. Previous projects include co-writing and performing on Eels’ 2001 album Souljacker and work with the likes of Sparklehorse and Tracy Chapman as well as producing Harvey.

John’s latest album is Screenplay, a collection of compositions from his recent film scores. The record draws on several Parish scores including Nowhere Man, Plein Sud, Sister (original titled L’enfant d’en Haut) and Patrice Toye’s latest film Little Black Spiders. John launched the project at St George’s in Bristol as part of the city’s recent Filmic Festival 2013. His exclusive live performance is expected to pre-empt a more lengthy tour of the album around its launch date in April.

Speaking to John, it’s obvious that nearly 30 years in the music business has done little to dull his creative spark or his enthusiasm for new music and challenging projects. M had the pleasure of chatting to him about his recent work, his relationship with PJ Harvey and his thoughts on Bristol, a city he has called home for the past 25 years…

What are you currently working on?
I’ve got three strands to what I do. Producing, writing film music and playing live, generally with PJ Harvey but every so often I do my own gigs and occasionally work with other collaborators too.

I play with Adrian Utley (sometime Portishead guitarist) when he organises his mass guitar groups, which I find really inspiring.

Last year, I was mainly on tour with PJ Harvey after her Let England Shake album. Before that I was in the studio working on film music. More recently I’ve been producing but my film music album is rapidly becoming the main focus for the next few months.

What is the new album Screenplay about?
It’s a film music compilation based on four or five different movies I’ve scored over the last few years. A couple of these movies are coming out as original soundtrack albums anyway but just recently I seemed to be doing a lot of film music and hadn’t had chance to put it together to put the music out.

I was approached by Mark Cosgrove at The Watershed and Phil Johnson at St George’s if I wanted to do this Filmic festival in Bristol. I thought that would be great but I also wanted to do a few more shows and put an album out around it.

It took me a while to sequence it and put the music together so it would sound cohesive. It was a hard job but I’m delighted with how it’s ended up.

You’re launching the record in your hometown – what’s the Bristol music scene like at the moment?
There was a period when Bristol was recognised as a very musical city as a result of the success of Tricky, Portishead and Massive Attack. But there’s always been interesting bands before and since. There was one of those kind of waves which happens occasionally when everybody becomes interested in the same kind of music at the same time.

It just so happened that this music was being produced in Bristol. It made a massive impression and is still imprinted on a lot of people’s consciousness. It’s not causing the same stir as it did then, but that’s inevitable. It happens to every city at some point. They have a moment where there’s a large amount of interest whether that is Sheffield or Seattle. A city becomes fashionable and inevitably that is going to pass. It doesn’t mean interesting things are going to stop.

Is there a character behind music makers in Bristol?
There are certainly some shared characteristics among musicians who choose to come here or remain here. There feels like there’s plenty of opportunities to do things whether that be in film making or the visual arts. Maybe it’s to do with the size or the percentage of musicians and artists living here when compared to that size?

It’s also nowhere near as expensive to live here as it is in London. So it’s possible for musicians who aren’t making very much money to live in a place where there is a lot going on. And that is going to hold great appeal. Then, because of people coming here to be a part of that scene, that in itself increases the desirability of it for outsiders.

The music scene also covers a lot of ground which is another thing Bristol does well. It doesn’t get too caught up in particular whirlwind fashion moments.

You’re a composer, songwriter and producer. Do you find it hard to flit between these musical personas?
I don’t have a problem doing this. Instead I find it inspiring. It makes it more difficult to repeat ideas if you’re working in different musical areas. When I’m producing, I’m thinking about music in a different way to when I’m writing. And this will filter into my work on the next project.

I also have no problem with being at different points in the hierarchical structure. If I’m working on my own stuff, then I have to make all the decisions and it’s all down to me. If I’m producing something, I’m taking the artist’s considerations into account. If I’m working on a film score, I’ve a director to listen to.

Generally, provided you’re working with the right collaborators, collaboration can be a very positive thing.

Is your working relationship with PJ Harvey still fresh? How has it changed?
In some ways, it hasn’t changed. The basic thing which makes it work over all this time is we’ve always very much trusted each other’s opinions. That’s absolutely invaluable when it comes to working together and writing. It takes a while for that to develop and it can be difficult to maintain. But for me and Polly that’s always worked for us and we still very much rely on each other and on each other’s judgement. We’re both very aware that it’s a fortunate position to be in.

It’s that and the fact we’ve been very good friends. Sometimes we haven’t worked together on a project but we’ve always returned to each other. It’s always been an incredibly positive experience. She’s one of my closest and dearest friends.

Have you got any more plans to work together?
I’m sure we will do…

Wiggins is so superbly unassuming, he looks like he's about to say 'Pop the gold medal in the post, I'm nipping out for some biscuits'

Mark Steel

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