It’s typical isn’t it, after months of solidly shit weather and having to trudge to work while getting blown away with the massive Dunlop umbrella you stupidly and begrudgingly bought at Sports Direct (that’s right, fuck you Mike Ashley) – good weather has arrived. Where are we? Stuck inside mate – a good man once said hope is for the hopeless.
That man was Ben Woods, otherwise known as the syrup-throated sardonic that chiefly leads The Golden Dregs. His last album, the pertinently aforementioned ‘Hope Is For The Hopeless’, introduced a new direction for the project – six members accompanying Woods’ heavy drawl as he turned partially to minimal, fractured keys. That being said, it’s still famously enthralling and surprisingly empathetic as Woods paints inexplicably detailed images of depreciation, filled with morose wit and poignant wonderment.
Today, Mr Woods offers us his Isolation Selection, a lengthy collection exploring themes of isolation and loneliness with broad, eclectic curation.
These really are unprecedented times, how are you, how are you all feeling in all this?
Yeah these really are strange times. Ted’s lost his flat, Issie’s lost her job, we had a pretty exciting summer coming up which is gradually getting cancelled. But in the grand scheme of things we are pretty fortunate. We’re not financially dependent on our music, so we’ve suffered no loss of earnings, and we’re not in the midst of an album release campaign. A lot of artists will be hit super hard by this. Hannah, Mike and myself work for the Tate – they’ve been super supportive. And isolation has been kind to me – I can finally allow myself the time to work on new music, and catch up on all the books and films and phone calls I’ve been meaning to get around to. Plus my flat has a great south-facing garden out the back – the sun has really been lifting the spirits.
Can you quite comprehend the impact this is having on the music industry?
Not really. I don’t have much awareness regarding the financial ins and outs of the industry so I can only assume. The DIY scene is resilient by nature so I can’t see that going anywhere, and those at the top have been lining their pockets for decades so can probably afford to take the hit financially. I guess it’s the guys in the middle with the smaller margins that are going to really be hit. But everyone I’ve spoken to is working really hard to ensure events are postponed and not cancelled. Hopefully this lockdown is successful and we pick up where we left off in the second half of the year. But I guess all we can do right now is wait it out and stay positive and keep looking forward.
I know at this stage it’s perhaps not the most important of things to consider, but do you think when all this is said and done, the foundations and the nature in which the industry runs will change??
I don’t think the foundation of the industry will change, that being that there are people who want to make and perform music, and there are people who want to consume music. But the nature of the industry will surely change. I mean, it’s only been a ‘thing’ for what, 60 years? And no five years have been the same. It’s constantly evolving and adapting and figuring out its place in the world. But there are so many amazing people working behind the scenes, I really hope they survive this. It looks like aviation could really take a hit, so I guess international touring could regress a couple decades. And who knows what shape the festival industry will be in…. We’ve all started streaming a lot more, I wonder if that could take off in some major way? Although I feel like after however many weeks stuck indoors, people are going to be so thirsty to get outside.
Your quarantine session felt like a loose and revealing insight into the processes of your music on a primal and raw level. How did it feel to perform in such a way, in such a necessary and concentrated form?
That’s reassuring, thank you. It certainly was loose. I’m always a little dubious about acoustic guitar sessions, I feel like I’m going to come across like Jack Johnson or something. It was nice to perform, and I’m used to playing to an unresponsive audience so that wasn’t too much of a shock. It was sad not having the full band together though. We’ve just been polishing off a new set and right now it feels like it’ll never be heard. We tried to get Hannah in with her saxophone on video link but there was too much delay – technology needs to catch up a bit if this is the future. I’ve been thinking about hosting a stream in a few weeks to play some new recordings, works in progress etc. If anyone’s interested in tuning in, I think that could be quite interesting.
Talk about your playlist for us, what does it represent for you?
The playlist was a collaborative effort between the band. It was nice to be able to work on something together. It’s songs on a theme of staying indoors, and isolation. Whilst there’s a feeling of loneliness I think it’s actually quite a comforting listen. It visits quite a few places stylistically but I think it flows pretty well. I hope it helps.