What made you decide to start the band / become a soloist?
Before I was playing in lots of bands just as a guitarist. I found that a lot of the time indie bands take themselves very seriously. The music I like tends to be a bit off the wall, is satirical and sometimes is a bit silly. I think anyone who has met me knows that I don’t take myself very seriously at all. Listening to artists like Kirin J Callinan and Alex Cameron kind of liberated me a bit and made me feel that I could pursue my own solo project. I could be myself.
Introduce us you / all to the members and your musical history?
I’m Oliver Marson. I’ve been releasing solo music since 2019. The Pandemic put a bit of a halt to that. But now I am back to release the music I made during this time. I’ve played as a session keys player in Empathy Test – we’ve been able to play some amazing places all over the world with some amazing bands like D.A.F, Gary Numan and Clan of Xymox. I’ve composed soundtracks for the Victoria and Albert Museum including the recent Alice in Wonderland animation. I’ve played guitar in Bahama Bleach and China Aster. I was almost in Media Giant, Jeez Lluis and les Flair before I decided to pursue my solo career. I guess I have been around the block.
Whats one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
Haven’t done many interviews, but I guess questions like, why do I sound like I am from the 80s? What is my fixation on the 80s? I think when I release new songs, people will see that my music kind of draws from lots of eras and styles.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
I am full of them. I like the one where the world is run is actually run by lizards. They can be very amusing. In reality, conspiracy theories are just another way of dealing with an increasingly complex world. The scarier truth is that we don’t really have much control over the world and the decisions at the very highest levels of power. We’ve had a series of big catastrophes since 2001, but we don’t really do anything about it. We all live inside our own echo chambers and fake worlds. That is kind of what Manipulator is about, hence the lyrics ‘we’re sleepwalking with the loonies at the wheel’.
Did you buy anything you don’t need in the pandemic?
I bought a bike thinking I’d cycle everywhere and get fit, but I’m actually a right lazy bugger. Can’t get rid of the thing either.
We have set up RGM USA sharing USA music with the uk scene and vice versa, what are your thoughts on the UK music scene?
The music scene in the UK is in a really interesting place. I’ve discovered some really amazing bands since the reopening last summer. I watched Opus Kink at the Birthday party for Lexington last night and they absolutely blew the roof off the place. I haven’t seen a band that good live in a long long time. Probably the last time was when I saw Nervous Conditions in 2016 who are now Black Country New Road. There are also some really out-there bands like Walt Disco who I’d like to see live. But there is really interesting things happening all over the world, especially in Australia – I am huge fan of Kirin J Callinan, Donny Benet, Alex Cameron and Tropical Fuck Storm from there.
What useless party trick do you have?
I can disappoint anyone.
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
Playing the moth club in London was an amazing experience. My live band and I were supporting a spanish band called Reyko and there was tonnes of spanish people in the audience who hadn’t heard us before. All the bands that played that night were very international and super supportive of each other. Zebrah played who are French and super fun to watch. Berne played who have a dream pop sound and all their songs are about climate change. It was a multicultural and friendly atmosphere. Sometimes, I feel like you play with bands and it can be competitive or they try and do you down, so it was really refreshing.
What was the worst experience on stage?
For this gig I did at the Chameleon in Nottingham I decided to wear double leather. I was one sweaty man after that. I had to leave the stage immediately. It was like my ross from friends moment.
Tell us something about you / each member that you think people would be surprised about?
Up until 2017, I hadn’t played the piano or keys before. I hadn’t written any of my own songs. Now, I write all my own tunes and a lot of them feature keys. That’s because I had an experience that changed me that year, where my kidneys failed and I nearly died. Now I am trying to make the most of every moment.
If you had to describe your band/music to an alien how would you describe it?
Ludicrous music for ludicrous times.
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
I think the satirical and slightly whacko nature of my music, the brashness of it and the fact the songs can unexpectedly change at any moment.
Right now, what’s pissing you off the most?
The fact that Arsenal are above Spurs in the league. Arsenal fans are truly an insufferable bunch and if they finish in the champions league, I won’t show my face for a few days.
What’s your favourite song to play live and why?
I like to provoke people and confuse them. The next song I am going to release is called Death of a Pornstar. I like the sort of psychodrama that goes on with people who haven’t heard your music when performing this story to them, which is based on a true story.
I hear you have a new single/album/ep, what can you tell us about it?
The new song is called Manipulator. I was very inspired by the guitar and synth sound of Drab Majesty, that kind of merging of shoegaze with this brash 80s sound. It is the first song I have released since the pandemic. It is the first release working with my friend Josh Rumble who has really elevated the sound and production.
Talk me through the thought process of the single/album/ep?
With any song, I just fall in love with an idea and pursue it. Often that’s a song title and I may use an old melody or just come up with on the spot. This one was written after Brexit happened, which set the tone for the song. It was a shock when this happened. It was a moment, which marked a change in the world. After that, we’ve had Trump, the pandemic, climate change is getting worse and now we have the war in Ukraine. Alongside that, we have a huge cost of living crisis. This notion of the Manipulator is almost an element of power we can’t see. There are all these problems, but we are being totally manipulated to ignore them whether that’s by corporations, the mass media or politicians. Not only that, but these groups at the very echelons of global capitalist profit from it. That’s what the song is trying to deal with.
What was the recording process like?
The recording process was fun. I ended up recording loads of demos I had written with Josh Rumble, who is a really close friend. He plays bass in Anteros and he became really instrumental in me finishing loads of songs. We have almost two albums worth now. Some interesting people got involved a long the way. I write most of the parts but Christina Lopez plays drums on all of the tracks who I play with in the Empathy Test. Also, Charles Cave dropped some bass on a few of the tracks. Also Maya from For Breakfast features on a few songs. It was kind of the thing that got me through the pandemic, there wasn’t much else to do. I was lucky that Josh has access to this studio up the road from where I live in Kilburn, so we were very productive and had a great time.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the single/album/ep?
I think believing in yourself. I always have doubts in my music, because its a little against the grain as to what is happening right now in music and I would say I am a little bit of an outsider. But, it is great to be surrounded by people like Josh, Jorge who have done amazing things in music and are very encouraging. I am quite a weird bloke and I am happy that this comes across in the music. So, I am not holding back – the most important thing I’ve learned is to be yourself and to be authentic.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
It is never good to have regrets. BUT, there is a lyric in the song which goes ‘He’s staring in my eyes’, but the eyes sounds like i’m saying ASS, I sort of laugh every time I hear it and hope nobody thinks the same.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
I am looking to release all the music I recorded. There is like almost two albums worth of stuff and a lot of it is very different and eclectic. So that’s going to take time and work. I’d like to play a few festivals and get out of London, so far my band and I have only done shows in places like shacklewell arms, moth club, and paper dress vintage which has been amazing, but I’d love to go to Paris (I am chatting to a venue called l’international) and also Berlin. However, we are doing a show at the Waiting room with Minimal Schlager who has just got back from SXSW – they’re a very exciting band who have a similar vibe to me.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
I may have a huge surprise coming in the next week, so stay tuned for that.