you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

15 July 2011

Interview: Scott Causer of Perfect Blue and the Electric Mainline AND a free download of 3 Perfect Blue exclusive radio session tracks.

When The Sun Hits has adored Scott Causer for quite awhile now, and with good reason. Not only is his UK-based record label, Northern Star, one of our current absolute favorites (so much so that our very first Record Label Spotlight Series feature was done about Northern Star, and it's bloody awesome. Read it HERE.), but he is also a member of two beyond excellent bands, Perfect Blue and The Electric Mainline. He is one of the funniest people we know, and has more knee-slapping, guffaw-inducing, piss your pants hilarious stories about some of your favorite musicians than we can count.

But who can sum up a person in a paragraph? Scott Causer is fucking awesome, essentially. In the following interview, Scott talks about juggling a successful record label while being in two bands, his incredible passion for music, the amazing bands on his label, his top gear, and why he loathes Thom Yorke so much (we love Thom, but we do enjoy hearing Scott explain why he hates stuff. That's entertainment.).

Not only that, but Scott has been so kind as to share with our readers an exclusive mini comp, made up of three Perfect Blue tracks performed live during radio sessions, AND the comp is downloadable for absolutely free (you can find the DL link at the bottom of this post). This is one feature absolutely filled to the brim with Awesome. Go on, then. Go forth and read. And download. Thanks, again, Scott. It's always a joy to chat with one of the most talented and dedicated guys in the business!

How and when were Perfect Blue and The Electric Mainline formed? What are the stories behind the band names?

The Electric Mainline were formed in London back in 2004. It started off with just the 2 of us recording demos and putting them up on myspace and shortly after we evolved into a full band. The name comes from the Spiritualized EP Electric Mainline, which will come as no great surprise. I just think it’s an undeniably great name, it suited the music we were playing and the dot com was available so we went with it.

The original band imploded round the time of releasing Psychedelica One. There was a fair bit of jealousy going down, a couple of members weren’t happy with the label I was putting together to promote our music, and being the strong willed soul I am, this inevitably caused friction. Plus when you have any degree of success perceived or not, you tend to find everyone wants a say and I wasn’t prepared to compromise my vision for anyone else’s ego. I don’t believe in democracies. In a democracy, everybody gets what nobody wants. Every band needs one leader and one vision and I wasn’t born to follow. Besides, I’d waited too long to do this, so I got shut of all of them and carried on recording under the name and because I had little in the way of band commitments, I was free to focus my attentions on Northern Star.

The Electric Mainline. We Are Now.

Perfect Blue goes back even further. I was living in Manchester in 2001 and I recorded some electronica demos which were very trance/dance orientated. It was my first attempt at making music with a computer and I found it liberating. I didn't have a name for it, I just did it for fun. Someone suggested sending them off so I sent a couple of tracks to the BBC (on cassette of all formats) and a few weeks later I received a phone call at home asking what the name of the 'band' is. I was watching a Japanese manga film at the time called Perfect Blue which I’ve never to this day finished watching and I just replied Perfect Blue. It was the first thing that came into my head and seemed a good as name as any. There really wasn't that much thought or concept behind it, it really was that random.

Perfect Blue. Empty Dreams.

A couple of years later I found myself living in London. I bought some recording equipment and started writing new tunes. A friend of mine remixed 4 tracks, we put them up on myspace and Lona Records in Hong Kong contacted me about putting them out and the Sunshine EP became our official debut release in 2006. I've since gone on to record with different people. Last year a guy called Matt did a mash-up of one of my tracks "Room 35" with Depeche Mode. I was so impressed I started recording with him. We recorded several tracks in a 3 week period and we put the best 8 tracks out last year in the form of 2 EPs and I also recorded a track with Kontakte and another with Delicasession.

Can you tell us what the bands have been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc)?

"All Too Much" was remixed by Punk TV and recently featured on the covermount cd of the Russian magazine Sound & Vision. I love the fact that one of my songs has inadvertently infiltrated over 30,000 Russian households. It’s also gone on to appear on their remix album Drug Test alongside remixes of other bands including ones which feature members of Suede, Elastica, EMF. Ian Brown was supposed to be on it too, and if he had I could have retired knowing I’d been on the same album as one of The Stone Roses but unfortunately it was not to be.

This has led to renewed interest in The Electric Mainline and has fired me up in the process and I’ve been writing and demo-ing new tracks frantically. I’m also working on getting a brand new line-up together, so hopefully all going well, there’ll be some shows and new recordings before this year is out.

Your two music projects are certainly different in sound, with Perfect Blue being more electronic and The Electric Mainline having a more traditional shoegazey/psychedelia sound. Do you feel closer to one project more than the other? If so, why?

No, not really, to me they're both one and the same. They’re both coming from the same place and they interact and complement each other. For instance "Sunshine" and "Empty Dreams" were originally Electric Mainline songs. "Sunshine" was written on a guitar and I just decided to add keys as an afterthought then thought it sounded better so went totally electronic on it. "Empty Dreams" is an outright deconstructed remix of what was originally an Electric Mainline song. I love making music with both depending on what mood I’m in and they’re both one and the same to me. In fact I’m working on a project now in which we’re considering incorporating both elements into something very exciting – I think its high time.

How do you juggle being in two bands while simultaneously owning and running Northern Star Records without going mad? Each one is a full time job!

Well they’ve never been ‘bands’ in the conventional sense. They’re more musical projects with different people coming in and out as and when necessary and I write and record prolifically in short bursts… and its never all at the same time so it is manageable. I always preferred working this way to a traditional band set-up as it focuses the music and you don’t have to concern yourself with ensuring the bass player plays bass on every track as it doesn’t matter who plays what as everyone is focused on the end result – the music. Saying this, I’ve always had the desire to put together The Electric Mainline as a fully functioning band and this year we’re going to do just that, record some new music, plays some shows, its gonna be fun!

Do you consider either bands' music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by a genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that either bands identify closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?

No not at all. I guess there’s elements in both but I’m not really comfortable with calling either shoegaze as I despise bands who go down the generic ‘shoegaze-by-numbers’ route. Saying this there are bands who incorporate those elements who I have a great deal of affection for. I personally think the best bands take aspects of a sound and incorporate it and make it their own. I do love the trippy, dreamy aspects of shoegaze and my shoes are as cool as fuck, but as cool as they are, you won't ever find me gazing at them - I'm not here to look at my shoes, I'm too busy looking up at the stars.

For the most part I don’t subscribe to genres - there’s only two types of music – music you love and music you hate. Anything in between doesn’t even register with me. If it doesn’t inspire passion then its not even worth thinking about. Shoegaze, psychedelia – its all one and the same to me. The boundaries are so blurred and psychedelia is so diverse that the term is rendered almost meaningless. I set up the Psychedelica compilations to deliberately fuck with people’s heads and provoke them into reassessing the way they think about psychedelia and shoegaze. For the most part its worked - its got people debating what is psychedelia and what isn’t. More importantly, its got people talking about the bands and the compilations have led them to finding a whole bunch of other bands to fall in love with. If by giving something a name makes people tune in, then so be it.

Perfect Blue. Sunshine.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?

Yes, pretty much anyone on Northern Star. Its difficult to pick favourites outside of Northern Star as anyone who I’ve really loved has ended up releasing something via the label. The bands I enjoy most who have elements of this sound are The Nova Saints, Youngteam, The December Sound, The Lost Rivers, Maribel, Spotlight Kid, Kontakte, The Domino State, Joensuu 1685 but again all these bands sound nothing like each other, so I’d feel uncomfortable categorising them as such.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps/electronics that you prefer?

I’m gonna really disappoint you now as I’m so not a tech nerd. I have a battered Yamaha guitar – I don’t know what model it is and don’t care and I also have another semi-acoustic guitar which I couldn’t even tell you the name of. I just love playing them as they’re comfortable to me. My main instrument is the bass and I have a blue Fender Jazz which I love. Other than that I use a Boss Delay and Sampler, a Dan Electro reverse delay (my favourite), a Big Muff, Cry baby Wah! and also have some other Boss pedals including Phaser, Flanger and Tremelo. For the Perfect Blue stuff I use guitar effects and a Micro-Korg. For the first album I used a keyboard so crappy you wouldn’t even believe me if I showed it you and the 1st EP was recorded on a bottom of the range Tascam 4 track cassette recorder.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway, and since you are both a musician and a record label owner, you will have an interesting perspective on this - how do you feel about the current music industry and do you think it's positive at all?

Yes I think its great. We’re suddenly in a position where you can do what the fuck you want. You don’t have to subscribe to some fat cats vision of what your band should sound like, its all up to you. I of course relish this freedom. The internet has allowed us to be what we want, make the music we want and target it to play to the people who want to hear it. Technology has made recording affordable. Its very liberating!

Of course, there is the issue of too many people doing this which has resulted in overload, but that’s where the labels come in - to act as a collective vision and cut out the shit. When people buy a record from Northern Star they know its going to be great. The Northern Star logo is sacred to me. Its a stamp of approval. When people see a Northern Star logo on a record they know its going to blow minds and thats why Northern Star is held in high regard.

Perfect Blue. Forever.

You are in an interesting position, since you ascribe both to the DIY attitude of creating your own music and releasing it yourself, but then you release it through your own semi-traditional record label, of which you are the owner. Northern Star is successful, well known, and includes an impressive roster of other talent and loads of releases that have nothing to do with your bands. Can you talk a little about straddling that line, and would you recommend other musicians do the same?

I started Northern Star out of sheer necessity. At the time we were making music there was no ‘scene’ or labels as such who really catered for what we do. No one else gave a fuck about The Electric Mainline, The Black Angels, The Stevenson Ranch Davidians, The Vandelles, The Dolly Rocker Movement. I did, so I started Northern Star as an outlet for my own music and to promote these great bands I was hearing.

Then it evolved, the initial line-up split a week after the release of Psychedelica One and the label became the primary focus. Since then, my own music has taken a backseat to the bands and the needs of the label. Its not for everybody. First of all you have to be prepared to put someone else’s music in front of your own and I don’t know many musicians who would be prepared to sacrifice their ego for the greater good. Also a lot of musicians just want to concentrate on the music and have someone they can trust steering the ship as it were.

Northern Star is more than a label – it’s a vision. No one person or no one thing is more important than the music (and that includes me) and I will only work with bands who fit in with and understand this vision. Its really difficult to explain but if you asked The Nova Saints, Youngteam or The Lost Rivers, maybe they could tell you as they’re all Northern Star through and through. We’ve had conversations about this and they totally understand where I’m coming from and they all have something indefinable which is what makes them Northern Star. That’s what I think is key to the success of Northern Star. Egos, self interest and any other distractions are left at the door for the ultimate pursuit – the music. This to me is the only way.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?

I love them all – they all have their own unique selling points. I prefer vinyl above all, but no matter what anyone tells you – vinyl may have increased in usage but it is only for a select few. Mp3s are convenient but no-one really buys those choosing to download them for free instead. Cd is still the big seller for us as cds are more convenient than vinyl and they’re still something tangible that people can hold in their hand as opposed to a computer file. I do miss tapes though – the sound quality is undeniably shit, but I’ve yet to meet a music fan who doesn’t love a mix-tape.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?

The Stone Roses, Primal Scream, The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Smiths, Joy Division, The Cure. You can’t even listen to one of my songs without hearing Simon Gallup, Mani, or Hooky on the bass. One of the greatest compliments I ever had was Mani playing "All Too Much" on his radio show and declaring The Electric Mainline as the best new band around. Pretty impressive considering the ‘band’ at the time was just me. I’m totally having it though!

The Electric Mainline. All Too Much.

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc)?

I love biographies and I’m currently reading the biography of Manchester United legend Eric Cantona, who's more rock 'n' roll than rock 'n' roll. Next up I’ve got Keith Richard’s biography to look forward to. I’m a sucker for a good rock ‘n’ roll story.... so much so I’m currently making my own! Musically outside of Northern Star, I’m loving the Anna Calvi and The Dum Dum Girls albums; otherwise I’ve got the Nova Saints and Lost River’s albums here on constant repeat.

When it comes to films I can be very selective. I have the attention span of a goldfish with ADD, so for me to sit there for 90 mins it has to be something pretty special. I love the movies of Jim Jarmusch, Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro and I adore Wynona Ryder. Anyone who can forsake a hugely successful acting career to become a raving kleptomaniac is alright in my book.

If you had to choose one track that was the ultimate definition of your sound (you can pick one from one band, or one from each band), which would it be and why?

With Perfect Blue its "Room 35." I actually sat on that track for over 2 years as I was convinced that no one would get it then I played it to Amber from WTSH and Phil from the Lost Rivers who both thought it was amazing and now its finally seeing the light of day - its closing next Northern Star compilation Revolution in Sound II. The Lost Rivers have actually been using it as a walk on track before they play live which makes me immensely proud. The reason why I love that song so much is I thought I’d invented electronic dub shoegaze. Then I read in a review somewhere that Seefeel had preceded us on the electronic shoegaze front and I then hear Witness by Roots Manuva which blew my electronic dub pioneer credentials away… Then again I think we must have been the first to combine all 3 elements.

More difficult with the Electric Mainline as no 2 songs sound the same. In fact, I was once told in an interview that we sound like 5 different bands. I guess the most popular tracks are ‘All Too Much’ which showcases the more extreme experimental noise side of The Electric Mainline and ‘We Are Now’ the poppier jangly side. Someone came up to me recently and said it was a great pop/love song. I have no problem with being called pop. I’m a massive pop music fan - pop is totally where it's at for me. I want the milkman and builders singing along to my songs. I’d love to write a song which transcends everything where people know the song but they don’t know or care who wrote it…. Like Wild Thing for instance. 99% of people have never heard of The Troggs but EVERYONE knows Wild Thing. I think I might submit ‘We Are Now’ to the next greatest hits of Love compilation and see if I can wedge myself in between Wet Wet Wet and Bryan Adams – now THAT would be interesting!

Can you tell us a little about your song writing process?

There really is no set way. Sometimes a lyric comes in my head, sometimes a tune and then when I get it down it often turns into something completely different. Sometimes I just pick up an instrument and things happen. I’m not a trained musician and don’t subscribe to any rules. If it sounds good I’ll go with it and see what happens.

With the last 2 Perfect Blue EPs I’d write a track and Matt would add his bits and on the last EP we’d come up with an idea, totally destroy it and build it up and make into something completely different. It produced radically different results but still maintained the tune. Plus it was a fun to way to work… and I’ll try anything once.

Why the crap do you dislike Radiohead? I want a formal answer here. :)

Because its horrible whingey student music made by horrible whingey students for horrible whingey students. Anyone can make a Radiohead track. Just moan over some beeps and hey presto – instant Radiohead. Just hearing Thom Yorke’s voice is like a fucking drill in my head. He’a a multi-millionaire who has travelled the world with his music - I don’t see what he’s still got to whinge about, the moaning cunt. (WTSH staff falls down laughing)

What are your musical goals for both of your projects for 2011?

The Electric Mainline has had loads of one off releases on compilations and an EP and there’s 100s of demos doing the rounds but what I’d really love is to go in with a dedicated band and record the debut album as a band. I would really love to do that… oh and do some shows as well, while I’m still beautiful.

Click HERE to download the Perfect Blue Radio Sessions mini sampler! You can't get this anywhere else folks, so take advantage of the Awesome.

Track list:
1. Parallel Dimensions

2. A Bao A Qu

3. The Hype

All songs recorded live for radio by Perfect Blue.

More Research:

Northern Star Records on Facebook.

The Electric Mainline on Facebook.

Perfect Blue on Facebook.

Northern Star Records Website.