interviewSpencer Grady interviews fellow Rameses III musician Daniel Thomas Freeman about his forthcoming solo album on Home Normal
Your debut solo album is extremely personal in content. Can you tell me about the
motivations and story behind it?
I think all of the music I have made or have been involved with cannot help but be
personal. For example, the Rameses III tracks "For Elsie" and "Parsimònia" both relate
to the death of my grandma, with the field recording of St James Park in the latter
captured the day she died. Within Rameses III the personal nature of the content has
not been made so obvious but with my own work I have been able to be more specific
about my thoughts and experiences.
This album was written during the biggest change in my life to date. It chronologically
and sequentially spans from when my first marriage started to fail, through divorce and
my subsequent alcohol-fuelled depression and talk of suicide to my eventual conversion
to Christianity and the happiness of marrying my wonderful and beautiful wife Val.
Without being literally specific I wanted to communicate how I have been taken from
such bleakness to such peace and to acknowledge the intensity of both states in the
hope that it may help a few others who are struggling to find meaning in this harsh and
greedy world. But I would also be very happy for people to find their own meanings and
uses for this music and for it to have a life of its own.
What influences – musical or otherwise – informed the making of the album?
A particular reference for this album was Kevin Drumm's "Sheer Hellish Miasma".
I know it doesn't really sound like it but the two "Staring …" tracks were actually
started as my attempt to do a noise piece in the same vein and, true to form, I got it
utterly and completely wrong! However, I really loved the two performance drones that I
ended up with so then it was a case of slowly layering and editing over many months until
the sister tracks emerged in their current form.
John Luther Adams' "In The White Silence" was a big influence on the more tonal tracks
- although again I think there's a lot to be said for being a bad copyist because you end
up with something much more individual as a result.
In a strange way Chris Watson's "Weather Report" was also an influence. I read about that
album and knew that I wanted to use layered weather recordings in a similar way on at least
one track but I purposefully did not actually listen to that album until I finished my own.
My work with Rameses III also played its part. "Beauty" is denser and darker than typical
Rameses material but I definitely took a lot from the last ten years' experience with yourself
Do you worry that the deeply personal content of The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself will
alienate its listeners? What are you trying to convey to your potential audience?
Well for a start I think that all art has a message - even if that message is just
implied by the personalities involved - and that we don't necessarily need to identify
with the message in order to appreciate and understand it. For instance, three of my
favourite releases are Coil's "Gold Is The Metal", "Hellraiser" and "Stolen And Contaminated
Songs" where the music is written from a hedonistic, homosexual and occult viewpoint and
yet it still speaks to me on a very deep level, particularly tracks like "Cardinal Points"
and "Box Theme".
However I do understand that the image of the Christian church is very much blemished in many
Western eyes, as it was in my own until five years ago. I have tried to be sensitive to this
by, for instance, only including one specific and very brief spoken word reference on the
album. As a Christian I want to take on a little of the responsibility of the mistakes the
church has made in the past by speaking positively about grace, acceptance, love and humility
rather than the heavy-handed, moralistic and judgemental barracking that the church has been
unfortunately rather more well known for in its relatively recent past.
My hope for "Beauty" is that it helps listeners in some small way in times of darkness, even
if only for an hour or two. There are very few pieces of music which I can listen to when life
seems very hard and void music like Thomas Köner's "Nuuk" has been incredibly useful to me in
those times. As I get older I have realised that the music I have always most strongly responded
to is that with a very intense, melancholic and slow centre and, for me personally, there is
something of the divine in those glacial frequencies, something very alien yet very intimate,
something far greater than worldly concerns.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of conveying a personal message within a purely
instrumental setting such as the one you’ve employed?
I suppose the biggest disadvantage is that the message will get misunderstood or will pass
unseen … and yet I'm not really worried about that. I made the music with a very definite
purpose in mind and I think it is a stronger piece of work for it but ultimately I see the
music as a gift for people to use in whatever way helps them. If the subject matter speaks
to them then of course I would be delighted but I am also curious to discover what other
aspects are inherent within.
It’s a lovely title for a record – how did you come up with it?
Thanks very much.
It's actually part of a bigger phrase: the beauty of doubting yourself is that you have
to rely on someone else. I had thought I had carefully structured my life in such a way that
I could make myself happy but it was only after things went so drastically wrong despite
my best efforts that I realised that - for me personally - only letting Jesus in was going
to give my life purpose and meaning.
Are there any plans for a follow-up record or live performances?
After some experimenting last year I've purposefully held back from making any new solo music
for about six months as I've wanted to get a clear sense of direction and there was quite a
bit of research and meditation I wanted to do in order to achieve this. In the last couple
of weeks I've been able to firm up a lot of my plans and so I'm just starting the initial
sketches. I don't really want to talk too much about this at the moment because there is
still a lot of work to be done but I can say I know where I'm headed for the next three
years with the next album hopefully being completed in the next twelve months and with
at least one other in the can by 2013.
I have also started to think about how I can translate this highly-layered album into the
live environment so I expect I'll be performing some time in the next six months, almost
certainly by the end of the year with performances of new material planned reasonably soon after.
Of course I should also mention that there will probably be another Rameses III album in the
next two to three years although we have no set date for completion as yet, particularly as
Steve now has two children and as we don't live as close to each other as we used to.
Anything else you would like to add?
Just thanks for the interview and, to anyone reading, thanks for your time and attention
and I hope you get to hear the music sometime.
"The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself" is out as CD and download on Home Normal in June 2011.
Monday 30 May 2011