Martin Bowes doubtlessly is a charismatic figure.Being the main force behind Attrition,he has produced some of the most innovative electronic sounds ever heard.Balancing between electro and industrial,Attrition's experiments ensured him a solid position among the fans of these scenes.To the point that someone would easily classify Attrition as a pioneering project,indeed.
Thus,it is more than obvious that a chance for a conversation with Martin,is something that I value a lot.No more words needed though..The interview that follows is certainly more than correspondence,as it could be described as a tribute to a dear artist of mine.I should certainly thank Kostas Sotiriou,whose help and dedication,made this interview possible..
Greetings Martin,hope you are doing well.What are your emotions towards these confused,anguished,desperate times that we find ourselves living in?Do you tend to be optimistic?Or otherwise?
I am doing fine thanks! You are right about the times we are living in...i talk a lot about this... it seems worse than even the times in the 80's when we had Thatcher here in power....We need change. the old capitalistic systems of greed and power need removing.... or perhaps just ignoring... maybe we just need to avoid them as much as we can.... make our own lives built in hope not dollars.... I am optimistic. i always try to be.
Attrition has been a living entity for quite a long time,so far..Do you feel that you have achieved your goals regarding this project?Did you ever expect that Attrition's journey would last for so long?
I have been doing this since 1980... attrition is a very personal musical, artistic, creative, philosophical journey for me...there is always somewhere to go...something to discover... so yes...i have acheived a lot of things thast i can say i am satisfied with.... but i still have the feeling that its only just beginning...
Your latest offering has been last year's "The Truth In Dark Corners",which in fact was not a new studio album,being instead the release of a past live recording in Holland.Are you satisfied by it as a result?What was the main reason behind this release?
Well i had spent some time over the past few years re-issuing earlier attrition works... (probably too MUCH time...!)... and i had felt i had done enough... but i was asked by Oleg from the Russian label Other Voices if i had anything from the mid 80's left to release... as it is his favourite period in attrition history... and i found a set of live recordings from our 1985 tour of Holland... even including some unreleased songs.... and some unpublished photos... so i thought it was now or never.... i'm happy with it as a document of an era.... definitely... :)
"Demonstro 1981-86" sees your material compiled in a special treatment in the form of a limited vinyl edition,by the "hands" of Vinyl-On-Demand.Do you feel joyous in a way,for taking part in the line of extremely cherished artists that this label focuses on releasing?
Yes i was and still am very excited to release that double album.... Vinyl feels so special these days.... and you are right V.OD. release some very special artists from that early industrial period so i am proud to be included in that list... actually i am planning to release a digital version at some point for those that have no record deck any more....!
How do you feel when listening to earlier Attrition sounds?What are your emotions towards this past era?Moreover,if you were forced to compare your older compositions to your recent ones,which do you think the differences would be?
Well i did a lot of listening to the earlier sounds when i was going through them for the reissue series.... i was mostly very pleased with how they sounded... a lot of them i hadnt heard for years.... and it really was an emotiaonal experience for me doing that... i always think of every album as like a photo album or a diary of a part of my life... so looking back brought back a lot of memories.... comparing compositions the earlier ones are much simpler... partly due to the technology we had back then and partly due to our own experience and knowledge.... but thats not to say they are any less for that.... and somethimes they are more for being less... :)
I am very curious to find out whom you would consider as an influence.Not only depending on audio fields,but mostly anything that would stimulate your interest,therefore providing a solid step into forming your personal,distinctive sound..
Well musicially i have been influenced very much by punk and post punk in my attitude and ideology.... by the early electronic works in terms of my personal musical style... as a non musician that is important to me.... but as years have passed i have of course been inspired by an ever expanding experience of music.... so it is very wide...and literature and the arts too of course... usually surreal but sometimes trivial.... I think nowadays the biggest influence though is none of this but actually the environment i am in...the people and places and experiences i have every day.... the more direct influence they have on me...
You have worked with a lot of people,during all those years,obviously.Yet,you seem to be the driving force behind the wheel that Attrition is..Was that a conscious choice?Or rather something that happened along the way?
When i started attrition it was a 3 piece... and i loved that.... i had a perhaps naive ideal as a group of people worked towards a common goal.... and that worked for a few years actually... but then began to pull apart in the mid 80's... and i brought in other people... and sometimes it worked.... but ultimately i realised i had to take the reins and take this attrition thing into the next stage.... so i had a lot to learn in writing music in a different way... in control but with many guest musicians.... and i am glad i did this...i think it worked very well and it means i am really flexible in doing any project i want to...
As one would logically conclude,you have co-operated with a handful of labels,in the past.Which one was the one that you had the best companionship with?Is there any specific label that you'd like to release something by,but never had the chance so far?
Well we started with my friend Gary Levermore's Third Mind records... and i always have a fond memory of those early days.... and still see Gary to this day... but that label is long gone.... the other one i have had a long relationship with is Sam Rosenthal's Projekt records in the USA... he did a lot for us in the 90's and really made our name in the USA... we still work together from time to time...
For the new album i am actually looking for a change.... so time will tell :)
Up to now,you have recorded 2 live albums in the Netherlands.Do you feel a deeper connection,a bond perhaps,towards this country?What are your recollections of these concerts,really?
There was a thriving live scene in Holland in the mid 80's and we did out first european tour there in 1984...our second there in 1985... those live albums are from those tours.... we were blown away after some of the smaller Uk shows we were used to at the time.... our music was well received there....i was in Holland a lot in the 80's as i met Marianne there on the first tour ... we started seeing each other and lived between London and Holland in the mid 80's... she joined attrition on some recordings and on the 1985 tour....we got married in 1988...although it didnt last very long!...nowadays i am rarely there... but the memories remain...
When it comes to lyrics,what are your main sources of inspiration?Compositionally speaking,do you prefer to write the lyrics first,then develop your ideas as structures around them?Or opposite?
Actually neither of those methods.... i start some msuical ideas and the atmospheres suggest words to me...which develop as the music develops...so they work hand in hand.... and i find if the music isnt right then the words wont come.... and when the music works the words flow....its like tapping into something deep inside....
Let me take you back in time,for a while,that is..Back in 1985,you had released a split recording with The Legendary Pink Dots.What is your opinion on this partnership?Would you agree that it still stands the test of time?
That actually is a live recording of both bands from our 1984 tour...released a year later.... and we added some more tracks to that and released it as an attrition only album a couple of years ago..."Across the divide".I think that for both bands it very much stands the test of time... we were different bands back then but our tour together went very well.... we still see each other occasionally... meeting at shows or festivals somewhere in the world... :)
"Death House":memories,hopes,regrets?What are your emotions when listening to this first attempt of yours?
Well its not strictly the first recording as its from 1982 and we started recording demos in 1981... but it was a very early release...and totally unlike our usual work as a band as this was an instrumental soundtrack.... i am actually very proud of it and the totally analogue sound of it didnt date like some sounds did.... it was even used as a soundtrack on a major german TV documentary a few years ago...
"England Hidden In Reverse":it seems to me that a lot of talented artists that devoted their creations into forming a darker,colder industrial vocabulary,have emerged from Britannia,during the past years.Do you feel any kind of connection to anyone of them,in particular?Would you consider yourself a part of this scene,or any other scene for that matter?
Yes i do feel a part of that early 80's post punk/experimental/industrial scene...much more than anything else actually... a lot of the bands featured in the press and on compilations together and we played shows with many... Legendary Pink Dots/Coil/In the Nursery to name a few.... i think it was a very creative time in the UK and for the world... even if under appreciated at home perhaps...
Returning to the present,what are your next steps concerning Attrition?Are there plans for a new studio work perhaps?Or else?
Yes i am just finishing the long awaited new studio album.... "The unraveller of angels..." it has taken a while to complete but i think it is really special so i am excited to release this onto the world....We will be planning some tours together with this album... we are always talking to people about possibilities...
In my opinion,your work could be referred to as a pioneering one,especially in the genres associated with dark,electronic sounds.Do you feel this way?Given the fact that quite a few acts were indeed influenced by Attrition,would you feel proud,in certain aspects?
I have always looked to bands that came before me and so i would never make any grand claims.... but i think we have done some things that were new at the time...and i like to think we have kept moving.... kept developing... i am proud of what i have done though.... or what i am about to do.... :)
Your musical ouput has until today,been tagged as industrial,electro,experimental and so on.Should you have to characterise your sonic identity,in your own words,which would these be?Do you think that labels and tags are useful in describing one's sound,or not?
I think labels help sometimes when people really have no idea where to start.... its difficult to describe music at the best of times...so yes they can help...but the real danger is that they can suffocate artistic freedom...and we have to ber very careful of that... We are all those tags and many more i would think....i dont mind...
Thank you for the interview.Please feel free to add any epilogue that you think is suitable for the end..
Thank you Isabelle! always a pleasure to have an interesting interview....
For the epilogue i will tell you about The Cage.... my recording studio... recently i have gone into production for other bands and mastering for many bands and labels... its going very well... so if any bands would like me to work with them on their own musical projects i encourage them to get in touch!
see you soon
Martin Bowes. Coventry, England. 2012