Monday, 11 April 2011

Interview - Joe McKee of Snowman

We mentioned earlier in the month that Perth-via-London dark death pop maestros (!) Snowman are calling it a day, yet are also preparing to drop their third and final album Absence in the next week. I spoke with Joe McKee from the band to suss out all things Snowman - past, present, and future.

SONIC MASALA - Hey Joe, thanks for talking with us! I have to say off the bat how devastated I am that Snowman, one of my favourite acts, is breaking up. It must be a bittersweet feeling to be going through this whilst also celebrating the imminent arrival of your new album?

JOE MCKEE (of SNOWMAN) - All good things come to an end. We were aware that Snowman was on her last legs. We didn't want to flog a dead horse. We feel as though this album is the right note to end on. We are all looking forward to this record leading a life of its own.

SM - Before we talk about the album, I wanted to ask the obligatory question about the split. I gather from what’s been said in the media since November last year that its an amiable atmosphere that sees the four of you going your separate ways?

Joe - Yes. We all love each other dearly. But we have lived out of each other's pockets for the past ten years. It becomes tiring. Ross (DiBlasio - drums)and Olga (now live in Iceland and they have a baby on the way. Their child is far more important than Snowman making another record.

SM - OK, Ill come back to the end of Snowman in a moment. I have to say congratulations on the imminent release of Absence, your third LP. Can you tell us a bit about the process behind putting it all together?

Joe - Its been a few years and much globetrotting in the making… The songs were written over a two year period, while traveling the world and setting up our home in London. Perhaps that's why it has a transient feel to it. Its a lofty record. I was trying to capture the unnamed emotions that I experienced upon my departure from Australia. The dislocation and displacement of it all. It leaves you feeling something which, in the English language, we have no word for. That is why music is so important. It communicates things that cannot otherwise be communicated. That was the aim with Absence. To capture these feelings in sound and song.

SM - Did the move to London change the way in which the band created music? Was it a beneficial move for the band?

Joe - Firstly it made us write from a different perspective. We were writing with different emotions. We wanted to make a giving record, rather than a purely challenging beast. We wanted Absence to be seductive and even warm. We were forced to create quieter sounds due to the fact that we were living in a share house, sharing walls with angry neighbours. It forced us to be more delicate with our playing and our arrangements. A lot of this album sounds like a gentle whisper compared to the last. The move was necessary for us to move on as people. I can't imagine where we would be if we had stayed put.

SM - You’ve stated that Absence is about "tearing yourself away from the things you love in order to do just that…move on. It’s about not turning into this thing that you have created. Keeping that distance. Killing the myth.” Such a quote seems portentous considering the dissolution of the band. Did this influence the album or is it just a coincidence?

Joe - Both. They happened together and I think that they influenced each other. We were becoming increasingly more aware of our break-up and this came out in the music. We realised that this would be our parting gift. One major reason why we left Australia was to take ourselves away from what we had become. It's easy to fall into a trap and become complacent. We could have easily continued to tour the same rooms to the same people, but we grew tired of this. We wanted to explore. We still do. That is, in part, why we split.

SM - You worked extensively with Aaron Cupples (The Drones, Civil Civic, Paul Kelly) in creating the album. What did he specifically bring to the table that appealed to you?

Joe - He is a gifted producer obviously. The one thing that separated him from a lot of other producers was his diversity and ability to work on very differing sounding records. This appealed to us greatly. Also he lives around the corner from me. It was all very convenient.

SM - How do you think Absence stands up to your previous releases? Do you think it leaves a definitive legacy for the Snowman Empire?

Joe - For me, it is the perfect way to end the trilogy of records that we released. It completes the triangle. It is my favourite of our work. Perhaps because we didn't have to tour it to death...but more so because it is a cathartic and soothing record. It is a gift. We leave the crumbled empire with warm memories. We are letting go with this album.

SM - Im still quite dismayed that we wont see Snowman perform these tracks… Can we definitively state that Snowman are no more?


SM - Well, can't get more definitive than that haha! Alright then, what does 2011 have in store for you then personally? Do you have other projects in the wings? How about the other members of Snowman, what are their current dispositions?

Joe - I am working on three new projects. A solo record, a duo record and a new full band. These will be revealed in good time! Ross and Olga are busy making babies. Andy (Citawarman - guitar/misc) is working on some ambient music of his own. Go here to keep track of my solo endeavours...!/pages/Joe-McKee/179357768741590

SM - Is there any way we will see any of you back together even under the umbrella of a new creative direction in the foreseeable future?

Joe - Not in the foreseeable future, no. One can never rule anything out though.

SM - I have to say that the last time I saw you guys you supported fellow Aussies My Disco at the Lexington, I think it was May last year? And Factory Floor also supported. You guys put on an unreal show, one of the best Ive seen you play, as did My Disco – but the A&R types were there just for Factory Floor. Whilst the band deliberately fucked with their set to piss those people off, I think there is a lot to offer from them. Who else have you watched or played with that you think has really pushed the sonic envelope in an exciting way?

Joe - Other than Factory Floor, there aren't too many that have blown me away to be honest. The Civil Civic record will be strong.

SM - Nice! We are big fans also. Finally – what is sonic masala?

Joe - Audio Spice.

So there you have it! You can get Absence, the album that puts the full stop on Snowman's journey, on the 22nd of April through Dot Dash and Remote Control Recordings.

Snowman - We Are The Plague

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