Colour of Spring
^ go back to top
Melody Maker: 11th January 1986
Talk Talk (to the best of my recollection) used to be a poxy synth band with grandiose ambitions and though this, their first record for ages, is choked in a stranglehold of production intricacy, the underlying song seems better than their burbling twaddle of old.
Sophisticated but not too clever-dick, the song doesn’t boast a great deal of personality, but it’s one of those that insinuates its way onto the airwaves and makes if perpetrators very rich indeed.
Probably worth keeping an eye on.^ go back to top
Hitkrant: Januari 11 1986
“Wij weigeren om vandaag al aan morgen te denken” zegt Talk Talk zanger Mark Hollis. “Wij zijn zo’n drukke baasjes dat er gewoon geen tijd is voor toekomstplannen. Noch muzikaal noch privé.” De voorman van een van de meest geheimzinnige formaties in popland laat toch eventjes in zijn hart kijken.
Vlotte praters zijn jullie in geen geval, Mark…
Nee, helemaal niet. Voor mij persoonlijk ik dat altijd een beetje een probleem geweest. Toen ik tien jaar was deed ik niets anders dan zingen. Leuk was het wel, maar ik had geen enkele speelkameraad.
Toch duurde het een hele tijd voor je in de popbiz belandde.
Ja. Ik denk dat ik er gewoon te schuchter voor was. Het was mijn oudere broer, die bij de punkrockformatie Eddie & The Hotrods bedrijvig was, die me er in 1981 van overtuigde dat het geen zin had om me in een repetitiekeldertje op te sluiten.Ik ging schoorvoetend op zoek naar muzikanten en richtte een band op.
Waarom noemde je je groep Talk Talk?
Omdat dat precies zo lachwekkend is. Talk Talk betekent zoveel als ‘gekwebbel’. Toch wel grappig als je bedenkt dat de mensen die zich achter die naam verschuilen allemaal erg zwijgzaam zijn.
Hoe zag de bezetting er toen uit?
We waren met zijn vieren: drummer Lee Harris, bassist Paul Webb, toetsenist Simon Brenner en ikzelf. Simon stapte na een tijdje uit de band, de drie andere zijn er nog steeds bij.
Is Talk Talk dan een trio?
Niet echt. Het is een ‘kneedbare’ groep, waarvan Lee, Paul en ik de vaste kern vormen. Soms zijn we met vier, soms met negen. Talk Talk is een uitschuifbaar orkestje!
Eigenlijk is het in jullie carrière altijd van een leien dakje gelopen. Ook in de States…
Inderdaad, maar het heeft niet veel gescheeld of onze allereerste Amerikaanse toernee was helemaal niet doorgegaan. Op weg naar de concertzaal waar we de eerste avond moesten optreden kregen we een lekke band. We kwamen uren te laat aan, maar het publiek had geduldig op ons gewacht. Het werd een fantastische avond.
Zijn Lee en Paul net zo bizar als jij?
Jazeker. We passen uitstekend bij elkaar. Ook zij zijn voortdurend met muziek in de weer. Tijd voor een echt privéleven is er niet. We hebben geen van allen een vaste vriendin en dat is maar goed ook. Ik denk immers niet dat er één meisje is dat met vakidioten als wij wil trouwen.
Hebben jullie dan geen enkele niet-muzikale activiteit?
Natuurlijk wel. Anders word je in dit vak in minder dan geen tijd stapelgek. En toch is het zo dat Paul, Lee en ik ook in die momenten voor echte ‘solo bezigheden’ kiezen: ik beluister nog eens het volledige oeuvre van jazz grootmeester Miles Davis, Paul gaat op een rustig plekje zitten vissen en Lee duikt in zijn uitgebreide postzegelverzameling. Een raar stel zijn we dus wel, maar ik kan je verzekeren dat we het prima naar onze zin hebben.^ go back to top
Hitkrant: January 11th 1986
"We refuse to think about tomorrow, today," say Talk Talk singer Mark Hollis. "We’ve had such a busy time there’s been no time for future plans. Neither musical nor private.” The foreman of one of the most mysterious formations in popland lets us into his heart.
Are you a smooth talker in any case, Mark ...
No, not at all. For me personally I always had a bit of a problem. When I was ten I did nothing but sing. It was fun, but I had no playmates.
Yet it took a long time for you to in end up in the pop business?
Yes. I think I'm just too shy for that. It was my older brother, who was associated with the punk rock band Eddie & The Hotrods, who in 1981 convinced me that it made no sense to be closed up in a basement rehersing. I reluctantly went looking for musicians and formed a band.
Why call your group Talk Talk?
Because that’s just so laughable. Talk Talk means 'chatter'. Quite funny when you consider that the people who hide behind that name are all very taciturn.
What was the band like then?
We were four: drummer Lee Harris, bassist Paul Webb, keyboardist Simon Brenner and myself. Simon stepped away from the band after a while, the other three are still there.
Is Talk Talk a trio?
Not really. It is a 'malleable' group, which Lee, Paul and I are hard core. Sometimes we’re four, sometimes nine. Talk Talk is an extendable orchestra!
Actually your career has always been plain sailing. Also in the States ...
Indeed, but our first American tour was nearly not continued. On the way to the concert hall where we had to perform on the first night we got a flat tire. We arrived hours late, but the public had patiently waited for us. It was a fantastic evening.
Lee and Paul are just as bizarre as you?
Absolutely. We fit together perfectly. Also they are constantly on the go with music. There’s not time for a truly private life. We don’t have a steady girlfriend and all of that is just as well. I think there’s not a single girl out there freaky enough to want to marry guys who are as obsessed with music as we are.
Have you guys any non-musical activities?
Of course though. Otherwise you go mad in no time. And so Paul, Lee and I choose some ‘real’ solo pursuits: I relisten to the complete works of jazz master Miles Davis, Paul sits a quiet spot fishing and Lee delves into his extensive stamp collection. We’re a weird bunch, we are, but I can assure you that we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
NB: As Albert Voorhorst (Appe) the translator points out, this is a typical interview in which Mark makes fun of the journalist. At least Mark and Lee were married at this point, and it's unlikely that Lee was into stamp collecting!^ go back to top
Ciao 2001: 17 Gennaio 1986
L’imminente uscita di un nuovo album “the Colour of Spring”, ha riportato in Italia Mark Hollis e compagni. Li abbiamo incontrati per parlare della recente evoluzione della loro musica, materializzatasi in un disco umano, che porterà nuova linfa nei mondo tecnologizzato del pop inglese. Senza dimenticare gli ani ’60…
Si sente spesso dire che la British Invasion che si è abbattuta recentemente sui lisi Italiani è portata avanti da complessi-marionetta che pensano solo alle loro acconciature e ai loro vestiti, ma che cono incapaci di distinguere un do da un re. A parte il fatto che ciò non è affatto vero e che spesso un’immagine curata è solo un complemento dell’aspetto musicale, bisogna tener presente che alcuni artisti si distaccano da questi canoni. Nel novero di queste band controcorrente si trovano a buon dritto i Talk Talk, trio Inglese assurto alla popolarità con l’album “It’s My Life’ Mark Hollis (tastiere e chitarra), Paul Webb (basso) e Lee Harris (batteria) infatti sono ben lungi dal condividere le vanità e le gioie mondane tipiche della maggior parte delle rockstars: amano la natura, la vita semplice e il successo non li ha cambiati. Dal punto di vista strettamente musicale poi, non amano le sonorità sintetiche e computerizzate: la loro musica fonde abilmente una ritmica molta trascinante e particolarmente viscerale, grazie all’uso che da del basso, con melodie, originali.
A suggellare questo riuscito connubio c’è l’originale e inconfondibile voce di Mark Hollis, leader incontrastato del gruppo de autore di quasi tutti i brani. Il successo ottenuto con “It’s My Life” e con i singoli da esso estratti (Tra l’altro anche ballatissimi in discoteca, a ribadire la polivalenza della musica dei Talk Talk) è stato ancor più rinforzato dal tour del trio, che ha dimostrato il valore di Hollis & Co. Dal vivo. Ora a sei mesi di distanza dalla presentazione sanremese di “Why is it so hard?”, I Talk Talk escono di nuovo sul mercato discografico con un 45 giri (per l’album si dovrà attendere fino a febbraio) dal titolo perentorio “Life’s What You Make It”.
Si tratta di un brano nello stile inconfondibile della band, caratterizzato dalle continue rullate della batteria di Harris e da un uso particolare del pianoforte, utilizzato in funzione di strumento ritmico a supporto del basso di Webb. Questa base ritmica è condita con lancinanti interventi di chitarra elettrica e da un sottofondo di tastiere ed organo. È un brano d’effetto a cui non è difficile pronosticare un rosea futuro.
Molto bello è anche il b-side del singolo che purtroppo non sarà incluso nel LP. Si tratta di “It’s Getting Late In the Evening” e crediamo non ci sia titolo più adatto di questo per un brano dall’atmosfera crepuscolare, intensamente giocata fra pianoforte e voce, da ascoltare nelle fredde sere invernali davanti al focolare. E nel 33 giri dovrebbe esserci ancora di meglio…
Il bassista Paul Webb, Il cantate Mark Hollis e il Batterista Lee Harris, tre ragazzi inglesi che insieme formano i Talk Talk, uno del gruppi pop attualmente più apprezzati sia dal pubblico sia dalla critica. Sono tornati dopo oltre un anno pubblicazione e un 45 giri già ben piazzato in classifica. Nella foto in basso, un primo piano di Mark Hollis. Nella pagina a fronte, un momento dell’intervista.
Vedendo Mark Hollis senza sapere chi sai in realtà, nulla potrebbe far pensare che si tratti di una popstar, di un musicista affermato, della mente di uno dei gruppi più interessanti delle ultime leve inglesi, i Talk Talk. Quando non è davanti ad una telecamera o su di un palcoscenico e si toglie gli occhialetti neri, con quella frangetta bionda e quei vestiti non certi firmati da un grande sarto assomiglia in tutto e per tutto a una dei tanti turisti inglesi in vacanza a Roma. Lui ed i suoi sue compagne d’avventura, Paul Webb e Lee Harris, sono in Italia per presentare il loro nuovo singolo “life Is What You Make it”. Paul e Lee però hanno delegato a Mark il gravoso compito di rispondere alle domande. Parla piano tendendo gli occhi bassi, sorseggiando un cocktail.
Parliamo del vostro nuovo singolo a dell’album.
Il 45 giri non è rappresentativo del LP e credo che nessuna canzone la sia. L’Album è composta da otto pezzi tutti diversi. Posso dirti per certo che il 33 giri uscirà verso febbraio e che si intitolerà “The Colour of Spring”. La sua realizzazione è stata molto laboriosa: in sala d’incisione avevamo sessanta musicisti praticamente un’orchestra, perché non volevamo usar I synths per ricreare suoni che potevano essere ottenuti con gli strumenti tradizionali.
Visto il grande successo di “It’s My Life” non avete avuto la tentazione di ritardare l’uscita del nuovo disco?
L’unica cosa che ci interessa è fare ciò in cui crediamo, non ci sono per noi tempi o scadenze da rispettare. Vedi, quando si realizza un lavoro importante come “The Colour..” l’unica cosa che conta è credere in ciò che si fa, essere decisi sugli scopi che si vogliono raggiungere. E poi, grazie al successo del precedente album, questa volta abbiamo avuto a disposizione molti più soldi e molto più tempo rispetto al passato.
Che discorso musicale portate avanti?
Mah..prima di ogni cosa noi siamo una band che scrive canzoni. Come dicevo prime il nostro ultimo disco è un lavoro molto umano da cui sono state volutamente esclusi i computer e le diavolerie elettroniche. Credo che sia una specie di compromesso fra il soul, il gospel e le idee musicali di Frederick Delius (un musicista inglese vissuto in Francia all’inizio del secolo). Ritengo che nella nostra musica si raggiunga lo scopo che lui se era prefisso, anche se noi abbiamo usato mezzi espressivi diversi, come il pop. Ho sempre amato molto l’impressionismo musicale francese. E poi non è vero che la musica classica sia sempre pomposa: anzi, quella di Delius è molto moderna soprattutto nell’uso che fa dei semitoni.
Come sarà il prossimo tour?
A dire il vero non ci abbiamo ancora pensato. Siamo usciti dalla sala d’incisione solo una settimana fa, dopo nove mesi passati là dentro a registrare. Dal vivo sarà impossibile avere sul palco sessanta musicisti e forse per riproporre certe sonorità dovremo usar i synths, ma non c’è niente di deciso. Ora voglio solo riposarmi e per farlo andrò a passare due mesi nei nord dell’Inghilterra, solo con me stesso.
Che importanza hanno, secondo voi, i video?
Sono in sé stessi una cosa positiva, ma purtoppo oggi se ne fa un uso sbagliato: molti video attuali sembrano costosissimi filmati pubblicitari per propagandare detersivi. I nostri tre video tratti da “It’s My Life” sono stati girati in economia: sono le idee quelle che contano.
Parliamo del vostro nuovo video.
È stato realizzato in un bosco, di notte, fra le nove di sera e le nove di mattina, ed è un affresco sulla vita animale. Noi amiamo molto la natura. Purtroppo però la nostra casa discografica non lo ha considerato un lavoro abbastanza rappresentativo e adatto alla promozione e cosi abbiamo dovuto girare un’altra versione. Penso che in Italia si vedranno entrambe.
Siete rimasti delusi dall’atteggiamento della vostra etichetta?
Si, è stata una cosa che ci ha dato molto fastidio. Fatti di questo genere non dovrebbero mai succedere. Abbiamo tentato di opporci ma non c’è stato niente da fare.
Avete un grande successo. La vita che fate è molto dura?
Quello che non ci piace è ripetere le cose. A volte può essere noioso suonare le stesse canzoni ogni sera, ma stare su un palcoscenico a contatto col pubblico, è una sensazione unica, irripetibile.
Quali messaggi volete trasmettere a chi vi ascolta?
Mah…Come dicevo prima siamo tipi semplici, amiamo la vita all’aria aperta: ci rifacciamo ad un periodo ben preciso, gli inizi degli anni ’60, quando la musica era slegata dal business. Messaggi? Beh, ci auguriamo che ognuno faccia ciò in cui crede, perché se ci crede veramente, è senz’altro una cosa buona.
Giuseppe Fratoni^ go back to top
NME: 18th January 1986
Peacock vocal preen in the blinding light of Olympian guitar rays, but the deadly throes of pomp rock mystery are offset by a simple but haunting keyboard motif. The nifty counter balance is spoiled by the accompanying bleeding heart optimism.^ go back to top
Smash Hits: 29th January 1986
A red hot Bitz report from a British Telecom box with wee-wee in it somewhere in the Lake District hallo? Hallo? Brrrrrrrrrrrr
Trringg Tringg trrinng. Hark! The Bitz hotline trimphone is ringing as ever…Hallo? Bip bip bip bip bip bip bip bip bip click – brrrrrrrrrr….
Typical! Don’t it just make yer sick when someone rings you up from a phone box and can’t get their money in the slot properly?! Grrrr. Bitz reckons that those swanky new credit card-type call boxes are a jolly sensible invention – Triinng Trringg. Trinnggg Trrinng…hang on a mo, here we go again.
Hallo? Bip bip bip bip bip fwonk…”Oh, ‘ello, Mark Hollis ‘ere”.
Pipey o’gripey! Not the Mark Hollis of well known singing troupe Talk Talk whose latest single “Life’s What you Make It’ is a-fwisking up the charts even as we speak?!? Yes – the very same. But what the jiggings is such as illustrious personage doing in a smelly old phone kiosk that doesn’t work very well? Well it seems that M. Hollis – having spent the last year in very studio, like, doing the new Talk Talk LP ‘The Colour of Spring’ – is having a bit of a holiday, staying in this clapped out old cottage in the Lake District where there isn’t even a telephone. So, when he wants to ring up Bitz for a bit of a chinwag about the state of fings and Talk Talk in general, he has to nip down to the village with a pocketful of 10p pieces and hope that no-one’s had a wee-wee in the phone box lately.
“It’s not too bad, this phone box” Mark confides “I’m quite used to it by now”. What’s the view like? “The view from the box is a shocker – it’s not too happy – but this actual area, the Lake District, is definitely the best place in England. It’s absolutely genius – except now and then you get a low-flying jet whacking across which doesn’t fit in too well”
But life’s like that, ain’t it? – brim full of paradox. Why, take the video for ‘Life’s What You Make It’. In this you don’t get to see any of Talk Talk hardly at all – instead there are loads of owls and foxes and centipedes scampering about just like on David Attenborough. Why is this, Mark?
“I just think they’re nice to look at, y’know”.
Nicer to look at than you, haw haw?
“What is that? A joke? When we did the video for “It's My Life’ a couple of years ago, the idea was that we’d have animals in the video and no band whatsoever but the record company thought that was a bit out of order so they had me in a zoo. And when we did the ‘Such as Shame’ video, that wasn’t reclusive in the least – you couldn’t get more of me in the video, know what I mean?”
Well, no, actually – seeing as hardly anyone in Britain has ever seen those particular vids. Talk Talk are massively successful on le continent but they’ve only ever had one Top 20 hit here (‘Today’) and that was nearly four years ago. Why is this?
“I don’t know why. It doesn’t matter why”.
Ah. Actually Mark Hollis quite likes having “a nice degree of anonymity”. Oh. He’d like to write the soundtrack for a film like Wuthering Heights because “when you’re working with film music you can actually include silence”.
Bip bip bip bip bip bip bip bip bip – click – brrrrrrrrrrrr…..
Hallo? Hallo? Well that was pretty exciting wasn’t it?^ go back to top
Record Mirror: 1st February 1986
‘Bartok’s a great geezer’
Debussy and Sibelius are well good too, according to Talk Talk’s classical connoisseur Mark Hollis. Roger Morton discovers all this, plus how you can take a year to make an album.
Spring has finally arrived for Talk Talk. I know, I’ve heard the first cuckoo.
After years of bravely surviving on the crumbs of their huge success in Europe and America, Britain’s forgotten pop trio are at last thawing out the charts with ‘Life’s What You Make It’.
Up at EMI’s London headquarters, Talk Talk’s lead singer and writer-in-chief Mark Hollis is celebrating with a can of Heineken. While Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes smile down from a giant Duran Duran poster, Mark recounts the tale of their own forthcoming album ‘The Colour of Spring’.
It’s been over three years since you last had a hit in this county with ‘Today’. Why has it taken so long?
“I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it. All we’ve been doing for the last two years is a year touring, and a year making an album.”
Do you think you’ve gone wrong somewhere?
“No, of course we haven’t gone wrong. It’s been really lucky, the way things have worked out. The last album ‘It’s My Life’ did really well abroad, so we were in a position to spend a lot of time making this album. It took a year and two days to make this one.”
Is it a good thing to take so long?
“It’s good in terms of what we wanted to do. We couldn’t have made it the way we wanted in any less time. “You see, when we made ‘It’s My Life’, we had to rely a lot on synthesisers. Now, I do not accept that we are a synthesiser band. Synthesisers mean electronic things to me, and I don’t think we have any sort of relation to that. We used synthesisers on that album because from an economic point of view it was the only way we could do it.”
What replaces the synthesiser on ‘The Colour Of Spring’? Is it more orchestral?
“I wouldn’t call it orchestral, no. But it all depends on what you call orchestral, because I wouldn’t call it orchestral in terms of an orchestra thing, but you could look at that Gil Evans stuff as being orchestral, where you’re talking about a 12-piece orchestra. So it all depends on what you call an orchestra, really.”
Exactly. I’m glad we sorted that out.
Almost all of ‘The Colour Of Spring’ has been written with Talk Talk producer Tim Friese-Greene. How did that come about?
“The only thing I ever knew about him were three records: ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, by Tight Fit; ‘Cry Boy Cry’ by Blue Zoo; and Thomas Dolby’s ‘She Blinded Me With Science’. All those records were really well produced, but they did completely different things. There was no stylisation of sound, and to me, that was the sign of a good producer. So, initially it came from that.”
Why was ‘Life’s What You Make It’ chosen as the single?
‘For me, the only reason that track was chosen, is that apart from a two minute horn quartet, it’s the shortest thing on the album. That’s it, really.”
This is where the going gets tough. Get ready for a cuckoo waltz around the classics.
“In ‘It’s Getting Late In The Evening’ (the atmospheric B-side of the single) there are a lot of references to things that are in the album, from different areas of music. I like the way that there are things in that which are derivative of Ravel, alongside things which are derivative of the Animals.
I do think that there’s an area of classical music which I have an affinity for. The impressionist period, around the turn of the century (You sure about this? - ed.) is something I love very much. I love the textural quality that it has. But equally, there’s a hardness to soul music, and gospel music that I like.”
A lot of people would think it was a bit pretentious to talk about classical composers.
“That’s because they associate with the wrong areas of composers. You see, I don’t believe that the minute you draw on classical composers, what you make has got to be pompous.”
What was the last record you bought?
“It was a Delius thing, with ‘The First Cuckoo of Spring’ on it, and ‘In The Summer Garden’. You see, all I’ve listened to in the last year is that impressionist area of music. The one person I like more than any out of that lot is Bartok. He did six string quartets which are well good.
“The idea of listening to contemporary music seems quite pointless. I get more than my fair share when we’re touring, so I never listen to it when I’m at home.”
Do you have an ambition to be a classical composer?
“Oh no, but I would definitely like to do something in terms of writing film music.”
But for the moment, you’re staying with Talk Talk?
“Yes, but I don’t see one as being far removed from the other. A lot of our backing tracks owe debts to things like Delius. “Bartok’s a great geezer, and then there’s Erik Satie and Debussy, and Sibelius, who I think would fit in there.”
Does that mean that if we go and listen to those people, we’ll come across little bits of Talk Talk ?
“There are definitely a couple of references to things. But I remember this interview where old Stravinsky was being accused of ripping off some other geezer, and he just said that he loved this composer so much, he felt he was allowed to take from it.”
Talk Talk have never been a very fashionable band in this country. Why do you think that is? “I don’t know. It really doesn’t bother me at all. You see, I’m in the best possible position I could be in, which is having nothing happening in England and things going well abroad. Because of that, we get absolute freedom in making a record, and in terms of my private life, I have complete freedom there as well.”
Would you agree that you’re a traditional pop/rock band?
“What a horrible term. I think we’re traditional in terms of a lot of our values. But we don’t restate the past. We are covering new ground. I think it’s quite simple. You just look to as many areas of music as you can, take as little as you can from each area, and then with that, hopefully you have something new.
“How I feel about our music is in a lot of ways the same as I feel about our videos. I see them as a reaction against things. That’s why it’s good working with Tim Pope on videos. With him, it’s never a question of whether it’s good or whether you like the video. It’s whether or not it’s different from other people’s. If people think it looks like it was made for ten quid, then I’m quite happy with that.”
Has your success abroad made you into rich young men?
“Er...potentially I would think I’m well off.”
You sound a bit vague about it.
“Yeah, well. I would think I am...potentially would think I am well off.
“I’ll tell you what I had for breakfast, if you like.”
No, thank you.
Whatever I might think about laying claim to classical influences, using 50 to 60 musicians, and taking a whole year to make an album, the success of ‘Life’s What You Make It’ would seem to suggest that Talk Talk’s highly processed pop is exactly what most people want for breakfast. Now I know why Simon and Nick are smiling.^ go back to top
Vinyl: 2 Februari 1986
Een eeuwigheid bleef Mark Hollis van Talk Talk in de studio. Maar nu zal dan toch eindelijk over een paar weken de nieuwe elpee, The Colour of Spring, gaan verschijnen. Een gesprek met hem, op het moment dat de single Life’s What You Make It alle steun van Veronica heeft en dus een hit wordt, is altijd een confrontatie met een overstelpend hoeveelheid energie. Luisterend naar de muziek op de elpee, blijkt dat aanstekelijk te werken.
Maandenlang zat ik stiekem op de nieuwe Talk Talk elpee te wachten. Ik had de vorige It’s My Life gewoon opgedraaid en ik wilde als een doodordinaire fan meer van hetzelfde, maar dan iets anders. Dat is de nieuwe Talk Talk elpee The Colour of Spring niet geworden. The Colour of Spring is in zoveel opzichten zoveel ruimer van opzet dat het werkelijk een ontwikkeling is geworden, een verdieping. En van zoiets is bij succesvolle popgroepen toch zelden sprake. Waren voor It’s My Life de Gil Evans arrangementen voor Miles Davis een belangrijke invloed, nu inspireerden de impressionistische componisten van het begin van deze eeuw en het eind van de vorige Mark Hollis om van de op zich al ontroerende popsongs verbluffende geluidsdocumenten te maken. Losse klankflarden vormen weefsels die met de dunst mogelijke draadjes aaneen worden gehouden met als resultaat een melancholieke spanning die aan je vreet.
De avond voor ik hem spreek heeft Mark Hollis net de allerlaatste hand gelegd aan The Colour of Spring, na een klein jaar continu studiowerk. Zijn hoofd nog zo vol muziek dat hij niet altijd in staat is tot samenvatten en afstand nemen. Niettemin blijft hij de van enthousiasme overbruisende Mark Hollis, zoals ik hem heb leren kennen. Met de energie en de emotionele betrokkenheid alsof hem bij voortduring een groots wonder overvalt. Toen had ik de plaat nog niet gehoord. Nu weet ik een beetje hoe zoiets moet aanvoelen.
De tekst van de single Life’s What You Make It is een van de meest concrete die je tot nu toe schreef. Tegelijkertijd is ook het arrangement zeer aards, met die zware repeterende pianoriff.
Die relatie werd niet direkt bewust gelegd. We hebben altijd al een song willen maken die gebaseerd was op een uiterst simpele pianoriff en een strak daarop aansluitende drumpartij. Die twee lopen bijna zonder ritmische of harmonische overgang door van begin tot eind. Ik moest bij het maken ervan sterk aan Booker T denken.
De hele song wordt in die riff gezogen.
Ja, je kunt er niet meer om heen. Het kan onmogelijk nog duidelijker doorgevoerd worden. Ik denk trouwens niet dat het in die mate voor de hele elpee opgaat. Er zit gewoon zoveel in dat ik nu onmogelijk nog kan zeggen wat de hoofdlijn is. Wanneer je denkt in termen van mentaliteit, wat er bij ons leefde toen we de muziek maakten, is er geloof ik geen essentieel verschil tussen It’s My Life, de vorige elpee, en deze. Het grote verschil is wel dat we nu in de eerste plaats met musici hebben gewerkt en daarvoor meer met synthesizers. Voor It’s My Life gold vooral de economische factor in die gevallen dat we met synthesizers effecten suggereerden. The Colour of Spring heeft in vergelijking met It’s My Life waanzinnig veel geld en tijd gekost. In totaal hebben er wel zo’n zestig, zeventig mensen aan deze plaat meegewerkt.
Vorig jaar vertelde je al dat je veel met akoestisch piano wilde werken.
O ja, dat is m’n favoriete instrument. Maar ik heb er nu een tweede favoriet instrument bij, de cello.
Voor It’s My Life waren jullie toch ook heel lang in de studio geweest. Ik herinner me iets van acht maanden.
Ja, maar deze keer…Het was alsof er nooit een eind aan kwam. We zijn begonnen in januari 85 en van toen af aan hebben we een klein jaar onophoudelijk doorgewerkt. Zesdaagse studioweken, van’s ochtends vroeg tot’s avond laat. We hebben heel veel geëxperimenteerd, ons op muzikale gebieden begeven die volstrekt nieuw voor ons waren. En juist daar ging ontzettend veel tijd en energie inzitten. Ik denk dat The Colour of Spring veel sterker dan It’s My Life uitdrukt wat er potentieel in de groep aanwezig is.
Je vertelde me een keer dat je gefascineerd was geraakt door de mogelijkheid om instrumenten zo te laten klinken dat ze onherkenbaar werden.
O, ja, dat houdt me nog steeds bezig. We werken nu met een gitarist David Rhodes, die z’n gitaar zo laat kinken dat het misschien op een synthesizer lijkt, maar zeker niet op een gitaar. En op een van de tracks staat een cellopartij die waarschijnlijk niemand als dusdanig zal herkennen. Het is ook heel fascinerend om met een synthesizer een gitaarsound te produceren. Uiteindelijk wordt het dan toch iets wat met een echte gitaar nooit zou kunnen.
Naar welke muziek luister je momenteel het liefst?
Ik heb dit jaar heel veel naar impressionistische muziek geluisterd. Naar componisten als Satie, Debussy, Milhaud en vooral Bartok. Zijn strijkkwartetten…dat zoiets moois bestond had ik nooit kunnen denken. Zoiets werkt onherroepelijk door. Zoals Renée , op It’s My Life, geïnspireerd was op de Gil Evans arrangementen voor de Miles Davis plaat Sketches of Spain, zo heeft Bartok een invloed gehad op de arrangementen op The Colour of Spring. Het meest uitgesproken is dat te horen op het korte, instrumentale stuk dat Chameleon Day inleidt.
Op It’s Getting Late In the Evening, de B-kant van Life’s What You Make It, meende ik al vagelijk Debussy te herkennen.
O yeah, sure, sure…
Ik vond It’s Getting Late In The Evening een grote stap in de ontwikkeling van Talk Talk. Het leek me de dunne schets die er overblijft wanneer je een song tot die essentie terugbrengt, nadat het eerst overvloedig gearrangeerd is.
Nou…het is gebaseerd op een gelijknamige gospelsong uit de jaren dertig waarvoor ik een nieuwe tekst heb geschreven. Op zich is het een uiterst melodieus nummer, het was niet moeilijk geweest daar een makkelijk in het gehoor liggende song van te maken. Misschien wel een hit. Nu is het met name door dat merkwaardige ritmische arrangement een song geworden waar je eigenlijk alleen maar heel intensief naar kan luisteren. Een song die mijzelf misschien nog wel het meest verbaast.
Toch staat het niet op de elpee. Was het daarvoor niet commercieel genoeg?
Er staan stukken op die net zo min commercieel genoemd zullen worden. Echt, ik denk niet in termen van wel of niet commercieel. Op z’n hoogst waneer je je af gaat vragen welk nummer geschikt is als single. De keuze die gemaakt is voor de elpee, komt er bij mij altijd op neer dat het een geheel moet gaan vormen. De songs moeten elkaar gaan aanvullen tot iets dat meer is dan de delen bij elkaar opgeteld.
De credits op The Colour of Spring vermelden dat de alle songs samen met producer Tim Friese-Greene hebt geschreven. Betekent dit dat de samenwerking met hem sinds It’s My Life nog intensiever is geworden?
Ja, zeker. We hebben het hele proces van begin tot eind samen doorlopen. In die zin is hij meer dan een lid van de groep. Maar ik vind ook dat een producer dat moet wezen. Hij moet de muziek van binnenuit leren begrijpen en dat gaat alleen wanneer je ook bij het schrijven van de songs betrokken bent. Ik ben technisch heel beperkt, hij is in staat om mijn ideeën vorm te geven. Op de een of andere manier geeft die situatie mij juist de vrijheid telkens weer met nieuwe ideetjes aan te komen. Ik voel me niet al bij voorbaat gebonden aan technische beperkingen. Nu ben ik al een hele tijd aan het spelen met ‘the crab’, dat is een in wezen heel simpel maniertje op de piano. Je houdt je hand telkens in dezelfde stand, met de vingers evenver van elkaar en probeert zo verschillende akkoorden uit. Dat kun je dan weer opnemen en er stukken uithalen om er een melodie mee op te bouwen.
Staan jullie, na het succes van It’s My Life, niet erg onder druk?
Nee, de druk is eerder afgenomen. Men heeft er wel vertouwen in dat het goed komt, waardoor we ons meer tijd en geld kunnen veroorloven. En daardoor waren we in staat om meer te experimenteren dan ooit. Tegelijk maakt die vrijheid het juist moeilijk, want je gaat je begeven op gebieden die volstrekt blanco voor je zijn. Wanneer wij nu voor het eerst willen werken met arrangementen die gebaseerd zijn op die van de impressionistische componisten, dan loop je al snel het gevaar dat het ontzettend pompeus en gezocht gaat klinken. Je kunt met de meest fantastische ideeën aan de slag en uiteindelijk wordt het toch smakeloos, omdat je er paar weken gewerkt aan iets wat je gewoon kunt weggooien.
Loop je nog steeds met plannen rond voor filmmuziek?
Er is me niet aangeboden. Maar wat vandaag de dag als filmmuziek beschouwd wordt is niets meer dan een willekeurige soundtrack voor een hitalbum. Wat mij interesseert is de meer klassieke filmmuziek zoals die in de jaren zestig gemaakt werd, Zoiets zou ik nu het liefst willen doen. In het klein zijn we ons nu wel anders met de videoclips gaan bezighouden. Bij de clip die we samen met Tim Pope maakten, hebben we de muziek aangepast, zodat het eerder een soundtrack bij de beelden werd dan een plat maniertje om je single te verkopen. Bij de platenmaatschappij zijn ze daar minder enthousiast over.
Heb je altijd beelden in je hoofd wanneer je aan een song werkt?
O ja, dat is de essentie van elk goed nummer. Er moet een beeld aan ten grondslag liggen en het moet beelden oproepen. Ook alle goede filmmuziek moet aan die voorwaarde voldoen. Tot in het kleinste detail moet de muziek beeldend zijn, ook de tekst bijvoorbeeld.
De muziek van Talk Talk heeft altijd een zware melancholische ondertoon gehad. Voel je je bij andere muziek ook aangetrokken door de melancholie?
Er zijn wel wat meer stemmingen bij Talk Talk dan alleen melancholie denk ik, maar inderdaad, het voert de boventoon, daar heb je helemaal gelijk in. En ja, het is inderdaad zo dat melancholieke muziek me altijd buitengewoon boeit. Nu, bij die impressionistische muziek bijvoorbeeld.
Wanneer je zo lang en zo intensief met een plaat bezig bent, neem ik aan dat je er ook van gaat dromen?
O ja, onophoudelijk. Onophoudelijk…Het valt niet te ontvluchten. Ik moet nu ook lange tijd geen muziek meer horen. Me voor twee maanden terugrekken in een huisje in het bos met alleen een piano.
Je doet niet mee aan de liefdadigheidsepidemie van dit moment.
Als we voor Live Aid waren gevraagd hadden we zeker meegedaan. Maar ik heb inderdaad nooit politieke songlyrics geschreven. Ik het altijd geschreven over mijn gevoelens ten aanzien van mijn omgeving. Wat mij interesseert zijn de waarden die de mensen voor zichzelf aanleggen. En daarom is mijn muziek ook zo melancholisch. Ik zie zoveel afwezigheid van moraal om me heen. Misschien komt dat wel omdat ik zo verstrengeld ben met de muziek business. Ik ben trouwens wel andere teksten gaan schrijven, merk ik. Maar ik zou het niet simpeler of directer willen noemen. Sommigen zijn simpeler. Ik weet het niet. Ik weet wel dat ik nu teksten schrijf die ik vroeger absoluut afgekeurd zou hebben.
Je werkt heel lang aan je teksten. Kost het je zoveel moeite iets op papier te krijgen dat niet irriteert?
In feite is alles wat je moet doen verschillende gedachtegangen tegelijk volgen. Maar dat heb ik altijd heel moeilijk gevonden. Veel moeilijker dan muziek schrijven. Het grootste probleem is dat een tekst dusdanig wordt dat je hem goed kunt zingen, dat het in fonetisch opzicht volledig overeenkomt met de melodie. En daarbij moet je dan natuurlijk zorgen dat je iets zingt wat veel voor je betekent, dat meer is dan een cliché. Wanneer ik niet in een tekst kan geloven komt er ook niets over.
Kun je in je teksten blijven geloven wanneer je ze eindeloos op het podium moet herhalen?
Het betekent de ene keer meer voor me dan de andere keer. Het ergste is het moment waarop je, na maanden werk, de songs afmixt. Wanneer het uiteindelijk op de band staat zoals het op de plaat moet komen heb ik er zo genoeg van, dat ik er absoluut niet meer naar kan luisteren. Op zich zijn die optredens wel raar. Wanneer je een elpee af hebt, wil je niets liever dan een volgende plaat maken. En in plaats daarvan ga je je laatste elpee eindeloos op een podium herhalen. Het werkt als een voortdurende terugblik, een eindeloze evaluatie. Tegelijkertijd is het verbazend hoezeer sommige songs, als bijvoorbeeld It’s My Life, me keer op keer blijven raken. En daarbij blijf je ook dingen ontdekken waarvan je je nooit bewust bent geweest in de studio. Dit keer zal heel moeilijk worden om de studioarrangementen live uit te voeren. We willen zeker geen tapes gebruiken dus kan het niet anders of grote arrangementpartijen moeten overgenomen worden door synthesizers. En dat terwijl er op de plaat niet meer dan vijftig seconden pure synthesizer staat. Op sommige songs spelen wel veertig mensen mee, dus dat zal een hele klus worden om het acceptabel te maken. We willen wel aanzienlijk gaan minderen wat de concerten betreft. Na It’s My Life hebben we tien maanden getourd. Nu lijkt me drie maanden per jaar echt wel de limiet.
Veranderen de arrangementen van de songs als je ze lange tijd live uitvoert?
Er zijn altijd een aantal flexibele gedeelten binnen de songs. Maar het overgrote deel ligt gewoon vast, wanneer je daar ook maar het kleinste deeltje aan verandert raak het evenwicht zoek. De inhoud van onze muziek zit voor een heel belangrijk deel in het arrangement. In die zin maken we uiterst klassiek gerichte popmuziek. Op zich is het heel jammer dat je je daarmee de mogelijkheid tot improviseren ontneemt. Een klein beetje improvisatie gaat nog net, maar lang niet in die mate zoals je bij iemand als John Coltrane ziet. (Joost Neimoller).^ go back to top
Vinyl: 2nd February 1986
Mark Hollis of Talk Talk spent an eternity in the studio. But now - finally, - within a couple of weeks the new LP, The Colour of Spring, will appear. A conversation with him, at the time of the hit single Life's What You Make It and appearance on Veronica [A verys popular progressive TV station in the Netherlands] is always a confrontation with an overwhelming amount of energy. Listening to the music on the album, it appears that his infectious energy has sparked something within me.
For months I was secretly waiting for the new Talk Talk album. I had worn out the previous album It's My Life and as a dead-ordinary fan I wanted more of the same, but also something else. That's what the new Talk Talk album The Colour of Spring did not become. The Colour of Spring is in many respects much more spacious, that it really is a development, a deepening. And yet this is something rarely observed in successful pop. For It's My Life, the Gil Evans arrangements for Miles Davis were an important influence, Mark Hollis’s poignant pop soongs are now inspired by the impressionist composers of the beginning of this century and the end of the previous. Loose fragments of sound that form tissues made of the thinnest possible threads are held together, resulting in a melancholy tension hits you right in the soul.
The night before I spoke to him, Mark Hollis had just put the finishing touches to The Colour of Spring, after a year of continuous work in the studio. His head was still so full of music that he was not always able to summarize and distance himself. Nevertheless, Mark Hollis retained his vibrant enthusiasm, as I got to know him. With the energy and emotional involvement that persisently overwhelmed him like a great miracle. Then, I had not yet heard the album. Now I know a little how it must feel.
The lyrics of the single Life's What You Make It are one of the most concrete things that you’ve written so far. At the same time the arrangement is very earthy, with a heavy repetitive piano riff.
That relationship was not immediately apparent. We always wanted to make a song that was based on a very simple piano riff and a subsequent tight drum part. Those two are almost without rhythmic or harmonic transition from beginning to end. They strongly reminded me of Booker T.
The whole song is ‘squished’ in that riff.
Yes, you can’t get away from it. It can’t possibly be made clearer. I don’t think that holds for the entire album. There's just so much in there that it’s impossible to say what the theme is. When you think in terms of mentality, where we were in our lives when we made music, I believe there is no essential difference between It's My Life, the previous album, and this. The big difference is that we are now working with musicians in the first place with whereas before we worked more with synthesizers. For It's My Life it was the economic factors especially that suggested we used synthethisers for effects. The Colour of Spring in comparison with It's My Life was insanely costly and time consuming. In total there are about sixty or seventy people who participated on this record
Last year, you told me you wanted to work with acoustic piano.
Oh yes, that's my favorite instrument. But I now have a second favorite instrument, the cello.
For It's My Life, you were nevertheless a long time in the studio. I remember something like eight months.
Yes, but this time ... It was as if there was never an end. We started in January 85 and from then on we worked incessantly through a year. Six-day studio weeks from early mornings until late evenings. We experimented a lot, we went into musical areas that were totally new to us. And an awful lot of time and energy went in it. I think The Colour of Spring is much stronger than It's My Life and expresses what potential is present in the group.
You told me once that you had become fascinated by the possibility of such instruments being used to make sounds that were unrecognizable.
Oh, yes, that still keeps me busy. We are now working with a guitarist, David Rhodes, who pitches his guitar so that it might appear like a synthesizer, but certainly not a guitar. And one of the tracks has a cello part that probably no one will recognize as such. It is also very fascinating to produce a guitar sound with a synthethizer. Eventually, it does something a real guitar never could.
What music do you like to listen to currently?
This year I’ve listened to a lot of impressionistic music. Back to composers such as Satie, Debussy, Milhaud and above all, Bartok. His string quartets ... I’d never imagined something so beautiful existed. Something works irrevocably. As Renée on It's My Life, was inspired by the Gil Evans arrangements for the Miles Davis album Sketches of Spain, so Bartok has an impact on the arrangements on The Colour of Spring. The most pronounced is that to hear the short, instrumental piece that introduces Chameleon Day.
On It's Getting Late In The Evening, the B-sideof Life's What You Make It, I thought it was vaguely recognizable as Debussy.
Oh yeah, sure, sure ...
I found it's Getting Late In The Evening a big step in the development of Talk Talk. It seemed to me what remains when you take a song back to its essence, after the first abundent arrangement.
Well ... it is based on an eponymous gospel song of the 1930s for which I've written a new lyric. It’s a very melodic song, it’s not difficult to hear there’s an easy listening song in it. Might be a hit. Now it has, due to its peculiar rhythmic arrangement, become a song where you really have to listen intensively. A song which perhaps surprised myself the most.
However, it's not on the LP. Was it not commercial enough?
There are more pieces that can be called just as uncommercial. Really, I don’t think in terms of whether or not its commercial. At most when you wonder what number is going to be suitable as single. The choices made for the LP, for me, should always go down as a whole. The songs should be complementary to something so that it is more than sum of its parts.
The credits on The Colour of Spring That mention that all the the songs were written together with producer Tim Friese-Greene. This means that the cooperation with him since It's My Life has become even more intensive?
Yes, sure. We went through the whole process from start to finish together. In that sense, he is more than a member of the group. But I also think that's what a producer has to be. He must learn to understand the music from the inside and that only works when you've been involved in writing the songs.
Technically I’m very limited, he’s able to kick my ideas into shape. Somehow this situation gives me the freedom to continuously come up with new ideas. I don’t feel bound to technical limitations. Currently I’m playing around with 'the crab', which is essentially a very simple pose on the piano. You hold your hand with the fingers in the same pose each time, and try different chords. You can record this and pick out pieces to build a melody.
Are you under pressure after the success of It's My Life?
No, the pressure has rather decreased. It did, however give me the confidence that everything will work out right and allowed us more time and money. And we were able to experiment more than ever. At the same time complete freedom makes it very difficult, because you're going to stray into totally blank areas. Now when we first want to work with pieces that are based on those of the Impressionist composers, you run the risk that the sound becomes very pompous and contrived. You can work with the most fantastic ideas and ultimately it’s still tacky, snf you can have several weeks worth of working on something and you can just throw it away.
Are you still walking around with plans for film music?
It’s not been offered to me. But today what’s regarded as film music is nothing more than a random soundtrack to a hit album. What interests me more are the classic films such as those created in the 60s. It’s something I'd like to do now. On a smaller scale I'd like to do our videos differently. In the clip we did with Tim Pope, we adapted the music so it was more a soundtrack to the images, rather than something to sell a single. As for the record company, they are less enthusiastic about it.
Do you always have images in your head of how you feel a song works?
Oh yes, that is the essence of every good song. There must be an underlying image, and it should evoke images. Also, all good film must meet that condition down to the smallest detail - the visual music, the lyric.
The music of Talk Talk has always had a heavy melancholic undertone. Do you feel attracted by the melancholy of other music?
Talk Talk has more than just melancholy moods, but yes, it's key, you're absolutely right. And yes, it is true that melancholy music is always fascinating. Now, in impressionistic music for example...
If you’re so intensively engaged with a record for so long, I assume that you also dream about it?
Oh yes, continuously. Incessantly ... There’s no escape. I’m not going to be able to bear to listen to music for a long time. I’m hiding for two months in a cottage in the woods with only a piano.
You’ve not joined in the current charity epidemic?
If we’d been asked to do Live Aid, we’d have definitely participated. But I've never really written political song lyrics. I always wrote about my feelings towards my surroundings. What interests me are the values that people construct for themselves. And that's why my music is so melancholic. I see so much lack of morality around me. Maybe it's because I'm so entwined with the music business. I've also started to write my lyrics differently, I've noticed. But I wouldn’t call it simpler or more direct. Some are simpler. I don't know. I know that I'm writing things now I would have previously rejected.
You work a long time on your words. Does it cost you a lot of trouble to get something on paper that doesn’t irritate you?
In fact, everything you need to do is follow different ideas simultaneously. But I always found it very difficult. Much harder than writing music. The biggest problem with a lyric is that you have to construct it in such a way that you can sing it, and it's phonetically matching the melody. And additionally you should sing it like it really has a meaning , that it's more than just a cliché. When I don’t believe in a lyric, it sinply doesn't work/p>
Can you keep believing in your lyrics when you go on stage and repeat them endlessly?
It means more to me at some times than others. The worst is when, after months of work, the songs are mastered. When it’s finally on the tape as it will appear on the album I’m so fed up with it that I absolutely cannot listen to it anymore. In themselves, live performances are weird. When you've finished an album, you want nothing more than to make the next album. And instead you repeat your last album endlessly on stage. It works like an ongoing retrospective, an endless evaluation. At the same time it's amazing how some songs, such as It's My Life, continue to amaze me again and again. And additionally you keep discovering things that you were never aware of in the studio. This time it will be very difficult to perform the studio arrangements live. We certainly don’t want to use tapes or have large parts of the arrangements taken over by synthesizers. And while on the record there’s not more than fifty seconds of pure synthesizer, on some songs up to forty people participated, so that will be a challenge to make it acceptable live. We want to go significantly shorter where concerts are concerned. After It's My Life we toured for ten months. Now it seems to me that three months is really the limit.
^ go back to top
Do the arrangements of the songs change when you’ve performed them live for a long time?
There are always a number of flexible sections within the songs. But the majority is just fixed, if you do change the smallest element, you change the whole balance. The content of our music is a very important part of the arrangement. In that sense we create extremely classically-oriented pop music. It is a great pity that you then deprive yourself of the ability to improvise. A little bit of improvisation is OK, but not nearly to the extent as you see with someone like John Coltrane. (Joost Neimoller ).
Glasgow Evening Times: 5th February 1986
Looking down the current chart, Talk Talk’s Life’s What You Make It is one of the classiest singles around, and so indeed it should be!
It is one of the tracks on the group’s new album which took all of a year and two days to record!
Lead singer and writer Mark Hollis makes no apology for the length of time The Colour of Spring took in the preparation.
“The success Talk Talk have enjoyed in Europe and America over the last couple of years, particularly with the singles Talk Talk and It’s My Life has given us the freedom, financially, to make records the way we want to.”
“We’re not interested in just going into a studio and dashing off a few tracks which will be forgotten in a couple of months. When you’re trying to achieve subtlety and depth in what you do, it takes time.”
“Our producer Time Friese-Green and I, who have formed a writing partnership for this album, took four months just to complete the songs, then Lee Harris our drummer, bassist Paul Webb, and Keyboards man Simon Brenner joined us in the studio to actually begin recording.”
“At first we were spending 12 hours a day, six days a week in the studio, then towards the end gave ourselves the weekends off! Trying to stay fresh is the most difficult thing on such a long project.”
Clearly Talk Talk are no ordinary pop band, and in fact Mark is adamant that none of them came into the music business to stand on a stage and be screamed at.
“Songwriting and recording is what really interests us, and in the end it what we want to be judged on. Having said that we’re not simply a studio outfit; we spend a lot of time on tour – nine months of the year in 1984 – and enjoy it immensely.”
“But you have to remember the difference; recording is about subtlety and attention to detail, while playing live is all about immediacy and excitement.”
The Colour of Spring is also the album which mark hopes will finally kill the synthesizer tag Talk Talk have been stuck with since they first emerged in 1983.
“I’m delighted to say that no synths at all were used on the album! If we wanted an orchestra or choir, that’s exactly what we got – the real thing with no electronic trickery.”^ go back to top
Number One: 8th February 1986
Talk Talk are a pop curiosity. Their last two albums have taken the British trio to the forefront of the European music scene, while they’ve stayed practically unknown in their own country. However, that could all change with the current success of ‘Life’s What You Make It’. Singer Mark Hollis chats about his music, videos, and the great outdoors. Mike Morris keeps well wrapped up....
I’m sure there’s something positive to be said for strolling round a London park in the middle of winter. And as soon as I thaw out, I’ll probably remember what it is. Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis has no qualms about walking around in sub-Arctic conditions.
“I like being outside” he says. “After ten months in the studio, with non-stop music, it’s good to get out. Especially this time of year. I’ve just got back from walking round the Lake District for a couple of months. The peace, the solitude... it’s brilliant.”
The ‘rest’ was a well-earned reward at the end of an exhausting year. Six days a week, 15 hours a day; it’s a long time to spend on one project. The resulting album, ‘The Colour Of Spring’, is due to surface at any minute. And while it has taken time to complete, Mark seems unconcerned that it is now two years since their last work, the ‘It’s My Life’ LP, first became available.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” he says. “Between the first and second albums there was about a two-year gap, as there is between the last one and this. If you’re lucky enough to be in this position, then your main concern should be to make sure it’s a good album. It should be done at whatever speed it takes. The second album, ‘It’s My Life’, took about seven or eight months to make and it was obvious before we started that this one would take longer because of new opportunities.”
Those “new opportunities” come as a direct result of the group’s success abroad. And Mark, modest chap that he is, is more inclined to be grateful for the continental sales, than he is to start grumbling about lack of domestic recognition:
“Oh, it doesn’t matter to me, honestly, it really doesn’t. I don’t even think about it. All I really do is acknowledge what I have got - what the European market has given us - which is the freedom to make a record exactly how we’d like.”
Clearly Talk Talk’s material is benefiting from this ever-increasing freedom. A lover of more natural instrumentalisation (Mark claims classical composers Debussy, Delius and jazz-hero Miles Davis as influences), the band leader can now afford to get rid of the synths of the last album, in favour of pure orchestration and the occasional choir.
And, the continued development of a song-writing collaboration with the outfit’s producer, Tim Friese-Greene, has tipped Hollis even closer to the creation of his ‘ideal’ sound. It’s even brought him a “welcome” hit single in the wondrously optimistic guise of ‘Life’s What You Make It’. Mark’s other ambition is to develop a career as a writer of film music. Luckily, the challenge for chart supremacy does provide opportunity to work with video, a definite advantage. Director, Tim Pope, famous for his Cure videos, amongst others, has been engaged on all four Talk Talk videos so far:
“I know that Popey would agree with me when I say that we both get quite depressed by the way in which videos generally work. More often than not they’re looked at as nothing more than an exercise in commercialism. They’re so gross in their narrative - and the imagery has such a horrible, heavy sell effect - that they’re fast becoming commercials. At the same time television commercials are using more and more music, as well as loads of pop video techniques. There’s actually very little to choose between the two.”
But Talk Talk really are trying to do something different. Mark explains the thinking behind their latest attempt: “With this one we’ve returned to the animal reference of our first video, ‘It’s My Life’. With ‘Life’s What You Make It’ though, we’ve tried to shoot things in a very filmic, purist way. We wanted, more than anything, to get across the mood of the song. The animals naturally tie in with the theme of life but they’re also much more endearing to watch. I don’t really believe, just because it’s our video, that we have to be in it. Ideally, we would have made a little nature film instead.”^ go back to top
Sounds: 15th February 1986
Talk Talk always come over as one of those anonymous, annoying groups that you’d love to dismiss, but who every so often come up with a glorious song that snaps at your heels ‘till you’re hooked, and the whole love/hate relationships continues.
When you divorce the music form the makers you’re left with a rich collection of lovingly crafted landscapes. Colour poured on angst to produce a tender tapestry of love and torment whose mellow moods drift into oblivion.
The spacious Chameleon Day almost falters before it starts as occasional sounds compete with silence to conjure up a thematic wasteland. All very atmospheric, all very soporific.
Mark Hollis’ voice always sounds tortured, so even optimistic titles like Happiness is Easy belie a troubled episode fresh out of joy. Talk Talk are not a happy band. Don’t ask them to smile, it doesn’t suit them.
The drums seem permanently set on Laid Back as a hypnotic air swamps the album. One song blands into another, rising briefly for the single Life’s What You Make It where the bass keyboard walks a neat line.
Never exactly brimming with youthful impetuosity, TT have washed their hands of exuberance and settled on melancholia, which by April 5th has begun to wear thin. You can only surmise that anything that might have added life has long since dozed off.
Success soothes the savage beats, the crippling disease of complacency gnaws at Talk Talk’s heart rendering it redundant and all the while the drums tread their weary path.
The simple strength of Give it UP is intoxicating and you love them again but…only for a moment.
Kevin Murphy.^ go back to top
Melody Maker: 22nd February 1986
Talk Talk are back after a two year break with an LP called “The Colour of Spring’ and a video full of wild animals. They tried to tell Paul Strange about it.
They’re one of those bands that have a phrase or in-joke that makes them guffaw. A Certain Ratio favour ‘stonker’, The Men They Couldn’t Hand giggle when you say ‘rampant’ and Talk Talk split their sides at the very thought of Russ Abbott.
I mention this in case you ever meet Talk Talk and find it difficult to make them laugh, let along string a sentence together. I found it practically impossible. For instance, I asked the band’s lead vocalist Mark Hollis if they intend to augment their line-up for a forthcoming UK tour.
“Yeah, well, we look really about eight or nine people live’ sayd Mark “ You see, yeah, yeah, when we were doing our last tour – ’84 – we had nine people and the you see…more people on the album. With this one, you see, what we’re going to do is sort of er…we’ve moved further along in terms of getting away from…ah…er, I’ve forgotten, er …yeah, right, eight or nine people.”
Is the new Talk Talk album ‘The Colour of Spring’ a perfect product?
“Well no, I mean” he stutters “it’s like I say, at the point when you make them…you know, I mean, it’s like you know if you look at this whole thing with time…we had as much time to make it as we wanted…we could use whatever people we wanted as long as they agreed to play on it.”
“You know” he continues “ unfortunately Russ Abbott didn’t come down for the sessions, but then you see in a way I’m glad he didn’t ‘cos you have someone of that magnitude on your album…”
“It’s like a shadow” says drummer Lee Harris smirking.
“Yeah” says Mark, beginning to guffaw “ a shadow over you. It would be like an atmosphere! I’m only sorry that Russ didn’t pick up an award at the BPI thing”.
“Nah” says Mark “for my money, he had Best Video, Best Single and Best Album!”
Have they every met Russ?
“No, cor blimey” shrieks Mark
“Too much!” exclaims Lee.
Too much indeed, On a factual note Talk Talk have recently re-emerged after a two year layoff with more provocative, more accessible, and above all more direct material. ‘The Colour of Spring’ is probably the band’s best album to date.
Already the haunting and utterly infuriating hit single “life’s What You Make It’ has acted as a trailblazer for the LP. Did its success surprise them?
“Yeah”, says Mark “I didn’t even know the thing was out! You see the only reason it was a single was because it was the shortest thing on the album and even by singles standards it’s still too long really.”
The video is extraordinary. It was filmed overnight on Wimbledon Common and director Tim Pope has slotted in shots of scurrying badgers and foxes amid footage of the band, to traumatic effect. Mark claims the animal shots are to emphasis ‘Realism: - something he reckons is sadly lacking in videos today.
“We went right through the night, you know” he says “We actually had to do that so that by the end you would sort of reckon it to be real. It’s like the album – with the last one we had to use synthesizers to approximate organic sounds, whereas with this one we could get the people in that would do it for real.”
Ah, session musicians. Or as Mark would have it, outsiders. On the new album they include the wonderful Steve Winwood (organ) ex Nine Below Zero man Mark Feltham (Harmonica), acoustic bassist Danny Thompson (John Mayall etc) and ex-Random Hold and Peter Gabriel guitarist David Rhodes,.
Did you learn much from Winwood?
“Not really” says Mark.
Could he speak in proper sentences?
“Mmmmmmm” says Mark, sidestepping the issue. “You see the people we use are people we use specifically for what we know of them. They’re not people who sort of, you know, they’re basically people who are all in other bands.”
Very informative. Do you think the new album is stronger than the last one?
“Cor!” shrieks Mark “Well, it’s like sort of, kind of, yeah…but I don’t really compare them because at the time we did It’s My Life that was all we wanted it to be, and when we did ‘The Party’s Over’ it was all we wanted it to be, so I can’t really compare them The important thing to me is the difference between them.”
“Well” says Paul, “the thing that’s different about this album is that we had about 15 tracks that we recorded, so we had more tracks to kind of put together as an album. There was more of a choice to do that, and we hadn’t had that before.”
“It’s hard to say if one album is better than another” says Mark. “I think it’s a development from the last one, just purely in terms of like it’s outside…well, it’s purely a development based on economics. It’s a development in terms of a train of thought.”
And what are you going to do with the spare tracks?
“Save some of them for the next album” say Lee
“Or sell ‘em to Russ Abbott” says Mark, smiling.^ go back to top
Melody Maker: 22nd February 1986
The very essence of Talk Talk’s current role in the great scheme of things is perhaps best encapsulated by the lyrics sheet that accompanies ‘The Colour of Spring’. It is, of course, totally illegible.
Rather than the neatly packaged pearls of wisdom we have now come to expect form today’s user-friendly word processors of pop, what you get here is a spider’s scrawl across the page in its original bastard form, as if to re-emphasis once more with feeling (soc) that fact that Talk Talk don’t really give a monkeys, not about their verbals, their videos, their critical reception, nor the exciting activities of their peers. It’s gruesomely Seventies, I know, but muzak really is the message round these parts.
Thus, while the ravenous gossip columns must remain naked without their foolish details of socks and cocktails, and the bedsit boy’ brigade search elsewhere for the meaning of life, the third Talk Talk album in four years comes struggling out the speakers in all its many mysterious ways. The current single’ Life’s What You Make It’ is a fair introduction to its sleeping partners with its air of bland celebration, its minimalist funk rhythms allied to an epic sound and its stubborn refusal to take any sort of sides. It exists, the Talk Talk album exists and tomorrow they will both go away leaving behind nothing but that faint residue of a mild distaste for the pop machinery they were forced to kiss along the way.
It’s this sense of operating within an artistic and material vacuum that is at once the most endearing and yet frustrating aspect of Talk Talk. The rock n roll façade of ‘Happiness is Easy’ crashes wonderfully into the pure haunting chorus of the local school choir, the overtly pretentious idea of writing a song about Spring and calling it ‘April 5th’ is u-turned into a mini-epic by Mark Hollis’s blatant disregard for the traditional strictures of pop songwriting, and the oft-cited Satie (pronounced Erik) and Delius influences are bared in all their self-important glory on ‘Time is Time’ which is just about as far from their Eurodisco past reputation as you could possibly get.
Ultimately, however, any potential involvement with Talk Talk stops well short at critical acclaim for the developing craft of Mark Hollis, his clever arrangements, his cinematic ambitions and the various musos who populate the wide open spaces of his third and best album to date. It’s ambient, timeless music and it therefore has absolutely nothing to say in this particular time and place, this grasping here and now. Thus the mildly interesting but worthless enigma that is Talk Talk. Thus the state of pop. (Barry McIlheney)^ go back to top
NME: 22nd February 1986
A Passion Play: Will Euro giants TALK TALK break big in Britain with their ‘Colour Of Spring’ LP. Head talker Mark Hollis defends his art. ‘What a prat’, argues NEIL TAYLOR, reasonably. LAWRENCE WATSON snaps the clash.
At almost any point you can see what’s going to happen. There’s a tension in the room that is waiting to be released when he yanks the tape out of the recorder and exclaims, “This is all a pile of shit’.
Like some ghost in the machine committing technological suicide, he’s pulling the plug on the interview – pulling the plug on himself. He gets angry because he never seems to get anywhere, and he doesn’t like interviews, and, well, he’s bored. He’s got nothing to say but he’s got a lot to lose,
“Consider character assassination as one of the Fine Arts”.
Three Trapped Tigers, C Cabrera Infante.
I came here expecting to be conquered: I left feeling slightly conned. I got Russ Abbott. I got Paul Daniels. I even got Rolf Harris, court painter extraordinaire. But I only got half of Mark Hollis, the biggest comedian of them all. Try this for starters.
“If you’re talking art, maan, Russ takes the cake – apart from Rolf, of course, Rolf Harris. I mean, what Rolf Harris could have given to the Renaissance period, who knows? I certainly don’t”.
Then try this.
“If you’re talking about inspiration, I actually think that Paul Daniels is a very good entertainer. What he can’t do ain’t worth doing, issit?”
Finally, there’s this.
“I think Russ Abbott is a genius. ‘Wot an atmosphere’. What a record! What a man!”
Oh dear, what a prat. I like Talk Talk – I genuinely do. I believe that they have the ability to rise above the slushy quagmire of Top 20 fodder and inject some quality pop into the charts. But they do make life difficult, and Mark Hollis, gateway to his north-and-south forever open, has an infuriating habit of talking down to interviewers.
“I’ve told you about eight times before”, he explains at one point. “All Talk Talk have done is make three very fine albums with a gap of two years inbetween each. We’ve made each album different from the last, and we’ve based all our albums upon songwriting strength. So don’t give me no Spandau Ballet shit, success shit, or image shit. Our image is our music”.
In fact, Talk Talk burst on to the pop scene in February 1982 when ‘Mirror Man’, their debut single, was released by EMI. Three albums, nine singles, and four years later, they’re still with EMI. They’re phenomenally successful in Europe (they top bills where Spandau Ballet play third), and this year their record company hopes they’ll make a bigger dent in the British charts.
“I would never consider us in terms of the likes of Spandau Ballet”, continues Mark aloofly. “I have no desire to be a popstar, I just want to make records. If we were image conscious we wouldn’t but illustrations on our covers, we’d use photographs. Every Talk Talk album has got an illustration on the front because I want to separate image from music. All I’m interested in is writing songs”.
That songwriting talent finds form in the work of Talk Talk, and develops out of a songwriting partnership between Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene, TT’s producer. The band consists of Hollis on guitar, piano and vocals; Paul Webb on bass; and Lee Harris on drums. Their forthcoming album, ‘The Colour Of Spring’, ranges from choral sounds (‘Happiness Is Easy’) to monotonous, calculated bass beat of their current single ‘Life’s What You Make It’. It will be interesting to see what the public makes of it, but Mark Hollis has got no time for such hypothesis.
“It’s about time we brought art in, innit?” he says.
Art then, it is.
Flashing, on a TV screen, is the video. It’s called ‘Life’s What You Make Of It’. The box has a butterfly on it and lots of water. There’s water and caterpillars and frogs and slugs and rats and spiders and the band. But is there art?
People have said that you’re a pretentious prat, Mark?
“Have they? Well let them say what they like. I do what I do and, I mean, who’s to say what’s perfect when you’re dealing with art? I don’t think there’s enough art in this interview. I mean, take our current single. The idea comes from A Streetcar Named Desire. There’s a bird in that book who just spends her time living in the past. The song is a very simple idea. It lyrically deals with optimism, and musically it’s very original. The rhythm section in the song is unchanging and I’ve never heard any other song where that is so”.
There are actually about 11 lines in Talk Talk’s current single and most of them are reworkings of the title line. A charge of theft from Williams’ classic play would probably be thrown out of court on account of the fact that the tie is so tenuous. Underlying all of Williams’ work is a feeling of violence. There’s none of that in Talk Talk’s single – Mark Hollis keeps that for himself. It boils just below the surface.
It’s fairly throw away material Mark isn’t it?
“Look I think it’s quite obvious that that is not the case. My music pleases me and that’s all that fucking matters. All I’m doing with you is repeating the same fucking answers to the same fucking questions. If you listen to what I say we’ll make some kind of progression. Our songs are not throw away because there’s a lot of team effort and time put into them. We’ve got a good producer, a sympathetic video director and that’s all that fucking matters. Now do you want to ask me questions about our art or shall we just forget the whole idea?”
Am I not bringing enough art in?
Should we talk about pop?
Alright then, do you think you get angry for no reason at all?
He didn’t bother answering, apart from an aside which, roughly translated, said “This is a pile of shit”. Almost in tears he stormed over to the cassette and ripped out the tape.
What is this thing called art that always ends in tears?
“Turn that off! I don’t want to be looked at in this merciless glare!”, Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.
But it doesn’t end there. Instead of storming out of the interview room, Mark Hollis discusses Talk Talk’s latest album.
“The aim of ‘The Colour Of Spring’”, he explains, “is to present great variety in terms of mood and arrangement, treating the whole thing as a concept. An album shouldn’t be something from which a single is pulled, leaving the rest filled up with rubbish.”
“In our case, the only reason ‘Life’s What You Make Of It’ was picked for a single was because it was the shortest track. There will be another single from the album bit it will have to be edited down. Most people approaches singles as things you can boil and egg to. If it comes out nice and cooked it’s a good single. In those terms, I suppose ours are hard boiled.”
Although Mark sees variety of mood and arrangement as being important, the album requires painstaking serving to locate the nodules and bumps of ideas that truly represents variety. Rather the record lulls you into an ethereal world of polished production, crisp, echoing instrumentation, and haunting wispy vocals. Any alteration with the blueprint of pop mid-80s-style only comes afterwards.
There’s seemingly barren drum intro to ‘Happiness Is Easy’, a song about “the effect violence has on kids”. ‘Life’s What You Make It’ retains this constant beat, and the fast, organ dominated ‘Living In Another World’ is a long way away from the variphon and piano terrain of ‘Chameleon World’. But still there seems to be this all-present, floating nothingness. Some people would call it blandness.
“No, that’s bullshit. There’s an area in what we do – based on songwriting and melody – which is commercial, but then I don’t believe that merely because something is commercial it can’t be good. The criterion for judging the quality of a record must come down to the intention of the artist. I don’t believe you have to be obscure to make good records.”
Yes and no. As far as Mark’s latter point goes, yes, but he’s wrong on the former, and if the test for judging a record was based of the subjective intention of its maker there would be no records in the world which could be defined as anything short of ‘utterly brilliant’. It is unsurprising, therefore, that Talk Talk have often been misunderstood.
“The press is something that exists to educate people,” he explains, “but if they (the press) don’t appreciate art that’s irresponsibility on their part. Listen, I work primarily because it pleases me. If people interpret that as arrogance then so be it. I’ve just spent a year in the studio. I’ve made an album that is exactly how I want it. That album is now being released. I’ve got all I want out of Talk Talk, and nothing, nothing else, matters!”
Exit Mark Hollis, art on his sleeve(s), tears on the tape and, in between, a little talk talk.^ go back to top
NME: 22nd February 1986
The deep imponderables of life and death, metaphysics, pantheism, the sheer wearisome weight of “it all” seems to rest on Mark Hollis’ muse like the temple pillar’s on Samson’s shoulders. The single ‘Life’s What You Make It’ is, according to the press release, wonderfully optimistic. Some party - Mark sounds like a man yawning with a mouthful of glue.
Yes I know, they’re not your common or garden pop slags with odes to the good life and the leg-over, but my idea of a good deal is not trading all-out vacuity for all-in turgidity. A generation of enforced gaiety and inanity has left the way open for the most spurious myth of all - the rockstar as the tortured artist. Either Hollis is possessed with an unbearable naivety or an overpowering intensity, either he’s laughably misguided or studiously determined, but there’s really no excuse for this cumbersome, allegedly ‘impressionistic’ waffle.
For a start it’s all been done before by the Yeses and The Moody Blues and The Tulls and all those crappy dinosaur groups we can all do without being reminded of, thank you very much. And it’s also plain dumb, arrested development stuff - sixth-form angst rendered as young adult marketing ploy. The first song shows what lies beyond - ‘Happiness Is Easy’, heavily ironic title, has the knives out for the priesthood for failing to prepare their childhood flock for life before the grave. Hey, just what the world needs; another messed-up Catholic sharing his burden with the public.
Talk Talk music moves so warily, so slow, sombre, and stilted that they seem to actively decry any drive or warmth. Bestriding the huge empty husk of progressive rock they attempt to piece together a sparkling, meaningful sound picture, but are trapped by the dreary Hollis poetry (all there on the sleeve in scrawny schoolboyish handwriting) and the way they make everything sound like a long, gruelling journey through Hades.
Still, they have the straining despair and moribund conventional approach that passes for rigorous intellect and challenging pop in some quarters. A sad reflection on the dumb, dull mega-market but Talk Talk could become this year’s Tears For Fears.
Gavin Martin^ go back to top
Electronics & Music Maker: March 1986
After years of their being successful in every European territory except Britain, popular opinion suggests 1986 could be Talk Talk’s year. Their third album released this month is carefully constructed and unusually arranged. Interview – Tim Goodyear.
It’s taken two years to appear, it’s called The Colour of Spring, it contains almost no synthesisers at all, and it’s Talk Talk’s third LP. Oh and one other thing – it’s bloody good.
You could be forgiven for thinking Talk Talk had ceased trading, as up till now, nothing had been heard from them since their second album, It’s My Life, was released early in 1984. But the truth of the matter is that they’re alive and well, and have spent a fair bit of the intervening period playing to continental audiences more appreciative than those in their homeland. But now they’ve returned to Britain, and are ready to give their countrymen a taste of what they’ve been missing out on for the last couple of years.
The main force behind Talk Talk is founder Mark Hollis who along with producer Tim Friese-Greene makes up the songwriting team and a large proportion of the keyboard-playing talent; Hollis also takes care of most of the singing.
The pair share a remarkable empathy, tossing replies to my questions between them with unnerving continuity and singularity of purpose. Their philosophies are refined, and lie in an area well outside that usually associated with pop musicians. Perhaps that’s why they don’t associate themselves with pop at all…
“By definition, something that is popular is something that ‘s liked by a lot of people,” says Hollis “ When we’re making an album we don’t give any considerations to how many people like it. Therefore, by definition we’re not pop musicians.
Originally the band had a keyboardist by the name of Simon Brenner, who played on The Party’s Over, Talk Talk’s debut long-player. Now the regular line-up consists only of Hollis, drummer Lee Harris and bassist Paul Webb. This skeleton crew is regularly augmented by the production skills of Friese-Greene, together with a long list of session men like guitarist David Rhodes and keyboard player Ian Curnow. In between, the band’s most successful album, It’s My Life, was released in 1984 and achieved gold record status in every European country – except Britain.
Of good songs Talk Talk have no shortage, but mass popularity has evaded them persistently throughout their career to date. It’s not really difficult to see why. The band were launched on the tail end of the New Wave in 1981, but they neither looked nor sounded the part they seemed to want to play. But how else would you categorise a band playing conventional songs with the aid of fashionable technology like synthesizers and Simmons drums? In the early days the audiences Talk Talk played to misinterpreted them, and the majority of their potential fans never heard them. Hollis was unconcerned, and remains so to this day.
“I don’t think it really matters whether we’re misinterpreted or not, because you can’t misinterpret yourself. If you look at music as being art as opposed to technology, in the same way that you might look at painting as being art as opposed to mathematics, then you’re left with intention. You either do it for the right reasons or the wrong ones. If you do it for the right reasons, no matter how crap it is to anyone else, it’s good; if you do it for the wrong reasons, no matter how good it is, it’s crap.”
After talking to him for only a short while, it because obvious Hollis has an almost total disinterest in interview – he claims never to read any, not even his own. Yet it isn’t fait to call the Talk Talk frontman evasive. In fact, he is disarmingly frank and has an answer to everything, even if he remains difficult to pin down on many issues.
His casual manner and speech are in sharp contradiction to the sensitive lyrics and extraordinary command of melody that appear in Talk Talk’s music. The Colour of Spring is a beautifully considered album that features some of Hollis’ most lovingly crafted material.
Yet it’s not a commercial venture; the songs are long, unusually arranged, and occasionally discordant. The ‘organic’ sounds and whimsical vocal style bear more than a passing resemblance to David Sylvian’s Brilliant Trees, and that didn’t exactly set the album charts aglow.
Hollis himself is far from eager to go into detail about the creation of The Colour of Spring. What does concern him is none other than our old friend music – not to be confused by musicianship, which carried little weight by comparison.
“To me, feel is the most important thing, not technique. Take all that soul and gospel stuff; that’s got incredible feel, but it’s not necessarily good musicianship.”
The first single to be taken from The Colour of Spring, ‘Life’s What You Make It’ has surprised everybody by achieving a Top 20 chart placing with astounding ease, but again, it’s not a particularly commercial song, with its’ over-simple beat, its repetitive piano riff, and its decidedly ‘this is not a love song’ lyrics. If it sounds like anything, it’s a Tear for Fears outtake, but it isn’t melodic enough – or jolly enough – despite the song’s optimistic message – to gain massive exposure.
I venture that another song from the LP, ‘Happiness is Easy’ would have been a more obvious choice for the 45 rpm release; a wonderfully understated song with some delicate acoustic guitar work from Robbie Macintosh, and a chorus carried by a children’s choir.
But Hollis defends the choice of single in a typically unorthodox way. “A lot of people have said it wasn’t a good choice, but I’ve never thought of it in that way at all. With the exception of a four-part horn figure, it’s the shortest track on the album, and that’s why we chose it.
“I actually have this belief that what makes a good single is how well you can boil an egg to it. For Europe we’ll have to edit ‘Life’s What You Make It’ down a bit as they like their eggs a little more runny on the continent.”
“The songs on the album are all quite long” says Friese-Greene. “It’s not because they’ve got 30 verses and 15 choruses, but because each inherent section of the song is long in itself. So in a six-minute track, you’ve still only got two verses and three choruses.
Instrumentally, acoustic piano and an old Hammond organ provide the mainstay of the keyboard work. They’re accompanied by everything from that children’s choir to a Variophon, a technological antique that actually offer a couple of currently fashionable musical techniques in the sampling of real sounds and breath control over those sounds. Yet anything more contemporary faces rejection by Hollis and Friese-Greene, both of whom confess a hatred of modern synth technology and the tasks it performs.
Synths formed an essential part of The Party’s Over and It’s My Life, so why the apparent change of heart?
“In terms of the first two albums and the live field, synths are simply and economic measure” responds Hollis. “Beyond that, I absolutely hate synthesizers. To me the only good thing about them was the fact that they gave you large areas of sound to work with: apart from that they’re really bad – horrible. I can take their existence from a live point of view now, but if they didn’t exist, I’d be delighted.
“Synthesizers were really only a means to an end. All they’ve enabled us to do is go some way towards reproducing organic sounds when we haven’t been able to afford the real thing. It was simply an economic measure and without the success of the It’s My Life LP, we wouldn’t have been able to make this album in the way we have. Since It’s My Life did sell, we had absolute freedom over time and resources for this album, so we were able to use real strings and choirs.”
“In those terms commercial success means a lot but it is not, and can never be, your primary consideration. It’s absurd to concede your musical principles to try and make your record sell. The only important thing about the last album was that we thought it was good. I can honestly say that if it hadn’t sold at all I couldn’t have given a shit – but the fact that it did made me a lot happier.
And on the subject of fashion…..
“I think it’s evident that we have no concern for trends. Basically, trends only last a few months. Our albums take a year to make, so that the current trend, and three more, come and go before we’ve finished what we’re doing. You have to work outside of that as a basic starting point”.
Maybe all this dogmatism pays off, though. Talk Talk’s recordings thus far form a succession of statements that follow a recognisable pattern of development. Songwriting, arranging and performing are now more mature then ever, and have obviously benefitted from the band’s increasing experience. For one Mark Hollis can but agree.
“The earlier albums were much more simplistic than The Colour of Spring. With the first album we were basically in the position where we’d signed the record deal and had about a month to do the recoding. But the time we did It’s My Life, because he’d had moderate success with a couple of the tracks from the first album, the record company allowed us a lot more freedom. We were really lucky, because a lot of bands would have tried to bring out more product on the back of that, whereas we had a gap of two years. We had a reasonable budget and reasonable scope in which to make the arrangements and about six months to record”
“With this album we were given as much time as we liked and allowed to incorporate as many people as we chose. We work from a songwriting basis. With any song, the variations are endless, so, with each LP we’ve moved further and further towards an ideal situation in which to work. But if that second album hadn’t done well, we’d never have been given what we were this time around.”
Does that make the earlier Talk Talk albums inferior to The Colour of Spring?
“Each album is different. It’s like having kids; you like their differences and you like each one for what it is – you don’t compare them with one another. The fact that they are different is the important thing. You love each of them and at the time you conceived them, they were what you wanted them to be.
Like many good artists, Hollis draws on a range of sources for inspiration. Influences as diverse as books and drum fills can affect what he writes, but it seems almost anything can inspire him, particularly when it comes to putting words to music.
“I’m influenced by everything” he says “The more areas you take influences from, the less you actually receive them. There is no honest person who could dent that he is influenced by something. Once you’re at the level of not deriving anything from anybody, you’re at the level of genius. There are only a few people like that.”
“Lyric writing is very important. For years I never used to listen to other people’s lyrics because it wasn’t an important aspect of the music for me. I don’t think music suffered in my eyes because of that, so, equally, I don’t think it harms me if other people don’t listen to my lyrics. What matters to me is that I believe the lyrics I’ve written are good. Other people are a secondary consideration. I’ve no ambitions, I’m not trying to say anything to anyone.”
It’s not pop, it’s not meant to carry a message – so how do you categorise your music Mark? Is it art?
“I consider our music, music, that’s what it is”.
And it isn’t synthesiser music. At any rate, it uses synthesizers less now than it used to.
“Synthesizers aren’t human, they’ve got no feel to them whatsoever”.
I suggest gently that technical advances may have made synths more expressive but nothing can sway Mark Hollis.
“I think they’re becoming less expressive as technology develops. When synths first appeared, at least you had to play them. Now all you have to do is write your part and have it played by a bunch of chips. I think that’s even worse than playing it manually”.
“Then there’s the question of sounds. Take the Kurzweil piano sound which is generally held to be one of the most accurate copies of a piano: it still doesn’t feel like a piano to play, and what come out of it doesn’t come out as though you were playing a real piano. There’s no comparison with the real article. I suppose it’s progress in terms of copying the sound, but it’s not progress in terms of actual feel. I can’t see why anyone should want to play a Kurzweil rather than a piano…I don’t believe there’s a manufactured instrument anywhere to complete with a piano.”
Tim Friese-Green agrees. “To me the idea of MIDIing up a piano is just plain sick. MIDI is a four-letter word, I can’t take it seriously at all. There’s really nothing printable I can say about it.”
Any not much more I can say about it either. I’m fed up arguing and now all I want to do is go home and listen to the band’s records again.
Talk Talk are a group of serious musicians. They take their music seriously enough to reject the lure of commerciality, to reject pressures of tie and money and to reject those aspects of technology they see as destructive.
They have made a brilliant third album, and for many people, that will be enough. Even if, in some respects, their attitudes are uncompromising to the point of being a pain.^ go back to top
Medlody Maker: 8th March 1986
Acid popsters return triumphant to these fair isles. This sounds a lot more drugged up than the last one, but better Talk Talk in the charts than the abominable likes of Sue Pollard.^ go back to top
The Calgary Herald: 15th March 1986
Talk Talk has finally earned the right to be called the talk of the town.
The British band hit North America about the same time as Duran Duran and Thomas Dolby. But it has taken five year for Talk Talk to mature musically.
The Colour of Spring is its best album to date and the first real surprise of the year. It arrived in the record stores without hype, and has a delightful sound blending elements of Roxy Music and Van Morrison.
Lead singer/songwriter Mark Hollis still sounds too much like former Roxy Music vocalist Bryan Ferry. But Talk Talk’s new material is so strong, the comparison is ultimately unimportant.
The songs are richly textured and evocative. The instrumentation deftly embraces Hollis’s tender yet emotive vocals. The result is a fascinating fusion of dreamy romanticism and cutting realism. (James Murtich)^ go back to top
Salut!: exact date unkonwn
Un an après l’immense succès de « It’s My Life » et ‘Such A Shame » Talk Talk revient avec « Colours of Spring ». A Paris, Salut ! a rencontré ce trio de dingues…
Les Citoyens de la prude Albion ont toujours eu cette réputation d’être, quelque part, un peu « zarbi » : notion largement exacerbée lorsqu’il s’agit d’un group de rock’n’roll. Talk Talk n’échappe pas à la règle et, dans le genre, les trois acolytes, Mark, Paul et Lee sont de véritables perles… des fêlés pareils, je vous assure, cela ne court pas les rues.
Pourtant, comme ça, à première vue, dans la grande salle de petit déjeuner de l’hôtel Warwick, un matin à 10h, le trois Anglais avaient l’air plutôt normal…Bon, leur look est an pur spécial dans le style clodo-chic : si les vêtements ne sont pas extravagants, toute l’originalité réside dans le degré (élevé) de leur usure…Rock stars en haillons ? Why not ! Après tout, le jean élimé (ou mieux, troué) sur les fesses et sur les genoux est aujourd’hui le comble de l’élégance chez la plupart des minets du XVI. C’est un moyen nouveau et assez rigolo d’être sexy (les larges « ouvertures » ne laissant plus aucun mystère sur les dessous de ces messieurs !) Hélas ! leurs cheveux trop long es pas très nets cachent (gâchent) des visages aussi mignon que sympathiques…(ceux de Mark et Paul tout particulièrement).
Le cas Talk Talk est grave. Ils ont réellement disjoncté…Leur conception de l’interview est des plus singulières, à savoir raconter n’importe quoi, dans un langage incohérent et mettre le journaliste en boîte par toute une série de « private jokes » salées…A chaque question, ils lèvent les yeux au ciel, ou fixent des yeux chaussures et répondent par des « Euh, euh, ah… » explicites. (Par curiosité, je les avais regardés sur Canal+ et sur la 5. Marc Toesca et Antoine Verglas ont été « cuisinés » à une sauce plus épicée que la mienne…). Sur le moment, l’attitude des trois Anglais surprend, mais reste finalement dans les normes de la folie rock’n’roll…En fait, on a l’étrange sensation de se trouver au beau milieu d’un asile psychiatrique lorsque, avec conviction, ils racontent rêver de « créer des vêtements faits de légumes, des vestes en choux ou en écorce de concombre que ne dureraient qu’une seule journée et que les gens pourraient faire cuire et manger le soir…
De vivre dans un société où il n’y aurait que des animaux car ils ont plus de conversation que les hommes » «(les membres de Talk Talk sont végétariens)…ou « ce qu’il y a de mieux dans la vie : le gin, le gin, le gin…encore le gin » et le comble de l’horreur « n’être servi que d’un verre de gin quand on pourrait avoir la bouteille ! » N’empêche que ces zazous-là ont sorti un album « Colours of Spring » de rêve. Ces couleurs de printemps ne dureront pas qu’une saule saison et pourraient bien devenir l’une des harmonies marquantes de l’année…Talk Talk, vraiment frappés mais terriblement fun ! (Cécile Tesseyre)^ go back to top
Salut!: exact date unknown
One year after the huge success of "It's My Life" and "Such A Shame" Talk Talk return with "Colours of Spring". In Paris, Hi! Magazine met this crazy trio...
Citizens of prudish Albion have always had the reputation of being somewhat a little ‘weird’: a notion greatly exacerbated when dealing with a rock ’n’ roll group. Talk Talk is no exception to the nature of the rule, and the three acolytes, Mark Paul and Lee are real pearls….of the cracked sort that I assure you are not a dime a dozen.
Yet at first sight, in the great breakfast room of the Warwick Hotel at 10am one morning, the three Englishmen seemed pretty normal…well their special look this year is pure homeless-chic: if the clothes are not extravagant, then the originality lies in the degree of their wear and tear (high). Rock stars…wearing rags? Why not! After all, threadbare jeans, even better with holes in the buttocks and knees, is today the epitome of elegance in the 16th District. It’s a new and rather funny way to be sexy (the large ‘breakthroughs’ leaving no more mystery about these gentlemen’s undersides!). Alas! Their hair is too long and obscures (spoils) their faces, which are cute and nice (Mark and Paul in particular).
The case of Talk Talk is a serious one. They are really mad…the design of the interview was most distinctive, namely saying everything in slurred speech and putting the trapped reporter through a series of salty "private jokes" ... to each question, they raise their eyes to heaven, or stare at their shoes and respond with "uh, uh, ah ...". (Out of curiosity, I had looked on Canal + and Channel 5. Marc Toesca and Antoine Verglas were "cooked" in a sauce spicier than mine ...). At the time, the attitude of the three Englishmen was surprising, but ultimately remains standard rock'n'roll madness ... in fact, one had the strange sensation of being in the middle of a mental asylum when, with conviction, they told of dreams "to create clothing made from vegetables, jackets from cabbage or cucumber skin that would last only one day and that people could cook and eat in the evening ...” and “to live in a society where they are animals because they have more conversation than people” (Talk Talk members are vegetarians) or “what’s best in life: gin, gin, gin…even more gin” and horror of horrors, “being served with a glass of gin when you could have the bottle!”
Nevertheless these rebels have released a dreamy album ‘Colours of Spring’. These colours of spring will not only last a season but may well become one of the outstanding tunes of the year. Talk Talk, completely crazy but terrible fun! (Cécile Tesseyre)^ go back to top
HitKrant: 15 March 1986
De wondere leefwereld van Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis.
Talk Talk voorman Mark Hollis is niet meteen wat je een typische rockster noemt. Op party’s is hij zelden of nooit te zien en privé is erg weinig over hem bekend. En toch praat hij met zo’n passie over zijn vak dat hij een boeiende figuur wordt. Dit gesprek is daar het beste bewijs van.
Wat vind je het om een ‘muzikale zonderling’ te zijn, Mark?
Ach, wat heet. Ik ben altijd al een vreemde vogel geweest. Op school had ik weinig of geen vrienden en dat is vandaag nog altijd zo. Je kunt er wel in ieder geval van op aan dat die wereldvreemdheid niet gespeeld is. Misschien is dàt precies het image van Talk Talk: we hebben helemaal geen image!
Wat vind je zelf je meest opvallende eigenschap?
Mijn werkkracht, denk ik. Talk Talk werd altijd als een echte studioformatie beschouwd, maar het is heus niet zo dat we graag een stoffige kelder induiken. Het is gewoon keihard werken. Ik zou zelfs durven te stellen dat we veel liever op de bühne staan. We beseffen echter dat je heel hard moet werken om de top te bereiken. En om er te blijven natuurlijk.
Ontspan je je dan nooit?
Natuurlijk wel. Ik trek er graag voor een tijdje op uit. Na de tien maanden die de opname van onze nieuwste elpee in beslag heeft genomen heb ik enkele weken aan het Lake District doorgebracht. Dat is zonder meer het mooiste plekje in Engeland. Ik hou van de buitenlucht, van vredige stilte. Eigenlijk ben ik dol op eenzaam zijn. Weet je dat ik zelfs met muntjes naar een telefooncel liep om enkele interviews te geven? Heerlijk! (lacht)
Als het waar is dat bescheidenheid de mens siert moet jij een ontzettend knappe kerel zijn. Hoe sta je tegenover het succes?
Heel nuchter. Enerzijds vind ik het vervelend dat Talk Talk in eigen land niet de erkenning krijgt die ons op het vasteland en in de States te beurt valt. Anderzijds is dat vreselijk handig, want het laat me toe om een succesvol artiest te zijn zonder voortdurend door handtekeningenjagers en journalisten overvallen te worden.
Ben je rijk?
Een Rolls Royce heb ik niet, maar ik trek me niet onaardig uit de slag, dacht ik zo.
Vroeger werd Talk Talk als een synthesizerband bestempeld. Dat is op de nieuwe elpee wel anders…
Dat heb je goed gehoord. Die ‘synthetische’ reputatie heeft ons altijd lelijk dwars gezeten. Daarom hebben we dit keer voor een echte akoestische benadering gekozen. Een beetje orkestraal zelfs. Ik denk dat er in totaal zo’n 80 mensen aan de plaat hebben meegewerkt.
Wie zijn je belangrijkste muzikale invloeden?
In ieder geval geen enkele rock of popmuzikant. Ik heb altijd van klassieke componisten als Debussy en Bartok gehouden. Daarnaast verafgod ik jazz grootmeester Miles Davis. Het is misschien niet meteen hoorbaar, maar ook die elementen zitten in Talk Talk’s muziek verwerkt.
It’s My Life, Life’s What You Make It, The Colour of Spring. De natuur schijnt in jullie muzikale leven een belangrijke rol te spelen…
Inderdaad. Daarom staan er ook altijd dieren op onze platenhoezen en zijn we zelf zo zelden in onze videoclips te zien. Onze platenfirma dringt er altijd op aan om vaker onze koppen te laten zien, maar wij zouden het net zo graag bij mooie natuurfilmpjes houden. We zijn erg begaan met het lot van moeder Aarde.
Wat wil je in de muziekbiz nog bereiken?
Ik wil vooral niet dat Talk Talk een kort leven beschoren is. Muziek maken is een tijdverdrijf dat me prima bevalt en dat wil ik zo lang mogelijk zo houden.
En als het morgen toch plotseling afgelopen is?
Dan wil ik bewijzen dat ik ook als filmcomponist wat in mijn mars heb. Het lijkt me boeiend om op die manier met klanken te spelen. Vooral het zoeken naar een evenwicht tussen geluid en stilte is een fantastische uitdaging die ik met beide handen wil aannemen.^ go back to top
HitKrant: 15th march 1986
The wonderful world of Talk Talk's Mark Hollis.
Talk Talk frontman Mark Hollis is not exactly what you would call a typical rock star. He is seldom seen at parties, is private and very little is known about his personal life. And yet he speaks with such passion about his craft, he's a fascinating figure. This conversation is the best proof of this.
What’s it like to be a 'musical eccentric " Mark?
Oh, what’s it called, I've always been a ‘strange bird’. At school I had little or no friends and that's not changed up until today. You can point out in any case that that my strangeness isn't an act. Perhaps That’s exactly the image of Talk Talk: we have no image!
What do you consider your most striking feature?
My work ethic, I think. Talk Talk was always regarded as a real studio band, but it's not that we like to hide in dusty basements. I would even dare to say that we much prefer to stand on stage. However you have to work hard to reach the top. And to stay there of course.
Do you ever relax?
Of course. I like to strike out once in a while. After ten months of recording our new album I spent a few weeks in the Lake District. That is undoubtedly the most beautiful place in England. I love the outdoors, and peaceful silence. Actually I’m fond of being lonely. You know I even had to put coins to a payphone to give some interviews? Fabulous! (Laughs)
If it is true that ‘if modesty adorns the man, you need a really handsome guy’, how do you feel about success?
Very down to earth. On the one hand I find it annoying that Talk Talk don’t have the domestic recognition we on the European mainland and in the States. On the other hand it’s very handy, because it allows me to be a successful artist without constant attacks by autograph hunters and journalists
Are you rich?
I don’t have a Rolls Royce, but I don’t do too badly, I think.
Previously, Talk Talk were labelled as a synth band. That’s quite different on the new album ...
You heard right. This 'synthetic' reputation has always bothered us. That is why this time we had a really acoustic approach.. A little orchestral even. I think that in total some 80 people contributed to the album.
Who are your main musical influences?
In any case, no rock or pop musician. I've always loved classical composers like Debussy and Bartok. In addition, I also idolize jazz master Miles Davis. It’s perhaps not immediately audible, but these elements are incorporated in Talk Talk's music
It's My Life, Life's What You Make It, The Colour of Spring. Nature seems to play an important role in your musical life…
Indeed. Therefore, there are always animals on our album covers, and we ourselves are rarely to be seen in our videos. Our record company always insists on us showing our faces more often, but we would like to stick to nice nature films. We are very concerned about the fate of Mother Earth.
What do still want to achieve in the music business?
I woudln't like Talk Talk to have a short life span. Making music is a pastime that suits me fine and I want to keep it for as long as possible.
And if it suddenly ended tomorrow?
Then I want to prove that I have the potential to 'walk the walk' as a film composer. It seems fascinating to meto me to be play around with sounds. Especially the search for a balance between sound and silence which is a fantastic challenge I would grasp with both hands.
International Musician and Recording World: April 1986
Talk Talk sing about life, love and The Colour of Spring. But they’re terse and tetchy when they talk turkey. Interview by Richard Walmsley.
Talk Talk are one of the bands. Yes that’s right, one of those bands that send NME journalists away wondering what the hell they’re going to write about, and why the hell the band wanted to do an interview in the first place. A difficult band then. Not impossible mind. Compared to The Cocteau Twins for instance, they are amateurs – you just have to know a few tricks that’s all.
Who are they?
Basically Mark Hollis, Lee Harris and Paul Webb. They formed in 1981 and have released nine singles and two albums kin this country (at the time of writing). If their names have now become part of the household it’s because of the success of the single Life’s What You Make It off their newest Album, The Colour of Spring.
Talk Talk have been described as a one man band, owing partly to the fact that Mark is a ‘multi-instrumentalist’ playing piano, keyboards and guitar, and also because he writes all the band’s songs. It turns out that drummer Lee Harris and bass player Paul Webb are quite happy describing themselves simply as the rhythm section.
A Taste of Things to Come.
Listen to any one of Talk Talk’s albums – The Party’s Over, It’s My Life or The Colour of Spring – and I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s not Rock and Roll. Nevertheless they know a few R’n’R tricks: the slouch in the chair, feet on the table and the constant nervous sipping of cans of beer whilst being interviewed. It’s in great contrast to their music, which is searing, soaring and sensitive almost to the point of neurosis.
They’ve also got opinions like stone walls…
“I prefer keyboard orientated instruments” begins Mark, launching into a pet subject. “But really the piano is the end of the day for me. I don’t think anything has come close to the piano in terms of its feel, or its sound or its appearance”.
….and memories like cotton wool…
“Apart from the piano, I also play Hammond organ, melodica and this other thing which is not a sort of blowing thing, it’s this sort of weird instrument. It’s called a Variophon (review in the Dec 82 issue of IM). You can get a few of them, and each one sounds different. It sounds a bit like a melodica but it don’t sound like a melodica; it sounds right weird”.
An idea commonly held, is that somehow genius transcends mere technical details. The B Movie genius therefore affects a cheerful ignorance of the tools of his trade. Are Talk Talk consciously untechnical in their approach to music? “I’m just untechnical, full stop” says Paul, the band’s first and last words on the subject.
A Working Relationship
Mark Hollis’s song writing is not done on his own. He writes all the songs with Tim Friese-Greene, the producer who began working with the and on It’s My Life and who is now an integral member – as producer and co-songwriter – of Talk Talk. What is it about him that appeals to Mark Hollis?
“He lends me a lot of money, basically”
“His only problem is that he’s not very interesting to talk to – unlike us. He is, in fact, one of the most boring people I think I’ve ever met actually. He actually finds things like bus timetables a great source of conversation – which don’t honestly interest me that much. I think I could honestly say without any fear of contradiction, he’s the most boring person I’ve ever met. Expect for a girl I once knew who worked in a light bulb factory”.
Perhaps this is an attempt to wind up another politely smiling journalist?
“If you don’t believe me I’ll give you his phone number and you can talk to him for 10 minutes”.
It would seem odd to have a song writing partnership with someone you think is extremely boring.
“To talk to him he is frighteningly boring. But to work with in terms of writing he is less boring. I actually think that because of my natural flair… a charisma, he sort of tapers me out a bit. He understands more about technique than I do. I’m like the scummy part of the co-operation”.
A Classical Confusion
Not only are they distant towards the music press, but they further tempt fate by expressing an enthusiasm for, and an influence from ‘classical music’. Now that’s what I call unhip.
Whilst Paul and Lee aren’t actually that keen on it, Mark himself admires composers like Delius, Debussy, Berg and Shostakovich. He’s not been to a music institution as such, but he has received piano lessons. The ‘classical’ influence however, does not come through in a technical form – it is a purely spiritual influence.
It’s my Life has enjoyed enormous success on the continent, and a fair amount of success in the States, so that for the first time Mark was able to use real strong orchestras and real choirs for his large scale arrangements instead of relying on synthesisers. One thing Mark certainly doesn’t share with his classical idols is a tendency to use notation for his music…or does he?
“We sort of worked out the strong arrangements between us, I didn’t write them down. Perish the thought. I don’t think music’s about that”.
So how on earth does he manage to get a 25-piece orchestra to play what he wants?
“I just sort of sing it to them; play it to them. It’s nothing unusual, I mean lots of people have worked that way. Lots of people like…like…
“Bach?” interjects Paul
“The Sex Pistols”.
As a matter of fact the arrangements for My Way were done by Simon Jeffes
“…er, You got us there. Some of it is written down. I work through someone else for that. My interest in classical music has nothing to do with all that. I fact the only thing I wrote down during the course of the album was something that went ‘Dear Timmy, I think you are the most boring person I’ve ever met in my life. Regard, Paddy Hopkirk’. And the thing he wrote down when we were doing this orchestral stuff was ‘Get it right chums’. But all the rest we just sung it to them. You see we all believe that spirit is the most important thing – more than technique; get a lot of gins down your neck and you can’t go wrong.
What about people like Delius? He never wrote things down…”
He did, and when he was no longer able to, he used an amanuensis called Eric Fenby.
“Did he” John Lee Hooker, he didn’t write it down though?”
John Lee Hooker is a different kettle of fish.
“Oh, he’s not thought is he? Cause he’s music; he lived music”
But Johnny Lee Hooker didn’t have the same technical requirements for realising his music.
“But technique is not the important factor in music surely? So why should Hooker be different from Delius?”
Because he was dealing with an orchestra instead of a guitar.
“What if it were er…alright, I give up”.
Mark’s attitude to learning scale etc while learning the piano is less confused.
“I think it’s like sculpture. All you need to make a sculptural work of art, is someone to say ‘This is yer mallet and this is yer tool’. IN the same way with a teacher, I think all they really need to say is ‘This is a piano, the black notes sound better than the white notes’. To me the most neglected thing that anyone’s every told me is that the black notes sound better than the white notes, I think that is much more important than learning scales”.
Which of course doesn’t help if you’re a guitarist.
“But of course like I say; to me there is only one musical instrument apart from the voice of course, which is the piano. I think aside form that everything else is downhill. You get things like the Kurzweil which is supposed to have good piano sounds. It ain’t a question of sound. It’s a question of the way the notes feel. It’s the fact that it’s mechanical not electronic that important about it”.
Knocking the Machines
“It’s a fact that we have to use synthesisers for touring, but aside from that I absolutely hate the things. They are an economic necessity, but aside from that I think they are disgusting things. That whole point about acoustic music is that it concerns itself with feel, so it can never fail, because what music concerns itself with above everything is feel. I mean you can MIDI a fucking piano up now, but that’s all a piece of shit innit? Because the moment you transfer from something mechanical to something electronic you no longer have the feel there”.
Acoustic music and its virtues is one of Mark’s other pet subjects. He’s not even bothered by the modern trends towards sound ‘perfection’ through electronic means.
“Acoustic sounds aren’t as bold as electronic sounds, but I don’t think that matters. I think a lot of the sounds we’ve got on this album are extremely pox. I think they sound very cheap, but I think they all have character, and I think that’s more important”.
The only ‘modern’ technique they have tried is ambient miking
“Well that’s the B side of Life’s What You Make It. That was just one mike up in the top of the room. It was just tambourine, drum, piano, and organ”
“We also used that sort of thing for the next B side” adds Lee.
“That was just one mike over the drum kit and one for the piano; just two mikes”.
Sp what kind of mike did they use?
“A big one with a big blob on it…”
Talk Talk Bye Bye
Talk Talk were most adequately summed up as far as I was concerned by a photographer who had spent the best part of 20 minutes trying to stop Mark Hollis from ruining a pose by sticking his beer can in front of his face. When he heard their record on the radio he said “I can’t believe that there is actually any talent in there”.
Certainly it would be nice to say there wasn’t. But it wouldn’t be correct. Talk Talk sell albums by the shipload on the continent and their music bears little relationship to their boorish manners. The fact is Talk Talk are a remarkable example of the thin border-line between genius and sheer cretinism.^ go back to top
Home and Recording Studio: April 1986
Producer Tim Friese-Green and vocalist Mark Hollis are the brains behind Talk Talk: a band absolutely individual in its musical style and unusually uncompromising in its approach to modern musical technology. By Neville Unwin and Tim Goodyer
Tim Friese-Green and Mark Hollis are two of a kind. Between then, they write and record all of Talk Talk’s music, and have just come up with a highly original album, The Colour of Spring. In many musical aspects, they see eye to eye, although the opinions they share are often unconventional. It is presumable for this reason that they have been working together for the past three years. Was Tim now fully incorporated as another band member?
Tim: In some ways I suppose I could be regarded as such. I write a lot of the material with Mark and generally I have more involvement with this project than would normally be the case.
When I started producing, in about 1975-6 I worked with a lot of bands, but I’ve never been so involved in one as I am in Talk Talk. I’ll go on producing Talk Talk records for as long as they want me to.
Where was the new album recorded?
Tim: It was mostly recorded and mixed at Battery Studios, although a couple of mixes were done at Camden Town. It should be out by the middle of February.
There are a lot of acoustic instruments on the album. Did you use any special recording techniques?
Tim: I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to miking up instruments. A traditional way of miking any instrument is often the bets way, because it’s obviously the method that most people have fond works best. And quite often it’s merely a question of how far away you put the microphone, not of how many tricks you can use with it.
I don’t actually like high technology and I don’t get on with sequenced of synthesised music very well. I try to keep that aspect to a bare minimum, partly because I don’t enjoy working that way and also because I don’t enjoy listening to those sorts of records. I only use it when necessary.
Would you say then that technology was getting in the way of the music itself?
Tim: Not exactly, but I do think that it’s detrimental to the spirit of the music. I suppose ‘clinical’ is the word that’s often used in the context of musical high technology: electronic drum kids, digital recording and so forth. I’d much rather have somebody playing properly, flaws and all. The performance aspect of somebody actually playing is for me far superior to something at is 100% in time and 100% in tune. Those things tend to get very boring. Quite often the mistakes are the best part of the performance. Perhaps the only exception is dance music, where that sort of approach sometimes works best, but that’s not an area that I find particularly enjoyable
Which instruments are featured most strongly on the album?
Mark: There’s a good deal of piano, acoustic and electric guitar, a little bit of soprano sax, lots of percussion, recorders, choirs, acoustic harp, and harmonica. There are also some African instruments like little lyres. There look a bit like a little oil can with a branch coming out of it; string and twigs attached.
Tim: There’s also a variophone, which is quite a rare instruments in this country now. In fact most people haven’t even heard of it, and there are only two in London that I know of. It’s basically a very small keyboard, with a breath controller that enables you to put some expression into your playing, so that all sorts of inflections are added to the synthesised sound. The reason we get on with it so well is that is doesn’t give you the feeling that it’s synthesised. It’s basically a woodwind or brass instrument. Its wide range of expression is the main reason that we used it so much.
The case against synthesisers
Tim: Ian Curnow played keyboards, but this album really contains very little synthesiser compared to the last.
Mark: I suppose you could count a Hammond as a synthesiser. There’s a Hammond on every track. On tour there will have to be a certain reliance on synthesisers because we’ll be trying to get as close as we can to the actual sounds on the album and that is not always practical on tour. For instance, excluding the choir there’s about 15-20 people on the album. On tour I think we’ll have to pare it down to the essentials
Synths were also used as an economic measure on the It’s My Life album. As far as I’m concerned, the only good thing about synths is that they give you a large area of sound to work with and I’ll only use them if I have to. Beyond that I absolutely hate synthesisers; they have got no feel to them whatsoever. All synthesisers have enabled us to do is to go some way towards reproducing organic sounds when we can’t afford the real thing. I don’t believe that there is a manufactured electronic instrument anywhere to compete with a piano.
Don’t you think that as technology has developed they’ve become more friendly, more expressive and more directly controllable by the user?
Tim: No, I think they’re becoming less expressive. When synths first appeared at least you had to play them. Now al you have to do is write your part and have it played for you by a bunch of chips.
Then there is the question of the sounds, Take for example the Kurzweil piano sound, which is generally held to be one of the most accurate copies of a piano. It still doesn’t feel like a piano to play and what is produced doesn’t therefore sounds as though you were playing a real piano. There’s no comparison with the real article.
Compared to the piano imitations available five years ago there has been progress in terms of copying the sound but not in terms of the feel. I don’t understand why people don’t play a piano rather than a Kurzweil.
What about synthesised sounds I their own right as opposed to imitative synthesis?
Tim: They’re alright for people that like them. When people say that they have ‘new sounds’ on the album I don’t usually find them very different. I simply hear more synthesisers. Where he has some new filter doesn’t really seem to give a new sound.
Personally I consider expression to be a neglected aspect of synth manufacture. But here are so many different schools of though about this because it’s basically a matter of taste. There are a lot of people who really enjoy synthesised music and like the feel produced when everything is MIDId up and played by some kind of device. I think there will inevitably be some kind of backlash against that.
Mark: I think MIDI is a four-letter word.
Tim: There’s simply nothing printable that I could say about MIDI. We don’t actually come into contact with it all that much because we don’t tend to use synthesisers much, and the idea of MIDIing up an acoustic piano is gross. I’ve heard the demonstration tapes they send round with the product. They say ‘This is how you could play if you MIDI up your piano’ and then they present you with this piece of music which is so hideous in it’s feel as to put you off MIDIing up your piano for life.
It’s very easy to get outstripped by technology, especially if you work in it; it’s either exciting of frustrating. I imagine it’s exciting if you’re extremely rich, because you can afford to update your great every six months. For those people who aren’t so well off I imagine it’s very frustrating because when you’ve saved up to buy one piece of equipment it’s very quickly superceded and you wish you had the new model.
Do you use sampling at all?
Tim: I do occasionally on drums; none of the topline stuff on a Talk Talk album is sampled. I use it where there are drum patterns that the drummer can’t actually play. That’s not to say that the drum patters are especially complicated in musical terms, they’re not, but we do have some hi-hat patterns that aren’t actually playable. O those occasions I do use triggered samples. It’s used simply to get over a problem. Where the drummer can play it I’d much rather he did. When we’re writing it’s obviously not practical to write with the drummer there, s like a lot of groups we tend to write with some sort of drum machine. Ten the track will be formatted around whatever drum pattern I choose to program in. But once you get used to a certain drum figure it’s very hard to let it go, Even in the studio sometime I try to program a drum pattern that the drummer can play. But I’d much rather the topline stuff was played on guitars or keyboards.
Mark: We’ve tried to use natural instruments to give a degree of tonal variety without having recourse to synths or sampling. We have someone blowing the phlegm out of a soprano saxophone for instance.
Do you also regard digital mastering as giving an unnaturally ‘clinical’ sound?
Tim: Digital recording I think is a little different. I must say that I’ve never recorded a thing on digital multitrack, but considering the projects I’ve been involved in sine it’s become available, there’s no way I could have justified the expense. If I’d done an album by some really slick American band, where cleanliness is all-important, I would possibly have considered it, but with something like Talk Talk where cleanliness of recording is sometimes actually to its detriment I would rather stick to analogue. There’s a certain dirt you get from recording on analogue tape which I quite enjoy and so I’m not going to be converted to digital quickly. Here are certain tracks I could have used it on where, even with Dolby, the signal to noise problem was substantial, but overall I am glad that I stuck to analogue.
A Single Man
How did you arrive at the choice of single?
Mark: with the exception of a little 4-part horn figure, it’s the shortest track on the album. It’s as simple as that. It was a surprise to see it go straight into the charts. Usually they spend three months at Number 80 and then go down.
Tim: A lot of these tracks are rather long for singles, not because they’ve got 30 verses and 15 choruses, but because each inherent section of the song is long in itself. The next single will be ‘Living in Another World’.
How do you feel about doing 12’’ singles?
Tim: I have done them but I don’t enjoy it and I make no secret of the fact. By their very nature they having nothing to do with subtlety. They are designed primarily to dance to and if you have a tack that wasn’t written as a dance track, you end up trying to make something out of the record which was never intended in the first place. Secondly you’re forced to chop the song up, We spend a great deal of time working out the structure and format of the song and then we have to get it into a completely different format. It works on some occasions I’ve done a couple of 12”s that are okay, but for most of them I can’t generate a lot of enthusiasm because the structure doesn’t work. I would much rather that they were farmed out to people who specialise in that area and enjoy that sort of work.
Then you don’t this that the artist should bear the 12” format in mind when recording their songs.
Tim: Sometime when I’m recording in the studio I think of the 12” aspect but it’s always overridden but the essential needs of the song. I can’t really anticipate what will work for the 12” that early. When I start doing the 12” then I will record it. Nowadays it’s rare to find simple extended versions; most of them are actually completely new arrangements. Some people do it extremely well. I know Trevor Horn spends a lot of time doing a great selection of 12”s and I think they’re extremely imaginative. But personally, whenever I get to the stage where I have to think about recording new tracks for a 12” I invariable thin that I would much prefer the sound of the track without that extra overdub, otherwise I would have put it on the 7”. It always ends up sounding superfluous.
I think it would be different if I were with a band predominantly into dance music. Although you can dance to Talk Talk records, and I’m sure many people have done very happily, they’re not designed as dance tracks.
Musicianship and Engineering
With your scant regard for some aspects of modern technology, have you involved yourself much in the engineering side of production?
Tim: Well, I started out as a tape-op, then became an engineer and then a producer. There are plenty of highly respected producers around who’ve never concerned themselves overmuch with the engineering side, know nothing about it, and work very happily that well. Although I can see myself working that way, I do prefer to be in total control of everything. If out of the corner of my eye I see the engineer doing something on the board, I like to know what he’s doing. That way I know exactly what I’m getting. I do sometimes engineer myself. It’s a help for me to know why things happen the way they do, and form that point of view tap operating is a very useful apprenticeship.
Things are very different these days and it’s very difficult for kids to come to producing through that route, partly because of the high degree of automation in modern studios means that the role of tape op is generally obsolete. Engineers have remotes and do all their own tape operating. All the tape ops I see in studios are really nothing more than tea boys that happen to occasionally stick up mic stands. It’s unhealthy because if you aren’t involved you get bored and if you’re bored you don’t take in what’s happening and that’s no way to learn. But in studios that go a long way back like Wessex, where I was tutored, there’s what I would call a tradition of tape operating. Tape ops who were around in my day taught me to be a good tape op and I passed it on to the young up and comings when I was an engineer. When new studios spring up from nowhere they hire a whole bunch of new staff and tape ops being their careers thinking that all they should be doing is making tea and putting up mic stands. That’s not the way to make the next generation of producers and engineers.
Do you think that courses have any function in combating this situation?
Yes, courses help, but the practical reality of studio work is very different to a course. For instance, there’s the diplomacy aspect, which I always think is very important. I’ve never been on a recording course but I would imagine that studio diplomacy is the kind of thing that could only be taught by watching other people fall into traps and realising how to avoid them yourself. Until you’ve actually been in these situations it’s hard to deal with it. There’s no real schooling like a practical one, which is why some of these courses do include a year of being out in a studio.
Unlike the first two, the third album doesn’t sound like a pop album at all.
Mark: I don’t think any of them are. A pop album is something that is by definition popular. When you’re making an album like ours, you shouldn’t give any consideration whatsoever to how many people like it, so therefore by definition it’s no popular. We’re writing primarily for ourselves, not writing what we think other people would like to hear.
I do get something more out of the fact that people like what we’re doing If the ‘It’s My Life’ album hadn’t sold at all, I couldn’t have given a shit, but the fact that it did made my a lot happier.
So where do you draw your influences from?
Mark: Everything. The more areas you take influences from the less you actually receive them.
Tim: There’s no honest person who could deny that he’s influenced by something. Once you’re capable of writing without deriving anything form anybody you’re at the level of genius. There are only a few of those.
Mark: Although we can’t help but receive influences fro other sources, we have never pandered to public opinion. The reason for the first two albums being more simplistic than this one was purely economic. With the first one we were basically in a position where had just signed a record deal and had about one month to make an album. With the second we had reasonable scope in which to make the arrangements and about six months to do the album.
The most important thing about it was that we thought it was good. Whether of not it sells is not important. The only different it made was that since the album did sell, when we came to make this album we had absolute freedom over tie and resources. In those terms, it means a lot, but to make something that sells can never be your primary intention in writing an album, because otherwise there’s no point. Groups write music for either the right or the wrong reasons. If you do it for the right reasons, no matter how crap it is for anyone else, it’s good, and if you do it for the wrong reasons, no matter how good anyone else thinks it is, it’s crap.
It’s absurd to conceded your musical principles by following trends in order to try and make the record sell because trends only last a few months and albums take a year to make. If you started off with one particular trend in mind, that trend and three more would have come and gone before you’ve even finished making what you’re doing.
Do you think that your music has never been misinterpreted?
Mark: I don’t really think that it matters whether we’re misinterpreted or not, because we’re writing for ourselves and we can’t misinterpret ourselves. Take lyrics, for example. Lyric writing is very important to me, but for year I never used to listen to lyrics because then it didn’t seem an important aspect of music. Now I don’t think that the music I was listening to at the time suffered as a result of that in my eyes. Equally I think that if people don’t listen to our lyrics, I don’t think that that harms us. What matter is that I believe those lyrics I’ve written are good.
Talk Talk is a band with strong musical and artistic principles, determined to go their own way where their music is concerned. Their original attitudes to the writing, playing and recording of their music has resulted in a highly original third album. The fact that one member of the band is a ‘producer-in-residence’ has meant that these attitudes can be followed through fro the initial writing stage right through to the final production.^ go back to top
Oor: April 1986
It’s My Life zong Mark Hollis von Talk Talk ooit en verschanste zich een vol jaar in de studio. Voor het album The Colour of Spring ging de synthesizer als eerste het raam uit, mochten Debussy en Satie een dansje rond de akoestische piano maken en werd een video bevolkt door de bewoners van een klein formaat dieren-encyclopedie. Wordt Life’s What You Make It de herkenningstune van een nieuwe “wonderen der Natuur’ serie van de EO? Mark Hollis praatte en zette er zelfs zijn zonnebril bij af. Door Corne Evers.
Eh…zonnebril vergeten Mark? Hij vist het ding uit de binnenzak van het versleten jasje dat om zijn ietwat gebogen schouders hangt en grijnst. Met dat halflange vlashaar waar met de beste wil ter wereld geen model in valt te ontdekken en zijn ook verder weinig indrukwekkende fysiek heeft Mark Hollis bitter weinig weg van de popster die hij op grond van het succes van zijn groep Talk Talk wèl is. Hits en gouden plakken in zowel Europa als Amerika en als meest recente wapenfeit de nieuwe elpee The Colour of Spring op de tweede plaats van de Nederlandse verkooplijsten, een week na release. En zelfs en Engeland, waar Talk Talk pas sinds de single Lifes What You Make It echt serieus genomen wordt, slaat The Colour of Spring massaal aan. Een bewijs dat het met dat onderscheidingsvermogen van het poppubliek wel meevalt? Opmerkelijk in dit verband is in ieder geval dat Talk Talk in 1982 ten tijde van het elpeedebuut The Party’s Over, toen Mark Hollis, bassist Paul Webb en drummer Lee Harris een meer ‘commerciele’ koers bewandelden, minder succes boekte dan met de door melancholie getekende opvolger It’s My Life (’84). En nu dus The Colour of Spring.
Nam op It’s My Life de synthesizer nog een prominente positite in, The Colour of Spring wordt grotendeels bepaald door de akoestische piano als de spil waar het allemaal om draait. Afwisselend bespeeld door Hollis zelf en medecomponist en prodicer Tm Friese-Freene. Maar ook het enigszins klagerige stemgeluid van Mark lijkt op The Colour of Spring aan expressie gewonnen te hebben. Reden waarom dit derde Talk Talk album meer nog dan de toch evenmin onbeduidende voorganger een muzikaal kleinood genoemd mag worden. Breekbare emotie en melancholieke sfeerbeelden, verpakt in acht juweeltjes van composititeen arrangeerkunst. Een droomplaat.
De maker ervan bladert aan het begin can ons gesprek met genoegen Oor’s ’10 jaar punk? Fuck Off!!! – special door. Old punks never die. Mark Hollis studeerde psychologie toen de punk hem ertoe aanzette zich actief met muziek te gaan bezighouden. Tot dat moment louter een fanatiek platenverzamelaar van o.a ‘Americkaanse punkgroupen’ als Standells, Chocolate Watch Band en 13th Floor Elevators, werd Hollis gegrepen door get enthousiasme en de energie die de nieuwe muziekrebellie uitstraalde, het feit dat ineens iedereen een podium opkon. ‘Er waren totaal geen regels. Alles kon, Tot grote verbazing van de platenmaatschappijen die absoluut niet begreen waarom bands als de Sex Pistols zo aansloegen. Vanuit hun standpunt bekeken waren get onooglijk uitziende raddraaiers die nog geen song behoorlijk konden spelen, klonken de platen afschuwelijk. Maar het had succes en dat is wat telde. Het gevolg was dat ze zowat alles en iedereen tekenden. Omdat ze absoluut niet in staat waren onderscheid te maken. Wat dat betreft heeft de punk wel degelijk deuren geopend.”
In hoeverre heeft de punk nu nog invloed op jouw ineen over muziek?
Door de punk ben ik ervan overtuigd geraakt dat techniek in de muziek van ondergeschikt belang is. Naar mijn gevoel is de kracht, de levenslust die je in muziek stopt veel belangrijker. Het belangrijkste eigenlijk. Daarom voelde ik me tot de punk aangetrokken. De intentie waarmee muziek gemaakt werd, de betrokkenheid, het is die kant van de new wave die me beviel. Niet dat spugen en zo. Dat vond ik volkomen shit! Of mensen die veiligheidspelden door hun neus staken. Waanzinnig! Ik begrijp echt niet wat ze daar nu leuk aan vonden.
Toch komt het op mij vreemd over dat iemand voor wie techniek van ondergeschikt belang is een jaar nodig heeft om een elpee op te nemen.
Dat heeft niks met techniek te maken. Wat mij wilden was een plaat maken die goed was, die diepte had. En als zoiets een jaar nodig heeft, het zij zo. Ik zie niet in wat daar verkeerd aan is, beschouw dat niet als overdreven luxe.
Er zijn er anders maar weinig die zich de luxe kunnen permitteren.
Ik realiseer me donders goed dat ik nooit zoveel tijd in The Colour of Spring had kunnen steken als It’s My Life niet zo succesvol was geweest. Dat is de reden dat we van onze platenmaatschappij nogal wat vrijheid hebben gekregen. Daarom is success belangrijk. Voor het overige denk ik niet in commerciele termen. Ik geloof ook niet datgene wat mensen doorgaans als commercieel bestempelen op onze platen van toepassing is. Alles wat ik doe, doe ik omdat ik er zelf in geloof, omdat ik de overtuiging ben toegedaan dat wat ik doe goed is.
Toch, hoe voelt het om te horen dat The Colour of Spring hier in Nederland meteen commercieel succes heeft?
“Nou…tsja…dat is geloof ik wel goed he?”
Een puffend gefluit is hoorbaar terwijl Mark Hollis zijn gedachten rangschikt. Helemaal in tegenstelling tot zijn faam van radde prater antwoordt de Talk Talk zanger met bedachtzame formuleringen, komt hij ook tamelijk ontspannen over, niet als de speedy persoon uit de griezelverhalen, die over Mark Hollis de ronde doen.
“Weet je, ik ben altijd vooral bezig geweest met het maken van albums, niet met het verkopen van platen. En natuurlijk vind ik het heel plezierig als mensen dat wat ik doe weten te waarderen. Maar succes om het succes, daar kan ik maar weinig interesse voor opbrengen.”
Is The Colour of Spring voor jou de perfect plaat geworden, iets wat je altijd al wilde maken?
Nou nee. Ik kijk pas wat ik met iets wil op het moment dat ik er daadwerkelijk mee aan de slag ga. Indertijd met It’s My Life was het dat wat ik met een album wilde. En hetzelfde is van toepassing op The Colour of Spring. Ik ben ook blij dat onze platen onderling zo verschillend zijn. Je probeert tenslotte toch een soort van ontwikkeling door te maken.”
Voor It’s My Life zou jij inspiratie geput hebben uit de arrangementen die Gil Evans schreef voor Miles Davis. Om eeriljk te zijn; ik hoor het er niet aan af.
Het hele punt met al dat gepraat over Gil Evans is dat er eigenlijk alleen maar zoiets als een overeenkomst is in de grootte van de middelen waar zowel hij als wij mee werkten. Gil evans schreef arrangementen voor een klein orkest. En het is dat en niet de arrangementen zelf, waar It’s My Life aan refereert.
Je luisterde toen veel naar jazz?
Ik heb periodes met voorkeuren. Zo luisterde ik in de tijd dat deze groep ontstond meer dan naar iets anders naar het vroegere werk van Miles Dabies. Maar ook naar Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Rharoah Sander, Roland Kirk..Dat sorrt dingen. De laatste twee jaar is het echter de impressionistiche muziek die me boven alles boeit: Delius, Debussy, Satie, Milhaud…
Nee! Het is alweer jaren geleden dat ik ben opgehouden met naar popplaten te luisteren. In feite heb il nooit naar pop geluisterd. Zoals ik al zei: het enige wat ik gedaan heb is me in periodes verdiepen in bepaalde soorten muziek. En daar wilde ik dan ook alles van weten. Zoals toen ik aan de universiteit studeerde het vooral de Amerkiaanse punk was die mij interesseerde. Daarvoor had ik een fascinatie voor R&B. Dat is alles, echt. Mijn leven wordt wat dat betreft gemarkeerd door periodes van muzikale interesses.
Moet ik dan elke Talk Talk elpee zien als een impressie van een tijdperk uit jouw leven?
Niet echt. Zo zitten er in The Colur of Spring nogal wat soul-elementen verwerkt. En dat is niet iets waar ik nou bepaald naar luister.
Je bent niet geinteresseerd in wat Miles Davis tegenwoordig doet?
Die popstuff? Niet echt, nee! Voor mij zijn er maar twee platen van Miles Davis echt de moeite waard: Sketches of Spain en Porgy and Bess. Die twee. En dan Porgy and Bess misschien nog wel het meest. Wat Sketches of Spain betreft is er tenslotte ook het gitaarconcert van Rodrigo, wat echt prachtig is. Maar ik kan zeer zeker waardering opbrengen voor de impressie van Miles Davis.
Kunnen we nog ooit een Mark Hollis impressie van dat soort werk verwachten?
Oh God, nee hoor. Er is momenteel maar een gebied waarin ik echt dolgraag wil werken. En dat is film. Ik zou een soundtrack willen schrijven, geen ‘greatest hit’ compilatie zoals tegenwoordig zo vaak gebeurt maar een soundtrack in de ware zin van het woord. Liefst bij een Europese film.
Dus niet zoiets als wat Philip Glass heft gedaan met Koyaanisqatsi, een gelijkwaardige rol voor beeld en muziek?
Nee! Dat absoluut niet. Dat interesseert we werkelijk geen zier! Het moet een film zijn met diepte en moraal, een film met waarden. Weet je, met platen heb je in beginsel alleen een stuk plastic. En dat moet vol komen. Met film werk je precies tegenovergesteld. Zo is in film juist stilte heel belangrijk.
Heb je favoriete soundtrack componisten?
Geen componisten, wel regisseurs. Zo is in de France film Marcel Carne mijn grote favoriet. Ik week niet eens of hij nog wel films maakt, maar het lijkt me fantastisch om met hem te werken. In Italië is er eigenlijk slechts een en dat is Fellini. Engeland kent de school van eind jaren vijftig begin zestig. Films met fantastische muziek waren dat. Whistle Down The Wind bijvoorbeeld. Die films hadden hetzelfde als wat het werk van Carne en Fellini zo bepaalt: ze gaan over mensen. Als componist heb je bij dat soort films niet te maken met de lijn van het verhaal maar met persoonlijkheden. Ik hou van dat idee. Iets dergelijks zou alleen zonder de band moeten. Omdat de band onder zulke omstandigheden niet kan existeren. Ik zie me tenminste nog geen drumkit toepassen bij wat ik onder filmmuziek versta. Daarbij is een andere benadering vereist, met de nadruk op het visuele aspect.
Hoe denk je deze plannen eventueel te realiseren?
Ik ben iemand die erop vertrouwt dat zoiets gewoon gebeurt. Maar verder denk ik er niet echt over na. Ik doe over het algemeen datgene wat ik graag doe. Waarbij naar mijn gevoel afwisseling erg belangrijk is. Daarom ben ik een voorstander van live muziek, vind ik het werken met video’s van belang voor de ontwikkeling van een band. Met hoe meer gebieden je vertrouwd raakt, des te beter pakt alles uit.
The Colour Of Spring moest absoluut een volkomen akoestische plaat worden?
Eigenlijk was dat al de bedoeling met It’s My Life. Het probleem was alleen: geld! We waren niet in een positie dat we het ons konden veroorloven te werken zoals nu met The Colour of Spring. Geld, organisatie en dergelijke zijn ook de redenen waarom we op tournee toch weer met synthesizers zullen moeten werken. Maar persoonlijk haat ik die dingen. Ze zijn goed als je om wat voor reden dan ook het originele instrument niet bij de hand hebt, maar verder, wat het gevoelsaspect betreft stellen ze bar weinig voor. Met The Colour of Spring lag de nadruk op het werken met mensen, echte instrumenten. Dat had als consequentie dat er een hoop uitgeprobeerd moest worden voor alles klopte. End dat kostte tijd. Maar het was het waard. Als we vroeger een synthesizer gebruikten streefden we er ook alleen naar om de organische klanken zo dicht mogelijk te benaderen. Uiteindelijk: als je het over instrumenten hebt, dan is er toch – afgezien van de stem – geen beter instrument te vinden dan de piano. In de hele wereld niet.
Studeerde je als kind piano?
Mmm, wel wat. Maar op zo’n laag niveau, dat had niks om het lijf. Zinloos eigenlijk.
Toch heb je het later weer opgepikt.
Ja, maar het niveau is nog steeds laag, erg laag.
Je zou techniek kunnen verbeteren.
Op een gegeven moment wordt techniek iets wat hinderlijk kan zijn. Ik zou er een enorme hekel aan hebben om precies te weten welke akkoorden achter elkaar horen. Voor mij is het belangrijker dat de klank me aanstaat dan te weten om welke akkoorden het gaat. Zo componeer ik op een keyboard waarop geen enkele noot is wat hij zou moeten zijn. De C is geen C, de D geen D. Niet klopt. Met dat ding ga ik om met eenzelfde soort mentaliteit als een eenjarig kind, met geen benul van wat ik speel. Maar ik zie waar ik mijn handen zet en kan vandaar uit verder bouwen, construeren. Ook al is er geen noot dezelfde als op de piano. Snap je wat ik bedoel?
Omslachtig, lijkt mij. Wat je op deze wijze componeert moet namelijk weer naar de piano getransponeerd worden.
Daar gaat het niet om. Wat ik doe is puur vanuit klanken werken, construeren met vormen die muziek opleveren die mij aanstaat. Ik neem die dingen op en laat iemand anders aan de hand van de tape uitwerken wat ik speel.
Waarom niet rechtstreeks op de piano componeren?
Ik wil niet weten welke noten ik speel. Ik schrijf muziek samen met Friese-Greene en die begrijpt muziek., ik niet. Alles wat ik doe is van muziek houden. Hij begrijpt het en houdt ervan. We werken dus vanuit een gemeenschappelijke liefde voor bepaalde dingen. Alleen ga ik uit van het toeval en hij van kennis.
Optreden is voor jou belangrijk. Is de muziek van Talk Talk niet te over gearrangeerd om op het podium nog iets anders te kunnen doen dan het exact reproduceren van de plaat?
Er is ruimte voor improvisatie. Ik geef toe dat door de manier waarop het Talk Talk materiaal gearrangeerd is een zekere mate van starheid bijna onvermijdelijk is. Maar tegelijkertijd hebben de song flexibiliteit in zich, wat ik erg belangrijk vind. Live moet muziek nooit verworden tot een duplicaat van de plaat.
Ga je wel eens naar concerten van anderen?
Ja, onlangs nog in Italië: Sting. Wat op mij nog het meeste indruk maakte was zijn dansen. Ik heb me nooit gerealiseerd dat Sting zo’n geweldige danser was. Zoals hij daar van die trap op het podium afkwam, dat was erg inspirerend.
Dans je zelf?
Nee, nee, nee, haha, nee. Dat past me niet zo.
Waar haal jij de inspiratie voor je teksten vandaan?
Boeken, films, dingen die ik zie.
De songs op The Colour Of Spring handelen over nogal uiteenlopende onderwerpen.
Er is inderdaad niet zoiets als een centraal thema. Zo gaat Happiness Is Easy over als die oorlogen die in naam van God gevoerd worden. Terwijl godsdienst en oorlog toch twee heel verschillende dingen zijn die niets met elkaar gemeen hebben. Dat is de eerste. De tweede I Don’t Believe In You heeft de propagandafilms waarmee de regering in 1945 beloofde dat alles voortaan even fantastisch zou worden als onderwerp. Kijk wat de realiteit is. Life’s What You Make It is gebaseerd op een boek van Tennessee Williams” A Streetcar Named Desire. De laatste song van de eerste kant gaat over april als seizoen…
Waarom April 5th? Wat is er zo belangrijk aan die dag?
Het is de dag dat mijn vrouw geboren is, een song over de lente als seizoen. Geboorte en wedergeboorte. Eigenlijk gaat daar de hele plaat over. Denk ik.
Waarmee meteen die titel The Colour of Spring verklaard is?
Moet ik hier een verband leggen met jouw geloof in organische dingen?
Er zie echt geen diepere betekeneis achter dan dat ik gewoon een song over de natuur wilde schrijven. Laten we zeggen dat ik de lente een erg mooi seizoen vindt.
En de vlinders op de hoes de insecten en andere dieren in de video van Life’s What You Make It?
Die beesten zien er nu eenmaal veel beter uit dan wij. Dieren zijn een mooi soort mensen Die song heeft vooral te maken met optimisme.
Mark Hollis privé
Ben je zelf een optimistisch persoon?
Ik vind van wel.
De songs die je schrijft hebben anders vaak iets melancholieks over zich.
Zeker, dat is zo. Er zijn nu eenmaal dingen die een deprimerende uitwerking hebben. Vandaar bijvoorbeeld een song als Happiness is Easy waarin ik aangeef dat het eigenlijk te belanggelijk is voor woorden dat deze twee, religie en oorlog, zo vaak aan elkaar gekoppeld worden. Godsdienst is een goed iets en ik zie geen enkele reden waarom zoiets verbonden moet worden aan dingen die verkeerd zijn.
Ben jij zelf godsdienstig?
Ik weet wat volgens mij goed is en wat slecht. En ik vind dat je daarnaar moet leven.
Volgens jou is religie een groot goed voor de mensheid?
Absoluut! Daar bestaat geen enkele twijfel over. Ik vind het dan ook absurd dat bijvoorbeeld, zoals in Ierland gebeurt, katholieken oorlog voeren met protestanten. Alleen het idee al is volkomen belachelijk. Hoe kun je nou oorlog voeren op basis van religie, als religie over liefde gaat.
Er komt bij de kwestie Noord Ierland dan ook wel wat meer kijken dan alleen de godsdienstverschillen. Ben jij politiek geïnteresseerd?
Niet echt. Ik volg wel zo’n beetje wat er in Engeland gebeurt. Maar eigenlijk heb ik het laatste jaar zowat al mijn tijd in dit album gestoken. Zes dagen per week, veertien uur per dag. En die ene dag dat we niet opnamen was ik nog met de studio bezig.
Geen privéleven dus voor Mark Hollis?
Och, ik ben vorig jaar getrouwd, Daar heb ik twee dagen vrij voor genomen.
^ go back to top
Oor: April 1986
It's My Life sang Mark Hollis and Talk Talk and then hid for a full year in the studio. For the album The Colour of Spring first the synthesizer went out of the window, Satie and Debussy created a little dance around the acoustic piano and a video was populated by the inhabitants of a small animal encyclopedia. Is Life's What You Make It the recognition of a new "Wonders of Nature' series on the EO channel? Mark Hollis talked and even took off his sunglasses. By Corne Evers.
Eh ... forgotten your sunglasses Mark? He fishes them out of the pocket of the jacket worn around his slightly bent shoulders and grins. With that medium long flaxen hair under which, with all the best will in the world, no model is to be discovered, the physically unimpressive Mark Hollis is a long way from the pop star image his group Talk Talk based their success on. Hits and gold discs in both Europe and America are the most recent achievements, and the new album The Colour of Spring is in second place in the Dutch sales charts, a week after release. And even in England, where Talk Talk have only really been taken seriously since the single Life’s What You Make It, people have taken to The Colour of Spring en masse. Proof that the discernment of the general public isn’t that bad? Noteworthy in this context is in any case that Talk Talk’s debut in 1982 The Party's Over, when Mark Hollis, bassist Paul Webb and drummer Lee Harris walked a more 'commercial' path, achieved less success than with the melancholy successor It's My Life ('84). And now The Colour of Spring.
If It's My Life still placed synthesizers in a prominent position, The Colour of Spring is largely determined by the acoustic piano as the hub around which everything revolves. Alternately played by Hollis himself and fellow composer and producer Tim Friese-Greene. But the slightly plaintive vocals of Mark appear to have won out on The Colour of Spring. That’s the reason why this third album Talk Talk can be called a musical gem even more than its not insignificant predecessor. Fragile emotions and melancholy scenes, packed in eight jewels of composition and talented arrangements. A dream record.
At the beginning of our conversation the creation browses with pleasure Oor’s special edition “10 years of punk? Fuck Off!”. Old punks never die. Mark Hollis was studying psychology when the punk movement prompted him to actively become involved with music. Until then, merely a fanatical record collector of 'American punk groups' such as Stan Dells, the Chocolate Watch Band, and the 13th Floor Elevators, Hollis was struck by the energy and enthusiasm the new rebel music radiated, and the fact that suddenly everyone could get on stage. "There were absolutely no rules. Everything was possible, to the amazement of the record companies that could absolutely not understand why bands like the Sex Pistols resonated. From their point of view, they were looking at unsightly hooligans who had no songs and couldn’t play properly, the records sounded horrible. But it was successful and that's what counted. The result was that they signed just about everything and everyone. Because they definitely were not able to distinguish. In that respect, the punk certainly opened doors. "
To what extent has now collapsed punk movement had on impact on your music?
By punk, I am convinced that musical technique is of minor importance. My feeling is that the strength, the zest in music is much more important. In fact the most important. That's why I felt attracted to punk. The intention with which music was made, the commitment, it’s that side of the New Wave that gave birth to me. Not all that spitting and whatnot. That was totally shit! Or those safety pins through their noses. Incredible! I really don’t understand what they liked about that.
However, it seems odd to me that someone for whom technology is of secondary importance needed a year to make a album.
That has nothing to do with technology. What I wanted was to make an album that was good, which had depth. And if something needed a year, so be it. I don’t see what's wrong with it, and don’t consider overly luxurious.
There are few who can afford the luxury.
I realise full well that we’d never have had so much time with The Colour of Spring had It's My Life not been so successful. That's why we’ve received quite a bit of freedom from our record company. Success is therefore important. For the rest, I don’t think in commercial terms. I do not believe what people usually describe as commercial applies to our records. Everything I do, I do because I believe in it myself, because I’m convinced that what I do is good
Still, how does it feel to hear that The Colour of Spring is immediately commercially successful here in the Netherlands?
"Well ... Yep ... I think that’s good, huh?"
A whistle is audible while Mark Hollis arranges his thoughts. Totally unlike his fame as a glib talker the Talk Talk singer replies with thoughtful formulations, he also fairly relaxed about things, not the speedy person from the horror stories doing the rounds about Mark Hollis.
"You know, I'm always especially busy making albums, not with selling records. And of course I find it very enjoyable if people appreciate what I do. But in success for success’ sake, I can muster little interest. "
Is The Colour of Spring for you the perfect album, something you always wanted to make?
Well, no. I only look at what I want at the time when I actually worked on it. At the time, It's My Life was the album that I wanted. And the same applies to The Colour of Spring. I am also pleased that our records are so different. You try, after all, to develop. "
For It's My Life you’ve drawn inspiration from the arrangements that Gil Evans wrote for Miles Davis. To be honest, I don’t hear this.
The whole point with all this talk about Gil Evans is that there is really only something like a match in the size of funds both he and I worked with. Gil Evans wrote arrangements for a small orchestra. And it’s that and not the product itself, to which It's My Life refers.
Do you listen to much jazz?
I have periods of preferences. So at the time that this group was founded I listened more than anything else to the earlier work of Miles Davies. But also to Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders, Roland Kirk... That sort of thing. The last two years, it’s the impressionist music that fascinates me above all else: Delius, Debussy, Satie, Milhaud ...
No! It's been years since I stopped listening to pop records. In fact, I never listened to pop. As I said the only thing I did was immerse myself for periods in certain types of music. And therefore I wanted to know everything. Like when I studied at university it was mainly the American punk movement that interested me. Before that I had a fascination with R & B. That's all, really. My life is, in thatrespect, marked by periods of musical interests.
Do I see any Talk Talk album as influenced by an era in your life?
Not really. So there are in The Colour of Spring some quite soulful-elements. And that's not something I decided to create.
Are you not interested in what Miles Davis is doing today?
The pop stuff? Not really, no! For me there are only two records of Miles Davis really worth it: Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess. Those two. And perhaps Porgy and Bess the most. Where Sketches of Spain is concerned there’s also the Rodrigo guitar, which is really beautiful. But I can certainly appreciate the influence of Miles Davis.
Can we ever expect a Mark Hollis record influenced by that kind of work?
Oh God, no. There’s only one area on which I’d really love to work. And that is film. I’d like to write a soundtrack, not a 'greatest hits' compilation as so often happens nowadays but a soundtrack in the truest sense of the word. Preferably a European film.
So nothing like what Philip Glass did in Koyaanisqatsi with an equivalent role for images and music?
No! Absolutely not. I’ve got no interest in that! It should be a movie with depth and morality, a film with values. You know, with records in principle you only have a piece of plastic. And that must be filled. With film, you will work exactly the opposite way. Thus, just silence in film is very important.
Do you have favourite soundtrack composers?
Not composers but directors. Thus, in French film Marcel Carne film my great favorite. I don’t even know if he’s still making films, but it would seem fantastic to me to work with him. In Italy there is really only one and that is Fellini. In England I know the school of the late fifties and early sixties. Movies with great music, they were. Whistle Down The Wind, for example. These films had the same thing as what determines the work of Fellini and Carné: they are about people. As a composer in that kind of movie, you have to do something not to do with the storyline but with personalities. I love that idea. Something similar should only be done without the band. Because the band can’t exist under such conditions. I see myself, at least not yet, not understanding how to apply a drum soundtrack. A different approach is required, with an emphasis on the visual aspect.
How do you think these plans may be realized?
I’m someone who’s confident that something just happens. But otherwise I don’t really think about it. I generally do what I love doing. Where I feel change is very important. That’s why I’m a supporter of live music, I find working with videos of importance for the development of the band. The more areas you become familiar with, the better you tackle everything.
Was The Colour Of Spring definitely intended to be a completely acoustic album?
Actually this was already the intention with It's My Life. The only problem was: money! We were not in a position where we we could afford to work like we did now with The Colour of Spring. Money, organization and such are also the reasons why when we are on tour yet again we will have to work with synthesizers. But personally I hate those things. They are good if, for whatever reason, you don’t have original instrument at hand, but otherwise, they have very little ‘feeling’ to them. With The Colour of Spring the emphasis was on working with people, real instruments. This had the consequence that a lot had to be tried out. That took time. But it was worth it. If we used a synthesizer, we strove to get the organic sounds as close as possible to the original. Finally: If you're talking about instruments, then is there anyway – apart from the voice – no better instrument than the piano. Not in the world.
You studied the piano as a child?
Mmm, a bit. But at such a low level, that is added nothing. Pointless really.
Yet you picked it up again later?
Yes, but the level is still low, very low.
You could improve your technique.
At a certain point technique is something which can be annoying. I would hate the have to know exactly what chords go together. For me it’s important that I like the sound rather know which chords go. So I compose on a keyboard where no note is where it should be. The C is not a C, D do not the D. Not true. With that thing I’m dealing with a similar mentality as a one-year child, with no idea of what I’m playing. But I can see where I put my hands and can build from there, construct. Even though there’s not the same notes as the piano. Y’ know what I mean?
It seems cumbersome to me. What you compose in this way must be transposed back to the piano.
That's not the point. What I do is work purely from sounds , construct music with shapes. I take those things in and let someone else using the tape work out what I’m playing.
Why not compose directly onto the piano?
I don’t know what notes I play. I write music with Friese-Greene, who understands music. I don’t. What I do is love music. He understands it and loves it. We are working from a common love for certain things. Only I go out of chance and he of knowledge.
Action is important to you. Is the music of Talk Talk not arranged on the stage in a way that you can do something else rather than an exact reproduction of the album?
There is room for improvisation. I admit that by the way the Talk Talk material is arranged a degree of rigidity is almost inevitable. But at the same time there’s flexibility in the song itself, which is very important. Live music must never degenerate into a duplicate of the record.
Do you ever go to other artists’ concerts?
Yes, most recently in Italy: Sting. What impressed me the most was his dancing. I never realized that Sting was such a great dancer. And how he came down a staircase on stage, that was very inspiring.
Do you dance?
No, no, no, haha, no. It doesn’t suit me.
Where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics from?
Books, movies, things I see.
The songs on The Colour Of Spring deal with rather diverse topics.
There is indeed no such thing as a central theme. So Happiness Is Easy is about wars in the name of God. Religion and war, two very different things that have nothing in common. That’s the first one. The second Don’t Believe In You, has as its subject the propaganda films in which the government promised in 1945 that now everything would be as fantastic. Look what is reality. Life's What You Make It is based on a book by Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. The last song of the first side is about April as a season ...
Why April 5th? What is so important about that day?
It’s the day that my wife was born, a song about spring and season. Birth and rebirth. Actually, all those thing are on the record. I think.
Which is what the title The Colour of Spring immediately declares?
Should I establish a connection with your belief in organic things?
There is really no deeper meaning behind it than than I just wanted to write a song about nature. Let's just say say I find spring a very nice season.
And the butterflies on the cover with the insects and the other animals in the video of Life's What You Make It?
The beasts simply look much better than us. Animals are beautiful. The song has to do with optimism.
Private Mark Hollis
Are you an optimistic person?
I think so.
The songs you write, do they have something about yourself, otherwise they have something melancholy about them.
Sure, that’s so. There are things that have a depressing effect. Hence for example a song like Happiness is Easy in which I indicate that its of actual equal importance that these two words, religion and war, are so often linked together. Religion is a good thing and I see no reason why it should be linked to things that are wrong.
Aren’t you religious yourself?
I know what I think is good and what is bad. And I think you have to live accordingly.
According to you, is religion is a great thing for humanity?
Absolutely! There's no doubt about that. I think it is absurd for example, as happens in Ireland, Catholics warring with Protestants. Just the idea is utterly ridiculous. How can you wage war on the basis of religion, as religion is about love.
There Northern Ireland question is something more than just religious difference. Are you interested in politics?
Not really. I follow pretty much what happens in England. But actually I have spent almost all my time in the last year stuck on this album. Six days a week, fourteen hours a day. And that one day we're not recording, I was still busy with the studio.
So no private life for Mark Hollis?
Oh, I got married last year, which I took two days off for.
Thanks to Corne Evers for allowing this to be printed, despite the fact we didn't seek copyright permission the first time. His site is at greenarkpress.com/^ go back to top
Melody Maker: 10th May 1986
Secretly, I've spent many a quiet hour with the ravishing Talk Talk album, one of those really great records that sneaks up on you unawares to become a family favourite. This band are so clever and so understated, full and rich with textural style that is never loud or jarring but relies on intricacy and sensuality to convey its delicate flavours. It's my humble opinion that Talk Talk are a pocket of unsung genius in this often uninspired realm of pop. Let the single swirl around you as a taster of their infinite variety.^ go back to top
Melody Maker: 10th May 1986
There is a place for everything and everything has its place, and on this first night of a new tour Talk Talk were understandably keen to offer a performance stamped throughout with professionalism. As such, structure overruled spontaneity, rendering the set machine-like in presentation,. Still when there’s a seven piece outfit to hold together, the alternative may be nothing short of chaos.
Opening with a thundering version of the dreadful Talk Talk’ the band waited until the sixth number to introduce a track from the latest LP. Lovely. In the event ‘Life’s What You Make It’ in many ways a shining example of eighties pop music, was lost upon the flat, over-polished landscape. Other followed.
Centre stage and looking like a motor mechanic from American’s Mid-West dustlands, Mark Hollis holds court. Shirt out, spectacles on and, by the end of the show, shoes off, he remains the mainstay and mainsway of Talk Talk. It was unfortunately that the complications of a big band, numerically speaking, did not allow his relaxed, almost effortless voice to attain complete freedom.
Over the course of half a decade or more, Talk Talk have done their growing up in public. From cold, disposable plasticity they have developed into something very adult and maybe they’ve already reached full maturity. The colours of spring have brightening and Talk Talk’s summer is ere, If there is any justice in this world it’ll be a hot one. Because there isn’t, they might be heading for an early fall.^ go back to top
Record Mirror: 17th May 1986
As far as any preconceptions of Talk Talk go, there is just a blank space. Anonymous, to say the very least, they conjure up images of nothing in particular – and the sight of so many people present this evening to witness the spectacle comes as something of a shock. Onto the stage they come. Their complete lack of any visual impact is, in the fist instance, almost admirable, but within minutes the seemingly deliberate lack of attention to any on-stage look or presence becomes boring and irritating.
The music too, suffers from the same onslaught of blandness and lack of identity. The vocals are fairly strong, but of the “I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere before” school of delivery. The rest of the band are competent but entirely unremarkable. The occasional glimmers of a half nice arrangements or tune are few and far between, and swiftly quashed by the all consuming lethargy of sound and vision the band exude.
This all pervading boredom is something that extends to the audience. En mass, such a large seated crow of inanimates is positively disturbing, conjuring up images of the mass brainwashing of ‘1984’ and ‘Brave New World’. But they all seem averagely content to listen to the faithful, glossy, and screamingly dull regurgitation of the songs, accompanied buy the spectacularly unspectacular bunch of performers. Have these people seen the Smiths I wonder?
I scan the stage for the slightest sign of anything of any interest happening and fail miserably. When the thought crosses your mind that you’d rather be at home washing the dishes, then the times bas come to vote with your feet.
Gossip: meanwhile down in a plush Chinese eaterie in deepest Fulham, all manner of nobodies turned out for Talk Talk’s end of tour shindig. Poor old It’s Immaterial made fruitless attempts to gain entry and were left shivering outside. Gary Davies, meanwhile, resplendent in a shirt so loud it positively shrieked, hogged the table heaving under the weight of scrumptious cuisine. Those long-forgotten Frankies were represented in the shape of Nasher and fiancée Clare.^ go back to top
NME: May 24th 1986
A continuing story of that Euro-back beat succeeding in seizing the mass subconscious. Talk Talk press it to further extremes than anyone: they play an oceanic variety of music without frontiers, deeper than Simple Minds, more sub-marine than U2.
Lead singer Mark Hollis stands with his shirt hanging out, wearing shades, his hands supped over the microphone, exercising his remarkably adept voice with the pat lyrics on life being ‘What You Make It’, now ‘I Don’t Believe In You’ and how he’s “Got To Give It Up’. His voice, occasionally close in tone and pitch to Steve Winwood’s former larynx, is suitably mournful, high and rounded, and cranks an Anglo coffee table music up into the realms of being a lament for excusive European loneliness.
On either side of the stage, every percussion instrument you can think of is flung into the arrangements. Quality sounds detail for a public with high stereo expectations. Talk Talk write songs which maximise the current capabilities of recording studios and all forms of mechanical sound reproduction and copying.
They are what they say they are in their name, a conversation piece. Each song is an echo-pool into which chorus-pebbles are carefully tossed, making big splashes out of refrains which froths and foam with lush, rare instrumentation – mellotrons, massed keyboards, impeccably practised. High up on the riser, drummer Lee Harris maintains strict, very strict tempo.
Talk Talk’s fans are beyond the stage of jumping up and down with their fists in the air, It was only towards the end of the show that they dared to stand jump and rush to the front of the stage. The jumping was all going on in their minds, presumably. Talk Talk are a modern day progressive rock band. (Bob Dickinson)^ go back to top
Record Mirror: May 1986
On the scale of public high profiles, Talk Talk range somewhere between and ANC supporting official of the South African government and Swiss naval admirals; both of which are considerable below the mark reached by Good Acting on ‘Return to Eden.’
It’s a shame because Talk Talk have carved themselves an idiosyncratic niche in pop music; one that is never less than entertaining and often breathtakingly powerful. After four years of depositing minor aural gems like ‘It’s my Life’ and then disappearing like a magician’s coin, they’ve developed into one of the most impressive live acts in the country, Thankfully the public are catching up, if the huge crowd packing the Cambridgeshire aircraft hangar is evidence.
Based around the mournful tones of vocalist Mark Hollis, their4 music has the atmospheric quality of an autumn morning. The sounds quickly envelop like a blanket – compelling your attention – before shimmering shards of notes act like and invigorating sharp intake of breath of freezing air.
Powered by the splashy inventions of drummer Lee Harris and loping bass of Paul Webb, songs like ‘Such a Shame’ and ‘Dum Dum Girl’ skidded along with the cunning grace and power of a panther; while ballads like ‘Give It Up’, and ‘I Don’t Believe In You’ were elegant cameos of aching despair.
White ex-Blockhead and Paul Young sideman, guitarist Johnny Turnbull, and two stylish keyboard players dominating the sound (and two percussionists adding the seasoning), the highlight was the swirling r’n’b flavoured whirlwind of ‘Living In Another World’ which was played with irresistible force and threatened to explode. Other notable moments included the audacious instrumental section of ‘Call In The Night Boy’, the rolling thunder of ‘Life’s What You Make It’ and the souls stirring ‘It’s My Life’.
Playing with such finesse and barely controlled power, Talk Talk shouldn’t remain the best-kept secret in rock much longer.^ go back to top
Conneticut Record Journal: 15th June 1986
British synth-poppers Talk Talk continue on the textural road begun on last year’s tour de force It’s My Life.
The Colour of Spring slows things down from Talk Talk’s old propensity for fast dance, and strengthens the band’s use of real instruments such as saxophone and added percussion.
At the same time Talk Talker Tim Friese-Greene employs some truly ancient keyboards, such as the orchestral-sounding Mellotron. With that instrumental mixture added to the high quirky tones of vocalist mark Hollis, the result is distinctively Talk Talk, but in a quiet and considered new direction.
This band is developing beyond the usual bounds of techno-pop, which just might save them when the next, and very inevitable, electronic shake-out occurs. B Minus.^ go back to top