Down and out

Down And Out In Paris And London
Radio Metal: Since the very first album, THE TANGENT has kept a sustained rhythm, between album and DVD releases and concerts. Did you impose this rhythm on yourself so there would be no break and the media and your fans could not forget you? Or did things just follow on naturally?

Andy Tillison: I don’t think we’ve made that many records in seven years. Actually, it’s been two years since our last album: it was released at the beginning of 2008, and the new one was released at the very end of 2009. But yeah, I suppose five albums since 2003 might appear impressive. It just seemed right to do it since we had the music.

What does the album title Down And Out In Paris And London mean? What is your connection to these two cities?

“Down And Out In Paris And London” is the title of a very famous book by George Orwell, an English writer. It’s very important to tell your listeners that when we say “down and out” in England, it means “sur la paille” in French. It means “to have no money”, “to have no roof over your head”, that sort of thing. It’s actually about finding yourself poor in Paris and London. That’s something that actually happened to me. I decided to write one song about the kind of poverty you can see in the streets of Paris, and the one you see in the streets of London. I thought George Orwell’s title was perfect because it fit what I was writing about. That’s how it happened, I just borrowed the title.

With only a few exceptions, the line-up changes for every album. Do you have any particular criteria for the musicians you hire? Do these criteria change for every album or do you look for the same profile every time?

I always wanted to try and make THE TANGENT into a real group. It just happened that way. Because of the fact that we were working with people who were famous for playing in other groups, we had to share them. The time came when I finally wanted to stand on my own two feet and not make THE TANGENT into a sub-project of THE FLOWER KINGS. It doesn’t mean I don’t value what THE FLOWER KINGS have done for me, they really brought the band to the attention of the public. But in the end, their priorities lay elsewhere. I had to try and see if people still liked THE TANGENT for the sake of the band itself rather than for the famous people from THE FLOWER KINGS. So the line-up does change, and the only proper member of THE TANGENT since the beginning has been me. We didn’t have a proper guitarist on the last album, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to work with one soon. We’re also looking for someone to join us as a full-time drummer, which is something we never had.

After releasing Not As Good As The Book, you published a book. Is it something you want to do again in the future?

I want to write another book. Actually, I already have several books started and lots of different ideas. As for whether I’m going to release them with a record again, I just don’t know. I have to see where it goes, really. I think I’d like to write a book that would actually have nothing to do with music, as another avenue of artistic exploration, if you’d like.

Have you ever thought about using another form of art to support your music – other than writing?

I did use other people’s works in terms of art. I think Ed Unitsky’s art was very important to the original success of THE TANGENT. He played a very important role in bringing it to people’s attention. There was also this very “bande dessinée” stuff a French artist did for the last album. I’m not particularly good at drawing myself, my skills are in music and writing words. There is not much else I can do, though I’d love to dance!

Let’s go back a few years, if you’d like. I understand the adventure started for you with a solo album that somehow slipped out of your hands and became something many musicians worked on. Can you tell us more about this experience?

At first it was something I was doing in the background. As you probably know, my main occupation at the time was a band called PARALLEL OR 90 DEGREES. But nobody has ever heard of it! I was working on this progressive rock album I wanted to do for myself. And then people like Roine Stolt and David Jackson got involved in it, and I said to myself: “Wow, what’s happening here ?!”. It really was quite an experience, working with all these people from different parts of Europe and different parts of Britain was just amazing. When the album came out, it was incredible. It’s been a non-stop story since then, the band is ridiculously popular! It was only something I was doing for myself, I didn’t try to make it successful at all. The album came out, and it just happened. THE TANGENT became more successful than I ever thought it could be.

« I’m making it for listeners, not just for musicians. Listeners have certain skills in listening to music that musicians don’t have. Although I’ve got the control, I really do listen to what people say. »

I guess meeting the members of THE FLOWER KINGS back in the day must have been something huge for you. But today, would you accept not having total control on your musical project?

Yes, of course I would. I’m the producer of THE TANGENT as well as the musical director. But I take other people’s opinions very seriously, and I listen to everybody who has something to say about the music. For example, I actually listen to people who aren’t even musicians. I just send them what I’m working on, and they come back with: “I like this part, but I don’t really like the tune”. In this case, I work on it a little bit more. I’m making it for listeners, not just for musicians. Listeners have certain skills in listening to music that musicians don’t have. Although I’ve got the control, I really do listen to what people say. I’d rather make a mistake and have it corrected before I release the record than hear the reviewers say that the album is shit!

It seems that THE TANGENT hasn’t played much in France, if at all, so far. Will the tour for Down And Out In Paris And London stop by France this time?

I really hope so. We actually played in France, at the rock music festival in Sarlat, back in 2005. We would love to come again. France is a very special place for me: I’ve lived here, and I would very much like to come back and play. It’s a difficult place for British bands to play, to be quite honest, because of the huge distance to be covered between towns. For example, if you’re playing in Holland on a Friday night, and you have to be in Bordeaux on a Saturday, and then you have to be back in Düsseldorf, it’s an awfully long way! That’s why a lot of bands don’t come to France, as much as you’d like them to. And you can’t play on a Monday night in France! You can only do two shows per week in France, and that would have to be on a Friday night and on a Saturday night!

This is the last question – the silly question of the interview! Since you chose to address the readers of Radio Metal, I have to ask this question: do you listen to black metal?


What bands?

It depends on what your definition of black metal is. I really enjoy OPETH, I think they’re fantastic. Especially on the earlier and heavier stuff: I think Blackwater Park is a fantastic album. One of my favourite bands of all times is VOIVOD, in Canada. They’re a superb band. I like an awful lot of different kinds of music, I’m not just intro prog. I actually worked with a lot of thrash and death metal bands back in the 1980s, when they were starting up in England. I’ve really enjoyed bands like NAPALM DEATH and CARCASS for many years. So yeah, I do like extreme metal!

Interview conducted by phone on january, 2010

THE TANGENT website: po90.com/pub/index.html

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