© 2007-2022 weird
A queer perspective on women in pop culture
Ausgabe Nr. 128
Juni, Juli, August 2018
So Much Love In That Room
The Bleeding Obvious
Interview: Christine Stonat (5/2018)
weird: Since the 6th of May your new EP “Spectrum” is out. It’s an EP with remixes of 5 songs from your two albums you have published so far. What’s different?
The Bleeding Obvious: Well, for a start the EP isn't as electronic as my previous work. They're mostly songs I've performed as part of my Rainbow Heart show, changing to become more accessible on-stage, an evolution if you like.
These mixes all have live musicians on them - no electronic sequenced basslines or drum machines here. A couple of the songs are also radically different - Wallflower springs to mind, in its original form it's a sequenced electro-dance tune on the first album with soaring vocals by my friend Colleen Taylor, but on Spectrum it's just me, a piano and a cellist.
weird: Would you say your songs are always in progress though recorded? And would you say you are more into constantly developing your sound and songs instead of sticking as close as possible to the recorded version?
The Bleeding Obvious: It depends whether they're performed regularly. I sing songs from Rainbow Heart every show and constantly tweak them to see what works - that's how the EP came about, I was asked when those versions would be available so recorded them that way. I'll occasionally brave a new mix of an old song to perform live and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't!
I see songs being always under development: by the time they are public they've usually been through a year in the studio, and then performance changes them even more as I work out what feels "natural".
I've got a lot of work-in-progress - my car is littered with CDs and USB sticks of older versions of things. The tricky thing is how to know when it's ready to be "let go" - although it never stops me mixing things up a little when I'm doing a show, an odd lyrics here, a substitute melody there.
weird: The 6th of May is also your birthday. Is “Spectrum” that birthday present you wished for?
The Bleeding Obvious: You know, I did that gig on the 6th May, the venue was full, and then the audience were singing along to songs I'd written - that was such a wonderful birthday present. I was presented with a birthday card that had been passed around the audience with little messages in it! It was so nice, so much love in that room between us all.
weird: The Bleeding Obvious is just you, your project. How do you work on your music and how do you get that sound on stage?
The Bleeding Obvious: I start with a piano theme or a drum track, and go from there. I layer sounds a lot, and I'm constantly wondering what might be missing in a track or what might be making a new song sound too 'muddy' - you have to listen on as many devices as possible (everything from a laptop up to an expensive sound system). The process is always slow and sometimes I'll sit on a song for years before it feels relevant - next year album 3 comes out and I can tell you there's a demo I recorded recently of a song I wrote back in 2001. That's a slow process!
I'm lucky my project studio is a separate room in the house so I can just go in when I feel like it. My wife Helen sits on the floor cushion and reads while I play the instruments - I frequently ask her what she thinks (and sometimes ignore what she says but don't tell her I said that!). She's a wonderful listener.
Onstage the sound balance can be tricky but with laptop and sequencer I can perform most songs, running it all from the stage piano and whatever second keyboard I've brought along. I'm quite a control freak with how I do stage performances and I'm probably a sound engineer's worst nightmare!
weird: As a multi-instrumentalist you play a bunch of instruments. Which one is your main and/or your favourite instrument - if there is such?
The Bleeding Obvious: First and foremost I'm a pianist and keyboard player. Just before the debut album launch gig back in 2016 my mother bought me this beautiful Korg SV1 88-key weighted valve piano which has become my favourite performance instrument. Before that it was the Elektron SIDstation, which has a sound generating chip from a 1980s Commodore 64 computer - it's pretty cool.
Before that I went through this phase of trying to be all prog rock on-stage and I used all sorts of instruments in the name of showmanship - Hammond organ, vocoder, a customised keytar - but started cutting that down as I realised most of them were just surplus to requirements.
weird: The Bleeding Obvious: You also use a melodica (note: or a hooter as I would say as a The Hooters fan ^^). How did you get to that instrument and what do you like about it?
The Bleeding Obvious: Hah, the melodica! It's called Sven - all the instruments have names - and I started using it because I was terrible at playing the harmonica. It's been on quite a bit of stuff, erm, Runaway on the first album has it on, Can't Come Home, a few others on the recorded version of Rainbow Heart.
Then when I was doing a festival last year I thought, yeah, this could be quite funny, and sang a song called Not Dead Yet where I play the melodica onstage and break into Chopin's Funeral March halfway through it. It went down a riot so that's stayed in the set and now it's a part of the Rainbow Heart show. Sven's a fan favourite.
Oh, and I'm calling it a "hooter" from now on. That's your fault.
weird: For your debut album “The Bleeding Obvious” you got over 40 musicians involved. For “Spectrum” you got together with other musicians again. How was the work back then and now – also in comparison to you working alone?
The Bleeding Obvious: I usually work alone for the first few months. As I said earlier, it's a slow process and I'll usually not get anyone else involved until I'm happy with the form and general feel of a song, then it's a matter of dragging in friends and acquaintances to add bits on as and when they might fancy.
The first album was special: I collaborated with musicians who were studying at Leeds College of Music, fabulous multi-instrumentalists who formed a small makeshift orchestra. I have lovely memories of recording, standing in front of this group of people far more talented than I, waving my arms around going "will… you… just… please… stay… in… time…!". It was funny and frustrating in equal measure. I'd like to get an orchestra back together for album 3 but we'll see.
Spectrum was a much smaller affair - I knew what I wanted, found session musicians and friends who were really up for it - one lovely friend even lent me a vibraphone.
Collaboration is an awesome thing - no musician is really an island, even the most infamous recluses had their collaborative artists! I positively encourage it, mixing things up is wonderful. Think about it: we collaborate on some level, be that with producers, other musicians, artists across the whole media landscape - you could argue we even collaborate with listeners because we (as artists) rely on listener interpretation too.
weird: Working (alone) in your studio and being out on the road – how would you compare both and what does one and the other mean to you?
The Bleeding Obvious: Oh that's easy - the studio is my personal space, my little enclave where I can try anything and if it doesn't work, I'll stuff it in a folder in case I need it in the future and nobody need ever hear. On the road, it's about getting the message across, having a good time with everyone and talking to new fans.
weird: You are a musician and an LGBTIQA activist. And your music is all about being on the LGBTIQA spectrum, about LGBTIQA rights and empowerment. How do you see and handle the connection between art and activism?
The Bleeding Obvious: The link is crucial. Activism on its own feels dry to me, there's no lasting activist message without passion: art sticks in the mind. One of my favourite bands is Chumbawamba, a group of activists and anarchists who came up with some phenomenal pop in the early 90s long before they had a hit with Tubthumper - their messages are enduring today. Same with political musicians such as Billy Bragg and Tom Robinson, playwrights like Dario Fo.
I live in Wakefield (UK) and we're very lucky to have such a thriving arts scene mixed with a passionate activist presence, mostly in the wake of the 1984 Miners Strike. There's even a local festival based around it called 'With Banners Held High' and I'm touring with a spoken-word artist called Helen Rhodes who's got some brilliant words about the political situation in the UK right now.
Comedy is important too. People remember the cause if you're funny with it - messages stick in the mind as well as music.
weird: From May till September 2018 you will be touring Great Britain. What are you looking forward to the most?
The Bleeding Obvious: I love meeting people - the folk who come out to me as LGBT and sometimes I'm the first person they've talked to about it, the people who say "hey, you just described my life". I played a festival last year where this massive bloke with tattoos collared me after the show and said "I'm bi and I have no idea how to tell my wife" so we had a bit of a discussion about it. Helping people recognise "you are not alone" is humbling and empowering at the same time.
weird: Any chance for German shows in the nearer future?
The Bleeding Obvious: I'd love to, maybe next year I'll bring a show to Europe. That's for the future though and there's a lot to consider before that.
Interview: Christine Stonat (5/2018)
Hinter dem musikalischen Projekt The Bleeding Obvious steckt die britische Musikerin und out LGBTIQA-Aktivistin Jessica Rowbottom. Die 44-jährige ist Multiinstrumentalistin und liefert eine großartige 1-Woman-Show. Ihre Musik und ihre Shows sind all queer. And she considers herself as „queerdo“. Sie hat ihr eigenes kleines Studio und macht auch sonst alles in Eigenregie. 2016 erschien ihr Debutalbum „The Bleeding Obvious“, an dem sie mehr als 40 Musiker_innen beteiligt hat. Nach ihrem zweiten Full-Length-Album „Rainbow Heart“ 2017 erschien am 6.5.18 nun ihre neue EP „Spectrum“. Diese enthält 5 Remix-Versionen bereits veröffentlichter Songs, von Acoustic über Jazz bis zum Radio Edit. Jessica Rowbottom lebt gemeinsam mit ihrer Frau Helen in Wakefield.
weird sprach mit Jessica Rowbottom aka The Bleeding Obvious für diese Sommer-Ausgabe 2018 über die neue EP, über die Verbindung von Kunst und Aktivismus, über ihre Melodica Sven, ihre Arbeit, ihre Tour, ihre queeren Fans, ihren Geburtstag am 6.5. und vieles mehr.
weird hat sich entschieden, das tolle Interview mit The Bleeding Obvious im Original in Englischer Sprache zu belassen und zu veröffentlichen.
The Bleeding Obvious
Out: seit 6.5.18
Single: „One Foot In Front Of The Other“
- in eigenen Worten -
Name: Jessica Rowbottom
Beruf: Musician & Performer
Wohnort: Wakefield, UK
Meine weirdeste Eigenschaft: I asked my wife about this, and she says it's my ability to go off on a tangent unexpectedly. Oh, and the way I wake her up by padding her face, like a cat.