When I turned up to Bush Hall in London on Saturday afternoon, it felt like pure luck that the first person I ran in to was Tim Muddiman; the musician and producer I’d requested an interview with for Gigslutz.
That’s also a lie; Tim wasn’t the first person I ran in to. Minutes before I’d previously mistook two men standing in the main doorway of the venue for security guards and asked them to let me in to the building. As looks of confusion flooded their faces, I had time to realise they were wearing Gary Numan tour t-shirts, and that they’d arrived early for a special meet & greet session with the electronic music pioneer who was headlining the venue later that evening.
His fans were kind enough to direct me to the side of the building and a different entrance. I approached a green door, and as I reached out to push it open that’s when I ran in to Tim Muddiman. He graciously let me inside the beautiful venue even though I was early for our interview, and explained that the merch for his band (Tim Muddiman & The Strange) had just arrived and would only take a few minutes to sort through it. True to his word, he didn’t keep me waiting for long and even bestowed a complimentary band sticker upon me.
For those who don’t know, Tim is an accomplished producer, writer, and session musician who has toured with the likes of Gary Numan, Nine Inch Nails, and Pop Will Eat Itself. He also finds time to write and record his own music, and recently released his debut album Paradise Runs Deeper with overwhelming support from a pledge music campaign. He took some time to sit down with me in the balcony bar of Bush Hall prior to his sound checks with Gary Numan and his own band, to talk about tour memories, his latest album, and the importance of solitude when it comes to creativity…
Hello Tim! Thanks for meeting with me today, how are you?
Hello Kate! Alright, just resting because we’ve just finished a three week tour a couple of days ago, so today is just about resting up and making sure everything’s all good for tonight.
Sounds good! You’re playing at Bush Hall tonight (01.10.16) with your band who are supporting Gary Numan, and you’re playing bass in Gary’s band too. You’ve toured with Gary before, but what are your highlights of this most recent UK tour?
Playing Liverpool was the highlight for me. We played at a venue called Olympia. It’s a huge theatre and in the late 1800s it was used for circuses and it’s been derelict for years. The promoters of the venue have only put on two shows there in the last couple of years, and they’ve had to hire in generators and everything for it because it was disused, but it’s the most amazing place. That was a really special show. The stage was huge and it was just a beautiful venue to look at while we were playing.
That sounds great, but three weeks touring on the road must have taken its toll?
We did seven days on the road and had a day off, and then we did five nights in a row before that. It’s been really full on, but the whole thing has been fantastic. I don’t know whether Gary will tour like this again without a day off because it’s crippling, you know?
At a couple of the shows I felt so exhausted at one point I thought I was going to faint. We were in Portsmouth and I had mad cold sweats on stage and a bit of an anxiety and I remember thinking “Oh my God, what am I doing?!” but it was just exhaustion and a think a couple of other people experienced that as well. But apart from that, the reception from everyone has just been incredible. I’ve been playing with Gary for ages and it just gets better and better every time.
I’m looking forward to seeing both you and Gary perform tonight. Your band’s called Tim Muddiman & The Strange; what part of your sound do you feel fits “The Strange” aspect?
‘The Strange’ isn’t really to do with the music. On the album that I’ve just released (Paradise Runs Deeper) some of the songs are very blues-influenced, and the reason why I bolted the word ‘strange’ on to my name is because the ‘strange’ is the band, the ‘strange’ is the videos we make, it’s our management and it’s our friends. It just gives me an option to do whatever the fuck I want so I don’t feel pigeon-holed. I never want to be pigeon-holed.
Maybe it is a bit of an obvious word, but I don’t really like mainstream or normal things so it just seemed to work.
That makes sense! As you said, you released your album Paradise Runs Deeper back in September. The album was funded by a Pledge music campaign which relies on fans for enthusiasm and funding as well as an awful lot of work from yourself to get things going. Does this make the finished product sound and feel more authentic to you?
Definitely, that’s really really true. We released it in two stages, as a physical copy when the pledge campaign finished and then we released it again in September digitally. You have to do updates when you’re running the campaign and the people who’ve pledged are involved in everything you do.
The feedback and the love that people show towards it really helps and I didn’t feel alone. I felt like I was on this journey with all these people and it was fantastic. I’m about to do another one too so I’m excited for that as well, that should start next week.
Would you recommend pledge to other artists?
100% . I’ve spoken to a few people on tour that are musicians that are signed and who have been let down by their labels but who have a really good fan base, and if you’ve got a good fan base and social media, when you add in pledge music it’s great. It involves people from the beginning so it’s a brilliant brilliant thing, and you’re totally in control of your own destiny.
You’ve released videos for album tracks ‘Wildwood Stone’ & ‘Your Drugs’, but what’s your favourite track from your album and why?
I think the last track on the album which is called ‘Wake Up The Sun’ is my favourite, because to me it’s the most musical one that I’ve written. I love the bass line in it, I love the lyrics, and I love playing it but we rarely play it because it’s probably the last popular track on the album.
‘Wildwood Stone’ was one that I wrote and really felt like “Oh shit, I’m doing something really good here…”. I was going through a really bad time when I wrote the album and it was the one that responded to me the most and the one that made me feel the most. I think as an artist that’s what I want, I want to feel something from the music…that sounds a bit emo (laughs)
Not at all, I agree. I think most musicians and most music fans are looking for that kind of connection when they listen to a song…
Yeah definitely, and that’s what I get from ‘Wake Up The Sun’ and ‘Wildwood Stone’.
You have extensive experience in music production as well as being an accomplished session musician. When writing your own music, in what ways does knowledge of production techniques help/hinder you?
That’s a really good question. It really helped on the first album because I knew that I could finish something and I knew that I had a system. I’d learned my programmes and how to mic-up properly and I’d learned production techniques my way, I’m quite self taught in most things.
After the album was finished – and don’t get me wrong, I’m so pleased with it – I went back and listened to music that I find inspiring (Tom Waits, Nick Cave, NIN, blues music from the 20s and jazz music). It was such a journey producing that album, and my friend Ade Fenton helped me produce a couple of songs (and he’s produced Gary’s stuff before), but I felt like I had the tools to do it myself. But I want to approach my next album completely different.
In terms of how it’s hindered me, listening to the music I love…I was influenced by NIN’s production whilst I was recording that album – especially Year Zero – just to listen to what Trent Reznor was doing. Not that I wanted to sound exactly like that, but it’s a good reference point whatever I’m doing. And because of that, I feel like I haven’t got the experience to do what I want to do now and that’s why I’ve got another couple of guys to help me with production on the next album.
I want it to have the absolute volume and direct-sound that NIN have, but I also want it to have authentic room sounds. I want to hear the room that I’m recording the drums in, you know? I’m not experienced in doing that, so it might have hindered Paradise Runs Deeper in some way.
I was listening to it this morning and thinking “I wonder what this would’ve sounded like if I’d recorded this differently…” because things translate so differently on a recording…
It must be frustrating to be really happy with what you’ve recorded, but also still thinking of ways in which you could’ve added to the songs or improved them…
Absolutely. You start this journey so far back, and you keep going until the end point, so to think of these songs now in that way would mean starting that journey from the beginning again, so there’s always a lot to evaluate.
You’re clearly a big fan of NIN and you toured with them as part of Gary’s band in 2013. Can you share any memories of this tour with us?
It was amazing. On the last show we were playing to an arena of 30,000 people, and unfortunately the guitarist had to leave before the show for family reasons and I had to learn the whole set on guitar!
We had to get a fake bass player in as well (laughs). I pre-recorded the bass and then we had a player just stand in and look like he was playing. I had to learn all of Gary’s set (which is about 45 minutes) in one day and then play it to 30,000 people, so it was really difficult!
That sounds stressful! Did the show go well?
Luckily, yeah! There was one bit that I cringe about but I don’t think anyone heard the mistake, so that’s quite a good memory I have from that tour. Everyone was brilliant and really hospitable too. NIN are such an amazing band and their light shows are just mind-blowing.
You recently had the incredible I Speak Machine support you at your headline show at The Lexington. What is it that you like about Tara & Maf’s audio/visual collaboration?
I met Tara though supporting Gary. I love Avant Garde music and I think what Tara’s doing; her sound, voice, and the composition of what she does is beautiful. It’s not mainstream and she’s really standing up on her own two feet and doing her own thing.
Even though the songs on my album are essentially pop structures, I’m heavily influenced by the things that Tara does and that’s why I wanted her to perform with me.
Finally, in a previous interview you said: “I couldn’t be a hobby musician. That would kill me. I care and love songs too much. Now it’s all or nothing as a musician.” Do you still feel the same way, and what advice do you have for those looking to make music more than a hobby?
It’s totally how I feel, and I feel more like it now than ever. Music is so difficult to make a living out of, and it’s difficult socially too, but I can’t wait to get home off tour and write my next album. I’ve arranged the next nine months of my life, and the next three months I’m not going to socialise.
I spoke with Gary one day when we were going to rehearsals about how I felt when I wrote Paradise Runs Deeper, and how I was totally on my own. I wouldn’t speak with anyone for up to a week sometimes, whereas in the past when I was writing that would’ve made me feel incredibly lonely. But I battled through that and it was the most enlightening, beautiful experience of my life, and Gary said that’s exactly how he felt for the first five albums that he wrote. He just locked himself away. I think solitude is the key. I’ve heard it’s a similar process for artists like Bjork, who I’m a fan of and I think that’s the price you have to pay.
When it comes to making money and living off music, I don’t think that can really be a target, but you do have to have a business plan. After these big periods of concentration and creativity, when you surrender to it….you know, that’s what you’ve got to do. That’s what I’ve got to do. I don’t know if it works for everything, but that’s what I think.
It’s such a journey with yourself. It can be the most beautiful time. In the space of one day you can travel through every single fucking emotion there is! It’s an extreme way, but it’s worth the pain.
Thank you to Tim for a great interview, and for putting on such a great live show too!
Tim Muddiman & The Strange’s debut album Paradise Runs Deeper is out now. Follow the band on Facebook for updates!