Last Friday saw the release of Gale Paridjanian’s solo album HIFILOFI SCIFIWIFI. Gale P, one of Turin Brakes’ founding members, kindly agreed to an exclusive Ether Site interview. Here are Gale’s answers to how this album was made, and the songs and sounds on it. Gale: “I had the time and the hands-on control to get the sounds I was after, without having to explain or compromise with anyone.“
ES: Congrats on the release of a great album! Can’t wait to play it on vinyl like it deserves! Thanks for answering these questions. How did the project come about? Why did you make a solo album?
GALE: “It had been on my mind in some way since Olly did his first one. I asked myself what mine might be like. So I decided to brush up some of the bits of songs I had lying around, almost to see if I could actually finish stuff off on my own, get it in time, get it in tune, finish the lyrics and not need or be waiting for another level of filtering or finishing off from other people. After all, I had built a soundproof shed in my back garden. ”
ES: On the sleeve it says, recorded in Lockdown Three. How did Lockdown Life influence the project?
GALE: “It had got to the third lockdown in London. We had done a lot of writing and sorting through TB tracks for TB9. Then in Lockdown 2, we had more songs until it was getting complicated – so it was time to find something else to sink my teeth into. I am used to keeping myself busy – to get on and try and write or record or practice something if there’s nothing in the diary. I had spent a while wondering how I could do a solo record: “would I sing? Would there be a band? Would I go to a studio?” Lockdown reduced a lot of the options and that was really helpful in my head for just getting on with it.”
ES: Did being holed up help you get creative? What made this project happen at this time?
GALE: “During the first lockdown I thought I’d just tinker away some time, doing bits of electronic music on Ableton, but I got stuck in this handful of loops and just couldn’t get beyond it. Everyday I’d start with ground breaking intentions but would end the day with the loops all being the same. I had a breakthrough on one track after weeks, when after a few minutes it just slows right right down, until you’re kind of in this forest of super slow harmonics and slow pluck sounds, piano notes as big and old as trees, and then it all speeds up again. I realised after that it was my lockdown head slowing down.”
“So, that was Lockdown 1 plus all the Turin Brakes stuff flying around. By Lockdown 3 I think there was no hiding anymore from the fact I had to finally get on with a more cohesive project, and finish it for a change.”
ES: What was the creation process like? Was there a song the came first or one that made this project come together?
GALE: “I had shown some of these songs to Olly before. I’d get as far as a verse and a chorus and then kind of expect the creative process to kick in from someone else if the ideas were worth the time. So I had a handful of unfinished bits around that I’d always thought were worth taking further. But after a few days of deciding to take it on, Thunderclouds just turned up. I was really excited by holding the drums etc off until the end and then having this big peaceful release, so much so that I didn’t really pay much attention to the beginning part of the song. It just rolled out whilst I was focusing on the end bit and wanting to get that finished so I could listen to it. That song became my newest friend and inspired me to keep going, I mean, I really liked it and it was easy going.”
ES: Did you have any particular influence for the songwriting on this album, both lyrically and/or musically?
GALE: “Yes probably. Each song is probably influenced by something I love to listen to. I though I’d just try and make stuff that I like to hear. But consciously there wasn’t one main influence.”
ES: There’s a lot of different sounds and vibes on the record. What does it sound like to you, if you had to describe the record as a whole?
GALE: “I quite liked the description from a record store that called it ‘infectiously melodic slacker ballads’, which sounds far cooler than I feel. To me it sounds like my Shazam playlist, if I wasn’t involved each song would probably have me doing a quick Shazam for one reason or another.”
ES: Besides the guitars you play some different instruments on this album. Zombie has some great stuff going on sonically, for example. Were there any parts or sounds you had a lot of fun with?
GALE: ” There is saxophone on there – I’m lucky enough to have been lent one a while ago and started using it in TB land. I am no John Coltrane but it’s very useful to be able to reach for a completely different instrument. It does sound like a 14-year-old’s music homework quite often, but I forgive myself. In Zombie, I put the voice through my delay pedal and messed around to make it like a fun zombie. I also have this meditation machine called a Buddha box that plays small loops out a little speaker that makes a few appearances.”
“I also had a go at recording and playing the drums. Hats off to all the real drummers out there, but I did eventually find a way to make it work.”
ES: ‘Thunderclouds’ and ‘Offices’ are two great songs. What was writing and recording with Eliza Shaddad like? And how did you two working together come about?
GALE: “I had rough outlines of Offices for a while, and I had the drums on it, played by Joseph Rowe, from our Brixton studio days. But I’d always thought it would be better with a girl singing: My Bloody Valentine or even bit of Smashing Pumpkins or even The XX. But I had just left it in a whirlpool of confusion.”
“Once I’d met Eliza on tour with us I had it in my head that she’d get it and be amazing on it. It took me a while to pluck up the courage, but she was up for it and positive straight away. The sketched out lyrics were a bit narcotic, so we did a few video calls and she went away and revised them. Immediately it was better: she brought new life to it, and clarity. It was like it was stuck against some rocks before and she just untethered it and gave it flight. I was very excited by it, and just having her be positive about what I was doing was a real uplift.”
“Again, the actual rewriting and recording was done in lockdown with her living miles away. We did a few video calls and screen sharing and just emailed parts to each other.”
ES: Is there a song on the album you’re most proud of and why?
GALE: “Overall I’m proud of the whole thing because I have it on CD in the car and it doesn’t give me a mental breakdown when it comes on. An individual song? Hmmmm. Probably Thunderclouds, because it’s quite a different world for me, and I still like the ending. Or All The Darkness because it’s a different world but with echoes of slide guitar from before, and I like the way it comes in. Or anything with drums because I managed to get them in time. Or anything that’s in tune because that’s another problem I have. Or anything that actually sounds like ‘music’ because I couldn’t really be sure for a while.”
ES: Do you feel the home recording aspect of the project suits these songs?
GALE: “I recorded them all in my soundproof shed in my garden. It’s essentially a small studio. It was part of it I suppose, because I had the thing built so it was time to fully use it. I think I would have had to have been way way more confident to go into another ‘real’ studio to do this. I guess it suits these songs as I had the time and hands-on control to get the sounds I was after, without having to explain or compromise with anyone.”
ES: After singing on a whole solo album, can we expect more Gale vocal work in the future?
GALE: “I’m not sure about that. I do feel like singers are best at singing, and we all know Olly is one of the best at making that connection from the centre of the world to the far reaches of the cosmos via his voice.”
“With this though, I spent a while working out if I could do an instrumental solo album, or even an album just of solos. But I felt like ultimately it would be a cop out, that I knew really it had to have the focus of being songs with singing.”
ES: Where does the album title ‘HIFILOFI SCIFIWI’ come from?
GALE: “It’s just a little bit fun. I didn’t want it to be ‘my burdened heart’ or ‘this is a really meaningful title’ manipulating peoples heart strings. I was thinking about the nature of LoFi music and how it has changed over the time we’ve been doing music. With todays technology to make what WAS LoFi would take quite a lot of effort and equipment and actually be quite an anti-LoFi mindset. And in fact the LoFi mindset now would probably be ‘just use GarageBand’, which sounds very Hifi compared to when we started.”
“And the sci-fi was just a play on peoples need to have good Wi-Fi and the nature of that being futuristic not long ago… And how your Wi-Fi provider is probably quoting you speeds that might as well be completely fictional, and how lockdown had made us all get on the internet to see people etc etc. I was mucking around really.”
ES: How is HIFILOFI SCIFIWIFI influenced by your other creative work, like Lounge At The Edge of Town and Turin Brakes?
GALE: “There’s obviously a lot of Turin Brakes learning gone into it. For me mainly I had to learn to actually finish something properly as if someone else was in the room saying ‘that’s not in tune’, ‘that’s not in time’, which is far more how it would go in TB: I tend to leave things quite messy on my own.”
“Lounge At The Edge of Town was a great project. Phil Ramacon is great to write with and we did most of that writing and demoing at my house and shed/ studio, so it influenced in that way. And also in a writing way: that if something’s not working then you have the power to change it, to develop it, move the melody around if you need to… The chords or whatever. It’s all elastic and doesn’t have to be heavy.”
ES: How do you feel the first single, ‘There She Goes’, has landed in the community?
GALE: “I’m probably not the best judge of what people think. I assume 5-10% of TB fans might have had an interest. But there aren’t any signs that it’s gone completely mental and changed the world yet. It’s probably not a bad choice of a song to introduce the idea as it has acoustic guitars and similarities with Turin Brakes. I imagine people ‘don’t mind’ it.”
ES: What do you want to do next? Would you be interested in translating these songs to the stage for a live show, for example?
GALE: “I’m not against trying it out live. But it’s a bit of a minefield. I’ve tried just playing the songs through and it sounds OKish. I’ve tried with a loop pedal and it sounds OKish. So I guess the next thing would be getting a band together which feels like quite a big deal.”
ES: Have you heard any other lockdown music, like Elbow’s recent album for example (one fan noted that their song ‘After The Eclipse’ could be a sister song to your ‘All The Darkness’)? Any new discoveries or recommendations?
“I agree about the Elbow song, it fits together well. Another example of people far more successful than me copying me before me. I think it, but they do it and make it successful. Members of Blur and Radiohead always do that too.
Songs and things I’ve discovered recently randomly chosen from my Shazam list is probably the best I can do.
- Miki Dora by Amen Dunes
- CHIAROSCURO by Alessandro cortini
- Darling Corey by Pete Seeger
- Mohabbat by Arooj Aftab
- Mary Janes Last Dance by Tom Petty
Thank you for your time Gale! Congrats on a great album! And thank you to all fans who sent in questions!
HIFILOFI SCIFIWIFI is available from various outlets on different formats: