Here you find what Turin Brakes were up to from the beginning until roughly the end of 1999.
|The Door EP|
Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian have been best mates since early childhood. They met playing football at the age of 8, in their neighbourhood of Balham in London. They grew up listening to their parents record collections, artists such as Leonard Cohen, Suzanne Vega, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan.
For Olly and Gale, it was always going to be about the music. Well, that or Ninjitsu, anyway… Olly: “We went on a school trip and everybody had to do a play. We cut out two cardboard guitars and drew strings on them and sang ‘Johnny B Good’. We either wanted to be rock stars or ninjas.” When they discovered that the instructor at their Ninjitsu lessons in South London was a fake and teaching them made up moves, there was only one way it could go. Olly preferred listening to Joni Mitchell anyway: “I spent years listening to Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen from a very early age. I wasn’t always sure of what they were saying, but they still made me feel extremely emotional. I knew these were people confessing fears and ideas in a beautiful way, they were painting pictures with words, I’m attempting something similar I guess. Musically what me and Gale do is quite organic, it has something to do with our relationship, it’s an instinctive thing.”
When Olly and Gale were ten years old, they were still at primary school in Balham, Gale coerced Olly into auditioning for cathedral choir, “because you got to sing in front of the queen!”. They both made it into the choir, and this is were they learned to sing properly. Three times a week, for several years, including all day on Sundays. The result was that they DID get to sing for the queen, that happened at the memorial service for the Marchioness disaster. The story goes that Olly and Gale were forced to leave the choir, but according to Olly himself that isn’t true: “We didn’t actually get chucked out as such,” says Olly. “All these old fellas used to sit at the back, and one day one of them actually pulled my hair! So I just lost it”. About a week after that they said ‘Listen guys, you’ve been here for five years. Well done. Here’s five pounds.’ But it was about then we discovered beer, and all our mates were out playing football and skateboarding and, well, sleeping…”
The Bedroom Years
Then the ways of Olly and Gale went in different directions. Olly enrolled at film school (St Martin’s), while Gale left for Canada, as he was playing in another band which had gone to Toronto to try and get signed. It was when Olly was working on a film score for his student film project that the two started making music together again. Olly asked Gale to put some guitar down for some demo’s on a digital four track originally intended for mixing film soundtracks, and he was easily persuaded to return. From one of these sessions came the origins of their first ever release, ‘The Door’ EP…
Olly graduated from Film school, and on the nights when they were free the two of them had been getting together in their bedrooms and playing, singing, jamming, improvising. But now with more time on their hands these soirees became “long, drunken howling at the moon sessions”, says Olly…”This artist lived in the house at the other end of my garden and we really used to piss him off, singing out of the window. Every Friday and Saturday night we used to get drunk and sing weird songs about whisky!” These nights became known as “The Bedroom Years”. Their first ever song they wrote was called “My Name Is Olly, His Name Is Gale, And We’re Sitting In This Bedroom Playing This Song”… It’s not sure if we should be sad or glad that this song never made it onto an album…
Olly: “After graduating I felt a little lost and began writing songs on a guitar. These songs felt very close to my filmic ideas and as they developed they seemed more successful in communicating these feelings than film had, perhaps because they were more immediate and less intellectual.” Olly and Gale decided after a trip to New York to take these “skeletal songs” and continue developing the atmospheric music from their film score time by combining the two forms. Olly: “I guess it was around this moment that Turin Brakes was born although we had no name. Gale was developing a really cool mixture of slide, rhythm and lead guitar which slipped into these songs perfectly; it gave them a very distinct atmosphere.”
Together they restructured and rewrote a whole batch of material until it was time to start playing live. Gale: “We were only making this music for ourselves and our friends, so when Anvil Records turned up and wanted to release an EP we were totally blown away.” A friend of Gale’s had played some of their music to Phil Passera at the Anvil label in Brighton, who loved what he heard and wanted to release something, though Olly and Gale still didn’t have a name for themselves. Many were banded about, “Mellon Collie Crack” and “Tired Fly” to name but two. Gale: “We thought up many terrible names but this one stuck. We liked its openness. It felt like we could move anywhere under this name”.
The Door EP
And so ‘The Door EP’ by Turin Brakes was released on August 13th 1999 on Anvil records, with only 1000 copies printed, 500 on cd and 500 on 7″ vinyl.
The first and last of the four tracks featured on this recording are typical of Turin Brakes’ deep and accurate portrayal of the human condition. ‘The Door’ is a personal account of the pain of decision making, whilst ‘The Road’ gives an optimistic outlook on what the future may bring. By TV Light is a drunken affair and can be described as song about someone longing to be heard or understood, aswell as moving in another direction. “I swear if you listen, you might just hear our song”, “and the pavements lead to another place”. ‘Nowhere’ is a sweet instrumental, the title perhaps lending itself to Olly’s feelings at the time of being lost. The track features some beautiful slide guitar from Gale, and is Turin Brakes’ experiment if you like. It was there way of getting out what they’d learnt musically in such a short space of time.
The Door EP certainly set the ball rolling for the duo in the music business, “We didn’t think it would do what it did,” says Olly. “We hoped we could stick around with Anvil and maybe get a little album out. But after that we started doing gigs officially, and suddenly there were reviews appearing and stuff.” It was a gig at The 12 Bar where they really started to feel the sea of change, though: “We went to see another band and suddenly over the speaker system ‘The Door’ starts playing, and it was really weird because we hadn’t really thought about that at all. Then they said ‘This band are called Turin Brakes and they’re playing here in three weeks time’, and we were like ‘What?!?’ We looked down and there was a flyer for it. I remember Gale looking up and going ‘It’s happening!”
After that they started playing regularly at the Heavenly Social, then everything went crazy. With the emergance of The Door EP, Turin Brakes aroused lots of interest at local gigs with Olly & Gale having to fend off offers that came flooding in. Record labels such as Mo ‘Wax, Skint, Domino, Infectious, Heavenly and the French label Source who are all home of innovative acts. After spending four or five months speed-learning everything they could about the “industry” side of music, the duo eventually signed to Source. It was signed on a Friday and they started work in the studio on the next Monday…