Featuring members of well-known Pure Rawk favourites Obessesive Compulsive, Manchester’s The Empty Page are taking a slightly more alternative 90s approach to angst-rock. Our Deputy Editor Dave Ashworth caught up with the band on the eve of their album launch in Manchester to bring you this interview…
So, most of our readers will know Kel and Giz first off from Obsessive Compulsive. How did you come from there to starting up The Empty Page with new drummer Jim?
KEL: We’ve known Jim for years, in fact he even starred in the OC video for No Logo! We’ve always thought he was an amazing drummer, so when we had some downtime from OC we had a jam as mates, just to have some fun playing some 90s indie/alt covers. We never really intended to do anything more than that, but when things got a bit quiet on the OC front we had a bash at some originals and they turned out pretty good, so we just kept doing it.
Jim, you’ll be new to most of our readers. Introduce yourself!
JIM: I’m Jim. I’m more of a spiritual guide than a drummer. Ha! I’m the morale booster and quick-witted mouth. I’ve been drumming in bands for about 15 years. I’m from Manchester and I’ve recently been on antibiotics.
KEL: If you know Jim you’ll realise the horrifying irony of him calling himself the morale booster!
The new material is quite removed from where you left off with Obsessive Compulsive, it takes a lot more alt-rock, indie and grunge influences. Is that a conscious choice of direction for the band, or just a reflection of the creative forces involved?
GIZ: It’s just the ideas we happened to be coming up with at that moment in time. All three of us are heavily influenced by 90s alternative music, and this just seemed like a perfect release for that side of us. It wasn’t planned, it was pretty natural.
KEL: OC were always quite eclectic, even if we sometimes may have been pigeonholed as punk or metal, I think our fans knew there was always a lot more to our music than that. This is our softer side, and I have become a little more philosophical in my old age which maybe is apparent in the lyrics, but it’s just another side of our musical output. We’re still angry and in a dark place sometimes, and hopefully we can channel that into some new OC stuff at some point.
The sound may have changed, but I see Kel, your angsty more issue-based lyrics remain. I think I read in another interview you said you “don’t write love songs”, great quote! Again, is this what you set out to do, or just what happens?
KEL: You know, I have a lot of opinions, haha! Ever since I started writing lyrics I always wanted to write about life and all aspects of life. There are some songs in my back catalogue that are about love, but I at least try and come from a different angle if I go down that road. It’s rare that I do though, I don’t think there’s much left to say about love and relationships that hasn’t already been said. It’s not something that occupies my mind a lot, I think about society’s problems, naval gazing philosophical questions, injustices, intolerance. I also celebrate the things which make me tick, I try to write about a variety of things really. With this record I do think there is more optimism than some of my previous stuff.
So let’s talk about the name, The Empty Page, taken from a Sonic Youth song title. You’ve also got a T-shirt out reworking their Goo album cover. I guess Sonic Youth must be a big influence huh! Are you paying homage here, or just wearing your influences on your sleeve?
GIZ: Yeah, the band name is taken from the Sonic Youth track, we just happened to be listening to them and the title seemed to fit the vibe of the band. With the T-shirt, we just thought it would be fun to do a tribute design because it fits with the band name.
KEL: Sonic Youth are definitely an influence (amongst others) but they’re not a blueprint for us. The T-shirt just followed on from the nam, Goo is such a cool album cover, we love Raymond Pettibon who drew the orignal and we thought it would be fun to do a take on it. Lots of bands have done Ramones style tees, so it’s kinda like that from a different perspective. Our lovely and super talented friend Dave Kerr drew it for us, check out his Devil City Designs page, he’s awesome.
You recently completed your debut album Unfolding in Canada with Gggarth Richardson (RATM / L7 / Melvins / RHCP). How did a little band from Manchester end up recording with such a big name, so far away?
JIM: It really does sound like a fairy tale, but he heard something in us and made us an offer. It still doesn’t sound believable to us! His integrity is inspiring. Knowing how hard he’s worked all his life and who he’s turned down over the years is humbling.
KEL: Yeah, we just loved his work and took a chance by sending him a demo and he instantly responded really positively. We skyped and made each other laugh, and he totally understood the no frills approach we wanted to take. Me and Giz were taking some time out to travel at the time and it worked well with us already being in America when Gggarth was free. So all we had to do was get a cheap return flight for Jim! It actually worked out really well. So you could say it was fate.
GIZ: Gggarth’s studio is in the middle of nowhere in Gibsons, BC, near Vancouver. It was so cool to record somewhere with no distractions; it was just all about concentrating on the music for a few days and having some fun. We did it really quickly so it had a really natural, organic feel.
KEL: And Gggarth and his team really looked after us, it was an incredible experience. We’d love to go back one day, maybe give ourselves a bit more time to enjoy the hot tub!
Apart from a few demos, our readers will have only heard the single version of Deeply Unlovable so far – what can we expect from the rest of the material on the album?
GIZ: It’s all got a similar kind of vibe, it’s all 90s influenced and it’s all song orientated.
KEL: There are louder and quieter songs of course, but we think it flows well as an album and we sound like a band already. We have a sound, I think!
JIM: Ten tracks of amazingly produced, raw, honest rock n roll.
Kel, I see you’ve been painting some illustrate lyric sheets for winning album pledgers, and I think the album cover is your work as well. Have you always put painted work out there as well, or is this something new to The Empty Page?
KEL: Haha, I certainly don’t see myself as an artist! I just thought I’d have a bash to be honest. I had an idea for the dreamy, cloudy look I wanted for the artwork, and we all agreed we wanted blues and greens, I added mustard for contrast and just bought a few tubes of watercolours, some sponges, brushes and recycled paper and went to it. I really had fun with it, I think creativity whether in art, music, drama or whatever, is really important for adults, and it’s something we neglect as we get older, which I really think makes us unhappy. I felt a great sense of satisfaction from doing it, and it’s really nice that the artwork is hand painted and unique.
You’ve got the album release party in Manchester on September 16th, followed of course by the album release October 21st. What else have you got planned that we should know about?
KEL: After the album release, we have another run of shows all over the UK. The album release is preceded by three singles, and all of them have videos. We’re already working on new material as well, so hopefully our second album won’t be too far away!
Catch The Empty Page at the following UK dates this autumn:
30/09 Plymouth, The Underground
01/10 Derby, Hairy Dog (Acoustic)
04/10 Liverpool, Jupiters
06/10 Coventry, Arches
07/10 Tottenham, T Chances
13/10 Glasgow, Ivory Black’s
14/10 Leeds ,Temple Of Boom
15/10 Bolton, Alma
20/10 Canterbury, Lady Luck
21/10 London, Some Weird Sin @ Nambucca
23/10 Cardiff, The Gwdihw Café
16/10 Edinburgh, Bannerman’s
04/11 Chorlton, Mono