There has been a four-year hiatus since his last release so we’ve been eagerly anticipating new moves after becoming hooked on his avant-garde 2012 debut, Choreography. ‘it was a long period and a huge amount happened personally, musically’ Doran tells us, ‘to me, it really doesn’t even feel like I am the same person who wrote the last record. Like an A and B version of myself’.
Luxury Alone will take you back to the summer of ’65 in your head; it sounds a lot like the innocent, jangly, uplifting riffs of The Beatles put through a synthesizer, akin to indie-electronica superstars Deerhoof, Broadcast and Beach House. Naive melodies on tunes such as Heaven’s Hounds are offset by macabre, personal and introspective lyrics, giving the work a delightfully dark twist. It really does induce some rather weird dreams.
The album has a subtle narrative to it as an illustration of a chaotic period in Doran’s life. Becoming engulfed in manic depression left the artist with little regard for systematic ways of working. Facing his demons, Doran wrote and recorded hundreds upon hundreds of songs in ‘different rooms in various people’s houses’, addressing cognitive breakdowns that he suffered via therapeutic creative expression. The experience was unpleasant but ‘unavoidable’. A lot of raw emotion goes into each track, which the listener can undoubtedly pick up upon. ‘it became fascinating to play around with sincerity and context of my vocal delivery’ Doran states. ‘I listened to Broadcast almost exclusively for a long time before this, there was something about how reductive the song structures are and Trish Keenan’s near emotionless voice became a very important influence to me’.
What was your working process like whilst making Luxury Alone?
This album is really something that I could never recreate, as it documents the events from a point of a total loss of identity, stability, control, love and friends… To the point of a new identity, a new life, accepting my own struggles with anxiety, depression and derealisation. The idea of a working process suggests structure and regimentation as you say and that is everything, inside and out that this record is not. The reason for this was that everything concrete in my life fell away, for
certain reasons, almost entirely and at once. I suffered nervous breakdown after nervous breakdown until there was nothing left, and people continued to fall away, new and old. Loneliness proliferates itself. Mental health still suffers a degree social stigma and that internalising creates a dishonesty in yourself as you try to perform day to day in a way that disguises things that ultimately distort your image of the world. These things proliferate and oscillate themselves like a feedback loop.
I didn’t know how to respond to myself, and especially whilst experiencing such grief. It got so bad that I couldn’t decide what I was supposed to do to leave the house, to get out of bed, to lift myself out of my ‘self’ and the ever growing feeling that death would prevent any further torment.
Music was my only way of connecting with something to confirm any corporeality. The “process” was anything to escape the hurt, and believe me, when I wasn’t able to operate on a basic human level, I did not have the clarity in my head for anything that even vaguely suggested a model of any kind. A forced approach though – yes – forcing myself into further isolation and what felt like the choice-less completion of whatever this next phase of music and life was to be.
What’s behind the name, Weird Dreams, anyway?
Weird Dreams was just a fairly throw away nod to my younger experience with somnambulism and sleep terrors. I think me and Craig (the drummer) liked how ambivalent it was.
How do you think your musical influences shaped your work along the way?
Ryuichi Sakamoto (Japanese avant-garde composer) and Yasuaki Shimizu have such an in depth academic background and understanding of classical music, ethnic music and electronic music… I can in no way claim influence! Their approach to music was certainly something that inspired me, though.
Initially, the production of those artists astounded me, like Akiko Yano’s ‘Rose Garden’, Sakamoto and Sylvian’s ‘Bamboo Houses’. Whilst I taught myself to mix the album I would play Yasuaki Shimizu’s Kakashi album and every time I’d just end up listening to the whole thing in amazement. It’s so playful (playfulness is important, like in the way Pina Bausch would use a mixture of heavily emotional contemporary dance movement and sometimes quiet playful performance art).
Sakamoto, as someone very close to me said, is ‘irreplaceable’. Even from his first record, Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto, he’d achieved a dichotomy that drives progression. That dichotomy had a big impact on my understanding of my own intentions and what I wanted to release into this world. It wasn’t enough to be a version of something that has already been done very well, as that serves only your own desire for nostalgia. I needed to be constantly shifting the context. My own sincerity even began to feel cheap. I began to see lyrics and delivery like a way of defining the environment around them, the sound.
So to create paradoxes within that felt more compelling, as the world described or offered on the record is an interpretation of my experience with Derealisation. Which is very distorting.
What kind of imagery did you have in your head when making the album?
I couldn’t get the image of water reflections on a swimming pool ceiling at night out of my mind. But the water is warm. I had to create sound that looked like this image to me, that I could emotionally connect with at every point. It became a compulsion, a total obsession. We had a few people do test mixes on the record when it was done, but I just couldn’t communicate this image, and it wouldn’t have been fair on them! So I learned how to mix the album myself.
The album does not just follow this mood though, and in the static-ness of those atonal drones and space, it was the work of Daido Moriyama’s Jack Kerouac inspired (important to note that Jack Kerouac’s work was not an influence on this record) ‘On the Road’ series. Those photographs are not anchored to a place. In between one unknown point to another, but made permanent and stationary in capturing that moment. The anonymity and lack of maybe distinguishable topography seemed to illustrate how I felt in the world, and in myself.
Was it therapeutic making the album, at all?
No it was extremely distressing but unavoidable. It’s completion is a therapy. Every single track documented some part of the experience, many of them unused. I honestly needed to construct the image as whole before I could understand how to start to move away from it.
Why music, why not film or painting?
As a child I was completely immersed in visual art, but somehow the experience of pursuing it academically killed it off in me completely. But it is a very important part of my life. Josef and Anni Albers, Malevich, Agnes Martin, Ben Nicholson and any other non-music references I’ve made here all very important to me and the way I approach music. My Grandfather is a Jazz musician and my Grandmother was a
classical pianist, cellist and jazz singer, so perhaps my early exposure to music encouraged something more auditory in me.
While everyone’s relationship with music is different (perhaps part of it’s beauty) the possible mystery for me is that you can’t touch music or hold it, like you can perhaps with sculpture. You can’t see sound like you can with visual art and so perhaps there’s more room for interpretation. It can fill a room and completely transform the mood. Having said that, I get almost exactly the same feeling from Agnes Martin’s minimal grid works as I do from Éliane Radigue’s minimal drone works, so I don’t think a monistic separating of the senses suites me either. With all imagery for the record I’ve worked very closely with Jorge Anthony Stride and Collin Fletcher to achieve something very specific that gives me a visual notion of the music. It kind of completes it.
How did you pick the ten songs out of hundreds you wrote?
There’s probably as many concepts in this album as songs written as it really was a time of discovery, confusion, loss and loneliness. Every tone, texture, synth pad and even type of synthesizer used has meaning to me. But I think that’s what makes something interesting as you find something new in each listen. I wanted the songs to be completely honest, not forced, and have a continuity thematically and stylistically, as the sound developed over those four years each time I turned some kind of corner or discovered some new wonder.
Give us the top 5 weirdest and most wonderful items you have in your record collection.
Robert Ashley – Private Parts
Part 1 of this record changed my life and how I think about music. It was the first
thing I ever heard by Robert Ashley and I was utterly mesmerised by his voice,
the drone and tablas. His command of language, delivery, this vast narrative he
creates, all guided around flourishes of improvised piano and synth swells.
Alice Coltrane – Turiya Sings
A friend played this to me recently, although I’ve been a big fan of Alice Coltrane
for years. It evokes a sense of spirituality, but it also reminds me of the virtual
worlds created in things like vapour wave! This also meets my Xanax and red wine in a hot bath classification.
Sacred Treasures – Choral Masterworks from Russia.
Tchaikovsky’s – Hymn of the Cherubim by USSR Ministry of Culture Chamber
was a standout recording for me in a time where I began to crave the autonomy
of those choral voices. I was in the Les Halle Saint Eustache church in Paris
recently and found that, architecturally, everything in there led your eye upward,
like you’re looking up to heaven, which eventually led to stained glass windows
depicting saints and symbolism. The acoustic design sets out to achieve the
same, voices climbing to reverberate in the apex of the arches. It feels celestial.
From an atheist perspective I found this so fascinating! This piece of music is beautiful.
Laserdisc Visions – New Dreams LTD
I don’t know a great deal about her, but I believe this is one of Vektroid’s many
monikers. It’s just a total pleasure for me to listen to. I love the idealism, how
surreal it is, like being stuck in some bizarre mnemonic pocket of nostalgia that’s
not quite been remembered fully and just keeps looping the insignificant parts.
Isao Tomita – Snowflakes are Dancing
I heard of this in Haroumi Hosono Redbull Lecture. Apparently him and
Sakamoto heard Tomita’s incredible synth re-working of Claire de Lune whilst
working on Cochin Moon and got the programmer Hideki Matsutake involved
with the record. Matsutake went on to become the fourth member of YMO and I
love his band Logic System’s album Venus.