Articles / Reviews

Adrian Borland - 5:00 am interview (Limit nr.20 1998)

date: Jun 1, 1998


summer 1998

" Sometimes you have to fight your own style to be new. And sometimes you have to surrender to your own style to be good. "

"5:00 A.M." your 5th solo album, is different from it's predecessors isn't it?
Adrian: Yes, the last two albums were essentially demos. Even "Beautiful Ammunition" is very simply put together, only acoustic guitar, synthesiser and a few drum machines. Everything is very basic, which I like, but it's quite a different thing to record with a 16 track machine, even just from the point of view of atmosphere. With "Cinematic" I felt the same, but perhaps that album was somewhat over ambitious. Perhaps the time was not yet ready for it. With "5:00 A.M." I had 39 days to make it the way I wanted. Besides Tim Smith of the Cardiacs was very good as a producer. He never tried to change the music, he just tried to maintain the individuality of the artist. I'm very happy with this album.

Do the musicians involved constitute a real band or are they session players?
Adrian: They are more or less acquaintances of mine. We played a small tour of three gigs last year in Germany. The trumpeter for example is great, the two small parts in " City Speed " are actually only two notes like in " Downtown " by Petula Clark! But I believe, as you get older, it becomes difficult to keep a band together, except if you are very successful and make a lot of money from making music. But most people at my age - I'm 40 this year - have basic obligations. If you are 19 and your band is successful, then you leave university and if it goes well you carry on. But the older you get the more difficult it is to keep five musicians together.

Have you left behind the " being-in-a-band " idea ?
Adrian: Not really. If I had been more successful, I would perhaps still have a full band.

You mentioned " City Speed ", is that song is about Bremen?
Adrian: I think so. The song is dedicated to Carlo van Putten of The Convent, because we did the things that I sing about there. Every time at the end of the working day, we got into the car and drove to Bremen. It's about such trips, where you see the highrise buildings emerging slowly, if you drive off the motorway and the city is there in front of you. Much of that is within this song, but a song is never only about one thing. In " City Speed " there are thousands of journeys in hundreds of different cities. It also means London, the people on the streets there, or in New York. Actually each city is symbolised. You rush through somewhere and maybe stay one moment, where you want. Then perhaps afterwards you move on to the next journey.

"5:00 A.M." describes a journey by night?
Adrian: It is not quite so obvious. For a while I had the crazy idea to sort the titles according to their length and begin with the shortest one, so that the numerical data on the backcover read like the points in time during one night. Unfortunately it became impossible to maintain the title order, but I still found the idea useful, to describe the moments witin one night. But "Kissing in The Dark" for example takes place on a bright summer day. The darkness is only a metaphor for kissing a stranger. Thus it is not a strict concept album, but it has very much of the atmosphere of a journey through one night. The title describes the most terrible time of day for me; at 5:00 AM you simply feel bad, whether you haven't slept yet or even if you simply have to get up. For me this is a dividing point. End of the night, beginning of the day, something comes to an end, and something new begins. Many of the songs mention these things.

You spoke about the recording-conditions, and how this disc differs from its predecessors. But did the songwriting stay the same ?
Adrian: Some of the songs I had already written as far back as 1993, for example,"Baby Moon". I only waited for the chance to record it in the right way. It's been like that with a few songs, where you wait for a decent budget. You can't waste your best material on a lo-fi production.

I find nevertheless that " 5:00 A.M. "is a substantially brighter album than your previous records.
Adrian: It has without a doubt a lot of positive messages, particularly songs like "Over The Under" or "Stray Bullets" and somehow even "Before The Day Begins" ends with a positive feeling. It's not that I can only write melancholic music. When we played live with The Sound , we always had something of this, " World, fuck off!" attitude. It's quite difficult to describe, but it sums up the atmosphere somehow. A little of that is still in me and I have to admit it.

"5:00 A.M." in a subtle way has more to do with The Sound than your other albums. It seems to have a similar kind of energy.
Adrian: Sometimes you try to dissociate yourself as hard as you can from your past. But then you reach the point where you have to accept that it's a part of you. You can then try and see, what new things can be created as a result. At times you must fight your own style, in order to be new, and at times you have to surrender to your own style, in order to be good. I mean, I could start writing only songs about fishing or acoustic ballads about sailing! (sings:) " We are going onto the ocean... ", but who wants to listen to that??? I would only torture my brain and lose my public at the same time. There are a lot of people, particularly in Germany, who lost interest in me during the last record, who will like this album a lot. Perhaps "5:00 A.M" takes up, where "Thunder Up" - which was the last Sound album - left off.

How do you feel about The Sound now?
Adrian: Oh, certainly everything wasn't always great. Some songs were very good, I guess. We could perhaps have reached the top, but somehow there was a small spark missing. The 80's were in certain respects a really bad time for music, not where it concerns the songs, but how the records sounded. It wasn't my fault, it was actually nobody's fault, but if you live in a very strange time, then that inevitably has it's effect. If today I listen to an album like " Heads & Hearts ", then I simply think, the way the whole record is produced, say continuously " 1985 ". It would be much nicer if it sounded timeless. On the other hand I find some albums still sound great, like "Jeopardy", "Thunder Up" or "From The Lions Mouth", because they don't sound at all like the 80's. Ultimately I find " Thunder Up " the very best album, because it sounds like the band "live" in the studio and in a way it actually was.

Why did you split in 1987, after that album?
Adrian: How often can you bang your head against the wall? We were simply burned out! We didn't have an easy time ,we always argued and somehow that penetrated into the music. I still don't have it easy, but you get used to it....perhaps that's the connection between The Sound and " 5:00 A.M. ". It's still the same person, who writes the songs, only a little bit less in love with himself and more worldview orientated.

At your last gigs you only played new songs except for an acoustic version of " Winning ". Why?
Adrian: I like sometimes, not to fulfil expectations. " Winning " is acoustically so far away from the original Sound version that it's actually already another song. I find that the actual meaning comes out more clearly.

Will you still play old material at all?
Adrian: Yes, sometimes I play "Total Recall" or some other songs. There are not so many that are suitable for an acoustic guitar, because they were created from the beginning for four instruments. With a band I won't play these songs any more, I don't want to end up as a cabaret show! Otherwise there are always people , who only want to hear the old things. I would rather say, " here, I am still alive, I am making something new now. Do you like it? If not, no problem.. ". On the other hand I played two songs from " Cinematic " on the last tour, so the fans knew at least three tracks.

What's the position in relation to new songs?
Adrian: I wrote the complete second album for White Rose Transmission and also my new solo album, which sounds quite experimental again. And I still have an orchestra type album ready.

Do you constantly write songs? How many have you written so far?
Adrian: In my whole life? About 300 songs. For The Sound around 100, and a few for other musicians. But now there are some coming again ... The number is not important really, more important is which songs will people remember? That's the amazing thing about David Bowie: he has written a huge number of songs that people remember! Sometimes he copied his own style, but he always wrote ingenious songs.

What are your concrete future plans?
Adrian: I must get back into the studio soon, because it's terrible to walk around with 40 songs in mind, sooner or later my head explodes if I do not record them.

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