Tuesday, July 12, 2016

PETER COYLE: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with the legendary Liverpudlian music maker and Lotus Eaters frontman!



PETER COYLE:
An EXCLUSIVE Q&A!

Deep In The Music - 
From THE LOTUS EATERS 
To The Digital Age


     Over three decades after he first entered the charts in the UK with The Lotus Eaters, Peter Coyle remains one of the most under-rated singer/songwriters in the UK. He made a splash with the truly memorable “The First Picture Of You” single in 1983 and instantly became a proper Pop star. Featured on magazine covers, pull out posters and Top Of The Pops, The Lotus Eaters – vocalist Coyle and guitarist Jem Kelly (The Wild Swans) – conquered the charts and became ‘overnight’ sensations. “The First Picture Of You” may have been a catchy first hit but it was far from your standard ‘80s assembly line Pop song. This single, like much of the 1984 album No Sense Of Sin (expanded edition via Cherry Red), was multi-layered – a glossy slice of melancholy filled with heart, soul, love, fear, hope, purity, longing and a sense of wonder. The Lotus Eaters were a very unique and gentle band that their label tried to mould into a slick, chart-friendly pop duo ala Tears For Fears and China Crisis. However, Coyle and Kelly refused to alter their musical vision to fit someone else’s idea of what The Lotus Eaters were all about. Their follow-up singles and debut album sounded like nothing else in the charts and this confused the label’s marketing team and the public alike. Unfortunately, the band split in 1985 before recording a second album. Jem went back to The Wild Swans while Peter focused on an eclectic and independent solo career. (In 1987, Coyle won the US Billboard Album of the Year for his critically acclaimed double album A Slap in the Face for Public Taste. A year later he released his groundbreaking album I’d Sacrifice Eight Orgasms With Shirley MacClaine Just To Be There. It was at this time that Peter Coyle formed the most successful dance club in the UK called G-Love and created the Eight Productions moniker to create dance floor classics such as 'Sly One' by Marina Van Rooy and 'Hard' by Connie Lush
     By the turn of the millennium, there had been a critical reappraisal of The Lotus Eaters’ small but beloved catalogue and the duo reunited to play some shows. In 2001, the duo released their second album, Silentspace (available via Cherry Red), proving that they were still a highly unique musical force, mixing gorgeous melodies with Coyle’s emotive voice. The album was embraced by longtime fans and critics but was released on an indie label that struggled with delivering their music to a wider audience. While Coyle and Kelly have continued to occasionally work together over the years, they have yet to release a follow-up to Silentspace. Coyle returned to a solo career, releasing a series of remarkable albums independently including Earthspace, Stay Deep In The Music, The Mood Machine, and Meltdown For The Mindless and G-Metrix’s Kiss the Vision. Always one to wear his heart on his sleeve, his solo recordings are more intimate than The Lotus Eaters’ releases yet they still possess the same heartwarming charm that was first apparent on “The First Picture Of You.”
     More recently, Coyle has stopped releasing physical product and focuses on issuing digital only singles every month. This allows him to work independently. He understands that without a genuine platform his music is destined for obscurity but he is adamant that the only thing that counts is the body of work. Again, these musical moments are unlike anything else you’ll hear on any digital platform yet they are tailored to fit every mood – the same song can make you sob if you’re sad and bring joy to your heart if you are feeling particularly optimistic. The only other artist who can do that so effortlessly is The Durutti Column. Coyle’s recordings have the extra added bonus of his vocals, which come from deep within the soul. He lives and breathes this music and it can be felt as well as heard in his songs. Why a record label – major, indie or boutique – doesn’t snap up his recordings is a tragedy.
     Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to send off some questions to Peter, who graciously took time to answer them…



STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: You first came to public attention in 1983 with The Lotus Eaters and the release of your single “The First Picture Of You”.  Coming out of Liverpool, a city with a rich musical history, what was it like growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s?
PETER COYLE: Life is hard for everyone… it was hard for me… as it was obvious that I was a freak… and the concept of fitting in was a complete nonstarter… but there was no language to express that energy…until music came into my life…and i am very grateful to music for that…music has been my salvation and my refuge…i am very lucky to have lived the life i have lived…a life deep in music…

SPAZ: People often associate Liverpool with the ‘60s British invasion but did you find the late ‘70s an exciting time with bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, Yachts, etc.?
PETER: Music is part of the make-up of Liverpool… I used to just walk around the city and you could almost touch the atmosphere… it was very energizing and a beautiful thing…one of the key aspects of coming from Liverpool is that it encourages you to think in an independent way…and I will always be forever grateful for that…music for a lot of us was the only option…it gave us the chance to express ourselves and find a way out of the desperate situation we found ourselves in…

SPAZ: You hooked up with guitarist Jem Kelly, who had left The Wild Swans. When The Lotus Eaters first started, what was the musical climate like? There were still a lot of great Liverpudlian bands at the time including The Icicle Works, China Crisis, OMD, A Flock Of Seagulls
PETER: There was music everywhere…i was in the Jass Babies and we just could not get anyone interested in what we were doing…i think it was because we were very different… and no one had any money and the rehearsal spaces were full of cups drenched in mold… but it was a magical time and I am very lucky to have been in such a charged up atmosphere…everything was buzzing…everyone was hoping…everyone was trying to make something that cut through the noise…


SPAZ: The music you created was entirely unique. Production-wise, it seemed to fit in with what was happening in ’83 and ’84 yet the songs were unlike anything else going on at the time.  Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted and did NOT want to do, musically?
PETER: It sounds naive now but we wanted to be original… and we wanted to do something beautiful… we didn't just want to fit in with the crowd… we wanted to be brave and do something different and I am proud of what we achieved creatively…we wanted to put our necks on the line…looking back on it…we were extremely brave…and in many ways absolutely clueless…which is part of the charm…

SPAZ: In recent years, I’ve seen the band referred to as Goth, which I believe goes completely against the positive nature of the band’s music. How would you classify The Lotus Eaters if you really had to?
PETER: Gentle melancholy… introspective… and deep… and coming from a different space… and feminine… and brave… and out there…melody and atmosphere…

SPAZ: Looking back at No Sense Of Sin, how do you feel about the album?  And were you pleased with the expanded CD reissue?
PETER:  Yes I am glad that the b-sides like “Two Virgins Tender” were on there… typically the b-sides were very important to us… which sounds like a contradiction…which it is… but it is the truth...


SPAZ: The band split after one album and a final single, the brilliant “It Hurts.” What led to this premature breakup?
PETER: During the French tour Jem decided to team up again with The Wild Swans and signed a two album deal with a Seymour Stein's Sire Records label…

SPAZ: You continued on a solo career that was low-key but contains so many unique and wonderful moments.  Do you plan to reissue any of your early solo releases?  Some of us have only ever heard them and have not been able to find copies!
PETER: that is very kind of you to say…it wasn’t my intention to be low key…but it was my intention to not waste a single moment and make sure that i followed my heart and not the money… I have done so much stuff that I am not even aware of what I have done… I like the idea of doing a ‘best of’ album that is only released after I am dead…

SPAZ: When you create music, as a member of Lotus Eaters and as a solo artist, where does the inspiration come from? Do you start with a musical idea or the lyrics first?  Or has it changed much over the years?
PETER: It changes all the time… the most important part of the process is to start and to then step back and let the creativity flow… again, it sounds very counter intuitive but it is the way it is… music is resonance and is a one to one function with resilience…



SPAZ: Interest in The Lotus Eaters continued which lead to a 2001 reunion album, Silentspace. The album continued your trend of creating unconventional yet beautiful Pop music. “Can Your Kisses Fly?” is especially glorious.  Was creating new music with Jem an enjoyable experience?  It sure sounded like it…
PETERI was in Edinburgh at the time at the university taking a much needed break from music so, yes, it was good to tie up some loose ends with the lotus eaters…it felt good to reconnect to that energy after so many years…


SPAZ: An acoustic Lotus Eaters album received limited release and it has been rumoured that there has been a new Lotus Eaters album in the works for years.  Are there any updates on a reissue of the acoustic album and a possible new album?
PETER: The acoustic album difference was never officially released unfortunately… it was recorded in 2001… a full studio album mixed and produced by Stephen Power was completed in 2009... but similarly that was never released either…i am hoping that we can release all our material together in one package at some point…

SPAZ: Going back to your solo material, do you write differently for each project or do they all manifest themselves in a similar fashion?  Songs like “Reach For The Sun” and so many others are just as moving as anything The Lotus Eaters released.
PETER:  If I don't write songs I can't breathe… it is as simple as that… every single day I wake up and try to write something beautiful that will change my world… I always hold the dream that it may change someone else's world also… but that is out of my control… I do what I do… and the world does what the world does… I am very focused… my goal, pure and simple, is to not waste a single moment on this earth… and to try and make music that counts… regardless of whether or not anyone listens to it… I am here to connect to music and there is only a finite time… all that matters is that I keep my end of the bargain… the rest is none of my business...



SPAZ:  Over the last few years, you’ve been releasing songs through various digital platforms as Peter Coyle Hijacked and Peter Coyle Fractal. What is the inspiration behind the names?
PETER: There is none… it is just that I have used so many different names and guises… that even I don't know what is happening… God knows what it is like for a member of the public… so I decided to just keep on using the same name as much as possible so now everything goes under the name Peter Coyle Fractalas it is easier for me and for everyone else… I use Peter Coyle Hijacked if I work with Yorkie… I use the name Peter Coyle And The Films Of Strawberry Black when I work with Thierry Bon and Bruno Preynat…on that point Thierry Bruno and I have a new album coming out called Strands of Slowness coming out in January 2017…

SPAZ: Your songs seem to come from a place filled with both beauty and pain.  Do you always write from the heart based on your own experiences or do you sometimes attempt to write from someone else’s perspective?
PETER: The best songs in my opinion are always written when it is from someone else's perspective but when you connect with it so much that people think that it comes from you… that is where things start getting interesting… most people think music is built on authorship and ownership… for me music is built on alchemy… and empathy...



SPAZ: Your music and lyrical approach remain honest and don’t conform to standard Pop formulas.  Is this intentional or do you find yourself unable to conform to any musical boundaries?
PETER: I love “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” (Procol Harum)… one of the greatest Pop songs ever… I love John Martyn… I love music that has its own structure… music by numbers that is designed to make money is for everyone else… I need love - real love to quote John Lennon… some of the greatest records ever have zero structure… they are just a surge of beautiful energy that comes to the surface… like the music of Erik Satie...

SPAZ: As with The Lotus Eaters, your solo recordings seem to revolve around emotion, both good and bad.  Do you think that heart and soul is missing in a lot of today’s music?
PETER:  There are people who play music… millions of them… and there are people who can't live without making music… I am in the latter category… every day I dream that I can make music… it is that innate in me… it is that integral to my very core… regardless of whether or not I sell records… that is neither here nor there… I stare at my fate every single day… and I am very conscious of the fact that I am going to be an old man who is staring at the face of failure… there is nothing wrong with that… I have spent my whole life distracting myself from real life by making music… that was my choice… and would be my choice if I had to live another thousand lives… although I am dearly hoping this is the last one… I am just eternally grateful to feel like I am connected to music and it is something that means everything to me…



SPAZ: Who have been some of your musical collaborators on your most recent recordings?
PETER: Recently I have had the pleasure of working with Phil Wake from Wake the Dead! Studios, Stephen Power, Erika Zueneli, Mal Holmes, Thierry Bon and Bruno Preynat and hopefully some new collaborations that are ongoing but I can't really divulge right now…

SPAZ: Do you have any plans to compile a physical release featuring some of your digital-only singles?
PETER: One of my heroes is Gaudi… and I love the fact that he put everything into his designs… I put everything into my music… and I would love it if a label approached me and said that they wanted to create physical releases for me… but that has not happened yet and time is short… my principal role is to make music… if I spent 95% of my time trying to get people interested I would be wasting my life… status is very nice and all that but is of no interest to me… the only thing I want on my gravestone is ‘music maker’...

SPAZ: What’s next for Peter Coyle?
PETER: I am trying to finish a song called ‘Sunset’ - I am hoping as I am always hoping that it is beautiful beyond belief but only time will tell… and I have a new single out in June July and  August called ‘The Wildflowers Of Fire, The Breakup and Homeless… and I am going to try and carry on releasing something every month even though it is extremely taxing and difficult to keep up… the only thing that matters is that I stay deep in the music…i am also hoping that i find time to just sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy the beautiful french countryside…



SPAZ: What are you currently listening to?
PETER: I am not listening to much at the moment as I have no time but in about a month's time I am going to force myself to put down tools and listen… listen and learn… and soak up… and connect with all the beautiful music out there… I love David Bowie's last album Blackstar and love him so much for making that album when he did… I like Radiohead’s new single “Burn The Witch”… I really enjoy listening to Morton Feldman and the Kronos Quartet… basically, I love all forms of music… and long may that continue…


Thanks to Peter Coyle

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