Hi guys, how are you?
Good thanks. I'm sitting in Greece getting a final blast of sun before 6 months of freezing weather in Berlin.
Would you mind introducing us to your band members?
The band line up is complicated at the moment. Some of us have moved to Berlin, and got new musicians, and Danny is still in London being harassed to get here quickly. Phil will be switching from bass to guitar, we have a French bassist called Guillaum, a Spanish drummer called Carlos, Danny who plays piano and writes a lot of the music, a small choir in Berlin, and a series of session musicians who help us out, and I'm Cameron, singer, guitarist and the other song writer.
How long has the current band line up been together?
Danny and I have written and played together for 5 years, Phil joined 4 years ago, and the rest of the guys are quite new, we're just getting settled in Berlin.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t yet heard you?
It's not really one genre, a lot of the music has a blues influence, but it's a bit upside down. It's essentially rock music that's taken in elements of the music we love to become to something that's almost a blend of alternative rock, blues, punk, gypsy, and occasionally a bit of the avant garde. Basically it's a mess.
What have you been up to recently?
Danny and I travelled around Spain and France for a few months before I moved to Berlin to get the band started over there. London was great, but it's changed a lot in the last few years and now we just feel like Berlin is a better place for us. And it's a lot cheaper, which means we are able to spend more time writing.
What can your fans look forward to in the next 12 months?
Hopefully quite a lot. We have been working on a lot of new material which is of a slightly different style, and the addition of the choir brings a great energy to the old songs. The choir is used almost as an instrument. So we will be playing throughout Germany in the coming months, and hopefully making it back to England regularly too. We're also building some new instruments, like a ten finger glockenspiel, and we have a set designer working on stage productions to give the lives shows a more visual interest.
How did you meet each other?
In a brothel in Hungary.
How did you come up with your name for the band?
Our manager harassed us to change it for months and Quixote was the first name we all liked, so we kept it despite knowing that no one can spell it or pronounce it.
Are you self-taught or did you have lessons?
With most of us it’s a bit of both. Some of us had a few lessons when we were much younger
What is your current equipment?
I'm using a Fender Jaguar at the moment which has been customised to have an extra input for the E and A string, so you can octave it and use the guitar as a bass at the same time. But generally as a band I don't think we are too fussy about equipment, whatever is the cheapest we can get our hands on! But we use piano, guitar, bass, drums, lots of percussion, bottles, shakers, type writers, harmonicas, glockenspiels, saxophone, trumpet, the choir...all sorts.
If you had an unlimited equipment budget what would be on your shopping list?
An amplifier that goes up to 11.
Do you use the same equipment live as you do when in a studio?
Yep, most of our songs are self recorded and produced, with us playing live as a band. It just creates a much better sound, more energy, and the rougher recordings suit our style of playing.
Do you have a set routine when writing and recording or does it depend on each track and the inspiration?
Definitely depends on each track. Some songs were recorded on our old 8 track, where Danny would record a piano part, I would find the song when browsing through the recordings and add vocals to it, then Danny would find it a week later and add other sections and so on. Some songs come as a whole idea, just in the middle of the night, others are pain stakingly long to perfect. Sometimes I write words before music, sometimes Danny writes music and I add lyrics. It totally depends. But I normally write on the piano, and Danny normally writes on the guitar, despite those being our weaker instruments. We write a lot with drums and bass too, so each song has a completely different writing process. As for recording, we tend to prefer recording live and adding extra things afterwards.
Which software/recording process do you use?
Mostly cubase, or the old 8 track.
Would you sign with a major record company?
If they offered reasonable terms, then yes, I would think so. We have had discussions with majors before, but they've always pressured us to give them one or two radio pop songs, which is something we haven't really wanted to do. We just prefer to write what we want to write, and if it's radio friendly and interesting for a major that's fine. The majors invest lots of money and time into new artists, so you have to understand where they are coming from when they offer 360 deals to cover their backs against depleting record sale trends and all that kind of thing, but at the end of the day, we have never been too interested in money, we would just like a platform and the freedom to write what we feel like writing at the time.
Do you have any new recordings planned?
I'm working with some producers and publishing houses in Berlin who have offered us studio time so hopefully the new line up can get recorded soon, maybe re-doing some that we only had time to do very roughly before we left London, and of course all the new songs.
How much involvement do you have with the arranging and production of the songs when recording?
Erm, total. The arrangements are something we spend lots of time on, they are integral to the songs. We dont really write strum along songs which can be done in lots of different ways, the arrangement is the foundation of the writing itself in lots of ways, so we have to have quite a lot of control on that kind of thing. We have often let producers or engineers get heavily involved with the style of the production but generally we are happier with the results when we do it ourselves at home. We're not professional producers or engineers, but at home we have all the time to try all the things we think might work, and keep what does.
Is the production side of things something you’d like to get involved more in the future, maybe working with other artists?
Production is really interesting, and I've worked with some other artists on this before, but writing and performing the songs live is what we really want to be doing.
Do you find the process of recording enjoyable and does it get easier the more you do?
Since we stopped doing so many track by track recordings, with engineers in studios, we are much happier during the recording process. Playing live is much more enjoyable and the production afterwards, no matter how painful at times, is better knowing we dont have too much pressure when it comes to time and money.
Do you try to capture your ‘live’ sound on recordings or do you think that the ‘live’ sound and recorded sound should be different experiences for your fans?
I think the live sound can be completely different if you want to change things around. I don't think we think of things too much in that way really. If we want to have things on the recordings that we could never do live, that's not a problem for us. The recording can be the recording, and the live version can be another thing. But we do like the general idea of the live sound being on our recordings, even if lots of overdubs are added to the recordings afterwards, and even if the production gives a different feel to the song.
Do you any favourite tracks from your album?
I think The Big Bad Man and Belly are our two favourite songs, but Elephant, Whisky Fists and Cincinnati are still songs we are happy with. It's hard to look back on your music and be content, you always want to move on and write new and better things, so if a song still sounds good to us after a year or so then we are pretty happy.
Who are the main songwriters for the band?
Me (Cameron) and Danny. Generally we write all the parts for the instruments. Sometimes Danny writes the music, sometimes I write the music, sometimes we write it together. I do all the lyrics so far, although Danny started writing lyrics for our side project Doghead, so hopefully there will be more from him for Quixote too.
Do you have a method for writing songs?
It just totally depends. Sometimes lyrics first, sometimes music first, sometimes it all comes together at once.
Do you write songs only about personal experiences?
I used to write mostly personal lyrics, but not in a matter of fact kind of way. They were often more abstract, and would pour out whilst mumbling into a microphone, or whilst sleeping. But recently I am really enjoying writing stories, taking concepts that interest me and turning them into short stories for songs.
Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
It's easy when you have an idea all in a second and it just works out as soon as you try it. But sometimes you have an idea and can just never finish it, can never be happy with it, and that's a really difficult thing to break. Danny is much more prolific than me, and theres a backlog of his ideas for me to work on, but trying to finish my ideas and Dannys at the same time can be difficult just in terms of finding the time. Now I'm in Berlin it's much easier though, it's a creative city, and I live just from singing and writing, so I have much more time for everything.
Who are your favourite songwriters?
I think for Danny, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, and Leonard Cohen are all pretty high. Nick Cave is someone we both love, Tom Waits too. I'm a big fan of Thom Yorke's writing too.
Which countries have you gigged in?
France, USA and England so far, but soon we will be ready for Germany too.
Which countries would be at the top of your list to tour?
Japan! A friend of mine is in a German band called Klee, they toured China and the stories that came out of that were insane, so I think China would be a great place too. America could be good, but I think France and Germany are more suited to us.
Who would you like to tour with?
I think touring with any of the artists we've mentioned in this interview would be amazing.
How do you promote your music and get your music out to new fans?
We have MySpace and Facebook, but we've been lazy on the online promoting front. We'll need to look into some new ways to get around in Germany, so we'll do some research and see what comes up. But we've had help from small labels and radios, online magazines etc in the UK and France which has helped us reach a lot of new fans.
Do you think such sites and the internet are good tools for independent and unsigned artists?
They're great tools, but the main problem is that they are completely oversaturated. Each site now has thousands and thousands of artists all promoting away, which is good, but the more artists you have on each site, the more the fans switch off from it. You can see that trend already as lots of people on MySpace now block messages from artists as too many bands use these sites almost as spam.
With all the various websites out there for independent and unsigned artists, is there still something that is missing from them that you think would benefit the lesser-known artists?
I think if the sites had a way of choosing the artists they really love and doing extra promotional work, that would help. As I say, these sites are so over populated with hard working bands, that its quite overwhelming for music lovers to sift through.
How do you relax?
In London we used to live on a boat together as a band, so a big bottle of whisky or two and sitting on the deck of the boat in the summer was pretty much how we spent our evenings if we weren't rehearsing. In Berlin, you don't relax. There's too much going on every day.
What's your best/worst experience at a gig?
Worst must be either Norwich, whilst on tour, where the venue had a sound limiter, meaning the power would cut every time the volume went over a certain decibel. The limit was so slow that just hitting a drum acoustically would trigger it, so you get one beat into a song, and the power cut....either that or being thrown off stage at a biggish festival in the UK....we were too drunk....Danny fell off the stage....I didnt have the faintest idea what I was playing...only the bassist was conscious the poor bastard. Best experiences? The festival in France was amazing, the stage, sound, atmosphere, crowd, everything was perfect. We've done some great shows over the years so it's hard to pick a best one.
Do you get nervous before a gig? How do you calm down?
little, but we toured the UK soon after we first started, so playing every day for 3 weeks really helped.
What are your day jobs if you have them?
No day jobs for us. Not any more. Never again!
Would you like to be full time working musicians or are you happy with things as they are?
If we can write and play for a living, that's great, but we will always do what we do regardless.
Has your music been used on any film soundtracks?
Not yet, but there's some interest in Berlin for some independent films, so hopefully something will be happening with that soon.
Is composing for film or tv something you’d like to get involved in if the opportunity came along?
Yeh I think it would be interesting to write for something which has already been scripted, so you have something to base your writing on before you begin.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Thanks for inviting us to talk and we're glad you like our songs.