ireallylovemusic vs merz
hot on the heels of his debut in 99, merz has got around to getting a second album out in the shops. has the wait been worth it ? damn yes.
subsequently, ireallylovemusic tracked down conrad aka merz to see how things are going.
hello conrad, welcome back.
bravo on the new album, tis a lovely set of songs.
a little history first :
the first album came out of nowhere, impressed many who heard it, then disappeared out of sight. were you ready for such exposure last time around, or was your withdrawal from the whole game a self preservation exercise?
I was ready but I chose the wrong record company to release it so I had to backtrack a bit to make up for things.
if at all, how would you have gone about the first albums treatment differently?
There’s a couple of songs that got overworked and listening back there’s some great versions that didn’t make the album which maybe should have. But I’m only talking about one maybe two songs the rest of it I wouldn’t change.
personally i think the first album was too far ahead of the game for the commercial masses – a singer/songwriter who uses technology and all manner of sonic extras, which has now become standard de facto with such people as david gray, do you ever lie awake at night with the ‘that should have been me’ loop going around your head ?
God forbid I ever find myself in david grays shoes. I put that record out at the tail end of a wave of sonic experimentalists like Tricky and Bjork and at the beginning of blandish singer-songwriter bands who have since done very well commercially, so culturally speaking my record was neither here nor there but I’m happy with the winding road I’ve been on.
why did you choose the ‘merz’ moniker as opposed to conrad lambert?
I didn’t want to be perceived or promoted as a singer-songwriter, like james blunt. I’m more of a songer-singwriter
what lessons, musically, or personally did you learn from the whole period?
A multitude of both. I wish I could impart some wisdom in this questionnaire but at the end of the day, as me and my live crew oft say “it’s a mug’s game”.
what was the highpoint of the whole campaign?
Recording and mixing the record was great, I really enjoyed the studio team and musicians. I was lucky to have the budget to work with some very skilled people and we worked in some fine studios. We mixed the record on a 19th century house boat on The Thames, it’s been converted into a studio by Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd and contains all Floyds studio gear, swans swimming all around the windows. Money is indeed a gas.
Playing on Jools Holland TV show was great just to be in this big room with all these other musicians and bands, a very unusual event with an air of competitiveness and camaraderie. And I love doing live TV and radio performances, no safety net.
‘loveheart’ appears on the shelves
so now after an extended ‘holiday’, you are back with a new set of songs, all of which are mellow and rather lovely, with little in the way of the modern machine noises, a conscious decision to use natural sounds throughout, or did you want a consistent sound to the album?
I don’t know how it evolved to be honest. I just like arranging songs and I get easily bored with very tried and tested song and band arrangements.
were you ever tempted to just withdraw from real instruments and do everything in your front living room with a space saving laptop as opposed to having to source a budget stretching recording studio?
I just used whatever I could get my hands on and whatever was around, I felt this way it would make for a very real and true record. No pretence.
the album has almost been sneaked out with minimum of fuss, was this something you wanted? is this being treated as a ‘word of mouth’ release, how did you and gronland come together?
It was actually my old publishing A&R man who put me in touch with them. He originally signed me to EMI publishing, although he’s now at Fabric and he tipped off Gronland about the record. They are a very decent group of people. I licensed the record to them so I still own all the rights to the record and it’s publishing. I also currently don’t use a manager so 20% of all my earnings are not disappearing there either.
i once chanced upon your website a couple of years ago, and there was mention of a self financed limited 7” release at the time, were these a personal quest to make sure that your music was still available to your fans, or a testing the waters before approaching record labels for a second album?
A bit of both if the truth be told.
how many of these did you end up releasing?
I released two 7”s. Two tracks on each.
did they all sell out, or, have you held a few back for possible future ebay pension schemes?
I’ve got a few left but you can’t get a pension off a 7 inch single, certainly not a Merz 7”.
so, tell us about the new album, is there a story behind the overall sound and lyrical content, it seems rather melancholy, sombre, bit with definite shades of being comfortable with your life ?
It’s inspired by late night drives listening to Late Junction on Radio 3 and John Peel on 1. And it does sort of tell a story, but only tenuously.
for the new era it’s a relatively short and concise release clocking in at under 40 minutes, are there lots of tracks left on the shelf?
Oh yes sir. They’ll be coming out though. At some point.
did you not want to fill the disc with more, or, do you subscribe to the “40 minutes is a perfect length for an album” school of thought ?
The latter, I don’t like long albums at all.
how did you decide upon what made the album and what didn’t ?
I enjoy that process of piecing it all together and trying to get the dynamics of the whole thing right. iTunes is good for doing that job. We chucked some songs off at the last minute and added a new version of another song.
one of the most wonderful aspects is the range of instruments involved throughout (harps !), where did this desire to explore such possibilities stem from?
My upbringing I think. Both my parents are musicians and my sister too. Our house was full of all kinds of musicians; punk, folk, reggae, jazz, avant garde. I was exposed to all this music from an early age.
what’s with all the face tattoos? (album sleeve/website )it’s a rather unusual visual aspect you have chanced upon?
I did chance upon this artist who’d done a drawing for a local free mag and tracked him down. He’s a young graduate from London, Nick White and he’s done almost all the entire album cover in freehand, not the computer program but actually with his free hand. He’s also doing two videos for me and has designed a live set backdrop. He’s into outsider art.
I don’t think I would have ever got that art past the nervous Sony marketing department. But Gronland Records they love it.
and the ‘10 of hearts’ on the reverse cover .. is there anything significant about that ?
That’s for you to decide.
what next then for conrad aka merz? another 6 year wait, or, has the creative fuse been lit now and we are going to see you fulfil your natural chris martin styled destiny?
and finally :
what currently fills your listening moods in 2005 ?
I’m listening to Caribou – the milk of human kindness. The odd Rufus Wainright song. Iron and Wine – Woman King E.P. I love Bright Eyes’ lyrics on his Wide Awake album. Black Mountain. Hanne Huckkelburg. Queens of The Stone Age. I’m listening to loads of music at the moment and have stopped listening to the muppets on daytime radio so I can listen to more of the new music I’ve got.
i read you got married – who does the washing up?
I’ll let my wife answer this one…….
(house rules: whoever cooks doesn’t wash up.)
yeah she cooks a lot these days….i can’t abide washing up.