Last year I’ve had a pleasure to meet J. Willgoose, Esq. for the first time. The interview was brief, which was mostly my fault. I was lucky enough to have a do-over only a year later, with a result I’m happy with. Here you have it:
First of all, I wanted to talk to you about „Every Valley”. Last December you were playing underground, 320meters to be exact, in Guido Coal Mine. How was it?
It was great and really strange experience. I kept reminding myself about being 320 m underground. The room was great, and it seemed like a normal concert, except it was underground. It came after a very busy, very long year for us and it was kind of a great thing to finish the year with. The hardest thing about it was probably the fact, that the coal industry in Poland is still a big thing. Obviously, there are difficulties to it, there are problems starting to arise, the same we’ve faced 30 years ago. The hardest thing was feeling kind of like Dickens’ ghost of Christmas future. Bringing those messages was showing how not to do it.
I’ve told my parents about the concert, which was streamed live in the radio and showed them your record. They did listen to your concert and liked it. They both are miners. You were playing on the 3rd of December, the day before Barbórka, miners day, a huge thing in Poland. Was it more stressful for you, knowing the significance of this day?
I think we were relatively isolated from it before coming. I’ve read about the miner’s day. We’ve had some dignitaries, who looked very official and a bit intimidating. But normally you’ve got enough on your mind trying to play the music. Especially, when you’re on the radio, focusing on what you’re doing. Avoiding any extra responsibilities, you’re just trying to get on with it. It just made a very interesting experience. Not like many bands would have.
I’ve checked some statistics, of all of your albums and where they’ve ended up the year of their release. “Every Valley” was second in New Zealand.
That’s not the real chart, unfortunately (laughter). We’ve got very excited about it…
But in the UK it ended up on the 4th place. Did it change your life in any way? Did it made you feel out there and more publicized?
Maybe. You know, it’s a level of achievement no one can take away from you. It can end tomorrow, and someone would still sit in an office somewhere and talk about it. It gives us a layer of a general accomplishment. I don’t know if it changed our life in any way. Touring around in the UK the production of it was to the point where I remember seeing it during rehearsal and saying: “this is really good”. Nobody can convince me, that it’s not. Because it’s unarguably good, powerful and emotional. And it’s all been shown in a lot of ways. It’s the level of shows we were always hoping to do and are able to do now.
I was scrolling through your twitter account. Most of the posts are promotional. What caught my eye was a retweet of Howard Goodall tweet about the EU/UK visas and how it will affect the music industry. In light of yesterday’s events, what are your views on the matter?
I think, every time you’re trying to speak about it, you get some angry person shouting at you and telling you to shut up. But when you try some logical facts on them, they actually stop replying, which tells me everything I need to know. I think, we’ve got the responsibility to talk about it. This is our reality as a band, this is our industry. It’s really great that we have artists like Ed Sheeran or Bob Geldof speaking their mind. I think people find it very easy to just assume, millionaires don’t care about them. But actually, it’s not about them, it’s about small bands and the crew, the people, the whole industry. How many thousands of people’s lives depend on easy touring around Europe. And to be isolated and throw that away is worrying. I think maybe that level of success, that we have now, makes you more accountable into saying something. I don’t think with one tweet I will end the whole thing, so I’m actually quite pleased to speak up and be honest about it. We’ve definitely lost quite a few angry people that way, but I don’t really care. I want to be able to speak my mind, respectfully and based on reality, then just say nothing.
Is it easier to write about politics, or history?
I think those two are the same thing, ultimately. I took the conscious decision with the last album, to tackle a more political aspect of history with miners strikes. Very divided subject across Britain, still. I don’t think we did speak heavy about it, to also tell people what to think. We’ve laid it out in a way to kind of interest people in the subject. I would never try to write something fake, that sells. If you’re not challenging or even asking people questions, it’s a bit boring. I don’t really want to be that way, even if it means being a bit riskier.
And now you’ve focused on marine history.
Yes, it’s a side project, a little offshoot I would say. It’s not a subject, I would have chosen myself. It was kind of a commission almost from BBC, of how the ship was built. It’s an interesting challenge. How to show people what my experience was like, the scale of it, getting back to how many people died. We were trying to make something light-hearted, that would drag people away from the terrible tragedy for a second, away from the Cameron picture. Just for them to look at this enormous ship, how it was built and what happened to it, what shouldn’t have happened to it. That’s what we were trying to do. It’s like a mini challenge almost. It also kind of delayed our next album.
I’ve listened to the EP before watching the video for “White Star Liner”. I wasn’t quite sure, if it was only about Titanic, or about the whole company. Then I started thinking, 4 songs can’t be about all of the ships, because not all of them sunk.
I think Olympic was the one, that didn’t sink, Titanic and Britannic did for sure. Recording “White Star Liner” was an attempt to tell the story of Titanic, which is so loaded, the phrase, the image. The name is not mentioned at all on the EP, but it is about Titanic obviously. It was a way to make it fresh on its own, to make you think about the ship and what it represents.
I’ve had this image in my head. In the video, I think almost at the end, there it is, Titanic. You’ve wrote under the video the following: “For the pedants out there (us included), yes, we know that’s the Olympic in a lot of shots and not the Titanic, but there is more footage of the former and it’s used in a purely illustrative manner.”
There really aren’t many videos about Titanic. It was 1912, there are really not many videos, it was a challenge for the archive to find anything.
What stroke me about it was, this huge ship was sinking for 2 hours and 40 minutes. It’s so long and at the same time so little time. So much time for more people to evacuate, but so little taking the size of it.
Especially because it was referred to as the unsinkable ship. I guess that’s the uncertainty of life. It’s a tragedy, so many people have died. What’s terrible, so many people refused to recognize, what was happening, even though they knew about it. When the ship hit the iceberg and the inspector came to the bridge, he said the ship is going down, and it’s going down quickly. I think the main reason, they didn’t have so many lifeboats, was, they presumed, if they sunk, it’s going to be a very slow process. They didn’t foresee, what happened, happening. It’s happening in various aspects of life, sooner or later the reality strikes.
This reminds me of a comment Donald Trump made about the camp fires in California. It was something among the lines of people being responsible for it, not the climate change.
There’s no limit of this man’s idiocy, is there?
I’m afraid not. My last question. Any ideas for the new album?
Yes. I’ve been preparing for it for quite some time now, reading about various topics. The Titanic stuff kind of jumped in and pushed things back. But it is more of a solid thing, which I can’t reveal now. I don’t want to. I’m always quite protective of my ideas. It won’t be next year, though.
We’ll wait patiently then.
Yep, people wait for the things they care about.
Thank you so much for your time!