THE STEALS / Darkher
I joined Jayn Hanna's band The Steals in 2009, around the time that Static Kingdom was released. The initial idea was to temporarily replace Mark Peters - who was becoming busy with the release of the Engineers album Three Fact Fader - but I ended up staying in the band for four years, long after Mark had moved on.
Jayn is an interesting character, and I loved her from the get-go. Signed to Virgin as a solo artist in the late 1990s, she was one of the go-to singers for a generation of dance producers, and wrote songs for a range of artists, including Kylie Minogue. I had utmost respect for her as an artist and loved the folky, psychedelic thing she was doing with The Steals. Being in the band meant getting out of Manchester and travelling up to Hebden Bridge, where Jayn lived, and I loved that - I envied the life that Jayn had set up there, with the plot of land where she kept chickens and ducks, and her big stone-walled rehearsal studio in an old mill.
We worked on a follow-up to Static Kingdom in that studio, sporadically, for a couple of years. That album was never finished, though. By 2012, Jayn was tiring of The Steals sound, and even the band name, and wanted to move on to something more personal. I was going through the same process in my own work - we talked about this often, and encouraged each other as we both "went solo", and started new projects. Jayn's new project was called Darkher, who signed to Prophecy Productions in 2014. I did some guitar for that release; you can some of that guitar work on the track "Ghost Tears", below. There is also an album called Realms, which I performed some guitar on - you can check that out by following this link.
Three Fact Fader (2009) was a strong return for Engineers, four years after their first album was released. But the lengthy wait for the album to come out hadn't done wonders for the band, and by the time of the campaign for Three Fact Fader, some of the original members had moved on personally and professionally; the band was pretty much over by the summer of 2009, resulting in a string of cancelled tour dates.
This was the context in which Mark Peters invited me to sing some vocals on what was then some kind of solo project - but which ended up being a new Engineers album instead. By this time, the early Engineers track "Home" was being used as the theme music for HBO's series Big Love, so it seemed like a good idea to keep the band going in some form. Simon Phipps, the lead singer, was sticking around; Ulrich Schnauss had been playing keyboards on the recent live shows, and I was invited to sing bass and backing vocals. It seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.
Those new songs were released In Praise of More, in October 2010. The majority of that album had been completed before I joined the band, so my contributions were really just singing backing vocals, and playing bass in the live band. It would have been nice to have contributed in a more creative way to Engineers, but I think the band was still on too tenuous a footing to really have allowed that at time. Still, I had great fun touring with the band in 2010.
After a shake-up which saw original lead singer Simon Phipps leave, Engineers has continued as a de facto solo project for Mark Peters, with assistance from Ulrich Schnauss and Matthew Lindley, and a new album called Always Returning was released in the summer of 2014. I wasn't part of that record, but it contains a handful of the strongest Engineers tracks in my opinion, and is definitely worth a listen.
Bing Satellites is a prolific ambient composer who has released over sixty albums on his net-label BFW Recordings. I first met him in 2008 when he interviewed me for his radio show on Rebel Radio. Now, eight years later, he remains a key collaborator - and one of my dearest friends. He has been my most trusted confidant during the recording of my new solo album In Love With A Ghost, and appears all over that album, playing multiple instruments, helping me produce the record, and even co-writing some of the music with me.
In 2013 we made an album called King Midas In Reverse. It is an album of quiet, beautiful songs performed on piano and guitar which we made during a couple of lengthy sessions in January and June 2013. Although we have both worked together in the past, this album was the first full collaboration between us, and it features some of my favourite instrumental pieces ever, such as "The Man With Link's Hair", and the title track. It is also one of the most delightfully packaged albums I've ever been involved with, featuring art by Ade Hodges, and an essay by David Edwards, all lovingly put together by Brin.
You can watch the video for the title track "King Midas In Reverse" below. With any luck, there'll be more of this kind of thing in the future!
I owe a lot to Ulrich Schnauss. His early encouragement gave me the push I needed to release music publicly for the first time. And it was his words, whispered into the right ears, that got Daniel Land & The Modern Painters a support slot on the Ulrich Schnauss/Airiel tour in April 2008 - which resulted in the first record deal that we were offered. That was the deal for the double A-side single "Within The Boundaries" and "Benjamin's Room", released on Sonic Cathedral in 2008, and mixed by Ulrich Schnauss and Mark Peters. If it weren't for Ulrich's early advocacy, myself and the Painters may not have had any kind of career.
When we both joined Engineers, we were excited to be in a band together. Since I was based in Manchester, and the band in London, I stayed with Ulrich often, and I came to enjoy that experience as much as my actual time in the band. Hanging around and playing records, talking about music and debating politics; it was energising, clarifying, and challenging; Ulrich has one of the sharpest minds I've ever experienced. He also paid me the best compliment of my life - that, listening to my first album, it had made him think that if more people made shoegaze the way I did, he'd still be a fan of the genre. That's always stuck with me.
His work continues to impress me, particularly the 2013 album A Long Way To Fall. Here's a link to the video for a more recent track "Love Grows Out of Thin Air", from his forthcoming album.
- JIM CAUSLEY: A friend of mine from Devon since the age of 15. We're at the early stages of planning a collaborative project.
- AIR CAV: Long-term friends of Daniel Land & The Modern Painters, we toured Holland together in April 2009, and shared a stage many times after that. Oisin from the Painters replaced Air Cav's original bassist from 2011 onwards; his work features on the second Air Cav album Procession, released in 2015.
- GARY BRUCE: A trusted friend and collaborator, and guitarist in my live band since 2014. You can check out his solo album Maps by following the link to the left.
- DELTA MAINLINE: One of my favourite live bands, I've shared a stage with them several times and never get bored of their company - a lovely and very talented group of people who I respect deeply.
- ANTONYMES: Ian has been a very supportive friend since we first met in 2012, we've been planning a collaboration since that time and hopefully that'll get off the ground soon. In the meantime, check out his work, it's amazing.
- MARI VESTBO: Mari was a contestant on Norwegian Idol in 2005. I met her seven years later when we both enrolled as mature students on a course at the University of Westminster, in London. I was hungry for new collaborators and although we came from very different backgrounds, Mari seemed a great fit. A lot of the early work we did was coursework, effectively - but we're looking to work together in a more serious way very shortly.
- CRASH TACTICS. Alex Lynham supported Daniel Land & The Modern Painters with his previous band, Nowhere Again, in 2010; we subsequently became great friends and he even lived with me in Manchester in 2011-2012. Crash Tactics is his new project.