THEIR name might provoke images of outer-space…
or classic arcade games but, as is explained; the name has a different origin. Matt, from Galaxians, discusses the new album, Let the Rhythm In, and the colours and genres they include in their music – among them, lashes of Pop and Funk. He tells me how they met their newest recruit, Em, and the great music coming out of Leeds.
I find out about Ghost Town Recording Studio in Leeds and performing there; the themes that go into the album; the artists the band/Matt was raised on – and some valuable advice for new musicians of the minute.
Hi, Matt/guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Matt: Hi, I am/we are A-OKAY, I think! Last week was one of extreme post-tour blues, but we had a rehearsal tonight - so it's nice to get back on it.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
We are Galaxians; a trio from Leeds (U.K.) comprised of Emma Mason (Voice), Jed Skinner (Synthesisers and Programming) and Matt Woodward (Drums and Programming).
The band started in 2012 - and Em joined us in 2016.
Can you tell me where that name, ‘Galaxians’, comes from? Is there a tale behind it?
We chose it just because it had a ring to it we both liked...
There's a common misconception that we are named after a computer-game - but neither of us has ever been into them; so we didn't know there was one (it’s called ‘Galaxian’, I believe).
It was just among a bunch of names we suggested - and was the one we both liked at the time.
How did you all get together in the first place - and what was it about one another that led to the formation of the band?
Jed and I met in Leeds as a result of an email that Jed sent to my old band, Cissy.
Our synth player had recently left the band and Jed was interested in joining - but we'd actually already decided to form a new band (Azores) and didn't want a synth player as such. But, during the email exchange, I suggested Jed and I meet up and maybe jam - which we did and it was fun. I think the thing that really dawned on both of us was that we shared a common love for music - that none of our other friends were into.
From my point-of-view, I was just really into the way Jed played, too. I'd never been in a band with a synth player who played so funky - so it was a fresh and exciting thing - I was looking for a new way to approach the drums, too. A different angle. I wanted to learn a new discipline.
Em joined us in 2016, but we've lived on the same street and known each other for over ten years. After we initially decided to collaborate on some ideas for the album; it just became obvious once we got into the studio and started working together that Em should be a permanent member of the band.
Let the Rhythm In is your new record. What was the biggest inspiration-point in terms of themes and subject matter?
There isn't ever a single or central inspiration-point for us, really, because we have a lot of different ideas - born out of both musical and non-musical influences and experiences.
The record didn't really stem from a singular concept or idea, but some of the themes we touch on in the lyrics are – for Emma and me particularly - a reflection of where we live and how the urban environment makes us feel.
There are classic Disco/Boogie/1980s/R&B themes in there - romance, money; city-living, nightlife etc - but my feeling is that it's not always rooted in some of the more aspirational themes of Disco…but more along the lines of ‘ye; it's hard living in a dirty, sometimes scary, noisy city - but it's also inspiring’. In terms of creating art in a city environment; there is always inspiration amongst the decay and the noise. It's not pretty but the urban degradation, close proximity to others and the harsh realities of inner-city life can produce a certain rawness in music (that we really like).
I think that's one of the reasons I've always had an obsession with 1970s/1980s New York.
In terms of musical influences, there are many: Leroy Burgess, Gwen Guthrie; Jocelyn Brown, West End Records etc. It’s fair to say that we love the N.Y.C. sound, in particular, but not just the players. The way we composed and arranged the album version of How Do U Feel? was heavily influenced by John Morales and his original M&M session remixes. We really love his arrangements.
He’s one of those people whose remixes sometimes improve on the originals. His version of Lay It on the Line by Logg is a prime example. The original is great but John’s version is just something else..pun-intended (there’s also a Logg song called Something Else).
It was recorded at Ghost Town Recording Studio (Leeds) with Ross Halden. How much fun was it?! Was it pretty cool working with Halden?!
Ross is great to work with.
He doesn't have as high a profile as some other Leeds producers but, for us, he's the only person we want to work with here; partly because he understands where our sound comes from. He knows something of the history of the sound and the instruments used and gets as excited as us about reflecting on how, why and where some obscure; lo-fi, early-1980s Boogie-Funk record was made.
That's the kind of nerdiness and attention-to-detail we like…
A big part of working with Ross is that he's very flexible, eager to experiment; happy to try new things, encouraging and easy-going. What we've found is that as our working relationship with Ross has developed: he's taken on that fourth band member role, sometimes, and really helped us get the best out of everything - ourselves, the instruments and the songs. We feel that he actually digs what we’re doing and cares about it...
He puts up with our bullsh*t and weirdness pretty well, too.
Leeds is your hometown. How much of the honesty and diversity of the people/landscape goes into your music?
It's a definite influence and a constant inspiration for us.
We’re all northerners - and I think it’s fair to say that northerners tend to be viewed as no-nonsense, no-bullsh*t people. There’s definitely some truth in that and I hope our music does come across as both honest and representative of where we live. I do love Leeds, but I’m not territorial about it because I love the North in general. North Yorkshire is where I grew up.
I really like West Yorkshire in general, too - and South Yorkshire is also good. In recent times I’ve grown to love places like Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool more and more.
There is great diversity in the North of England. I think that diverse, multi-cultural communities are beneficial to everyone and only enrich our lives - and the cultural landscape in general. Leeds is definitely good for that. The community I live in is great. Obviously, it has its problems like any other inner-city area but, on the whole, everybody gets along well - which is all the more positive when you see how tightly the streets are packed in; how small the houses are - and how close people live to each other.
Do you think that area of the country gets as much focus as it deserves?
No...but Leeds gets a lot more focus than some of the other towns and cities around it (Bradford, for example). Leeds is a popular, young city and it’s a consumer mecca in the North - so it does okay. Plus, it’s always had a huge student population. There's a much wider debate on the distribution of wealth and resources in England - and how it affects parts of the country that are a long way from London. Successive governments and institutions have repeatedly shown an open sense of contempt for people in the North, too. Spend a week or two visiting deprived areas of the North East and you’ll see what I mean. People from working-class communities - in the North - do feel ignored and like they don't have a voice.
It's been like that for generations…
Referring directly to the arts; Leeds doesn’t receive as much focus as, say, Manchester or Liverpool - because its musical heritage isn’t as well known or highly trumpeted by the media. I guess one of the things I’ve always liked about Leeds is that there are really great bands (a huge number of them since pioneers like Gang of Four and Delta 5) that have always existed underground or on the fringes. It’s always had a really prolific, varied; high-quality D.I.Y. music community and a great club culture, too…but people just like it underground here!
I sometimes wonder if new bands from cities, that have a more famous music culture, find it hard to break off the shackles of that heritage - or get tired of people in the press referencing it or comparing them to it.
I get a sense classic Disco is quite a draw for you guys. What music did you all grow up listening to?
Classic Disco is definitely a huge passion for us, but, equally, the post-Disco, pre-House era perhaps more so, actually. I think it’s the combination of live instrumentation – acoustic drums, bass guitars etc. – blended with the early synthesisers and drum-machines that really produced some incredible music - and a lot of experimentation. (All those sub-genres that appeared – Boogie, Garage; Proto-House etc.).
Growing up; the first records I heard were albums my parents had: Changes by David Bowie; Revolver by The Beatles - stuff like that. I first heard Kraftwerk when I was in my early-teens and that made a big impression on me; as did Hip-Hop and Electro acts from N.Y.C. like Rock Steady Crew and Break Machine. I was also really into 2 Tone Records, The Jam; early U2, The Damned; X-Ray Spex, Kate Bush; Blondie, Prince....but, by the time I started playing drums, I was into Rockabilly; The Smiths and U.K. Indie stuff - and then, Hardcore stuff. My first few bands were Hardcore or Punk bands. I was exposed to lots of really amazing music at college - because the community there was really diverse and everyone liked music a lot.
I didn’t really get into Disco and Dance music until much later on. The really exciting thing for me was that, when I did discover Dance music, a huge world opened up. I really got into it. It was a feeling and a vibe that spoke to me and I got it. I felt at home there and started going to Techno raves and parties - and meeting a lot of different people who really opened my eyes to a lot of things. I loved it then and still do. It speaks to the hedonist in me, for sure; but it’s the sense of community and a shared feeling or moment that you really feel.
It’s about liberation, discovery and giving in to the music.
Are there any tour dates coming up? Where can we see you play?
We’ve actually just completed a U.K. and European tour off the back of the album release: playing in Leeds, Bristol; Amsterdam, Jeumont; Cologne, Brussels; Lille, and London. I had a great time and met so many ace people. The hospitality you receive once you get across the English Channel, sometimes, puts us to shame. Our next gigs should be fun. We’re playing with The Moonlandingz at Church in Leeds on 19th November; then a party in The Old Angel in Nottingham on 2nd December, hosted by Pete Woosh - who is/was a member of the legendary DiY Sound System collective, there.
IN THIS PHOTO: Kelela
Who are the new artists you recommend we investigate?
That depends on how you define ‘new’...
I can list a few records I’m listening to right now - but they’re not new artists, as such. I’ve been listening to Kelela a lot recently and the Golden Teacher (Glasgow) album which just came out; plus, stuff by Jessy Lanza, Silver Linings (Melbourne); AMOR (Glasgow) and Talamanca System - amongst other things. My girlfriend, Reb, recently played me the new Jane Weaver record and an album by Kate Tempest; both of which I really liked. I buy tons of music regularly - but more older stuff than new...
IN THIS PHOTO: Golden Teacher
I go through periods where I feel a little out-of-touch with new stuff. I don't tend to follow trends or focus on hyped bands that much. I still find out about a lot of music by going to gigs, but that also depends on how busy I am and how much money I have. I don’t use streaming sites or listen to a lot of stuff online; so, it sometimes takes me longer to discover stuff everyone else is already into. I like records and don’t like listening to music through a laptop - even through my hi-fi. It still sounds crappy to me…so, I’d rather listen to vinyl.
I like music on a tactile format - and vinyl is the only format for me.
IN THIS IMAGE: Jane Weaver/IMAGE CREDIT: Ethem Onur Bilgiç/Bant Mag
If you had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would it be and why?
I couldn’t: it’s just impossible.
The music is the meaning - and my love for it is ongoing. There are too many albums I love and music itself is too vast to pick a single album. Different albums produce different feelings connected to different things - and you can’t always compare them. It’s an art-form; so there’s subjectivity and relativity inherent in it, too. Our tastes often change throughout our lives don’t they? I still love some of the bands and artists I loved as a teenager - but there’s always music to discover now and in the future and, as I get older, my musical palette widens - and I become more open to stuff I might have hated ten years ago.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
I’m not really a person who should be giving advice…but here goes (not in order of importance, by the way!):
1) Do what comes naturally
2) Enjoy the process as much as the finished result
3) Don’t be a dick (like I’ve been at times)
4) Be humble (arrogance is unattractive)...
5) Show support and solidarity with people who might be in a less privileged position than yourself
6) Speak out about things that matter
7) Don’t get too sucked in by bullsh*t. Worrying about how many likes you have on Twitter is a slippery slope
8) Respect people
9) Manage yourselves - maintain control over what you do...
10) Go on tour and visit other countries as often as possible.
Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?
I'm going to visit my mum by the sea...
It's beautiful there and I always enjoy Christmas with my mum. We're not religious, by any means, so we don't go mad for Christmas...but I'll take any excuse to feast on my mother's home-cooking.
I'm back at work on the 27th December for a few days.
Are there any plans for next year? What goals do you hope to fulfil in the coming year?
Well. We're always thinking about new songs and the next record. Ideally, we'll have enough material for album two towards the end of next year. We're always playing shows; so that never really stops - unless one of us goes on holiday or whatever...
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Confess to U by Omar S (ft. Nite Jewel)