Thursday, 8 November 2012

‘We deal with big things in a small way’: An interview with Martin from Stanier from The Anaesthetics

Manchester-Home of pimp rolling, chest beating rock and roll and that strange mix of musical passion and arrogance. Home, also, to Martin from local band the Anaesthetics. I meet him in the Night and Day café to discuss his band’s forthcoming single ‘Slow Trains’. “We’ll start in a sec” he tells me “I’ve just got to nip for a pee”

Martin’s introduction to music, like many others, was via those lovable mop-tops.

“When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my mum and dad always used to out drinking on a Friday and Saturday night and when they got back my mum would put on all these really old Beatles records. And I remember we used have the table in the lounge and used to make my sister and brother, who were very young, pretend to be the Beatles. One would be the drummer, the other a guitarist and I would be at the front and sing ‘A hard days night’ to my mum and dad, who where leathered and though it was great. Music touches me in a way that you can’t really put your finger on it. It just talks, it just says things. I don’t know if you put on a record, and it just transports you somewhere? You identify with it so perfectly, it just expresses it such a way I just can’t put my finger on it. You just can’t argue with its greatness. It’s really obvious thing to say, but on Panic there’s a line that says ‘it says nothing to me about my life’ and I always think back to that, because music never loses that for me. And it always touches me so deeply it will always be my first love. I feel quite emotional just talking about it. For me it’s just such a special thing. For example I’m a real sucker for sad pop songs. Before I came out I thought I was going to be late, I put on Rent by the Pet shop boys and I couldn’t leave it until the last notes had rung out because I love melody and hitting the nail so squarely on the head, that speaks to me so deeply that I think ‘I just want to do that’.”

Wanting to do the expressing himself, he started making music. He also learnt a few lesson from one of rocks more dubious characters

“We used to be in a band signed to Fire Records called Atomic 16. I mean, it was a little subsidiary called Doolittle, and we did an album with them that never came out”
Did he meet the notorious Clive Solomon?
“I’ve met Clive Solomon; I’ve had a lot to do with Clive Solomon.”
He said, bitterly!
“(laughs) No, I mean his reputation preceded him before we signed anything, and I kind of went in there knowing what I was prepared to give and what I wasn’t prepared to give. So we did have lots of conversations, particularly about the business side of things. Fortunately I just stuck to my guns and didn’t get into it despite his prolonged attempts to get me to…basically; he wanted our publishing for a small amount of money. He spent a lot of effort trying to convince us to give him our publishing. Fortunately, we had the good sense just to say no.”

Moving on, he formed a new band. But the band needed a name.

“I had to go and have an operation, I had to go and have my gallbladder out and I’d been looking for a band name. I’ve been doing music for many, many years and when I was putting this band together I wanted something that was really, really unique and it’s really hard to set and try and find that you know? You can look in all the obvious places, you know all you favourite albums and favourite lyrics, you favourite this that and the other. And it was just as I was about to put out for the operation this guy came in, and you know how they all wear those little badges? It just said on the top ‘Anaesthetics’, and I though, ‘I like the look of that, that’s AMAZING!”

“That was a long time ago that band (Atomic 16). That’s how me Martin and Matt met. Laura came in…I’ve been writing songs for many years and after that band split up, I was the main writer and I wasn’t really sure what I was doing.
I used to play guitar and go ‘that notes good, that notes good’ and put them together, but in terms of wanting to learn about what changes to do and what the rules are so you can break them, I decided to learn the piano. I did that and just decided to write. I’d been through quite a few bands in Manchester and one was a string quartet that played with me with just a piano and enjoyed that but always felt that there was something missing. My voice has always lent itself to guitars and drums rather than doing the more intimate stuff; I’d say Laura’s voice was better for that kind of thing. I kind of had all these songs and thought ‘I can’t find anybody that works as well as playing with Matt again. Martin had gone off and done his thing, and it was just like ‘I’ve got all these songs just sitting here, I really like them’, I just felt I wanted to get back on the horse again.”

“ I did the demo of Slow Trains in my bedroom and when we came to do it I thought ‘I think this needs two vocals’ and thought it would be lovely to get a boy and a girl to sing it because I wrote the song about the train journey between Manchester and Sheffield with a bit of artistic license. I just kind of changed it a little but that’s what I envisioned and I always thought there should be a girl singing it with me and in walked Laura really.”

Slow Trains is gentle, melodic song, with a tiny hint of the Cure running through it.
“I’ll tell you how I wrote that song, it was really different to how I normally write. I’m a bit anal ‘these are the words; these are the chords, la la la’. But with that I had the chords and I had the little distorted piano line and I though ‘you know what, I’m just going to let it roll. I haven’t got any words, set the microphone up, put my headphones on and made them up like a stream of consciousness.”

That’s how John Lennon wrote a lot of his later stuff.

“Really? I did not know that. I didn’t have the chorus at that point; the chorus came out after that. It was very much a flow of consciousness and I wanted to capture that beauty and simplicity, that almost innocence, you know? I didn’t deliberately do this but I wanted to create something that was bit more like ‘Close to me’ by the Cure and Belle and Sebastian but with my own slant on it. It was very laid back and just sort of happened.”

I asked Martin what the song is about.

“It’s just a love song to be honest with you.”


“Yes, partly. My dad used to work for the railways and we used to do a lot of travelling when I was kid. We used to go around Europe and I have really fond memories of catching the train to Dover then getting aboard a sleeper train Calais and waking up in Switzerland the next morning. These days the world moves so much faster than that. I’ve always found train journeys really make you slow down and make you take in what’s around you. I always used to do the journey from Manchester to Sheffield and I love that journey and that’s really what that songs about. It’s a love song about a couple getting out of the city and into the country and nothing more glorious than that. I wanted to retain that intimacy. It’s about leaving Manchester Piccadilly and going into the country and that simplicity”

There is a certain romance in that though isn’t there?

“Yeah, I completely agree. And the ironic thing is where we filmed the video is exactly the same route which I wrote the song about.”
No? Really!

The video sounds like very interesting project.

“When we did the video for the single, we played acoustically on the Manchester folk train at the weekend. It was absolutely packed, and it was really joyous to be playing the song on the journey I wrote the song about. And we did that, we did Strawberry kisses and a song called Homesick. The response from people was just amazing. I never expected it, it was quite a folky thing, and we’re not very folky but people really liked it. It was amazing. There was a guy there who was getting really drunk and getting a bit aggressive and abusive, and we wanted to get some shots of the folk train and then some on the way back when it was getting a bit quieter, shot out the window, things like that. Once he left we got some shots of us, but it was really spontaneous and I love spontaneous things.

Obviously when you do a gig all your gear is already there, but I would love to able to just turn up and play on a train station or something like that. There was just a bunch a people on a train to Manchester for the afternoon, and we just got on and said ‘we’re going to play a song, is that alright?’ No-one objected, so we did it and people loved it. I was lovely to do that. Because I spend so much time song writing, and us rehearsing, this time round I wanted us to have a bunch of songs that we love that reach the highest standard we could possibly produce, so we could be as excited and we want people to be about our music. It was just really special to do that. We just got on the train and said ‘we’re going to play you a song’. I was playing glockenspiel and singing and Matt had got these little egg shakers and Martin was on acoustic and Laura was just singing and stuff and was just really nice to get that response from people.

As a songwriter you spend so long having these ideas and going away and thinking ‘how this going to work’ and messing around with vocal arrangement and arrangements of the song and all the piss boring things people don’t care about. They just put a song on and go ‘that sounds amazing’ but to get to that point, there’s quite a lot of work involved. We never played Strawberry Kisses to anyone and people were like ‘woh’ and we did Slow Trains at the end, and the way we do it is completely different. What you hear on Sound Cloud is just a very simple melody on guitar, and I play keys on it, and we’re really conscious of wanting to write really beautiful, nail-on-the-head songs but making them interesting without making them sound big, thought he sentiments are quite big and not getting carried away. I don’t want to go down the big thing anymore, which is why I put it back to just acoustically which was so nice.
We played Slow Trains and by the time the second chorus came in the carriage was silent and it was rammed and it was just like ‘shit!’. I guess I’m a romantic at heart. It’s a big theme dealt with in a small musical way, which is what I do really.”

Due to a re-shoot of the Slow Trains video, the release date has been delayed. Hear Slow Trains and other songs, and look out for the release date here-

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