Having the opportunity to meet and talk with Patrick Walker, the driving force behind 40 Watt Sun, is a rare privilege that allows the briefest of glimpses into the creative process behind the band’s sole album to date, ‘the inside room’. Meeting Patrick, it is clear that he is a retiring individual who genuinely strives to answer each question in depth and detail but who is made somewhat uncomfortable by the interview process, seemingly viewing it as a necessary evil to be endured and preferring to let his elegiac music do the talking. This is not an uncommon position amongst artists who view integrity and honesty as being integral to the creative process and whilst Patrick is both welcoming and polite to a fault, it feels as if the interview is something of an intrusion into the life and thoughts of a man who has already put a great deal of himself into his work for all to see.
I know you get asked a lot about the Marillion reference in the band name, it seems as if from the very start you were seeking to place 40 Watt Sun outside of any one genre identifying, perhaps, more with a singer-songwriter mind set than, say, a specific genre?
I didn’t want to… I chose it, primarily, because I liked the sound of it and I’m an old Marillion fan so I felt it was a good one. As I’ve said before, it has no genre connotations.
Yeah – it felt, to me at least, that you expanded the possibilities of what you could do by naming the band in that way
Yeah, I don’t like the genrefication of anything anyway. It was quite exciting, obviously, when I was seventeen and starting Warning and discovering all this new music… it was fine, but as I’ve grown older I understand how the whole genrefication machine just compartmentises things. It can take what might be a full, living, breathing work of art and cut off its wings, stuff it in to a box and ultimately makes it far smaller than what it actually is. And I just wanted to write songs and play them and I think that’s what we’re good at and I don’t consider it “doomy” or whatever you want to call it.
Another thing that I found interesting in previous interviews that you’ve done is that you’ve talked about how the music is joyful and life –affirming, and it seems to me that that dichotomy exists in a number of bands like Swans and artists such as yourself and that’s an interesting contrast that people who categorise you as doom seem to have missed…
Well I know I can’t tell somebody how they should respond to music, I have no right to do that, but I think I felt disappointed when I heard people using words like “depressing”. I just want to make beautiful music. Not something dreary or negative.
It’s an interesting dichotomy that you have this heavy music but it doesn’t have to be oppressive and it opens up different channels and emotions…
I think most of your songs start from an acoustic guitar rather than a riff…
…so that must define the melody before the power comes in…
The melody always comes first really.
How do you feel you’ve developed as a music fan as a result of your experiences in the music industry:
It’s developed just as everything else does – like my reading interests, or my friends or my relationships – as with anything else it progresses and some things you take with you and some things you leave behind.
What sort of qualities do you look for in music and what sort of qualities do you want to express in your own music?
It’s quite a hard question to answer. I look for… It’s a hard question to answer – I know what you’re asking but I think I’m too embarrassed to answer it.
You don’t play live very often and it seems that you very much prefer studio work – would you agree?
I don’t like playing live.
So a festival like this is a good opportunity to bring your music to a wider audience?
I don’t think we’re going to turn anyone’s heads here – if anyone’s going to come and see us we will be preaching to the converted. I don’t think we’ll be bringing any music to anyone who wasn’t already aware of us. I prefer writing, rehearsing and recording music without a shadow of a doubt – I feel quite uneasy on stage though the rest of the band enjoy it I think .
I have one last question for you which is about the artwork – for me it’s a very important part of a record and I was wondering how much you choose to be involved in the artwork and how important that is to you?
There’s nothing vastly conceptual about the artwork I think. The particular piece that’s on the front of the 40 Watt Sun record was something that I had put aside for quite a while. It’s the same artist we used on the last Warning album and EP – Matt Mahurin – and I really like his work. I had that piece for a long time and wanted to use it. Other than that Christian put the album sleeve design together. That’s something else I think he’s very skilled at. Just as a matter of interest – if you’re interested in such things – the artist is the same as who did the first Tracy Chapman album cover and Alice by Tom Waits… he’s done quite a lot of work in that field and he very generously let us use some of his work for ourselves. But there’s nothing very conceptual about it… or maybe there is and I don’t know but I think it’s very beautiful.
And with a further few words we leave the interview there, thanking Patrick for his time. Given his prediction that his band would be ‘preaching to the converted’ it was a pleasure indeed to see how many of the converted crammed into ‘the mine’ stage to witness 40 Watt Sun play, and it was a heart-stopping performance that the band put on. ‘The Inside room’ was largely considered to be one of the albums of last year, and we thoroughly recommend tracking down a copy (on vinyl if possible as it carries a bonus track) if you have not already succumbed to the band’s charms. Slow burning, beautiful, cathartic and elegant, 40 Watt Sun are a very special band indeed, and one to treasure.
Nb: Although it has nothing to do with the interview per se, it has come to our attention that Patrick recently identified an American label that had put out a sub-standard version of the Warning album ‘watching from a distance’. He issued the following statement which we feel bears reprinting here as it summarises everything that’s wrong with the music industry and it’s avaricious ways:
“It was recently brought to my attention by a Warning fan that my 2006 album, Watching from a Distance, was being reissued on vinyl. ‘Would I be receiving any copies?’ he asked, ‘and would I have any for sale?’
I felt rather embarrassed to say the least as this was certainly the first I had heard of it. After a brief online search I came across the website of…
Thank you for reading.