DOORSTEP INTERVIEW: Ten Sticks | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Welcome to Doorstep Interview, where we find out more about the amazing bands and artists we have right here in the north east. This time, Mark of Ten Sticks tells us more about the darker, noisier side-project of Grandfather Birds.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you from?

Ten Sticks is me (Mark) and Stuart, who make up half of Grandfather Birds. This was a project that came out of a few sessions improvising together between rehearsals with Grandfather Birds. We had a mutual appreciation for instrumental, cinematic music and composition so we began playing for elongated sessions, recording them on a dictaphone to document what happened. There wasn’t any purpose or intent, which was (and still is, of course) a lot of fun.

We got offered a gig and played it under our own names as a ‘collaboration’ playing a couple of songs that had been picked out of the longer, messier improvised stuff. It was pretty well received by our mates and we had a lot of encouragement to make something a bit more ‘proper’ out of it. Fast forward a year or so, we’d spent a lot of time jamming, improvising, writing and (occasionally) recording bits and bobs. So here we are.

The idea behind Ten Sticks was to have these two personalities that could complement each other and make music defying expectation of a guitar/drum duo. The drums can be melodic, the guitar can be percussive. Who knows, it’s still mainly improvised…

What inspired you to first start making music?

We both agree that music was just ‘there’ in our lives growing up. It’s hard to pin down a specific primary influence really. The influence to start making music together, however, came from just having similar tastes and interests and wanting to see how those would translate through our two playing styles.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

It’s hard to pin down exactly what inspired us both as it changes from week to week. Ten Sticks started because we both shared a love for post-rock stuff like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Do Make Say Think. There’s the influence of minimalists like Terry Riley in our ideas for composition, as well as jazz stuff like The Bad Plus.

We try not to write with an intention of sounding a certain way but after a while listening back I know I’ve said “Stu, you know what.. I’ve totally ripped of a Tortoise groove here”

How would you describe your sound?  

  • Cathartic post post post modern shoe gazing cartoon induced dream goo.
  • The sound of all your various pots and pans falling into a black hole made of bagels and coffee whilst Roy Orbison lets out a disappointed sigh.
  • All the hits played at once, slowed down to 3/4 of the tempo, reversed and then put through a melted marshmallow, sped back up and then set on fire…. with drums…Followed by the classics….
  • Gene Krupers terrible Friday…
  • John Carpenter’s bed time stories as a child.

(One or none of the above – please delete as appropriate).

“It’s hard to pin down exactly what inspired us both as it changes from week to week”

Where do you see yourselves fitting into the local music scene?

Our mates Apologies are making wonderful up-tempo, high energy instrumental music. Any band with Jim Bowmaker on bass is a top notch band (Kylver, The Great Curve, Bowmaker’s Bass Odyssey) and we played with Shades and they’re wonderful people. We’d like to fit somewhere amongst that lot, perhaps not stylistically, but just physically. They’re all really lovely people. Especially Jim.

Tell us a bit about your live performances. What can we expect from a gig by you?

We’ve only played a handful of gigs. They all had a different feel. We take phrases of melody and rhythm, and try to move them through time, without knowing exactly where they’re traveling to… I guess we’re trying to say ‘expect the unexpected’ – in one of those classic Warner Brothers’ Sylvester the cat voices.

What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far as a band?

Probably the first gig we did, purely because no one walked out (that I was aware of). It was a packed out gig full of friends and some family most of which we did not expect to turn up. It was a nice unexpected intimate gig.

Have there been any major challenges so far in your musical career?

Being able to let go of something you’ve recorded and putting it out to fend for itself was a little daunting. We were a little unsure of how it would translate from a live set but it’s turned out really well and is something we’re pretty proud of.

What else have you got planned for the future?

We’re going to record and share as much of our music as we can. We’re going to carry on just ‘seeing what happens’ when we get together in a room with our instruments and documenting that in whatever way we can. we’re going to continue to eat pizza, watch The Simpsons and skateboard as often as we can to prevent ever ‘growing up’ and we’re going to try and share our freely expressed sounds with as many free, expressive souls as we possibly can.

Find out more about what Ten Sticks are up to on their Facebook page.

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