INTERVIEW: Teeth Of The Sea | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Ahead of my interview with Jimmy Martin – Teeth of The Sea guitarist, latterly a member of NWOBHM titans Angel Witch, Supernormal Festival director and music journalist to boot – we’d chatted about what I saw as a strong industrial/EBM influence on the astonishing new TOTS record, and whilst laughingly citing an early Ministry track as a key influence and professing a shared enthusiasm in the band for a lot of that music, the reasons for the much harder edge on Highly Deadly Black Tarantula were perhaps more straightforward.

“Mostly the sound of the album is to do with Mat Colgate buying a drum machine and working off that, and also us trying to break from what we were doing before really, and not do anything that was too obviously psych or space rock or any of those tags. We’re always driven to lurch in the opposite direction of what we’ve done in the past. The last record we did, Master, was quite thought out – almost bordering on proggy really, musically convoluted and with a lot going on, so we wanted to strip it back and make something a bit more direct and a bit more aggressive and punishing.”

I was curious about how a record so tight and so stripped back came about. Martin admits to being a little hazy on the details. “The trouble with Teeth Of The Sea is that because we always drink during band practices, I honestly can’t remember the genesis of most of those tracks. They just kind of appear from the ether, which would tend to suggest they are jam-based, they certainly were in the early days. Love Theme From 1984, which is obviously the most melancholic album on the album, was specifically written for this 1984 soundtrack thing we were doing called The Last Man At The Large Hadron Collider. It was too good a track to let go to waste, so we rejigged it for the album. So that was written for a very specific purpose. But the other stuff was quite jam-based”

One of the notable things about TOTS is the way they take a dizzying array of styles and turn them into something coherent, and it’s obvious all the band are musical omnivores.

“We’re all complete musos! The floors of our flats are groaning under the weight of books and records. We all work in some form in record shops or music retail. We’re just obsessed. And we’re all a certain kind of age, we’ve all grown up as rock music fans and then branched out and got into other stuff but never lost sight of the rock stuff we were into in the first place. And we’re all egomaniacs up to a point, at one time or another we’ve all been the frontman or the singer in a band, and then ended up going down some more sort of arty route, so it’s a strange amalgam. I can’t really tell you exactly how it works, there’s just some sort of chemistry there between the four of us.”

we’re past caring you know? We’re all old lads. We’re certainly not looking to support Tame Impala or anything…

The press release for Highly Deadly Black Tarantula refers to ‘monochrome psychedelia’, which seems incredibly vivid and apt. “That was us trying to sum up that fact that it’s still a psychedelic record but it’s got a much more stripped down and brutal aesthetic. Throbbing Gristle records are psychedelic in their own way, not just because you can hear the fact that Chris Carter was into Tangerine Dream and Genesis P Orridge had been into Hawkwind and all that stuff. There’s a psychedelic aspect even if it’s really harsh and really brutal. And that’s what we were trying to get across – TG were always one of our biggest influences. I remember reading that Wreckers Of Civilisation book when I was in my early twenties and it kinda ripped my head off, I really wanted to be in a band like that.”

The last few years have seen numerous movies getting a Teeth Of The Sea soundtrack – their remarkable Field In England re-imagining got a Record Store Day release last year – and this obviously feeds into the band’s creative process.

“It works as a form of inspiration, tracks that we put together for these projects end up on the albums. Reaper on the last album was something we put together for a performance in Jersey we did for a terrible movie called Doomsday by Neil Marshall, who did Dog Soldiers and The Descent, which is this ridiculous cocaine fuelled, post-apocalyptic nonsense. We rejigged it visually for massive sensory overload. And Silent Spectre came from something we did for 2001. So it seems to function in some kind of way as an inspiration, because three tunes from the last two albums have come from that process. And we’re inspired by soundtracks and the headspaces they put you in – we’ve always been massively into Morricone and Angelo Badalamenti and Bernard Hermann, Wendy Carlos and people like that. So I don’t think we really see the dividing line between soundtrack music and band music. It’s all one and the same.”

As magnificent and original as Highly Deadly Black Tarantula is, it has the potential to be quite divisive among fans who have them firmly pigeonholed as a psych band, but Martin is surprisingly sanguine about its commercial prospects.

“If it bombs, we don’t care – I mean, we’d feel guilty about Rocket spending the money on it, but other than that? I’m not going to dish you out any clichés about doing it for ourselves but we’re past caring you know? We’re all old lads. We’re certainly not looking to support Tame Impala or anything…”

Highly Deadly Black Tarantula is released via Rocket Recordings on 6th November. The band play Newcastle’s Head Of Steam on Saturday 14th November.

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