The poet Equinox is releasing his debut album It’s Hard To Be Happy When Your Head Is Full Of Sin on Recordiau Prin Records. It features a remarkable range of artists who were invited to freely interpret his work and contribute backing music to the poems. The result is a genre-spanning release, from electro to funk, post-punk and cinematic electronica all with Equinox’s Mancunian voice, the musicians include Vince Clarke (Erasure, Depeche Mode, Yazoo), Deux Furieuses, Pulco, Snippet, Rosie Bans and Feral Five, today he takes us through his album Track by Track.
“Around the age of 12 I first came into contact with the Jean-Michel Jarre album Equinoxe and decided that that would be the name of my group, minus the ‘e’. As I dabbled with a Casio keyboard, I soon realised that whilst I had ideas, I couldn’t sing or play a musical instrument. My song lyrics turned to poetry.
The early 80s proved to be a source of musical baptism for me. Pop, pure pop, was rife and admiration for a classic pop song was instant. That lust for well-written pop has stayed with me all my life but, as the 80s drew to a close I lost faith a little and journeyed to the alternative, discovering On-U Sound, The The, Marc & The Mambas, more and more and more. I mention the pop aspect because it was a synth pioneer that proved to be the catalyst for the album.
I was asked by Welsh miserabilists Radio Europa, to collaborate on their incredible album TyDbXx and Josephine was the end result. It sparked something, and the thought of approaching several artists I admired to ask for a similar collaboration was born. The first person I approached was the aforementioned synth pioneer – Vince Clarke – and with the view of ‘you don’t get, you don’t ask’ and the worst case scenario of a negative response I approached him with Goodnight Vienna, he said Yes. The track tells the tale of finding a friend who had taken his own life via an overdose. I wanted it dark and Vince obliged with a truly superb piece of music. He nailed it first time, adding something barely audible for a second version, a true perfectionist.”
“It was this that spurred me on and soon other artists had followed suit…..
“Album opener sees Ashley Reaks provide an ambient backing to Help Me Please which I felt was the perfect opener to the album. It admits to guilt via a lack of religious commitment but it’s also meant to signal a lifetime of regret. Ash is an artist I have an incredible amount of respect for, as I do all the artists on the album, he forges new directions on every album he makes and is someone who deserves a huge following.
I’ve been a fan of Feral Five for a number of years since their first single Skin. They have a brilliant punk attitude which is channelled through a hard hitting electro background and some often relevant and clever lyrics. I was blown away by what they did with the track (which was originally called Headache – The Pain Of Your Kiss), it showed an incredible amount of imagination and it soon became the lead track resulting in Gideon Coe picking it as his Recommends choice on 6 Music at the end of October. Jay Stansfield made a fantastic raunchy video for the track and he also collaborated on How It Is adding some atmospheric synth effects and a brilliant voice transformation. I’ve admired him since he released his Birth And Death album a few years ago and his current band, All Hail Hyena are a jaw dropping trio combining every genre you could possibly imagine.”
“All the artists on the album are ones that I have admired for quite some time, Dementio13 and Ceiling Demons being two such acts. Paul Dementio makes some quite beautiful and often hard hitting electro tracks and has collaborated with vocalists several times. He also performs under a few different names and he is one of those artists that you feel should be on the radio every time you switch it on. I’ve also known and been friends of Ceiling Demons for a few years, a Yorkshire based act making hip-hop and rap their own with some very imaginative twists and turns via unusual samples. They’re one of those acts that could make it big at any time and I took the album title from the closing line of their track Sundays – “It’s hard to be happy when your heart is full of tin” – which was actually the idea of Jonathan Swift who is part of another hip-hop act who I have an eye on, Outside Your House. Adapting the title to continue the feel of regret made it a bit of mouthful but it’s certainly caught the attention!
I’ve been big fan of Depeche Mode since the early 80s and I adore the track Somebody so much that I wrote a third verse of my own. Somebody Too was adapted by Rosie Bans who is not only a superb keyboard player but has one of the most incredible voices I’ve heard for a long time. She’s made a bit of a niche for herself with her own brand of sophisti-pop and if she gets just one lucky break then I’m convinced she’ll be a huge star. She’s also known for being a little foulmouthed and a raging feminist so she gets my vote any day.
After being part of the Radio Europa album it seemed only fair to ask them to be part of mine. I think they’re amazing and a real kick in the pants for modern day music. Like Equinox, they are spoken word but have some ideas which really blow me away. Plenty of Coil and Wire and Throbbing Gristle in their sound which leaves an indelible mark on me everyone time I hear them, they have a new album due out in a few months which I can’t wait for as I believe it marks a slightly new direction.
After publicising a very modern sounding track with Kiss it seemed a great idea to go to the other end of the scale and then push a more conventional sounding track. Mule was the result of some quite brilliant work by Nat Lyon, an off-grid, thrash-folk, experimental artist from Newfoundland. Mule is amazing and is gorgeously complex by it’s simplicity. The tale of New Year depression fits perfectly with the guitar work and the midway turning point still send goosebumps down my arms. I came across Nat via Pulco (aka Ash Cooke) who is now known as Chow Mwng. The album is released on Recordiau Prin which is his label and I seriously consider him as a genius. He makes some of the most amazing ‘collage music’ that I have ever heard and I often wonder where he gets all his inspiration. His musical output is massive and if anyone has never heard any of his stuff then they really need to check him out. Scream is brilliant and suits the words perfectly – it’s angry and manic and strangely organic sounding.”
“Deux Furieuses are on the brink of mega stardom and I still can’t believe they agreed to be part of the project. Vas and Ros and beautiful people and make some of the most gut wrenching, gnarling, modern day punk you will hear. Their debut album, Tracks Of Wire is amazing and their ‘home demo’ of Humankind just shows that poetry doesn’t have to be weak and empty. The guitar and percussion blend perfectly with my voice and backing vocals add more power and aggression. Deux Furieuses are currently headlining their own gigs around the London area and creating a real buzz. I love them to bits.
I also love Superhand. They’re quite incredible and their album American Teeth is a classic album in my book. Unbelievable. I really can’t say more. They mastered the album and also contributed to Gone, ripping it apart and rebuilding it. The suspense of the track against the horrifying words make it creepy and almost frightening. They are very anti-establishment and I love their grit and determination to succeed without pandering.
My love of perfect pop music lead to ventures with Snippet (aka Johnno Casson) and Will Harris (leader of mylittlebrother). Both are songwriters of the highest order and both will undoubtedly achieve big success very soon. Johnno made Don’t Die On Me a five minute pop sensation with some great soundbytes and killer melodies and, the first time I heard Belief from Will I knew it was the perfect end to the album. It’s so effortless and so simple but it really couldn’t have been any other way to work with the words.
So that’s It’s Hard To Be Happy When Your Head Is Full Of Sin. Thirty years in the making, something off my bucket list and the start of a new venture I’m sure. I really hope that aside from listening to it that people also check out the artists involved as I often refer to Equinox as ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ considering it a collective project rather than just me.
Next up? A new album is underway with more collaborations and some very interesting ones and, before that a lo-fi EP that Chow Mwng and I have been talking about for some time.”