pre-GuilFest interview

Robin Jones from The Aliens

published: Tue 27th May 2008

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Friday 4th to Sunday 6th July 2008
Stoke Park, Guildford, Surrey., England MAP
£90 for w/e, £100 with camping; days £40
last updated: Wed 17th Mar 2010

Robin Jones is a drummer and former member of the Beta Band, who has continued his association with Gordon Anderson in their latest project The Aliens. With forthcoming festival dates at GuilFest and Latitude, eFestivals spoke to Robin about the Guildford festival, their new album, and more.

what are you up to at the moment?
The last eight months you mean? We've been working away on our new album for quite a considerable time. We started last August and although we haven't been full time at it and it's been fits and starts, but basically we've been doing all the recordings for that.

So is it finished yet?
All the recording is done, and as it goes, we're off to commence mixing on Sunday, which is pretty exciting we're going to spend three weeks mixing the record in Cornwall.

How does The Aliens differ from the Beta Band?
It was the desire to work with Gordon again, he was one of the forces that created the beta band, and we're all old friends from art college. I met Gordon and John at my first innocent day at art college. We've been friends since then and Gordon's always been into his music.

So is Gordon the driving force of the band?
Yeah, he's certainly put on this earth to write songs. So he's constantly composing songs, singing songs and that's his passion and talent. He writes all the material, and then in a similar way to the beta band works, we all try and arrange it in different ways and each bring a style to the music. But the core of it is Gordon's obviously, if you have a great song you can almost do it in any way.

And what about the sound you create?
To be honest that's the way it's turned out it was never pre-conceived in that way it the way it's come about by the culmination of hours of arguing amongst oursleves, and trying different things. If you're referring to the first album it's maybe not as challenging musically as it could have been. Yeah. the songs are great but we could have made it more electronic. But what we ended up with was a big sound, a big lush sound, I suppose. But that's all part of the strange world of the music industry that's all tempered by the fact we managed to get only two weeks in a big recording studio. You rush down do the bass track and things like that. So everything has an influence over how something is created.

You're at GuilFest festival this summer...
Are we? That's exciting! I know where it is, we've played it before not as The Aliens but the Beta Band played it.

Do you have any memories of playing it?
I have very great memories of playing it because my oldest dearest friend got married on the same day. I made it to service and then jumped on a plane, not quite in the style of Led Zeppelin hiring a helicopter, but I had to fly down and I made it to the gig in Guildford for the evening, in my wedding suit. So I do remember it.

The Aliens

Did you have time to look around the festival?
I didn't, I literally only arrived half an hour before, and then we played, then the road crew had to break it down and we were straight off again. I've been to Guildford quite a lot in the passed so I know that area quite well. That was maybe three or four years ago, I can't remember if it is over a couple of days or just one day?

It's over three days, starting over on the Friday and going on until the Sunday.
I was going to ask who you would like to see on the bill, but I'll change that to if you were having your own festival who would you have headline? Let's see, The Who would have to be playing, Led Zeppelin would have to play, and Jimmy Hendrix would certainly have to play. It would probably just end up being quite like Woodstock, and I'd hate you to think I was some aging hippy. But then I would have the Wu Tang playing, and De La Soul, Primal Scream, Bob Dylan, it's difficult to know who would headline so we'd have to have several stages. And The KLF, would be guests of honour, and have a whole day dedicated to them, in a Big Top all of their won. As well as that I would get the best orchestra in the world, I don't know which, to commission a performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony, that would be a must have. Are you interested? Tickets are a fiver, and you can hire boats, there's a great lily pond, great bedouin tents for everyone, free.

When are you going to have it? I'm there!
Let's see probably about Christmas Day, and have it in Siberia.

Have you ever been to a festival as a punter?
No never have, no, oh hang on, been to a festival at all? I remember going to Phoenix Festival in Stratford On Avon, it doesn't exist anymore. I'm sure I've been to T in the Park, and year's ago I went to WOMAD. Year's ago my brother tried to start up a festival, well he did start a festival doing it for three year's up where I grew up in Scotland. That was great fun trying to make it happen, it was really just an excuse to have a ginormous bonfire and also burn a 'burning man' it was a Stirling thing. I never made it to Glastonbury as a punter, unfortunately.

You've been there with the band though? You did that legendary performance I missed last year.
We have, yeah, quite a few times, we also took part with the Africa Express team, we got involved in that, that was amazing, it was really exciting, felt really fresh, real and kind of haphazard, and that good last year.

What's the ingredient that makes your performances so talked about?
I think the ingredient would be Gordon, he would be top of the page, he just responds well to whatever he's feeling and whatever the audience are feeling as well. He's always honest and he's blessed with the gift of not being self conscious, and that always makes for a good show. Then there's myself and John, and Jamie playing bass to back him up. There's me playing wild drums, John has racks of keyboards, and samplers and a special dance he likes to perform for the audience (look out for that) and Jamie's the stone giant of Bassdom, he's there, holding court. It's just lively, and it's good for us, it's different every night, it's just great fun playing.

When you play festivals this summer will you have new material?
Yes, without a doubt, it might be half and half, I don't know we'll have to work it out but we've got new songs that I think will translate really well, they're upbeat songs that are quite pop in areas, and also it's exciting to play new material.

Other festivals are you doing this summer?
I've no idea, I think things are pencilled in but nothings kind of definite yet. The main thing for us at the moment is to finish the record.

So have you got anyone special in to mix it? As Hot Chip did one of yours last time.
Yeah they did, Robot Man. We have the mix expert, producer whatever you want to call him John Cornfield there, and obviously we'll be there and probably annoying him intensely by saying all of the wrong things. So it'll be a combined effort, but we'll use his skill at that. There's obviously certain rules that you apply I imagine to mixing the record.

Have you got any special guests on the album?
Yes, there's a few guests peppered in there, we have a lot of friends who are very musical, so there's all sorts of little snippets from other artists. Including a saxophone solo from David Gray, he plays a mean saxophone. We were recording at his studio, so we talked him into it.

When you go to GuilFest will you be camping?
That's still to be arranged. We'll probably fly in by hot air balloon and leave by camel or something like that. But hopefully we'll stay because it's good sometimes to hang around. We try to do that if it's looking it feels like the right sort of thing. That's a the great thing about if you're lucky enough to get a slot on early on the Friday at a festival. It gives you the time to see everything else.

The Aliens

interview by: Scott Williams

Friday 4th to Sunday 6th July 2008
Stoke Park, Guildford, Surrey., England MAP
£90 for w/e, £100 with camping; days £40
last updated: Wed 17th Mar 2010

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