Ultrasound Ultrasound… Cyclic sound wave

Interview: Ultrasound

Published on September 26th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams

Ultrasound’s long-awaited second album Play For Today is out this week, with a launch party to take place at London’s Scala venue on Thursday 4th October (click here for tickets), so Rocksucker fired front man Andrew ‘Tiny’ Wood over some questions about the album, how the band came to reconcile at a benefit gig for Cardiacs legend Tim Smith, and other musical matters that Tiny tackled with the kind of music fanatic’s relish that brings joy to our hearts.

First, though, check out this video to “Beautiful Sadness”, the lead single from Play For Today, which incidentally we described in our review of it as “high-drama, high-octane, high-on-life pop music…a welcome return to the fold and, with any luck, a passport to more than a mere game show” (that last bit makes sense in the context, trust us)…

Had you all reconciled before the Tim Smith benefit, or is that what sparked it? Does it feel good to be back doing this?

I hadn’t spoken to Vanessa or Richard since the split, and I know no one else had spoken with Richard, so it was definitely the Tim Smith thing that sparked off our re-acquaintance. I never knew I missed it until we started playing and realised it was something special.

Will there be a tour?

I would imagine so – we’re just waiting for details to be sorted out. Tours are expensive things to put together and the money isn’t there like it used to be for tour support and the like, so it comes down to logistical organisation.

Is this a one-off thing, or is Ultrasound back to stay? Or is it too early to tell?

Well plans are afoot for the near future and we’re already preparing for the next album, so I hope to be around for at least the next few years, so we can finish what we started.

Is Play for Today in any way a nod to the old TV show with Nigel Hawthorne?

Don’t specifically recall Nigel Hawthorne, although he may have appeared in some. Play For Today was a TV programme from the ’70s that commissioned one-off plays by up-and-coming British writers like Mike Leigh, Dennis Potter, Alan Bleasdale, etc. To me the title is both modern and old-fashioned and therefore perfect for us.

Does the ‘noir thriller’ you described “Glitterbox” as spill over into any other tracks? Would you say the album is themed in any way?

We treat every song as a separate entity, unlike The Fall or The Strokes, where each song is a continuation along the same theme if you like. However, because they come from us, there are sometimes similarities, although I would say that the “noir” atmosphere of “Glitterbox” is specific to that song. Overall there is a loose theme to this album, which is more felt than stated. It doesn’t shout that this is what I’m about. It gently reminds you.

How did you divide up the songwriting this time? Has the dynamic changed much since last time around?

It’s a much more collaborative effort this time round. In the past Richard tended to bring ideas into rehearsal for us to kick around, or even out (!), but now we work more closely together on those ideas before taking them into rehearsal. I have a minidisc recorder, and I record everything.

Ditto Fierce Panda – how much has it changed?

Couldn’t tell you, other than the fact that I believe Fierce Panda have decided/realised that it’s time for them to get serious, and then we came along!

What’s your favourite Cardiacs song and/or album?

Album would have to be Sing To God – it sprawls with ideas like thick homemade soup – may I refer you to my review of said album for further quirky references (http://cracklefeedback.com/Features/63-BrokenRecord-Ultrasound).

As for song – it’s almost impossible to pick one and we each have our own lists, and there are the classics, but should I pick one of those over their more obscure gems? – like a kid in a sweet shop I’ll probably always come away with a mixture because I can’t decide. So I’ll just pick the one I listen to the most at the moment and that’s “Ditzy Scene”, which showed so much promise for the new album that never came, which is on the list of albums I need to hear before I die (along with a bass guitar-only version of The Beatles “Abbey Road”, an ambition which was recently realised).

Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?

GOAT – Voodoo vibes from Sweden

The Murder Barn – Bringers of the harvest, featuring Matt Jones

Pocket Venus – North Wales crew

Rubik – Finnish pop-prog

Tame Impala – Aussie psychedelic funksters

Finally, if you had to spend the rest of your days with the back catalogues of just five different musical artists, whose would you choose?

The Beatles – obvious one but they really did do everything – all styles served here.

Bob Dylan – There’s so much of it for a start, especially if I’m allowed to include the Theme Time Radio Hour (pretty please!), (Rocksucker says: Oh, go on then!) although everything between 1983 and 1988 can be dumped, apart from anthology compilations of earlier works, of course. He wasn’t the only artist to have recorded complete dross between these years – take your pick. And you can keep his work with the Travelling Wilburys too, as long as I can take my bootlegs of his entire 1966 world tour!

The Fall – the band that forever change and always stay the same. Everyone’s got their favourites, usually based on when they got on the carousel, and with me that was Grotesque, but I still love them just as much, and my favourite always seems to be their most recent, Ersatz GB in this case.

Yes – I couldn’t live without listening to certain songs on a regular basis – “Close To The Edge”, “Awaken”, “Heart of the Sunrise” etc. I would hope that the back catalogue also includes solo works. Although there is an awful lot of dross here, there are also some gems, like Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water and Jon Anderson’s Olias Of Sunhillow, along with the first few Rick Wakeman solo efforts, but most of them have dried up by the time the ’80s kicked in.

Robert Wyatt – Obviously I’d like to include all his work with Soft Machine, as well as his many collaborations with other artists, but I really wouldn’t mind just having Rock Bottom, one of the greatest albums of all time, and one that you float into like taking a dip into the Dead Sea. It is calm yet troubled, it is experimental yet tuneful, nonsensical yet profound, deeply personal yet flippant. Still I’ll take his later stuff too as it’s all brilliant and contains that deep water stillness and his plaintive wavering high tenor voice which lulls you into his world like warm waves lapping at your feet.

Tiny, thank you.

Ultrasound launch poster

Play For Today is out now on Fierce Panda Records. Ultrasound will play an album launch party at the Scala in King’s Cross on 4th October. For more information please visit www.ultrasoundtheband.com


About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.

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