Chris Connelly interviewed about his 20th solo album, “The Tide Stripped Bare”

By Bob Gourley | Published on March 4, 2018
Chris Connelly interview
Photo by DERICK SMITH

“The Tide Stripped Bare” is the 20th solo album from Scottish-born, Chicago-based musician/author Chris Connelly, and it is by far one of this strongest releases to date. The music has a dark edge and extremely strong melodic hooks. Connelly’s Bowie-esque vocals provide powerful delivery of often poetic lyrics. The album was recorded entirely in Connelly’s home studio, but the creative arrangements and production give it a big and completely fresh sound. In an email interview, Connelly discussed the making of “The Tide Stripped Bare.”

You’ve put out 3 albums recently; over what time-frame were each of them made? Was there any overlap or influence between them?

Chris Connelly: “I started recording last spring.  “Art & Gender” was written & recorded over a week, it was very spontaneous, “Further days” was recorded in the summer, as was “The Tide Stripped Bare”: “Further Days” was a re-recording of 2000’s “Private Education” so no – there was not really that much aesthetic overlap really, apart from me of course! But you know – it’s all in the ear of the beholder, I make the records, I don’t really listen to them, so I cannot be very accurate, that would be like staring in the mirror….”

I’ve read about how on this album you again cover a song by The Visitors, a band I was not previously familiar with. Could you comment on your motivation for covering their music?

Chris Connelly: “VISITORS were a band from Edinburgh who I idolized and who were mentors to my band, FINI TRIBE , back when we were all really young, you know, 14, 15. They played live and we would always attend, often opening, and we would often hang out with them and learn. They taught us so much, especially John McVay and Colin Craigie from the band (Colin taught me how to play guitar). They taught us about experimenting, live & in the studio, about how there did not need to be a boundary between conceptual art & a ‘rock’ band. They never released a full album, and they have gone largely unrecognized, but I/we never fell out of love with them. The song THIRD BASS on my new album never came out except as a track on their last JOHN PEEL session, it’s a brilliant song, a strange and beautiful piece.”

Over the years, you’ve put out some music that is more stripped down, but “The Tide Stripped Bare” definitely has a fuller sound, with the instrumentation and production playing a major role in the overall experience. Did you have a strong sense of the sound you were going for as you wrote?

Chris Connelly:  “No – I record by myself at home, and I like trying things out, indulging myself! Because I can. But I have certainly been throwing myself into a much more lush sound, giant, widescreen sounds to reflect the dynamic of the lyrics. Almost everything I do is from a gut level, pure instinct, so I never have a plan.”

Personally, I found it to be a slightly challenging album at first. This is a compliment; I felt that there was a lot of interesting /unexpected things going on, and it took a few listens for me to take it all in. Did you feel like you were pushing yourself in new directions as you made it?

Chris Connelly:  “I never feel like I am pushing myself, the process is not supposed to be torturous in any way. But I always feel like I am discovering new territory, and it is coming out of my brain, so that suggests perhaps some forward motion. I only do it to get to new places, that’s the way I am wired. If I start a song that seems like a retread or repetition then it gets cast aside. But I can only think of the moment I am working: if I think about what I just did, or what I might want to do, it all falls apart.”

To what degree was this album conceived as a whole, versus perhaps out of writing and then realizing you had enough material/an album was taking shape?

Chris Connelly:  “I don’t work in terms of albums particularly, I work and work and then I don’t, or another project comes along, and because I don’t block book studio time or anything like that and no one is forcing me to finish anything, it’s like this amazing reveal, like staring at your work for long enough that this other picture just suddenly appears, and that’s it, you have your album, it all makes sense then.”

What other musicians worked on the album?

Chris Connelly:  “No one, just me.”

What made you title the album ‘The Tide Stripped Bare’? I’m assuming it’s a reference to the Bryan Ferry album and/or the Marcel Duchamp artwork that was referencing?

Chris Connelly:  “Both, they are radically different artists but they have meant so much to me through my life, I like the play on both titles, and that it sounds like a Chris Connelly title.”

There’s a great video for ‘“The Tide Stripped Bare” – could you comment on that? Also, as a musician, what are your thoughts on the current importance/role of the music video (now that they are generally viewed online vs music networks and programs).

Chris Connelly:  “My friend E.Gabriel Edvy made it, I had seen a piece she did online and I really wanted her to do a video for me, I sometimes get this eureka moment when I find another artist and it resonates so strongly with me I have to collaborate on some level.

“I have always loved videos, they’re fun, and I think they are a fantastic vessel for your art-visual and musical, and I think that because they are not so sacred & expensive now, artists can push boundaries more and do some extreme conceptual work.”

Do you feel that your return to Revolting Cocks or work in Sons of the Silent age had any influence on this album or your solo work in general? Either in terms of direct creative influence or perhaps just the experiences?

Chris Connelly: “I don’t know, I can’t say, but I can say that all of these things are very compartmentalized in me, they are very different thought processes and different characters I play, and they are all mutually exclusive, the only constant is me of course. But they are all roles I play, and that makes it a lot easier to deal with – the Keifer Sutherland in 24 is not the Keifer Sutherland in MELANCHOLIA to use a comparative example.”

Back when you were working with Ministry and the related projects, did you have a desire to explore other genres, as you have with your solo career, but perhaps just not the outlet? Or did these interests develop later?

Chris Connelly: “I had a whole life before I joined Ministry etc. I came of age in a very rich time for music (1976-83) after punk and right as what we call post-punk exploded in 78. How could you not be affected by not only bands like WIRE and the COCTEAU TWINS? But just the sort of Thatcher-era culture, in general, had so many people in my immediate purview sticking their fucking fingers up and willfully challenging everything, and no one was going to be restricted to music either. It was performance, sculpture, film and yes, NO ONE had any money, but we definitely had TIME!!!!, I was really disappointed when I came to the states where it was actually okay to like bands like fucking Aerosmith and Van Halen.”

What motivated you to re-record “Private Education” as “Further Days”? Is revisiting a prior release like this something you are interested in doing again in the future?

Chris Connelly: “I have never been happy with PRIVATE ED, though I think the songs are great. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with them back then, so it’s been nagging me. Now I can rest with it, and it was a fun exercise to do, and I may redo some old songs, who knows?”

Now that the album is out, do you have any plans for live shows to support it?

Chris Connelly:  “Probably not, but I may wait until the next one and do a few on a bigger scale.”

For more info on Chris Connelly, visit his official website at chrisconnelly.com.

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