A new interview with Single Gun Theory members Pete Rivett-Carnac and Jacqui Hunt
By Bob Gourley | Published on January 11, 2016
Single Gun Theory has not released new material in many years, but their highly original electronic music still seems fresh. Hailing from Australia, the trio of Pete Rivett-Carnac, Jacqui Hunt, and Kath Power debuted with the somewhat industrial-oriented “Exorcise This Wasteland” (1986) and really found their sound with “Millions, Like Stars in My Hands, The Daggers In My Heart Wage War.” (1991) Making creative use of ambient samples recorded on Pete and Jacqui’s travels through India, Turkey, and South East Asia, that album had a much warmer, organic sound to it, something that carried on to their last regular release, “Flow, River of My Soul” (1994). Single Gun Theory regrouped to create soundtrack music for the film “The Monkey’s Mask” (2001), but haven’t put out any new material since.
“Millions, Like Stars in My Hands, The Daggers In My Heart Wage War” was recently re-released, so it seemed like the perfect time to get in touch with Single Gun Theory to see what they’ve been up to and get their thoughts looking back on the album. Below is a combination of new email interviews with Pete and Jacqui.
After the last Single Gun Theory album, “Flow, River Of My Soul,” you did a film soundtrack, “The Monkey’s Mask.” Could you discuss that project a bit? How did it come about? For those who haven’t heard the music, how would you compare it to your other work? Is the soundtrack currently available?
Jacqui: The project came to us through the music supervisor, who had suggested to the director, licensing a Single Gun Theory song for a particular scene. The project grew from there, and the song “ illusion” was written for the film, along with other pieces of a more abstract nature. It was a great experience and we got to meet and work with some wonderful people. Especially the humble Antony Partos who also composed material and did the gorgeous string arrangements . The strings were recorded at the ABC studios in Sydney. The soundtrack is not readily available , and I suppose you could say it is an obscure album ! haha. The soundtrack is composite of SGT and other material. I like the album, although it does have a sombre edge and a classical slant, but the movie is noir. It is not typical electronic beats/ song based work of Single Gun Theory. It was a testing time for the band working on this project, as it had been quite some time since we had worked together, and at times the relationship was strained unfortunately. I was the only band member that was there during mastering, and I found the process very interesting since I had not been a part of that process with Single Gun Theory in the past. It felt very fortunate to be given the opportunity to work on a film, be given a good budget, etc etc. Writing for film is a different creative challenge, as you need to be trying to get inside the head of the director and tap into what they are wanting rightly so. This is completely different to working on a Single Gun Theory album. Of course there are always opinions, but Single Gun Theory was ultimately their own director.
Pete: Yeah, it’s not available as far as I know, although you can sometimes find copies floating around on eBay. Apart from the main theme “Illusion”, it’s very different from our other stuff.
It came to us at a very busy time for me: I’d just changed day jobs and was about to get married. I initially said no to the project, as my past experience writing music for TV/radio ads had shown me that writing music for someone else takes all the fun out of it – it becomes a job. However, a meeting with the director turned me around and we dived into it.
It was difficult from there: the director was still formulating her ideas for the music so there was a lot of back-and-forth tweaking and reworking required. In the end though, I simply ran out of time. I worked on Illusion, delivered a few dark ambient pieces and effectively bailed out. Kath and Jacq graciously finished the rest of the record – I’d say I didn’t have any input into over two-thirds of it!
It wasn’t totally a bad experience though: my wife arranged a string quartet for our wedding. They played Illusion and it sounded fantastic. 🙂
After that, did you ever officially decide to stop making music as Single Gun Theory? Or did the project just drift apart?
Jacqui: There has never been an official announcement , not even to each other ! I certainly had lived with hope for a long time, but now very comfortable with the fact that it was what it was. I have done a few projects since SGT and am still at it . I can’t stop . It is a need to try and better myself, my best work is still to come ! haha………..
Pete: I guess the band gradually stopped writing actively in the mid-to-late 90s, well before “Monkey’s Mask” – we just kind of each found our own other interests. But we never officially split up, and still kept writing occasionally well into the mid-2000s. In fact, as far as I’m concerned the band still exists, absolutely. No-one’s ever said they’re leaving – we just haven’t made another record yet.
What have you both been up to since?
Jacqui: Living , travelling, loving, marriage , divorce… and that’s just the start. Hard stuff amongst good times. Normal things really . Just being normal . Just having the human experience that goes with being older. Working to live! My background was fashion design, so I always fall back in that domain. I have a great passion there as well as music.
Pete: Well, I married in 2000, and our first daughter was born in 2001. That completely transformed my life!!! It opened entire sections of my heart I never knew existed. We moved to Singapore in 2002 and our second daughter was born in 2006. We feel blessed to be able to live in Asia – every day is new – and our girls are both pretty good Mandarin speakers. 🙂
Music-wise, I’ve worked on several projects with various indies: Tegan Northwood, Valley Forge/Clan Analog, Joyless (Cindy Tong), The Gaza Strip and a few others. It’s all low-level stuff but it’s been a lot of fun.
Are you still in touch with Kath?
Jacqui: Not too much. A little through social media. We will have a great catch up one day, we both have wanted to. We are not so close in distance now , so requires some planning. I have no doubt the day will come and it will be great.
Pete: Yeah, I really miss Kath. 🙁 We chat on Facebook every now and then, but that’s all. Being several thousand kilometres apart also doesn’t help.
To what degree do you think the available musical technology at the time influenced or guided the sound of Single Gun Theory? Did you feel limited it all? Did perhaps working around limitations ever lead to positive creativity?
Pete: To be honest, I’m astounded at what we did on the first two records (“Exorcise…” and “Like Stars…”) without a computer. On both those records we just used a Roland MC-500 for the sequencing. And the sampler on “Exorcise” was an Akai S612 (with a massive 128k of memory!), although I upgraded to an S1000 and Emax II for “Like Stars”.
The thing is though, we didn’t feel limited by that at all: quite the reverse. It was the age of Nirvana, and we were like, “wow, we have this amazing tech that can do all this stuff you can’t do with guitars – why doesn’t everyone else use these things?”.
When computer-based sequencers arrived, it was like an all-you-can-eat buffet pig-out: there was almost too much choice. 🙂
“Millions, Like Stars In My Hands, Daggers In My Heart, Wage War” was recently re-released; what are your thoughts on that album, looking back?
Jacqui: I actually listened to a great chunk of the album recently, and felt quite proud….. although the vocals are very green. There are some great samples that are still fitting today.
Pete: I love that record, but then again, I love all three of them. 🙂 It’s nice that it’s been reissued on vinyl.
I listened to “Angels Over Tehran” the other day – it’s ironic how it’s actually more relevant today than when it was released (the “angels” being “peacekeeping” nuclear warheads, in case that isn’t clear in the song).
And Kath’s lyrics continue to blow me away: “I will carve my own heart, and serve myself to God”. 🙂 And Jacq’s beautiful voice, of course. 🙂
I would SO love to remix all this stuff, but I’ve contacted Nettwerk several times, and alas, the master tapes have disappeared into the ether… 🙁
Were you involved with the decision to re-issue the album, or was it purely a label thing?
“From A Million Miles” became probably your best-known song. Was it obvious to you at the time that it had the potential to become what you are most known for?
Jacqui: Not really, it’s hard to know what people respond too. It had more radio appeal than other tracks. I think it sums up the band quite well though, sort of has all the elements of SGT. Electronic beats, keyboards, vocals , spoken word samples.
Since your music did span many genres, were you ever concerned about how it was being marketed?
Pete: No, I was never interested in the marketing, promotional or business side of it. I really didn’t (and don’t) care about that, they can project any image that works for them. It doesn’t change who we are, what we did, or why we did it.
Jacqui: Marketing seemed to be something like this : get the song on radio, do gigs, make a video, do a remix. So we just got on with it. It wasn’t really seen as “marketing” just more fun creative things to do that usually involved working with friends. We didn’t do many shows at all, which would have been a marketing plus, but Kath and Pete were not that fond of that side, so it didn’t really happen often. We could have worked on our “live “ aspect more, there was room for improvement. We did a couple of really great gigs though, so it was nice to have felt that , and have the music very loud ! I had hoped we were less of a “studio band “ but, a band is a committee, and we didn’t have record companies that pushed us around.
Did you start working on any new material that would have been a followup to “Flow, River of My Soul”? If so, could you describe it? Might it ever see release?
Jacqui: There is material, Good material. I loved some of the songs that have never seen the light. A few demos are floating around much to my disappointment, not the best version yet in my opinion, Time has shown me that it doesn’t matter too much though. I am critical of myself, and know my limitations, but appreciate the chance to deliver my best.
Pete: Yes, we could probably put together an album pretty easily if we all had the motivation. There’s a lot of unfinished stuff there which has potential. All three of us would need to be involved though – it’s not SGT without that.
Unlikely, but never say never. 🙂
What are you general thoughts on the evolution of electronic music since the time Single Gun Theory was active?
Jacqui: So many incredible artists, so much amazing technology, it is a dream . I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t want to get lost in their own sonic world of creation ! I felt really happy to hear a friend say to me one day that they have no interest at all……. It’s great to create, and even more special to have an audience. I would create without an audience, but to have a stranger appreciate your work and compliment it, to feel something from it, is a gift that is humbling. My favourite songs are still a fusion of some electronic and organic elements.
Pete: It’s fantastic!!! I love that anyone can pick up a computer and create music, films, books, whatever – it’s beautiful.
I’m really interested to see what will happen over the next 10-20 years as tech is placed in the hands of almost everyone on earth, and network speeds increase, and we get Somalian kids jamming in real time with kids from remote areas in China – what new musical styles are going to emerge as these cultures blend? Watch out, awesome stuff straight ahead. 🙂
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to mention or anything else you’d like to add?
Jacqui: I will release some more Jacqui Hunt solo material this year, and also have a new collaboration I am working on under the name CiiVE, and we have a bunch of material that I want to release. It’s been too long and I don’t have any excuses really ….. just got to make it happen . There are a couple of people who have heard me say this too many times now, and I want to do it for them. I want to say…. ITS OUT !! yay.
Pete: I’m working on a video game for the PS4, which I hope to complete towards the end of this year. I find it extremely satisfying creatively, because of the variety of stuff involved: one day I’m writing music, another day working on the script, the next day I’m animating the camera or directing the voice actors, and pretty well every day I’m writing code (which is one of the loves of my life).
I couldn’t do this without the changes delivered by the Internet: my main writer is in Florida; my voice actors are in San Francisco, Melbourne, London and Tel Aviv; and my artists are in Poland and Germany!
I’ve written about an hour of (mostly) ambient music for it so far, although there’s some dubstep and hip-hop there too. And lots of Single Gun Theory -like samples scattered across the virtual world, although I don’t want to give too much away.
It’s a massive project but ridiculously satisfying. There’s more about it here: http://basedontheplay.com/resequenced/See all interviews →