Amplifier

author PP date 09/08/06

The Manchester trio Amplifier has been described as the world biggest three piece. They are said to be British rock reborn and with their hard, yet very complex music this is probably a good description. Anyone else tired of all the new bands producing almost talentless rock that blend into a large mesh, where it's completely impossible to tell them apart from the load of other bands equally talentless sharing the same genre? Well here is a band that has actually thought about their lyrics and music. Amplifier presents, with their deeply personal lyrics and sheer complexity, a unique experience for the listener. We met Sel Balamir, the guitarist and vocalist, for a quick chat about the band, their music and some festival stories. Read on to find out more about how Amplifier manage to actually remember all their complex songs for a show and how Sel felt about the competing band HIM for the late night performance.

RF.net: How are you guys enjoying the festival so far?

Sel: It's grand. I was here yesterday, the other guys are just arriving now. So they haven't had a chance to explore it, but I had a good look around yesterday. I think it was amazing.

RF.net: Did you seen any good shows?

Sel: Emm, what did I see? I didn't see that many shows. I saw a bit of Opeth, a bit of Burst.

RF.net: Ok, how did you like it?

Sel: Yeah great! I like both of those bands anyway!

RF.net: Yeah we saw both of them too..

Sel: Oh and Happy Mondays. They were brilliant!

RF.net: Ah I missed that one, sorry.

RF.net: Your album was extremely well received by the British press. Did you expect it to do so well?

Sel: It's that thing. It was really well received by the press and poorly received by the people going out and buying it! Laughs That's just the way of the world right now I think. No I was surprised, because I think they're cruel in Britain, the press. They really are! And because we haven't really fit in with any of that kind of British music scene, I am surprised that it was kindly received. I am not expecting our next one to be kindly received! That would be too... good.

RF.net: That would be too arrogant for it all... Everyone Laughs

RF.net: Well yeah exactly, the whole point is that British press is probably known as some of the most critical in the world, so how does it feel to be so well received by them in particular? Doesn't that also give you optimism for the next album?

Sel: Oh yes it does. I mean.. The key with the English press is, like getting a few of the right people on board, because they kind of dictate what their policy is gonna be.

RF.net: It's kinda follow the leader in some way!

Sel: Yeah, but I dont...touch wood.. Everyone Laughsand touch wood, well anyway. To me it's like Britain... like Britain is kinda f*cking nothing! I mean if you live there all the time, you think that it's like..

RF.net: the size of the world

Sel: Yeah that's it! And you go to Europe... and all we have ever been to is Europe. We've like never been to anywhere else in the world beyond that. So I can imagine that once you're doing that. I mean I know people. When you go around Europe there are British bands that you thought had disappeared, like 10 years ago, and they have like a big massive career.

RF.net: Yeah they're just ignored in their home country.

Sel: Yeah, but it's very fashion oriented in England. It's like the press have got a monopoly on that, so..

RF.net: Well we've been listening to some of your stuff and we found some pretty unusual effects like feedback and distortions. Could you describe how it all comes together in your mind, at the writing-stage?

Sel: Well I don't know, I think feedback is just the most beautiful sound in the world. So there will always be.. some element of that I think. Like we use it a lot, just behind everything you know. Behind the snare-drum Sel makes feedback sound with his mouth and like you just mix it in there. It's like for me feedback is the sound of the universe, it's costantly changing.

RF.net: A lot of people would call it quite daring though, wouldn't they? Because it's so difficult to master, even though you have mastered it quite well.

Sel: Well yeah, but people like Jimi Hendrix were in the same place!

RF.net: Yeah exactly, but you see a lot of bands that just don't use feedback, because they just don't know how to!

Sel: Well I don't know, I guess it's just a different kind of sensibility. I don't know. Feedback is beautiful. Feedback never bothered me! I've never heard feedback before and thought "Oh no that's wrong we've got to get rid of that!"

RF.net: Oh no that's not what I'm saying either!

Sel: Yeah I know, but like there is like some people.... they're like that.. they want to tidy things up. Nah we don't want to tidy things up!

RF.net: Your songs seem very complex and atmospheric and they're also quite long. You'd think it would be a lot harder to remember all the material for a show, than if you were playing, say - punk or something. So what makes you able to pull off these quite extraordinary arrangements live?

Sel: Hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of practise. Hours everyday! When we were going in to record our new album we literally rehearsed like 6, 8, 10 hours a day for 6 weeks. We had to learn it! And afterwards when we had to go do our first shows, we had to do the same again. We had to learn it after we recorded it, because that's the only way to do it. It's only when you have done it so much that you can just turn off.. I can play an entire show... and like instinctively know what is suppose to happen. And it's only when you can do that, that you can start listening to what is happening. I don't even know whether it's perceptible from the audience, but for us on stage it's only when you can do that, that you can start listening and start enjoying, and you can start changing things. And you can start playing with each other and being musicians.

RF.net: And interacting with the crowd I presume?

Sel: Yes exactly.

RF.net: And interaction with the crowd comes after that...

Sel: Yeah exactly, you can't interact with or follow the crowd if you need to concentrate on what it is you are doing, because that's all you can is like joining the dots. You need to not have the dots anymore, you know. That's the only way you can do it in a band like Amplifier.

RF.net: So basically you are gonna have to have a lot of unity as a band and a very good communication between you.

Sel: Oh yeah... When we start.. before we start to do anything... always what we do is rehearse for, I don't know... 3 weeks, a month?.. just with like no pedals, just the lead, and the drummer with just hot rods. Just sat around all 3 of us, like we're sat here! When you can do that, and you got all tempo sorted and you get all that. The most basic elements absolutely sorted out. If you don't know the basic elements you cannot introduce anything else, you know. And because you do it like that you can make it as complicated as you want.

RF.net: So basically layer by layer..

Sel: Yeah you do it layer by layer, exactly. And then you go, now we can take it to distortion, to delay, to pedals and then you get that up. And then you can take it together and now well we're getting a show together. You know we've got all the basic elements and now we're bringing them all together. Now we can look at like the areas between the songs or you know production kinda type things. So it's like you've got to build it up from the very smallest things to the most complex thing.

RF.net: Ok. You're set to play the Odeon-stage at 2:30 in the morning. How do you think it will affect you performance playing that late and to a crowd that is either drunk or very very tired?

Sel: Yeah I know. Well first of all that is gonna be the latest we have ever played a show. We played a show at 1:00 in the morning in Holland last year, like we were pretty f*cked. Just physically tired, because it is foolish to think that you can just get onto stage and like.. just be on a half-past two [ed: 2:30], because you can't. You just can't, it isn't physically possible. So there definitely is not gonna be, on a hot day like this, like no drinking during the day. Just lots of water and maybe some sleep, at least some rest anyway.

RF.net: So a nice little siesta then.

Sel: Yeah Everyone Laughs And then you know that people are drunk or tired I don't think will matter. Like when people are drunk or tired, well we've made the set so it's like a shot of adrenaline. Hopefully we'll just wake people up, as opposed to just falling asleep.

RF.net: Well I'm looking forward to that!

Sel: Yeah I know exactly. Especially that time of night, I think a lot of people are like kinda winding down and it's like if it was me that's what I would want to be just uplifted. So we're gonna go with that.

RF.net: Well that sounds quite cool

Sel: Yeah we'll see what happens!

RF.net: Your show starts 30 minutes after the one of HIM, and it's fair to assume, that HIM is still going to be playing at that time. What would be your best argument for people to choose to see you instead of HIM?

Sel: That they're adults! Everyone Laughs And then all the kids should go see HIM and all the adults should come and see us, that's what would be my argument! To be honest I don't really think that the people that are into HIM would really be into amplifier!

RF.net: Still it's very different, because of the complexity as well. With the music that you guys do there is a totally different depth...

Sel: They're a rock band, but that's about the only similarity... of course we look similar Laughs

RF.net: So you're not worried about them still your crowd or something?

Sel: No I'm not worried that she will steal our crowd Laughs The max capacity is only like 3000 people in that tent. How many in that area is like?

RF.net: Oh it's over area, but I don't know exactly.

Sel: Well I don't know, I only went to go see that one show with Bob Dylan last night and it was PACKED.. like all the way to the back! To be honest I will imagine that there will be people that will want to go see HIM, that like can't see anything!

RF.net: Yeah that's true

Sel: So like they'll go see other things instead. So maybe we might get some people come see us from there.

RF.net: You might even pack out completely, like have people all the way at the back!

Sel: Well did you go out last night?

RF.net: Yeah. Yeah.

Sel: Were you out at half-two?

RF.net: Yeah

Sel: What was it like?

RF.net: Well yesterday there was nothing playing at that time.. Well there was Kashmir, and I think they were quite packed out as well actually. Though there were a lot of people also returning, because they were tired, but generally I think a lot of people were still chilling out. And basically they see what's there!

Sel: What was their show like?

RF.net: I only saw the very beginning, because I was one of the ones that headed back in the end, as I had to get up early this morning for another interview.

Sel: Because someone told me: "You should go see this band, if you're still here!"

RF.net: Well I went over to see Death Cab for Cutie (Ed: Josh went back, Tim saw Death Cab) over at the stage you are playing at. It was really packed and many people couldn't see a thing. Actually in the back the sound was good, but also you know people were leaving and going back and forth.

Sel: Well even if it's only half full. You know, somewhere like that, if it's half full. Then that means there's just that little bit more space for everyone to be comfortable. You will still fill the whole tent, but it's just it's not like that Sits in crammed position. And like if I was watching, I would much rather it'd be like that.

RF.net: Oh yeah definitely..

Sel: Because for us it will still look packed. And you know it will be great.

RF.net: Yeah a completely packed tent is not always good, because you just end up getting an elbow in your face when people actually start getting into it.

Sel: Yeah, if I am going to go watch a band, I dont want to be harassed while I'm doing it! I don't want the guy pressed up behind me, jumping up and down, who is like 6 foot. Everyone Laughs

RF.net: We've tried something like that already..

RF.net: Right now for like an anecdote question. Tell us the craziest story that has happened to you while perfoming on stage.

Sel: I f*cking knocked the front of my tooth out and down..

RF.net: Really?

Sel: Yeah... It was really funny.. Well it wasn't funny at the time Laughs But it was literally right at the end and it was like the biggest show that we've ever played. And it was like... Anyway like imagine being on that f*cking stage there.. I went to go "Thank you, Thank you Download!". And right I just like knocked the f*cking mic like... And everything people just heard was "ARHHH" Growl/screams "Oh no!" More growl/screams "Download ... my tooth!" Everyone Laughs That was pretty humbling.

RF.net: Yeah I bet

Sel: Yeah the dentist fixed it for me afterwards.

RF.net: Yeah we can't see it now.

RF.net: Did anybody care anyway? They were probably happy anyway weren't they?

Sel: Nobody f*cking heard me. They just heard growl sound So yeah that was kinda cool. I'm just trying to think of other times on stage. Not really, because people don't really get on stage when we play. So we don't really have any crazy stage surfing stories, because we have so much stuff that other people would just...

RF.net: They would freaking trip over everything wouldn't they?

Sel: Oh yeah. If someone came on stage it could be catastrophic. It really could!

RF.net: So you have to make your own accidents Laughs

Sel: Yeah basically yeah, but I mean there are all kinds of things where f*cking things just get broken, but they're never funny anecdotes, because it just f*cks the show up! Everyone Laughs

RF.net: If you could pick any band you wanted from the present music-scene to go on tour with, who would it be?

Sel: Oh I would love to go on tour with Muse.

RF.net: With Muse?

Sel: Yeah really, I would like that I think, because I think... That would be tight, they're just really cool guys to go on tour with!

RF.net: Oh right cool.

Sel: I'm not like a massive Muse fan or.. but I respect their ethos. And their ethos is that they just make the music that they make. They have very definitely got their own kind of identity and they have a good time while they're on tour. Matt is like an intelligent, articulate, insightful kind of bloke.

RF.net: So you know them?

Sel: No, no I just know them from like..

RF.net: When you've seen them in concerts then?

Sel: Yeah that's all really. And then they're a 3 piece too you know. So we'll have stories to talk about, you know.

RF.net: Ok well what is your opinion on people illegally downloading music off the internet?

Sel: Well I don't know. On the one hand... right.. It means that the bands will never ever be able to earn money like the used to be able to earn. So for a band like us that's like not really earning that much. It will probably mean the difference between like selling 50,000 records and selling 10,000 records. And to me that's the difference between having somewhere to live and having food and clothes. And on the other hand... everyone does it... and by the same toke I have some music that people have given me off their itunes list that I have not bought, like everyone has, that you know has brough me pleasure. I try you know, if I hear a record... I try basically to operate a try-before-you-buy policy. Right if I hear a record by somebody and it brings pleasure to me and augment to my life, then I'll buy it. I'll go buy it. You know, I'll probably go buy it from the discount shop. So I won't be paying full, I'll be paying like 10 pounds for it. So the band is only getting like 60% of their royalty, but you know, it's like when you have got no money. It's hard. The thing is the world is different now. So it's kind of foolish to compare the way music is consumed, to the way it was consumed in the vinyl age. It's like, it's not like that anymore. It's like kids now, they don't equate music with spending money. They equate it with pressing a button. It's like music is free, it's like water out of a tap.

RF.net: Yeah true!

Sel: It's like a stream of free music that is available out there. The awesome thing is that people hear you.

RF.net: Would you say that you probably have a lot more fans, because of the internet and downloading?

Sel: Certainly, certainly..

RF.net: What do you reckon with the people that say that it balances out the whole idea with less people buying your record, but more exposure? Would you say it's worth it or would you rather have more people buy your record?

Sel: Well it's kind of futile to even really have an opinion about that, because human nature is just what it is. People, if they can have something for free, then they will. It's foolish to think that they would do anything else! I think what is more relevant is we need to think about different ways of recompensing the people that make music.

RF.net: Well if the people that are making music are not gonna continue to make money then they will not continue to make music are they?

Sel: Well yeah that's the way people should look at it. Well it's like the thing is that you have to offset that with the fact that so many people that record and release music now. It kind of almost doesn't matter, because there will always be music that is available. You have gotta understand that the kind of people that are here, that are music fans, they're in the minority. Like most people just consume music, like it was f*cking Pepsi. You know what I mean? It's like people like us, the kind of bands we like are gonna become smaller and smaller and smaller. There are gonna be less and less bands there are gonna be able to go out and tour, because they don't have the record companies to like finance tour support. So it's only gonna be like the big, big, big bands that are gonna be able to tour inter-continentally. While other bands that otherwise had a deal and like some money in like the '90s... like maybe Nirvana would never have happened. It's argueable about whether it would have happened, because at the time Nirvana, the only way you could get into them was either to bootleg onto a casette or to go out and buy an album.

RF.net: Yeah that's definitely a good point.

Sel: Like if that would have happened like 10 years later that would have changed the situation, but on the other hand there are a lot more bands now. So the more bands there are, the more healthy the music scene is. I think what will happen is that it will end up that you can't be just a music, you have to have a job as well. And if you have a job as well, then it means you can't spend as much time doing music, which mean you probably won't be as good as you could be. It's a tough question. No one has the answer. If anyone tells you the answer they're liars, because they can't possibly know the answer!

RF.net: True. Right well last question before we finish off then.

RF.net: What are your future plans after Roskilde? What kinda changes in direction can we expect from an eventual new album?

Sel: Well our new album is done, so that is coming out in September. After that well..

RF.net: You have any tour plans over the summer?

Sel: No.. probably not for the rest of summer, but I would imagine in September, when our album comes out that we would definitely be touring. So I don't know.

RF.net: Any chance that you will be coming by Denmark then?

Sel: Well possibly, but after the show. Depending on...

RF.net: Depending on how it all goes tonight?

Sel: Yeah, but possibly. After that I don't know.

RF.net: So basically just a matter of, for the fans, to keep an eye on the site and see what happens.

Sel: Yeah, not really much planned yet.

RF.net: Well that's it then. Thank very much for the interview and good luck with show tonight. I'll be looking forward to that adrenaline injection then

Everyone Laughs

Sel: Alright thanks a lot and yes I hope you enjoy it

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