Into the Blue interview with Simon

If you love music just fucking go nuts and do anything you want!

We live in an era where music is more accessible than it’s ever been before; entire back catalogues can be accessed at the click of a button, new music relentlessly cascades from streaming services and everyday life is sound tracked by pop hits and beige muzak. So why, in this age of potential audio overload, do artists still choose to make music? For some it’s that quest for fame and fortune, to have all the financial success and adoration that comes from being the next big thing. For East Midlands based musician Simon Waldram it’s less a choice, more a compulsion, a need to share the songs he has in his head and connect with people through music.

As Simon puts the finishing touches to latest album “Into the Blue” we met to discuss what drives him as an artist, the themes of the new album and why making music should be approached as a limitless process.

As a youngster growing up in the Midlands, there wasn’t really encouragement for Simon to take up music, as he explains, “when I was a kid I didn’t think it was something I could ever do, my mum and dad kind of told me that pop is just like silly and stupid.” This didn’t dissuade him though “I got into indie rock when I was like 14 or so; Nirvana and Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth. But in terms of writing songs and stuff, I thought that was for other people, so I had an electric guitar and I’d just make a lot of noise without really knowing what I was doing.” On song writing: “I’d just sit with a blank piece of paper for ages just thinking, ‘What do you do?’ ‘How do you do it?’ This changed when Simon went to University “it’s like a floodgate opened and all these songs started coming out. I found I could record with my laptop so I thought I’d make a little cd and I’d just give it to friends and that would be it.”

It quickly became apparent that this music connected with the audience “It just kind of snowballed a little bit, I started sharing things on-line and people liked them.” The reaction gave Simon an understanding of how important this connection could be “On the rare times that people come to me or write to me and say that a song has really connected with them or helped them through something, because that’s what I try and do, a lot of it’s like ‘this is something that I went through’ and maybe other people out there went through it too, you know, just to say that you’re not alone.” This connection with the listener is undoubtedly helped by Simon’s focus on storytelling with his songwriting: “I’m obsessed with other people’s stories, things that other people have been through, that influences a lot of stuff. A lot of the songs are about me but then a lot of the songs are about other people and just things they’ve told me and things I know they’ve experienced; trying to put myself in their shoes, what’s that like, what that must have felt like for them.”

Into the Blue will be Simon’s 8th or 9th album (the prolific nature of his songwriting having left him struggling to keep up with previous albums “I think it’s like 7 or 8, I lost count a little bit!”). On the themes of the record he goes on to comment “there’s a lot of water themes on it, and lots of death as well. I wrote it when I finished university and every time there’s a solid end to something it always gets me thinking about death, and ultimate finite ends, so that probably influenced songs quite a bit.” Further elaborating on the new album Simon explains “There’s a song on there which I almost didn’t put on because I don’t know what people will make of it, its called As I Walked Into the Sea. I saw a documentary about people jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge; most people who do it die. But this one guy he jumped in and he didn’t, he hit the water and he broke his back and he ended up floating to the shore and then spent years having to be rehabilitated, I don’t think he ever walked again. But he said the moment he jumped was the moment he thought ‘I’ve made a terrible mistake’. So I just kind of took that a little bit further and thought, what if somebody jumped and they died and then they’re wherever the hell you are after you die, if they’re just floating through limbo thinking I really wish I hadn’t done that.”

The album was mostly home recorded, but that’s not to say that it’s sound is limited “It’s so easy to do that now you know. I’ve heard studio stuff and it’s not necessarily better and I’m not really into big productions. I mean it’s weird, on one hand the record has strings on it and all these kind of things and psychedelic touches and things like that, but I’d rather do that in a lo-fi get it done in the corner of a room sort of environment than trying to rent out a big studio.”

Talking to Simon it’s clear that, whilst a lot of his music is acoustic based, a lot of punk and alt-rock bands and their ethos has had a huge impact in terms of the way he thinks about making music: “Minor Threat, they’re one of my favourite bands, the whole Dischord scene is fascinating to me. Their ideology, I’m not straight edge but that whole idea about personal responsibility being the keystone of so much. I love how, when Fugazi were around, how they never charged more than was it $5 for fans to get into the gigs, which is amazing really.”

Going on to talk about whether music should address political issues: “It has to. I look at the modern world and it’s like, unbelievably, we’ve reached a point where racism is somehow culturally acceptable and all these people who probably already had these shitty views are all of a sudden coming out and saying them openly and people are hardly batting an eye to it, and it’s astonishing to me. I mean if you make music that doesn’t that’s fair enough, everyone has their different kind of thing they want to express. But it can certainly help; it’s certainly helped me. I’m vegan, and when I turned vegan I thought I wonder if there are any bands that are singing about this stuff and I was at DeMontfort University at the time and unbelievably the library has a punk rock book section, and so I was reading one book and I thought I’m going to try and find some vegan punk bands and Propagandhi were there. So I started listening to them and the way they sing about political issues and socio-economic issues is way beyond pretty much any band I’ve ever heard, it was very enlightening in a lot of ways. I know that in the earlier days when they played smaller gigs they’d have books and leaflets about local causes and things that were affecting their communities at the time. Which is amazing really and it must have engaged a hell of a lot of people and it’s very inspiring to me as well.”

Simon has a refreshing unwillingness to tie himself down to one genre or style of music: “You should look at it as being limitless as to what you can do, I’d pick up any instrument and give it a go; if I like the sound that comes out then that’s enough. Sometimes people say to me ‘oh I could never play guitar’ it’s literally, you just pick it up and you play whatever the fuck you want. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re happy with the sound that comes out, as long as it expresses something that’s in you, that’s enough. I don’t really understand why people just stick to one type of music, it’s all just different mediums for the same message, and if you love music just fucking go nuts and do anything you want, you know.”

With Simon working on a punk EP and explaining that “I’ve got this dream that I’ve had for a few years to make a synth pop album, that sounds like it came from 1985 and uses the equipment from that era and have an album cover that looks like it was made then, because I love that shit, I grew up on that.” As well as declaring “I just want an enormous discography. I want people to look at how many records I’ve made and just think ‘fucking hell!’” It’s well worth keeping an ear to where this musical exploration goes in coming years.

Interview with Matt Cawrey, Nottingham, 23/09/18

Emzae on Simon

In a world where everyone already seemed to know everything, Simon was the first person to welcome my questions, however obvious the answers may have seemed.

He believed in me, becoming my musical mentor and later my friend. He has become one of the most valued people in my life, and we have shared some wonderful memories together.

My favourite memory of Simon musically is watching him perform his song Agnes of Rome for the first time. He sat on the floor of Fearon Hall – a place we often rehearse together – and told me he had written a new song about veganism and the catholic church.

It was the rawest, most beautiful performance I have ever witnessed from him. Suddenly, I felt like he was singing his truth for the first time. He was energetic and free. It was electrifying. I wanted everyone to see him perform that song from then on, and always suggested it for every setlist!

Jesper Larsson on Simon

We used to get a lot of demos sent to us. Always as mp3 files over the internet, which made kind of sense since we were a netlabel. But one day Johan received 3 cd records in the mail. It was ”The Day the Signal Died”, ”Conchology” and ”Songs Without Words”. I’m not sure what we expected really, but we were quite impressed by the seriosity and ambition behind it all. It was not exactly every day we got cd’s sent to us.

When Friday night arrived we met up at Johan’s flat as usual, had a beer and started to listen. We were instantly impressed by the diversity and arrangements in the songs. Acoustic ballads, instrumental ambient pieces, folky songs with psychedelic twists and effects and drone landscapes from far in the distance.

The voice was hypnotic and the guitar playing was excellent. And there was a strike of melancholia over it all, in a very pleasant and beautiful way. Like a soundtrack to the long dark autumn coming in over Gothenburg at the time. It was perfect.

I don’t know how many nights we spent listening to the albums. We found some more songs from other releases on the internet. We started to pick out the best songs, argued about the running order and about how many of the drone songs that would make it on the release.

We were planning a compilation album as Simon’s first release on 23 seconds but the problem was we had not talked to Simon himself yet. Our experience was that the artists usually wants to release new stuff. But the songs we had picked were just too good to be history and really deserved a proper release again.

I don’t think Simon was too happy with the idea first (as expected!) but we managed to talk him into it and with the addition of a few new songs (among them the stunning ”Stuck on a Cloud”) 23 seconds released ”Haven’t we met before?” in March 2014. For me it’s one of the best and most diverse and timeless albums we ever released. It shows Simon in all his best ways and quality of the songs and the performance is amazing. I’m very proud that we released such an album on 23 Seconds and it’s an album I keep returning to. It’s a diamond really.

Jesper Larsson, 23 Seconds netlabel, September 2018

Steve Oliver on Simon

It was Sunday 26th January 2014 when I met Simon for the first time as he was a guest on my radio show to perform a handful of songs. Having never met him before, nor being aware of him until the booking was made through Twitter, I was nervous about meeting him for the first time in the confined space of a live radio show. I had dealt with musicians before who could perform brilliantly but with zero personality when it came to having a conversation on air.

Thankfully that worry was soon abated as Simon turned out to be excellent company who fitted right in with ease and turned out to be a great laugh. Always enjoying putting people on the spot, I mentioned a blog he had written in which he had pledged to release new product every month of 2014, a project that didn’t happen but he took it with good humour and I have considered Simon a good friend since that day.

Despite his relatively low profile, Simon is someone who has the respect of the music scene players around Nottingham thanks to his friendly and enthusiastic attitude. Not only does he release new music with an output that puts most musicians to shame, he also puts on gigs with acts that he wants to share with people.

Keep an eye out for his name appearing because it means that he has something for you to listen to, but you really should start from the beginning.

Steve Oliver, Writer and broadcaster

Life’s Forgotten Dream review

Reviewed by Mark Barton here: https://marklosingtoday.wordpress.com/2018/11/23/simon-waldram-2/

Latest from the much admired Small Bear sound shed of whom I must admit, have either been very quiet this year or else their email updates have disappeared into some hitherto undiscovered folder I’m yet to accidentally trip over.

This is a tinsel tied twin set from Simon Waldram entitled ‘life’s forgotten dream’ here in both its optional dark and light variants. Passively psych-y, the more radiant selection here features the ethereal choral caress of Emzae on guest vocals, stilled in a majestic framing and kissed with a hazing dream drifted haloing, this slice of frost tipped twilight toned hushed intimacy is ghosted with the kind of woozy magic land mercurial whereupon peering through its shadowy apertures both Keith Seatman and Nick Nicely emerge into clear focus as points of reference as were under the guiding influence of a late 70’s era Peter Gabriel.

It’s all hauntingly beautiful, much like a nightly visitation, irresistibly beguiling. Over to the flip the same track though rephrased on this occasion as the ominous sounding ‘many elephants dark drone mix’.

Not quite the unsettling eerie you might have expected, instead something emerges here that’s more in tone to those very excellent A Year in the Country accounts, stripped to its barest essential, its assumes a dark hymnal aura whose monochrome hollowed echo draws deep from the shadow lands of Paul Roland. 

Insolation review

Brian Bordello, July 29, 2018

Originally published in slightly different form at: https://inthemindofabordello.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/albums-you-need-to-hear-pt-2-simon-waldram-insolation/

Albums you need to hear:
Simon Waldram – Insolation

Listen to Insolation here

This LP was self released in 2016 on Simon Waldram’s Bandcamp page – and it deserved (and in fact still deserves) to reach a much wider audience. I do not really understand why a label did not snap this up for it certainly is a commercial enough and with the right backing and publicity could have easily crossed over to a wider audience. But what do I know? If I like it there must be something dark and slightly off kilter about it and there certainly is. There’s a beautiful dark melancholy running throughout the whole LP but a very beautiful magical darkness that not many can write. There are songs worthy of The Go-Betweens on this fine LP If you took track three ‘Car Glass Window’ and placed it on any of the Go Betweens albums it would not be out of place on any of them.

There are so many fine songs on this 20 track LP – yes 20 tracks! And not one of them you could call filler, from the beautiful psych folk of Dandelion and Resenah to the Mary Chain indie pop of ‘Alone In Berlin’ and the Red House Painters-like ‘Barely Even Here’.

It gets me so fucking annoyed actually listening to this record because it is so bloody good and that I have to write about it under the title “An album you need to hear”. There should be no bloody need as every music lover should already have heard it and have a copy in their collection – and not just on download either, but on a double vinyl with gatefold sleeve with lyric sheet to read as you listen. Some record label should pounce on this and put this wrong right and give it a chance. Everybody deserves the chance to hear this LP…even if they are A CUNT.

  1. Life's Forgotten Dream [feat. Emzae] Simon Waldram 3:42
  2. Resenah [feat. Emzae] Simon Waldram 3:03
  3. Inside Out Simon Waldram 3:44
  4. Revolution Summer Simon Waldram 3:06
  5. Aim For Me Simon Waldram 2:38
  6. Colliding Circles Simon Waldram 3:14
  7. Thermal Girl Simon Waldram 3:12
  8. Corte Sus Neumanticos Simon Waldram 2:55