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A Magazine for Sheffield

Gravenhurst: Offerings from the South-West

There have been birthdays aplenty at Warp Records this year. Having just celebrated 25 years as a label, this month marks ten years with Nick Talbot and his musical endeavour Gravenhurst on their team. To celebrate a decade of service, Gravenhurst has announced a UK and European tour playing the first record released on Warp, Flashlight Seasons, in full. But the fun doesn’t stop there. The tour accompanies the reissue of Flashlight Seasons and Black Holes In The Sand, along with an additional new album of unreleased material, Offerings: Lost Songs 2000-2004. All three albums will be pressed on vinyl, accompanied by digital downloads and essays by the musician and self-confessed writing fanatic, which give even more of a personal touch to an intimate release. Already half way across Europe, preparing to kick off the tour in Vienna, we stole a quick chat with Nick to find out a little more of the story. Where does your story with Warp begin? My very first album called Internal Travels, which most people don’t own - that came out on a Bristol label called Mobstar and an American label called Red Square. I sort of recorded it myself, and that got a little bit of attention. I set up Silent Age Record which was just a nano-label, a tiny thing. It was like a cassette label is now, where you’re making 50 copies of something, but we were just burning CD-Rs and making the packaging really nice. It was the sort of umbrella organisation for me to put out some of my music and also some other music that was happening in Bristol that I thought needed to be heard. It was almost like a letter header. If you have headed note paper people take you seriously. That’s how it was back then. The internet had no way become as important in terms of promoting your music as it is now. It was a totally different game. Bear with me. I will answer your question. On Silent Age, a friend of mine, James Brewster, made electronic music under the name Mole Harness. What we did is we made the stuff and we didn’t send it to labels - we sent it to DJs and magazines and zines and websites. James’ first Mole Harvest CD was sent to Mixing It, which was a show on Radio 3 back then. They kept playing James’ EP and they talked about Silent Age Records. A guy called Stuart Souter, who has become a good friend of mine - he was listening to that and he was scouting for Warp. He heard James’ stuff and absolutely loved it, and wanted to hear more from the label. So I sent Flashlight Seasons, which I’d just finished recording and he said, “I want to get you onto Warp. I want to get Warp to sign you.” And he did. He said a very sweet thing which I wish was true. He said to Steve at Warp, “You have to sign this guy. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to an English Elliott Smith”. The big irony is that it wasn’t my record that got played. It goes to show how randomness and chance play a big part in all of this, because people - particularly when they do well - they think that all of it is because of their own genius and talent, but there is always incredible randomness. Stuart could have gone to the cinema that night and if that was the case, this could all not be happening. I’m very aware of that. Was it your idea to celebrate your tenth anniversary with the label? I can’t remember what happened first, but me and my manager, Michelle, were aware that ten years was about to come up and we knew that these records were hard to find, particularly on vinyl. The idea of playing the album in full live - that came first. We decided the albums needed to be re-released alongside that, so we took that to Warp, and Warp had just created the role of archives and special projects. A guy called Matthew Jones joined the team to look after the back catalogue. We got on really well and he’s been really enthusiastic about it. It all sort of fell into place at the right time. Did you always intend to use the material on Offerings? All of the albums have got essays inside and the one for Offerings is quite a long one, so I explain all of this in the lino. I didn’t know that any of this stuff existed. I mean, I don’t remember recording any demos for Flashlight Seasons. I don’t tend to record demos because what starts off as a demo can end up being the normal version. I went through an old hard drive and found this folder for ‘Flashlight Demos’ and there were some on there that were just guitar and vocals, like the track ‘The Citizen’. It was a song that I wrote for the band that I had before I started doing Gravenhurst. I had a band called Assembly. Probably about half of what’s on Offerings, I didn’t remember recording. We decided it all had to be from that era. There are loads more tracks so there will be another album of unreleased material, definitely. Alongside the music and the songwriting, you somehow find the time to dabble in journalism. Is that something that continues to be important to you? I’ve been doing that on and off for years. I was doing more of it back when Venue magazine was going. It was a listing magazine with a very high standard of journalism and I wrote for that. Writing is something I really need. With music you have to write it, arrange it, produce it, record it and then you have to gig it and release it, but writing you just need a pencil and something to write on. I love that simplicity. I needed something that was a purely intellectual endeavour, because music is creative but it’s very different. The kind of writing that I do... I guess it just feeds a different part of my brain. Was it important to you that the re-release went onto vinyl and what’s your opinion on the resurgence of the medium? Yeah, they had to go on vinyl. My reading of it - generations growing up can listen to their MP3s and maybe when they get to university they see this vinyl and they look at it and they think, ‘This looks beautiful,’ and they hear it and think, ‘This sounds awesome’. People grow up listening on demand. The whole thing changed from owning music to basically renting it. Someone who has only grown up listening to their iPod – they see vinyl and they’re blown away. Each generation is going to spawn an army of vinyl fanatics. It’s gonna happen every time. That’s the way I see it. )

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