Neil Halstead (Mojave 3): Interview
“If you gotta go with a company, I’m happy to go with guys that I’m friends with.”
[This interview was conducted at the All Points West Festival]
I'll be honest: save for the awesomely mediocre Matt Costa, I didn't really attend much of day three of All Points West. Could you blame me? After hours of travel problems with New Jersey Transit, did you think I was going to stick around for Jack Johnson and Trey Anastasio? Well, actually, I had planned to, whether or not you felt like reading about it -- but once I realized that standing in the rain watching a bunch of fitted-cap imbeciles light cheap pipes and a guy in sweatpants play the ukulele didn't make for good copy, my mind was thankfully changed. Luckily, I did get some time to spend with former Slowdive and current Mojave 3 frontman Neil Halstead (who also has a quietly gorgeous solo platter, Oh, Mighty Engine, out now), who spoke to me about shoegaze, Slowdive, and -- who else? -- Jack Johnson.
So, how's touring been going? I know you're on tour with Jack Johnson right now.
Well, we've done three dates with Jack, and they've been plenty interesting. We've never played stages like that, so we're still finding our feet.
How's the crowd been?
For us, they're a pretty different crowd, but I think we're doing okay. They haven't thrown anything at us yet. [Laughs]
You made the transition from [seminal indie label] 4AD to [Jack Johnson's label] Brushfire recently. What propelled that decision?
A friend of mine, Thomas Campbell, introduced me to those guys. [Mojave 3] had a song on one of his films, and that came out, and I played at the opening. He was showing the film in California, so I met those guys, and we just got on. You could probably say there was a surfing connection, and they were just really keen to put the record out. So when the thing ended with 4AD, they started calling up to come out and do some recording. So I went out for 10 days, did most of the record, and came back and mixed it. I finished it in December. They're good guys. There's a lot going on there -- you got the films and the music; it's a homegrown thing. Their stance on the environment is a pretty good thing to be involved with. If you gotta go with a company, I'm happy to go with guys that I'm friends with. They're pretty cool.
How would you characterize the sound of Oh, Mighty Engine from the last Mojave 3 record?
I think it's probably a lot lighter in terms of mood, I think that the subjects of the songs are a little different. I'm a little more outside of myself, I suppose, with these songs. I wanted it to be almost a totally acoustic record, so I didn't quite get that, but it's much more minimal than I've done before.
I know you get this line of questioning during almost every single interview, so here we go: Slowdive.
The Don't Look Back series; would you ever consider doing something like that with Pygmalion or Souvlaki?
What's that? Where you play the whole record?
I mean, that would actually be a challenge for me [with Pygmalion], because we never actually did that. We rehearsed for it, but the band actually kind of split up before we did the tour. It was really fun rehearsing for it live. So that would be a challenge, and that would be something I'd be into doing, but I don't think it will ever happen. I certainly wouldn't want to get back together just to play a bunch of solo songs for lots of money. Why would I want to do that? [Laughs]
Why look back when you could look forward?
While I've got some creative energy, I'd rather move forward with it, you know?
How is Rachel Goswell doing? I know she wasn't on the last Mojave 3 record.
Health-wise, she's pretty good, and she seems pretty happy. I think she's going to be working on some music this summer, so I'm hoping that that's going to work out for her.
Any plans on working together again soon?
Yeah, I mean, she'll be involved with the next Mojave 3 record. I don't know when we'll do it, but I guess that's one of the prerequisites, that she is involved. It was kind of fun doing the last record [2006's Puzzles Like You], but it didn't feel like it was a complete Mojave record. Rachel came in and she kind of did her singing, but she wasn't as involved as she could be.
This whole shoegaze revivalist movement -- how do you feel about it? How do you feel about the genre as a term?
[Laughs] You know, I don't really care about it. I think that initially, because it wasn't a very nice term. I'm not sure if it was one of our gigs where it was used, but now it's really weird. It's a whole genre of music, and it's just such a weird name. There are a few bands... I like Serena Maneesh a lot, and I like Asobi Seksu -- I love them actually, I like that live EP they did. It was awesome. But yeah, I still have a fondness for that kind of music, for sure, and I still like lots of guitars. I don't just listen to folk music. I'm happy that there are kids out there who get excited about it, and if happen upon Slowdive, that's great, right?
Well, it seems like folk is the logical progression from shoegaze.
There's nothing illogical about it for me; it seemed like the perfect way to go. For me, I think I'm still more interested in that right now than making noises. I'm still interested in making records that are more along the lines of Pygmalion or something, but I don't think that will happen for awhile.
What have you got planned for the future right now?
I go home and see my wife. I had twins six months ago.
I've been away from them, so it'll be nice to get home. Then I'll be on tour again for a few weeks.