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Tsinder Ash – You had classic choir boys, but also people from state school like me

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TsinderAsh is a twenty-something British lyricist who plays 12 instruments and counting, from celtic harp (his mother’s influence) to Appalachian dulcimer (his dad’s side) – oh and he knows his way around a Roland EG-101 synth. And he’s just released his new Both the Wound and The Blade EP: a contemporary taunt of folkloric belief. 

 

What can people expect to see when they come to your Instagram page?

Well, lots of selfies, but I guess more recently it’s been based around this new project that’s been released, and there’s a new clip from the film we made to accompany the latest EP Both The Wound and The Blade.

For the film, it was made entirely while in lockdown so the bits where I’m singing to camera were filmed entirely in my flat. And then I worked with a video artist called Laurie Hill @laurie_hill.jpg who I’ve been doing bit with for a few years now. There’s lots of layering, and the style is quite dark to an extent.

 

 

Oh, where’s the name come from: Tsinder Ash?

Oh, that was back in 2012 with my kind of debut album, although I don’t think Tsinder Ash really started ’til The Carbon of Your Delight EP, but there is an album from 2012. 

Of the name, I was just fascinated by volcanos and volcano mythology and about people who lived, who chose to live near volcanos and sites of natural disaster. This idea, a weird fascination we have with the possibility of facing your impending death and destruction.

 

Well, the current EP has certainly erupted: well done on getting it out! You had a YouTube watching party release for it (Both The Wound and The Blade). Watching the visual landscape evolve am I right to have noticed pagan elements embedded in there?

I don’t know if there’s anything specifically pagan in this particular project, but there certainly are pagan themes in the last project which was the EP before this which is called Offerings. The Offerings EP is very centered around the ideas of magical practice and belief as like an act of political rebellion, so maybe some of that has salted into the new project.

Also, this new project was deliberately focused on like ideas of nationalism and Britishness:

so I guess there is this folklore which does come in to that – I mean all nationalism is just folklore language. And, oh… yeah… that’s just something I’m realizing now.

 

I did see that obvious in-yer-face, tongue-in-cheek theme in the track Conquer Me; on listening it sounds like a reactive message; maybe resonating with Brexit. Creatively then, what comes first: lyrical messaging, sound or visual?

Yeah, it’s not subtle. Generally, I think all of this project was written and recorded over a year ago, so for me it was a long time in the making. Ahead of recording Conquer Me, Both The Wound and The Blade, which is the title track got finished first. The artwork is by Mindruiner @Mindruiner and released on Bone Weapon Records.

 

Looking at it, I suppose Conquer Me was that first track that got me on this polemic theme, musically consolidating those frustrations and reacting against the pervasive rise of nationalism that seems to be happening, especially since 2016 and Brexit.

Conquer Me in fact is a fun song, in fact it’s taking the piss. ‘I’m becoming England and I’m inviting foreign invaders’. 

As for what comes first: lyrics, sound, or visual, normally with the work, the lyrics come first. I tend to write long sprawling poems that then over time crystalize with a melody, or even just a sound, a drone, a chant. And actually on this latest project that I’ve actually started writing it’s very much focused on the sound. On this current Both The Wound and The Blade EP it’s more about what I’m wanting to say and less about soundscapes.

 

Talking of the shifting visual to aural landscapes in your projects, from the 2016 Carbon of Desire EP through to Both The Wound and The Blade EP, 2020; is the sound a seismic shift, or an obvious evolution?

I’m bad at sticking to one genre, and I prefer not repeating textures. Even if it’s a similar texture, it’s gotta have a new edge. So this latest record is just a lot more polished, it was mainly production focused, all done with one producer. It’s in fact a much more polished and refined version of me, of the work I’ve been doing as Tsinder Ash since 2015.

 

The writing, recording, producing and mastering – alongside Tsinder Ash as composer, how does the time get segmented from composing through to mastering?

I’d say you tend to find that people sit with songs for a very long time. They’ll write them, record them and edit them over a long period. Like I said, even this current project was written and recorded over a year ago. So I kind of sat with these songs, which were going to be two EPs, and now it’s evolved as just one opus.

That writing and recording process can take years; but when it comes to the production and mixing and mastering, you can get that part done in a matter of weeks, really depending on how quickly you work. But also it’s down to how fluid the relationships are between you and the engineering crew you’re working with.  

 

You recently did a Resonance FM live set on the eclectic experimental HelloGoodbye show on Resonancefm playing the Celtic Harp. 

The show HelloGoodbye on Resonance FM has been really supportive and played tracks from every one of my EPs and albums. It’s a great platform for showcasing a line-up of London and British based experimental composers. 

 

 

The Celtic harp for the HelloGoodbye set. And yes, this array of instruments you possess, I first saw you play a live set at visual artist Trevor Pitt’s Fluid Festival in 2017. What likely was the instrument you had with you at Fluid?

Fluid Festival 2017 – What does Queer sound like? Where I originally saw Tsinder perform

So 2017 would have been Offerings, so I definitely would have had my banjo, and maybe my dulcimer which I don’t really play very much anymore. But yeah, it was my Appalachian dulcimer. I was doing a lot with backing tracks and pedals.

Looking at the recent EP I think it has the least instruments of any of my records because it’s so production-based. So there’s not nearly as much instrumentation as I normally have. One of the main reasons for moving into more production-based music is just because it’s hard to lug about all the instruments. So I just can’t transport them.

With this latest project because of the lockdown I only really had a chance to perform any of the tracks, I think twice:

so I just did those with backing and vocal pedals, plus maybe one single instrument, like a banjo or something. And I think you still get the Tsinder Ash vibe, but in a less heavy way.

The illuminating TsinderAsh taken from @TsinderAsh Insta

TsinderAsh merch: https://tsinderash.bandcamp.com/

 

Vibe versus music education then! How does one person become so adept at mastering such an orchestra of instruments: string, electronic, and wind?

I’ll try and keep it short, it might be difficult. So basically I’ve been singing professionally since I was 7 years old, as in on the stage; classically trained to sing opera. At places like the Royal Albert Hall and the ENO (English National Opera). I sang in the English National Children’s chorus for quite a while too.

Alongside this, I was learning jazz, doing saxophone and clarinet, and practicing for jazz grades at the Guild Hall. And, and, and, also my parents are massive ex-hippies and had lots of instruments lying around the house; the dulcimer that I play was made by my dad when he was a teenager. Also:

my mum influenced me too, she played a concert harp and guitar and I learned guitar by watching her.

Formally, I did music classes at high school only up ’til AS Level, which is like the first year at college; but I absolutely hated it. And the classical voice training finished after my voice broke, obviously, at about the age of 14.

Doing the classical training it was interesting how mixed the children’s choruses are, which was really nice to see and be around. I mean, you did have these individuals who stood out as the classic like, choir boys, but also people from state school like me.

 

On the idea of collectivity, there’s the track called All My Sisters on the Offerings EP. Of course, we lost P-Orridge this March, and on your Instastory you mention it’s a P-Orridge sample we hear on All My Sisters. 

To finally create a new form of human being; that says anything is possible, nothing is sacred. [Genesis Breyer P-Orridge]

Is it her music or the philosophy that drives your interest there?

It’s more the philosophy and the way that with Coum, Psychic TV and the Psychic Temple; about Genesis (P-Orridge) using magic as this kind of subversive tool to terrify the establishment. And they were terrified. I mean they had the police involved and there was uproar. I even think she fled for American at one point due to that. And if I’m right I think their archive got destroyed. Oh, in fact they had to hide the archive; that’s it.

Their music is influential to me because I just do like all extremes of music expression. I’m really drawn to extremes of every genre because I like it when people are pushing the expectation. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge herself was a super problematic figure, I’m not going to deny that but, all of them were extremely influential. 

On All My Sisters where I sampled P-Orridge, I was lucky that she got to actually got to hear the record, which came about through a friendship I have with one of her childhood friends. The mutual friend very kindly gave Genesis a copy who listen to it and, it was great.

Genesis had some nice words to say about the track. A very special moment for me.

 

Posts from Pandrogyne: the Instagram of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

 

One of the legacies Genesis P-Orridge leaves us is the idea of Pandrogony. Does your music in any way try to transcend the confines of gender?

This is a difficult one to answer personally, so I’ll use my music to muddle through a response. So, music is a way to achieve some kind of… ! It’s… it’s a bizarre contradiction because in one way you really manifest your own body, but its also a way to feel freedom from it.

What I mean is, when I’m really in the moment – really in that headspace – I’ll do some crazy throat singing note at the last second or something, and you’ll be like woah… unexpected. You know, that’s freedom. So in a sense:

Music is the purist gender expression because it’s pure desire, right? So yeah, so I suppose in that sense music can be an expression of one’s gender as a tangible expression of your being. 

 

By following your story, I’m aware you have some physical discomfort in daily life. Is the musical journey also a physical wellbeing therapy?

I assume you’re referring to my CFS. I’ve had FCS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, since 2016 but, thankfully it’s much better than it was. The CFS was diagnosed at the time I was recording the Offerings EP; So yes, at the time I felt very physically trapped by my body. Singing then, definitely; well, just the act of creating and being in that moment gave me the needed physical liberty. 

 

About helping others too, via Bandcamp you’re filtering the proceeds from sales of two tracks to the charity Colour of Change and UK Workers. Bloodletting with like the A-side ‘vogue dancehall’ Texture And No Future (aka: There’s an Undead Faggot Army and it’s Coming for You), and a B-side ‘demonic movie-score’.

Yeah, the two tracks, produced by BabyTap @baby_tap and Daniel Cox @lovur.x, even though I wrote the music a year ago, given the uncertainty we’re in it seemed right that the tracks come out right now and the proceeds go to a cause very much in need. Bandcamp is a useful platform for linking me with fans who can but the music directly from me.

The retail platform has been wavering their revenue share on occasion, and I know that fellow musicians during this time have been making a reasonably decent amount from their music sales for once, which obviously on streaming services is pretty much impossible.

It’s not that they’re an amazing glorious company run by angels; they’re tech-nerds who are reaping in lots of money, but it’s the best option we have.

And so if you do like my music please do consider making a purchase over at my artist profile tsinderash.bandcamp. I’ve also on patreon.com/TsinderAsh which I could be using it to a fuller potential. People can see behind the scenes there. In the ideal situation, both Bandcamp and Patreon rely on growing a fan base, and then if a great number of fans just each give a small monthly amount, that makes a big financial difference to an artist’s revenue.

All of this together possibility of adding that to live streaming revenue it can help support the artist to continue releasing music. But yeah, it’s all about building a fan base which is tricky to get off the ground.

 

In your more mortal guise, how do to subsidize your own music production?

Ha, well I have a day job, on which was furloughed, it’s part-time, and the income just about gets me through, just about. Being furloughed has for me obviously been a great privilege, giving me all the time to do all the stuff. I just pleased I’ve had such good collaborators around me.

 

 

Thanks Tsinder

Thanks.

 

See @TsinderAsh | Buy over at Bandcamp | Debit a monthly gesture via his Patreon

 

The mantra from the Tsinder Ash track No Future from Insta: The original title for the piece takes the mantra of his track No Future  There’s an Undead Faggot Army and It’s Coming for You – of which I can really identify with the sentiment. But then I figured it too provocative! So with that in mind the landing title is now ‘Tsinder Ash – You had classic choir boys, but also people from state school like me’; a title which I think pulls focus on the normality of life, yet the bizarre turns that life experiences present to us.

 

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