Northern Kind: An Interview with Matt Culpin
Northern Kind: An Interview with Matt Culpin
Following on from our series of ‘SuperFan’ and ‘New Fan’ interviews, I am pleased to present a new feature. Many Kajagoogoo fans are familiar with the work of Electronic Duo ‘Northern Kind’ following on from their support slot on the ‘Space Cadet’ reunion tour of 2009.
On a personal level, it was at those shows that I first encountered the duo, and I have taken a keen interest in their activities ever since. Their first two long-players – 53 Degrees North and Wired really are superb and well worth a place in any collection. Visit http://www.northernkind.net/ for more information on those…
I caught up with Matt Culpin from Northern Kind to ask him about Kajagoogoo and what the future holds for Northern Kind.
Hi Matt, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to speak to KajaFax.
No problem Steve!
I like many other fans thoroughly enjoyed your support set on the recent Kajagoogoo reunion tour. I was wondering how the support slot on the ‘Goo tour came to be, and how enjoyable an experience was it being involved?
Although I knew Chris (Limahl) from the early 90’s, it was actually a guy call Glenn Kelly who asked us to support them. He looks after the Howard Jones website and was managing Kajagoogoo at the time. We played at ‘Retrofest’ in Scotland when the band reformed. Glenn had heard our albums and thought we would be a good fit. Initially it was just a few dates around the Midlands, but I persuaded him to let us do the whole tour with exception to the Sheffield gig as the support were already confirmed for that date.
We didn’t have the luxury of being driven or a crew to set-up and hump the gear, so it was pretty tiring but we were rewarded by the reaction we got from all the Kajagoogoo fans. We both had a great time, met some nice people and made a lot of new fans.
I attended the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham on that tour, a night which for many reasons I thoroughly enjoyed. Was there a particular venue on the Kajagoogoo tour that stands out as particularly memorable or enjoyable to you?
All were fairly memorable for one reason or another. Nottingham was good as we had a few of our friends there. Limahl was watching our set from the side of the stage which made me a little nervous, but I had a great time that night. It became more memorable after seeing Nick Beggs private parts squashed in a small plastic cup back stage! It must have been quite cold that day 🙂
London was good and by far the largest audience, we arrived by the skin of our teeth as I’d forgotten my laptop! We had a frantic dash back to Leicester to get it, and got to the venue about 10 minutes before our set.
I love the analogue vibes and 80’s influences of the NK catalogue. Who would you say was your biggest influence, and who do you admire?
For me I guess Yazoo would be the biggest influence and the general idea for starting NK, although my current influences would be Depeche Mode, Goldfrapp, Ladytron, The Knife & IAMX. Sarah is more of an indie girl but thankfully those influences don’t really come out in the music 🙂
I’m also a big Kajagoogoo fan and bought White Feathers on my 13th Birthday. I saw them at DeMontfort Hall in Leicester which was one of my first gigs. ‘Loser’ from our first album is really influenced by the track ‘White Feathers’.
When and how did the NK project begin, and how did you meet Sarah?
I had met and worked with Sarah about 11 years ago when she was in a band called Minithin. I did a couple of remixes and recorded a few tracks with them. Sarah moved to Sheffield just after that period and we lost touch for about 5/6 years. When I started to write new material, I was looking for a singer, but didn’t really find anyone that was interested. After getting a new mobile phone I started clearing off some old contacts and came across a number for Sarah. I sent her a text and asked if she fancied doing some stuff together, obviously the answer was ‘yes’.
How exactly does the writing process work within the group and where do you seek inspiration for your lyrics?
Initially I create sets of sounds that I like and feel work together. I then have writing sessions where I perhaps write 2 or 3 ideas using the sound sets that I have previously created. These end up as very basic structures for tracks with maybe 4 tracks and drums roughly arranged. We work in batches so I upload MP3s for Sarah, she then writes lyrics and creates the vocal melodies.
We get together and record her ideas at my place. Usually the vocals are recorded in a day, but sometimes we will add additional harmonies or new parts after I’ve worked on the track for a week. After recording her initial vocals I then get a better feel for how I would like the final version to sound and that is when the songs really take shape.
Songs either get finished very quickly or they hang around for a while. I tend to have about three on the go at anyone point and for me it’s good to keep switching between them.
I’m guessing that you don’t sit in the studio with a Roland Jupiter-8! Can you elaborate a little on how and what is used to create the NK sound?
I’d love to have a studio full of vintage gear, but unfortunately I don’t really have the space or budget to indulge myself. I’ve owned a lot of synths over the years including the rack version of that synth, the MKS-80. I foolishly sold that and the programmer module for practically nothing. I was 20 at the time and about to go on holiday to Greece so needed the money! I think I sold them both for £120. If you are lucky enough to find them now, they sell for around £2000 😦
My set-up today is centred around a MacPro running Logic. Most of the sounds you hear on our tracks come from virtual synths, which are recreations of all the old classic analogue synths. They sound similar and with tweaking you make them sound old. The beauty is though they don’t go out of tune and you get instant recall of sounds each time you load a different song.
I’ve recently bought a new analogue synth called a ‘Telemark’ by Analogue Solutions. The company is just one guy, Tom, who makes proper analogue synths and sequencers. He’s starting to build up a good following and has some well known artists using his gear. Martin Gore from Depeche Mode has some of his equipment and I’ve recently introduced him to Alan Wilder (ex Depeche) who now uses a Telemark in his shows. Most of the money Northern Kind makes goes into buying new gear, so it keeps me happy and in a constant supply of new toys 🙂
Like many fans, I have seen the cover art for the new album and eagerly await its release. How far from completion is the album, and what treats or surprises do we have in store?
The picture of Sarah painted? Actually that is just a shot we did when filming a video for a track called Crazy Fantasy last year. We recorded it and even have Steve Askew playing guitar. As we started to write more tracks, they over shadowed it a little and we felt it wasn’t quite good enough as a single. It will most likely make it to the album or as a bonus track.
Not sure what the cover will be for the album yet, that’s something we look at a few months before the release. The artwork is quite important to me so that process is something I always enjoy.
The title of the album will be ‘Credible Sexy Unit’.
We’re about to release a new single called Euphonic/Dreams (June 13th) which are two new tracks. We have several ideas on the go at the moment in various states of completion and we are aiming for a September album release.
Finally, what plans do you have for 2011 following release of the album? Can we look forward to more live dates, and would you be open to another ‘Goo gig at The Stables if the opportunity presented itself?
Not sure about supporting Kajagoogoo again, but we’ll definitely be arranging some dates to support the release. There are number of bands on the scene that we’re friendly with so it would be good to do some shows with them.
Thanks very much for taking time out to chat to KajaFax Matt – it’s always a pleasure to speak to you!
And you too, Steve!
Thanks to Matt for agreeing to take time out of his busy schedule with Northern Kind to talk to us. Check out Northern Kinds new single release here:
The track is on general digital release from Monday on iTunes. We know that ‘goo fans will give Northern Kind their full support!