16 Mar 2015

Nine Questions with E.L Heath

Nine Questions is a new regular feature on the Active Listener, where we ask our favourite artists nine simple questions and get all sorts of answers....

Today....E.L Heath (as heard on this month's sampler).

What was the first record you bought?
Probably something dreadful, I distinctly remember visiting a local radio station as a kid and looking in a box of old 7" they were going to throw out and were giving away free. I'd just seen the film Summer Holiday, and like most children my age I had been swept up by the all consuming desire to have my very own converted London Routemaster bus to travel around in, having all sorts of adventures. So I picked up a Cliff Richard single, which if anyone had any sense, was chucked out years ago. If we are talking about the first CD I bought, then it is possibly even worse - the seminal "Party Party" album by Black Lace. That they managed to include a medley of "Sailing" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" tells you everything you need to know about it. The Birdie Song even gets a workout, a synthesised "re-imagining" on track 4.

What was the last record you bought?
Junkboy's sublime 'Sovereign Sky', those brothers Hanscomb are channeling some beautiful melodies these days. It's a beautiful thing, both inside and out. (we agree - see here)

What's one thing about you that very few people know?
For the past 11 years of my life I've co-run a group for people with Asperger's Syndrome called Autonomy. As a teenager I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum, my partner Victoria also has a similar diagnosis. I've worked in the field of autism since my early '20s and am now a Self Advocate with the Autism Programme Board at the Department of Health in Whitehall, which influences national autism policy. It is frustrating that the majority written on the subject of Asperger's Syndrome and autism in particular is negative, talking about people "suffering" from the condition. Autism is a difference, which makes things difficult sometimes, especially when dealing with a world which is as irrational as ours. My partner is a fine artist, I write, record and release music, the intensity and narrow focus which are strong traits in people with autism are rather a benefit in what we do.

If you could record with any one artist who would it be and why?
Joe Meek created some of the most incredible sounds put to tape, but he would have been rather tricky to work with by all accounts! So, in my childhood Captain Scarlet-addled mind I'll say Barry Gray. His work for that series is astounding, gets me every time. As a kid I would always wonder what those swoops and trills were, a sound which haunted me until my '20s when I found out what had been creating them - the Ones Martenot. I've been obsessed with this instrument ever since, I own a control voltage keyboard controller called a French Connection, built to mimic the unique style of play. Barry Gray ended up studying the instrument with its creator Maurice Martenot in Paris. How I'd like to have been involved in those sessions!

Who should we be listening to right now?
There's so much music going around these days that it often leaves me overawed. That said, there are some amazing releases out there, here are a few I've managed to pick up: Lukas Cresswell-Rost's 'Go Dream', Gaze is Ghost's stunning 'Revolvere', Magpie Billy & The Egg that Yolked​ (​A Study of the Northern Ape in Love) by The Eccentronic Research Council ft. Maxine Peake, Your Roots, Your Bones by the ever poignant Les Étoiles and two releases by good friends; 'English Summer' by Seamajesty and 'The Visitation' by My Autumn Empire (aka Ben Holton from epic45).

Vinyl, CD or digital?
Vinyl. There's a lot written about the sound, but for me it is the large sleeve, the artwork in full glory. I used to find it hard to listen to albums as a whole, skipping tracks here and there, but when you put on a record, you put it on, you leave it on and then you turn it over when it gets to the end of a side. Sometimes it is simple things like those, the limitations, which make the whole act of listening to an album all the more enjoyable.

Tell us about your latest release.
Tŷ, my psychedelic Cymraeg pop album. I decided, for my first purely song-based album, to learn Welsh and write and sing all the songs in it, which was challenging to say the least! I was still learning as I recorded the album at home, nose deep in local mythology (I live on the Powys/Shropshire border). It was a really odd time, the local electricity board were threatening to build pylons over my house and politically there was a lot of unrest, riots, people being sanctioned off benefits, it was quite hateful, so the album has an element of escapism to it. I was listening to a ton of obscure Welsh psychedelic and acid folk at the time along with plenty of Joe Meek, the Dukes of Stratosphear (XTC's psychedelic alter egos), Kevin Ayers and Ivor Cutler, the humour of the latter three left a mark on me especially, colouring my disinterest with the media at large with whimsical humour, very much along the lines of the solo work of Armando Iannucci. Tŷ was released 28th October 2013 on Staffordshire's Wayside and Woodland Recordings, gaining 'Album of the Week' from both BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Radio Ulster/BBC Radio Foyle along with radio play from Huw Stevens, Georgia Ruth Williams, and Simon Raymonde (Coctea Twins/Bella Union).

What's next for you, musically?
I took the majority of 2014 off after writing Tŷ, to get away from recording and get out and explore before playing a gig in my local town of Shrewsbury later that year. I'm now deep into re-working a number of songs I wrote before and during recording Tŷ which I'll be putting out sometime, somehow, as an E.P. called 'Smiling Leaf'. These are mainly more folky and rurally psychedelic than my more pop-minded album, so it will be good fun getting them out there. I'm now at the stage where I'm getting other musicians to flesh out the recordings and hopefully I'll soon start getting some plans for videos made. I also run my own label, Plenty Wenlock, with my partner, so we'll be putting out a number of releases through the year. I'm playing a few more gigs over the coming months too, so it's going to be busy!

What's for dinner?
I'm vegetarian, so nothing with meat. I really enjoy my cooking, lately I've been learning about Indian street food, especially the many different dishes which together form the Mumbai Aloo Chaat. I'm not one to stick to the recipe but currently I'm cooking up Korean Bibimbap and trying to suss out how best to make a decent Tajine.


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