Colin Edwin: Progressive in Any Language (Part 2)
Continued from Part One…
Add to that challenge the expansiveness of the North American continent; the major markets – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles – are much farther apart than, say, Amsterdam and Berlin. “With Porcupine Tree, we did a lot with a sleeper bus,” Colin Edwin recalls. “But it was expensive. Especially when you take the equipment into consideration. The only way that it was really viable was to do it for a long time, a minimum of a month: keep working, keep traveling.” Edwin chuckles knowingly, “The distances in America make it a bit of a serious proposition.” With all that said, is there any hope at all for an O.R.k. tour of America? “Well, we’ve had an offer from South America already, so that puts us somewhere in the zone,” laughs Edwin.
There’s another tantalizing possibility. “I’ve notice a lot of bands doing these cruises,” Edwin says. “I think one of the reasons those are popular is because the bands don’t need work permits. They transit through Florida, so it’s not an issue. So that’s an interesting spin on the idea.” Meanwhile, though, Edwin says, ‘We’re going to get through this European tour first.”
Even if one doesn’t include the O.R.k album and tour, Colin Edwin stays extremely busy with musical endeavors. “It really is the case that one thing leads to another,” he repeats. “I don’t plan anything. I’m very fortunate that I get asked to do things that turn out to be things I want to do. They’re interesting and challenging; I’ve always tried to do things that are new for me. But things seem to come together; I think the expression in America is ‘happenstance.’”
Endless Tapes is another of those projects. The CD Brilliant Waves is tuneful, nicely textured, and perhaps more accessible to listeners than the heavier sounds of many of Edwin’s other projects. “This is one of those random things: the drummer Alessandro Pedretti found me over the internet,” he says. “I get asked to do things, and usually I don’t have time. But he sent me a couple of very sketchy ideas, and I could really hear some possibilities in those. But it’s very difficult when you don’t know somebody; he could have been some crazy loon! But as it turned out, that day or the next I had a bit of free time, so I did some work on a couple of the tracks he sent me. He really liked it, and we developed it really quickly. It was only about three months later that he was coming up to London, and we met in person.”
Edwin continues. “So that was a bit of a strange one. He’s an interesting character; he has an unusual take on drumming, and on music in general. He’s very into cyclic kinds of things, patterns. We chose the name Endless Tapes because it has got a circular feeling. I felt that the way a lot of the tracks turned out was like one snapshot of the music. A lot of the compositions had this quality – there’s a beginning, a middle and an end – think of a wheel. You can take a picture of one part of a wheel, but it’s still a wheel. It’s an abstract idea, but I had that feeling. And it’s a project that we’d love to get somebody to remix, for that very reason. It’s almost like improvisation, but it’s not improvised. There’s a structure, but it’s really elastic.”
Edwin is proficient on a number of instruments, but his primary instrument is bass guitar. He plays both fretted and fretless basses. The decision to use one or another on a given project or track is, he says, “A sonic choice. The fretless bass is more expressive in terms of slides, and the character that you give the sound. It tends to suit a particular context. The fretted bass has more possibilities if you’re wanting a more aggressive sound; you’ve got more clanking frets, and a sharper attack.” Rules are made to be broken. “Sometimes it’s nice to play with expectations a little bit,” Edwin says, “and have a fretless where you wouldn’t think it would work. Fretless tends to get used on ballads, smooth stuff, and it becomes a cliché.
Most listeners will know Edwin’s bass work from Porcupine Tree; he’s on all ten of the group’s live albums, and on all but the first of their eleven studio releases. From 2010 onward, the group’s official status has been “inactive but not broken up.” Edwin’s perspective is in line with that. “There’s no plan to do anything. But equally, there’s been no discussion to not do anything ever again. Everyone’s doing their own thing. We agreed back in 2010 to take a break from it all. It was an all-encompassing situation to be in. And it was,” he laughs, “to the point where it was getting a bit unhealthy. If I had known being a professional musician meant spending months and months in a bus with then other guys, I would have had second thoughts.”
It’s fair to wonder if Edwin would even have time for the demands of another Porcupine Tree album, let alone a tour. At the time of our discussion, he was scheduling December sessions for another Obake album. “It’s very incestuous,” he laughs. “It’s Lorenzo Fornasari from O.R.k. on vocals, Eraldo Bernocchi from Metallic Taste of Blood on guitar, Jacopo Pierazzuoli from a band called MoRkObOt on drums, and me. And we’ll be doing some gigs around Europe.”
Edwin also has plans to work again with Tim Bowness of No-man. “I’ve played on both of Tim’s solo albums,” he says. “Tim’s kind of sporadic; he’s not the kind of guy who’s going to do a six-week tour.” But Bowness and Edwin did do a handful of gigs in early 2015, and Colin says “there are plans to do a live album from those recordings.” And more from Endless Tapes is in his future as well. “Because I’m releasing it on my label, that’s my focus next. I’ve got to put together publicity and such; fairly boring stuff! That’s really enough for me to do.”
Those boring tasks – dealing with distributors, the logistics of tour planning – used to be the domain of record labels. But no more; today’s musician often has to take on those responsibilities directly. “You get sort of caught up in it, “ Edwin admits. “But the other side of it is that sometimes it’s nice to know that it’s getting done.”