A 20-plus year veteran of the music industry, who tasted the pitfalls of being a musician back in the late 90s with Britpop band Kill Laura, Jane Weaver has since then ploughed her own idiosyncratic course, that includes setting up her own label, and exploring the weird and wonderful worlds of krautrock, female punk, new wave, lo-fi synth DIY, and psychedelic dream-pop. This year’s Modern Kosmology is her biggest and best yet, and she’s just dropped The Architect EP in time for her long UK and European tour.
How’s it going?
I need my coffee, I’m just heating some coffee up in the microwave. I haven’t had a coffee yet this morning, and I need one to be able to talk to people. There we go, all set!
Good stuff! Where are you based these days?
I live just south of Manchester, towards the Peak District, in a place called Marple. It’s where my husband grew up. I grew up in Widnes, an industrial town, just outside of Liverpool. I’ve lived in Liverpool, and Manchester, and now here.
Tell me about your new The Architect EP.
‘The Architect’ is a track off the Modern Kosmology album. Plus a remix by Andy Votel (her husband), and two new tracks. I have loads of stuff I didn’t finish. ‘Code’ is an instrumental that I finished off, and ‘Element’ is a new song altogether.
Tell me about Kill Laura, your first band from the Britpop era?
We had a deal through Polydor. When their A&R man got sacked, our album that we had been writing and recording never got released. It was horrific, but that is the nature of it.
A good experience, with hindsight?
No! It was weird, I was 19, 20, just starting off and I didn’t understand what the heck was going on. I like to have more experience and information when it comes to legal stuff these days. At the time, I was like, ‘What’!?
What was the spark for getting into music making?
I remember being obsessed with the Bay City Rollers, but the first album I got was by Kate Bush, The Kick Inside. I just thought, ‘Ahh, this is what I want to do’. I was only like five at the time. I’ve always stayed with that feeling. If ever you’re drifting, and thinking why are you doing something, it’s important to remember the impact that something has had on you at such a young age. It’s quite a daydreamy, romantic thing to think of, but just because you are an adult doesn’t mean you can’t still dream.
I actually got a Bontempi keyboard when I was about ten, and I used to stand in front of the TV playing along to Gary Numan and Ultravox. I didn’t have a video tape at that time, a recorder. It was all in real time you know. Top of the Pops is on! Quite funny, with me in my corduroy dungarees in front of an Italian Bontempi.
Coldplay sampled one of your tracks, ‘Silver Chord’. Chris Martin phoned you for permission, is that right?
I think he only did that because his lawyers told him he had to, or ‘could you, please’! The lawyer who rang me was my lawyer years ago. He’s Coldplay’s lawyer, and he’s very nice, and he rings up and says, ‘I’ve got some good news for you. And Chris really wants to talk to you’. But, he was very nice and very sweet. It was at the time of that horrible stuff in the press about his marriage, and I felt quite sorry for him. ‘You poor thing’. I haven’t got a problem with Coldplay. People seem to have a big issue with them. ‘They are the worst band in the world’! I went to see them live last year. We were invited so we were in the VIP bit, surrounded by footballers, wives and families. I’ve never actually seen anyone so joyous about music! It’s a different crowd, and a different music. I looked around me and thought, ‘this is weird’. It was a bit like a cult. Everyone is really happy, not like a normal gig.
What are the themes and styles that permeate Modern Kosmology?
I was struggling at first, I was doing a different kind of album. But, I had this moment. I went to the Tate in Liverpool, and there was an exhibition of feminist avant-garde art, and that got me exploring other female artists when I got home, including Hilma af Klint who I didn’t know about. She’s now being seen as this first abstract female artist. She used automatic painting and spiritualism, and seances in her work. This is the early 1900s, and her work is based on huge geometric shapes, and codes. She had a secret society of women called ‘du femme’, who used to have seances and use that in their work, to convey messages. But they kept it hidden. They thought it was far too sophisticated and advanced and people wouldn’t understand it. Obviously being women at the time there is a gender issue as well. Reading that story absolutely floored me. ‘Why am I a bit stuck in a rut at the minute’? Not that I would do spiritualism and seances, but it’s a process, isn’t it, in order to get the energy out. I decided to relax, and use Hilda as a muse, really.
With all the horrible and upsetting things going on in the world and not knowing how to speak about that… I was looking at cosmology as well. Our drummer in the band, he studies astronomy, and he’s always going on about that, and I was picking up on that as well. Cosmology is the study of the history of the universe and modern cosmology, for me, is the study and history of your own universe. Drawing energy from you and what you’ve done, and how you can use that energy and do something good with it.
Musically, it gave me a different direction as well. I changed the production methods from the previous records and made everything more linear and clearer. I was thinking more in lines and shapes. Which is weird!
You are a fan of analogue equipment?
I’ve always been interested in analogue; it comes with the territory of the music I like. Also, as a musician, this kind of gear in my 20s was relatively cheap, and people weren’t interested in it. They wanted hi-tech stuff. Now, everything is absolutely rinsed. This studio I go to is great because the owner is a collector of analogue equipment. He’s got loads of weird and wonderful bits that suit me down to the ground. From the point of experimentation, for instance, it’s always a bit more interesting if you’re stuck on something. I do love messing around on all that gear.
You set up the Bird label, to release yours and other’s material. Is it still operating?
I was encouraged to set that up by my husband, who was running Twisted Nerve Records at the time. He just said, ‘Do it yourself’. It was in the early 2000s, and a lot of my male peers were doing marvellously well in the indie world, and managing to forge a career out of music. And my female friends weren’t. It wasn’t because anyone was rubbish, it was because of the nature of the masculine boy guitar band world at the time. I thought, ‘Sod this, I need to do something for my own music, without the constraints of the industry, and also do something for people I know and really like. They might only want to do one or two singles, but it would be a platform. So we did, and released some compilations, and music by some older people who weren’t known about; a mixture of contemporary music with re-issues. It’s actually on the back burner at the minute as I am just so busy.
Do you think there have been many changes in the industry, as far as women are concerned?
I think there are opportunities for people to take things into their own hands: do their own self-release stuff and put their music on iTunes. All that stuff is great. That is the difference from when I was an indie musician. You had to go down certain paths, and do things in certain ways in order to be heard. But, I would say there is still a lot of old school, backroom sexism. You only have to look at the Reading & Leeds line-up, and certain other festivals. It still shocks me. I always do #sausagefest. When I flag it up, people I know say they are really trying but it’s not working out that way. 6 Music were recently criticised, because when they announced their festival, everyone was like, ‘Umm, where’s all the women?’ You have to trust that they did try.