INTERVIEW WITH… GLASGOW EXPERIMENTAL ROCK COLLECTIVE UNION OF KNIVES


In 2020, the Scottish trio Union Of Knives returned to music after a 14-year hiatus releasing three singles. The band comprising of Chris Gordon, Pete Kelly, & Anthony Thomaz, had not planned to stay away for that long. Although the band had not meant for the hiatus to go that long. Unfortunately, life and all that entails it took the band further away from their music. Ahead of their upcoming album, I chatted with Chris Gordon from Union Of Knives. We talked about the lead single, “There’s A River”, musical influences, and more below.


THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: – Hi, Chris! How are you doing? What’s the past year or so been like for you guys?

UNION OF KNIVES: In some ways, it has not been too unusual for me, I worked away in my studio out the back of my home and although for some months it was not possible to have Anthony or Pete, or anyone else for that matter, round in person I beavered away on many different projects. So many other people in the business of entertainment (or many other businesses) were left in a gaping limbo and I don’t hold my good fortune lightly, the unintended consequences of our response to this thing have troubled me a lot over the past year. Anyway, for Union of Knives, we finished an album and I have been able to make the promo videos, which is something I always wanted to try but never had the time before and we are learning how to manoeuvre in a modern music world which is very different to the one I grew up in.

THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Can you talk about your background and how each got your start in music? How did you guys come together and form the band?

UNION OF KNIVES: I grew up in bands and had the good fortune to sign a record deal in my early twenties with the same friends that I had played my first gigs with in Ayrshire. We toured a lot and released a few records then I started collecting record deals and publishing deals like they were going out of fashion for the next 20 years, hopping from one label to the next with different projects. Union of Knives appeared from some music that Dave Mclean and I worked on in about 2004, it was different tack to the guitar music which I had been working on up to that point and as I grew ever more interested in production and the endless possibilities that were now available, it was a logical step. I met Pete playing in a band called Galchen in about 2005 and was blown away by his drumming and unusual technique, so when we decided to use a live drummer he was the first person I asked. It was heartening to then watch him go on and play with the likes of The Kills and Ladytron. For this latest incarnation of Union of Knives he was way more involved in the creative side than the 2006 and 2008 (unreleased) albums. On a number of the songs his fractured rhythms were the start point of the creative flow. Anthony and I had met working on some of his own music, his easy going attitude belies a lightning speed creativity and as I was starting to think about putting out another album under the Union of Knives banner it was a no brainer to get him involved and see what came. From the first few tracks “There’s a River” and “High on account of 0” I loved what he brought. What really interests me when working with other singers and musicians is when they bring something to the process that I would never have conceived of. Anthony’s delivery drew me right into the songs and our ping pong approach to lyric writing brought some things that surprised us both.

THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What’s a typical creative process like for you? How has your creative process grown or change over the years being a band?

UNION OF KNIVES: I think it is easier for me to think of Union of Knives as a collective than a rigid band, this way the fluidity of getting other people involved (like Helen Marnie for example) makes sense. Some of the songs would come together like this. I would have a seed of an idea, or more likely about four different seeds, maybe a bar or two of each, not even a harmonic structure. Pete would come in and I would minimally mic the kit up, sit in the room with him with headphones on, let him get his bearings then maybe say the odd word of instruction once he gets going. Then I put it away for a few days and hear it with fresh ears and try and find the bits that make me go huh! I work on something and maybe add in a few sections, Anthony comes round and I as make him 14 coffees I let him listen and make some notes. He records some ideas and we maybe bounce some lyrics around and say yay to this bit nay to that bit, maybe I suggest a melody I thought I heard him half sing. We record, he leaves, and then as with Pete I leave it a few days and then come back and roll my sleeves up. If it is inspiring it will end up as a song we release but sometimes it just gets put in a rainy day file and who knows if that rainy day will ever come.

THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Can you talk about the inspiration behind the single ‘There’s A River’? It’s got such a cool vibe to it. I love it.

UNION OF KNIVES: Thank you kindly. The process here was the most roundabout of any track on the record. The (for me) super interesting improvised female vocals belong to Nikki Kent. We had started working on a track together in about 2013 and I guess this one went to the rainy day pile. On spare days I sometimes flick through such tracks and as I began to work with Anthony I suggested he try something on it. I think this was the first one we worked on and it was a bit like BOOM hehehehe. I sat in front of my speakers during his first take slowly nodding and smiling. Anyway we played around with the lyrics a bit and I think we both had the same kind of dream like imagery in our heads for the refrain, in some ways this is what I was trying to capture with the video

THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Which artists had the biggest influence on your musical journey?

UNION OF KNIVES: For this music I am sure you can here the influences of Massive Attack and NIN maybe some pinches of the more fractured Radiohead and Portishead stuff. More broadly and perhaps less obviously Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Daft Punk. As I write them I realise how long ago such acts rose to prominence and yet unlike so much more recent modern music none of them sounds dated. I heard Born Slippythrough a big PA not long ago and it sounds like RIGHT NOW, that is some achievement and I don’t even think you can really shoot for it, it just happens.

THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How do you transfer your sound from studio to stage when touring? How is that entire process like?

UNION OF KNIVES: There are two main things to balance, what are the most important parts to faithfully re-create and perhaps even let breathe more in a live context, and what sounds are so tormented by their process that the computers are better to take care of them. We try to keep it simple but I suppose as human beings we always seek further complexity so it is rarely simple.

Chris Gordon of Union Of Knives

THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Which artists had the biggest influence on your musical journey?

UNION OF KNIVES: For this music I am sure you can here the influences of Massive Attack and NIN maybe some pinches of the more fractured Radiohead and Portishead stuff. More broadly and perhaps less obviously Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Daft Punk. As I write them I realise how long ago such acts rose to prominence and yet unlike so much more recent modern music none of them sounds dated. I heard Born Slippythrough a big PA not long ago and it sounds like RIGHT NOW, that is some achievement and I don’t even think you can really shoot for it, it just happens.

THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Switching gears somewhat… I would like to ask a few fun questions. What’s a movie you can watch over and over without ever getting tired of?

UNION OF KNIVES: Back to the Future delivered as a teenager and it’s still holds up now. We even gave my son the middle name Fox after Michael J who seems to be a lovely fellow.

THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: If you could write a song about any fictional world what world would you choose and why?

UNION OF KNIVES: My son, the aforementioned middle name Fox, is constantly creating his own themed worlds which he discusses at great length with me as we walk the dog. I think it would only be fair, given the amount of headspace he has given to such matters to let him choose his favourite. Though in truth he might not want to have it plagiarised for his Dad’s own devices.

THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: If you could collaborate with any artist past or present who would you collab with and why?

UNION OF KNIVES: There are countless people with whom it would be tremendous to collaborate, roll on a virtual reality where such things are possible. The first one that comes up today is Nina Simone, WOW.

THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What’s your early prediction for the song of summer 2021?

UNION OF KNIVES: My only hope is that it is not a revival of “Football’s Coming Home”. Only kidding good luck dear neighbours 😉

THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: And to close out, what’s next on the horizon for Union Of Knives?

UNION OF KNIVES: Another track in late July then the album in early September and if things are looking peachy I might even be bold and optimistic enough to book some shows (if not shows in 2022. OMG how did it come to this). Thanks


UNION OF KNIVES // SOCIALS

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Stream “There’s A River” below.


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The Reclusive Blogger aka Brittney Williams is a music, editorial & fine arts photographer and writer based in Los Angeles, California — When I'm not taking photos or writing (I love writing poetry and writing about music). You'll find me at a concert (come say hi I'm super nice and have Converse on!), listening music and even making electronic music. You will also find me super active (and super friendly) on social media and I love to spend time with my family. :)

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