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Interview: Talk

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Judging by the ethereal, otherworldliness of their music I should be talking to Talk’s Scientist through a hole in space and time, not on a mobile to where he has pulled over in his newly purchased Fiat Panda just outside Birmingham.

TalkThis car related fact starts the conversation off on an undoubtedly surreal footing.

“I don’t think they have anything to do with panda’s. Maybe I could get it painted as the colour of a panda and drive it on safari or something and blend in, and then I could stuff it full of panda’s when they are not looking,” quips Scientist (or Rob Tranter to his family and friends).
“You’d be surprised how many panda’s I could fit in here - it’s pretty roomy. I think I could get a couple of panda’s, it’s got air bags so they’d be safe.”

The chatter about Shrewsbury’s Talk has been increasingly, and rightly, positive of late as the band finally released their brilliant debut Reset, Start, Again in March after years largely locked away in their rural studio formulating their desolate forging of analogue and digital sounds.

“It all seems to be going well, the album seems to have been picked up pretty well by the press and Radio 1 gave us ‘album of the week’ so that was pretty positive. It was Huw Stephens who gave us ‘album of the week’ on his show so that was nice of him, he’s a nice guy we met him at In The City once and he came and saw us play.”

Talk’s music reflects the juxtaposition of the modern world, and its simultaneous desire to move forward technologically whilst preserving the natural order of both society and the planet.

“The theme that runs through a lot of our stuff has been trying to combine that organic feeling, because we come from quite a rural area, with the hustle and bustle of city life and going to work a 9 to 5 job. When we go to cities to play gigs we get very, kind of, claustrophobic and we want to get back out to our studio in the middle of nowhere. The album is a reflection of that really, a combination of guitars and nature sounds and mixed with really glitchy electronic music.”

Taking an ‘anti-computer’ stance, their PC-centric release titles show an ironic disregard for the technology that gives their art its depth. “It’s a statement against people using them all the time and not really communicating, like recently with the whole Facebook and stuff. The thing with Facebook is it’s not really needed - it just increases the number of people you have to try and avoid.”

Under their original moniker of Telex, they released one of the records of 2005 with the EP Byp/Ctrl and then, after the immense promise, it went quiet with no further action, bar one single, until the album release this year. Why did it take so long to add to their canon of releases?

“Because after we’d finished that first EP and done the touring and everything to promote that, we kinda wanted to get back into the studio to start on an album. But because we do it at home in our own studio in our own flat we turned into perfectionists sampling as much as we can and trying to fit it all into the record in some way, I think it turned out okay.”

The word is that after the formulated, near scientific approach to Reset, Start, Again the desire is to infuse the follow-up with some humanity.

“I think on the next record, which we have already started writing, we are gonna churn it out a lot quicker and the direction we’re going to take on that will be to almost record it live so that it is not so clinical.”

Shortly after the debut EP the big-boys came knocking on the door, the name Telex was already taken by a late-seventies synthpop group who had re-emerged on the scene and wanted their name back.

“We did [realise the name was taken] quite quickly actually, pretty much as soon as we changed our name to Telex, we checked-up on them a bit, but they weren’t together so we thought we could risk it for a bit and in retrospect we shouldn’t have bothered we should have changed our name straight away. It was such a great name and it really seemed to fit the music, the robotic sort-of machine like nature to it, unfortunately we had a nasty letter from EMI to change it or they’d take us to court. The letter wasn’t that nasty but it was to the point, like ‘change your name or we will seek…’ - we can make this difficult for you. It’s not even worth it, it’s EMI - we changed our name sharpish.”

In comparison the name ‘Talk’ seems a bit run-of-the-mill, a bit mediocre. What was it that led to choosing the name? As with everything the band has done to date there is a mass of thought and reason to the decision.

“Our music is quite clinical, so ‘talk’ is something that we don’t really do at all as a band, and we kind of went for that name because it is the opposite of what we are like. That kind of robotic music and slightly distanced music that we make is opposite to the name.”

Aside from Telex, there is another band name that Talk’s history is littered with. The fact is that they do bare a resemblance to Oxford’s finest Radiohead in both visual and aural approach - does this act as a bug-bear for the band or do they embrace this oft-used comparison?

“The comparisons did [annoy me] to start with but they don’t really now. If someone writes that we sound like Radiohead and someone else who loves Radiohead reads the review then they are gonna assume that they will probably like us as well, which is not a bad thing. I could think of worst bands to be compared to.”

“Well, to be honest we just try and play what ever we feel like, so we can’t really pin-point it. But obviously there’s the Radiohead comparisons come up, but we can’t really help that we don’t try and sound specifically like that.”

“I don’t really listen to Radiohead at all really, I listen to bands like Mogwai and also a lot of folk sort of stuff and that kind of influences me in the finger-picking I do on the guitar. If I put a record on in my spare time I listen to stuff like Bonnie Prince Billy but when I write a record it just doesn’t come out like that.”

Regardless of the obvious comparisons in just a few short years Talk have perfected their sound and have amassed a mind-blowing array of tracks that in only representing their early career signify a band capable of the ground-breaking sounds of their aforementioned Oxford soundalikes.
With them stepping out on tour in the summer and then heading into the studio around Christmas to record a new album, 2008 could well be the year that there’s a lot more Talk in the UK.

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