Peter Lacey - 2003
By Ronnie

As sure as the turning of the seasons, there is another sure bet. Yes, it's that time again...time for a new Peter Lacey album. There is the old saying that 'good things come in threes' and this is definitely the case with Peter's third album, ANDERIDA! I've been on cloud 9 since I got ANDERIDA - because it means that I get my fix of esoteric, subliminal pop, 'par excellance'. And in the fine tradition of excellence that one has come to expect from Peter, his new album does not disappoint.

Another tradition is that EAR CANDY interviews Peter with the release of every new album. Peter is always fascinating to talk to; we discussed philosophy, spirituality and glimpses of his future albums 4 & 5.

Right: Artwork courtesy of Kathy Baker.

E.C.: Anderida refers to the name given by the Romans, to the giant forest that stretched from the east coast of England across Kent, Sussex and into Hampshire. I read that this became the concept and theme of album. Can you describe to me how this translates to the "concept" of the album?

Peter: It's a bit vague as a concept goes, but it's about time and place. As a youth I had no time for history, I lived in and for the now. As time has moved on I've become more aware of the past, particularly its mysteries. You realize you are also in a pocket of time that will move on and change again.

And place is fascinating...there's that lovely bit in the H. G. Wells story where he sits in the time machine and the same shop store front moves through the decades, through fashion only to disappear altogether. Moreover, place is important because it seems to me that so much music has lost this sense of place. It's all very well turning the world into a sterile global village where everything is virtual.

E.C.: You once told me that the songs in BEAM! grew out of a sort of "organic process". Did the songs from ANDERIDA come about the same way?

Peter: Did I? Gulp! I think Beam! was consistent, all the songs ran into one another both in the writing and recording. I didn't plan it that way, it just happened. With TAGB and more so with Anderida the songs are varied. So I think its more contrived in that sense.

E.C.: Philosophy also seems to be an influence. One of your older songs, "The Family Tree" had a line that was influenced by a phrase by a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus. Now on "Sundial Smile" are the lyrics, "Umbra sumas". I found the quote by Horace: "Pulvis et umbra sumus", which translates to "We are dust and shadow". How does philosophy influence your songwriting?

Peter: When I'm not involved in music, I teach philosophy in adult education. It's a very dry, somewhat cold subject, but is full of people wrangling and ruminating over deep meanings. It's nice on occasions to melt the poetic and the philosophical together.

E.C.: Also, there is a quote from Hilaire Belloc on the liner notes. I should have asked this on some of our previous interviews because it can be telling, but what are your reading preferences?

Peter: Hilare Belloc was a Frenchman who loved Sussex where I live and waxed lyrical about its land and seascape. So I'll read anyone who has a passion for this place. He talks of 'Anderida' himself with a far away look in his eye....

Gosh, reading preferences? Good doses of philosophy and poetry.- At the moment I'm reading Nietsche's 'The Birth Of Tragedy',(a must for music lovers!) and at night-time, Ted Hughes 'Hawk' and a John Donne anthology.

E.C.: There is often a spiritual connection to art. Even some of the ancient cathedrals had their design based upon a scale of musical notes. Many of your songs have a spiritual undercurrent. Just of the top of my head you have "Love" (which is adapted from a 16th century prayer), "Cathedral of Trees", "The Green Man" and "Thru A Glass Brightly" (which was a quote from the Bible). In your opinion, is music and spirituality intrinsically connected?

Peter: Carl Wilson said something to the effect that music is an expression of spirit, and of course he's right! And there a numerous testaments of composers and artists claiming to be conduits for divine revelation. As far as conventional religious symbols are concerned, they are a big part of my childhood and sense of place. The reverb in the church I went to as a boy was enough to make anyone believe in angels. Otherwise, I'm interested in pagan religious practices, of observation and reverence towards nature.

But my 'religion' is aesthetics, I think we are creatures of such beautiful (and terrible) imagination and generate these meaning out of ourselves to create connections with and to celebrate the greater whole. So spirit for me is what is inside each of us, a self-conscious awareness of being alive and music and art is at its best an expression of imagination, particularly wonder, and of course aspiration.

E.C.: So often, when an artist does inject spiritualism, he alienates a large segment of his audience by spouting a specific religion or dogma. However you do not - you use universal themes and imagery of your lyrics. Is this a general 'rule' of yours?

Peter: I'm sure the answer is yes. Having read so many equally valid yet diametrically opposed philosophical notions I find myself quite comfortable sitting on a fence in the beautiful valley of indecision. If you listen carefully to the last word at the end of 'Sundial Smile' after the last "we are but shadows" you'll see what I mean, - get both sides of the equation! I find it's impossible to be dogmatic and far more healthy for you! And I also feel like an 'outsider' in that I deliberately use these themes and imagery to contribute something hopefully of quality to the 'church' of the aesthetic. And I mean hopefully.

E.C.: Now that you have released your third album, have your musical goals changed? I imagine that more albums are on the horizon?

Peter: Yes, I'm at the early writing stage for album 4. In terms of goals, I will be writing and recording music for its own sake whatever, but I look forward to getting the music 'out there' all the time there be appreciative people to listen.

E.C.: How about a little question about the imagery of the album? The artwork uses earth tone colors, there are tree images, and there is a picture of the Green Man and your name made out of bark. Again, is this part of an underlying theme?

Peter: Absolutely Ronnie. I find writing about music so different to making it. So too, with the theme of nature. Theme is one thing, getting out and walking miles over hills and through woods, streams and all is another, and for me the best therapeutic experience. Far from the madding crowd. When I'm out there I wonder what all the fuss is about. The art work is an artifact reflecting this experience.

E.C.: Your albums seem to flow together, rather than being distinct entities. Is this intentional?

Peter: As I say Ronnie, I feel that Anderida is more discrete, each song having its own character. That said, the themes of nature, time and place are there in all three and it looks the same for 4!

E.C.: You bypassed the dreaded "sophomore slump" on your second album and I detect an overall feeling of confidence this go around. Was it easier recording the third album? Also, you used a 4-track portastudio on your first two albums, what was used on ANDERIDA?

Peter: Yes, the more I spend time up in the attic, the easier it gets to do. And I'm getting political about the 4 track because all my friends are buying inexpensive digital 16 track recorders and calling me anachronistic, or other thirteen letter words to that effect. I have it in my will to be buried with it.

E.C.: You have to think more economically in regards to space limitations on a 4-track. Do you think that your final product would have been different if you had the "state of the art" 24 and above tracks at your disposal?

Peter: Absolutely. Having worked in such institutions. It would sound like cut as opposed to frosted glass. Make that broken glass.

The thing is its keeping the creative flow going as a daily routine that matters most, something my bank manager would have little or no time for, and the studio booker would relish! If I win the lottery expect unimaginable fidelity on album 5!

E.C.: In the past you have used actual events. For example on "Ellen Street" you used the setting where your Grandparents lived. Was "The Silver Lady" from real events? Or do you approach songwriting from a "fictional" mindset?

Peter: The Silver Lady was a cafe on Hove seafront where my mum and dad met during the 2nd world war. It's a song of romance and realism. I do think if you can write from real experience it makes for a sense of the genuine if only for the person who wrote it. However, I think I also think in a 'fictional mindset' when writing my stuff, but not as a form of escapism, more of a way to enhance what's already there. People have said I conjure up Gothic, ancient images of old England. T. S. Eliot expresses this idea that you enter the past and simultaneously escape it in the present. Likewise, the songs belong to present-time but also include the past, albeit as a fiction. It just colours my life to think that way...

E.C.: Since you play all the instruments yourself, how exactly do your instrumentals come about? Are you playing a tune on one instrument and then decided to overdub an accompaniment?

Peter: I think of the main melody first and then share it out among a variety of instruments. So instead of a singer it's an instrument. Simple as that.

E.C.: Speaking of playing all (well mostly all) the instruments yourself - do you think that the introduction of a "band" setting would take away your distinct Peter Lacey signature? Right now, I almost view each album of yours as a "painting". Would collaboration on your "painting" diffuse its meaning and focus?

Peter: Spot on Ronnie, it is like one bloke painting, it's a soliloquy. The music would certainly change if played by a band. I play with my band and it's a whole different thing, very social, very public. I think an album of my songs with a band would be great, but I think the idiosyncrasies would be ironed out.

E.C.: Quite by accident I came across the "healing" ability of your music. Just one of those bad days where nothing went right and I was in a foul mood. I put ANDERIDA in the CD player and by the time it was over I was in a better mood. Do you believe in the healing powers of music?

Peter: Yes, big time. I spend part of the week doing music appreciation with people with mental health problems. Generally we will listen to a piece and they write down what thoughts, feelings, images come to them as they listen. By and large people with these problems are very receptive and open to the impact of music upon them. It's totally inspiring. I mentioned Nietzsche's book earlier, - he saw music as our great salvation, the most redeeming feature of our human existence. I agree.

Click here to visit the official Peter Lacey website
Click here to visit Peter at the Pink Hedgehog website
Click here to visit Positively Beamin'- The official Peter Lacey fan club
Click here to visit a site about Peter's first album, BEAM!