Matt Elliott talks to Joseph Stannard about the Bristol DIY scene which produced his recently reactivated project, Third Eye Foundation, alongside Flying Saucer Attack, Crescent and Movietone, as discussed in The Wire 319's Retro-Activity feature.
Joseph Stannard: What united the musicians involved in this - for want of a better word - scene?
Matt Elliott: Me, Kate Wright, Rachel Brook, Matt and Sam Jones and some of the wider Movietone members were all in the same school, incidentally the school that Mark Stewart, Monk & Canatella and Stanton Warriors went to. There wasn't even a good music dept: I used to get thrown out of the lessons for daring to suggest that we actually play the instruments instead of tackling music theory as 11 year olds, and the record the teacher brought to our end of term lesson was Phil fucking Collins. We met Dave [Pearce] when he moved from Cheltenham to work in the record shop I worked in, Revolver. In some ways Revolver was a common thread. Roger Doughty, the guy who owned Revolver, was a good teacher, he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of recorded music. It was out of the back of Revolver that the fledgling Planet Records started and that too was a common thread. Planet released Movietone, Crescent as well as Third Eye Foundation and Flying Saucer Attack records. But there were a few other threads, a real community, involving studios (Fat Paul Horlicks’s PIJ) record shops, cafes and of course the boundless enthusiasm of Richard King at Planet Records. He was really the one who put it all together, did all the bullshit work, sorted out studios, negotiated with venues, not to mention holding us all together. We are all flaky, to put it mildly, and in those days we weren't sure exactly what we wanted. We were all quite punkish in our attitude. I was overly suspicious of anyone in the music industry, even Rick King, although we became very good friends later. I think as far as Movietone was concerned, they knew what they wanted but we didn't know as much as we thought we knew, especially about the more technical aspects of recording (although this was Matt Jones's - and later my - area of expertise) and anything about the music industry or who we could trust. So poor Rick had even more to deal with. Basically we started as a bunch of kids wanting to make music. We had no idea of what or where we were going. Movietone was the first group to be formed, although Dave Pearce had been involved in other projects: Hahaha, Rosemary's Children (I think) and The Secret Garden (I think).
Movietone, or Lynda's Strange Vacation as we called ourselves then, consisted of myself, Kate and Rachel. The first few rehearsals consisted of one of us with some kind of Casio keyboard that was broken, a Maplins style microphone and perhaps a guitar of some kind. We would just twat around, recording everything we did, We eventually started getting more instruments and slowly we formed a band. Then Dave Pearce arrived. He wanted to kind of direct the band and we all split into kind of factions soon after that. We started taking things more seriously, although it was all amicable, we all collaborated with each other for a few years.”
JS: To what extent was folk music an inspiration to the musicians involved?
ME: We all had quite eclectic musical tastes, Kate and Rachel were more jazz fans than folk fans, of the Coltrane/Davis school, Astrid and Joao Gilberto. I think at that stage the closest Kate got to folk was Joni fucking Mitchell but Dave Pearce is quite an authority on rare British/US folk and psychedelia. He has quite a collection and a knowledge verging on anal. None of Crescent were that into folk and nor was I, aside from of course Nick Drake and Tim Buckley, although I've always loved folk music from around the world. I was obsessed with traditional Turkish and Egyptian folk music in the early days then moved to Middle Eastern and Eastern European. As far as I remember, I was the only one who went in that direction, but my interest also involved looking for samples to use, so I think that’s what spawned it. Between us we liked a massive range. Again, it helped that we had access to some amazing rare music at Revolver.”
JS: What do you think has been the legacy of the Bristol DIY scene?
ME: I'm not really sure if there is a legacy, it was a microcosm. It was the heyday of DIY music. In those days I could release a 7" on an unknown label by an unknown band and shift 1000 copies in a month. It's nigh on impossible to do that now. Perhaps the wider DIY scene with bands like Hood (also it shouldn't be forgotten that Sarah Records was Bristolian and they were way ahead of us with their DIY ethic, although there was little crossover between our ‘scene’ and theirs) had more of a general influence. Many things were happening, the technology was getting better and better, home studios were cheaper, the rise of the sampler (one thing you can say is that bands like Disco Inferno had a massive influence on myself and Hood) so it's hard to say what, if any legacy there is. As far as I know only about half of us are still doing music but there is still a thriving underground DIY scene in Bristol, although I'm quite out of touch with what is going on there now.”
JS: How did your own project, Third Eye Foundation, grow out of all of this?
ME: I originally intended 3EF to be a loose collective. It featured various friends at the very start but it wasn't long before I realised that I wanted total control. It became largely myself but with input from my then-girlfriend Debbie Manning, who went on to become Foehn.
Dave was already getting on with FSA and me and some friends did various percussion and flutes for him. I then went on to do drum machine programming and some other parts for him. I had more esoteric taste in instruments than Dave and I contributed various singing bowls and ritualistic instruments but Dave wasn't really happy with (as he said) the vibes associated with them, so he removed them. That's how the FSA remix [“Way Out Like David Bowman” from In Version, 1996] came about, I basically reassembled all the pieces that were missing into a remix. Anyway me and Dave had various disputes, Lynda's Strange Vacation had become Movietone and had become mainly Kate's project (as in LSV there was no clear leader) and neither band were doing what I really wanted so I just continued doing my own thing. I'd always enjoyed messing around with broken tape machines and any instruments I could beg, borrow or steal. I was more into Psychic TV, Current 93 (Live At Bar Maldoror, an epiphany) and Industrial music. One record I love, although not strictly Industrial music, was Venus Handcuffs by Corpses As Bedmates. But anything weird was good for me. I was still working in Revolver and discovering everything I could - Can, Faust, Tuxedomoon (Ghost Sonata), Nurse With Wound, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Brainticket, Matt Johnson. I was also a Factory Records obsessive.
I made various demos from spacey analogue Ambient stuff to my attempts at early Disco Inferno and started to dabble with drum machines. I borrowed a 4 track and made Semtex with Deb providing vocals and some guitars, actually losing some of my hearing at certain frequencies in the process. I also started my own label, Linda's Strange Vacation with a view to releasing my own music as well as friends and collaborators but it was shortlived, running a record label, even a tiny one, is not the kind of work I enjoy doing. But by good fortune or fate, Mitch from Domino happened to be playing the demo of Semtex I’d given him while on tour with FSA when Laurence walked in, and he gave me a call.
From then on I had a means to get on with things, they helped me with my label, lent me the money to buy a shitty sampler and I was left to get on with it. I was always looking for good sounds I could steal or attempt to recreate after that and would drive myself mad, working days and nights, forgetting to eat and working intensely until I considered it finished or I could take no more. After Ghost, an album I can't stand to listen to today, I was driven to attempt to correct my mistakes and I’ve basically been doing that ever since. I bought a better sampler and a sequencer (I was very suspicious of computers back then) and started engineering in a studio in Bristol to help pay the rent and made You Guys Kill Me and Little Lost Soul. Then I needed a break from programming. I attempted the follow up to LLS but couldn't muster the inspiration, a lot was going on in my personal life. A good friend lent me a classical guitar and that's when I decided I wanted a new direction. The Mess We Made [released under Elliott’s own name] is a kind of mix of directions and the Borderline Schizophrenic 10" is what I had managed to do while attempting the follow up to LLS. I signed to [French label] Ici d’ailleurs and they had a different approach to making records than Domino, or at least the financing of them, so I was able to start using studios and record in a different way.”
JS: What inspired you to reactivate Third Eye Foundation?
ME: The next 3EF album (The Dark) was basically a promise to the guy from Ici d’ailleurs from way back. Every year I would promise him a 3EF record and every year I would be consumed by a Matt Elliott record. It was only when twatting around on a mate’s computer that I realised that things that used to take weeks of intense programming, staring at tiny but very bright screens, could now be done really easily and were actually fun to do. So I said to Stephane from Ici d’ailleurs, ‘Buy me a new computer and I'll do you an album.’ Once I started it came very quickly but had the same intensity and close to the mentality that I’d had on each of the previous 3EF albums. It was very strange and brought back a lot of memories. I wanted to take over almost exactly where I left off with LLS and I think I have, I'm less of a control freak these days and had some help from Chris Cole (Many Fingers) and Louis Warynski (Chapelier Fou) and we did a live project involving Chris Adams (Hood/Bracken). We are planning a tour for some time in the future.
The Dark is out November 8 on Ici d’ailleurs