If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller

Posted by in June's Magazine

Bill Ryder-Jones began his musical career as lead guitarist in The Coral – whose psychedelic zing-zanging sound spilled through to the UK music scene in 2002. Bill left The Coral in 2008 and is now embarking upon a mighty medley of artistic missions – each as worthy as the next of your attention.

Through mutual friends I met Bill in a bar in Camden, we nattered incessantly about various musical and literary lords – the likes of Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Syd Barrett and Aldous Huxley – each of whom we shared a weighty zeal for. What Bill touched upon (and I’ve no doubt frequently ponders) was the nauseating thought of measuring-up to these lairds of the lyric and, of course, viewing what you’re producing as an artist today alongside such delicious fruits.



Bill mentioned in passing he used to be in a band but little more. I took an instant liking to him. I even wrote a poem about him. In my books (no pun intended) that’s a top tier extolment.

Extract from poem (Bill watches his reflection):
Hoylake, too, boasts a stunning crop of sea birds,
Fantastic stippled feather coats, but glum as soldiers,
Girding, on the eve of Normandy. I don’t mention this
To Bill, who’s very similar to Hoylake: winds a little
Brackish, charming as a bedtime story, waves
That tumble (sometimes roar) and an underground
Tunnel – where brilliant flashes interrupt
Dark and spooky spells.

So this is a pint-sized interview about what he’s been up to:

Can you tell us a little about the new album?
The album to me is a soundtrack to the novel If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino. I guess it’s a reflection on the book, how I pictured certain chapters when reading and I suppose a bit of a showcase for my writing.

Do you have a favourite track and why?
By the Church of Apollonia shades it. I think it represents its chapter the best of all. It’s meant to be a love scene between these three people who each have ulterior motives for being involved with the others. I think that piece more than any feels like an event. We recorded it ourselves in a Liverpool church. It really means something to me that.

So…why did you pick Calvino’s words and work among the endless tiers of scribblers out there?
Well it could be anyone really it’s something I’m hoping to do again. The reason I picked this one was because of the nature of the book and what to me is the central theme. Ten first chapters of ten different books each separated and discontinued for some reason. The idea being that it’s that initial burst of influence and all the possibilities wrapped up in the first few words of a novel that really capture your imagination and how the ending rarely competes or betters that almost unborn thing that you begin with. I’ve always felt that way when writing. Starting music is easy but pulling it through to match up with where you were when starting is so hard, mostly if I don’t finish a piece in a day I have to leave it for months, it’s easier to return to it that way.

How do you feel about intuitions and premonitions? What I’m flirting with here is the theory that sometimes the music chooses you rather than the other way round?
I don’t know really, I don’t believe in music as this objective truth that just exists. Without people and their life then music is just noise I think, I do know that feeling though, when it feels something comes from nowhere. That’s what you chase as a writer, there’s nothing less thrilling than having to pursue a piece of music. I think it’s more a case of being prepared, you spend your life thinking a certain way, taking things in and then something unlocks something else in you and you hopefully have the tools to turn it into something beautiful.

Just how many free pairs of Converse did you get for doing Desire with Graham Coxon and Paloma Faith and what do you do with so many shoes?
I asked for about 15 pairs for my girlfriend’s family and friends but got none. I can’t complain really having never worn a pair of Converse in my life?

Who are you influenced by, listening to and reading?
Without sounding like a knob sadness is my main influence. I feel like I’m quite a sad person – I see it a lot more than I’d like. Hope also – I write good music when I’m hopeful, sometimes I look at people and see them as these troubled little things and it makes me feel better, like everyone has the same trouble just getting on and dealing with things. Listening to Gorkys Zygotic Mynci always! Elgar, The Bunnymen and Lykke Li, a lot. I’m reading a book called Ancient Worlds by Richard Miles that I love and just finished reading a book called Bed by a writer called David Whitehouse, which was brilliant.

Can you piece together a fictitious super-band for us?
It would be Anna Calvi, Ian McCulloch (in his 20’s), some French people and me. We’d be called The Late Janes.

You’ve a real penchant for film music and recently constructed some songs for a short film – can you tell us a little about the art of assembling music for the screen and who does it best?
I’ve only done two shorts but I love it. I really enjoy the work although I’m still coming to terms with writing to images. Mood is always quite obvious but tempo and pulse and dynamics are very important things and quite easy to over do. I’ve just been offered my first feature film actually. I read the script last night and it’s amazing, I’m sure it’s going to be good. Who’s the best? At the minute Clint Mansell I think, he gets stick because he’s quite obviously influenced by Philip Glass and Ludovico Einaudi but what he does with those bases is amazing. His tracks always go somewhere and that’s sometimes the downside of film music, it’s easy to be monotonous and not actually go anywhere with the music.

How’s your experience been with Scotland – I hear you like The Proclaimers?
Scotland’s always been in my life, all my childhood family holidays were to the Isle of Mull to see family. Scotland’s very unsung I think but I like it like that, I wonder whether the Scots do? I suspect they do a little. As to The Proclaimers, well everyone knows them don’t they? They’re real people who love music and make great records. They’ve got that thing that makes you believe in them plus they wrote Sunshine on Leith, which is one of my favourite songs. We had them support us once at a homecoming gig, needless to say they blew us offstage, the audience were totally spent haha!

What is your favourite word and please use it in a sentence that justifies the lexical throne you’ve given it?
My favourite word is bint…as in ‘your ma’s a bint’

Is there music in the silence?
That’s too poetic for me.

Info: Bill Ryder Jones album will be out in November on Domino Records

Photo Credit: sophiejarry.over-blog.com

7 responses to “If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller”

  1. Michael says:

    Copyright for photos of our Bill rest with Sophie Jarry – sophiejarry.over-blog.com/

    A force in her own right!

    Thank you kindly, M

  2. Eric Robertson says:

    Michael Pedersen interviews Bill Ryder-Jones and the latter describes Calvino's 'If on a Winter's Night a Traveller' as 'ten first chapters of ten different books each separated and discontinued for some reason'. What rubbish! Clearly BRJ and Pedersen have not read the novel.

  3. Michael says:

    And a fond hello to you Eric…..

    I can firmly state…. Pedersen has not read the novel nor did he attest to – he merely asked why Bill chose the text. This appears apparent.

    Bill's impetus for doing, in my opinion, not in the slightest diluted by your laconic castigation! I am, however, always interested to hear one's musings on notable texts?

  4. marco says:

    pedersen, the motorcycle diaries… that's a load of goats pish, right?

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  7. vuches says:

    Thank you — appreciate that very much. I've got a sequel plotted out, but I have three other books I "have" to write first (no, seriously — I need to eat!), so it's more a "long-term" project. http://www.travelwkly.com/

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