Sonic Curiosity Logo

Total Immersion into the Music of Colin Newman

Colin Newman was a member of the British experimental rock band Wire. He still is, as the band is currently reemerging from another hiatus. Between (and during) these bursts of Wired-life, Newman pursues a solo career, exploring the adventurous expressions to which music can be applied.

Few musicians display such equal mastery over pop and ambience as Newman, much less the ability to blend the two genres into a single entity.

During the Nineties, Newman established the Swim label to release his music...which often appears under other identities in collaboration with his wife Malka Spigel (whom some might recall from the Eighties esoteric pop band Minimal Compact), like Oracle and Immersion.

decorative rule


Q: The notion of producing CDRs of your music which will not be available in stores creates a personal connection between your audience and your label. Do you plan more of these releases?

COLIN NEWMAN: It kind of emerges out of the vinyl (especially the 7-inch) culture. Although Swim's distributors (Cargo) are definitely the "good guys" (as are many small and therefore not very effective distributors) there is a whole level above that in which distribution is essentially corrupted and has very little to do with bringing music to people who love it and much more to do with marketing muscle and ultimately money. "Cool" is the fight back of the "have nots" in this world and vinyl (especially the 7-inch) has in some respects become an anti-tool, the majority can't even access it, so it has built in "underground" appeal. However the downside of this is the fact that one could say it's elitist. So, on one side you have elitist vinyl and on the other a pile of endless CD releases which in certain circles have a perceived value of zero. We are drowning in worthless CD releases, only money counts, quality and innovation are only appreciated by the few. I guess the CDR release was a way to bring that kind of vinyl cool to a CD release. Our "Live" CDR is frustratingly hard to buy (you can only get it directly from us), there is no stock, each one is made to order). But gives the satisfaction of a direct connection with it's creators.

I think we may do occasional others. We currently offer a CDR fulfillment for mail order customers of items which are no longer available, as we would prefer to not delete items. However, it would be a hard thing to offer the CDR format as a "new" release to any artist on the label, as sales are ultimately pretty small.

Q: With the technology inherent in the Internet, you need never leave your own home studio to conduct a world tour. Any plans in this direction?

COLIN NEWMAN: Until we have effective "headset holography" or whatever, there is still nothing to beat "being there". In a way, one of the interesting things about "technology" is that the more transparent it becomes the more things get down to the physical experience. I spend all my time with computers and was an early adopter of the so called Internet and as such find myself bored rigid with most web content. I'd be much more interested to be able to decouple corporeality and place, and somehow instantly "be" somewhere else.

Q: As a sonic innovator, what comes next?

COLIN NEWMAN: I'm just feeling all warm and cozy for being called a sonic innovator.

On the non-theoretical front, I'm quite big on my pro-tools right now. They made a version available at a very reasonable price about a year ago, and I think it's a quiet revolution. I basically stopped using midi sequencing (which has been my modus operandi since the mid-Eighties). It was always the toy of the bloated end of the business, but now us mere mortals can use it. I'm incredibly pleased with some of the work I've been doing with it. Most of which isn't released yet.

On the Swim front, the next item is the new Silo album ("Alloy" in February 2001), followed by a new set of Symptoms and a new Newman later in the year.

Q: Zipping ahead a century, we find mankind has populated the asteroid belt and established bases on several of the outer planets' moons. What type of music do you imagine will appeal to those who travel these interplanetary regions?

COLIN NEWMAN: As much as I am a huge Sci-Fi fan, it has to be said that so much of what is produced, especially in the visual medium, is extrapolated from it's own time. Your question prompted visions of atonal futuristic Star Trek type music. So, what will I extrapolate? Let's seal it in a time capsule to see if I did any better than Gene Roddenberry..... Well, actually, I reckon it will be in essence very much as it is today: a mixture of old stuff produced by new technologies from old sources and new styles that synthesize previous styles with the occasional new approach thrown up by a previously existing technology. Quite possibly some of today's obscurities will be household names and most of today's household names will be forgotten.

Q: What was the last scientific discovery that made you go "Wow!"?

COLIN NEWMAN: Low temperature nuclear fission, except it turned out they hadn't done it, but someone will. That kind of technology or another currently unknown to us which can produce plentiful low cost energy from plentiful sources (e.g. sea water) will drive so many technologies in the future and quite possibly save the planet.

Continue to Reviews of Colin Newman's music

decorative rule
Entire page © 2001 Matt Howarth.
All rights reserved.
Webpage design by Stasy