Interview: Phil Stiles Of Final Coil

Interview: Phil Stiles Of Final Coil

- in Written interviews

I’ve talked before with Phil, about his band Final Coil, but this time, he got something new to show to the music world: a solo project, resulting a new album called The Anchorite. A very interesting sound, a mix of elements, The Anchorite is the sound for the fans of acts like Massive Attack, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke and so on.
Here you can read a nice interview I ha with Phil (again), about his new solo album, the theme of it, label working relationship and others.

Connoisseurs of your music, knows you for being active with Final Coil, then here you are with a solo project aswell. When did you decide starting a solo music project?
Final Coil is, and always has been, my main project. However, the band tends to move quite slowly as a result of the commitments of the various members and the costs of entering the studio. Very often, when I’m writing for the band, I produce far more material than ever makes it onto the table for Final Coil. Some of it, of course, is simply not good enough for public consumption (I tend to file it under “what were you thinking?!?!”) But there are other tracks which, at least in my view, are really good, but just not really suitable for the band. For years, I let those pieces gather dust – a lack of confidence, I guess; but, about a year ago, The Way Of Purity invited me to contribute a track to their latest opus, Schwarz Oder Rot. The track I offered up was one of the electronic pieces I’d created, and I figured they’d listen and then ask for it to be remixed. I was stunned when, instead, they came back and said it was great and simply needed mastering. it really made me look hard at some of the pieces on which I’d worked and the idea of this EP was born. In many ways, I see it as an appendix to Final Coil – sort of like Tribes of Neurot sits alongside Neurosis – because it exists in the same universe, albeit in a different galaxy…

When I listened to your new release, which btw, is very nice, it directly sent me to the sound of Massive Attack!
Thank you very much indeed. Well, Massive Attack are, and have always been, a huge influence on me. I consider them to be both musically and lyrically fascinating. The production on their records is just perfect, and they have a rare ability to evoke a very specific atmosphere on each album. I’d say that Massive Attack, along with latter-day NIN, Gary Numan, Killing Joke and The Cure are probably the main touchstones of this record – so quite different to Final Coil (although there are points of crossover). I guess one of the main areas of similarity is in the mixing. On the single, A Slide Into Depravity, the guitars were originally mixed a lot harder, closer to how I’d mix a Final Coil track, and it just wasn’t working. After a while, it occurred to me to take an approach similar to Mezzanine, where the guitars are tightly bound into the mix, never riding up over the rhythm section – so there’s quite a conscious link to Massive Attack there.

Yes, Mezzanine is a great album by MA. I like that too!
It pretty much defined the mood of the late 90s. The party was over, the hangover was on its way… it is a very prescient album and the sense of paranoia and lingering dread really captured how the world turned after 9/11. Musically, it’s pretty much flawless – from the playing to the production – and although the album as a whole is very diverse, it has its own unique atmosphere that remains present throughout.

What would be the theme behind ”The Anchorite”?
The EP looks at the tension that exists between progressive globalists and those who still cling to Westphalian notions of sovereignty. When you look at the world today, with the strong upsurge of nationalism that has blazed across the West, it’s hard to believe that, just thirty years ago, we were celebrating the end of the Cold War and, in Francis Fukuyama’s words, the End Of History. There was a real sense of hope, and the potential for cultural growth and integration was represented in the art and media of the period. What we didn’t see so much at the time, was the sense of fear that sweeping cultural change invoked in (primarily) the older generations. It led to a number of mistakes being made, not least the tendency of the left to downplay fear purely as the product of ignorance, without ever addressing its root causes. What we can see now, Trump in the US; Brexit in the UK, is the product of that fear. The Anchorite is a reference to the dogmatic approach of those who see sovereignty as both desirable and necessary, and the lyrical themes are closely tied to that. However, as with Final Coil, the lyrics seek to question, not to preach, because I still believe a dialogic approach is the only way that humanity will be able to progress beyond the current impasse.

Then a theme about what is happening nowadays. Do you think, all this madness will end soon?
It’s hard to foresee how the current situation is going to turn out, although a good deal of political literature has been written about what we’re currently experiencing. Certainly much has been written on the rise of China and the steady decline of the West, not least Huntington’s infamous Clash Of Civilizations; and there are those who would argue that a likely outcome will be nation-states retreating into loosely defined, civilizational groupings. However, I have never subscribed to Huntington’s interpretation of events. A more positive view point can be found in Globalization studies and the transformationalist approach. Essentially, transformationlists believe that there will be a move away from sovereignty towards global citizenship; but that this will, in the short term, encourage strong reactions from nationalists and even moderates who, threatened by change, take a giant step to the right. However, in the long term, the changes will prove irresistible and the prospects for peace that come from cultural understanding will outweigh the fear of cultural change, resulting in much greater networks of communication and interaction. In short, fear breeds a violent response, but that response will be (in historical terms) short lived, and it is just part of the necessary friction that comes with major socio-political change. What people need to realise is that the current nation-state system only dates back to 1648, and that it was originally introduced in Europe to end the 30 and 80 years’ wars. It was a desperate solution designed to prop up the power of the monarchs of the day, and it was never intended to be a global political system. When you consider the massive impact of the industrial revolution, it’s hard to believe that the political system currently being advocated in Brexit Britain is a throwback to monarchy. Perhaps what we’re witness is the last gasp of nationalism; although if it is, I suspect we have a good deal more turmoil to go through before things take a more positive turn.

How easy it is for you to transcribe all these into your music?
Haha,  no! I spend a lot of time working on the lyrics, both with my solo material and Final Coil, before I am happy with how things are phrased. I think that the majority of people don’t want to be preached at, and although my position is clear, I prefer to take an approach that allows people to make up their own minds. The fact that there’s an instrumental track on the EP entitled “Critical Thinking” is entirely deliberate – it’s a blank slate encouraging people to approach any subject critically and to apply their own perspective to it. It is vitally important, if we are to overcome division, to listen as well as to speak, so I don’t approach the subject matter of my songs as if I am the guardian of one objective truth. I pose questions and I present perspectives and, for those who wish to approach my music in that way, I hope that the lyrics facilitate independent thought and learning. I certainly don’t want to simply put a perspective for people to follow.

The album was released through Epictronic records., the other label run by Carlo Belloti. Final Coil with Wormholedeath, your solo project with Epictronic. he he And as you said earlier also, you have collaborated with The Way Of Purity, basically you know these people already. How’s working with Carlo?
Carlo is a trooper – he’s always, always working on something, which is very cool. As a label manager, he is more than happy to offer advice and support but, more importantly, he’s equally happy to stand back and allow artists to grow and evolve at their own pace. With both Final Coil and my solo work, the most important thing is artistic integrity. Neither are obscure for the sake of it but, at the same time, I’ve never written for an audience; partly because I credit my audience with individuality and intelligence and if I tried to write something to appeal to them, I think they’d spot it a mile off. So, for me, the most important thing is that Carlo is supportive, but very open to artists doing what they believe in as long as the quality is there. So, that’s very comforting, from an artistic point of view. it is also really nice that, on both occasions that we were in the studio, Carlo made a point of driving all the way down to spend a day with us. That sort of courtesy is not too common in the music industry, and we really appreciated his making that sort of effort on our behalf.

And he is a fan of dark wave, indie, electronic music too. Let’s say, you’ve been lucky and liked your music and inked a deal. He can be tough when it comes to music, hehe!
Haha, well, that’s true , not many labels are so eclectic in their outlook. I think that’s one of the reasons we gelled because, obviously, Final Coil is very eclectic in the range of influences and Carlo recognised that straight away. You know, Carlo was always very interested in the various Final Coil demos and he was instrumental in encouraging me to do something more along electronic lines. I’d say his interest, combined with The Way Of Purity asking me to produce an outro for their album, was the driving force behind me actually putting this EP together and putting it out there. You know, I love making music; but releasing a piece of work with only your name on it is actually a very vulnerable thing to do. I don’t expect everyone to like it or to listen to it, of course; but to know that there were a few people who believed in what I was doing provided some very necessary confidence to take that final step.

It’s always nice to work with great people, indeed. That’s an extra motivation, making more music all the time.
The focus is always the music and, sometimes, to my detriment because it’s harder than ever to actually get the music heard if you don’t put in the time on social media and the like getting the word out there. So, for sure, it’s helpful to have a label who do some of that work for you. And yes, it’s important to work with people with whom you have some sort of relationship. You need to enjoy their company and not be afraid to raise your voice on the rare occasions where there are disagreements, safe in the knowledge that it won’t be taken personally. It’s a difficult rope to walk, and I definitely appreciate the support I’ve had from Carlo, WHD and Epictronic – it’s made all the difference these last couple of years.

Are you already thinking about a next solo release?
Yes, most definitely! Throughout the lockdown, I decided that I wanted to take a different approach, so I reached out to a number of people in bands with whom I’ve played or had contact, and I already have a massive amount of material compiled. At the moment, I can’t decide whether to propose an album, an EP (with a lot of material left over), or two EPs, one more focused on electronica, more on a harder, more industrial sound. The guest musicians have all been great and I can’t wait to get everything put together as a final piece. As I said before, I’m always writing and, for all the negatives of the lockdown, there’s no question that it has given me time to write a huge amount of new music.

Wll keep an eye on your work anyway. To end this conversation, would you like something more to add?
I’d just like to say a word of thanks to James Plotkin, who went above and beyond whilst mastering the EP, to Carlo and Naty for the support and to everyone who’s taken a moment to check out the EP. I’ve been really pleased and not a little humbled by the response so far, and I am really looking forward to building on this release with the next effort. Thank you for the great questions!

https://www.facebook.com/PhilStilesOfficial/

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