Following the feature on the Progotronics 28 compilation, we talked with songwriter Samuel Dales about his work, the upcoming album “Past is Perfect,” influences, and more.
Define the mission of your project.
Lyrically, ‘Past is Perfect’ is about dealing with past experience and trauma in an attempt to heal and move forward. It’s essentially drilling down into those experiences in the hope that by confronting them, you can move past them. It’s about getting right with yourself, so that you can focus on the present.
Tell me about the creative process that informed your upcoming album and the themes it captures.
As this is a completely solo project with no input whatsover from others, the creative process is very, very slow and challenging. It usually involves me messing around on the guitar until something interesting appears, or as I like to say, banging my head against a wall until something happens. And then I’ll start banging other body parts into other things until other interesting things happen. Then I usually listen back to it and decide it’s rubbish and don’t look at it for a while. Then I’ll open it again accidentally one day and wonder how I was able to come up with such a complex idea. I always start with guitar, then drums, then bass, then vocals, then the accordion (though no accordion parts were used on this particular project).
It captures themes of living in the past. Of being trapped in the past, and trying to overcome that.
What is the message you are trying to give with “Floodgates,” the song which was the part of our recent Progotronics compilation?
It’s about reaching out to someone for companionship whilst in a state of desperation. I guess the message is one of unity for the human race.
How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
I write in my computer on pro tools. The demos start with just guitar rig and superior drummer and I build them up into finished songs. I then re-record everything properly within the same session as the demo until it’s the finished product.
Describe the approach to recording the album.
The approach was basically doubting myself every step of the way, but continuing anyway. I recorded, performed and mixed the album myself, so it was an absolute mountain of work. Again, it was kind of just me banging my head against walls until something happened. The recording of the drums was particularly challenging.
How long the album was in the making?
Hmm, 6 years I suppose. But there’s at least one idea that I remember coming up with in the early 2000’s sometime. I banged my head against a wall for a really long time on that one. Eventually it came together and lyrically, it’s one of my favourite on the album. It’s called ‘Landfall’. It’s also one of the heaviest, which I look forward to doing more of in the future. The recording process went on for around 14 months, just slowly chipping away at it until it was done.
Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?
Early on, it was Peter Gabriel. He’s such a legend in my eyes. From the early stuff with Genesis, all the way to now, he’s been very consistent and is a great vocalist and arranger. Particularly the album ‘So’.
But also Devin Townsend, Steven Wilson, Chaos Divine, The Occupants, Alcest, Yob, Intronaut and Jakob.
I made a playlist of the album’s influences, but it’s mainly rooted in the progressive side of things.
I listen to a lot of cheesy 80’s pop too like Tears for Fears, Mike and the Mechanics, Phil Collins, Kate Bush etc. It was such a great era for the pop song!
What is your view on technology in music?
It’s as useful as a spoon and a saucepan. Use whatever tool you can to get where you need to go. Note that it will not necessarily make the song better, it just helps your execution.
Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?
It certainly helps me to feel a connection with my true self, which goes beyond music. But I couldn’t really speak for anyone else.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m going to make a cup of tea and chat with my family. I’m not making plans beyond that right now due to the volatile nature of our current situation. Later today, I hope I’ll have time to play some guitar, or as I like to call it, bang my head against a wall. Hopefully something good will grow from both of those things.