If you aren’t au-fait with Nick Ellis’ musical output, then you need to do yourself a favour and quickly get acquainted. This auteur is systematically assembling a musical canon of worth, note and integrity that includes “Grace and Danger”, “Daylight Ghosts” and the sublime “Adult Fiction”. Now, on the eve of his latest release, “Speakers Corner”, Liverpool Noise caught up with Mr Ellis to discuss matters all encompassing….
Liverpool Noise: How does your new album, “Speakers Corner”, differ from your last album “Adult Fiction”? I am interested in the recording process, song writing, subject matter and themes.
Nick Ellis: The new album ‘Speakers’ Corner’ differs from the previous releases because the focus is more on language, the use of language and the effect that this has on the listener, both emotionally and consciously. The songs on this album seemed to demand a more visceral, immediate and personal engagement from its characters. The theme of the album is communication, from one person to another, hence the title ‘Speakers’ Corner’.
The album is a space for expression, substituting the traditional physical presence of a place for a fictional one. The subject matter varies across the album, as it would, naturally, from character to character. The songs deal with politics, socialism, sex, loneliness, fear, isolation, dehumanisation, jealousy, anger and community. The recording process took place over a period of a year, but the songs were written at very different junctures throughout my life. The catalyst that brought them together, or out of their hiding place, was the events of Spring/ Summer 2017, such as The Snap Election, the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the presence of the neo far-right rearing its head.
Liverpool Noise: The composition “Blue Summer” is such a beautiful, evocative song. Tell me about how you wrote it….
Nick Ellis: Thank you, that’s very kind of you to describe it as ‘beautiful and evocative’. Blue Summer is about loneliness and loss or the loneliness one feels when experiencing the emotional no-man’s land that is loss. It was written a few years back as a song for a band that I play in called The Blue Soul – an electrified, more dynamic version of what I play, when solo. That version was more static and poignant. I took that version and simplified it for guitar, stripping it to its bare, raw and emotional state. A good song can be interpreted in many ways. Well, that is its true test. If it can, then it’s good.
Liverpool Noise: How would you say your artistic vision has changed over the years, if at all?
Nick Ellis: I’d say my art, writing, songwriting or artistic vision, has changed gradually over the years. I see the possibilities of song more, now, than ever. After playing around the country and engaging with the different reactions of people, I can see the value of sincerity. People aren’t fooled. They know what is truth and bullshit, when a performer is in the firing line, and there’s no room for mercy. Rifles are pointed, yet hearts are open – deceive them at your peril. Regarding albums, I have a very clear idea of where I want to go with communicating bodies of work thanks to the trials and tribulations of releasing and producing albums independently. There’s is always the possibility of a new direction or point of interest, though. The movement of time, everyday experience and overheard conversations always bring a fresh concept to the kitchen table.
Liverpool Noise: I really like the artwork and titles of your projects. They have a “thematic crispness’ about them. Is this calculated or spontaneous?
Nick Ellis: The titles, visuals, graphics, song order and concept are all thought out in advance. I like to paint a picture as a whole and translate directly what i’m thinking. I haven’t got time for spontaneity, collaboration or any of this experimentation shit. I’m not middle class; I didn’t go to uni. I didn’t need to. I get up, go to work and my time is limited, so I like to put across what i’m doing simple and clear.
Liverpool Noise: You seemed to have perfected this intimate, atmospheric, artistic world that you inhabit. Do you envisage any future projects encompassing a bigger, more expansive sound?
Nick Ellis: I’ve been down theses roads, before. I don’t like working with bands, to be honest. There’s too many egos, temperaments and opinions when working with additional musicians. The problem is that the majority of musicians don’t know how to listen. I’ll definitely be augmenting songs with various instruments, textures and dynamics in future recordings and i’m looking forward to hearing the musical score come alive for the string orchestrations I wrote on some tunes for the next album. If the sound starts to overtake the song, then that’s the time to stop and take note. When a song gets lost in production, all you’ve got left is a bunch of manners.
Liverpool Noise: What are your views on the role of the “Producer”? Would you ever like to collaborate with any high profile ones? If so who, and why?
Nick Ellis: I like to produce my own records – I know what I want and I know how to translate the sounds in my head onto record. I prefer to work with good engineers, to be honest. Daniel Woodward, who engineered and mixed all my recent releases is great – he listens. I was fortunate enough to work with a number of producers, some well known, some unknown, when I was younger and, quite frankly, I thought I could do a better job. One so-called producer, who had worked with the likes of Madonna and all these big 80’s cats, took a session and all he did was sit on an exercise bike, listening to AC/DC on his headphones and bark out orders to this poor, translucent engineer kid. It was silly.
Liverpool Noise: What are your plans for 2019?
Nick Ellis: My plan for 2019 is to make another record.
And that is good enough for us!
Nick Ellis Gigs:
The Leggate Theatre (University of Liverpool) “Speakers Corner” Album Launch
6th October 2018
Klee Music Acoustic Night (with Steve Roberts & Thom Morecroft) 81 Renshaw Street Liverpool 13th October 2018
For more information visit Nick’s Facebook page – Nick Ellis Music