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John MOuse and the Persistence of Memory

[Editor's note: We spoke with John MOuse at an early hour with little sleep and a minor hangover. In order to meet deadline, we ran the audio through some sketchy transcription software. Any errors are completely on us. He was brilliant.]

I'm now doing pretty much all of my own stuff, for the first time since the first John MOuse album (JT Mouse, 2003), so it's feels great recording this new one. I got one of the guys from the band who I've been playing with live, a guy called Scunge. Sweet Baboo (bass, engineer, producer), was in JT Mouse 15 years ago, oh my god, which was my first band. This is the first time that I've worked with him in 15 years. I dropped him an email to see if he was interested and if he was free this autumn and winter and he was really keen! We've already been into our rehearsal space, to kind of work things out and start recording.

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What I've found- with my albums in the past, and in songs like,"Robbie Savage" it was always guitar strings and piano and a lead guitar double solo electric grill. It was everywhere- all over the place- so the idea this time was to put limitations in place and to try and work within strict boundaries. We're even using programmed drums instead of a live drummer (Editor's note: Sweet Baboo is a pretty awesome drummer). Scunge came in to the first practice with his quadruple paddleboards and I said:

"You can unplug that now and plug it straight into the amp," and he started freaking out!

With Scunge- he'd always come to the show he was always down the front like really into the music all the time. We just got chatting and then I just said, "You fancy playing with me?" He was like, "let me have a think about it." A week later he learned all the songs. His wife was talking to my wife and she said, "He's just in the bedroom all the time playing the songs all the time- practicing, practicing, he loves it." You can just tell him what to do he gets it- it's perfect. It frees me up from playing guitar, because I can't play guitar. Scunge was like, But you wrote all these songs you've done all these demos and you sent them to me. And I was like, "yeah but I can't remember any of the chords or anything and because I can't play guitar very well, you know." I can't. There's no getting away from that- but it sounds different to people who can play guitar very well and they like it how it sounds. I don't. But even if I teach people to play exactly what I want them to play, it doesn't sound the same as when I play it.

To leave your normal reference points and comfort zones and let the song lead the production- that's what's happening. The limited palette is new for me- the first time in five albums. That's the plan. Everything for the new album is all written: twelve songs. We're using programmed drums which are very electronic sounding- sort of a Beastie Boys II beat- an old-school kind of 80s hip-hop beat. The drum tone will be the same but it will be playing different beats across the album.

The new album is thematic, revolving around the perceptions of memory. Changing memories, distorted memories, lack of memory, different memories for different people that experienced the same event, the memories of a kid of 3-years. It came from a retrospective/introspective feeling that I've always had. I like to refer to the 80s and 90s and childhood. I like that roses invoke different memories in different people.

You know I'm not singing to an eighteen year old kids.

Another reason behind the memory theme is that my nan died in February. She lived in a home and had Alzheimer's and dementia for the last four or five years. Her memories were changing but she was still remembering some things. Really interesting thing how even if we don't have dementia or Alzheimer's how our memory changes and how we make stories out of our memories and whether they're just images or pictures, or real memories- I like that whole idea of the third angle of memory.

I've spoken to a lot of people recently and they're like, "Oh I really remember when you were in this or that," and I either don't have that memory or it's completely different to their version.

Different versions of memories- events that happen, that are really important to people that may have zero significance to other people, or they remembered something totally different. I've addressed this straight on in one of the new songs, called "Memory" so that one is really direct. On some of the songs the theme is a bit more obvious and than others. You'll only understand the memory theme within this family of songs if you listen to the whole album.

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The recordings from the early sessions kind of have a scuzzy Sparklehorse sound. I took that as a good reference point. Steve (Sweet Baboo) mentions them a lot when he's talking about production. The new album is going to be vocal heavy- the vocals are really going to stand in the front of the mix and a lot of the music is going to drop back. We talked about that one Lambchop album where you could hardly hear the music in the mix. There are still pop songs on the new one, they're still happy- a lot of them.

The album follows a normal kind of pattern that I do- you know there are upbeat poppy songs and some weird and dark. I always write the same songs but just in different ways, I suppose. It's just changing the palette. This time is different- we've only got a certain amount of instruments to to use and we have to stick to that. Two of the songs are a bit more Bill Callahan than the last album- a bit more laid-back more roomy.

Fingers crossed- I wanted to do a more "live" recording for a long time -a little bit of bleed in the audio between instruments, that's the atmosphere. But being able to see people playing when I'm recording also relaxes me. I've never enjoyed a complicated recording process I prefer playing live and we're trying to recreate that in the studio. I'm trying to use a different dynamic.

We're (as of publication) 91% of the way to crowd funding this project. Sweet Baboo is a full-time job musician and when I asked him in the past if he'd like to do stuff and it was always, "yeah, yeah, yeah- if I can find time." And he did mean it, but at the end of the day if you're not paying somebody to do a job properly for you then you're gonna be priority zero.

I've already booked a space for recording and then for mixing the album. Sweet Baboo will be recording it and then he'll be doing the mix, with me in the background. He's playing on the album and he's having a lot of creative input on it so it's worth some money. We may add piano, or a little bit of shit, just to add a little bit more color.

I honestly thought time was up for the whole John MOuse thing.

I'll always write songs. Only now I can walk down the road to see Steve and just have a chat or a coffee or a pint- or take my guitar over, you know, or talking about the football game and just being face to face with a human instead speaking over emails and dropboxes. I like being in a band- I like working with people.

With the PledgeMusic target, I didn't put in for all the money I need. I want to be realistic and I'm happy to pay the difference. I'm happy sell what I have to pay for results, so I'm not asking nowhere near what it's going cost to make the album. But what I like about the PledgeMusic thing is that when you finally release the album- everybody gets the it at the same time so it's kind of it feels like a proper release, whereas if you did just release (say on Bandcamp) maybe you'd sell three copies. There's more of a feeling of community and togetherness that every everybody's carrying it at the same time- so that's what I like about the PledgeMusic. The new album is going to come out on CD and download and then will stream. I've always wanted to do vinyl but it's just the cost- I know that you know it's ridiculous, until somebody can find a really cheap way of doing it or somebody gives me a lot of money to do it- it's not gonna happen.

Maybe my Greatest Hits album will be a gatefold on vinyl.

The John Mouse PledgeMusic drive still has a few days.

And check his catalogue at bandcamp.

10.11.17

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