Interview: Sam Underwood (If Wet, ORE)

ILLUSTRATED BY ALEX BERTRAM-POWELL

 

So what exactly is If Wet?

It’s a monthly event we run in my village hall; a sort of grand show and tell for sound artists / musicians. It’s a place for them to showcase and test their latest sonic works and research. For the audience it’s hopefully something pretty unique; a chance to see work in early development and to get behind the rationale for a piece etc. It’s a very relaxed forum for discussion and debate. It’s art with a lowercase “a”.

Oh and the name comes from the fact that most village fête posters carry the line “If wet…in the village hall” at the bottom.

You’re coming to the end of your first season of If Wet events. How has the first season been? Any personal highlights?

From our perspective it has been great. Exceptionally hard work at times for no, or even less than that, financial reward but there have been some amazing moments. I guess some of the highlights for me would include: the performance by Isle of Everywhere at our first event, after which I couldn’t help myself but exclaim, “you don’t know how fucking glad I am that just happened in my village hall!”. Also, loads of inspirations and insights provided by the likes of Sarah Angliss. Plus the unearthing of local contacts and talents such as Richard Windley and Tim Cranmore has been amazing. Oh and the support in general has been really heart-warming.

It has had some more tangible outcomes for us too, helping MortonUnderwood to secure some work to build a Giant Feedback Organ for the Southbank Centre. We drew on both knowledge gained at If Wet and I think they liked the fact we are dedicated to running such an event. All good really!

What has Callow End village hall brought to the experience, in terms of its physical layout and acoustics?

It’s pretty striking how much the village hall vibe has influenced If Wet. It’s a nice size with a good dollop of reverb, which is nice for acoustic performances but there is more to it than that. The physical constraints play their part of course but the setting affects the mood greatly. The heavily patterned curtains, the ancient Best Village Hall certificates, the Zumba class posters and the wooden serving hatch – through which my girlfriend serves home-made soup, WI cakes and village brewed ale, of course. This all shapes the event.

What have you got in store for the first season finale?

Myself and David Morton will host as usual and present a review of our first season before showcasing our latest work. We have invited Sarah Angliss and Isle of Everywhere back to the hall. ORE, the tuba duo I am part of with Stuart Estell, will be playing live, along with Nimzo-Indian and his mini guitars, and the wonderful Soundhog providing party vibes later in the evening. Plus all the usual If Wet stuff. It’s about celebrating the first season and hopefully raising some money for a second season. We can’t carry on in the current format without some support so, even if you can’t actually make it we’d urge you to buy a Ghost Ticket and be there in spirit!

We have also got some lovely bits of merch to sell, including the poster design above and various things people have kindly contributed to our fundraising auction. Plus we will be releasing some donated tracks on a fundraising compilation soon, including stuff by Astral Social Club, Kit Downes, Leafcutter John, Colin Webster, Soundhog and more.

What can be expected from your performance with Stuart Estell as ORE?

It’ll be fully acoustic, heavy drone based stuff with us both responding to each other as we play. Lots of improvisation by Stuart on first tuba. Slow.

ORE have got a new collaborative single coming out with KK Null. How was the experience of working with Kazuyuki Kishino? Your sound is dense but tends to be extremely warm too, so it’s interesting to hear some harsher, more turbulent frequencies coating your sound.

Yeah, it’s great working with KK. We have done so before, including live at Supersonic a couple of years back, which was mental. He’s remarkably thoughtful in recorded collaborations and yes, of course our sound gives him plenty of space to play in. We love just sending files back and forth and are always surprised and excited by what he adds.

You can hear the results on the 7” >> http://endtymerecords.bigcartel.com/

I was lucky enough to see one of your debut performances at Supersonic Festival in 2011. Since then, has much about the project changed in terms of its intentions or the way you approach your music?

Cool that you were at our debut. We’ve evolved a lot from then. From our early drone/doom beginnings our music has lately drawn inspiration from Indian classical music and other improvisational influences to become something much more difficult to define. Plus we regularly collaborate live now, often for the first and only time with whatever musicians we are talking to at the time. That adds a real spark to our live stuff. For example, there are plans brewing for a live collaboration at Intersect (SJQ /OTO / Vortex) with cellist Ollie Coates, Stuart’s girlfriend on horn and a bagpiper called Will. Looking forward to hearing the outcomes of that.

What else is in the pipeline?

Wow, loads of stuff! The aforementioned Giant Feedback Organ for the Pull Out All The Stops festival at Southbank Centre will keep us pretty busy over the winter; it’s a beast. We hope to tour If Wet around village halls next year, so we need to sort the logistics of that. MortonUnderwood is planning a trip to Sweden for a project as part of my Guest Composer status at EMS in Stockholm; something around augmented field recordings. ORE has some more gigs and possibly an album/tour in the pipeline. I am doing lots of sound art pieces and some larger scale instrument building as part of my work as Artist-in-Residence at Town Hall Symphony Hall Birmingham. And I have collaborations planned with the likes of Kit Downes and Eliza Gregory etc. Plus I probably forgot loads!

 

If Wet website – http://www.ifwet.org.uk/
Morton Underwood website – http://www.mortonunderwood.co.uk/
ORE website – http://www.oretubadoom.com/

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