|Roller Trio. L to R: James Mainwaring – Tenor Sax/Electronics,
Luke Wynter – Guitar/Electronics, Luke Reddin-Williams – Drums
Guitarist Alex Roth, whose trio will be appearing in a double bill at the Vortex with Roller Trio, interviews James Mainwaring, saxophonit/ leader of the Leeds-based group about the band, about the vibrancy of the Leeds scene, and looks forward to their first London performance at the Vortex next week.
Roll up! Meet Roller Trio, winners of the 2011 Peter Whittingham award for an audacious multimedia project and recent signing to the prestigious F-IRE Records label. Having formed only a year ago, things are happening fast for the Leeds-based unit.
Alex Roth: Perhaps you could get the ball rolling (excuse the pun!) by telling me a bit about your band – how long you’ve been playing together, everyone’s musical backgrounds, the progression of the group’s sound etc.
James Mainwaring: We’ve been playing together for about a year now; Luke Wynter and Luke Reddin-Williams were jamming for a couple of months before I joined in, and I lived with Luke RW for my first couple of years at college. Luke RW grew up in France, coming from a very talented family of actors (his Grandad is actually the legendary Bill Maynard – Claud Greengrass from Heart Beat). He came here to do the BTEC at Leeds College of Music. Luke W grew up in Beeston, Leeds, and is now in his final year at LCM His brother is a professional double bass player.
I grew up in Warrington in between Manchester and Liverpool. My mum is a piano and flute teacher. I did my degree at LCM and have just finished an MA at the University of York. We started playing as a trio about a year ago, but it became an official band when we did a last minute gig supporting Phronesis at the Brudenell in Leeds. Since then we’ve written about 3 hours of music by recording improvisations and developing bits we like, and we’ve been experimenting with a bigger sound by introducing effects pedals and splitting the guitar signal into a bass amp and guitar amp. We’ve been playing pretty much anywhere that will have us and have recently recorded our debut album.
AR: Coming out on the F-IRE label, right? How did that come about?
JM: We just sent them a recording of our first gig about a year ago and within a few hours we got a reply. We were pretty chuffed but knew we had to be careful not to rush because we realised we had a lot of work to do to build the sound we knew we were capable of. When we felt ready we recorded it in two days, and most of the tracks are first takes.
AR: I think that issue of timing – knowing when to record – has become increasingly pertinent now that albums can be made and released so easily and inexpensively.
Presumably the extensive rehearsing and performing as a unit over the last year has accelerated the process of arriving at that “band sound” you’re talking about, and as well as recording the debut album you also won the 2011 Peter Whittingham Award. Can you tell me about the project you’re working on for that?
JM: We’re collaborating with film maker Ray Kane and electronic musician Radek Rudnicki who also has worked with live visuals and making visuals interactive. I’m in Radek’s project Space Fight who have done gigs with surround sound and visuals. Ray is a screen writer; as well as being busy with freelance work he’s an honorary member of LIMA and does videos for bands like trioVD and Bourne/Davis/Kane. He’s doing stuff for Golden Age of Steam and Andrew Plummer.
What we’re doing is making a film inspired by our music, then turning this into a live performance with actors/dancers from the film, projected visuals and us playing. The film is interactive with the live music, so for example the sections of improvisation can be any length.
AR: Sounds great! Have you heard of Amon Tobin’s latest project ISAM (Link to Youtube)? It’s a live audio/visual show involving an interactive set that ‘performs’ his electronic music.
I think Radek worked with my brother Simon when they were both at York. There seems to be some interesting stuff going on up North! How do you find being based up there?
JM: Yeah it’s great up here! There’s loads going on – lots of DIY gigs.
AR: Do you think there’s such a thing as a “northern sound” as distinct from a “London sound” and if so what would you say characterises it?
JM: That’s a really hard question, but I definitely feel Leeds has its own sound. I think because the scene is more compact than London it merges with other scenes, especially DIY alt rock, and that has an influence on the more experimental music up here. There’s also some cool stuff going on in Newcastle (ACV), and York (Radek Rudnicki, Space Fight). There’s loads of stuff going on up here that’s not talked about enough; check out Shatner’s Bassoon, Craig Scott’s Lobotomy, Mabinogi, Vomit Dog… I really want to start a label to get all these bands heard, but haven’t the money to do so!
AR: Some new names to me there, though I know Craig Scott quite well – he played in my guitar ensemble a while back. There does seem to be more cross-pollination going on now between scenes – a few venues in London have started regular nights showcasing bands from other cities – and I think this is really healthy on a national level, but it can be hard to develop an audience out of your home town. Perhaps social networking sites are improving the situation in that respect by facilitating a more immediate connection between musicians and audiences.
I think this is one reason why World Service Project’s ‘Match and Fuse’ scheme is proving so successful: it’s bringing together musicians from different scenes and exposing them to new audiences. In fact, it was Dave [Morecroft, from WSP] who introduced us to each other and organised our upcoming double bill at the Vortex, so perhaps he’d be a good person to have on board your record label (there’s an open call to any potential investors out there!).
Thanks for taking time out to chat James. I’m looking forward to hearing Roller Trio live.
JM. And we’re looking forward to hearing your trio too, Alex!