INTERVIEW: Elliot Galvin (The Influencing Machine album and tour)

Tom McCredie, Elliot Galvin and Corrie Dick
Publicity picture

Elliot Galvin has released his third album, The Influencing Machine (Galvin keyboards & electronics; Tom McCredie bass & guitar; Corrie Dick drums), and is about to take the music on tour. He spoke to Sebastian:

London Jazz News: Tell us about the new album. It was inspired by a book you stumbled across, is that right?

Elliot Galvin: Yep, I was looking for material to inspire some new music and I stumbled across this amazing book by Mike Jay at the Welcome Collection in London. The book was called The Influencing Machine, it’s an historical account of the life of James Tilly-Matthews, born in 1770, a double agent at the time of the French civil war, tea merchant, political thinker, architect and first fully documented case of a paranoid schizophrenic who was committed to Bethlem psychiatric hospital in 1797.

Tilly-Matthews’ life was a web of espionage and delusion, coinciding with many of the key events of his time: the French revolution, the rise of mesmerism, and the change in societal thinking towards the mentally ill, to name just a few. He was the first documented case of someone who believed their mind was being controlled by a machine and was intelligent and articulate enough to describe this machine in incredible detail. There were so many parallels between his life and the times we live in now I felt I had to write something inspired by it.

LJN: So would you describe it as a concept album?

EG: To some extent I think of everything I write as a concept piece really. For me there has to be some grit of an idea holding everything together. It really helps focus my writing when I know what I’m writing about. I like to build rules and structures and then create freely inside them.

LJN: Some of the instruments you used on this album are very different from your previous albums; you even use circuit bending.

EG: It’s definitely the most electric thing I’ve made so far. I originally avoided using synths or electronics in my music as I felt it was a whole different world and I wanted to focus on the acoustic. But after playing synths and electronics in Dinosaur a lot I found it really inspiring to use electronic sounds and wanted to include it in my own work.

The circuit bending is a new thing I have been messing around with. I found some amazing little children’s toys in some charity shops near where I live and opened them up to play with the circuitry inside. You can make them produce some pretty radically different sounds and when you use them in a musical context they behave quite differently to how you expect them to. They keep you on your toes and always push you in a direction you didn’t exactly expect. I find that inspiring to play with and I felt the sound world they produced fitted perfectly with the subject matter of the album.

Tom (McCredie) plays electric guitar on the album as well as bass, and that also adds a much rockier dimension to some of the music.

LJN: I’ve heard there are some hidden meanings in the music; can you give any of them away?

EG: I quite like layering meaning when I write music, and so there are a lot of subtle references throughout the album. I don’t want to tell everyone everything I’ve put in the music as part of the reason they are hidden is because I don’t want to beat people over the head with what the pieces are about. But one reference I will give away is that the first track on the album New Model Army is pretty much entirely based on the communist anthem The People United Shall Never Be Defeated.

LJN: The artwork for the album is very striking, is that something that is important to you?

EG: Definitely, I’m probably equally inspired by visual art as I am by music. The artist who designed the album is a friend of mine called George Finlay Ramsay and he’s a really amazing individual. He works across a lot of mediums. I also think the way you present your music is very important; it’s an art in itself. It allows you to provide the right context for the music and enhance the overall effect of the album.

LJN: You’re just about to embark on a UK wide tour to celebrate the release, where are you playing?

EG: Well we kick things off with a two-night residency at the Vortex in Dalston on 21 and 22 February. Then we are heading all over: The Blue Lamp in Aberdeen, The Black Box in Belfast, Royal Welsh College of Music, St. Ives and the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham, plus a lot of other places. We’re also playing at one of my favourite venues to play: The Lescar in Sheffield, run by Jez Matthews, a real unsung hero!


21 Feb – The Vortex – LONDON (Launch with special guests Lauren Kinsella + Tom Challenger)

22 Feb – The Vortex – LONDON (Launch with special guest Tom Herbert)

24 Feb – The Bear Club – LUTON

1 Mar – Blue Lamp – ABERDEEN

2 Mar – Unitarian Church – CAMBRIDGE

7 Mar – The Jazz Bar – EDINBURGH

8 Mar – Black Bok – BELFAST

12  Mar – Ashburton Arts Centre – ASHBURTON

13 Mar – St. Ives Jazz Club – ST. IVES

14 Mar – Hare and Hounds – BIRMINGHAM

15 Mar – Broomhill Art Hotel – BARNSTAPLE

16 Mar – Dora Stoutzker Hall – CARDIFF

20 Mar – Watermill Jazz Club – DORKING

21 Mar – The Lescar – SHEFFIELD

Elliot Galvin’s The Influencing Machine is out now on Edition Records


Elliot Galvin’s website

Editon Records

Categories: miscellaneous

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