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After the lamentable split of Warning (UK) in 2009, singer/guitarist/songwriter Patrick Walker returns with his new band 40 Watt Sun. Now that their debut album The Inside Room is released, showcasing a more rock-oriented but equally emotional approach compared to Walker’s previous band, we had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

Interview with 40 Watt Sun.
1. Anyone who wanted to find out about 40 Watt Sun could just take a look at your website and read the short biography text there. Is this essentially what you yourselves would like people to know about your music and about you as a band and as individual musicians? If there is something else you would like to present to people discovering your music, please introduce yourselves in the form you would deem most appropriate.

I think there's possibly even too much information there on the website! There's probably nothing else really worth knowing about us, is there? So we're just Patrick, Christian and Will.

2. A sun of 40 watts will not shine that very brightly, I imagine – not brighter than an average light bulb at any rate. To me, when thinking about the name, it always appears to be a metaphor for a slight gleam of hope which cannot lighten the whole world (as the sun could), but which maybe could evolve into something strong enough to provide light and warmth for a single person to prosper and feel alive. The hopeful lyrics of “This Alone” seem to support this theory of mine. But what were your actual thoughts when deciding on this particular name? What does it mean to you and in how far does it relate to your music?

You're reading too much in to it. I thought everyone knew about the band name by now. It's taken from a lyric by Marillion who've been my favourite band since I was eleven. It was nothing more than a little personal nod to them. I guess also it has no “genre connotations” which I liked about it; you know, it doesn't predetermine the music.

3. You’re certainly right concerning the name’s neutrality towards genres. So you do not really care about a possible meaning of the name beyond that, a possible connection to the lyrical content for instance?

I see your point and it’d be easy, I guess, to think of metaphors connecting the band name to the music and my lyrics or whatever but I have to be totally honest and say that it didn’t cross my mind at all. I can’t bullshit you. It was just a name that I liked the sound of. I think it may also have reminded me a little of Mark Eitzel’s album 60 Watt Silver Lining. That’s a good album, by the way. But you know, the other day someone was picking up on the album artwork and relating it to some off-the-cuff remark I’d made in an interview one time. I’m certain that there was no conscious connection there. But what do I know? I may even be wrong. If someone wants to look for deeper meanings and cross-references then they may find them aplenty. But they’re not always intentional, you know?

4. What about the style of music you are playing – was it a conscious decision to create this kind of music, or is it rather something that comes up more or less naturally as soon as you pick up an instrument?

I'm not sure what “style” of music we are playing. With the album I just wrote some songs and gave them to Christian and Will and they added their parts. I love playing with those guys as their playing style isn't dictated by “heavy music”; they've both got a huge frame of reference when we're making music which makes working with them feel healthy and liberating. There's nothing of that stagnant, clingy atmosphere which I've felt in the past.

5. Do you have an idea of what kind of people will enjoy your music? To specify the question a bit: a) To whom would you recommend listening to your album (maybe both pertaining to musical tastes and types of persons) and b) whom do you imagine sitting in their rooms listening to The Inside Room and what do you believe – or hope – your music stirs in them?

I've absolutely no idea, I'm sorry. I wouldn't even like to say.

6. But there must be some reason for you to release the music, something that it could possibly give to listeners? Otherwise, one might as well keep it a private matter, if you forgive the polemics. I really doubt that it is only a question of making some money.

Of course, but the want to communicate and the need to share is the reason for making any art, give or take maybe a small handful of exceptions. Whether you’re a dancer or a painter or a writer you need an audience; it’s part of the drive of the need to create. But I had no perception exactly who the audience might be. In fact these days I would even suggest that to consider who our “audience” is when writing and recording an album would be at best impeding and artistically restrictive and at worst cynical and dishonest. The best I can answer your question is I would hope it could appeal to a far wider audience than those people who liked Watching from a Distance.

7. The back page of the booklet says “Cover concept by Patrick Walker”. Can you say a few words about that cover concept? In how far does it reflect the musical and lyrical material?

The artwork seemed fitting, that's all. It captured the tone of the record; at least that which I felt at the time.

8. What are your motivations when creating music? That is to say, what are your personal benefits of composing and recording material as well as playing live, or put the other way round – what would be missing in your lives if you had to go without creating music?

Well I can speak only for myself, but when I feel the need to make music, to write a song, when I'm inspired to create, whatever, it's just about the most important thing in the world to me. I don't have that feeling on a daily basis; I'm not hugely prolific of course, and sometimes I have weeks, months on end with nothing. But when it comes it feels urgent and as necessary as eating or sleeping.

9. I noticed that neither Warning nor The River had the lyrics printed in the booklet of any of their albums. Therefore, I already expected it to be the same with the 40 Watt Sun album, and I was right. Is there a particular reason for not printing them? They seem to be an integral part of any of those albums and contribute considerably to the overall emotional impact.

I've never asked Christian his reasons for not printing lyrics. Again I've said it all before, but I think lyrics should be heard and not read. It just feels tacky to me. And it's not something I'd be particularly comfortable with. The emotional impact you mentioned would be lessened if you were to read a lyric at the same time as hearing it sung. That's the way I feel about it.

10. That’s an interesting way to look at it. From personal experience (but certainly I am not alone with this), I often find it hard to follow the broader context of lyrics when I cannot read them at least once while listening. Even though I understand the words, I can hardly integrate them into a larger picture, and that is a pity since there can often be quite a depth to lyrics which would thus remain undiscovered. But maybe in your case the context is not that important at all and it is really the initial emotional impact of the words that counts?

Your points are entirely valid and I have taken them in to account at one time or other but my initial concerns outweigh them for me, I’m afraid. I’ve got to say though that since the album’s release I gave in and put the lyrics on the website - someone pointed out to me some bad online transcriptions of lyrics which were so full of errors it kind of pained me in to think that someone would read them like that.

11. Now a question on one particular text, namely that of “Carry Me Home”: What kind of mark did Christiania (= Oslo, for the uninformed reader) leave on you, if I may ask? Do you have any kind of special relationship to that city or to Norway in general?

I don’t want to give a literal explanation of it, but that song one just came from some time I spent in Oslo and was obviously inspired by another person. I sat on the plane coming home looking out of the window and the words started coming to me. By the time we flew in over London they were nearly finished. I haven’t been to Norway before or since then.

12. To delve into the issue of lyrics a bit further, I would like to learn about your attitude towards them: Some musicians consider music and lyrics to be equally important parts constituting a complete whole, whereas the other extreme would be to write lyrics just because you need words to sing.

Lyrics are at least as important to me as the music is. They're about the things that inspire me to make music and to want to sing to begin with.

13. A question closely related to the previous one is whether the emotions conveyed in the lyrics set the mood for the song to be composed, or vice versa (or anything in between those extremes).

Well yes, the emotions do. They come first. And often the lyrics come last. But it's essentially the same feeling from the conception to the song being completed. So yes, it always starts that way.

14. The lyrics, just as with Warning (and also The River, even though they are written by someone else of course), seem to deal a lot with personal issues, stories of human relationships and the emotions involved. Where do you get the inspiration from? Is it a kind of cathartic working up of personal experience, or rather making up stories for the sake of conveying the emotions as such?

They're all about real things, people, places, times, whatever. I couldn't make anything up; I wouldn't know how to. I wouldn't want to.

15. Do lyrics and music draw from the same source(s) of inspiration?

Like I answered above a couple of questions back, yes, that's generally the way.

16. This might overlap a bit with the earlier question on the relationship between lyrics and music, but still: How does a 40 Watt Sun song come into being, how does the process of songwriting evolve? Are you just improvising, come up with a first passage and then everything develops naturally or do you rather have a certain idea of the song in mind right from the start and then work towards its realisation through conscious composition/”construction” (no negative connotation intended)?

Yes, kind of like I said before; just this need to create something. It might start with a lyric, just a line or something, or maybe some melody or a guitar part...anything that the rest of the song can hang on. There's no particular way of going about doing things though. Or at least none that I am aware of.

17. Despite the distorted guitars and basic heaviness, I feel that the emotional and fragile approach of your music differs quite considerably from the “classic” conception of Metal music – which is a great thing, making 40 Watt Sun a special and individual band which can be interesting for a variety of audiences. The mood and melodies even remind me a bit of slowcore-artists such as the Red House Painters. Are you familiar with, or interested in, this kind of music? What musical backgrounds do you have and which of them do you believe have formed your sound the most?

Firstly I hate the term “slow-core” as much as any other genre term, but I do know what you're saying. So yes, those bands are all cool. To answer your question in a kind of “round-about”, uninteresting way, I'm really inspired, and, dare I say it, “influenced”, by absolutely anything and everything I hear that I like. Obviously I played in Warning for the best part of fifteen years, and discovering bands like Revelation and Penance when I was sixteen was the biggest of influences on me for years to come, but my background in music has most consistently been in folk/country music... singer/songwriter, acoustic-based music, that kind of thing.

18. When re-listening to the album, I wondered about the ending: The guitar sustain is cut off very abruptly, leaving the listener slightly puzzled. Was this done on purpose and if so, to what end?

Yes, we tried it a few ways. But we liked the abruptness so we used it. The chords are unresolved and there’s no “dramatic” sustain at the end. I can’t remember my problem with the other ways we tried to end the record but there would have been good reason for it; or for me at least.

19. A question which could easily pertain to most other musicians who have released an album: How does it feel to have a collection of your own original material out on the market, to hold the final product in your hands and to know that – in theory – anyone could just buy this thing you’ve created? Of course, this is not your first release as musicians, but still I imagine that every new release may very well be another dream come true. On the other hand, it might feel a bit uncomfortable to know that representations of your personal experiences and emotions are out there on a silver platter, so to speak.

Well, it's not uncomfortable – you know, I don't think anything on those records is too “confessional” or “literal”. At least I hope not anyway. Regardless, I am my own audience when I'm writing the songs; I have to try to not take other people in to regard when we're making a record. And sure, it's certainly nice to finish an album and have it in your hands but by that time I'm usually already thinking ahead to what I'm going to do next.

20. There is a tour of the US ahead in September, which must be quite a big and important step for a new European band. What are your expectations and hopes? How comfortable do you feel doing it?

I have a feeling most of our time there will be spent travelling but that's fine. I have good friends in the States. It'll be good. I'm looking forward to the experience but it's going to be hard work I guess.

21. Are there any plans for a more extensive European tour as well, so that I and many others could get the chance to see you around?

If someone will pay for it to happen we'll go anywhere.

22. One could be tempted to think that Warning had to break up in order for 40 Watt Sun to come into being. I hope there are no similar plans concerning The River?

No idea. You'd need to speak to Christian about that.

23. What are your hopes, plans and expectations for the future regarding 40 Watt Sun? Are there any specific goals you would like to achieve with the band?

No plans. Just to keep making music as and when.

24. Is there something you want to shout out to anyone reading this, something important you want the world to realise or something interesting you want people to know which has not been covered by any of the above questions? Or should your music just speak for itself now? At any rate, the last words shall be yours, no matter how few or many they may be. I for my part would like to close with a heartfelt thank you for the opportunity to make this interview – and also on behalf of doom-metal.com and our readers for taking the time to answer the questions. All the very best for your future efforts – both as a band, and otherwise.

Thanks for your time and for the extensive questions. You're very kind.

Visit the 40 Watt Sun bandpage.

Interviewed on 2011-04-28 by Dominik Sonders.
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