Monday, 8 June 2009

In Conversation with Alan Sparrowhawk (Low)

In Conversation with Alan Sparrowhawk


June 2006

A little background:

A special thank you to Brian from Silbermedia
For his help getting this interview, I still honestly
Cannot believe typing this background up, I
Actually got this interview. For a webzine like
‘Setting Sun’ to get a interview with Alan
Sparrowhawk from ‘Low’ would normally
Be a bit of major news for ‘Setting Sun’ indeed
But I wanted to speak to Alan primary about his
New solo record ‘Solo Guitar’ which has recently
Being released on the excellent Silbermedia label.

As can be seen on ‘Setting Sun’, Silbermedia
Is rapidly turning into one of my favourite labels
With interviews surfacing recently by Remora,
Vlor, Tara Van Flower and now Alan Sparrowhawk
With other artists / acts hopefully following shortly.

In contrast to Alan’s work in Low, ‘Solo Guitar’ is
A raging, solo piece of sometimes improvised
Guitar work which is brutal to listen in places
And sometimes in the same breathe incredibly
Soothing but never less than spell-binding.

It is completely different from ‘Low’ and Alan’s
Sometimes other part time band ‘Retribution
Gospel Choir’ but for people who like to be
Challenged – this is an album which will surprise
And delight you sometimes in the same

For distribution and direct ordering please go


Thanks to Alan for the interview… I still
Can’t believe I got this interview – A big
Thank you and also a special thank you to
Brian from Silbermedia for his help with
This interview.

Updated 8th June 2009

Since the interview was done,
Alan sadly hasn't followed
it up with a follow up project
although a Low album 'Drums
and Guns' followed in 2007.

2008 aside from touring
looks like it was a bit quieter
although they bought out
a EP 'Santa's coming over'.

Cheers to all

Andy N

Setting Sun:

How are tricks and what’s happening at
the moment?


Low has been busy for the first part of the year,
but we're off the road now for most of the rest
of the year. At home we run errands
And raise the kids. This week I need to learn
"earth angel" to sing at a dear friends' wedding.

Setting Sun:

Can you next tell us a little bit about the
sessions for this album? ‘Solo Guitar’
where did the original idea came from etc?


I did the solo guitar record at sacred heart
studio here in Duluth.

It’s an Old Catholic church. You can hear the
way-large reverb, etc. - it's all just the room. I guess
I have had the solo/loop guitar idea for a while -
I’m a fan of people who can pull that off (Alan Licht,
Mark Ribot, Mick Turner...) it sort of takes a
guitar -ego that I never thought I had, but once I had the
time and space to sort out a few ideas, it came
together pretty quickly.

Setting Sun:

What has proved your influences in relation
to this album and what music are you
listening to at the moment?


I mentioned a few names above. In the
eighties, I heard Robert fripp, His record(s)
with Brian Eno stuck with me. Lamonte Young
and Arvo Paart are influences on the way I
approach the guitar,

Even though it's more of a compositional
influence. We had been touring a lot when
I went in to record this, so just fighting
with the Guitar every night probably had the
most bearing on that I ended up with. We
usually listen to a variety of stuff here at the
House but Scott Walker and TV On The
Radio are what I’ve been listening to in
the car, and I really like their new

Setting Sun:

Probably my favourite track off the album is
‘Sagrado Corazón de Jesús’ What is the story
behind the 1st and 2nd attempt on the
track (Both are cool though!)


To record this, I basically just set up a bunch
of amps in different places in the big room,
connected in various ways.

For two evenings, we just let the machine
record as I fumbled away. That song started
out good then fell down, so I started again.
When we went to edit, I still liked the
beginning of the botched one, so we
kept it there.

It’s obvious that most of the record is
improvised - why go out of my way to cover
that up. The title refers to the name
of the studio/church.

Setting Sun:

How does it compare to your other
bands / projects such as Low
Or Retribution Gospel Choir?


Well, playing solo leaves everything
in your own hands, which is not
necessarily always the best.

I still ended up relying heavily on
Eric Swanson, who engineered and
edited the recordings. He helped
me narrow down the material and
Get it put into a Tolerable sequence.

Low is much more structured –
we have songs that we do a certain
way each time with not as
much improvising.

I enjoy a lot of creative freedom, mostly
due to the fact that I can rely on those
I work with to help refine and edit what I
come up with.

‘Retribution' is about half-way in-
between - we have songs, but they are mostly
just structures to work around. ‘Retribution’
can be very loose and "free" but having
something to lean against is important
if you're going to let it go that far.

Freedom without purpose usually
creates nothing.

Setting Sun:
Is it an album you could imagine yourself
performing in a live arena?


I would maybe try it a few times. I don't like
performing solo, and since it's mostly improvised,
it's usually not so good - keep in mind
this record was 4 or 5 hours of playing edited
down to less than one hour.

Setting Sun:

Is it a project you could see you repeating or
developing again in the future?


Maybe playing and then having someone
else edit it worked out great.

I could see pushing that idea.

Setting Sun:

A few light hearted questions to finish off with..
Firstly, what would you be your dream job if you
were not a rock and roll star?


I'm pretty inspired by a few friends of
mine, who are schoolteachers,
but I’m not sure I would be as good.
no matter what I would do, I
would probably wish I had
more time to play music.

Setting Sun:

What would you like to be doing when
you are 60?


Maintaining control of my bodily
functions, shaking my head
about what my kids are up to,
maybe play once week
down at the Red Lion.

Setting Sun:

What will you be doing when you are 60?


Probably looking for food.

Setting Sun:

Lastly, to finish off with (Borrowed from a pal's
zine almost) "Imagine you were ship wrecked on a
desert Island and could have (clearly have second
sight here - lol) the choice of having 5 records or
cds with you with a stereo of course - what
would be your desert Island Discs?

Talk Talk - laughing stock

Gillian Welch - Time, the revelator

T-rex - electric warrior

Dub Massive 2 - (Trojan records)

James Brown - jungle groove

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