On the back of The Lucid Dream’s fine new album, Actualisation, Getintothis’ Simon Kirk talks to Carlisle’s patron saints.
Sonically and aesthetically, listening to The Lucid Dream‘s new album, Actualisation, makes you want to dig through your record collection.
At one point it makes you want to listen to The Charlatan’s Some Friendly. At others it makes you want to break out the Factory Floor. In the unlikely event that the latter would transform into a full-on rock band then we’d imagine them to sound something like The Lucid Dream.
With Actualisation, The Lucid Dream achieves what Primal Scream was trying to aim for with Echo Dek. The dub incursions a tip of the hat to Lee “Scratch” Perry, Augustus Pablo and King Tubby, interwoven with chemically charged sprawls, coincidently not a million miles away from XTRMNTR and Evil Heat.
However, The Lucid Dream do add distinctive embellishments to the aforementioned framework of dub and acid house. Frontman/guitarist, Mark Emmerson’s song-writing emerges as one of the band’s greatest strengths.
Emmerson finds a perfect balance between love and despair on Actualisation, and while The Lucid Dream have been renown to burn holes through your skull with their noise terrorism in the live arena, they can also melt your heart with tenderness. Look no further than the track which concludes Actualisation, No Sunlight Sub.
It’s a deeply poignant number and finishes the album with more questions than answers, aligning itself in the world of uncertainty that we currently find ourselves in.
Mark Emmerson was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule and answer our questions.
Getintothis: So, how are things in the world of The Lucid Dream?
Mark Emmerson: All very good, thank you. We are just in the post/pre madness stage of the album coming out and the tour coming up. A time to get some well needed rest before things get manic again.
Getintothis: Congratulations on the new album, Actualisation. Like any album, it must be a relief to finally have it out there?
ME: ‘It is. We recorded nearly all the album a year ago and finished mixing it in April, although we started mixing as soon as July last year. It already is quite old to us but at the same time upon receiving the vinyl last month we were all freshly blown away.
It has been beautiful to see how well this record has connected with the fans. It is without doubt the best reaction we’ve had to an album, and it keeps selling and selling. On the day of release our social media timelines were flooded, and that was so satisfying. We knew we had made a very different but excellent record and sitting on it for nearly a year drove us positively mad.
It makes us so proud that we continue to release these albums ourselves but are more than showing our ‘peers’ how it is done. It was top five seller in all the main independent stores (excluding an unnamed capital store, who again misjudged the demand we have and didn’t get copies!), and whilst being the album that has been given the biggest ‘cold shoulder’ yet by radio and again ignored in the usual press circles things couldn’t be better. All that matters is that we are happy with it and that it’s connecting with the fans.’
Getintothis: Are you able to expand on the writing process for Actualisation?
ME: ‘The writing process in theory was the same as ever as in I write and arrange the songs at home, demo them and we go in the rehearsal room as a band and quickly nail them.
However, the process was different this time in that aside from ‘Breakdown’ (which was the first and most obvious ‘Lucid Dream’ song on the album) I wrote all the album on the Roland TR-8 drum machine, Roland TB-03 synth and bass, accompanied by vocals. Literally no guitars were used in writing, and aside from my wah-delay guitars on the aforementioned Breakdown my guitar parts are very minimal throughout.
Wayne [Jefferson – guitar/synths] perfectly complimented the album tracks with his unique way of making guitars sound like anything but a guitar (alongside synths) and Mike [Denton – bass] and Luke [Anderson – drums] got the tracks and mood nailed instantly, as per.
It was immense fun working these songs in the rehearsal room. We all knew it was coming together quickly and perfectly.’
Getintothis: Four albums in, do you try and change the recording process or do you feel as if you have a structure that you don’t stray too far from?
ME: We recorded in the same studio (Whitewood Studios, Liverpool) as we did for Compulsion Songs and the process was exactly the same. We all knew what we were going to record, there are hardly any overdubs on this album, and it was all very civilised, one track per day over July-January, within 6 Saturdays.
We would commence a session at 10am, track the drums and bass followed by synths, guitars etc. Vocals followed, home for 7pm. Everything was laid down 1st-3rd take. When you’re self-funded time is money so it’s best to know exactly what you’re doing, and that always works best for us anyways.
Getintothis: I understand that you had your equipment stolen last year and on the back of this even considered disbanding. Is that true? If so, that must had been pretty demoralising for the band at the time?
ME: Yep. Following a show at Paris Supersonic last March our van was completely emptied overnight in the hotel carpark. This was obviously premeditated, given the volume of equipment taken from the van and the fact that it was in a supposedly secure hotel carpark.
I was the one that checked the van in the morning and discovered the aftermath. Words can’t describe that feeling. It makes you feel completely violated, even to the point of them damaging personal belongings to add insult. Some very foolish and naive people said we were stupid for leaving equipment in the van but any touring band at our level knows that’s a moronic outlook.
We raised a ‘goodnight’ toast in a Paris bar not long after while police checks on the van were ongoing (the Amsterdam/Brussels shows were cancelled on the spot).
While we got our heads together my now-wife and brother helped to set up a crowdfunder page and within an hour £1,000 was raised. The response was staggering. We were inundated with acts of kindness and we raised £10,000. It was a welcome reminder of how much this band means to people and if anything it was a rebirth for the band. A particular mention needs to go to A Place To Bury Strangers, who we’ve toured with several times. They sent us three of their best Death By Audio pedals. They are the most down to earth and lovely band we’ve met.
Two months after the robbery we fulfilled our headline show at Manchester Deaf Institute, and it was bouncing. When you realise that 200 people from a city two hours from your hometown have paid £12 to see you and what it means to them, you can’t not be revitalised. The next Manchester show at Band on the Wall last April was even busier, nearly 300, and again it’s just helped us kick on.’
Getintothis: There’s definitely more of an acid house dub influence on this record. There were elements of this in your previous works, however it shines through prominently here. Did the songs just naturally slip into this realm?
ME: ‘It was solely down to listening patterns. Around mid-2015 I started revisiting Hacienda compilations, and in turn delved massively into Chicago acid house. The writing (which almost fully occurred post-Paris robbery) was formed solely from acid house.
The dub element has been there from the second album and although dub wasn’t the listening of choice during this album it is something that is engrained in us permanently now.’
Getintothis: Given the dub influence, I have to ask. Favourite dub record of all time?
ME: Tough question! Records like Lee Perry and The Upsetters Super Ape got the ball rolling and are timeless classics, as are records from the likes of Jah Wobble, Singers and Players and Prince Far I but for me the best record is by Love Joys – Lovers Rock Reggae Style. My friend (and occasional tour DJ) Johnny Thieves introduced it to me Christmas Eve 2014 and my mind was completely blown. It’s an early 80s Jamaican dub album on the fantastic Wackie’s label.’
Getintothis: Obviously there’s opener, Alone in Fear. How important was it to start with this track? You’ve gone the other way in the past, namely Epitaph on Compulsion Songs, which has the same banging qualities. Was it the intention to flip things around and hit your listeners straight up with aggression as opposed to building into the album and ending with that similar vibe?
ME: ‘When the album was being written and recorded it soon became obvious that Alone In Fear would be the opener. It asks a lot of questions of Britain in 2018, a proper kick in the face and that’s exactly what is needed. It is a statement of intent. I do feel that more bands need to be driven by the current situation and we wanted to set our cards firmly on the table.
No Sunlight Dub was the last song I wrote for the album and it edged Ardency off as the closer. Ardency was perhaps too positive an ending!
Getintothis: If I suggested that The Lucid Dream was a band writing love songs, what would you say?
ME: There’s certainly elements of positivity and despair in the songs but there’s also some dark topics and questions being asked on songs like Alone In Fear, Breakdown and 21st Century so couldn’t quite agree.
Getintothis: So, what’s a normal day in the world of The Lucid Dream? Are you guys lucky enough not to have day jobs?
ME: ‘Nope, we all very much work! My normal day entails getting up at 5.30am, an hour with my son before working 7am-3pm, get my son from nursery and not far behind him getting to bed after tea and a record/documentary on the TV with my other half!
The other lads don’t have children but their jobs and lives are equally as hectic. I also am getting pretty serious at long distance running, so that slots in too. Rock and roll stars in 2018!’
Getintothis: How much do you think your native Carlisle plays as an influence to your music?
ME: ‘It has played a big factor in the sense of that we were driven to form a band through Carlisle being a very small and remote place. You have to find things to do and forming the band in 2007 was a means to make music and to basically have somewhere to hang out on a Friday/Saturday. Focus wasn’t an issue.
It doesn’t influence the music itself so much although the current political climate is very apparent in certain areas of the city.
I will say that being from Carlisle means you have to work extra hard. The nearest city is over an hour away and you’ve got to be good to get out of here. We’ve faced the usual stereotypes from the music press etc but Carlisle is a hard city so you don’t let that bother you because you’re thick-skinned growing up here and don’t suffer fools gladly.’
Getintothis: A lot of bands seem to have this idea as London being the beacon for artistic expression, however it seems to be really thriving in the North at the moment. As a band, does it feel that way to you?
ME: London means absolutely nothing to us. It is the centre of nothing. It is the base of most record labels etc. but 95% of these people know nothing. It is all hype, bullshit and hot air. We love the people who do our distribution, and the likes of our agent and PR’s are London-based and are great people but we can’t speak highly of the place in general.
The London crowds we get are belters and those people are quality, but in the north our fanbase is growing massively. That spark hasn’t happened as much in London and it always feels a battle to some extent. I seriously long for a label and movement like Factory to kick back up in the north.’
Getintothis: When using the term ‘thriving’, that’s putting things into modern day context. What I mean by modern day context surrounds the struggle of being a modern day artist. Has it ever been harder to make a living as a musician?
ME: ‘It has never been as hard. While we sell in modern terms a very good amount of records had it have been 25 years ago we would be in the 20,000+ bracket.
I will say that gigs have never been as good. We do well from gigs, the crowds are excellent and that must be down to the likes of Spotify or people streaming the album.
If we wanted to we could do this as a job if we were willing to do 150 shows a year but 15 is our limit! It works for some bands but endless touring can be the catalyst to finish a band.’
Getintothis: Your tour is early next year. What can we expect from these shows?
ME: ‘We start the tour late November with shows in London, Brighton, Todmorden (which sold out within days) and Carlisle. December sees our first trip to Poland, which I think will be our 18th country played.
Next year’s shows – I expect them to be wild. Half of the tickets have gone for Glasgow and Manchester already. We will be playing most of the new album live, as well as Compulsion Songs, and to be honest we don’t delve into the first two albums live anymore really aside from Cold Killer and Mona Lisa. We feel like we have the dilemma Pep Guardiola must have picking a Man City starting 11! I can confidently say that our live reputation is very good. After most shows we have somebody saying that we were the best thing they’ve seen that day/week/year/decade/century.’
Getintothis: Have you got any other plans moving forward for 2019?
ME: ‘None confirmed as yet. We are just talking now about getting some studio time booked as I’ve written a lot of the new album and want to get cracking on!’
Getintothis: Finally, it’s that time of year, what’s been your favourite album of 2018?
ME: I must confess to having had a slow year for 2018 music! This year I’ve got married, finished mixing the album and in my spare time I have obsessively listened to late 80s acid house/done long-distance runs so I’ve got some serious 2018 catching up to do!
The Lucid Dream UK tour dates:
Saturday February 2 – Broadcast, Glasgow
Friday February 8 – District, Liverpool
Saturday February 9 – Yes, Manchester
Sunday February 10 – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
Saturday February 16 – Cobalt Studios, Newcastle