Lyle Christine has a new LP, which came out on 13th January 2020 – Funraiser has more acoustic vibe to any of his previous eight albums. Lyle spoke with The Fountain about his change in sound over the last nine albums as well as the frustrating situation he finds himself in when it comes to the music industry today.
TF: You have a new album out, what incentivised you to give it more an acoustic feel?
Over nine albums, my material varies a lot in style (and quality!), but I’d say I’m fairly consistent as being described as ‘rock’, with obvious nods to sub-genres such as ‘alternative’, ‘grunge’, ‘indie’ moments. I mean, these labels are pretty meaningless, but it’s safe to say those styles require quite a loud, powerful, sometimes shouty/screamy vocal performance. For Funraiser, it was really overdue to try and capture what my voice sounds like when it’s just me singing with an acoustic guitar – I usually start writing my songs on an acoustic guitar anyway (even if it’s a heavy metal thrasher), so I thought this process would be a lot faster… it wasn’t haha! You become twice as critical of more intimate recordings than when you’re shouting over a loud guitar amp.
TF: And it has a great production quality to it, where did you do the recording?
All my albums are recorded between my home studio and any number of commercial studios/rehearsal spaces depending on where I was living at the time. It’s taken me a long time to understand how to record instruments cleanly, create balanced mixes, apply tasteful mastering, etc. There’s an entire art to engineering a record that’s both intertwined and separate from the music that’s been written and the performance that’s being captured. So that’s what I mean when I say my discography really varies in terms of production quality… from the first record back in 2007, it’s like each album gets something a little bit more ‘right’. I used to cringe at how bad some of my old stuff sounds, but I’m over that now… it’s all a learning process, and it’s hard work! Sound engineers, both studio and live professionals, don’t get nearly enough credit for what they do… especially the ones who’ve really got a special instinct for how to hang together, what are basically chaotic sounds, in a pleasing and interesting and pleasurable way. But thank you for that question, I’m also pleased with how the record sounds (mostly!).
TF: Will you be performing the tracks live anytime soon, it would be great to hear it in that format?
It’s been a long time since I played live, and it’s difficult to know whether it would be best to ease-in to gigging again with an acoustic set (leaves me exposed; but less likely to inflict ear fatigue on an audience) or a loud noise-fest (which I can hide behind, good; but might be very cliched, boring after three songs with the amps turned up to 11). I’ve had my heart broken so many times by past bands which have fallen apart that I just don’t know if my nervous system could handle another roll of the dice. However, I’ve recently been having a conversation with an old bandmate about getting something together that can be played live, but we’re thinking electronic-metal… he thinks we should be ‘Pantera doing Screamadelica’. So I don’t think it’s going to be very quiet or laid back whatever we end up doing.
TF: Considering the process, it would be great to reflect on the songwriting which has a dark element to it, was there a catalyst that inspired the lyrics?
For Funraiser, I took quite a large change in direction of the lyric process. A lot of my previous approaches to lyric writing has been stream-of-consciousness, little pieces of poetry and jokes stitched together, improvised nonsense, etc… on my previous record Grand Mal (2013), I even tried singing the final track on the album in a completely made-up language – it sounds like ancient Norse or something. Anyway, for the new record, I wanted the songs to be about something – which I have done in the past, many times, but I find it difficult. It’s like, for example, it’s quite obvious what a band like Rage Against the Machine were singing about… a very specific theme, a very transparent position, a very clear message to broadcast. I’ve never felt particularly good at being so honest in lyrics, so it’s always ended up a bit like a jumbled-up jig-saw puzzle, some bits and pieces here and there are clear, but I’m always dodging in-and-out of lines before scrutiny can trap me in a corner. The thing is though, I think that can be alienating for people – sure, they can get into the music, but the songs would mean more to them, if the songs… meant something, haha! So, I went for themes, personal experiences, topics this time – Swiss After Life is about Dignitas, assisted suicide. Dreadlock, that’s alcoholism, both experienced and observed. Big Band(its), my repulsion of bands who constantly farewell-tour, and break-up, then make-up a couple years later, another ‘Greatist Hits’ album is repackaged and released, all as an astounding, blatant cash-grab. I suppose there is always darkness, or something a bit twisted in my lyrics… that’s probably a reaction to a fear of shallowness, a fatigue of how little intelligence I hear in “today’s” music… I’m not sure. It’s hard to sing “I’m so God damn happy today, la la la!” when the world feels like it’s about to die of exhaustion from trying to defend itself from the unrelenting selfishness of the human species.
TF: Your ninth album, that’s quite an achievement, have you anything in mind to mark the tenth?
Well, part of the reason Funraiser took longer to record than expected is because I was also recording album ten at the same time… which is not a recommended way to work by any measure. So, I’ve got basic instrumentation done for album ten, artwork is complete, I won’t reveal the title just yet, but it’s going to be very loud, noisy, fuzzy, rawk, you’ve got Sonic Youth in there, Hendrix, early Green Day (when they were good, pre-1999), Neil Young and there’s an epic big-beat arena track that I’m hoping Kanye West will guest mental breakdown “rap” on.
Funraiser can be found at the usual online supermarkets: