Themes for Buildings and Spaces is the second album released under the name of Andrew Wasylyk, but only one of several to feature the man behind it: Dundee’s Andrew Mitchell, most prominently of The Hazey Janes amongst other bands. Mitchell’s second solo release consists of instrumental portraits of eight locations in his hometown, encompassing everything from the inspiring views of Seabraes (Drift) and Menzieshill to the ‘(most inspiring) car park’ of Ghosts of Park Place.
The Fountain put a few questions to Mitchell ahead of his album’s release, asking how the project came together and what inspired its uniquely captivating sound.
TF: First off, can you tell me a bit about choosing the Andrew Wasylyk name for your solo project?
My grandfather, Iwan Wasylyk, was originally from Soroky in western Ukraine – hence the title of my first solo album. Originally my surname, it seemed like an appropriate time to reinstate it as an alias. It was useful, too: it afforded me a character-like perspective to finish writing the album from.
TF: How did the concept behind Themes for Buildings and Spaces come about?
Neon Digital Arts Festival in Dundee asked me if I’d compose some music for an audio tour. The concept interested me, and while I was researching it I rediscovered the work of photographer Joseph McKenzie, particularly his Hawkhill: Death of a Living Community exhibition. It quietly encouraged me to open out my approach into thematic pieces of music that celebrated and, importantly, romanticised the locations I’d chosen. After the festival premiere, I felt there was a broader possibility I hadn’t addressed. I revisited the project and wrote another three tracks, expanding it into more of a realised thing.
TF: To what extent are the tracks connected to the locations of their titles, and which came first? Are there any particular examples in which the location or the music was the key jumping-off point?
On the whole I sourced the location first, making sure there was something I could try and highlight or embellish. There’s both abstract and literal aspects throughout. Take Via Crucis, written for Dundee’s St Andrew’s Cathedral. It futures an ornate flugelhorn melody and washed-out reverb electric guitar, which was an attempt to echo the building’s high rafters.
TF: Can you tell me a bit about the instrumentation for the album? How were the tracks built up?
Approximately half are written for a nine-piece ensemble of drums, bass, guitar, piano, Rhodes, synth, glockenspiel, strings and brass. Generally, I’d lay a guide track down to record the drums to, then bass and so on. Just myself playing the instruments, which was more economic necessity than striving for some kind of signature sound. Two talented friends came in and played my shonky brass arrangements.
TF: With instrumental performances, there can be just as much subtraction as addition – was this the case for any of these tracks?
Indeed, I was conscious about not having the constraints of a vocal to work to/off. While some tracks feature quite a lot of counter melody happening in places, hopefully on the whole the arrangements occupy a middle ground between giving too little and too much away.
TF: There’s a lot on Themes for Buildings and Spaces which feels very cinematic. Were there any visual influences for it?
The Joseph McKenzie photograph on the front sleeve was something I’d decided on quite early on in the project. It depicts the Hawkhill area in Dundee being razed to the ground during the early ’70s. It’s evocative, melancholic and very beautiful – which many of his pictures on urban decay describe. As if saying, ‘this is our Hollywood’.
TF: How important is the history of Dundee to the album? To what extent would you say the album depicts a Dundee that is ‘yours’ – that is, a personal one, as opposed to the things which might be apparent to a first-time visitor?
Of course, the past is intrinsic to the objective, and celebrated. However, I’d hope there’s wee moments in the journey that are perhaps asking you to consider a fictional place. Maybe your own version of Dundee that doesn’t exist. Yet.
Photo courtesy of Fraser Simpson.
Themes for Buildings and Spaces is released on limited edition cassette, CD and digital through Tape Club Records on 28th April 2017.