65daysofstatic: Reflections On 'The Fall Of Math'

Discussing a remarkable debut...
65daysofstatic

Backstage in London ahead of a first public performance in full of their 2004 debut album, ‘The Fall Of Math’, Sheffield foursome 65daysofstatic are a mix of bold smiles and telling silences. Drummer Rob Jones stretches, flexes, and shakes Clash’s hand. It’s good to see him. Bassist Simon Wright and guitarist Joe Shrewsbury are in hiding though, (presumably they’re both) behind an off-limits door – Shrewsbury’s girlfriend and sister confirm, later in the pub, that he’s a bundle of nerves.

So it’s keys-and-strings wizard Paul Wolinski who sits down to trip along memory lane, back to the writing of a record that continues to inspire today, and remains close to the hearts of long-term 6days fans.

“Back then, before we started making the album, we were all about At The Drive-In and …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. And The Icarus Line, too. They were the first exciting guitar bands to come along in a long time. But at the same time we got into Kid 606, and Autechre, stuff like that. That’s what I could bring to the band, the electronics, because I couldn’t play a guitar or anything. Joe on the other hand was all about delay pedals and stuff, and distortion. We just kind of brought these things together.”

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‘Retreat! Retreat!’, from ‘The Fall Of Math’

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A great reception for the September-released album immediately established it as something new to the British scene, the work of a band not so much existing and operating between worlds as creating ones of their own. They weren’t, says Paul, “trying to be arty, or experimental”. Rather: “Pop music was feeling really good at the time. You had Missy Elliott doing interesting things, and even Christina Aguilera was putting out tracks like ‘Dirrty’. We saw that more interesting production in pop, a sort of glitchiness peeking through. So we were always looking to that, to pop. We wrote what we wanted pop music to sound like, I suppose.”

The Mogwai and Aphex Twin influences smashed together in a remarkably coherent fashion, even if Paul feels that ‘The Fall Of Math’ is compromised in some respects. “I stand by the songs, completely, as they helped us get to where we are today. But a lot of them on the first album suffered from us just throwing everything at them, all at once. We thought that was okay at the time, and as we’ve gone on we’ve been able to appreciate space more. On the new stuff, that’s definitely evident.”

When approaching the 10th anniversary show, 65days had to not only refresh themselves by playing their own early material back, but also had to do some brand-new building, pretty much from the ground up, in order to pull off what turns out to be a scintillating KOKO performance.

“We realised that a lot of the electronics and the programming had vanished, or had been deleted. It was all held on old Zip drives. We spent about a week in the studio, resampling material to play the album live. Some of it’s been rebuilt and improved on. But there are certain drum sounds on the album, ones pulled from old breakbeats and processed through a particular kind of distortion, which we just can’t make today.”

While Paul is sure – and he’s proved right – that the album-in-full performance will be a hit with the band’s in-attendance fans – “The amount of support for this show that we’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook has been so lovely, and this is clearly really exciting for a lot of people – he’s also certain that such a set doesn’t truly showcase the very best that 65days can deliver.

“There are songs that work on the record, but less so in a live show,” he says. “And we’re so proud of our live show. In a way it’s a bit frustrating playing a record from start to finish, as while it’ll hopefully be awesome for people watching us, we know that playing ‘The Fall Of Math’ doesn’t make for as good of a live show as we’re capable of. I’ve never actually seen one of these album-playback shows myself – I like not knowing what’s going to happen next.”

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‘The Fall Of Math’

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The night is a success – like it was going to be anything else. Nerves were, perhaps, unnecessary. But does that mean that these early songs will feature more heavily in 65days sets going forwards? “We still play about half the album regularly live, anyway,” says Paul, referring to songs like fan-favourite ‘Retreat! Retreat!’ and ‘This Cat Is A Landmine’. “But the ones that don’t work so well, they’ll be dropped again. I actually would like to redo some of the early songs, just rip them apart and rewrite them. But that would defeat the point of doing this sort of show. And anyway, it’s much more fun to do something new.”

For 65days, there’s always something new on the horizon. Most recently that meant their sixth studio album, ‘Wild Light’ (review), and the future is sure to hold more moments of arresting instrumental magic. But as they’re looking ahead so continuously, does dwelling on the past make these men feel their age?

“Definitely,” confirms Paul. “Looking back at the first album, it doesn’t feel like it was just yesterday – it does feel that long ago. We’ve been very lucky to be able to do this, and to have been around for as long as we have, while other bands that we’ve been friends with have fallen by the wayside. But we’re still growing – ‘Wild Light’ was the first album on which, I think, we sounded better on record than we do live. And that took us by surprise.”

That any band can find something in itself that it previously thought impossible on a sixth LP is surely cause for celebration. As, too, is the anniversary of one of British music’s most singular debut sets, a collection that really does spark with an individuality uncommon amongst today’s break-out brigade. So if you haven’t previously had the pleasure, you know what to do.

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Words: Mike Diver

Related: read Clash’s review of ‘The Fall Of Math’.
Related: read an interview with Paul Wolinski from 2013

The 10th anniversary edition of ‘The Fall Of Math’ is available now via Monotreme – click to the band’s website for details

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