The Futureheads are practically a British institution.
An indie success story that stretches across a full decade, the band's career focusses on those four part harmonies, those jagged rhythms, and those infectious anthems.
Frontman Barry Hyde's new solo album 'Malody', though, moves in an entirely distinct direction. Let's allow the singer to explain: "Those of you familiar with my work with The Futureheads may be expecting an album of new wave inspired, four-part harmony, guitar music. 'Malody' couldn't be further away from that. The album is based around my first instrument, the piano, and also features violin, cello, double bass, tenor and baritone sax, pedal steel and trumpet."
By turns soothing and challenging, euphoric and moving, 'Malody' is a deeply personal work. "Malody is a word I have invented, derived from the words, melody and malady," he continues. "A malody is a melody that expresses mental malaise, mental illness and deep sadness or its opposite, mania. I know about these things as I am bipolar."
"This album is a musical representation of what it feels like to experience the extreme states of mind that characterise bipolar existence. Like many bipolar people, creativity is central to my life, central even, to my illness. This album is a bipolar album, it was written in the rare and exquisite moments of intense creativity that comes in an almost complimentary way with the highs and lows. It's a deep, highly personal catharsis, a document of my experience."
A fascinating document, Clash invited Barry Hyde to outline a few of the Influences running through his new work.
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Aram Khachaturian - ‘Sabre Dance’ (‘Gayane’, 1940)
This very famous piece of classical music from the 1940’s is a perfect example of musical mania. It is utterly berserk and seemingly on the brink of collapse. I haven’t seen the ballet ‘Gayane’ from which it comes but I imagine the dancers are running round like they are on fire. I love the relentless rhythms of the main theme and the harmonies are exquisite, I try and capture a similar experience on the second ‘movement’ for the Malody Suite, ‘Blixer’ a rapid instrumental piano piece that almost makes my arms fall off when I play it.
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Kander & Ebb - ‘Willkommen’ (‘Cabaret’, 1972)
I was shown the motion picture of the musical when I was about 8, some of the underlying themes of the story were a little beyond my comprehension at the time but the music and performances resonated even at that young age. I watched it every Friday night for what felt like years. I revisited the film and soundtrack after many years of abstinence at about 19 year old and I realised how brilliant every single song is and how profound the story is also.This track is a favourite because it’s just so evocative and elegant. Joel Grey’s monologue is perfect and the chords and rhythms are devilishly clever yet simple. I emulate the sound (a little) on a track called ‘Loneliness’. I used a pin piano to give that spindly cabaret pianette sound.
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Lou Reed - ‘The Bed’ (‘Berlin’, 1973)
The heaviest song from the heaviest album from the heaviest songwriter of all time. When I read that ‘Berlin’ by Lou Reed was described as ‘the most depressing album of all time’ it made me want to listen to it. The whole album is completely stunning. It is the greatest album I have ever heard and I know it inside out. As a laconic teenager I would wander round the leafy more ornate and affluent areas of Sunderland being incredibly bohemian completely immersed in the bleak misery. As you do.
‘The Bed’ is a story about a suicide, which obviously sounds like it’ll be incredibly morose. Perhaps it is, maybe 1%, but in fact but the rest it just about the most beautiful song he ever wrote, it’s the musical equivalent of a shimmering tower of compacted blue ice. It’s a timeless classic. That, not many people can cope with it seems.
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J.S. Bach -‘Prelude In C’ (‘The Well Tempered Clavier’, 1722)
This piece has been with me since childhood and I’m stilling learning from it. I use it in my teaching a lot. It’s a great piece for beginners but it also contains the answers to every musical mystery. It’s a text book on how to use chords and something extremely important called the ‘cycle of fifths’. The choices of notes were probably just jotted down by the composer but they are perfection. The track ‘Crazy Love’ is a melody and lyric placed over the chords from this composition. I’m a bit obsessed by it really. There is something very fundamental and ancient about this music, it stirs me and I’ll play it for as long as I live.
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Kumar Sanu - ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha’ (‘1942: A Love Story’, 1994)
Something I have really enjoyed about making ‘Malody' is experimenting with something that is quite new to me. Quietness. I’ve tried to make some of the songs have elements of tranquility and ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha’ is a complete embodiment of of this. Everyone I have shown it absolutely loves it. It’s hypnotic and warm. The vocal performance is mesmerising and the percussion is minimal but played by dab hands.
Moving away from guitars has allowed me to make music that is much more subtle and at times very quiet. This piece has taught me how to arrange small sounds and make them work together to make something of a greater size. But unfortunately I can’t come close to quality of this song at this point, it’s ridiculously good.
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'Malody' will be released on June 3rd - pre-order LINK.