Graham Lewis talks to Nic Colk
Personality Clash: Wire Vs Factory Floor

Two artists, one conversation. Personality Clash: bringing like minds together since 2004. This month Wire's Graham Lewis talks to Nic Colk of Factory Floor.

Graham Lewis is the fashion designer-turned-bassist for punk pioneers Wire. Despite several deserved hiatus since their inception in 1976, the band have roared back in recent years, with a new album imminent.

Nic Colk is Factory Floor’s guitar-wielding vocalist, who crushes industrial noise into an increasingly electronic landscape. Here she gets a master class on changing your signature sound from one of the best in the business.

Two noise merchants take the opportunity of a bit of calm to indulge in some nice quiet chat time.

Nic: Your new album has got the sound of angst with the really melodic. And at the same time, it kind of takes you on a journey, like your second album, ‘Missing Chairs’. It’s a really strong record.

Graham: Thank you. I think the reason perhaps that you draw that parallel with ‘Chairs Missing’ is because of the method that we used to use; predominately nearly all the record was for the group to actually learn to play songs and then play them. That’s how we managed to get to our second album ‘Chairs Missing’ from ‘Pink Flag’ - by playing a lot of other material, and I think when ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ came along, we were able to look at it and go, ‘Right, the rest of this is just junk, we might as well just throw it away.’

Nic: You’ve also had to have a new guitarist, and that’s worked really well on both shows I’ve seen.

Graham: Yes, Matt Simms. At the audition it wasn’t just that he knew the material, he knew the right notes and all of that kind of stuff, but what was more important is that the minute he actually got the tone of it, he actually was able to produce THE noise.

Nic: You have quite a unique sound, with the guitars and stuff. I’ve always been really fascinated by your group and your sound. I don’t play guitar that way, I just bang my guitar! (Laughs)

Graham: I was going to say, it’s really rather shredded at the moment isn’t it?

Nic: Yeah, it’s lost all its melody completely. I think I’m just trying to learn a different way of playing it. Like I’m trying to learn a different language.

Graham: Actually, it reminded me a bit of the first time I saw Lydia Lunch play ‘Teenage Jesus’ in ’78.

Nic: Wow! I bet that was an experience.

Graham: It was extraordinary. It was really good. But apart from Bruce [Gilbert, Wire co-guitarist] and I, we don’t think anyone really liked it actually. Everyone seemed to be far, far, far, far off beat by that point; they’re all still doing R&B. She was playing at Max’s Kansas City, that was still going, so it’s like the ‘olden days’ were still there. We were playing at CBGBs. It’s always good when you see someone with a different approach to actually producing noise from the guitar; the thing that’s so great about the guitar is how quickly and how fast you can change the sound, but not so many people do that. So who do you like as guitar players then?

Nic: I really like Glen Branca and Sonic Youth.

Graham: So it’s like guitars that have been prepared; unorthodox, it is the improvised area really isn’t it?

Nic: Yeah, I’ve been playing in a band for like ten years, playing guitar, but it just felt like, ‘I want to change. I’m playing guitar the way everyone else is playing guitar. I want to try my own way of playing it.’

Graham: I think you’ve got to occasionally stop what you’re doing because you find your fingers, your fingers fall on the fret board in a certain way, and there are periods where that’s good and there’s periods where you are like. ‘Oh no, not again!’ But in that way is Factory Floor going to become more electronic or less?

Nic: I definitely want to keep exploring. I’m using a sampler now, which I’ve never used before, I guess I’m still finding my feet. Because our stuff is so random, we don’t actually rehearse, we rehearse on stage - I need to get it a bit more organised. I miss having melody in songs. I guess Wire was like one of the first bands to introduce electronics with the guitar and drums and bass?

Graham: Yeah, it’s true, because I think it was ‘Chairs Missing’ again; Mike Thorne [producer] had a sequencer. It was like, ‘Yeah, okay then, let’s see what happens. Let’s see if we can make it work.’ The sequencer was pretty primitive. I think it’s always that thing like, ‘what’s appropriate?’ The difficult bit I think is keeping the flexibility whereby you don’t get stuck on the rails, everything’s dictated by the sampler and the computer, because we’ve been there and that was really hard to live with.

Wire’s new album, ‘Red Barked Tree’, is out on January 11th.


Follow Clash: