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Type Two Error talk new music and life after The Cooper Temple Clause

Daniel Gumble
Type Two Error talk new music and life after The Cooper Temple Clause

In 2013, ex-Cooper Temple Clause members Ben Gautrey and Kieran Mahon, along with drummer Johnny Pumphrey, formed electro rock outfit Type Two Error. With the London-based three-piece set to unleash their debut album later this year, Daniel Gumble met up with Gautrey and Mahon in a north London public house to discuss new music, gear, The Cooper Temple Clause’s split, 'Jack Daniel's night' and how it feels to be back for a ‘second bite of the cherry’…

The turn of the century was a tumultuous time for British guitar bands. With the Britpop comedown still subsiding, a ravenous record industry was scavenging for a quick fix in the form of new, young bands to fill the void left by the fading stars of Oasis, Blur, Pulp et al. Though era-defining in the mid-nineties, their mainstream appeal was starting to wane at the decade’s close. Something fresh was required.

What followed in the aftermath, however, was a slew of indie rock starlets being signed up and packaged as ‘the best new band in the world’ before being hastily dispensed with after failing to live up to their labels’ ludicrous expectations. Matters weren’t helped by the toxic whiff of nu-metal and pop punk exports from the US, although, thankfully, their influence was far from enduring.

The sounds most prominently emanating from the UK were tinged with an air of punk and arty post punk. Whereas Britpop’s leading lights had been taking inspiration from ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll and psychedelia, the current crop were looking to the likes of Gang of Four (see Bloc Party), Talking Heads (see Franz Ferdinand) and The Clash (see The Libertines).
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All the while, in a sleepy Reading suburb, a young Cooper Temple Clause were quietly, or, rather, noisily, going about crafting a sonic identity altogether different from anything else permeating the British music scene. Fusing alt rock and chainsaw guitars with fizzing, industrial electronica and just the right amount of swagger, the band’s ambitious blending of genres separated them from the rest of the pack.

Their 2002 debut See This Through and Leave and its follow-up Kick Up the Fire and Let the Flames Break Loose a year later quickly and firmly established them as a peerless entity; paving the way for a deluge of future electro-rock outfits and momentarily dazzling the British music press with their ferocious live performances.

Four years later, a change of record label and one band member down (bassist Didz Hammond had parted ways to join Carl Barat’s Dirty Pretty Things), things weren’t quite as rosy. Band tensions were frayed after a punishing touring schedule and the song writing process was growing ever more fractured. Various members were taking the music in different directions, culminating in their third and final album Make This Your Own (2007); a disjointed affair that sounded like a compilation of various bands as opposed to a cohesive whole. Just two months after its release, time was officially called on The Cooper Temple Clause.

Which is where Type Two Error comes into the equation. After five years away from music, TCTC vocalist and guitarist Ben Gautrey and keyboardist and occasional bass player Kieran Mahon decided to pick up their instruments once again and form a three-piece outfit with drummer Johnny Pumphrey. TCTC’s multi-instrumentalist Tom Bellamy and guitarist Daniel Fisher had both formed new bands, while drummer Jon Harper had gone on to ply his trade with various other artists; now was the time for them to do the same.

Armed with a batch of new songs and a full length album on the way, Type Two Error is a very different beast to TCTC. With a greater emphasis on minimalism over bombast, the band still embodies the electro rock crossover evident in TCTC’s finest work, albeit without the same creeping ‘wall of sound’ approach and a greater emphasis on melody and structure.

But why the delay in getting back into the studio? What was the pair up to during those intervening years? And what are their plans for 2016? Daniel Gumble caught up with Gautrey and Mahon to find out...

Daniel Gumble: Around five years passed between TCTC's split and Type Two Error's formation. Why the delay? And what were you doing during that time?

Ben Gautrey: “Well, Kieran was doing his first year of open university in the final year of The Cooper Temple Clause, studying history, so when the band broke up in April, he went to do the next two years of his course.

“I wasn’t as sure what I wanted to do. But eventually I decided I also wanted to go to university, so I went to do psychology. For a few years we were both based in London and we saw each other, but we didn’t really pick up an instrument.”

Kieran Mahon: “I had a secret side project – I think we had about four or five rehearsals, but we never did a gig. It was like, when you’re used to a relationship and you try another relationship and it just doesn’t work. So, within about four months I ducked out. They were great guys but it just didn’t work.”

BG: “To cut a long story short, we just started to have a Jack Daniel’s night…”

KM: “Hold on, before we were doing Jack Daniel’s night, you played me some demos, and they were all really melodic and very different, and I could tell Ben had been writing and storing ideas. So they were there as a starting point.”

BG: “OK, the catalyst was to hang out, cook some food, hit the Jack Daniel’s and then do some music! That happened once a week and then after a while we thought we should get a drummer in, which took ages. Then, Kieran’s sister put us in touch with Johnny, who came down for a rehearsal and was amazing. In fact, he was so good we didn’t think he’d want to come back.”

KM: “There was that little connection, where you knew it was making sense and Johnny was incredibly quick on the uptake. I need a couple of weeks to learn anything and he just got it in an hour.”

 

DG: How different is life in Type Two Error, compared with TCTC?

KM: “It was so intense with the Coopers. You’d do an album, tour it and then go straight back in the studio. [With this band] I want to make music in a more manageable sense, where it’s not becoming a punishment but something you do with your mates.”

BG: “It can get to the point where it defines you. When you first start out you’re writing music in conjunction with living a normal life, and then you get signed and you think that because you’re in a band you need to be a certain way; write a certain way; act a certain way. And you walk a fine line between being genuine and thinking that you’re genuine. When you first start writing you are writing about every day experiences, then in the band you’re in a tour bus and your’re travelling the world and relations in the band start to get frayed, and those are things that perhaps people can’t relate to unless they are in a band. That’s why we want to get that balance between being in a band and maintaining contact with real life.”

DG: Was it difficult adjusting to life after TCTC? I understand that Ben temporarily took up a career player managing Ashridge Park FC...

BG: “For me, not really. I immersed myself in university and playing football. I played football most of the time I was in the band, so if we had a gig down south on a Saturday, I would play football, miss sound check and then go to the gig. Music wasn’t my only love; I was obsessed with football, so when the band broke up I just threw myself into that and university and didn’t find it hard at all. I was maybe putting on a brave face towards the end of the band and I really wasn’t happy, and maybe the band had run its course.”

 

DG: When did it become clear that TCTC was coming to an end?

BG: “On the third album you can start to hear the different directions people wanted to go in. You’ve now got Tom’s [Bellamy] band, Losers, who are very dark and electronic; Fisher’s [Dan] band, Red Kite, is really warm, great song writing – a million miles away from the Coopers. Then Kieran and me are trying to fuse electronic and guitar but also working on ethereal soundscapes as well.

“On the first two albums there was a healthy battling against each other, then on the third album we were so fragmented that there was no way we could have done a fourth album without people walking.”

KM: “Because we never really had a break after almost ten years of playing, I think we needed that detachment.”

BG: “You love each other, but you don’t need to see them in any immediate hurry.”

KG: “It’s like having a very long family engagement! And it’s about having that balance between the individual and the collective. How you then reshape your own identity as an individual and aren’t defined by the band. That’s quite exciting, when you haven’t really invested in yourself during those years.”

 

DG: Talk us through the Type Two Error song writing and recording process. Was there a conscious decision to break with the Coopers model?

BG: “There was a mandate at first – less is more. We’d been in a band with six people, so we wanted to appreciate the silences and gaps, rather than there being this wall of sound.”

KM: “It was very much just writing together and seeing what happened. We didn’t ever say ‘right, let’s sound like ‘this’.”

BG: “We’ve been lucky to work with two amazing producers, who have been like a fourth member. There’s Max [Dingel], who has worked with James, The Killers, Secret Machines and Muse, and he’s really what we need. He’s very technical and is a sound purist, which is great because we just think about the vibe, we don’t obsess about the sound – if the idea sounds good and we capture the moment then we’ll use that.

“The other guy, a bit younger, is Rhys Downing, who has done some session work and is trying to make it himself as a producer. He’s brilliant. He really helps us because me and Kieran aren’t that technical, so he comes in and says ‘that’s cool, but why don’t you try it like this?’ And he’s really quick, as opposed to labouring over a bar’s music. A lot of American guitar bands record bar by bar, whereas we just want to get on with it and capture the moment; let’s not worry about whether it was done with an amp or a plugin, or a shitty studio guitar instead of a Fender.”

DG: Who have been your key influences over the years, both before and after TCTC?

BG: “When I was growing up I was so keen to take on new music and new sounds. I was always listening to music in my teens, and I remember really liking Kraftwerk and Bowie when I was younger. Then, when I was in a band, Nirvana and Soundgarden really inspired me, and Blur, Radiohead, Spiritualized, Super Furry Animals.

“Now, Arcade Fire are amazing; I still think Radiohead are amazing. I quite enjoy listening to different types of music. I really like the Songhoy Blues album. I’ll sometimes just pick a playlist on Spotify of songs or music I wouldn’t normally listen to. I’m always trying to find something new sounding, and there’s a lot of guitar music out there so it all starts to sound homogenous. One band I’d argue against that for is Deftones. I just heard some of their new album and I’m looking forward to it.

“For me, at the moment, though, I’m more into electronic music and African music. It was like that in the Coopers. We were a bit bored of guitar music but the idea of mixing guitars and electronic music really excited us; it’s a hard thing to do and I don’t think many bands have done it well. When I hear that I just get so excited, which is why Radiohead still resonate. They’re re so smart in the way they fuse those completely different genres.”

KM: “For me it was the same growing up. You inherit your parents’ tastes to an extent. But when we started hanging out, Ben, Tom and Fish [Dan] would play me reference points that I’d never heard of. That was during the formative years.

“I’m a big fan of Warp Records, so I’m still a huge Boards of Canada fan, Two Lone Swordsmen, Tortoise, I like. I’m a huge fan of Rival Consoles – he just can’t do anything wrong at the moment.

“But stuff like Hendrix, Zeppelin, those really innovative, experimental rock freeform pieces, no one really has that willingness to do that now. Everything is so controlled.

BG: “And bands don’t get much investment now. People like Kate Bush and Pink Floyd were signed to be developed over a few records. Now, you have to deliver straight away and, financially, if you want to do something different you have to adopt a DIY method, which takes a lot longer.”

 

DG: Tell us about your gear. How has technology and the Internet changed your set-up since you were recording and performing with TCTC?

KM: “The Coopers used to tour with so many keyboards – I used to play with about three or four keyboards, live, samplers, MPCs, just so much stuff. Now we’ve gone anti that, so live we run MainStage 4 – we load up our samples on that – and we’re running a backing track triggering samples to beef up the sound, certainly when I’m on the bass. We’re doing pretty much all the keys off the Mac, which is sort of artificial and you miss the feeling of bringing out synths.”

BG: “We did that because Kieran was doing so much during the live show that he wasn’t able to just enjoy it. He was doing about three things at once.”

KG: “In the Coopers, Tom used to have the monolith, which was just banks of Akai samplers, and an old school MPC400, which was just triggering all of the samplers. Then we upgraded to the MPC 4000, which made our lives a lot easier, but now, the stuff that Apple is coming up with is compacting all that technology in a much more efficient, flexible way. It doesn’t have all the analogue qualities that you want for live, but it’s getting there.

“That’s on the electro side. On the bass side I have an Ampeg 110 cab. I really like using it live, and I’m using that with a Fender Precision bass and a Big Muff and a tuning pedal.”

BG: “For me, and for all of us in the band, it’s more about capturing the vibe; we’re not really that knowledgeable about pedals and don’t obsess over settings. The latest pedal I bought is a TC Electronic Hall of Fame reverb, which I’m really enjoying. I’ve got an MXR GTOD overdrive that gives me the crunch that I want. I have a POG as well, but I don't really like the churchy, organ sound. I like the bass it gives me, but I’ve been told by Kieran that if I press that I’m encroaching on his bottom-end space when he’s playing bass!

“When it comes to amps, I’ve never really been happy. My favourite is the Fender Hot Rod, but it kept blowing valves every time I played it. I had a Marshall Bluesbreaker – don’t really like that – and I didn’t really like playing with Orange. I loved the sound of the Hot Rod but it just kept breaking.

“In the studio, Max is really good with out gear. And he had a custom-made British guitar amp called a Kitchen amp, of which there were only a few made. The guy from Massive Attack has one, and Josh Homme and Matt Bellamy; it’s an amazing sounding amp. When we were doing a session, the valves blew up, so we had to get the guy who built it to come round at 2am to fix it, which was amazing customer service because he wanted to be an advocate for his amp, and we were on the clock in the studio. But Max has so much amazing out gear that he buys from eastern and northern Europe, and I remember he had some incredible distortion pedals called Locomofon pedals. He also had an amazing ‘60s catalogue amp.

“Guitars – I’ve got two Fender Telecasters. The first guitar I bought was a Les Paul Studio, but I didn’t really like it. I just love the sound of Telecasters. That was always the eternal debate in the Coopers. We had strong Gibson advocates and strong Fender advocates. Fish and me really liked the scratchy Fender sound, but Tom was a big Gibson fan. I think Didz liked Fender bass but Gibson guitars.

“My favourite toy at the moment is the Arturia MicroBrute synth. I love that.”

DG: The Internet has also drastically changed the musical instrument retail landscape. Were music shops important to you as a young band growing up in Reading?

BG: “I hated going into music shops and I still hate it now. That’s a big issue I have with trying stuff out in shops. You go in, they start noodling and playing some awful riff, then they set you up. It’s quite intimate when you’re trying out a pedal or an amp; I’m a bit conscious of people coming in and maybe having a brain freeze. It’s fine if you can go into a private room and try things out, but when you’re right by the entrance and everyone can hear you...”

KM: “But there is a place for those shops. Andertons in Guildford, I’ve always appreciated. They’ll leave you to try things out on your own and not pressure you into anything. I bought a Korg 01/W workstation from there when I was 17. Best day of my life!”

 

DG: You’re in the unique position of having started a band both before and after the arrival of the Internet. How, if at all, has the web and social media changed your approach to getting your music heard?

KG: “It’s very weird, because the Internet is universal, but no one really knows how it’s working. Everyone was convinced that MySpace was going to be the future for bands, then it completely disappeared.

BG: “And it’s interesting to see how people are interacting with social media and looking at the role of Facebook and Twitter. With bands from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s you didn't really know much about them. You had to form your own opinions about what they were like, so you might see them on stage or a picture of them and that was it.

“Look at David Bowie and Iggy Stardust. Imagine if at that time he was on Twitter – it would bust the myth immediately. There’s so much easy access to bands now; the way you conduct yourself on Twitter might be at loggerheads with the way your music sounds or what you’re trying to achieve as a band. There’s a danger of sullying your music by trying to be too approachable on social media. If you think about a band like Radiohead, you’ll see Thom Yorke maybe quoted in The Guardian or having a go at the government, but you won’t see him every day trying to message everyone back on Facebook or Twitter.

“I feel the same about Arcade Fire. They’ll appear and draw attention to something like what’s happening in Haiti, raise awareness and then go off the radar.”

 

DG: How does it feel starting a new band from scratch having achieved so much previously?

KG: “Coming back for a second bite of the cherry, the pressure isn't really there because we had such a good first innings, but all bands in our country’s music industry are so young; all innovative music comes from a young angle. Which is great, to a point. But then you’ve got to think there’s probably a lot of interesting music out there being produced by older, wiser people that’s not marketable because you don’t have the youth buy-in. So, even if we were going to make music that was really commercially appealing, age limits your appeal to a market.”

BG: “In the Coopers, we played with so many bands on bills at festivals where you knew the music they were making was only being made to sell records. So many were just following a fad, and they still are. And fair play to them; maybe they want to be rich and successful musicians and don’t give a shit about being genuine or are willing to be shaped by A&R departments.  

“We were always quite stubborn and naïve in that we wanted to make the music we wanted to make. And we still are. I don’t really want to make music just so it can be used on a toothpaste advert.”

Check out 'Targets' by Type Two Error below.

Tags: Retail , interview , Interviews , the cooper temple clause , type two error

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