An Interview with If Wen:
What’s going on?
I am mixing down the new songs. As I don’t really know what I am doing this is taking a long time. It’s a bit like a watercolour artist learning to cope with oils. The technique has to be mastered and then the picture comes easy. At first I just pushed up everything and like the oil painting where red goes on blue goes on yellow it just ended up with a dirty brown canvas.
But you mixed the first album ok.
Yes but that was simpler and I was using the most basic gear. Just one old recorder and a few mikes and then an old drum machine and a few synthesiser bits. The new stuff is bigger and wider and takes up space. I am working out how to fit it in without turning everything brown.
But three years!
Heard of the Blue Nile?
An absolutely brilliant band – with an album every five years. Hey, it’s cooked when it’s cooked.
Why are you called if Wen?
The if was a nickname from school. It started out as “f”. Wen is from old Cornish. It means the lower land. It comes from the beach where I spend a lot of time. So I guess I am if of the lower land, which is really the beach, about as low as you can get, unless I take a dip. It’s a bit like Stig of the Dump, except it’s not a dump, it’s a beach and I am called if.
Do people call you if wen to your face?
They call me if pardner.
Are you Cornish?
Well my mother was born in Penzance and my grandfather came from Newlyn, but his wife (my gran) moved to St Ives from Skibbereen in Ireland, and I was born in Kent, so the locals will say I am not proper Cornish, but let’s just say Cornwall is in my blood, and of course all over the music.
Where was the album recorded?
I recorded most of the guitar and vocals on my own in the roof space of a partially converted barn on the hill overlooking Pendeen.
What can you hear on Eclipse Has Gone?
I love the rain and the sea mist and the wind. The wind was battering the barn walls, so I stuck up a microphone and recorded the sound, and it’s on the CD now.
Are they real birds I can hear?
I recorded with the doors and windows open. The birds were in the trees. There were also a pair of horses in the next door field. They were the first thing I saw when I woke.
Are they the horses in the Love Letters film?
No that’s a different pair, near another barn where I have recorded some new stuff which could go on the second album.
What is it about barns?
I have to be in the mood to record. I think it’s all about energy. I like to spend weeks on my own and when I feel ready I record a track.
What happened to the first barn?
It’s been converted to a home, and the place where the album was recorded has a bath, a bed, and my idea of a perfect view!
Where’s the beach?
I can’t say because I promised Cedric from St Just not to let on. Let’s just say you can only get to it on foot, and some days I was the only person there.
What’s Eclipse Has Gone all about?
It came from the eclipse of 1999 which I watched or should that be didn’t watch because it was raining at Zennor! When I wrote the song I didn’t know there was a deeper meaning, but now I do. Let’s just say it has finally gone.
Is Take a Look at the Sea about that beach?
Well, this was a verse written a long time ago about Priest’s Cove which is near St Just, but the song was unfinished until I spent days on my own on the beach just fingerpicking away and then it all made sense as the sun set on a June evening, and the melody just popped out.
What do you mean, popped out?
I don’t really set out to write any song. It just comes from nowhere, and I have to record it quickly or else I forget it.
What, on the beach?
I always carry a small recorder, so the basics of any idea can be captured straight away.
Why haven’t I heard of you before?
The tricks used by the big labels, such as promotion and advertising all cost money, a lot of money, and I haven’t got it to spend and nor have the record company. So it’s just word of mouth at the moment. How did you hear?
Why have the Americans heard of you?
Radio DJs over there have been playing the tracks. Many of the CDs that were sent out in the UK ended up on ebay within a couple of weeks.
They were sent out as promos, but some were on sale on ebay even before the release, still in their wrapping.
So no one even listened? How did that make you feel?
I guess that’s how it goes. I bought a few back!
A couple of quid each. I’ve still got them, in their wrapping.
What’s the message in the Love Letters film?
I can’t say. it was a competition.
But no one solved it! So tell me.
No, it’s still there to be solved.
Give us a clue.
A good way to start would be to look at the letter O and then combine it with the reflection, and ask what that says, and then combine that.
So it’s about combinations?
The coloured letters are important.
I’m not saying any more.
Spoilsport. Why don’t you play live very often?
I will play a venue and festival where they like my vibe. But I won’t do places where you have to be loud to be heard.
You don’t do loud?
Nope, the wind does that.
What are you’re influences?
I respond to any music that moves me.
Ok, the Lotus Eaters track The First Picture of You is poignant and lilting.
What, 80s trash?
A lot of stuff from the 80s was great and is really underated now. Another example would be the China Crisis’s Christian, which again takes you somewhere. The section where the lyric is “I could lose myself” is just beautiful.
Yup, and what about Deacon Blue ’s Dignity.
No, it has real power and is about something that matters, how someone who means nothing to anyone finds a place. I love that track. Then there’s Prefab Sprout’s The Sound of Crying. All these songs make me drift to another place.
What about other decades?
Pink Floyd’s Us and Them. Led Zepplin’s Ramble On. Something that has a melody and emotion.
What about now!
Ok, Pulco and Andy Whittle, and Andy White.
Oh do your homework…I’m off to the beach…