For better or for worse, from behind the ironing board – an interview feature with Nevsky Perspective | Simon Gore
I first met this guy, Hervé Girardin back in 2013 where we were studying at the same university. At this point, Hervé was putting together a live band to play his music under the moniker Nevsky Perspective. Hervé selected me to play and our first jam together lead to us literally jumping up and down with joy.
Fast-forward 5 years and Hervé has the second Nevsky Perspective release ready to unveil. I have found myself as a permanent member of the Nevsky Perspective live line-up throughout two periods, both interrupted by relocation. I’ve also assisted recording the new record in the studio. I can honestly say that I have never missed playing in any other live band so much. Hervé’s commitment is unchallenged and creative vision unclouded. His work has left me speechless and whit has left me breathless time and time again.
On a bright, February morning I decided catch-up with my dear friend and long-term collaborator – much to the disgust of my 3 year-old daughter, who found our Led Zeppelin-accompanied teddy-bears-picnic was interrupted to conduct a Skype interview for Circuit Sweet. Hervé and I fought a ropey, trans North Sea internet connection to discuss Britney Spears, Liam Gallagher and Gareth Gates…..
SG: How you doing today?
HG: I’m doing well thank you. Yourself?
SG: Yeah I’m not too bad. We’ve actually got some sun today so I’ve been semi professional and prepared some questions this time.
SG: So, you’ve got a new release called RED. Why this title? Is it after your shiny, red bicycle?
HG: I wish. No, I don’t really bike. I wish I would do more but as I live not far from the city centre and I don’t have to travel long distances I usually walk, so, no it’s not that.
SG: So where did it come from?
HG: I don’t know, there’s no real reason, I guess the colours red, black and white were ones I would always, by default use in my artworks. But it’s more a default thing than a conscious decision. In some ways it’s not that relevant to the music.
SG: I like that. How long has it been in the making?
HG: When did we start recording? It’s been a fairly long process. We recorded it 2 years ago, it got mixed last year. It took a fairly long time to figure out the best way to release it.
SG: I can remember being there for the first part of it. A large portion was recorded with Jack Rees in Newport. Have you got any guest performers on the album?
HG: Yes, Joel Sinclair aka LOFT played drums on the album and there’s a track that I did with Brik Phro. He’s an MC and electronic-rapper-guru based in Newport.
SG: I think he’s one of my favourite people I have ever met. He’s incredible.
HG: He’s a very interesting character.
SG: How did this collaboration come about?
HG: I just contacted him. We shared the stage a couple of times. I met him at the university in Newport. His character and music had a really nice contrast with the music I was doing, which was more introverted and melancholic. His approach to music seems more, to me, eccentric and liberated in some ways. At least the way I see it. I really wanted to have this contrast.
SG: It’s funny that you say it’s introverted and melancholic as one thing I picked up on when I listened to it, is that it’s noticeably brighter than any of your previous stuff. Is this a natural progression or an intentional/conscious step forward?
HG: I guess it came to a stage where I wanted to liberate myself from the influences that had a very, very large power over me. Not evil influences, but more in terms of instrumentation and production. It was a breakout from my love of Radiohead, so in that respect there is a bit of that influence in there. But I am trying to kick out of it.
SG: Us both being from the Creative Sound & Music BA course where noise is openly harvested, it’s actually less noisy than I expected it to be, especially in comparison to the first release. I remember us playing with feedback and delay oscillation etc in the studio when you were tracking it, so I expected it to be super noisy and washy but it really isn’t. Is this an intentional thing? Did you actively decide to tone things down or did you find that it just didn’t fit with the nature of the music.
HG: I love pop music in terms that, to me, melody is the thing I love the most. I grew up listening to a lot of French variety pop music. In that respect, I have these 2 poles of cheesy pop and a more left-field, noisy, arty background, I guess there’s a sort of relationship between those two.
SG: Going back to the recording, some of it was recorded in your place on Stacey road in Cardiff. That legendary drum sound of the front room is beautiful. Why did you decided to veer away from the professional studio and record in your house?
HG: We just have this amazing living room in our place in Cardiff, which has a very nice wooden, roomy sound. I found it very interesting to use it as a contrast with the professional studio recordings. There’s also a bit of chance involved in the recording process in terms of schedules, people’s availability, studio availability, microphones, logistics etc that is part of that and at the end, it influenced the aesthetic result.
SG: Nice. I vaguely remember you went away to the Welsh countryside somewhere to do mixing and post-production work. What happened with that?
HG: Once all the stems were recorded and arranged, I went to my friend Adam Wilkinson who operates as Quiet Noise. I stayed there at his Pembrokeshire studio for 5 days and that’s where we recorded all the vocals and did the last bit of arrangement together and the mixing. I found it very good for me to detach a bit from the post-production process – when you are very involved in a project, it’s refreshing to break out from it and lose control of some of the production.
SG: I find that my ears get fatigued with it – being an improv musician and being used to working with sound in the moment you become too accustomed to the situation that the sound gives you. It’s the same as the environment you end up living in and being consumed by when mixing your own work. It’s some times better to let it out of your hands and give it to another set of ears with a new view and new opinion to work with.
HG: In a way it sort of echoes with the first question about the aesthetic of it and the fact there is some struggles to want to break out from my influences, and in that respect, the idea of losing control is predominant. In that respect, working with someone else who you like and trust, then feeling like “my job here is done”, makes things a lot easier.
SG: Who was it mastered by?
HG: Matt Evans in Cardiff.
SG: He’s awesome. In the heat of this release that’s soon to be on the horizon, you’re moving to Manchester. You’ve served 5 years in the good city of Cardiff. What have been the highlights?
HG: As for myself, it was maybe for the first time that I would feel comfortable somewhere. Ironically enough, that’s the main reason I want to move out somewhere else. When you start to feel a bit too cosy or comfortable, it’s the moment to leave.
SG: Absolutely. You’ve had a pretty good response from Nevsky Perspective in Cardiff though, right?
HG: Yeah, I’ve had very good feedback. It’s a small city that is fairly dynamic for it’s size. Which means it’s the perfect lab for experimenting and meeting people. It helped me a lot to be in that lab. I’m aware that there are loads of things I could carry on with here in Cardiff, but just from my personal point-of-view, I need a change of scenery for better or for worse.
SG: I’d like to talk about the Nevsky Perspective annual tradition of recording and releasing a live Christmas video. You complied with the tradition most recently and put out, what I think is your nicest video yet. You performed tracks from your solo, Britney Spears cover set at Spit and Sawdust with Jimmy Ottley on cello. Are you playing the Britney covers live as part of the Nevsky Perspective set now?
HG: I sometimes do but it’s a bit of a parenthesis that I’ve closed. I want to move on. I feel it’s very good to do something intensively for a bit and then move onto something else. But, for the anecdote, I had been asked two Christmases ago to perform at the Free For All festival in the following January. I was in Switzerland, I had no band and just wanted to do something a bit different because I didn’t feel very inspired. So I decided to do an entire set of Britney Spears covers. So when I came back from Switzerland, I had two weeks to rearrange a 40-minute set of Britney Spears tracks, which was something I enjoyed, probably the most. It’s the intensity, playfulness and post-irony of it that really gets me. This is sometimes really hard to find within the gig scene of indie/alternative music. But I found it in something a bit absurd but really enjoyable to do.
SG: Is that why you decided to have Jimmy play cello and not resort to the usual accompanying line-up of drums and synthesizer?
HG: The usual things just come a bit by default, so, I would say it comes as naturally to perform something very stripped down as very full-on. I just decided that for this, it had to be stripped down and intimate and beautiful. Which is, in a way, something that makes the whole project difficult to sell because it can be confusing. It’s a bit hard to pin down now – is it purely electronic music, is it an indie guitar thing? It sometimes goes a bit all over the place but I really enjoy the freedom. So that’s how it is.
SG: Tell us about the physical release. It sounds incredible from what I have heard so far.
HG: I’ve pressed 300 limited edition 10” vinyls. The cover will be hand printed on aluminium with felt backing. I’m working with artist, Teddy Hunter who’s also Cardiff based. She’s been doing visuals for most of my live shows.
SG: You’re performing as a solo artist, without the usual backing musicians. Teddy Hunter is doing live visuals. How did this situation come about and why did you choose to work with her?
HG: Well, I’ve always really liked the idea of having some visuals. It’s really worth remembering that when you are on stage, it is a show and not just bare music. It also helps to take a bit of the focus from myself, which I really like sometimes – being in the background, especially when you’ve gone from playing with a band to playing on your own behind an ironing board with electronic toys and guitars. I think, in terms of a live show, it offers more than just a dude behind and ironing board.
SG: Do you have any future collaborations planned?
HG: No, not yet, in the terms of Nevsky Perspective live performances, things will probably evolve and keep evolving, as they always have. Moving to another city will probably randomly provide some unexpected and welcome collaborations.
SG: Is there anyone in Manchester that you’d like to work with, other than Liam Gallagher of course?
HG: Liam who? [LOLs] No not really. I don’t really plan things that much. I come from the improvised music scene so, that reflects on my spontaneous character a bit. It’s something that I just feel is my natural way of doing things, again, for better or for worse.
SG: That’s good. Let the story write itself. What’s the release date?
HG: It’s going to be the 7th of April with a release party at Transport Club in Cardiff. There will even be a cake.
SG: Shit son. Any other gigs?
HG: Yes the next one will be on the 27th of February at Gwdihw in Cardiff.
SG: Any more live dates coming up?
HG: Yes, planning a Scandinavian tour in August. Dates TBC.
SG: Any thanks before we wrap up?
HG: Obviously thank you to Circuit Sweet for always being supportive and enthusiastic. A big thanks to Teddy Hunter for everything and to 42nd Street Guitars for the gear loans.
SG: Ooh, last thing, can’t forget. Do you have any side-projects currently?
HG: Yes. One’s called Fflovvers, which is a post-ironic, dream-pop cover band. The last track that we worked on will be featured on a mixtape by Crack Magazine. I am also the vocalist for Half Hour at the Hilton which is Manchester and Bristol based, featuring Harrison Banfield and Jack Rees. With them I only do vocals in Japanese. These are two very thrilling and different projects I am involved in. There will be a lot coming this year.
SG: I had no idea you could speak Japanese Hervé. You never fail to surprise me.
HG: I can’t speak Japanese.
SG: You can only sing? …kind of like Gareth Gates.
HG: Gareth who?
Be sure to catch Nevsky Perspective live in Cardiff next week, full details can be found here. And you can get a taste of the live aspect by watching the video below:
RED, the highly anticipated sophomore record is out April 7th. Join the band at their release party in Cardiff on the same date, full details here- tickets available soon.
Keep an eye out on the site to hear more from Nevsky Perspective, as we eagerly await new music from this incredible act.