Senser are about to release their fourth studio album onto the market. Sounding as fresh as they did 15 years ago and with their full original line up intact for the release, we took up some time of bassist James Barrett for an introspective on the state of play with the band and the album “How to Do Battle.”
So “How to Do Battle” is on its way. Why has it taken so long for a new album to come about?
We finished our album a year ago which was a mixture of excitement and relief…but it took us a year to record and mix and since then it’s taken a year for us to set up our own label (Imprint Music) plus getting the right people on board who’ll help get the album out there – what with writing, touring and having a life this album’s taken a while to get through the ‘record birthing canal’ but now everything’s set up and the release date’s near the excitement is definitely building up.
You have managed to pretty much retain the original line up.
We’ve been through various different line ups with each album… the first split happened a year after our first album ‘Stacked Up’ had reached No 4 in the charts in 1994. We’d been on the road almost solidly for 2 years when three members of Senser (Haggis, John and Heitham) left to form their prog/punk/metal project ‘Lodestar’ in 1995, releasing their self-titled debut album in 1996.
In 1999, a few years after the release of the second Senser album, the remaining members of the band decided to stop working with Senser once some previously booked festival slots had been played … Kerstin (who was at that time doing all vocal duties) suggested the entire original line-up should reform for the festivals as a final send off. The festivals went down a storm, in trying to end the band we ended up reforming it with the original line-up and with a little nudge and persuasion the original line-up of Senser went on to write more music together culminating in an album called ‘SCHEMAtic’ released in 2004.
In 2008, seeing a great opportunity to take advantage of digital/internet age and being unsatisfied by the commitment and deals on offer to bands from record companies, Senser set up its own label ‘Imprint Music’.
2009 will see us release our first album on our new label – it’s an interesting time to be in the music industry.
Do any of you work on other projects?
There are various projects that the members of the band work on alongside Senser …the other projects stop people in Senser going nuts if they want to try something out but the ideas aren’t quite for the band. Heitham is in a psychedelic prog/doom metal band based in Paris called ‘Fiend’ … John (drummer)has produced and plays in a band called ‘Wake’ and Andy (DJ) has produced and played in a gothic/metal drum and bass outfit with the artist Simon Bisley on drums.
What Immediate plans for the future do Senser have?
We’ll be promoting this album with a few tours around the UK and Europe, releasing a few singles, and making a few videos. We’re looking forward to headlining the Scuzz TV stage at this year’s Hellfire Festival at the NEC in Birmingham and we want to get cracking with our next record so there isn’t another five years between albums…
Are you happy with how “Stacked Up” plays after 15 years?
It’s easy to be highly critical with your own music but every so often it’s possible to listen to it with fresh ears; forgetting all the blood, sweat and tears that went into making it… but what really counts is how it sits with people who’ve gone out and bought the record in the first place. We get a lot of people who tell us they still regularly play “Stacked Up”, which is very satisfying to hear after all this time.
Have you played an anniversary gig for it yet?
There haven’t been any anniversary gigs for “Stacked Up”, probably because we’re always working on new stuff and prefer to celebrate the most recent things we’re working on. Although we still play tracks from “Stacked Up” in our live sets we like to keep things as fresh as possible
Getting back to “How To Do Battle”… What new things are you trying out for this album?
Our influences on this and all our albums vary far and wide… our early influences are hip hop bands like Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, heavy bands like Slayer and Metallica through to rock acts such as Queens of the Stone Age, Led Zep, Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath… throw some Parliament funk and Pink Floyd in there and we’re almost skimming the surface of what we throw in the pot. On this album melodically it’s more accomplished, added to that the grooves are dirtier… the lyrics tougher and the riffs heavier.
Is there anything you are particularly excited about it?
We’ve worked with some really interesting people on this album, particularly on the production side – Neil McLellan (who has produced The Prodigy), Jason Wilcox (The Ghost Of A Thousand, Reuben) and New York hip hop producer Scott Harding (Wu Tang Clan, New Kingdom).
Releasing an album is always exciting, but what’s even more exciting for us this time round is the state of the music industry and how we’re dealing with it.
We’ve watched the music industry change drastically over the years in terms of styles, formats and technology. In many ways it’s on its knees and in need of a totally different approach. The big record companies have swallowed up the independent record companies. The big record companies are losing massive amounts of money and don’t know how to handle the digital/internet revolution… the future for the music industry as we know it looks grim and it’s a very exciting time to be truly independent, making and releasing music through our own label.
Do you look at the music scene today and find yourself surprised with what is getting most of the attention, or do you think it makes sense? (This can be interpreted any way you like.. Commercialism, Public’s general taste, or even the evolution of music).
For a long time the independent/alternative scene was fairly dispiriting and there was very little that was independent or alternative about it. The styles were fairly generic and retrospective but it looks like things are moving in a more interesting and refreshing direction now and less obsessed with the next biggest ironic or poptastic acts out there.