Hot on the heels of Chris’s last release, Art & Gender, and coinciding with his 53rd birthday, comes a new release of some familiar music: Further Days is a total rerecording and reimagining of Chris’s 2002 album, Private Education. Buy it today direct from Jnana Records and learn more in Chris’s interview with Megan Walters below…
Rerecorded, reworked, redone: I got to talk with Chris Connelly (our second interview together!) about Further Days and why he decided to “do over” his almost two decades old minimalist album Private Education. Find out how transitional times affected the original work, how things have changed since then, and what’s coming next.
- Megan Walters: Why did you decide to redo Private Education?
Chris Connelly: Private Education was written in 1999-2000. I started writing right as the band Damage Manual was collapsing; a lot of effort was put into the band and I remember working especially hard on those lyrics, but, alas, it was not sustainable and it died very suddenly, leaving me without an apartment or a means of income, and kind of pondering what to do next, and I started writing. It took a while but eventually, over time I generated enough songs that I was passionate about to start recording — my instinct, because of the bombastic (in a good way) sound of the Damage Manual, was to do something a lot more minimal. I was listening to a lot of minimalist music at the time, folk music like Anne Briggs and Bert Jansch, along with free jazz like Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, as well as Richard Youngs and Simon Finn. Unfortunately what happened on tape was not what I had envisioned at all, and I still can’t put my finger on it: probably my approach to songwriting did not jive with the production style I was aiming for. I let it go and moved on, but over the years it just started making me think more and more and I could not let it go, so I decided, as a project between other projects, to have another go at it, and this time it worked.
- MW: Did you completely start over with everything or are there any original elements you wanted to keep in these reworked songs?
CC: As far as the sounds go: yes, I started from scratch, everything is rerecorded. As far as arrangements go: some songs are the same, but just with a far broader pallet of textures, melody and instrumentation. The funny thing is, having released it as it was in 2002, I started hearing more in the songs, other melodies and other vocals, other layers, and I kind of began to stockpile these in my head until it started to drive me nuts, then it was time.
- MW: Is this the start of something new? Will you redo any other songs now?
CC: I don’t know. Perhaps. It’s an interesting question and an interesting proposition. It has happened a few times in pop music history; The Associates, one of my favourite bands, completely rerecorded their first album (to lesser effect in my opinion) but both are out there. And that’s the thing, I think it’s good to retry things, maybe come at things from a different perspective, especially if you are not pleased with the first results. That said, it’s something that I would only consider if I were not creating something new.
- MW: Does the beautiful cover art have any special significance to you?
CC: The cover photo and the back photo of the arch are by Paul Elledge, who took the original photo for Private Education. He is a close friend, and also the man who officiated my wedding. He has done a lot of work for me and I love his work. The two pictures to me look the way the album sounds: great old buildings, staircases and streets deserted, but for perhaps some lurking shadows. The album is full of characters, layers, relationships and these stages and vistas where the songs play out.
- MW: Did it feel at all strange to rework a whole albums’ worth of songs you have already written and recorded years ago? Were there any aspects of the originals you felt any fondness toward? It is easy to ”sweep away” your past work or were you free from any emotions towards Private Education?
CC: As I said, Private Education, no matter what I think of the original, is still out there for those who maybe like it, prefer it, or have not heard it, I definitely did not do this to be in any way revisionist towards an audience, certainly, I revised everything for me. I just hope the results are pleasing to the listener.
The time between writing Private Education and rerecording it as Further Days has been enough — 17 year — that I am certainly at peace with whatever was going on at the time, and a few of the songs were written specifically for the woman I married, and who I am still married to!
The exciting thing for me was not necessarily emotional, it was having the possibility of expanding the sound, adding harmony, and, well, basically indulging myself. I think the result is pretty preposterous in many ways, ridiculous and fun, which kind of sums me up!