Rameses III's music is as monolithic as the pharaoh it enshrines. Their acoustic-laden drones are sophisticated and full of emotion. Over the course of a multiple CDRs, they staked out a claim as one of the best groups in the UK. Finally, their debut CD release, "Matanuska" is available from the US-based Music Fellowship. It's a big step forward in the long journey on which Rameses III have embarked. This interview was conducted in October 2006 via email.
Spencer: I must have been 13 or 14, picking up speed metal and hardcore records by Slayer, Misfits, Metallica, Dead Kennedys and DRI. Eventually I traded my tennis racket for one of the most embarrassingly shaped electric guitars in the history of sound.
Steve: My elder cousin fed me compilation tapes when he was at uni and I was around 12 years old, which ensured my status as a weirdo at school, stuff like Neil Young, The Cure and The Rose of Avalanche.
Dan: I got interested in synths originally as a way of making music and / or sounds for film, then basically doodled and mucked about with sound for about 18 months until a Stockhausen-obsessed teacher at school demanded that I actually create a piece of music myself rather than just record other people.
Spencer: Slayer 'Reign In Blood' or Misfits 'Walk Among Us'.
Steve: AC/DC 'Live' or The Cure's 'Head on the Door'.
Dan: The first records to properly re-wire my brain: Diamanda Galas 'Saint Of The Pit' (I finished an art exam with that record happily and apocalyptically pounding on my Walkman) and The Young Gods 'L'Amourir' (when I realised samplers could melt sound).
We've all known each other a long time. Steve and Spen were friends at school and they had sought each other out via a love of roughly the same music and a passion for table tennis. They both met Dan a little later at a party where the fact that he was wearing an Einstürzende Neubauten t-shirt was enough incentive to cause us to chat all night about bands we liked until Steve fell into the DJ's turntable and brought proceedings to an abrupt halt.
It was born out of an abandoned previous project that Dan and Spen were working on which was more structurally based than the stuff we do now. After about a year, they decided to have another crack - this time with someone who was actually a master of an instrument – and Steve was the obvious and only choice. I guess the unit Rameses III has been alive for five years.
We wanted something that wouldn't spell out the music we made. I mean you know exactly what you are getting with Guillotine Terror. The name stems from an interest in Egyptology. It's also slightly self-deprecating in that Rameses III was not quite the man his all-conquering Father was. The fact that there are three of us, one for each 'I' is not just a coincidence either.
Spencer: I am involved in every sound made by man or beast.
Steve: I have just had a solo acoustic track for the 'Goin' Down Slow' compilation released on Harha-Askel. Hopefully, this will be the first of many such solo acoustic excursions.
Dan: I'm currently finishing my first solo album 'The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself', I have just started a new project with Val Stephen and I have also been co-producing / engineering some recent recordings by Luke Twyman over the last few months.
If by tension you mean arguing, quite a lot! We're all passionate about getting the best results and we all approach music from different angles so it can occasionally be a challenge to actually finish a track without throwing our toys out of the pram.
When Rameses III started we obviously went through an initial period of trying to find our feet, relying on song structures to provide a basis upon which to work. Following Spen and Dans' early experiments, Steve and Spen were the ones writing these tunes and so they tended to reflect their tastes. They were probably overly concerned with who or what we wanted to sound like. Now all three of us communally write the music and we just open ourselves up to making the sweetest music we can and are confident enough to let the sounds we make dictate the piece. We all pitch in with ideas and we all have the right of veto – it is much healthier. Our later material is more drone-based, but we have also found ourselves creating stuff with classical, tribal and jazz components, as well as continuing to include shapes from folk song. Saying that, a lot people might say we have been playing one note for the last 3 years.
I guess our worst gig was a bodged attempt by Steve and Spen to play as a duo (forgetting Dan was in a plane flying back from Vietnam). A f*cking shambles, made no better by Spen having a massive spat with the soundman during the show.
Probably our best was playing in this beautiful church in Canterbury. A small, but appreciative audience and wonderful hosts all made for an extremely conducive social experience. Supporting The Album Leaf exposed us to a relatively big crowd and we seemed to have our shit together for once.
The director Jon Spira is a friend of Spencer's and a fan of our music. He invited us to contribute a soundtrack to his new short film 'Suityman' and we were delighted to help him out. I think the recordings emphasise our more bucolic leanings – plenty of banjo and acoustic twang although the drone is still present in some sections.
We were lucky with the timing as Important Records contacted us at that point informing us they liked our previous releases and were interested in putting something out by us. So we flung a copy at them, they gobbled it up and the resulting 'Honey Rose' EP is due out in January of next year. John at Important seems a good guy to work with.
Everything and anything can trigger a piece – art, music, friendship, conversation, current affairs or just wanting to try out a new configuration of sounds or instrumentation. Our manifesto is to battle the tide of ugly music. That's not to say we don't like that stuff, we really do. But we are not interested in joining in. There is enough filth in society as it is. Sorry if this sounds like the ranting of a hippy fascist megalomaniac (i.e. Spen wrote this bit!).
No world tours planned as yet but we hope to play a few shows in the new year. There are several releases due, including the 'Honey Rose' EP, the 'After The Red Rose' remix album, a combined re-release of the 'Jozepha' and 'Parsimonia' mini albums and - if we ever get it finished - a brand new album to follow the first Rameses album 'Matanuska' which should be out now.
Spencer: Loren Connors 'Sails' (Table of the Elements)
Dan: I'm still waiting ... but I'm hoping the Final '3' album will be very good after seeing him at the end of last year ... if I ever remember to get it!
Steve: Rhys Chatham 'An Angel Moves Too Fast To See'.
Don't be a victim. Don't be a cynic.
-- Brad Rose (16 October, 2006)