39 & 48: James Chapman (Maps & onDeadWaves)

Maps (Milton Keynes Gallery, June 1 2019)

Maps version recorded: August 18 2018
Place: Maps HQ, Finedon, Northamptonshire
onDeadWaves version recorded: August 16 2018
Place: ODW car, Beacon Hill lay-by, Herne Bay
Interview: Maps HQ, April 8 2019

I was really honoured to be a part of it. I just thought it was such a cool idea. I recorded one version as Maps and then Polly Scattergood and I did one as onDeadWaves as well.

I recorded mine upstairs in my studio. I set up all my mics and then just sat there. It sounds weird but you do hear sounds that you just wouldn’t normally notice. And I guess, in a way, it made me think I should probably just sit and listen like that a bit more. I always feel like I should be doing something.

It was an interesting experience to just sit there for that amount of time. When you say, “four minutes and thirty-three seconds”, it doesn’t sound like a long time, but you don’t normally just sit for that long in silence. It’s a kind of meditation in a way. It’s a bit like if you do visualisations. It’s like the last thing I would want to do, but when I have done it, it’s really powerful. I love that.

On my version there’s a sort of clicking sound, which is the breeze coming through the blinds in the studio. At times it sounds like water, but it wasn’t raining that day. I mean, there’s all sorts of noises in my house. I heard things that I’ve never heard here before. I think the longer you sit in silence, the louder and louder those sounds become. It’s like the ticking of a clock that you might never notice but which seems to become really loud when you focus on it.

It’s interesting to listen to what people think they hear in these pieces. You’re creating a visual picture of where you think they were when they recorded it, and that could just be complete nonsense.

For the onDeadWaves version, I drove down to Herne Bay where Polly lives. We attempted to do it on the first day, but all of a sudden there was a massive thunderstorm. The idea was to go to the beach and record it there. We thought it would be lovely and that the sun would be shining, but the day we did it we literally couldn’t get out of the car because the wind and the rain was so bad.

So we waited and waited. Eventually we found a kind of lay-by and just sat in the car there. You can hear the odd car going by and seagulls and things like that because we were by the coast.

I tried to follow the instructions for the piece as best I could. For the Maps version, I held my guitar, which was was plugged in. Occasionally you can hear a little pinging sound from me holding that. Basically, I set everything up as if I was going to play something, and then just sat there. I guess it’s counterintuitive to what you’re used to doing but I think that’s part of it: you’re just sitting, maybe in a place you’re not comfortable with, and getting a different perspective on things. I could hear the hard-drive on my desk really clearly, which I don’t normally notice – it seemed so loud that day. I thought that was the only thing people were going to hear.

For onDeadWaves, Polly brought her Stylophone and I had a little dulcimer. I played the dulcimer on the new Maps album, Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss. There’s quite a bit of dulcimer on the track ‘You Exist In Everything’.

Where do you go when you want silence?

Sometimes, even though my house itself is usually silent, my head can not be, so I go out for a walk. There’s lots of nice places quite close to me, and you can even get to fields if you try. I love going out for country walks. That’s the kind of silence I like.

I always used to be attached to my iPod – like properly attached. I literally couldn’t leave my house without headphones on, but nowadays I like leaving my music at home when I go out for a walk. I’m listening to music all day. I think sometimes you’ve got to tune out for a bit.

Interview & bad concert photography: Mat Smith


Clash interview: Maps (2019)

(c) 2019 Documentary Evidence

One thought on “39 & 48: James Chapman (Maps & onDeadWaves)

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