Interview Three Trapped Tigers: ‘There’s Very Little Inaccessible About Our Music’

Ideas don’t get ‘reined in’ so much as inevitably altered when they come up against reality.”“

DIY recently (perhaps stretching the definition of ‘recently’ here to be fair…) sent off some questions to be answered by Blood & Biscuits Three Trapped Tigers. Their blend of electronica, industrial, rock, post rock, alternative and their ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ philosophy has seen them lauded by critics and fans alike. Due to time constraints on the band’s part, the questions have only been answered recently: as such, some have been edited to reflect the time lapse that has taken place. What hasn’t changed is that ‘Route One Or Die’ is one of the most thrilling, inventive and important albums to be released this year. There truly is nothing like Three Trapped Tigers around: if you label yourself a fan of cutting edge music, you need to have this band in your life.

You’ve released a string of EPs - how does the album differ from them? Why did you feel now was the time to write an album?
The album is kind of the culmination of three years of preparation through three very different EPs. We had to establish how the band sounded and the best way of working and writing, and none of us wanted to hurry out a rubbish album when we knew there were so many possibilities that we could explore. So hopefully the album features eight pretty distinct tracks fleshing out the ideas we first tried on the EPs.

Was there a different process used for writing a full length record?
To some extent, but not because it was a full-length record. We learnt on EP three how not to work, as that was fairly stressful and unenjoyable. So in this case, we wanted to capture some of the freedom and live feel of our first recording. That meant that we ended up jamming a lot more and working all together in the studio, and basically nailing the song’s core sound and energy rather than worrying too much about details.

Why did you start giving songs actual titles?!
Because I was sick of answering irrelevant questions about us not using song titles. Unfortunately, this has not worked.

I read that you recorded the album live as much as possible - why was this?
As already mentioned we are aware that we work best live and that’s kind of how the band was conceived. So any recording (especially a first recording) that didn’t capture that would be lacking somehow. So we set out to make the record sound live: but I should point out that is very different from recording live - I’m afraid none of this album was the three of us in a room with a microphone at the front and away we go.

The music that you create is extremely energetic, frenetic almost. Are there points where you step back and think ‘How on earth are we going to do this on tour?’
Sometimes but rarely. As I’ve said, we started out as a live band trying to rip a form of music that is, by its nature, impossible to do live. So live was always important, and that means we write everything with that in mind. Sure there are some things where we feel like we need an extra limb to complete a sound detail and so something will have to be left off in performance that is included on the album, but it’s not often. The harder thing is actually nailing the technical playing elements: trying to play a keyboard part in one hand that was recorded with two, for example!

Have you had to rein in ideas that you’ve had because of that very consideration?
A lot of our writing is definitely pushing what our technique and technology makes possible (both of which are limited!). For example, Matt will often programme some impossible drum part on a sequencer at the demo stage, and then Betts will be expected to ‘learn’ that part, or at least interpret it live. We know Betts is good enough to do this, but we also know he’s not a machine, and that’s where the interest lies. So it’s more the case that ideas don’t get ‘reined in’ so much as inevitably altered as they come up against the reality of what’s doable.

Speaking of ideas, where do you get them? Is it primarily jamming live or do you bring in set ideas? What influences do you as a group have, when your music is so unlike anything else?
In the case of this album, most of the songs started with some scraps of ideas I’d come up with either on piano or on a fairly rudimentary keyboard sound, and then we develop it from there. Starting from scratch is normally, in my experience, the slowest and least satisfactory way of working. But once there’s something for the other two to get their teeth into, it’s really exciting and everyone’s throwing in ideas from all over the place, and very often my initial concept will get totally binned. A really important part of how we work is that we’re not particularly fearful or self-conscious about stuff. Halfway through the album, we all got back into Nine Inch Nails, for example, and sure enough the album ended up with a lot of that influence: personally, I don’t see that as a problem - if you like the sound of something then there’s nothing wrong with trying to do a similar thing as long as it’s honest, and bears some of your own style.

‘Route One Or Die’ has received widespread acclaim and has even been labelled as the ‘future of electronic music’ in some quarters. Where do you see yourselves going - and who of your contemporaries do you feel will reach similar levels of acclaim?
That is impossible to say and I have no idea about our contemporaries, I don’t even know who they are! It’s nice to be called things, but we don’t take it very seriously to be honest. For us, it’s more about challenging ourselves all the time, and I think we all feel like the album has closed a particular chapter in TTT and the next stuff will have to be quite different. I certainly wouldn’t say we’re the future of electronic music: for a start, we’re not that electronic - drum kit, guitar, piano, rhodes, voice, etc. Second, even the synths we use are mostly older ones. The future of electronic music remains in the hands of people who operate on a totally different plane to us. I’d say people like Autechre are still producing music more futuristic than anything else I’ve heard. Of the ‘new’ generation, I wouldn’t presume to know although I’ve been loving the Young Montana album and he’s only about 20!

Finally, the Mercury Music Prize Shortlist has recently been announced. ‘Route One Or Die’ was tipped (albeit as something of an outsider). Did you rate your chances of inclusion and had you been included, how do you think the general public would have received your music?
Ha! I didn’t rate our chances of inclusion very highly I’m afraid as none of our heroes has ever been nominated. Whenever the Mercury has gone for electronic music, it’s tended to be pretty big acts like Chemical Brothers or Primal Scream or Roni Size: a small outfit like ours would barely flicker on their radar. Having said that, I always sincerely believe that there’s very little inaccessible about our music, it’s just that it requires the listener to be open-minded. Ultimately, it’s emotional, visceral stuff, and the response ought to be quite automatic whether that means someone loving it or someone hating it.

Three Trapped Tigers’ album ‘Route One Or Die’ is out now via Blood & Biscuits.

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