On 12 February we can expect the release of the debut album by The John Michie Collective, an album with 14 tracks of indie wonky psychedelia.
How would you describe the album?
“This is a great question. I think I would say that the album is quite joyous. There’s a lot of great words/sound textures that inspire visions of things. Like lyrics on stars, time and space and the world we are in. A lot of effects and is a lot more experimental that an album released by a major. I definitely feel if I had a “producer” the album probably would have been recorded better with some less shocking vocal takes, but would have been substance wise less colourful. There are 14 songs on it, five of which are instrumental. This worried me for a bit for some reason that 10 songs weren’t on the album with lyrics. I couldn’t make my other tracks fit together though when I was working on the track listing. I also concluded that if Pink Floyd were releasing heavily instrumental albums in the past why should I care? It is after all about a mood/narrative that is within that body of work.”
“I think some of the songs may be weak on their own, but they collectively support each other into something which has clarity and a bit of funk. There is also this weird narrative going on about gold which is as meaningless as the lyrics in my songs. My songs mean nothing and are about no one. That is not my song writing process. I am not John Lennon and I am not a McCartney that tells stories… I kinda roll with what fits.”
Did you have to overcome any difficulties with the writing or recording of this release?
“There are many as this body of work is a snippet of 20 years’ worth of songwriting. Some songs are still on my hard drive, some on note pads, some in my head with no words. One of the songs on the album is called ‘Wish You Were Dead‘ and it is actually the first song I ever wrote when I got a guitar aged 15 (The year 2000). I spent a large part of my life since then writing songs and knowing they were as good as what was in the mainstream, but I could not see a way that was sensible and without risk to give them exposure. No one I knew played an instrument too, so couldn’t network like I can today on Twitter. It seems crazy but this is back in the bad old days when phones with snake were state of the art.”
“I have been too busy also trying to work sensible jobs and live a quiet life and dismissed the songwriting as just something that happened. The moment when things changed was when I was stuck in a dead-end teaching job with no life and ever-increasing volumes of pressure being applied to me. For the sake of my mental health and other reasons the towel was thrown in.”
“Around this time, I also heard Grimes album ‘Visions’ which is phenomenal. The fact she had made the whole piece of music on her own in an accessible but limited form of software “GarageBand” blew me away. The game was up! The technology was there for anyone to use. After a move to a different area and change in lifestyle I slowly started learning Logic for recording and spent two years of failure until suddenly a body of recorded work emerged that sounded okay. Every song has gone through between 3 – 20 different mixes over that time period. I had a lot to learn in terms of musical balance and how to apply effects. The whole album was recorded without a mic stand or pop filter. Most of the vocals were recorded under a mattress in my mate’s house in Lowestoft which is basically a building site. I also hate my voice, which is probably natural, so I did everything I could to change it. Often reading how John Lennon would apply different effects to distort his. Singing through a guitar amplifier is one of my favourites as it weirdly forces my voice to sing an octave higher. Despite the struggle I believe I grew into my sound which is like a controlled freak out.”
“I am now looking back and looking at all of the great musicians around me on Twitter and how they collaborate and I cannot believe I was so pig-headed to do everything myself and kept in a silo till everything was done.”
What does the album’s title reveal?
“This was almost as painful as the writing recording process. There is a whole story bundled up with this that is fun. You have to be happy with the title as you have to live with it right? The working title for the album was ‘The Holy Mountain’ after the 1970s acid film. Worth a watch if you like the bizarre. I ultimately concluded that it was not ideal for a title as Noel Gallagher got to it before me with his single! It stayed as the project title but I spent ages on the hunt for something catchy. I spent ages looking at book titles in charity shops for something that worked. I even did the George Harrison trick of opening at a random page and seeing what your eyes landed on first. He got the song ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and I got nothing! I eventually stumbled upon ‘High Vibrations’ when I was looking at modern art on the internet and liked it… This then ties to the album artwork. I tried to then find an image that represented the name. We had hit lockdown and I was not able to go to a location to take photos. There is this whole weird chapter where I was in talks with Eliott Landy, who is the Woodstock photographer/ first rock photographer. He is responsible for all the iconic Bob Dylan photos… I tried my hardest to get his image ‘Swami Opening’ from Woodstock, but I couldn’t twist his arm. Really lovely guy and I was impressed he entertained the idea. I did get permission from the Swami estate though (Integral Yoga) that are the guys who brought yoga to the west in the 1960s. They are the ones that gave me the idea of voice samples between the song.”