In the spotlight – Joe Adhémar

In the spotlight – Joe Adhémar
Edited in Prisma app with Gothic

We all know British songwriter Joe Adhémar has made some great songs including our current number 1 in the chart ‘Be My Coastguard‘. (And if you didn’t, it’s time to check him out!)

“Last time I was number 1 at something was the 25m butterfly at my school swimming gala.”

So Joe, what else is there to know about you?

“Born in the 70’s. Married to my lovely Sarah. Two kids, aged 21 and 19. A decent paying day job and a deep desire to be a (traditional) studio producer.”

What’s distinctive about where you grew up and how did that shape you?

“My father was in the RAF so I moved around a lot as a small child. Lincoln, Cyprus, Cornwall, Somerset then Northamptonshire at aged 10. So I guess my rootless early years shaped my fierce sense of independence.”

“Sarah and I are a bit rootless again at the moment. We sold up and rented in 2019 and for now, everything is on hold. This is a good thing, with the exception of the inexplicable house price bubble that’s swelled these last 2 years. But we feel free at any time to make a move somewhere west of Exeter.”

What was your dream job as a child?

“Probably what I ended up doing. I am a captain for a big airline flying all over the world. I’ve been a pilot since the age of 24. I think I’d have preferred playing scrum half for England but that was never going to happen.”

How did you get into music and what is your musical background? Have you played in bands before?

“I started piano lessons at age 5. First band was when I was 13. My one ’shot’ was a band called Weaseltown in the early 90’s. I listen to the couple of EP’s we did every now and then and I am always very proud of them. The drummer, Julian Miller, was brilliant and his technique is what I use a lot in my drum track writing. Playing with beaters and rods. Snares turned off. Cymbals on the snare rather than the kick. He was a big fan of Killing Joke, which if you’ve heard them you’ll know what made them special. The internet wasn’t a thing back then, so you will draw a blank at finding a record of us unless someone has archived a couple of arts centres and minor festivals in 1994. We were never signed.”

“Whilst I was doing the day job I was in a few covers/wedding bands, produced quite a few backing tracks for amateur theatre and have had my studio since 2003 so I have been writing for nearly 19 years.”

Who are your main musical influences?

“Radiohead, Talk Talk, Pinegrove, Peter Gabriel, Nine Inch Nails, Chemical Brothers, Elbow, Ryan Adams and the Blue Nile.”

If you could be a fly on the wall for the recording of any album in history, what album would it be?

“Talk Talk ’Spirit of Eden’ – I think it took a year to record so I’d better have a strong grip and lots of snacks.”

You’ve released three full albums since April 2020 and have a fourth ‘Existential Dreadlocks’ coming up. When will it be released? What can you tell me about your upcoming album?

“I’ve been a bit busy! But my job has given me, until very recently, plenty of time on furlough. The first album ‘Space within Spaces’ I put out 18 months ago, is best listened to on Soundcloud or Bandcamp because the mixing on it was a bit amateur. The remastered version is a LOT more powerful.

“I think if you draw a line of competency from the first to the fourth album you would see a steep incremental improvement in production value as I am always learning. But I am pretty happy with the Spotify versions of albums two ‘Angry or Serene’ and three ‘Found Ourselves’. And of course the fourth ‘Existential Dreadlocks’ which will be out at the end of January 2022. You can find it on Bandcamp though.”

Judging by its title, is ‘Existential Dreadlocks’ a concept album?

“Around June 2021 when I was mulling over releasing it, I was feeling pretty fucked up about the world. Like many of us. Since then I’ve become a bit less fraught, but I loved the novelty of the word play in the chosen album name. I ditched a couple of the more fear-laden tracks so it might not be the most apt album title now.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s a concept album. There’s songs of love as well as dystopian fantasy, so I’m covering the pessimists and optimists with equal vigour. I come from many angles with my song writing. I also write Break-Beat / Cyberpunk / Electronica under the artist name ‘Invisible Squirrel’ but let’s save that for another time!”

You’ve already released a single of the new album called ‘Off and On’. What can you tell me about that particular song?

“It’s about vaccine conspiracies – I acknowledge why there is doubt. I get the pushback against mandatory vaccination for societal participation. But the outlandish 5G, nanobot, slow motion genocide stuff? Nope. These people need to sort their social media algorithm out because somehow it’s exploiting these conspiracists lack of interrogative power and susceptibility towards an idiotic brainwashing and putting them in serious peril. So let’s turn the whole truth bubble ‘off and on’ again and reset the whole thing because someone, somewhere is sponsoring their collective demise. It’s like Cambridge Analytica have read too many articles by Joseph Göebels.”

On November 26th you will release another single of the new album. I know you are pretty excited about this song, ‘Fires’. You mentioned it’s the strongest track on the album. What else is there to tell about the upcoming single?

“This tells the story of how at a certain point in 2021 there were two competing stories in global news. Raging forest fires and “sabre toothed geeks” like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos pointing their egos to the sky. The world has caught up since I wrote it and there’s a palpable antipathy to these men. They sit on their unfathomable wealth like Smaug in Lord of the Rings. I have paid more tax than Jeff Bezos for my whole life. This is lunacy. ’Tinsel on a burning Tyre’.”

What inspires your lyrics?

“I love writing songs to say thank you. ‘Existential Dreadlocks’ has three: ‘Green Beetles’, ‘We Held Firm’ and ‘Dopamine Girl’. The bulk are me shaking my fist at the moon in some way or another: ‘Silent Clicks’, ‘Fires’, ‘The Others’, ‘These Kids’ and then there are a ‘couple about nurturing the soul ‘Soul Brother and ‘Indie Kid at Heart’.”

“The odd ones out are ‘Mr Big Wig’ which is taking a swipe at someone who will probably never know I took a swipe at and ‘A Broken Bond’ which is an epic James Bond Theme song that describes him as a broken man. It comes out as a single, just before Christmas.”

Do you make your own music videos? How do you come up with the ideas for your videos, for example the video for ‘The Others’? Do you enjoy making music videos?

“’The Others’ I will freely admit was created by going to an AI website and putting in pictures of eyes and pictures of the Blue Planet and allowing it to morph between each. But it accompanied the lyric so well.”

“I dabble with stop frame and endeavour to make images synchronise, but I still have a long way to go in my videography skills. But yes – all my videos with the exception of ’The Trip’ (Billy Chaplain) and ’Neowise’ I created myself.”

What keeps you making music?

“I suggest you watch ‘Bo Burnham – Inside’ on Netflix. This explains things quite well for me as a maker of music. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that praise from a new or loyal listener isn’t appreciated, but I have a deep cynicism for much of social media and the effect it has on my sense of purpose. Artists/bands have had so many technological advances that can offer a stream of affirmation through likes and retweets, but it is perilous to place too much emphasis on these tokens as an artist. I’ve seen majestic album-release tweets get 3 likes on Twitter and talentless muppets who have 10,000+ followers. The correlation between beauty and popularity in the algorithm world is weak if you ask me. The real-deals are out there gigging. Shouting at their phones in frustration when they dare to look at them on a Sunday morning. Unless you’re writing electronica, then you need a good looking mate who can DJ your work at clubs.”

What are you most proud of to date?

“After my kids, I assume you mean musically…. Probably this latest album!”

What are you hoping to achieve in the next 5 years?

“I’d like to help artists as a producer. In the traditional sense: with their song writing, melodic and structure, playing the odd track for them particularly synth, piano and hammond. I will keep writing but as I don’t intend to gig, I know my place in things. If, in the next 5 years, I can have my songs recorded by someone else with a bit of clout I would be totally happy with that.”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool 20?

“I am absolutely besotted by Sky Diving Penguins I am lucky enough to have a had a sneaky preview of the album. It is rather special.”

“I also love the Fake Shark track very much. They are a seriously talented group of Canadians making infectiously edgy Indie Pop.”

“All of the tracks are really strong! Harry J Hart, Fisj, Jay Tennant, Jack Hyphen, Civic Green, Casthilo, Sean Buckley & Chris James Willows’ track are highlights too.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“This might be a bit cheeky of me but I’d like to nominate a track I produced for Joe Peacock. It’s called ‘Is Not Everything Morbid?’ and it’s quite a groovy thing. Sounds like Damon Albarn got trapped in a Whisky Bar in Kentucky and his only way out is to tell a story.”

If there’s anything you’d like to add?

“Invisible Squirrel releases an album at the beginning of January. Joe Peacock’s is out beginning of December – I produced 9 of the 10 tracks on it. That’s about it!”