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Wiping The Slate Clean: Pulled Apart By Horses' Tommy Davidson Talks 'The Haze'

Friday, 17 March 2017 Written by Laura Johnson

Photo: Steve Gullick

Sometimes a fresh face can make a big difference.

Six months after Pulled Apart By Horses put out ‘Blood’ in 2014, the Leeds noisemakers drafted in a new drummer, Tommy Davidson. And with the new line up came a revival. “We've known Tommy for many years, and he’s created a whole new level of creative spirit within the band,” bassist Robert Lee said.

The band’s new LP, ‘The Haze’, is an album of face-melting ferocity that draws on an abundance of influences, from ‘70s rock on Neighbourhood Witch to grunge on Prince of Meats. But all of them are channelled through the same filter of hefty riffs and thunderous beats, which provide a meaty backdrop to Tom Hudson’s diverse, and often impressively gravelly, vocals.

We spoke with Davidson to find out about the band’s new lease of life following the completion of the touring cycle for ‘Blood’, which found them relocating to a dairy farm in Wales to write the new record.

This is your first album with Pulled Apart By Horses. Was it strange to record with a band who are already three albums into their career?

When I joined, the cycle for ‘Blood’ was all done and dusted. The label contract that was in place had come to an end and the boys decided that they wanted to mix things up a little bit and get new management. So as I joined it was almost like joining a brand new band. The slate was wiped clean. All previous contracts and stuff had expired. It was an opportunity to start fresh. There was no vision of what was going to happen. It was just us  in a room doing exactly the music we wanted to do with no external pressure.

I can’t say from first hand experience, but I think there were some pressures that began to sink in a little bit on the previous record. So it was important to us that that wasn’t going to happen. It’s obviously nice getting radio play and it’s nice getting magazines, good gigs and stuff like that, but we see it as art, really, and we want to do something that we want to do. It’s hard to get up on stage and do something that you don’t feel 100% passionate about, so the first thing for us is just that we’re happy.

We hear you relocated to a dairy farm in the Welsh countryside to write some of the new album?

Yeah, that was pretty weird. We did a lot of the writing in our normal rehearsal studio, but we just fancied a jolly really, bit of a holiday. We managed to find this place in the deepest, darkest no man’s land of south Wales, I couldn’t even tell you what it was called, there were no signposts around or anything, it was nuts.

There was a hermit that lived in a house on their land and they had died maybe a year or so before, so the dairy farmers bought the house so that no one else would buy it. But they didn’t know what to do with it. One of the farmers was quite interested in bands and music so he was like, ‘We’ll just let it out to bands’.

We got dropped off there with our bikes and all our equipment and I think the closest shop was 20 miles away. There were no pubs or anything like that, no internet, no phones. It was literally just the four of us for two and a half weeks.

Did you have a strict routine for writing each day or was it more of an organic process?

We were very active with writing and making music but I wouldn’t say we were strict. We were having such a good time doing it. Obviously there was no internet or phone so there was nothing else to do. We’d be playing all the hours of the day. We’d probably wake up around nine, 10, have a nice big breakfast that James [Brown, guitar] had cooked for us and then we’d be playing until the small hours.

Once we got delirious trying to write songs we’d just end up plugging our laptops into the PA and doing karaoke sessions singing Depeche Mode and things like that.  There was one morning where we were still up and the dairy farmer was out in his tractor feeding his cows and we were still going. He was like, ‘I heard you playing last night, but it didn’t really sound like what I expected.’ It was because we were doing karaoke.

Did the music you were listening to at the time writing the record have an impact on the direction it took?

We were definitely listening to a lot of Iggy Pop. I think Iggy Pop and Bowie were definitely the two big ones. I think there’s quite a bit of Beatles influence that’s found its way into there. We all have a shared influences, but then everybody goes off on a little tangent as well.

The album was recorded and produced by Ross Orton in Sheffield. How was that?

Ross is a great guy, extremely talented as well, a genius. We got on with Ross really well, it was like he was an old friend. It was totally comfortable and totally relaxed. He’s a very salt of the earth, rough northerner, which we are as well I guess so it all kinda worked out perfectly.  There’s no airs and graces with Ross, so he’d be like, ‘No, that’s shit!’ or 'Yeah, that’s alright’.

How long did you spend in the studio?

It was pretty quick. I think we were in there for three and a half weeks, with weekends and days off to get drunk. I’d say probably say about three weeks, really. I think one of the things that sped it up a lot was what we actually recorded the album ourselves, but not to release quality. Rob is really good at production and recording and he’s kind of been learning that as we’ve gone. We had the whole album down and recorded so when we went in we knew exactly what we were doing. We just needed to do it to a better standard.

So will Rob be recording your next album?

That’s something we’ve spoken about, definitely. We would like to do that but then it is amazing as well working with [people like] Ross, just for the experience of them chipping in as well. There are things Ross would suggest that we might never think of, just because he can look at it objectively whereas we’re all obviously very subjective about it.

The videos and artwork from the record seem to be well conceptualised. Is the aesthetic element of the band important to you?

Me, Tom and Rob are all visual artists, so the visual side of things is something that’s very important to us. For the artwork we managed to get a photographer called Neil Krug, which was a bit of a dream come true. When we were thinking about the album artwork we decided that we wanted it to be photography and wrote a massive list of all the photographers we liked. At the top of the list was Neil Krug.

But we had a budget and we assumed that our budget was never going be anywhere near what he would need, so we crossed him off the list straight away. Then we started working our way through the list and people said ‘We don’t have time’, or ‘We can’t fit you in for then’ or ‘The budget’s not enough’. So, as a last resort, we thought we’d send a friendly, cheeky email to Neil Krug. Straight away he came back to us. He was like, ‘You can use these images.’ They were all the images we’d already picked anyway. It was incredible.

But the music videos are something else that’s really important to us. The Big What If, that was actually done in a studio which loads of us work from for art stuff. My girlfriend’s company do a lot of art direction and set design, so that was a collaboration between us and my girlfriend’s company. That was all done by us and me and Tom actually edited it and helped with the direction of the production.

Is it true you deprived yourself of sleep prior to the shoot for The Big What If?

It’s quite funny, really. That was the concept of the video. It was supposed to look like an experiment where we were depriving ourselves of sleep, but me and Rob were actually really ill. I think Tom was really hungover or he’d had a sleepless night, then the same sort of thing with James. So we turned up to do it and we were all rough as hell, really struggling to exist. But we were saying at the time that if it was any other video we’d be like, ‘This is dreadful, we look absolutely awful.’ But for that video it worked. People were like, ‘Your make up made you look really tired.’ There was no make up.

With what you said about there being a line drawn under the ‘Blood’ era, will you be playing many tracks from the previous records live?

It’s a really hard one when you’re on tour and you’ve got a new record, because as a band you just want to play the new stuff. It’s always the case. But obviously when you’ve got people coming to see you you need to play stuff that people are going to know and stuff that people like. So in the set we’ve picked the songs where it’s a good representation of everything the band’s done and then a healthy dose of the new record as well.

‘The Haze’ is out now on Caroline International

Pulled Apart by Horses Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Mon March 27 2017 - OXFORD O2 Academy2 Oxford
Tue March 28 2017 - LONDON Scala
Wed March 29 2017 - BRISTOL Thekla
Thu March 30 2017 - SOUTHAMPTON Talking Heads
Sun April 02 2017 - BIRMINGHAM Mama Roux's
Mon April 03 2017 - NORWICH UEA Waterfront Studio
Wed April 05 2017 - GLASGOW King Tuts
Thu April 06 2017 - MANCHESTER Sound Control
Fri April 07 2017 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Think Tank?
Sat April 08 2017 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club

Click here to compare & buy Pulled Apart By Horses Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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