O Canals! O London: An Interview with Ruby Throat’s KatieJane Garside
Ruby Throat, comprised of Brtis KatieJane Garside and Chris Whittingham, were one of those bands that transported me as soon as I heard Garside’s frail but steady voice, a flashlight bobbing through rocky woods in the darkness. I first heard them when I reviewed The Ventriloquist for PopMatters in 2009. Since then, I’ve been a devoted listener, always hanging on for another beautiful tendril to fall. And this year it did, in the form of their latest record o doubt! o stars!
From the press release:
Now, onto the interview!
Forgive me if I am very hesitant in talking, but I’ve got a new baby, and I need to think about what I’m saying, before I say it, because I’m so much in baby. In the world of babies. I need to consider what I’m saying before I say it, so I might be quite hesitant so forgive me.
How old is your baby?
She’s nine months old. Yes, she’s amazing, peaceful. Her first name is Io, which is ” I O “, which is the name of a moon off of Jupiter, but she’s known to us as Laily, or Lailoni, which means heavenly flower. So her name is Io Lailoni.
I was reading the press release for the new record and was wondering when your love of boats began.
I lived on a boat and sailed around the world with my family when I was a child. That was when I was 11 years old actually. Eleven, 12, 11 years old. We lived on a 33 foot sailboat and sailed around the world. And it’s not that I love boats, it’s that I never really came back from the sea. I’ve always been adrift. I feel that there’s a conflict being adrift on terra firma, on the land. So, actually, I’m returning to the sea. I think the conflict will be lesser.
How much do you think the city of London itself inspired your latest record?
I’ve been there a long, long time. We were on the canal boats for the last couple of years, really on the outskirts of London. You wouldn’t necessarily even think that it’s London. It’s the derelict, forgotten, really. The canals go through parts that no one really even wants, or when the metropolis was redeveloped around that. There’s so much beauty in the detail. For those couple of years. I traveled into London rather infrequently. Actually, most of it was spent on the canal and on bikes. And under a wide sky. You don’t really take that in London actually, you don’t often see it.
So it’s more that it’s — yes, it’s space in the forgotten places actually, in the abandoned places. Our personal landscape. When I say “our, I’m talking about me and Chris, as in Ruby Throat. Our personal landscape was very much…we had some devastating events happen. We lost someone very close to us, and Laila was born. So really, the album was informed by that, more than London as a place. To me seemed very temporal, seemed non-existent even though we were very close to it. We were very much in between, in the gaps, in space between words. Blah, blah. Yes.
I wanted to ask you about distortion, especially on the seventh song, “Black Rock.” How do you decide when you’re going to use that?
That’s an old improvisation. Well it’s an improvisation that became polarized. Let’s put it that way. We actually recorded that looking out to sea, off the canals, it’s like we left the canals and we ensconced the south coast. I’m looking at storms go through right now.
So, in deciding whether that has distortion–I’m trying to think. That comes from an improvisation from playing live.
And how I decided that the distortions on Black Rock? I don’t know if I do. Yes, it comes from an improvisation. Play, like we’ve been able to. We haven’t done it for a while but that song was developed after a live situation. Chris and I, we both use a big pedal so we could really build up a wall of noise between the two of us. That’s where it comes from, and I like, I do love knocking pigeons into a wall of noise and climbing it. I do love a wall of noise, I have to admit. So that’s where and how it was decided.
Do you mind talking about the song “Arctic Fox?”
No, no, actually I don’t mind. It’s a very, it’s a very literal song, actually written to a very actual person. It’s as I told you before, we lost somebody, and that song was written to the person left behind. I think that’s all I really can say about that, I think.