grandmaster gareth interview
(June 2003)

He’s the Charlie to Misty’s Angels. He’s the Wizard of Oz to Misty’s Munchkins. He’s Grandmaster Gareth and they are Misty’s Big Adventure. He’s just released his debut solo disc and they are about to follow up the delightful little big band first-time 7" single with an album, all on Brum’s Awkward Records. Gareth’s album is called Minute Melodies. This is what we thought of it:

  My favourite today is Dr Dre Buys A Pint of Milk where Dre gabbles “drinkapintamilkaday drinkapintamilkaday drinkapintamilkaday” over a couple of tiny loops and a pocketful of scratching. Yesterday I liked I Got My Monster And You Got Yours which is just Gareth reciting the title through a distortion pedal and banging on a couple of piano chords, a drum and a single string of his guitar. Tomorrow I think I might go for Squarepuller, a piss-take drill’n’bass’n’cheese’n’bumblebee (yes, really) number that’ll probably only endear him to Squarepusher. Each of these lasts for a single minute. And there are 27 more just like them. Except different. The first great thing about blipvert cuts like this is that you only get the good bits of an idea. The Grandmaster hasn’t had to scratch around for ages stretching out the bones of something worthwhile into a 4-minute song. He just has the idea, bangs it down and moves on. And the other great thing is that, like when you have a 10p mix from the sweetshop, you just can’t stop once you’ve started. A cola bottle. Yum. One of them white mice. Yum. I fancy another cola bottle. Yum. A liquorice lace. Yum. Each one a simple delight, each one the appetizer for something else. Minute Melodies. Yum.

We desperately needed to speak to the Grandmaster.

Who are you?

My name is Grandmaster Gareth. I adopted this moniker to enhance my hip-hop credibility. This of course hasn’t worked. I am 22. I come from Moseley in Birmingham. During my teens I was lucky to witness a great underground music scene in Birmingham, seeing Pram, Novak, Broadcast, Dogfood and Plone. This inspired me to form Misty’s Big Adventure.

Misty’s are a band - is it your band, or are you just one of the band?

Misty’s Big Adventure consists of nine members, all with different musical backgrounds. I write, sing and hit things. I hate genres and the catagorising of music. For this reason, I try and fit as many styles into an arrangement as I can.

And good on you for it. Do you think in terms of arrangements?

The actual songwriting is the boring bit. The fun part is when I get to mess about with it. Often I’ll try two or three different arrangements before I settle on something. Sometimes I mix bits of the three arrangements together. I have also written string and brass arrangements for Pram, Broadcast, Plone and Bentley Rhythm Ace. The latter produced our debut single that came out last year on Awkward Records.

How did that come about?

Richard Bentley saw us at a couple of gigs and we made friends. The help he’s given us with recording has been invaluable. Very talented guy. And incredibly modest.

I was a big fan of Pop Will Eat Itself and I liked Bentleys a lot at the beginning, but the second album was a disappointment.

I hear people say that. I quite like it. I think the first album was more for dancing to. The second more of a sit down comedy album. At times they have so many samples going at the same time that it just sounds like chaos. I love picking out the different melodies!

Are you a fan of hip hop?

I’m a fan of the older hip-hop when the lyrics meant something, and there was more humour in the music and scratching. I love the beats the most. And dodgy loops when you can hear them looping.

Anyone in particular?

Just the obvious really; bands like De la Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, The Roots. I really like the Roots Manuva album too.

Do you think Misty’s should appeal to hip hop heads?

Only for comedy value. That’s one of the great things about Roots Manuva. Rappers not taking themselves too seriously.  This is the trouble with this present music scene. From musician to promoter to journalist to label. Too many chips need removing from shoulders!

Ahem. Are you a classically-trained musician?

I studied cello, voice, piano and guitar from the age of seven. I did A-level music and was offered a place at music college but decided to teach myself instead. Got a load of books out the library and listened to a stupid amount of records. No regrets.

Did you start Misty’s on your own?

We started initially as a three piece. In fact it wasn’t even my band to begin with! It was formed by a guy called Julian Bowditch who’s a GREAT songwriter, but he dropped out after about a year to meet the task of getting a job and a flat. This left me, Sam and his drums. I think over the course of about a year I added Bass and Piano, then Decks, then a Cello, a Saxophone and a Trumpet, and finally a Guitar and a beat-boxing monster. There has never been any great logic to this line up. I guess once you get to six, there’s no real reason to stop. We’ve settled on nine.

Are you a Spectorish bastard in the studio/band?

I like to think of it as a friendly dictatorship. It’s pretty laid back most of the time. Perhaps not in the recording studio, but then what great record ever got made without a near death experience at some point in the making!

How do you describe the band when people ask?

I shrug my shoulders, mumble something about pop, screwy jazz, hip-hop and toys and pull a pained expression.

How long has the band been going?

Ridiculously 5 years! 5 years, 1 single.

Why did it take 5 years to get a single out? What were you doing?

In the main, trying to get a consistent sound. And getting better at what we do. I also never sent anything out. Lazy and scared of criticism!

And you’re getting played in New York, I hear.

The WFMU DJ Irwin Chusid has played us quite a bit. He’s in charge of the Raymond Scott estate, and we cover a couple of Scott’s screwy jazz pieces from the Thirties. This was what drew him to us initially. Have also toured with anti-folkers Jeffrey Lewis, Kimya Dawson and Major Matt Mason who have put in good words for us!  And I should mention the genius that is Brute Force. He wrote for The Cyrkle and The Creation in the mid Sixties before making an amazing album called ‘Confections of Love’ in ’68 before being signed to Apple by George Harrison to record ‘The King of Fuh’, a song about censorship that was immediately censored upon its release. He lives in New York. I went and met him a couple of years ago and we did a gig as his backing band last year. He’s a ignored genius. But then the real ones always are.

How did you hook up with Brute Force?

I heard The Tapeworm of Love and realised he’s the greatest songwriter of all time! I tracked down his e-mail address and we got on. I met him in New York and we decided to play some gigs. He’s very funny.  He’s coming over to play a couple of gigs with us in October. I hope to at least record a couple of songs for a single.  I just want people to hear his music.

What’s the Misty’s album called?

‘The Solar Hi-Fi System’ and our next single is ‘Night Time Better Than The Daytime.’

So tell me about Minute Melodies.

About three years ago, largely out of boredom, I wrote two one minute tunes on a friend’s old Atari, just using the dodgy midi sounds off one of those terrible rack things! After playing them back the next day, I joked how stupid it would be if I wrote 50 of them. So I did. Over about three months. I didn’t even know what the quantise button did! I made some copies for friends. The next year I made another 50, because I’d said after finishing the previous 50, that it would be much stupider if I wrote 250 and when they were finished put out a five CD box set. The punchline being they’d all have bonus tracks. However, the 30 that have come out on Awkward Records are taken from the third set of 50. I just got to do another 100! They obsess me. I can’t explain why.

What does the quantise button do?

The quantise button (or the Jesus button as I like to call it) puts anything you play on a keyboard in time. You can also do it with recorded sound but it’s harder and more audible. It basically means I can attempt impossible to play melodies and occasionally fluke something ridiculous!

Are the Minute Melodies all done on the computer?

All of them. I still do complete takes as much as possible. The trouble with technology is it can make everything cold sounding. So I try and keep things sounding human. I can’t imagine not using a computer to record with any more. No more groups of people with five tasks each huddled round a mixing desk for the final mix.

How often do you start with a tune in your head and put it down on tape, and how often do you start messing around and come up with something?

With songs, I generally just hit the piano till something comes out that I like. Sometimes a melody pops into my head. But I just let them sit there for a while. With Minute Melodies, I either start off with a stupid idea or a pun. The other times I mess about and see what happens. Things normally do. But what they are I’m never entirely sure. I like to record each one in a night. And then what’s recorded is where my mind was on that particular night. A bit like a diary!

Tell us about the inspirations for some of the tracks. How did you arrive at Dr Dre Buys a Pint of Milk?

There are certain recurrent themes in the minutes. I want there to be a Dr Dre minute on every album. So far there’s been ‘Rockin’ the Octopus (On Dr Dre’s new album)’, ‘Dusty Bin (On Dr Dre’s next album)’, and the last one’s going to be called ‘Dr Dre’s Gonna Kill Me (On Dr Dre’s unreleased album)’. There are also a few minutes of music from my imaginary soap opera ‘Malibu Nights’. I’m into the really rubbish. I watched an episode of 3-2-1 once, and at the end Dusty Bin came on behind a drum kit which had a bass drum skin that said ‘Rubbish Club’ on it. I find that very appealing and if I could join one club, it would probably be Dusty’s. Dr Dre buys a pint of milk sounds so banal, but why can I imagine it as a Heat Magazine headline! The minute Squarepuller features a woman making weird noises a capella. It’s off a CDR a friend found in a minibus glove box. It just had one track of weird noises being made by the same lady. And a phone number written on it. We’ve never rung it! ‘The Sound of Gareth’ came about solely because The Beastie Boys put ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ and a track from the film ‘Shaft’ together, and I’ve got both of those records.

What’s next for the solo Grandmaster?

Once the Misty’s album is finished, I’m going to start doing the next fifty Minutes. I shall probably put out an EP in the Autumn. Maybe Grandmaster Gareth’s Five Seasons. I’m also producing an amazing band from Birmingham called Dog Food. They’ve been going since 1984, and never released a thing! And a one man band called Bom and his Magic Drumstick.

Grandmaster Gareth there, in a world of his own. But that's the best kind of world. In your own world you can create musical minute masterpieces, produce a band called Bom and his Magic Drumstick and drop Dusty Bin into Dr Dre's hood. Misty's Big Adventure's new album will be The Solar Hi-Fi System and it's preceded by a single, Night Time Better Than The Daytime, both on Awkward. or Awkward Towers, 50 Addison Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham, B14 7EW  


: reviews : interviews : live : features : shop : search: contact