isan interview
(March 1998)

It was pure chance that I turned on the radio in time to hear Peel play a beautiful piece of spaced-out bliss-music, pure chance that the phone rang when he was saying where I could get hold of it and, again, chance that I managed to hear a name: Isan. It was pure chance when, the next day, I found a copy of Peel's playlist which told me that the record I wanted was a 4-way split on Hummy & Joey records and, once more, down to Lady Luck that Toe from Isan also saw the playlist and gave out the band's email address.

After a bit of back-and-forth, we decided to do a slightly different form of interview, one where Toe and Robin (the other half of the band) both ask and answer the questions according to some arcane formula of their own devising.

You are just settling down to listen to a collection of recordings by your favourite artist.....

How do you make yourself comfortable for the "listening experience" you are about to undergo?

robin: clean the fluff off the needle. make a cup of tea and empty bladder if necessary. shut the window to quell the windchimes, open the curtains and light some candles if it's night, lie down on the sofa with my sneakers off.

toe: place bean bag on floor at a distance of 2.5 meters from either speaker. arrange records and cds to be played near the hole in the wall that should be a fireplace. select first item and start playing. sit in bean bag with a glass of fizzy water and orange juice. pager goes off. respond to emergency call-out. return to the sound of the needle in the run-out groove.

What is it about this artist that keeps you listening, record after record?

robin: the depth of inspection possible, the detail in the music (whether intentional, accidental, or semi-deliberately placed by a "detail generating engine"), revealed by repeated listenings. the illuminating lyrics, the irresistible textures.

toe: i heard them on "the tube" when i was younger and was moved by the beauty of the whole sound. it was just so complete, sad, intricate, thrummy, beautiful. i have that whole feeling every time i listen.

What does this artist do that i s a n should aspire to?

robin: transfers his personal vision intact and with integrity to each medium he uses.

toe: they do what they do. they just are what they are. they sound how they sound. does that make sense?

If you could take this "listening experience" anywhere in time or space, where would it be?

robin: leicester's canal system, on a warm day after a heavy rainfall, cycling in sodden sneakers along footpaths submerged beneath six inches of water.

toe: lying in the snow at the top of a mountain with the blue blue blue blue sky all around.

robin: i was listening to the music of brian eno.

toe: i was listening to the music of cocteau twins.

If robin/toe came to dinner what would you cook him?

toe: when robin comes to dinner, i usually forget to have gone to sainsbury's to buy all the gready mints (this is the point where robin and i open-heartedly recommend reading "riddley walker" by russell hoban to find out what "gready mints" is all about) for a grind-yr-own-spices curry or chilli. what i'm trying to say is, when robin comes to dinner we usually get a take-away.

robin: if it's summer then i'll do tuna steaks and skewered marinated vegetables (courgette, onion, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes etc) on the bar-b-q with lumps of bread and a green salad with basil oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. if it's winter i'll do a vegetarian lasagne with spinach and sundried tomatoes plus the same salad.

What is your single most important contribution to i s a n?

toe: i was jealous of robin's musical efforts with other people, so i invented a "project" called i s a n so i could be "groovy" too, and it kind of went from there really....

robin: the ramblings of a madam.

What is your favourite book?

toe: oops. i think i already answered this one. "riddley walker" quite literally changed my use of the english language. its a shame you didn't ask who my favourite author was, because then i could have told you all about phillip k. dick.

robin: whilst i would open-heartedly agree with toe's sentiments on this i'd have to go with vladimir nabokov's "lolita". the most stunning language used to hijack the reader's sympathies and make them lie with the monstrous (but tear-streaked) narrator, humbert humbert.

One song by someone other than i s a n which you couldn't live without?

toe: just one song? sheesh. "ice blink luck" by cocteau twins i think. makes me go a bit wobbly. saved me from more than one "life" experience. crikey, i'm glad this is the last question, its all getting a bit personal...

robin: "cliff dwellers society" by tortoise. there is a segment of exquisite jazz in the middle with muted horns and vibraphone and vocoder (i think) recorded so "badly" that everything crackles and fuzzes and blends and brings a tear to my eye. quiet and loud, ugly and beautiful, assonant and dissonant all at once. it's a doozie.

eusa's head       fragments        12"  with reptar, modern crimes
damil 85/cubillo  wurlitzer jukebox 7"
remegio           hummy & joey      7"  with david wrench,spare snare


titled, not tithed/island magic
                  bad jazz          7"
autolung          liquefaction      7" with  tin foil star, bovine over sussex


schema             earworm          7" box set
rron               earworm       flexi with metrotone
strange            elefant        (galaxie 500 tribute album )

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