Alexander Tucker, “The Black Bear”

Blake Gillespie

Alexander Tucker

Thrill Jockey is digging back to the bygone era of CD-R releases for this year's Record Store Day by pressing Alexander Tucker's out-of-print debut to vinyl.

Alexander Tucker was transitioning out of his 90s lifestyle of fronting hardcore and post-rock hardcore bands like Suction and Unhome by the turn of the millenium. The Kent, UK-based musician was venturing into quieter terrain, recording acoustic tracks in a flat that utilized guitar, mandolin, experimental electronics, and field recordings, some of which naturally entered his sessions due to his flat being directly above a tube station. By 2003, he'd amassed a self-titled debut of which he'd only printed 50 copies, one of which was given to Tom Greenwood of Jackie-O Motherfucker. Greenwood released the first official Tucker solo on his U-Sound Archives label, later it would be Greenwood and members of Bardo Pond who would put Tucker's name in the ear of ATP Records who released his next three albums.

In 2011 Tucker signed to Thrill Jockey, releasing the Dorwytch LP and Third Mouth LP. Never before pressed to vinyl, the reissue of Tucker's debut transports the listener back 11 years, to a time when he was still gaining his footing as a solo artist. On “The Black Bear”, Tucker is finger-plucking with an intricacy that at times sounds over-dubbed or warped by pedal effects, but no matter the technique his vocal delivery harkens back to an ancient era of backwoodsian folklore. Though Tucker is UK-based, his songwriting has an Appalachia-like quality, which means I need to learn the British regional equivalent, while maintaining a hint of metal's affinity for mythology. Listen to “The Black Bear” below and read on for a brief interview with Tucker.

Musicians are often hesitant to revisit old recordings, feeling as though it's no longer who they are or who they want to be. What's your stance on the reissue phenomenon? Why did revisiting your self-titled CD-R appeal to you?

I always loved that album being the first solo project I completed. My naïveté at the time really guided me to make tracks without any thought of whether it was good or bad. I was caught up in the process which felt akin to laying in painting.

Given the style this CD-R was originally recorded in and the location, in a flat above the Warren St. tube station, do you get nostalgia from revisiting these recordings? They strike me as being of a very particular time and place that cannot be denied, since vibrations from the train infiltrate the recordings.

This was a time of discovery and trail and error, using the errors to good effect rather than omitting them. I was consciously recording the time and space as much as the instrument and field recording played a big part in the process.

Since there were only 50 or so of the original pressing, have you ever seen these floating around on eBay for outrageous prices? I did a quick search and didn't find anything. Perhaps the reissue will bring the opportunists out of their slumber.

I can't say I've ever looked, but maybe someone will want to track down the originals.

Tell me about meeting Tom Greenwood of Jackie-O-Motherfucker and his interest in releasing the CD-R. What did he say gained his interest in investing in your work?

I met Tom at a Jackie-O Motherfucker gig in London and told him about completing my album. He said was doing this label so I sent it over and he liked it. The Bardo Pond guys were also very supportive and inspiring, both Tom and Bardo helped me get signed to ATP at the time.

Tom said he liked the selection of elements combined; acoustic, electronic, drone, song. Dave [Bryant] from Godspeed [You! Black Emperor] (who was playing with JOMF) said it was very good to listen to first thing in the morning and last at night.

This will be the first time the record is available on vinyl. Were you heavily involved in the transfer of CD-R sound to vinyl? What sound qualities did you want to remain from the original and what ones were you pleased might be altered do to the higher quality format?

I was not really involved in the transfer, but I do feel the lo-fi quality of the recordings lend themselves very well to the vinyl. I always wanted the record to have old unearthed wax cylinder qualities, which I think is exemplified here.

Seek out Alexander Tucker's self-titled reissue on Record Store Day.

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