I N T E R V I E W
Lost Orbits: An Interview with Scott Brodie from GROK
with Ian Duggan
You might have heard a bit of GROK over the last year or so, having donated tracks to the ‘No Sound: A Nivara Lounge Fundraiser’ and ‘In Thrust We Trust’ compilations. The former New Zealand band, now based in the UK, have released a new six track EP tiled ‘Lost Orbits’. We spoke with Scott Brodie about the inspiration for the songs on the current EP, how the band have been affected by the pandemic in the UK, and more!
HUP: In your last two releases, 2011s ‘Create a Diversion’ featured songs that were improvised live in response to visual artworks submitted to the group, while 2019s ‘Screen Variations’ arose from improvisations of soundtracks to silent films while on a residency at a movie theatre in London. How have the songs on the current EP arisen?
Scott: These are a very old collection of songs. They were improvised from a range of objects providing the inspiration for the songs back in 2013 at Soup Studios in Limehouse. We worked on them slooowwly and I think there were about 20 in total. So, there's just 6 here finished. Maybe some more will see the light of day at some stage. Lockdown in the UK provided the impetus to finish the ones that were the most complete. They are quite a nice snapshot of where our heads were at 8 years ago. I think we are maybe a bit more 'cinematic' in our improvisations now - possibly because of all the soundtrack work. But then again in our recent treatment of these 2013 songs we have had this broader approach anyway I think...
HUP: What is the meaning of the title, ‘Lost Orbits’?
Scott: I guess the songs could have been lost if we had done nothing with them. And the songs orbit us maybe. It's just quite a nice phrase that has some possibilities. All our album/EP titles can be taken two ways. 'GROK, Lost Orbits' or 'GROK lost orbits'. That's just one of the little games that we have when naming things.
HUP: Many will be familiar with some of the tracks already, which should provide some motivation to hear more! You kindly donated ‘Modern Hazard’ to ‘No Sound: A Nivara Lounge Fundraiser’ and ‘Think of the Beach’ to ‘In Thrust We Trust’, both released last year. Also, the amazing opening track, ‘A Hero of our Time’, was released previously as ‘The Thrill of the Caucasus’ on the 2016 HUP compilation, ‘Life Beneath A Gravel Streak’. Are the recordings identical to what appeared on those releases, and what is behind the name change on ‘Hero’?
Scott: No, these are new mixes and masters. We did a lot more work and made them tighter. Yes, we renamed the Caucasus. The object we improvised from was a very nice edition of Lermontov's 'A Hero of our Time'. Incidentally it is the same edition that is seen in a couple of Bergman movies: 'Silence' and 'Persona'. I think we thought the name 'A Hero of our Time' was just a bit better and more open to interpretation.
HUP: Last we spoke, you were talking about releasing an album called ‘GROK Make Music With Friends Vol 1’. Is this release still planned? I assume this was collaborations with others?
Scott: Yes, that's planned. There are two songs that are about finished. There's maybe 8 more. It takes us a while to mess around with recordings on our computers - as Lost Orbits taking 8 years to pull together testifies to. We all work on screens so it is an effort of will to go back to screens in the evening. This is probably why we have got into hardware synths, samplers and drum machines rather than the virtual ones.
HUP: Are GROK making new music? How has the handling of COVID19 in the UK affected your progress?
Scott: We are very definitely making new music. We have a rehearsal space now and we will be starting back shortly with the regular weekly rehearsal that was interrupted by Covid in November. The new songs will be quite different - we are eschewing our traditional instruments for electronic ones. So we have all been building and testing our electronic improvisation setups. There will be no analog guitar, bass or drums. This means we can record improvisations with direct lines in when in the rehearsal space. Then we take the 'wavs' away and work on them in our DAWs. Chris (guitar) has a plethora of electronic toys, synths pedals, sequencers, things he has made, and is always adding to them. I (bass) have a nice bass synth I can improvise on quickly as well as a sampler, sequencer and vocals. For the last 3 years I have made a whole lot of sounds and loops from scratch on my modular synth. I have been loading these into the sampler to use. So, these sounds are all made from the ground up and unique. Rob (drums) uses drum pads, and samplers, sequencers for drums. We also plan to move to a non-album release schedule where we release more singles and EPs based on what we improvise in the rehearsal space. So, yes, Covid has affected things - but we got Lost Orbits out. We might do a few normal improvised gigs with guitar, bass, drums when things open up. And some soundtracks too. It's kind of crazy we are still making music. Rob and I have been playing together for 28 years, and with Chris for 21. We are all still enthused and get excited about things despite the almost universal indifference to what we do.
The EP is available on Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify and more.