tBd – Burn The Yellow Brick Road


This is the second part of the interview we did with Jonty Skrufff about the Radio Scarecrow and various other bits and bobs.

1. Starting with the press release: it says ?since the release of Silenced in October 2005 The Black Dog have been working delicately on its successor?: ?working delicately? is an unusual phrase: why ?delicate?: what does the term mean in practical terms?

[Martin] It doesn?t seem that unusual to me, music and the whole creative process is delicate by its very nature. The slightest thing can throw it completely off, even if you are making the most violent kind of music. This is why we created special mixes

[Ken] To me, it means “carefully crafted” and hand stitched with love. This was not the time to say “fuck it, that will do”. A lot of extra tweaking beyond the call of duty went into the album. It took six months to put the tracks into their correct (and final) order, for instance.

[Martin] Jesus, I still have 67 cdr?s in the car with all the different tracks and track orders on them, that was a real quest but it?s something that you have to do if you love music. It has to be right.

2. I get a feeling/ vibe of confidence with the new album: was it an easy (or easier) record to make?

[Martin] It wasn?t an easy process, the ideas and many tracks were ready to be worked up but everything seemed to get in the way. Close friends dieing, the studio being flooded ? life stuff just stopped us from completing the album quickly and even the songs worked against us at times but that?s the way it goes.

[Ken] We made a conscious decision not to lean on Eastern influences, or overly rely on breakbeats and “the familiar”.

[Martin] I think that was the only rule we made about the album, to push on with the more techno ideas we had and leave the breaks for a while. But we are more confident and doing the gigs has helped us to focus a lot of the ideas. I think it?s funny that one, two or all three of us will turn up to do a gig and people moan if Ken isn?t there ? techno was and is about forward thinking but some people still want to hold it back and cling to the past, strange indeed.

2.1 How much do you believe in creation (song-writing) as a magical force? (ie can you force a song out or do you essentially have to wait for inspiration to achieve truly special tracks?)

[Martin] Magick always defends its self Jonty ? sometimes we go with the ?Publish and be damned? approach but this often depends on the emotions involved with the track, if one of us feels strongly about something then we go with it.

[Ken] I believe in it quite a bit, actually. I’ve always felt that we’re creating something out of nothing. Pulling the rabbit out of the empty hat so to speak. Of course, there will be days when there isn’t anything in the hat to pull out but we keep at it.

3. you?re raising ?constant themes of conspiracy and the supernatural?: what is it about the super-natural that interests you?

[Ken] Many people seem convinced that the material world is the only one that there is. I find that hilarious, and infinitely sad. We’ve been accused of letting TBD’s mystical aspects wane, by doing gigs, and becoming more publicly accessible. But it’s always been the bedrock of belief around here. I guess I?m lucky that in my life, there has always been contact with nature. I read the Castaneda books when I was 12, and I?ve always viewed the world this way. The modern world makes people too busy to ‘stop the world’, look around, and ‘see’. It’s robbed them of their ‘not doing’. If people were able to stop their personal
merry-go-round occasionally, they could step off, catch their breath, and look around, they would see miracles all around them.

Maybe even question their existence… and start asking the really big questions instead of merely “existing”. People in cities cannot even see the stars. They’re cut off from nature in that respect, I think. It’s no wonder there is so much depression and grey bleakness about. God (aka the answer to everything) is in our toenails, a blade of grass, or a dog-turd but most people don’t have the time to stop and look.

[Martin] I?ve always been interested in the darker side of things and human nature is getting darker and darker as communities are getting broken down. I totally understand isolation because I can go weeks with talking to anyone else but there?s a point where the greater good of the whole needs to be addressed and I don?t think we do that anymore. It?s becoming more difficult because lots of people no longer live and work together. I worry about what the future holds on that side for a lot of people who can?t deal with being alone.

4. Scarecrow: an interesting symbol: I did a google search and found this:

?The use of a human effigy on a cross in the form of a scarecrow has been used from ancient times. In prehistoric times, a human would be sacrificed and hung on a cross. The sacrifice would later be chopped to pieces; his blood and pieces of flesh were widely distributed and buried to encourage the crop fertility?: why did you choose scarecrow as the album title? (were you aware of this background)

[Ken] Where did you get that info, Jonty? There are no surviving historical records from “prehistoric” times, to say what they did, with any degree of certainty.

Death in a cruciform position seems to me, to be related to the alleged death of Jesus Christ. The Romans used it as a punishment, and an admonition to others, not as a “sacrifice”. Animals and their entrails were used for that. Macedonian crucificions were in the shape of an ‘X’. The Norse folk used to string animal entrails from tree branches (tinsel), and some Eastern folk still leave bodies on hillsides so that birds can peck the remains, and recycle the entrails. The T-cross design, and simulated human figure is the easiest for farmers to make, I think. It’s no more than a co-incidence. The scarecrow is also out there day and night. They see everything that goes on, which is why I feel we’ve always regarded them as “spooky”, or otherworldly.

The album title comes from a Catweasle-esque person in Sheffield, who the local kids had dubbed “Radio Scarecrow”. The reason for that, is that he dressed like a scarecrow, and had a tiny transistor radio perpetually held to his head. We often wondered what it was, exactly, that he was listening to. We never managed to find him to ask.

[Martin] That?s true, I was driving around in the car with my daughter about 12 years ago and she said ?look, it?s radio scarecrow?. I see the guy a lot and always enjoy seeing him around. He had a break down about 20 years ago and now fills his time walking around the streets with his radio. His real name is William. I?ve stored the name up since then and when we started to use Numbers Station samples it made perfect sense to use it. I love the images it conjures up. But it?s interesting hearing other people projecting onto the album title. That really interests me.

5. what do you make of the whole concept of sacrifice: how much relevance does it have to what Black Dog is about (eg how much sacrifice is involved in being Black Dog?)

[Ken] The whole concept of Sacrifice? How long have you got? It would take too long to clarify the waters than we can do here. The first thing that pops into my head when i think of Sacrifice, is the millions of people who died in World War II, fighting fascism. And before them, the poor sods who were blown to bits in the trenches, so that arms manufacturers could be richer. But there are many other forms such as Pagan ritual sacrifice of times gone by.

Commuters sacrificing their lives for money tokens. There are many different angles to it. Sacrifice in a band perspective? Well, like a small business, I suppose…. you sacrifice your time, energy, and money to try and make it successful. Success for us is to bring things to people’s attention through the dark wood of ignorance and over the steppes of apathy.

[Martin] I do what I do because I have to, I?m not sure what would happen if I stopped but now more than ever I do what I want to.

6. the scarecrow is also well known from the Wizard of Oz: via Google I found this: ?Those who see The Wizard of Oz in spiritual terms see the scarecrow as representing the tension between knowledge and wisdom?: how much do you now have more wisdom about music and how has this affected Black Dog: your music- and what do as a band?

[Ken ] ah… but at the end of Baum’s book, the Scarecrow is left in charge of Oz. The symbolism of “the fool” has always been more appealing to me. The person who forsakes everything for the sheer joy of a journey into the unknown. Referring to music, even after nearly 20 years at it, I still can’t read sheet music, or sit down at a piano and play a piece of Beethoven. So I don’t think of myself as particularly “wise” in that respect. I’m “wise” in the respect that nobody can trick me into signing for 1 album, and having to deliver 4. But that’s wisdom of the journey. The mundane. Sorry, but I don’t have any spiritual revelations to pass on. It’s up to everybody to discover their own. Like it says in the Rock Opera, Tommy. “You’ve been told many times before…. Messiahs pointed to the door….. but no-one’s had the guts to leave the temple”.

[Martin] Yeah you should play the album with the film volume down, it syncs perfectly.

7. I was listening to Bytes at the weekend and was struck by the line ?we must search the universe?: why did you put that it: are you still searching? (did you find anything?)

[Ken] That’s “we” — as in “the human race”. Times were different when “Bytes” was released, as I?m sure you recall. People were “open”, and more accepting of each other for what they were….”human beings”. After Punk, they were the happiest times I have lived through.

There are a lot of problems on Earth to sort out, and conventional space travel is insanely expensive, but I don’t believe that we should ever stop looking, listening, or believing in the possibility (however miniscule or slim) that we are not alone in the multiverse.

[Martin] We can?t be the only stupid things around for sure but I like the idea that this universe is just a glob of snot dripping from a giant?s finger on the way to the floor.

8. You were very outspoken in the last interview (about flooding of the States etc): did you article prompt much feedback? (what?)

[Ken] laughs…. I guess you caught me on a bad day. No, there hasn’t been any feedback. Who cares what I say or think? The consumerist world kept on spinning through Christmas, and in this brave New Year, people continue to march to the authoritarian beat of the nanny states drum. Don’t smoke. Don’t Drink Coffee. Don’t you dare think for yourselves? If the American people were to impeach their war criminal president, I would be happier with them. It’s disappointing that the situation still exists, and that chimp is still in a job. And given himself immunity for his crimes, last I heard. I don’t bear any ill will or animosity towards “the American people”, but their lack of anger, the willingness to believe the 9/11 charades, and the condoning of subsequent wars of justification, has been extremely disappointing. It’s been “business as usual” for the weapons manufacturers, and the corporations who make their living out of other peoples misery. And that pisses me off, no end.

[Martin] A couple of people did mention it to me but I think it?s spot on, people will fall for fucking anything and actually take anything these days. I?m getting more and more livid about it as I get older, I dream of riots for the people and death by hotel fire for most politicians.

9. anything else to add?

Boycott the 2008 Olympic games! but they won’t, will they ?

[Martin] No to ID and Yes to riots because surely we?ve all had enough, haven?t we?

thanks for asking.