Q&A With Dorian Cramm of Promenade Cinema (29/9/15)
Q. Hi Dorian, You are a Yorkshire singer/songwriter/musician, when did it all begin?
A. It began with a CD ambiguously named Electronic 80s that my dad had hidden away between all of the Queen and Meatloaf in his music collection. I was around 11 years old and hearing these songs, I instantly wanted to be able to play them. One problem - I had only just had my first few music lessons at school and had no clue where to begin! To that end I took up the piano and set about learning what I could. By the end of my time at school I’d also learnt a little guitar and bass and decided that I wanted to continue with music at college. It was there where I also took up singing in various bands. I even stayed in one when I moved away for university.
Q. Was it music you studied at the Hull University?
A. Yes, out by the sea at the Scarborough branch of the university. It was challenging as I finally had to face working in a studio environment, something I managed to avoid at college. Previously music to me had always been about loudness and getting it across in the biggest way possible, but now I had to start thinking about it more, how pieces would fit together and how things that worked live just didn’t amount to the same feeling in the studio. Less was more and it helped me become more of an arranger, although I can still struggle with the less is more part.
Q. You've wrote some brilliant lyrics to some brilliant songs, where does your inspiration and your ideas come from?
A. Films and the soundtracks that accompanied them.
I remember my dad having 2 huge bookcases filled with VHS films and I’d stay up late with him to watch them. It was no coincidence I guess that the Electronic 80s CD that I fell in love with had several title tracks from films with electronic soundtracks. The first Berlyn Trilogy song that I wrote was named ‘Runners’ and that was massively influenced by the films Logans Run and the revelation that was Blade Runner. It was that film in particular with its soundtrack by Vangelis that became my main inspiration to my approach to synthesiser sound creation. I just wanted to make that iconic Yamaha CS80 sound and I began to make it on every synth I laid my hands on. That culminated in the song I wrote named ‘Words Of A Stranger’. It just encapsulated the feeling I had listening to the Blade Runner soundtrack and that was something I would usually try to do with my song writing, If I found a piece of music that I liked, I would work out how to recreate the way it made me feel with my own music.
Lyrically almost all of my songs became about escaping the city, overcoming people who wanted to control you and your actions. Love was a prevailing theme that always led to a sad ending and nothing was more romantic in my lyrics than lovers escaping the city, trying so hard to be together that they would ultimately lose their lives just to share that brief moment. It’s all a little Romeo and Juliet when I think about it really.
Q. It's old news now so I won't dwell on the subject too much but what were your reasons for leaving Berlyn Trilogy?
A. There are no reasons that were related to the music we were making.
All of the reasons I had for leaving the band centred around my ending of the relationship between myself and Faye. I was unhappy in my personal life, only a small handful of people knew and others guessed it. But I loved the music and focused my life on that.
When I eventually made the decision to leave the relationship, I knew I had to leave everything in a sense. We had been together for a few years and there were a lot of things that were tied into that, including the band. People had also started to pick up on the friction and arguments at gigs and rehearsals, including our band mate James.
Q. Do you think there's ever a possibility you could collaborate with them again in the future?
A. Yes and no.
On the opposite side of the friction between myself and Faye, the time that I would spend with James really pushed me to learn more about synthesisers and the gear involved. We could both spend hours in a rehearsal looking through a manual working out how to connect or enable a certain feature on the drum machine and it’s little memories like that, which remind me how much I loved working with him. So with that, I’d love to work on collaborations with him in the future. But in terms of working with Berlyn Trilogy again, the main thing is that they are a new band now, and with their renewed line up, following a sound that suits them with where they are now. So on that end I would have to say no.
Q. I was gutted when you split, to me you were the new Human League but you left with an album 'A Perfect Stranger' that some bands would die for. What is your most memorable moment with Berlyn Trilogy?
A. Two gigs instantly come to mind. Supporting Toyah and supporting Blancmange, and both involved playing to rooms that you couldn’t move in.
When we supported Blancmange we were still using the drum machine setup, so everything was a lot more live and raw. We were a mess of wires and it felt really visceral. I remember my high school music teacher being there and I felt accomplished in that he had seen me go from those first few music lessons in school when I wanted to learn the songs on that CD, to a stage where I was performing songs that I had written. It’s quite fitting that he was also at the Toyah concert. There we had a much more polished edge to our sound as we had moved onto a different system using a portable studio set up that allowed us to incorporate Steve Whitfield’s produced versions of the songs. Also it was our first time with a dressing room. It was an amazing night.
Q. On to the future. Is the sound you have now with Promenade Cinema the sound you wanted with Berlyn Trilogy?
A. No, Working with Steve Whitfield, I managed to develop the sound that I wanted with Berlyn Trilogy, and with Promenade Cinema songwriting wise it is a different dynamic because Emma is a songwriter herself and I love that I’m able to help her develop the songs she is writing to make them our own. In Berlyn I would write the main bulk of the song, writing the lyrics, chords and the lead lines/melodies, with Faye and James adding to the song how they saw best with their own parts. Faye would adapt bass line ideas I had written or create her own, and James would add most of the drum machine parts and a lot of the arpeggios as his synthesisers were much more geared towards those sounds than my own. I also programmed the drum machine for a few songs such as Departed and Monument. I loved changing basic sounds into other things, a highlight was when I turned a snare drum into an automatic sliding door. I would just lose hours on the drum machine and always ended up creating new songs, so I had to put it down once we had the album done. In terms of sound, there is a trilogy of songs that I wrote, with the last song being released by Promenade Cinema as our 2nd single. So I guess in that context there is definitely a cross over with the sound. The three songs are A Slow Reveal, A Wreckage Of Love and As The World Stops Revolving. I always wanted to write song sequels and I wanted to end A Perfect Stranger with A Slow Reveal as a sort of post credits lead up to the Wreckage of Love Ep. Obviously I left just before we released the version of that song with my vocals (again staying with Steve Whitfield as the producer). I loved the idea of ending the lyrics of Slow with these lines – “Love’s revealed, tonight, A wreckage of steel, tonight” As it hinted at the upcoming doom of Wreckage. As The World completes the trio with almost an overview of the events from start to end, but laid out in a more film narrative style.
Q. How would you describe 'Cinedramatic Synthpop'?
A. Synthesiser music inspired by film soundtracks with the emphasis on being dramatic! It’s a tag line that could fit many synth bands, but it’s definitely a focus of ours with the music we create.
Q. Emma Barson is the other half of Promenade Cinema and she is also your other half. How do you separate a personal relationship from a working one?
A. We don’t really. The biggest thing is to not take things personally and understand that we both push to the other to achieve our best. We can get incredibly involved with the smallest aspects of things and discuss everything. We feel the band is an outward projection of us as a combined ‘thing’, our tastes and personalities coming together to create something we view as ‘us’.
Q. Do you both share the same musical interests?
A. Yes and no
We both listen to music and value it for what it is. But we differ in that Emma loves to find new music, and I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by how much great stuff there is out there. When it comes down to taste though, we share a lot of common ground, and can usually find something to like in most music.
Q. What are your roles within the band?
A. Our roles tend to be very supportive.
In terms of song writing, we get ourselves comfortable with all of the gear around us and just bounce ideas back and forth, questioning each other on where the song is heading and if it’s creating a musical narrative we want to follow. If one of us has the leading idea then the other will help to find ways to maximise its potential, sometimes that can lead to interesting ideas of their own too, and we both adapt to how things develop.
We are constantly growing and developing as Emma tends to have more of an ear for the intricacies of how things interact, with my broader experience of studios and live setups we work together to create something we’re extremely proud of.
Within a live sense we are settling into it well and have had an overwhelming response.
Q. Any plans to add/use other musicians for live performances or studio recordings?
A. No. Just more gear.
In the studio we are aided as I was before by Steve Whitfield. He is someone who I love to work with and he tends to act as a steadying hand and helps us develop our ideas. To that end he can sometimes act like a third musician with the band. Other than that, we keep the band to ourselves and focus on it as a two piece.
Q. Your début single 'Chemical Haunting' was released in April, is this track from a forthcoming album?
A. Yes. We decided a while ago that we wanted to go down the album route, and although we know it will take time to record it all, we decided to limit our releases so that the album will be refreshing and new. So other than the odd few songs we plan on releasing, you will have to see us live to hear the songs!
Q. Any gigs planned for the near future? surely Mr Derek Anthony Williams must have something in the pipeline?
A. There are quite a few. I won’t mention them here as they will be out of date sooner then later. But as it currently stands we are gigging a fair bit as we get a grip with the live side of things, as it’s a great way to see how people react to the songs and we find what works and what doesn’t. We’re pressing on with the recordings as most of the songs used live are currently production demos.
And yes. Derek always has something in the pipeline!
Q. Name three of the most important things that you want to achieve as a group in the near future?
A. Playing abroad.
Recording and releasing our first album
Potentially finding a label that supports us in our aims – until then we are happy to self-release.
Thank you Dorian for taking part and good luck with everything in the future. See you soon ;-)