Q&A With Gary Watts
of Nature of Wires
Q. Hi Gary. Thanks for taking part in the Q&A. You are new to many of us on the scene but Nature of Wires formed back in 1986?
A. Hi Andy. Yes, sort of. I bought a CZ-101 from one of the guys I was working for at the time and my friend Simon from down the other end of the village had a Technics keyboard. I asked my best friend from school, Andrew Stirling-Brown, if he fancied singing in a band (he took some persuading) and then I got hold of one of those bippety-bop 1980’s drum machines. Our first gig as such was at an engagement party on 18th October 1986 in Hereford, where we supported my mate Ian’s band. Keyboards were all played totally live, without the aid of sequencers or computers. Are Friends Electric is rather nerve-wracking to play totally live! We had several names before we became NOW, including Wayward Glance and The Axis. There were 4 of us I think for that first gig, including a guitarist called Chris. We then went on to play at other local venues and at one point we became a 4 piece rock band with Andrew singing, me on bass, Chris on lead and our mate Gareth on drums. Then eventually there were two; Andrew and I, plus an Atari ST. We were still looking for a band name and, as we were packing up after a gig in 1987, Andrew was bemoaning the fact that cables get so badly wrapped around each other, even though they don’t move. I explained that this was just the nature of wires. Cue Eureka moment!
Q. You mention Andrew Stirling Brown, Is he still a part of the line up?
A. Yes, Andrew is still very much part of NOW, although he has not had any major involvement in the creation of the new album (more about that later), having been busy with other bands. We did get him to do guest vocals on one of the album tracks though and looking ahead, Andrew & I plan to release an EP later this year and then a full album in 2017/18.
Q. What kind of music were you producing back then?
A. Synthpop, pure & simple, including accurate recreations of songs by Depeche Mode, Shamen, Pet Shop Boys, etc. It was a bit karaoke at times, but people seemed to like it.
Q. Is it true you produced your music in a garden shed?
A. We did, at Andrew’s mum’s place in Herefordshire. Thankfully it’s well away from any other houses. There’s a recent picture of it on Instagram actually. It’s in a bit of a sorry state now though and we had to hack our way through dense jungle to get to it. Rats and wasps are the current inhabitants.
Q. In 1993 you released your debut album ' Modus Operandi' and then you called it a day. Why was that?
A. Time really, or lack of. I’d set up my own IT business and I wasn’t able to find time to create new material and so we played the same set over and over again for about 6-8 months. We’d taken on a female vocalist by then, Sarah Bouchier, who was amazing, so it’s a shame we couldn’t keep it going. I guess we just got a bit bored of doing the same thing over and over again. Our last public performance was on 8th October 1994 to a packed Saxty’s in Hereford, but we never officially split; we just agreed to take a break. Then we all grew up, got married, had children etc; all the usual “adulty” stuff.
Q. Fast forward 20 years later to 2014 and you started writing music again. What made you want to do it all again?
A. I think I just got my life balance back in order at about the same time I got married to Guen, who has made me very happy. I tried to get back into it in 2001, but I just wasn’t in the right place mentally then. I really started to think about it while Guen and I were on honeymoon in March of 2014. I discovered Cyferdyne and they gave me the inspiration to start creating again. I’d been listening to quite a bit of Industrial EBM since 2007 and I just really liked that harder edge to all the electronic stuff. I’ve also been a fan of Deviant UK since I saw them in 2008 at Gary Numan’s 50th birthday gig in Manchester and after that I became friends with Jay Smith on social media. I contacted Jay out of the blue at the end of May 2014 to ask what kit he and Cyferdyne were using and he gave me some good advice, which I took.
Q. You have teamed up with the wonderful Maren Northway aka Countess M. What does Maren bring to N.O.W.?
A. That unique vocal style. It’s just incredible and really gets people talking. Maren writes fantastic dark lyrics, often based on her own life experiences. I didn’t really know what sound I was looking for until I heard Maren’s voice. I knew that I wanted something distinctive though and fortunately I struck gold. It came about by chance when I uploaded a remix of a song by KnowKontrol to Soundcloud. Maren had worked with KnowKontrol and so heard what I had uploaded and then put a comment on to say she’d love to work with me. We didn’t have any plans at first for a full album, maybe just an EP, but we communicated and worked together really well and were getting great feedback from so many people, plus lots of internet and fm radio play, so we kept going until we had 10 songs. For those that don’t know, Maren lives in California and I am in the UK. We’ve never actually met – it’s all come about via the power of the internet.
Q. What differences do you see on the scene now compared to back then, in terms of releasing, record labels and performing live?
A. Technological advances have had the biggest impact I think. Powerful hardware and software are so much more accessible nowadays, as specifications have improved at a similar rate to that at which costs have dropped. The flipside to this is that the non-mainstream music market has become a bit saturated and so there is more competition, if I can call it that, at this end of the scale. I think this makes it harder if anything to get gigs (well attended gigs anyway) and to get signed to an established label, although self-releases are commonplace now and generally very well produced. If you really get involved in the “scene” by buying the music and going to the shows to meet and support the people involved, you stand a much better chance. It’s classic networking – I do it with my business and I adopt the same attitude and techniques with my music; it’s all a big sales pitch really and a whole lot of fun at the same time. For me, performing live is so much easier than it was in the 80s & 90s – setup time is now about a tenth of what it used to be when we had 13 hardware synths and all those cables which kept getting wrapped around each other.
Q. You have also remixed tracks for other artists, would you like to tell us about a couple?
A. I’ve really enjoyed doing these and I always take it as a compliment when people are brave enough to let me loose on their creations. I’m always nervous when I first send them what I’ve done to their songs, but I think I’ve got away with it so far. I’ve done quite a few now and it’s really hard to pick out any favourites, as I always try to make the next one better than the previous. Nothing Matters by Rare Facture stands out because it was pretty much my favourite song of 2015 and so you can imagine how thrilled I was to be invited to do that one. Grey Dawn for the new Advance EP is slower and more dramatic than my usual output and has had good reviews. Monster by Precog is one I’m particularly pleased with (thanks for pointing me towards that one). D.E.P. ft Mixe1 , My.Cosmo & DJ Magics , IIOIOIOII, Real Experts, Jan Doyle Band, In This Mode and even Sigue Sigue Sputnik Electronic have been put through the NOW mincer.
Q. You have recently released the tracks 'Seagull' & 'Time is Come' but these aren't new tracks are they Gary?
A. We wrote these literally half my life ago! Seagull was started in December 1990 and was my favourite from the old days; I think it’s got the broadest appeal. Time is Come was 1991 I think and originally had me playing guitar in it. They were both on Modus Operandi, which was actually done on a 4 track tape machine in the aforementioned garden shed. They’ve scrubbed up well using new technology and we plan to include these in the EP I referred to earlier. Both Time Is Come and Seagull are available on Bandcamp.
Q. You have a new album titled 'Cyber Rendezvous' due for release, are they all new tracks?
A. New, as in all written in the last 18 months. The title track was the first one Maren and I did back at the start of 2015. It’s taken a while, but hopefully it’ll be worth the wait. There are a few on there, which haven’t been released to any radio shows before, so there’s something new for everyone. Although the title track is about the frustrations of online dating, it’s also a reference to how Maren and I “met”.
Q. How would you describe the sound and feel of this album, were you wanting to keep the sound of the original N.O.W.?
A. Not really. I wanted something much heavier and darker, in line with what I’ve been inspired by, i.e. Cyferdyne & Deviant UK. Although I sort of set out to sound a bit like them instrumentally, I like to think we don’t really sound like any one act in particular, but the influences are all in there somewhere if you listen hard enough.
Q. Have you collaborated with other artists on this album?
A. We’ve kept it to just Maren and me, with Andrew guesting on The Feast on Famine.
Q. All albums have hot tracks, which one is your favourite?
A. That’s a tricky one, but Dance with Your Own Skeletons probably. I was gobsmacked when Lloyd Price from Massive Ego contacted me to say he’d like to remix it. That goes down as a career highlight.
Q. Are there any videos to accompany the tracks?
A. Just some still imagery on YouTube. However, we’ve had a fan video done for Massive Ego’s remix of Dance with Your Own Skeletons
We are in discussions about having videos made for the original album tracks and are always keen to talk to anyone interested in creating one for us. The fact that Maren and I live so far apart could be seen as a logistical challenge, but I’m not too precious about being in any videos myself, so we don’t have to be in the same place at the same time – I’m happy just to be heard rather than seen.
Q. The album is going to be released through a record label, when will it be released and on what formats?
A. 29th July on the AnalogueTrash label, in both digital and CD formats. Pre-orders are being taken right now. The guys at AnalogueTrash have uploaded a preview to Soundcloud, with 20 second snippets of each song.
You can order it HERE from bandcamp and it’s available from Amazon and the iTunes store too.
I’m very pleased to be involved with AnalogueTrash. They’ve got some great acts in their portfolio and Mark & Adrian, who run the label, are two of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet and they work really hard for their artists.
Finally Gary, thanks for your time and I wish you all the best with the release of your album. Is there anything further you would like to add?
It’s a pleasure. I think it would be great to get Maren to do one of these Q&A sessions; she has so much musical experience and is a very interesting lady. Thanks to everyone who has taken an interest in what we’ve done so far; too many names to mention here, but if you look hard enough on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/natureofwires you’ll see who they are. The other obvious thing to add would be to wish you Andy a very happy 50th birthday on 1st July, coincidentally the same day that I reach the same age.