Ecki Goes Mono, Interview by Toby Venables

Ecki Goes Mono, Interview by Toby Venables
Acoustic Stage
Cambridge-based singer-songwriter Ecki (AKA Richard Ecclestone) has proved a force to be reckoned with on the live scene in recent years, and was named ‘one to watch in 2005' by none other than The Independent for his debut solo album Punchdrunk. MTN talked to him as he was preparing to embark on the promotional trail for his long-awaited second album Mono, to be released in Spring 2007.

Tell us a bit about the forthcoming album, Mono...

I like it, I can tell you that. I know people always say that, but I really am very happy with. It's a lot closer to what I initially set out to record than Punchdrunk was and feels more focused. It's darker, maybe more world weary than the first - that might be why I like it more. Again, it's fairly varied style-wise from song to song, but I think the limitations of time and keeping the band small have made the thing hang together. There are more harmonies and yet it's fairly raw sounding. It's still all about the songs, and writing as good a song as I can.

Was the recording a very different process from the first album Punchdrunk?

Very. Punchdrunk ended up taking a long time with several different band line-ups, and I certainly didn't want that again - apart from anything else, it costs more. So I went in with just the live band. It was recorded at the beginning of summer in a big house in the middle of nowhere - exactly how I've always wanted to record. I think we all got though the process relatively unscathed. The intensity of the recording process with the five of us - Jordan (Bass), Dave (Pianos), Alex (Drums), Steve (the engineer) and me - holed up without anywhere to go could've ended up in a bloodbath, but they're an understanding bunch, bless 'em. I'm a bit of a nightmare as a self producer. Although I know what I want and I know when I don't like something, I don't always have a definite idea of how to get what I want. But they came though for me.

You had some interesting people on the mixing desk I believe...

Again, I managed to get Steve Bush - who produced the Stereophonics' first three albums as well as working on the Corinne Bailey Ray album - to mix a couple of tracks and I got Lee Russell to mix the rest. I think Lee was the last piece of the puzzle as to how this record sounded, as I've met very few people who get where I'm trying to come from musically as closely as he does. I'm over the moon with the job that both he and Steve have done. They have quite different approaches to mixing, but the stuff sits together really well.

Punchdrunk, was totally self released and promoted and you're sticking to the same pattern with Mono. How did that come about?

Basically, I decided to do the self release thing with Punchdrunk after negotiation with the label who were going to put it out failed. I then decided to try and bankrupt myself buying the masters back after I'd foolishly lost control of them mid-negotiation... Going though the whole process again and potentially losing another year didn't really appeal, so I started my own label, Product Records, found distribution and put it out that way. It seemed expensive at the time, but I think it was worth while.

Punchdrunk got some phenomenal press - in particular from The Independent. What effect did that have?

I think it gave an idea of what can be done on limited means. The first few months of 2005 were really exciting as things were moving and everything was looking stupidly optimistic. But I didn't quite have the resources. I got close to achieving what I was hoping for, but not quite close enough.

So what do you do next..?

It's all about getting the second album out now, so the answer to that is ‘whatever it takes'. As it takes quite a lot and I'll probably be doing most of it myself I'm going to be quite busy!

You have described your songs as ‘melancholic' but you always seem rather cheerful in person. What's the story there?

That has been said many times. When I'm gigging I'm always so pleased to be playing it can seem at odds with the songs. All I can say is that the songs come from a different place. I take music stupidly seriously - probably too much so. I couldn't possibly be the person I am when I write all the time. I wouldn't get through the day.

What are your strongest influences - both in the past and present?

Musically, John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Tim Buckley, Rory MacLeod and Led Zeppelin are all in there but over recent years I guess Shawn Colvin, Gillian Welch and Ben Harper have been the biggest inspirations.

The local scene seems a pretty close knit bunch of people in many ways - do you find it to be a supportive community?

I've been out of the loop for a little while, but Phil at Hope Street Music who do the Living Room at CB2, Sara who does (the now recently defunct) Acoustic Soul Sunday and Jo who does The Loft and now the Boathouse do a really good job that shouldn't be underestimated. I've never known a better time for acoustic acts in Cambridge. I wish there had been these places when I moved here - it's much less of a closed shop now, which can only be a good thing.

So when will you be playing again?

I've got a couple of shows in December but mainly I'm planning everything for next spring and summer to support the album. So watch this space!

And what else do you hope for in 2007?

Who knows? It's is a long race this music lark, and I'm just grateful to do the things that come my way - but Mono getting lots of good reviews, lots of radio play and a Mercury nomination would be nice!

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