Interview Pat Sanders (Drifting Sun):
"We need more 'planet junkies' who love our world to help keep it a safe place!"
(December 2019, text by Henri Strik, edited by Peter Willemsen, pictures provided by Pat Sanders)
Drifting Sun were formed in Chesham in the early nineties after French natives Pat Sanders (keyboards) and Manu Sibona (bass) left France and moved to the UK. They recorded their eponymous debut album in 1996 and a second one called On The Rebound in 1999 before they disbanded. After a hiatus of almost fourteen years they reunited and since then they recorded four albums. Nowadays, it's one of the most interesting bands. As far as I'm concerned, their new and sixth album Planet Junkie (see review) certainly is one of the musical highlights of 2019. That was the main reason for Background Magazine to ask founding member, composer and keyboardist Pat Sanders to tell us a bit more about the band and their latest album.
Pat, would you please explain the album title Planet Junkie to our readers?
Pat Sanders: “Well, the idea behind Planet Junkie is about loving the world we live in, and looking after it in any which way we can. Currently it has become more important than ever to take care of our planet, so we need more 'planet junkies' who love our world enough to do their bit to help keep it a safe place!”
“That's correct. Some, not all the songs on this album are very personal to me, as they reflect my feelings regarding issues in my life in the past two years. The passing away of my father affected me greatly in 2018 and that fact is expressed in such songs as Missing and Life. Personal relationship issues have sparked the writing of such songs as Night-Time Sorrow and Stay With Me and to a certain extent, some of the lyrics in Everlasting Creed are related to it as well. Born Of A Dream was written with the voice of singer Joshua Corum in mind. This is what I heard when I listened to his voice for the first time, and I dedicated the song to my new-born nephew as a little personal gift because to me it embodies love and beauty, all things pure in life! The rest of the songs on the record don't have a connection with the issues I went through last year though, they're just songs!”
Personally I find the song Stay With Me really heart-breaking. Was it meant to be so and why was the guitar solo done by Mathieu Spaeter so short?
“Yes, it's about trying to hang on to a relationship that isn't working. Like, one of the stages of breaking up after the anger, you got the pleading. We couldn't stretch the guitar solo done by Mathieu a bit longer. You know, one day someone complained to me that the fade of Everlasting Creed lasted too long!”
How did you find such a great guitar player as Mathieu?
“I came across Mathieu purely by accident, whilst listening to his work with Franck Carducci one day. We were having problems with Dan Storey at the time and Mathieu's playing totally blew me away! I thought I must ask him if he would be interested in working with us. The rest is history!”
I love the short minimalist piano piece titled Life. It brings a moment of peace of mind in the spirit of the classical composer Eric Satie. You dedicated this small instrumental interlude at the piano to your father. Was it difficult to write a piece of music for him?
“Very difficult... I actually wrote this piece on the day my father passed away, and the recording was done pretty much on the spot. Had I recorded it on an acoustic piano, you would have heard a bit of sobbing in the background...”
Night-Time Sorrow has an intro that reminded me of Video Killed The Radio Star, one of the biggest hits of The Buggles. Do you agree?
“You're quite right. Someone mentioned it to me, and I wasn't aware of the connection up till then, ha, ha! It shows how music can affect us, often subconsciously. Having said that, there was nothing deliberate about it, I swear!”
On the album I miss the voice of Peter Falconer. Why was he replaced by three different singers and how did you get them on the album?
“Peter left the band rather suddenly. We had spent so much time not being very active for the best part of 2018 due to my personal problems, and nothing was progressing with the band. Trying to find someone to pick up where Peter left off and work on the entire album would have been a mammoth task. In addition it would take so much more time, so I thought that perhaps 'breaking down' the duties by having several vocalists sharing the spotlight was a great way to get the album done within a reasonable length of time without compromising on the quality of the singing. I was fortunate enough to get Marc Atkinson, Colin Mould and Joshua Corum to accept to work on a few songs each. I'm very pleased with the result we achieved; we have managed to keep a lot of unity in the record despite the different moods conveyed throughout the album.”
The lead singers indeed did a great job. Did you choose them because their voices are quite similar?
“No, I wouldn't say they sound similar. Marc has a gravelly tone to his voice which makes it unique. Colin also has a unique quality in his voice, a bit like Peter Gabriel in the sense that his voice is so 'rounded' that he barely needs any backing vocals at all. Joshua brought a more modern feel with his singing, and that was also a fantastic contribution to the tunes he sang on. I would say they all have different styles, but somehow the whole thing 'gelled' perfectly.”
What was the reason to ask Ben Bell to play Hammond organ on the instrumental I Will Be King? You could do it yourself, couldn't you?
“Ha, ha, Ben is primarily an organist, that's his weapon of choice, he's brilliant at what he does, and this song had his name on it as far as those groovy Hammond sections. I thought he'd be perfect for the job, and the result is there: he was!”
I was surprised to hear Sarah Skinner on saxophone. Her contributions were very important to the sound on several tracks. Was it the first time you used this instrument on a Drifting Sun album? How did you find Sarah, anyway?
“Absolutely, Sarah did a couple of fantastic solos on Within Your Bones and I Will Be King. I wanted a real saxophone on these tracks, as nothing else would have given the mood I was after, and it was an interesting experience adding brass to our songs, which we hadn't done before. I met Sarah through Ben who has known her for some time and worked with her in the past.”
The other guests, Eric Bouillette on strings and Conrad Cheng on clarinet, did some fine contributions as well. What was the reason to use them?
“Again, I had a string part in mind for To Tame A Star and Born Of A Dream so Eric agreed to put his stamp on those tracks with some superb and classy string parts. I'm very pleased with what he has come up with! Conrad is a personal friend of mine who did the clarinet part as a favour to me because that was the kind of sound I was after for that particular section in Everlasting Creed.”
The amazing art work on the cover was very well done by Karen Koski. At first sight I wondered what I was looking at. Is it a planet, a volcano eruption or a tree? Or is it just a female figure looking up? Tell me, please?
“The archetype of a planet addict, the nature growing inside his body − it's a man by the way! − depicts how man and nature can be one. Karen had already created that piece of art when I came across her work, and this was perfect for what we needed. It symbolized the concept I had in mind.”
Why did you use Charlie Chaplin's quote 'you'll never find a rainbow if you are looking down'?
“When you are down into the rabbit hole, you need to keep looking up and think positively. That's the only way to climb back up in your life...”
Do you have any plans performing the album live on stage?
“Ah....yes that's certainly the question. Well, I'd love to... in an ideal world, yes... but it's tough to get the logistics for live shows.”
Everybody wants to know why you don't play live.
“I'm hoping that at some point we'll be able to organize shows, though. The problem is that we're all over the place. Our guitarist Mathieu Spaeter lives in Estonia, I'm in the UK and bassist Manu Michael lives in France.”
“Singled Out is a compilation with a twist − as I like to describe it − in the sense that it is made up solely of tunes that we hadn't previously released on CD, even though most of them had been released as B-sides of our singles over the years, or as isolated single releases. I thought it would be a good idea to immortalize' those in physical format, and we added a few more goodies which should please our fans. At least we hope so. Four tracks were recorded during the 'Peter era', as bonus tracks on our previous singles. There are also a few piano-only pieces and a couple of instrumentals I recorded with Dan Storey. We added a 'live' version of Last Supper that we had recorded with a previous incarnation of Drifting Sun, as well as the song called Cascading Tears at the time again, with Peter on vocals, and which Joshua totally remodelled with his amazing vocals as Everlasting Creed.”
Thank you Pat for answering my questions!
“Most welcome! I have a lot of new material I've started working on for the next release. There might be something coming from us in the meantime, possibly before the next full-length album. But I don't want to say more yet! Thank you and thanks to all the magazines that have been so kind to us by supporting our music so amazingly! And of course: a massive thank you to all our fans for believing in us always!”
review album 'Planet Junkie' (2019)
review album 'Twilight' (2017)
review album 'Safe Asylum' (2016)
review album 'Trip The Life Fantastic' (2015)
review album 'On The Rebound' (1999/2016)
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