INTERVIEW: Brix Smith Start - "Writing and playing music is my joy, my passion, and my reason for living"

INTERVIEW: Brix Smith Start - "Writing and playing music is my joy, my passion, and my reason for living" 1

Brix & The Extricated released their amazing new album “Super Blood Wolf Moon” on 25th October on Grit Over Glamour Records.  Honouring the prolific output that is historically embedded in this band's DNA, Brix & The Extricated release their third studio album in as many years. 364 days after the release of their second record “Breaking State”, the band have changed gears once again. This album sees the band decimate dimensional boundaries resulting in a body of work that is sure to resonate.  Mark Millar caught up with Brix Smith-Start to talk about the new album.

Brix & The Extricated

Brix & The Extricated released “Super Blood Wolf Moon” on 25th October. Which are 364 days after the release of your second record “Breaking State.” Your band must be the most prolific around. Do you think it is important to keep putting your music out quickly?

This is what we do - it’s not a side project; we mean business. We are prolific, and we are all songwriters, and when the songs keep coming the way they do, and with the quality of songs, we feel we should get ‘em out! Historically it’s in our DNA with our past work – we always released an album a year, and to me that’s normal.

"Super Blood Wolf Moon" is a great title. What's the meaning behind it?

We wrote the first song for the album at the tail end of the Breaking State tour. By January and February, I sent a few demos to write the lyrics and melody, and I was working on them at my friend’s house in Kent. I usually go there to write because she lives in this fantastic house right on the white cliffs overlooking the sea. It's very spectacular, and I find it a great place to write. Other people have done work there - the place has great energy. On one of the nights when I was staying overwriting, it was the night of the actual Super Blood Wolf Moon. We were so excited that we set our clocks to wake us up at four in the morning when you could see it at it’s best.

So we got up and went outside on the lawn and looked up at the moon and it was so incredible. It was really like a full wolf moon, but at that point, it has conspired to be even more of a phenomenon because it was a super blood full wolf moon. I thought, “Wow, I'm writing these words under this magical moon." Later on, when I wrote the words to 'Waterman,’ one of the lyrics is "Super blood wolf moon punching in a time clock eating while you sleep.” I thought that was great and I took the title from the lyric. I asked the band what they thought of 'Super Blood Wolf Moon' as the title for the album, and everybody agreed on it straight away, so that’s what it was.

The album is very much on point topically. It addresses overmedicating culture, climate change and destruction of the environment, depression and drug addiction. Did you intend to write about those subjects from the beginning of the writing sessions?

It came naturally – I never start with the intention of a concept of an album or anything. What I do is I take it moment by moment, song by song. So if Jason Brown sends me a song like 'Strange Times' for instance, I listen to the song, and I literally isolate it. I do what is necessary for the songs depending on how the song inspires me. It didn't connect with me initially that the whole album was about the same subject matter or similar. It’s really about the global grief consciousness that is happening to all of us on this planet whether it be from climate change, political things, energy, economics – everything.

It’s a very fucking strange time for everybody - the sand is shifting underneath us, and the world is not as we ever knew it. We are all connected in these strange, dire, frightening, unstable times, either consciously or unconsciously. And because of all these things, there is more drug addiction, and there is more suicide - people are leaving the planet every day. Catastrophic things are happening to the environment. And when I sat back with the album after writing and recording it and looked at it as a whole, I thought, "Jesus fuck me this whole thing is about this." None of it is about me personally. Obviously, the songs are filtered through my life experiences, but I think I tapped into something much more significant than myself here, and hopefully, that will resonate with people. I didn't set out to do it, but that's what came out so I’ll take it.

'Crash Landing' is a great song. What can you tell me about it?

The way this band works is, we are all songwriters. They send me their songs in demo form, and I write the words and the melodies if the song resonates with me. Sometimes they send me stuff that doesn't stir me in any way, but 99% of the time they do. Then I’ll write the words and melody and send it back. We have a Google drive that we all share to keep listening to what each other is doing. Then I go up to Manchester, and we record a demo. 'Crash Landing' initially had been a Jason Brown song and it was the first song that we had finished for this album. Jason said, “Brix, I have written this song, but it's in a peculiar time signature." I'm like, “is it?” and he said, “Yeah, I have written it in eleven – four time." I thought, "Oh my God."

Now, here's the thing anybody that knows me knows that eleven-eleven is my power number. I have eleven-eleven tattooed on my left arm in black and on my right arm in white. Anything to do with eleven is a repetitive number that I see or have seen my whole life. So when he told me that I thought it was perfect. It took me a while to get the lyrics right because it was like a mathematical equation - I heard the music, and I realised I had two voices going on in my head at the same time. It was like a voice and a counter-voice, but it came from the same mind, so when I started writing it, I realised the way I had to count it was to do eight syllables in one voice and three syllables in the counter-voice.

Once I started writing, it was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, and the words just came out - I didn't question what I was saying. One voice is like the narrator and conscious voice that’s telling you what’s happening. And the other voice is the same person, ticking off a checklist before committing suicide by taking a lethal drug overdose.

There is weighty subject matter on every song on the album. There isn't one song about skipping through a field or anything like that – it's all heavy. But it's done in a beautiful way and a very uplifting melodic way in many cases. Because I also believe that life is about polarity and there is no night without day - a magnet is about polarity you can't exist just with one thing, so you do need the darkness with the light.

What song is the most personal song to you on the record?

All of them would be personal in some way - obviously 'Crash Landing' is seriously personal. Every one of them has something to do with the darkness that's going on in the world and the darkness inside me. I have struggled with addiction, and certainly in the case of 'Dinosaur Girl,' I am Dinosaur Girl! The song is about the overmedicating culture with anti-depressants. I'm not making a judgement, good or bad - I'm one of those people THAT was given anti-depressants for a long time. And for the time that I was on them, I never wrote a thing. That was the fifteen years when I never picked up a guitar because I was numbed to my feelings. I didn't have any peaks or troughs, and somehow the connection of inspiration was muted because of the anti-depressants, but I haven't had them for a long time now, and clearly, I'm writing again – I have a backlog to write.

I often think, what if ten thousand years from now, whatever species is on this planet were to dig up all of our bones from this era and look at them. And let's say eighty per cent of the people are medicated on some form of anti-depressant or medication. First of all, what does it do to you when you suppress all those feelings inside of you and your secrets and your passions and all those things? And second of all, what does it do to your bones? Years later will they be able to look at them with devices like we look at bones now and analyse it by digging up the bones of the Prozac nation?

I realise I am 'Dinosaur Girl' – that's me. That's what that song is about, so it's quite personal. They are all personal for different reasons.

Overall was it an enjoyable experience recording "Super Blood Wolf Moon" considering the dense subject matter?

Always! Writing and playing music is my joy, my passion, and my reason for living. Even if the subject matter, when you stand back and look at how heavy it is, I love every minute. If you give me a song, I jump on it like a hyena on a carcass - so I love writing, and I love writing for everyone, it’s the thing that makes my brain come alive, so YEAH!

I love the artwork on the record. Who did it?

His name is Rufus Dayglo, and he is probably one of the UK’s greatest comic book illustrators, if not the greatest. He worked on Tank Girl, 2000 AD, Judge Dredd, and he's done covers for the Ramones. He's just iconic, and he's a massive fan of The Fall, and then he became a massive Brix and the Extricated fan. He began to communicate with us on our Twitter site, and I didn't know who he was. Weirdly I had auditioned to play Tank Girl about 23 years ago in America, so I knew who Tank Girl was obvious. Anyway, he started to write to us on Twitter, and I became Twitter friends with him, but I didn't know what he did, and one day he said, "Do you know what I do?" and I said, "No I have no idea." He said, “I drew Tank Girl.” And I said, "YOU WHAT?" Then we began to chat more and more, and he said, “ I would be so happy to draw you." Then he did, he drew the cover for the last album 'Breaking State', and now he has done 'Super Blood Wolf Moon' too. We are super grateful to him because they are very iconic images. He does strong, sexy warrior-esque females very well.

Unfortunately, many bands have to hold down day jobs, and Brix and the Extricated are no exception. Do you find it hard to balance?

I think it’s always a delicate balance because everybody has day jobs and families. That's why we usually play gigs at weekends. It isn't straightforward, but we work around it and make it work for us.

Do you intend to follow up your book (The Rise, The Fall, And The Rise)?

I do - I have started a couple and then stopped because I've got swept way in the music again. My last book took me two years to write, and it was full-time dedication - six hours a day literally. (Laughs) I love writing, and I 100% want to write another one. I want to write a continuation of that book. It will be about what happened when I came back into the music business and gave up everything for music. And what it is like to go back into the business at my age and to be looking at a whole new landscape. We have had to work hard - we have had nothing handed to us on a plate. Obviously, we had a pedigree and a history that people knew. Still, we started from scratch, and no one has done us any favours let me tell you. We go out there, and we graft, but we love what we are doing. So the story would be about that, and I have started a novel as well.

If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?

The most important thing would be that artists get paid correctly and that you would be able to make a living out of doing what you love. There are very few people who make a living out of music at the moment. We are fortunate because we have taken it all in house. We have a distributor, but we have our own record label now after the first record. And because of our fan base and our engagement on social media, and our website, we can fund our albums, and luckily we are more than breaking even. None of us will be going out buying mansions, but we make enough so that we are in profit and can make the next record.

What are you most grateful for about being able to be a musician every day?

I am so grateful that I'm creating and writing again at this level, and having the freedom to be utterly truthful and making the things that I've always wanted to make. I am so happy to be doing it again in every aspect and my own skin. Also, the other thing is, I am so glad to be playing with the most wonderful musicians. The Hanley brothers and I have thirty-five years under our belts knowing each other and playing in some form. Brix and the Extricated aren't just about me – certainly not, it’s the sum of all it’s parts. Alan McGee said to me, “the Hanley brothers are the greatest rhythm section in the UK hands down”, so I've got them, and Steve Trafford and Jason Brown, who are probably two of the best guitarists I have ever witnessed anywhere in my life, and they are both extraordinary songwriters. You are lucky if it comes along once in your life, but for me, it’s come along twice - it’s magic!

brix and the extricated

Track Listing
01 Strange Times
02 Hustler
03 Wolves
04 Waterman
05 Dinosaur Girl
06 Crash Landing
07 Wintertyde
08 Wasteland
09 Tannis Root
10 The God Stone

UK Tour Dates 2019

30 November London The Lexington

10 January 2020 Rockaway Beach

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