Piano Wire: Warts and beauty spots

By John Clay

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“Shooting up, Vanilla Ice cream, the magnificent attitude of absolutely not giving a fuck and avoiding mediocrity at all costs even if it means death itself.” Symren Gharial

Andy Huxley and Symren Gharial of Piano Wire discuss the mountain highs and face-in-the-dirt lows that helped forge Dream Underground. The album is exquisite. The lyrical content is not for the faint of heart. Kind of like this interview.

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Get A Life …This is hands down my favourite track on the L.P. Care to share what it’s all about?

Sym: It’s about pleasure and vanity and falling in love in a brothel in Brighton. I was obsessed with self harm and found so much pleasure in profoundly painful people and situations. I’d still love to live that way but I can’t handle it. The war is over. The fantasies of Dorian Gray drive the tune really. He couldn’t handle it either. He lived so free he fucked himself over. It’s autobiographical too. I’ve found writing the lyrics on this record incredibly cathartic.

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Cherry Coma … Love the structure on this thing. Do you hear it all in your head when you’re writing, or do you have the basic chords down and leave delay and other atmospherics till the band is assembled?

Andy:  Thanks John. I’m pretty obsessive and protective around song structures. There’s like a line around how a song should fit together for a set of chords or riffs, and you can’t cross the line. With Cherry Coma is seemed to make sense to keep chugging away without any pause based on the bass parts Sym had wrote so I put it together this way. There’s a definite plan.

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All Roads Lead To God … This album is so consistent. Arguably, you’ve gone for a more accessible sound to the debut. What’s All Roads Lead To God all about? Are you trying to offend atheists?

Sym: Shooting up, Vanilla Ice cream, the magnificent attitude of absolutely not giving a fuck and avoiding mediocrity at all costs even if it means death itself. I’ve actually died twice and been brought back to life and I met God in the process. I loved Albert Camus’ “The Outsider.” It provoked so much. I connect with an abstract sense of morality entrenched in a profoundly over active conscience. I’m full of contradictions. I believe you should be able to do and think whatever you want really. But then I can’t accept certain attitudes either..  Current political leaders, all the racism, sexism we still have to put up with. Even the way social media is destroying society.

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Weird Heroes … The L.P has such good flow. Glad you’ve got a ballad on here. Post punk doesn’t really go for such changes of pace these days. Tell me about the decision to create this song? Did you want to push out a chilled track into the L.P, or did it just present itself?

Andy: That track was intentional. Everything is intentional.. There’s always a strong idea what we want to do, but once the writing has started we’re not allowed any more conscious input and it will get finished and it will be what it will be.

Outline of a Massacre … This reminds me of Queens of the Stone Age, but still sounds like you. Do you ever write anything and think it sounds too much like any of your influences?

Andy: Yeah definitely I get worried about it. But it never does sound like them really. People always end up saying you sound like this person or that person and it’s someone you don’t even listen to. The whole thing is totally wrapped up in how different people hear a tune, which is totally subjective. You can’t worry about it or you’ll go mad.

Tell me about the artwork? How does it relate to the title of the album?

Andy: The original idea was around reverse sleep paralysis, kind of like lucid dreaming. It’s a thing I’ve had since I was a kid. I would wake up, usually from a nightmare, and my brain would still be dreaming. So I would effectively be mad for an hour or so. There was a time when I was lying on a bed of needles and sinking into them and trying to climb out, even though I was obviously just in a normal bed clawing at the mattress. Anyway Jude (Wainwright) painted a series of images for us loosely based on this theme and this was the final one she did. I think by that stage we had almost given up on the concept but it seems to have come back right at the last minute. I like the way it also looks like a jazz cover or something.



Hooligan in The USA … Curious about this song. Sounds rather transgressive. Why don’t you include words in the packaging?

Sym: It’s a collage of inspirations and interests of mine that unintentionally wove themselves together. The Black Panthers, Apocalypse Now, Mick Jones, The Vietnam War, the insanity of British and American foreign policy over the centuries, getting clean and superstar Hooligan, the guitarist from my favourite band “These Animal men.” I think rock’n roll bands need to be transgressive otherwise it’s a complete waste of everyone’s time. The rest is left to everyone’s interpretation hence the reason the lyrics aren’t printed.

Glass Elevator Music … One of the most melodically driven tracks. Do you ever get the melodies in your head first, or are you dependent upon finding a cool chord sequence?

Andy: I think I may be giving the game away too much to say that. We’ve got a process. It’s totally fixed and it’s always developing. It’s like baking a cake, you need to do it a certain way to get the best result. But we’re always inventing new recipes.

‘Behind every exquisite thing ever created there was something tragic’. Tell me about Wilde’s quote and what it means to you/this album?

Sym: I think as a band we all have different interpretations of the album. There’s so much pain, suffering and tragedy in the songs for me but the record is also an absolute triumph. There’s an abundance of hope and life and beauty flourishing all the way through it. A true celebration of despair and defeat. Cos out of the defeat comes the victory. Your darkest moments are always laced with something beautiful. I know that well. I love Wilde. He insists on tragedy as the ultimate form of love and beauty. Why do we always destroy the things we love? Why are the most incendiary, wonderful things so painful and overwhelming and unsustainable? It’s obvious to me really. I always thought there was something quite elegant about picking up cigarette ends off the street.

Red Electric Flower … You mention the name of the album early on here. Wanna point out the significance of that? You’re such a mysterious band when I think about it. I have to ask bluntarse questions for the sanity of curious investigators that might follow me down your rabbit hole! ‘There’s a standing ovation in the mess you’re making’ Nice lyrics!

Sym: To me the album appears to be a set of tales from a fantasy underworld that I inhabited when I was begging on the streets of Ladbroke Grove around the time after Eighties Matchbox ended. I met so many special people who were down and out. We were so free but so lost. It was a dream world. Days, weeks and months drifted by with no responsiblity. The characters float in and out of the songs and their wisdom, despair, faith and courage whispers all the way through it. I imagined all the girls and the boys dancing with their pants on their head in a New York basement for this tune. Know what I mean? The “Standing ovation in the mess you’re making” refers to you Theresa May by the way you fucking cunt. And me obviously…

Liquorice Junkie … Something very Sonic Youth about the opening part. Then again, that band has such a pervasive influence over much of the post punk genre. Do you think of this song – or indeed – anything in this collection as ‘post punk’, or are labels reductive?

Andy: I guess everything after punk is post punk so it all is.. I’d love us to be a post punk band but I think we don’t have that sound. Maybe with different production and some more strained singing or something it would be. Someone surely will come along and put us in a genre at some point and we’ll be very unhappy about it, same as the post punks, I guess they weren’t too happy about being called that. One thing I can say is that whatever people will end up calling us it’ll probably be something shit. Cause it always is.



Sounds like something I should know, but I’m more curious than insecure – the name of the band! What inspired it?

Andy: I think they used to hang people with piano wire.. not sure though. It’s also good for cutting cheese.

Fifteen Year Comedown … Tempted to say this is related to 80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster. Care to shed some light on the title/lyrical theme?

Sym: I don’t think I’ll ever come down from The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. I can only equate being in a band with some kind of religious experience and it turns everyday living, which is basically a fucking grind, into some kind of weird adventure. Particularly in these current times. Everything seems so uncertain and Britain is presenting itself as unnervingly xenophobic …let’s face it. It’s not free. It’s some kind of bizarre dictatorship. I mean we have an unelected leader. Madness. I’d think I would probably kill myself if I wasn’t doing this band. The insecurities that have haunted me around being a Sikh child in a foreign land inspire all the lyrics on the album in some way or another. Falling in love with someone who doesn’t give a shit about you. Waiting for someone who doesn’t exist. I’ve always been scared of life … I reckon I’m pretty mistrustful. I ended up falling in love with drugs and had the shit kicked out of me.

Slip Inside The Shadow … We are often robbed of the vocal when you play live. Lovely to hear it here. Ever chatted about vocalists that have directly affected you? Name drop. Go for it!

Andy: Beefheart, Lou Barlow, Mark Kozelek, Arthur Lee, Ian Svenonius, D Boon. There are so many.

Gangs … Fucking love the chorus in this. Tempted to release it as a single? I think it’s as strong as Weird Heroes, if not stronger!

Andy: I like Glass Elevator Music for another single. I think each one of us in the band has a different one we want to be the next single.

Sean’s vocals are such a highlight in the band. A lead vocal in the offing one day, perhaps?

Andy: Sean should probably answer that question.. I think he was the singer in his last band.. The stuff me and Sym write has tended to suit my voice as it’s all kind of over melodic. But, like I said, the recipe is always changing and, secret. So, let’s see.

[Follow this link to witness Piano Wire play live. The video was shot by Steve Gullick and is a fine addition to the latest playlist from Clark Kent’s Rock and Roll Revue]


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All photos by Steve Gullick