INTERVIEW: One

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

Sociological experiments and the warping of doctrine to the uses of an artist abound in Australia when One's sole musician, David Wilkinson, gets a chance to peddle his sound. In the deluge of indie-rendered "experimental," David's strict format songs serve as a refreshing breather from the latest styles available. Clean, uncluttered and lyrically twisted to his own ends, the music of One stands out as holding onto a past and strumming with a collection of artists that will never die come the future. Fans of Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Bauhaus, and the more rock/pop centric acts will find a great addition to their music collection with One's initial release, Walk the Mercy Mile. Here David shares some thoughts on all of this.

One

What happened with Meridian? You get an album out, Sundown Empire, with them then promptly split up?

That album had actually been released twice previously over a short period of time. Firstly on the German label Nyctalopia and then, with additional remixes, on Australian label Heartland. The Music For Nations version was slightly different again, unfortunately they were taken over by the Zomba Music Group just as it came out and we were dropped along with some other recent signings of their's... Maybe that's karma for flogging a dead horse... I don't know - but it sure was depressing. The 2nd album was nearly finished but the disappointment caused the band to fall apart.

At current, as far as I can tell the outfit of One is purely you. The sound and music however are very well arranged, sound full and lush so that it begs one to ask - is there anyone there recording with you, helping you out?

Well thank you! No, it's just me. I have been recording music, for myself and others, for some time and my interest goes back to when I was a little kid. So I guess I kinda know what I'm doing.

Are you happier by yourself within One or can we expect to see further enlistments to the outfit of new musicians as you continue the band?

I like the challenge and satisfaction of working by myself. You stand or fall by your own efforts, so to speak. The downside is the absence of 'team spirit' from other band members. The most likely collaborations for now will be in the form of upcoming remixes - but I definitely don't discount the possibility of other input.

Any plans for further releases or tours? Independent video production seems to be ramping up these days as well - how about music video plans?

The second album is about half finished - it will be titled Book II. The plan is for a northern summer 2001 release and touring in Europe and the US. Video is in the works as well, but any clips will be for songs from the upcoming album. As it's unfinished, no decisions have been made as to which tracks will be the focus.

Your bass rhythm style is much brighter and poppier sounding than many other bands of your genre. Is this done with a guitar or is it electronic? Why infuse the darker melodies with such stand-out bass melodies?

There are a couple of tracks on the album with bass guitar, but the rest are sequenced. I've never given much thought to the style to be honest - it's just what comes out naturally. But it might have something to do with the fact that I'm a closet Abba fanatic, kidding...

On Walk the Mercy Mile the musical style used is very rigid within the goth/rock/pop style, very strictly arranged. Any plans to experiment in other areas, whether it be more back towards goth's punk roots or more towards the electronic/industrial direction?

I come from a reasonably strictly 'song' based approach, so I suppose I just gravitate to the 'intro, verse, chorus' thing. It definitely works as I feel it's just a classic way to build tension leading to resolution. I will always be a sucker for a big chorus. The formula may get played with a bit for the second album, but I won't push it unless it's still feeling natural.

How did Nightbreed (UK) come to release your work when you're based in Australia?

I had a fair bit to do with Nightbreed during the Meridian time. They were the UK distributors for both Nyctalopia and Heartland. I sent the guys a CD of songs during the recording of Walk the Mercy Mile and they were really interested in it - so things pretty much just fell into place. I realize it's strange being on a label that's based on the other side of the world - but not much really happens in Australia regarding goth/dark releases. The distance does make things quite difficult sometimes, but unfortunately it's a necessary evil.

Track 9 of Walk The Mercy Mile; your cover of Shout. What made you redo this one?

The idea just came out of the blue one day. I had the song stuck in my head but with my voice singing it... so I just went for it. From memory, it was all done within a week or so of the initial idea. I've had a rather polarized response! The British particularly seem to loathe it - whereas Americans often say it is their favorite track on the record - maybe I will do a thesis on it in another life!

Is there any particular way you build/create a new track? A rhythm first, lyrics later, or other type of style you find works best for you?

It's generally a chorus vocal melody first, which usually starts out being voiced with indecipherable or nonsense words, something akin to singing in tongues! Just as an aside, the chorus from the Beatles song Yesterday started out with the lyrics "scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs" - how ordinary an origin for history's most recorded song. I love that story... Anyway, the chorus lyrics are usually next, followed by a melody for the verses - then I sort of flesh the whole thing out. But yeah, I guess that says that I'm melody based - which is both an asset and a liability.

OneOk, now the main reason why I decided to do this interview with you. I had written of Walk the Mercy Mile in my recent review: "I must mention that Wilkinson's One project is quite unusual. Quite a bit of music here contains Christian feelings and beliefs. That's all good and well, but it bared mention because I've only seen one other gothic group, of any of the sub-genres that the goth crowd can find themselves in, that is pro-Xtian." Then you told me that is nothing like that and Xtianity wasn't a thought in the creation of your music. If that's the case, what was the thought and ideas involved here? With songs like Temple of Your Soul, Receive the Word and Be With You, the latter being the most obvious with lyrics: "May god be with you. May peace be with you. And also with you." That is verbatim of a modern Xtian mass ending. Why use what could be mistaken as obvious Xtrian doctrine to get these points across? Is it the idea that it's more familiar?

Exactly, Christian doctrine is a very deep and powerful influence on our culture - whether one 'believes' in it or not. I certainly don't! I find it all so full of holes and now forgotten changes throughout history that I could never class Christianity as a coherent worldview. To me it's all about being subservient to the powers that be while on earth with a promise that one will be delivered from this miserable existence upon death. It all ends up having a kind of fairytale ring to it. But having said that, I love the power in the words, and I will concede that consciously and unconsciously I have twisted them for my own ends. I don't see it as being deceitful though as I feel I am just appropriating the language of our times.

You also told me a bit about an experiment you did online, MP3.com I believe, in which you placed your music in a Xtian based radio station to receive rave reviews even though the music wasn't written by you as such. Obviously I'm not the only one to have thought this about One's music. Care to tell us this story - and especially the why part?

It started off during a conversation with a friend where he pointed out exactly what you have just said regarding the Christian parallels. I've always been interested in whether a direct intent is needed to sway believers to the motives of one's art, or whether a few cues are enough. I remember seeing a documentary a number of years ago on a male Australian art professor who used an alias and marketed himself as the reclusive, no one ever saw him obviously, new voice in cutting edge feminist art. His worked was lapped up and he[she] was hailed as a genius expressing womanhood in a way no one had before. While it came across as rather cruel and calculated the implications of this fascinated me, the whole emperor's new clothes syndrome... So I just grabbed the One tracks that had the most obvious Christian tie-ins, wrote some blurb and set up a page on mp3.com. All three tracks were in the Christian rock top 50 within a week or so and I started getting mail from people about how my music was now such a positive force in their lives. Guilt did get the better of me pretty quickly though and I took the page down. But it begs the question, if people had a positive reaction to it, did I do a bad thing? I'm reasonably sure that the net effect is what matters in the end - but I couldn't bring myself to reply to anyone in the spirit of which the music was promoted - that would have been deception...

Lately the general consensus has been that the gothic/industrial/EBM scene(s) are heading back underground. Some believe that this will be a good thing because of the availability of tickets and limited print items to "true fans," others say it will stifle labels and commerce within the genre. Have you noticed this trend of going back underground? Do you feel it will better or worsen the current state of things in the scene?

I have noticed a bit of this kind of thing recently. My opinion is that it's a question of supply and demand, fashions change quickly but the core number of people who seek alternatives to the mainstream stays roughly constant. Maybe it's more a case of a return to the way it was before the unusual amount of interest in things dark. Does that mean boy-bands will move underground one day??? No, the producers who create them will just move onto whatever is currently profitable! Another factor is the profusion of artists with releases made possible by falling production costs - the music dollar gets distributed more widely and therefore more thinly. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing. I guess it just is.

The Internet and entities such as MP3.com and Riffage.com have seemed to be a boon for independent and near-independent artists today. The promotions available with the Web are amazing. Do you take advantage of this or do you still tend to enjoy paper-based or more conventional forms of promotion?

Yeah, there has certainly been a bit of a revolution of late. But as these services become more heavily used I think their value will decrease dramatically. If you're band number 103457 on mp3.com it's very easy to get lost in the huge volume of music available - so the artist can end up with the same old problem of needing to stand out. The large labels and management companies won't go away, but maybe an extra bit of the pie will end up being shared between the myriad independent labels and artists. And personally I still love magazines, hard copy will retain its' usefulness - there's something magic about the printed word. Hopefully I'm not just stuck in the past!

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