If you didn’t know already, Manchester heroes Doves are back with new music. Their fifth album The Universal Want was released on Friday to richly deserved high praise and fanfare after a 9-year hiatus – and we for one couldn’t be happier! To celebrate another important milestone in musical history with a record that swoops and soars as epically as anything they’ve done before, we had the honour of speaking to one of the 3 wise men, guitarist and vocalist Jez Williams…
INTERVIEW WITH DOVES’ JEZ WILLIAMS
THE JOURNALIX: The new album is out today and we love it, sounds like you’ve never been away. But how have recent events influenced things?
JEZ WILLIAMS: Maybe isolation and first hearing about this crazy virus back in January. Our last recorded and written song was ‘Prisoners’, so perhaps that was a direct influence on having to be trapped in doors by orders of government. Also, I think this is our ‘self-help book’ album. That comes with age, perhaps, raking over your mistakes, regrets and hopes and the eternal question of where are we all going. Whats around the corner? The not knowing, I guess.
THE J: How far into the album were you when you dropped the teaser of a return at the end of 2018?
JW: The first port of call was; “let’s do some gigs again, get reacquainted with the old songs.” We properly started in mid-summer 2017, I think. But we kept it a secret. Just us and our manager, Dave Rofe. It took all the pressure off.
THE J: Has the writing process between the 3 of you changed over time, or since time spent apart?
JW: No, because it’s so varied. Be it individual ideas to bring to the band, or more fully formed. It can just as easily start with a sample or a series of chords or just a lyric hook. It doesn’t matter to us, the song has the ego not us, we are just all here to adhere to it.
THE J: Martin Rebelski is like the fifth Beatle, right?
JEZ WILLIAMS: Indeed, that is 100% Correct
THE J: I know on previous albums you’ve spoken of moving between sites to help inspire and complete the work, but have you found a more permanent home for recording now at Doves HQ?
JW: HQ is a place on a farm somewhere between Manchester and Warrington. We rented the space out to the Stone Roses for three to four years as we were not active back then. They made their comeback tour during that period at our HQ. Lots of flat land with lots of cattle. It has got that isolated bunker style that is pretty good for uninterrupted writing /recording.
THE RETURN OF DOVES
THE J: Were you surprised by the reception of your return? There was a LOT of love in the room that night at Parr Hall!
JEZ WILLIAMS: Amazing totally blown away. We couldn’t believe people were still interested in us. We’re so lucky.
THE J: If Sub Sub was your 20s and Lost Souls/ Last Broadcast was your 30s, is this new album a further progression of your sound?
JW: I guess it is, because every time you put an album out, I’d like to think we’ve changed. Both musically and lyrically it’s very important to try and look under different musical stones, if you like. It’s a constant question of: “Does this sound feel right on us? Feel right for us?”
THE UNIVERSAL WANT
THE J: The artwork for ‘The Universal Want’ is by Finnish photographer, Maria Lax, what inspired you to choose this piece as the album cover?
JW: She’s so talented, an amazing eye for the unique. She can bring out the magic and mystery of everyday scenes that we all go through in life. It must take a real eye and intuition to bring these things out. Jimi first bought her to our attention. He gave us the book ‘Some Kind Of Heavenly Fire’ and it blew our minds. It was perfect for the album. The scenes look like other worldly visitors have just left the place only to leave this eerie sense of calm afterwards.
THE J: We always look for influences in people’s work, so is there a film or book that has helped you shape this new album?
JW: Loads. Around the time of writing I loved films like ‘Blade Runner 2049’. I liked the claustrophobic madness of ‘The Lighthouse’ and ‘1917’. Books I recently re-read are Murakami’s ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ and ‘1Q84’ and David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’.
THE J: You’re hugely important in the history of Manchester music, through your own music and the people you’ve collaborated with… What is it about Manchester that makes it so special?
JW: Wow, thank you. I’m not sure to be honest, is it the rain is or it that it’s a relatively small place? So, you get to know people, drink in same pubs perhaps? It rains a lot, so you stay in and learn stuff like playing and writing and rehearsing.
THE J: We spotted Frank Sidebottom making an appearance in the ‘There Goes The Fear’ video played on-stage during your live shows. Did you enjoy the ‘Being Frank’ documentary?
JW: Loved it! I also got friendly with Chris’ son, Stirling. We went to the film premiere at Home in Manchester. It was lovely to hear the family talk about their dad.
“LIVE FOR CITY”
THE J: As a big City fan I’ve always wondered how the remixed version of Words came about that gets played before each game? Does it have an official title? I can’t find it anywhere online!
JEZ WILLIAMS: They asked us! We were only too happy to accommodate the request. We were on tour in the States at the time, so we didn’t have time to write something new for city, so we reworked ‘Words’. You won’t be able to find it anywhere either. It’s only intended for live matches at the ground. It’s called ‘Live For City’.
THE J: Which is your favourite Manchester venue?
JW: We all love the Apollo, been to so many great gigs there, plus we started going there from an early age. Great art deco, red velvet seats and dripping in history.
THE J: Would you consider a socially-distanced gig in the current climate? Is enough being done for the music industry at the moment?
JW: No there isn’t! Small venues need government help. How are bands going to develop their art without these types of venues? They are so important for our collect culture and identity. Clubs and gigging venues are the life blood of up and coming artists, bands and DJs. As for our own gigs, we’re not sure yet. We are in talks about doing something, but I can’t currently go into any detail.
ONE LAST THING…
THE J: I can’t interview you and not ask about the title track from Last Broadcast. Who wrote it and what are your memories of recording it? I have particularly special memories of hearing this played live under the stars at Glastonbury 2003…
JW: Under the stars sounds like the perfect way to hear it! I first wrote the music at my terraced house in a town called Northenden. We also recorded and mixed it there too. It was on some pretty rudimentary equipment. We all got together and worked on the lyrics and how it would be sung. Trial and error, but Jimi nailed it when we realised it needed a more conversational approach. Everything then clicked into place. We always loved The Stranglers’ ‘Golden Brown’ and that was one reference, as in, we wanted it to float like that. I also had hooks, backing vocals and guitars hooks like their song. We also wanted to have wobbly synths, so it feels like you’re getting sunstroke or kinda disorientated.
THE J: What does the future hold for Doves?
JW: Like everyone, we’re not sure. Who ever thought we’d get to this apocalyptic time? No one knows anything anymore, so best try and meditate and practice some inner calm.
The Unversal Want is out now!