They say that a lucid dream is when you’re aware that you’re dreaming and you can actually do things in the dream state. I’m not sure how true that is or even who they hell “they” are, but I do know that I had the opportunity to chat with The Real Tuesday Weld about dreams, music, and the odd mythology behind who he is.
For the uninformed, The Real Tuesday Weld is the dream-child of Stephen Coates.
I recently had the opportunity to check out the brilliant and haunting The London Book of the Dead and was blown away by the cinematic scope and grandeur of the record. Pitchfork noted “the strikingly old-fashioned arrangements” of the record, while XLR8R described the “complex voice, bitter and ardent and maybe longing, too, and, like his music, bears a certain timelessness.”
The tune “Last Words” was recently featured on the soundtrack to the film Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and a video was released as well.
With Coates an enigmatic figure, I knew that something special was going to come out of our conversation. While attempts at the world’s first lucid dream interview didn’t quite pan out, we were able to catch up via the magic of the internet.
Your music is infused with several different layers and sounds, making it almost impossible to categorize. Your MySpace page describes the style as “Lounge/Electronica/Pop.” If you had to describe your own sound, what term would you use? I managed to come up with “Fuzzy Cabaret,” for instance.
I quite like that! But we normally call it “Antique Beat” – which of course is a rather fuzzy term in itself but perhaps captures the idea of something old filtered through something new.
The story of your life almost reads like a myth. Describe how The Real Tuesday Weld came to be.
Well, I think it’s a good idea to make a myth from your life. I grew up in a strange house. I spent a long time studying Buddhism, studied at the Royal College of Art, went to a monastery in Spain, came back, crashed, started to read Jung and pay attention to dreams, had a dream about Tuesday Weld and another about Al Bowlly, the 1930s British crooner, and took them as a sign to make music that sounded the way I remembered it from when I was a child. Out of the blue, I was given a sampler and a computer and just began.
Dreams seem to influence a lot of your music. What was the last dream you had?
Last night I dreamt i was in a room where someone was being beheaded by a guillotine – but it wasn't particularly scary – it was almost rather matter of fact in a way. Now was that because I got a text last night from my friend Joe Coles who is the singer of The Guillotines? Or am I in danger of losing my head over something?
That is the beauty and mystery of dreams – you can only associate with them – never definitively explain them. The important thing seems to be the feeling they bring – and the details of the images – and if you can let that feeling or image into the day too, it always make things more interesting. For Jung, dreams were the most important thing.
Your excellent record, The London Book of the Dead, flows from surrealism to realism with the greatest of ease. Was there an intention to create a sense of style with the record or was it just a natural extension of your personality?
I've never had what it takes – the discipline or whatever – to make a record as consistent as say bands like Radiohead – where everything seems pitched in one way – intense, melancholic, serious or whatever – although do admire that. My life, and specifically my love life, has veered from the ludicrous to the profound, the tragic to the comic – with a large area of ordinariness in between – I try to make a record reflect that.
How could Barbara Walters make you cry?
We'd have to sit down and watch the final series of Six Feet Under together.
Your music has a very cinematic quality to it. What films or filmmakers influence you?
I really like the way that music and image create a 'third' thing between them – or even completely change the way you experience the other – Jaws is the classic example – you have an image of an idyllic thing, a beautiful blue sea in bright sunshine, but the music makes you feel threatened and anxious. I'm probably more influenced by film music composers / soundtracks than film makers though – people like Jon Brion, Trevor Jones and older people like Manos Hadjidakis and Nina Rota. Film makers now seem somewhat less distinctive than they used to but I like a lot of individual films – and HBO.
If you could perform at any location in the world at any time period in history, where would it be?
It would be nice to be in Berlin next year on the twentieth anniversary of the wall coming down.
I’ve heard The London Book of the Dead described as “another song cycle.” What does the song cycle represent?
It was meant to be about the passage from one state to another – like the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I became a father and my own father died within a very short period so it was very loosely intended to describe a life-death-life loop.
Serge Gainsbourg and Ennio Morricone are listed as some of your influences. Do you have any influences that may surprise readers?
I think Damon Albarn is very good. I don't actually like all of his music but I really admire the inventiveness and risk taking and the not repeating himself – and he has produced a lot of very varied, sophisticated and successful work. He is the nearest thing we've had to Gainsbourg in the UK in that sense.
Just who is The Clerkenwell Kid?
I met him in the 24 hour diner in Clerkenwell when I went for a nocturnal walk – or rather I met someone who I have never seen since – and we spent a couple of hours talking. He kind of grew as a character in my imagination since and became the story behind various pieces of music and texts and images.
If you could tour with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?
How about Jane Birkin?
I recently had the pleasure of listening to The Puppini Sisters, particularly their “Crazy in Love” rendition. Are the Sisters the most exciting group in music today (besides The Real Tuesday Weld) or is that hyperbole?
They are amazing live and I think they we could make a great record together!
Are you superstitious?
Not anymore. Touch wood