An EP to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch Trials? Why the hell not. And that's exactly what experimental synth wielding duo The Eccentronic Research Council have done, with the creation of '1612 Underture'.
For the EP the duo have enlisted the talents of BAFTA nominated actress Maxine Peake. The Bolton born actress curls her Lancashire tones around Adrian's stories, which are layered over the group's rich, atmospheric sounds to take the listener on a journey through this dark and shadowy period in the region's history.
Next Friday the group will launch the LP at 2022NQ, in what's set to be a unique collaborative performance with live spoken word by Maxine Peake and specially created visuals to accompany the music.
Intrigued? So were we. So ahead of the launch, we caught up with Adrian Flanagan and Maxine Peake to find out more.
Hi Adrian, Maxine. First of all, what exactly is The Eccentronic Research Council?
Adrian: It's a shadowy place frequented by slightly feminine bearded Hooded Sonic Time lords that research into the myths and Folklore of this, our Sceptred Isle... our friends call us Adrian and Dean but we think that sounds too much like a couple of Ice Skaters (laughs) and somehow we are blessed with the people's number 1 dudette Maxine Peake, reading words over our entire first album..
How and when did it come about?
Adrian: It started quite naturally after Max and I got chatting about The Pendle Witches last year and talked about maybe taking a flask and some custard creams and going for a drive up to Pendle for a nosey about, which we did. There was no real plan of what or how this would take shape at that point. After that I didn't speak to her for a bit as she was busy working and I went off to Greece for a holiday right in the middle of the riots there…
Whilst in the this weird juxtaposition of white sandy beaches, mezze and thousands of people getting very angry at their government, I started writing some thoughts down which then with great fear I sent to Maxine, who surprisingly liked em'… surprising because I wrote it not in my usual song format but completely out of my comfort zone; strange prose, fictional conversational pieces etc. I'm not a writer. I write songs, I don't write scripts or books or poetry, I don't even keep a journal, in fact I don't even like talking to people but I'm a sensitive thinker (laughs).
At the same time Dean and I started recording some sonic environments for the words to live using only analog synthesisers and old noise making machines. I guess that was when I thought maybe I could develop this whatever it was or is in to something quite unique.
What genre would you make up to describe your sound?
Adrian: it's not made up, we are Eccentronic.
OK so your forthcoming LP, '1612 Underture'. Tell us about that. It was inspired by the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch Trials - is this a subject you've always held a special interest in?
Adrian: I was always dragged screaming up Pendle Hill as a kid by my parents and told of these witches, but always made to fear them, you know, these bad, bad ugly women will "get you" kind of thing! Then as you get older you read a bit more about it and see how these poor ladies (and some men) were treated and demonised, it's horrific.
Maxine: I'm from Bolton, not too far from Pendle, so I'd always been aware of them from a young age, just not the real details. I thought they were just women in black pointy hats cackling round cauldrons (laughs). Then about 15 years ago I was racking my brains of subjects for a female lead drama and I thought I'd start to do some research. I was horrified when I found out the truth. I was determined to write something, then I heard Paul Abbott (Shameless/Clocking Off/Linda Green screenwriter) was supposedly doing something, so I knocked that idea on the head. It has always stuck with me and I mentioned it to Adrian post leaping round Kersal in a rabbit suit for him and he said he was interested in them too. He said "go away and try and write some lyrics" but by the time I'd written two lines he'd written about four tracks so yet again, I bailed out… Which is probably best all round (laughs).
In what ways does the music relate to the subject?
Adrian: With the music, Dean and I have tried to create atmosphere and tension around the words and a feeling of movement, like you're going on a little journey or you're right in the thick of the action.
How did you both end up working together?
Adrian: I'd worked with Maxine before on a video for my other music project 'The Chanteuse & The Crippled Claw'. As Max just mentioned, I asked her to dress as a rabbit and have a water pistol fight with me on a moor in Salford. I think Max and I have a similar sense of humour and we are both a bit bloody odd (laughs). I promised to pay her in pickled eggs and a bottle of Thunderbirds for the video shoot… I've still not honoured my part of the deal (laughs).
For this project I got Max over to Sheffield, to Dean Honer's studio for a few hours too read the words I'd written too tape… She totally blew us away, she is without doubt such a great interpreter of the English language, everything she does she makes believable, she gives words heart and humanity… for me having Maxine read my words is the difference between Shakin' Stevens singing a Holland & Dozier composition and Elvis singing one - Elvis wins every time. If I wanted to make some naff "celebrity record" I would of asked some 'Only way is Essex' numpty too read my words (laughs). Maxine is the real deal, a master of her craft, one of the fucking greats.
Maxine: I remember I was on Facebook one day saying what an amazing weekend I'd had and not even left Salford. I'd been to Kersal Moor to celebrate and commemorate The Chartist Movement who used to meet on there, and then went to see Chrome Hoof at Islington Mill and was overwhelmed by how brilliant they were. Then I got this message off Adrian saying "if you like them, you should come and see my band" and we just go chatting.
Adrian: Yeah that was around two or three years ago. I've always been cheeky… I had an eight-piece electronic Prog Rock group at the time called The Arch Nazards who were playing the same venue the following week.
Maxine: He then sent me a track called 'Are You One' by one of his other projects 'The Chanteuse & The Crippled Claw' and asked if I'd be in the video… I thought why not. Adrian is a complete one off. He's an amazing talent and not afraid to do it his own way. I just got him straight away. He's a wordsmith. I have since left Facebook, just in case! (laughs).
Adrian: I don't need Facebook anymore Max… I've an internet dongle straight to your heart (laughs).
Does the LP tell a story, carrying on from opening track 'Autobahn 666' (which we love, by the way), or is it a collection of separate tracks?
Adrian: Thanks, yes it does. The first side of the album contains a semi fictional modern day travelogue to Pendle, interspersed with little surreal fictional pieces, it's a bit of a magical mystery tour. It was important for me to try and give the Pendle Witches a voice, a right to reply, I wanted to leave a document that honours them and remembers them sensitively whilst playing with history and time, because history and time played with them.
- Date: Friday 17th August 2012
- Event: Finders Keepers Presents...The Eccentronic Research Council + Maxine Peake at 2022NQ
- Venue: 2022NQ
- Artists: Andy Votel
Was The Eccentronic Research Council created specifically for this project, or do you have plans for more releases in the future? Any other historical happenings that you'd be interested in exploring musically?
Adrian: Kind of yes, but Dean and I have a whole load of new strange and bizarre instrumentals already on the go so I don't know what we will do with them in the future. I've not really thought of any other historical happenings that I'd like to write about as I tend too work instinctively, in the moment. If I feel strongly enough about something or someone, or feel something needs honouring, remembering or defending then I'll start to write. Would we like Maxine's voice on it? Naturally, but she's a busy lady and she's probably already changing her phone number and planning on moving to the other side of the world to escape us (laughs).
You also record as part of other projects - The Chanteuse & the Crippled Claw and Kings Have Long Arms. Is it tough to balance several creative projects at once? How do you divide your time and energy between them?
Adrian: It's pretty easy really. I badly broke both my arms a couple of years ago and was told I'd struggle playing music again, I just spent everyday since proving the specialists wrong. I'm from Salford - someone chops your arm off, you use the other arm, someone takes your legs, you use your hips. The point is, when all heart and hope has gone, you can always use your head(laughs).
What drives you?
Adrian: certainly not ambition or money… definitely public transport.
You're quite the collaborator. Do you ever write with certain voices in mind, or do you write first and then look for artists who best represent your vision?
Adrian: A bit of both. Like when I wrote a track for Phil Oakey from the Human League for instance, I know what he does so it's easier to imagine how it will end up. When you're working with new voices It takes a bit of time to find their strengths and weaknesses but it's more rewarding because you kind of learn and grow into each other's styles and methods, and that becomes something that's truly your own.
Are there any artists who you'd particularly like to work with in the future?
Adrian: I've not got a wish list, but again, especially in songwriting if it's a voice I think can emote what I'm trying to communicate then I will always gravitate towards them. Whether they are known or unknown, it's the power of the communication that's important to me. The only current voice that I've heard and love in popular music that is emoting any real spirit is Ren Harvieu from Salford. She's proper class, I'm a sucker for a voice than can tear out your heart and give it a cuddle.
You recently performed '1612 Underture' at Llama Festival. How did it go down?
Adrian: Went down great, ta. We only did four tracks from the LP… Maxine wasn't with us for that one either, she was doing a film in Ireland. It was more of an instrumental set with her voice on tape. We had some good visuals done by our video making friends Wayne and Ian from KluncKlick in Manchester who are making a short film based on tracks from '1612 Underture', which Maxine and I have lent ourselves to. Should be ace, looking forward to seeing what they have done. The Autobahn 666 video is part of their film. Hopefully it will be ready for the launch party in Manchester so we can show it at some point during the evening.
Are you looking forward to performing on home turf?
Adrian: We are playing Manchester not Salford, the smellier side of the Irwell (laughs). Playing in your hometown is always the show you most dread but also the one that ends up with the best hangover afterwards.
Maxine: I'm bricking it! Completely new territory for me.
Adrian: You'll be alright, I'll ask for a bucket on the rider (laughs).
What can we expect from the live show? Are you going all out with visuals and props or letting the music do the talking?
Adrian: I can tell you that there wont be any synchronised swimmers or dancing dogs in waistcoats and we'll be letting the Maxine do the talking.
Maxine: That could be dangerous.
Any last words?
Maxine: He made me do it!
Adrian: Whatever she has done, I have done.
Interview: Jayne Robinson
The Eccentronic Research Council and Maxine Peake launch 1612 Underture at 2022NQ on Friday 17th August. Advance tickets are available below for £6.
Tickets are no longer available for this event
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