By Jacqueline Lademann
Final Coil released the band’s debut album Persistence of Memory in 2017. Two years later and the collection is still generating interest and amassing new fans, while reviews continue to pop up in various corners of the internet. Now, a second offering, The World We Left Behind for Others, is sure to blow the minds of Final Coil music fans old and new.
Released Apr. 12, 2019, The World We Left Behind for Others picks up where the first album left off, all while raising the bar. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature is that The World We Left Behind for Others is a remarkably solid recording. The tracks are intended to be listened to during a single and continuous stream of consciousness, one after another, in the tradition of Roger Waters and company. In terms of genre, Final Coil describes the album as post/progressive rock and reminded me somewhat of Tool, Rage Against the Machine and Alice in Chains.
Final Coil’s four person line-up includes Phil Stiles – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, synths and programming; Richard Awdry – lead guitar, rhythm guitar, vocals, programming; Jola Stiles – bass guitar, flute; and Barry French – drums.
An Interview with Final Coil’s Phil Stiles
Musicinterviewmagaine.com caught up with Final Coil’s lead singer, Phil Stiles. An interesting guy, Stiles shared some thoughts about The World We Left Behind for Others and more.
Hi and welcome to musicinterviewmagazine.com. Thanks for having a chat with us.
Congratulations on The World We Left Behind for Others. The album is impressive. You must be pleased with how the music turned out.
Thank you so much. As with anything we’ve ever put out, it’s the result of a lot of work and to be honest, as you get to the end of the process you start to lose perspective because you’ve invested so much of yourself in creating this thing. So, inevitably, when it’s finally time to put the record out there’s this kind of letting go process which you have to go through, where you accept that the album’s finished, that it’s out in the public domain and that people are going to be passing judgment for better or for worse. It’s a nerve-wracking time. But at the same time, I have to be honest and say that we made this album for ourselves first and foremost, so it’s not that I would go back and change anything. From that perspective, I’m incredibly pleased with how it turned out. But it is still a huge relief that so many people seem to be willing to take this journey with us.
I’m particularly grateful that the majority of the reviewers have made a point of saying that it’s an album that is best heard in its entirety. For so many people to just get that is really, really gratifying. In this age of streaming, when people’s attention spans are shrinking, it’s an ambitious move to put forward a good old fashioned concept album.
Was that a deliberate decision on your part, or something that just evolved?
I’ve always believed that the album is an art form and whether we put out a concept album, as we have here, or an album where there are thematic links, as with Persistence of Memory, it’s always the case that we pay huge attention to the sequencing of the record to give it the ebb and flow that makes it into a journey.
I think that attention spans may be shrinking in certain quarters, although you could argue that even before streaming there was a huge divide between those who bought singles and compilations and those who bought albums. But I also think that there is a tendency to generalize the results in bands and media underestimating their audiences. I truly believe that there are a good deal of people out there who understand that an album is a package that is more than simply a collection of songs, that it is a combination of the sequencing, the production, the segues, the artwork and the liner notes. It is for those people, as much as for me, that I wrote The World We Left Behind for Others. That said, with this album, it wasn’t initially my intention to do a concept record, although it is something I always wanted to do.
A concept album, if it’s going to work, needs to have a theme that is personal enough to have emotional weight and yet universal enough to resonate with a wider audience. Although I always wanted to do a concept record, the right idea hadn’t expressed itself. However, whilst we were going through the process of mixing Persistence of Memory, my grandmother passed away. She was 101, so it wasn’t exactly a shock, but it’s amazing the hole that it leaves, even when you are prepared. Whilst we were clearing out her things, one thing we found was this small bundle of letters she had kept. The letters were of a personal nature and they reflected the very patriarchal nature of society, even as we entered into the supposedly liberal sixties. They filled in some gaps about my gran which she had never directly spoken. It occurred to me, that by telling her story, intertwined with that of my grandfather, parallels could be drawn between the experiences of that troubled, wartime generation and the bifurcation of society that has become particularly visible in the wake of the EU referendum.
It was not my intention to write a Brexit album. Honestly, I think that’d be horrible and it would date the record. But rather, to consider how the shared experiences of the wartime and post-war generation led to a social split, where issues have become so enflamed with emotion that nuanced discussion is almost impossible. I hope with this record I not only paid tribute to my grandmother, but that I also gave voice to some of the fears and hopes of that generation, which were so ruthlessly suppressed that they are only now really coming to light.
You have described The World We Left Behind for Others as a kind of sequel to your previous album, Persistence Of Memory. What do you mean by that?
Persistence of Memory was thematically linked by ideas of broken down communication and the terrible personal toll that can take. It was quite introverted, in a sense and predominantly rooted in personal experience. This album [The World We Left Behind for Others] continues that theme of failed communication, but it turns the lens outwards and it considers the effect on wider society. I think that here, in the UK, a somewhat unique mix of doubt and pride, self-denial and extremity have developed as a direct result of a failure to communicate. Former soldiers didn’t talk about the war and suffered the privations of PTSD in isolation. Their families had no help and no support whilst dealing with the fallout, not only of the trauma from the front, but from the shared experiences of making do at home. And then, on top of that, you get a whole generation raised post-war on this diet of propaganda which talked of the glorious fight and great daring-do, all the while wrapped up in this strange, post-colonial sense of unexpressed guilt. Is it any wonder that people faced with such a mass of contradictions have struggled to make sense of globalization and internationalization? The biggest failure in recent years is the failure to listen to the myriad concerns of people from all walks of life. It’s rooted in that post-war sangfroid and it’s reaching its mature expression now in an outpouring of vitriol from all sides of the political spectrum.
Your music is infused with a lot of social commentary on many of the current issues of the day. Is this something that is important to you and your music?
I read an interview with Steve Savale of Asian Dub Foundation recently. He was discussing the political nature of ADF’s music and he pointed out that ADF was never a political band as such, but that the politics and the music, both simply honest representations of the musicians within the band, were indistinguishable for him. He didn’t see the band as writing about politics so much as writing about their collective experiences in a truthful way. That honesty was one of the reasons that I loved bands like Asian Dub Foundation and I’d like to think it’s reflected in Final Coil. So, if and when I write about social issues, it’s a reflection rather than a soap box. I’m not telling people what to think or feel. That’s not something with which I’d feel comfortable at all. Rather, I’m holding up a mirror to the society that I see and commenting on the wider issue of how we got to this point in the first place.
I am a keen historian and I have studied politics for years. So, it is inevitable that these things should end up in the music. But that doesn’t mean the band is a platform for an agenda, unless the agenda is to try to encourage people to try to treat each other with more compassion and empathy. Just perhaps, if people had tried to empathize with those of opposing viewpoints, we wouldn’t have so much hatred brewing on the streets at this point in time. But we’ve not had that discussion yet.
You recently played at Fusion 2019. How did that show go?
Oh wow, that was amazing. We were nervous as hell. I mean we were playing with some legendary bands at that festival including England and Fusion. But it was a really cool festival with a great atmosphere. The audience was very open minded and a lot of them gave us a chance that day, even coming up afterwards to tell us how much they enjoyed it. That really meant a lot to me because we were one of the more challenging acts on that bill. Certainly, we were one of the heaviest acts on that bill and they embraced us with genuine love and that was just great. A number of the bands on the bill were really cool as well. Musically we enjoyed it all. We got to meet Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate, who is a great band and really cool people to hang out with, as well as Dec Burke and Encircled. The organizer, Steve Gould, is a wonderful person and incredibly passionate about what he does. It’s also great that his wife, Louise, is so supportive enjoying the music and greeting the bands. They are just lovely, warmhearted people, incredibly supportive and I haven’t got enough good things to say about them or the festival as a whole.
Do you have any more live gigs coming up?
Right now, we’ve been so centered on getting the album together, along with the two festival appearances that we had, HRH and Fusion, that we haven’t even started to look for live dates, but it is our intention to get out across the UK later in the year.
Are there any other projects who you are working on that people should know about?
Well, I was lucky enough to contribute a little guitar to the last Glass Hammer album, Chronomonaut, which was just brilliant. The album has been a huge success for the band and I am really happy to have contributed in a small way to that. I also wrote and performed the outro to the forthcoming album from fellow WormHoleDeath band The Way of Purity. That was very challenging because it was all synth-based and I really wanted to challenge myself to write something that was both cinematic and yet outside of the traditional Final Coil style. I’m really looking forward to seeing how that turned out. I’m also a long way into writing the next Final Coil album. If it comes together as I’d like, it’ll form the final part of a trilogy, as the concept is a further refinement on the themes of communication that informed the first two records. I can’t really say too much about that at the moment however.
Finally, we still have another video to do and we will be, once again, working with Jay Hillyer, who did the clips for “The Last Battle” and “You Waste My Time.” We’re also working to develop the concept for that. You may not hear about us all the time but you can rest assured that there is always a lot happening within the Final Coil camp, even if it’s not immediately obvious to everyone around.
Congratulations again on the album and thanks for your time.
Thank you for the interesting questions. This is a very important album for me and I’m very excited to see how people will react to it in the coming weeks. I really appreciate having the chance to talk about some of the themes that underpin what we do.
As you can see, Phil Stiles is motivating and thoughtful. The World We Left Behind for Others has all the hallmarks of becoming one of those albums that serious listeners simply must have.
Final Coil’s The World We Left Behind for Others, from the WormHoleDeath label, is available on Bandcamp.
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