Published on June 27th, 2013 | by Matthew Shearn
Built to Last: An interview with Maps.
Electronic shoegaze act Maps aka James Chapman was lauded as a one man Spiritualized by the press when his debut We Can Create was released in 2007, the album got rave reviews and a Mercury nomination (losing out to the Klaxons). Since then he has released a darker follow up Turning The Mind in 2009 and now is about to release his third album Vicissitude, which promises a slightly more upbeat sound to the previous album. James answered some of our questions via email covering everything from the new album to his collaborations with Justin Russo and that certain East 17 cover he did a couple of Christmases ago.
You described the mood of your last album as an upbeat record with dark moments, how would you describe the mood your new album?
James Chapman: I think my last album was probably darker than I originally thought; it was made at a pretty dark time in my life. The new album is definitely more hopeful, but it’s ultimately about dealing with a struggle so there are obviously darker elements in there.
What was the writing and recording process like this time around?
JC: I took myself away from everything for a while. I had a few struggles of my own to deal with, which couldn’t help but influence the way I was working. It was a different process this time around; I had the freedom to experiment more. I tried to get back to the essence of what Maps was originally about, which was really the songwriting. All the recording and writing was done in isolation which can sometimes make you go a bit insane, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
What bands/artists have influenced you on this album?
JC: It’s hard to say exactly. I did listen to a lot of different music while recording but can’t be sure how it directly influenced the actual songs. I listened to older stuff like Scott Walker and Serge Gainsbourg, which I hadn’t really got into before. I’m always more interested in how things work sonically, and with this album I really wanted it to sound more spacious and open. I listened to a lot of old movie soundtracks as well, and some of the stuff on Ghostbox Records. But I’m really happiest when I can just immerse myself with my own music and experiment until it all seems to click into place.
A while back you collaborated with Justin Rousso of the Silent League, how did that collaboration come together?
JC: He contacted me via e-mail and we collaborated over the internet before he came over to the U.K. for the shows. It was a nice thing to do and he is a great guy. It made me think about doing more collaborations with other musicians, there are a few in the pipeline at the moment actually.
This album was recorded in your home, do you prefer working at home compared to a studio environment?
JC: Well, my home kind of is a studio now! Or at least it is a room filled with a ridiculous amount of equipment. Yes, I do prefer working alone and it’s quite quiet where I live which helps. I guess it’s what I’m used to now, and I much prefer working on my own at night – seems to be when the best stuff happens for some reason.
At the start of your career you were compared to Spiritualized and My Bloody Valentine, what did you feel about those comparisons?
JC: They are both amazing bands, so obviously it’s nice to be mentioned in the same sentence as them. When I started I did draw on those kind of people for inspiration, I was especially interested in the production side of things, so I’d listen to those records and try and figure out what they were doing to make those sounds. That’s how I learnt everything when I started really, from listening to my record collection.
Going back to your first live tour, was it difficult transition from being a bedroom project to a live act?
JC: It took a bit of thinking about; because it was something I’d never thought about prior to being signed to Mute. I guess the main thing was that I knew I had to have other musicians around me, because I didn’t think a one-man show would work, so it was the transition from working alone to working with a band which was the biggest thing. But I enjoyed those tours; it was a very exciting time.
How did it feel when your debut album got nominated for the Mercury Prize?
JC: It was surreal, an amazing feeling and it took a while to properly sink in. Everything happened so fast, things which I’d only ever dreamt about. Being signed to Mute was a dream come true and then the Mercury thing happened shortly after. Bear in mind that a few years before all that happened; I had no expectations of ever getting my music released. I was blown away by it all, truly.
I have to say one thing I loved your cover version of the East 17 Stay Another Day that you did one Christmas, what inspired you to cover that particular song?
JC: I always thought it was a great song! I’d hear it on the radio when I was younger and used to think “this could be a Spiritualized song if it wasn’t East 17”. So I thought I’d see what I could do with it.
Are there any plans for touring in the future?
JC: I have a few things I’m trying to get together for later this year, nothing confirmed yet but hopefully will be soon. There is one particular collaboration which I’m excited about. The idea is to play fewer shows, but to try and make the ones I do more special….so we’ll see what the year brings!
Interview by Matthew Shearn.
Vicissitude is being released the 8th July on Mute Records.