Today we have Paul Fleming aka Baltic Fleet whose album ‘Towers‘ has been one of my favourite albums of 2012. He’s also the keyboard player for Echo And The Bunnymen and thus far released two albums. He’s another multi-instrumentalist and Paul’s music has become a staple part of BBC 6 Music’s output for 2012. In fact the BBC have been heard to using it in some of their television programmes. One thing you’ll find about him is he’s very modest about his work so I really hope if you’ve not already heard his music, go and have a listen.
1. Baltic Fleet, where did the idea for the name arrive from, were you a fan of WWII historical events? I was doing a lot of touring at the time and I was writing the early Baltic tracks on the road, so I wanted a name that was linked to travel, the seas. I was also picking up military jackets in different cities around the world and buying camouflage nets for my stage set up. I was searching for a name and it was staring me in the face when I drove out of Liverpool every day, there’s a pub on the dock road and it’s famed in merchant naval history. I’ve never been in and I wasn’t sure about the name at first but then everything got momentum and it’s stayed with me.
2. The new album ‘Towers’ has come in for some great reviews, did you expect this new-found adoration? No, I don’t think you can ever tell what the reaction will be. The process of making the record was really insular and I was basically holed up in my bedroom studio for a long time crafting it. I didn’t have a clue what the outside world would make of it. The reaction and support have been great and it feels like things are building well.
3. The sleeve for the album was that your idea? For some reason I keep thinking of OMD’s ‘Stanlow’ track when see it, have you heard that track? The concept of the power station and the towers had run right through the whole process of recording, so when it came to the sleeve it was a natural choice. In Widnes, where I’m from, the power station is pretty iconic. I worked with some talented guys on designs but in the end we went with a photograph that Claudia at the label had taken. It just all came together at the right time.
4. There’s a quiet a difference from your debut album (the self titled ‘Baltic Fleet‘) for me it’s a good progression, any reason for this? The environment for writing and recording was different on both records and really it’s the surroundings that seem to shape my music and sound. On Towers, as I’ve said, it was quite an insular process and there’s more of me in there. With the debut record it was like a road movie, it was an open book. With the second record I’ve let some of my more deep-rooted influences come through, more electronics and layers and different rhythms. I also restricted myself almost entirely to a couple of analogue synths a guitar and a bass on Towers. I think as an artist you have to keep challenging yourself and moving on the sound, working with different limitations and instruments. I’m finding myself through these records so to me they’re getting more interesting album by album.
5. Some people have likened certain tracks like ‘Engage’ to the same ethos to that of Kraftwerk, discuss? I think with the motorik beats it’s bound to attract comparisons with bands like Kraftwerk and Neu, that’s where that rhythm and sound comes from. I love that sound, I first heard it in America on tour and Will Sergeant was DJ’ing a Neu track. I didn’t know what era it was from or who it was, it was just addictive and it made you move. I think there’s that feel of travelling in there and it’s quite hypnotic.
6. How’s the live show’s going, I’m going to Leicester later this month (that was November 2012), how are the songs transferring live? In 2012 I wanted to build the live show up and experiment with it. It was a new thing to take it live. We’ve played some great shows like Liverpool Pysch Fest, Shacklewell Arms in London, FestEvol, Crack Magazine’s Nest show and the Audioscope festival. I’ve learnt what works now and we’re back in rehearsals for the next set of shows. We’re in the middle of booking some exciting dates and there’s possibly a small tour going to happen too.
7. Is there any plans for any videos, I could imagine a concept DVD version of the album? An idea I seen on the net is to ask fans to make a videos for their favourite track. Yes, hot off the press, I’ve just started working with some friends Wireside. They’ve just got back from LA working with a rapper called Hopsin, the video got 20 million hits. They come from where I’m from and we’re in the middle of sketching out a video for March of The Saxons. We’ve discussed doing more stuff, a short film/documentary type thing and some stuff on the road.
8. On the same note have you considered getting some of your tracks remixed by other artists? A good opportunity maybe to crack other markets like the dance field? I haven’t thought about it really, I’ve been remixing some other artists mainly on the Liverpool scene. I don’t think about markets and cross over I just like doing my own thing, at the end of the day I write and record for me and the fact that people like it is amazing. If I tried to crack a market I wouldn’t be being true to myself though.
9. It’s good to hear real instruments along with the electronics, whom do you class as your main influences? Loads of bands and records, DJ Shadow, Neu, Bowie’s ‘Low’, Eno, Can’s Future Days, Bunnymen, Joy Division. I like a lot of electronica too, too many to mention. I like keeping the mix of electronics with guitars and basses and some live drum sounds. I like to take those instruments and twist them. Some of the bass parts I played with a slide as an example.
10. Not sitting on your laurels are you planning the next phase for Baltic Fleet? If so any clues as to what? Yeah I’ve been getting that creative itch lately. I’ve moved away to a quiet place, away from the factories so the next record will sound very different. I’m getting some of my vintage gear out of storage and setting up my studio again, I’ve put some tracks down this year in between shows too. 2012 has given me a lot of inspiration and there’s so much I want to work on now. The immediate future is about the next set of live shows and the film side of Baltic.
Thanks again to Paul Fleming for taking time to answering my questions. I do hope as I have gleamed a few interesting bits of information about Baltic Fleet’s direction for 2013. You can also find plenty more information on his Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud. Keep listening out for his tunes.