stephen coates is the real tuesday weld. since we discovered him in the grim year of 2001, we have found much escapism and comfort in his whispery croons, crackly old-fashioned melodies and his fine pop platters. he is the sort who needs a theme to get the tunes moving — and a recent theme is dreams. together with the band he has written, performed and recorded a score for the surrealist film dreams that money can buy with david piper and cibelle narrating. I witnessed it at the nft but it all really came into place at the grand-scale turbine hall in the tate modern last year, where listeners sat on pillows and sipped champagne whilst watching the film and hearing the score. the real tuesday weld is playing a few dates soon in london, russia, edinburgh and some summer festivals. they’re nearly finished with their third album. stephen is collaborating with alex budovsky, who is doing the animations to teach kids to read — see lilipip.com. he just did a track for the rothko room at the tate modern as part of their tate tracks series. stephen’s best mate glen duncan wrote a novel called I, lucifer, which is now filming on the streets of london and starring terence stamp and ewan mcgregor so if they have any sense the filmmakers will use the real tuesday weld’s soundtrack which was created years ago. we caught up with stephen to find out what he was dreaming about…
chickfactor: why did you choose dreams that money can buy to score? was it your idea? what was it like playing it at the tate modern? will you collaborate with cibelle again?
stephen: I was introduced to it by marek pytel of reality film — it was that or the amazing f for fake by orson welles — but the look and subject matter (dreams. art. psychotherapy. loss) of the richter film seemed perfect. the tate show was amazing — I never imagined we would do something like that — and I love that building. it was immense and it felt like a unique experience — can’t imagine playing somewhere that tall again. I hope to do something else with cibelle — we keep talking about it. we are still doing the dreams show — belfast film festival this month.
it seems like dreams play a big part in your waking life. apart from that one about waking up in bed with the proclaimers (I love that one), what dreams have you had that you still remember today? do you ever hear music in your dreams and try to remember it when waking up?
the proclaimers one was worse than you remember — I dreamt that I was asleep and woke up between them — it was awful. they were both just staring at me through their glasses. I still keep my dream diary and I think that something from the dreams infiltrates the work but my attempts to write songs about dreams haven’t been particularly successful except in a couple of cases — and they were really more like songs about dreaming. to catch a dream needs quite a lot of words and subtlety — maybe not best suited to the song structure —- it just sounds like bad poetry. I have very beautiful music in dreams and usually it leaves you on waking but the tune from that song ‘dreaming of you’ I heard in a dream — or maybe the vibe of it at least. the other night I dreamt of a horse with a woman’s head down by the thames again — that’s a repeating one. I dreamt that the fleet river flowed again — in the valley down behind gray’s inn road. I have been having apocalyptic london dreams — walking through the city in darkness with all sorts of people from all different times crowding around.
you seem to spend a lot of time travelling all over england/wales/scotland etc. what are your favourite places to see?
I had some very peculiar experiences in the cambrian mountains west wales a few years ago and like to go back there. I did a kind of archaeological survey of a particular valley and identified all the prehistoric sites there. it’s very beautiful and strange. we have been going to skye a bit — most recently for a funeral. nix’s uncle died and her cousin hugh became the new clan chief of the macleods — like in highlander your favourite film. the west coast of scotland is mind-blowing — the perfect antidote to (and appetiser for) london.
how has the internet changed the way you find out about music and the way people find out about you? do you sell any records? or is it all from mp3 purchases? and what about this podcasting stuff and blogging? do you do that? is it fun?
I rarely use it to find out about music myself — because I seem to have plenty to listen to already but I think it’s been very empowering for musicians — you can bypass the normal distribution channels blah, blah, blah… I hate the way myspace looks but it’s an amazing thing and there is no doubt that many more people have heard what I have been doing because of all that. the records seem to sell fairly steadily in small quantities. I’ve got no idea about how many downloads there have been. I can only assume from your question that you haven’t been keeping up with my podcasting and blogsite — shame on you gail… but I love that — I think that was the most enjoyable thing last year and I am gearing up for another series now.
how many commercials have you done (don’t be ashamed)? are there any products you would refuse to give your music to? do you make a living off music?
maybe 10-15? most of the ones you see on tv which sound like the real tuesday weld aren’t. I have turned down several — including something very lucrative – much to the chagrin of certain people. I won’t do meat — or guns. I have mostly made a living from music for the last three / four years.
which artists are you keen to collaborate with? did you ever hear back from jane birkin?
you know, I never tried jane b — but I loved her latest — that was really great. I am doing a few collaborations for this next record — shirley bassey would be my fantasy.
photograph: the real tuesday weld live in berlin, 2004, gail o’hara