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Matt Berry on his love of the album "There are very few physical objects that are as precious, to me, in my life"

Matt Berry on his love of the album "There are very few physical objects that are as precious, to me, in my life"

Matt Berry on his love of the album "There are very few physical objects that are as precious, to me, in my life"

The album, as the name given to the thing suggests, is a rare material object which can hold a place in the heart as special as any family heirloom or photograph. There are very few physical objects that are as precious, to me, in my life, apart from family photographs as certain albums, that I purchased at certain times. I’d say 90% of my most treasured albums are albums bought, or given to me before my mid 20s. You don’t know it at the time but, I don’t think you ever really study every inch, aspect of an album the same way as you did in your teens or early 20’s. Inevitable distractions such as moving, getting a job, families etc tend to get in the way and dilute that absolute immersive experience you had in your bedroom between you, your albums.

Nothing broke the intense concentration as your mind raced with wonder as you read the names of the instruments and the players, wondering what the particular instrument, and player looked like. If you happened to be pouring over a live album you were instantly there, physically sat on your bed yet, at the same time in your mind you’re stood on that hot, sticky night, at the front, being blown away by this legendary performance. It’s only years later when the illusion is shattered after you discover that most live albums are a ragged, random collection of unconnected performances from different nights. The best example of this for me being U2’s Under A Blood Red Sky which, due to the photography and seriously iconic front cover, I imagined to be a recording from a momentous, magical night at an historic amphitheatre. Turned out it was mostly made up from a 3pm afternoon slot, at a random festival supporting The Police and the Steve Miller Band. They just added the applause from previous headline gigs. It really doesn’t matter though, as no lifting of the curtain knowledge destroyed any of the excitement I felt on my own, in my bedroom at the time.

I’m also confident that there are enough young teenagers now who are discovering a band and their discography and buying 2nd hand vinyl copies of Hunky Dory or Unknown Pleasures or even Dark Side Of The Moon. If you are young, and love music, and cannot imagine your world without it, I think the physical album will always be there, waiting for you to give that all consuming, super intense undivided attention. 

There are two albums in particular I could not live without: 


Not a single album has intrigued me, confused me, alienated me, not to mention given me limitless amounts of inspiration and excitement as this one. When my Mum bought me this album after I heard someone just mentioning it’s title, little did I know the lifelong effect it would have on me. I was fourteen, and it was the late 80’s and I was the only one in my class/school that wanted to listen or talk about Tubular Bells. ‘What the fuck is that?’ Would be the same reaction upon seeing the album, or hearing it. If there was recognition for the album back then it would be something like “even my Dad doesn’t play that anymore” I couldn’t actually give a monkeys at the time, as I knew it was special. Nothing I’d heard from anyone before had that sense of chaos and displacement. An unsettled, sinister introduction that made less sense as the album progressed. 

Importantly, it, as an object for me, has always been as powerful as the music itself. When I held the album for the first time I could believe the cover, I couldn’t believe how many instruments it said he’d played on the back, and I hadn’t got a whiff of a clue as to who the artist was, and what he looked like. I imagined he was in his 70s and looked like a Wizard? The shock which led to an immediate sense of drive and personal ambition upon learning that he was, in fact, an unassuming quiet fella who was only 17 (only a few years older than me at the time) when he composed the music, and only 19 when he recorded it. At the time I was probably, like any teenage boy, just collecting porn mags and beginning to play the guitar badly. This young mans achievement gave me a boost and sense of purpose like no other art form or act. It (this record) is to this day one of the main reasons why I decided back then to get off my arse and do things.

2) JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR 1970 Original Concept album

If art frightens me, or leaves me unable to think of anything else afterwards, then I’ll usually (obviously) consider it to be important. 

When I first heard this album as youngster after being frightened by the film, I hadn’t got a clue who Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were. It was just a thing, a terrifying thing at that, but just a record with a solem brown cover, interrupted with a stark, simple gesture of an angel logo on the front which, like Tubular Bells, gave nothing away as to who featured on this album, or who made it. 

For me, it’s basically the most intense, terrifying and exciting radio play ever recorded. It just also happens to contain the most insanely clashing musical ideas I’ve ever heard on one recording. It’s important to forget the baggage that inevitably comes with this record (title), if you can forget leg warmers, and images associated with the musical theatre, and listen to it as it would have been presented 50 years ago, it truly does stand the test of time. And really does sound like it was recorded a couple of hours ago.

I’d never heard 7/8 time signatures and Gorgy Ligeti applied to rock music before. Nor had I heard ethereal yet sinister sounding choirs and a full colossal sounding orchestra underpinning simple, and complex heavy rock songs.

The players were ‘proper’ rockers, who played till their finger bled without any kind of musical prejudice. The same for the singers, who sang with a frightened, almost bemused passion that was so painfully infectious and unsettling. 

During particularly frustrating, and difficult times in my life,  I’ve often imagined the effect it would have if I had the ability to suddenly vocalise my point, in song, backed with a scorching heavy rock outfit, accentuated by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with full religious choir.

My own albums are usually inspired by what I find either unsettling, intriguing, unexplainable ...and the countryside. I love the countryside and am still fascinated by its folklore and superstitions. Writing while living in the countryside is a real bonus, doesn’t hasn’t in a way increased the imagery or inspiration for me. I wrote and recorded Witchazel (an album about the terrors of the countryside) in a tiny one bedroom flat in South East London so, as long as I could get in the zone, and rely on childhood memories, It didn’t seem to matter.

I find that if I have an idea it’s best to get into the studio (within my house) quickly and get it all down. If something goes well, then I am loathed to mess with it, or recreate it as I fear it will obviously sound bogus. As a result of this method , a lot of the songs you hear on the finished albums, are also, I’m afraid, the demos as, I believe those first broad strokes are the most important. I’d apply the same approach to painting also. I’m guilty of not bothering to check if the guitars are in tune before hitting the record button and, as a result, some of the tracks have slightly wonky tuning. I record in a mostly analogue fashion so, once it’s down, It’s down.

Matt Berry on his love of the album "There are very few physical objects that are as precious, to me, in my life"