It is almost impossible to summarize what John Fryer has done over the years. You can find most facts about his career on the Internet. If you have googled John, you know that the list of his achievements is almost endless. To cut the story short, we can just randomly mention his work with Fad Gadget, Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, Nine Inch Nails, Love & Rockets, White Zombie, HIM and Cradle of Filth, but the list of the artists that he’s worked with as a producer can really make you dizzy. Today, John is busy working on his Black Needle Noise project.
1. Thank you, John, for this great opportunity to talk to you. I assume everyone is interested in your past work. Your biography is ultimately vivid, you have done so much. How do you feel looking back on the days of Fad Gadget, Depeche Mode and Yazoo? Is the spirit of music making still very much alive today as it was back then? Can you compare?
JF: There is a spirit in music today and a good song is still a good song, but back in the day of Fad Gadget, he was harnessing the energy of the punk scene and using it in a new way with electronics, trying to push the boundaries. You have to understand that the technology then was not what it is today. You have everything at your finger tips now and the only thing holding you back is your own imagination. Back then, everything was very limited. It was the start of a new era, technology and artistic wise. People were trying new things, exploring new ways of making music as the new equipment was developing. There were a lot of independent labels that loved music and wanted to explore new things.
It was a great and very exciting time to be involved in music.
2. You worked as a producer for 4AD and Mute. How does one become a producer? How did you start?
JF: I started as an engineer in the studio but I was always helping the bands out by giving them advice, they trusted me to give them a good sounding record at the end of their recording time.
So when the bands came back, they would ask me to produce them. I would help them bring out the best in their songs. Helping them develop, write, arrange, cultivate their sound and make their dreams come true.
3. You worked with Cocteau Twins and Cradle Of Filth. What were your experiences like working with artists who differ in their musical expression to such an extent?
JF: To be honest, every band I’ve worked with and still work with are completely different. No two bands are alike, they all have different personalities and it’s just about getting to understand each one and where they want to go with their music.
JF: With TMC and all the other music and even my own Black Needle Noise project, it’s always a great honour and a privilege to work with these people and I can look back with a lot of pride at all the music that I’ve been fortunate to work with.
5. I must admit that I am completely ignorant when it comes to the equipment and recording technologies. Can you tell us how the progress in making music changed your work-flow and how the new technologies influenced the way you work today?
JF: Today it’s so much easier to record and write. Everything is at your finger tips. I like to write and record in the digital world.
If you wanna change an arrangement, it’s just cut, copy and paste.
Every edit you make is non destructive, but back in the day when we were recording on tape, if you wanted to change an arrangement, you had to slice through the 24 track tape, very destructive.
A very risky business if you make a mistake cutting the tape or you have to go back and rehearse the new arrangement and re-record everything from scratch.
6. You are currently working on the Black Needle Noise project. You are collaborating with various singers/songwriters. Can you tell us how those collaborations have come about? How is the work of song writing and music making divided between you and the guest artist?
JF: I mainly write the music 1st, then I send it to the singer, 9 times out of 10 they like what I send them and want to sing on it. It’s not always in the same area that they work in, so they find it a good and inspiring challenge for them. It’s mostly 50/50 with the singer, I write the music and they write the lyrics and the vocal melodies.
7. How was the idea of BNN born? How did you decide to start that project?
JF: It was born out of doing 2 band albums, one with DarkDriveClinic & one with Silver Ghost Shimmer, I found I had a lot of music left over. It just made sense to go in a different direction and start to work with different singers, the music was all different, from track to track it had a different vibe.
8. You released Before The Tears Came in June, 2016 as a digital album. Can we hope for the physical copy?
JF: I really hope so, I am talking to someone, a label, as I’m typing this reply, about putting out the music in a physical format. I’m hoping for CD & Vinyl, but I will let you know more when I know more.
9. The first track we could hear on Bandcamp was “Bang Bang”. It is experimental, noisy, poppy, punchy… Why was that track not included on the first album?
JF: Well, “Bang Bang” is a cover version of the classic Nancy Sinatra song. I only wanted to have original songs on the album.
10. I really can’t attach any labels on Black Needle Noise. It is indeed a brilliant thing that I can hear so many different styles merging on a single release. However, this material deserves deep thoughts and reflection on what is being presented to the listener. How do you feel about the feedback you receive for this project?
JF: The feedback so far has been amazing, makes everything worth-while when I hear/read so many nice things people saying/writing about the songs. There also shouldn’t be any labels on Black Needle Noise, you shouldn’t be able to put it in any box other than noise pop. I don’t really have any rules for it. I just record whatever comes out of me, I’m not trying to write in one style, just a good atmospheric sound-scape that will be inspiring to a singer.
11. Before The Tears Came is not what we could call “mainstream” and, in my humble opinion, it was not intended to be. It is somewhat heavy, regardless of the fact that there are catchy moments. If I say that Black Needle Noise is not for just any listener, would you agree on that?
It’s not really aimed at one particular audience, it’s aimed at many different audiences. I’m hoping that with all the different singers and styles it will all cross-pollinate. Think of Black Needle Noise like an octopus and how all its tentacles are reaching out in different directions and pulling listeners in. So I’m hoping that people who like one singer will be interested in finding out what the other singers sound like and go and check out their music too.
12. The project is evolving further. You continued working with more artists. One of the tracks was produced in collaboration with Mimi Page who also worked with Delerium on the Mythologie album. Do you have any artist you would especially like to work with?
JF: Black Needle Noise is a never-ending project and I hope to work with lots of other singers along the way and some might be a surprise to you.
13. I have listened to all tracks I could find on Bandcamp. Most tracks feature female songwriters and vocalists. Are you more drawn to female artists? Will there be more collaborations with male singers in future?
JF: I prefer female vocalist on my music, to me they fit in the soundscapes better, but there will always be male vocalists on tracks. Keep an ear open for some up-coming songs.
14. The “Extermination” instrumental track was done for the “Extermination” animated movie trailer. Can you tell us how that collaboration came about?
JF: Bruce and I collaborated on a project before about global warming. Here is the link.
We have stayed in contact ever since. I’m always open to collaborate in all kinds of musical adventures.
15. We can also find two remixes of “Naughty Girl” you recorded with Spectra Paris. How much do you enjoy doing the remixes? What made you choose that particular track? Can we expect more remixes in future?
JF: Well, I really enjoy doing remixes but I didn’t do the “Naughty Girl” remixes. They were done by Jean-Marc Lederman who has done an awesome job. There are other remixes on the way. Just waiting to get them back.
16. Your track “Swimming Through Dreams” with Mimi Page was released in January this year. It is utterly atmospheric and ethereal, dream-like. Where do you find the inspiration for creating such soundscapes?
JF: You should listen to each song as if it was a sound track to its own movie, just close your eyes and drift away and get taken on the journey.
17. Besides music, what other aspects of art are you drawn to?
JF: I like all aspects of art, I like to keep an open mind on things. There are so many things out there to see, feel, taste and hear. I feel very sorry for people who have closed minds, they miss out on so much in life and life is so short as we are seeing almost every day now with people who we have grown up with passing away.
18. I read one of your previous interviews. You have a special bond with the work of two Davids: Bowie and Lynch. I am especially interested in your love of Lynch’s work.
JF: Aah, Dear Mister Lynch. Yes I like his work. I think he is another who doesn’t really follow any rules or maybe just his own. It’s always interesting to see what he is doing, you have to view things in a Lynch way or you could be very upset or disappointed. Like when I went to see “Inland Empire” people were walking out, they didn’t get it. It is a Lynch movie and you have to have that view and mind-set when you go in and let it wash over you.
JF: Yes, you can expect a lot of new music and singers. The second album will be put together when there is enough music. I will put it together like last time. I’m thinking the next album will be called “LOST IN REFLECTIONS”. Probably 10 or 11 songs again.
Find more about Black Needle Noise: https://shamelesspromotion.haulix.com/Public/View/41849
20. You have just released “And Nothing Remains” featuring Ana Breton from Dead Leaf Echo. It is another atmospheric, utterly emotional and elegant song and in it we can hear yet another exquisite angelic vocal. Is this the direction in which your ideas are evolving?
JF: You can and should expect that but also expect many more surprises along the way. Black Needle Noise is like a Kinder Egg, you never know what’s going to be inside the next song. There is no real direction, this is what it’s all about, with no rules and the Kinder surprise.
Enjoy “And Nothing Remains”!