Artmagic Interview & Album Details

I know this is a Brett Anderson focused site but with all the Suede happenings of the past two years I think it’s fair to assume most readers will be eager to see what the other band members are doing between Suede related work.

And indeed that is what this post is about. Richard Oakes’ new project ‘Artmagic’ will soon release their début album “Become The One You Love” on July 2nd. They already have an EP out which you can listen to here.

They have been playing a number of gigs to showcase these amazing songs and have also begun doing some media rounds to help promote the album release. Below is an interview both Richard and Sean did for a Bulgarian website called Indioteque. Thanks to ‘Fein’ on the Suede forum for posting this!


Here it goes:

– Ten years after A New Morning, how does it feels to be releasing new music once again? 

Richard: Of course it feels good to be able to share what I’ve been up to with an audience. A lot of the music was started a long time ago, and it was all pored over and studied before it even got to the songwriting stage. My life went through a lot of changes during the period shortly before I met Sean, and I believe the music reflects that, and also he was able to see what I was trying to communicate, and reflected that very well in the lyrics he wrote. It does seem strange to think that almost a decade went by between releases, as I’ve been active as a songwriter/ musician behind the scenes for most of those years.

– How you met Sean McGhee and what triggered the formation of Artmagic? 

R: I had an email from my brother Stephen in about September 2007 saying that a friend of his had been asking for my manager Charlie’s details to pass on to a friend of his, with the possibility of a collaboration in mind. I sent the details on and shortly afterward received a showreel of things that Sean had been working on, including Kate Havnevik, Temposhark and some of his own material. I was impressed, and instantly realised he was a lot more technically proficient than me when it came to computers! I had recently completed a showreel of my own, which I had sent to Charlie in the hope of attracting a collaborator, so the timing was pretty good. Unfortunately personal circumstances slowed my progress and I didn’t actually meet Sean until June 2008, and we started writing in July. The first song we wrote was Forever In Negative, and it’s sharply appropriate that it ended up being the first single; it’s a song that has a lot of meaning for both of us. I realised before we had written many songs that not only did Sean understand me as a musician, but also the songs we were writing were far too personal to hand over to anyone else, and we agreed we should go ahead and create a project ourselves, from scratch. Something I had never done before.

Sean: I was always a fan of Richard’s, and was curious that he had seemingly disappeared. My friend Davy was similarly admiring, and one drunken evening in 2007 we got to talking about Richard’s work. I wondered aloud about trying to track him down to do some writing together, and Davy knew Stephen, so he offered to make first contact. That’s where it started. I can say that the hangover was definitely worth it.

– Your debut full-lenght album is called Become The One You Love and the EP is titled I Keep On Walking. Is there something like a personal theme running through the songs? 

R: Definitely, the theme for the EP was something that became apparent after we had written the title track and The Sleeper. The situation involves a number of people, and Sean did a great job reflecting the mixed emotions in all 4 tracks. I’m proud of it as a first release as it has a very strong theme and beautiful artwork by Peter James Field. The album is a lot more universal though, it takes the listener on far more of a journey, both emotionally and musically. I believe there is something in every song that someone can relate to.

S: The EP isn’t based on my own experiences, but began from a story I was told about how someone I knew met his partner. I embellished this story, and “I Keep On Walking” was the result. It was my idea to write “The Sleeper” as the same story viewed from another perspective, and Richard’s idea to write a third song to reflect the third viewpoint, which became “The Scruff Of The Neck”.

The album, on the other hand, is very personal indeed. It’s not a confessional album, but I’ve worked hard to channel my experiences into the songs. It’s important not to hold back; too many artists essentially sing about nothing. I can’t do that. Joy, pain, mental illness, personal emancipation, sex and marriage all feature. It’s an album that admires the roses, but is unafraid to grasp at the thorns.

– Is Artmagic planned to be a long-term project? 

R: Certainly, we have put everything into Artmagic and we’ll write and record as much music as we can. I believe it’s a useful creative outlet for both of us, that perhaps our other projects don’t allow in the same way. Plus I believe that even in this era, people long for music that is honest and ambitious. I see Artmagic as both of these things, I believe the songs we write can appeal to everyone and give people faith that new music can come from an uncynical origin. I hope to inspire some upcoming bands and songwriters.

S: Anyone who is creative needs to have something to can call their own, which they did just for themselves. That’s why Artmagic is necessary for both of us, and we intend to produce a body of work – “Become The One You Love” is just the start of what I hope will be a long collaboration. Artmagic is not a snack for us to enjoy between other projects!

– During Suede’s hiatus, you were the only member of which there was no news regarding career and life. Can you tell me what were you up to during your years after the disbanding of Suede? 

R: I was more than happy to disappear from the public eye for a while. I had joined Suede directly from school, and after the band split in 2003 my life changed completely. I was able to embrace normality and privacy for a few years, and it helped me gain a view on what kind of direction I wanted my further career to take, especially after the madness of being a Suede member had died away. I lived an intentionally private life, moving house, building a studio, travelling, writing and finding inspiration from many places. I wrote a lot of music that has become the backbone for Become The One You Love. I think that when someone is out of the public eye, people tend to assume that they’ve either ceased to exist, or have stopped working. It was always my intention to remain away from scrutiny and judgement so long.

– Did you miss being on the scene or you rather enjoyed not being a center of attention? 

R: I’ve never enjoyed being the centre of attention at all. The way I coped with what happened to me when I joined Suede in August 1994 was to close my ears, eyes and mind to the whole thing. It was the only defence mechanism I could use to avoid being chewed up and spat out by the music scene. I’m naturally self-conscious and self-critical, and these are not good ingredients for being the kind of extrovert needed to be in a band like Suede. But while I was in the band I focussed on my role as a writer and musician first and foremost, and everything else came second. I have the exact same ethic for Artmagic.

S: I joke about becoming an unbearable egomaniac now I’m the frontman. It hasn’t happened yet, but there’s still time.

– When you came in Suede, you wrote most of Coming Up, but then your collaborations with Brett Anderson became more sporadical. Why and can we see more songs written by you and Anderson in the next Suede album? 

R:It all depends what kind of songs need to be written to fit in with the album direction. With Head Music the direction was electronic, groove-based and emotionally cold. The writing was mostly done on synthesisers and samplers, and I had no interest in those tools.. so it meant I was more of a session musician on that album. These things can often happen if you’re working with multiple composers. The new material is a little more back to basics in terms of writing structures, and of course I’m finding it far more liberating.

– You presented a few new songs in Russia by the end of 2011. Some of them sounded very close to the Dog Man Star/Coming Up era. Are you heading for a ‘back-to-the-roots’ album or there is a different conception behind your next album? 

R : I believe the concept of a band- written album should only be attempted when the collection of songs is good enough. I have found in my career that if an album concept is forced before the music is written, the creativity inevitably gets strangled, and ultimately the album suffers. Of course the concept for the new material has had to adjust to this reality. The most important (and hardest) thing to do is avoid falling back into old patterns and comfortable ruts.

– What were your thoughts after the first post-reunion Suede song was written? 

R: Very strange. Encouraging yet daunting at the size of the task in hand.


Please check out the Artmagic website and blog and don’t forget to follow their musings on Twitter and Facebook and to buy the album!


Also feel free to check out some photos I took of the guys at their recent St.Moritz gigs…


01 The Choice
02 Down In The River
03 Forever In Negative
04 Submerged
05 You
06 A Homecoming
07 Heaven Is Here
08 Half-Life
09 Blue On Blue
10 The Spark
11 The Gift Of Flight

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