Trojan Horse tell the snooker and prog legend about how you can’t “steal” music, sterilising Hitler’s mother, WiFi-equipped brains – oh, and their eagerly anticipated new album…
With his band Trojan Horse performing in Camden at The Black Heart on their promo tour for new album World Turned Upside Down, Nick Duke has arrived the evening before the gig, telling drummer Guy Crawford and his two brothers Lawrence and Eden that he was attending a fictional gig by the band Strobes. They would need to drive the van down from Salford on the day, while the cunning singer and guitarist got to enjoy a morning lie in and a leisurely afternoon beer with Prog. Duke confirms there was more to it than that, but we have to keep the real reason under our hat! [Come on Davis, spill the beans… Ed.]
Worryingly, he suggested The World’s End pub in Camden to discuss their excellent new record. Omens for the interview and also The World’s End’s future don’t bode well. Judging by the lunchtime clientele, it feels like we’ve travelled a long, long way back in time to a cantina bar, in a galaxy far, far away.
New to this interviewing lark, my prepared script gets ditched and I go all apocalyptic on Duke, pouring out fears that the end of music is nigh, due to digital thievery strangling the artist. So, is there anything that can be done differently to stop music being stolen?
“Firstly, digital has done so much that it has actually democratised music and empowered people,” Duke replies, “but of course there’s a downside. There’s more crud asa result, so it’s tougher wadingthrough the mire in order to find the good stuff. Secondly, kids have always stolen records in shops or gatecrashed gigs due to a lack of money. It dependshow we contextualise the term ‘stolen’ in this current climate. Looking back through the history books, oral tradition and performance of musicare our roots.
“Three hundred years ago if I heard you sing a folk song, then went back to my community, sang that song and spread its message and melody, and then someone else went off and did likewise, is that stealing? No, it’s perpetuating an oral performance, something which has happened throughout the ages. Only in the last century has music become a business and people started exploiting it for big financial gain.
“Of course, artists benefited from that to a large extent, but the record company executives benefited more. They’re the ones who sit back and moan most about dwindling profits and scream ‘theft’. Yes, file-sharing has eaten into profit margins, but the music is still there, nothing’s changed. The delivery method has to some extent, but it’s still that tradition of sharing a song with someone else within your (now global) community.
“So no, I don’t think we could have stopped people ‘stealing’ music because it happens every single day, every time you open your mouth and start ‘performing’ someone else’s song in the shower or go busking. How does the future musician make money? There would need to be a radical shift in how we perceive artists and their music. Perhaps we would need to get away from music being viewed as a commodity. Perhaps performance and the live experience will eventually be our saviour.”
A tattooed women with a bolt through her lip walks past, looking like something from a cyber-fuelled future. I ask: “So, if you had a time machine, which way would you go? If not back in order to change music’s path, then perhaps a glimpse into the future?” “Although I’m a bit of a sci-fi buff, I wouldn’t fancy a trip into the unknown as most probably it would be a let-down and nothing like The Jetsons!” Duke laughs. “I think that’s better left to people’s imaginations. As far as music in the future? Perhaps direct WiFi input into our brains. And further down the line we might all be plugged directly into some ether-web, with all known music available instantaneously, combined with augmented brain processing, meaning you could hear a full album in three seconds flat, leading to a rediscovery of classical music and opera, with 30-hour ambient drone tracks topping the world charts. People would be split into two factions: those who like folk music, and other people.
“No,” Duke continues, “I think for me it has to be a visit to the past, but then only to observe, otherwise you’d never be sure of the outcome. Sterilising Hitler’s mother might open up an even more horrifying can of worms! I’d love to have explored Victorian times and experienced the visceral nature of it all, but of course who wouldn’t love to have witnessed musical history? Maybe Woodstock to have a giggle with the hippies, or perhaps King Crimson at Hyde Park in 1969?”
Returning to the present, what are the current plans for Trojan Horse?
“It’s great being under the Bad Elephant umbrella of inventive, talented people from a wide variety of genres,” Duke says. “Most important of all, they care about the artists and their music and allow us to just concentrate on the creative side of things. Our music is a collaboration of the four of us – we all have different strands and ideas, but personally I find myself becoming more fascinated by sound textures than just by musical complexity. It’s tough to explain but these different textures represent different colours. On our new album I’ve enjoyed trying to paint these ‘pictures’ and explore the challenges of finding weird sounds by marrying different tones of instruments.
“Our future will be clouded in mystery until we decide to reveal what we are doing next,” he says, before adding: “Which is actually now! We’re going back into the studio straight away to work on album three and another EP. Our single Meat Eater is out on seven-inch on RAK Records and early next year we’ll be doing a second jaunt around, as well as putting on a couple of special shows in Manchester, which we are currently planning.” By now, Duke needs to check that the rest of the lads have arrived safely, set up all the equipment and tuned up his guitar. I agree to call it time, too, especially as the woman with the Screwfix lip has started smiling in our direction. We make our excuses and leave…
World Turned Upside Down is out now on Bad Elephant. See trojanhorseuk.com for tour dates and more information.