Within the rock and metal community Duncan Patterson is mostly known for being ex bassist, songwriter and singer for Anathema. He left the band after the ill-fated ‘Alternative 4’ recording sessions. In the years that followed, he recorded albums with many bands, including Antimatter and Ion. His latest project is called Alternative 4 and with “The Brink” he returns to his melancholic rock roots. ThisIsNotAScene caught up with this driven musician and asked him all about his latest project, artistic integrity, future projects and the new Alternative 4 album that’s looming over the horizon.
How’s the tour for ‘The Brink’ going so far?
The tour is going well so far. We had a day off yesterday after travelling all night, so everyone is well rested. We’ve added a few new tracks to the set and people seem to like what we’re doing. The CDs are selling well, considering we aren’t selling out huge venues we are still making a positive impression.
What inspired the heavier sections of this record and are you planning on repeating this for the next Alternative 4 release?
I actually consider parts of ‘Madre Protegenos’ the heaviest stuff I have ever written, but it was without using distorted guitars. With Alternative 4 the plan was to use electric guitars, piano, bass, and real drums, so in this format I used distorted guitars for the real heavy dynamics on ‘The Brink’. On the new album ‘The Obscurants’, that we just recorded before the tour, there are a few of these moments too.
What do you remember most vividly about the writing and recording sessions for ‘The Brink’?
I was really ill while getting everything together for ‘The Brink’; I was recovering from a parasite infection and my immune system had crashed. The side-effects of the treatment were not so pleasant, it was like as if my life was flashing before me, only in slow motion. A lot of that is reflected in the long, monotonous parts of ‘The Brink’. It’s funny when critics are like “thats too long and boring”, but thats exactly the space I was in at the time and I documented it, so it’s the real deal and not some calculated marketable shite.
Have you start working on new Alternative 4 material? If so, what can we expect?
We more or less finished recording the new album just before the tour started. It’s titled ‘The Obscurants’ which is generally about people in power covering things up. It’s strange, as since I began writing this, a lot of things are coming out now about police, media, and government cover-ups in my part of the world, so it’s really good timing. The music is not as drawn-out and monotonous as ‘The Brink’, but it’s still very piano-based and melancholic.
What does artistic integrity mean to you personally?
It’s very important to me to do things the right way on all levels; I’ve proven that, throughout my career, nobody can doubt me on that. To me, making music is not a business plan; otherwise I wouldn’t be making the music in my own peculiar style. I’m very much into the DIY way of doing things, which is more of a punk attitude than selling my arse to gain some kind of manufactured ‘popularity’. I’ve written about it a lot.
Your music has this very melancholic vibe to it. To which extent is melancholia a part of your personality?
I think everyone has that inside of them. We, as humans all have our moments of reflection and melancholy. Even thinking back on positive moments in life can bring a certain amount of tear jerking nostalgia. I’m very honest in my writing, so there’s obviously a lot of my personality in my music.
Would you ever work with Anathema again?
I wouldn’t rule out working with Vinny (vocals, guitars) or Danny (guitar, backing vocals, keys) again in the future, in some way or other. Though I would rather stay away from the title ‘Anathema’ as a collective, or brand name, as I believe it is a curse, literally. I also think it is unhealthy and quite unfair to have an established title overshadowing your personal talent and contributions to music. And the same goes for the people riding on its coat tails, after contributing absolutely nothing. It often happens that the show ponies and parasites of this business have the biggest mouths. I’ve chosen to stay away from all that stuff.
The re-release of ‘The Brink’ is your first offering for Prophecy Productions. How are things going with them so far?
Well it’s a re-release, so we aren’t expecting a huge amount of promotional work, but we worked together to make it a decent package. We did some remixes and decent quality live recordings, which Mark mixed during the summer. It’s good timing, and it’s nice to have it available again.
These are tough times for any musician, so how do you make ends meet?
I have written a lot of songs, and sold a lot of records, so I still get paid for my work on a regular basis. I’ve also had four top twenty hits, which did me no harm financially. I also enjoy playing Irish music in bars. I played in a wedding band over in Ireland for a few years too. There’s no reason not to make a living from music, even when record sales dry up. Some people are too snobby to play in pubs but its something that I love, sometimes more than playing my own music to a critical audience.
Which five records transformed your life?
The Beatles – ‘Help’. The first album I ever got into, when I was about 5 years old. I still love it, and know every single lyric and note.
Pink Floyd – ‘The Wall’. A masterpiece. Getting in touch with Roger Waters’ writing is by far the most important thing that ever happened to me, musically. When I was around 12 years old I was hanging around with my friend’s older brother, who was a huge Floyd fan. ‘The Wall’ blew me away completely, and I haven’t been the same since.
Fugazi – ‘In on the Killtaker’. We played with Fugazi in Brazil in 1994 and they were stunning live, so I went out and bought the early EPs which I loved. Then I got hold of ‘In on the Killtaker’ which just took things to a new level; the two guitar styles together become almost like freeform hardcore in parts and the clever use of their voices and a great rhythm section. One of the most innovative bands in history, and definitely the band I respect the most for their ethical stance.
Celtic Frost – ‘Into the Pandemonium’. Again, a totally innovative piece of work, combining orchestral instrumentation and operatic vocals with extreme metal; a huge influence on my early songwriting.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’. The soundtrack of my pre-teen 80s; amazing production, and really odd vibe to it all.