In The Nursery

Chronicle of the Cause + Effect

[In The Nursery] Two twins from Sheffield, Nigel and Klive Humberstone, are In The Nursery. Creators of 23 albums in just 21 years, ranging from the pseudo Joy Division of their first release, through collections of neo-classical dreamscapes, and onto to glorious film soundtracks. With a fan base than spans the globe (the band are ten times bigger in Mexico than their native England) and counting admirers among fellow musicians, ITN decided to invite others to remix tracks from their extensive back catalogue.

The result is "Cause + Effect", recently released on the band's own ITN Corporation label - and their first ever remix album. Contributors include Attrition, Haujobb, Faith and the Muse, Chandeen, Ivan Lusco and more. In The Nursery themselves pay homage to their influences with a remarkable cover of Joy Division's seminal "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Long time ITN follower, Rob Dyer, caught up with the brothers to discuss their latest release and to glance back at their substantial career...

This is the first time ITN has done anything like this - how did the album "Cause + Effect" come about?

NH: As with most of our releases - the timing felt right. ITN are not noted for their remix work (except maybe for that with the Sabres of Paradise) but recently we have been asked to remix artists like Attrition and Assemblage 23. We found the experience very rewarding - like our Optical Music scores, it adds variety to the process of making music. Seeing that we were owed return remixes we started to think about putting together a remix album and the project has just snowballed from that point on.

This is the first release on ITN Corporation not entirely devoted to ITN or your side project Les Jumeaux. Did you always intend to release it on the ITN Corporation label?

NH: I can see your point but we don't consider 'Cause + Effect' as anything other than an ITN album. The album has been specially compiled by ourselves, we've been involved all the time, so it made perfect sense to release it on our label.

Once the idea for the album had been agreed upon - did you always plan to contribute a track?

NH: No, not at first, but once the 'inspirational' theme of the compilation became apparent the seeds were sown for us to contribute a version of a song which has in turn influenced ITN. In many ways it completed the picture.

Your cover version of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is fascinating. Was it easy choosing the song you wanted to cover and how did you approach recording it?

KH: Nigel initially chose the Joy Division track. And I admit, that at first, I was apprehensive about covering such a classic song. A song with which we had 'grown up' with. There are various versions by the band, both live and from early demos, plus renditions by bands like The Swans and The Cure. All of which, keep true to the 'frenetic', guitar based style of the original. In contrast, we decided to 'smooth' the tempo down and orchestrate the underlying melody with classical sounds.

It was good to see Attrition on the album. I once saw them support you at the Markethalle in Hamburg, Germany. It seems to me that there are similarities between the careers of both bands - both have been around for a similar period and performing to similar audiences around the world. Is there any affinity between the two bands?

NH: We've been aware of Attrition, especially via our association with Third Mind Records, for many years - but in all honesty we'd only heard a few tracks that appeared on compilations. Attrition supported us for that European tour and we obviously became a lot closer and have stayed in touch with Martin (Bowes) ever since. We also undertook a remix for Attrition - so Martin owed us a return favour! I don't consider there to be an affinity between the bands - musically we are quite different.

['Cause + Effect'] Most ITN fans are likely to have at least heard of most of the cover artists on this album. But the artists Steve Bennett, Electronium and A_Robot may be new to many. Can you tell us a little about each of these?

NH: You're probably aware that our track 'Miracle Road' has been featured on many dance and chill out compilations, one of which was Sunset at Cafe Mambo which also featured a great track 'Quiero Tu Amor' remixed by Steve. So we contacted him and suggested he try a version of 'Miracle Road' - it certainly adds a bit of variety to the collection. Mike Brown from Electronium was a guy who contacted us via our MP3 site. He simply asked for the chance to remix one of our tracks, we liked his work and gave him the opportunity to contribute. He's since gone on to do other remixes for people like Chandeen. We've known A_Robot since our first visit to Mexico City. Alejandro has remained a very close friend of ITN's throughout the years. I think the deciding factor was his choice of remix - we just couldn't imagine why someone would want to pick such an obscure ITN track! Obviously it meant a lot to him and highlighted the interactive nature behind the album.

You'll probably loathe me asking this question, but I'm sure many fans would ask if you have a favourite of the covers on "Cause + Effect"?

NH: We had so many remixes to choose from that they're all favourites - but as you're asking me to choose one then it would have to be Flesh Field's remix of 'A Rebours' which has great dynamics, structure and arrangement taking the track to a new level.

I read that you are planning a follow-up covers album along similar lines. Is this true and if so, why do you want to repeat the exercise?

NH: We had planned a follow up album - mainly because there were so many artists that we couldn't include. However, we've since reconsidered that idea and put all plans on hold. However, a number of remixes will get featured as extra tracks on future ITN Corporation releases.

Your work rate is phenomenal. Twenty three albums to date - that's more than one a year for each of your 21 years releasing material. How on earth do you keep it up whilst maintaining a high standard of quality?

NH: It doesn't feel like a high work rate. Maybe one of the reasons is that we don't have a record label calling the shots, telling us when to release a product or restricting our creativity.

Now that you've been running the ITN Corporation label and have been responsible for releasing your own material for some years now, how has this side of the ITN process gone? Does it appeal to you at all or is it just a means to an end - with control?

NH: Having integrated the business aspects of running a label along with the creative side of making music for over 7 years now, I don't think I could imagine it any other way. We're very happy and content with how things have progressed for In the Nursery.

I thought your last album, "Groundloop", was one of your best albums for some time. Although very contemporary, it reminded me of much earlier ITN film soundtrack style albums like "Stormhorse". What are your thoughts on this album?

NH: It was a very satisfying album to write, record produce and tour. There was an underlying theme to the album, something that inspires us when we're writing - and I'm sure that we'll be adopting many of the principals in future works.

[ The score you did for the German multimedia project "Engel" was intriguing. It almost lies mid way between your studio albums and the Optical Music soundtracks. How did this come about and what was it like working on the project?

NH: The guys from Feder & Schwert, who have produced the whole concept of Engel from the ground up, contacted us and we just got more involved with the project. It was great to have such a vivid story and background from which to build our compositions. We've just been told that the 'Engel' books are now going to be released in the US and across Europe in respective languages. There is also talk of a CD-ROM computer game which we hope will incorporate our soundtrack.

What are each of your personal favourites when it comes to your own recordings and why?

KH: Obviously the most recent project we are undertaking takes precedent to any others. But in terms of the actual recording process and on a personal level, I would have to hark back to the 'halcyon' days when we use to spend weeks in a residential, 'professional' studio. These were the days before we had set-up our own studio and relied on others to lay down tracks and mix the albums, especially ones like 'L'Esprit' and 'Koda'. The memories of the days spent recording the drums in strange locations, writing lyrics, playing pool and generally co-existing as a group are still evoked each time I listen to the music from that era.

NH: I always have personal favourites from the past - tracks like 'Huntdown' and 'Poema', mixed with new works like 'Aftermath' from the Engel project. For me it's one of the most soothing, sensual and sombre tracks that we've created.

What do you enjoy most about being in ITN?

KH: To be able to have control over our own creations and also to have memories like the ones above and to still be making music 15 years on.

NH: Simply being able to produce music that moves us.

Has writing and performing the Optical Music scores broadened your audience and captured new fans?

NH: Well the answer is definitely yes. The Optical Music Series has given us a new perspective, opening up possibilities for performance and touring. We've been able to present the soundtracks at events all over the UK, throughout Europe and even Mexico - attracting new audiences along the way. For us it's become an integral part of our music career.

In places like Mexico, ITN releases get in the charts and you play in front of huge audiences. Yet in the UK your audiences and impact are more modest. How does this feel - does it frustrate you at all?

NH: We have dedicated fans in the UK and London based concerts are always very well received but in general the UK music press is very superficial which is reflected in peoples attitude towards independent artists who have been making music for decades without breaking into the commercial market. It's annoying not to have your new releases reviewed in any of the national publications but not frustrating.

What do you have in the pipeline?

NH: We're now settling down to prepare and record new works for the next ITN album. There's also the distinct possibility that we'll be writing a soundtrack for a new British movie sometime later this year - but we can't announce anything at the moment. Following that we plan to complete our fifth Optical Music soundtrack for a 1929 silent Japanese film. In between all this we'd also like to reissue 'An Ambush of Ghosts' on the ITN Corporation label.

This interview first appeared in Kaleidoscope Magazine -

In The Nursery on DSO: Gig Reviews / Music Reviews

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