Jane Weaver

Jane Weaver's new LP The Silver Globe proves she's finally left us for another musical planet...

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 16 Oct 2014
  • min read
Jane Weaver has been attacking the fringes of pop convention for more than 20 years with her unsaddled approach to music-making and an ear for the weird.

From hazy shoegaze to sci-fi psychedelia, Jane has forged a unique path through the wilds of modern music to arrive at a place which is so far off the beaten track there’s no turning back.

Teenage forays in major label Britpop band Kill Laura, and later Misty Dixon, helped the Liverpudlian songwriter scope out the limits of the late nineties’ musical mould she would later reject.

The experience laid the foundations for a solo career that would challenge the indie blueprint and create a genuinely independent voice in conceptual pop.

Closely linked with the Twisted Nerve label through her husband Andy Votel and her offshoot Bird Records, she has found her natural home, full of rescued vintage synths, exotic retro reissues and willing collaborators.

Launching the careers of Cate le Bon and Beth Jeans Houghton, as well as unearthing forgotten folk luminaries through the Bearded Ladies compilations and releasing the debut album from The ERC, Bird has become an important platform for leftfield female artists past and present.

The label's next release will be Jane's fifth album, The Silver Globe, which picks up where 2010’s excellent The Fallen by Watchbird left off.

Buried deep in another obscure concept, this time Jane’s left us for another musical planet as she delves into a post-apocalyptic prog-pop landscape that imagines a music industry of the future.

Boasting collaborations with Damon Gough (Badly Drawn Boy), electronic pioneer Suzanne Ciani and Australian proggers Cybotron, plus production from David Holmes, it might be her most expansive album yet.

We caught up with her to find out more…

I’d just done an instrumental album and wanted to do something more futuristic and electronic. I had the loose concept based on how the music industry would be in the future and how it is running now. Every day it’s ever-changing. I’ve been in the music industry since I was 16 so I thought about my experience then and now – and the way it will be in the future – and got a little concept together about the story there.

Also, I saw an amazing film partway through writing called On the Silver Globe by Andrzej Zulawski. You’ll have to watch it, it’s very bizarre! It’s based on a group of astronauts who go to another planet to form another civilisation. It goes pear shaped in the end, but my reference to that was that, maybe in the future, the music industry will be a post-apocalyptic landscape where we’re all trading and trying to bargain with each other. It’s just a fantasy thing really, my imagination run wild!

How did it come together?
I’d been listening to a lot of Yoko Ono and avant-garde music and decided I wanted to do something really crazy, but melodic as well. But it’s not turned out that way. It’s more tuneful and poppy than I intended, maybe because I was listening to loads of Grace Jones and European disco stuff at the time too.

Where did you record it?
Luckily, there’s an amazing studio just down the road from my house and it contains a lot of vintage analogue stuff. I’m not into pure vintage – I don’t insist on everything being recorded to gramophone! I’ve done all that so these days I don’t mind if everything ends up all digital. I embrace that. Part of the beauty of the process is the recording studio. That’s the important part. Making stuff in the right place with the right instruments.

You worked with Damon Gough, Suzanne Ciani and Cybotron on the record – what did they bring to it?
I remember seeing a Cybotron video years ago and wanted to push myself by working with different types of people. I’m not that keen on sax as an instrument but I really appreciate it when it’s on a Hawkwind album or a Cybotron track.

Andy (Votel) knew I liked Cybotron and was him who suggested I work with Steve. So we just did it remotely over the waters, so to speak.

Suzanne is someone I’ve known for a while now, someone who’s worked with Finders Keepers and Bird. She’s one of the most important electronic musicians in the world, I’d say, and especially because she’s a woman. To get some of her involvement was just great.

How did David Holmes get involved?
David is a friend and he was living in LA working on a film soundtrack for Steven Soderbergh and was in and out of the studio with Primal Scream. I was going over there to do a soundtrack thing and I thought it would be great to work with him. Obviously, with friends, even though you know each other, there might not be the opportunity to work together. But it just so happened that it worked out. He was in an amazing studio at the time – Vox Recording Studios. It was very analogue and there were loads of instruments. I managed to do a couple of days with him there and he produced Arrows and Stealing Gold. He was great. A lot of the time in the studio I don’t work with producers, I work with other musicians. But with David, I just let him takeover really. I just gave in to him, because I respect him a lot.

I also worked with Damon Gough and again, even though we’ve known each other for years I just managed to find a track that was suitable for him to play on.

You’ve collaborated widely during your career, more recently with Demdike Stare and Focus Group – what was that like? What do you take away from your collaborations?
I love working by myself and being on my own in a studio. But sometimes I get to a point where I hold my hands up and think, ‘Actually, I know someone who’s a much better bass player, or a guitarist’, and I would love to work with them. I’m not a narcissist in that respect. It doesn’t have to be all about me.

You learn a lot from working with others. You watch them. Also, they work pretty quickly because they’re so talented! It’s a learning process. And it’s magical.

The core band I’ve been working with from day one - Brian Edwards, Dave Monk and Pete Philipson – have been essential to the project.

Are you playing live with them too?
Yep, we just played at Festival Number 6. It’s all working out good. I’ve never been that fond of playing live, particularly if it’s just me having to do interpretations of albums previous. It’s really joyful to do gigs with good musicians.

How has your approach to music-making changed since your early days?
As I’ve got older I’m a lot freer. I do consider myself lucky to be in the position I’m in. When I look back, I was in a treadmill, working within the music industry and doing things a certain way. Until I was on Twisted Nerve, I used to think that there was a set way of doing things. Probably because I had record deals since I was a teenager. The beauty about now is my approach is very free and I do what they hell I want. I don’t get songs rejected. If someone doesn’t like one of my songs, I don’t worry about it, that’s fine. Years ago I would’ve been in tears about it.

I feel sorry for people who are successful to a certain level and have to do the follow-up album. Imagine that pressure? Your last one sold 40,000 so this one has to sell more to be able to do the next one, and it’s got to sound a bit like the last one so those people will buy it.

You say that The Silver Globe is imagining a music industry of the future. A lot of people like to say how bad things are now compared to days gone by, but what do you think about it?
I think that years ago – apart from punks and the DIY crowd – people were brainwashed into believing they had to do things in a certain way. The music industry is a very different place now. A lot of people release stuff online and do whatever they want. In one respect it’s amazing but I’m not a total anarchist about it. There is a need for the music industry to have some sort of structure and set-up, to make sure everyone is being paid correctly and wotnot. It can’t be a pure free-for-all.

What have your experiences been of running Bird?
Bird was something I started because at the time I’d lost my record deal and decided to take things into my own hands. Also, a lot of my female peers were being looked over while my male peers were going from strength to strength. So I started Bird initially with a pro-female agenda to put out my friends’ music.

The Bearded Lady thing was a mix of contemporary music and stuff from years ago that people might not have heard of. We’ve got Emma Tricca, Paperdoll House (who’s just recorded a new album), Magpahi, we did The ERC because I love Maxine Peake. We’re also doing reissue stuff to. That’s where it’s going.

The Silver Globe is out on 20 October through Bird.