M quiz production duo Soulsavers on how collaborations with musical heroes have raised their musical game…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 8 Jan 2014
  • min read
Not many of us get the opportunity to work with our musical heroes.

But for production pair Soulsavers, aka Rich Machin and Ian Glover, it’s a frequent occurrence.

The likes of Richard Hawley, Jason Pierce, Mark Lanegan and Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan have all jumped at the chance of collaborating with the duo, which is testament to the quality and adventurousness of their sonic skills.

Over four albums released since 2003, the group have explored their love of electronica, hip hop and soul as well as movie soundtracks. Their latest effort – 2012’s The Light The Dead See with Gahan providing vocals – has arguably been their best yet while the pair are recent recipients of funding from the Momentum Music Fund, an initiative from PRS for Music Foundation and Arts Council England in association with Deezer.

We quizzed Ian from the band on working with Dave Gahan, the importance of funding and what they’re plotting next…

Can you remember the first songs which made you want to write music?

My friend and I used to make up songs and record ourselves - all silly stuff - we must have been around nine or 10, so I suppose I’ve had the urge to write songs/music since then. A couple of years later when I started listening to bands like Ride and the Pixies I started to play the guitar and carried on writing songs from then.

How did you become a musician?

I would describe myself as a writer or producer before musician. I played in a couple of bands in school. I got hold of a Tascam Portastudio and recorded our output almost straightaway, along with some tracks I made on my own. A bit later on I started sequencing on an Atari we had at home, eventually buying a Yamaha sampler and a couple other bits.

Me and Rich met while working in a local record shop. We actually went to the same high school but were in different years.

You’ve released a number of albums as Soulsavers - how has your songwriting developed?

We deliberately try to do something differently every time we start a project – partly in an attempt to stop repeating ourselves, partly to challenge ourselves and partly to keep it interesting. Neither of us is interested in releasing the same album time after time. The biggest way we have developed is being able to write successfully for completely different singers. Choosing to swap vocalists now and again really forces you to raise your game. I would recommend it to anyone!

The Light the Dead See is with Dave Gahan - how did that collaboration come about? And was it intimidating working with someone with such a history?

Rich toured supporting Depeche Mode for a while, and a couple of the touring band members already knew Dave. Rich and Dave got on well too and spoke about working together at some point. Later when the tour had finished and Soulsavers were thinking about what to do next, Dave was still interested in trying something, so we tried a few ideas and just kept going. The process was very relaxed - there was no agenda. I think musically we were all in the same space so it was pretty natural. I don’t think we were intimidated by Dave’s history, just his singing! Like we said, it really raises your game.

You’ve also worked with some other heavy weight vocalists - Mark Lanegan, Gibby Hanes and Jason Pierce – what have you got out of these musical hook ups?

The most thrilling part of any collaboration is when you think you know what the other party is going to come back with, and they surprise you by coming back with something completely different but utterly brilliant. This is one of the reasons why we choose to work with so many varied singers and musicians.

Where do you look for inspiration - are there any particular artists getting you going at the moment?

I’m listening to a lot of Neil Young and Stephen Stills at the moment, mostly because I’m reading Neil’s Waging Heavy Peace book. Neil Young in particular always surprises and inspires me. I also often find myself inspired by a good visual/musical combination too – a great scene in a film or drama that has been really well scored or synced. But really I’m always listening for inspiration. Sometimes something really catches your ear, and even if it’s something that you are surprised at liking, I think you have to be open to it and run with it.

Congratulations on receiving the Momentum Music Fund – how important is this to in enabling your next steps?

We wouldn’t be able to do this particular project without it – simple as that. We’ve had this project in mind and have been thinking of ways that we could make this happen for a long while, and never figured it out.

The next step that we would like is to score a film – this project means we can say ‘listen to this, this is what the soundtrack to your film will sound like if we do it for you’ rather than try to explain in words.

Do you approach writing for the screen in different ways to album material?

In a way yes. To write to visuals, the best place to start is by watching the visuals! Or in the case of this particular project, finding some inspiring visuals to keep in your head while writing. We have done this for album tracks, but most of the time we have a singer in mind rather than visuals.

What’s next for the band?

We’ve been kicking some ideas around for the next album, though this time - for the sake of doing things differently - we’re starting by writing some songs before we have a singer in mind.