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Digging Deeper: An Interview With Glenn Fallows & Mark Treffel

For this next instalment of Digging Deeper we invited Glenn Fallows and Mark Treffel to tell us about their new project, The Globeflower Masters. With their first album set for release on Mr Bongo this September, we thought now would be a perfect time for a peek behind the scenes. The album leans on the influence of soundtrack and library composers such as Axelrod, Morricone, Gainsbourg, Jean-Claude Vannier and Piero Umiliani. It is as accomplished a debut release as you will ever hear, and dare we say, a future classic in the making.

To accompany this feature, and to further explore their musical world, Glenn and Globeflower Masters' cover designer Rob Crespo (Mr Bongo's very own), kindly put together an exclusive mix for our 'Record Club' series. It sees them further mining the rich seam that provided influence for the album with a serious selection of rare TV/film soundtrack and Library music from the late 60s and early 70s. Enjoy!

How would you describe your musical tastes?

MT - My tastes are pretty broad. Opera and Death metal are about the only things I really don’t like. I particularly like anything with interesting harmony, whether it be the beautiful simplicity of Federico Mompou’s piano works, or the interweaving harmonies of artists like CSN, The Staves, Moses Sumney and The Bulgarian Folk Ensemble. I like music with a groove, like The JBs, Meshell Ndegeocello, Stevie Wonder, or Parliament but at the same time love the rock stylings of Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and Radiohead. I love interesting acoustic guitar playing, such as Bruce Cockburn, Antonio Forcione or Egberto Gismonti, and when that crosses over into songwriting with the likes of Joni Mitchell, Anais Mitchell or John Martyn. I also really love a great songwriter, whether it be the wit of Randy Newman, or the poetry of Paul Simon, or the genius of Prince. I pretty much love all music!!

GF - I think my musical tastes were influenced massively by two periods of my life. Firstly, when I was growing up, my Mum used to listen to a lot of The Beatles, Carpenters, George Benson and other music which, whilst being grounded in excellent song-writing and arrangements, also involved quite lavish production at times. Also, I used to spend a lot of time with my Grandparents who would listen to a lot of Mancini, Matt Munro, Paul Robeson and other stuff which had large and lavish string productions. I think that gave me a love of big and multi-layered sounds. The second period was when I was at university where, as well as listening to a lot of indie guitar and dance music, I was also becoming more aware of and into downtempo, 'trip-hop' (no, I'm not keen on that expression either, sorry) and hip hop which sampled cinematic and library artists like David Axelrod, Quincy Jones, etc. Again, albeit perhaps more passively, I was being immersed in and developing more of a love of big, cinematic productions which were mostly instrumental. After that I got heavily into funk and soul, being in and eventually managing and writing for a deep funk band. Even here I was having to write for and arrange a band with anywhere up to 12 people, so again the layering and depth of that type of music was a key interest of mine.

Who are your biggest musical inspirations?

MT - Herbie Hancock, Randy Newman, Prefab Sprout, Stevie Wonder, Meshell Ndegeocelllo, Joni Mitchell, Brian Eno.

GF - Quincy Jones, David Axelrod , Stevie Wonder, Terry Callier, Hendrix, The Who, The Small Faces, John Williams, J Dilla, DJ Shadow, Alan Hawkshaw, Booker T. Also, a lot of my musical education and inspiration came from listening to radio shows - Dr Bob Jones, Norman Jay, Gilles Peterson, John Peel and that kind of thing.

How did you guys meet and start working together?

GF - I was asked to do a dep gig on guitar for a band called the Soul Steppers down in Brighton. Somehow I was still playing guitar for them 3 years later. Mark's the keyboard player for that band. He's very good with music theory, whereas I'm more-or-less self taught and don't read very well - there's chords I play regularly on the guitar that I still don't know the proper name of, which is shameful. Anyway, working with Mark was a real education for me as I needed to be able to talk music theory with him at his level, so had to try and get my theory much more on-point. I'm not sure I really managed it, but over a few months at the start of working together we found a way to work productively and get in tune with one another. Through that time I think we worked out that we have a degree of shared interest and The Globeflower Masters is the product of that. I think the vital thing that makes it work is that we both write compulsively (an incessant itch that requires constant scratching) and therefore are able to get stuff done in a pretty productive way.

What is the concept behind ’The Globeflower Masters’ project?

GF - As I say, I've always been into big, lavish productions and particularly enjoy getting lost in instrumental music. A few years ago I wrote some stuff for a Balearic music project called Andres y Xavi and a couple of the reviews of that album picked up on the fact that these tracks sounded similar to Axelrod's works which were sampled by DJ Shadow. This made me realise that the sound I'd managed to cultivate over the years had been leaning more and more towards this kind of cinematic music, but I'd never actually made an album like that. The concept was to write an album that brought together cinematic arrangement and production, the aesthetic of library music (another huge influence on me over the past 5 years or so) and the accessibility of the soul music which Mark and I had been working on in a live environment for some time. Approaching Mark to provide all of the keys and synths for the project was the obvious move as he's a killer player and he also has a room full of amazing old toys (synths, pianos, organs and suchlike) which would help bring an authentic sound to the project. However, as well as that, he's also got an amazing ear for arrangement and production which helped us to realise the original concept in a way which I wouldn't have been able to do on my own.

How and when did you get into soundtracks / library music?

MT - I read an interesting book around 15 years ago about revolutionary producers, and one of them was David Axelrod. It was really interesting to get insight into his musical vision, and once I had heard 'Holy Thursday' I was hooked. A few years ago there was a great documentary about KPM, De Wolfe, and some of the Italian Library labels. It was great and I started listening to a lot of it, loving the experimental nature of a lot of it. Great things happen when you leave fantastic musicians to just compose whatever they feel like at the time.

GF - I think I've always had an interest in soundtrack music both from cinema and TV. However, I suppose it's only really in the last 5 to 10 years that I've started properly digging into rare soundtrack and library records. I've been DJing for a long time, but due to the nature of live DJ sets, I'd always bought more vinyl that was good for playing out to dancefloors than soundtrack and library which is much more laid-back. However, I started doing a radio show about 6 years years ago on 1BTN Radio (every other Sunday 2 til 4pm UK time, with my long-time DJ partner Chewy Beatwell) and we've had a lot of guests who were more and more involved in and/or interested in library and soundtrack (Shawn Lee, Jonny Cuba from Soundsci, Chris Read from whosampled.com, Paul Sandell from KPM records, Paul Elliot and Sean Lamberth who directed the Library Music film) and I think this dragged me further and further into the depths of these genres. However, I should say I've not gone anywhere near as deep as some. I put on and played at an after party for The Library Music film when it premiered in Brighton and we got Mr Thing and DJ Format to play. Seeing and hearing the collections that those two have was frankly terrifying - so many good records - very few of which I'd ever heard of. I really wish I had enough money to be able to buy loads of rare vinyl, but there's only so many pounds in a pay-packet and I'm always instead shopping for guitars and studio gear to be able to keep composing and making original music.

If you had to choose just one library LP and one Soundtrack, which would you rate as a pure masterpiece?

MT - That’s hard, but I do love 'Superfly' by Curtis Mayfield.

GF - This changes regularly, as there's too much choice, so I shall go for the ones I've listened to most over the past year. Soundtrack: Jean-Pierre Mirouze 'Le Mariage Collectif'. Library: Stefano Torossi 'Feelings'.

How do you find working together?

MT - We have quite different ideas, and that tension of ideas comes together in interesting ways. Our process for sending ideas back and forth feels very natural, and we haven’t struggled at all with writing together, even in the last year of remote lockdown working. We both output a lot of music, so there is never a shortage of tunes to work on. The hard part is making the choices of what we leave out.

GF - I agree with Mark. What I will also say from my perspective is that Mark is much more of a perfectionist that I am, which I find massively helpful as I have a very short attention span. He makes me up my game, which I really need. We've been working on album two recently as well and the balance of writing is definitely more evenly shared on this album, which I think is a very good thing. I think a keen ear would be able to tell which of the two of us came up with the original idea for any given track, but they all end up meeting in the middle in terms of arranging and production, which hopefully gives it all a consistent and coherent sound.

When and where was the album recorded?

MT - In the first lockdown in our own home studios, and in two drummer's studios.

The record sounds immense, beautiful orchestration - who produced and arranged it?

MT - There was a lot of sending ideas, adding layers and sending back, but on the whole for the first album most of it was Glenn creating the string arrangements. The second album has a more even split.

GF - I think the arrangement is an interesting one as while I think I probably 'produced' it (whatever that means these days) the arrangements changed though out the writing process depending on what new instruments or layers we were adding. There were definitely occasions where I had written a guitar line, or a string part and then changed it completely as Mark had written a piano part or a synth line, etc which was much more compelling and needed to be made the central part of the track at that time. With that in mind, I think it sort of organically arranged itself over the period we were writing it.

Are there any producers you would like to work with in the future? Can be a total Wishlist - doesn’t need to be practical.

MT - I’ve always produced myself, so never really thought of working with a producer that wasn’t in the band.

GF - Impractical suggestions would be Quincy Jones and Questlove. Also, I really like what Adrian Younge has been doing with his soundtrack work. A bit closer to home, I'm a big fan of all of the stuff that ATA Records have been doing over the past 5 or 6 years - Sorcerers, Abstract Orchestra, their library compilations - all killer.

Are there any under-rated musicians / producers that we should be listening to?

GF - I'm not sure they're particularly under-rated, but the stuff that Sven Wunder and Surprise Chef (and the rest of the College Of Knowledge stable) have been putting out is just great (Mr Bongo Big-Ups!). I'm also a big fan of Children of Zeus. The 'Discodor' album by Lee Skelly and Pierre Duplan on Wonderful Sound is also an, erm, wonderful sound. The recent 'Other Mirror' album project on King Underground is lovely. Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention my good mates at Mocambo, including their Bacao Rhythm and Steel Band albums, which have found a very comfortable new home on Big Crown Records.

The album cover was designed by Rob Crespo, what influences / steer did you guys give him to work from?

GF - I think we really liked the idea of geometric shapes forming a big part of the artwork. This is a strong theme of a lot of library releases and gives them not only a strong look for each release, but also allows buyers to be able to easily distinguish which library a record is from, just from the artwork - Bruton probably being the best example of this. However, it's probably fairly obvious from the colour schemes and general vibe of the artwork that there's a pretty strong Bauhaus influence in there, too. We're really pleased not only with the artwork that Rob has created for us, but also the way he's been able to work with Jared Tomkins on the animations to visually bring the album cover to live as music videos. They really add something to the project that we're really proud of.

How did you connect with Mr Bongo?

GF - I've known various people from Mr Bongo for years, who I've met via DJing, radio, or elsewhere - Brighton is a small scene. I met Rob Crespo (who does design work for Mr Bongo, as well as other labels) when I moved in next door to him and we realised we were both producers. We have a lot of very nerdy music chats over the garden fence. When I had finished mixing the record, I wasn't sure quite what to do with it. I played it to Rob and he said I should send it to Mr Bongo. I'd wanted to release a record on the label for many years, but I hadn't written anything which I thought would fit in with the label's other releases. I figured that time was as good as any to see if they liked what me and Mark had been doing and, fortunately, it got picked up. A real dream for us both to be working with and releasing on such a well respected label, alongside so many other great acts.

What’s the Brighton music scene like these days?

MT - Busy. A lot of young players coming out of BiMM, but it’s a great scene. Everyone know everyone else, and has played with them at some point.

Is releasing the album on vinyl important to you?

MT - There’s something about having artwork at that size and scale that really makes it feel real. I do also like the process of putting on a record, but I have to say I do love the CD version as well. Really nice environmentally friendly packaging, with extended artwork, and I don’t have to get up half way through to turn it over.

GF - Mark says I'm a vinyl snob. He's right! No track or album I've made has ever felt like it really properly exists until I've got the vinyl in my hands. Part of my day-job is writing library music albums which these days are typically only ever digital-only, as that's all media programmers, etc need to be able to select music for whatever project they're working on. That means that 90% of the music I write only ever exists virtually and isn't really available to the public. Whilst this is a bit of a shame, it does mean that when I work on an album for commercial release, like The Globeflower Masters, it makes it all the more sweet to have it exist as a proper physical product.

Where do you dig for records these days?

MT - Charity shops. Although most now know the value of their records. I do love Resident in Brighton. It has a great selection, and I can spend hours on the listening posts looking for something new. I used to love trawling through the racks at Wax Factor on Trafalgar street, but it has now sadly closed. My best find was an Eric Whitacre album called 'Light & Gold', that a friend had recently mentioned to me, and it was just sitting there in the bargain rack for 99p! The ultimate double whammy of a bargain combined with a life changing piece of music.

GF - 'These days' is the important part of that question. Due to the pandemic, I've not had a chance to get out to any records shops for a proper dig for a long time. Instead, I'll simply give a shout to my two favourites in Brighton. One is Rarekind Records in Trafalgar Street and the other is (somewhat predictably) Mr Bongo.

Do you plan to tour the album?

MT - Love to if it becomes popular enough. I love to make a live thing something different from the recorded work, and I think we could do something really interesting, but it would take quite a few players, as I refuse to play with any additional sounds on backing. I did it when touring with Blue States and I didn’t enjoy it. It sucked the life out of the performance and detracts from the energy in the room. Keeping to just the live players can really force you into interesting live arrangements that bring something new out of the work.

Many thanks to Glenn and Mark for taking the time to answer our questions and sending us the killer mix. Make sure to follow them on Instagram and keep an eye out for forthcoming gigs and more music.

You can pre-order 'The Globeflower Masters Vol.1' from Mr Bongo here