British brothers Clive and Mark Ives, have been recording together since the seventies. Over that time they have developed a sound wholly their own, combining acoustic instrumentation (primarily guitar and clarinet) and electronics in a way that reflects the past, present and future. Touching upon jazz, psychedelic, ambient and folk/pop idioms.
“Our approach has always been quite random”
To begin with, when and where were you born and was music a big part of life in Ives household?
Clive Ives: Mark and I were born in South London. Mark was born in 1953 and I in 1956.
In 1963 the Beatles released their first album ‘Please Please Me’. So when I was 7 and Mark was 10 years old, we were both completely overcome with Beatle Mania! Inspired by their awesomeness, we created our first band called ‘The Tescades’. We got two of our mates involved, so we could each be one of the Fab Four. I had my grandad’s drum kit, so I guess that made me Ringo, and Mark and the other guys all had guitars. We would put on gigs for the neighbourhood kids in our street in our garage and sing ‘She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah’ into tin cans with strings, which we were convinced made the vocals louder. None of us could play our instruments…it must have been bad!
I have a vivid memory of my dad trying to get Mark and me into classical music, playing Schubert’s ‘Trout Quintet’ on our record player at 45rpm, and us discovering half way through that it should have been at 33rpm.
My mum and dad only had three records – 1912 Overture, The Trout and the musical Gigi. On rainy days when we were stuck indoors, we would play the 1912 Overture loud at 78rpm and run really fast around the dinning room table until the rain stopped.
Our main influence from our family was our uncle who played tenor sax in jazz bands. We grew up with many visits to lunchtime gigs in South London pubs with him playing in various jazz combos. In his teens Mark would sometimes play the clarinet at these gigs. Our uncle opened our eyes and ears to some of the great jazz players and even took us to see Count Basie and his orchestra. Watching the Count play his minimal piano phrases over this amazing cool orchestra was an incredible inspiration.
At what age did you begin playing music and what were the first instruments that you played?
Mark started to write songs on his guitar when he was 13. I was his biggest fan! I spent several years getting all the pots and pans out of the kitchen and bashing them to accompany his songs.
How did you decide that you want to create something together, something your very own? What were your intentions when you started playing together?
Well, as I have explained, playing music had been a part of our lives from our childhood, but recording music became something particularly special. It had the feeling of Alice going through the mirror. Once you put your headphones on and start making noises with a synth or through a mike, add a little echo and begin to layer track upon track, there is no knowing where it’s going and what mysterious moods might emerge. Our approach has always been quite random, but the process has a purity that can bring unexpected results. At their best, once a track is finished and a title is required, the words appear and there is a satisfying feeling that this title belongs. More often than not, no words appear and you end up calling it something like ‘Tea Cup’ or ‘Blocked Nose’!