Every music genre has its high-profile bands who dominate their specific scene. There’s also a layer of highly talented bands who don’t get the exposure and recognition they deserve. One of those bands is UK-based The Pineapple Thief. Their latest album, entitled Someone Here Is Missing, is a genuine prog rock gem. I had a pleasant conversation with band chief and sole composer Bruce Soord about the band’s current status, the upcoming tours with Blackfield and Riverside, the in’s and out’s on Someone Here Is Missing and a possible new album…
Thank you for doing this interview. The Pineapple Thief has been around for quite some time, yet the band is relatively unknown. How come?
It feels like only yesterday that I started TPT in my bedroom studio but yeah, it was 11 years ago – we released 6 albums over the years and had a decent but totally underground following. At least it kept us from hanging up our boots. Then we moved to Kscope and things finally started to move forward. We hooked up with our manager, hooked up with a live agent and the next thing we knew we were on a tour bus. Thank goodness we didn’t jack it in when times were tough!
You did some high-profile gigs with Riverside and you’re going to tour with Blackfield pretty soon. How would you like to describe the whole experience?
We’re touring with Blackfield next month (April). We last toured with Riverside back in 2009 and it was a great experience (we’re joining them again in Poland in May). Back then we were just moving up from the small club circuit, trying to fill larger venues, so it was a great introduction for us. Things work totally differently at larger venues, there are more crew, it’s more organised. The stages are larger which believe it or not makes playing as a band a lot harder. When you’re used to playing up close it’s really organic and easy to get the groove. All of a sudden I’m looking at our drummer who’s 20 feet away and I can’t hear a thing he’s playing! It’s a very different feeling. Oh, and there’s more beer in the fridge. So we had to behave ourselves.
Let’s focus on your latest album, entitled Someone Here Is Missing. Compared to the previous albums it has a harder edge. What triggered this change of direction?
Playing live. All of sudden I realised what got the live crowds excited. I’m not saying you have to go out there and hit people with a wall of sound, but we definitely pushed the edges further. The stuff I’m writing now is pushing it even further, but I’m still keeping the TPT roots in tact. There is no point in having the rough without the smooth.
When you and the band started to work on Someone Here Is Missing what were you aiming for?
We really needed to ignore what was out there and focus on what we wanted to sound like. I wanted to get a series of songs that hit hard and never got boring. We now have quite a few requests from other bands who want me to produce, to get the ‘TPT’ sound. That in a nutshell is what I was after from the outset.
How did the creative and recording process for your current album go, compared to previous experiences?
The process was pretty similar to be honest. The main difference was that I spent longer making sure the songs worked stripped back to basics. Before, I would take a half arsed idea and layer it up until it kind of worked. That’s not an option any more.
Someone Here Is Missing features artwork by the famous Storm Thorgorson (Pink Floyd). How did you manage to get him and how does his artwork represent the lyrics and the topics on the album?
That was totally down to the main design guy at Kscope (Scott) hooking us up. Scott met Storm at one of his exhibitions in London. Before I knew it, I was on a train up to London to be interrogated by Storm about my music. He came up with about 6 different concepts for the album, all of them relevant and all of them great. In the end, the concept of the guy on the cover covered in yellow notes containing snippets of my lyrics was entirely relevant to the concept of the album. It’s all about life, time passing, love and regrets. The lyrics stuck to the guy act as a constant reminder of all the things he should have done, but never did.
The album was also recorded in your own home studio. What are the benefits and drawbacks of having your own studio?
It’s perfect to bottle inspiration when it comes, as it can emerge at random times! The flip side of the coin is that it’s easy to get lazy because time is almost not an issue. Back in the day you would have to hire a commercial studio to record an album, so focus was key or you would run out money! The main thing I’ve learnt working with my own place is to keep focussed and don’t spend 6 weeks on a tambourine track.
The Pineapple Thief is often labelled as a progressive rock outfit, but most of your influences come from alternative rock. Especially Muse and Radiohead come to mind. The song material on Someone Here Is Missing is rather straightforward and rather short for progressive rock standards. What are your thoughts on this?
The honest answer is that I don’t ever contemplate genres when I’m writing. I just do what I want. If you look at Someone Here Is Missing I still hear a lot of progressive influences, even if you don’t hear any extended solos or really long songs. That’s not what makes things progressive to my ears.
Some members were involved with founding Kscope. Can you give a short introduction to the label?
When I was first introduced to Kscope, Kscope didn’t exists! Back then, most of the Porcupine Tree catalog and also Blackfield was released on Snapper, the main label at the place. They also had a metal arm called Peaceville. I think when they heard TPT they realised they needed to create something for the post progressive era so Tightly Unwound became the debut album on the new label. The guys there are totally driven and love what they are doing. It’s so nice to play a gig in London and see all of the Kscope crew down there. It’s a nice setup to be part of.
The UK played a major role in the development of progressive rock back in the day. Nowadays there seems to be somewhat of a revival going on, spearheaded by bands like Amplifier, Oceansize (RIP) and Haken. What do you think of this and what are your favourite current progressive bands?
Yeah, it’s good to be part of the new UK movement, such a shame about Oceansize. The new Amplifier album is great. And don’t forget Pure Reason Revolution – I love the fact that they have turned their progressive roots on it’s head.
Time for the final question. What’s next on The Pineapple Thief agenda?
I’m currently writing for the next album which should be out first quarter of 2011. On top of that I’m remixing 10 Stories Down and Variations on a Dream which will be re-issued on Kscope this year. I’ve just finished producing and mixing (with my mixing partner Steve) the new Sun Domingo album, we toured with those guys last year. That’s a great record. Plus plans for an autumn tour after our UK and Polish dates coming up. So it’s pretty busy at TPT HQ!
Written by Raymond Westland