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INTERVIEW WITH MAP 71....(Spring 2023)
This is a very nice interview I did with the two musician/artists that make up MAP71 from Brighton, UK and were kindly willing to carry on a chat with me (Lee Henderson) on two sessions in June 2023. I did a review of their latest release (a full album called 'Blood Fruit') and they talk more about that album as well as a good deal more. Click on the album cover above to go to my review.
Photos above are credited in the file for each and the names of the artists who took the photos above are (from Left to Right) Al Strachan (The Prince Albert), Guy Christie ('Bar 42'), & at bottom right- the black and white photo by Greg Neate ('Green Door')
To explore and buy all their albums go to their Bandcamp page here :
LH = Lee Henderson - me the interviewer
LJ = Lisa Jayne
AP = Andy Pyne
LH: Welcome and Big Beautiful Noise appreciates both of you spending time with me to talk.
LH: What is the group name 'MAP 71' about, and why was it chosen ?
LJ: Visually 'MAP 71' is architectural, we wanted a name that is visually stimulating as well as intriguing. The artwork for our first album (made in 2013) is a sigil of 'MAP 71'. Me and Andy were born in 1969 and 1971. The time span 1968 - 1972 is very loaded (those five years are sometimes referred to as 'the years of psychic chaos'), think about dramatic events and the counterculture in that time period and how they might affect the personality of kids born then. We chose '71' because it has less association baggage than '69'. When Punk happened we perceived it through kids' eyes, and we were pre-internet teenagers. Our aim is to make music that is escapism with substance, but from our observations and life experience there are a lot of ingredients in the mix.
The map is not the territory. The signpost is not the road
LH: What is your meaning or interpretation of the title Blood Fruit ?
LJ: 'Blood Fruit' are words from the song 'Vixy Arcana' on the album. When we were thinking up a title I wanted it to be something that would inspire me artistically. The Blood Fruit face is female and male, they are a 2023 Pagan image invented by me, they're definitely not a fertility symbol ! 'Blood Fruit' is an aspect of the album (not the whole), but the face is the figurehead. My personal interpretation of Blood Fruit the album, and 'Blood Fruit' the cover art face would take a long time to explain (and chances are they'd be different to Andy's thoughts). I don't want to tell people though, it would influence their own opinions of our creation. We like our audience to make up their own minds
LH: Can you give us some insider facts about the making of Blood Fruit ?
LJ: The inspiration for 'Full Body Ghost' was a spider I found in a box just as I was about to take it to the recycle bins. I kept the box until the spider moved on some time later. First the spider shed their skin, then waited on the web until their new skin had 'set' beside their old skin 'ghost'. They were ready to move on when the skin fell from the web
A young woman (late teens - early 20s) who I passed one morning on my way to the studio was my inspiration for 'Vixy Arcana'. The street we were walking is a regular route for urban foxes. Foxes move like they have a plan, the girl was like that too. She was carrying a large transparent plastic handbag full of cosmetics. We were both on our way somewhere, the couple of seconds eye contact triggered lyrics for a new song
The studio where we record is a rehearsal space, not a fully equipped recording studio. It's under viaducts, trains travelling overhead, a car valeting business outside. Sometimes our recordings pick up the sound of trains or high power hoses in the background
LH: About the recording of your six releases, have all of them been at this same rehearsal space? And if I may impose, what equipment do you use to record your albums on?
AP: Yes, all recorded at the same space. We’ll record drums and vocals in the studio then all synth parts and mixing are done back at my flat.
It’s all recorded and mixed in Cubase on a laptop currently with an 8 input Focusrite audio interface, and I’ve got a reasonable selection of mics that pretty much cover all our needs. I’ve also got a little hand-held digital recorder which on occasion we’ve used to get an ‘on location’ recording which is then chucked into Cubase.
Synth-wise, I’ve got a 20-plus year old Nord Lead 2, an Arturia MiniBrute, a Korg ER-1 drum machine, a little Monotron toy synth, a cheap echo pedal and that’s it. Lisa has a Boss VE-1 vocal FX unit which is mainly for live but sometimes gets used on the recordings.
LH: Are your compositions always composed and pre-planned or do you sometimes jam/improvise to then get ideas for a piece?
AP: There’s a mixture of improvisation and composition. Sometimes I might put together a synth part first at home and Lisa will add words, sometimes we’ll start with the words and I’ll jam around on the drums until I find something that fits. Other pieces are layers of free-improvisation that have been edited, ‘Mandrake Sutra’ is a good example of that.
LJ: These days I take a basic lift-off version of the lyrics into the studio to work on the song structure, vocal style, and decide which words work, or drop in new ones while Andy is playing. So from my angle the evolution of the song involves partial improvisation. It hasn't always been that way though. In the early years of MAP 71 I was still a solo spoken word performance artist, and my writing was pen and paper stream of consciousness. I'd fly with pretty much my first draft. For a writer stream of consciousness is as close as you get to improvisation. Back then my words were dual purpose, I'd break them in solo, then introduce them fully formed to MAP 71. Andy would either compose music for them, or play me some and I'd see if I had something already made to fit the vibe. That was fine for recording, but more often than not we had to rework the structure, density etc for MAP 71 live. That was kind of like improvising, but we were breaking a fixed model (not always a fun or satisfactory exercise). I made the conscious decision to stop solo performing so I'd have to think more about song structure, singer's breathing techniques, be a lyricist rather than a spoken word artist, and hopefully make MAP 71 a more dynamic unit. I forced myself to kill darlings ! I sometimes construct lyrics from cut-ups. That's beyond improvisation, it's chaos. And occasionally we 'read' a piece of my artwork
LH: Do you create all the artwork for the album covers Lisa?
LJ: Yes. I make scalpel cut pictures, and I paint. The majority of MAP 71 artwork in the past were paintings, but the Blood Fruit vibe and sound needed my bolder scalpel cut art style. I'm not a digital artist. Even though electronically made music is an aspect of MAP 71, physically made sound (voice and drums) is the essence of us. So it follows that the art should be a physically made process too
LH: Andy as far as the instrumentation, are there set methods of how you approach your music or is it more of a anything goes (or all things are possible) philosophy? Also, do you keep a limited array of instruments for use with this band or do you use whatever you feel each song calls for?
AP: It’s very much an anything goes approach. In years gone by I’ve made a lot of completely freely improvised music, as well as playing in much more straight-ahead rock/pop bands with traditional song structures. I’ve also made stuff completely out of samples and loops without any live instrumentation, so I basically have a foot in a few different musical camps, and I draw on all of this for MAP 71. And I’m not a purist or perfectionist, some performances are completely live and others have been chopped up and edited to hell and back, the question at the end of the day is whether it sounds exciting or not.
Generally I feel that the most inspirational music for me, be it post punk or free jazz or dance music or whatever, comes out of scenes early on before a style becomes too codified.
I tend to stick to a 4-piece drum kit with hi-hats and a couple of cymbals because it’s what I’m comfortable with, and my limited range of synths is more down to lack of space than anything else. But I’m definitely up for bringing in more instruments as and when. Sometimes it’s just circumstances, for example ‘Corndolly Crosshatch’ has got various hand drums on it simply because someone left them in the studio and they just sounded so nice I wanted to use them for something! The music on ‘Urchin Stomp’ from ‘Sado Technical Exercise’ came about when Lisa found an iron candelabra in the street that had a really cool percussive sound, so we built a piece around that.
LH: I noticed you use guests on select songs across your releases. Since between the two of you, you cover all the basics, how does it get decided when a guest should be called in for a certain part? Do you hear something specific that you feel that particular tune is lacking?
AP: I think it’s just another way of varying things up rather than us getting stuck on how to complete a piece, it’s like one of us will have a brainwave of ‘oh, so and so would sound good on here!’, and if the other agrees we’ll give it a go.
LJ: Brighton has such a close-knit community of musicians, if we imagine a certain instrument in one of our tunes it's a lot easier to call in a mate who plays that instrument than try and replicate it digitally, or be clinical and use something from a sound library. I think a bit of cross pollination is healthy, and having another musician's energy and personality in the studio with us is good. We only ever ask people who've seen us live and know our recordings though. Dan Cox did a great job when I asked him to "sing the ancient earth" for 'Mandrake Sutra'. There's quite a backstory to MAP 71, it's important that our guests 'get' it.
LH: Jayne I appreciate the fact that you still work in a hands on and hand made art form. This seems rare today. I also want to thank you both for being willing to talk about your music and methods, and spending time with me to allow more of the world to know insights about yourselves, and especially MAP 71.
©Interview by Lee Henderson 5 - 30 - 2023 & 6 - 10 - 2023
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