<1 is quite the elusive artist. Under <1’s Bandcamp thumbnail, web wanderers can quickly surmise the artist is based in the U.K. Though further down the <1 page, there is a list of four active “field agents”. A cursory glance would lead you to think the three field agents other than <1 are distinct musicians, different persons residing somewhere in the U.K. But this is not the case. In fact, each field agent is the same person, an embodiment of a specific musical style, meticulously sharpened by Graham Williams.
Graham is the founder of the ongoing Fencepost Reclamation project—an open-ended remix project of early Fencepost material released in 2002. Thus far, the project has received contributions from more than 150 artists, spanning about 350 tracks. Graham also has a multitude of original works—centered upon horror fiction, B-movies, diseases, gruesome tales of history, etc.—and a bevy of splits. There’s seemingly endless ambient, noise, and warbles to absorb from Graham; it’s almost too much to wrap your head around at first. But once you dive in and begin to unearth all of the intricacies of his soundscapes, you will find it difficult to claw yourself out.
Graham has been very kind in offering me his time and focus to answer a handful of questions I’ve been thinking on for weeks. After coming back from his vacation to Shropshire, he penned his replies and included a handful of edited photos he took whilst traveling. He also pulled together an exclusive mix for From Corners Unknown, which you can listen to below as you read.
To be gentler on your eyes, I split this interview into two parts. In this first piece, Graham discusses some of his recent releases and how literature and film influence his compositions. If you would like to learn a bit more about Graham beyond this interview, see Desert Mountain Dust’s interview from November 2016.
You recently released a split with Screenslaver (Edward Brunsden) titled ‘Dereliction’. Your side of the split is mesmerizing, dreamlike. What places/memories/experiences were you returning to when you crafted these compositions?
The tracks that make up my half of the split come from a series of recordings that have been the result of a project that has its beginnings about 20 years ago, when I discovered a sack of old shellac 78’s which had been stuffed into a potato sack and left in an old lock-up. These shellacs have then intentionally sat in various sheds and garages until last year, when I finally started the iteration project. In the intervening years, the records have obviously acquired a thick patina of surface noise and other disfigurements, and it is these noises that have been of especial interest. I’ve long held an interest in these sonic phantoms of time and decay and I decided that the time was ripe to begin an exploration into what the intervening years of purposeful neglect has wrought.
In essence, both the iteration project and the tracks on the split are an attempt to capture a brief echo of a haunted past, whether it be the genius loci of abandoned dance halls, or the melancholy of bitter childhood memories; I think everything picks up some record of the passage of time, some scarring left by existence. With vinyl, this manifests as surface noise, scratches, etc. and it is within these noises that this desolate record of time exists.
Ed’s side of the split complements these thoughts perfectly I think, even though no discussion around any of these topics ever took place between us; I think an artistic sympatico has suffused the split and given a real feeling of decay and disuse.
You’ve noted your love for B-movies. Some of your records are based around entire films (e.g., Dementia 13, The Last Man on Earth) and use of sound samples from them. Take me back to some of your earliest memories when you fell in love with B-movies. What about them enraptured you?
I remember a time when I was a young child when BBC2 would transmit a different black and white film every evening at 6 PM. These films ranged from the old Fu-Manchu films to westerns and horror films.
I had a generally unhappy childhood and I can recall these brief windows into other worlds as a chance to escape and distance myself from reality for a while. Lots of Karloff’s films stick vividly in my memory, along with more obscure ones, such as Terror from the Year 5000, although watching some of these films back now shows how terrible they are, as a child I was thankfully free of a critical eye and could fully immerse myself in these fantastical worlds.
The literature that I read obviously had a large part in what I enjoyed in film and it is this love that has never left me.
My reworking of films began in the early 2000’s whilst studying at Leeds Music College. I contributed several re-workings of films for the OTO project run by Rob Hayler, which was a tape only offshoot of Fencing Flatworm Recordings.
This project gave me a chance to utilise the soundtracks and dialogue of some of the films I love and combine two of my areas of interest.
I have several film reworking projects in mind for the future, with Plan 9 being next in line. Reworking films allows me to use both the score and dialogue, as most of my music is instrumental by choice.
What other films, directors, actors/actresses inspire your work beyond the handful of albums you’ve already created?
I tend to lean more towards the work of the director for inspiration, with Kubrik especially being a huge influence to me. I’ve yet to discover another director who can make something as innocuous as a carpet seem threatening. Kubrik’s attention to detail, relentless drive and unwillingness to compromise has been a series of lessons for me in life. Andrei Tarkovsky’s works have also had a big influence on my music, especially the films Stalker, and Solaris. 4 is another favorite Russian film, directed by Ilya Khrzhanovsky. All of these films have had a real effect on my views regarding composition.
Hitchcock’s films also taught me an awful lot about the use of music, and just as importantly, silence; I do not think The Birds would be anywhere near as effective if it actually had a score.
John Carpenter also has to get a mention here, for both his films and his soundtrack work, I’ve learnt a lot regarding structure of music as a byproduct of watching his films. I also have a real interest in Asian film making and would cite Onibaba and Kwaidan as two very influential films that also have incredible soundtracks that provide an essential atmosphere. I have many actors that I hold in high regard, although I’m not consciously inspired by them in regards to music production, I’m sure that their influences must creep in.
You’ve composed records in worlds of weird fiction authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert W. Chambers. When did you discover these authors? What do you like about each of them? How does their work inspire/influence your sound?
I first really encountered horror fiction when I was given a collection of Poe at about the age of 8. The collection had some of Poe’s finest works in it, “The Black Cat”, “The Pit and The Pendulum”, etc. I also recall reading Nathaniel Hawthorn’s House of Seven Gables at 10, and it was these two books that really captured my imagination and helped to solidify my love of horror/weird fiction. I discovered R.E. Howard and Lovecraft at 12, when I picked up an anthology that contained various short stories at a school bazaar, “The Black Stone” and “The Rats in The Walls” stood out and resonated with my imagination and I was hooked. Within a few years I had developed quite a collection of these type of works and in doing so had discovered, amongst others, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert W. Chambers and Frank Belknap Long. There was a certain note in the nihilism and scope of imagination in these works that resonated deep within me and has continued to do so to this day.
Whilst Lovecraft may have had his failings as an author and an individual, I don’t feel that anyone can dispute the incredible influence his works have had on modern literature. Smith’s utter cynicism and sardonic sense of humour also added an extra dimension to his works, and Chambers’ command of an almost dreamlike despair encapsulates perfectly a lot of philosophical truths, and it is these themes that I try to instill my recent musical works with.
I feel that many authors, directors and people in general miss the true note of the horror of existence, focusing on actual monsters and the threat to life, but I feel that is it the spaces between the trees in the dark woods that offer the real terror; nothing is more terrifying than nothingness. For me, it is the potentiality of this nothingness to provide a lurking place for some amorphous horror that perfectly illustrates the existential nature of terror of the unknown.
These empty spaces provide the perfect fertile ground for fear to take root, and it is this, coupled with the indifferent, uncaring universe that I am endeavouring to capture in my music.
Are there other authors that trickle into your soundscapes?
Many other authors influences find their way into my work, the dark opulence of Karl Edward Wagner’s and Robert E Howard’s more fantastical works are a constant source of inspiration to me, although this may not be immediately evident in my works. William Hope Hodgson is another author whose literature has an influence on my work, especially The House on the Borderland, which again touches on the themes of mutable reality and threat of the unknown. Many of my track titles are taken directly from works of literature and can act as signposts to anyone who is interested.
You completed (and released) a record this year titled ‘Unit 731’—based on the WWII Imperial Japanese Army’s biological and chemical warfare research and development unit. It explores some of the darkest corners of mankind. What compelled you to create a piece centered on this morbid human experimentation?
This project came about as an act of exorcism following my accidental discovery of the full history of Unit 731. I vaguely remember the unit being mentioned in the X-files, but it was via my research into disease that I stumbled over this odious stain upon history. I have a drive to learn all I can about a subject that I have discovered and once I had read further into the history of the Unit, I became haunted by this knowledge, which lead to me suffering horrific nightmares. The project has allowed me to excise this from my psyche, to nail the ghost to the coffin. I also feel that it is important that crimes such as these are not forgotten, as it is only by knowing of these horrors that they can be prevented again, although I’m not entirely sure if it is the crimes themselves or the tacit acceptance of them shown by the allies that is the greater horror. The hypocrisy of international politics and power-mongering resonates strongly in the current state of the world, blurring the lines between the common conceptions of right and wrong.
‘Unit 731’ is a split between two of your active field agents (or monikers), R0[nought]and dR0ne. How do you approach producing a record when you deploy more than one of your field agents?
When working on a collaboration I am essentially using an amalgamation of two differing composition styles and structures, etc. By finding balance between them, I am able to utilise a bit more freedom than I allow myself when working under one moniker. Some of my pieces inadvertently blur the lines between two of my guises and it is these that become the collaborations. The ongoing Carrion Sessions are a perfect example of this and are the original root of these ‘collaborations’.
This concludes part one; part two will be posted in a few days. In the meantime, you can listen to Graham’s compositions over at his <1 Bandcamp page. If you’re an artist and are interested in contributing to the Fencepost Reclamation project, contact Graham using the “Contact <1” hyperlink on his Bandcamp page. You can also message me directly and I’ll get you in contact with him. Take care for now.