The British IBM - Interview
Posted by Hunter on Mon, 03 Sep 2012.
The British IBM was formed by retro enthusiast and singer-songwriter Aidy as a way of combining his two passions; indie rock and vintage computing. Joined by an innovative rhythm section featuring bassist David and drummer Paul, the trio have been performing and touring together for two years as 'Aidy' before The British IBM was officially born on the 1st January 2012.
The words "indie rock" and "vintage computing" don't often come up in band bios, but they most certainly caught our attention! A quick listen to some of their tracks provided evidence that this was most certainly not a novelty act. Far from it. We speak to Aidy to find out more.
Your debut album (due for release on October 8th), can you tell us about some of the tracks on there, who / what inspired them?
Most of the songs are at least partly based on people from a technological era that's now passed us by but who's achievements we're still feeling the repercussions of today. Some are more subtle than others but the most obvious ones are Sugar Water, the British IBM and God's Front Porch.
The title track was inspired by the apparent feud between Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry during the eighties and the song is a kind of "what could of been" story. Chris Curry used to work for Sinclair but after a dispute with Clive he left and started Acorn Computers. There are a lot of different stories floating about regarding the relationship between Chris and Clive and the level of competitiveness between them. Both companies actually competed with each other to have their computer's used as part of the BBC's computer literacy program, Acorn won and Clive still appears bitter about this today even in recent interviews. It was also quite well publicised that they ended up in a bar fight in Cambridge when both of their empires were starting to show signs of trouble. That bar fight was included in the BBC's 2009 drama Micro Men and during the scene Chris says the line "We could have been the British IBM".
Sugar Water came about after reading how Steve Jobs managed to lure John Sculley away from Pepsi to work for Apple. Apparently Jobs sealed the deal with the line "Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?"
God's Front Porch is about Michael Collins the astronaut who was described as the loneliest man in the world as he piloted the Command Module on Apollo 11 mission. This was due to how void he was of human contact as he orbited the moon alone.
The cover, we suspected, was a diagram of an IBM. We did wonder if it was a BBC at first too, but spotted there was a 20 pin keyboard socket. Can you put us out of our misery and confirm which it is?
It's actually a BBC Micro.
Asides from that, how much input (no pun intended) did you have in albums artwork?
The artwork was done by guy called Daryl Blyth from Retrophonic Designs. He came up with the concept of using the circuit diagram and we loved it, we designed the band logo which is loosely based on the front of a PDP8.
Can you tell us about your song writing process?
I'm always writing songs, it's a bit weird but I'm constantly scribbling on bits of paper, playing guitar around the house and using the recording app on my iPhone to capture stuff. Then every so often I'll sit down and tweak and structure the good stuff until it evolves into something more song-like. Once I've got something I'm pretty happy with I'll take it to the Dave and Paul and we'll jam with it until we've got something we can play live.
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Who inspires you musically, and personally?
Musically R.E.M. are my favourite band and I'm a massive fan of their early stuff during the IRS years, I'm a child of the nineties (so to speak) so I've got a lot of mid-nineties indie rock bands in my collection. Also listen to a fair amount of film soundtracks by the likes of Michael Andrews, Trent Reznor and Vangellis. Going through another Blur phase at the moment due to their 21 release I've been re-listening to everything along with all the B-Sides and unheard demos etc..
Personally I'm inspired by a lot of geek heroes like Clive Sinclair, Chris Curry, Steve Jobs, Bob Noyce, Al Acorn, Ted Dabney, Nolan Bushnell, Bill Gates, James Dyson. Recently started to get a little bit obsessed with Bobby Fischer, I've been watching YouTube clips of early interviews with him and reading books about his Chess antics. I'm also a big fan of Iain Lee, who did one of my all time favourite retro gaming documentaries Thumb Candy and we were really lucky in that he was actually nice enough to do a little cameo appearance in our music video.
What have been your biggest challenges so far in your musical career?
The Song A Week project. Before I did the started the British IBM I set myself the challenge of writing, recording and releasing one new song every week for an entire year. The whole thing resulted in 53 new songs. I thought it was going to be 52 but as I said I'd have one out every Friday for the duration of 2010. Turns out there was 53 Fridays that year. You can actually download them all for free now at www.Aidy.com
If you were able to collaborate with anyone on a couple of songs, who would you choose and why?
Damon Albarn because A) I love Blur and B) Everything he touches seems to turn to gold, he's made a success of pretty much everything he's ever done musically. Blur, Gorillaz, Good the Bad and the Queen, Monkey etc... he's like a modern day Lennon and McCartney rolled into one.
Retro games, do you have any favourties from the likes of the old BBC B / Commodore 64 / ZX Spectrum etc?
Yeah, I still Chuckie Egg, Dare Devil Dan and Jet Set Willy on the BBC Micro. The original Monkey Island and the Space Quest series on the PC were possibly my all time favourites.
I've got a MAME arcade machine at home with all the old games on it and I'm constantly finding great stuff that I never actually played back in the day like Mikie, this weird little arcade game where you have to run round a school head butting teachers and knocking kids out of their seats. It's completely bizarre but completely addictive.
You can find out more about The British IBM here: http://www.thebritishibm.com/