As the eponymous album lurks somewhere sub-radar, The Superimposers remain something of a word-of-mouth thrill.
Safely ensconced in a recording studio in West London (run by Diesel, of Rocky & Diesel / Express-2 fame, Dan Warden and Miles Copeland were unwinding after a day’s alchemy (all right, making music then).
Trapped in their lair, the duo make the best of it and are disarming, effusive and welcoming.
So how does one begin to superimpose…? The boys are apprehensive about The Word getting out there as if osmosis might dilute the message, but eventually the boys give it up – Dan, in a soft, borderless southern English that cries out for the echo of a Superimposers recording session, and Miles in an identifiably London dialect that could be more East than West.
Dan begins. “I’ve had a lot of jobs. Car mechanic, fishmonger, retail…” Pimping? “Pimping has yet to be crossed off the list – but I managed and worked in a joke shop.”
Not a traditional career progression – how did he get the job? “Straight in, from my experience you see,” he says enigmatically.
Experience? Somewhat curious as to what the interview procedure consisted of, I wondered if a working knowledge of joy buzzers and whoopee cushions was an essential, rather than a desirable. “Yeah, that’s right – itching powder, the lot. So basically I had to fight off ‘orrible kids every Saturday.”
Miles takes up the story: “Something triggered it off. We were having a chat in the joke shop,” (as you do) “hanging out, and we said to each other… We should superimpose ourselves on that…” Whatever ‘that’ was, it soon developed into a search for the basic truths and principles of superimposing. Oh yes.
Gazing a little thoughtfully into the ether, Dan recalls those first steps towards a philosophy. “And then we started getting a bit deeper into that. How we were superimposers about life in general.”
Miles takes up the theme. “There’s a meaning to it, but I dunno if I want to let you in on it really.”
Frankly, it doesn’t take too much coaxing, though not without a sinister, cultish, undertone: “There’s a few of us out there, superimposers…”
Dan offers a clue. “Do you ever get the feeling that you’ve been stuck on top of life and don’t really fit in anywhere?”
Miles brings it all back home. “And we do use samples, and we do put ourselves on top of that.”
Well if we must talk about music…
Contradicting the claims of the Bournemouth Tourist Board (“seven miles of golden beaches”), Miles left the Dorset town where he and Dan met because “there was nothing to do down there”, and skirted around the edgelands of the London music biz, working on Ashley Beedle’s Afroart, a stint at One Little Indian, and “started a stall on Portobello Road, selling antiques…”
“We had a couple of opportunities to record things for other people, but we always ended up getting stuck in studios and engineers not knowing what we wanted.”
Miles again: “We got fed up with working with engineers and decided to learn the trade ourselves, so I went to college and started learning about Macs and computers.”
Miles spent some time in the tutelage of sound artiste Dr Kathy Lane at The London College Of Print’s sound design course. Suddenly the open-air vistas of those Little League recordings seem no accident.
“That was really good, a really avant-garde angle on sound really – music concrete, really opened my eyes to different kinds of music – one of the lectures would be first thing on a Tuesday morning and you’d end up going into a mini theatre, (and Kathy Lane) would scare the living daylights out of everybody by turning the fucking lights out, so its pitch black, and with two massive speakers,…you just didn’t know what it was, sometimes it was complete noise, other times it was more ambient sound. Really interesting, but the problem with the course was there were too many young people on there that were techno-heads.”
Given techno’s tendency to entice distracted looking beard-scratchers that’s no accident. “No, but they couldn’t get away from having that beat in it”.
What’s clear and offers blessed relief, is the accessibility of Superimposers music. Should justice prevail, it’s an accessibility that will surely see them rub shoulders with the glum anthemic rock, trance-pop, gruff rap and girl-group R&B nirvana that dominate the daytime airwaves. It’s no accident as far as Miles is concerned.
“We do make pop records. We’re aiming at a market that is so big. One of the labels that’s been in touch with us is the label that Atomic Kitten are on (Innocent Records). It’s almost as if that is the perfect label for us. It’s the most uncoolest label you could ever want to be on.”
Time to talk turkey – how does one create that floaty ambience and breathy latitude in this bunker full of thrift-store keyboards and a delegation of gizmos, doohickeys and frammistats. Time for budding King Tubbys and Mikey Dreads to take note.
“A lot of those sounds have been designed in the studio. Me and Dan really are producers. These days you can get it sounding real. We’ve managed to find a way. That’s what we’ve been doing for so many years, trying to get that sound. We’ve had to find it. (The studio) is like learning an instrument.”
Like the best music makers, the Superimposers are fans, as Miles is only too happy to express. “We like that big sound, producers like Charles Stepney (Rotary Connection, Terry Callier, Marlene Shaw). He was like a black Phil Spector with this immense over-the-top production but with really gentle songs, like Le Fleur (Minnie Riperton) is a typical example. We’re looking to emulate that sound.
“People are comparing us to stuff, like (long-lost ’60s popsters) The Left Banke – we’ve never even heard of them! I quite like it actually, I’m starting to find out about a lot of people, and thinking, well that’s bloody great, I love that.”
Such is the band’s enthusiasm about their inspirations and fellow travellers that they broadcast their own fortnightly digital broadcast from their Wonderful Sound website featuring “stuff you don’t hear on the radio – such as Ellen McIlwaine, The Impressions , Alice Coltrane, Shortwave Set, The Bees… Bob Dylan even!”
Finally, given the nautical but nice flavour of Superimposed lyrics, what’s all this stuff about boats? Dan protests. “We’d never noticed until a couple of months ago! (But then) I always lived by the sea, in Devon, water tends to be a running theme” (no pun attended one assumes) “…but there’s that romantic thing about the sea, the countryside. I was trying to get a narrow barge when I got up here. It didn’t quite work out. So I live In Brixton now.”
Brixton. The next best thing to narrow boating.
“Well, it’s closer to Portsmouth,” Dan muses.
Miles defends the marine mentality: “I like boats. There’s nothing wrong with boats. I’m not a good swimmer, and I still like boats.”
The Superimposers. Stuck on top of life. It sounds like a good place to be.