Music Interviews

Interview: Pram

PramNot a lot of people know this, but Pram do not exist as we understand existence. Occasionally their vibrations are in phase with our world, and this enables them to appear for live transmissions. We have come to call such appearances ‘gigs’.

Recent ‘gigging’ as part of The Photophonic Experiment, ‘An Evening of Electro-Spectral Musical Phenomena in Two Parts’, employed such exotica as an aquaphon, a ‘Spark-o-Phone’ and Jacob’s Ladders. Such organised, yet so gloriously unstable a cacophony had rarely been heard in this or any other philosophy.

These statically-charged instrumentaii may have bolstered reception for their new collection of Pram-tracks, The Moving Frontier, an opus that has gained plaudits in all manner of journals, both paper-based and virtual.

With the aid of a ‘Jar Of Charge’ purloined from The Photophonic Experiment, it was possible to conduct an interview with Matt, Sam, Laurence, Max, Rosie and Harry. However, due to the distorting properties of this Victorian curio, it was impossible to distinguish each member from another.

But that’s OK, because the Pram-voice tells me that “within Pram, everybody gets their chance to voice opinions, discuss points of contention and hopefully find a resolution. There are often equally valid vocal and instrumental versions of the same song co-existing,” which is pretty fortunate for me.

“We are the Noir Cowboys.”
– Pram saddle up.

Ever-curious to find out more about the Pram modus operandi, I ask if they all live in the same dwelling, like The Beatles in Richard Lester’s films, to which the Pram-voice answers only “Actually we do. Who are The Beatles?”

There is clearly some temporary spike in the Jar Of Charge, but I press on, regardless of the danger. I venture that Pram music sometimes sounds to me, in a good way, like the last cocktail jazz band to play in Atlantis afore the continent is re-floated to form a strategic missile base for the US Army, much to the chagrin of the sea-floor electorate. I wonder aloud how fair is this?

Undaunted by the Garth Crooks-like dimensions of my musings Pram demand that I “find (the) agent that can fix that gig and we’ll let you know”.

I give my word I’ll do my best, but I demand to know why one finds an an increasingly noir-ish edge to the Pram sound. In a rather sinister tone, the Pram-voice states simply “We are the noir cowboys”.

So did all this extra-dimensional rustling map out the topography of The Moving Frontier? And is this frontier one of geographical, psychological or artistic or none of these?

Gracefully, the Pram-voice responds that “(the moving frontier) can be usefully applied to all of the above boundaries and innumerable others as well”.

Hmmm. Maybe its some kind of existential hum, but it occurs to me, all of a sudden, that even at its sparsest, Pram music has some degree of artful subterranean murk, particularly on Salt & Sand. Could it be deliberate?

“Who’s going to add the artful subterranean murk?”
– The Pram Quandry

A short pause while the Pram-voice considers: “The murk is always deliberate – to keep the noise, the hums and the glitches and the ‘real’ sounds as part of a song lets it live a little more than a cleaned up version.”

So does someone say ‘this one’s an instrumental?’ – The Jar Of Charge shudders, as if shaking in mirth – “That, or ‘this one’s a polka’, or ‘who’s going to add the artful subterranean murk’.”

At this point, I began to suspect that the Pram-voice was not taking this cross-dimensional Q & A as seriously as it might. I play safe and get back to the science. So, Pram-voice, how true is it that a theremin gives the user radioactive poisoning?

“We’ve never had a theremin player long enough to accurately gauge, but Harry doesn’t own a microwave oven – draw your own conclusions.”

I try another tack. The Jar Of Charge shudders again, the transparent globe flickers…a transmission problem perhaps. No matter, I hold out and keep faith, and just like ’90’s drum and bass DJ’s, I keep droppin’ science.

So how much is Pram music subject to the unseen effects of electromagnetic fields? Or not really at all?

Through the flickering orb, the Pram-voice whispers “Only through the magic of the theremin and the metal plates in our heads”.

Pram speaks of magic, yet populates its worlds with doohickeys and gizmos, as well as accordions, melodicas and vibraphones. And whaddabout all that childhood imagery, an oft macabre selection of insect worlds and amputated dolls and mannequins?

The Pram-voice, its amplitude now regular and sure, warms to the theme. ‘Toys represent the first instruments off play and we continue to play throughout life adapting to continuingly more advanced toys.”

So, are we talking magic realism? Does it truly exist?

Perhaps the spike threaded nastily through the aether once again, but this line of questioning only draws the following rejoinder: “Paul Daniels starring in a biopic of Christopher Biggins. Ken Loach to direct.”

“Paul Daniels starring in a biopic of Christopher Biggins”
– The results of Pram’s Magic Reality show.

OK, time to get down to business once again. Despite the cross-dimensional interface, this is a band interview after all. I consult my notes and loftily inform the Pram Collective that new track Blind Tiger sounds a little like seaside bawdy, sci-fi stripper music even. How do the band fare in Blackpool?

“That pleasure has yet to be realised.” Yet they disagree, if only on location terms: “Blind Tiger’s a bit more sleazy Brighton a la Pinkie / Brighton Rock – now there’s some scary sugar.”

The Jar shudders and quivers. Again the Pram-thing is playing with me. I decide to go onto the attack however scattershot my strategy.

If Les Baxter were alive to Mariana Deep, do you think he’d want to adopt you?

“Probably sue us.”

Dammit. Think again.

If Joe Meek were alive today, he would be Simon Cowell. Discuss.

“It would seem like his speciality is fucking with people, and not music – Meek may have done both, but he was the artist that Cowell evidently isn’t. In an alternate universe, we would have Outsider X Factor with Sun Ra, Joe Meek and GG Allin’.

The Pram-voice is ahead of me once again. I have another stab. So, in a game of band top trumps, on what points would Pram beat Stereolab, Tortoise or This Heat?

Clearly, the Pram voice has faced this one down before, unless “Ironing boards, imbibing of drinks, and having a knitted cloth monkey as a mascot” was a purely instinctive reaction.

“Having a knitted cloth monkey as a mascot.”
– Pram’s PG Tip for Top Trumps

Alas, the light flickers again, perhaps never to re-ignite. Panicking, I think of Richard Hamilton as I transmit my final gambit. Just what is it that makes today’s homes, so different, so appealing…?

The final answer, staccato now through the fading transdimensional exchange. “Home CCTV… multiple locks… ASBOs for people who use the neighbour’s lawn as a lavatory… organic slug killing…”

And then, the Pram-voice is gone. And the Jar Of Charge begins meltdown. The portal is closed, but the frontier no doubt continues to move.

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Pram + Serafina Steer + Pete Um @ Corsica Studios, London
Interview: Pram