The first time I heard Yahweh was back last year on the inaugural Under the Radar podcast, there was a lot of great tracks on the show, but for me this was the one that stood out. Later that week I found myself in Avalanche Records in Glasgow (now Love Music, although it will always be Avalanche to me), intent upon buying their album ‘Tug of Love’.
The two things that stood out from that day was taking the CD home and gleefully unwrapping the brown paper bag and string package like it was some treasured possession. The second was sitting in my back garden in glorious sunshine, drinking far too many beers and listening to this album on repeat until late in the evening. I also remember waking the next day, feeling disgustingly rough and thinking to myself was that album really as good as I thought it was or was I just pished.
Thankfully though it wasn’t just me being my drunken bum-self, it sounded just as good in the sober day of light. So that’s my rambling story about how I first came across them, I suppose I should try and give you a better insight into the band. Yahweh is essentially the project of a talented young gentleman by the name of Lewis Cook. Originally from the Dumfriesshire town of Moffat, but now based in Glasgow, he makes lo-fi electronica music, that in the past has been compared to artists as diverse as Boards of Canada through to Arab Strap. For me personally, I find it to be quite a unique sound that takes lots of the best bits of all of his influences and makes them truly his own. The new single, ‘Make Me Stop’ even improves upon this original promise, this is a band that will continue to grow their sound. Hop on, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
Would you care to introduce yourself?
Hello, I’m Lewis Cook and I make music under the name of Yahweh.
How would you describe the music you make?
It totally depends on who I was describing it to. If I was speaking generally, I’d just say weird pop music.
How did you start out making music?
I started off learning nu-metal songs on the guitar when i was wee and never really had the desire to learn how to play an instrument properly that much. In some respects, it was all about the quick fix. ‘I can play three chords now. Listen to how these three chords sound when I press this button! Now when I turn this knob up! And this pedal…’ etc. I’m still the same, I think. Even with programming and recording, I just like to press buttons and turn knobs to see how they sound and don’t have much time for manuals and tutorials. The only instrument I have ever spent time learning to play the traditional way was the sitar and I don’t use that for Yahweh very often at all.
What process goes into the way you write songs?
I don’t think I have ever really written a song ‘properly’. Maybe this idea of a ‘proper’ way to write a song is made up in my head but I imagine it to involve sitting down with intent to write something -perhaps with a purpose in mind – and then going about it in a semi-rigid and vaguely formal way. I don’t know if anyone writes music like this but I never have. I never know what the finished song will sound like when I sit down to record it. Quite often, I’ll record a loop or a guitar piece or a section on the harmonium or maybe just my voice then come back to it a few days later then add something else on top of it. More often than not, I like trying out some less ‘tuneful’ techniques over the top of what I already have recorded like field recordings, feedback, record crackle, tape hiss and stuff. By the end of that session, I often listen back to what I’ve recorded and hate what I’ve done and be quite depressed about having wasted 5 hours on something as crap as this. Maybe a few days later I’ll listen back to it and think ‘Wow! This actually sounds quite good! It just needs this and that…’ and then it turns into a song.
Who are your big musical influences?
I genuinely don’t feel as if there’s anyone in particular I want to sound like. I listen to a lot of music and I’m definitely influenced from the things I listen to, probably more sub-consciously than I’m aware. That said, I think in some cases there’s more to learn from the philosophy and intent from an artist than necessarily stealing aspects of their sound. For example, I’m definitely influenced by dub music in the way that it embraces irregularities and celebrates the ‘faults’ of music technology. There’s something about that that really does something for me. I love the way that artists like Crescent, Broadcast, Colleen, Susumu Yokota, Jeffrey Lewis and Fennesz seem to me to be investigating a similar line of thought in their own very particular ways. I’m also really interested in the meditative qualities that can exist in music which is something I haven’t explored as much as I’d have liked to in Yahweh so far.
Your latest release was a split single with Gerry Loves Records, how did that come about?
I met Andy and Paddy in a working men’s club across the road from Crossmyloof train station in Glasgow. We were there to see Conquering Animal Sound and Barn Owl. One of the guys overheard me mention something about my band when I was talking to my friend and asked me what my band was called. I think they must have heard my music before because when I told them that I made music as Yahweh, they were insistent on buying me and my friends beer. I’d like to say that happens all the time to me but… Anyway, I’d kept in touch with Andy and Paddy, going to the Glasgow launch of their first release which was the split single with Conquering Animal Sound and Debutant and sent them through a couple of tracks in May asking them if they’d be interested in releasing it. We decided to go with Make Me Stop as the main track but the other track, Waves, comes with the record as a download too.
For me personally it seemed like quite an odd choice to have yourselves doing a split single with Trapped in Kansas, as you don’t seem to be a similar ilk of music. What was the thinking behind it all?
The thing that really made me sure that it would be good was looking at Gerry Loves Records last release and how much I liked that record. For me, I think both the artists on that record are also really quite different from each other but it works beautifully as a release. Trapped in Kansas are doing different things musically but I think there’s definitely mutual respect for what each other is doing and hopefully there’s an audience that can appreciate both. I think there definitely is but even if there wasn’t, I don’t think that’s any reason to put anyone off from buying the record if they like one of us but not the other. I think one of the beautiful things about GLR is the passion and love for music that resonates from Andy and Paddy, not for one particular style of music but for music generally and a desire to create something special.
The band name seems to me, to be quite a bold statement of intent, why did you decide to go with Yahweh?
There’s definitely an aspect of rebellious teenager wanting to be controversial there but it also seemed to work well on another level. I really liked the idea of appropriating something incredibly majestic and taking the word and associating it with something entirely unrelated. In a lot of ways it’s totally out of place as a moniker for what I do but that’s kind of what I like about it.
You recorded your debut album ‘Tug of Love’ almost entirely on your own, how have you found it working with other musicians?
I still do almost all the recording of my tracks myself, mostly down to the way I record the music. However, when Yahweh plays live, we consist of 3 of us (previously 4 until Hugh sadly left to live in Berlin for a year) which is me, Sadie and Stuart. We all met properly through the band and have become really good friends. I think we all respect each other a lot musically and the live set benefits a lot from everyone’s input. Sometimes it can take over an hour before we actually pick up any instruments when we practice through talking and drinking cups of tea. I wouldn’t have it any other way though.
What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond? Do you have any new releases planned for any time soon?
I keep promising that we’ll do a tour of some sort. We were offered a few gigs on the continent this summer after I asked around on the internet but it’s just a case of making things financially viable. We’re looking into booking some dates outside of Glasgow in October though. As for releases, maybe there’ll be another one before the end of 2010.
Yahweh – Live at Classic Grand
Yahweh’s split single with Trapped in Kansas is available to buy new on 7″ and download through Gerry Loves Records for the very reasonable sum of £3.50. Their debut album, ‘Tug of Love‘ is still available to purchase, although copies are pretty limited so be quick. This was one of my favourite albums of last year, I’d urge you to check it out.
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Photo Credit: Highland Cow