It’s been almost 30 years in the making. For decades now there have been whispers about an unreleased disco epic by the English art rock duo No-Man, comprised of Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson. With Love You to Bits, their seventh studio LP, No-Man have finally put the epic to tape. Out of all of the fascinating stories behind No-Man, the one behind this album has the longest reach.
Back in the early 1990s, fresh off the heels of two inventive electronic pop albums, Bowness and Wilson fell out of favor with their then-hip label One Little Indian. Following the 1994 release of their brilliant sophomore album, the polychromatic Flowermouth, No-Man suddenly found themselves in need of a new record label. The band’s aesthetic in the first half of the 1990s sharply deviated with 1996’s Wild Opera, an often grim collection of trip-hop inflected pop and rock. Wilson and Bowness’ collaboration would then go on to break off almost completely from the electronics-heavy of their 1990s output on a series of minimalist albums with an acoustic instrumental focus: Returning Jesus (2001), Together We’re Stranger (2003), and Schoolyard Ghosts (2008). Alongside the changes in No-Man, in the new millennium Wilson broke big both as a solo artist and as a frontman for the progressive rock outfit Porcupine Tree, and Bowness released an impressive string of solo records, including this year’s Flowers at the Scene.
Amid the flux that followed No-Man’s booting from One Little Indian, a song called “Love You to Bits” found itself perpetually being put on the back burner. “Love You to Bits”, penned at the same time as the song that would become the No-Man classic “Lighthouse” (eventually released on Returning Jesus), channeled the electronic energy so gorgeously captured on Flowermouth. But with the early days of No-Man squarely in Bowness and Wilson’s rearview mirrors, the song never quite tracked with the directions taken by the duo after Wild Opera. Fans of the band, particularly those who watched the 2010 documentary film Returning, no doubt heard about Bowness and Wilson’s long-lost disco epic. But for the most part, “Love You to Bits” had existed as a curio of No-Man’s lore, a relic of a time when the duo’s music relied on sampled beats and intricate synthesizer loops.
Film Strip by joseph_alban (Pixabay License / Pixabay)
It’s been 11 years since No-Man last put out a studio record, but that lapse in time is not the only reason why Love You to Bits, the full album realization of this long-gestating No-Man song, feels like a gust of new life for Bowness and Wilson. Split into two tracks called “Love You to Bits” (side A) and “Love You to Pieces” (side B), each one subdivided into five parts, Love You to Bits throws the viewer back in time to No-Man’s first years as a band, back when they were writing music you could dance to. And that’s not all: a shredding guitar solo on “Bits” and a proggy electric organ solo on “Pieces” represent some of Bowness and Wilson’s most dynamic songwriting as a group. A guitar riff on the third part of “Pieces” hearkens back to Wilson’s guitar parts on Wild Opera.
That is far from saying, however, that Love You to Bits merely exists as a nostalgic indulgence. For every thumping four-to-the-floor drumbeat and sparkling synthesizer lick, there’s an equally introspective instrumental break or Bowness lyric which provides Love You to Bits with its beautifully melancholic atmosphere. Somewhat like the band’s masterpiece, Together We’re Stranger, Love You to Bits zooms in on the feelings that arise after the dissolution of a relationship. But here, Bowness adopts a polyvocal approach, singing the perspectives of both parties in the relationship. The key refrain throughout the album consists of nothing more than three simple words: “I love you.”
In the context of Love You to Bits‘ contrasting musical landscapes, where a club-ready electronic instrumental gives way to a mournful brass band, Bowness’ repeating of “I love you” illustrates how those words change and evolve as a couple does, especially once the relationship is over. In the end, the words take on an almost spectral effect. No-Man, as it so often does, expertly balances musical intricacy with emotional depth, with Bowness’ poetic lyrics pinpointing specific details and emotions which come to life in the glittery synths and uptempo grooves that make up much of Love You to Bits. No-Man has never put out a bad record, and Love You to Bits is no exception.
This marks my third chat with Bowness for PopMatters; like Wilson, he’s a superb conversationalist. A talking head in the Returning documentary describes him as a “quote merchant,” owing to gems like the early description of No-Man as “the Rolls Royce to the Stone Roses’ Škoda”. The same holds true now. As we talked almost a month prior to Love You to Bits’ release on No-Man’s new label, Caroline International, I could sense a unique excitement in his voice as he described what is now the final realization of one of his and Wilson’s oldest songs. On his account, though, Love You to Bits represents where No-Man is now just as well as it revisits the era of Flowermouth.
I’ve heard about this “yet-to-be-recorded disco epic” of No-Man’s for years now. I remember it being mentioned in Returning. When did it become this album that the band is now releasing?
It’s an interesting combination of the past and the present. We wrote the original idea for Love You to Bits after we finished Flowermouth. We wrote “Love You to Bits” and “Lighthouse”, with the view that they’d form the logical followup to Flowermouth.
But after playing the ten-minute opening track of Flowermouth [“Angels Gets Caught in the Beauty Trap”] to our record company, the video budget was taken away, the publicity budget was taken away, and soon afterward the band was dropped. So our grand plans for “Love You to Bits” and “Lighthouse” were changed. We started to focus more on the Wild Opera material, which was much more immediate. Those songs were often written and recorded in an hour. They had a lot more attitude and aggression to them, and better fit how we felt then.
The core of “Love You to Bits” was originally written in 1994. Over the years, we continually added to it and took things away from it. We always had the idea it was going to be something like a side-long epic, or a complete album. But it never really fit in with the music Steven and I were making elsewhere. We started making albums like Returning Jesus, Together We’re Stranger, and Schoolyard Ghosts, which are much more organic in terms of their instrumentation and production. We never forgot about Love You to Bits, but it was never right for the kind of work we were doing.
Around the time of Schoolyard Ghosts we did a different version of it: a ten-minute, very heavy industrial electronic version. Sort of like Nine Inch Nails in an extremely bad mood. But, again, it didn’t feel right for Schoolyard Ghosts.
Through the years, there were probably a dozen different versions of “Love You to Bits”, which range in length, from four minutes to twelve minutes. Some versions had Theo Travis playing saxophone all over them. We always knew that we wanted to do something unusual with the core of what is, in essence, a simple electropop song. But it’s always been an electro-pop song with a vision of grandeur, with ideas above its station. We knew that we could take this pop song and experiment with it in interesting ways. We knew that we could take this pop song and extrapolate it in interesting ways.
The album we have now is full of these permutations and contrasts. You’ve got what is perhaps the most simple and direct No-Man song at its core, but you’ve also got one of the most sophisticated No-Man albums. At times it has pummeling beats, and in other moments it has an almost blissful sense of atmospheric release.
Lyrically, we also wanted it to be both dark and light. While Love You to Bits is about multiple perspectives on a relationship that’s fallen apart, it also details the optimism that existed at the start of the relationship. I find that breakup songs always concentrate on the negatives, which is understandable. But with this song, we sought to capture the light that started it all, so that we could then pit it against the bleak reality of the relationship’s end.
The other key contrast with Love You to Bits is the old and the new. Although the core of the song was written in 1994, I would say well over half of this album is new, both lyrically and musically. When Steven and I were working on my last solo album, Flowers at the Scene, suddenly making Love You to Bits made sense. Here, and at other times during No-Man’s existence, Steven and I ended up in the same place for different reasons. We’ve been gravitating toward more electronic music, more dynamic music, and as we did Love You to Bits clicked with us.
Once we had the time to give it the attention it deserved, we spent three days in Steven’s studio, working from ten in the morning until ten in the evening. That was a return to a traditional No-Man approach to songwriting. Since Wild Opera, we’ve written our music remotely, like a lot of bands do now. I might write a song and then give it to Steven, who will do something completely different with it. Steven might write a complete backing track for which I’d write vocals and lyrics. Then we’d meet up at the end of those processes to discuss how we’d approach making an album. What we end up with is always a No-Man production, but one that doesn’t come about after hours of writing together in the studio. On Love You to Bits, it felt good to return to the way we wrote together in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
As Love You to Bits evolved, did it inform the other music you’ve written? That industrial version of it you recorded during Schoolyard Ghosts, per your description, sounds a lot like “Pigeon Drummer”, which appears on that LP.
Well Schoolyard Ghosts was written in a rather different way from most No-Man albums. I’d written and co-written a lot of songs – “Pigeon Drummer” being one of them – and then I brought it to Steven. He added his Wilson fairy dust and altered what I’d given him. By the end, it was a full No-Man production, and Steven gave a lot of himself to it.
“Pigeon Drummer” was something I’d written and processed by the time Steven started working on it, but it’s possible that it did inspire a new approach for Love You to Bits. Maybe “Mixtaped”, too, which has a dark edge to it even though it’s compositionally quite different.
Wherever Love You to Bits was, it reflected where we were at that time. When we did a brief No-Man tour in 2012, we created a sound that played to the strengths of the live players that we used. Our live album Love and Endings has that sound; it’s like post-rock meets minimalist classical. In 2013, I went into the studio with the no-man live band with a view to making a new No-Man album. At that time, Steven and I also got together to work out what became “Love You to Pieces”. So the second half of Love You to Bits was initially worked out in 2013.
At the end of the year, Steven was so busy doing The Raven [that Refused to Sing, Wilson’s 2013 solo outing] that he felt he couldn’t commit himself to a new No-Man album. So Steven said I should take the new material I’d written with No-Man in mind and use it for a new solo album. He very kindly offered to mix it. So Abandoned Dancehall Dreams, in a way, is what might have been the logical followup to Schoolyard Ghosts – or, at least, my idea of a followup.
While making Flowers At The Scene, the idea of Love You To Bits came up again and, suddenly, it felt right.
Now that Love You to Bits is complete, how much does it sound like what you and Steven first concocted back in 1994?
I think it’s moved on quite a great deal. My voice has changed to a degree, and the instrumentation is stripped-down and harder. Conceptually, it’s very much what we wanted.
When we started writing this song, there were a couple of influences, a big one of which came from a discussion Steven and I had about the music we liked when we were kids. We realized that we both equally loved Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder‘s disco epics, Pink Floyd, and the film music of John Barry. The meld of those sounds proved intriguing for us: the cinematic work of Barry, the conceptual work of Pink Floyd in the mid-’70s like Wish You Were Here, and the pummeling disco of Summer and Moroder. People forget that some of these things were incredibly ambitious, that the pop music of that era was phenomenally ahead of its time. Those musicians took real risks. A lot of Summer’s releases would feature one side-long epic, and I think she even did one about the seasons with four lengthy songs [1976’s Four Seasons of Love]. She was making the Topographic Oceans of the disco world.
When Steven and I were discovering these things at 11 and 12, there was no idea of fashion; we simply liked what excited us. So when we began devising Love You to Bits, we had in the back of our minds something like those atmospheric, long-form Pink Floyd pieces with the pulsating energy of Summer and Moroder’s work. We were also big fans of Trevor Horn’s ZTT record label, particularly what he did with Propaganda and Grace Jones. I’ve always thought Slave to the Rhythm is a superb album, and it’s largely an investigation into the possibilities of one song.
The short answer to your question is that conceptually Love You to Bits has the vision we’ve always wanted, but how it sounds now, it couldn’t have sounded like if we’d made it ten or even five years ago.
I can easily imagine a band that has undergone as many stylistic shifts as No-Man simply abandoning a project like Love You to Bits, casting it away as a relic of an older era. What about the core song motivated you both to keep returning to it, even as No-Man’s music has moved away from the electronic style of its early years?
We’d always been excited by the concept so that continually drew us back in. And we’ve never wanted to make a repeat of what we’ve done before. An idea like Flowermouth 2.0 or Schoolyard Ghosts 2.0 would never cross our minds. So coming back to this unfinished work, we knew, would energize us and our songwriting, and that we would approach the material differently. Now is a great time for it because, given the experience we’ve had since first writing it, we’ve got more to offer to it, more ideas about how to develop it properly. I don’t think we could have made this 25 years ago. If we did, it certainly wouldn’t be what it is now.
We’ve always wanted to continue No-Man as a project. We toured in 2012, and there were some studio sessions in 2013. So the band has never disappeared entirely. For me personally, there’s a unique chemistry in what Steven and I work on together. I mentioned earlier the “Wilson fairy dust”; I’m able to write songs like the ones on Schoolyard Ghosts, but Steven adds something to them that I couldn’t conceivably add. The whole point of a good collaboration is that the collaborator brings something that you’ve not got. In No-Man, Steven and I bring differing perspectives, and in sharing them, we create the band’s identity.
Love You to Bits is like nothing No-Man has released when it comes to format. And yet I think it’s one of the most quintessentially No-Man albums we’ve ever released.
While quintessentially No-Man, Love You to Bits does break instrumentally from the last few No-Man records. In going back to sounds more reminiscent of the Flowermouth era, did you and Steven find that you were exercising musical muscles you hadn’t worked out in awhile?
There’s two things there. On one level, if you look at the No-Man chronology, Love You to Bits would be a much more logical followup to Flowermouth than Wild Opera was. There’s no doubt. Yet at another level… while I’ve not seen Terminator: Dark Fate, I’d heard it said that it’s actually the natural extension of Terminator and T2. In some ways, in the No-Man universe, it’s as if Flowermouth is T2, and Love You to Bits is the Dark Fate to Flowermouth‘s T2! [laughs]. Although since I haven’t seen Dark Fate, I might be comparing this album to a very bad film.
I haven’t seen Dark Fate myself.
Ok then, we’ll go along with the analogy just for the moment.
Periodically – and this is how No-Man albums often get made – Steven and I separately end up at the same place musically. On The Raven Steven created a sound quite similar to my Lost in the Ghost Light, which was written around the same time. Both have a similar nostalgic impulse. It’s also true that To the Bone‘s move towards dynamic and electronic approaches is reflected in Flowers at the Scene. Neither of us were really consulting with each other at that time, although Steven did play me some demos of the To the Bone material.
So we’ve recovered those muscles, as you put it. But, also, after both of us spending years making music quite different from Love You to Bits, we were able to immerse ourselves back into the music with enthusiasm. We cleared other things out of our systems, which made it possible to dive back into this piece.
This ties in also with a record I did right before Flowers at the Scene, with my pre-No Man band called Plenty. We’d been working on that for over two years; it was a New Year’s resolution that was actually realized. We had these songs from the 1980s that felt like some of the strongest work I’ve ever done, and I felt we really needed to do them justice. Between 2016 and 2018, I got together with Plenty, and the music we were working with was more electronic art-pop. It really did involve recovering lots of skills that I had lost. We tried to stay true to the ’80s influences, but we were applying what we had learned since we first got together as a band. I started doing things vocally that I hadn’t done for years, though, of course, what I was singing was being brought to life by what my voice has become.
Working with Plenty was a really good exercise in learning from myself as I was while being the self that I am now teaching my older self. I ended up teaching myself some new tricks. That shook me out of my sense of complacency. I realized that in the intervening years, as much as I felt that the music I made ended up in a good and interesting place, I’d also lost some things that are quite valuable. That might have been a more expressive and dynamic form of singing; it might have even been a diminished fear of overstating things.
When you’re younger, you tend to be more pompous and overstated because you don’t know. You’ve not learned the humility of adulthood. You haven’t been beaten down. Sometimes it’s nice to be re-introduced to the sense of audacity you get when you’re younger. There’s a certain arrogance of youth, which leads you to ask questions like, “Why not do this?” Being reunited with Plenty, I felt a return to that. That energy also helped Flowers at the Scene, as all of those songs were written fresh off my reunion with Plenty.
Then Steven got involved in Flowers at the Scene, which became a No-Man co-production. He was enjoying himself and ended up contributing a lot more than he normally would – with my past solo records. He’s primarily done the mixing. I use Steven for mixing because he knows what I like, and he’s obviously exceptionally good at what he does. He automatically does what I like because of the understanding we’ve built together. So in my chronology, Love You to Bits naturally follows from Plenty and then Steven and I’s work on Flowers at the Scene. And a bit like Together We’re Stranger‘s relationship to Returning Jesus, Love You to Bits is an extreme extrapolation of the electronic elements in To the Bone, Flowers at the Scene, and Plenty.
We mapped this out when we had recording sessions at the end of last year and came up with both parts of Love You to Bits. I describe it as one piece of music in two parts, in ten sections. This year has been spent re-recording the vocals and overdubs, though there’s still been spontaneity in the process. For example, the brass band: I’d heard a keyboard tonality we were working with, and it reminded me of a brass band. I don’t know if you have them in America, but in Britain, the brass band is associated with the north of England, where I come from. Suddenly I could hear this sad, elegiac coda to “Love You to Bits” that would naturally dovetail into “Love You to Pieces”. Steven agreed, and he said to “make it so” in his best Jean-Luc Picard way. Luckily, I had worked with a brass band earlier in the year on someone else’s recording, so it ended up working out. That was realized rather late into the game, just the summer of this year.
When I first heard about the early versions of this project, it was initially described as a single song. Although you’ve just described it as one song in two parts, what led to the divide between “Bits” and “Pieces”?
“Love You to Bits” has been around in various forms since the ’90s. The last version we had of it was a 12-minute take with Theo Travis on saxophones. That was around 2013 when I thought we’d be making the followup to Schoolyard Ghosts. I have a lyric folder for “Love You to Bits” that I had been writing in for 25 years – it’s the largest folder I’ve ever had. The thought of this song capturing multiple views on a relationship had been around since the beginning. But I’d continually been adding to it, and even several albums I’ve put out since the early ’90s feature lyrics that have been plundered from the folder wholesale. The folder ended up being quite productive for me, even though many of the songs it helped produce are quite different instrumentally from Love You to Bits.
When Steven and I were working together in 2013, I had this idea for “Love You to Pieces”. It was a very different lyric, perspective, and feel from “Love You to Bits”. Steven and I met up, and we conceived what effectively is now the first four minutes of “Love You to Pieces”. While we were working on Flowers at the Scene together, Steven discovered this song on his computer hard drive, sent it to me, and said, “Why on earth didn’t we ever get around to this?”
So our starting points for Love You to Bits were the 12-minute version of “Bits” and the first four minutes of “Pieces”. That meant that when we met up last year, we had two separate things with which to begin composing the whole.
Lyrically, the two halves constitute two perspectives on a relationship that’s ended. But then there’s also a third one, the shared perspective. Quite often, in a relationship, you may be feeling the same things as the other person, but you aren’t sharing them because there’s been a communication breakdown. So in Love You to Bits, this third perspective emerges when both people feel something but are too afraid to say it to one another. Both voices talk as one. I developed this last year around the time I was writing the last track for Flowers at the Scene, “What Lies Here”, which also takes the perspective of a couple incapable of discussing how they actually feel. On the album version, I got Kevin Godley to sing certain parts to get the effect of two voices singing together.
What you’ll get if you purchase the Love You to Bits CD is a lyric booklet where the lines are color-coded, letting you know which perspective that they’re from.
Is there any continuity between the breakup lyrics on this album and Together We’re Stranger?
In some respects, there is. Together We’re Stranger evolved out of a breakup, but it was also about loss in all of its forms. It’s an interesting album because the circumstances around its creation were quite sad, even though we enjoyed making that music. Steven’s father was very ill, as was my father, who had strokes and cancer. These realities plunged us into a certain kind of reflection. For me, as much as Together We’re Stranger came out of the loss of a relationship, it came out of a greater sense of loss. It plunged me back into my mid-teens, where I had all sorts of things happening, from my mother’s death to nervous breakdowns to the death of my grandparents, all in a two-year period. As a result, Together We’re Stranger is a bleak album.
Love You to Bits is more specifically about a relationship. Elements of it dovetail with Together We’re Stranger because with that album I was in a long-term relationship which ended around that time, and some of my observations about relationships I’ve had in the past made their way into Love You to Bits. Here I’m thinking also of Lost in the Ghost Light. It’s an album that’s not at all about me; it’s about someone 20 years older than me, one who had a different experience in the music industry than I’ve had. But my own feelings and observations find themselves in the lyrics.
Love You to Bits took on its own life as I wrote it. I imagined myself in the minds of the two characters I was writing about and was very conscious of not making it all bleak, as I said earlier. There hasn’t been love if there hasn’t been light, and also optimism. Together We’re Stranger – which I’m still quite attached to – almost entirely focuses on the dark aftermath, the sense of loss. Love You to Bits has more dynamic contrasts between the confused feelings you have when you’re involved in a relationship. Perhaps it’s not quite so black-and-white. Although it’s quite direct at times, I’d also like to think there’s a level of detail and sophistication in its textures and permutations.
One thing I like about this album is that what you get at the fourth minute, you don’t get at the eighth minute, nor in the eighth or 16th minutes. It continually shifts to places you may not have imagined it would have gone at the beginning. As much as I love Together We’re Stranger – I think it’s a beautifully consistent album – you may be more able to predict where it will end. That doesn’t detract from its value at all, but it’s just one way in which it differs.
Are there contemporary electronic influences you and Steven drew from in the making of this record?
We’re both interested in classic electronic music, and contemporary electronic music to an extent. That’s been true since the early days of No-Man; one band we’ve always been particularly fond of is Underworld, though I don’t think our music is at all like Underworld’s. I’ve always admired how Underworld has evolved and has managed to combine emotions with beats and lyrical concepts with pure electronics. We’ve definitely kept abreast of that band’s work.
On the contemporary end of things, our biggest influences have been in the abstract and experimental fields. I can think of things that William Basinski has done, or the Caretaker. He’s a musician from England who’s developed a series of musical releases that, in an especially abstract way, describe the progression of dementia. It’s an astonishing series of works, utterly harrowing. He begins by cutting up samples of music from someone’s childhood. As the albums go on, they become ever more eerie and frightening as the character’s brain dissolves into dementia.
I continue to discover things that feel both new and old, and things that are mainstream yet experimental. Although I will admit I find it harder to locate the kind of experimental pop that excited me as a youth in the present day. When I grew up listening to music – and I think this was probably the case up ’til the early 00s – there was a tremendously fertile musical area where people were producing popular work that was also extraordinarily ambitious. In the ’70s, that meant anyone from Pink Floyd to David Bowie, and in the late ’90s/early ’00s that meant bands like Radiohead, Tool, and Underworld. We still have Thom Yorke making forays into electronic music, as well. I enjoyed The Horrors album from a couple of years ago [V, on No-Man’s Caroline label] – just great, inventive pop music.
But it’s becoming more uncommon to hear music that has something unusual to say while communicating in a mainstream voice. That collision of extremes seems rarer. What you have now generally speaking – and you could probably time it to the early ’00s domination of the Simon Cowell pop competition – is the split-off of the mainstream and the experimental. There are interesting things happening in both fields, of course. When I listen to a Billie Eilish, FKA Twigs, or Solange album, for example, I find the productions really interesting, even though they’re not necessarily things I personally would make or want to buy. Regardless, I’d still listen to a Billie Eilish album because it has something of genuine interest in it, especially its intimate, home-electro production.
She’s been a big surprise for me this year. Artists who come right out of the gate with a singularly weird sound like that and achieve big success seem, as you say, rare. I know you’re a fan of Scott Walker, whose death really affected me. To do what he did with his later experimental records, it seems like you have to build a really strong output in the pop arena before you can make the leap.
You’re entirely right. Scott Walker and Thom Yorke couldn’t have gone on to make the music they’ve made without their histories.
The goth influence that Billie Eilish draws from in her music comes from bands like the Cure, Public Image, and Dead Can Dance. They produced amazing music that was hugely popular. Eilish may seem like an isolated artist, but after the peak era of the Cure and Dead Can Dance, entire schools of musicians followed in their wake and managed some success.
I was a huge fan of Scott Walker. I discovered him quite young as I was forming my musical taste. Part of that was because Scott Walker vinyl albums were always two pence in every charity store. I bought a few of them and fell in love, especially with Scott 3. His voice and the lyrics are so beautiful on that record.
When I talk about lyrical influence, I’m not being disingenuous when I say that I’ve never particularly followed other lyricists. I like other lyricists. Joni Mitchell is a genius. Leonard Cohen has a marvelous knack for turning a phrase. I’ve always admired Roger Waters’ conceptual abilities. And Scott 3 has this almost Philip Larkin-esque quality in how it captures humdrum and mundane lives with exquisite phrases to describe their melancholy. It elevates the ordinary to the level of poetry.
My favorite Scott, though, is on Climate of Hunter, and on the Walker Brothers’ Nite Flights (specifically the four songs written by Scott), and Tilt. On Tilt, especially, he manages to write audacious and experimental music that still has the capacity to generate a broad response. As much as I love Bish Bosh, I find some of it quite alienating, even difficult. But then again, I was extremely pleased who was an artist who was that willing to go far out of their comfort zone. Scott has always been an inspiration to me for his sheer bloody-mindedness.
One thing about Scott’s later albums that I like so much is their performativity. On The Drift and Bish Bosch especially, it sounds like he’s creating theatre pieces more than traditional songs. If I can use this to segue into a question about performance and No-Man: have you given any thought to live shows for Love You to Bits? Especially given the record’s dynamics, I could easily imagine a captivating live show for it.
We have discussed it. It partly depends on how free we are, and on the response to the album. We both feel that this music needs to be presented in a different way. No-Man has always worked to the strengths of whatever live band we’ve played with. The musicians we use help dictate how the music turns out. When we did the Love and Endings tour in 2012, it was much more post-rock with inflections of minimalism and classical music, because those were the skills of the musicians we brought in.
One thing I think would be really interesting is to do something we’ve never done before, and also return to something familiar. My idea would be a split set. We’d begin with a pared-down, acoustic, organic rendition of our old material, especially the stuff between Returning Jesus and Schoolyard Ghosts. It would also be great to bring back the pummeling backing tracks we used to use in the very early days of the band.
When we first started, it was just me, Steven, and a violinist called Ben Coleman, and we’d play off of backing tapes. There was a great contrast between the humanity of the three performers and the backing tracks. We played differently every night. So for Love You to Bits, I think it would be interesting to play that material with the backing tracks, and then break those moments up with interludes of blissful, acoustic release which are 100 percent in the here and now.