The Peter Ulrich Collaboration Q and A

Last week I posted my review of The Painted Caravan, which can be read here.

In the process of writing the review I was kindly given the opportunity to ask TPUC, and specifically Peter Ulrich himself some questions. Below is what I asked, and what I received in reply. Before that however, my thanks: to Peter Ulrich for answering my questions – and the answers were gratefully received – and Rhianon Davies of 9PR for being an ace facilitator.

The Painted Caravan has many genres to it; medieval type folk appears to be predominant throughout. What was the inspiration for this?

I listen to a lot of medieval music as well as a lot of folk music from all around the world, and I collect instruments from my travels, so when I come to write I have all those influences both in my head and physically at my disposal and that tends to come out in the songs.
When I started collaborating with Trebor Lloyd on the sessions for ‘The Painted Caravan’, we found that we were kindred spirits to a large extent in being inspired by a very wide range of sources and so, with both of us bringing the range of our influences to bear, I think it stretched the results even wider than my solo albums had done before.

You make use of lots of instruments when composing and recording, did you think that some of these may get lost in the mix?

The first song we wrote and recorded for this album was ‘Hanging Man’, so this was my first experience of sending Trebor a set of my basic recordings and then letting him expand the instrumentation, complete the arrangement and do the production. I was very impressed with what he came back with, and from then on I didn’t have any concerns that the density of instrumentation we were attempting to work with would suffer at the mixing stage.
Because Trebor is in New York and I’m in London, we had to have mixes of songs flying back and forth by e-mail so that we could discuss fine adjustments to the levels, placements and effects on various instruments, but we always reached a final mix we are happy with and, judging by the responses we’ve been getting to the album, I think we’re OK!

How would you compare the crafting of songs with your time in Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil?

I didn’t really contribute to the writing process in Dead Can Dance. The music of DCD is the creation of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard who are both amazingly gifted in entirely different ways. There wasn’t room for any additional creative input, and it would have served no purpose, in my view. I had a wonderful time being involved in DCD and performing the music, and I learnt an incredible amount, particularly from Brendan, about crafting music for which I am eternally grateful and which I have applied in my subsequent solo output.
My contribution to This Mortal Coil was a single track – a short solo piece for percussion and ocarina which I wrote and recorded and which was included on the 1986 album Filigree and Shadow.

Which of the instruments used on The Peter Ulrich Collaboration did you enjoying using the most?

I’m primarily a percussionist, so naturally I’m always the proverbial pig in s**t when I’m working on the rhythms.
Aside from that, I love any opportunity to use my hammered dulcimer (which features in the closing track ‘Tempest’), and I enjoyed my first opportunity to use a relatively recent acquisition – a traditional hand-pumped Indian harmonium in the song ‘Desert’.

Related to this, which one produced the most problems?

Happy to report that I don’t recall having any particular problems – assuming you mean technical problems in recording the many and varied instruments.
I have a couple of general purpose Rode microphones which I use for everything, and I record directly into ProTools software on a Mac via an M-Box.
It’s a very simple set-up (as it has to be for me to be able to operate it!).
It occasionally takes a bit of time to get the record levels and mic placement right for metallic percussion instruments with particularly piercing sonics (a pair of heavy Chinese cymbals I use on occasion springs to mind!), but other than that the recording all went pretty smoothly.

Seeing as the majority of the world has a Twitter account, how would you describe TPC in 140 characters

The Painted Caravan is a spellbinding musical journey through dark folk tales of far-flung lands performed on an exotic array of instruments.

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