I would have to say my most memorable experience of the Spring semester was the Cranes gig on March 22 at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago. The Cranes are an incredibly unique conglomeration of musical talent hailing from Portsmouth, England. Initiated by brother and sister team Jim and Alison Shaw in the late eighties, the band is now joined by Mark Francombe and Manu Ros to create a most impressively haunting, ethereal and benignly violent music. Their sound is difficult to compare with any other band and Alison's hauntingly baby-doll voice is completely original. My dream of talking with the band was satisfied before the show when I had the opportunity to interview Jim Shaw. I also coerced each band member to draw a picture. This made me the happiest person on earth and my friends can attest to the fact that I had a big cheese-eating grin on my face for about a week.
Jennifer: What is the most enjoyable part of the creation process of your music?
Jim: For me, it's the whole thing...but doing the tour is the end of the creation process and recording is the most enjoyable. I think music is a product but it shouldn't be a product in the way of this is a product (picking up a beer bottle), it is perfectly designed. Any product in the world is as perfect as it can be, yet that's a complete contradiction to who we are and where we are. What I like about seeing a band live is that very often it's not perfect. And obviously it's important to do your best, but that may not be perfection, and perfection my not necessarily be a good thing.
Did you and Alison always know that you would be making music?
It was never really our intention. It never really entered our heads that we would be here.
So it wasn't a goal - it just sort of happened?
It really did. We never sent a demo tape out. We played some music to the person who released our first proper record Self-Non-Self. And he sent the stuff out to John Peel and our music was played on an English radio station and pretty soon managers and record companies would come to see us and we were getting more and more gigs.
Do you want more exposure?
For me, just to be able to continue as a band.
Do you have any other means of income?
No. At the moment we're dangerously close to collapse.
What would you do if couldn't make music?
I haven't a clue.
How do you compare European and North American crowds?
Size is similar as an average. Even though Europe has a lot of different countries and a lot of different cultures, I think America has a lot of different cultures as we've noticed in our travels. I enjoy playing in North America more than in Europe (mostly because of hassles of currency exchange and border crossing).
How about your influences inside and outside of music?
I think for me it's in the same way your personality is shaped at an early age. Musically, I'm influenced from everything. I remember at age 5 or 6 going to the cinema and before the films they played classical music. The cinemas in England were quite grandiose, kind of spooky old buildings and I tied in immediately to certain textures and things with classical music. I think the instrumentation of an orchestra is pretty damn good. My mum used to play Mozart and later I was putting it on myself. When I first started buying records and getting into music...it was punk rock.
Aside from influence, I think the most important thing is the inspiration. What gives me inspiration is very often, almost totally, when I see a band live and when I see them put so much into it, it inspires me to do the same.
What is your definition of success?
(without blinking an eye) To be able to continue what we're doing with integrity.
(Damn, that's a good answer) What do you spend most of your time thinking about?
I'm not really a down person. I've got no reason to be down. I usually try to think good things, whether it be old memories. I've got a lot of stuff on my mind right now. Have I got anywhere to live? Can I afford anywhere to live when I get back?
Who do you feel are your contemporaries in music?
The Spice Girls. They're a five girl British pop band. We've been looking for a T-shirt of them, but have had no luck. (He's joking)
In 20 years, do you think your music will withstand or sound dated?
I think our music will withstand time. I still stand by what we first did.
What's your version of the ideal gig?
It could be either one where you're not so tired that you feel like you died and then you go on, or one where you think it's going to be bad and it turns out really good.