Silent Radio is pleased to present for the first time Jack Cheshire’s new song ‘Widescreen’. The song is taken from the upcoming album ‘Fractal Future Plays’ due to be released on 27th November via Loose Tongue Records.

‘Widescreen’ is the third single taken from the upcoming album and features multi-tracked backing vocals from Fini Bearman and drums/percussion from producer Jon Scott. Originally one of the first songs to be recorded for the record, Cheshire & Scott mutually decided to dispose of their first iteration and re-imagine the track from the ground up. A slower pace, fewer guitars and a more considered hi-fi approach saw it blossom and become one of the stand out recordings on the album.

Q & A

We got the chance to ask Jack Cheshire a few questions ahead of the release.

Was there a particular event that inspired the writing of ‘Widescreen’?

There are two things that spring to mind when I think about what inspired ‘Widescreen’:

The first is a night out I had with a friend when I was seventeen. It must have been in November sometime because it was definitely after bonfire night and there was an epic rainstorm going on. One of those times where you feel like it’ll never stop raining; where there’s a perpetual mist shrouding everything and an atmospheric gloom on the ground. We were at a loose end and ended up taking ecstasy and going for a walk. Bath is in the middle of a valley and we walked up to a vantage point on a hill and looked out across the city all lit up and ghostly. I remember roly-polying down a steep incline and getting to the bottom, soaking wet with my head spinning and just shouting ‘THANK YOU’ over and over again into the sky. Not quite sure who I was thanking, but I remember at that particular point feeling hard wired to the cosmos in some way, and wanting to let it know that I appreciated it. Later on, when we both realised we’d lost our respective house keys and were completely drenched, cold and had started coming down I felt the bubble burst quite dramatically. I had to sleep on his floor and the next day at college was pretty rough. It was an early lesson in peaks and troughs and for that reason is eternally etched in my brain.

The other is the HBO series Six Feet Under. I re-watched it in its entirety a few years ago, in a procession of feverish binges and it really got under my skin. There aren’t many shows that I’ve seen that deal with death so head on; unflinchingly, candidly and poignantly. I love the way, through that, it also ruminates on life and the merits or costs of pursuing different things. I feel like it gets inside the human condition in quite a nuanced and psychedelic way; trauma, family, dreams, subconscious, hedonism, career paths, sex, relationships, it’s all there. At its conclusion you witness how each of the characters are going to die, and as a result get a sense of the narrative arc of all of their lives. There was something about that I found really inspiring. ‘Widescreen’ is about projecting back into a younger mind or into altered states, but it’s also about different kinds of death/rebirth so I feel like the song owes something to that show.

Your previous albums have all collected many positive reviews, do those reviews impact your approach to new material?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t read my reviews. I find it hugely gratifying when someone really gets what I’m trying to do and also really interesting when someone interprets something that I hadn’t intended or offers a different perspective. I suppose I use the validation reviews give me as fuel to keep going, in that sense they are hugely encouraging. I think that as I’ve got older and have continued making records, I’ve been refining the process, and thoughtful reviews have helped me to do that.

I am not the kind of writer who can sit down and say, today I am going to write a song about X,Y or Z. I find whenever I ‘try’ to do something it always comes out contrived and doesn’t speak to me at all. I need to turn off the filters in my brain, allow things to come out and then afterwards I contextualise or figure out what it is I am trying to say. I suppose once I reach that point and start refining it, I begin to assert more conscious control. The thing is, I don’t write with an audience in mind; I’m not able to. I write because I feel compelled to and because that’s how I process the world. But there’s no doubt in my mind that I want my music to resonate with people, I want people to get drawn in and reviews have helped shape my understanding of what an audience requires in order to orientate themselves within my songs.

How does a new Jack Cheshire song usually begin its life?

I usually start with a chord sequence or a melody, and I let it echo around my brain and play with it for a while. I think sometimes I’ll try and extrapolate a song from that. I imagine it fully formed and kind of hear the ghost of it in my head; attempt to render it in some way. But it’s a bit like waking from a dream and trying to write it down or tell someone about it. It’s that thing where it momentarily makes total sense in your mind; is fully formed and entirely mapped out. But as you try and put it into words it kind of disintegrates and you’re left with fragments that you have to reconstruct it from.

I feel as though I feed ingredients to my subconscious and it quietly weaves things together for me and then sends them back at strange moments. I sometimes have to pull over when I am on my bike going to work and sing lines or melodies into my phone. Writing lyrics can be pretty taxing; I obviously want to be saying something, but they also have to sound ‘right’ and sometimes it’s hard to quantify exactly what ‘right’ is, you know?

I think once you’ve been doing something for a while you can end up setting traps for yourself and getting into a comfort zone. So I’ve started trying to approach songwriting from different angles; writing instrumental pieces, starting with words before music, constructing songs without any guitar. ‘Miradors’ on the new record is an example of this. I began with words and then built the music around them.

Do you feel like the record would have turned out very differently if you were unable to work on it at home?

Working on it from home initially felt very challenging and I was quite worried the sound quality of the recordings would suffer. I had to go through a few weeks of tearing my hair out before I started to get my head around it. I’m not great with computers and tend to be quite impatient with technology in general. Jon Scott, who produced & played drums on the record + Les Mommsen, who mixed it, were both massively helpful in guiding me through this. Familiarising myself with the software and getting to grips with mic placement and self-recording meant it was a lengthy process. But it also meant that I could record and write at the same time, which was an interesting development for me. I could try stuff out and be quite free without worrying about taking up time or other people’s judgement. So I was experimenting and could go down strange wormholes without anyone saying ‘Stop, what is this?’ When I was happy with it I would send material over to Jon, intrigued to hear what he made of it, and what beat he’d put down.

It was a completely different process from the last couple of records where we wrote and rehearsed the material before going into the studio, and recorded it all live. It’s also the first time since my first album ‘Allow It To Come On’ that I’ve played pretty much everything on the record. I took great satisfaction in being able to see all my ideas through and that has definitely given this one a special feel for me. I remember saying to a friend who was asking about it whilst I was putting the finishing touches to it, ‘it feels like the most me thing I’ve ever made’. And I stand by that. Not sure if I’d feel that way if I hadn’t recorded most of it at home.

I have been lucky in my career to work in some amazing studios with some supremely talented people. I’ve learnt so much from that, and absolutely loved making those records. But I also like the idea of changing the parameters you work in every time you make something new. It means there’ll be a different sonic character and identity to the recording, and an altered process helps keep you on your toes. So I am not ruling out working in a studio again sometime in the future (budget permitting). But I definitely enjoyed this process, and learnt loads from it.

Jack Cheshire - Fractal Future Plays Cover

Fractal Future Plays Album Cover

What effect has the global pandemic had on your plans for the release?

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t struggled in some way through this. It has been an unbelievably strange & scary year and it doesn’t look like changing anytime soon. In the grand scheme of things, in relative terms, I know how privileged I am. I have a day job and have been furloughed throughout lock down. I went back to work in September. I live with my girlfriend and a good friend, and have a little space I can be creative in at home. So whilst I was reeling like lots of other people, I wasn’t as isolated or bereft of things to pour myself into as some.

I was in the process of putting a live band together when the pandemic hit; we’d done one rehearsal and were just about to really get stuck into it. So that has been shelved for the time being. It’s a shame we won’t be able to do a little tour around the release of the record, but it’s not like I had loads of live dates in the diary. I know plenty of musicians, actors, artists, technicians who have seen entire tours/events cancelled and their earnings absolutely wiped out. Things they’ve spent ages rehearsing, planning, looking forward to. My heart goes out to them, and to all the people who have lost loved ones and suffered in other ways.

I think I’ve reached a point with my output where I am just trying to make the best art I can, whilst I still can. I am trying not to worry too much about anything else to do with it. One thing the pandemic has hammered home for me is that I need to try and live in the perpetual now and be thankful for what I have. I just want to make records that can sit in someone’s collection, and people who see it might say, ‘that’s a good record’.

Is there anything you need to get off your chest?

I want to say a massive thank you to Jon Scott who produced ‘Fractal Future Plays’. He’s one of my best mates, an amazing drummer & musician and a huge part of this new record. We’ve been making music together for over a decade and he’s been so supportive and such a source of inspiration for such a long time.

Other than that, I have so much I need to get off my chest; too much to fit in this column! I do too much Doom scrolling (it drives my girlfriend mad) and I feel like I’m wandering around in an extended episode of Black Mirror. Is this all actually occurring? Still expecting to wake up and be told I’ve been in some kind of prolonged fever dream for the last couple of years.

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