Q&A // Vienna Ditto

by Kyle McCormick
Kyle McCormick
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on 22 June 2016 in Features

Over two years ago we ran a Shouting With... feature with Vienna Ditto, Oxford's premier psychadelic duo, based on a conversation which happened over quite some time via email. Since then, Hatty Taylor and Nigel Firth have released a debut album (Circle) and a follow-up EP (Ticks), as well as all the singles and everything else that comes in between. In the process they have of course spread the word of their wonderfully eclectic musical style, and gathered many new fans in the process.

Ahead of the Summer of '16 therefore, and to partially coincide with the release of that EP, we decided to call in for a catch-up. What follows is a comparatively short Q&A session with Mr Firth which covers the band's story so far and what the future holds, we hope you enjoy it:

Firstly, bring us up to speed with the Vienna Ditto story thus far?

I taught Hatty guitar at age 11. We formed a band about eight years later and our very first song got played on Radio 1, leading us to think we were gonna be famous. Well. Since then we've gone totally DIY and it's magic. We're very poor.

You released your debut album last year, how would you say it has been received by the public, and are you proud of it?

Good, I think. Nightshift said it was the best Oxford album of recent times, which is actually quite a compliment. Mind you, they said they hated the song we started it with, but we didn't get the CDs done until after the review came out so we left that one off, heh heh.

That record has been followed by an EP, how do the two differ in content, and in reception?

The new one is darker, more political, more generally disgusted. Really the intention of this one was to go to some of the places we hadn't wanted to go before, because they were a bit too uncomfortable. We've got a little bit better at recording too, I guess. I can't say as I can really tell you how they've been received, don't generally look at reviews and things. People jump up and down when we play them live.

The band's sound dips into a variety of genres, but which would you say are the most prevalent, and what would you call your sound if you were to create a name especially for it?

Electronic gospel, I suppose. Our beginning point was 'I Know His Blood Will Make Me Whole' by Blind Willie Johnson, which showed that you could just have one chord and hardly any lyrics... Since then a few extra chords have slipped in, which feels like pollution.

Similarly, which specific artists have been influential to band overall, and during the creation of the recent EP?

Being as it contains our future Bond theme ('My Way of Missing You'), John Barry was a big influence on this one. I personally find some of his chord changes are the only thing sinister and threatening enough to portray modern life... we wanted to get that vibe, particularly for that song, but you need an orchestra for that, so we made it more like an electronic Walter/Wendy Carlos version, like 'The Ipcress File' meets 'A Clockwork Orange'. Similarly Bartok's 'Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta' has an edge of panic to it that seems apt; I think it was written in the late thirties. Gospel-wise there's been a lot of Marie Knight going down, as well as the sermons of Rev. A.W. Nix. There's a couple of gospel cover versions on there; 'Go Down Moses' and 'Motherless Child'. We got those out of a book in the library. Speaking of which, we're still working through Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folks Songs, which contains some of the most extraordinarily violent and disturbing songs I've ever heard.

Outside of the band, what do you enjoy doing, and what is your ideal career outside music?

I drink, Hatty steals cats. I dunno, I'm a guitar teacher, always have been, there's not a damn thing else I can do. I think Hatty has more prospects than I. I reckon she'd like to be a councillor. I could maybe teach history, or sell drugs.

The video for 'Ticks' is reminiscent of Avenue Q and similar productions, but where did the idea come from and how was it to create?

A *nightmare* - some of those puppets take three people to operate, which is hard when there are two of them in shot, one person's filming and there are five of you. We had very little to do with it, it's all Bobby Bloomfield and Laura Hindle from Heksagons. They've done all our videos and are quite an extraordinary band as well as videographers.

The band have been described as "Portishead doing a Tarantino soundtrack", but what are the favourite films?

Bitter Lake, Princess Mononoke, Eraserhead, Metropolis, Das Boot and Alphaville.

You recently expressed surprise at the accuracy of the band's Wikipedia page, how are you coping with the massive fame in general?

Yes, that was strange. I'm not sure I could've done it as well as they did. Haha, well I can still write this unmolested in my local Wetherspoon's so we're obviously doing something wrong.

Finally, what are your views on social media and its effect on the music industry?

People don't generally chat and make music at the same time.

You can watch that video for 'Ticks' below now, and check out and purchase the band's discography on their Bandcamp page. In such turbulent social times, perhaps music with such a wild tone is exactly what is required, especially when that music carries a message worth considering.

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