Exposure: The Tenebrous Liar
The Tenebrous Liar - No Guiding Light
Steve Gullick has photographed everyone from Nirvana to Lou Reed, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy to White Lies over the last two decades, as well as publishing magazines, and (most recently) becoming a recording artist himself. His most recent project is [The] Tenebrous Liar, who are doing a short stop-off in Scotland later this week.
What are your key musical influences?
Maybe Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Bob Dylan, Stooges, Palace Brothers, Velvet Underground, Nirvana, Lift To Experience, Cat Power, Smog.
Key non-musical influences?
Family and friends.
How do the music and photography feed back into one another? There certainly seems to be a kind of synchronicity in the Tenebrous 'package', the record artwork and the sound that accompanies it.
They both have served as my creative vent, there are many parallels between the two in my head, both aesthetic and technical; I write a lot of lyrics in the darkroom, I find time alone in there to be very thought provoking and calming. I very much enjoy creating images to compliment the music and visa versa.
Is it difficult to balance the two, in terms of working life?
Not really, The photo work has gotten sparser (but thankfully remains well paid) as the music making has increased (whilst unfortunately remaining mostly unpaid). I’m taking my career one day at a time. I’m hoping it can survive the photographic and music digital revolution, I still work on film; maybe I can remain successful whilst sticking to my antiquated guns; if not, fuck knows. I’m fairly certain pop stardom isn’t looming.
What informed the decision to become a recording musician in the first place, after so many years involvement in the music industry?
My experience of the music industry played no part and there was no decision made, it just happened. I’d briefly dabbled with recording environmental sounds and trying to make it into music in the early 1980’s, then bought a 4-track tape recorder around 1996 on which I recorded a few songs with very concealed words and experimental music - pump organ, environmental sounds again, electric guitar (I couldn’t play a note), one of the few people to ever hear it was Gallon Drunk’s James Johnston who offered his skills should I ever want to take it further. Then around 2003 I started writing a lot of words. I was frustrated; probably a mid-life crisis (at 36. Could be nice to make 72, depends how much shit gets chucked at me I suppose). I bought a Fender Jaguar (yes, mid-life crisis) and committed myself to get to a point where I could write skeletal songs; I came up with about 30 songs and bumped into James Johnston for the first time in ages at which point ...bender as a band came into existence.
What is the differentiation (personal or external, aesthetically or in terms of line-up) between ...bender, Tenebrous and Tenebrous Liar. Will there be any more material from ...bender or Tenebrous Mitchell in the future?
...bender is James, Geraldine Swayne (both now in Faust) and myself. This music started as an experimental based project, but we all love good pop music. The last stuff we wrote was incredibly melodic, but we’ve yet to record it. One of these days.
Tenebrous was me going back to recording on my own outside of what ...bender was doing, a live band developed and with the addition of drums (which ...bender didn’t have). I was really getting off on the sheer volume we could now create.
The band became known as Tenebrous Liar and we made two albums, the line-up fluctuated, with various friends fitting it in around other projects until this year when what I think will be the final phase of Tenebrous was born. The Tenebrous Liar is tight as fuck, all 4 of us absolutely love each other and the music we’re creating; the line up is Tony Ash on guitar, Brendan Casey on bass, Tom Glendining on drums and myself on guitar and vocals. Tenebrous Mitchell will almost certainly do another record, I love working with Gerry; we have a load of stuff already recorded.
Any other projects or releases lined up? A foray back into publishing or another photography book perhaps?
All of the above I suppose. The Tenebrous Liar release an album entitled Jackknifed and Slaughtered in January. I’ve spoken to Stevie Chick about relaunching Loose Lips Sink Ships and I’d love to do another book of photographs; there’s other stuff too but I don’t want to discuss them until they’re in motion.
Back to the music. The songs can be pretty bleak (agree/disagree?) How does music compare as a form of expression to photography? Is it easier to exorcise one's demons through music? Indeed, is that the purpose it serves?
Agree. Catharsis is the prime purpose of making music for me, it’s such a positive release. The execution of the new stuff has bought so much joy that I haven’t written any lyrics in ages; I’ve never been inclined to write my happy thoughts down - too busy having fun I suppose. I find music more expressive than photography but I do need both.
What can an audience expect from the Tenebrous Liar live experience?
Any surprises in store for the new album? When's it due out?
A tight band playing well crafted tunes is what I hope the new record is, although it’s lyrically bleak I’m hoping people will find it uplifting and exciting.
The Tenebrous Liar headline the Captain’s Rest in Glasgow on Friday 23rd October, support Cindytalk at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh on Saturday 24th and play a free instore performance at Elvis Shakespeare in Leith on Sunday 25th at 2.30pm. The single ‘No Guiding Light’ is available now on Tenor Vossa and TV Records in 7” vinyl and download formats.