VM: Many thanks for doing the interview, Martin. First off, I want to congratulate you on the successful activity of IQ for several last years. However, it is always interesting to learn about
the past. Please tell the story of the band - from the very beginning.
MO: IQ was formed in 1981 by myself and Mike Holmes. We had previously been in a
band called The Lens, which was mainly instrumental, and we formed the new
band to broaden the scope of our music. In actual fact, some of the earliest
IQ music was in a dance music vein, a bit like Talking Heads, and it took a
while before we settled down into a more prog rock direction. After a couple
if independent albums, we had a brief flirtation with a major record deal
(Polygram)between 1985-89, but since then, we have been completely
independent of the music industry.
VM: It seems to be obvious for me why your band was named IQ. InstruMENTAL
arrangements on the debut album "Tales from the Lush Attick" I still consider
the most profound (together with the Amenophis debut album) 'phenomenon' within
the framework of Progressive Rock in those 'dark' years - closer to the mid-80's.
But, anyway, I would like to hear your own opinion, why IQ was named exactly so?
MO: There was no particularly deep thinking involved with choosing the name IQ;
we just thought that it was a short and memorable name. We always hated the
long Tolkein-type names that some prog bands had, and we wanted something
that sounded much more business-like. Mike was doing a psychology course at
the time, and we got the name from one of his course books. Despite that,
none of the members of IQ are particularly intellectual, and I don't think
that any of us ever went to University.
VM: I know, originally the debut album by IQ was recorded a year before the
"Tales...". But, it would not appear until 1998, being released by your own
recording company "Giant Electric Pea". Please tell me why that album was never
released in the same 1982? And why did you reach the decision to release it only
in 1998, whereas GEP label was created by you in the beginning of the 90's?
What is that which makes this album valuable for you?
MO: The first album "Seven Stories" was only ever released on cassette because
that was all we could afford at the time. Back in 1982 we were so poor we
had to live on 2.00 a week each for food, and we often had to busk in the
London Underground stations (with various guitars/flutes etc.) to get that.
We certainly couldn't afford to press up an album in those days, so we
raised money by recording hundreds of "Seven Stories" CD's at home, and we
would sit there for hours making up all the covers by hand. If the fridge
came on the tape machine cut out, so we would have to start recording the
cassette all over again! Lots of people had fond memories of the "Seven
Stories" cassettes, so the 1998 release was by popular demand. We did think
it would be fun to record new versions of those tracks too, which made the
re-release an even more popular item.
VM: It's the right time to talk about your recording company - "Giant Electric Pea".
Why did you decide to create a label of your own? Are you still happy with it before
its 10th anniversary?
MO: We formed our own label because we thought that the major labels did a
really bad job, and we thought that we could do better. I'm happy to say we
were right. Did you know that the "Promises" single was a huge radio hit in
Germany, but never sold any copies because the record company forgot to make
any? I don't think it's possible to do a worse job than that! GEP is now up
to 25 releases, and I think that with artists like Spock's Beard and John
Wetton in addition to the IQ/Jadis catalogue, we have been responsible for
releasing some of the best music of the 1990's.
VM: Starting with "The Wake" and till "Are You Sitting Comfortably?" throughout
the music can be characterized as typical Neo art rock with accessible melodies.
What motives made you deviate from your original complex structures abound on the debut?
MO: What on earth is Neo art rock? I don't really understand all these labels.
We just write songs we like and that's it. We have always written great
little pop songs, and sometimes we linked them all together to make a long
track like "The Last Human Gateway", and sometimes we would just do them as
pop songs. We did a lot of shorter songs on the Nomzamo and Are You Sitting
albums as we wanted to try and get a hit single and make lots of money! I
can't see anything wrong with trying to be rich and famous, and we tried to
make our music appeal to as wide a range of people as possible. There is
absolutely no point in the kind of wilful obscurity that some prog bands
seem to crave; if someone asked IQ to do the Eurovision song contest, we'd
probably do that too!
VM: Listening to the compilation of 1991 and knowing the content of the albums
recorded with Paul Mennel, I noticed that in that period the most complex and
interesting tracks were set aside. Was it done purposely?
MO: We didn't set the complex tracks aside; Wurensh is one of the most
complicated things we ever did! It is fair to say that we were trying to
push the more radio-friendly songs as we thought they were our best bet for
success. Most of the more complex tracks on the J'ai Pollette compilation
were survivals from the "Seven Stories" era, and we actually re-recorded "It
All Stops Here" and Intelligence Quotient" with Paul for a picture disc
VM: I'm glad you are back to your progressive roots with "Ever" and "Subterranea"
albums. As I noticed in my reviews on them, the music has become more mature and
original. Can the comeback to the old structures be explained by the existance
of your own label or else by the renewed interest to this kind of music?
MO: We don't have any progressive roots, and generally most of the members of IQ
don't particularly like what most people describe as progressive rock. What
makes IQ interesting is that our roots are in other forms of music. I was
brought up with classical music, and I missed the 1970's prog rock thing
completely. Mike Holmes is into dance music, and he DJ's at a rave club,
whilst Paul Cook listens almost exclusively to big-band jazz. John Jowitt is
into quite grungy rock like Mr Bungle and Primus, whilst Peter Nicholls like
a lot of indie rock bands like Placebo, even though his favourite act is The
Partridge Family. Because we have a genuine melting pot of influences, we're
not churning out second-hand 70's prog like so many of the other bands that
seem to be around at the moment. I think it's great that we can write a very
commercial song like "Subterranea" using a synth dance loop as its basis,
and because it's part of a concept album everyone thinks it's a prime bit of
prog rock, rather than the pop song that it really is! We never
intentionally decide to write in a particular way though, we just use the
best things that come out regardless of what style they're in.
VM: Do the stylistics of +Ever+ and +Subterranea+ give the direction in which
you're going to work further? Or do you have some other ideas?
MO: I honestly haven't got a clue what direction the next album will be in, and
I won't know until it's finished! We just go with the flow and see what comes
out at the other end.
VM: What music do you personally like to listen?
MO: I very rarely listen to music. As it's my work, it's not something I'm
particularly interested in as a leisure activity.
VM: What are the plans of the band for the current year?
MO: Mike Holmes has just completed the mix for the "Subterranea Live" video and
double CD, and we expect them to be released in July. My solo album is at a
very advanced stage of development and that will be released in August. Also
in August, we will start recording the new IQ studio album, which should be
released in November, when we plan a short European tour.
VM: Thank you very much, Martin. I appreciate your time.