Owen Gibbins interviewed - Jan. 07, 2007 - by Dan Matovina
Dan Matovina: "Falling" is a great CD. I'm a big fan of it and look
forward to more from your band. Absolutely love 'Sienna." Tracks 7 through
12 are the knockout punch for me. I'll have a review of it. Just answer each
in a "reply" email underneath each question.
Dan: Growing up in Swansea, what were your early musical influences?
Owen: The biggest thing to hit me was The Who when I was around 11. I was a Mod and loved The Kinks, The Jam, Small Faces etc.
Dan: Run down your history of being in bands and musical projects you spent time with while there.
Owen: First was called Purple Brain Fever. We were pretty much playing early thrash and punk stuff. Great fun. After that was Seasons End, a great thrash band that I wish could have gone further. We went on to record some great stuff but never sent it out. After that was bedroom boy with a few friends in Wales. The members of that band remain to this day my best friends. When I moved to the US I joined a metal cover band called Overburn. That was good to play live for the first time in the US. We were based in Tampa.
Dan: Explain how the group Seven Sisters started and evolved to the current line-up?
Owen: We have had a few changes, but Adam was in a band called The Shut Up jacks. Danny was in this with Adam and when I recorded a demo for them I always thought Danny was the talented one. They broke up and we kinda just fell into place
Dan: What did you see in Danny Johansson that made you decide he was a worthwhile musician to invest your time with? Talk about his abilities.
Owen: His lyrics are great, his songwriting is great. He has real talent and he is constantly writing. What I like about him is his vulnerability. He uses it to his advantage. He’s at a crossroads right now with school, work and personal life pulling him in every direction. Stressful for him, but great for the band as he expresses it in his music! Long may he suffer!
Dan: Explain how the group came to the band name, Seven Sisters.
Owen: There were a few reasons but they will remain a mystery! It is personal. I have a feeling we are going to get asked that one a lot!
Dan: Explain how the Seven Sisters album came to exist. Was it a plan from the get-go or did recordings accumulate to the point you had a full-length CD.
Owen: I wanted the boys to record a polished 3 song demo, but they insisted to record a full length. I would have preferred to put all of our efforts into a great demo to send out. I think it shows in the album because looking back I know we could have done a lot better. One of the tracks were recorded the morning after Danny's prom night from hell! Let’s just say he was delicate and the shades were on.
Dan: The album showcases a lot of guitar texture, guitar sounds, guitar effects that run throughout. Explain your process of how you devise your guitar arranging for a track as you record it.
Owen: Guitar wise I listen to the basic piano, and think where do I lie low and where do I show off? If there is a lull in the song, I try and do some interesting guitar stuff. I pretty much learned recording while doing the album. It was PC based in a garage dad had converted into a studio.
Dan: Your solos are excellent. What were your specific influences as a guitar player that led to the styles of guitar playing you showcase here.
Owen: My main influences are from metal. Testament had a guitar player called Alex Skolnic who went from metal to jazz. There is also an amazing guitarist from Swansea called Dave Tipton. He did a solo project with my dad on Vynil called "Queen of China" if anyone has it on CD or mp3 get in touch with me!
Dan: I find the songs often have interesting structures, some with four or five variable sections. Are you a part of that arranging, as I know the basic song comes from Danny?
Owen: It’s all Danny. I do suggest a few things here or there but I feel I control a lot of the vibe on guitar. When I feel the song drags I like to put in a little hook. Danny deserves all of the props for the writing.
Dan: What is your basic array of instruments and recording gear you personally used for the CD?
Owen: Les Paul Studio, Peavey 5150 combo, Yamaha Magic Stomp. That was what I used on every track. The magic stomp gave me the textures. The 5150 did not even have a clean channel so I had the gain on 2 and cranked the master vol to get a clean sound. The new stuff will be much better. I have got Mesa Boogie amps now and all sorts of classic guitars and pickups to get a more 70’s sound. Its computer based recording using Maudio hardware and Cakewalk software.
Dan: The production has a live feel to it overall. Was that intentional?
Owen: I think it sounds live because there predominately one vocal…So no triple tracked vocals, and 6 part harmonies etc. And the music is stripped down. This was not so much intentional as it was lazy!
Dan: Describe how the CD artwork came to be.
Owen: A friend of the band who helps us with our merch at shows came up with it. I really liked it and pushed for the band to make it our logo. So now the tree is the seven sisters logo.
Dan: Talk about your brother Adam in relation to the CD and his overall musical abilities.
Owen: He is great to work with and I love jamming and recording with him. When he practices there are none at his age that can touch him. He also adds some eye candy for the ladies live performances ha ha. He comes up with some great stuff too fill wise etc. He has the talent and with some drive he can be dangerous. He’s getting into recording too which is great for his future as a musician.
Dan: I realize David is not on this particular album, but describe his abilities on bass, from your perspective and what do you anticipate him bringing to future recordings.
Owen: Future recordings…I can’t wait. He is the most talented out of all of us ability wise. He ALWAYS has his bass guitar strapped to him, and it was obvious from the first few months that he had prodigious talent. His influences are Primus, Bas Wooten etc so you know you can expect some more energy on the next recordings. It is great to play live with him too because he never makes any mistakes.
Dan: I hear influences of your dad's music. Describe how that gets incorporated into what you do as a musician and producer.
Owen: I don’t hear any influence to be honest. Probably because Badfinger were always about 2 guys combining and The S S are more about Danny. I think Danny does have a 70’s obsession so it may be an era thing rather than a Badfinger thing. There is no comparing us and them. I won’t even do a Badfinger cover because we are miles away from the level they were at. It’s like a respect thing. The Seven Sisters reminds me of early Elton john but for the next album, which is going to be really mellow, I think we will have our own sound. At least I hope so. Maybe after gold albums and international success I will do a Badfinger song so we can do it justice!
Dan: How does Ellie's support play into the Seven Sisters development?
Owen: She is awesome. Puts up with practices in her house, helps us with CD’s, brings friends to shows etc. She could manage a band easy. I keep telling her that. Although I won’t be able to throw stuff at her like you can with other mangers.
Dan: How has your mother (Gaynor)'s support played into your musical development over the years?
Owen: My mother (Gaynor) really helped me out when it came to me learning the "playing out" side to being a musician. Every week she would drive me 5miles each way to practice in all sorts of venues. My first place to practice place was a church ran by a really nice man Father Morrissey. It was in Morriston, Swansea and that place used to be a focal point for me. Not religion wise as I am not a religious person. I used to study Martial Arts around the corner one day of the week, and practice in the spare room of the church with my thrash band on another day so it seemed like I was always there. We were called Purple Brain Fever and had a good laugh. They even named a drink after our band in our local The Coach House in Swansea. It was lager, cider and blackcurrent. While she helped me out, she did not really push me musically. To be honest I think the death of Pete and Tommy affected her so deeply she secretly didn't want me to become a musician at all because of what the music business did to them. I don't think she wanted me to be exposed to the cruel side of fame.