Music interview: Simon Raymonde on the road to Lost Horizons

Richie Thomas and Simon Raymonde of Lost Horizons.
Richie Thomas and Simon Raymonde of Lost Horizons.
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Lost Horizons is a collaboration between Simon Raymonde, boss of the independent record label Bella Union who previously played bass and keyboards in Cocteau Twins, and Richie Thomas, one-time drummer in Dif Juz and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Having just released their debut album Ojala, they’re on tour – and visit Brudenell Social Club in Leeds next week. Ahead of the gig, Raymonde spoke to the YEP.

After so long away from making music yourself, what sparked the idea for Lost Horizons?

Planning our 20th anniversary started a year or so ago and I was struck when looking back over the two decades that we had released so much music, and I felt a pulling in my chest, something telling me that I was meant to be doing this TOO! The label didn’t have to be all about other bands, let’s face it Cocteau Twins’ break up was not planned and the original idea of the label was to put out our own music. So really I was just fulfilling the original brief! OK, so 20 years is a long time for me to work that out, but I never said I was a quick learner.

The project struck me as having a little in common with the This Mortal Coil albums that you worked on with Ivo Watts-Russell back in your days on 4AD, with a revolving cast of collaborators. Was that a loose template for you and Richie Thomas?

No, but I understand the reference, I mean that project was the brainchild of one man, one curator, I suppose, who pulled it all together. Although there are many fundamental differences, mostly being that TMC songs were almost exclusively covers, while ours are all 100 per cent originals. Also, on those albums, the music AND the vocals were done by different people on each song, whereas Lost Horizons music is only composed by me and Richie.

I like my own company and I like being excited at 2am in my little underground cave, or with my headphones on at home. It’s a new thing for me.

Simon Raymonde

The vocalists you worked with on Ojala are many and varied. How did you choose them all?

I found that part just happened purely instinctively. I would get the bones of a song fleshed out a bit in the studio to the point where I wouldn’t be shy sending it to someone, and then their name, face, voice would just appear as I listened. You tend to listen to tracks hundreds of times a day when you are writing/recording so these kinds of thoughts are not unusual. My ‘day job’ bring me in contact with so many amazing artists, not all signed, and I wanted to reflect some of those voices, including the unknown ones.

Have your songwriting processes changed over the years from the way you used to work in the Cocteau Twins?

Hardly at all, and it is rather an odd way to work I appreciate but it’s always worked for me. I just record my improvisations and either erase them the minute I’ve finished, or I like them and build them into finished pieces of music.

It’s natural to me to work this way, because apart from the initial sessions with Richie, which in a way are the most important ones, I work alone on the music. I like my own company and I like being excited at 2am in my little underground cave, or with my headphones on at home. It’s a new thing for me. Twenty years ago, studios and recording techniques were quite different, so I am still rather like a child at Christmas.

You soon embark on a Lost Horizons tour. How will it work live? Will you have more than one guest singer?

Three/four main lead vocalists live, three female voices and one male. Beth Cannon and Ed Riman both sang on tracks on the record, and Helen Ganya Brown (Dog In The Snow) is another, 21-year-old bassist Asya Fairchild is another, then there’s Chris Anderson, a great friend from a Bella Union band called Departure Lounge, then me and Richie.

Your record label Bella Union is also celebrating its 20th anniversary. How do you see its future? And would you like to continue making music with Lost Horizons alongside running the label?

I am excited about the next period of Bella Union. 2018 will be a superb year with pretty much all our bigger artists returning with new releases, alongside the release of several brand new debuts, so this is how we like to work, developing the new while pushing the established artists as far as we can, and all the while having a great time doing it. The future is probably uncertain, but I know what I am doing tomorrow and that’s exciting and that’s the only future I can really do anything about.

Yes, I will be beginning a new LP as soon as the tour is finished.

Lost Horizons play Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on Monday November 20. https://en-gb.facebook.com/losthorizonsband/

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