Interview: TILT (Steve Vantsis)

We caught up with Steve Vantsis of Tilt to find out more about their excellent debut album ‘Hinterland’ the band’s upcoming plans and how work is progressing on Fish’s new album…

Have you been pleased with the reviews and reaction to the debut album ‘Hinterland’?

I can honestly say we’ve been knocked out by the reception ‘Hinterland’ has received. We didn’t really know what to expect and some of the reviews surpassed expectations by a long shot. I think we’re just delighted that we made something true to us and that it has connected and resonated with so many people. It’s enormously gratifying.

How important is it to have a YouTube presence to get your music out there? How did ideas come together for the video for ‘Against The Rain’?

I think YouTube has become the ‘go-to’ for a lot of people these days that are investigating a band they might have just discovered. I know a lot of younger people who almost exclusively use YouTube and Soundcloud to listen to their music, so there’s a real change in how people consume their music in that regard.

There are some things that might be deemed necessary evils in this industry and I consider YouTube to be one of them to a certain extent! We also knew that we would have to do something in order to publicise the album in the absence of live gigs. YouTube provides that outlet and gives people out there an idea of what you’re about beyond just the music itself.

The ‘Rain’ video was meant to be a little tongue in cheek. We wanted to make a kind of homage to the music videos that were coming out in the 80s. It’s interesting that even though Hinterland has quite a few dark moments, every time we as a band are together we do nothing but laugh and joke around. So I think it was an attempt to bring that side of us to the equation and to let everybody know we’re not deadly serious all the time. Whether or not that translated is another matter!

How did John Mitchell become involved in the mixing of the album?

He demanded that he do it! Seriously though, we had crossed paths previously at various functions and what not and always ended having a good chinwag about music and life in general.

I had intended to mix the album myself but after working for so long on it and having been heavily involved in all of the writing, recording and editing I had lost all objectivity. John phoned me one day about something unrelated and we got onto the subject and he offered to mix a track for us to see if it was a good fit.  It was and I’m delighted with his mix, I think he did us proud. He’s a massively talented and driven individual and I have a lot of time for him. He also contributed a guitar solo to ‘Bloodline’ which blew me away and that sealed the deal!

How is the Pledge campaign going for the vinyl edition of the album? Is Pledge Music a good way for bands to connect with fans and actually produce product you know will sell, as opposed to say taking a gamble on making merchandise that may then not sell.

As of now (10 December) we are very close with 87% of the target having been reached. I think it’s going to happen which is really humbling. We have made some fantastic friends out there who have gone above and beyond to help us make it a reality and we are indebted to them. As you say, when you are a fledgling outfit financing everything can be tough without record company support.

PledgeMusic allows us to 1. Gauge reaction to a prospective release and 2. Cut our cloth accordingly depending on the amount of pledges that come in. PledgeMusic are also very helpful and very flexible and I would recommend that approach to unsigned bands who might have a bit of a following and who want to release something without getting into financial dire straits. Of course,they take a percentage of the pledge money raised but I think all in all it’s a pretty fair model, particularly if you were to compare it to a record company approach. We would definitely consider using it again.

Do Tilt have any live dates planned for next year yet?

We have one confirmed gig in March next year playing at ProgDreams festival which is organised by those lovely people at De Bordereij in Zoetermeer, Holland. I’ve had the pleasure of playing there a few times with Fish and it’s a great venue run by real music enthusiasts. We are currently looking at options for warm ups prior to that and also want to continue gigging in 2017. It’s really the missing part of the jigsaw now and we know the next stage is taking the album to the road. So we have a few irons in the fire at the moment and hopefully we can announce something regarding gigs next year fairly soon.

How is work coming along on Fish’s final studio album ‘Weltschmerz’?

I spoke with Fish this week and we are looking to start work early next year on formative ideas. Fish has a very particular approach to beginning work on a new album and you have to give him time to visualise and crystallise the general approach.

That doesn’t always mean doing anything in a musical sense initially but just establishing the general direction and tone. He also tends to have a few sessions with artist Mark Wilkinson to discuss ideas and I know that they have had one or two meetings already so the musical part of the equation should be implemented fairly soon. It’s also quite a big deal as he has said this will be his final album so the pressure is on to really deliver something special. We developed a great writing partnership whilst working on ’13th Star’ and ‘Feast of Consequences’ and I’m looking forward to continuing it.

You’ve toured with many varied artists from KT Tunstall through to River City People. What have been the live highlights for you and why? Do you get chance to adapt the music you play in these situations or is it very much play to a set way?

Wow. So many to choose from. There have been times when it’s been a real slog and I’ve endured the old transit journeys up and down the motorway as much as anyone. But these moments fade and you do tend to remember the good stuff.

I think my first Fish tour in ’97 promoting the ‘Sunsets on Empire’ album will always be special to me. I was the ‘new boy’ but that turned out to be a great working unit with Mickey Simmonds (keyboards), Robin Boult (guitars) and Dave Stewart (drums), not to mention the brilliant crew we had with us then notably Andy Williamson on front of house. I learnt so much on that tour being with great musicians and although it was a bit of a trial by fire for me it really was a blast.

On the last tour we were delighted to have John Beck of It Bites fame join us on keyboards and it was a massive treat to play with him. A brilliant musician and a real gent and he played on ‘Hinterland’ too! As regards the other acts I’ve played with over the years, every one was different and some let you express yourself more than others. It’s all part of being a jobbing musician and I guess the skill is just being able to interpret just what is required of you in any given situation. I enjoyed all of them in their own different ways though and wouldn’t change it for anything.

What would Tilt ideally liked to have achieved by this time next year?

I think ideally it would be to have played some great gigs and proven to people that we aren’t a ‘project’ band – that has to be up there for me. I’m really keen to take ‘Hinterland’ out on the road and to see how the music grows. Beyond that, just making people aware of us, we still have a long way to go in that respect but initial signs are really encouraging. Regardless of who is in the band we really are at square one but I relish the challenge to prove ourselves and stand up on our own two feet.

Message for your fans…

Honestly, thank you for being there and for taking the time to buy our music, get involved and generally fly the flag for us. We really have our own little community now and it’s fantastic to witness and be a part of. Thank you.

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