Ninety-Two by One: Chris Olley Interview
By Richard Lewis 23/11/2010
Hailed as one of the best bands in Britain at the tail end of the 1990s and well into the last decade, Six by Seven were highly revered by the music press and their peers. Tracks like Candlelight, IOU Love, For You and the fast food industry savaging Eat Junk, Become Junk were equal parts melody and noise, capable of switching between aggression and tenderness at a stroke. The huge critical acclaim didn’t translate into record sales however, and the group remained a cult proposition with a hardcore following. Initially inspired by the drone pop of Spiritualized and the delicate melodies of Mercury Rev, they introduced elements of electronica, punk and post-rock into the mix, forging a highly distinctive, hugely idiosyncratic sound.
As their abrasive, slow burning brilliance went unrecognized by mainstream radio, the group notched up a highly impressive set of four Peel Sessions. In recent times an echo of the band’s sound can be discerned in Elbow, who emerged around the same time and cover similar wide-ranging sonic territory. Led by British born, German raised songwriter Chris Olley (his formative years were the subject matter of debut single European Me) the singer has continued to release music via his own website and record label.
Following the eventual dissolution of Six by Seven in November 2008, lead singer, guitarist and creative force Olley returned to his first love - photography. As the band began to take off in the mid to late 1990s he found less and less time to devote to the subject and he returned, refreshed ten years later. What he then decided to undertake was a true labour of love, photographing every single football ground in the professional English league; ninety-two in total. A mammoth undertaking, the project had never been attempted before, especially not by one individual.
In keeping with the DIY aesthetic that influenced Six by Seven and informs his solo career, Olley funded the entire project himself. Setting off on a 250cc motorbike with a sat nav and his equipment, the project took two years to complete. Aside from once occasion staying at a relatives house and a single night spent in a Travelodge, he travelled back home to Nottingham every night to keep costs down. Shooting all of the grounds in stark black and white mostly on Sundays, Olley’s aim was to capture the stadiums at their most tranquil.
Monochrome also allowed him to avoid the club’s colours affecting the photographs, meaning the project has greater unison. Currently exhibited at the Derby Silk Museum until the 21st of February next year, the work can also be seen online.
Musically, being free of a band, majority decision making and the recording industry, Olley’s work rate has increased exponentially. A Streetcar Named Disaster, his 2009 debut solo work received good notices, less than a year since the end of Six by Seven. The ‘official’ releases are complemented by an ongoing programme of Six by Seven reissues, live albums, demos and bootlegs. The Blackest Soul EP, his most recent official release is entirely worthy of comparison to his old band, boasting swarms of buzzing distorted guitars, symphonic keyboard interludes, biting lyrics and Beatle-esque vocal melodies. Since releasing this in September, Six 8-Track Demos has also surfaced a raw, unvarnished affair that showcases the tracks in their inchoate state. In addition to this, Olley is co-founder of a company that specializes in the manufacture of distortion pedals and effects boxes, recent buyers including The Coral, The Arctic Monkeys and Ronnie Wood.
Nerve interviewed Chris Olley on the 92 Stadiums project, his music and the state of the national game.
Hi Chris, how are you?
How is it different working as a solo
artist as opposed to being in a band?
What inspired you to create the 92 Stadiums
project? Do you have any plans to exhibit the work anywhere else/make
it into a book?
How did it feel to finish the project
after two years work?
Who do you list as your musical influences
(visual as well) have there been additions to them in the past few years?
What current music are you listening
to/Who inspires you at the moment?
Can you hear the influence of Six by
Seven on any bands around at the present time? (I can hear an echo of
you guys in Elbow, certainly)
Do you enjoy the autonomy the 'net gives
you? No record company hassle etc.
do you feel about the current state of football? Re. asking your son who
he supported, saying it was important to stay loyal to the same team.
How do you feel about the state of the
music industry at the moment?
You released the Six 8-Track Demos EP
recently, saying you preferred the sound of analogue recording, Would
you ever become a fully fledged 'bedroom musician', recording at home?
Do you plan to keep releasing music at such a rapid rate as you have been
doing over the past twelve months?
Do you plan to put a band together to
tour the material, or will you continue to perform solo shows?
Is there anything you would like to add?
Thanks very much for your time Chris.
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