Paul Morrice is the prime mover behind electronic act Cynthia’s Periscope and is also involved in Tilted Fiction Promotions. It’s a promotions company that specialises in bringing exciting and innovative music to Manchester; predominately focussing on electronic music. This month they’ll be bringing together an eclectic array of experimental electronic artists to perform at Electric Matinee, which is being held at Aatma in Manchester this month.
First up Paul, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Sure! I moved to Manchester from Scotland pretty much on a whim in 2010, since then I’ve played in various bands mainly as a guitarist. For a number of years, I was making electronic and experimental music as a side project. After my last band broke up I thought it was time to focus fully on Cynthia’s Periscope. Last year I began organising DIY gigs under the name Tilted Fiction Promotions. I have also recently started studying and working in Audio Engineering before that I was working as an Electronic Engineer. I’m really enjoying learning about something technical and scientific, but with creativity being the driving force and the end result. I think that for most musicians today, having a good understanding of modern music technology is as useful as being able to read sheet music was a couple of centuries ago.
What’s the story behind Cynthia’s Periscope and how would you describe your sound?
The story behind the name itself is a bit silly really. When I was young my neighbour Cynthia used to look after me when my mother was at work. She had this handheld computer game which you would place over your eyes like a pair of binoculars and you would be completely immersed within the game. When I wrote the first few songs for Cynthia’s Periscope I was striving to create something that would immerse the listener into my world.
The sound I go for is basically the sound of someone wanting to have their cake and eat it too. I like to take ideas from the musically extremities and incorporate those ideas in to what is essentially pop music. For example, I was listening to Mayshe Mayshe the other day and the song I was listening to was really catchy, but at the same time it had this abrasive sample of a blender on it. On my next EP I’ve recorded this really melodic 90-second long song, the next track on the EP is this 15-minute epic which came out of my improvising with running my voice through a guitar multi-effects pedal. That’s what to expect, I embrace pop music as much as I do experimental music.
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
I think that after a few years of making music, most musicians could no longer define what inspires them it just becomes a compulsive habit that you continue anyway! It’s like asking why someone plays Golf, they probably spend half the time enjoying it and the other half of the time they’re probably frustrated about not being better at it. Really what motivates me is witnessing a great live performance, feeling like you’re watching something that hasn’t been done in that way before. As for specific artists I’ve been listening to The Knife a lot recently.
As well as being a musician, your involved in music promotion. You’re putting on an event in Manchester called Electric Matinee – could you tell us a bit more about it?
It’s on Sunday 15th October at Aatma from 4pm. There are six acts playing, the common thread between the acts is there is an electronic element to their music and performance. The idea behind the event is to challenge peoples’ preconceptions about electronic music and how, where and when it is performed. I think people tend to associate electronic music with club nights and DJ’s. I thought it would be an interesting idea to have live electronic music in a setting and situation more normally associated with acoustic music, in this case a Sunday afternoon.
In terms of musical style, it’s a fairly diverse line up. We’ve got Primitive Knot, a duo who make psychedelic drone; Mutabase, from Madrid whose performances are very visceral and subversive; Kapil Seshasayee from Glasgow, his music has elements of noise rock and post rock with bafflingly meticulous drum programming; Rickerly who writes other worldly abstract electronica, his performances are very theatrical; Toom who writes beautiful industrial soundscapes overlaid with intimate baritone vocals and I’ll be performing a set too.
How do you find switching between being a performer to taking on the role of promoter? It must give you some interesting insights. How do you find juggling the two roles?
Switching between different roles certainly has made me see things in a different light, for example I’m sure every musician has questioned why they need to arrive at the venue hours before the gig. Once you promote shows or do live Sound Engineering you realise how much time it can take to get everyone sound checked and it’s always wise to have some breathing space in case things don’t go exactly to plan.
I’m finding promoting shows, as well playing them, has made me become a bit more of an outward looking person. I’m quite happy to spend the day listening to other people’s music and I feel in general I have become more passionate about music made by others. Previously, I would spend the majority of my free time working on my own music and it can be a very solitary pursuit. For example, I have about 50 tracks on my Soundcloud page and loads of them were written over a few intense months a couple of years ago. I just shut out the outside world and worked as much as possible. I enjoy doing that to an extent but for me it has to be balanced with making connections with people. I definitely have an admiration for people who are crazily productive and can keep creating more and more music but personally I was beginning to feel like I should spend more time finding new music which in turn could inspire me to try new techniques when writing.
What’s up next for Cynthia’s Periscope and Tilted Fiction Promotions? Any upcoming gigs, any new music on the horizon, other projects? Will there be similar events to Electric Matinee in the future?
On 15th Oct, I’ll be releasing Papier-mâché Planet, a new Cynthia’s Periscope EP. The songs all have kind of sci-fi sounds and lyrics inspired by astronomy. I’ve made it sound like prog rock or something when it’s actually pretty poppy!
As for other projects, my partner and I have a project called Dreams in Teal, we’ve been working on a second EP for a while. The production is quite similar to Cynthia’s Periscope but I keep things more stripped down and melodic. My partner, Tonya brings in influences from 90’s RnB and trip hop.
I have got a number of Cynthia’s Periscope gigs coming up. On Fri 13th Oct I will be supporting Thomas Truax at the Castle, Manchester. He’s definitely one to see live! He makes his own instruments and has a very old-school approach to his inventions. He has made a drum machine that is entirely electro-mechanically, I think a basic rule is you won’t find a computer chip in any of his inventions. Then I’m playing Electric Matinee on Sun 15th Oct and A Carefully Planned Farewell on Sat 21st Oct.
As for Tilted Fiction Promotions, after Electric Matinee I’ll be organising a show at The Peer Hat on Thurs 8th Nov with Ecka Mordecai & Kate Armitage, OLA, Venusian plus Rik Andrive. It’s going to be an interesting night as it’s a combination of neo-classical and electronic music, I’m excited to see how those two worlds can come together!