The name, or I should say his name-in-art of Timothy Lewis, better known as Thighpaulsandra, is commonly matched to that of Coil; when he joined the band after meeting John Balance, he managed to enliven the creative fire of the band and to persuade the formerly hermetic group to get out of the darkness and perform on live stages. Tim also kept on honoring his partners in art in Coil after they passed away by compiling and editing the first photographic art book of Coil co-founder Peter Christopherson as well as a book of John Balance’s little known sketches and drawings, titled ‘Bright Lights and Cats With No Mouth’ (published by Timeless in 2014). His solo project to spread his own music was strongly encouraged by both Christopherson and Balance, and thanks to their support and to that piece of advice, we can appreciate absolutely amazing outputs by Thighpaulsandra today. After I was delighted by the tracks on his last one “Practical Electronics with Thighpaulsandra” (released in March 2019 by Editions Mego), I managed to deliver some questions to the author. Check out his interesting answers down below.
Chain DLK: Hi, Tim! How are you?
Thighpaulsandra: Very well, thank you.
Chain DLK: You don’t really need introductions in my opinion, particularly to all those who more or less deeply know Coil. Some of your former Coil mates persuaded you to spread some stuff as a solo artist, didn’t they? Your debut as Thighpaulsandra came out on Eskaton (why not on Threshold House?) as well… Did any particular member of Coil interfere in your creative process?
Thighpaulsandra: John Balance and Sleazy were both very supportive of my solo material. I would not say that they interfered in any way but were keen to help if they could, and both of them chose to contribute to my solo albums by both performing and contributing to the album artwork. The first three releases were on Eskaton because I don’t think Threshold House existed at that point.
Chain DLK: Your first appearance on a Coil album was on the occasion of “Musick To Play In The Dark”… How do you remember the work on that wonderful output?
Thighpaulsandra: No, my first appearance on a Coil record was the Prescription Records original vinyl release of Astral Disaster, which was recorded in 1998 but released in 1999. “Musick To Play In The Dark” was my second appearance later the same year. It was the beginning of an exceptionally creative period which I enjoyed immensely. I remember spending many weeks working on the album with John and Sleazy at their studio in Weston Super Mare. It was close to the sea, so the quality of the light was a great inspiration. We drank lots of tea and ate cakes. Although we hadn’t known each other very long at this point, we all felt a very strong bond immediately and the thrill of mutual musical discovery was very potent.
Chain DLK: Is there any Coil album where your musical veins and ideas influenced the sound more than other ones, in your opinion?
Thighpaulsandra: “Music To Play In The Dark 1&2,” “Constant Shallowness Leads To Evil” (which is probably my favorite) and “Queens Of The Circulating Library.”
Chain DLK: Both some lyrics of your recent outputs (in particular, the ones of Brown Pillows) and your biography surmised a pretty well-known Coil song to me, “The Last Amethyst Deceiver”… Do you pay respect to vultures?
Thighpaulsandra: Vultures are a constant problem, and we seem to be surrounded by them. If your question is really about whether or not Coil influenced my work, then the answer is undoubtedly yes. It was impossible to work with such wonderful people and not be influenced by them.
Chain DLK: You recorded your previous album The Golden Communion in a secluded place in Western Wales (Golliwog Farm in Pontypridd, right?), didn’t you? Which location did you choose for Practical Electronics With…? Is the cover a clue of the location?
Thighpaulsandra: The Golden Communion was recorded partly at Golliwog Farm but also at my current studio Aeriel in West Wales. “Practical Electronics” was recorded entirely at Aeriel Studios. The cover photograph was taken in my secret laboratory where I perform electronic experiments on young men.
Chain DLK: A question on some of your old entries… That awesome trance-inducing ambient suite turned into a bizarre psycho-abstract hybridization of electronic whirls, progressive kraut a la Can and industrial noises titled Michel Publicity Window… Do you remember the source of inspiration?
Thighpaulsandra: No, I don’t remember exactly, but at that time I had been listening to Faust IV and other Krautrock albums a lot so I suspect they had some influence. The drone sections were probably inspired by Tony Conrad and La Monte Young.
Chain DLK: “He is a wonderful bright Pagan STAR in his own rite and I are very happy he accepted my invitation. Now we are 5 sided.” These were the words by which John Balance talked about you and your joining to Coil… How do you feel when you read his introduction today?
Thighpaulsandra:I feel very sad that John is not still here and we are not still making wonderful music with Sleazy. I miss them both very much. They were both great teachers on many levels and a source of inspiration to me. I will be eternally grateful to them for letting me be part of their world.
Chain DLK: Besides its bizarre cover (can you tell us something about that as well?), your Chamber Music orbits around stuff that someone might label as New Music / Free Improv today. What would you label as really new in contemporary music?
Thighpaulsandra:I don’t really listen to other people’s music very much these days, so that question would be difficult to answer. I don’t deliberately try to mould my music to any genre, I just do what comes naturally.
Chain DLK: One of your recent projects I really appreciate is Uruk, the one with Zu’s bass player Massimo Pupillo… Any forthcoming issue after Mysterium Coniunctionis?
Thighpaulsandra: Yes, we have a new live album, “The Descent Of Innana” recorded at Cave 12, Geneva available from www.thighpaulsandra.co.uk. We have started work on a new Uruk album which will probably be released next year.
Chain DLK: Can you introduce “Practical Electronics with…” in your own words?
Thighpaulsandra: Practical Electronics grew from the requirement to play shows without my group. Many promoters do not want to invest in a four-piece group playing challenging material of minority interest. It occurred to me that I should write some music that I could perform solo, and so that is how those songs came about. There will probably be more songs in this style, but I’m still writing and recording group and instrumental based material too.
Chain DLK: The title evokes the ones used for DIY or IT handbooks…Any “didactic” intent behind it?
Thighpaulsandra: Certainly not. The title and cover art is a parody of the popular UK DIY electronics magazines of the 1960s and 70s. The covers often featured serious-looking amateurs prodding around with a soldering iron. I thought I would combine this idea with one of my usual homoerotic covers in rather a tongue-in-cheek style. My humor was obviously lost on the editor of The Quietus, as he found the cover offensive and refused to review it.
Chain DLK: In Brown Pillows, I noticed a certain relation between the words of the lyrics and sounds that seem to translate them… What can you say about this relation between word and sound in “Practical Electronics with…?”
Thighpaulsandra: I always try to complement my lyrics with appropriate tonal colors. The sounds and the lyrics often seed each other in unexpected ways which, of course, I revel in. Incongruity is often the key.
Chain DLK:Any work in progress?
Thighpaulsandra: Yes, I’m constantly writing and working on new things. I spend almost every day in the studio, sometimes writing, sometimes experimenting, but always recording. I also have a few new collaborations planned although, for now, they must remain secret. I have also been mixing a series of Coil live recordings from tours around 2002. The first of these was released last month on my Retractor label.