Will Sergeant of Poltergeist chats to The Upcoming
Instrumental trio Poltergeist are currently touring the UK following the release of their debut record Your Mind Is a Box (Let Us Fill It with Wonder) earlier this year. The group consists of original Echo and the Bunnymen members Will Sergeant (guitar) and Les Pattinson (bass), alongside Nick Kilroe on drums.
In a brief Q&A, Will Sergeant discusses the origin of the band’s ghostly moniker and the pros and cons of self-releasing records.
The name Poltergeist evokes a spooky feeling, reflected in the otherworldly nature of a lot of your music. What came first, the name or the sound?
The name dates back to my first awakening to the possibilities of music being something other than popular chart music. In about 1970 I had a school friend whose Dad made him an electric guitar from a kit. We would dream of being in a band as we failed to try and play the guitar. We had been experimenting with a Ouija board at the time – with our conversations with the dead, the word poltergeist had been brought to our attention. We thought it was a great name for a band so our fictitious band became Poltergeist, now it just seems to fit with this new project.
I don’t think of the spooky connotations of the word. Do you think of a lovely green oasis when you hear that band name? Or a tortoise or a mogwai (Chinese demon) when you hear those band names? The word becomes something else, something of its own.
Was the project always intended to be an instrumental one or did you ever consider having a vocalist?
I always wanted it to be instrumental – I think this question only gets asked because Les and I are so tied in with the Bunnymen singer; if we were a new unknown band just starting up it would just be accepted. It’s not as though instrumental music is that rare – just look to the jazz and classical worlds… or the post-rock world – loads of bands with little or no vocal. We make vibrations in the air that can have an affect on you emotionally. You can make your own journey, we are not imposing things on you via lyrical content: we have made you free as a listener. It’s not gonna change the world – John Lennon was asked what he thought the Beatles had done to change the world and he replied: “A few people grew their hair long for a short time” .
Poltergeist certainly tips its hat to the Krautrock bands of the 70s. How old were you when you first discovered these bands and what is it about the genre that continues to influence you?
Kraftwerk were the first German band I discovered, closely followed by Tangerine Dream. I don’t think we sound like either of those bands and I’m not that sure that we sound like any of the Kraut bands really. I think the nearest you could come is Neu. I like the insistent Motorik beat and the promise that anything is possible.
Your Mind is a Box (Let Us Fill It with Wonder) was financed through PledgeMusic.com. Was this the only viable route for release?
This was the only route for us – we never sought out any other routes. If I was a boss of a large record company I would not be too keen to sign a band containing two members of a moderately successful 80s band that were now making instrumental music. That demo would have gone straight in the bin, and on paper it does look like a non-starter. The Bunnymen have been so dominated by the singer’s outspoken rhetoric that I and the rest of the band faded into the background. The common perception is that the frontman is the leader. If you listen to our record the truth is obvious.
If you get into bed with a big label the first thing they try and do is kill the thing that attracted them in the first place, because they think they know better. They are trying to sell sell sell. Their expertise is in the pop world – this is not a world I have ever felt comfortable in. I wanted Poltergeist to be in our control and not influenced by outside elements. I am quite happy to have left that world.
Are there any drawbacks to this method of financing?
I would say the only drawback is the timescale: you have to get everything manufactured by a given date. This can be tight and if something gets f***ed up or someone is ill or the CD/vinyl pressing plant is behind, things can get a bit messy. You have to keep on top of everything, which is hard sometimes.
You’ve all played large stadiums with Echo and the Bunnymen. How does the big arena experience compare with the smaller venues that you’re playing with Poltergeist?
I prefer playing small venues and I always have – I like to see the crowd right there in front of me.
You all have various other projects that you’re involved in. Can we expect some more music from Poltergeist in the future?
Yes, we will be getting on to some new stuff very soon.
Are you a fan of any current bands?
I like the odd thing here and there but I can never get into them the same way as the ones that I listened to as a kid. Pink Floyd, (Gabriel’s) Genesis, The Doors etc. All the usual suspects from my past with the odd punk band – Television, Pere Ubu, Suicide, that kind of thing.
For further information and future events visit Poltergeist’s website here.
Watch the video for Your Mind Is a Box (Let Us Fill It With Wonder) here: