In The Nursery - interview 2005

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"All good music resembles something. Good music stirs by its mysterious resemblance to the objects and feelings which motivated it. " (J.C.)

And In The Nursery have definetely been making stirring music... A few weeks before enjoying that live at Elfentanz Festival v.4, we've had the opportunity to ask the Humberstone twins about objects, feelings and motivations. Klive and Nigel's journey from the teenage post-punk to the "bombastic", through art, literature, cinema, technology, experimentation and -first of all- music...
"For lust of knowing what should not be known, We take the Golden Road to Samarkand."
an interview with


  •  Since Nigel himself, has had experience with interviews like these, from both sides, let's hope that he will be kind with this first question and the whole interview as well.. So, why "In The Nursery"?

    Klive: The name is a phrase from a book, maybe even from an Enid Blyton Childrens book - not exactly sure. But when we were confronted with our first live performance, there was some necessity to find a name for our band, to put on the poster. At the time we wrote a lot of lyrics on childhood themes - innocence, autism and conditioning.The phrase 'in the nursery' seemed to fit well with the general ethos of the band, including the artwork and imagery we were using. It's one of those things, that after the first concert...the name 'stuck'


  •  I have had a reverse progress with the ITN works, therefore I have to admit I was a bit shocked while listening to "Twins", an early album of yours.. Going back to those formative years of the early 80s, what can you recall from that time? How did it all begin? Is it a constant search of identity, that when you find it, you immediately feel "at home"? Or maybe it's all about music, just playing, creating with no specific purpose? Is there actually a purpose at that time beyond getting people to listen to you? Can you think of an actual moment that you thought: "This is In the Nursery!"?

    Klive: We have always made music for our own personal enjoyment. If it feels good, we do it. Music is my channel for self expression - I studied Fine Art at College and after 4 years had decided that music was the means for expressing my ideas into reality. Sometimes a certain project or commission can detract from the original intentions, but it is always refreshing, challenging to undertake new ventures, thereby learning more about the music making process and techniques and then applying what is learnt on a more personal level.

    Nigel: I can see how new listeners may be bemused by ITN's formative years and early recording - but for those that have followed our music through the years there is a definite natural progression. Each album would not have been possible without what went before.


  •  Your home basis is still in Sheffield. How are things in the Sheffield area nowadays? Can it still provide you with enough inspiration? Is there any musical movement happening? Would you consider moving to another territory?

    Klive: I'm happy living in Sheffield, but I'm also happy to travel - the band makes that possible. Every time i read a local fanzine and there are more than two prominent bands with records out Sheffield has a new movement. It's the journalists way of formatting news. The Sheffield scene is still very active, I don't get to see a lot of it personally - but a local journalist called Martin Lilleker is just about to publish his second book on the history of Sheffield bands. This one is called "Better Than Work" and charts the period from 1976 - 1984. ITN receives a whole chapter in the unfolding story.

    Nigel: I've always felt that we could create the same music in any location but have never put that theory to the test. Sheffield works well for us even though we don't interact that much with other bands and artists in the area.



  •  I think that you're probably sick of this question but one just has to ask: What kind of twins are the Humberstone brothers? Is there any special communication between the two of you and does that influence the creative process? Haven't you ever thought of making up a nice story to give in reply to this question?

    Nigel: We're identical twins - some people can tell us apart, others who've not know us long find it harder. We're not telepathic, we just have similar tastes and interests - which is probably why we've continued working together for so long.



  •  I have read that you have had no real training in music...That strikes me as quite weird since one could find obvious classical influences in your music. I guess that it actually came from the heart then? (exactly how it should, really!)

    Klive: You seem to have answered your own question there. I don't think anyone has to be classically trained to 'understand' and be moved by orchestral music. We both don't read music - and started out by learning the very basics on guitar to emulate bands like Joy Division.
    It's always good to take on board new influences - and going to see live orchestra's perform in the early eighties had a strong effect on our sound. We had formed the band using only a marching snare drum as percussion. We added orchestral bass drums to the line-up and then tympanis after witnessing a live orchestra perform with them.

    Nigel: I believe that ITN's distinct style is a direct result of the fact the can neither read or write music. We approach music in a different way, not influenced by musical theory or rules.



  •  And then there is the ghost of Ian Curtis and Joy Division. It's remarkable how many artists this has touched, and how varied they are.

    Nigel: Joy Division have a special place in the early history of ITN - something that we've never denied and I think they still do. You can't help but feel emotion for their work.



  •  What other influences have you had and still have?

    Klive: Jean Cocteau touches and inspires for so many reasons. The artist Joseph Beuys for the very reason that 'anyone can 'be' an artist'. Both artists inspire on varying levels.

  •  And what kind of music do you listen to nowadays? Could you name something that has stroke you as exceptional?

    Klive: I still like to listen to music as much as possible. A trusty iPod and iShuffle make that a daily occurence. At the moment i am sparring Nick Cave with Neil Young, whilst interjecting some Neil Finn for a bit of levity. Next week it will be Diamond Dogs/David Bowie versus Magazine. I am enjoying 'Abattoir Blues' by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds more and more as i listen to it.

    Nigel: The Aloof have always been one of those bands that I always refer back to, but also bands like Talk Talk and Lamb.



  •  Percussion and drums are so related to your music, a very striking characteristic of yours, playing a very leading role as opposed to the usual background place. And have a strongest presence on stage as well. What has drawn you to these instruments and on the long run their sound? Has, eventually, the fetish turned to a worship?

    Klive: Not worship - although on our last European tour we were once labelled in a magazine as 'The Gods of the Bombastic", which we kind of liked.
    From the very inception of the band we were adamant that there wouldn't be space for a conventional drum kit in our sound. I believe I've answered the reasons why we chose these particular instruments in a previous question,



  •  In The Nursery are one of those artists that are blessed with fanatic audiences (almost followers) but could also easily be blamed for a certain stagnancy and non-development in sound. With your 25-year presence in the musical industry and such a strong a characteristic sound, would you agree with this opinion? Are the musical trends of any concern to you? Do you make an effort to incorporate elements of those to your sound? How easy is it to do
    that without messing up with one's character? Or maybe you treat ITN as your cult nowadays?

    Nigel: We've never attempted to associate ourselves with musical trends or fashions and have therefore never felt affiliated to any particular movement. That journalists have labeled ITN as 'industrial', 'neo-classical' or whatever is nothing to do with us. We continue to make our own form of music without compromise.
    We do, however, feel eternally grateful to our audience who come from alternative and independent musical sub-cultures throughout the world.



  •  I understand that as perfectionists you are big fans of the digital sound (even though certain early home-made effects you have created were quite charming) .What kind of technology do you use in studio?
    Do you still experiment with new stuff or have you settled on what suits ITN the most? Your top-5 of essentials/favorites?

    Klive: We are constantly experimenting with sound and different ways of composition. It's good to mix up the creative process - input sounds digitally and via analogue means, but record in the digital domain.

    Nigel: Top 5 essentials - Logic Pro 7, Apple Mac computers, Electro Harmonix Big Muff, Yamaha WX7 & HTS 200 marching snare drum.



  •  What is more fulfilling : the creation of a new sound/loop or sample or going back to your "library" and finding old forgotten ones and reprising them, bringing them back to life?

    Nigel: Both methods are equally rewarding and valid ways of being creatively inspired.

  •  On your web-site there is a n extensive "back catalogue" of live performances as well, from your early gigs in Sheffield with bands like Artery or Death in June till the latest Praxis Tour. Does it consist of every single one of them? Do you treat your concerts with a certain degree of respect, as single momentary creations? With regards to your up-coming live appearance here in Elfentanz festival, could you give us a brief description of what should we expect to see on stage?
    Klive: Playing in Athens at this years Elfentanz Festival will certainly be memorable for us. It has been a long time dream to perform in Greece.Our live shows are a culmination of many aspects of ITN - a cherry pick of the most upbeat songs from the ITN catalogue, a full onslaught of orchestral percussion, sultry vocals and electronica. We normally perform songs that stretch right across the history of the band. Songs like 'Mystery' (which is now over 24 years old) still get performed. As well as the band, we have talented sound engineer and lighting technician, both will be travelling with us to the show in Athens
  •  In the Nursery are the Humberstone brothers. Dolores (and Q while still there), even though credited in every album, in my mind (and generally) I guess, are not considered ITN.

    Nigel: Q has not recorded with ITN since 1993 and has not performed live since 2000. We now have a new drummer David Clarkson who will be performing with us in Greece. ITN is essentially the twins, with Dolores & David providing studio and live work as and when needed.


  •  Nevertheless, one can actually notice a turn to a more "band" form in the latest couple of albums. This, combined with your optical music series, could be considered as a division to your original vision: the songs (ITN) as opposed to the music (Optical). Also the more dance-oriented Les Jumeaux have been silent for quite a while. What is happening to In the Nursery lately? Is there such actual development (" friction, collision, exploration & reflection") taking place? What does the future hold for its listeners? Do you have any work in progress at the moment? I would love to see to some new concept work following.

    Nigel: Since starting the Optical Music Series we've attempted to alternate album projects between soundtrack and studio releases - so ITN is still very active. To be honest there has not been the time to work on a third Les Jumeaux album. Having finished the recent long term project 'Electric Edwardians' we are now starting work on the next ITN studio album - and yes there will be a concept but we're not sure what just yet! It will undoubtedly make itself clear.



  •  In addition to this, I'd also like to pinpoint a certain change of artwork style in the last two albums...from retro and poetic to more modern (abstract or minimal).

    Nigel: Things change.

  • itnsmall1Speaking of Dolores Marguerite..she's the woman behind a great percentage of ITN lyrics and vocals. A charming woman, talented, dynamic and easy to fall in love with, I guess. I understand that you've been friends for quite a long time, that she leads another completely different life apart from ITN (full-time job and a family) and that you work together in brief sessions, recording and performing. This long-distance thing, as a result, works for or against the music? Do think that the different stimuli enhance creativity?

    Klive: Well it has worked well in the past and continues to do so. I guess
    we should get Dolores to add something herself, but unfortunately she
    is in China at the moment - that's the way it works....multi-lingual
    and multi-global.

  •  When I first got in touch with ITN, I used to love listening to songs first thing in the morning, finding that it cleared up my head and provided a nice transition to reality. Maybe you would find this question weird, but I was wondering...Have you ever thought of what someone could be doing, what sort of activities could he be or not be engaged into (effect), while listening to an In The Nursery album (cause) ?

    Klive: We know all too well the wide spectrum of uses for our music. From the more general presence on film trailers and commercials to the more intimate moments at weddings and funerals. Moments sat in a tranquil bar in a far off land to the crunching beats of a nightclub sound system. Times when nothing else can drag you from the depths of despair to music therapy groups. Music touches us all on such a personal level - it's a constant, daily companion and to have have our music chosen is
    a great honour.

    Nigel: It's be fascinating and humbling to receive correspondence from individuals who are creatively inspired by our music - to have that beneficial effect is amazing.

  •  "Anatomy of a poet" is a concept album delving deep inside creativity, sentiment and even self-destruction ...It's a wonderful moment, for the music is very inspired, blending beautifully with the singing and the narrations. This album though has a peculiar effect on lingers somewhere between tragedy and high intelligence...And in the end something must die! It seems like an interlude, every time I listen to it there is this anxiety of closure, augmented by the closing words: "The fire is out, and spent the warmth thereof.. This is the end of every song man sings"
    Was there actually something there at this period of time for In The Nursery or you as individuals? Is it merely a purposeful effect, a way to pay your respects to "Scripta Manent"? Or maybe just none of the above..?

    Nigel: I've not come across Scripta Manent before, but having done a quick search it looks a very interesting subject. The concept behind Anatomy of a Poet is all about the self destructive nature of creative individuals. It is also a homage to romantic writers and poets. The subject matter is therefore both tragic and illuminating.

  •  I find no use in asking you about beloved novelists and poets since I consider that the choices in the albums are representative of that...Donne, Dowson, Wilde, Khayyam ...and countless other influences. What I would like to know, is how you chose a certain poem or extract to dress up in your music?

    Klive: We were very fortunate with the choice of Poets/Poems on 'Anatomy of a Poet'. When we recorded Colin Wilson at his home in Cornwall, he picked passages from his favourite 'Romantic' poets, such as the ones you mention. His library was, and is, very extensive, running to tens of thousands of books, many housed in seperate cabins within the garden grounds. We had initially played him the musical recordings and he instinctively chose the poems that were a) his favourites , but b) had the right metre and tempo for the songs. I suppose we do this with a lot of the spoken word used in our recordings, the timbre, tone and meaning are all brought into the equation as to 'why' and 'what' we work wit.



  •  And also extend the question to the narrators used from time to time. Colin Wilson worked so nicely and so did Q on the favorite "Red Harvest". A wishful collaboration for the future? The most stunning voice you have ever heard?

    Nigel: Colin Wilson's contribution was magical, giving the album its central thread and continuity. James Mason has one of the most distinctive voices I've heard, closely followed by Richard Burton.



  •  Destiny both as word and concept has been used from time to time (the song of destiny is on our lips all the time I guess). And then there is this in "Duality": "To open the eternal worlds, to open the immortal eyes Of man Inwards, into the worlds of thought, into Eternity".
    Do you believe in the everlasting existence of the soul as opposed to the corruptible body? Any thoughts on after life? Could Art be a form of that for the artist?

    Klive: We are but a rock revolving.....quite amazing that we perceive and have achieved so much as a human race.

  •  This question is something of a vow of honor...About "Sense" :"to cure the soul by means of the senses and the sense by mean of the soul". Is this one of the greatest secrets in life? Since it seems to have lead Mr. Dorian to disintegration...But I find that he missed the two-ways interaction in it..

    Klive: I think this quote relates to the use of the mind. Being able to overcome problems purely by thought. Colin Wilson's books are a life long assessment of this notion.

  •  Should there be a measure in fantasy, ecstasy and amending oblivion? And where does music fit in all this (Could it be hope?)? This line of songs in the album has intrigued me a lot (even though instrumentals or maybe because of it): the atmospheric "Memoirs" followed by the powerful "Angelchrome" (which has always allured me as a meaning) and then "Sinistral" , which somehow is like a look back on "the boy behind the curtain". "Sense" can be so thought-provoking in many ways, but I would like your sense of it..

    Nigel: I can appreciate your interest - but to analyse and explain would be to de-mystify the material and the subject. And it's not that I have the definitive explanation - we all have so many different perceptions and interpretations of music, that's what makes it so personal for the individual listener.


  •  "A rose is a rose is a rose", once was said by a woman. Where would its miracle lie as found by two men and do you believe in it? How important are aesthetics to creativity and to what extend is beauty a hindrance for further and more inwards invocation?

    Klive: That's Gertrude Stein who wrote about a rose - she said that she wrote "as if the fact of writing something were continually becoming true and completing itself, not as if it were leading to something." In a similar vein, when we write and compose our music, we try not 'dissect' its reasoning too much. That would destroy the process.

    Nigel: And the final outcome.



  •  You seem to be deeply engaged in you Optical Music series. What will be the next step from that project? Do you aspire big-scale music making for the movie industry? I think that since the films aren't that widely known to the public (especially the silent ones), the releases should be followed by that as well, in order to achieve a full effect (even though difficult I imagine).

    Klive: The last Optical Music Series project we worked on was different in many ways. 'Electric Edwardians', the films of Mitchell and Kenyon, portray the Edwardian period in England during 1900-1913. We wrote music for more than 30, two-minute films. Creating the music was very
    challenging. What at first seemed restrictive was turned into something beautifully focused.

  •  Attrition and And Also The Trees both contributed to your remix album. We had the pleasure of watching the latter performing live in the previous Elfentanz Festival (and the first could be a suggestion to the organizer for the future).These, alongside ITN, are bands originating from the 80s but still alive, kicking and producing. A sign of our times, have been all the reunions taking place
    lately...Dead Can Dance, Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins..Could it be that music these days lacks and misses the 80s feeling (and the early 4AD aura)? Can we find visionaries nowadays? What is your opinion on this and would you attend any of them?

    Klive: I'm sure everyone has 'teenage' bands that they remember fondly. The passing of time enhances the fond memories - its the 'best of' / 'greatest hits' syndrome - everything condensed that make it all the more it 'nostalgia'. I still go and see bands like 'The Buzzcocks' and 'The Vibrators' perform live when they pass through Sheffield - it's good for the soul.



  •  Please leave us with your Favorite In The Nursery moment..a piece of work that each of you love the most...And with some final words, as beautiful as those that you leave us with in each album...

    Nigel: With now nearly 400 recorded works it's very difficult to pick just one piece - but if pushed I'd be content to lie back and be overtaken by the sounds of The Golden Journey..


    Interview by Maria Karagkouni
March 2005