May 20, 2005



Aqualung releases first U.S. disc

It's not a greatest hits album per se, but Strange and Beautiful (Columbia), the first U.S. album by British singer/pianist Matt Hales -- who operates under the name Aqualung -- does contain prime cuts from his two previous U.K. discs.

Nevertheless, selecting a dozen total tracks from 2002's Aqualung and 2003's Still Life for the stateside release wasn't done overnight.

According to Hales, he took time sequencing the songs he selected, and they were remixed so that Strange and Beautiful, which was released in March, would "have the authentic flow and feel of an album in its own right, rather than have it be sort of cut and paste."

Hales recently took some time during a recent North American trek to talk about Strange and Beautiful, touring America and plans for his next album. You had a tour within a tour in March, playing a handful of mini-gigs over several days during the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. What are your memories of that experience? Was it a whirlwind, or did it seem like time stood still between each show?
Matt Hales: SXSW has a very particular flavor, and it tastes pretty mental! So, being so busy got us in that crazy headspace that makes perfect sense whilst you're there. But when we stopped and left Austin, we all felt kinda odd.

What's your take on American audiences vs. British audiences?
Hales: Once you get used to being in mythical cities like Philadelphia or Chicago, it's surprisingly similar. We're just starting to get going here, but that weird Aqualung feeling is nevertheless happening onstage much of the time.

Talk about the assembly, for lack of a better word, of Strange and Beautiful. Was song selection a long process? Did you pick all of the songs yourself, or were other people involved?
Hales: One of the conditions of going the compilation route was that I got to choose the running order. It was surprisingly easy in the end. The two original records definitely share certain atmosphere and they sat together well.

Finding the pool of 12 songs wasn't too hard; getting just the right sequence took a bit of fiddling, but once I decided to end the record with "Another Little Hole," it started to fall into place.

About how much time was spent on remixing the songs for the U.S. release of Strange and Beautiful?
Hales: There were a couple of songs from the first album that needed beefing up a little to get them to work right in the compilation. I used existing remixes where available and did a couple of new things myself.

What key elements were changed during the remixes to, as you say in your press kit, "sonically bridge the gap" between the two U.K. discs and create an "authentic flow" throughout Strange and Beautiful?
Hales: A good example is Jim Copperthwaite's remix of "Falling Out of Love." The original is incredibly stark; he filled it in with these Isaac Hayes strings, which sat great alongside the strings in "Brighter Than Sunshine" and "Breaking My Heart."

Did you want to include a few new songs on Strange and Beautiful, or was the plan all along to only take tracks from your two U.K. albums?
Hales: I really want my new album to be the same record all over the world, so I'm saving my new material for that.

Does the March release of Strange and Beautiful necessarily mean you will not release an album of new material anytime soon? If not, what's your timetable for another album?
Hales: I hope to make the new album for early 2006. I guess the earliest it would be out would be spring/summer that year.

Was allowing your song "Strange and Beautiful (I'll Put a Spell on You)" to be used in a Volkswagen commercial a tough choice to make? Why or why not?
Hales: At the time, with no record deal and no money, it was a very easy decision!

Have you crafted a standard reply when asked if adopting the Aqualung moniker was influenced by the Jethro Tull song of the same name? If so, what is it?
Hales: [It's] "No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no."

-- Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Official Aqualung site:

Aqualung on tour (schedule subject to change):

June 1: Doug Fir Lounge -- Portland, Ore.

June 3: Showbox -- Seattle

June 4: Richard's on Richards -- Vancouver

June 6: Great American Music Hall -- San Francisco

June 7: The Troubadour -- Hollywood, Calif.

June 9: The Clubhouse -- Tempe, Ariz.

June 11: Lo-Fi Cafe -- Salt Lake City

June 14: The Parish -- Austin, Texas

June 15: Gypsy Tea Room -- Dallas

June 17: City Stages festival -- Birmingham, Ala.

June 18: Red Light Cafe -- Atlanta

Posted by medleyville at May 20, 2005 08:24 PM