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Simon - Post Launch Interview Transcript

Jo McNerney in conversation with Simon Withers.

The air is electric and the atmosphere is full of storm colours. A deluge of biblical proportions has just washed the city. The air is humid. Simon Withers and I arrive at the entrance to the International Nut Pop Café approximately at the same time. Simon is just folding up his black umbrella that has as part of its design some Magrritte-inspired cloud formations contained in the underbelly of the brolly. We find a table; a waiter is dressed in a formal black dinner suit. The waiter is also wearing a white face mask. He takes our menu order from us. The waiter returns to us moments later and presents to us some complimentary bottles of mineral water. These are placed upon circular paper mats, the mats immediately begin to soak up the dripping wetness that has formed on the ice cold bottles. There are no glasses, instead we are given two straws each. One black and one white. Sucking the water up into my mouth through both straws I take in my surroundings. The water has a hint of lemon in it.

JM : I can imagine Z00 performing in an environment that is comparable to this.

SW : Yes, the owners of the International Nut Pop Café share similar concerns to us. They are not only interested in the big concept but they are sticklers for getting in to the environment all the fine detail. Its total dedication to the idea; I admire them for that. The management is into 'PO theory'. I think we should have a different waiter, one with a happy mask.

JM : What struck me about the event that Z00 held within the artist studios was the care and attention the band gave to the detail.

SW : Since we were having to convert what are usually artists' studios into a more conducive environment for a music performance, we needed to give consideration as to how we were going to present ourselves to the invited audience and also to the unknown public. You cannot invite an audience into an environment and not make them feel part of the event. We wanted them to experience something a little different and at the same time experience the environment without feeling obligated to just stand there and watch us perform.

JM : As I walked around both rooms during the performance I was aware that many people were happy to spend the evening moving between the performance area and the bar environment. I was taken with the real-time projection on to the white fabric that was in the bar area. I liked the fact that you could still see the band perform but be in a different room to the music. This really helped bring the two spaces together.

SW : We had various people helping out in that part of the room. We wanted them to feel part of the occasion. After all they were providing a service that was essential in making the whole event a success. A monitor was also installed in that room which projected images that had been compiled for a Powerpoint™ presentation. This Powerpoint™ show was also projected over the band during the performance. We wanted movement through the whole environment.

JM : There was even a comfy sofa to languish about in the bar area. I noticed some of the obliging public lounging about in the sofa, looking at the television screen and tapping their feet in time to the music.

SW : In some ways we created an environment that was a little unusual yet comforting. The music also does the same. Our sound can be strangely familiar yet it has an undercurrent of being able to attack when you least expect it. It bites as it feeds.

JM : You make it sound as if it has a life of its own.

SW : There were occasions when the music attained that level of independence. Reg and I were talking about this after the performance. We both particularly felt that during our performance of "Water and Sand". The instrumental section really opened up. There was incredible space in which I could punctuate rhythmical changes, across and through the sound that we were all generating. The sound had a physicality and yet it moved through the ether with such lightness.

JM : What did you find memorable about the event

SW : I was very pleased with the way our environment looked, from the use of artworks on the walls to the consideration we gave to housing the public. We borrowed some tables and chairs for the occasion. Part of an old sculpture formed a rather fetching drinks shelf. Denise and I had fun setting this up, juxtaposing three of Denise's Doll Head paintings in line with three bar stools that were borrowed from a fellow studio member. It looked like an installation work. Reg and Karen had spent a considerable amount of time preparing all the graphics work for us. Reg recorded a health and safety public service announcement. I loved that. They also assembled all the audio visual material. Paul, Reg and Karen assembled the CD package.

JM : That covers the pre-performance involvement and so once you had created the environment, how did you find the actual event.

SW : We all had so much to do throughout the evening, performing became only one aspect. What I remember during the performance was seeing how each band member had risen to the occasion whilst on stage; performances grew. Each member pushed themselves and extended their own performance. The confidence shown can be illustrated by the strong visual presence created by both Denise and Karen when they stepped out beyond the monitors and into no-man's-land to perform "Summertime". There was a high level of entertainment brought into the evening.

JM : How would you say "An Evening with Z00" went?

SW : We were pleased with the attendance figures; I have been informed that it was in excess of seventy persons. The music was well received and we would like to host another performance in the studio spaces, maybe sometime in December.

JM : I look forward to it; thank you Simon.

For their lunch at The International Nut Pop Café, Jo had English Asparagus tips with Grated parmesan. Simon had Sautéed mushrooms with Jerusalem artichokes with sage. They shared Mixed roasted vegetables with rosemary. A bottle of Sancerre was also served. Salute!