Public Service Broadcasting - Interview

Public Service Broadcasting consists of messrs J. Willgoose Esq. and his cohort Wrigglesworth. Their aptly named debut Inform-Educate-Entertain was received with widespread critical acclaim and last year’s The Race for Space was an epic depiction of some of mankind’s greatest achievements. PSB convey the wonder & amazement of information from the past, finding new relevance in old clips, brought right up to date with music of the future in such an intelligent and innovative way. Ahead of their performance at Southsea’s Victorious Festival next month we caught up with PSB to find out more …

What first turned you on to music in a big way - would you say you listen to a range of genres generally?

I’ve always loved music and been moved by it in a way that is unmatched elsewhere, but the one that really lit the touch-paper was Oasis’ Bring It On Down. Something about that song was just so exciting, it made me want to learn the guitar instantly and be in a band. Nowadays yes, I listen to pretty much everything - except some of the more extreme metal genres and two-step, I can’t really stand two-step in any form.

How do you go about sourcing the old public information films and propaganda material that you sample … will one clip sometimes inspire a song or whole project?

It tends to be the other way around these days, although certainly in the past finding some clips has led to some songs. But with The Race For Space, for example, I knew I wanted to write about, say, Apollos 8 and 11, so then it was just a case of finding interesting and new ways of presenting those while trying to avoid the most over-used lines.

Is it a very introverted process – do you spend a great deal of time trawling through archives? Has there been anything surprising you have found along the way?

It is introverted, yes, because I do the researching, writing and demo-ing mostly on my own so there’s a lot of self-doubt and all the usual fun and games that come with trying to create anything, but I don’t think I spend quite as much time trawling through archives as people imagine. I seem to get lucky with research and often hit the good stuff by accident, although I also think I have a reasonable eye for a good title – as soon as I saw ‘London Can Take It’, for example, I knew that it’d be worth watching. Some things just jump out at you, you just have to be ready and open to them.

Adapting samples for your own purposes, do you ever think of subverting their meaning out of context – are there any in-joke undercurrents only you know about?

We’ve done that pretty much from the start, yes, whether it’s poking fun at some of the more ridiculous driving safety films in Signal 30 or trying to undercut the somewhat manufactured patriotic message of Spitfire by putting a Krautrock beat behind it. On The Race For Space, E.V.A. for me is particularly ironic as the official version (‘ten minutes in space!’) differs so wildly from what actually happened – Leonov was out there for 20+ minutes and nearly died. Then they nearly died on re-entry, too! They really were a different breed. Mad, mad, brave men and women.

If you could create the soundtrack to an important upcoming event what would it be? Something technological, or maybe something in a completely different vein?

There are a lot of directors I really admire – I’d love to try and get into film scores at some point but we’re quite busy with our own stuff at the moment. We’ve also got a project in the works that would be amazing if we can get it away.

You have just released the The Race For Space Remixes album, remixed by a variety of contemporary artists showing you have massive respect from your peers. Is there anyone you have yet to work with you would like to and if you could pick any track to remix yourselves what would it be? (We think it might be amusing to see some moon landing conspiracy theory quotes slotted into a remix at some point!)

Oh god don’t start! The moon landing conspiracy stuff is so utterly, utterly depressing. It says so much about us as a race – we can be so technologically and spiritually triumphant against such odds and yet so pigheaded – wrong-headed really – and cynical that a disturbing number of people disbelieve it ever happened. But then as we’ve seen recently a lot of people have an aversion to facts and ‘experts’. Anyway, regarding the remixers, yes – we’re trying to work with a couple of different people on future projects. I never like to say too much though as there’s always a chance that people we really like think we’re terrible. Approaching people to work with them is a bit like asking someone out in that regard.

Is there anyone or anything in particular you would say are so influential that if they didn't exist you wouldn't be doing what you are now? Sometimes inspiration can be found in the strangest of places … what outside of music that really gets your creative juices flowing?

If I hadn’t heard that Archive Hour programme presented by Tom Robinson and had the idea of using the materials he mentioned then I’d never have made a PSB song I don’t think, and ironically it was Tom Robinson who ended up playing us on the radio first on his Introducing show. So many fortuitous things have happened, but then that’s life. You can’t really unpick it to that extent as there are so many millions of chance encounters across your life that change things in such massive ways.

We are looking forward to catching your live transmissions at Victorious Festival next month, are there any surprises we can look forward to in that set, will you have Mr B on visuals, any dapper new outfits?

Ha, we’ve never had any dapper outfits so we’ll be in the old tried-and-trusted cords. I think our look will probably stay the same as we move across different subjects – I think we’ll be the constant at the centre of a shifting choice of subject matters. A few things have changed since we played in 2014 though, and we’ve got some better songs and some more fun additions to the live show, so we’re looking forward to seeing how they go down.

If you had to describe yourselves in just three words, what would they be? (We would like to veto the word corduroy!)

Underwhelming. Self-effacing. Persistent.

Modest, innovative and engaging ... you can check out Public Service Broadcasting 's live transmissions at Victorious next month, they play Sunday on The Common stage.