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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

The Silent Well: an interview with Douga

An interview with Johnny Winbolt-Lewis, the man behind the new record from Manchester based band Douga.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Douga by David Tolu Graham
Douga by David Tolu Graham.

Former member of Keith and Plank! drummer Johnny Winbolt-Lewis has released The Silent Well with his new band Douga. Much of the record was made at the Seed Studios where Winbolt-Lewis volunteers, working with people who suffer from psychological distress, and the sensitivities of those he comes into contact with have indirectly influenced this laid back record, rich in sonic textures and psychedelic influences.

Douga The Silent Well interview review
Douga by Simon McLaren.

We talked before when you were part of your previous incarnation Keith – how did you get involved with your latest band Douga and where does the name come from?
It started life as a solo venture, which I was doing whilst in Keith and then when I played drums in Plank! My parents gave me the nickname of ‘Douga‘ when I was younger cos of my endless imagination. To be honest it probably doesn’t make much sense, although I’ve always seen being creative as an extension of that childlike wonder. It is actually a name which derives from west Africa, having read ‘In Griot Time‘. This is purely coincidence but a nice one since as I’m so in awe of the music from this part of the world.

Douga The Silent Well interview review
What were the inspirations behind the lyrics of the songs on new album The Silent Well?
There’s a bit of disillusionment in the order and status quo we live in and various introspective thoughts, but I’m not one for dissecting lyrics too much. I like the listener to find their own interpretations and projections (sorry to be so clichéd).

You enjoy creating unorthodox textures in your tunes, how are these achieved in practice?
I think Douga live and on record are two separate entities at the moment. That’s not to say this will always be the way. Myself and John Waddington made most of these tracks. I think a lot of the more esoteric textures were the work of John, who works well with those layers which juxtapose the melody. He used his Casio keyboards with various pedals, or played the electric with metallic objects to gain those shimmering drones. Also, Dan Bridgewood-Hill (one of the most versatile and gifted musicians in Manchester IMO) created his inimitable style with the violin. We tended to start with the rhythmic instruments first and then the guitar. After that came the more leftfield / psyched out stuff – the fun part!

Douga
I believe you recorded the album in an unusual studio, can you tell us more about it?
We recorded the bulk of it at Seed Studios in Trafford. It’s a space used by people suffering from various mental health problems. I do various music related projects there and the place pays back by allowing me to record. It’s a pretty big building with various spaces to setup to record. We used mainly our equipment there and had a lot of assistance from Raul Careno (also a volunteer).

How has the Manchester music scene shaped your music making?
I’m not sure it has greatly. We probably live outside any scene cos we’re fairly introverted people. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy a lot of music that’s being made in this city currently. One thing I am inspired by is the prolific rate at which some musicians put new stuff out. We’re currently recording our next record. I think you want to build up your catalogue to show people what you’re about! I guess this first collection of tunes is more downbeat that we are when we play live and the way the next record is panning out will reflect a more upbeat side of the band.

Where does the footage come from in Still Waters?
Galen Milne-Hines told us it was comprised of material from the Prelinger Archives and other sources in the public domain. There’s some manipulation of the colours as well.

Where can fans catch you live this year?
We play A Carefully Planned Festival in Manchester in October. We’re currently booking dates around the country at this sort of time. Expect London, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield shows.

The Silent Well by Douga was released in May 2014 via Do Make Merge Records.

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