While probably best known as the creative drum-maestro behind Modern Nature and Still Corners, when not keeping time, Jim Wallis also makes some delightful ambient post-classical music of his own. This Friday, Jim will release his debut album, Europa, a record that serves as accompaniment to the upcoming independent movie of the same name, which charts the story of an asylum seeker who takes his own life.
While perhaps not the obvious place to start writing a record, Jim began working on Europa by learning to play cello, on an instrument he inherited from his grandmother, a veteran of some 80 years of playing, prior to her death in 2012. While the cello, and its story are at the heart of the record, it is by no means the only instrument on show, with everything from droning loops of feedback to ebow and suspended cymbals played with beaters. The creativity on Europa stretches far beyond, the instrumental trickery though; at the heart of Jim’s music, as with so much instrumental music, is the ability to create a landscape, to craft a scene from just sounds. Whether it’s the crisp icy morning feel of Audition, or the sudden change of direction on Phantom II, where the plaintive piano line gives way to the treacly melancholy of the strings, Jim creates snapshots, that even without the accompanying film create perfect pictures. Here Jim marks himself out as an artist with a rare talent for inviting a listener to see the world through his own eyes, and on Europa it’s a beautiful sight to behold.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Jim Wallis?
I’m a musician based in east London. I play drums for Still Corners and Modern Nature and I work recording bands, mainly at the Bella Union studio in Shoreditch. I’ve also done some film scoring in recent years and have an album of music from a film called Europa coming out in February. That’s the first album I’ve done under my own name and it’s more in the ambient and modern classical world. Right now I’m in the US touring with Modern Nature, on a snowy drive from Chicago to Minneapolis.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
My first show was at Upstairs At The Garage in London with My Sad Captains, the band I played in for a long time with my brother. I was 18 and very green. I remember carrying my snare drum around in a paper shopping bag that my mum had given me. These days I generally play with a pretty minimal drum setup, but back then I was more towards the Phil Collins end of the spectrum, so there were lots of cymbals. I also remember that one of the other bands changed our name on the chalkboard outside the venue to My Fat Captain, which didn’t seem very welcoming. I can remember the band’s name, but I won’t shame them here.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Music always came fairly naturally to me. I learnt the piano and drums when I was young, then as a teenager I got into recording and would spend a lot of time writing songs and making recordings where I played all the instruments. I find that being able to express myself through making music is a very comforting and fulfilling process, and playing in bands and touring is a great way to meet people and make friends. It’s very hard to imagine my life without it now.
I also kind of suck at most other art forms. When I draw pictures these days with my little niece and nephew, our work is generally of a similar standard. My partner also complains that the photos I take on my phone are terrible. And I took a creative writing course at university where the teacher said at the beginning of term that he would give everyone a 2:1 because creative writing is hard to judge, but I still managed to get a 2:2.
FTR: What can people expect from the Jim Wallis live show?
That’s a good question and one I’m pondering at the moment. I made Europa without any thoughts of whether it would ever be performed live. I also learnt to play the cello while making the album and while I’m OK putting parts together in the studio, I don’t think I’m
ready to play it live yet. So I think the live show will be based around the piano, with some synth loops and probably some electric guitar drones. I also want to try to include scope for some more improvised sections, alongside some field recordings I made in Japan which will form the basis of my next record.
FTR: What’s next for Jim Wallis?
When I get home I have a few recording projects lined up in the studio, then Modern Nature are touring Europe in March and Still Corners have also just started announcing some European shows for June. I’m working on a new record of my own and I’m excited to get Europa out in the world and see where it takes me, and I should have some solo live shows to announce soon.
They Listen To…
A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos VII
Fripp & Eno – Evensong
Jonny Greenwood – Moon Trills
Max Richter – On The Nature Of Daylight
William Basinski – For David Robert Jones
Europa is out February 7th via Tip Top Recordings. Click HERE for more information on Jim Wallis.