While Mike Gale retired from live performances in 2018, he has still been creating music. His latest album The Star Spread Indefinite is a celebration of the quiet time he has had. Mixing pop hooks with subtle atmospheric soundscapes, he draws you into a world of quiet contemplation. We sat down with Mike Gale to talk about the album, his creative process, musical hurdles, music and much more!
OSR: 2020 has been a busy year for you with The Star Spread Indefinite being your third album release, how do you maintain your creative energy?
Gale: I just really love doing it, that’s probably key. I still get a buzz from writing a song and hearing a finished recording. Writing songs and making music is never a chore for me, I feel eternally grateful that I have something I enjoy doing that brings me peace and calmness, especially at a time like we find ourselves in. Also, I don’t particularly care anymore, about if anyone buys an album or gives it good reviews etc. I’m just making music for myself.
OSR: Is there a theme or backstory to The Star Spread Indefinite?
Gale: Yes, at the time I started writing the songs for the album I was reading a brilliant book called ‘The Old Weird Albion’ by Justin Hopper, which is essentially the story of the author’s journey across the South Downs Way and the people he meets, landmarks he finds etc. In one section of the book, he is talking about a flint mine in Sussex where an ancient piece of art was found scribbled into one of the walls, the guy who found it gave it the title ‘The Star Spread Indefinite’ which I thought was just beautiful and immediately framed the songs I’d been working on. I suppose the main theme running through the album is a desire to find some solitude and peace and that it is alright to be a quiet person.
OSR: How do you feel this album compares to the ones you have previously released?
Gale: I’d say it’s possibly one of the most downbeat albums I’ve made, there aren’t as many pop moments on it and the songs are longer than I’d usually write because I wanted to convey that space and slowness of life I was looking for. It’s funny to me that in a couple of reviews it’s said that it’s another sunshine-filled album and my usual pop stuff but for me, it’s quite a dark album in general. I did try to keep some humour in there where I could though.
OSR: What was your creative process for the album? Do you start with a melody or lyrics?
Gale: Always the melody. I’ve tried a couple of times to write a melody from already having lyrics and I don’t enjoy it. I sit with the guitar and just play and mumble along with it until something catches my ear. I try not to really focus on what I’m doing. It’s sort of like an out of tune radio that every now and then lands on something clearer and I turn that into a song. Once I have the melody and chords, I stew on it for a day or so in my head and try to work out what kind of sounds I’d like on there so I have some kind of direction before beginning recording, that usually changes though, it never works out exactly as I hear it when recording.
OSR: Were there any tracks that were easier or harder to create than others?
Gale: I never really felt in control with the recording of ‘Racecar’. I think it was the final song I wrote and recorded for the album and maybe by then I’d had enough of feeling sad and I just wanted to finish the album so I could move on. Maybe I rushed it a bit but it felt like a bit of struggle to get that one done. On the other hand, ‘Go Help’ was pure enjoyment and really easy, it just flowed and everything worked.
OSR: If people could only feel one emotion while listening to the album, what would you like that to be and why?
Gale: I’d probably say peace. One of my main intentions with these songs was to just slow the world down. I sometimes struggle with everything being too fast or loud or busy so I wanted to make a little place to escape that. Also as a celebration of people like me who aren’t particularly social and often prefer their own company.
OSR: What was the biggest hurdle you overcame when creating this album?
Gale: I don’t know if it was a particularly big hurdle but I suppose it would be committing to opening myself up quite a bit in the lyrics. This album is probably more personal than other stuff I’ve done before. I felt like I laid a lot of myself out there. It was maybe a bit scary at first but felt right after a few songs.
OSR: Is there a track that holds a special place in your heart?
Gale: I’d say that ‘I Used My Head As A Mother’ is one that really captures the whole theme of the album and what I was trying to do. I was having a bit of a bad time when I sat down to write it and I tried to be as honest as I could with the lyrics and the music. It was one of those rare songs that actually changed me after I’d finished it. It was like having therapy, I really got some stuff out on that one.
OSR: What advice would you give young musicians who want to follow in your footsteps?
Gale: Probably not to try and follow in anyone else’s footsteps, especially mine. It took me a while to figure out to just do it completely for the love and to never write for anyone but yourself.
Be prolific, just do it, don’t make excuses, just write songs, it’s really not that hard if you take away all of the baggage people put on it. None of that stuff is real, just write songs whenever you get the chance, not every one has to be a masterpiece. It doesn’t matter if you write something that you end up not liking, you still created something out of nothing that didn’t exist before, that’s the magic.
OSR: What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Gale: I have the second volume of my B, C, D sides collection ready to go, I’ll probably release that in about March and I’m currently halfway through a new album that I don’t have a title for yet. That will be out in the summer possibly, so a couple more albums and just keeping on. Thanks.