Sam Genders: Creating Dorothy

Sam Genders: Creating Dorothy

Sam Genders is a guitarist, songwriter and producer. He’s worked with members of Gomez, Chase and Status, and Moloko as well as being a co-founder of folktronica band ‘Tunng’. He now writes and performs as Diagrams and we caught up with Sam to ask him about his latest fascinating project - the album Dorothy, a collaboration with 90 year old poet, Dorothy Trogdon...

MPS
Diagrams seems to be a highly collaborative musical project; how do you fuse so many different creative influences?

SG
I really like working with different styles and influences and I always enjoy artists that retain some ability to surprise you from project to project. With my own music I'm really just being influenced by things I hear and love and trying to work with inspiring people. Working with a good producer or group of gifted musicians can bring a sense of togetherness to a fairly wide ranging set of ideas, helping to fuse them together into a coherent album or live show.

MPS
You released the album "Dorothy" earlier this year, which was co-written with Dorothy Trogdon, can you describe the process of setting her poetry to music?

SG
A few of the songs on the album are Dorothy's poems set to music and those poems really jumped out at me as lending themselves structurally to that process as well as appealing to me in terms of images and ideas. I think part of the reason the album as a whole works is that we also co-wrote lyrics and I was free to write songs without being tied to a fixed structure.  We worked entirely by email and swapped lyrics and ideas in much the same way as two people sitting in a room together might. I also sent some musical sketches to which Dorothy replied with lyrics. It was a lovely process to be part of and very interesting and inspiring to work with someone of an older generation.

MPS
Dorothy presumably felt a connection with Diagrams when she agreed to work with you; how familiar was she with the music before you started the collaboration?

SG
She hadn't heard of me or any of my music but she was willing to give the collaboration idea a go and the whole project sprang from that willingness to see what happened.

MPS
What was the most satisfying part of creating 'Dorothy'?

SG
Engaging with Dorothy's words and learning from her.

MPS
Can you tell us a little about what you are working on at the moment?

SG
I'm putting the final touches to a new album with one of my projects. I'll be revealing more about it in the spring.

MPS
What kind of work do you get the most satisfaction out of?

SG
When everything works on stage and you really connect with an audience that's a very hard feeling to beat, but above everything else I love songwriting. Whether it's for myself, a band project or another artist it's the thing that really gives me that feeling of flow and it's the thing that gets me invited onto projects.

MPS
Can you pick out a favourite gig?

SG
Tunng at Greenman in 2007, Diagrams at End of the Road in 2011 and Throws at End of the Road in 2016 are hard to choose between. They all had that perfect coming together of being really well rehearsed and there being an amazing atmosphere and great audience connection.

MPS
Who do you count among your musical influences?

SG
Beatles, Paul Simon, Four Tet, Mike Lindsay, Fairport, Ethan Gruska. All the musicians and producers I've worked with. My old managers Colin Hall and Nigel Adams. Pretty much anything I listen to.

MPS
If you could go back to any musical era what would it be?

SG
I really like right now. There's so much good music out there it's actually impossible to keep track.

MPS
What was your first guitar?

SG
A 3/4 sized nylon stringed classical style acoustic.

MPS
What guitars are you playing at the moment?

SG
Fender Telecaster (90s)
Gibson J45
Harptone acoustic.

MPS
Tell us about your Hotone Grass, what made you chose it?

SG
I initially just added it as a boost for high energy moments in The Throws set but I really like its ability to add a bit of tube-like warm distortion so I've been using it for that too.

MPS
What else do you have on your pedalboard?

SG
For the Dorothy live work I've just been using the J45 straight into a DI but with Throws I put my Telecaster through a Source Audio Dimension 2 for the massive space reverb moments and the Grass for boost and occasional tube warmth - then into a clean Fender twin with a small amount of reverb.

MPS
Is there anything you have parted with that you really miss?

SG
I had a lovely sunburst tele that I had to sell to pay off some equipment loans when my teenage band split up. One day I'll buy a replacement.

MPS
Can you think of anything that really changed things for you?

SG
The J45 is just brilliant. I've often been dissatisfied with the sound of acoustic guitars when playing live and it's the best I've had in terms of being able to plug it into any PA, amp or desk and it just sounds great.

MPS
Is there any advice you can offer to people starting out on their musical journeys?

SG
I think just really work on your craft, whatever that might be. Try and find some supportive yet very honest sources of feedback and find out what you need to learn, then go out and learn it. If you tap into the things that really inspire you and immerse yourself in them you'll have a rewarding journey ahead of you regardless of what success you may or may not have.

Photo Credit: Main image, Paul Heartfield / Chrissie Abbott

 

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