12:31 PM 21st November 2020
Interview With 5 Billion In Diamonds
5 Billion in Diamonds the legendary producer trio of Butch Vig, Andy Jenks and DJ James Grillo, return with a new single and album sharing the cinematic and psych-laden track "Weight of the World". Fusing influences from the 80s with their signature genre-bending sound, the band return with an exciting set of renowned collaborators on the new album Divine Accidents which is out now.
I asked James and Andy about the new album and what their thoughts were on 2020.
How did 5 Billion In Diamonds come about?
- Butch and I have been great friends for over 20 years. We are both big movie buffs and in my background as a DJ I was a big collector of film soundtracks. One day after a few glasses of vino Butch suggested we try to come up with our own soundtrack for an imaginary film. We had a productive first session in LA and immediately knew that this was a project we could proceed with, we also knew that we needed Andy on board, he is my best friend and DJ partner here in the UK and a brilliant producer and keyboard player based in Bristol.
- I feel blessed to have been asked to get involved. Being in a band with your best friends is very special, all the musicians are some of our best friends, I'm married to Helen, one of our singers, and indeed the bands we put together to play at our wedding and for James’ wedding in Iceland were pretty much versions of 5 Billion in Diamonds live band!
On this new album I can hear an 80’s influence, what bands from the 1980’s influenced you?
- The first album was very influenced by obscure soundtracks and artists from the 60s and early 70s. This album is the same but there were definitely 80s influences creeping in which we then embraced. Formaldehyde is very Psychedelic Furs who we are all fans of and Into Your Symphony was a mix of The The, The Cure and New Order through our 5BiD distorted mirror. It felt like once we had let the 80s elements in on one or two tracks the sounds crept in to the other songs too.
- I’ve always loved the This Mortal Coil albums on 4AD, and I think there are similarities in approach to the way we work - looking at ways of referencing the music that's shaped us from the past without resorting to pastiche or copying. And using multiple singers and musicians to create something which makes sense and is coherent somewhere between a band album and a mixtape.
The new album is called Divine Accidents, are any of you accident prone?
- Fortunately none of us are which was a good thing when Butch and I had to carry Mary Lattimore's (LA based harpist and solo artist who played on the new album) Concert Harp down a steep flight of stairs to get it in to Butch’s home studio. It was like Laurel & Hardy with the piano and in fact that Laurel & Hardy scene was filmed not far from Butch’s home.
The album is called Divine Accidents because while we were making it we watched an Orson Welles documentary in which he said that divine accidents that happened on set were the greatest things in movie making. We thought it was a really good title for the album.
- I recently fell and broke my shoulder in 2 places - it seems to have improved my keyboard playing.
2020 has been a year we will never forget, out of all the negatives has there been any positives for you?
- 2020 has been an insane year for everyone and we are all feeling a bit frayed around the edges as a result. The fact that artists have continued to make and distribute beautiful music throughout the year has been a definite benediction. Trump losing the US Election was an important benefit to mankind too.
- I think the way creativity grows through the cracks of oppression and difficulty is one of the greatest expressions of the human spirit. Artists, musicians, performers have always found ways of expressing themselves in the most difficult circumstances. The pandemic has been hard for everyone, especially the lack of human interaction, but seeing how creativity has flourished, from socially distanced recording sessions to online performances, bodes well for the future.
Music is so readily available now, do you think the age of the album has passed us?
- People consume music in so many different ways now and attention spans seem to have dropped as a result of our massive media consumption in every aspect of our lives. Having said that there is still a place for the album as a conceptual whole, there’s still something special about taking the time to listen to a set of songs sequenced in a special and creative way plus I like looking at the covers!
- The increase in sales of vinyl, record shops opening, and seeing young people carrying record bags i think shows listening to an album is a very different experience to streaming, and I hope the future for the album is bright.
The live music scene has been absent nearly all year, do you miss touring?
- Because of the transatlantic nature of the project with musicians from East & West Coast USA, UK, Sweden and Iceland it is a logistical nightmare for us to play live. The only show we have played to date was in a theatre in Lyme Regis for my 50th Birthday party and that was because everyone was all together for that. With the Bristol Wrecking Crew of Alex Lee, Sean Cook and Damon Reece (who all play in Massive Attack’s live set-up) we have a kick arse band though and we were planning on playing some shows this year before the pandemic. We are all missing seeing live music and going to gigs.
- I really miss playing live, and James and I DJ a lot at festivals which I really, really miss, which answers the next question...
What are you looking forward to the most next year?
- Hopefully some live shows for the band later in the year but most importantly a return to something approaching normality and being able to see friends both home and abroad again.
- 3 Dimensional human interaction, and hopefully festivals, and I really hope we can travel and go and continue working and recording with Butch in LA.