Cook Craig returns with Pipe-eye release number four, Dream Themes. The record is adventurous and playful, crafting stories without needing words, in the tradition of the greatest soundtracks and Library Music, but with his own twist. Gimmie chatted with Cook in-depth for an hour about Pipe-eye’s beginnings, songwriting, his creative process, new passions that emerged in lockdown, finding a love of jazz in his “twilight years”, we get a little peak into his home life, and of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard touring. Today we’re premiering the song and clip for first single ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ along with an extract of the chat; the full interview will appear in our next print zine, Gimmie Issue 5.
Where did the title of your new album Dream Themes come from?
COOK CRAIG: I had the idea that all of the songs on the new album would be theme songs, instrumental. I wanted to match them with the song titles, that they were weird dreams; they weren’t real TV shows. I thought it just sounded cool too.
It does have a nice ring to it—Dreeeammm Themmmes!
CC: [Laughs] Yeah! And, I googled it and there weren’t many things called dream themes.
Did this collection of songs come from dreams?
CC: Kind of. Just wacky day dreams. Day dreams about my cat and my dog [laughs]. ‘Detective Dogington’ is about my dog, Homer. He’s really snoopy and walks around investigating things. ‘Martina Catarina’ is about my cat, Martina. She’s real crazy, she’s like a kitten.
Are all of the songs on the album from something in your life?
CC: Yeah, or things like current events, like ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ is about deadshit conspiracy theorists [laughs]. I usually write the music first and then try to think up titles and themes that I think match the vibe of the music. It’s what naturally comes out when I sit down. I wasn’t going for an overall theme or vibe for the album. In terms of the titles, they’re not particularly linked.
For you are the songs linked musically?
CC: Definitely. I pretty much wrote all of the songs at the one time, within a week. It was actually on my honeymoon.
Is that where ‘Let’s Get Married’ comes from?
CC: Yeah. We got married in our backyard the day before the very first Covid lockdown. We did that because we had an overseas wedding planned, but had to can it. We went to an Airbnb for two weeks and were locked down, and that’s when I wrote all of those songs. The Airbnb was really isolated in a costal country town, we didn’t really have that much to do, so I’d sit down for a couple of hours every day in the morning and wrote a song at a time.
I’m guessing just having got married and being on your honeymoon you would have been in a really great mood and that might have helped your creativity and productivity.
CC: I definitely had some gusto! Normally I’m not like that, I usually take ages to do anything. When I have an idea, it doesn’t take me long to write a song, but it takes me a while to get started and to get motivated.
Is there anything that helps you get motivated?
CC: I have to just sit down and force myself to do it sometimes, I’m so busy with my other bands, with Pipe-eye I find it hard to get the time to sit down and write a song, or I don’t feel like it because I’ve been at band practice all week and I’m mentally fatigued or musically fatigued. Sometimes I’ll just sit down for a week and write a bunch of songs, and that will last me for the next six months.
How did the song we’re premiering ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ come together?
CC: I made a lot of the songs on the album to drum machines that I had programmed. Later on, I got Cav (Michael Cavanagh the drummer who plays in King Gizz) to drum on it. I was going for a fast afro-esque groove, looped that a heaps of times, and it turned into a song from there. The title was inspired by the History Channel, it’s really funny now. It’s all about Ancient Aliens [laughs], it’s all about that crummy, really trash kind of TV.
Ha! I remember watching the first couple of episodes of Ancient Aliens thinking, ok, maybe there’s a little something here, but then as the series continued on, it just really, really started to stretch things and make some wild claims.
CC: Yeah. I was sold on it! Still am I reckon! [laughs].
Was it a conscious choice to make this album instrumental (of course besides the song ‘Chakra’ that has the part where the word is said over and over)?
CC: I started it without any intention of doing that and as it went on, I thought a lot of the songs were strong without vocals. I thought it would be cool to take a different direction for a change and focus really hard on the music itself, rather than… I normally make songs then I write the lyrics, the vocals as an afterthought. I wanted to change it up.
Was there a freedom or relief that came from not having to write words for the songs this time around?
CC: A little bit. I like writing lyrics, but making the music is definitely my favourite part.
What’s the first song you wrote for this album?
CC: ‘Let’s Get Married’. I wrote it when I was engaged.
Awww. How did your partner feel when you showed her?
CC: She liked it. She likes it when I sing though, and I don’t think she quite got the whole instrumental thing [laughs]. She was still appreciative.
‘Oakhill Avenue’ was the last one I wrote. I wrote it to fill a gap in the songs in terms of vibe, another slow kind of chill vibe song. I wanted to do something in a different time signature that wasn’t in 4/4.
Most of the songs are fairly in my comfort zone. I feel like when I do Pipe-eye stuff it’s never that challenging, because I’m writing everything myself; I don’t’ necessarily write hard parts. In general, it was challenging to find sounds that I hadn’t used on albums before. I’ve done keyboards and synths a lot, I tried to push that a fair bit more on this record.
I noticed that. Do you ever bounce your ideas of someone else when you’re working on Pipe-eye material?
CC: It’s pretty much just me. Sometimes it’s good to get Michael, who drummed on it, I’ll send him a song and not really give him much instruction on what kind of drums to play, which is good because sometimes he sends it back and it’s completely different to what I would have thought of, and I’ll roll with that.
As the album progressed and evolved where there many other changes you noticed in the songs?
CC: The main one was just deciding to make it instrumental. I was halfway through when I decided to do that. I just plod along and slowly do things.
No stress! I assume with other projects you’re a part of it could get real hectic. With Pipe-eye you have control over everything yourself and no urgency to do anything, you can just take your time.
CC: Exactly! I don’t play live with Pipe-eye, it’s just a recording project. There’s less stress to do albums by deadline. It’s not like I have to do an album to do an album tour and promote it. I take my time and do it as it comes…
When I first listened to Dream Themes, I was wondering is you’d be listening to a lot of soundtracks and Library Music?
CC: Yeah, 100%, I always listen to that kind of stuff…
There’s also a film clip to go with ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’; what can you tell us about it?
CC: It’s made by a guy called Jake Armstrong, he’s from The States. I learnt about him because Ambrose hit him up for a Murlocs clip; he did the ‘Skyrocket’ clip. I hit him up out of the blue and he was keen. It’s animation. His stuff is pretty kooky and playful, but there’s an underlying vibe of darkness, I guess. With this clip, he’s never done anything like it before. He fully went animation, they kind of look like PlayStation 2 graphics! It’s real cool. It’s kind of got a storyline, there are these two aliens fighting and it’s in a cityscape. It looks like the old kind of not-quite-there graphics, that PlayStation 2 kind of graphics.
Yeah, I remember those and Sega and Atari and all the games!
CC: [Laughs] Yeah. I still game a bit. I got a PlayStation 5 recently! There’s not too many games out on it yet, so I haven’t got to play it too much. I was playing Ghost of Tsushima where you get to play a samurai, it’s a bit like playing open world. Pretty nerdy!
Pipe-eye Dream Themes out November 26th through Flightless Records.