From whence Robin Hood made his name, we can find the Nottingham gothic group, In Isolation and to celebrate fifteen years of making music, under this moniker, they have compiled an album with twenty-eight of their songs. That is a lot of music! All four members of the group have been in notable goth bands in the 1990s, so introducing Ryan Swift (vocalist/guitars), John Berry (guitar), Mike Sinclair (bass) and Tony Ghost (drums/percussion). This bunch of likely lads have indeed also written music for/or had music chosen, for both movies and television, which isn’t a bad accomplishment for some Notts boys. Their music is beautiful and contemporary, with fingers trailing back into In Isolation’s gothic roots and I was able to ask a few pertinent questions of the band, with the wonderful Ryan (congrats on getting married!!), answering for the whole. What makes a band like In Isolation tick?…. apart from antioxidants, you will have to keep reading to find out all about everything.
Welcome to the crypt, British goth-meisters, In Isolation. There is tea and biccies, but don’t mind the spiders, they just get a little grumpy when ignored.
Thanks for the biscuits, we’ll have chocolate digestives (dark).
You are celebrating 15 years of being a band and releasing albums under the In Isolation name. Did you think the project would last as long as it has?
We had no idea what to expect when Ryan and John decided to combine their differing songwriting approaches, or what form the music would take. We would have hoped for more albums out after this long, but we do like to take our time to get things sounding right, and being self-funded always adds a frustrating edge to releases in terms of lead times, so we’ve probably done pretty well to get out a 28-track album this year!
The band is made up of Ryan (ex-Emma Conquest), John (ex-Die Laughing), Tony Ghost (ex-Every New Dead Ghost) and Mike (ex-Dick Venom & The Terrortones). You all really cut your teeth in the UK gothic scene in the 90s, when we were seeing the second wave. What was it like being in the scene at that point, especially in your home town of Nottingham?
It was pretty great. Nottingham was a good hub for all things goth, and even now after 30 years or so we’re seeing many of the same faces frequenting local goth nights (such as Spellbound and Nightmare). We always had touring 90s goth bands visiting the city, such as Rosetta Stone, The Marionettes, The Ancestry, Litany Of Fear, Autumn Of North and Space Rats (guess who’s been rifling through their demo collection) and you were always guaranteed a good night at The Old Angel, The Salutation Inn and Rock City. Way too much alcohol was consumed, but we could take the vicious Newcastle Brown hangovers in those days!
It seems Notts was a hot bed for young goth bands. Why do you think this was and what is the scene like now?
It just seemed that everyone in the Nottingham scene had an artistic soul, many in a musical sense, so new goth bands were being formed every other week. Nottingham is an incredibly creative city, I think that’s partly why many of us have hung around for so long. The scene hit a bit of a dry period in the late-Noughties and into the Teenies (or whatever those years were called), but out of nowhere around five years ago, the alternative club nights were swamped with young goths, and now the scene appears to be flourishing.
How did In Isolation come into being?
Ryan and John initially hooked up as two separate bands, one as a semi-continuation of Emma Conquest and the other to follow on from Die Laughing’s heritage. Neither successfully worked out, but the writing partnership between John and Ryan seemed to have potential, so a brand new project was started. It took a whole year to decide on a band name – originally ‘Isolation’ was the only name that could be agreed on, but after a quick check on the newfangled ‘internet’ thing we’d heard so much about, we realised that disappointingly there were five other bands with the same moniker, so we plumped for ‘In Isolation’.
The cohesive, wonderful sound of In Isolation speaks of a creative friendship between the band members. Am I correct in assuming this?
Thanks, you are correct. We rarely come to blows when writing and I think that we all act as mediators to achieve the best results. There is little ego involved in this band, which helps with the composition. Even though we give it our all at gigs, we always hope the quality and earworm-ery of our songs will help to entice our audiences in to balance off the lack of ego-driven performances.
You have put together an album of 28 tracks, titled ‘Albums | Singles | Soundtracks – an Anthology 2007 – 2022’. How did you go about sifting through all your music and coming up with these 28 tracks? What was your criteria?
If we’re honest, as we’ve not altogether been the most prolific of writers the compilation consists of pretty much our entire 15-year output; two albums-worth and an expanse of singles. We only excluded our early song demos (‘Primordial’, available from inisolation.bandcamp.com), a couple of prior ‘extra’ tracks, and the average single ‘High Art’ that was previously semi-released. We also omitted the excellent remixes which were produced by Matt Pop who has worked with a host of well-known bands; many who had hits in the 80s such as Erasure and Kim Wilde. We didn’t feel that Matt’s dancefloor-based hi-NRG remixes matched the tone of the Post-punk/New Wave/Darkwave tracks on the anthology, so our 4-track EP of Matt’s remixes is available as a standalone release.
The cover is photos of you guys, as youngsters. I must say my heart is with the child with the ice cream! Who is who?
John (guitarist) is the Mr Whippy fan! Ryan (vocals and guitar) is the seated 11-year old in the repulsive brown jumper, Tony (drums) is in his preferred position behind a drum kit and Mike (bass) is the one playing the guitar. It is a departure from our usual record covers, but it fits the brief and the archival nature of the shots meant we didn’t have to book a photographer!
Out of all those tracks, there is only one cover version, Bauhaus’ “She’s Into Parties”. How influential was Bauhaus for you?
Tony was the biggest fan of the original song, but we all acknowledge Bauhaus’ huge standing in the scene. We’ve covered a multitude of songs in a live capacity, such as ‘Love My Way’, ‘Just Like Heaven’, ‘Love Is A Wonderful Colour’, ‘51st State’ and ‘Treason’ – they always seem to come from the 80s, but we may surprise our audience at some point!
I am fairly impressed that you have had quite a few tracks included in movies and TV series. How did this come about and is it something you would like to pursue?
Our single ‘The Wrong Girl’ was chosen by the producers of ‘Zombie Hood’ (still streaming on Amazon Prime) as they were fans of the track and felt our appearance matched the feel of the movie (we still don’t know what they meant by that!) The director decided to cast us performing the track in the film and offered us a snippet of dialogue opposite some chap that was a Big Brother contestant. Hilarious! They cut out Ryan’s improvised line, ‘What is this place?’, which was a huge error of judgement as one of Hollywood’s best-kept scriptwriter secrets/superstitions is that a movie will definitely become successful if that particular line is included. Check out every movie you watch from now on – you’ll rarely not hear it somewhere along the way. 😀
The director of ’Seepers: A Love Story’ requested a song for their soundtrack because of our work on ‘Zombie Hood’ and a filmmaker in Canada used a couple of our tracks for his horror shorts as he was simply a fan of the band. We continue to keep a lookout for new films that might be interested in our stuff. As NASA’s newly-launched James Webb Space Telescope is using much of its time studying the TRAPPIST-1 solar system in the Aquarius constellation, we’re hoping that newfound information will inspire movies and TV shows to be created on the subject – this in turn may generate interest in our song ‘TRAPPIST-1: A Space Anthem’, particularly as NASA are already aware if it (“here at NASA we are thrilled by your anthem”), and because the astrophysicists who first discovered that the conditions are correct for water to exist on the TRAPPIST-1 planets have got behind the track on several occasions.
I know it is a bit like asking which is your favourite child but is there a particular track that stands out or is something close to your heart?
John has a fondness for ‘Infinite’ and ‘The Man Who Hides From Love’, but his favourite is ‘Berlin’, and Mike’s choice is ‘Parlance’. Ryan has an affinity for ‘Loving The Ghost’ and asserts that ‘Estrangement’ has appealing Smiths-y vibes as well as a nice string arrangement, although the track and music video that stands out to him most is ‘The Man Who Hides From Love’. Tony also votes for ‘Berlin’ and ‘The Man Who Hides From Love’. As a slushy footnote, ‘Infinite’ is close to Ryan’s heart as he wrote the lyrics about his then-partner whom he married in August of this year.
Looking back so far on your musical careers, do you feel this is the most productive and sustainable project you have been involved in?
Certainly, in as much as it brought back memories of our various projects, such as filming, directing and editing the video for our cover of ‘She’s In Parties’ and the time spent working with 15+ animators around the world on the music video for ‘The Man Who Hides From Love’. However, we’re currently working on the next album, so although we are proud of the current anthology, our creativity and energies are being focused on bringing to life a whole new chapter of recordings.
Has Covid had an impact on the band performing live and recording over the last few years?
Sadly, yes. We had to cancel a few shows, but on the bright side, we had time to reflect on what In Isolation was as an entity and, going forward, the type of songs we’d really like to listen to ourselves. Our writing skills have improved during that period, so we are having a good time coming up with new ideas for future output.
What acts/bands drew you into the gothic scene and influenced you to become musicians?
John was inspired by Punk bands of the late 70s, which ultimately led him down a slightly skewed path into goth, including his favourites The Cult. Tony has a fondness for Adam Ant and Japan which again paved a way into the darker side of 80s music. Mike has a synth-based background and is eclectic in his tastes, and Ryan is a fan of New Wave chart sounds of the 80s which pointed him to The Sisters Of Mercy and ultimately to 90s bands such as Rosetta Stone. We all had a drive to write and play music, and the dark/romantic/energetic aspects of goth suited our musical temperaments well.
What do you find yourself listening to these days?
A hugely mixed bag reaching back to the 60s. Movie soundtracks are inspirational, and although Top Of The Pops is no longer around to bring the country together with the best music available, there are a few good bands out there to be found such as CHVRCHES, Desperate Journalist, Drab Majesty and Zola Jesus.
If you could choose a movie to write songs for, what would it be about?
Maybe a dark-flavoured rom-com (not one of those really cheesy unfunny ones, of which there are so many). Something intelligent with clever humour and interesting plots and twists, utilising classic actors that recognise thoughtfully-written independent films, such as Tilda Swinton or Gary Oldman. We could bring contemporary dark tunes to the soundtrack as well as scoring the movie (we dabbled in orchestral arrangements for some of our more recent outpourings).
What is in the future for In Isolation?
Tony would like to tour the world, given half a chance, and we would certainly be keen to hop over to Europe to play the likes of the Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival. We are feeling pretty prolific at the moment in terms of songwriting, so we should have something exciting for your ears soon!
Thank you from the bottom of my dark little heart for your time ❤
And cheers, Adele, for letting In Isolation loose on Onyx Music Reviews!
Albums | Singles | Soundtracks – an Anthology 2007-2022 (28 tracks) | In Isolation (bandcamp.com)