The Chroniclers Of Ruuun
(Wubworld Music)


Trance inducing electronica continues its reign of acclaim in the U.K. In 2015 synth maven Glen Wiffen released the latest CD and LP by his musical namesake Wubworld. This jam-based electronica album—also featuring space guitar sounds by Dan Housego—borders on psychedelia and if anything Wubworld have broken down the borders between electonica and a more avant rock approach. Wiffen admits a fondness for German space rock bands like Can and Neu! and Faust. Wubworld hits a new sonic high with their 2015 CD entitled The Chroniclers Of Ruuun—a splendid effort based upon a wild science fiction fantasy. Speaking about the album's concept, Wiffen tells mwe3.com, "I don't tend to have fully formed ideas before sitting down to compose. Most of what I do tends to come from a single sound that appeals to my ear. I then develop that core sound and see where it leads me. With The Chroniclers it was the core of the title track “Ruuun” that led me to the eventual concept. As I developed the track I thought if I could hear a planet breathing this is what I imagine it would sound like. It was this notion that got me thinking about the lifespan of a planet and our own impact upon its growth and eventual demise. I concluded in the end that whilst we might eventually learn to live both with ourselves and the world around us, we could not ultimately stop the Sun from dying and that no matter how in tune we get with our environment, we will finally have to move on if we as a race want to survive." Sonically, the CD is a spellbinding, hypnotic journey that is riveting throughout. Many of today’s younger artists grew up in the CD era but for the release of Chroniclers Of Ruuun, Wiffen is very proud of the vinyl version, which also comes with a CD tucked into the large album sleeve. The CD sounds very dynamic and in your face but for cosmic music fans, Chroniclers Of Ruuun is one of the best instrumental space-rock albums of the year. www.wubworld.com

mwe3.com presents an interview with

Glen Wiffen of WUBWORLD

mwe3: Can you tell us where you’re from and where you live now and what are some of your favorite cities and even countries to visit?

Glen Wiffen: I was born in Eastleigh in 1962 which back then was an integral part of the British rail network, with a massive railway works serving southern England. My father, like most people locally, worked for the railway. In 1966 we moved to a village just outside Eastleigh called Chandlers Ford. This was an idyllic place to grow up being mostly woodland and fields, in fact the garden of the house we lived in backed onto fields and I spent many hours playing in the fields and surrounding woodland as I grew up. Sadly, like the railway works, the fields and woodland have now been swallowed up by 'progress'. I now live in Bishopstoke, which is a small suburb the other side of Eastleigh from Chandlers Ford. I have traveled extensively throughout my life, but have for now it seems returned to my roots.
In 2014 I visited Berlin for the first time to view the V&A Bowie Exhibition. I was very taken with the relaxed cosmopolitan feel of the city and impressed at how they did not flinch from accurately portraying Germany’s recent past. In fact, I was in the city when the European Union voted as a whole. As I stood in this historic city and contemplated the sacrifices made by so many, I was keenly reminded why nationalism was never a good idea but then saddened at the rise of the 'right' in the elections… it seems history teaches us nothing beyond two generations at best.

A country I have visited recently that really caught my imagination is Cambodia. Again, somewhere with a tragic recent past but so positive and cheerful, with a real feeling of hope for the future. An absolute joy.

If you pin me down and say you can only go here from now on though it would have to be Scotland - fabulous people, stunning landscape and whiskey, what's not to like!

mwe3: The new Wubworld CD, Chroniclers Of Ruuun is subtitled An Imagined Future and is based on a science fiction concept. How and when did you arrive with the concept for this album what was involved in the process from composing, recording to pressing the CD and LP?

Glen Wiffen: I don't tend to have fully formed ideas before sitting down to compose. Most of what I do tends to come from a single sound that appeals to my ear. I then develop that core sound and see where it leads me. With The Chroniclers it was the core of the title track “Ruuun” that led me to the eventual concept.

As I developed the track I thought if I could hear a planet breathing this is what I imagine it would sound like. It was this notion that got me thinking about the lifespan of a planet and our own impact upon its growth and eventual demise. I concluded in the end that whilst we might eventually learn to live both with ourselves and the world around us, we could not ultimately stop the Sun from dying and that no matter how in tune we get with our environment, we will finally have to move on if we as a race want to survive.

The rest of the album flowed from there really. Using pieces I had composed earlier and developing others to fill the gaps in the story, I started to put together an aural story of what might happen when there is nowhere else for us to go. Once completed it was obvious that due to the overall playing time I was not going to get it all on one CD and that the natural place for it was on vinyl. As a collector of records for some 40 years this idea appealed as it would allow me to illustrate the story through the artwork as much as the music.

The pressing of the vinyl it has to be said was fraught. Apart from the sonic differences of working towards vinyl as opposed to CD, the lead times for manufacture kept extending due to the resurgence in vinyl worldwide and unlike CD you also have to factor in test pressings. If you are unhappy with the test pressing to the back of the queue you go!

In truth I nearly gave up on the whole thing, but my family and friends encouraged me to keep going and I am glad they did as the reception for the album has been very positive, making it all worthwhile in the end.

mwe3: What are the differences in mastering between the CD and LP, which is a double LP set? What recording system did you use during the making of Chroniclers Of Ruuun and how did you get such a vintage sound?

Glen Wiffen: Well despite being a record collector for years it became apparent that I had never really thought about how the music got there! It may seem obvious but there is an optimum length of music per side and your mistakes in production and mastering can become very costly in both time and money if you have to keep producing test pressings. So yeah you need to get it right first or at the very least second time really, particularly if like me you are producing the thing at home. HDC Media, the production/management house that I used, were very helpful though and I researched a lot in respect of the dynamics.

Ultimately I chose to go beyond the optimum in terms of length per side so as not to compromise my final work. To ensure quality this meant producing the final master at less volume than one might normally. So if you buy the vinyl you'll have to turn it up loud, but then hey is there another way to listen to music?

I use Windows based computers and Cubase for all my recordings. I'm of an age where everything to do with computers is self taught and so tend to stick with whatever I started out with. Having said that I like Cubase very much and enjoy being able to use whatever add-ons I choose, as opposed to the operating system limiting my options. This is especially true when it comes to the video's I produce to accompany the live shows.

The 'vintage' sound is not a deliberate attempt I have to say, but there is a sound for sure. I think it may be that despite now working mainly within the confines of the computer I do tend to favor analogue samples as opposed to digital interpretations and the plug-in effects I like reflect my personal listening taste, which is that vintage pioneering period in rock music of 1967 to 1975.

mwe3: Tell us about the gear you played in the making of Chroniclers Of Ruuun and who else worked with you on the instrumentation, recording, mastering and art work? What are your main instruments that you create music on and what part does the computer play in your recording and performances?

Glen Wiffen: I use an old Yamaha PSR 1500 for most keyboard work and a Cort electric guitar for simple riffs and drones, which are mostly achieved with an Ebow and slide. In addition to this I have various pieces of percussion, a Ukulele, a nice bright sounding folk guitar and my voice. All these elements are channeled through Cubase and subjected to effects, stretching and general manipulation until I reach the sound required.

The playing element does not happen so much now though as I developed a neurological disorder some ten years ago called Dystonia and this now limits how long I can usefully play – Dystonia causes involuntary muscle contraction and the more I do the worse it gets. But I have recorded quite a bit over the years and often sample myself when developing new ideas. In addition I always carry with me a little Hitachi digital recorder and if I hear an interesting sound while out and about I will record and transfer it to my sound archive for future use.

All these elements will go into the mix when composing new pieces, supplemented with standard samples when I cannot find my own sound. Even here though I try to apply some originality by cutting and reordering other peoples samples so as to create my own. As the various sounds are assembled in Cubase I prefer not to use 'Snap To'. This brings in the possibility of error and removes precision from the recording process, which to my mind is more like your average band playing together. The only exception to this rule on The Chroniclers album is the track “Preparation”. For this I wanted to achieve a precise mechanical head down work song and so laid the percussive backing track very much to grid.

The more complicated guitar solos are carried out by a very talented friend of mine - Dan Housego. Once the core track has been realized we get together and work out the solos, recording them directly into Cubase. If we are unable to achieve the sound I want at that point I will later edit and embellish his recording to suit what I hear in my head, which can make it a bit tricky for him when we come to play live!

The final mix and mastering is always done with headphones not monitors as I prefer to put myself in the position of the listener at this point. I believe those that truly listen to music at home these days rarely do so with 'naked ears', as modern living does not allow most people the luxury of cranking the sound up without a near neighbor being force fed your particular choice of the day. The only exception to this is probably the car!

Due to my disorder playing live is rather difficult. I therefore tend to prepare and produce the live set way before a gig and then play it directly from Cubase on stage but without the odd element here and there, including the guitar solos of course. When we play live, Dan joins me and either plays what we have rehearsed or improvises as the mood takes him, which I am very happy for him to do as he is an extremely intuitive player and always very respectful of my original concept. For myself I monitor levels, alter the overall soundscape if necessary and join in with a bit of guitar drone and theremin playing.

The artwork I do myself from images and video I have collected over many years, manipulating them to achieve the look I want in much the same way I do with the sound needed for the music. The only exception to this on The Chroniclers album is the internal image of the gatefold, which is from a piece my son Jamie was inspired to do after I had told of my idea for the album.

mwe3: I thought Chroniclers Of Ruuun sounded very influenced by early Gong and even early Pink Floyd. Would you say that Wubworld is part of the 21st century resurgence of cosmic electronic music? What other artists do you feel are keeping cosmic psychedelic instrumental and avant garde electronic music alive today? I saw you are a big Bowie fan. You have acknowledged his big contribution to late ‘70s synth music.

Glen Wiffen: It's very kind of you to mention me in such wonderful company, though I should not be too surprised if you hear an influence as I am a big fan of both those bands. I agree that there does seem to be a resurgence in cosmic electronic music and it would be nice to think that I might be a part of that. In truth though it seems very hard to get yourself heard due to the many listening choices people have today, but sites like your own help tremendously in getting the word out.

David Sylvian has produced some very interesting work over the years. I particularly like his Approaching Silence album. The work that Jon Hopkins has been doing with King Creosote is very rewarding and I was lucky enough to catch Max Richter at an 'All Tomorrow's Parties' festival recently - just sublime. On the edgier side I liked the Fuck Buttons from the off and now also like the side project of Blanck Mass. Thought Forms I have seen a couple of times and they are very intense in performance. 65 Days of Static, Battles, Squarepusher and God Speed You Black Emperor always excite me and who can ignore Jah Wobble once he gets his head into a groove.

Other current favorites include My Morning Jacket – so very inventive and melodic. The War On Drugs whose sound is unique and life affirming. Mercury Rev who always surprise me sonically and Enter Shikari who I think will prove to be one of the most progressive and exciting bands live in the coming years.

Yes David Bowie has been an influence on me my whole life and it is true to say that his pioneering spirit, in so many areas of the arts, will be sorely missed. His early instrumental work just blew me away back in 1977 when Low came out. I always hoped he would develop this vein more than he did in the end, but like so much of what he gave us, what we do have is sheer quality.

mwe3: How about the artists from different genres who influenced you early on to want to be a musician and what were a few of the albums that influenced you early on as well?

Glen Wiffen: The German progressive rock outfit Faust were an early influence with Faust IV still a firm favorite and Tangerine Dream's Zeit is still to this day an otherworldly experience. The Welsh band Man inspired me greatly – there long extended workouts are the stuff of legend, check out a later live recording of them called at the Star Club it just flies. The Rascals work in the early seventies is very underrated in my opinion… I think they were penalized for not towing the pop line. Peter Frampton's guitar work on Frampton Comes Alive still knocks me out, as does Zappa's Hot Rats album and anything by Neil Young.

Other early influences include Manuel Gottsching, Neu!, Steve Hillage, YES, Hawkwind, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Van Der Graaf Generator and Robert Wyatt. I absolutely adore Roy Harper's output, particularly the Work Of Heart album and that other great troubadour John Martyn is never far from the turntable. The first two proper LP's I bought with my own money were MFP (Music For Pleasure) cheapie reissues. One was Dvorak's New World Symphony and the other was Procol Harum's A Salty Dog. I still have them and they still get regular plays.

mwe3: What are some of your favorite movies and movie soundtracks? Are soundtracks an area that Wubworld has explored and may explore more in the future?

Glen Wiffen: Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer is always high up the list, both for the movie and the score by Marvin Hamlisch. I am also a sucker for old musicals and Brigadoon is probably my favorite for its sheer escapism. The Sommersby soundtrack composed by Danny Elfman is gorgeous as is the Somewhere In Time soundtrack by John Barry.

I recently caught the Argentinean film The Secret in Their Eyes and absolutely loved it. A near perfect movie I'd say with a beautiful score by Emilio Kauderer and Federico Jusid.

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence might be an obvious choice for me but it is a very fine movie and that score by Ryuichi Sakamoto gets me every time. Other film composers that never seem to put a foot wrong in my opinion are Ennio Morricone and Michael Nyman – they both have very distinctive styles and never fail to compliment the movie.

People often comment that my more ambient soundscape work has the feel of a soundtrack looking for a movie and I think I would like to explore that avenue more, but frankly at the moment wouldn’t know how to go about it!

mwe3: How is Chroniclers Of Ruuun an evolution upon the other Wubworld albums and in what directions would you like to take the Wubworld sound in next? How about other plans do you have for 2016?

Glen Wiffen: I'm not sure that it is an evolution as such, more a culmination of my output to date I think. It has the soundscape and ambient sense of my first release Re:Define, coupled with the more rhythmic thrust of Wubrhythm.

The future direction of Wubworld is very exciting right now as I have found it necessary to reevaluate my role due to my Dystonia. The result is the forming of a band to play and record the music and the guys I have on board so far are stellar musicians with bags of enthusiasm as to where we can take it. Our rehearsals to date have resulted in some very exciting and intense jams and I can't wait to present a show that incorporates both the sonic extremes of Wubworld and the head down trance like grooves we've been kicking out.


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