Circulus Interview (December 2007)

by Scott Heller

From Aural Innovations #38 (Jan 2008)

Circulus is a UK band headed by Michael Tvack. The band have existed in 2 formations and are about to start their 3rd formation in 2008. The band has released a few singles and two full length LPs on the Rise Above Records label in England. I recently became a fan and collector of the band and decided to send Michael off some questions to find out more about this fantastic band. Enjoy.. Scott

If you were in front of King Henry the VIII on a particularly bad day and he said to play him a good song or off with your head, what Circulus song would you play for him??

I would most certainly play the king one of his own compositions. It's taken a while but I have memorised all three verses of Pastime With Good Company, a very early pop song credited to Henry VIII. It's a rocker. He'd love our version.

Have you ever play a concert in a real castle?? Do you want to…

Last weekend Will and I played at a medieval festival at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire. We do an act called Bubo and the Nurse. Will wears a terrifying mask with horns and plays his crumhorns through it's jaws. Freakiest thing I've ever seen. I play the part of his nurse/doctor. Like a sixteenth century crank physician/astrologer/herbalist etc. We played in one of the rooms in the castle tower. Some of the audience had to leave due to bad vibes. The place was definitely haunted. I like playing unplugged in those kind of venues. I think if we did the full Moog thing it might be a bit unfair on the spirits.

How did your interest in mixing medieval music and psychedelic music evolve? Did you family play ancient music at home?

My dad used to play a bit of honky-tonk piano when we were kids. I used to like falling asleep to his version of "On top of old Smokey". I spent my teens listening to sixties records. I joined a band called the Mad Hatters at sixteen with some guys who were a bit older than me. They turned me on to the Creation and the Misunderstood. We recorded a song called "Dancing with the Dead" in 1981. It was a rip off of a song called "Presents for you". It was on a compilation called "All for art and art for all" and came out on 7" too. Very rare and expensive now I believe. It was pretty damn psychedelic though I say so myself! I married a stripper and moved to New York in 1987 and remained in America for three years. That's when I got into medieval and renaissance music. It was bands like Pentangle that lead me to that discovery.

What do you do for a day job?

I do a couple of guitar lessons each week. Sometimes I might have a gig playing Elizabethan music. I sleep on a friend's sofa so I don't have to pay any rent. I used to live in a really great house with my friend Kevin but he hanged himself last April, same day Jesus died.

Let’s start with your first release in 1999, Gigantism… How did you meet the folks at Instant Farma?? Friends, your own label? What happened to the label? Did they release other bands as well?

Instant Farma was just a name we made up for our own releases. It was a pun on the Lennon song Instant Karma. There were no other bands on it. How many copies were pressed of this CD.. seems very rare..

I heard there will be a re-release of Gigantism with some unreleased demos and the tracks from the Wouldn’t Dream of Sleeping 7”.. Can you say if this is true or not and what label will release it??

There was meant to be but the singer and drummer from the first line up were furious when I asked them if they minded re-releasing this material and sent us a threatening legal letter. Some folks!

What is the name of the untitled track at the end of the CD? 500 copies?

The hidden track is called Little More Time.

The single, Wouldn’t dream of sleeping now was also released on Instant Farm? How many copies were made and what was the general response?I have never seen a copy of this record..

I think we had about 200 copies made on cd only. There wasn't much of a response. The fanzine Ptolemic Telescope used to like us. They put "Music Plays in the Air" on one of thier free cds.

Now, there was a quite long break before your next release and it was totally new people. What happened during those years??

The rest of the band left. I smoked a lot of dope. Will and I played as a duo. We gradually recruited people. After eight years we still didn't have a record deal. I recorded "The Lick" album but couldn't afford to finish it. That's when Rise Above stepped in.

Rise Above, appear to be a great label for you guys and you get to release vinyl in all sorts of colors, posters, great gatefold sleeves, etc… I guess you are happy with these guys??

Its nice to have pretty records and things for people to go out and buy. What people don't realise is that none of those pennies ever quite reach the bands. It would make no difference to me if we gave all our records away for free. Why not? I think that's a great idea!

Please tell us about the new CD with Marian Segal from Jade. How did you meet? When and under what circumstances was the record recorded?? Countryside studio, castle, central London, your basement?? How did Bill Steer from Firebird get involved? Will this band play concerts together?

The album was recorded throughout this year at a studio in the back of the Ian Catt's house in a south London suburb. He produced most of the St Etienne records. Marianne sang her song Swallow on "The Lick" album. I was introduced to her through Richard Allen from Freak Emporium. She asked me to produce her new album and so I did. Bill Steer is a friend of mine and I love his playing and so with a few guys from Circulus we made a crazy record. She's releasing it herself, smart lady. You can buy it from her website. I also co-produced Thistletown's debut album which is out in January.

Do you have a favourite string instrument? Do you collect ancient instruments? Do you own a Hurdy Gurdy?

I used to play a lot of renaissance lute, now I play a lot of renaissance cittern. I would love to be able to collect ancient instruments but chose not to have a full time job so can't afford any. The good thing is that I have plenty of time to play the ones I do own which I bought when I used to be a picture framer. I would love to own a hurdy gurdy.

Has the band played outside the UK?? Any plans??

We've played in Sweden once, Spain once and played three gigs in Italy. The mini version of Circulus which we call Princes in the Tower played a week in Miami last December. I was very nearly arrested for misconduct. Then I got told off for sitting on the beach after midnight. I told the police I was praying to my Gods, and they said "How many?". I told them seven. Then they asked me if I went to the beach this late at night in London. Miami sent me a bit crazy. I want to go back to America next year, but not Miami.

Finally, rumors are flying around of the demise of Circulus?? Is it true…

I am Circulus and am hoping to live at least another four years. I might give it a rest after the nuclear holocaust, but then I might not have much chioce. It's true that Circulus are now entering phase three. I need the right group of people for the third album. It's a concept album about 2012. Woo hoo! All the best michael x (Go here to see some fantastic live photos of the band)

Circulus Discography 2007
1997 Ring'o'roses, Gently Johnny 100 cassettes
1998 Little More Time Happen Away 100-200 cds were made
1999 Giantism (CDEP) Instant Farm 500 copies
2000 Wouldn’t Dream of Sleeping Now/Same Way From The Sun About 200 copies. Again this is only in cd format, no 7"
2001 Unreleased EP You Got it Goin' /The Washing Machine/ Gently Johnny Music Plays in the Air
2005 The Lick on the Tip of an Envelope Yet to be Sent" Rise Above Records CD RISECD 63 LP 1000 Black, 500 Swirly, 100 Clear
2006 Circulus/Witchcraft - "Split 7"" (7", ltd. 500 copies) RISECD 64
2006 Swallow" (Cd Single, 7" ltd. in Bright Green and Yellow) RISECD 65 (RISE7/MCD65)
2006 Clocks Are Like People (2006) (CD/LP) (digi cd, white LP w/ bonus 7" (500 copies), blue LP (700 copies), black LP (500 copies)
2006 Song of Our Despair CD single/7”, black, clear, & violet 7" single, (500 copies),
2007 Circulus / Marian Segal - The Gathering CD First 500 copies signed by Marian

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