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Q&A: Matthew Parmenter on jugging Discipline with his solo career

Discipline mainman, Matthew Parmenter, has just released a new solo album, the stripped-back All Our Yesterdays. He tells Prog about how it was powered by procrastination, reveals the problem

The painted white face of Matthew Parmenter will be a familiar one to those following his band Discipline, who have recorded numerous albums since their inception in the late 80s.

Aside from fronting that band, Parmenter has recorded a number of solo albums, playing most of the instruments himself. He’s just released his latest solo album, All Our Yesterdays, and reveals that it’s a consciously diverse set of songs when compared to those of Discipline.

Your solo work has a stripped-back sound. Is that to deliberately separate it from your work with Discipline?
You know, it’s funny. For me it’s always very clear when I’m writing whether it’s going to be a solo song versus a band song. There’s a little bit less orchestration when there’s a song for my solo albums. I do think that my solo work is pretty different to the music with Discipline, although it’s funny that not everybody thinks so. When I did my first solo record, I had one particular distributor asking me why I didn’t just call it Discipline as he thought it sounded similar enough. But they are very different-sounding and this one even more so, as it has less of the epic prog style.

Do you find it easy to write new material?
I actually write a lot when I’m procrastinating and should be doing other things! So if I’m supposed to be rehearsing for a show, I find I’d much rather be writing. I will just sit at a piano and eventually a whole song will emerge. There’s one song on this album, the title track, which is just Shakespeare’s words put to music. I think that was because I sometimes like to challenge myself, to not write the music first. So it’s good to switch things around and in this case the lyrics were of course already written.

The problem is the superstition that if you say ‘Macbeth’, you’re sure to have a failure. So

I thought to myself, ‘I’m really doomed now!’

So you must appreciate Shakespeare’s work?
I’m a fan. One of the problems I have is my memory, and I always struggle to remember lines from a play, but I can always remember lyrics. This was a way for me to remember it. I enjoy reading and seeing Shakespeare on the stage. The words are from a moment in Macbeth. The problem is the superstition that if you say ‘Macbeth’, you’re sure to have a failure. So then I thought to myself, “I’m really doomed now!” I remember being at a party and being slightly intoxicated and trying to remember those exact words for a friend, and I couldn’t recall them. So I think that was the impetus, and the next thing I was sat at the piano writing the song.

You also got Terry Brown to mix the new album…
Yes. I played the music to our guitarist Chris Herin who knows Terry, and I reluctantly thought, “Okay, maybe Terry could do something with this,” as I’m not a good mixer and I’ve struggled with that in the past. He made it sound really good and the next thing I know I had a finished album. I can’t believe the difference he has made and he has a real gift.

You have an onstage persona called The Magic Acid Mime, where you paint your face to resemble a mime artist. What were the roots of that character?
It was probably a Halloween thing, and I think I went out to a party dressed as a mime back in 1992. It just sort of stuck and I tried it on stage. Having a painted face really helps, as it makes people feel that it isn’t really you. It changes the dynamic considerably and you feel able to be a terrible person or a sad person without having to emote that as yourself. It’s something that I’ve really enjoyed and maybe it’s a crutch for me as well.

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