Three Great Things: Tunng

The British folktronica band’s Mike Lindsay is riding, swimming, and playing music.

In Three Great Things, we ask artists to give us three things — anything! — that are bringing them comfort, joy, or both.
—Josh Modell

1. Motorcycle riding

My whole childhood and my early adult life I was afraid of motorbikes.  Mainly because it was drilled into me by my mum, “If you ever get a motorbike, I’ll kill you!”  This is her wonky sense of humor, but it worked… until I went to north Thailand one year and rented scooters with a German guy I met out there.  We did a 300km journey on jungle roads and it was the best experience of the trip.  At one point, Fabien got a flat tyre so I had to ride to the nearest village to try and find a pump.  I found a small community of local people about five miles away, who lent me a pump, which I rode back with between my legs.  Fabien managed to pump the tyre enough to ride back to the village and return the pump. As we arrived there was a Thai guy wearing a cowboy hat, with a guitar standing on the road singing “Country Roads” to us as we arrived.  The villagers let us stay the night and helped fix the puncture. This amazing moment would never have happened if I didn’t go on a motorcycle (scooter) trip.  After a few years and a couple more trips where I rented a bike, it was time for me to get my license in the UK, plus I was entering mid-life crisis mode.  I passed the test the first time and am now riding a Moto Guzzi V7 special (badass ‘70s Italian café racer).  It has been my total passion for the past four years. It’s especially great when I’m stuck on a tune and I need to get out of the studio.  I just go for a ride along the coast or through the countryside, the long way round to the farm shop to get the daily groceries. It’s total zen, you are in the moment the whole time carving round the roads concentrating only on the ride, I return home feeling completely fulfilled and ready to get on with the tune.  So my advice is, go and ride a motorcycle, find your inner Steve McQueen, clear your mind and be the bike!

2. Sea Swimming in Margate

I’ve been extremely lucky to have moved with my girlfriend to Margate, a small seaside town in southeast of England. The savor of lockdown was being able to go for a swim in the sea over the summer.  I like to adopt the “Hasselhoff” approach to entering the sea  — running from the beach tossing my hair in the wind then diving straight in,  emerging with a euphoric roar!  Any stress you had leaves you immediately and it sets you up for the day.  It does obviously get a tad chilly in the Autumn and the roar becomes a squeak but cold water swimming is supposed to be good for your immune system. On the opposite note, I lived in Reykjavik a few years ago, and everyone there is very into hot tubbing. There are loads of public swimming pools with hot tubs or natural hot springs, and the Icelandic culture is rich in the community coming together and chatting in the 42 degrees tub. It’s the thing I miss most about living there. But  last winter in Margate there was a wood burning sauna on the beach, which was a converted sea bathing machine. It was free to anyone, you just turn up, meet strangers, talk nonsense, Icelandic style, getting very hot and sweaty for 20 minutes, then do the “Hoff and Squeak” into the freezing British channel.  Being in the sea as much as possible all year round is great! That is a fact.

3. Vintage Studio effects rack: The Eventide H949 Harmonizer

So the story goes, Tony Visconti received a phone call from David Bowie and Brian Eno, Brian’s on the extension line, telling him about their plans to make a record together and wondering if he would be interested in co-producing it.  The record was going to be two different vibes: side two being an ambient record and side one an experimental rock record. They then asked what Tony could bring to the table and he said, “Well I’ve got this new effects unit called a Harmonizer” and they said, well what does it do, to which he famously replied: “It fucks with the fabric of time.” Upon hearing this David and Brian started whooping with excitement, saying this is exactly what we’re looking for and Tony got the job. The album was Low. I heard this story when I was in Berlin at a studio that had one of these Harmonizers, the Eventide H910.  When I came back I had to have one in my studio.  I couldn’t find a working H910 so I opted for the H949 which is the next model after.  It came out in 1977, also the year of my birth, and it’s my favorite piece of studio gear. It looks badass; black with white buttons and a red LED screen which flashes the numbers of the pitch frequency. It’s basically an echo unit and a pitch shifter.  But when you start twisting the black knobs, whatever it is that you’re feeding through it, maybe drums, guitar, vocals, synths or whatever, it’ll turn into beautiful twisted ‘70s alien space wonk!  I sit in the studio for hours just wonking up drum machines without even recording anything, transporting myself to Jupiter and back for the fun of it.

(Photo Credit: Lilias Buchanan)

Tunng is Mike Lindsay, Sam Genders, Becky Jacobs, Ashley Bates, Martin Smith, and Phil Winter. On November 6, the British folktronica band released Tunng Presents… DEAD CLUB,  a new album, podcast series, and conversation on death and grief.

(Photo Credit: Lilias Buchanan)