On Friday, I had the opportunity to talk to Richard Tracey (a.k.a Jigsaw Sequence). Over the next couple of hours we spoke about the origins of his band, his upcoming album ‘Happiness’, and what plans he has for the future.
Chris: You got started with Jigsaw Sequence back in 2017. Is this your first project or were there other bands beforehand? If so, what kind of bands were they and what led you to starting Jigsaw Sequence?
Richard: Jigsaw Sequence is my only project. It went through a couple of name changes, but I ended up going back to JS. Up till 2012, when I started making music in GarageBand and then Logic, I tinkered with small piano ideas. When I realised that I could use a DAW to make the music I had in my head, I decided to start a project with the view to release music.
Chris: Is there a story behind the name? I tried to research the name, but your music was the only thing that came up.
Richard: *laughs* When I decided I wanted to go by another name, instead of my own name, I always knew that I was going to go with an Ultravox lyric. Jigsaw Sequence is a line from the ‘Rage in Eden’ track off the album with the same name. I really liked the sound of it, so decided to use it.
Chris: That’s pretty awesome then, because you’ve overtaken another artist’s use of the phrase. Google did not pull up that result. *laughs*
Richard: Yeah, I like to think of it as unique and something that stands out.
Chris: Which leads to your influences. Obviously Ultravox influenced you; are there others that you would say influence your sound? Or is there a genre/time period that shaped your direction?
Richard: Ultravox, Midge Ure, and Visage are clearly my main influences along with OMD, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, Alphaville, and tons of other 80’s synth inspired bands/artists. There are too many to mention to be honest.
From about 79-85 was my main period for music and influence. I liked some punk, but it is certainly the New Romantic and New Wave music that I fell in love with.
Chris: That’s a great list of artists and I think you’ve captured a lot of elements from them and the time period while having made something fresh and modern.
Richard: Thanks, glad to see I’m achieving what I hoped to do.
Chris: Most of your early material was produced by Fused. Outside of the shared musical tastes, what was the connection there? Did you guys know each other prior to that time? How did you get involved with him?
Richard: No, we didn’t know each other prior to this. I started speaking to Mark in late 2017 and we hit it off. Twitter is good for a lot of things and that was one of them. I let him hear about a dozen tracks I hadn’t finished, and he offered to produce my early tracks. He gave me the confidence that putting the music out there would be a good thing.
Chris: I had assumed you guys knew each other; it feels like such a natural pairing.
Richard: It feels like we’ve known each other a lot longer.
Chris: Have you guys ever talked about doing some form of collaboration, aside from remixes?
Richard: We talk about it from time to time, but we are both fairly busy with our own releases. There may be something in the works for later in the year though.
Chris: I would love to hear what would come from that project.
Richard: So would I. There is an idea there; how it will grow and transform, I don’t know.
Chris: Back in 2017, in an interview with SongStuff.com, you said that “the most challenging thing (about music) was yourself and that you needed to get past the stage of hating everything you do, even though you love the process of writing music”. Where are you now? Do you still feel this way when making music?
Richard: *laughs* Oh god yes. I am still my own worst enemy. That is one of the good things about being friends with Mark now, as he gets to hear every idea I have and I can get a feel on whether something is working or not, or whether a mix/production sounds like a nice idea.
Chris: Its nice having someone like that, isn’t it? I know I can usually tell if an idea is absolute trash, but it definitely helps to provide some perspective on some things. I know there’s been times Melodywhore or Sapphira Vee have encouraged me to keep at something, even though I had my doubts.
Richard: Yes, totally agree. Sometimes when you aren’t sure of an idea, let others hear it and give their view on it.
Chris: Does this mean you have a lot of b sides or other material lying around on the cutting room floor? I know you do have some unreleased material from a couple collaborations and at least one track that has been partially released, ‘It Must Come to All’.
Are there any plans for this kind of material to see the light of day at some point? In the case of ‘It Must Come to All’, your website says that its “part of an ambient cinematic instrumental release”; that would imply that there’s additional tracks to accompany it.
Richard: Oh, there is so, so much just waiting to be released at some time.
I know Mark and I have spoken about Bandcamp subscription and if I decided to do it, there are tons and tons of ideas that could go on there, in their current work in progress form, till I can finish them. Who knows?
As for collaborations, there aren’t many, at the moment, but I do have an EP to finish at some point, that a certain interviewer has contributed towards. There are a few tracks like ‘It Must Come to All’, that I really need to get out there at some point.
Chris: The Bandcamp subscription sounds like an interesting idea; a way to provide a behind the scenes look at the creative process and how a track evolves from concept to completion. I think that would be fantastic.
Richard: Yeah, I’ve always thought of it as a nice way for people to hear the tracks before they become fully formed.
Chris: And ‘It Must Come to All’ was great; I was surprised when I heard that one initially. In hindsight, I can hear some of its influence on your upcoming album, ‘Happiness’.
Richard: Thanks. I love instrumentals, especially when they have a kind of cinematic feel to them. All the tracks from that release are along that line, emotional and feeling.
You will probably hear that kind of influence on one of the tracks on the upcoming ‘Time Will Tell’ EP.
Chris: You recently released a single, ‘Day One’, and are gearing up for the second single, ‘Time Will Tell’, from your upcoming album, ‘Happiness’. What can you tell us about the album? Is it still on track for a July 3rd release?
Richard: It’s eleven tracks; two instrumentals and nine vocal tracks. The album is a mix of 80’s inspired melodies wrapped in a more modern production sound. I like to think it has touches from all of my musical influences and it should be fun to hear if anyone can pick out who the tracks feel like.
It should be releasing on 10th of July as I’ve pushed everything back one week. Nearly all the tracks are finished, and I am hoping to have it all finished this week.
Chris: That’s fantastic to hear.
You gave me the chance to preview the album and I have to say, it’s an incredibly strong album from start to finish and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
Are there any tracks that you think will surprise people? Were there any tracks that gave you issues during development or conversely, were there any tracks that just fell into place?
Richard: Wow, thanks so much Chris. I’m not sure, are there any tracks that you think might surprise anyone? To be honest, all the tracks fell into place very quickly, but as usual, they take longer to complete as I tend to write new ideas all the time.
Chris: Without giving too much away, ‘The Final Moments’ will surprise some people and it’s a fantastic choice of a closing track.
Richard: Yeah, that is one of my favourite tracks on the album. I like to think that the album won’t be what people expect. Although it’s synth and electronic, I think it has the vibe of the early 80’s about it in the style of the music.
Chris: ‘We Were Gods’ and ‘I Remember’ really stood out as well. I think people will hear some parts and go “yeah, that’s the Jigsaw Sequence I know”, but there’s more to it; the whole album has your sound, but it’s clearly an evolving sound.
Richard: So good to hear that. I like to think of it as the sound I always imagined producing.
Chris: Would you say this is closer to what you were hearing in your head when you were getting started and the years of dedication finally coming together?
Richard: If you were to hear a lot of the older ideas that are lying in the vault, you would hear a similar style. I don’t think of myself as trying to fit into a niche, rather than doing what I feel.
Chris: I think that’s always the right approach. It keeps you honest and allows the music to grow.
Richard: And who knows what will come from that continued growth.
Chris: The other day we were talking about ‘Happiness’ and you commented that you thought it felt like an album that would have been released in the early 80s, yet I hear a modern-ness in some of the sounds and production. Can you elaborate a bit on that?
Richard: Yeah, I like to think the music itself is reminiscent of that 80’s sound but using a more modern production value.
Chris: I can see that. I do hear some 90s creeping in though. ‘I Remember’ and ‘The Final Moments’, give me Songs of Faith and Devotion vibes.
Richard: Good album, but I probably hear more Ultravox and OMD in there to be honest.
Chris: I apparently need to expand my 80’s knowledge. Noted. I grew up in that time, but I was on the young side of it. So, I got into it all late.
Richard: *laughs* I think everyone should be made to expand their 80’s knowledge.
I don’t think age is a barrier for music. To me, music is timeless and transcends.
Chris: I agree that music is timeless, but I think we develop soft spots for what we grew up with. New Wave and the New Romantics were on the way out when I was really getting into music, so I had some exposure to it but didn’t really appreciate it until I was a bit older.
Richard: That’s true, but it must feel great finding music later in life that you hadn’t heard before. It’s like finding a long-lost friend.
Chris: Absolutely and then you find it hard to believe that you missed it originally. *laughs*
Richard: So true. That is why I believe everyone should try and open their mind to music if all kinds. At least give it a chance before you write it off. You never know what little gem is lying in hiding, waiting for you to discover along the way.
That doesn’t mean you have to like everything, but just that you tried and know why you don’t like it.
Chris: In the past you’ve released your material as singles and EP’s. ‘Happiness’ is your first LP, correct? What prompted the change in release format?
Richard: I’ve been wanting to release an album for a long time. I kept changing the track list and titles etc. I went from concept type album, to full on synth single material tracks. In the end I wanted to hark back to a time when I bought albums. This album was only meant to be eight tracks, but as usual, I added more as I wrote new songs. Every track on this album is a fairly recent composition. That wasn’t what I originally intended.
Chris: With the LP release, had any of the previous EPs been intended for a full-length release or did this set of material just feel right for it?
Richard: Before ‘Day One’, the previous couple of releases had been planned for an album release but I just wasn’t feeling it at the time. Now it feels right.
Chris: I’m not surprised by that. Some of the EPs feel like they could have been part of a larger release.
Richard: I think a lot of the tracks have a familiar feel to them. It might be what Mark calls the “Jigsaw Sequence sound”.
Chris: Without a doubt. ‘Everything Comes Back to You’, ‘Never’, and ‘Frankenstein Complex’ specifically. I thought they felt like they might have been from roughly the same time.
Richard: The funny thing is, ‘Never’ was a track I wrote in 2015 and I had lyrics and vocals done for it. I just never felt it and thought it would suit a female vocal better.
I tweaked the arrangement and sounds a bit and sent Kay (Burden) the instrumental to see what she could come up with for the lyrics. I felt it might sound more honest if she sang her own words.
Chris: I’m surprised to find out that ‘Never’ had been around in some form for that long. Speaking of Kay, how did you get her involved? Are there any plans to work with her again in the future?
Richard: I had heard her work with Buzzing Sound Candy, and I knew Mark was working with her on ‘Tear Me to Pieces’, so we started talking and decided to do something together. I tried to write something as a follow up to ‘Never’, but I couldn’t find a song that felt right; all the tracks started to sound like me and that wasn’t what I wanted.
Kay is now working with Some-e, so there are no plans to work together in the future. To be honest, I have so many songs I want to get out, that I need to be selective with what I do going forward. It’s a tough decision I had to make.
Chris: Sounds like that track was lightning in a bottle and the timing was right.
Richard: I think so. It is still being played on all the radio shows, so it must be doing something right.
Chris: Obviously you’re focused now on the release of ‘Happiness’, but after its release, what’s next for Jigsaw Sequence? Some hard-earned down time or are you immediately jumping into new material?
Richard: I’ve already got the second album mapped out and most of those tracks are close to being finished. I hope that will be out in the next couple of months. I also want to get the ‘A Cautionary Tale’ EP out as well. So, lots to be getting on with. Plus, there’s another couple of surprises that I hope might come out this year.
Chris: Man, you’re relentless. It sounds like there will be a lot more to look forward to this year and ‘Happiness’ isn’t even out yet.
Richard: Yeah, it’s why I procrastinate a lot. So much music and wanting it all out at the same time.
Chris: And what are you currently reading, watching, playing, or listening to lately?
Richard: I read a lot of Fantasy books, as I love all the world building elements, but I’ve not been able to concentrate on reading much lately.
I have particular TV programmes I’ll watch, but again I like stories that build over a season and have twists and turns. I recently watched Locke and Key and really enjoyed that. I like a good comedy, but most are American, like Brooklyn Nine Nine and I loved The Good Place.
Listening wise, I try to listen to some of my contemporaries as much as possible, but with the album and all the other tracks needing finished, I’ve ended up listening to my own music more than anything else. When I need a break, it’s back to my favourite 80’s tracks and artists.
Chris: Good to hear about Locke and Key, I’ve seen it recommended but hadn’t gotten there yet. The Good Place was amazing.
Richard: Yeah, The Good Place is probably one of the best tv series I have seen in years. Funny, heartfelt and just so well written.
Chris: And I know the feeling while trying to wrap something up; there’s no time for anything else and by the end of it you’re sick of your own songs *laughs*
Richard: Oh, tell me about it, I sometimes need to take a couple of days of not listening to my voice before I can go back to it again.
Chris: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today.
Richard: Thanks for the opportunity to have the chat, really appreciate it.