Artist Interviews

Q&A: Three Trapped Tigers

By | Published on Thursday 15 April 2010

Three Trapped Tigers

Hailing from London, Three Trapped Tigers are an instrumental outfit, experimenting with electronica and rock. With influences ranging from Aphex Twin and Squarepusher to Lightning Bolt and Battles, their sound is a mixture of noisy guitars, synths, frantic beats and ambient noise. Having already released two fantastic EP’s, ‘EP1’ and ‘EP2’, last year, they released ‘EP3’ earlier this month via Blood & Biscuits. Currently touring the UK, we spoke to pianist Tom Rogerson to find out more.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
Me personally, I was about three and I was trying to copy my elder sister who was learning the piano at the time. She gave up within a year while I was trying to write down the theme tune to ‘Grandstand’ on the back of one of my Dad’s work folders. Collectively, I met Matt [Calvert, guitar] through other musician friends, and he was living with [drummer Adam] Betts. Matt and I played together for a year in another band, doing improvisation mainly, before I thought we should probably write some material and make it a bit… louder.

Q2 What inspired your latest EP?
Well, we’re thinking of it very much in the context of the previous two EPs. It’s a kind of branching away from those two, examining different directions, concepts, sounds, tempos etc. Loosely, from my point of view, I wanted it to be something a bit more Autechre-ish: slower, more loop-based, more industrial, more priority to drum sound and general sound than we’d done previously, and less priority to melody and form. I don’t know if it comes across, but that was the starting point.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
Recently, a lot of agony. It varies, basically. In the early days, I’d write some stuff and bring it in, and the others would discard literally half of it, and then come up with their own parts and we’d kind of squeeze it all together, play it live, mess around with it and so on. Recently, though, I’ve had an idea or a starting point and then Matt and I will bash our heads against a brick wall for about six months until something happens. On ‘EP3’, Betts came up with the first drum loop you hear (he programmed it then learnt it live), and then Matt and I jammed around it and eventually a song was written. But the final track is mostly Matt’s pre-written material. So, we’re becoming more flexible. I ought to say, as well, that there’s tons of improv in the gigs that goes into making a track. We pretty much re-interpret every track whenever we play it. That way, no one gets bored.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
Most of them. We all like electronica, we all know lots about jazz and improv. Betts has a metal background but used to play in a funk band with Matt, who has a more US-rock background. And I have a classical background, I guess. So there’s a lot of reference points. But the obvious starting point was pretty much one question: how do you play Aphex Twin live? And one answer: make it sound a bit like Lightning Bolt.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
Try not to think about it. There’s lots going on and people sometimes think there’s something you’re supposed to ‘get’. But there isn’t. Just bring to it what you want to bring to it. It’s the same reason we don’t have song titles. If you hate it, that’s fine. Also, if you’re coming to a show, don’t miss the start. The set is one continuous thing.

Q6 What are you ambitions for your latest EP, and for the future?
All along we’ve just been curious to see how it goes down. The breadth of response is really great, and already people are telling me this is their favourite EP and others are saying it’s our worst, and people say different songs are their favourite, etc. So, I suppose the ambition for this one is to release an EP that gets a response from people, and that completes the ‘trilogy’ in an appropriate way. In that sense, I think we’ve already kind of achieved that ambition for ourselves. For the future, the main thing is that we carry on making music that is decent and playing gigs that excite listeners as much as they (the gigs) excite us. And there’s the small matter of writing an album at some point.