We were lucky enough to catch up with Ian Whiteling, the singer and guitarist for NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE (NDX). Their latest single ‘Everything’ is out now!
Hi Ian, how did NDX get together?
Our guitarist Bill Marten and drummer Mike Sarjeant were friends living in Ealing and wanted to put a new band together. This was back in 2016. They had both been in bands before and were keen to start playing live again.
Our bass player Amar Grover was recommended to them by a musician contact – he’d not been playing long, but was progressing well and seemed like a bit of a natural! Amar knew me (Ian Whiteling, NDX singer and guitarist) through a close musician friend and asked me if I was interested in joining, initially to play covers.
Like Bill and Mike, I’d been involved in music for some time, but hadn’t been that active in the previous two to three years. I’m a songwriter, so was reluctant to join a covers band, but also wanted to get back to performing. After one rehearsal, we all seemed to click.
Amar had heard a few of my original songs before and said he particularly liked one called Tequila. Bill and Mike asked me to play it, they loved it, and so Near Death Experience was formed. We soon learned that we really sparked off each other creatively and almost instantly began writing songs together.
What is the first song that captured your attention as a youngster?
We’re all very much influenced by the 1960s and 1970s, so…
For me, it has to be ‘House of the Rising Sun’ by The Animals, the first single I bought. I’ve always loved the 1960s, from the sound to the songwriting to the fashion.
Amar’s obsessed with the psychedelic late 1960s and early 1970s, so his landmark song is ‘Proud Mary’ by Credence Clearwater Revival, later supercharged by Tina Turner.
Although Bill adores the early 1970s, and is a T-Rex and Bowie nut, the song that got him into music is actually the 1960s classic ‘Legend of Xanadu’ by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch.
Mike’s musical wake-up call is also one of Bill’s favourite songs – Telegram Sam by T-Rex!
Who influenced your latest release ‘Everything’?
Haha, that would be telling! Well, ‘Everything’ was born in the rehearsal room. The song started off with the funky drum beat, which Mike began playing during a jam. Bill then improvised the guitar chord pattern and I laid over the vocal melody, all within a few minutes, with Amar quickly developing his bass line. I’d even pretty much written the first couple of verses before we left the rehearsal room. So we all ‘influenced’ the song as such.
As soon as Mike laid down the drumbeat, I think we knew we were on course to writing a groovy psychedelic soul number and so that’s what we all worked towards. Bill’s our production guru, so he honed the sound beautifully in the studio.
You released three single in 2020 (‘Conquer’, ‘Moves’ and ‘Lord’), what does 2021 hold?
The plan last year was to launch ‘Conquer’ and ‘Moves’, then our new album, which will be called The Release – you’ll understand why once you see the artwork! However, the pandemic meant this wasn’t possible, so we decided to keep working and releasing singles.
Our new single ‘Everything’ was actually ready before ‘Lord’, but we thought the latter would make a great Christmas single, so released it first in early December. We’ll probably release one or two more singles during the first half of 2021, see how the world is going, then get our new album out late summer/autumn. This will feature full-length versions of ‘Everything’ and ‘Lord’, currently unavailable, plus a host of other new songs we have in the pipeline.
We have created a strictly limited edition Lord CD EP, which we make to order. It features the beautiful artwork of our regular collaborator Pedro Takahashi, who has produced the art for all our releases and includes our 2020 single releases, plus ‘Everything’.
We made the EP because Hawaiian radio station KTUH in Honolulu loved our songs, but was not able to play digital recordings. So we designed and made it just for them during early January 2021. The amazing radio station is still playing our singles – including a track from our Mouth To Mouth album! Anyone can now order a copy of the EP from our Bandcamp shop.
We’ll give one away free to the first person who can name the keyboard being played on ‘Everything’.
There’s a brilliant video which accompanies ‘Everything’, how did the video conception happen?
We create our own videos, as I have a background in video shooting and editing. I’ve honed the kind of quirky psychedelic look and feel across a few songs, which the band loves, and we feel we’ve developed something that it quite our own – you can find all our videos on our YouTube channel.
With ‘Everything’, I wanted to get over the darker edge of the song, which although celebrates love, also tells a story of a relationship that is so intoxicating, it’s impossible to get out of. Hence the almost bondage-like imagery and mysterious dream-like dance sequences, which feature shadow dancer Amber Serene, who kindly let us incorporate one of her incredible performances into the ‘Everything’ video. I’m glad you like it as we’re very pleased with the results.
What motivates you to make music?
For NDX, it’s all about the creativity – working together to craft brilliant songs that will move people. From the first rehearsal in St Mary’s Church in Ealing, London, it was clear there was a creative chemistry between us all. Although Bill and I often come up with ideas and sometimes complete song arrangements, they are developed with the whole band. Many of our songs are born in rehearsals, emerging quickly from initial jams into fully formed songs. Yes, we’re quite prolific!
We also live for playing live so that we can fully deliver the passion in our songs and connect with real people. There’s nothing like it!
If you could open for any artist/band who would it be?
The hearts of all members of NDX lie firmly in the 1960s and 1970s. As a diversion during the lockdown, we voted for what we thought was the best song ever written. The Beatles were in there, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, but the winner was a song recorded in 1969 by a solo artist who went on to change the face of popular music numerous times. Can you guess who it is and their song?
Well, we all – eventually – agreed the best song ever written was Space Oddity by David Bowie. So the artist we’d love to open for more than any other would be the Thin White Duke himself, probably during his early 70s pomp.
What’s your favourite venue to play?
I don’t know whether this classifies as a venue as such, but the most fun we’ve had playing live is when we performed at Glastonbury back in 2017, just a year after we’d formed. It was epic!
Other than that it has to be The New Inn in Ealing where the band formed. The great little pub, which is literally just across the road from where we used to rehearse, agreed to allow us to host gigs on Saturday nights featuring new and original artists, rather than the usual covers bands that tend to be pub favourites. It was a big step, but the landlord Chris’s faith paid off as his regular customers loved it.
We usually played alongside three or four other bands and hosted some fantastic nights there under the name of Ealing Live. Sadly the pub changed hands, and the new owners weren’t interested, but it launched Ealing Live, which we then hosted in other Ealing pubs until the pandemic intervened.
What are your other passions aside from music?
Music is certainly everyone’s biggest passion by far. In terms of other interests…
– I’m a huge Manchester City fan.
– Bass player Amar Grover is a bit of a rambler, especially when it’s in India, and he loves going on treks for weeks on end.
– Guitarist Bill Marten is a sound engineer and is particularly into vintage audio technology, which he loves fiddling with over a craft ale
– Drummer Mike Sarjeant loves food and eating in general, so that’s certainly his passion. In fact, no bread basket is safe with Mike around!
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
At NDX we support a more equitable distribution of streaming royalties to drive more investment into emerging acts. It’s widely believed that the pro-rata model that currently exists disproportionately privileges big artists and labels, and leaves little chance for even midsize artists, such as a band like Khruangbin — whose most-listened-to songs have tens of millions of listens on Spotify — to get a ‘fair’ share of royalties.
Also, fans have no say in where their subscription payments go. In contrast to the promise of “music for everyone” (as Spotify’s tagline goes), countless working artists across the globe can’t feasibly make a decent living. It might be better to have a model that reflects the artists fans are listening to – for example, if someone listens just to us and Khruangbin, their subscription would be split between those two bands, and so on.
What’s more, listeners would likely support any move to ensure more money gets to smaller artists, with a recent YouGov poll finding that 77% of music buyers believed artists were not getting a fair deal.
What new music are you listening to at the moment?
Although it’s pretty tough to drag our listening away from the 1960s and 1970s, new artists that have caught our eye recently include:
– the songwriting and emotional performances of Sam Fender
– the psychedelic soul of The Black Pumas
– the cool neo-soul of Brittany Howard and Michael Kiwanuka
– the beat-laden folk of Biig Piig
– the funky Curtis Harding
– the cool psychedelic musings of Khurangbin
– Weyes Blood’s soulful alt-country
– the 1980s-infused pop-rock of HAIM
FVMusicBlog February 2021
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