May, 2018. Terrascope was granted an audience with Rob Bonnacon. Bound and hooded, of course.

You've been around for quite a while yet this is the Bonnacons' first album, what's taken you so long?

Yes we’ve been together in one shape or form for five years. But at first it wasn’t really envisaged as a band that would record, it was just meant to be a series of one-off performances. In fact, we were never really supposed to be a real band at all. It was initially four of us who came together to do one site specific performance in 2013 where we did a guitar feedback and odd looped radio transmissions thing in a public square outside the Foundation for Art and Technology in Liverpool. It was a really strange gig by most standards as the audience was made up of the art crowd, street people and kids on skateboards and random passers-by. It was a horrific unfocussed noise but people seemed to find it interesting and on the back of that we got asked to do other things and it evolved from there. In that initial stage we did a series of one-off projects which were conceived as performance experiments - everything from playing with a full Cathedral Choir, to burning test tubes on stage to make drones, to creating virtual reality installations. I think in that initial stage, because the performances were conceived as art projects there was a kind of slash and burn attitude to just let them exist in the moment for whoever had experienced them. So at that stage there was no point in making a record. It was probably once Kate Smith joined in 2015 that we thought, actually there’s an album in this. She’s got an amazing range and control and I think it just takes everything to another level. So when that had finally bedded in we felt it was time to document what we’ve been doing.

Why is it released on Rocket and not, say, God Unknown

I think the prime motivation was that Rocket has put out some of our favourite stuff of the past few years. And I guess the eclecticism was something that really chimed with us. If you look at their roster, say Goat, Shit and Shine, Teeth of the Sea or Gnod as acts, they are in themselves miles apart sonically but all make sense in terms of sensibility and the fact that they’re all pushing the boundaries of their respective genres. And that really appealed to us. So when we actually came round to recording the album they were the first and only people we sent it to. Thankfully they were really responsive and wanted to put it out straight away.

It was recorded at MJ Hookworms' Suburban Home Studios. How did that arrangement come about and does it sound like you wanted it to? It has the feel of having been recorded live.

The decision to record at Suburban Home was fairly organic, in that like the way the band came together it was done through friendship networks. Some of us knew MJ already and it made sense to him to work on our record. We spoke to him before we recorded about how we wanted to do it and he was up for it. There’s always an improvisational element when we play where we react to each other musically in the moment so the record was all done live and all the tracks are pretty much first takes. MJ is really good at catching an authentic sound on tape so it allowed us to just go straight in and record with a freshness which I think is captured on the album.

The Bonnacons are a come and go collective with a core membership. At the risk of demystification who are the core? (I feel I've just asked Kendo Nagasaki to take off his mask)

Ha, the thing is Kendo Nagasaki still looked amazingly mysterious and fucking cool even when he was finally unmasked. You were kind of expecting this old northern wrestling lag who was putting it on, and instead it was this intense Henry Rollins looking freak with a pentagram tattooed on his head, a Japanese topknot and black contact lenses. Killer. I’m not sure we could quite pull this off. We’ve all been involved in bands, running labels, putting on festivals, audio visual stuff, art installations that people may or may not be aware of and we’re individually proud of that. But I guess as a project, that’s not really relevant- when we perform it’s essentially a group of friends having an intense physical and mental collective experience. In those moments it’s the collective identity that takes over. And that’s the point. It’s not really important who we are.

Where did you find Kate Smith? She's the magnificent cherry on top of the cake.

Kate was a friend who we had known for years. When she joined she had just come off the back of working on CAPAC’s ‘Sea Freeze’ LP. There are really dark, unsettling moments on that record in which we saw parallels with what we were doing. We’d had some discussions about introducing more vocal elements to the Bonnacons and Kate immediately sprang to mind. The fact that working with us, Kate had to find space in a much more dense sound world (CAPAC is totally electronic) meant that it pushed her voice in different direction and it immediately worked. She just came out with this almost automatic non-linguistic style where she really battered the top of her range and it just seemed to fit so well with what we were doing.

Are there any further plans for the Bonnacons beyond promoting the album (and if so what) or are you all too busy with everything else? 

We’re working on new material and will hopefully be doing some more one off projects. We are all really busy but the Bonnacons project is something we’re all really emotionally invested in it so there’s definitely more to come.

Feature interview: Ian Fraser