“I started recording TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER at home in early November 2010. At the time I was the lead singer/songwriter of an indie pop group and my personal life was in a massive state of flux. I was moving away, geographically, from my band mates, my friends and comforts into a situation that was mostly out of my control. I was only 19 and I had left college to go straight into being a musician, so I had yet to break free from living at home. What began then was a long year of isolation on the very edges of North West London and a time of staggered creativity.
While sketches and initial versions of LOOKING FOR SOMEONE and DRIPPING DOWN were being worked on, the track that would eventually be named TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER III was the first track to be fully completed. It was an instrumental track that was not recorded to a grid but developed in free time. The main theme of this track was made into a loop that I remember listening to for about three hours uninterrupted. The sound of it just captured the mood of the time perfectly and it was in direct contrast to the songs I was writing in the band.
It was an instrumental track more in line with the electronic music I was beginning to listen to more of; Tim Hecker, Brian Eno, the orchestral/electronic combinations explored on Bjork’s ‘Homogenic‘ and continued on Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Age of Adz‘, (released around the same time I started to work on these tracks) and it seemed to be calling upon some more classical influences in the shape of Shostakovich and Arvo Part. It shunned the pop song structures I was used to working on and went against the need for vocalizing. At the time though I was still committed to my current group, so I wasn’t sure when or how I would use this track (or indeed the other two that I had started) than for my own personal therapy.
Over the next year I would continue making songs in this style, at home. It was the only thing allowing me to combat the boredom of being at the very end of the central line, without any friends or social life in London. I was travelling to and from Southampton a lot for rehearsals with my band and then going out on the road for a couple of weeks, every couple of months. While new songs were being fleshed out in the band, I kept the methodology and mood very separate from what I was working on at home and as such, I felt generally unfulfilled by the content the band was creating. Also, the lack of success despite our best efforts was frustrating me and making the whole slog seem increasingly pointless and the personal success of my home recordings all the more appealing.
Towards the end of 2011, on our final tour of the year, we decided to kick out our bass player and thus relationships began to erode and give way for all kinds of tension to surface. There were also many family issues faced by a couple of us and by the time January 2012 came along, things were at a crucial moment and ready to snap. I’d moved back to Southampton in February 2012 but sought regular refuge at my then-manager’s flat in the Docklands of London, by East India Dock to be precise. The band was barely active during the next few months, as we fulfilled commitments with stand-in bass players. During this time, as we all grew further away from each other, emotionally this time, I began to experience a strange creative renaissance, fuelled in part by my precarious financial and familial situations but also in the introduction of new ideas and new people.
I knew that my time in my current group was limited and my home recordings began to thrive. The main musical theme of TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER III had been extended to three other tracks, creating a loose conceptual thread throughout some of the recordings. The final pieces of the puzzle came together in a couple of weeks in May 2012. One weekend in particular of performances by Bo Ningen & Damo Suzuki, The Fall and experiencing the groundbreaking operatic work of Philip Glass’ ‘Einstein on The Beach‘, love finding me at the end of my tether, and finally the courage to push ahead with my home recordings and end the band. I frantically pulled together all of the disparate elements of things I’d been working on for the last year and a half and filled in the gaps in a very quick 2 weeks of recording. The final song to be completed was HEAVEN, HOW LONG – the centrepiece of the record. The structure and composition being a perfect marriage between my experimental electronic tendencies and the songwriting chops I had been honing over the last few years of my life.
One morning I decided that I’d finished the album. The title TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER was simply a throwaway phrase I had written in one of my notebooks around the time of completing (the at the time untitled) TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER III, yet one that I couldn’t get out of my head and relate to the time of making the songs that would make up the record. The fact that it was a pun, in all caps, seemed initially at odds with the mood of the record. Yet in this absurdity it also seemed to fit the themes of the album perfectly. I then sequenced the tracks in such an order so that it flowed between its many different styles and rhythms as well as it possibly could.
There were many different strands at work here; neo-classical, noise, Detroit techno, pop and it was a difficult task making sure the track list flowed. Once happy with an initial mastering job I did at home, I broke up the band and made plans to move to London, kindly being offered temporary residence at the flat in East India that I had initially sought refuge in at the start of 2012. Thus, the name East India Youth seemed obvious. Both in the flat’s ‘Hostel’-like utility and how the place saw the birth of this period of creativity that would grant me my next steps being an artist. A month or two later I handed the CD of the first finished version of TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER to The Quietus editor John Doran after spotting him at a gig, and the rest is very well covered history.
I’ve remixed and slightly altered some of the tracks from the original version for this 2013 release. It’s been a long and intense process and in many ways it feels more of an extension of myself than a mere collection of songs and compositions. Never before has my life and my work intertwined so crucially and so successfully. It would be an understatement to say I am looking forward to it finally being released. I feel like releasing it will be a properly cathartic process and will finally allow me to carry on with life after TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER.”
– William Doyle, August 2013
Main photograph by Rebecca Miller
Index photo by Marine Andrieux