Recording process a dialogue, says Ecstasy of St Theresa's Jan P. Muchow

Ecstasy of St Theresa were founded in the early 1990s by Jan P. Muchow, who now also composes for films, as well as producing other artists and providing the music for advertisements. The group went through numerous line-up changes before settling to its current form of Muchow and Katerina Winterova, a successful actress at Prague's National Theatre. Four years after their last album Slowthinking, Ecstasy of St Theresa are back with a new collection, Watching Black.

I discussed Watching Black with Jan P. Muchow recently at his small studio off Wenceslas Square, and began by asking him how the new CD differed from its predecessor.

"From our point of view it's different in the way...we think we communicate more. The previous album Slowthinking was kind of introverted and fragile sounding and this time we wanted to communicate more with the on the outside, or about the outside.

"Soundwise we wanted to go more organic sounding, or a bit more dirty. Because the previous album we thought was too clinical, too clean. So now we wanted to feel the human touch more."

It's about four years since your previous album came out - why did it take so long?

"It's like two parts why it took so long. The first part is that when the record comes out its not the end of the life of the record. We spent almost a year touring and promoting it, we made three EPs, we made a DVD version of the record.

"Then it came out in the UK so we spent some time as well promoting it there. And then we played at some festivals, so it took almost two years to support Slowthinking.

"Then we started to look ahead and to work on the new record and then came about the pregnancy of the singer."

Will the new album Watching Black be released outside the Czech Republic? Will you have distribution?

"We hope so. We haven't signed a deal or anything. But with the response we get for instance from MySpace on the internet, it would seem to be logical to also have distribution outside the Czech Republic."

Does the internet in general help bands like yourselves from smaller countries like the Czech Republic?

"I guess, in the way that some people have the chance to hear you. It's hard to say if it can help in terms of distribution or shows. Maybe you would need quite a huge response for some promoter or some label to think, OK, we should do this band here as well.

"But at least we know there are people on the planet that want to be friends with us on MySpace, or they write back that they enjoy the music."

Your new single is Watching Black White Looking, but it's not the most poppy song on the new album - why did you choose that as a single?

"I thought it makes it clear what the record is about. If we chose for example the song where there is a duet with Selfbrush [Wrong Time, Wrong Place] it's maybe more poppy and people would maybe enjoy it more.

"But I would think as a pilot single it would not tell the truth about the album. I wanted to make a clear sign of what the record is basically about."

Ecstasy of St Theresa have been playing selected dates around the country promoting Watching Black, and will be appearing at Prague's Palac Akropolis on January 29. How important is playing live to Jan Muchow?

"To be honest, in my teens and twenties I didn't enjoy gigs so much, because I knew the sound wouldn't be perfect. We play the kind of stuff that you would enjoy much better - or rather you would hear everything and understand it in full on record.

Katerina Winterova
"We were not able to do it clubs in the Czech Republic, and the sound...But during all those years I changed my mind, and we started to make a live set that is a different than on record. We said people can hear the versions on the record as we would wish them to hear them. But at gigs they will hear live versions."

Getting back to the recording process, how much do you and the singer Katerina Winterova collaborate? Or how much are you the boss, or the dictator perhaps?

"It's basically a dialogue. If either of us says, no I don't like this, we just stop it. So there is no track that maybe I won't like and she will, or the opposite.

"I will come up with some idea and play it to her, and if she likes it then we start to work on it.

"I want to hear her opinion. Because she's not an instrumentalist and she's not a musician, in the sense that she doesn't play any instrument. So how she thinks about the music is, like, feelings.

"We don't talk in terms of harmony or chords, we talk about, I like this and I don't like that, or this gives me goose-bumps and that leaves me cold. And it's clearly what she likes or not. So I would think it's a dialogue thing, and it's as we both see it or hear it."

Listen to selected tracks