In 2020, with ‘The Gone Away’, Belbury Poly released another album full of charm and mystery in which he revisited the most enchanted and fairy-tale British folklore; the album proposes a particularly syncretic version of all the suggestions scattered in Belbury Poly’s previous records.
Over the years, Jim Jupp (the man behind that mysterious moniker) has increasingly refined his blend of electronic motifs and bucolic poems, appropriately desaturated through the “unfaithful” and therefore “creative” filter of his own television, literary, and film memories. Listening to his strange ballads for synthesizers has often brought us close to the same pagan and subtly disturbing England that we had already glimpsed between the acoustic folds of The Incredible String Band and the electronic beats of Boards of Canada.

Belbury Poly - The Gone Away

A description that could be applied to the entire sound of Ghost Box Records, a record label created by Jim Jupp himself, together with his colleague Julian House (who is also involved in a “musical project” called The Focus Group), from which it is possible to extract “perturbing” projects that feed on common aesthetics and vibrations, although declined in different ways by the different artists in the catalog.
Imagery and aesthetics that are often linked to the ability of memory to “haunt” the present, representing a landscape that is both alien and familiar. Rather than recreating personal memories of a past era, they seem to want to translate to music the imagination that that era has left behind.
Suggestions that fascinate at every latitude… perhaps because of a common “big bang”: the irruption of the television medium into the collective imagination.
We thought to ask Jim Jupp a few questions in an attempt to investigate, more than the music itself, the cultural (and not only) curiosities that it may raise. 

But let’s not waste time, here’s what we said:

Hi Jim,
with this little interview, we would like to try to fill the natural cultural gap that a “foreigner” has to face in the attempt to fully grasp all the artistic and aesthetic suggestions present in your music and in the music of many artists of Ghost Box Records.
In spite of the immediate and instinctive fascination linked to the sinister beauty of your compositions, we suspect anyway to lose something… at least in comparison with who has grown up with these suggestions and maybe finds them inside in an almost subconscious way. Well…

belbury-poly-goneHow would you explain to an extraterrestrial (or even only to an Italian…) the suggestions that a musician like you is able to grasp from the English countryside (caught in its most ancestral and ancient dimension) and from the memories of England in the sixties and seventies (as sedimented in the memory)? Are there common cultural traits between these two elements? Is it possible to glimpse a common line which – crossing these two eras – identifies a sort of deep identity of England itself?
With Belbury Poly my interest in British landscape is not so much related to actual personal experience in the landscape. (I say “British” because I’m from Wales and have memories and fascination with both countries) For me it’s about the way that most of us reflect on our familiar landscapes via the history we’ve been taught about it, the books we read about it or the TV and Films we’ve seen about it especially while we’re growing up. Wherever we come from we overlay our familiar surroundings with stories and meanings that aren’t immediately apparent to an outsider. A further layer of mystery and fantasy gets added by our memory which is of course totally unreliable.
If I’m out walking I’d be much more excited to discover an old TV show was filmed on a particular hillside than to discover a rare plant or animal that had its habitat there. Shallow and non-scientific perhaps, but It would have more meaning for me.
I think this is what is called “Psychogeography” in academic circles but it’s a natural human process for all of us, and a source of artistic inspiration. I don’t think it gives any  clues to the real identity of a country, but maybe it helps to explain the imaginative and emotional character of a landscape and its inhabitants.
Also for me it’s not just something that happens in countryside or in big cities, it’s there in the suburban environments that so much of the UK population actually live and work in. 

 One of the musicians who first reflected on the intertwining of memory, territory, and sound was Brian Eno in ‘On Land’. An album that set to music the synaesthesia caused by the sounds that haunted, like ghosts, the landscapes of Suffolk, or perhaps just the memory of the musician himself. The result was a superimposition of the real and the imaginary that bewitched the listener: is this a ‘game’ that you have tried to recreate in your music?
Yes I think we play a similar game, certainly in my own work as Belbury Poly and in the work of other Ghost Box artists to some extent. Actually, Eno isn’t a conscious influence on my work, I only really listened to him after I’d been working on Belbury Poly for a few years, but he’s undeniably part of my musical background even as a second hand influence.
Britain is a small, crowded country, and in relative terms it’s always been crowded. Waves of immigration and invasion have left archaeological traces literally anywhere you dig, and similarly folklore is layered deep in local traditions and place names. I’m no expert on any of this stuff but you’re constantly reminded of it when you’re in British cities and countryside and to me this has always been mixed up with my own childhood memories of places. Added to that for me, is the supernatural TV and fiction that obsessed me as a kid. It’s all just a rich compost of confused fact and memory that I automatically dip into for inspiration.

Tal Coat (Remastered 2004)

As fans of Italian music, we often complain about the treatment reserved for the musical, popular, and ethnic heritage of our country: placed in a “shrine” to preserve its ‘presumed’ purity, preventing contamination that could revitalize it. From this point of view, British folk seems to us to be a more “living” matter, capable of absorbing and metabolizing thoughts and sensibilities linked to contemporaneity. This happens also thanks to artists like you (but also between others, musicians like Martin Green, the Memory Band or, in a more lateral way, musicians like Richard Skelton) who are not afraid to combine the “wood” of folk with analogue circuits, up to digital silicon. What do you think about this? And what is your relationship with the folk and popular music of your country?
I agree it’s a living thing, and I don’t believe there’s anything that should be fixed at one moment in time or that can’t be reinterpreted or changed. I inherited very little folklore and tradition in my upbringing (I don’t think many British people do really) so for me a lot of this stuff was received through TV, films& fiction. I didn’t have any folk music in my upbringing unless you count Weslyian church hymns (which I still love). My earliest memory of English folk song was probably from Bagpuss,

The Miller’s Song – YouTube

 and a tune I still love was from an ad fro breakfast cereal called “Country Store”.

1978 Kelloggs Country Store Advert – YouTube

Having said that I do understand the value of learning about folklore, custom and traditional music and the importance of passing it on to successive generations. But we should remember these were never academic forms of culture and they grow from the lives of ordinary working-class people and don’t belong in glass cases in museums and universities.

Ghost Box is considered a quintessentially British label, but its roster also includes, for example, a Portuguese band like Beautify Junkyard (who released a beautiful album in January, which we reviewed HERE ). Do you think that the suggestions that the label feeds on are not only found in England, but can also be found in other places? Do you think that certain suggestions that try to catch revealing traces of panic mysticism in daily life are transversal to the various cultural identities of the territories, being rather referable to a common human nature?
We’re enjoying slowly changing what Ghost Box is about, or at least broadening out what it might include. It’s no leap for us to work with people from other countries and cultures. The more I get to know musicians from other countries with a similar mindset to us, the more it’s clear that the global cultural shift and a revolution in media in the late 60s and early 70s had more or less the same effect everywhere. Psychedelia, folk tradition, occultism & technology suddenly exploded and merged in popular culture and left everyone, regardless of nationality and age with weird ghosts and memories which sort of echoed right up to the turn of the century and the start of the digital age.

Have you ever been interested in Italian library music from the sixties and seventies (we think of well-known authors such as Morricone and Piero Umiliani, but also more niche musicians such as Egisto Macchi and Amedeo Tommasi)? Did you happen to listen to the Italian bands and musicians who in recent times have taken up those sounds (bands such as Heroin in Tahiti, Mamuthones and, in general, the various formations that some journalists have labeled Italian Occult Psychedelia)?
Yes definitely. I’d say Italian library music is equally as important an influence as British library music for us. I think you can hear it quite clearly in some of the more Baroque elements of Julian House’s Focus Group. Julian was a library collector from way back and introduced me to a lot of stuff around the time of those amazing Barry 7 Connector compilations which had so much great Italian stuff.
We’ve always had a lot of press interest, correspondence and demos from Italy. More than any other European country.  There’s something in the DNA of Ghost Box which obviously resonates there.  I think it’s more than the Italian library influences, it may have to do with those elements of mod aesthetics that are still so strong in both our countries. Maybe the history of horror movies and supernatural fiction in both countries explains it too. Julian’s visual work for Ghost Box and elsewhere has a definite modernist Italian vibe running through it too I think.
I guess the film Berberian Sound Studio is the best representation of where those cultural elements overlap and contrast for both countries.
I wasn’t aware of those bands but I think I’ll dive into Heroin in Tahiti a little more, sounds great on first listen. 

Finally, as homework, could you give us five film or book titles in which we can find the aesthetics that enraptured you and that you used as a starting point for your musical visions?

The White People and Other StoriesArthur Machen
A Dream of WessexCristopher Priest
Mythago WoodRobert Holdstock
The Midwich CuckoosJohn Wyndham
That Hideous StrengthC.S. Lewis

World on a Wire (Welt am Draht) 1973
Berberian Sound Studio 2012
Valerie and her Week of Wonders (Valerie a týden divů) 1970
The Owl Service UK TV Series 1969
Jonathan Miller’s Alice in Wonderland UK TV Play 1966

Bonus track: What happened to the Hintermass project? We ask this as fans: we consider “The Apple Tree” one of the most beautiful song-oriented records released since the beginning of this century… Please tell it Jon Brooks and Tim Felton from us!
I think that was only ever a one off collaboration ! But I agree the title track The Apple Tree maybe one of the best tracks we ever put out on the label. I’ll pass the message on and ask for more.