Wyrd Question Daze : Patrick Aston

I’m Patrick Aston and also Dark Leaves.

Dark Leaves is a solo project creating alternative folk songs of the land and sea where I live, on the West Cornwall coast.

I’m married to Sharon who’s an incredible photographer. We have 2 grown up children; our son is working in the music business, having just finished a degree in Music Business last year, and our daughter is at Uni doing a medical degree.

My music is earthy and atmospheric but also quite dark and on the alternative side of folk. I combine acoustic guitar playing with electronic and drone influenced soundscapes and hypnotic beats to make Dark Leaves.

I played guitar in a goth band in the late 80s / early 90s and in 1995 I wrote an ambient techno album recorded under the name of ‘Paranonia’, and released through the Nova Zembla label, which was a sub label of KK Records of Belgium. I was massively into UFOs at the time so there are some samples from a few films…”I saw the moon come down last night, I saw it touch the ground” – I’d welcome any thoughts on what film that’s from as I’ve forgotten…maybe ‘Fire In The Sky’ https://paranonia.bandcamp.com/releases

Through the goth and my brief venture into electronic music, I’ve always maintained a passion for acoustic guitars and the starker sounds of folk. It’s a combination of these things coming together that makes Dark Leaves, although more heavily weighted towards psych/indie folk.

My song writing inspiration comes primarily from being here at home in Cornwall. The sense of place I feel here is above all else and created by many memories, feelings, and emotive bonds. The folklore of Cornwall’s seas, woods, moors, hills and pagan seasonal festivals is an endless source.

Another source of inspiration comes from the wonderful ‘Hookland’ twitter account. There are 2 songs on my new album that are 100% inspired by Hookland; ‘The King Tide’ and ‘The Queen of Owls’. The very lovely David Southwell (Pah! He would say), who discovered Hookland, co-wrote the lyrics of ‘The King Tide’ with me, via a fantastic poem he sent. Hookland is really the only reason I have Twitter. Hookland is always close by, just an altered memory away. It’s just around the corner of the lane or just over the hedge when I’m out walking the dogs at night. It’s in the fields, in the powerlines, in the cliffs and under the sea…https://twitter.com/HooklandGuide

I record at home with a very basic set up and try to keep it as simple as possible. I don’t stress too much about the technical side of things because my knowledge isn’t great. I can usually achieve what I want by hook or by crook. I love the recording space I have in the house. It complements the vibe I try to create and provides me with exactly what I need.

Half the songs on my first album were recorded on just an iPad using Garage Band. Since then, I’ve invested in a really good microphone, Logic Pro and a MacBook. I use minimal effects on the guitars. There’s no soundproofing in my room so if you listen to the space in the quiter tracks you can hear all sorts going in the background, mostly the birds in the garden

I have a new single out that was released on 1st Oct 21 called ‘The Edge of the Light’. It was conceived on Rinsey Cliffs, in West Cornwall, while watching the sun set & the moon rise behind me. I’m honoured to have had the haunting and beautiful backing vocals sung on the track by a wonderful musician and artist called Mari Randle, magically weaving her way through the song. https://www.instagram.com/marirandle/

You can listen to my new single on all the streaming platforms and my Bandcamp site as well as my previous album ‘Grey Stone In The Wood’ and ep ‘Forest Flowing’/ https://campsite.bio/darkleaves

I’m blessed to have the wonderful art of Afsoon Shahriari for my new single and album cover.

Angela Annesley, a fantastic Cornish artist, allowed me to use her gorgeous woodcut print ‘Heart of Oak’ for the cover of my ep; ‘Forest Flowing’. My new album is called ‘Laid under leaf, under branches’. I’m really looking forward to sharing these new songs that have been recorded in the last 18 months or so. It has just been released on Ramble Records 

Where did you come from and where are you going?

I come from Cornwall and I’m home again now with my wife, after being away for a very long time. I’ve kind of arrived where I want to be. I have a day job and I’m heading towards something that I hope means I can spend less time on that a lot more time on music and the beach!

What preoccupies your mind these days?

My work and family life take up a lot of my brain, and because it’s not a very big brain, what space that’s left has to go on music…whether its listening or creating. I’m working hard to get the balance much, much better! The new album has taken far too long to create. Actual productive music time is precious.

Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell.

Taste – red wine

Touch – I bought an old Simon & Patrick acoustic guitar for £40 on ebay which was such a bargain. That’s always great to pick up… they’re hand made in Canada and great value guitars

Sound – the rookery in the big fir trees in our garden and the owls calling into the night

Sight – rough seas during storms in the harbour at Porthleven and watching from the cliffs

Smell – Pasties

Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares

My most vivid and memorable dreams, that have stuck with me, are remembered more as feelings than images. They were reoccurring dreams I had when I was young and were about feeling claustrophobic or really small against massive dark shapes…really hard to explain and quite unsettling, but yeah those ones…

Have you ever had an uncanny experience?

Yes. The first time I had some healing. Through a guided meditation, I was asked to imagine the colour green, which is a healing colour for the heart chakra. I thought I’d put myself above a huge green field to get a good eyeful because my crowded mind finds it tricky to meditate. I lost a few moments and when I came to, my heart was pounding out of my chest, my eyelids were involuntarily fluttering and the person doing the healing is asking me to come back…it was proof to me that spirituality is a thing, and that there’s another level, although I can’t say it was totally pleasant experience.

How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?

We live in West Cornwall, about a mile from the sea, as the crow flies. Cornwall is my home. It’s a very special place. There’s a big artist and music community here with lots of extremely talented and lovely people who draw on the magic that’s all around: in the raging sea, the beaches, the hedges, in the massive skies and in the cliffs and headlands…the music I’m writing right now is inspired by all of those things.

It’s a very slow paced lifestyle here and that makes room for creativity. I’ve also been working from home since the covid outbreak last year, and will remain working home. It suits me very well combined with the lifestyle, and has been a massive positive influence on my state of mind and creativity. I’m now able to better fit work around life, rather than the other way around.

What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?

We love being out in the winter storms on the cliffs and beaches. Storm Ciara hit Cornwall in Feb 2020. I took my field recorder to Porthleven to record the sound of the wind and waves in the harbour. I also recorded the sound of the  timber baulks in the harbour gate banging to the rhythm of the storm. The recording inspired a Hookland themed track on my new album called ‘The King Tide’. In Hookland The King-Under-the-Sea sends the king tide and he claims all that it touches as his own. Only the payment of a tythe can keep him at bay…The sound of the storm making the baulks rattle and bang in the gate became the drums for the track.

Tell us a good story, anecdote or joke.

I sat next to Robert Plant, in a little coffee shop, with about 10 other people, watching a small gig. He was constantly passing me Indian nibbles to eat.