Unveiling the Narrative: Winchester 7 & The Runners Discuss ‘The Waking Giant’

Step into a world where imagination meets musical ingenuity, where Winchester 7 & The Runners beckon you on a sonic voyage with their latest creation, “The Waking Giant,” slated for release on May 3rd. Embarking on a journey through the mysterious realms of Artificial Intelligence, this album is a fully realized narrative, brimming with vibrant characters and thought-provoking themes that promise to both enchant and challenge listeners. Within the nine tracks, including bonus offerings, lies a captivating tale centered around a tech investor’s ambitious quest to construct an AI-driven utopia. In this meticulously crafted universe, individuals from all walks of life find refuge and stimulation through the marvels of Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality. Each song serves as a portal into the psyche of these characters, navigating the allure and consequences of this AI-dominated existence. With this release Winchester 7 & The Runners invite audiences to delve into the relentless march of technological advancement.

  1. What inspired the band to delve into the theme of artificial intelligence for “The Waking Giant” album?

Jack: Looks like we’re selling out, doesn’t it?

Phil: We are investing in popular sentiment.

Winchester: [laughs]  Yeah…well, in all seriousness, we talked about the perception of taking on a topic like AI.  You know…we started out wanting to stay away from the “concept” album thing entirely.  But, Jack self-published…

Jack: …an astoundingly unpopular sci-fi novel.

Winchester: It’s true that the thing is a little rough in spots and, I imagine, may not have aged well.

Jack: Thanks for that…you know, it might have?  No, it probably didn’t – go on, then!

Winchester: But, as he was telling us about the process he went through trying to make it much better than it is…

Jack: Now, that’s just cheeky…

Winchester: …we couldn’t help but relate to that feeling of dedicating yourself to a creative pursuit with few resources at your disposal, and releasing something into the ether in hopes that it will find an audience.

Phil: The idea was better than the book.

Jack:  I imagined a virtual reality where everyone had stayed so long, they forgot what it really was.

Winchester: Now, it seems as if everything I read is about AI and its implications.

I’m a big believer in that the very worst things tend to start off innocent enough before good intentions and compromise turn them into something else.  At the same time, there’s always going to be a lot fear when something new and revolutionary comes along.

It’s not how much danger there is or isn’t.  The fear is just tangible enough that the idea of it going very wrong seems possible.  And that’s what good science fiction does.  It connects with our fears and provokes a reaction which contextualizes how we come to terms with things.

With that in mind, I suggested the idea of combining Jack’s VR world, AI, and a bit of conflict behind the scenes to keep things interesting.

Jack: That and, while we may not actually be “selling out”, we certainly wouldn’t mind larger royalties.

  1. The album is described as having a conceptual storyline. Could you elaborate on the narrative arc and how it unfolds throughout the tracks?

Jack: Tell us a story, Win?

Winchester: [laughs]  “Narrative arc” makes the whole thing sound so formal!  I suppose there is one, but we usually figure it out as we go.

All right, so the storyline went that a big tech investor finds a developer who’s made an immersive VR environment but knows that it could be the best thing ever and it won’t stand a chance against big tech marketing dollars without some serious cash.

So, the investor sells our dev on the idea that their niche should be to market the whole thing to the rich, retired…and doomsday preppers alike.  In a secure location with proper biological and environmental systems, they’d set up a destination resort of sorts where people can pay to keep themselves immersed for as long as they like!

Phil: There, they can look how they wish and, largely, do what they will.

Jack: Sounds like anarchy in the offing, when you put it that way, mate!

Winchester: [laughs]  But, that’s where the AI comes in.  You see, our tech investor is invested in more than one business; and, sure enough, one of those is working on AI.   So, he “suggests” incorporating it into the system as an administrative governor of sorts.

Jack:  It’s like if I drop me pint, I would have a new one in me hand with the broken bits done and dusted before I’m ready to raise my glass.

Phil: Among other strict controls.

  1. How did the band approach the songwriting process differently for this album compared to their previous work?

Winchester: During our last tour, we experienced some visa difficulties that actually cut the whole thing short.

Jack: Bloody got lost in the system, I’d say!

Phil: Yeah, I took a train all the way Antwerp before learning about it from our group texts.

Jack: You couldn’t read the texts along the way…?

Winchester: Anyway, while we were disappointed to be forced to cancel dates and let fans down, we were able to resurrect some of the paperwork to arrange a work visa for the two of them to travel to the States to record the new album.

Jack: But, we still wanted to do something different this time out.

Winchester: So, we decided to join our mix engineer, Jon Paz, in-person, at Halfway to Hell Studio in Albuquerque.

Jack: We only took a few wrong turns on the way there too…

Phil: The smell of tacos helped…but there were a lot of places with tacos.

Winchester: We ended up working on several tracks while there, kind of realizing the benefits of a change in scenery.

Jack: And then promptly bailed for our home studios before our visas ran out!

  1. With songs like “Scared of Changing” and “Dreaming In Color,” it seems like personal experiences heavily influenced the album’s lyrical content. How did real-life events shape the narrative of “The Waking Giant”?

Winchester: We usually work out the musical arrangements as a band before I hole up to write the initial lyrics.  Part of that process for me, is hearing the music in my head and seeing what comes to mind.

I mean, I may start with an intent such as to write something for the investor or from varying perspectives of people thinking about joining in on things or, ultimately, deciding not to; but some of my personal experience always finds a way in there, I suppose.

“Scared of Changing” is a great example of that.  I was on the flight to Albuquerque, watching a Tom Petty documentary about his Wild Flowers album, and thinking about how my wife and I were waiting on the results of a biopsy she had.  She asked me to make the trip rather than worrying about the house, but it was always going to be on mind.  So, I sketched out some lyrics while in the air, actually ahead of composing a note, and they clearly  influenced the track.

Jack: Well, you can’t rightly leave it at that!  Tell ‘em how the biopsy turned out!

Winchester: Negative! Thankfully…negative.

  1. “Disassociation/All You Ever Need” explores the perspective of AI itself. What challenges did you face in conveying this perspective, and what insights did you gain from exploring it?

Winchester: When we were talking about things that we wanted to do on this album, we discussed the idea of writing a song based on sampled and looped elements.

Jack: We’d never really done that, but it proved easy ‘nough on my part!

Phil: Yeah…we recorded him playing “beats” and then me playing “bass”.

Winchester: Then we arranged the best parts into something which I layered electric uke onto to get a feel for things.

Phil: At that point we heard something cinematic.

Jack: So, Win layered in a James Bond inspired riff for the pre-chorus and, though things sounded good, we had no title or lyrics yet!

Phil: “Untitled AI Song” is still what the session files are entitled.

Winchester: I remember telling the band about an article which I read where people who spend extended periods immersed in VR come out of it with a sense of disassociation to things.  It was really as I was saying that word, “disassociation”…I mean it was like time just stopped and, there we were, all sitting looking at one another knowing that we were all thinking the same thing.

Phil: Yeah, I wish we had more tacos!

Winchester: [laughs] The AI’s perspective was its learning model.  It was designed to keep people engaged enough to not want to leave.

Jack: Disassociate with me

Winchester: And it grew to take its purpose rather seriously, I expect.

  1. How do you balance the catchy pop-rock hits with more deeply evocative reflections within the album? Is there a deliberate intention behind this contrast?

Winchester: I wish that I could say there was!

Jack: We get bored easily.

Phil: Variety is good.  I like variety very much.

Winchester: I mean, we probably always ˆ to be evocative in some sense.  We certainly have moments where we’ve set out to write a banger, but even then we’re really only hoping to “evoke” your foot to tap.   Lyrically, anyway, I think some of that is just in how I write.

  1. The band is known for its unique sound, incorporating ukuleles in an electrifying rock context. How does this unconventional choice of instrumentation contribute to the album’s overall atmosphere?

Jack: I assume you want to take that one, mate?

Winchester: Ok, well, one thing that I’ve always been upfront about is…I don’t know how to play the guitar

Jack: I think they mean why did you plug the thing in to begin with?

Winchester: Oh!  Well, it really began where all good ukulele stories should – in Hawaii.  My family and I were having breakfast on a restaurant patio in Captain Cook when I watched a musician plug his ukulele into an amplifier, clip an iPad to a microphone stand, and play a Beatles song.

I never really knew that ukuleles could be used for anything besides Hawaiian music, You are My Sunshine…we actually stopped to check directions on our way to the restaurant and saw a group of tourists playing just that on their little ukuleles…

Phil: …Eddie Vedder.

Winchester: Yeah, but I’d never really listened to much of that beyond curiosity.  I appreciate it more now, of course.  Anyway, when I saw this thing it occurred to me that if a ukulele can be amplified, it can be distorted!

Jack: I can kind of feel traditionalists recoiling every time you tell that part! [laughs]

Winchester: Between albums though, I usually purchase some gear off my wish list.  I think it may be a combination of that and the experimentation that we always bring to our recording sessions.

  1. Could you tell us about any specific musical influences or references that shaped the sound of “The Waking Giant”?

Winchester: I always say Paul McCartney when asked that kind of question.  He’s my hero, really.

Jack: The Pixies, Ramones…

Phil: Tame Impala and some electronic influences.

Winchester: I’m sure there are others though.  We did a cover of a Lord Huron song on this one…

Jack: Lord Huron definitely influenced us there!

  1. The album includes tracks like “Sell The Apocalypse” and “On The Pipeline.” What inspired these song titles, and how do they fit into the album’s broader narrative?

Winchester: “Sell the Apocalypse” is our investor’s pitch.  The verses are all based on end-of-days predications.

Jack: Which did not happen!

Phil: Unless we are all in a virtual world right now.

Jack: Yeah, well…

Winchester: [laughs] Supposing we’re not, the pitch was really a malleable thing specific to its target audiences.  If you fear global warming, it’s an environmental shelter; if you fear the end of the world, it’s your bunker; and if you’d like to be forever young, it’s your fountain of youth!

Jack: “On the Pipeline” is our dev’s song.

Winchester: It’s about the thought process: finishing up the code, layering in the AI element…

Phil: And the leverage which the investor has to ensure his AI dreams are realized.

Winchester: There may have been some deep fake fueled arm twisting .

  1. “Stories to Tell” seems like a pivotal track on the album. Could you share the inspiration behind this song and its significance within the broader narrative?

 Winchester: Yeah?  Well, that one was written from the perspective of one of those who were sort of left behind.  They couldn’t or wouldn’t join the environment and are thinking of what it all means.

Phil: And begin to realize that the cat has gone away.

Winchester: That’s right.  All of that wealth, the powerful, and the fringe join the hot new thing.

Jack: Which sort of leaves the rest of us with a bit more say in things.

Winchester: To…make more Stories to Tell.

  1. Reflecting on “The Waking Giant” as a whole, what do you believe sets it apart from your previous work?

Jack: I think the cover is boss, personally.  You know everything on it but us, our logo, and the title was actually generated by AI.

Phil: This one does not share the same title or theme as our other releases.

Winchester: For me, I think it feels like it’s the most well rounded, maybe?  I’ve been saying that it feels more mature and deliberate as a body of work.

  1. As a band, what do you hope listeners ultimately take away from experiencing “The Waking Giant” in its entirety?

Jack: A desire to listen again, I hope!

Phil: If our fans wish to play it in their homes, even when they are not at home, this would be ok.

Jack: Well, they could also play it where they are, if they like.

Phil: Perhaps both!

Winchester: That’s an interesting one.  I don’t think we give it all that much thought, really.  Everyone’s experience is going to be a little different.

Phil: We’ve made the album and know what it means to us, but that may not be what it means to them!

Winchester:  I mean, maybe, if the ideas help someone to tread cautiously and not be so willing to give up personal liberties for fear of missing out that would be pretty terrific.

Jack: Kinda lofty though, isn’t it?

Winchester: Yeah, that’s probably why we don’t give it too much thought.

Jack: Hang on a tick – I just got a message that I’ve won a new camera and all I need to do is connect a crypto wallet!  You got one of those, Win?

Phil:  I want a new camera…

Winchester: Yeah…anyway, we hope listeners like it!  Thanks for having us!

Phil: Thank you for reading and listening.

Jack: Cheers!

OFFICIAL LINKS:
https://www.winchester7andtherunners.com
https://www.youtube.com/winchester7andtherunners
https://www.instagram.com/winchester7andtherunners/
https://open.spotify.com/artist/15Mzrd47XdRknfsKLFIMci
https://winchester7therunners.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/winchester7andtherunners
https://twitter.com/RealWinchester7
https://soundcloud.com/user-952902135

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Rick Jamm

Journalist, publicist and indie music producer with a fervent passion for electric guitars and mixing desks !

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