Winchester 7 & The Runners - "With all the AI strides of late, the idea was that one could immerse themselves full-time into this artificial environment while their physical body is maintained in a very secure, exclusive facility." - Stereo Stickman

Winchester 7 & The Runners “With all the AI strides of late, the idea was that one could immerse themselves full-time into this artificial environment while their physical body is maintained in a very secure, exclusive facility.”


Devoted ukulele rock legends Winchester 7 & The Runners are about to hit the ground rightfully running. Their brand new album The Waking Giant tackles an imagined yet poignant realm in which a savvy tech investor seeks to create a wholly AI-driven immersive world for the retired, the wealthy, and the doomsday preppers alike.

The songs of the project delve into various perspectives and reactions to this idea, and even feature an exploration of the views of the AI itself.

We caught a much-needed interview with the band, to find out more about how this idea came about, how they wrote many of the songs, and what the recording process was like. Here’s how it went.

* * *

Hello again! It’s been a little while, how are you doing?

Winchester 7: Hello!  Well, thank you. Looking at your site, I can see that you’ve been busy! It’s nice to have the opportunity to be a part of it again.

Thank you – it’s always a pleasure to catch up! What’s been the biggest change for the band since we spoke last?

Winchester 7: I suppose that after some visa snafu’s during our last tour, we’ve sort of settled into more of a studio-first mindset, the boys and me.

Jack: It’s a lot easier on the lot of us, isn’t it?

Phil: Hotel coffee all tastes the same…

Jack: …unless it’s a cuppa.

The brand-new project is beautiful – tell me about the creative process; were you all in the studio until something was finished, or were the songs created separately over time?

Winchester 7: Thank you very much! We were for some of the foundation tracks.

Jack: But, it all took quite a bit of time, in the end.

Phil: A lot of overdubs!

Winchester 7: Yeah, so, after some of the troubles during our last tour, we felt it would be good to get a change of scenery. So, we left our studios behind to record in-person with our mix engineer/producer, Jon Paz, at Halfway to Hell Recording Studios in Albuquerque for a few tracks.

Phil: A change of scenery and good tacos…

Jack: Still, we hadn’t written over half of the album by that point, so eventually, we bailed and finished up from our studios.

Phil: The best of both worlds!

Two Feet On The Ground is wonderful – reflective and thoughtful, strangely both uplifting and more deeply evocative. How did you write this one, and what’s your favourite lyric from the song?

Phil:  There is a dichotomy.

Winchester 7: Thank you! It’s almost two songs, really. I had a chord progression that we arranged as a band before I set off to write lyrics. And it just seemed to me that the verses should be kind of introspective. They’re an internal dialog that draw a line to the pre-choruses about circumstances conspiring “to form a fork in the road where fate decides”.

Jack: A phrase we often use when we get lost on the road, actually! [laughs]

Winchester 7: But, the chorus itself just seemed to be more of a turn to me. I couldn’t, in good conscious, take what I heard as a rousing chorus and squander it on down lyrics. So, the chorus shaped up to be more about looking on the bright side of things, “maybe next time around”.

Jack: It was during the Albuquerque sessions, actually, where the energy of that chorus fleshed itself out. It seemed to me that the whole thing was really a pub song!

Winchester 7: [laughs] So, pint in hand, I recorded the vocal with that idea in mind. By the end, I was swinging it high and imagining a crowd singing along to my favourite lyric “maybe next time around, it won’t pass us by, we’ll be two feet on the ground across the line”!

Jack: And when he looked into the control booth, we were all there, sure enough, swinging our pints along!

Has your set-up changed much or your vision for the band – do you write from a different headspace nowadays or still for the sheer fun of the process?

Winchester 7: Yeah, I’d say it’s different.

Jack: We’re still trying to have fun with it though, aren’t we?

Phil: It is not always fun to do the 30th take, but…it is still mostly fun.

Winchester 7: I mean, it’s rock ‘n roll. So, at the end of the day, whether we are writing something a touch moody or setting out to write a banger, we’re always looking to have fun. I think that our “headspace” has really changed from being satisfied to write about fast cars and girls towards a more considered approach.

Our last release was a concept album and, when we finished it, I swore we wouldn’t do another. But, it kind of lead to where we’re now more deliberate about the point of things than we used to be. 

Sell The Apocalypse is a bigger rock track, and with a clear conceptual intrigue. What was the inspiration for this song?

Jack: That one’s our shady investor track ‘bout jarg doomsayin’, fast cars, and girls!

Winchester 7:  Well, there were a few points when we were writing where, we just wanted to rock out! So, for this one, we wanted something with big chords that was fun to play.

Phil:  There’s the fun again!

Winchester 7:  Inspiration-wise, the track fit into the narrative that we used throughout the album with this one representing our tech investor’s pitch.

Jack: Who knows what the future is…?

Phil: Sell the Apocalypse!

Winchester 7: That’s it!  I suppose a possibly intriguing thing to know is that all of the verses are about end of the world predictions.

Jack: Possibly…

Phil: None of them actually happened though.

Jack: I suppose not!

Are there themes throughout this project that connect the songs, or did you just roll with the creative punches?

Jack: Funny you mention it, but there is a concept to the album!

Phil: Again…

Winchester 7: Ok, so, on our last release we wrote songs based on a murder mystery. I think that experience produced some good material and it was fun to do, and all; but in retrospect there were moments that seemed a little heavy on the narrative.

Jack: Is right! 

Phil: So, this time out we focused more on relatable experience.

Jack: Apart from the nefarious tech investor and his AI. That’s just story and all. Tell us a story, Win, won’t you?

Winchester 7: [laughs] All right, so with all of the technological virtual reality and AI strides of late, we imagined that a savvy tech investor might recruit a VR developer to help him build an environment that could be marketed to pensioners, preppers, and the well-to-do. The idea being that one could immerse themselves full-time into this artificial environment while their physical body is maintained in a very secure, exclusive facility.

But, after the developer is on the hook, he looks to wedge in an AI that one of his other investments has been developing, to cut back on administrative overhead by using it as an environmental governor.

Jack: Well, the developer doesn’t just go for it, right?

Winchester 7: No, like most of us, he has some reservations; but, our investor persuades him to come around to his point of view.

Phil: Through deep fakes and financial leverage.

Winchester 7: Yeah, he twists their arm a little.  Anyway, if Sell the Apocalypse is the investor’s pitch, On the Pipeline, is more the developer’s song; and the rest are written from the perspective of people deciding to be a part of the hot new thing or not.

Jack: Except for Disassociation, of course.

Winchester 7: Except for Disassociation.

When you get deeply personal for the likes of Scared of Changing, how difficult or easy is it to open up and pour your truth and emotions into a song – not only in front of the band, but ultimately in front of potentially the world?

Winchester 7: I think there were a few times where I had something written and wasn’t sure if it was worth finishing or including on the album. But, that one, honestly, was conceived at around 10,000 feet in the air, enroute to the Albuquerque sessions, while watching a Tom Petty documentary about the recording of Wildflowers, and thinking about how my wife and I were waiting on the results of a biopsy that she had recently had.

So…was it personal and emotional? For me, very much so. But, then again, we felt it fit the album in that it could easily apply to someone who was thinking about the prospect of joining this virtual world or our collective fear of change. 

I love to write things with double meanings and that does help somewhat with the sharing thing. That, and there was a lot of support from the band and Jon.

Hell, I wasn’t even certain about Two Feet when I first brought it to rehearsals!

Phil: Music can and should be personal, at times, even within the pantheon of rock.

Jack: “Pantheon of Rock” was an alternative working title, I think [laughs].

Winchester 7: In any event, the biopsy turned out negative; so, that helped things considerably and thankfully.

What does the song Disassociation represent, what influenced this change of performance style, and what do you hope people take away from it?

Winchester 7: When we started this album, we discussed the idea of trying to write a song built up from loops. So, we had Jack record various rhythms and, then, Phil improvise some bass lines on top of it all. 

Jon then pulled out some “best bits” for us to pick among and we arranged those into a song structure upon which I then overdubbed some electric uke.

Phil: Some…[laughs]

Winchester 7: At that point, I set about writing some lyrics with the idea that this song would be from the viewpoint of the AI itself. 

“I read somewhere that people who spend a lot of time immersed in VR, experience a sort of out-of-body sense to things when they come back to the real world. It’s similar to another article I recently read about someone who spent so much time cruising that they lost their “land” legs. So, I came up with the idea of it being called “disassociation” and things took off from there!”

Phil: More overdubbing!

Winchester 7: Quite a lot, actually, but it was fun to try and I think that things started working really well when I recorded a reverb and tremolo heavy riff for the pre-chorus that was James Bond inspired.

Jack: It’s another one of those ones where we’re imagining it’s for a movie. Only, in this one, Win was imagining writing a James Bond theme song.

Winchester 7:  So, if any of the Broccoli family are interested… [laughs]

Phil: Don’t forget we used AI!

Jack: Well, that would be embarrassing…

Winchester 7: Ah!  So, we fed a few instrumental clips from some of our prior songs into an AI music creation tool and found an interesting symphonic part that we used on the end of Disassociation too, for good measure.

Jack: Most of it was rubbish, but we got a few seconds of workable material.

Phil: And then added more overdubs!

Winchester 7: There were a lot of overdubs…

How important is a cover song like Not Dead Yet for you as a band, and given the song’s accessible and upbeat nature – have you had the chance to debut this take in front of a live audience?

Winchester 7: We kind of like including a cover as a bonus track on our releases. It was only as we were discussing which one we should do when we came to the realization that most of the covers we’d recorded weren’t even written this millennium!

Jack: Now, there’s nothing wrong with the classics!

Winchester 7: No, but while we may collectively and instinctually reach for certain touchstones, we did consciously choose to pursue a more modern “classic”.

Phil: I heard Lord Huron’s Not Dead Yet and it sounded like Sun Records.

Winchester 7: So, when Phil played that one for us, I think we all saw it as a good fit. I even got to channel my inner Elvis…

Jack: Channeled?! You came bloody close to wearing a cape, mate!

Winchester 7: [laughs] You never know…I may just try bringing back the cape thing!

The funny thing is that was the first vocal I recorded in Albuquerque and, as I was listening to the lead in, I noticed there was a small, porcelain statue of the King on the shelf in front of me. So, I ended up serenading little Elvis!

Jack: ‘twas a collectible whisky bottle little Elvis too!

Phil: We leaned into the Sun Records idea.

Winchester 7: And Norr added his very best Jerry Lee Lewis piano accompaniment, which made it all the more fun!

Phil: There’s the fun again!

Have your intentions or ambitions changed at all since we last spoke, or your view of the music industry?

Winchester 7: No, I’d still like a platinum record and a Grammy or two…

Jack: …or three or four….

Phil: …five, six….

Winchester 7: Seven seems like it would be fitting, really….

What’s your plan of action following the release of this album?

 Phil: First, we have to decide what the plan will be.

Jack: And, then, we take the action!

Winchester 7: I think we have to do some more promotion before we start writing again. Doctor Pete says that we have to put more into our marketing this time out.

Phil: Oh…Doctor Pete…Doctor Pete says….

Jack: Doctor Pete again, mate? Look it’s enough having Jon and yourself in the executive producer chairs, I’m not lining up to have me a third boss! I don’t even think he’s an actual doctor

Winchester 7: [laughs] We’re all equal in our creative process. We just also have some others involved who, from time to time, offer guidance too.

Phil: Equal sides of a triangle.

Winchester 7: Anyway, I’d like to also do a series of shows in historic theatres, maybe – get a chance to soak up some history!

Jack: And nick a fixture or two.  I’m remodelling the caravan!

Winchester 7: [laughs] Thanks for having us and, to your readers, thanks for reading!

Phil: Though we hope that you’ll listen too!

Jack: Stream on repeat, maybe?

Winchester 7: Even better!

Jack: Cheers!

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The Waking Giant EP releases on May 3rd. Find Winchester 7 & The Runners on Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter & Instagram or visit their Website.

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Founder, Editor, Musician & MA Songwriter

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