Since this is ostensibly a Scottish music blog, I’d like to start off with ‘An Unremarkable Shade of Beige’ and your take on the Glasgow music scene. What don’t you like about it?
Well, let me just just start by saying that it’s not the Glasgow music scene in general I dislike, just some trends that I’ve noticed. I believe that art should be a compulsion, that you should feel an overwhelming need to create. You might be lucky enough to create art that will be to the taste of a large amount of people or you may be drawn to create art that is of no interest to anyone but yourself. Either way it’s not a choice. Glasgow contains too many bands who:
a) Are obsessed with changing their sound to fit with whatever trend is current in order to further their career.
b) Are obsessed with changing their sound to be as wilfully obscure as possible to be seen as popular within certain circles.
Both of these things seem like a waste of time to me. Trends have a finite lifespan, you need to follow your own muse (so to speak). Thankfully these people seem to be in the minority.”
Having skimmed through your twitter followings, I see about 20 or so bands in common. This tells me that you are, of course, a fan of music and that we likely share some musical sensibilities. What is it about these artists that you find moving?
”There are so many bands in Glasgow doing their own thing regardless of popularity, that is only to be commended. My taste is split across every genre and there are several Glasgow bands to be highlighted in each for their originality. I won’t go into an exhaustive list but I will mention North American War (in turns chaotic and beautiful art rock), Peter Cat (songwriting of distinctive sophistication), and Katerwaul (hyper intelligent mathrock from Aberdeen). Basically I love the diversity of the current scene, if you can find a day of the year without a decent gig then you’re not looking hard enough.”
I’m a big fan of Patrick Jones and as such was very receptive to checking out your primarily spoken word release ‘Graphite’ which you’ve generously offered as a free download. I listened to about half of it before giving it the ‘glasgowest’ stamp of approval. Many of the themes are clearly your take on your direct surroundings, and you dwelve into some of the contradictions you find around you. Does it take a poet to recognize that some contradictions can be held simultaneously without having to eliminate one side or the other?
“I don’t think that it’s necessarily just the domain of the poet. People hold contradictory statements and views simultaneously on a constant basis, it’s an enduring trick of life. The older we get the more we learn to combine and compromise, to embrace one of the many shades of grey in between. People who don’t learn to do this often can’t function in society since our continuing existence is predicated upon this self deception. Perhaps as a poet (or artist of any kind) you can be more aware of the contradictions involved (being the sensive souls that we are) but we are very rarely the first to do anything about it. We can reflect it back but we can’t change the image. Thank God for those that do things.”
Your work, once again comparing it to my only frame of reference, is a good deal more introspective and seems to focus on personal interactions. In terms of music, I’m very pleased that so many artists are singing in their native voice. In that regard, do you consider yourself a distinctly Glaswegian voice? I love the charm of ‘The Polite Meeting of Two Well-Mannered Men’. Could you describe Glasgow in a few sentences? Is that something that is even possible’? In an earlier post, Fergus Lawrie wrote that “If Glasgow is a drunk then its music scene is the argument it is having with itself.” I quite liked that.
“Glasgow is the city of contradictions. It is two opposite cities existing simultaneously on the same location (Alasdair Gray was right). We are rich and poor. We are cultured and barbaric. We are ambitious and resigned. All at the same time. Consistently. I know of no other city that maintains this split personality and indeed thrives because of it. In that way, and in others, I suppose I’m very much a product of my surroundings. I like to think I’d always be doing what I am currently but it’s probably not true. I find constant inspiration in Glasgow and it’s idiosyncrasies. Inside the city we are all part of some bizarre binary opposition but to those looking in from outside we must seem like our own mini nation. There is a twisted pride that comes with being Glaswegian.”
I am saddened that your musical incarnation ‘How Garbo Died’ is no more. I had checked that out previously and didn’t make the connection until now. You do sing on the record (I guess there is some overlap between projects). Can we hope – or is it inevitable anyway – to find you in another musical venture in the future?
“Yes, almost definitely. Without giving too much away (as not all the details are confirmed) this year should see me lending my voice to a couple of projects as well as collaborating with some incredible musicians on some more spoken word pieces. I’ve also penned some poetry that will be featured in an upcoming film production. Oh yeah, and we may see a live interpretation of Graphite performed by some of the original contributing artists. All in all, yes. I’ll certainly be stretching the vocal chords at some point this year.”
What’s the best (Scottish) gig you’ve attended in the past year? We need to ask because you are there and we are here.
“I’ll be cheeky and give a couple of answers. In terms of local Scottish acts I’d nominate a gig curated by Jim of Ayetunes fame. It featured myself (oh the humanity), Shambles Miller, The Spook School and The Sea Kings. To be honest I think Jim had thrown it together at the last minute but it actually seemed like the perfect combination ofacts. I started off with some poems and stories before enjoying three incredible acts. The important bit was that everyone was making incredible music and there wasn’t a hint of pretension in the room (apart from myself).”
I’m also going to say Mogwai at Primavera 2011 (Barcelona). No point in trying to describe it in detail. All I’ll say is that Mogwai should always play towards the sea and that I thought I saw a star explode during Rano Pano.”
Lastly, we’d like it if you asked glasGOwest a question.
I’d like to ask why you like Scotland so much? Are you from here? And if not have you ever visited? Just curious.
Musically, I’ve always been somewhat of an anglophile. I surmise this might have something to do with being one of the last families this century to traverse the Atlantic by ship to the New World. Departing from Bremerhaven on the ‘Alexander Pushkin’, we made port in London enroute to Montreal. Of course, I was only four at the time. Growing up in Canada certainly helped, but I like to pretend that the one night spent in British waters somehow influenced my tastes for life. Considering the alternative would have been ‘Krautrock’, it is probably a good thing. I’ve yet to visit Scotland, but when I was in London in May of ’96 a young Stuart Braithwaite gave me an unlabelled 7 inch from the back of the tour van and I’ve been more closely attuned to Scottish bands ever since. The last few years just seem to have been spent actively seeking out Scottish bands to the point where they have literally taken over. This blog has pretty much cemented that. I’ve only scratched the tip of the iceberg. It is almost unbelievable how much Scottish talent there is. I’ll never get to them all.
T & P
Check out Graphite for yourself http://kevinpgilday.bandcamp.com/album/graphite