I spent so much time listening to St. Jude’s Infirmary that I completely missed Deserters Deserve Death. Above all, I couldn’t listen to The Church of John Coltrane enough. Ironically, I passed the actual church for years, but it was the song that made we look at it twice. – could you impart anything about the song’s inspiration?
Grant:” It was written in the sincere belief that John Coltrane’s saxophone was as much of a vessel of communion as any Priest or Minister. We were lucky enough that Archbishop King and Reverend Mother King got in touch with us through our kind pal Susan Bryan to give us their blessing. This was pretty much the highlight of my time in St.Judes.”
Asleep at the wheel again, I never noticed the Edinburgh School approaching. Suddenly, Bubblegum Records was offering a signed pre-order. That ‘one’ copy you signed was mine! How would you characterize the overall reaction to the new record?
Jamie: “Positive, surprising. I would typify it as us being the proverbial winger haring down the wing and seeing the lumbering centre half approaching. We steel ourselves to be halved in two and deposited somewhere in the deep part of the stands. After no collision comes we look up to see the centre half laying askew and acres of open grass in front of us, panicking, we tear forward again.”
I think the best way to frame this question would be to say that your music isn’t typical of everything that I would be enthusiastic about right now. In fact, having you follow Fergus Lawrie seemed a ‘natural’ thing to do. How do you react to this sort of thinking? Were any of you Urusei Yatsura fans?
Jamie: I do remember Urusei, but they’re not a band I have thought about for a while. It is possible that we are all channelling a distant universal malaise. We feel a bit out of place here, in Scotland, ourselves. I do feel like we are working against the grain to a certain extent, although I like that. We want to be an evisceration, an immolation, Phil Spector handcuffed but still gun toting. 3 minute love songs soured on the shelf and stretched to breaking point by neglect and ineptitude. If what you have come to expect is a singer songwriter melodically detailing the fragile breakdown of a love affair, this is the flipside; the 3am crawl and howl of a maniac playing Otis Redding records in a lightless flat.”
Grant: “I was personally drawn to a new sound as I was ill and felt sickened by music. The dogs days of St.Judes threatened to sour all music to me. It felt as if we had lived and died for something in this rotten city only for our inheritance to be a dry rot of wet little meaningless, mawkish, middle-brow, foppish, bland folk. It felt like an incredible freedom to break so completely with the past and return to dropping guitars drunkenly on the floor in dive bars. It was the innocent sound of our youth.”
We are always interested in any Scottish influences and bands you admire.
Grant: Edinburgh is terribly overshadowed by Glasgow because it didn’t have the venues or the labels and had an often transient college population. Edinburgh bands tended to revolve around the art school, have a three month accelerated trajectory of greatness, never hold it together long enough to record anything of substance and then drunkenly implode at some scummy venue with bad sound. There are some great `lost` bands that have more or less slid away from the grasp of the clammy hands of popular culture – Khaya, Desc, 55’s, Sacred Heart Losers…and some good currently living, breathing bands – `Magic Eye` who Alex from the band plays in and the `Young Spooks` which Alex and I have served in. Oh yeah and the `The Dead Champagne`.”
Have you ever played in America? Do you have any desire to do so?
Jamie: “No, we haven’t, but would love to,I would be interested to see what they would make of us. I would ensure that we cultivated a persona of fey Scottish winsomeness just to destroy the first row of hipsters.”
The new band name seems perfectly natural. I’m curious if there was a runner-up?
Jamie: We have pages upon pages of names, a veritable litany of the deterioration of our metal health! We learned early on that our first name Deserters Deserve Death which was part in joke (we were all moonlighting from various band) and part nod to the Commando comic of the same name, led to confusion. People thought we were a metal band, not so bad, others thought we advocated shooting army deserters, really very bad. So we decided to change
Grant: There was quite a list – lots of `institutional names` – lots of institutional names – `The Royal Academy`, `The Scottish Arts Council`, `Scottish Action on Drugs`…etcetra,etcetra.”
Listening to the CD on way to work early, in the dark through the SF fog. All Hands Lost — would love to know the story behind the song. It is so evocative yet almost vague in that it suggests lyrics not sung. It literally forces you to add your own heartache into the song. On that level it is genius.
“Jamie:Without too much needless pre-amble I re-discovered a few letters documenting a protracted break up. It was clear to see exactly how it went wrong, and it felt like reading the account of a slow- motion capsize. I’d also been reading a lot of Hemingway and Mccarthy at the time, to be fair I always seem to be reading and re-reading them. A lot of their novels are delivered in the leanest of anaemic prose. In “A Moveable Feast”, Hemingway even talks about deleting an ending, where the character kills himself, he had with the knowledge that everything he hadn’t included served to inform the story better. So the song was sketches to be filled in, rather than the complete picture.”
Perhaps it is a feature that won’t last long, so while it does could you ask glasGOwest a question?
Jamie:”Electric or acoustic?”
All three: electric, acoustic, electric-acoustic. And if you can’t amp it , then you can always mic it.