Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Mull Historical Society

I think I speak for countless fans that are overjoyed that you’ve decided to use the Mull Historical Society moniker again for this release. What prompted that decision?

“Basically I’ve returned to the MHS alter-ego because as I was recording the album it just sounded like it should be – and then while writing the album I walked into a shop to buy a hat in NYC and one of my MHS tunes came on! Also, while making it my first MHS album ‘Loss’ went gold, and it reminded me it was 10 years to the month of the new one coming out. All signs from somewhere?”

Though I am a little disappointed that the pledge music process didn’t result in the album directly, I’m more than happy that you’ve released the seven song sampler for pledgers to make up for the slight delay. One question: are you seriously not going to include “Not Today” on the full length? The song is so quintessentially MHS it strikes me as a shame not to.

” Yes I hope the Pledger’s understand – that is really important to me and I’ve been closely involved in communicating that. We sent them all those bonus tracks as a gift to go with it and the album will be with you all before Xmas! ‘Not Today’ is on the iTunes download of the album. As is ‘Who Would Have Known’. Hope that helps 🙂 But thanks.”

One quick MHS lyrical question: Why are your carrots frozen all over?

“‘The supermarket Strikes Back’ – yes it’s because this is the voice of the 24-hour supermarket owner who has put the shopkeeper in ‘Barcode Bypass’ off my first album out of business. Things are going wrong in his store as a result of his actions.The barcodes on the leeks no longer match, and the carrots are frozen all over. Next would probably be his wife…”

We had the good fortune to see you at the Café Du Nord here in San Francisco several years back. Despite the acoustic necessity, it was a most enjoyable evening. Do you have any recollections or anecdotes about that trip?

“Yes many, thanks and glad you enjoyed it. David Byrne turned up at my New York show, and then I had the best time flying to the West Coast and San Francisco, Seattle and LA. I remember the time in San Francisco involved a day off before the Cafe Du Nord show. It was my first time there. We got into a taxi with the tallest man driving I’ve ever seen, and he was sitting down. He was so large there was no seat behind him and he pretty much sat in the back… on his CD player was The Twilight Zone music. He drove us down one of these hills and I swear I thought he was going to keep going into the sea. Maybe he was Jaws out of James Bond? Then we went to a bar and there was a Harry Connick Jr type guy playing up above the bar, way up. We went up and did a tune – I’ve no idea what it was, too many cocktails later. A fun time, and I hope to come back.”

The end of show cover session was inspired. If you could cover any Scottish artist’s song what would it be?

“Belle & Sebastian – ‘It could have been a brilliant career’. It will change tomorow though …”

It has been over 10 years since the release of ‘Loss’. I just noticed that the new release date reflects this. Are there any other plans to mark this anniversary?

“Yes, I hope at the end of next year I’ll play some shows featuring each of my MHS albums in full each night. The album was a response to the death of my dad suddenly, so it really means a lot to me.”

How likely is a return to San Francisco?

“Very – I hope! If nothing else, to see if that taxi driver has grown…    Oh and I forgot I’d booked a taxi (not him!) to take me to the Golden Gate Bridge pre-flight the next morning. And I slept in…”

I seriously considered buying your Dot during the pledge process. Had it not been for the exchange rate, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Additionally, I had just picked up a ’92 Korean made Epi Sheraton 2 so that made me think about it three times. In the end I didn’t pull the trigger. What is your favourite guitar at the moment?

“That’s a nice sounding guitar. My current favourite is a mandolin I’ve just bought for the new upcoming shows. I’m going to thrash it through some tremelo and distortion pedals. My long-term fav is my USA original  Tele – it’s my first guitar and my Dad carried it into Mull off a fishing boat above his head (he had to wade to the shore). Just as well it wasn’t plugged in…”

I read that “City Awakenings” is, in part, a tribute to Glasgow. Could you share some of your sentiments regarding it with us? As you can guess, it holds a fond place in our hearts as well.

” I bet. Well, it’s a great city. My home from home (Mull, the island, being home). I formed bands there, met musicians there, played football there, worked there, went to uni there, so it was a flood to my Hebridean senses – my songwriting really found its focus there and it reminds me of my other favourite city – New York.”


Posted in Bands We've Chatted With


A month or so ago, glasGOwest had the good fortune of putting Plum over the top with our sponsume pledge. Just heard that the record is ‘finished’ and am looking forward to it. I very much like this sort of subscription based model.

You’ve decided to go the ‘pledge’ route to create some seed money for your next project. In a bit of calculated chicanery glasGOwest managed to be the pledge that put you over the top with a couple of days to spare. I love the idea, like 19th century book subscriptions, of fans buying the product on faith. Overall, how nerve wracking was the experience?

“I initially went down the grant funding route, I applied to the Women Make Music fund to encourage more women into producing musical masterpieces. I made it to the final round but the feedback was that at the end of the day, no matter how innovative the ideas were, it was still just an album. I think I should have gone a different route for the performance rather than the writing, but nevertheless I was knocked back. I then had nothing to lose by trying the crowd funding route. I was very impressed by the whole process, I love the idea myself – it’s more empowering for the little creatives in the world that people can individually back your project – and it’s encouraging to see so many people willing to sign up before you have produced the goods. Constant updates on Facebook & Twitter helped, and many backers were on board giving me a fully supportive team of people getting the word out through social media, blogs and links etc. On the whole I loved the experience. It was more exciting than nerve wracking, the first few weeks were the most frightening, once it hit 50% the momentum really picked up.”

We obviously wouldn’t have pledged had we not liked what we heard. I immediately took to your older song ‘As Trains Pass By’. The demo of new song ‘Seed’ sealed the deal. Could you explain your overall concept for the album?

“Well the concept is about the seed of an idea, how ideas can be planted in your mind and left to grow, left to be proven true through the experiences which follow (whether or not the original idea is true). All my lyrics are based on personal experience, so it’s about a specific (negative) seed which was planted in my mind when I was very young, and how that idea has grown in my mind, and poisoned many of my beliefs. The first track is The Seed, and the first half of the album is based underground, in the forming of the seed, which means they’re a bit more dark in nature. After that there is a lighter conceptual style signifying growth and development, it’s a bit softer from halfway through.”

I’m grateful to have had a little peek into the production process and getting the chance to listen to the snippets you’ve put on sound cloud. Has anything memorable happened in the recording process to date? I’m intrigued by how you go about the song writing process. Music-then-Lyrics or Lyrics-then-Music?

“I think my favourite production piece was in ‘The Seed’ when we pitch shifted the vocal line in the background, then put it through some amps to distort it, and it gives the effect of being a mad synth instead of a vocal. There’s also a group of Japanese school kids panned right with a synth panned left on ‘Smile’, which Kyle McKenzie worked with me on…his idea, and it’s brilliant.

The writing process is different from piece to piece, a lot of my lyrics are penned in the middle of the night when I’m drifting in and out of sleep and thinking about things, and suddenly I’ll realise I have a song, and I’ll reach for a pad of paper and scribble down what’s there. Sometimes I start writing on the guitar, and other times I start with something electronic, and then re-draft some of my night-time lyrics to fit. What’s been fun this time has been working with other producers, namely Keir MacCulloch, who works in an entirely different style to me, so it’s been a learning curve for both of us, but has resulted in some interesting production. “

When might we reasonably expect the project to be completed?

“I’m a little behind, but I’m still aiming to release the album in March 2012. Possibly late March/Early April.”

Having metaphorically grown up in the more indie rock, Mogwai-infused, Chemikal Underground drenched streets of Glasgow, you are working in a genre that I’m not overly familiar with. Branching out to Edinburgh (and beyond) eventually exposed me to a rather different set of artists and I am all the better for it. If you had to identify yourself with a particular genre, how would you see yourself fitting in to it?

“I always find the genre question a difficult one – I don’t write to any genre, and this album particularly flits from Rock/Pop to Electronica to Dub Step to Acoustic, so I really don’t know – the last album was described as Acoustic Electronica, but this one is definitely a little more electronic. Open to suggestions. Maybe we should take a poll when the album’s out?”

Do you have any artists/bands you’d like to recommend?

“North Atlantic Oscillation (Scottish)
Theapplesofenergy (Scottish)
Integra TV (Scottish)
Christ. (Scottish)
Fever Ray”

Do you remember the first record you ever bought? Mine, strangely enough, was Elton John’s Greatest Hits Vol 2; which Wikipedia tells me I purchased in 1977 at the tender age of 13.

“remember the first record I had was Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd. I used to love Free Bird, listening to it on my Hi-Fi crackling away – I miss records. I can’t actually remember the first record I bought. It could have been Nirvana Nevermind…or possibly Metallica (the Black album).”

Your first 2 records were released on an American label, did you have the opportunity to play here?

“Unfortunately not, I’d love to sort out a mini US tour at some point over the next year!”

Finally, before we run out of answers, would you be so kind and ask glasGOwest a question?

Yes – you got any plans to host a Scotland Showcase festival out West? I’m in if you do!

We wish. Pedro tried furiously to get We Were Promised Jetpacks in to do a BLIP FM session (schedule to tight) and he is not without other connections. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to the same thing, and the general lack of it. We might as well be at the end of the world and, in terms of Scottish music, we really are.



Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Martin John Henry

I must confess that ‘Mend’ was dutifully downloaded as it came out on Chemikal. At that time, I was juggling 4 emusic accounts and with the pricing structure then they must have been virtually giving your music away. Listening to it again, it was my loss. At the time, I never seriously got past the first 2 songs. What are your thoughts on the benefits and perils of the digital download age?

Prevention’ on the other hand was a revelation. It seemed like a completely different band and quickly became a favourite and then, almost instantly it seemed, the split was announced. Did the relative change in direction contribute to the solo career?

“With regards to the digital question; I think that it’s amazing, and it’s levelled the playing field, allowing even the newest bands a fantastic platform for creating and distributing music in lots of different communities. I realise that a lot of revenue has been lost or diverted from artists though, and I don’t have any real opinion on this, I guess because I’ve never really made any money from music. I do a lot of other things to support myself in between making albums and touring, so I can’t say that downloading is killing my income or anything.

As for the De Rosa question? The second album was a natural progression from ‘Mend’, which we largely recorded as a three piece. The change in sound happened when the band grew into a five piece. We got two new members before writing for ‘Prevention’, Andrew Bush on keys and Chris Connick on second guitar.

De Rosa took years to get to a point that functioned well, which it did during our last two years. I guess by the point that we were achieving a decent profile we had already begun to run out of steam. Struggling for about five years to get a good line up together took its toll on the relationships of the core members, which was sad. Things are better between us these days though, and I think that we made two great albums, regardless of our struggles.”

This time around, I ordered ‘The Other Half of Everything’ directly from you. It is a lovely soaring record that manages to both sound familiar and fresh at same time. I’m particularly fond of ‘Seventh Song’. It reminds me of James’ “Top of the World” in terms of its emotional impact. Could you provide a little background on its inspiration?

“Seventh Song was something I wrote late at night a long time ago, maybe about six years ago. It was inspired by a foolish attempt at rekindling a broken relationship between two people that should not be together. I was listening to a lot of Red HousePainters and ‘I See a Darkness’ era Will Oldham.”

You must be pretty happy with the reception to the new record. Has anything pleased you especially?

“The Mogwai remix of my song ‘Breathing Space’ is fantastic! I’m especially excited about being away on tour with Agnes Obel in the UK at the moment. Her album Philharmonics is superb, and her band are a lovely bunch of folk, I’m having a great time. Also I’m really happy at how well the album has been received by the Scottish music media, people like The Skinny, Glagow PodcArt and Vic Galloway have been so supportive.”

What was the release show with Adam Stafford and the Seventeenth Century like?

“It was a great night. I was so proud of the guys in my band, they learned the whole album so quickly and it sounded great. Adam is doing so well just now, I think he’s so creative with everything he does, he’s a great film maker too. The Seventeenth Century are so good at writing beautiful songs that it makes me jealous. I can’t wait to hear the album they make.”

What Scottish bands have moved you?

“Current bands… I think Mogwai are the best band on the planet. And I’ll follow Malcolm Middleton until the end of everything. From the past, I like The Blue Nile, especially ‘Hats’, and I also love the wonderfully weird songs of the folk singer Hamish Imlach.”

Back before everything, as a young lad I was faced with the choice of spending my hard earned money on U2’s ‘Boy’ or Ultravox’s ‘Rage in Eden’. I knew absolutely nothing about either band at the time. I chose the Ultravox purely based on album design and at the impressionable age of 16 you can imagine how much the actual record had an impact on me.  Do you have a similar story from your youth? Your first encounter with something special?

“My dad gave me a tape of ‘Nevermind’ by Nirvana when I was eleven. It changed everything. Before that I liked the Beatles and Michael Jackson. Nirvana’s music was landscape-changing to me. Also, the way they used interviews to put young music listeners onto other bands was so great. It was through reading these interviews that I got into Sonic Youth, The Vaselines, Pixies and loads more amazing stuff that is still a big part of my life today. God bless Nirvana.”