Jonnie Common

I was slow to get a copy of ‘Master of None’. It languished in my emusic saved folder for months. Faced with losing my credits last month, I finally downloaded it. I’m not sure about my initial hesitation. After three listens I had to order the vinyl. After 7 – it has become my current favourite record.  Are you pleased with the general reaction to the release? (hopefully a little quicker than my own)

“I’m very pleased. Red Deer Club have done me proud by investing passion in the task of getting it out there. I’ve had a good few people tell me things about how much it means to them, which is a staggering priviledge. The album is kind of like a diary of the past 5 years and, as such, means a lot to me.”

I initially attempted to order the LP from the label. The 11.50 they were going to charge for shipping prompted a stroll down the internet street to Piccadilly Records who fortuitously also had a copy of ‘Desk Job’ left. What was the inspiration for that project? How was it executed? I’ve only listened to snippets on Soundcloud  but am eagerly waiting its arrival. It strikes me as an interesting experiment. Would you say it lived up to your expectations?

“Haha! Are you sure £11.50 wasn’t the total price of LP + P&P??? Perhaps it was a glitch in the new website. I’ll flag it up…

DESKJOB came about from me becoming frustrated trying to engineer & perform at the same time. As my production standards went up, I found it very annoying to try and commit the best possible performance while also engineering the best possible recording. Mostly with acoustic instruments and singing. Electronics not so much. Performing and engineering are two very different creative processes and I decided I was spreading myself needlessly thin. I began recording friends and realised how much fun it was, dedicating myself to that side of things exclusively.

The acts on DESKJOB are all people I have made friends with from sharing live bills, and who I happen to think the world of as musicians. I wanted to get certain people together and champion them in my own way. It was a huge pleasure to get to record them and work with them. That was the driving force.

These days, nobody really expects to pay for a compilation album or a remix album at this level. DESKJOB is neither. It’s an album in it’s own right. Working with all that talent, the inspiration came easy to work really hard on it.”

The day I sent the request to ask some questions was the same day as “Why Remixes Make Me Hate Music’” hit the blogosphere.  I’ve always been a fan of the Mogwai Manic Street Preachers remixes – it was always a fairly consistent reinterpretation of a loved artist by another equally admired one. Clearly, a remix involves a certain degree of artistry.  (Why anyone would listen to a remix of an artist they don’t like eludes me) What typically draws you to do a remix of someone else’s song?  Is there a general approach you bring to the task?

“Remix is quite a broad term but drawing a distinction between types of remixes without full knowledge of the process is impossible. It’s down to the artist to say what a piece of music is, based on what they did. I like to see terms like rework or re-fix etc. It suggests the distincton is being made.

At the time of release, I tired to make clear my thoughts that the tracks on DESKJOB are not remixes. All the recording was done in-house and these were my arrangements and/or productions of the tracks. In some cases the songs still have not been recorded by the artist for their own release. So how can you remix a track which doesn’t officially exist yet? You can’t. Nor does it make that recording the definitive one, just because it got here first. Does it even matter? Does there have to be a definitive version of each song? No. Perhaps it’s harder to market if there isn’t, but I don’t concern myself with that.

People make music for different reasons that we will never know about. The “Why Remixes Make Me Hate Music” blog could have just as easily been “Why insert-type-of-band Make Me Hate Music”. It was about the motives behind remixing rather than the art of reinterprative music production and, to be honest, was far too wide and speculative a topic for me to be interested in.

That’s probably more worth saying than what tickles my fancy into doing a remix in the first place.”

I downloaded ‘Hair of the Dog’ this morning. Whose inspiration was it to release a remix album of your own ‘first’ record?  It is playing right now and it is a lovely addition and, to some degree, it does seem like an extension to the original. I assume these remixes were completely up to the individuals doing them.  Did you select the artists or did they select you?

“Just like DESKJOB was a celebration of certain singer/songwriter pals, I wanted to engage with and champion people I’m lucky enough to know with fantastic production skills. I personally asked everybody involved and it was an honour to have them work on my material. I am super-chuffed with the final product. Again, I wanted to invest some value in it myself at a time when remix albums are sometimes uploaded a little flippantly. Red Deer Club released it as a screenprint by David Galletly who did all the illustrations for Master Of None. I find the thematic tie-in very pleasing. David’s amazing hair-pattern illustrations and the ‘hair of the dog’ reference alluding to making something better. Let’s be clear though. I’m not comparing the original album to a hangover…”

Until today, I’d not heard of Down the Tiny Steps .  Does ‘Summer Is For Going Places’ originate from near the end of DTTS era? I couldn’t get a clear idea of what releases to look for (or where for that matter). Is there still way of getting hold of the material? The YouTube snippets I stumbled across made it pretty clear that I would have loved DTTS. It also somewhat explains my cautious reaction to the new record. In my mind, I must have had you positioned more in the remix end of music world and the snippets I listened to were hard to get a handle on. Being aware of the former band, it is easier to see why I do like it so much.

“About half of the songs on Master Of None originate from the Down the Tiny Steps days. DTTS was more known as a live band. I couldn’t really make the full band set up work on record and, as the songwriter, that was a huge problem for me. Most DTTS releases were short-run hand-made lo-fi ones performed & recorded by me. We went though a lot of hard line-up changes and I reached a point where I felt too indebted to a lot of people as DTTS. I needed to make a fresh start, but there were a lot of songs I was attached to that had never been captured fittingly.”

In general, what is your take on the current Scottish music scene?  Specifically who has caught your ear?

 “It might sound like a bit of a self-serving cop out, but I’d have to say take a look at the acts on DESKJOB and Hair Of The Dog. I can’t recommend any of them highly enough. Only a couple of them aren’t technically part of it.”

I noticed a Boss RC-50 in a facebook picture. Having convinced myself I needed to play with a looper after seeing a looper used effectively at some show, I picked up a JamMan stereo myself. Do you have any looper tips for the beginner?

” My only tip would be, and it’s more of a plea: Don’t fall into the tired pattern of slowly building up the song over a million bars. That’s fine in the house, till you get comfortable enough to innovate, but don’t forsake dynamic. Do us all a favour.”

What are your musical plans for this year? Is it too soon to be hoping for the next release?

“I think this year will be all about short-players and collaborations for me. I’ve got too much I want to do and I don’t want to lump it all together just for the sake of firing out another album quickly. Like I said, ‘Master Of None’ draws from a fairly large chunk of my life. I don’t presume to think I’lI be able to recreate that. And I don’t want to. I’m just going to stay productive and let the next album brew while I do.”

T&P

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Hector Bizerk

Not only did Pedro bring a couple of Irnbrus to our last blog meeting (excuse to go to a pub), he also brought this interview with Hector Bizerk. Who knew Shambles Miller was this influential.

Hip Hop (along with Jazz, Blues, Cheeseburgers, and Football) is something that fills me with great American pride. You seem to have a deep appreciation (from the graf writing reference on the Living With Rhyme EP cover art to youtube posts of the “golden years”, ie; Souls of Mischief) for the roots of our great homegrown musical export from the Bronx. What records influenced you along the way?

” I think without doubt America’s greatest export is hip-hop culture! Maybe I’m biased in that respect. I value the importance of Graf as a means of social expression, I’ve never done any major pieces myself, but I enjoy seeing European cities covered in colour and tags n murals.  It really gives you an idea of what the people of the city really think when you see the vibrancy in some of the graff in Paris or Barcelona, for example.  In Barca they have the whole Catalunian expression of identity and it works really well in a hip-hop sense.  You can see the oppression being detailed.  In Ireland too…there are walls full of political tags and cultured murals.  Graf gives a great sense of identity and understanding. Glasgow has some tight crews…Easy Riders are the most notorious.  You should check Akme’s work!

It’s hard to pin point any particular record that captured my attention when I got into hip-hop.  I suppose ‘Gangster Rap’ was massive in UK when I was just beginning to listen to music. Then I started to get into beatboxing through hearing Rahzel..and Bboying had always seemed the muts nuts.  The whole culture just seemed to project a positive mindset towards personal growth and mental fitness and that really appealed to me.   In Glasgow, Flyin Jalapeno’s are a Bboy crew who smash dancefloors in the truest sense.  They have members scattered accross Europe and represent the realness.”

I’ve seen hip hop live throughout the years and the sonic impact was more prevalent with live instrumentation in the mix (NaS & Damian Marley, Digable Planets to name a recent and an old gig). Though, I have a feeling that the lack of live musicians for the Watch The Throne tour is fitting and essential in presenting Hip Hop minimal and pure, kind of like you do. Was the idea of having a live drummer born out of necessity? Are you planning on experimenting with more sounds/instrumentation for future recordings and/or live shows?

“Everyone has their own interpretation of the essence of hiphop I suppose.   I agree with you about the live band stuff…I think The Roots are one of the greatest bands in history never mind what style of music they make.  ?uestlove is a genius and the lyrical ability of Blackthought is outrageously complimentary.  I always admired how they groove and moved away from simple 90BMP boombat style.  Their latest album has 4 classical concertos at the end. Nuff said!   Hector Bizerk was born out of a desire to really push ourselves.  Audrey is an incredible drummer..I’ve never saw anyone as talented as her. She’s a proper musician and songwriter too..but she smashes the shit out of a drum kit like no other.  I had been rapping for 8 years before we got together as a duo.  Usually playing with instrumental backing tracks and sometimes my mate Bigg Taj (the best beatboxer I’ve ever come accross)  We opened up for Grandmaster Flash at KillaKella in the UK which was phenomenal but since we started Hector Bizerk Audrey and I have both really pushed one another creatively.  We play rhythms a lot of drummers or rappers wouldn’t dare too and we take risks.  Holding an audiences attention with just drums and rap is a challenge we have proven ourselves capable of achieving.  We’ve supported Ghost Poet, Ugly Duckling and MF Doom in recent months and this month we are opening up for Sway and GZA of Wutang Clan.”

You’ve played on some interesting bills. Who is someone you would like to support/collaborate with?

“I’m open to collaborating with anyone who is on the same page as myself in terms of creative direction and commitment to making good honest music.”

You mentioned that Scotland’s Hip Hop scene goes back to the ’80s. Name some mcs that a newbie (like me) should check out to put together a mixtape of the evolution of Scottish Rap.

“It’s probably unfair to only name a few.  Talking about early hip-hop in Scotland you have pay your dues to Mistah Defy and Bohze of IITone Committee.  Dj Krashslaughta too. These guys really made it possible for Scotsman to rap and they did some touring and signed a major record deal back in the day.  Other notable contributors pre-digital era are Powercut Productions, Major Threat, Scotland Yard Emcees, ThisIll Crew.  Nowadays there are loads of emcees. Perfect Practise are a tight duo from Edinburgh emcee Nostal and DJ Sonny. They make feel good hip-hop that I bump regularly. Loki and Mog smash everything in Glasgow. They are lyrical socially aware emcees and that’s the sorta stuff that really inspires me.  Scatabrainz is the best producer in Scotland in my opinion too..I don’t think many would disagree.  Butterscotch is an emcee from Dingwall in the north of Scotland and he is so talented too, a genuine intelect and his vocab is outstanding.  He is part of Wookie Goldberg with another talented geezer called Skribbo.    Younger emcees I admire are Physiks and Konchis,Erin Friel, Kayce One, Factory Babies, GbH.”

Shambles Miller recommened you in a recent  interview. Have you seen his acoustic cover of “99 problems”? …Seems like a silly, fun loving guy. A quick glance at Glasgow’s varying “genres” and aesthetic styles in music paints a broad but singular Scottish take on rock and roll music. Is there a fair amount of support, inspiration, and collaboration between you all? Or are music and scenes sadly compartmentalized?  Are there any Scottish bands you recommend we give a listen?

“I haven’t heard Shambles version of that but I know he’s a talented geezer.

The Miss’s are one of my favourite bands.  Pure beautiful 4 part harmonys and excellent songwriting. They inspire me to be a better musician.  They are a million miles  from hiphop but I have an appreciation of expression in songwriting and they have soul like no other Scottish band.   I also like Rio Callahan and have collaborated with them before.   Tragic O’Hara is a blues player from Ayrshire with an incredible ability with a guitar. We are working on an EP together at the moment.  He does excellent covers of ~ODB and Cypress Hill.  Think they are both on youtube.  I admire his lyrical ability in his own song writing.  I also lyrically admire Becci Wallace who is a singer songwriter from Glasgow you should check out. She is collaborating with super producer Bill Breakz at the moment and they are incredible together.”

Is there a story behind the name, Hector Bizerk?

‘Yep.  Going Hector is a Glasgow slang term for …letting go and being a bit mad.  We just used it as a bit of banter at first and it ended up sticking.”

Who did the Hector Bizerk “logo” artwork and how do I get a t-shirt so I can spread the good word in San Francisco?

“Pearl Kinnear.  She is a full time visual artist from Scotland and is one my greatest inspirations.  We are proud to have a friend with so many talents.  You can view some of her work here   http://redperil.com/about.html    At our first EP launch Pearl designed a phenomenal banner and decorated the venue with loads of really special pieces of her art work and she is forever working hard on her own projects.  It is important that we appreciate the ability of others and be inspired by the ways they express themselves. The logo is Hector’s identity and is instantly recognisable.”

Pedro

When Pedro first mentioned wanting to feature H.B., I gave a quick listen to the first EP on bandcamp. To be honest, I thought it was merely ‘allright’. Going back last night, I found the new EP ‘Living Off Rhyme’ and was thoroughly impressed on how much more open and daring it seemed to me. I don’t know the first thing about the genre, but I know what I like. The opening track ‘Tsunami’ is brilliant as is the last song ‘Train of Thought”. Not surprisingly, it is as poetic as Kevin Gilday. The three tracks in between are a good ride as well. The strength and effectiveness of the drumming really shines through  on this.  What I am starting to love most about the blog is how it is gradually expanding my musical horizons as I continue to explore the best Scotland has to offer.

Thor

Kevin Gilday

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

Chris Devotion and the Expectations

The first time I saw the band name was while checking something else at Armellodie records. The first thought that came to my mind was ‘that’s vaguely like Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’. What are your thoughts on the importance of a band’s name?

“Well Oasis is an atrocious name but I love them, Nirvana isn’t even that great a name, but they were a great band (though their name did look good on a T-shirt), so I guess it’s not essential. However there is something painful about joke names, or wacky names, and there is something special about a band name that sounds cool (e.g. The Clash, The Who, The Magnetic Fields). As for us, out of all the names we thought of for the band, Chris Devotion and The Expectations was the only one that sounded like a rock and roll band so that’s why we went for that. As a side note Lloyd Cole and The Commotions is a great name for band (though not a band I have really listened to, an ex of mine was a big fan -despite her poor choice in men, she had good music taste, so I shall have to check them out)”

The next thing I did was listen to ‘Blister’. 3.27 later, I immediately shot off an email to request to send you some questions. It took one listen to know that this record was going to be one of my favourites of the New Year. Are there any releases by other Scottish artists you are looking forward to in 2012?

“Well, our labelmates Cuddly Shark are currently recording an album so hopefully that will be out at some point in 2012, their first album was really good. I have also heard that Gerry Love (of Teenage Fanclub fame) has been working on some solo stuff, so if that comes to fruition I’d love to hear that.”

The 2ndsong, I listened to was ‘Tell the Girl’. After that it became clear why my reaction was so visceral. Everyone that encounters your music will have a different frame of reference and signposts, but for me it was 1980 again – post-Clash inspired guitar bands. You remind me of one of the most influential bands of my youth – Blue Peter. I guess the vocal harmony in the song and overall guitar jangle resonates with me directly. Guitar band is, of course, a silly label. How would you describe the music you make and what has helped shape and inspire it?

“Guitar music is a start since we play guitars, I like short sharp hook filled songs, pretty much all of my favourite bands follow that template. Even the obscure bands I like (of which there is many) have catchy hooks and melodies, they may be buried under noise, or maybe not presented in a polished way, but it is always there, for me the big touch stones are 77 Punk, 60’s pop and soul, and 80’s underground and indie music. Probably the biggest specific influences are The Clash, Pixies, Springsteen and Dylan, but they are just four of many, it’s a constant process. I am influenced by any great record so it all gets filled away and filtered through everything else

For the most part they may be obvious influences, but that’s because they are so great, people are naturally going to draw from the best. Hopefully by putting them together via my own and the Expectations’ idiosyncrasies then we get something that sounds like us”

It was extremely kind of you to let me listen to the entire record. Listening to it repeatedly, it is clear that although the overall sound is suggestive of the past, it is still uniquely your own and as ‘modern’ as any new release. How was the album put together?

“That’s certainly what we were aiming for, as much as I love a lot of classic records, I have no interest in trying to just ape them, fetishising the past is a creative dead end, you take what you need and move on with it. I had said when we went into the studio that we were there to make a modern sounding record, there is no point pretending it wasn’t recorded in 2011. We recorded the album with Andy Miller at his Gargleblast studio (he has engineered a lot of the Mogwai albums as well as Life Without Buildings and De Rosa).

Me and Andy talked a lot about balance –the record was recorded in a modern studio on pro tools and that gave us all the options that go along with it, however we recorded a lot of it with the band playing as live, like bands would have in the 50’s 60’s so you still got the energy of the band playing together but instead of recording on to analogue tape it went on to a computer, and then we overdubbed and added and subtracted when we needed. I think the reason that a lot of modern records sound bad is that they rely on pro-tools or whatever to fix rather than enhance and then they iron out every last kink until you get a lifeless mess, Andy totally gets that and is all about making the best record he can”

I love how you’ve included 16 tracks. The last song ‘Better Than This” is conspicuously longer. Was there a particular reason for using this for the closer?

‘We actually went through a few different versions of the track listing but we settled on that as the last one as it put a nice capper on the record, after the 15 short and for the most part furious songs it gives the album a nice change of pace before it finishes, and although this wasn’t part of the decision it touches lyrically on a lot of the themes of the album so it works well as a final track.

Could you cite any Scottish bands you found inspirational? What would you say was your favourite Scot release of the last year?

“Well, the aforementioned Teenage Fanclub are one of my all time favourites, as are Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream, all of those guys have made at least one all time great rock and roll record. As for last year, I have to say Le Reno Amps (as they are the guys who run Armellodie, our label). If I don’t they will send some goons round to take my thumbs. They have been consistently releasing quality records for a few years and last years Appetite and the accompanying Construction mini album are no different”

I’ve been reading some band comparisons that others have made that make me both cringe and chuckle. If you could be compared to a cross of any 2 bands, who would they be?

‘Ha! Yeah, in my time I have had everything from pub-rock to hair metal thrown at me(though there has been some pretty spot on ones as well), my two favourite bands are The Clash and Pixies so if anyone wants to compare us to those two I’d be pretty happy.”

I predict a tremendous amount of success with this. I’m pretty sure I’ve got the first of my best of list for 2012. I noticed you are releasing a special‘faux-vinyl’ cd edition. I have to confess that feels me with a good deal of dismay. Is an actual vinyl release just not in the works? Perhaps later?

“Thanks, I hope you’re right about the success. The‘faux-vinyl’ CD’s are actually for the two singles we released which are only available at gigs and our website (each CD has two non album b-sides). I would absolutely love to release all our stuff on vinyl, however realistically we are on a small (but wonderful) label and the cost of manufacture for vinyl is too expensive, particularly when most of our sales so far have been downloads.

However the album does come in a smart wee digipack with artwork from a guy called Dave Turbitt (who is the illustrator for a graphic novel called Dougie’s War) -I think it is pretty smart (though obviously I would say that). I always oversee all the artwork and packaging, cause I love seeing cool covers and liner notes and all that stuff, luckily Dave is brilliant at what he does”

I imagine that a North American visit is not going to be in the cards next year. What plans do you have to tour the new record?

“Well we (unsurprisingly) have a few Scottish dates in Feb-we have our first London date as well in March. We are a pretty new band so I think we are a bit of an unknown quantity to a lot of people, hopefully people like the record and we can tour more as the year progresses, as for North America we would absolutely love to play there (and anywhere that would have us) but again- small label, DIY indie band etc, etc but you never know, two years ago I never thought I would have an album out and be talking to people all over the world about it and here we are.”

Of course, CD/EX really don’t sound like anyone else. My take is that band comparisons are thrown around way to lightly. But it did remind me of a time and place from my youth and Chris even took the trouble to search for the reference.

 “Thanks for your kind words and your interest, I checked out that band, could only find some of their later stuff, (I still quite enjoyed it though, reminded me of a UK one hit wonder from the 80’s -Brilliant Mind by Furniture, anyway I’ll keep an eye out for their early stuff)”

Here is the definitive link to Blue Peter http://bluepeterband.com/taxonomy/term/9

– I maintain that ‘Radio Silence’ earns a spot in my best of all time top 10 and that ‘Almagamation and Capital’ will certainly rank as one of the best of this year.

SF Calling: A Chat with Glasgow’s Elaine O’Connor

I’m not sure how this will pan out. In my head, I’d like it to be a conversational chat about music from the point of view of our respective cities. Thanks for the tip on the ‘Happy Particles’. Once again, I can say I heard about it from Elaine. What are you looking forward to musically in the new year? I’m very excited about the upcoming Chris Devotion and the Expectations release.

“If it’s not already clear, I love the Happy Particles, so I’m glad you like them as well. What I’m looking forward to is something I have been thinking about today. I have one of the CDEX singles which I like a lot, so that should be a good one. I’m fond of the label they’re on – Armellodie (did you happen to get their free sampler, which was released over Christmas? (http://armellodie.bandcamp.com/album/armellodie-records-sampler) If not you should check it out.) 

I also want to hear the mini-album which Holy Mountain is set to put out on Chemikal Underground – their noisiness is very appealing live and will be good to see how it sounds properly recorded. I’m looking forward to hearing what PAWS are going to come out with next, as they’re apparently going in to the studio in the next couple of weeks to record. Also, the Miaoux Miaoux album, whenever it appears, is going to be pretty amazing. Of course, there will be plenty more but I can’t think what right now.”

Has the re-release of Big Country’s ‘The Crossing’ come across your radar? I’m a little dismayed by the 30 years of it all, as I was 18 or so when that came out. 

“I’m afraid I’m not big on Big Country. Should I change my mind on this? Tell me what I’m missing out on?”

I am not sure it would work that way. Personally, I rarely ever go back and look for something before my time. On the other hand I just discovered the Skids. Had I known them before Big Country who knows how I would have felt about it. It certainly would have been different. And considering the tragic circumstances, I doubt it would have much meaning for someone of today. I won’t put it down to nostalgia though.

This time of year has always been completely devoid of U.K. acts touring here, but now that I’m focusing so much on Scotland, I’m really ‘jealous’ of not being able to attend any of the Christmas shows. Did you take in any?

“I did just a couple during a very busy December. Went along to Last Year’s Girl’s (http://lastyearsgirl.pixlet.net/) show at the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow, which was not Christmassy per say but definitely kicked off the festive season. She had a mix of offbeat singer songwriter types David Hughes, Chris T-T and Franz Nicolay, and all were very entertaining but Chris T-T was hilarious as well as talented so he won the day for me. 

I saw the We Were Promised Jetpacks, Remember Remember and Endor show at the ABC in Glasgow, which was a great triple-bill. Endor are just a lovely band, and Remember Remember get better every time I see them. WWPJ were very good fun, and it was the big office party night Friday in Glasgow so packed with drunk people, which they handled well.

I also went to see the Second Hand Marching Band’s Christmas show, with Withered Hand and the Last Battle which was a nice mix. SHMB I have a vested interest in because of my brother who plays with them, but I genuinely enjoy them too – also they did a cover of ‘Stay Another Day’ by East 17 – which probably doesn’t mean much outside of the UK, but was a Christmas number 1 which is a big deal here.

There must have been a couple of good local shows over there in the festive season, did you go along to anything?”

Sadly I was a bit laid up and didn’t even make it to the Fakeyourowndeath New Year’s show. (Like missing SHMB almost). I can redeem myself  a week Friday. I did pick up a couple of Twilight Sad and Wedding Present Tickets today though. Seamonsters live! I missed buying Bombay Bicycle Club tickets. Ian McCulloch coming to town and I better go and snag some Imperial Teen tickets before that sells out.  I wanted your opinion on FYOD. There was a time, I’d counted the previous incarnation as my favourite band. That is no small declaration. But I’ve always felt I might be just a little to close to them to be truly objective.

What do you think? http://www.facebook.com/FakeYourOwnDeath?sk=wall

“First off, I was immediately intrigued to see they had recently been playing with The Velvet Teen, a band I love. So thought, ‘this can’t be bad!’. And indeed it wasn’t. While they’re probably sick of hearing Interpol/Editors comparisons, it is true; but in a really good way. I liked the urgency behind the guitars and drums, and the intensity of his voice. I also enjoyed that I could have had a wee dance to ‘Bombs Don’t Show Up’ which had a bit of a Franz Ferdinand tinge for me. In short, it ticks many of my boxes and the band is now on the list for purchases. Thanks for getting me to listen to them.” 

I take it you didn’t get a ticket for the Nov 17th Arab Strap ‘reunion’. Do you have any direct feedback from someone who did manage to get in?

“Sadly I did not, no. I’ve heard from a few friends that it was pretty special which is not unexpected — Stuart McHugh’s review was good (http://www.isthismusic.com/arab-strap-3) and I trust his opinion. I was obviously quite disappointed, but I did see them a tremendous amount of times when they were alive, so I guess I can deal with it. 

In a further blow, I was also unable to go to the shows both Aidan and Malcolm did during December because of other commitments; so it just really wasn’t my year for Arab Strap related activity!”

Coincidentally, I went to see the Chameleons (Vox) that  very night at the same venue that I had seen Arab Strap on their last North American tour.  I had passed on this opportunity before as I am extremely leery of falling into the nostalgia trap. In short, it was amazing. Mark Burgess (despite the jeans tucked in short boots look ) was phenomenal. I think it highlights how far ahead of their time they really were.  Are there any bands you wished you could have seen? 

“Tons, I’m sure… Although I’m very lucky in that the one band I loved the most who had split up were The Pixies, and thanks to the reformation I’ve seen them a couple of times. Both were amazing shows for me, although I’m sure they weren’t quite the same as they would have been.”

 In terms of musical generations (say every 5 years) we are quite a bit apart. This actually fascinates me. So many of my generation stop looking for new music or are just  looking back nostalgically on the ‘good old days’.  I fear in my case, it is probably a case of arrested development in that my musical passion is still adolescent.   Are you able to talk about bands of your ‘youth’ yet?

“I’m terrified of the day I stop looking for something new. While I hope I’ve developed somewhat, a lot of my tastes are still quite similar and there are bands who I guess I’ve now had long love affairs with (Mogwai are probably the best example of this). Some are very much of the past – most of those could be classed in the pop punk bracket; certain of them I’m still a fan of but for the most part I’ve put them aside. It’s strange to think there are bands I had huge obsessions over who I now haven’t listened to for years. My friend Lesley is a champion reminiscence partner for such things. In school we were constantly going to see a British band called My Vitriol; who kind of imploded after touring their first album to death. We saw them on a ‘we’re sort of back together with half the band changed but the same old songs’ gig a couple of years ago and it was completely bizarre and almost sad. They’re of a certain time, for sure, but I can still remember how much I loved them back then.”

I don’t think it is a coincidence that I consider  ‘Everything’s Getting Older’ as the best overall release of the past year. The idea of aging obviously resonates with me.  In fact, I just ordered the triple vinyl. Which means I have paid for the download, bought the physical cd and now have the deluxe edition.  What would you hail as the year’s best?

“That is *some* dedication to an album although I do agree it’s fantastic. I’ve only got the CD! I have enjoyed a lot of albums in the last year, but standouts are probably Remember Remember, Happy Particles, Mogwai, Monoganon, Conquering Animal Sound, Dead Boy Robotics – every time I try and think about it I remember something else. My ultimate favourite is a toss up between the first two but Remember Remember’s new album might just edge it. Might. I think it really pleased me most because I had that second album worry – because the first RR album I was very attached to and I was nervous I wouldn’t like this one as much. But the changes, additions of more members and more instruments, have added so much to it; I probably enjoy it even more than the first.

Scotland aside, I’ve probably listened to the Cults album more than any other this year. I basically like anything with fuzzy guitars which is a bit girl-band-ish, so it was a no brainer. “

That reminds me that I should get a Veronica Falls ticket. My first impression was the new Lush (without the acerbic wit) The blog ( of a ‘professional’ fan) is now a full 3 months old. 2100 hits is not very much. But it is something. In reality, it probably should be closer to zero. In fact, the other day I noticed a click through from Pop Cop. I’m listed as a music site! And as of now I’m on Ayetunes! What would say was your ‘professional’ highlight?

That’s very exciting, the Pop Cop is excellent. I still feel like a glorified fan also. My favourite thing is when someone I like, likes something I write about them. That makes me very happy.”

I smiled the other day when I noticed The King Hats thanking you for linking up with them on twitter after our post about them. Surely not a coincidence. Lastly,  Campfires in Winter (not on the Radar artist list yet)   cough  cough …

 “I admit I hadn’t got round to chasing this up further, but I’ll punt it again! Thanks.”

Thanks so much for agreeing to this experiment. We’ll see what the future holds. Until next time, San Francisco out.

T&P

Shambles Miller

Since it is the first day of the New Year as I write this, I should ask what you have planned musically this year; any new releases to look forward to?

“Happy New Year! I would have replied earlier, but it took me a full day to recover from the night before. I’m planning to release a single early this year, as soon as it’s ready to go. I also hope to gig even more than last year and further afield too.”

 When I was in the 5th grade guitar lessons were suggested and I dutifully signed up. Much to my regret now, I hated the lessons and stopped soon after. The desire to learn obviously never came from within. Fast forward to about 3 years ago, I came dangerously close to buying Guitar Hero. Avoiding that precipice, I decided to try real guitars again. Do you have any tips? What is your favourite chord progression? If you could cover any song what would it be?

“Jings. Well, it depends why you want to learn. Guitar Hero is a really fun game and not really related to the playing of the guitar, but if you’re dead set on learning to play a musical instrument, firstly I’d recommend getting a beginner’s guitar. Something cheap or something second hand. Don’t pick up a Fender or a Martin until you’re good enough to play one! Apart from that, just practice as much as possible and take your time. If you cut corners, your hands will learn the mistakes you’re making and it’ll be all the harder to unlearn them.

As for a favourite chord progression? I don’t really have one but often a really simple progression can make for a beautiful song with the right melody and lyrics.

Well, I do cover a couple of songs in my sets now and then. I do the odd Frank Turner track, a couple of Billy Braggs, as well as The Decemberists now and then. One of my favourite songs to cover is “Not Perfect” by Tim Minchin.”

I’ve been meaning to send some questions to Kitty the Lion (as they have caught my attention recently). As they appear on your cited bands list, what can you tell me about them? Are there any other artists we should be looking out for this year?

“Hey, who’s getting interviewed here? Seriously though, they’re a great band, really lovely, catchy songs. Clever lyrics, often funny, which is obviously something that appeals to me. As for other artists to look out for…I take it you mean Scottish ones? Tragic O’Hara is always a favourite and if you’re into Scottish hip-hop, you’ve got to check out Hector Bizerk. As always, I’d recommend checking out Coat Hooks and Reverieme. They make great music and keep good company. I’m winking by the way.” Cause we’re friends I mean, not cause I’m hitting on you.”

I see that you are a fellow wordpress blogger and pretty active in most forms of social media.  (Looking forward to the next ‘#shamblesiswatching’).  Do you think these tools are enough for an artist to launch and sustain a career?

” I think it’s a good way of augmenting the good old-fashioned method of gigging and releasing music. I know some people never play gigs and only put out music online, which is great for them, because essentially it’s people putting their creativity out into the world. For me though, without live performances the whole thing would be missing something. I love performing live and it’s one of the most important aspects of music for me. Twitter and all that lot are fun, and helpful, but I wouldn’t rely solely on social media to sustain a career.”

How would you describe the music scene in Glasgow? It is a question we like to come back to a lot because we are on the other side of the world. When I look at the gigs and wonderful lineups a tear will start to form.  But what is it really like there on the ground?

“It’s a great scene. There are always so many gigs going on in this city that I’ve probably missed more amazing gigs than I’ve been to. In general though, you can go out almost any night in Glasgow and see a great band somewhere or other. Even the open mics have a pretty high standard. Most of the time anyway…”

Locally, we’ve got Twilight Sad to look forward to on March 8. What was the last show you attended?

“Ehh…jings, I haven’t been too much over the Christmas period. Probably Deathcab for Cutie. I was supposed to go a Second Hand Marching Band gig a couple of weeks ago but a winter illness finally got me and I was too busy sneezing my face off to leave the house.”

I love the little drawing and letter included with my ‘Shambles Sails the Clockwork Sea’. Billy Bragg is another cited influence. This is evident on the song ‘Strike!’  What is your favourite Bragg song?  Do you think a pop song can change people’s perspective? Is there a point in a writing a protest song anymore? (given the general state of the music and the protest industry)

Where do I start? I couldn’t just have one favourite, but the one I tend to perform live is “Waiting for the Great Leap Forward” (eagle-eyed folk might have spotted a video of me performing this one live, roaming around the internet somewhere). Pop music can absolutely change someone’s perspective. Music does that every time you listen to it; pop music isn’t exempt. Pop music doesn’t just mean Rihanna, Jessie J, and songs about shagging.

There will always be a place for the protest song. You don’t write a protest song specifically to go out and change peoples minds or to raise awareness about a subject. It’s certainly not how I do it, at least. You write these songs because you’re angry or disappointed or frustrated and you have to get that out somehow. If people hear it and can get on board with what you’re saying, if they hear some truth in it and identify with your ire, that’s a fantastic bonus.”

I’m tempted to ask you a Skyrim question, but I’ll ask about the ‘dragon slaying’ motif I think I’ve noticed. What are your dragons?

“Haha, it’s not a deliberate motif, but perhaps you’ve noticed something I haven’t. My dragons…well, if you’ve heard songs of mine like “Pssst!” or “AAARRGGHHH!” (the similarity in their titles is not accidental) or the much more succinct “The Shortest Song I’ve Ever Written is the One with the Longest Title”, you might have noticed I’m quite a worrier. I’m always trying to overcome silly anxieties and recently I’ve been making a more concerted effort to get out of my own head a bit. My other dragons…ehh…I have a love of red meat, beer, and whisky that will probably eventually kill me.”

 I bought my wife (the Decembrists fan in the family) Colin Meloy’s  ‘Wildwood Chronicles’ as a stocking stuffer .  I noticed your involvement in ‘How to be a Ghost’.  Did you do the illustrations? Have you written the song for it yet?

“Haha, well first of all, no, I didn’t illustrate it. You’ve seen my drawing, Thor! I wrote the book with my good friend and long-time collaborater, Neil Slorance. He’s the man responsible for the beautiful illustrations. If I’d illustrated it, nobody would buy it. Secondly, I don’t think I’ll be writing a song for it. It’s not really related to my music in any way.”

The Beer Song references Irn Bru prominently. Isn’t that a soda? 

“Haha, aye. It’s in ‘Beer Song’. Irn Bru is the perfect hangover cure.  I have a story about that song. It’s probably the most interesting thing about the song and it’s not even in it, but the friend I refer to in the song. Later that night, he climbed out of a window (he was pretty high on something or other) so I climbed out after him to talk him into coming inside. He kept going to the edge, I think mainly to freak me out. He lost his footing and was about to fall off, so I grabbed his coat and pulled him back onto the ledge. Afterwards, I swapped places with his other friend and went back into the building we were in (our local student union, incidentally) while his friend went out to try and bring him back in. I later found out that his friend left him on the ledge, where he fell asleep. He woke up around 4 in the morning, climbed back in the window and had to let himself out through a fire escape, setting off the alarm in the process.”

Lastly, we often ask a question to be asked of us. We then pretend you’ll check back and read the answer. What would you like to know?

“You mentioned that you had an Irn Bru story?”

Once upon a time, I was able to see Mogwai and Urusei Yatsura twice in one week. Meeting up with a friend of a friend of Yatsura I’d met at the first show, he’d brought along his neighbour who a young Mr. Braithwaite took a fancy to. We ended up hanging out, sitting at the Yatsura table drinking copiously and having a good time as it was Yatsura’s release show for their first full length. Heading out from the venue to find the night bus, James pulls out a bottle of Irn Bru he had obviously been carrying all night. It was a pretty magical moment, never having had one. I’ve always thought that was merely about a  man and his beloved soft drink. I’m pretty sure now he must have been wanting to get a head start  on taming the inevitable hangover.

I do have a beard!  

T&P

The King Hats

One of my principal tools for finding something new is to google bandcamp-glasgow. Each time I end up with a band called Glasgow who appear to be from New Orleans. It has become somewhat of a ritual to go through that extra step. One day I might even check them out. Tonight I found you. I preordered the new EP ‘First Lights’ on the strength of the non-EP songs that I’ve heard. Is the new material different in any way?

“It’s different in that it’s a development of our sound. We recorded the EP ourselves in our flat, so it definitely has a sound that’s different to what we’ve recorded before. That has a lot to do with the recording techniques we had to employ due to the limitations of recording a rock album in a flat (our neighbours loved us). The great thing about recording in the flat is the time you have to work on things. This is the first stuff we’ve recorded where we’ve had the time to really work on a lot of vocals. There was many a time where we’d be up all night drinking whisky and doing all the gang vocals (hence why our neighbours loved us). I’d say the overriding difference though is the size of the sound. We really wanted the recordings to sound wider, and we think we’ve managed that.”

‘The King Hats’. Would you care to relate the tale of the name’s origin and significance?

“Haha. It’s actually a short story. Basically, one night at a party, our mate Greg was very drunk and kept referring to a picture of a crown as a king hat. We asked him if he meant a crown, and he just said “yeah, a king hat”. It made us giggle, and it stuck.”

I just purchased the ‘People, Places, Maps’ record as well as I noticed they are sharing the bill for your EP release this Sunday. It is looking like it will be an excellent night at King Tut’s. Are you familiar with them?

“We’re actually not that familiar with them. We’ve been listening since we saw them on the line-up though and we’re liking what we’ve heard. We’re looking forward to listening to them and all the other bands playing on the night. It should be a good one.”

It never ceases to amaze me that whatever rock you turn over , you’re bound to find another band you like in Scotland. I’ve spent enough time scouring for new bands to know that Scotland, like any place, is also full of music I would generally dislike. Nevertheless, there you are. What do you think accounts for this almost unbelievable quality and quantity of ever emerging Scottish Acts?

“Well, we dunno to be honest. We’re very lucky in Scotland in that music is so ingrained in the culture. It just seems to be what so many people do. I’d say one reason (and it’s certainly why we picked up our instruments) is that Scotland is a small country with a lot of small towns. Growing up you don’t have much to do, so you pick up an instrument. We think Mogwai put it best though. It probably has a lot to do with the weather; you can either go out and play football, or you can stay in and play your guitar.”

What’s your take on the 30th anniversary of ‘In a Big Country’ this year? I’d say from my vantage point, that they really broke the ground for Scottish acts to sing in their ‘native’ voice. (if you ignore the 20 years in between)

“Is it? To be honest we didn’t realise. Big Country were a little before our time. Our biggest influence with regard to singing in our native voice is probably Idlewild. Their first album was a massive influence. There was also our physics teacher in high school, Mr Crawford. He actually used to play with the Supernaturals. He listened to the band Carlo and Alan were in back then and just asked why we don’t sing in our native voice. It had never really occurred to us to do that. At the time we were young and listened to a lot of American music, so that had a major influence in our sound and how we wrote songs.”

What’s your favourite in use guitar at the moment? If you could obtain anything what would it be? For some reason, I think I need a tele thinline. Probably has something to do with those early Manics videos I’ve been watching.

“Bert has the guitar he wants. He plays a Strat with a Seymour Duncan Humbucker. Carlo likes just about any acoustic guitar cause he just likes to hit it. Russell has the bass he wants, he’s got this really nice Rickenbacker, but it’s out of commission at the moment since he smashed it in a moment of exuberance. Alan really wants a guitar that can play itself.”

I’m listening to ‘Happy New Year’ for the third time. I just realized the reason I like it so much: it reminds me of A.C. Acoustics in a way. What is the meaning of the song?

“It’s about the night before New Year (Bert’s birthday). Alan had been up all night and was in a bad way after taking a lot of things he shouldn’t have. The next day we were getting ready to go out for New Year and he surprisingly wasn’t feeling well. So his then girlfriend ran him a hot bath to make him feel better, but he collapsed before he could get in. His girlfriend found him naked on the bathroom floor. The song is a thank you for saving his life (metaphorically).”

Since we can’t get to the shows there all that easily, could you share an experience of a memorable one in the last little while?

“I guess we’ll need to come out there a give you all a show!

Well, we’ve not been gigging that much recently cause of all the recording. A really memorable night though was our single launch. We sold out King Tuts; it was possibly the busiest we’ve ever seen it. They didn’t even have room to put the barriers up at the front. It made it nice to have the crowd that much closer in. Added to that, it was really special to hear them all singing along to our songs. It was just a really great night. We’re hoping to replicate it on Sunday.”

Not that we can really keep up, do you have any artists you think that we really need to look out for?

“Wow, there’s loads, PAWS, Carnivores, Lady North, Boycotts, Fangs, WeCameFromWolves, Naked Strangers we could go on all day, but that’s certainly a good start.

A good place to look for the best, new Scottish talent is definitely Glasgow PodcArt. They always find the most amazing stuff, and you can tell how passionate they are about music. They got to officially announce the line-up for Tut’s New Year Revolution.”

T&P