Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

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.”