My LP just arrived, completing an almost 3 week journey. I purposefully didn’t listen to the downloaded files as I wanted to hear it on the turntable first. Is it fair to assume that artists who release on vinyl tend to have an affinity for it as well?
“I guess so, we’ve been on the journey of seeing and hearing vinyl in the house when you were a kid and then to see it being replaced by minidisc/cd’s/downloads. It’s really nice to see it still surviving in some way through the years. It’s only recently that I’ve started buying more vinyl than cd’s but I’m enjoying music even more now and I’m looking for all the subtleties a bit more, maybe they call that getting old, not sure!!!:) My manager Rose, she owns a record store in Edinburgh and they have just renovated the shop to have a vinyl only room, which is fantastic!”
I do have 2 Crash My Model Car records, downloaded from emusic, but I didn’t initially delve deep enough to know who the band members were. It wasn’t until looking at your bandcamp page a few years ago that I put 2 and 2 together: or rather, as I said – “There’s Taketori!” I was about to ask about its origin, but a quick internet search led to bamboo seeds and an author’s first name. Do you often derive inspiration for a song from literature?
“It was my good friend Daibhidh Martin who dreamed up the Taketori story. Daibhidh is a poet/storyteller from the Isle of Lewis and we have worked together for years culminating in the release of our album a couple of years ago, Haunted Bird! Books, folklore and stories are a big influence on my own writing though, the cycle of artists inspiring each other I guess.”
I’m listening to Omu Prin’s Lament right now because I’ve become somewhat obsessed with trying to unravel this mysterious character. The video for ‘Homeward’ is tagged as being based on the Omu Prin story. A bit of research led me to getting the kindle version of ‘In the Year of Opened Doors’. I was hoping that it would reveal all, but I’m still left wondering. At this point, I’m inclined to conclude that the gentleman in the video is protraying Omu Prin himself. Am I wildly off the mark?
“The gentleman in the video is the character of Omu and he’s played by one of my old teachers, Ken Inglis. It was Daibhidh who directed that video too. I’ve written about Omu Prin for years now, he’s travelled with me from the Crash days up until now which has been nice!”
Looking at the album credits, I see that Pete Harvey played cello. I’ll have to pull out “An Eagle to Saturn” afterwards. Are Leg working on or close to releasing a second record already?
“Pete is the other person who has travelled with me from the Crash days and actually even before that. He is an amazing musician and seems to approach things with a blank page, which is always refreshing. The Leg have just finished a new record and I have heard bits of it, it sounds chaotically beautiful.”
The new record does a have a slightly different tone than the last efforts. How much of that is attributable to the trip to Vermont?
“I suppose that is down to constantly growing and trying to get better at what you do. We’re always learning and I find that one of the exciting things about creating and recording music. If you have your eyes and ears open you will be taking things onboard as you go and I guess you get the focus a bit better each time you have a stab at it. Working with Michael, Rob and Geza in Vermont was amazing. It was such a beautiful space and they are people of depth and kindness so it was always going to be a positive experience. Michael has a very simple approach to recording, place the mics and then just play! We recorded it in Michael’s wooden house so there will definitely be a resonant tone from there.”
How did growing up in the Isles shape your own musical sensibilities?
“Growing up on Island cut off from the rest of the world is a good start for sparking off the imagination so it has been a huge influence. The traditions & history, good & bad, have informed a lot of how and what I write. And wherever I end up staying I think it will always travel with me. Musically my father was a big influence as he taught me the pipes at a very early age, I was taught using a technique called ‘canntaireachd’ and I think this has influenced in some part the way I approach melody etc.”
I see you that are playing in Aviemore this month. Having just completed the journey from Edinburgh to Inverness, in spirit at least, with Rebus, the name stands out. What towns and venues have you found the most interesting to play in?
“One that springs to mind was a show in Mary Kings Close which was a room in the hidden streets of Edinburgh, buried beneath the Royal Mile. They had never held a gig there before but myself and Daibhidh were asked to play for an Oxfam charity show. It was an amazing experience because of the atmosphere of the space and all the history that went with it. Going home to Lewis to play is always nice, your home gig will always carry a lot of different vibes so I always look forward to that. I was on tour at the end of last year and the 2 gigs that come to mind are the Union Chapel in London and the The Lowry in Salford, both really beautiful spaces that carry a lot of energy, always great walking onto a stage when there is a natural vibe already happening.”
The art on your LP is rather nice. When I was young records were just taken for granted and now that I’ve started ‘collecting’ them again they have become truly special. Holding a CD cover is just not the same as grasping the more tactile LP jacket. Could you elaborate on the cover art’s origin and significance to the record?
“Cover art is important as it in some ways sums up a bit of the focus you are trying to get at, if that makes sense? I was introduced to Natalie Jones through a friend and I just really loved her vibe. What I did was just send Natalie a brief description of where my head was at and then let her just do her thing, which she did. It feels nice doing it this way as there is a collaborative thing that happens between the music and the art which takes on a new life.”
I have discovered literature through music before. It doesn’t happen often enough. A long time ago, listening to Johnny Clegg’s ‘Warsaw 1943’ led from sleeve notes to Czelaw Milosz’s ‘The Captive Mind’? Have you ever experienced such a journey?
“I was asking Michael one day in Vermont about his own songwriting, influences and he got onto the subject of Paul Bowles and his books and I’m actually just reading The Sheltering Sky at the moment”
The album comes across as being particularly well suited to listening to on vinyl. I’m pleased with just how much warmer it sounds. The music seems even more focused and intimate than previous releases. Is there an overarching guiding principle behind it? To state it slightly differently, which side of the horizon does it focus on?
“I was keen to create a space in my head for this record and stick there, I guess being confident on one of the things that you do rather than throwing it all on the plate, if that makes sense?”
You’ve just recently released a new EP. Is a new full length something you are already considering? It would seem plausible that musically it might go in a slightly different direction. Any thoughts yet on what you’d like to do next?
“Yeh, not sure where it will all go from here. It’s the first time in a long time that I really feel there is a blank page. I have a few things ticking over in my head but I’m just going to take some time to see where things will go. Could be a while before I release anything else or who knows could be this year. We’ll see.”
Could you point us toward three essential Scottish artists anyone would be remiss to overlook?
“Calamateur (aka Andrew Howie) , Lee Patterson and, although not Scottish, one artist who has influenced me from your side of the Atlantic is Matthew Ryan. His album ‘Concussion’ is my all time top 5! I worked for a very short spell in a venue in Glasgow where Matthew was playing, I was asked to do the merch stall and had the pleasure of hearing Matthew for the first time. There were about 15 people in the audience but it was something that still sticks with me.”
Does this now mean that the Omu Prin story is complete?
“I think the Omu story will be ongoing”
Here is another excerpt from Daibhidh Martin’s short story Omu Prin and Me. If you feel the need (and you should) to watch Homeward again the following quote should set the table nicely:
He stopped walking and turned to face me. The way he looked at me as he began to speak was otherworldly. “It was the same year my wife and I were married, we had just built the house and we were looking forward. We were twenty three. She was swimming in the sea and was pulled out by a rip tide. For years, I wouldn’t set foot on the beach and then I remembered the sand castles. Every night since then I have come down to this beach and collected whatever washes ashore and used it to build my gates”