Posted in glasGOwest

Garth Richardson, Eh.

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You have a reputation for only working with artists that you admire and are known to join the crowd at a live show before doing so. Do you still recall your visceral reaction the first time you saw Biffy live?

“I never saw them live (Laugh). Actually Simon and his A&R guy showed up to my Farm in Gibsons and we sat and talked for the whole day and I asked them exactly what they wanted to do and I got the demos and then we did the record and then I saw them after the record and I was completely floored by the show.”

Apparently, this was also the first double record you’ve produced. Now that you’ve been through the experience, would you willingly get involved with another?

“That’s a good one, we did a double record in under 5 months. We basically recorded 23 songs and reliving Groundhog Day waking up everyday and coming into the studio for 5 months was a little daunting. We did take a 2 week break so that Ben Kaplan could go get married but you know it was a lot of work with not a lot of time. I think we really should have had 6 months on that record because I felt that the last part of it was rushed.

Would I do it again? Yeah. Hell Yeah. We were really able to take every song and make it its own and try and make each one an individual story and not have the same crushed velvet Elvis Presley painting in every room. We shaped every song and tried to make sound different. Accomplishing this was the biggest challenge but also the most fun. We had a complete open canvas and Simon wrote 50 songs for this double record that we eventually cut down to 20.”

Do you have any insights behind the decision to release the 14 song version? The documentary that came with the special edition repeatedly stresses that a 20 song double album was envisioned from the beginning.  Necessary compromise?

“Actually what’s happened was in typical record label fashion was they don’t really have any balls. Alex Gilbert the A&R guy came up to the band on the first day of mixing and told them that they can’t do the double record and the band -which I am completely on their side with – were extremely upset about the fact that the record label had no balls. It was a risk with the band doing a double record with this new music era and in the current music business.  You know what?  This whole record was geared towards a double record, they had the sides for each part of the record already picked out and named.

I understand why the record label did not want to put it out but I think they should have known this as apposed to leading on the band. I thought it was a great double record. I still think it’s a double record, but I understand the politics of dancing. As sad as it may be, the record label paid for it so they have the final say and in reality the band loses any kind of artistic control in that respect.”

The trilogy of the last three Biffy Clyro records, which you produced, went to #2 then #3 and finally to #1 on the UK album charts. Looking at your production credits, they seem to be the only band you have worked with three times. Clearly something is working in the relationship. What has made it work so well?

“I did do two Melvins records, two Autumn to Ashes record and two Spineshank records but this really was my first three-peat. Knowing that the band does things in threes, I think this may be my last record with them. It’ll be sad if that’s the case. If I could do a fourth I’d be honoured and thrilled. In that three record span I was able to see the band go from boys to men. Simon has become a right a wonderful visionary, in his own right, and he knows exactly what he wants. I found that with this record he was more involved coming in because he knew exactly what he wanted it to be. When you tend to work with a band frequently you start to take a little bit more of a back seat role guiding the ship or the bus in a little bit of a less hands on way, simply nudging it to the left or to the right a little.

The thing that worked so well with Biffy was that the band knew that I had their back . I got into a lot of fights with the label because they wanted it a certain way and I would always tell them “This will be happening shortly”. Not believing me they would respond ”Yeah right, right , sure.” When I told them what would happen actually happened they’d look at me saying “How the fuck do you know these things?” I have been around the business for 40 years and  I have literally seen it all. I really think the biggest thing is trust and the fact that I had their back.”

If you ‘had’ to pick one song from each of the past 3 albums that you are most pleased with, in terms of how they ultimately turned out, which ones would they be?

“Oh dear dear dear, well I’d have to say from Only Revolutions would have to be Many of Horror; I think that was just a beautiful song. I would have to say the one that brings a tear to my eye every time is ‘Folding Stars’. That song is about Simon’s mother going to heaven. It was a hard record for Simon to make because that was right after his mother had passed and that song really hit a nerve with me. Choosing one from the new record ‘Opposites’ is a really tough one because there are  so many amazing tracks, but I would say for sheer power it would have to be the Thaw; but then again I love Opposites and Stinging Belle. I’m gonna go out on a limb and actually say The Thaw because of how it builds from nothing and it ends in this gigantic amazing sound.”

The band’s satisfaction in recording a record and the fan’s excitement in finally being able to bring it home is, to a certain degree, self-explanatory. As a producer where do you derive the most satisfaction?

“I would say that it happens on the day after I actually wake up and I don’t have to go into the studio.(Laughs) What you guys have to realize is that we did 23 songs in 5 months and we did 7 days of Pre-pro for 23 songs which was Incredibly fast. The fact that the record finally went to number 1 was one of the most satisfying things because whenever you make someone’s record you always always hope that the fans like it and that they take it into their hearts. I think that with this one, we finally got it right. Not that their first two records were wrong in any way, its just that the band is just gonna get better because they are like a great bottle of wine.”

Do you ever pull one of the albums that you’ve worked on from the shelf and just listen to it? Are you able to lose yourself in it or does it put you right back in the studio?

“Ha, You mean that nervous twitch that I get every time I play my records. Haha. But no, It took me a few weeks before I could listen to it because we were working on it for 5 months straight, the fact is that when you make a record you usually don’t know what it is. You know every single note, every single beat, every single sound and every single nuance; So its harder to appreciate it as a whole. When I went back and listened to Puzzle and Only Revolutions for the first time in a long time, it actually put a smile on my face.  The fact that Biffy is so different and unique and unlike any other band on this fucking planet makes me feel proud and lucky to have been a part of this. I think it has been just phenomenal.”

Do you have an anecdote from the Opposites recording session ?

“We kind of have a code of what happens in the studio stays in the studio. I think if you watch the making of DVD you could see some because we had cameras on us at all times. Everything you saw was what we did. There aren’t really any other anecdotes I can think of because everything was video taped so fans should check the DVD as there were some funny moments on there.

Although having said that, every time the band would do their parts they would take off their shirts. So Ben Kaplan, Ryan Williams – The two engineers who did excellent work on this record- and I. We almost began taking off our shirts in solidarity but we decided we may actually scare the fans.”

Has the time you’ve spent with Biffy over the years led to your discovery of any other Scottish music?

“The thing I do have to say about Scottish music is that it is real and they always go outside of the curve. There is also just a lot of passion coming out of that country all the time. Probably because it is so cold and rainy. (Laughs)”

The band has indicated the next step may require a thorough reassessment of their songwriting approach and that someone else at the helm may very well be what is needed to help facilitate a creative push in a new direction. From your own perspective as a producer, is three times a charm? If they did ask again, would you do it?

“(See 4) I think they need someone to come in with a completely different direction. I think the problem will be that whoever does take over the helm will have a difficult time because Simon knows exactly what he wants to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if Simon ended up being the producer himself and ended up hiring a different engineer to help him capture what he’s doing.  I think they are ready like with Muse who produced their own last record. I think Simon is ready.”

I’m from London Ontario myself. Had I known how innovative the Fanshawe music industry arts program was I might just have reconsidered my academic pursuits at Western in 1983. Until recently, even though I had the debut Kim Mitchell record, I had not heard of your father, his achievements or of his recent passing. I came across this interview which struck me as a fascinating insight into the kind of producer he had been and what a beloved educator he must have become. I was at the local record shop and I had an original copy of Bob Seger’s Night Moves in my hand while I was trying to imagine what it must have been like to ‘grow up’ in the studio. Do you still remember some of the early lessons you were taught?

“Yes. I was always taught to show up on time and that I actually have three ears. I have two on the sides of my head and I my eyes act as the third. I was also taught dedication to excellence. Everything we did had to be done at our best. The fact that my dad touched so many peoples hearts and souls I would say was because he was a true teacher. A few of his students were Shelly Yakus and Jimmy Iovine. My father also trained Jack Douglas, Bob Ezrin, Me, Micheal McCarty(President of EMI publishing Canada), Gary Furniss (President of Sony publishing Canada).

One key thing he taught me and I’m sure people are getting sick and tired of hearing me say this one phrase – The way to make it in the music business is, good songs sell, bad songs don’t. If you don’t have a good song you’re wasting your time.”

Pedro had a chance to visit Vancouver, your new home base, last December. It was his new daughter’s first plane ride and visit to Canada. It is also the home of the Nimbus School of Recording Arts, which you co-founded. What would you say is its guiding principle and mission?

“The reason we opened up Nimbus was because of a conversation Bob Ezrin and I had about 8 years ago. We agreed that there’s all these people being trained, but not the way that we were trained. We were trained that if you couldn’t deliver a sandwich into the session properly they were not going to let you into the room to make a patch or to set up a microphone. Everything to do with Nimbus is about being excellent and being accountable. We teach you the reality of music production. I find that the other schools don’t have people that have the same experience and as I have always had a saying that If I was actually to go into battle I would shoot my teacher first because they have never really worked and done the job. The main thing about Nimbus is that you have to have made records and you have to still be making records if you want to teach there and if you’re not then we will find someone who does. It’s the same way my father taught me, Shelly Yakus and Bob.”

I noticed on twitter that you’ve almost finished installing a SSL 4072 G console. What did it replace? Where did it come from? 

“The SSL came from Danny Elfman in California. It just had so many amazing things being played through it. I still believe that  analogue is the way to go. Maybe it is because I am old – even though today everyone is listening to everything through a shitty MP3 player coming through a 5 cent chip, I still believe that moving air through gear like an old SSL or an old NEVE or an old API console still sounds better than everything that is mixed in the box. I just felt that in order for me to continue to make records I still need to have the proper tools.”

Pedro also saw ‘Sound City’ and realized you worked on the legendary Neve console. Will recording to tape eventually win over the casual music listener’s ears in the long run? What kind of console did you cut your teeth on?

“I cut my teeth on an Auditronix, It was a console that my father had at his studio Nimbus 9 Productions in Toronto at Sound Stage. Now the fact is that his techs were completely insane and they completely rebuilt the console. That’s what the first Peter Gabriel was made on, Bob Seger Night Moves, Alice Cooper, The Guess Who, Mark Foreigner, and Tim Curry. Part of The Wall was made on it as well. It was a pretty amazing and special console.

I still go to tape because it sounds better. It’s the best sounding compressor that was ever made. It gives you depth, it gives you height and it gives you width. The problem is that nobody knows what music sounds like any more and it sounds like shit now. The MP3 has destroyed the sonics of what we do. Mastering has destroyed the sonics of what we do. Everything has to be the loudest. I think, as they keep telling me, the genie is out of the bottle. There are still purists that feel that an analog console sounds better and it makes it rich and it makes it thick and it makes it powerful. The problem is today that Youtube is the new music business and its more visual than it is audible  So I would just say that analogue will be around for a long time but no one will be able to tell the difference. The fact that vinyl is now coming back but still digitally cut means older analogue vinyl sounds better.”

Pedro also wanted me to ask about Garnet amplifiers and I noticed a recent twitter pic of James with a Garnet head. It is a fascinating story. Sonically, what are the advantages of this vintage Canadian gear?

“Well, they are just a great sounding head. if you listen to American Woman that whole guitar sound is garnet heads. We just happened to find them, nobody knew what they were and my father said, your going to buy those. We were buying them for $300 bucks. To be able to buy a tube guitar head for $300 is a steal. The other head that James used was a Traynor bassman head, and it’s a complete replica of an early 60 Fender Bassman. Traynor went down in the 60’s and bought a fender bassman head and copied them exactly. The guy who builds the Garnet heads is based out of Winnepeg and was a complete nut but these heads can explode, drive, be punchy, be powerful. They are just a versitile head. James has kept the Commonwealth together with the vibe of Scotland and Canada. Scotland compared to Britain is like Canada compared to the States; we are actually better!”

Who are you working with now?

“I just finished a record with a band out of Dublin called The Minutes. Amazing band, you guys have to check them out. Another band I am working with from Austin Texas are called Not in The Face. Then there’s a band up here in Canada called Head of The Heard. We have a Number 4 single in the rock charts right now and they don’t have a record deal yet. It just shows the changing of the guard. Record labels are actually no longer explicitly needed.”

You’ve recently come back from Canadian Music Week in Toronto. Did you have the opportunity to see any shows? Has it become as commercial as SXSW appears to have?

“The problem with all of these music conferences is that it’s so hard to see all the bands because it is all spaced out. So many bands in so many clubs that it’s difficult to see them all. Was there anything that blew my mind? There was a band that I met that are from Nova Scotia called Glory Hound, they were the ones that were really cool and they were true rock and roll. There was also another band from England who were singed to Redbull Records and they were like a Guns’N’ Roses type band. But it’s hard to actually see the artists because there are  just too many bands in too many clubs spread over to few nights.”

We were lucky enough to catch Biffy 3 times during the touring for Only Revolutions, but 2 of those shows were in a tiny venue that didn’t sell out. Their talent and hard work is not in question. Do you think the momentum gained from the recent Muse support slot might finally be enough to ‘crack’ the North American market?

“We can only hope. Its kinda like, Warner is going to be pushing everything they can into it to make it break over in NA, the problem is it is up to the fans, If they like it and they buy it then they can make it. It is a little bit sad that they can sell out the O2 in London and then play to 500 people here because they are actually the best live band. I would put them up there with Rage Against The Machine when it comes to putting on a live show. They are that powerful.”

Finally a hockey question – Is there still hope for any Canadian team for that matter?

“I think having hockey in the south is a Garry Betman Joke. He thinks people in the south want to watch hockey. He’s a fool.  He is probably the worst Commissioner in all of sport and will go down as the most hated commissioner ever. I think hockey needs to be in the areas where there is winter. I was happy to see the Kings win the Cup because I lived in LA for many years and used to go to games. Hockey should belongs where it is cold; if the kids can’t play it outside they shouldn’t bother.”

Pedro and Thor

Posted in glasGOwest

Book Group: Homeward Sound

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‘Bad Books’ was actually a band recommendation from our inaugural post back in September of 2011. Described as the “Strokes crossed with the Lightning Seeds”, we’ve been on the lookout ever since in what is probably the longest case of ‘following’ a band without having ever heard a song. Presumably the name change was ‘Manchester Orchestrated’. Why ‘Book Group’?

Michael: September 2011? No, there’s no way we’ve been around that long! I refuse to believe it. Like all 30-something Hollywood starlets, I’m putting my foot down on this and insisting we’re only 7 months old as a band. However, unlike all 30-something Hollywood starlets, I won’t insist I was a ‘regular tomboy’ growing up. In short though, yes. We called ourselves The Bad Books for a gig, then decided to play more. I knew the other (fantastic) band existed but didn’t feel the need to change the name until we were actually doing something.  Then I went to America and got lots of funny looks when I said I played in the Bad Books.  Thanks for hanging around, you’re certainly one of our oldest fans. However, I will fight you if you ever mention The Lightening Seeds again.

Graeme – I quite liked the Lightening Seeds! Catchy tunes and sunglasses that would’ve made John Lennon proud. Not so sure John would’ve liked the tunes though. Book Group sums us up I think – four guys that have a love of music. We get together talk about it, play it and normally have a beer or two to wash it down.

Are you familiar with the 2002-2003 (set in Glasgow) television show entitled ‘Book Group’? If you were to host next month’s book group what would we be asked to read?

Michael: VERY familiar with it, in fact I probably watched both seasons about four times each. Wee Rab was my favourite. I just finished reading Ablutions by Patrick DeWitt – it’s a filthy, drunken mess of a book, with a fuck up of a lead character who doesn’t even try to be a decent protagonist. It’s funny though, and short, so most likely ideal for a book group. Unless that book group was in Morningside.

Graeme – I’ve never heard of it but will check it out. Is it any good?

We’ve been very quiet the past 2 months – instead of trying (and failing) to be a music blog reaching out to a wider audience, I’ve decided to go back to the original vision of a blog about the Scottish music that I specifically champion. ‘Book Group’ is a perfect place to start.  The band is composed of 4 members from 4 different former projects. I’m frequently amazed and heartened by the fluidity of the Scottish indie music scene. As troubling as a band’s demise is there is always the hope of something even better emerging from the ashes. Is this the magical combination where everyone is in sync?

Michael: Very glad you have kept the blog going and, from a Scottish musician’s point of view, it’s heart-warming to see someone enjoy and spread forth the efforts of Scotland’s indie scene.  You’re right about good things generally coming from bad too; as so much Scottish guitar music in particular will happily (and/or glumly) attest to. We are lucky at how quickly we clicked as a band, and I think that comes from having been there before: you learn the language, know what not to do, appreciate from experience that having fun is far more important that aiming for perfection etc. Plus the other three are stellar musicians!

Graeme – You’re not so bad yourself axeman Morrison! I agree with Michael on this one – as a band we clicked and I think that was down to wanting to get back into music and enjoy it. All of us have had different experiences with our previous bands and when we started Book Group it was with the prime goal to have a hoot. I think that comes across in our live shows, we love playing and would genuinely play for hours if we could. I like the thought of something positive always prevailing with the demise of something else. Sadly in music, I’m not sure that is always the case but maybe we could break that trend.

You’ve finally released four songs on the debut EP ‘Homeward Sound’. Is there a deeper significance to the title other than the clever, and rather satisfying, word play?

Michael: Yes. Graeme?

Graeme – The concept for the EP is a love/hate relationship with home. The idea of missing a place and loved ones but when you get there you kinda want to get away. I’ve lived in several places around Scotland in my life and it’s crazy how you yearn to be in a different places at times. I guess the grass is always greener! All four of the songs are intertwined with this theme.

The first song, ‘The Year of the Cat’, perhaps wisely not an Al Stewart remake, has an opening lyric riff that could easily be mistaken for the Brakes. It quickly veers into something fuller and more satisfying. Part of the song reminds me of why I loved AC Acoustics so much and the other parts are a glossy summary of off kilter indie squall. There is an awful lot going on in a mere 3:17. What is your musical manifesto? If you had to write a ‘book jacket’ encapsulation of the band’s sound what would it be?

Michael: It’s my favourite on the record. A musical manifesto? Ooh, hard one. I’d be lying if I said anything other than ‘Four guys’ record collections violently colliding in a small, loud space’.

Graeme – People seem to like this one and I think the energy again sums us up. Liking the Brakes comparison – anyone that can have 10 second songs that sound fab are cool in my book. Did AC Acoustics do Stunt Girl?

The second song ‘Bop’ comes across rather differently –  in a ‘Replacements’ meets ‘I Like Trains’ sort of way. In this one, the vocals are elevated to share the stage and I’m surprised how comfortably familiar they feel. Overall, there is a noticeable depth to the material not often delivered so forthrightly on the first EP.  I can’t wait until the first full length. Any plans in place yet to bring that about?

Michael: Yeah I like that you noticed that his vocals were lifted, gives the delivery a far more intimate feel I reckon. There’s no doubt that we would LOVE to go and record an album; like we’d start it tomorrow if we could. But we’re writing tunes thick and fast right now, so it feels right to probably do another small release or two first. Also, I love that there is almost no reason for a band to release an album these days except for the love of doing so, so when we do record one it will be a very indulgent affair I’m sure.

Graeme – Hell yeah, we’re sitting on a couple of new tunes and already got the bare of bones of several others. Like the idea of doing another release first but would love to do an album soon.

I’ll allow that the third song ‘Seedlings’ contains some evidence of the Teenage Fanclub references and comparisons I’ve been reading, but only because they too use guitars and like a good riff. Happiness might only be a stone’s throw away could be the lyrical summary of the song. How important are the song lyrics to the band? Who gets to pen them?

Michael: Yeah it’s dark verse with a big chorus: a tried and tested formula but one that I think we probably only use on this song? The lyrics are very, very important. As a listener they’re definitely what gives me a bit of depth when it comes to appreciating a band’s music, whereas the musical hook will initial get my attention. Like the brains/body psychology in spotting a mate, I presume. Graeme writes the lyrics and they’re great,  very story driven and often a lot darker than his cheeky wee face would have you believe!

Graeme – Not sure why they always turn out so dark but lyrically I ‘m glad that they have been well received so far. I like keeping it simple and telling it how it is. Most of my lyrics come from personal experiences and observations, I’ve already mentioned about the theme for ‘Homeward Sound’ and seem to have a few more cropping up just now that are taking a bit more of a society twist. I’m never going to be a political writer but one thing I can promise is that I’ll spit them out like Nick Cave with a Mike Patton smile

The fourth song ‘Summer of Lunches’ containing quirky lyrics and angular guitars is a joy to listen to.  It reminds me of Sportsguitar. All the previous mentioned band references are not necessarily accurate but reflect my almost immediate emotional connection to the music in the same way the bands that you remind me of occupy a favoured spot in the record collection. I can easily see ‘Book Group’ becoming a cited influence for future bands. What were your musical passions and influences? How have you managed to meld them together?

Michael: Never heard of Sportsguitar, will check them out on my lunch break! I think all bands say that they’re happy when people enjoy their music and come to their shows, but really what makes them happiest is influencing more music. I could be wrong, but I suspect it’s something most musicians would love. We certainly would. Our influences are all different, but fall within the ‘guitar band’ category – so not hugely vast or anything. The stuff I bring to the table isn’t necessarily my favourite music, more just the music that I fancy playing in this band – the likes of Dinosaur Jnr, Grandaddy, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Graeme – Find naming direct influences hard. Love the like of Grant Lee Buffalo, granddaddy, Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev and believe that my inspiration comes from bands like that but as for how we sound I’m not sure! Think that’s what I like about the song creating approach we have. I bring the bare bones and the others layer it with hard rock (Andrew), art school rock / sleazy guitars (Michael) and pop (Scott). it seems to come out OK!

The Tidal Wave of Indifference Sessions acoustic versions of ‘Bop’ and ‘Seedlings’ underline the importance of the songs themselves. Seedlings is especially beautiful stripped to its core.  I’m a big fan of Stu Lewis’s work and Freshair is my default net radio station. Are there any other radio stations that also highlight Scottish Indie?

Michael: We’re fans of Stu Lewis too! Those sessions were great actually; we sat out on the grass opposite the station for ten minutes beforehand, trying to figure out each song on acoustic guitars! Luckily it was during August, so Edinburgh’s full of people sitting around with instruments. Definitely check out the Edinburgh Man podcasts (not specifically Scottish indie, but always a healthy dose), and Vic Galloway’s show on BBC Radio Scotland – he’s like the punk uncle of Scottish music. The bad sort, who buy you cigarettes and sneak you in to bars.

Graeme – Agreed Stu and Vic are both top lads.

I’m always pleased when a release is available on vinyl. What prompted the decision to put it out as a 10 inch as well? 

Michael: It’s what I listen to the most and invest the most in as a fan, so it was the only consideration. I love that vinyl forces you to listen, as it naturally breaks halfway through and you have to turn it over. As a fan, vinyl is also a bit of a leveller;  I love that music taste and technology changes but when I listen to a record I do it in exactly the same way I did 20 years ago, and that in itself adds the experience. There’s no right or wrong way to release music, which is fantastic – this is just us enjoying being able to do whatever we want.

Graeme – Absolutely love vinyl and so pleased that we did it this way. Michael and I were dead keen to release it this way and as a punter I love buying vinyl at gigs. Just something about the rawness vinyl has.

I’m Listening to the Sparrow and the Workshop’s new “Murderopolis” while polishing these questions. What have you picked up lately?

Michael: Bloody love that album, they’re just so good. The same week Eagleowl released their debut album too; which we’ve been waiting years on. Buy it. Don’t listen to it when you’re hungover though, or you might cry.

Graeme – Phoenix, Foals, Eagleowl and Kid Canaveral.

The EP launch with Campfires in Winters (a band we’ve long championed as well) was the other night. How was the show?

Michael: Our favourite show to date I’m sure, so much fun! The Campfires guys were braw, as were the rest of the guests too. A brilliant night and a suitably messy launch to the record!

Graeme – It was ace and the bill was tops. Campfires were really good but we also had Plastic Animals and Rory (from Broken records) + Martin (from Saving and loan) doing a stripped down set. it worked out really well and the crowd seemed to love it. Wish I could have drunk more though.

Once the EP is out and promoted what can we look forward to in the future?

Michael: We’re trying our best to get the next thing started…plans are afoot. Until then got a couple of Scottish festivals and a few more gigs in the diary.

Graeme – I quite like it when we are not allowed to talk about stuff. Gigs are a definite and recording something new is in the pipeline too.

Did you cast a vote for this year’s SAY award? Compared to last year, it was frightfully difficult. I actually have 10 of the 20 listings but in the end decided to tip my hat to the Twilight Sad.

Michael: Indeed! It would be sacrilege to not vote in something as good as SAY. It already demands huge respect, which is encouraging to say the least. The Twilight Sad was my 2nd favourite record on the list.

Graeme – Twilight Sad didn’t make my top 3 but I do like it. My 2nd favourite album was PAWS!

We’d like it if you asked us a question.

Michael: What one thing could you happily do every day for the rest of your life? Mine would be eat peanut butter on toast.

Graeme – Marmite on toast for me please. You’re obviously a massive music fan so I would go for some kind of dream festival bill one so who would you have on the main stage at your own festival (they’ve got to be alive – none of this dead nonsense!)

Find a new Scottish recording and listen to it. Given how prodigious the output is at the moment it could be done. I’ll draw the line at the 80’s, but just think how good this ‘reunion’ festival would be.

Delgados, Aereogramme, Idlewild, AC Acoustics, Telstar Ponies, Arab Strap, Astrid, and DeRosa

Posted in glasGOwest

Kid Canaveral: Now That You Are A Dancer

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While there are a least a 1000 words in this picture, I’m going to simply leave it as the decision to continue with the blog has been made -scaled back, more personal, and without the illusions of reaching a wider audience. The last 2 months have been spent listening to music, often with guitar in hand, instead of worrying about what the next post will be. These answers, temporarily lost in the send folder, arrived the other day and cemented the tentative decision to continue. The hulking shadow of the first record probably accounts for the 9/10, perhaps it lost a point because there is no wildlife on the cover this time. It is an impressive second record and I can’t wait to hold the 3rd LP in my hands.

Watching the recently released video for lead track ‘The Wrench’ had me thinking about cover art, the creative process and whether the video in any way mirrored the song writing process in Kid Canaveral. Was there any difference in the song writing process this time around? 

David: The song writing was done over a much shorter period of time. All of the ideas were put together within about four or five months from notes and short recordings made during the promotion of our first record. I think it was easier for me, this time because I approached it with more (or any) confidence. It didn’t feel as uncomfortable to allow myself the notion that I might be a songwriter.

 Kate: I’m still not sure I feel like a proper songwriter to be honest but I think there was definitely a bit more confidence there to try things out and maybe not be quite as quick to dismiss something that maybe just needed more work and more developing.

Your album cover is quite interesting. While watching the video, I couldn’t help thinking that it was an album cover being painted. Who did this cover? Could you explain the idea or concept behind it? How does it encapsulate the record as a whole?

David : The very talented artist Eve McConnachie does our artwork. Rose actually painted the mural in the video. The arms are embraced in a dance. There’s a lot of references to dancing, literal and otherwise, on the record.

What are some of your favourite albums covers?

Kate: I guess it’s a bit predictable but I think Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures is amazing. I like covers that stand up in their own right as a piece of artwork. It’s definitely something your album can get judged on so getting the artwork right was a really important part of the process for us.

The album’s vinyl version had a slight delay. I take this as a hopeful sign that the demand for vinyl is actually increasing thereby taxing the existing manufacturers’ capacities. Wishful thinking?

David : We got caught up in record store day delays.

Kate: I don’t think it’s wishful thinking. There’s no doubt that more and more people are getting back into vinyl, or even getting into vinyl for the first time. I work in a second hand record shop and have done on and off for a few years. It’s definitely been noticeable how many more young people are interested compared to even 3 or 4 years ago. Shame the majority just seem to want Dark Side of the Moon, Sgt Pepper and Rumours though…

This live version of the new song ‘Who Would Want to Be Loved’ addresses the age old problem of whether or not to apply stickers to one’s guitar. Guitar strap badges are such an obvious solution! I can’t make them out though, what were some of them?

David: Let me think… My guitar is in transit to the BBC for a session tonight, so I’ll need to this from memory. There is a Come On Gang! Badge; a Meursault badge; a Withered Hand Badge; a ‘Love Music Hate Racism’ badge; there is a badge that says ‘David’ on it that Kate got me from a charity shop; there is a badge that has a map with my current neighbourhood on it; and an Is This Music? Magazine badge. I couldn’t bring myself to put stickers on my Tele.

Breaking Up is the New Getting Married” seems to have a little bit of an early Wedding Present vibe to it. More specifically, I think it is representative of a slightly more aggressive guitar sound throughout the record. Is this a natural development due to your growing musical finesse or more of a deliberate decision?

David : When we were recording that song Gal, our engineer, asked if we wanted him to make it less abrasive. I think he was pretty happy when we said “No”.

Kate: We’re definitely more adventurous and more adept on this record. It feels like we were still learning to play a bit with Shouting at Wildlife.

The band’s male/female balance, while not unprecedented, is nevertheless fairly unique. Has that had an impact on the song writing? One of my favourite tracks is ‘Skeletons’. It has the faint echoes of a Lush song; something seriously missed these days. Are all the songs sung by Kate written by her separately?

David : On this album, whoever sings the lead vocal has written the song.

Kate: Yep, the songs are written separately and then we come together, as a four piece, to make them into a proper Kid Canaveral tune. Skeletons was a bit different because most of the fleshing out was done in the studio rather than the practice room. I went in with the chords and the vocal melody and we really had no idea where it was going to go or if it was even going to work on the album. Gal really helped shape the direction it went in.

Velocity Girl also comes to mind (and I have just learned that the name was culled from a Primal Scream B-side) It is easy to forget how different they were from most of their 90s American contemporaries. In terms of their brilliantly melodic songs, I can certainly place KC in that tradition. Would you consider writing an alternating female-male voiced song or is that something you’ve purposefully avoided?

David: Do you mean like a duet? That’s not something that I’m sure would suit us. ‘Who’s Looking at You, Anyway?’ has maybe a 70% me/30% Kate and Rose vocal split.

The “Who’s looking at you Anyway” spoken word backing part sounds so familiar but I can’t place it and it is driving me nuts. It sounds oddly Joe Strummer like, but I just can’t figure it out where, or even if, I’ve heard it before. What is the source?

David: It’s not Joe. I’m afraid I can’t reveal the source of the voice to you.

Thank you so much for your part in organizing the photo from the March 16 show in Dundee. The unintentionally washed out piece of paper has provided much post editing amusement for my desktop background. Assuming you read them, are you pleased with the general reception and reviews for the new record? Is there one you think really ‘got it’?

David: You’re very welcome. I know we shouldn’t read reviews, really, but I do. I’ve been very happy with the reviews that we’ve had for the new record but it’s important that we don’t get carried away with all the positive press, because if you attach too much importance to the good reviews then a bad one will floor you. Every good review for us is a real help at the stage our band is at. One very prominent slating could be very damaging, but ultimately if we’re happy with what we’re producing and people still want to see us, that’s what’s important. I think they’ve all ‘got it’ to some extent, yes. We’ve all grown up in each other’s company in this band. I’ve known Scott and Kate for 10 years, now, and Rose since we were at School. A lot of people have noted that it’s an album about progressing through you 20s. About realisations and disappointment; borderline alcoholism and heartbreak.

Many bands would be content to make a song from the secondary guitar bits in ‘Low Winter Sun’ alone. (and they’d have a pretty good song on their hands) The beauty of the new songs seems to be just how much more is brought into the mix and lovingly crafted into something special. Did the recording process differ for the second release from the first?

David: Thank you! That’s very kind. It was recorded over a shorter period of time. Also, I was definitely more adventurous in the studio. We all were. We’re all better musicians and we approached the recording sessions with more confidence and more of a sense of adventure. I didn’t feel as self-conscious about trying things this time. Also, I bought an excellent reverb pedal.

Kate: I think it helped that the four of us had been playing and gigging together for quite a sustained and intense period before we went in to record the album too. It made everything a bit more coherent and free flowing I guess.

I hadn’t realized David was from Glasgow (see press release!) Chemikal Underground to Fence records has partially mirrored my own musical voyage of discovery. I just re-read our last feature on KC and it obviously captured you at a very good and exciting moment in time. This is the first full length released completely underneath the Fence umbrella. Is it all you hoped to be or have you started to notice any leaks? 

David: Rose and me are both from Glasgow, and Scott is from Girvan in Ayrshire, not far south of Glasgow. Kate is from Wokingham, not far south of Scotland, really. When you interviewed us last time, we’d just finished the busiest and best year of our musical lives. It’s been great to have Fence to work with on this one. They’ve helped us at every stage after the songwriting. The good ship Fence has a sound hull.

I was looking at the lineup you were part of at the recent ‘Wales Goes Pop’ event; tucked between the Onions and a Big Wave. Those other bands were all so ‘poppy’. How was the experience? (I honestly don’t think of KC as a ‘pop band’)

David: Wales Goes Pop! Was a great experience. A really fun gig. Why do you not consider us a pop band? I know we’re quite noisy, but we still write pop songs.

Kate: I would definitely consider us a pop band.

David: It’s difficult to label yourself. People are always wanting to have a one or two word genre to describe you. We get sold under the Indiepop banner a lot, but I’m not sure that we properly fit in that genre, really. I used to want to just sound like Mogwai. It’s not really worked out.

You went back to Wales in early May for a comedy festival. Career change? Can you share a few jokes from the routine? There was a rather impressive line-up of free music being offered up by Fence. Is this the first time for this type of cross promotion? 

David: My jokes are all improv. And ill-advised.

Kate: I let David tell all the jokes.

David: This idea came from Johnny (Lynch – the Pictish Trail/Fence Head Honcho) going on tour with the comedian/writer Josie Long a couple of years ago – actually was it 2009? Connections and friendships were made in comedy circles on those 40 or so shows, I suppose. I also supported Josie at a couple of her tour shows last year. Most people don’t find music prior to a comedy show too jarring, in my experience.

The album launch was a few months ago. Like most album launches we wish we could have been a part of, we are resigned to asking how it went?

David : The two nights at The Glad Café in Glasgow were excellent. We wanted to do something intimate and a bit special. The venue attached to The Glad Café only holds 120 folk but it is a really nice space, so that’s why we did two nights there. In hindsight we could probably have done 3, but I think that keeping it to 2 retained some magic? I’m in danger of disappearing up my own arse. We had soundman extraordinaire Tim Matthew looking after us, too, so I think the whole thing went according to plan. I’ll not forget those shows in a hurry. The London album launch was a lot of fun as well.

Kate: It was the first time ever I was able to make a “SOLD OUT EXTRA DATE ADDED” poster and it felt pretty awesome.