My first introduction to ABCQ was streaming the ‘Glimmer Song’ on the Scotsman’s ‘Under the Radar’. Watching the video now, even though I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, it is clear that the central themes of ‘Biding Time’ appear to take centre stage here as well. Could you elaborate and has this ‘theme’ permeated your music to a significant degree?
“I think when you’re making music, film or performing, your experience inevitably influences whatever you make. A lot of my experiences have involved performance & what goes on behind the curtain as it were!”
Your currently gearing up for another set of performances for ‘Biding Time – remix’. The ‘trailer’ for the first performance has been a favourite of mine for quite some time with its song snippet firmly stuck in my head. I’m very pleased to finally get the soundtrack and hear “You Know the Right People” in full. Who are the ‘right’ people in your life right now?
“Well the people that really matter are family & friends who are close & have supported me throughout the years.
In terms of what I do creatively; the right people are the people who appreciate it & who get something out of it.”
Prior to my ‘discovery’, I had been a big fan of Catatonia and Melys. With a little geographical bump there was a transference of musical affection for ABCQ. In trying to uncover early Quinn performances and discover what you were really like, I happened to watched a lot of the videos of those other bands and was struck by how the lead singers seemed apart, even aloof, from the rest of the band. I now see your more central role akin to that of Carol Van Djik of Bettie Serveert who fronted an exceptional band in the 90’s that had to deal with big label expectations that ran counter to the band’s actual desires. As exceptions tend to prove the rule, what do you attribute to the general lack of strong female band members or leaders?
“I’m not sure what’s going on. I was judging a Battle Of The Bands the other week & there were no female band members in any of the bands – not one single female on stage. I do a lot of songwriting in schools & in the community & a lot of the young girls want to be like Adele. Some of the really young ones however want to be like Kiss & The Rolling Stones! Maybe this is before gender stereotyping kicks in. The charts are full of female solo artists but not female fronted or female bands. It might just be unfashionable right now & maybe there will be a raft of female fronted bands in the future. I hope so.”
Soundtracks penned by single artists tend to be more compelling than a compilation of songs as they invariably sound more cohesive and resemble a concept album. Was there a process for matching the music to the dramatic needs of the production?
“The show is a response to Pippa Bailey’s play Biding Time which is about her experience of being an aspiring actress. Pippa wrote the original 25 years ago but I had a lot of similar experiences in the music industry so I had a lot of songs which fitted the themes. The remix is based on my experience of being a women in the music industry so with director Ben Harrison’s help we developed the show around the songs I had. It seemed pretty natural at the time!”
Is there a conventional ‘studio’ album on the horizon or has that become something that interests you less and less these days?
“I would like to record an album of acoustic songs at some point but I’m just going where the flow takes me at the moment…”
‘Tell Me’ was the second song taken to heart instantly. Although I’m sure the truncated Yazoo like keyboard swells had something to do with it, primarily it was the seemingly simple yet emotionally powerful ‘Tell Me’ lyrical construction ending in “never tell me to”. What were some of the strangest things people in the industry have told you that you needed to do?
“The words for that song were taken from a couple of poems by poet Vic Keegan. We struck up a Facebook friendship when it first started out & I ended up using his poetry for some songs. The strangest things I was asked to do by industry folk included making myself look less pretty, get drunk & insult more people & shave my eyebrows off!”
Having seen a snippet of the ‘The World Belongs to You’ from the production, I’m instantly brought back to the realization that I’m listening to a soundtrack not a regular record. Some of the song’s musical underpinnings seem to be chosen for their dramatic impact. This would seem to be one of the quiet reflective moments in the play. Could you relate the significance of this song?
“This song is at the start of the show is when the character is awakening to the gift of music & the possibilities it opens up. She literally feels like the world is her oyster but is half aware of the pitfalls. This is when the character is still in the ingénue phase!”
Speaking of people you know, I had the opportunity to get Ian Rankin to sign a Beggar’s Opera CD sleeve. Oddly, he reflexively opened up the insert and began reading it as if for the first time commenting that he was there and how good it was. As gratifying as his praise might be, I still get the sense (from way over here that is) that ABCQ are still not as prominent in Scotland as they should be. Do you have the feeling that you are fighting against the grain somewhat in the Scottish music scene?
“Sometimes I think if I grew a beard & wore a woolly hat I might do better! The lack of female presence amongst the SAY Award finalists is a bit worrying… We do have a lot of supporters in the Scottish press & we’re really grateful for that.”
I’d love to see ‘Fast Romance’ or a taping of a theater production. Inevitably, it often comes down to money, but are there any other hurdles that make it particularly difficult for Scottish efforts to be shared internationally?
“I think Scottish theatre is exporting well with the likes of Black Watch & Prudentia Hart. They are talking about building film studios which would help…”
What exactly are ‘Silent Disco headphones’ and what do they add to the theater goer’s experience?
“Silent Disco headphones are wireless so you can walk about. It gives the audience a really immersive experience of the show so they really go on the journey with the characters. It’s not totally necessary – we worked out a budget version which would just involve a rabbit, a uke & myself!”
It took awhile but I eventually found a Hardbody clip from King Tuts in 1997 and there you are with guitar in hand. When did you start playing? What is your favourite guitar at the moment? Is there one you still covet?
“I started playing guitar when I was nine. My elder brother was into The Clash & The Stranglers & taught me their songs on guitar. Diametrically opposed to that my Mum was a born again Christian & encouraged me to play hymns at folk masses. My favourite guitar at the moment is the Freshman Apollo 2DC electro acoustic (Freshman are sponsoring the show!). I’m pretty happy with all the Freshmans I got now!”
Have you heard the new Adam Stafford record? Is there anything new you have picked up that you’d recommend? What’s the last Scottish record that you have listened to?
‘I must confess I haven’t : / Although I do like his stuff. I really like the new Matthew Dear record. Last Scottish record I listened to was Boards Of Canada’s latest.”
I woke up with ‘Snowing in Paris’ in my head. This was a little strange because I hadn’t actually listened to the record the day before. I think it speaks to the overall quality of the songs. The lyrics in the verses are self-explanatory – but what is and where did the snowing in Paris metaphor originate? What does Kansas have to do with it?
“It’s influenced by a trip to Paris I made whilst recording vocals for a Kid Loco record. It’s just my way of saying it’s a big world out there & sometimes you need to get a bit of perspective when you feel that circumstances are overwhelming. Someone in Kansas probably isn’t aware of or bothered about what’s going on in your world. And Kansas rhymes with Paris!”
I noticed that Richey James was a backer. Could it be? How helpful have the sponsors been in getting this round of performances to the stage? What would it take to get the production to Lafayette Square?
“Wouldn’t like to say but yes – it definitely is! The Sponsume backers have helped more than they can imagine. Not just financially but spiritually – it’s been a real lift to have their support & appreciation. It’s great to know that people are into what you’re doing & give you more of a reason to do it!
It would take a bit of financial backing & some folk to make it happen but you never know – it’s not out with the realms of possibility that we take the production to the US…”
You’ve been to America before. Is it something you’d like to do again in the future as a band?
After Biding Time, what can we look forward to in the future?
“We have had interest from film producers to make a feature film based on Biding Time (remix)… We also have ideas for other theatre productions & some promos for songs from the album…”
Finally, what is the significance of the rabbit?
“The rabbit signifies different things at different points in the show but ultimately it reflects a side of the character I play.”