Holding Colin’s Godson Comic #2 in my hands I see that you went back in time to the London of 1996. In a fabulous coincidence, I myself spent 10 days in that fair city in May of that year where I met the brother of a secret vampire. It can’t be coincidence that I am now holding your greatest hits collection, conveniently and thoughtfully tacked to the outside cover. The comic art seems to be an integral component of the CG experience, what was the inspiration for it and is it done in house?
“We put a lot of effort into the packaging and artwork. We try and deliver something that’s worth more than the sum of its parts. When we make an album we try and fit a theme and a story and this is generally illustrated in the art. I usually come up with the concepts and story for the art and explain them to our artist Adam and he amazingly fills in the gaps, we have pretty much the same sense of humour so every time he delivers a new CG instalment he has me laughing out loud. There are quite a few in jokes in there too, but hopefully other people can find it interesting and/or amusing. Adam is definitely the 6th Member of the band he doesn’t actually play in CG but he is a talented musician in his own right too, having fronted the Plimptons and the Hector Collectors who were quite big cult bands in Glasgow.”
How did you end up deciding which 12 songs would end up on the greatest hits collection?
“The “Greatest Hits” was just intended to be a bit of a stopgap for us but it’s a good intro to the band and as I write you can still download it for free, although we’d prefer you bought the full package. I chose the tracklisting mainly by picking my personal favourite songs but I wanted it to be career spanning too so there’s an element of trying to give a good balance of stuff from all 4 of our albums aswell as EPs and Singles.”
‘Stadium Rock’ leads things off. One advantage of living on this side of the Atlantic Ocean musical popularity inversion prism is that we occasionally get to see the likes of Biffy Clyro or the Manic Street Preachers in rather small venues. What is CG’s take on the power of music and the dangers of the excessively popular?
“Good question, well at the moment CG are the antithesis of anything that could be described as popular, and not out of choice either. I wrote the song Stadium Rock after seeing a certain Stadium Band who were the complete personification of the cliché. However we love stadium rock, bands like Queen and Wings are actually big influences on us. I suppose what does annoy me are those huge bands who seem to be really bland, pompous and boring yet will fill out arenas. There’s maybe an element of sour grapes as when I go to a massive gig like that I always think that we struggle to get 100 people to go to our shows at £3/4 entry yet they can get 10,000 people paying £80 a time. I sort of wish that these “music fans” would come out a bit more for the underground/grass roots stuff. For the price of a Rolling Stones ticket you could see over 30 CG gigs.”
“Colin’s Godson in Space” was your choice for the second song. Other than this one, of course, what is your favorite song about space?
“There are lots of good songs about space but off the top of my head Frank Sidebottom’s “Space is Ace” is probably my favourite, or indeed anything off his seminal Sci-Fi EP. In the early days we used to frequent a lot of Frank Sidebottom gigs and I was lucky enough to meet the man a couple of times. He’s a major influence on CG, musically and creatively and he’s sorely missed!”
It should be apparent by now that I’m following the track sequence so I’ll stop mentioning each song title, but why exactly did Blackadder let you down so much and apparently so often?
“Blackadder Back and Forth was a one off special of the classic sitcom filmed by Sky TV to be shown in the Millennium Dome throughout the year 2000. It’s a below par effort and a lot of people were bitterly disappointed, including myself. That song is a true story about the painful experience of going all the way to London as a teenager just to see it.”
It was only after the second listen and an internet check that I realized that a missing tuner pedal is the center of the song ‘Nothing Compares’; although it could still be considered a boy loses girl love song. You seem to go out of your way to concoct clever and different lyrics. Is there any method to your madness? As a songwriter how in the world do you avoid tripping over the same old cliché?
“I make a bit of an effort to find interesting angles for songs as it’s easy to spout platitudes and fall into the same old clichés of subject matter. I’d like to think though that even although the songs are written to be amusing that they can actually make interesting observations on life in general. I think one of the major themes we explore is the sort of profound banal existentialist crisis of self-awareness or doubt that we all experience on a daily basis. There are some songs we’ve done that are just plain daft though.”
“Theres no moon, it’s the Death star” is a perfect illustration of the previous point. In the face of the music industry evil empire, do you think independent labels have a better chance these days of eking out their own existence and are indie bands better able to take complete control themselves to try and make a go of it given the modern tools at their disposal?
“We’re a DIY band which is a very liberating experience from the point of view that we can record and release stuff when we want and how we want without having to pander to anyone or please a record label. These days technology is such that bands can get decent sounding recordings without spending that much money. The downside of the DIY thing is we don’t get any financial support, and we can’t really afford to market ourselves which I think is a key component to getting success on a wider scale. Still, our record label “Puzzled Aardvark” only has UK distribution rights to our material so if anyone in Japan or the USA or somewhere wants to licence out our records for their label, we can talk.”
Top three bands assaulting the world with their “pretentious kack”?
“I dislike a lot of bands but I think it’s a bit unprofessional to name them specifically. One of the biggest things I dislike is bands that somehow get away with playing 2 chords for 6 minutes but they are seen as being arty so get lots of critical acclaim. It’s a lot harder to write good pop music an actual song that’s over in 2 minutes but that isn’t afforded the same credibility, which I find a bit frustrating.”
Most of your songs are quite short. Other than the benefits of fitting things on mini CD, is there a design principle behind this choice?
“Our songs are short because we purposefully trim all the fat. There are rarely more than 2 verses and no long instrumental sections. I think it’s important that people are left wanting more. One of the best compliments (I hope) I get is that people don’t actually notice they are short songs because they are still well structured.”
“Gary Bushell” is the third name, in as many songs, that I’ve had to look up to help get the references. Clearly, you are not exactly aiming for a global audience. What is the guiding principle behind the band? Should global success suddenly overtake you would you be able to handle the new demands?
“Our material doesn’t exist in a vacuum away from pop culture so like people do in real life we refer to the world outside our own bubble. It just so happens that we’re Scottish so we’re more influenced by UK popular culture. I’m sure if we ever had global success our horizons would broaden and we’d be writing songs about Mountain Dew and Regis Philbin or anything else that happens to be kicking about the USA.”
Paul McCartney was visited in comic #1. Who would you consider spending ‘time’ with for comic #3?
“In the comic world and real life the person I’d most like to meet would be Graham Fellows. He’s made 2 of my favourite albums of all time yet only found moderate success later in life as John Shuttleworth. The album he did as Jilted John is what made me realise you can make an unpretentious concept album. I’d urge anyone to buy that record, it’s a perfect record about being a teenager.”
I did not know that Brian May was an astrophysicist. Perhaps more directly relevant to the musician than tax dodging, what are your thoughts on such ‘services’ as Spotify?
“Well that song was influenced by the fact that Queen were famous for being tax exiles in the 80’s, recording music in France so they didn’t have to pay UK Income Tax. I just liked the scenario of going one step further and moving off the planet altogether. Brian May is a hero of mine though and I’m sure in real life he’s completely above board with his tax affairs. He’s also a 3D nut and has one of the world’s largest collections of 19th Century stereoscopic photographs. With regards to the Spotify thing, we don’t put any of our music on it or any of the other download sites, we only sell direct to our fans. It works for some people but I don’t see why the people that don’t like it moan so much, no one’s forcing anyone to put their music on the services if they don’t want to.”
“How Cheap is your love” might have been inspired by a time trip to 2000 where you heard Frigid Vinegar’s take. I’ve always had the notion that if I could travel in time that I’d take a song catalogue and go way forward when back catalogues where effectively forgotten and become an international superstar. ABBA in 2267! Whose songs would you pilfer?
“That’s a really old song, I only put it on the compilation to cover the base of having a song from our very first album on. Never heard Frigid Vinegar but it’s not a tremendously original concept so I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been done before. There was an odd sitcom on UK TV in the 90’s called “Goodnight Sweetheart” where a guy finds a worm hole which takes him back in time to the 1940’s and he has a dual life living in both time periods. The oddest thing about it was that he had a wife in the 1990’s and also a love interest in the 1940’s but the moral ambiguity of him cheating on his wife was never really brought into question, he occasionally justified it by mentioning that she hadn’t been born when he was in the 1940’s. Anyway to get to the point in that show he was always claiming to have written popular songs from the 60s and 70’s, I guess if I could do a similar thing it would be with Queen or the Sultans of Ping f.c.”
“Back to Earth” closes off with another, by now signature, CG ballad. It effectively demonstrates that despite the tendency to novelty you are adept at creating wonderful pop gems. Has there been any pressure to venture down more conventional roads?
“I’ve just actually written a boring serious conventional album. I originally demoed it as the Next CG album but was listening back to it and it really wasn’t CG fare so I’m going to record it as a solo album entitled “Inevitable Solo Effort” and then CG can come back with another album about daleks and pickled onion Monster Munch.”
I’m drinking my morning coffee from my Dr. Who vanishing Tardis mug and potential Colin’s Godson song suggestions are virtually inevitable: “Where and when did I park the Tardis and why can’t it make a decent cup of tea?” Potential?
“I like songs where the everyday and banal meets the completely absurd so that has potential. I’ll give you a call if I get stuck writing the lyrics for the next album.”
I want to reference your ‘Never Mind Sigur Ros’ CD since I just finished listening to their album stream. I’ll inevitably buy it, but if I was stuck in a detention oubliette, I’d much rather listen to CG than more of this, by now, predictable bleating. For yourselves, is there a change in musical direction in your future? Will you crack the 3 minute song barrier?
“Our sound has progressed over the years from 3 chord punk to a slightly more polished pop sound. If anything the next album will be a proper well produced powerpop album along the lines of the Shazam or Jellyfish or Wings. A lot of it’s written and it’s sort of sounding a bit Pixies meets early Blur meets Jellyfish so hopefully we can make it sound expensive! Can’t see us ever breaking the 3 min barrier though.”
Whatever did happen to Northern Uproar?
“They actually reformed a couple of years back and released another couple of albums, they do OK on the UK nostalgia circuit but I haven’t seen them since they got back together. I think they play the hits though so should really catch them next time they’re in Glasgow.”
I heartily recommend checking out CG. Here’s the link for the songs mentioned above. Should you have been induced to read it makes for excellent, if not essential, musical accompaniment.
Needless to say, check out all the rejected songs as well.