Nautical but nice

The Mariners: Paul Iliffe and Luke Williamson

During lockdown last year, Say It With Garage Flowers stumbled across ‘60s-obsessed, East Midlands psych-pop band The Mariners (Luke Williamson – vocals/rhythm guitar; Paul Iliffe – lead guitar; Luke Headland – bass/keys) and Richard Pine – drums) on Twitter and fell in love with their music.

Their debut album, The Tides of Time, was one of our favourite records of 2020. A collection of unashamedly retro and nostalgic songs about girls, drinking tea, staying in bed and watching quirky characters who live down the street, it was steeped in the sounds of The Kinks, The Zombies and The Beatles, but also tipped its, er, mariner’s cap to cosmic Scousers The Coral, The La’s, John Power and Shack.

Now, only 12 months later, they’ve released the follow-up, Tales From The Great Central Line Volume One, which is less psych and more pop than its predecessor, but is essentially a similar trip down Dead End Street and Penny Lane, but with some added country rock and folk influences.

It contains no less than five songs with girls’ names in their titles – one of which, the first single, Dear Genevieve, is an irresistibly jaunty strum that’s a love letter to Luke Williamson’s young daughter. The groovy, organ-led There Before Time is a close cousin of The Zombies’ She’s Not There, the gorgeous and reflective Catch My Breath is a stripped-down acoustic ballad, while Royston’s Lament is a yearning and melancholy tale of growing older by the day that laments the loss of community and showcases a slightly darker side to The Mariners.

‘Tales From The Great Central Line Volume One is less psych and more pop than its predecessor, but essentially it’s a similar trip down Dead End Street and Penny Lane, but with some added country rock and folk influences’

Luke Williamson, who is also the band’s main songwriter, and lead guitarist, Paul Iliffe, kindly offered to do their first ever face-to-face interview with us, so when Covid restrictions eased a few weeks ago, we met up with them in a pub in the Buckinghamshire town of Amersham, not far from Say It With Garage Flowers HQ.

The boozer just so happened to be opposite a record shop – the brilliantly named, er, The Record Shop. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

You’ll have to read all of the article to find out what records they bought…

Q&A

You’ve released two albums in a year. Did lockdown accelerate your plans?

Paul Iliffe: We didn’t have any plans! We needed to keep busy – what else was there to do?We had lots of songs from over several years that we thought were quite good, so we decided to release them. Initially it was just for us. We had a monkey on our back – all these recordings that we were doing nothing with. We didn’t think anyone was going to buy them!

LW: We released the first single [Cathy Come Home]  in January last year and the rhythm tracks for the new album were recorded before lockdown. If it had been normal times, there might have been pressure to start gigging and then that might have slowed us down.

It means you now have two albums’ worth of material to play live…

LW: Exactly.

The new album is less psych than the first one, isn’t it?

PI: It’s more poppy.

You told me that the group started out as a Beatles tribute band – three of you have been playing together since 2006. You grew up with Britpop, but you’re all big fans of ‘60s music, aren’t you?

LW: We’ve let go of a lot of things from our childhood and the late ‘90s, but the ‘60s thing has always been there. When I was growing up in Nottingham, my mum and dad had The Beatles’ ‘Red Album’ and ‘Blue Album’ on vinyl – they only had about six albums, including Motown’s Greatest Hits and some Irish folk music.

Luke Williamson

‘We’ve let go of a lot of things from our childhood and the late ‘90s, but the ‘60s thing has always been there’

I always remember listening to The Beatles. When I was 16, I started going out with a girl – I went back to her house, where she lived with her dad. He was a Beatles nut. He had a man cave before man caves were even a thing. In it, he had a projector screen on the wall and the film Yellow Submarine on loop. Not the audio – just the pictures. He also had all The Beatles albums on vinyl and CD, and he smoked weed constantly. It was really surreal.

Has he been immortalised in one of your songs yet?

LW: He hasn’t.

PI: He needs to be.

LW: My girlfriend had to do some college coursework, so I sat with her dad for a bit. He was lovely – a bit too chilled-out – but I started getting into The Beatles. Six months later, I asked my mum and dad for a Beatles album for Christmas. I expected to get the ‘Red Album’ and the ‘Blue Album’ on CD, but I got given Revolver. After nights out, I used to fall asleep listening to it.

Paul Iliffe

‘I was working at a supermarket that started stocking CDs – I nicked a few! I stole Rubber Soul and I really liked it’

PI: I got into Rubber Soul. My parents weren’t into music – there was never music in the house when I was growing up. I was an only child – I discovered music by myself when I was 13 or 14. I got into Britpop, and I knew of The Beatles.

When I started doing a part-time job aged 16, I bought Sgt. Pepper’s on CD from HMV – I hated it! I was working at a supermarket that started stocking CDs – I nicked a few! I stole Rubber Soul and I really liked it – then I went down a Beatles rabbit hole, and I got into Sgt. Pepper’s eventually.

Let’s go back to talking about your albums. How and where did you record them?

LW: It’s as DIY as you can get – we go into the practice room in Loughborough where we rehearse, we make sure we’re tight, and then we record a drum track and the bass in the studio. We take it away and then we do everything else [remotely].

I’ll do my vocals, but most of the mixing and production is done by Paul – I ask him to put his magic on it. I’ll add my rhythm guitar and Paul will add his electric – Luke [Headland] will put keys on it.

PI: I’m the one who’ll say ‘let’s add some glockenspiel or brass’ – the weird stuff.

Where did the title of the new record, Tales From The Great Central Line Volume One, come from? The Great Central Main Line was the last main line railway to be built in Britain during the Victorian period, wasn’t it? It ran from Sheffield, in the North of England, southwards through Nottingham and Leicester to Marylebone, in London…

LW: Where I was living, in Loughborough, there’s still the old Great Central Railway – it’s been kept as it was. It’s around the corner from where we practise, and I had my wedding photos taken there – it’s always been in our minds.

PI: I like the idea of tales, stories, and fables – a song is a story. We like nostalgia – we don’t want to be a pastiche of anything – but we are quite nostalgic as a band and about how things were and how things should be.

‘We do have a lot of songs in the vaults that are named after girls – we did think about having an album full of them. We have lots of weird ideas’

LW: A lot of songs on the new album are tales – at one point we were playing with the idea of them all being letters. We also toyed with the idea of having one side of the album made up of songs that were all girls’ names.

PW: We do have a lot of songs in the vaults that are named after girls – we did think about having an album full of them. We have lots of weird ideas.

Is there a Tales From The Great Central Line Volume Two planned?

LW: We called the album Volume One because The Kinks did Preservation Act 1, and it also leaves it open-ended. There might be a Volume Two. Who knows?

PI: We might be like McCartney and do different volumes spanned over several decades…

LW: Volume Three will be out in 50 years’ time!

Talking of McCartney, and girls’ names… the new album starts with the song (That Girl Called) Mary Jane. Is that a nod to The Beatles’ What’s The New Mary Jane?

PI: Hopefully ours is a better song than that. As much as I love The Beatles, it’s terrible.

LW: Mary Jane was a traditional girls’ name in the ‘60s – I write songs with traditional girls’ names. We’ve kept it nostalgic.

[To Luke] How does your wife feel about you writing lots of songs with other girls’ names in them?

LW: The first time I did it, she said, jokingly, ‘Who’s that then?’ I’ve churned loads of ‘em out now, so I get away with it. I’m not writing them all about one person.

What’s your wife’s name?

LW: Vanessa – her name’s not been used in a song.

PI: The syllables don’t play well…

The second single from the new record, There Before Time, is one of my favourite songs on the album. It has a Zombies feel to it…

LW: That was intentional – we used the same chords as a Zombies song, but we don’t want to give everything away!

Dear Genevieve is another song with a girl’s name in it…

LW: But it’s different from the other songs because that’s my daughter’s name. It’s me talking to her when she was first born – I wrote it as an acoustic song a few years ago.

I’ve also written a song about my other daughter, Lola – she’s named after The Kinks song – and that should be on the third album. Genevieve is also named after a Kinks song – Sweet Lady Genevieve.

On that note, your song Ooh La La is a Kinks-style observational tale about family life and domestic struggles…

LW: Seventy-five per cent of the songs I write nowadays, from a lyrical point of view, are those sort of stories – most of them are based on people I’ve met or characters I’ve seen. Do you know when you see a man who lives 10 doors away from you on your street, but you don’t know his name, and just by looking at him, you picture his life, and you imagine what he does? It’s basically that.

My Maria has a great lead guitar sound – it’s raw and a bit country-rock and skiffle…

LW: Paul championed that one – it had to make the album because it sounded different.

PI: It’s just a good song – it only has four chords, and it goes round. It’s simple – sometimes when you’re writing songs you need to step back and say, ‘less is more’. It has a good melody and structure.

LW: It was written about someone who hurt me…

Early In The Morning is more country-rock, with some honky-tonk piano and a touch of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

[Paul laughs].

LW: Funnily enough, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da wasn’t the song we used as a reference point. Emmitt Rhodes had a song called Tame the Lion, which sounds a bit like Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. Early In The Morning is us doing a version of Emmitt Rhodes doing a version of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

‘I got away with writing songs featuring other girls’ names by asking my wife to sing on the album – I won her over’

Catch My Breath is a pretty, folky, stripped-down tune. It also has some female backing vocals on it…

LW: That’s my wife, Vanessa. I got away with writing songs featuring other girls’ names by asking her to sing on the album – I won her over.

I think the last three songs: Catch My Breath, Royston’s Lament and Hey Mister are all reflective – they feel like they’re linked thematically. Royston’s Lament is one of my favourites on the record – it’s darker than some of the other songs and it has the feel of Dead End Street by The Kinks, or something by The Coral, The La’s, or Shack. It’s a nostalgic and melancholy song, and it features the line ‘Whatever happened to the community?’

LW: Paul brought that song to the band – he had all the chords, but no words.

PI: I said to Luke, it’s about being old – off you go…

Hey Mister is a song about regret – it looks back on someone’s life after they’ve died…

LW: It’s a character song – I wrote it after I heard a story about a guy in Loughborough who’d died. No-one had gone to his funeral – it was a sad story. People then say, ‘oh – he was a nice bloke.’ Well, why did they wait until it was too late? When was alive, he was a bit of a loner and he sat on his own, in the corner of the bar.

To come and do this interview, you’ve rented a cottage in the countryside and you’re staying overnight. I know you’ve brought your guitars. Does that mean your next record is going to be a pastoral, psych-pop concept record?

LW: We’ve already got the plan – it will be a concept album.

PI: Hopefully it will be out this time next year. I think the songs we’re doing for the third album are a bit more psychedelic – we don’t want to be the same.

Your first album had a ship on the cover, the new one has a train. Will the third album have a plane on it?

LW: For the next one, we’re going into space…

 

Tales From The Great Central Line Volume One by The Mariners is out now on CD / digital platforms –  a vinyl version will be available later this year.

https://themariners.bandcamp.com/

• When The Mariners visited Buckinghamshire, Say It With Garage Flowers took them record shopping in The Record Shop, Amersham and Collector’s Paradise, in Chesham. Here’s what they bought:

Paul Iliffe’s purchases:

 

 Luke Williamson’s vinyl finds:

 

And finally, to say thanks to The Mariners for coming to see us, Say It With Garage Flowers bought them this record in the brilliant Chapter Two community bookshop, in Chesham. They were, ahem, chuffed to bits.

‘I wanted to make more of a solo record – it just happened to coincide with the pandemic’

Peter Bruntnell

 

When Say It With Garage Flowers last spoke to UK-based, Americana singer-songwriter, Peter Bruntnell, he’d just emerged from the basement studio in his Devon home, where he’d been making his 2016 album, Nos Da Comradewhich was one of our favourite records of that year.

Now, five years later, he’s been busy in his basement again, working on his latest album, Journey To The Sun, which is his twelfth, and the follow-up to last year’s sublime King Of Madrid. Written and recorded during lockdown, it’s a more sparse and stripped-down sounding set than his last few releases – gorgeous, haunting and folky, but with some vintage electronica sounds and even a couple of spacey sci-fi instrumentals. Yes  that’s right, Americana fans, don’t choke on your pale ale, but there’s a lot of synth on this record…

Opener, the stunning, Dandelion, is an atmospheric folk-horror song, like Matt Deighton, or Pink Moon-era Nick Drake being produced by Brian Eno; the lovely Lucifer Morning Star has warm, burbling synths and chiming 12-string guitar, while Heart of Straw is classic Bruntnell – an aching, acoustic, country-tinged ballad – and recent single, You’d Make A Great Widow, is laced with his trademark wry humour and melancholy, but wrapped up in one of the prettiest melodies you’re likely to hear all year.

Some of the songs were co-written with Bruntnell’s long-time collaborator, Bill Ritchie, while US musician and mastering engineer, Peter Linnane, lays down some Hammond and pump organ, concertina, Mellotron and piano, and Iain Sloan plays pedal steel guitar on the track Dharma Liar. 

‘Americana fans, don’t choke on your pale ale, but there’s a lot of synth on this record…’

“I felt like I wanted to make more of a solo record, which just so happened to coincide with the pandemic,” says Bruntnell. “That meant more acoustic guitar, and I bought a bouzouki in March last year, which really was a catalyst for quite a few songs being written in a very short timeframe. Oh, and I got a drum machine and a new synthesiser too.”

So is he going through an electro phase? We spoke to him to find out…

Q&A

How have you coped during the past year and a bit? Has it been tough making a living as a musician?

Peter Bruntnell: At first it was tough, but then I started doing a live stream every Thursday, which seemed to go quite well, so that was one gig to look forward to each week – once I got used to it. Oh, and then I started writing, and before I knew it, I’d written an album’s worth of stuff.

Did Covid affect your plans to make the new album?

PB: Well, it just meant that I had to record and produce it all myself, but that sort of suited the vibe of the songs.

Opener, the stunning, Dandelion, is an atmospheric folk-horror song, like Matt Deighton, or Pink Moon-era Nick Drake being produced by Brian Eno’

You recorded and self-produced the album at your home, in Devon, where you have a basement studio. Peter Linnane, who plays keyboards on the record, and is based in Boston, sent you his parts, didn’t he?

PB: Yeah – I sent the first song to Pete, to ask him if the light compression I had on the mix was okay for the mastering job. He came back to me saying it was fine, and he sent some pump organ and concertina parts, in case I might like to mix them in. I had a listen and liked all his parts, so I kept them, and that became the pattern for nearly every song thereafter.

Peter Bruntnell - Journey To The Sun

Let’s talk about the sound of the record – it’s more stripped-down than some of your last few albums, with acoustic guitar, bouzouki, keys – organ, synth, Mellotron – and a drum machine. Did you set out to make a ‘back to basics’ album? Was it a reaction to your last couple, which have had more jangly, electric guitar and a fuller band sound?

PB: I did feel like I wanted to make more of a solo record, which just so happened to coincide with the pandemic. That meant more acoustic guitar, and I bought a bouzouki in March last year, which really was a catalyst for quite a few songs being written in a very short timeframe. Oh, and I had bought a drum machine and a new synthesiser too.

What inspired the album, musically?

PB: Apart from a bit of Brian Eno, I’m not sure what other influences directly inspired the songs. Maybe some Brian Wilson…

What about the synth? Are you going through a Kraftwerk, or Bowie Low phase, or doing a Neil Young Trans?

PB: Sort of. I’d been listening to Another Green World by Eno and had been thinking about doing some more ‘electro’-style stuff for a while now, so it all just fell into place. And Low has been one of my favourite records for years.

Tell me about the bouzouki? Is there a story behind it?

PB: I bought it hoping it would inspire some songwriting, which it did. Because I don’t know how to play one, it forced me to be more experimental than when I write on a guitar.

What can you tell me about the first song on the album, Dandelion, which is one of my favourites on the record? I love the arrangement – it has a haunting, folky feel, but with some lap steel on it, too. It’s a very striking and atmospheric song…

PB: It was written on the bouzouki and was maybe the first one. It has atmosphere, with just vocals and bouzouki, so I didn’t have to think too hard about its production. I have a piano in the hall which I can’t play that well, but for sparse two or three finger chords it sounds great.

Lucifer Morning Star is another one of my favourites on the album. What can you tell me about that song? It’s a lovely track… 

PB: Thanks. It’s one of my favourites for some reason too. Bill Ritchie came up with most of those lyrics. It was the last song written – maybe the feel of the record was already established, so I kept it similar when arranging the parts for it.

‘I’d been listening to Another Green World by Eno and thinking about doing some ‘electro’-style stuff for a while, so it all just fell into place’

You’ve done a great cover of the traditional folk song Wild Mountain Thyme on the record. What prompted that and why did you include it?

PB: I recorded it about five years ago, because I love the song and wanted to keep busy recording. It seemed to fit among these new songs, so it made the album.

Your last album, King of Madrid, had a song called Widows Walk on it and this record has You’d Make A Great Widow. Are you now intending to have one widow-themed track on each record?

PB: Hah! No – that’s just a coincidence. My wife was talking one day about what would happen if I died and jokingly said, “I’d make a great widow”. That’s where the idea came from.

There’s a great video for the song, in which you get to play a zombie. How did that come about?

PB: I thought it would be fun to get loads of ‘widows’ in it, so I wrote a post on Facebook to see if people would film themselves miming to one of my songs, and I got a great response. And then the ghost and zombie idea just came to me.

Heart of Straw is a gorgeous track. Where did that one come from, and why did you decide to use a line from it as the title of the album?

PB: It’s another anti-government song – yawn. I just stumbled around until I found the right words. It could easily be Etonian rather than Utopian, and ‘Head of Straw’ rather than ‘Heart’. I was just looking for an album title that I liked the sound of and ‘journey to the sun’ seemed like a good idea at the time.

‘Lockdown meant that I focused on writing more than normal, as there wasn’t much else to do’

The album feels melancholy and reflective, with themes of loss, longing, regret and death. Do you think the Covid crisis affected the songwriting lyrically and also the mood of the record?

PB: Maybe – it’s difficult to say. Lockdown meant that I did focus on writing more than normal, as there wasn’t much else to do. I wasn’t really expecting to have an album written and recorded by the end of the year.

You’ve recorded some instrumentals for the album – the spacey The Antwerp Effect and Moon Committee. I think they sound like incidental music from a ‘70s sci-fi TV show, or a film soundtrack. Would you ever consider making an instrumental record, or writing and recording a soundtrack?

PB: Yes – I’d like to do more. I might go more ‘electro’ for the next album. I really don’t know yet…

‘I wasn’t really expecting to have an album written and recorded by the end of the year’

What was your lockdown soundtrack and what music – new and old – are you currently enjoying?

PB: Over lockdown I watched more TV than listening to music – all the usual stuff, like Netflix, etc. I have an Alex Chilton live in Baton Rouge album in my car at the moment, along with Jordan the Comeback by Prefab Sprout.

What are your plans for the rest of the year, now things are slowly returning to some kind of ‘normal?’

PB: To play live as much as I can and travel – even if it’s in the UK.

On that note, when all travel restrictions are lifted, and you’re allowed to take a ‘journey to the sun’, where would be your ideal destination – and why?

PB: Italy, Spain or France – anywhere in Europe would be great. I love Europe and hate Brexit!

Journey To The Sun is released on June 11 (Domestico Records). You can pre-order a signed copy here.

https://peterbruntnell.net

 

It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Reading): ‘Interesting is too bland a word for someone like Dylan. He is off the scale’

Dylan books
Picture courtesy of Apostolis Giontzis / Shutterstock.com.

In the second half of a two-part article called It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Reading), to celebrate Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday, which is on May 24, Say It With Garage Flowers speaks to writer and broadcaster, Spencer Leigh, about his new book, Bob Dylan: Outlaw Bluesan impressive 450-page biography about the legendary singer-songwriter, which was published by McNidder & Grace in October last year.

For the book, Leigh, who has been broadcasting on BBC Radio Merseyside for over 40 years, and has written biographies on acts including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra,  Simon & Garfunkel and Elvis Presley, spoke to more than 300 musicians, friends and acquaintances of Dylan.

“Journalists are very fond of saying Bob Dylan is an enigma,” says Leigh, “but that word is flawed. It’s as good as saying you don’t know. I have determined that I will not call Bob Dylan an enigma at any point in the book and I’m trying to find an answer for everything.”

With that in mind, we asked him to tell us why, after all this time, people are still writing and reading books about Dylan, and if there is really anything new left to say?

The main reason for the fascination with Bob Dylan is that he has changed popular culture in a significant way for the better,” he says.  “He has rarely explained what he is doing, so there is an air of mystery about him, and this is one reason why he is studied at universities.

‘I hope there is something new on every page, but that’s for other people to say’

“What I think has been overlooked is that from time to time he has shown he can be a straight, down the line commercial songwriter, with If Not For You, Lay Lady Lay, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight and Make You Feel My Love. This has enabled him to have a significant role in the everyday commercial market. This is different from Zappa, Beefheart or Lou Reed. You couldn’t have got them to write commercial songs.”

He adds: “I never thought Bob Dylan was a hoarder and now he has sold his archive to the University of Tulsa. That could change our perception of things.”

Q&A

Why did you decide to write another hefty tome on Dylan and how did you ensure your book was different to what’s gone before?

Spencer Leigh: If people are good enough to spend time reading it, I don’t want to waste their time. I hope there is something new on every page, but that’s for other people to say. Over the years I have interviewed a lot of people for my BBC Radio Merseyside shows and so I had many quotes about Dylan, often from people who were there, like Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Hunter Davies says that when you move to a new chapter, you have to ask if the readers are still with you – it’s a good tip.

‘The most surprising thing is that I couldn’t find an interview with Dylan’s former wife, Sara’

Was it a difficult book to write and research? How long did it take from start to finish?

SL: I once asked Charles Aznavour how long it took to write a particular song and he said, “Twenty minutes and 20 years.”

What were some of the most surprising or interesting things you learnt from writing and researching the book?

SL: The most surprising thing, I suppose, is that I couldn’t find an interview with Dylan’s former wife, Sara. Was that part of the divorce settlement? I would guess so, but then again Jane Asher never talks of her time with Paul McCartney. It’s an angle of the story that we may never have.

Interesting is too bland a word for someone like Dylan. He is a good example of someone who is off the scale. I was intrigued to discover his affection for Liverpool. All the bits and pieces added up to that. I had thought that he might feel the same way about Birmingham or Edinburgh, but no, every couple of years there is some little remark or action to show he loves the place.

Spencer Leigh
Spencer Leigh

‘I’ve spoken to quite a lot of Dylan authors and this may make my book unique’

You have spoken to an impressive amount of people for the book. Who were you most happy to have had access to, and why? And, apart from Dylan biographer, Robert Shelton, was there anyone you’d have liked to have spoken to, but couldn’t?

SL: I did have a long conversation with Robert Shelton about how he wanted £50 for an interview. That was around 1985. I should have paid and not said, “The BBC never pays for interviews.” I’ve spoken to quite a lot of Dylan authors and this may make my book unique.

Dylan turns 80 on May 24 this year. Any thoughts on him hitting that milestone? 

SL: Well, I’m surprised he’s got that far, but you could say that about any rock star. I like his artwork a lot, but I would like more songs.

In the book, you touch on his epic 2020 single, Murder Most Foul. What did you think of the album it came from, Rough and Rowdy Ways, which wasn’t out at the time you’d finished the book?

SL: At the time I did the book, three tracks had been released. I’ve put a review of the rest of the album on my website. Dylan has now found a way of half-speaking, half-narrating his songs, which works very well. Okay, his singing voice is shot, but his speech is fantastic.

Do you have a favourite Bob Dylan song?

SL: I went to Liverpool recently for the first time in a year and bought the [new] Bob Dylan-1970 CD set. Although I’ve got many of the tracks on bootlegs, I am looking forward to hearing these cleaned-up versions.

A favourite song would be Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, on the ‘Judas’ tour of 1966. I was there in Liverpool and it was just as rowdy as Manchester. I had never seen an artist alienate a lot of his audience before and I am convinced, now that I have researched the book, that he was loving every minute of it.

Bob Dylan: Outlaw Blues by Spencer Leigh is out now. It’s published by McNidder & Grace. 

For more information, visit:

https://mcnidderandgrace.com/

http://www.spencerleigh.co.uk/

Read the first part of the article, here, which is an interview with K G Miles, co-author of the book Bob Dylan In London: Troubadour Tales (McNidder & Grace).

 

 

 

It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Reading): ‘Our book is a love letter to Dylan and London – a real project of passion’

 

Dylan books
Picture courtesy of Apostolis Giontzis / Shutterstock.com.

In the first of a two-part article called It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Reading), to celebrate Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday, which is on May 24, Say It With Garage Flowers speaks to writer K G Miles, co-author of the new book, Bob Dylan In London: Troubadour Tales, a brilliantly researched and easily accessible guide to the history of Dylan in London and his impact on the city’s music scene.

“We wanted it to be the antithesis of the normal Dylan book, which can be very turgid and very long,” he tells us. “I have no interest in relating the lyrics of Dylan to King Lear.”

Great, as we’d have no interest in reading about it, whereas his book is right up our Positively 4th Street…

There’s a line in Bob Dylan’s 1964 song, My Back Pages, that says: “Ah, but I was so much older then I’m younger than that now.”

It’s been interpreted as being about his growing disillusionment with the ‘60s folk protest movement that he was a part of, and his desire to move in a new musical direction, which he did, by ‘going electric’ a year after it was written. Dylan was in his early twenties when he wrote it – now, he really is so much older, as he turns 80 on May 24 this year.

The title, My Back Pages, also seems very fitting, as, in the run-up to Dylan’s milestone birthday, there’s been a glut of books published on him, as well as revised and updated versions of existing biographies. When it comes to rock’s back pages, no one – apart from The Beatles – has had so many tomes written about them.

Dylan continues to fascinate authors, academics and music fans alike – even more so in the wake of last year’s extraordinary 17-minute ‘comeback’ single, Murder Most Foul, released during lockdown, and its accompanying late-period masterpiece, Rough and Rowdy Ways – his 39th studio album.

‘Dylan continues to fascinate authors, academics and music fans. When it comes to rock’s back pages, no one – apart from The Beatles – has had so many tomes written about them’

One of the best recent books to join Dylan’s back pages is Bob Dylan In London: Troubadour Tales by Jackie Lees and K G Miles, which was published by McNidder & Grace in February of this year. For once, it’s a new Dylan publication that has a different story to tell – it’s a brilliantly researched and easily accessible guide to the history of Dylan in London and his impact on the city’s music scene.

As soon as you’ve read it, you’ll want to embark on a rock pilgrimage to explore the numerous London locations that are listed in the book, from The Troubadour Club in Old Brompton Road, where Dylan played in 1962, to the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, and the Savoy Steps, where the iconic promo film for Subterranean Homesick Blues was shot, and the north London streets of Camden and Crouch End, where Dylan hung out in the ‘90s.

Rather handily, as Bob Dylan In London: Troudadour Tales is a paperback that’s only just over 100 pages long, it’s easy to carry when you’re on the move. In 1962, Dylan wrote the song Let Me Die In My Footsteps – thanks to the book’s compact size, it means you won’t die from sheer exhaustion if you’re following in his.

In an exclusive interview, Say It With Garage Flowers spoke to one of the authors, K G Miles – aka Keith – who tells us: “There are thousands of books on Bob Dylan – it’s remarkable that we’ve found a gap in that huge market.”

Bob Dylan In London

Q&A

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

K G Miles: Jackie and I are both first-time authors – we’re just fans. We met at university in 1979 – on the cusp of Dylan’s ‘Christian’ era. We didn’t realise that we were both Dylan fans – it wasn’t until he won the Nobel Prize in Literature [in 2016] that we both came out of our closets, if you like, and decided to do a pilgrimage.

We knew there were stories about him playing London, but we didn’t know the whole truth. The project began as a pilgrimage to places like the Savoy Steps, where the world’s first music video was filmed – Subterranean Homesick Blues – and to the Troubadour Club, in Earls Court. We went into the Troubadour – Dylan played there in 1962, on his first trip to the UK, as did Jimi Hendrix and Paul Simon.

It’s a fantastic place and a wonderful piece of musical history, but there was nothing on the walls, so you wouldn’t know that. There were pictures of Arctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton – we thought that was wrong. We asked the owners if they would let us put a picture of Dylan up, but, to their credit, they gave us a whole room to kit out! Until lockdown, we were getting tourists visiting from all over – it’s a great venue for people to meet.

The Dylan Room, at The Troubadour
The Dylan Room, at The Troubadour Club. Picture by KG Miles.

We also looked at putting a blue plaque on the Savoy Steps and other things we could do.

We found out a lot of stuff along our journey and we had all these tales gathered together, so I said to Jackie, “Why don’t we put them out as a book, as people would be interested in them?”

It’s a love letter to Dylan and London – a real project of passion from two Londoners. There are thousands of books on Bob Dylan – it’s remarkable that we’ve found a gap in that huge market.

When I look back at the classic Dylan biographies by people like Robert Shelton and others, he has a tiny cursory paragraph about Dylan’s first ‘62/’63 trip to London. He writes that Dylan played at The Prospect of Whitby pub. I know that pub – there wasn’t a folk club there. I think he’s mistaken it for the Pindar of Wakefield. There’s a famous picture of Dylan playing the London Singers’ Club Christmas show, in which you can see the wallpaper behind him. If you compare that picture with one of the folk singer, Anne Briggs, which was taken at the Pindar of Wakefield, the wallpaper matches. Dylan’s first gig outside of America was at The King and Queen pub in London [Foley Street, Fitzrovia] – his first tentative steps out of the New York scene and onto the world’s stage. There’s a tiny picture there, but I’d love to have more.

Dylan playing the London Singers’ Club Christmas show, in 1962, at the Pindar of Wakefield.

That time was a critical one in Dylan’s career, but it’s been passed over. When Dylan came over for the Royal Festival Hall gig in 1964, it was so important, and in ’65 and ’66 you’ve got Don’t Look Back and that tour – rock ‘n’ roll Dylan. It’s still only a matter of weeks in Dylan’s history, but they’re disproportionately important to his development and musical history.

‘Dylan’s first gig outside of America was at The King and Queen pub in London – his first tentative steps out of the New York scene and onto the world’s stage’

In the book, you reference biographer Clinton Heylin’s point that Dylan’s month in London in the winter of ’62 was almost as influential as the previous two years he spent in New York. I think your book is brilliantly researched  – you’ve crammed so much into the 100 or so pages. How did you go about doing your homework?

KGM: When the Bob Dylan Archive was launched, in Tulsa, I was lucky enough to go there and talk at a conference about Dylan’s time with [poet and novelist] Robert Graves  – it’s a footnote in Dylan’s history, but it’s very important. Dylan puts a tiny quote about meeting Graves in London in his book, Chronicles: Volume One, but he gets it wrong – it’s the most beautiful autobiography, but it’s not to be trusted in any way. He talks about walking with Graves, after a party, in Paddington Square – if you look it up, there wasn’t a Paddington Square at that time, but there is now.

We’re doing musical archaeology – we’re putting two and two and two and two together. You can work out where the party, the house and the square were. We wanted to put right a lot of things that were incorrect. I loved doing the delving. Jackie and I are huge fans of London. In the book we also wanted to cover the buildings and the locations – the tourism side – so it could be a guide for people. We also always intended it to be fun. I would love to go to the back of the Savoy and see queues of Dylan fans with their cue cards, videoing and photographing each other. If I can persuade any number of tourists to go to the Savoy Steps, rather than Oxford Street, I would’ve done a wonderful job for London.

‘We wanted it to be the antithesis of the normal Dylan book, which can be very turgid and very long. I have no interest in relating the lyrics of Dylan to King Lear’

And you’ve included some social history too, haven’t you?

KGM: Exactly. We’re delighted that Dylan fans have enjoyed the book, but we’re also delighted that music fans have too, and people who have a passing interest, love London and love the stories. We wanted it to be very accessible and easy to read – the antithesis of the normal Dylan book, which can be very turgid and very long. I have no interest in relating the lyrics of Dylan to King Lear. Just go and enjoy the music – it’s wonderful.

You talked earlier about your passion for Dylan. You first saw him at the Isle of Wight Festival, in 1969, didn’t you?

KGM: Yes, but I was too young to appreciate it at the time – I was seven or eight. I was old enough to take it all in, but I wasn’t interested in the music.

‘Dylan’s first trip to London, in ’62/’63, was a critical time in his career, but it’s been passed over’

So when did you start getting into him?

KGM: I was that kid who, as a teenager, had posters of Dylan on the wall. I was too young for the ‘60s – I missed all that time – but, for a lot of my generation, the key album was the double one, More Bob Dylan Greatest Hits – it was such an important introduction to Dylan’s work and it had all different types of his music on it. It was a record that led you to explore other albums of his, but, also, it had tracks like Tomorrow Is A Long Time and songs from The Basement Tapes – songs we hadn’t heard. I’ve seen a picture of Marc Bolan with that album in his hand.

K G Miles

Have you seen Dylan play lots of times?

KGM: I haven’t seen him loads. In 1978, I queued overnight on the streets of Hammersmith to get tickets for his Earls Court gigs – that was a key moment for lots of people in this country. He hadn’t been over here on the mainland, if you like, for 12 years – we had a bit of Dylanmania at the time.

‘I’d like to write Dylan in Europe too, as I think there are so many wonderful tales that came out of his travels there’

Are you planning to write any more books on Dylan?

KGM: I’ve been asked by the publisher to do some further guides, like Dylan in New York and Dylan in Japan. I’d like to do Dylan in Europe too, as I think there are so many wonderful tales that came out of his travels there. I’m going to be keeping myself busy. There are still many stories to tell.

You could have a whole series of Dylan travel guides and call it Lonely Planet Waves...

KGM: That’s good – I might nick it!

Finally, Dylan turns 80 this month. Any thoughts on him hitting that milestone?

KGM: I think that 80 is a fabulous milestone for any human being, but for one that has lived life at such a breathtaking creative speed, and did so throughout the delicious excesses of rock ‘n’ roll in the ’60s and ’70s, it’s a joy and a miracle.

 

Bob Dylan In London: Troubadour Tales by Jackie Lees and K G Miles, which is published by McNidder & Grace, is out now. For more information, visit https://mcnidderandgrace.com/.

You can follow KG Miles on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/barberville

Look out for the second part of It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Reading), in which we speak to author and broadcaster, Spencer Leigh, about his new book, Bob Dylan: Outlaw Blues (McNidder & Grace). We’ll be posting the article soon, ahead of Dylan’s 80th birthday on May 24.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘I always try to write with unflinching honesty – it’s quite therapeutic to be honest’

Matt McManamon
Matt McManamon

One of Say It With Garage Flowers’ favourite albums of the year so far is Scally Folk – the debut solo record by Matt McManamon, the former frontman of noughties Scouse ska-punkers The Dead 60s.

Don’t expect to be skanking to it, though – his first release in 13 years, it’s a strong collection of reflective and autobiographical songs that are steeped in the tradition of Irish folk music – Liverpool-born McManamon’s family are from County Mayo – as well as the jangly Scouse indie sound of The La’s, and the Wirral psych-pop of The Coral, who were former Deltasonic label mates of The Dead 60s.

McManamon’s new single, Mulranny Smile, is a haunting, folky ballad that’s shrouded in Celtic sea mist, and if Lee Mavers had had tunes like What About You?, Out Of Time and Every Time I Close My Eyes up his sleeve, that second La’s album might’ve actually come out and been another classic.

“Traditional Irish folk, Scouse power-pop, classic ‘90s indie, West Coast American pop-punk and Americana have all influenced this record greatly,” McManamon tells us, in an exclusive interview.

“I think anyone who is aware of my musical past, and the type of music I have been previously associated with, will definitely be surprised, but I’m fairly confident it will be a welcome one.”

Q&A

Where are you and how’s it going?

Matt McManamon: I divide my time between the west coast and east coast of Ireland, but today I’m currently on the east coast in County Wexford. And it’s all going mightily.

You’re just about to release your debut solo album, Scally Folk, which is your first new music since your previous band, The Dead 60s, split up in 2008. What have you been up to since then and why has it taken 13 years to put a record out? Did you give up on music?

MM: Quite soon after The Dead 60s split, I moved back to my family’s ancestral home, in Ireland, and have been here ever since. I wouldn’t say I gave up on music, but I definitely did take a somewhat unwanted hiatus. I was always chipping away behind the scenes, and attempting various musical projects and activities, but, to be honest, they never came to fruition and barely made it out of the bedroom. That was largely down to confidence issues, which stemmed from The Dead 60s being dropped. I was definitely suffering from two issues in particular: fear of failure and fear of completion.

Through lack of confidence, I was unable to get anything over the finish line. I did, however, avail of the wonderful opportunity that was presented to me a few years back, when I was asked to join The Specials, as a live touring guitarist. That proved to be the first step in me re-finding my confidence and passion for music. It was a long slow process, but I’m pleased to tell you, I’m now firing on all cylinders again.

‘I wouldn’t say I gave up on music, but I definitely did take a somewhat unwanted hiatus’

Scally Folk took 13 years to come out, but only 14 days to record. How were the recording sessions at the Transmission Rooms studio in Drumlish, County Longford, Ireland?

MM: The sessions were wonderful – extremely productive. The studio itself is a great place to work and to get creative. Confidence was high and the results were achieved effortlessly.

Mick Cronin (Shane MacGowan, Kodeline) produced the record. How was it working with him? What did he bring to the process?

MM: Mick is a dear friend of mine – we’ve known each other for many years. I definitely had a firm idea and vision of how I wanted it to sound, and, in truth, we achieved it and more. It’s fair to say it eclipsed my expectations.

This was down to the invaluable input and musicianship – not only from Mick, but also from guitarist Vinny Redmond, bassist Enda Mulloy, keyboardist Dave Cox, multi-instrumentalist Kane O’Rourke, and whistle and box player, Andy Nolan. All of those people massively helped to shape the vision and sound of the songs.

Did Covid-19 affect your recording plans?

MM: We started the record on July 2 2020, which also happens to be my birthday. I took that as a great omen. In-between lockdown and travel restrictions, due to Covid-19, we did four sessions, lasting three days each, and then a final two days to put it to bed. That accumulated to 14 days’ total recording. It was all signed off, fully recorded, mixed and mastered by November 2020.

 

‘We started the record on July 2 2020, which is my birthday. I took that as a great omen’

One of my friends, singer-songwriter, John Murry, sings backing vocals on the album. How did you hook up with him?

MM: John just happened to be hanging around the studio, as he had recently completed a session there himself. We quite quickly hit it off, and we have become good friends. We regularly hang out and have some wicked conversations about music. He was highly enthusiastic and complimentary about my songs, as I am of his, so it just made sense to get him singing backing vocals on the album. I asked and he agreed – job done!

The record has Irish and Liverpudlian influences – trad folk and psych-power-pop. There’s a big nod to your roots, isn’t there?

MM: Yes – 100 per cent. I grew up in south Liverpool, in an Irish family that stems from County Mayo. I’ve always considered myself Liverpool-Irish, or Scouse-Irish, and I was very keen to get that point across on the record.

Liverpool power-pop and traditional Irish folk music, have, from an early age, been a great influence on me. I wanted to reflect that in the songs musically and lyrically, which I think I’ve managed to successfully do. I love the idea of flying the flag for Liverpool and Ireland. Hopefully that comes across.

The songs are autobiographical, aren’t they?

MM: Yes – everything I write about is something I’ve done, seen, or experienced. I always try to write with unflinching honesty and, in part, write about difficult subjects or situations that life has a habit of throwing at us. It’s quite therapeutic to be honest.

‘Liverpool power-pop and traditional Irish folk music, have, from an early age, been a great influence on me’

What’s your songwriting process?

MM: I write the songs at home on acoustic guitar, and once the general structure and blueprint is in place, I then bring it to my dear friend, guitarist and musical partner in crime, Vinny Redmond. We then set about finessing the songs by coming up with extra melodies, guitar parts and backing vocals. Lastly, they’re then brought to the wider group of musicians, before we set about recording them.

Were any of the songs old ones, or did you write them all for this album?

MM: There was a mixture of both. There are a couple of songs that were first written approximately 13 years ago, after the dissolution of The Dead 60s, yet there are also songs that were written literally a week before I commenced recording.

I tend not to ‘try’ and write songs – when they come to me, they come to me. The second album is already written and has been partially demoed. As bizarre as this may sound, I never once sat down to ‘write’ the second album. The songs just came out of me super-quick and with the utmost of ease.

What were your main influences for this album musical, or otherwise?

MM: Geographically speaking, Liverpool and Ireland are huge influences, as well as personal life experience. Musically speaking, traditional Irish folk, Scouse power-pop, classic ‘90s indie, West Coast American pop-punk and Americana have all influenced this record greatly.

‘The second album is already written.The songs just came out of me super-quick and with the utmost of ease’

Do you think the record will surprise people?

MM: I think anyone who is aware of my musical past, and the type of music I have been previously associated with, will definitely be surprised, but I’m fairly confident it will be a welcome one.

Tell me about the title of the album. It has a nice double meaning…

MM: The title came out of a conversation I had with Mick Cronin, when I started doing music professionally again. I would find myself constantly being asked, “What does it sound like?” I always struggled to give any kind of definitive answer.

One day, Mick said to me: “It’s dead easy – it sounds like scally folk”, and with that, not only did I have an album title, but quite possibly a new genre of music. I particularly liked the way it also gave a firm nod to my Liverpool-Irish roots.

Let’s talk about some of the songs on the record. What can you tell me about the first track, Gaslighting? It has some faint echoes of ska – a nod to your Dead 60s – past, doesn’t it?

MM: Yes it does, but that came about by accident. I’d initially intended that song to have a more straight-ish ‘indie’ feel to it, but once we started laying it down in the studio, Vinny came up with the idea of setting off a counter offbeat rhythm to my rhythm guitar, and it just worked fabulously.

I think that throughout the record there are some subconscious nods to The Dead 60s. That was never my intention, but The Dead 60s was a big part of me and who I am, so it stands to reason that hints of the past would invariably seep through.

What about the new single, Mulranny Smile? What can you tell me about that? It has a traditional Irish folk feel. What inspired it?

MM: Mulranny Smile is a dreamy, pure Celtic soul tribute to my grandfather, which also gives a firm nod to a place I came to call home – the picturesque coastal village of Mulranny. Anyone who knows me will tell you of my love for the west coast of Ireland and County Mayo, so the goal was also to immortalise the place in a song.

The song Liberty Shore is in a similar folky vein, isn’t it?

MM: Yes – it has a similar vibe. That song is actually about leaving London for a better future. It’s definitely inspired by some of the great Irish emigrant folk songs that I would’ve heard constantly as a youngster.

One of my favourite songs on the record is Out Of Time. It has a power-pop feel and a big, infectious chorus. I think there’s a La’s and Coral sound to it too. Jumpin’ The Gun comes from a similar place, doesn’t it, as does Every Time I Close My Eyes. I really like the sound of those songs – they’re great, melodic, jangly guitar pop.

MM: Out Of Time was one of the first songs to really spring into life while recording Scally Folk. It was originally intended to sound like a gypsy-esque folk song, but it took on a new lease of life – especially once we cranked up the guitars. It organically morphed into a Liverpool power-pop monster, as did Jumpin’ The Gun.

 

Every Time I Close My Eyes came out exactly how I envisaged it. Being likened to The Coral or The La’s is definitely no bad thing – it’s something I welcome. And, of course, The Coral were my old label mates.

Here Comes The Fear could be a prequel to There Goes The Fear by Doves, couldn’t it?

MM: That song was actually my attempt to sound like Simon & Garfunkel – again it just organically grew during the recording process. It actually did play on my mind that the title was similar to the Doves song, but musically it isn’t, so I quickly put that out of mind.

I’m a big fan of Doves – they’re a great band. I really wanna catch then live soon, or, better still, I’d love to support them. If any members of Doves happen to read this, I’d just like to let you know that I’m here and I’m available. Ha-ha.

Any plans to play live this year? 

MM: Yes, there’s going to be a small UK tour in November – details to come very soon, I’m just in the process of getting it all signed off.

There may well be something a little sooner this year, but it’s still too early for me to book anything with confidence, especially as Covid and Brexit seems to have worked a number on the live music scene.

What music – new and old – are you enjoying at the moment?

MM: Fontaines D.C., DMA’s, John Murry, Jagged Baptist Club, Paul Westerberg, and John McGlone and The Souls Of Emotion.

Can you recommend some other ‘scally folk’ to me? Music and/ or people?

MM: There’s nobody, to my knowledge, doing ‘scally folk’. It’s something that my crew and me have invented. I am the original and best scally folker. Ha-ha-ha.

‘One memory that springs to mind is meeting and hanging out with Paul McCartney in the studio, in New York, while we were recording our second album. That was pretty surreal’

A lot of bands from the era of The Dead 60s are reforming? Were you not tempted?

MM: At this moment in time, I’m too busy doing my solo stuff. I always say ‘never say never’ but, in all honesty, I can’t see it ever happening. The past is the past. Onwards & upwards – the future is scally folk.

Finally, any memories – good or bad – from your time in The Dead 60s that you can share?

MM: I have absolutely tons of good memories. One that springs to mind is meeting and hanging out with Paul McCartney in the studio, in New York, while we were recording our second album. That was pretty surreal. But, honestly, there are so many. I’d have to put them down in a book

‘A book?’ you say. Funny that!  I’ve been writing my memoirs and it’s very close to completion. It’s called: Giz A Gig… A Personal Journey Through The Liverpool Music Scene & Beyond. I’m hoping to get it published in the very near future. Watch this space.

Matt McManamon’s new single, Mulranny Smile, is out now on Fretsore Records. The album, Scally Folk, will be released on May 28.

https://mattmcmanamon.bandcamp.com/album/scally-folk

https://www.fretsorerecords.com/

 

‘Death has occupied my thoughts since I was a child…’

Daniel WylieThe last time Say It With Garage Flowers spoke to Glasgow singer-songwriter, Daniel Wylie, the former frontman of late ’90s / early noughties, Alan McGee-endorsed jangle-poppers, Cosmic Rough Riders, he was going into the studio to record his 2017 album Scenery For Dreamers, which showcased his love of heavy Neil Young and Crazy Horse-like electric guitars and the chiming Rickenbacker sound of The Byrds.

This year, he’s releasing a new record, Atoms and Energy, which is much more stripped-down than its predecessor. Neil Young is still an obvious influence, but it’s the Young of After The Goldrush and Only Love Can Break Your Heart, rather than Cortez The Killer.

“I wanted to make a completely different album from [2015’s] Chrome Cassettes and Scenery For Dreamers. Both of those had a similar approach and vibe to them and I felt it was time for a change,” he says.

“I wanted to write a classic ‘70s acoustic record, lyrically based around what was currently occupying my thoughts, and musically like my favourite ‘70s Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Cat Stevens and James Taylor records. That was the plan and I think we pulled it off pretty well.”

Q&A

When and how was Atoms and Energy written and recorded?

Daniel Wylie: I always write my song ideas on an acoustic guitar. I write almost daily, and when it’s time to make an album, I go through hundreds of those ideas and try to choose 10 that have great melodies – some kind of lyrical spark that I can work from and that fit well together as a collection of songs.

Initially, the plan was to go in and record 10 acoustic songs over two days. Just two guitars, one lead vocal and one harmony, with a little bit of percussion, piano and harmonica on a couple of the songs. However, once I got into the studio [La Chunky in Glasgow]  and started recording, my co-producer Johnny Smillie, suggested that some songs deserved a bigger setting, so the record evolved into something else.

Who did you work with on the album?

DW: Neil Sturgeon, Johnny Smillie and Stu Kidd are guest musicians. They are all great writers and artists in their own right and having them on board makes it easy work. They fully understand what I’m looking for and they’re just great players and good people.

Did Covid-19 mess up your plans for the record? How did you cope with lockdown? 

DW: Covid-19 totally messed with recording. However, lockdown turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Basically, I had to stop recording the album. My good pal Neil Sturgeon, had recorded his acoustic guitar parts, Stu Kidd had recorded his percussion parts and I’d recorded the vocals.  Eventually, Johnny Smillie began to work on some arrangements for me, in an attempt to get the record finished, which turned out to be a real blessing. Otherwise, it’s likely the record would still be sitting unfinished.

‘I was really ill for a while, with a dodgy heart. How do you conceive a plan for dying?’

Johnny would go in alone, do some work on arrangements, send them over to me and I’d relay back my likes and dislikes and any changes I wanted made. There’s a spontaneity about being in the studio, like instant ideas get put into action, so some of that is missing.

There’s also the fact that you suddenly have too much time on your hands to over-analyse stuff. There’s a madness to it all. Cabin fever played its part in the final outcome.

The record often feels melancholy, reflective and nostalgic. All the songs are either about relationships or death, aren’t they? Is it a kind of concept album? If you don’t mind me asking, have you had a tough time of it during the past few years?

DW: I almost called the album Relationship Songs. I can’t deny that I’m getting older and I was really ill for a while, with a dodgy heart. How do you conceive a plan for dying? I just thought it was time for reflection on relationships with people, time and events that shaped my life. A little bit of sadness for the things I got wrong along the way, and my thoughts on important people and events that brought me to where I am as a person and as an artist.

‘Alan McGee and Poptones found me the audience that has allowed me to continue to make music’

Dealing with the death of my mum five years ago from cancer, and, career-wise, being in the right place at the right time to get signed by Alan McGee, and also the negative side of that, which is being surrounded by the wrong people.

Another positive was the association with McGee and [his label] Poptones, which found me the audience that has allowed me to continue to make music. It’s really an album about what life has given to you and what it hasn’t.

The first song, The Bruises and the Blood, deals with a dark subject matter – domestic violence. It’s quite a shocking and unnerving start to the album – although, in typical Daniel Wylie style you’ve managed to mix a dark and powerful lyric with a great pop tune and some Beach Boys-style harmonies / vocal arrangements. What can you tell me about that song?

DW: When we were young, my wife and I lived in a flat in Castlemilk housing estate in Glasgow, and our upstairs neighbours were always fighting. It was terrible. He would beat her up and throw her out on the landing, naked. We’d take her in and call the cops on him, but nothing was ever done and at that time, she was scared to leave him, as she had nowhere else to go.

I kind of had that in my head when I was writing the song. On the outside, their relationship looked normal, and that’s what they presented to the world, but behind closed doors, it was an atmosphere of bullying, control and violence against the woman. Thankfully, I know that she escaped the situation and moved on to a better relationship. The melody is at odds with the lyrics, in the same way as their presentation to the world was at odds with what was really going on in their relationship.

What about the song Heaven’s Waiting Room? It deals with childhood friends, moving on and getting older…

DW: That song is referencing how quickly our childhoods pass and how much we cram into those formative, carefree years, and how many of our clearest and fondest memories are attached to those times…before we’re forced to grow up. For those who believe in something after death, Earth is basically heaven’s waiting room. We’re all sitting on this planet waiting and wondering what’s next.

Are you a nostalgic person?

DW: Yes. The older I get, the more I look back, and the more I look back, the more I realise how lucky I’ve been to have lived through so many historical moments, great inventions, avoiding wars on my doorstep, all the great scientific, technical and medical advances, films, art… and especially music. To have walked this planet in the same lifespan as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, R.E.M… How lucky is that?

How old are you? Do you worry about death and old age? Those themes crop up on the album a few times…

DW: I was born on January 2, 1959, so I’m 62. Death has occupied my thoughts since I was a child. It used to scare me, but as I get older, the inevitability of death is something I’ve come to terms with. I’ve noticed how younger generations come through and you no longer have anything much in common with them. Who wants to be here alone when all your friends have gone? There’s a line in my song Value Of Life, from the album, Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine: “while other people sleep, I lie awake and wonder why I’m here.” That was me singing about me worrying about death as a child, in my bed at night.

 

God is Nowhere, from the new album, is a song for atheists everywhere, isn’t it? You’re not a believer then? I love the fuzzy electric guitar sound on it it turns a sweet-sounding song into something more subversive. Was that the idea?

DW: I wrote it when I was angry. The lyric: “I said a begging prayer for your healing, but you still died,” is about my mother’s death. I’m not a believer in organised religion. I was brought up Catholic, but I knew I didn’t believe in all that, so I abandoned it. I do believe in a spiritual existence after death though, so I suppose I’m more of an agnostic rather than a complete atheist.

The song only has two chords. I tried to keep it to one chord, but the temptation to change got the better of me. I had the idea to try and make it sound like those late ‘60s/ early ‘70s Santana records, with Latin percussion and fuzz guitar. Johnny Smillie played the fuzz guitar, using a plectrum given to him by Carlos Santana, after a live show in which he used the plectrum to play with during the gig. How awesome is that?

Our Love Will Never Die is one of the more positive songs on the album, isn’t? It’s beautiful – a simple, honest love song. Did you write it for your wife? It reminds me of vintage Neil Young, circa his After The Goldrush album – it’s very like Only Love Can Break Your Heart. Was that intentional?

DW: I have no problem admitting my wife is the greatest person I’ve ever known and, yes, it was written for her. When I wrote the song, I had to double-check the Neil Young song to make sure I hadn’t ripped him off. When Johnny Smillie heard my home demo, he did the same, but after doing that, he told me it just sounded like me. There was never any intention to write a Neil Young song. I think because I’m such a fan of certain people, their influence will occasionally shine through.

‘I do believe in a spiritual existence after death, so I suppose I’m more of an agnostic, rather than a complete atheist’

In a just world, Our Love Will Never Die would be the soundtrack to lots of wedding first dances, wouldn’t it?

DW: One of my earlier songs, That Was The Day, has proved to be a favourite wedding song for a bunch of couples over the years. Funnily enough, it was also written for my wife. So, yeah, I’d be happy if Our Love Will Never Die became a wedding staple.

In total contrast, Ruth The Truth is a dark and sinister song lyrically, that’s tangled up in a web of lies. Musically, I think it has echoes of early R.E.M. What inspired it?

DW: I have a history of throwing out songs with girls’ names in the title. This is just the latest. It’s a story about how stupid men are when it comes to a beautiful lady – the shallowness of men who think with their dicks and whose brains are in their balls. The album needed a little pop tune, and I chose this song because of its catchy chorus.

‘I’d be happy if Our Love Will Never Die became a wedding staple’

One of my favourite songs on the album is the last one, Saddle Up The Horses. It deals with childhood memories – playing cowboys. What can you tell me about it?

DW: Children are dreamers. I had the cowboy hat, the gun belt, the gun – the children’s cowboy outfit – and as a child, I was a big fan of westerns. Back then, little boys of that age would play cowboys and Indians. I think the song captures that childhood innocence – to the point where you can’t fathom how dangerous a gun is.

Atoms and Energy - Daniel Wylie

Did you have a happy childhood? The pictures on the album artwork are of you as a kid…

DW: I had a pretty happy childhood. My dad took the album sleeve photo when I was around 12 years old. I didn’t realise how poor we were at the time, but you can see the poverty in that photograph.

Despite being poor, my parents did their best to make sure we knew our way around all the local parks and museums. We had an occasional holiday down the Ayrshire coast to Saltcoats or Troon, and, most importantly for me, our home was filled with great music. My parents had amazing taste in music – it was an education in itself.

What are your plans for the rest of the year? Will be you making another album? How about a return to big guitars?

DW: I hope to begin recording again later in the year. I’ve chosen 10 songs for my next album and finished writing them last week. It’ll be a full-band album with hooky choruses, loud guitars and harmonies. It might be called Shane, after one of my all-time favourite cowboy films. I even have the photo for the sleeve picked out.

Have you written many new songs during lockdown?

DW: Honestly, hundreds. I have 12 albums’ worth of really good tunes.I need a big lottery win, so I can afford to record them all. Do you happen to have the winning numbers?

I’m lucky – I can pick up a guitar, strum a few chords and a tune will be there in my head. I don’t know how or why it happens, but I’m not complaining. I genuinely think it’s just a gift I’ve been given, but it’s not to be questioned or analysed. Life and death inspires me, so does other people’s music, and the weather and nature.

You’ve been working with English singer-songwriter Ian M Bailey. Earlier this year, he released a great EP of songs you’d co-written together, called Shots of Sun. Do you have more songs with him coming out? How did you hook up?

DW: Yes – as well as writing a whole bunch of new songs for myself, I’ve co-written 12 songs with Ian. Last year, he sent me a couple of his videos of songs he’d written during the initial lockdown period. I thought they were excellent and told him so.

He suggested we maybe write a song together and I had so many songs half-written that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to use, so I sent him four and he liked them all – a song turned into an EP. Ian added his parts to complete the songs and we were both so pleased with the results that we decided to keep going and do an album.

I send him unfinished songs, sometimes a good chorus with no verse, or a verse and a chorus with no bridge, and sometimes he’ll write the chorus, and he adds his bits and then he records them himself. He’s a producer and one-man band. We’ll likely keep the songwriting thing going.

I’ve also been co-writing with other people. There’s a double A-side single I’ve written with Amanda Louise Thompson for her band The Big Believe. That’s more guitar pop-oriented, like an indie Blondie or something, and will be released before the end of 2021.

What music – new and old – are you enjoying at the moment?

DW: Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams;  Will Stratton – The Changing Wilderness;  Khruangbin & Leon Bridges – Texas Sun EP; Ray LaMontagne – Monovision; Fleet Foxes – Shore; The Milk And Honey Band – Songs From Truleigh Hill; The Chills – Scatterbrain; The Coral – Coral Island, and The Beatles – Esher Demos.

‘I do understand the convenience of streaming. Financially, though, something has to change. People need to eat’

The last time we spoke, you were anti-streaming – you told me you liked vinyl and CDs. Is that still the case?

DW: I love CDs and I love vinyl. I need the artwork with the music. I still don’t have Spotify, but I do understand the convenience of streaming. Financially, though, something has to change. People need to eat and need to be able to focus on creating the great music that the world loves. It costs money to do that.

Atoms And Energy is being released by Last Night From Glasgow records – they got their name from a line in the ABBA song Super Trouper. It’s on various formats. Green, yellow and black vinyl, CD and, eventually, the usual digital outlets.

At the end of this year, you’re reissuing the 2001 Cosmic Rough Riders compilation, Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine, on vinyl. It’s a compilation of material from your first two, self-funded, Cosmic Rough Riders albums, Deliverance and Panorama, plus a few other songs, and it was put out by Alan McGee’s Poptones label. What’s prompted the rerelease? It was a lot of people’s introduction to your music, wasn’t it?

DW: Ian Smith, from Last Night From Glasgow, asked me if I’d be up for reissuing it. I felt the time was right, so I said yes. There’s been a lot of interest in a vinyl reissue, so that’s what’s happening, and I’ve added I Call Her Name, to the end of side one. It’s from the same sessions and I always regretted not putting it on the original album. Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine sold over 100,000 copies when it was first released, but only 1,000 vinyl copies were pressed and they’ve been changing hands for silly money.

How do you feel about those songs now? What’s it like revisiting them?

DW: I had to listen to the master a couple of weeks ago – it’s the first time in years that I’ve heard it from start to finish, uninterrupted.

I really enjoyed listening to it again. It brought back some great memories of recording it with Stephen Fleming. I wrote the songs, but we did everything else as a team. We put everything we had into making sure it was as good as it could be and to my ears, it still sounds great. I’m so proud of it and how it changed my life. So now it’s coming out on some nice coloured vinyl: blue, orange, white, and black.

Do you have any regrets about Cosmic Rough Riders? Do you wish you’d been bigger?

DW: My main regret is using a band name and not just using my own name from the start. That way there would have been no confusion as to whose music it was. But, hey, I did come up with a great name that was worth using.

‘The celebrity thing freaks me out. Sometimes you have to get off the rollercoaster, before it kills you’

If Cosmic Rough Riders had been a bigger band, it would probably have changed my life too – or at least more than I was willing to give or accept. I was already becoming unrecognisable to myself. One time, I came home after a tour and my wife asked me to wash up some dishes. I said to her: “I don’t do dishes”. It sounds funny, but it was an indication that I was losing myself. When you have massive exposure on a show like Top of the Pops, things change. People treat you differently. It’s not like you suddenly have super powers or become a gifted brain surgeon who saves lives, but the celebrity thing freaks me out. Five minutes of it was enough for me. It’s always been about the music for me and I prefer being normal. Sometimes you have to get off the rollercoaster, before it kills you.

Finally, it’s 2021. Do we need a revolution in the summertime?

DW: Hah! People don’t get that song. It was written about a day I spent with some college friends in Glasgow’s Queen’s Park. The weather was super-sunny and the army had set up some kind of recruiting show in the park. I was thinking: ‘join the army? Or sit in the park, in the sunshine, with some beer, and watch our beautiful Scottish girls’. Stuff that for a revolution!

Atoms and Energy by Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders is available to pre-order on vinyl and CD from Last Night From Glasgow here. The physical albums will be officially released on July 2, but pre-orders will ship this month.

You can pre-order the reisssue of Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine on vinyl here.

 

Fat’s Entertainment

 

Paul Weller
Photo: Sandra Vijandi

Paul Weller’s latest album, Fat Pop (Volume 1) – his sixteenth – is one of his best. A collection of short, sharp and instant songs, its influences include soul, funk, Krautrock, synth-pop, dub and punk. Say It With Garage Flowers gets a sneak preview of its ever-changing moods.

When Say It With Garage Flowers spoke to Paul Weller’s long-term guitarist, Steve Cradock (Ocean Colour Scene, The Specials), earlier this year, he’d just emerged from Black Barn Studios in the village of Ripley, Surrey, where the Modfather and his band had been rehearsing a bunch of new songs.

“Weller’s made an album during lockdown – it’s called Fat Pop and it’s coming out in May,” he told us.

It’s fair to say that lockdown has been good for Weller. In just under 12 months, the elder statesman of Britpop has released two albums – the summery and soulful On Sunset and now its follow-up, Fat Pop (Volume 1), which, like its predecessor, is one of the strongest records he’s ever made.

In fact, it’s the latest in a purple patch that started with 2018’s True Meanings – his stripped- back and orchestrally-aided, introspective folk-rock album, which coincided with him turning 60. That was a career highlight and, along with his self-titled solo debut, from 1992, it’s easily one of our favourite Weller records.

Work on Fat Pop (Volume 1) began in spring 2020, when he needed something to focus on after his tour dates were postponed due to Covid-19. He had plenty of ideas for new songs stored on his phone, so he started to record them on his own, with just vocals, piano and guitar.

These were then sent to his core band members, Cradock, drummer Ben Gordelier, and bassist Andy Crofts (The Moons), who added their parts. “It was a bit weird not being together, but at least it kept the wheels rolling. I’d have gone potty otherwise,” says Weller.

When Covid restrictions were lifted, the group reconvened at his Black Barn Studios to finish the work.

Highlights of the new album’s predecessor, On Sunset, included the shimmering disco of Mirror Ball and Old Father Tyme; the uplifting, radio-friendly pop-soul of Village; the Kinks-ish Equanimity and the Bowiesque Rockets.

Some of Fat Pop (Volume 1) is cut from the same [three-button mod suit] cloth as the album that came before it. There’s a strong soul and funk feel to a few of the songs, but there’s also plenty of, er, fat pop.

“After True Meanings I thought I wouldn’t have any acoustic guitars for a little while, so I’ve largely avoided those with On Sunset and with Fat Pop,” says Weller. “But more than anything I wanted something vibey – something we could play live. God knows when that will be, bearing in mind where we are with the virus. But in the imaginary gig in my mind I can see us playing all of the songs on Fat Pop live, along with the songs from On Sunset, blending them with some of the old favourites too. What a great set that would be.”

He adds: “On Sunset was quite lavish in places, whereas with this one I wanted to limit it in some ways – make the production less expansive.”

It’s a rich-sounding and eclectic record – vibrant and colourful – and, considering the wide range of influences and styles, it hangs together really well. It feels like a complete piece of work, rather than just a collection of songs.

‘Some of Fat Pop is cut from the same [three-button mod suit] cloth as the album that preceded it. There’s a strong soul and funk feel to a few of the songs, but there’s also plenty of, er, fat pop’

Fat Pop (Volume 1) sees Weller continuing his working relationship with producer Jan ‘Stan’ Kybert, who’s been at the helm since 2012’s Sonik Kicks album.

Sadly, the album’s first single and opening song, the psychedelic, synth-pop-meets-Krautrock of Cosmic Fringes,  isn’t about lockdown haircuts, although Weller is sporting long locks at the moment. Lyrically, it concerns itself with a keyboard warrior: “I’m a sleeping giant, waiting to awake/I stumble to the fridge/then back to bed”, but to be fair, that does sound a lot like lockdown…

 

Weller says the song was written about a person who is constantly brainstorming ideas, but never gets around to doing them. With two strong albums under his belt in the past year, that’s not something you could accuse him of.

The punky True features an unexpected jazzy sax break, as well as guest vocals by Lia Metcalfe of Liverpool alt-rock band The Mysterines, while the dramatic, soaring and symphonic Shades of Blue was co-written by his daughter, Leah, who shares vocal duties on the song.

‘Sadly, the album’s first single and opening song, the psychedelic, synth-pop-meets-Krautrock of Cosmic Fringes, isn’t about lockdown haircuts, although Weller is sporting long locks at the moment’

The title track, a paean to the power of music, has a heavy, dubby bassline – Weller describes it as “Cypress Hill doing something that sounds like a DJ Muggs production”.

He adds: “It’s a celebration of music and what it’s given us all. No matter what situation you are in, and we’re in one now, music doesn’t let you down, does it? It’s my favourite song on the album, I think – it’s about all the times music’s been there for me.”

Glad Times is beautiful and melancholic  – space-age soul with strings. “It’s been around for a while  – it nearly made it onto On Sunset, but I didn’t quite fit,” says Weller. “I really liked it, though, so I’m really glad it made it onto this album instead.”

Testify, with guest vocals by Andy Fairweather Low of ‘60s Welsh pop band Amen Corner, is a great, ‘70s-style, funk-soul strut, with flute and sax supplied by acid jazz veteran Jacko Peake.

“We had actually done it live two or three years ago,” says Weller, “but while I loved the groove, I never really got a grip on the song. Then I did this charity gig in Guildford, one of the last things I’ve done probably – some Stax songs with Andy Fairweather Low. Our voices sound so good together and he’s such a lovely fellow, so I sent him the backing track. As soon as lockdown was lifted, he came down to the studio for the afternoon. We cut it live and that was it.”

 

Pastoral and acoustic guitar-led ballad, Cobwebs/Connections, which could’ve come off True Meanings, features a lovely string arrangement by Hannah Peel, who worked on that album. She also scores the gorgeous closing song, Still Glides The Stream – another reflective moment that was written as a remote collaboration between Weller and Cradock.

If it’s angry Weller you’re after, don’t worry, as he hasn’t completely mellowed with age. On the choppy, ska-tinged rallying call, That Pleasure, which was written as a reaction to the Black Lives Matter campaign and is swathed in lush, ‘70s Marvin Gaye-style strings, he urges us to “Lose your hypocrisy… lose your prejudice, lose this hatred,” adding, “It’s time to get involved.”

Photo: Sandra Vijandi.

Fat Pop (Volume 1) – Weller is keeping his options open for a second volume – is aptly named, as each of the 12 tracks is instant and any one of them could be a standalone single.

“That was a conscious design,” he says. “I even thought about putting every song as a single first then gathering them all on an album, but that wasn’t practical. They all have that strength and immediacy, I think, and they’re all short – three minutes or so maximum.”

Apparently, producer Kybert was so taken with the concept that he half-jokingly suggested that the album be called Greatest Hits, but, wisely, Weller decided against it.

“I quite liked the idea and every song does stand up as a single, I think,” says Weller, “but no, we couldn’t do that really.”

Ahead of making the album, Weller set himself the same task as he does before any recording. “Whenever I make an album I’m always just trying to at least match what’s gone before because each time I think the bar’s been raised. If all goes to plan, sometimes I manage to go over that bar too,” he says.

He’s done it again. Here’s to Volume 2 and plenty more fat pop content.

Fat Pop (Volume 1) is released on May 14 (Polydor Records). It’s available in a variety of versions and formats:

  • Standard CD
  • Individual exclusive cassettes for Indie Record Stores and Paul’s artist store
  • Individual exclusive coloured vinyl for Amazon, Indie Record Stores and Paul Weller’s artist store
  • Black Heavyweight vinyl
  • Exclusive picture disc vinyl
  • Deluxe Formats which include Fat Pop, Mid-Sömmer Musik (the live special from November last year) and bonus tracks:
  • Three-CD Box Set
  • Three-LP Box set – heavyweight black vinyl

www.paulweller.com

Please note: part of this review, although heavily edited, originally appeared in the May 2021 edition of Hi-Fi+ magazine, which Sean Hannam contributes to.

 

 

‘We were Britpop before Britpop’

The Kynd
The Kynd

What did you do during lockdown? Well, if you were ‘90s indie band The Kynd you reformed, decided to put out your long-lost third single and rerelease your debut album, from 1999, in a deluxe version with a bunch of extra tracks.

Not only that, but they’re also heading back into the studio to record the second album they never had a chance to make.

“We’re wondering if we’re going to break a record for the longest time between a debut album and a follow-up,” says guitarist Danny Tipping. “Even The Stone Roses only took five years…”

Lockdown has given us more time to reflect on our lives. Some of us have used it to embark on a nostalgia trip, whether that’s reconnecting with old friends over Zoom, or digging back into our record collections – or searching streaming services – to listen to music from our youth.

I’ve been indulging in the back catalogue of anthemic indie-rockers Gene – my favourite band from the ‘90s – but, sadly, I no longer fit into that skinny T I bought after a gig at the London Astoria in 1996…

Twin brothers Danny and Tristan Tipping, and their friend, Paul King, from Buckinghamshire, have taken things to the extreme – they’ve used their downtime to resurrect their ‘90s indie band The Kynd.

Back in the day, DJ Gary Crowley described their sound as “a gorgeous slice of Bucks beat.”  The group played shows supporting the likes of Hurricane #1, My Life Story and The Bluetones. Ride guitarist and future member of Oasis, Andy Bell, produced their debut single, Egotripper, which came out in 1996.

This month sees the release of their long-lost third single, Get What You Deserve, and the reissue of their 1999 debut album Shakedown, in a deluxe, repackaged CD version, with seven extra tracks. Oh and they’ve also reformed to play some gigs later this year and record their unfinished second album.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, they’ve given Say It With Garage Flowers an interview to tell us why they’ve decided to get back together.  So, over a socially-distanced pint outside a bar in Chesham – not far from where the band grew up – I have a chat with guitarist Danny, who is, er, one of The Kynd.

“We’re excited,” he says. “It’s been really fun…”

Q&A

I’ll be honest, even though I’m a veteran of the ‘90s indie scene, I hadn’t heard of The Kynd [Paul King – vocals, Danny Tipping – guitar, Tristan Tipping – bass, Bradley Hills – drums] until a few weeks ago. I’ve known you and Tristan for a few years, because of your Americana label, Clubhouse Records, but you’ve never mentioned the band before…

Danny Tipping: We didn’t talk about it for ages, because we did it so intensely during the mid-‘90s that when it all came to an end, we were all done with it.

How did the band come together?

DT: We were schoolmates – when we were 14, Paul went to the same senior school as Bradley and us at Chalfont St Peter.

We were all into music and our dads had all been in bands – like everyone does, we kept talking about being in one. In our last year of school, everybody else was forming either punk or metal bands. We decided not to do that – we played ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll, like Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran, and we had turns-up and wore Converse. It felt quite rebellious. We were called Walk, Don’t Run after The Ventures song, which was one of the first things I learnt to play.

And then you became The Kynd and went indie…

DT: Once we stopped playing the rock ‘n’ roll stuff, we were done with covers and we started writing together. There was a lot of good guitar music around in the mid-‘90s – more and more guitar bands were getting into the charts and we were all listening to grebo, like The Wonderstuff, and we liked The Smiths and The House of Love, and a lot of the shoegazing stuff and the Thames Valley scene. We liked Blur and I loved Gene, and Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub.

‘We played ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll, like Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran, and we had turns-up and wore Converse. It felt rebellious’

The demos we did in ‘92/’93, before we recorded Shakedown and did the Egotripper single with Andy Bell of Ride, were – without being wanky about it – Britpop before Britpop, because we were into The Who, The Kinks, The Stones and The Small Faces.

We’ve always been into classic ‘60s pop and we got lumped into the Britpop thing – we were playing at mod nights, like Blow Up. A lot of the people there weren’t strictly mods, but they were into a mix of indie and ‘60s pop. You could play in packed student unions from one end of the country to another – and that’s what we did, for about four years.

We were headlining university gigs and we were the perennial support band on that circuit – we supported anybody you care to mention. We had a pretty decent following – we had singles come out and we got some radio play, but we only got a smattering of press. We got a good review in Kerrang! once and we were mentioned in the NME and Melody Maker.

Do you wish you’d been more successful?

DT: I was never bitter that we weren’t bigger – we did it for a living, but we never really took off. My one regret is that if we’d known what we were doing, we’d have got the second album out.

How did you hook up with Andy Bell of Ride, who produced your first single, which came out in 1996?

DT: We played at the Marquee with Corduroy for a Small Faces tribute gig, raising money for the Ronnie Lane Foundation. Andy was there and we met him – he’s a big Small Faces fan. Ride were just finishing their Tarantula album.

We did our first single, Egotripper, with him, for a London label called Go-Go Girl/MGR, and then we did a follow-up single [World’s Finest] and an album.

‘I was never bitter that we weren’t bigger. My one regret is that if we’d known what we were doing, we’d have got the second album out’

We were supposed to release a third single, Get What You Deserve, but it never came out. It was our anthem – it’s one of our best songs – and we were building up to it. There was meant to be a trio of singles.

And now Get What You Deserve has finally come out this month, as a digital single. It’s a great, anthemic pop tune, but with some very vicious lyrics – it’s a revenge song…

DT: Yes – it is. Paul wrote the words – he says it’s the nastiest song we ever wrote.

The title is quite Morrisseyesque…

DT: Paul’s a big fan of The Smiths.

It reminds me of the Longpigs…

DT: It’s funny you should say that – other people have said that too. Paul’s really into the Longpigs…


Your debut album, Shakedown, is being released on April 23, as a deluxe, repackaged CD version, with seven extra tracks…

DT: The album has been out of print – you can buy a copy from Japan for 45 quid! We reissued it digitally in 2015, but people wanted to get hold of it physically, and, because there’s a bit of a ‘90s nostalgia trip going on and people have started to get interested in the band again, during lockdown we thought we should do something for this year, as it’s the 25th anniversary of the first single coming out. We talked about doing a gig and then we decided to put out the third single, and do a proper CD release of the album, with extra tracks, so that people who do want it don’t have to buy an expensive copy off Discogs.

So, you’ve gone from lockdown to Shakedown

DT: Yes [laughs].

Did the first album do well when it was first released?

DT: It sat on the shelf and didn’t come out until 1999 – by that time, we’d already moved on and we were playing a set of different songs, as we’d kept on writing and writing. We’d demoed the second album before the first one had come out – we’d lost some momentum. Our last tour was 1999.

And then, before you’d had a chance to make the second album, you split up…

DT: Yes – and before we were supposed to tour Japan and the West Coast of the States… We’d just had enough – everything took so long. We’d been doing stuff together for 10 years.

So during lockdown last year, you started listening to your old stuff…

DT: We all went through our boxes of tapes, CDs and MiniDiscs and we started to relearn our live set. Paul found the demos we did for the second album and so we listened to them too – there’s some good stuff. It’s been really fun.

We’re also going to go into the studio, record our second album in July and put it out on vinyl before the end of the year – depending on how things pan out. We’re going to be true to how we would’ve done it in 1999.

With the release of Get What You Deserve and the reissue of Shakedown, we’re clearing the decks for what comes next. We’re wondering if we’re going to break a record for the longest time between a debut album and a follow-up. Even The Stone Roses only took five years…

Is there a third album planned? Three of The Kynd?

DT: That would be amazing – that’s what we should call the trilogy of singles.

 

The Kynd’s debut album, Shakedown, has been repackaged and reissued on CD for the first time in 20 years. It’s out on April 23.

The limited edition, individually numbered package features an eight-page lyric booklet and seven bonus tracks, including B-sides, demos and rarities.

You can order it here: https://thekynduk.bandcamp.com/

For more info: https://linktr.ee/TheKynd

The Kynd will be playing two headlining gigs later this year at The Water Rats, in King’s Cross, London (Friday June 11 and Saturday June 12) – both shows are sold out.

They will also be on the bill at the Speakeasy Volume One festival at Bucks Students’ Union, High Wycombe: Dec 11-12, alongside Space, Thousand Yard Stare, My Life Story and a DJ set from Louise Wener of Sleeper.

Tickets are available here.

 

‘I don’t set out to make psychedelia… I like making music that’s a bit 3D’

Steve Cradock has been busy during lockdown. The singer-songwriter, producer and guitarist for Brit mod-rockers Ocean Colour Scene, Paul Weller and The Specials used the time to revisit his 2011 solo album, Peace City West, which he has remixed and remastered for its first ever vinyl release.

Not only that, but he’s also played on Weller’s brand new studio album, Fat Pop (Volume 1), which was recorded at the Modfather’s Surrey studio, Black Barn, last summer, when Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

Fat Pop (Volume 1) is due out next month. Say It With Garage Flowers has had a sneak preview of it and we’re pleased to say that it’s brilliant –  a worthy successor to last year’s On Sunset, which, alongside 2018’s True Meanings, has seen Weller hit a purple patch.

Coincidentally, Cradock’s Peace City West, which was the follow-up album to his 2009 solo debut, The Kundalini Target, started to take shape when he recorded the first song, Last Days Of The Old World, at Black Barn, shortly after the sessions for his first album. That track, which features Weller on bass and backing vocals, inspired him to make the rest of the record.

Cradock recruited fellow Weller band member/ The Moons frontman, Andy Crofts, to assist with some of the songwriting for the record. They demoed the songs while on the road and then recorded the album in December/ January 2010 at Deep Litter Studios, on a farm, in rural Devon.

The album, which features drummer Tony Coote (Ocean Colour Scene/ P.P. Arnold, Little Barrie), and actor James Buckley (The Inbetweeners) on guitar and guest vocals for one track, I Man, is a lost gem. It’s a collection of 10 really strong and highly melodic songs, from the infectious and jangly, Beatles and Jam-like power-pop of opener Last Days Of The Old World, to the ’60s psych of The Pleasure Seekers, the pastoral cosmic pop of Kites Rise Up Against the Wind, the gorgeous and folky ballad Finally Found My Way Back Home –  co-written with Crofts and ’60s soul singer P.P. Arnold, who Cradock produced a solo LP for in 2019  – and the country-tinged Lay Down Your Weary Burden.

‘Peace City West sounded bad because of the mix. It was time to re-do that, get rid of the interludes, make it sound like it should’ve done and put it on vinyl – those were the three things that were missing’

After Peace City West came out, Cradock decided he wasn’t happy with the final mix of the album, or the psychedelic instrumental interludes that he’d put in-between the songs, so, 10 years later, he decided to do something about it.

“We mixed it badly on a laptop in January 2011 and then it was finished, but listening back it just sounded bad because of the mix,” he says. “It was time to re-do that, get rid of the interludes, make it sound like it should’ve done and put it on vinyl – those were the three things that were missing for me.”

Working at his home studio, Cradock set about the task of giving the album a new lease of life. “The first track I tried mixing was The Pleasure Seekers, which is the second song on the record, and as soon as I heard the proper drums in it that’s what made me think it’ll be worthwhile doing it,” he says.

Say It With Garage Flowers spoke to Cradock, who was at home in Devon, where he has his studio, Kundalini, to find out more about the album, and also gain an insight into his recording process, his influences and his collaborations with P.P. Arnold and Weller.

Q&A

I listened to the new version of Peace City West and then the old one. I think the psychedelic interludes on the original release detract from the songs a bit…

Steve Cradock: That’s what I think – the new version gives it more focus. I like the fact that it’s now simple – it’s just the songs. Hearing the vinyl test pressing made me smile, which was good.

There was a lot of meandering nonsense on the old version, but, at the time, that was where my head was at – I thought it was interesting. There were bits of road music on it, from when I was in Egypt. I recorded a guy saying a prayer. I was enjoying that self-indulgence, but, in 2020, I wasn’t.

Until you came to remix Peace City West, had you listened to it recently?

SC: No – I can’t remember the last time I listened to it. That’s why I was so shocked by the quality of it when I did. I thought it if was going to come out [again] it needed to be put into its own space.

Let’s talk about some of the songs on the album. The opening track, Last Days Of The Old World, has a power-pop feel and it reminds me of The Jam…

SC: Musically, I was maybe copying a bit of Elephant Stone [The Stone Roses]. It’s also quite Beatlesy – it’s got a 12-string Rickenbacker on it. The last chord is like The Jam, or it could be a Beatles thing.

Lyrically, it talks about how the rise of social media and smartphone culture has affected society and how we communicate with each other. Are you a reluctant user of social media?

SC: Not – not at all. I wrote the chorus lyrics and the melodies, but Andy Crofts wrote the lyric in the verse. I like social media – I like Instagram and Twitter’s alright.

I guess if you’re a musician who’s stuck at home during lockdown, social media is crucial for getting your music and message out there, although, I’ll be honest, I think there are too many online concerts happening…

SC: Do you know what? Even when they first started, I thought: ‘there’s no way I’m going to be doing any of that shit!’ There were people doing it in their kitchens and the sound was shit. I haven’t done one and I won’t be doing one.

The Pleasure Seekers was the first song you remixed for the album, wasn’t it? It’s got a good drum sound on it. Was that key? I think the track sounds a bit like The Who at times…

SC: The Who? Really? Oh right – the fast acoustic guitar… Yeah – it is a bit Who-y. It has Chris Griffiths from The Real People singing on it and his brother, Tony, sings on the chorus, which sounds really nice. Do you know the history of The Real People?

They were almost Oasis before Oasis, weren’t they?

SC: They wrote some great tunes and they helped to demo Oasis when they first got together. I think Liam Gallagher sings like Tony Griffiths because of that. Without being controversial, I don’t think Liam sang like that before they worked together. I know he tries to sing like Lennon but… anyway… blah-blah-blah.

‘When online concerts started, I thought: ‘there’s no way I’m going to be doing any of that shit!’ There were people doing it in their kitchens and the sound was shit. I haven’t done one and I won’t be doing one’

Like several of the songs on the album, The Pleasure Seekers has ‘60s flute sounds on it…

SC: Yeah – it’s that ‘60s Mellotron sound, but I also love a real flute. At the time of the album, I had a new digi-Mellotron called a Memotron – everyone had one. Listen to The Moons from that time – it was everywhere, like a bad rash, because it was new. The title of The Pleasure Seekers  came from a ‘60s film poster at Weller’s place.

Kites Rise Up Against The Wind has more ’60s psychedelic flutes on it and it’s pastoral…

SC: That song was originally a backing track that Charles Rees, who is the engineer at Black Barn, recorded for a bit of fun. That was around 2007. We would play it and love it – there was something about it. He gave it to me to write a tune for it.

‘I tried to put a really pretentious middle part into it, where you leave Earth and go to some other planet and then you come back to Earth. It was an experiment. Whether it worked or not, I’m not sure’

There was a guy called Davo [Paul Weller’s keyboard tech] who had a typical Scouse wit. He used to say [puts on a Scouse accent]: “Kites rise up against the wind, la.” I was like, “fucking hell – say that again!”

It was borrowed and I tried to put a really pretentious middle part into it, where you leave Earth and go to some other planet and then you come back to Earth. It was an experiment. Whether it worked or not, I’m not sure.

Little Girl is a very pretty song, with acoustic guitar and a really nice string arrangement, and Lay Down Your Weary Burden has a country feel, with pedal steel…

SC: On Little Girl, I was trying to go for an acoustic Neil Young thing. The lyric for Lay Down Your Weary Burden came from a poem Weller gave me – I put chords to it and then wrote a vocal melody. It’s kind of a dark, bitter tune, but hopefully the melodic chorus gives it some light at the end of the tunnel – there’s something beautiful about it.

The last song on the album, Ring The Changes, is a lullaby. It has snoring at the start and your daughter, Sonny, sings on it…

SC: She is horrified about it now. My son, Cass, was sleeping and we mic’d him up. It’s a nice little ending to the album. The middle eight is in F-sharp. When we were recording, we visited the local church when the bells were being rung. I spoke to the guy who was ringing them – the bell master. He told me they were in F-sharp. I said: “no fucking way! Can I record them on my phone?” He said:  “Oh yeah – of course you can.” It was luck – right time, right place.

And right key…

SC: Right fucking key! You can’t put a capo on church bells, can you?

The album is a lot more psychedelic than I was expecting it to be. When you’re doing solo records do you feel you can afford to be more self-indulgent than when you’re playing in a band, like Ocean Colour Scene?

SC: No – there’s no difference really. I like making music that’s a bit 3D – I love using delays and reverb. I don’t set out to make psychedelia. Some people have a spliff and it opens everything up – I try and make music like that. You don’t get it all from the first listen.

‘I’ve been recording with Weller’s daughter, Leah. I’m working on an album with her and it’s starting to sound really mega’

You have your own home studio, Kundalini. What’s the set-up like?

SC: It’s in a double garage at the back of my house. It’s sweet, man. I’ve got a drum kit, a grand piano and timpani drums in there – there’s a vibe. I do it all in a box – I use Logic and UAD. It’s so good these days. I’m not a big fan of MIDI – I play everything and then record it in a box. That set-up works for me. I’ve been recording with Paul Weller’s daughter, Leah – I’m working on an album with her and it’s starting to sound really mega.

 

I love the 2019 album you made with P.P. Arnold – The New Adventures of P.P. Arnold. Any plans to do another one together?

SC: I don’t know – we haven’t really spoken about it. That record took us a long time – we were working on it from 2016 to 2019. It wasn’t continual, as I was out on the road, but… it’s a double album. Anytime she asks to work with me, I would, of course.

How did you end up working with her? You were obviously a big fan, as she was a mod icon…

SC: Ocean Colour Scene had a studio in Birmingham that was close to a theatre that she was working at. As a fan, I took my copy of her album, The First Lady of Immediate, to get it signed, and I gave her some flowers. I told her we had a studio down the road and I asked her if she fancied coming to do some singing. She gave me a look and said [he puts on an American accent]: “Well, actually I’ve got to get back…” I was thinking ‘oh fuck.’

The next time I bumped into her was when I was playing guitar with Paul and she came to do a backing vocals session – it might have been for the Jools Holland show or something. She came in and went, ‘oh – it’s you!’ She remembered me.

She sang on Traveller’s Tune and It’s A Beautiful Thing for Ocean Colour Scene – she’s great and she’s still got a really fantastic voice.

Talking of collaborations, is there anyone you’d like to work with?

SC: I’d like to work with a rapper called Leaf Dog – I’ve spoken to him quite a few times. I got into him through my son, Cass. I think he’s really inventive – the way he uses loops and puts it all together. He’s really out there. I’d like to be in a room and see how he does his shit – it’s only four or eight bars and that’s it. It’s not like my generation and where I come from, which is all about songs and arrangements: intros, verses, bridges, middle eights and codas. He has a different take on it.

What music have you been enjoying during lockdown?

SC: There were two tunes. There’s a group called The Innocence Mission who have a song called On Your Side, which really resonated with me – I just think it’s so beautiful – and the other one was a track called The Poison Tree by The Good, The Bad & The Queen. I couldn’t stop playing it, like 20 times every day.

During lockdown, a lot of us have had time to reflect. How do you feel now about the height of your success with Ocean Colour Scene during the ’90s? Your album Moseley Shoals sold over 1.3 million copies around the world. Do you get nostalgic for that time?

SC: No. I don’t even think about it – the heyday. I’ve not listened to the record for many years – I don’t see the point really.

When did you first learn to play guitar? Were you self-taught?

SC: I’m self-taught. I was originally a bass player, from the age of 11. I had a really shitty classical guitar and I used to listen to the UB40 album Signing Off a lot. I’d pick up the saxophone melody parts, or the guitar parts that Robin Campbell would play. That’s what started me trying to play.

What other music were you listening to when you were growing up?

SC: My first three albums were all Greatest Hits : Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Booker T and the M.G.’s, but the first record that really did it for me was the B-side of The Jam’s The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow) – it’s a song called Pity Poor Alfie. I listened to that tune every day throughout my teenage years and I still listen to it a lot now. It totally blew my mind.

I liked The Jam, UB40, Elvis Costello and Blondie, and I really liked pop stuff, like Marc Almond and Soft Cell – I thought they were great. It wasn’t until later that I started to get into Motown.

 ‘I’d like to work with a rapper called Leaf Dog. He’s really inventive – the way he uses loops and puts it all together.  I’d like to be in a room and see how he does his shit’

You’ve played on almost all of Weller’s solo albums, haven’t you? That’s 15 out of 16 records, if you include the forthcoming one, Fat Pop (Volume 1.) You weren’t on his first one – the self-titled album. How did you first meet him? Didn’t you used to hang around his Solid Bond studio in London? 

SC: I did, but I don’t know about ‘used to’ – I went down once and managed to get in. I played him a demo of a group I was in called The Boys. He said: “It sounds like The Jam, don’t it?” I was like: “Ahhhh – yeah….” He was getting into house music. I went on a pilgrimage from my home in Birmingham – that’s the reason I did it.

Why and how have you managed to stay playing with Weller for so long? What’s the, er, solid bond, that you have?

SC: I don’t know. That would be a question for him, wouldn’t it? I do feel lucky that I’m still involved. He’s always been really lovely to me. He must like what I bring to the table.

 

The remixed and remastered version of Peace City West is out now on Kundalini Records – to find out more, visit http://www.stevecradock.com/.

Paul Weller’s Fat Pop (Volume 1), featuring Steve Cradock, is released on May 14 (Polydor Records).

‘The direction we were taking was ‘classic spaghetti-acid-western-spy-crime/blaxploitation-giallo-adventure-noir’

Whatitdo Archive Group

Say It With Garage Flowers talks Tarantino, vintage Italian film soundtracks, rare vinyl and ’70s funk and soul-jazz with hip US recording collective Whatitdo Archive Group. Nice!

To describe an album as “the soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist” has become a music journalism cliché, but in the case of The Black Stone Affair by Whatitdo Archive Group it’s perfectly true.

For their latest record, the US recording collective (Aaron Chiazza, drums/percussion; Mark Sexton (electric guitar, percussion); Christopher Sexton (Hammond B3 organ, Rhodes, Mellotron, harpsichord) and Alexander Korostinsky (bass, electric guitar, mandolin, percussion), who are based in Reno, Nevada, wanted to create an album that encompassed everything they love and admire about old Italian film soundtracks and scores and bring that energy back into the spotlight.

They’ve certainly achieved it, as The Black Stone Affair is dramatic, atmospheric, exotic – even erotic at times – and very, very authentic sounding.

As well as musicians and recording engineers, the members of Whatitdo Archive Group are voracious vinyl collectors.  They spent nine months of research, digging through their records and studying the works of composers including the legendary Ennio Morricone, as well as Piero Piccioni, Stefano Torossi, François de Roubaix and Alessandro Alessandroni, before composing this imaginary cinematic soundtrack and working with over 24 other musicians – there are some superb orchestral and brass arrangements on the album.

‘The Black Stone Affair is dramatic, atmospheric, exotic – even erotic at times – and very, very authentic sounding’

In an exclusive interview, Say It Garage Flowers spoke to this bunch of dedicated crate-diggers and cult film soundtrack specialists to find out the story behind their latest project.

Q&A

Can you tell us about the origins of Whatitdo Archive Group? How did the collective come together?

Mark Sexton: We all got together in our college years. Alex and I were looking for a fill-in drummer for a gig, and reached out to Aaron Chiazza – we hit it off right away. There was a chemistry – not just musically, but in how we all got along.

We ultimately decided to create a side-project together, which we would use as a “musical outlet” to break free from the straightforward music we were playing in our other bands. That was the concept – a band where you can do whatever you want, and bending the rules is encouraged. From these early days as an avant-garde funk band, our tastes grew together, along with our musicianship.

In the beginning, we wanted to be like a strange version of The Meters – we idolised funk and soul-jazz music of the ‘70s. We would often incorporate the strangest chord progressions and time signatures into our playing, just because we could.

Once we got our jitters out, we shifted gears into a more mature sound, inspired by the groovy compositions of Italian soundtracks, library and soul-jazz recordings of the 1960s and 1970s.

You’re all big record collectors. How big are your record collections and what are some of your coolest, rarest or favourite records you own?

Aaron Chiazza: I can speak for all of us and say that our collections are big enough to be a pain in the ass when moving to a new home. Some of my favourites are Isao Tomita – Snowflakes Are Dancing; Coleman Hawkins – At Ease With Coleman Hawkins and Wings – Wings At The Speed Of Sound.

Alexander Korostinsky: My collection is about 600 deep right now. It’s all seriously curated stuff. I’m not the type of collector that just buys anything willy-nilly, I’ve spent over 10 years crate-digging and they’re all special to me.

In my opinion, some of the coolest records that I have are Indonesian and Thai funk and soul records. The rarest that I have are probably my library records and possibly my first pressing of D’Angelo‘s Voodoo. I’m on the lookout for all of the obscure and exotic Italian soundtracks and library records that there seem to be an endless supply of.

‘We wanted to be like a strange version of The Meters – we idolised funk and soul-jazz music of the ‘70s. We would often incorporate the strangest chord progressions and time signatures into our playing, just because we could’

MS: All of our collections are slightly different. Alex’s is heavy on soundtracks, library and exotica. Aaron’s has lots of ‘80s funk, and rock & roll oddities. My collection is full of Brazilian samba, disco and R&B 45s. My most prized record is actually one my wife found at a yard sale –an original mono pressing of Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul. I’m always on the lookout for new gems.

Do you have any favourite record shops?

MS: Groove Merchant in San Francisco is an amazingly well-curated shop for jazz, funk, and soul. Also, let’s get real… Discogs is very useful.

AK: Groove Merchant in San Francisco is definitely one of the coolest stores in the US, but during tours across Europe, playing music, we also got to see some very, very interesting record stores in Germany, France, Netherlands and Switzerland. The record store, 16 Tons, in Zürich is definitely one of my all-time favourites by far. It doubles as a mid-century modern furniture store, which really captured my heart.

What’s your preferred way of listening to music? Are you audio obsessives?

AC: Being a mixing engineer, you gain insight listening through poor gear and nice gear. When I’m listening through nice speakers, I always try to position my head where it sounds best.

MS: We all have great vinyl systems at home – I wish we could listen to that quality everywhere. I’m usually listening to Spotify on the go in my car, or through some decent headphones, but at home, it’s vinyl 90 per cent of the time.

Let’s talk about The Black Stone Affair album. How did the idea for the soundtrack come about? What was the inspiration and the starting point for the project?

AC: I think the idea truly came from our FOMO [fear of missing out] on smoke-filled, well-dressed studio sessions from a past era.  That mixed with the cinematic era of ‘70s Italian funk pumping out amazing records.

As far as The Black Stone Affair goes, we knew that we loved albums from that time, so we decided to make our own to go along with a coinciding movie plot.

AK: Around late 2015, we had all just starting to really get into listening to older European music. It was pretty obvious from the get-go that we all started gravitating toward Italian cinematic scores. So at one point Mark brought Blood Chief  [from The Black Stone Affair] to the table, and after we hashed that out, it kind of felt right to take everything we were doing in that direction. After we worked on that song, the rest of the music started to materialise, and before you knew it, we had an album’s worth of material.

The record is influenced by old Italian soundtrack scores. Can you tell us some of your favourite films / soundtracks and composers, and why you like them?

MS: It all started with us being fans of household names like Sergio Leone, Antonioni, Fellini and their collaborations with Ennio Morricone, Alessandro Alessandroni and Stelvio Cipriani, but you realise that is just the tip of the iceberg. These composers had such long careers making hundreds of scores. That’s a lot of music to listen to. It’s easy to fall in love with the exciting sounds of reverb-soaked baritone guitars, harpsichord melodies and lush string passages.

What kind of movie do you envisage The Black Stone Affair to be? From the music it feels part Spaghetti Western, part blaxploitation and part spy / adventure movie…

AK: Yeah, exactly. I’m glad you said that. That’s definitely the precise direction we were imagining this would be taking: a classic spaghetti/acid-western/spy-crime/blaxploitation type of giallo/adventure noir. That’s a mouthful!

‘It’s easy to fall in love with the exciting sounds of reverb-soaked baritone guitars, harpsichord melodies and lush string passages’

How did you write and score the tracks and what were the sessions like?

AC: The songs were written organically, either in a group setting or alone. We moved into scoring songs as needed, depending on instrumentation.

There was no block time that the album was recorded in. Some songs were from past sessions and some came closer to the final build-up of the process. Working like that takes a little longer, but it helps the album grow naturally. I think we accomplished that.

MS: Either Alex or myself brought most of the initial ideas to the table as demos. We would then work out arrangements and finalise the songs in rehearsal before hitting record. However, a lot of the time the songs would go straight to tracking without us ever playing the songs in a room together. Some of the songs evolved because we played them live and the live versions gave us ideas for the record.

‘The majority of the album was recorded in Alex’s home studio using tube preamps and ribbon microphones into his DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)’

You worked with 24 musicians and recorded the album in Alexander’s home studio. How was that?

MS: We had a great time recording the album and pulled in a lot of favours from many of our musician friends, and even a Hail Mary contacting Alessandro Alessandroni Jr. for him to do the whistle part on The Return Of Beaumont Jenkins.

The majority of the album was recorded in Alex‘s home studio using tube preamps and ribbon microphones into his DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). The song Farewell Lola was recorded on a 1970s TEAC 1/4” tape machine and the non-album bonus track, La Pietra, was done on his Tascam 388.

Let’s talk about some of the tracks on the album. What can you tell me about them? The Black Stone Affair (Main Theme) is dark and moody, with psych guitars and a Morricone / John Barry feel. There’s harpsichord and organ, and then it gets all funky….

AK: I really admired the arrangement of Piero Piccioni’s Colpo Rovente soundtrack. I wanted to capture that swirling bassline vibe with this song and give it the ultimate David Axelrod treatment.

The angular harpsichord melody was definitely a nod to Alessandroni and Morricone’s work in the mid ‘70s. My concept for the song was to have a very engaging opening track that covered a lot of melodic territory. There are three main motifs in the song: there’s the heartbeat rhythm in the beginning, the swirling bassline in the middle and then the psych-guitar freak-out at the end. All of which are musical motifs that are quoted later in the record.

 

‘We wanted to write our own anthem, like the Incredible Bongo Band’s Apache, but with a more Italian-western vibe’

Blood Chief is a more soulful number, with a cool groove and some great Rhodes piano on it….

Mark Sexton: This song was conceptualised in my old apartment in Truckee. In fact, the demo and guitar part were written on an iPhone in the GarageBand app. It’s pretty funny, because I’ve never composed a song that way.

We wanted to write our own anthem like the Incredible Bongo Band’s Apache, but with a more Italian-western vibe. This is a song that got more intense as we played it live. We liked the live version, so we re-recorded it for the album, adding the guitar solo you hear.

Italian Love Triangle has a groovy bossa feel. It’s Easy Listening for European hipsters isn’t it? It’s one of the lighter numbers on the record…

AK: Italian composers and European music in general during that time had a sort of love affair with Brazilian bossa nova and so it seemed like a very appropriate thing to include one of those European-goes-bossa songs for this record. The nonsense vocals are by far my favourite part.

Last Train to Budapest is a thrilling chase theme – it’s very haunting, with some spooky vocal sounds…

MS: The “chase scene” was a box we knew we needed to tick as we wrote the album, but we kept putting it off. I had come up with a few ideas, but nothing felt like “it”. Alex showed me his demo, and I loved it. One important thing with a chase scene is tension… And I think the awkwardly stiff bongos, pounding bass and incessant wah-wah guitar puts it right where it needs to be.

L’Amour au Centre de la Terre is a romantic interlude, with lush strings and French vocals…

AK: This was a case where the song was written about a year before the idea for the album really appeared. It was just a song I was working on that I wanted to have a lot of fun with, and it ended up being so dramatic and so spooky that we couldn’t help but include it on the record.

‘We’d love to score for a real film. 007 would be fine, if they sent us some of that explosive chewing gum’

The melodies are actually quoted in other songs as well, so there’s this common string that’s woven through the entire fabric of the record that is the melodic motifs embedded in this track specifically. Listen to the string parts throughout the record and you’ll see what I mean.

Beaumont’s Lament is very Morricone Spaghetti Western. Agreed?

AK: Agreed.

The Return of Beaumont Jenkins is very funky and edgy, and it has some great whistling on it…

MS: This was a fun one to write. I wanted to have a song that mimicked the gritty bassline you here in Bob James’ Nautilus, but was more Spaghetti Western. It was imperative for it to feel like the movie’s “big moment”, when the hero, whom you thought was dead, emerges and rides off into the sunset.

Would you like to score the soundtrack for a real film? What kind of thing would you like to do? Do you have any interest in composing a Bond film soundtrack? Maybe you could do the one after No Time To Die? I think the modern 007 scores could do with a bit of freshening up…

AC: We’d love to score for a real film. 007 would be fine, if they sent us some of that explosive chewing gum. If a film were made for the music, I imagine we’d all be pretty involved. Music before film is quite a reversal of the status quo and we’re into it.

‘Quentin Tarantino should create the actual Blackstone Affair movie. The soundtrack is good to go – hell, we might even write a few more tunes for it if he picks it up’

Would you like someone to make the film that could go with The Black Stone Affair soundtrack? Who would you choose to direct it?

MS: Tarantino, or anyone crazy enough to go full out on this acid-western.

AK: That’s the biggest no-brainer of them all. Quentin Tarantino should create the actual Blackstone Affair movie. The soundtrack is good to go – hell, we might even write a few more tunes for it if he picks it up.

AC: That would be ideal. Tarantino seems to be the consensus.

The Black Stone Affair by Whatitdo Archive Group is released on April 9 on Record Kicks.

https://whatitdoarchivegroup.bandcamp.com/album/the-black-stone-affair

https://recordkicks.bandcamp.com/merch