Home Outside by Clem Leek

I really haven’t written much on this blog in the past few weeks for various reasons.  I haven’t had the appetite to write for one thing.  However, this project made me really want to write and make you all want to go a view it.  It’s by a wonderful artist from England called Clem Leek and it’s in association with We Sink Ships.  The artist himself has posted this about the project on the We Sink Ships site:

“Home Outside is a piece conceived from these 20 pictures and the emotion for my natural surroundings. The piece is an exploration of sound and textures. I have tried to imply themes and ideas musically, but under a haze of a soundscape. Using only acoustic instruments including violin, guitar and also some field recordings I have endeavored to build up a murky, textually dense musical environment in which motifs and passages appear and disappear within the world of sound. With beautiful lines of flute from Isnaj Dui I have tried to weave a rich tapestry of sound. The piece is very much for a listener to interoperate and musically pick out lines and phrases to explore and creatively elaborate on. Most of all I hope you enjoy it and the concept behind it.”

I highly recommend that you pop along to We Sink Ships website and find the project, which is entitled ‘Home Outside.’  It will be running until 30th June so you don’t have too long left.  Make sure you get a look now while you can.  Enjoy.

Interview #20: Broken Records

Broken Records.  I first saw them at a Gentle Invasion show and to be perfectly honest was blown away.  This was before the days of Trampoline and I was used to going to local shows and being massively underwhelmed by the bands I saw playing.  Broken Records were unlike any unsigned artist I’d seen before.  They sounded very professional, in a ramshackle way, and they combined big ballsy tunes with real raw emotion.  It’s a something that I’ve always loved about their music and it was clear, even then, that they had unbelievable potential.  The Kays were then lucky enough to do some shows with them and Shady Bard and since then I’ve watched their careers develop with real interest and a sense of pride that such a lovely bunch of guys from Edinburgh could make the strides that they have made in music.  Sure, it’s been tough.  I think it probably still is tough for them financially.  However, signed to 4AD and with their second album due for release later this year, things are looking bright for the band.  Frontman Jamie Sutherland, a thoroughly lovely man, kindly took the time to answer some questions I threw his way in this the 20th interview here on The Steinberg Principle.  It’s been a while.  I’ve been slacking.  For which I apologise.  Anyways, check out Broken Records here but first, enjoy.

TSP: Taking you back to the very beginning, how did Broken records come together? Was the vision always to form a band rather than just playing as a solo artist or was it something that just seemed to happen naturally?

JS: I dropped out of Uni at St Andrews, studying English and Philosophy, to play music, and gradually started doing the Edinburgh open mic scene, and from there kind of picked up a band. It was really organic, meeting mates of mates who could play instruments, and then they brought new folk into the fold. Edinburgh is a small city and it turned out we all should have met each other before anyway (Gill was at School with Ian, and I went to Uni with Dave and Andy, having all the same friends but never actually meeting!), it’s strange how these things work out! I’ve always liked the idea of being in a band…I like the weird gang mentality and family element of it.

TSP: Am I right in thinking that you quit University to follow your dream to become a successful musician?

JS: As above!

TSP: It seemed to me that you hadn’t done too many gigs before the name Broken Records started to be mentioned widely in Scottish music circles. Were you surprised with the speed with which you started to receive such attention?

JS: Definitely. I knew from our first practice together that we had something, as it just clicked from the first moment. It just sounded better than any band I had been in before. It took us a while to get musically tight, as we all had very little playing experience or stage craft, but we all knew we were onto something. Within six months folk were quitting professional jobs to dedicate more time to it, so it is just one of those things that came along at exactly the right time in everyone’s lives. From there we just worked and worked to get better, and this paid dividends in terms of being noticed.

TSP: Your live performances have always been something special. How much pleasure do you get from playing live? Has this buzz changed from when you started until now or do you still feel the same sense of excitement every time you get up on stage?

JS: I have always felt that this band has always been very much a live experience…possibly to our detriment sometimes. We all love the experience and excitement of it all, and this is the one thing that remains undiminished since entering the murky world of the music business. Personally we have always been about trying to make folk dance and cry in the same set…that kind of soul revue thing. I am a huge fan of Motown/Tamla, and I guess it kind of bleeds from the baptist church elements in that…The sheer joy of experience through music.

TSP: Given how well received your earlier EP was and the buzz that had been generated from this and your live performances, were you a little surprised by some of the reactions to Until The Earth Begins To Part? Did you think the press response was unfair, perhaps even over the top?

JS: I do think the press were a little harsh in places, but this is less to do with the quality of our work than the timing of when it came out. The product was much the same, however when the EP came out, big, bold rock music was in, and due to various record company wranglings and being let down by people, the record came out about six months later than it should, by which time people were listening to Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes… all sorts of nuanced, minimal, harmony stuff. Our album got reviewed through the lense of what was current, and it didn’t really belong in that kind of scene. I also thought folk had massively high expectations of the record, and it maybe wasn’t what they expected…I still love it, even though I can see some of it’s flaws.

TSP: Did the reaction make you even more determined now when it comes to the second album or do you feel its best to focus on making the album that you want to make and not what others want you to make?

JS: Of course you want to go out and prove everyone wrong, but it is important to listen sometimes. Not necessarily just to the critics, but to overall themes in what people are saying, as I feel it is the one bad review in a hundred good ones that actually means anything to you, no matter how much it hurts.

TSP: A few new tracks have been seeping through in recent live performances. Are there plans to start work in ernest on the second record yet or are you still focusing on pushing the debut and playing live?

JS: We will have the next record available sometime towards the end of the year hopefully. It’s recorded and ready to go, it just needs the right time to come out. It was all written in largely the most stressful six months of my life, outside of a couple of tracks, but we are all very proud of it. It hopefully shows off a different sid e to the band.

TSP: What are the plans for 2010?

JS: Hopefully bring out the record, and then tour it. We did SXSW in March which was amazing, and we have a few festivals lined up to keep us tiding over.

TSP: You have been fairly vocal in your support of local music but which bands from Edinburgh and wider Scotland are you most impressed by and why?

JS: I will always love the bands that I feel are my generation of bands in Edinburgh. Certainly in Edinburgh, the eagleowls, Meursaults, Withered Hands and Kay’s Lavelles, I will always have a soft spot and huge respect for, as friends as well as peers. Further afield, we toured with the Twilight Sad and have played with Frabbit and Jetpacks, all of whom are great bands and really nice people. A real favourite of mine are Sparrow and the Workshop, as we toured the album with them, really loved what they did as a band, but also because they became good friends. Just genuinely decent people.

TSP: You mentioned once that you think sometimes underground bands suffer from a lack of ambition. Can you share a little more of your thoughts on this?

JS: I don’t think it is ambition, I think it is just the willingness to gamble. We sometimes seem to get this backlash from folk who think we are in some big, monied rock band. We all quit our jobs, put our girlfriends/wives/lives on hold, and got into massive amounts of debt to do this (As of now, I have been in this band for three years and not made a penny). We have worked ourselves to the bone touring the country to small crowds, and it gets very frustrating when bands sit at home resting on their laurels. If you are genuinely good, get out and tour, tie your colours to the mast, and then you can find out how good you are. If you believe in what you do, go and do it, and really try your hardest, don’t just have your mates pat you on the back, because it doesn’t mean anything.

TSP: What’s on the stereo at the moment?

JS: For this record I have been listeing to a lot of early REM, Springsteen’s Nebraska and also Titus Andronicus’ two records, which I think are great. At this very moment it is Eagle Owl’s “Sleep the Winter” on the record player.

TSP: When you guys hit the road is there often a debate about what music should be on the bus stereo? What’s the tour bus music of choice normally?

JS: Normally it is the radio (a lot of the time Radio 2! Jeremy Vine and Pop Master quiz, ooohh!). The one constant is not letting Kas our sound engineer anywhere near it, as we’ll soon get some Frankie Goes to Hollywood or Boo Radley’s blasting in the back….

TSP: And when you get back from being away doing shows do you just want to disengage from music, or is that not possible?

JS: I tend not to be able to think or play music for at least a couple of days after coming home…I wish I could be that in love with music, but I find touring so draining and uninspiring (it’s very dull!), that it normally takes a couple of days to get back into loving it again.

TSP: Finally, is there 1 record in your collection that you could not live without?

JS: I often don’t give it as much time as I should these days, but I have so many memories tied up in the Red House Painters, “Ocean Beach”, that I would probabaly miss it more than any other music I own.

All Homemade Things

So this week sees me appearing on Radio Magnetic as guest DJ on the We Sink Ships Radio Show.  Heidi and Neil have both become good friends of mine in the past years and I’ve worked with them on various projects prior to this too, which has always been nothing short of a pleasure.  They are both lovely people and have been very supportive of me in my various musical adventures.  Here they asked me if I’d be up for putting together a mix of music, about 45 minutes worth, for the show, as well as answering some questions about all the many projects that I seem to be involved in.  The music was the easy part.  I loved every second of putting together my mix and I hope everyone enjoys it.  It should certainly give people an insight into the world of the Kays and the music that inspires me most.    Hopefully it will be a nice relaxing mix for everyone on a Tuesday night.

Anyways, the chat itself turned out to be me just blethering for 10 minutes into a microphone/dictaphone type thing just behind Ashton Lane.  Heidi had planned to ask some questions but, for some reason, we decided it would be more fun if I just got left to my own devices.  There is pretty serious chat in there, but the seagulls and squirrels were a distraction.  So much so that on my return to Brel we managed to decide that squirrels actually have scorpion tails hidden under their furry exteriors and have razor blades that shoot out of their little hands.  Vicious creatures rather than the little cute things everyone feeds at the Botanics.  So yeah, next time you don’t feed a squirrel nuts or seeds at the Botanics, or wherever, be warned, they WILL kill you.  Anyways, do check out the show here.  And enjoy.  Full track listing for my mix was:

1. A Mirror Sitting by Anna Rose Carter; 2. Anyone’s Ghost by The National; 3.Spirit Ditch by Sparklehorse; 4. Lodge by Nest; 5. Somewhere Nearby by Nils Frahm; 6. For The Backroads by The Japanese War Effort; 7. One Day Without Harming You by Dakota Suite; 8. Void Lighting by Small Town Boredom; 9. All Homemade Things by The Scottish Enlightenment; 10. Gleypa Okkur by Olafur Arnalds; 11.  Take Off That Dress For Me by Micah P Hinson; 12. On Planet Off by The Notwist; and 13. Giant by Conquering Animal Sound.

Please check out all these amazing artists at your leisure and again….enjoy.

Flirted With You All My Life by There Will Be Fireworks

Last year There Will Be Fireworks produced one of the best debut albums by a Scottish band for a long long time, in my honest opinion.  Unsigned, they still managed to shift over 1,000 copies of this record, which is no mean feat believe me.  In fact, it’s quite astounding really.  Ask any unsigned musician.  Shifting 1,000 records is a dream.  The Kays only got 500 records pressed and even shifting those won’t be easy.  So as you can see being unsigned and shifting over 1,000 records is pretty awesome.  I was delighted when they agreed to be involved in this project and I have to say when they decided on this track their enthusiasm for it was really infectious.  It is an amazing song and just like Lotte Kestner the guys have done a brilliant version of the song.

What I love about this project is that there were no restrictions on the songs you could do.  I don’t mind if people do the same songs as one another because the results will most likely be poles apart – as this and Lotte Kestner’s version of the song show.  Both are wonderful but both are so so different.

I could talk about the music of Vic Chesnutt all night.  ‘At The Cut’ is a truly wonderful record and ‘Flirted With You All My Life’ is as poignant and emotive a song as could be possible given the circumstances.  It’s actually very creepy and sad to be honest.  It’s such a massive ‘fuck you’ to death that it seems hard to take in that not long after it’s release Vic Chesnutt succumbed to his fight against depression.  Like so many others do.  That’s why it’s so important that you help this project and support Depression Alliance UK.  I know it doesn’t seem like much but it’s only £1 to download a track from the project.  You can download them all here.  And all the money raised will be going to Depression Alliance UK to support them in their efforts to support those suffering from depression.  So please, take a minute, listen to all the tracks up so far and if you like anything that you hear do download it and donate to the cause.  Every penny is appreciated.  In the meantime, check out the wonderful There Will Be Fireworks here.  Once again check out the work of Vic Chesnutt here.  Enjoy.

Micah P Hinson And The Pioneer Saboteurs

Micah P Hinson is one of my favourite musicians.  Since I first saw him play at the Bongo Club in Edinburgh, I have loved his music.  I have also loved his album art work.  Without fail, the music and art combined have always created something pretty special whenever he’s released a record.  His last record, a covers album, may be the exception to the musical side of things for me – mainly as I just don’t seem to be able to click with covers albums unless the songs are not so well known.  That said, tracks like ‘Not Forever Now’ on that record are still sublime.  And his version of ‘My Way’, which he makes very much his own is pretty great too.

So after his little foray into the world of other people’s songs last year he’s now back with his 4th proper studio album and I have to say I am delighted that he is, cause this is a great record.  I was thinking today about how much I love how each album he creates is always very similar in style.  Yet he still manages to make them better and more interesting with each outing.  The album opens with a wonderful instrumental piece before Hinson launches into a wonderful little song called ‘Take Of That Dress For Me’ a lovely sweet tune which manages to be a lovely ditty whilst being quite seedy at the same time.  The album rises and falls beautifully from then on in.  It often snarls.  It often drifts in and out like a gentle breeze but it never disappoints.  Very much like The National, I can hear tracks from this record fitting on his previous work and vice versa.  But that’s the beauty of the man for me.  He doesn’t change what he’s doing all that much.  He doesn’t reinvent himself.  He kind of sticks to what you would expect from a Micah P Hinson record.  And yet, somehow, no two records are the same.  There’s always something that takes it a little bit further.  Makes the record that little bit different.  Makes Hinson develop and progress as a song writer.

Personally, I cannot get enough of the man’s music.  And, once again, his album art is something special too.  As always, it’s a little bit seedy.  It’s a little bit edgy.  But it just works perfectly with the music.  He’s a really brilliant song writer and I highly recommend that you go and check out his work here.  Enjoy.

Oh, and here’s his cover of Centro-matic’s song ‘Not Forever Now’.  Enjoy.

It’s A Wonderful Life By Rob St John

Edinburgh folk will know how wonderful a musician Rob St John is.  For many years we were lucky enough to call him our own.  At the end of last year he moved off to Oxford to continue University but if we are really lucky Edinburgh will have more Rob St John shows, and soon.  I do believe an album might be in the pipeline, but in the meantime he was kind enough to get involved in this project and record the title track from Sparklehorse’s 2001 record ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’   This record is probably my favourite Sparklehorse record, though it’s a toss up between this and ‘Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot’.  Anyways, Rob kindly took the time to explain the thinking behind his submission:

“Sparklehorse were a band that seeped slowly into my life.  In 2006 I was living in a rambling, ramshackle old flat on Forest Rd in Edinburgh, with (amongst a rotating cast) Rob Waters – who plays as The Great Bear, and subsequently harmonium in my band.  His copy of “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a regular player in the kitchen: a dense, dark, cryptic but uplifting soundtrack to my terrible cookery.  We went to see them play at The Liquid Rooms around this time, leaving inspired by the washes of crackling electronics, found sounds and indecipherably beautiful orchestration.  I recorded a version of the title track of this LP quite hurridly and with no production gloss (my recording skills scarcely stretch past the RECORD button), changing chords and harmonies a little.  Thanks to Euan for putting together this project and supporting of a worthy cause – I hope you enjoy the track.”

So yeah, if you’ve never checked out the music of Rob St John then do so here.  If you want to download his version of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ then do so here.  Please remember that all money received from downloads will be given to Depression Alliance UK.  You may not think that it’s a lot to contribute just £1.  However, if everyone were to buy at least one of the tracks from this project then it would make Depression Alliance UK a whole lot of money which would be used to help tackle this serious illness.  Please help.  You can download Rob’s and all the other tracks so far here.  Enjoy.

Adam Stafford And The Death Bridge Convention – Music In The Mirabel

Adam Stafford is a man of many, many talents.  Originally known as the front man for Falkirk noisemongers Y’all Is Fantasy Island, the past year has seen him become more recognisable for being an artistic entrepreneur, whose various projects have garnered him both local and international acclaim and respect.  Where YIFI have maybe never reached the heights that their albums suggested they should, Adam has remained a highly respected and sought after musician in the Scottish music scene.  However, he has spread his wings wide in the past year or two and as well as YIFI can add a number of solo records to his name, a record label supporting the more diverse artists in Scottish music and an award winning film, ‘The Shutdown’, which he directed, as well as directing a Twilight Sad video in his spare time.

One thing is for sure, Adam Stafford is not short of musical inspiration.  His early solo shows tended to feature him on acoustic guitar battering out YIFI numbers but gradually he would finish his set by doing an accapella version of ‘Long Time Healing’ by Daniel Johnston.  Ultimately, I guess covering this tune and doing it so well has lead him to his new project.  An album of cover songs featuring the beautiful vocals of Emily Scott and the dulcet tones of author Alan Bissett.  Now as most people know, I tend not to be a fan of cover albums simply because I’m more interested in hearing original songs by artists.  However, with the exception of the Twilight Sad tune on this record, I know pretty much none of the tunes.  As such, this collection almost feels like a whole batch of new songs with a Twilight Sad cover thrown in for good measure.  And it’s a lovely collection of tunes.  Records like this serve to remind me how limited my knowledge of music actually is.  How limited my understanding.  How little I actually know.  And it makes me want to know more.  It makes me want to find the originals and compare.  It’s nice when that happens.  Knowing Adam well he does strike me as a man who listens to some pretty diverse music.  So it doesn’t surprise me that this collection is so wide ranging.  And it’s great.  A really great listen and one that I would highly recommend when it is released.  I’m not sure as to when it will be released but the Twilight Sad cover has already been leaked to a few blogs so you should be able to track it down.  It really is stunning.  In the meantime, check out Adam’s record label here.  His music here.  His film work here.  And enjoy.