What’s happened to the weather recently, eh? One minute it’s blazing sunshine, the next we’re frantically digging out our brollies and galoshes. Still, this Bank Holiday weekend looks set to be a scorcher, so let’s hope the predicted good weather stays with us til Indietracks time! It just won’t be the same without sweltering performances in the church and lazing on the grass as the suns sets behind the Outdoor Stage …
I’m a Scottish singer-songwriter born in Edinburgh in the same hospital as most of the Bay City Rollers and am proud of being born on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Mallard setting the record for the world’s fastest ever steam locomotive run. After many musical adventures in a number of bands, I helped formed instrumental guitar band The Wow Kafé whose 2001 Over Kansas EP featured a rare lead guitar outing from me on Who Shall Apologise To The Emperor, a song the NME described as “utterly ace”. After the well-received solo single, Maximum Smile single (Felicité, 2003), I left The Wow Kafe to pursue a solo career. In 2004 Heliotone released Second City Firsts, a six-song e.p. on lathe-cut polycabonate. The following year produced the Fermez La Bouche maxi-single on Pickled Egg and my debut album. Speak When I’m Spoken To, was released in December 2006 on Book Club Records. Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson co-produced a number of tracks, while Ulric Kennedy produced two songs. Ulric is mainman in The Catalysts, of whom I’m an occasional live member. He used to be in a band called The Golden Dawn on Sarah Records whose lead singer was Rob Smith, my musical partner in a band called Meth O.D.
I’ve collaborated quite a bit over the years with Stevie, having co-written songs including Seymour Stein, Chickfactor, Roy Walker, (I Believe In) Travellin’ Light, I Took A Long Hard Look and Portland, Oregon (one of many as-yet unreleased collaborations). I also briefly appear in the video for Belle & Sebastian’s The Wrong Girl. Since 2006, I’ve been collaborating with former Astrid drummer/songwriter Gary Thom and Stevie as The Company. So far, we have written a wide array of songs and released a number of tracks including Join The Dots, (a split single on Slumberland) and, exclusive to this year’s Indietracks compilation CD, Brother Love. In 2005, I was diagnosed with dyspraxia. I co-founded formed Adult Dyspraxia Scotland (later Scottish Dyspraxion) and became Executive Musical Director of Dyspraxia USA for which I wrote and recorded the theme song, I’m Wired. I also work with disabled pop group The Hotliners, having taken over their stewardship in 2008. I’m hoping to register the Scottish Dyspraxion as a charity later this year.
Phew, you sound incredibly busy! You must have lots of exciting plans on the horizon…
I have been working on an album with my friend Sporting Hero, who played with me at Indietracks 2007. I enjoy making music with him and am excited by the prospect of having a record that really sustains a mood and feel, rather than being a collection of songs. We don’t have a record label for it yet, so if anybody out there would be interested in potentially releasing it, please get in touch.
And what’s going to be on your compilation tapes as you travel down to Indietracks?
I’ll be coming with my fiancée, by then wife, who is a big Camera Obscura fan, so we’ll have a quality quota of their tracks sprinkled throughout our compilations. Their records – and indeed their live shows – always sound fresh and clear and uncluttered. Ideal traveling music. I’d also like The Poacher by Ronnie Lane, Sparky’s Dream by Teenage Fanclub, and September Gurls by Big Star. Also some stuff by (Only) Joe Kane, a super-talented Glasgow-based artist. We’ll have been to Stockholm in early June so will probably have some Scandanavian treats such as Hello Saferide on there. I saw Brian Wilson play live in Stockholm once and we couldn’t venture anywhere in summer without some Beach Boys to hand. I think our baby son, Peter, will provide some of our soundtrack, too. I may take the opportunity to introduce him to an early favourite or two of mine: I believed in the Morningtown Ride the Seekers took me on over the airwaves of Junior Choice. Of course I still do. Indietracks is a holiday, and on holiday every morning is new.
Sounds fantastic! Indietracks is indeed a holiday – but what else attracted you to play the festival?
I first came across Indietracks while surfing MySpace and thought it was a great idea that appealed to me in so many ways. When I played Indietracks it was everything I had hoped for. The bands sounded good and those I met in person were friendly and receptive to the unique environment.I’ve been a fan of trains since I was a wee lad so Indietracks was very much a railway as well as music buff’s experience for me. The way the carriages smelled of summers present and past – cut grass wafting through the opened window, and the warm tang of the upholstered seats transported me back to my younger years. Until the late nineties, Glasgow’s local diesel lines reverberated with rolling stock of 1960 vintage – built in Derby appropriately enough, and refurbished over the years, but still with doors with windows that you pulled down when you arrived at your destination for you to lean and reach and pull open the handle outside the door. It was a treat to do that again at Butterley. I used to work in the suburb of Bishopbriggs, and on leaving the office – adjacent to a steamroller firm whose vehicles lay lazily, hazily parked in the melting Tarmacadam summer road – I’d saunter down to the station and catch one of the local trains, now painted gaudy orange but still retaining their elegantly utilitarian character. I loved how they cut and scraped their way under ripe summer branches that rocked benignly over the line to Queen Street station. The trees stretched out like arms extending over revellers in the Scottish country dance of Dashing White Sergeant. Under them passed the dusty curved roofs of the Diesel Multiple Units, dappled in flickering, filtered sunlight. I know Stuart Mackay is a big fan of such railcars and their appearance on the Midland Railway at Indietracks brought that all back to me – along with the sights, the sounds, the satisfying scrunches of gravel under foot, the rusting bolts whose russet hue would soon be shared by Autumn leaves in the marshalling yards.
Spoken like a true train lover – we couldn’t have put it better ourselves! Roy’s also very kindly given us an exclusive free mp3 to download: Unreleased mix of Great Wall of China.
Next up: Simon from The Loves remembers his first ever Indietracks….