Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like there?
Glasgow, Scotland. Glasgow has always been a mecca for musicians far & wide, and the scene benefits from this no end. Like how our famous River Clyde brought the world to our doorstep with shipbuilding/trade hundreds of years ago, & with it, different cultures & arts that can still be seen/inspired in our buildings and culture. Same goes with the music that flows through the city – makes it one of the best Music cities on this planet.
How did you first start playing music?
At school, they offered free 30 min piano lessons that got you out of other (boring) classes no one liked – so I signed up, and the rest is history.
What’s been happening recently?
It’s all been about the new album ‘COWBOYS & AFRICANS’. From recording, performing & producing it (with Ross Saunders at Dusty Reel Studios) to working on album artwork / Music Videos (with Gordon Beveridge). It’s all consuming, just the way it should be.
Your single ‘1985’ from your debut solo album ‘Cowboys & Africans’ will be out August 22, what influenced the sound and songwriting for this track and also the album as a whole?
It’s very much a social conscious message throughout so I looked to the greats for song writing inspiration – D’Angelo, Dylan, Withers, Prince, Bowie & Talking Heads, they have all been favourites for a long time and it was great to draw from different parts of their songs this time, rather than just the music.
Sound wise for this track it had to be inspired from 80’s production (i.e actual 80’s synths & LINN Drum) but as a starting off point, we then had to bring it up to 2019 production standards. This was the stance for the whole album in general, it’s fine to use genre specific sounds like synths, drum sounds etc but enhance them to feel as fresh & vital as being in the moment can be. You don’t want a dated sound before it’s even released.
How did you go about writing the music?
This album has been a completely new writing process for me in general. Most of it has stemmed from writing lyrics/melodies first; the music then came through the subconscious when it was ready. Up until now I’ve only really written instrumental music so this was taking me outside my comfort zone and I think it was just what I needed to inspire a new sound & album.
Where and when did you record?
The majority of it was recorded, mixed & produced in Glasgow at Glo Worm & Dusty Reel Studios (with Ross Saunders). I also was lucky enough to get a day in Brooklyn, NY at Studio G 5000 to record vocals & some other fun (with Joel Hamilton). It was then sent to L-A for mastering with Brian Lucey.
Who did you work with?
Everyone I love! Making this album alone has been enough, whatever happens. I’m so lucky to have so many close friends who are amazing musicians that I could invite to be part of it. I was an actual kid in a sweetie shop being able to pick who I wanted to be on this. The album is littered with old band mates (and some new) it’s autobiographical in so many ways from the line up to the actual songs. From bringing back Ross Whyte on kit who has been ‘my’ drummer since 2002 until he moved away 9 years ago, to Jonny Logue, guesting on a few tracks on lead vocal, the best voice I’ve ever been in a band with, to Ross Saunders (Bass) & Michael Berrich (Guitar) who are my boys in every project I’ve done, and will ever have, to Ben Holloway (Guitar), & Chris Judge (Vocals) new friendships from the last few years but love them just as much.
Everyone played their part (& then some) and I have to mention Brian ‘BSKI’ Callazo who I got in to sing most of the lead vocals on the album when I was in Brooklyn at Studio G. Again getting a day with Joel Hamilton who I’ve worked with for nearly 10 years too – every part of it was an actual joy!
Ross Saunders who again is ‘my’ bass player since 2001 also tracked, mixed & co-produced the album. He keeps surprising me every time with what he brings to the table, this album will be a calling card for him too with the sounds he’s carved, I’m as excited to let you all hear that as much as the songs themselves. Literally couldn’t have made this without him!
There’s a million more friends on it that I’m not saying & actual a few that I didn’t include on this album – but that means I’ll ask them for the next!
What programs/instruments did you use?
Again I was so lucky to pick what I wanted (needed) for instruments, as a solo project I wasn’t bound to write for a specific line up. Vocals are the main focus for sure and there are 4/5 different leads that I wanted to represent different songs. There’s a kick ass String session, beast of a Horn section (Saxes, Trumpets, Sousaphones & Bass Clarinets) to Piccolos & LINN Drums. I also get to feature my Yamaha CP-70 piano on it. There are so many variations to the ‘usuals’ on the record, like the CP-70 rather than a tradition piano or the L100 Hammond rather than the B3. All small moves to give it it’s own sound. Ross mixed it all ‘in the box’ on Logic with some tasty plug ins (ASK HIM!)
How did the lyrics come about for ‘1985’?
The song is all about today! About how we consume, live & the state of play in general. When you think of yuppism, consumerism, false political promises – you do think of the 80’s in all it’s glory. “1985” is asking you, has anything really changed, just a few variations. We need to learn from our mistakes to go forward etc. It was fun to throw in a few 80’s words/terms/sounds throughout the song too.
What is the concept behind this track?
I picked the year “1985” as that’s when the alternative timeline in BTTF 2 took Marty back to Hill Valley and Biff was basically Trump. It was right there – it had to be that year! Also John Carpenter’s ‘THEY LIVE!’ plays a big part from those words to the actual story itself (that is based on short story – check them all out!) Don’t want to give too much away before you all listen.
How is this new album different from your previous project ‘Federation of the Disco Pimp’?
The main difference is that it’s all focused on Lyrics & Songs as apposed to FOTDP being mainly instrumental. The last FOTDP album “INAMORATA” was about the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, but again that was still mostly instrumental. I think I realised I had more to say about the world than I thought and needed a new platform to say it on. There are cross overs though of course, I write for both and most of the musicians play on both too. It’s basically a fresh palette to represent my thoughts through lyrics specifically.
What do you have planned for ‘Cowboys & Africans’?
To get it out there! All around the world, in every ear I can get it too. I want it played everywhere and I want to perform it around the world! After this single release, it’ll either be 1 more single or the album itself. There’s a music video to accompany “1985” coming soon too.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Beck’s last album ‘Colors’ is still on rotation, enjoying some of Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’, Anderson Paak’s ‘Ventura’ & ‘David Live’ a live Bowie album from 1974. My dad gave me a bunch of vinyls and that was one of them, never heard it before – it’s great!
What do you like to do away from music?
I love movies, they’re a huge influence on my music too (not just the soundtracks) so still like going to the cinema (old school). Love getting to go to new places. I’m big into coffee so always geeking about anything related.
What do you have planned for the remainder of 2019?
It’s all gearing towards releasing the album “COWBOYS & AFRICANS”. That’ll include as much press as possible and launch gig night(s) which will be insane! Also producing and sessioning for other artists too, love being involved in all original music, whatever the style.
Any secrets that you care to share?
Stocks – Buy low, Sell high.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
I’m always in East Coffee Company, (Glasgow). Best Coffee in the city and the friendliest baristas. A few doors down there’s a new (Roman style) Pizza place – Pizza al tagilo (by the slice). That’s a good day right there.
FB / Instagram / Twitter – @cafollamusic