Sunday, 28 August 2011

Scottish Fiction Teaser

Second teaser for Monday night's show coming at y'all. Regular listeners should know I'm prone to throwing down some hip-hop beats just to prove I'm down with the kids. Back before Kanye West started sampling Daft Punk, he was pretty much the best rapper and producer on the scene. So on Monday night from 9pm on Pulse Community Radio expect to hear some Kanye West featuring another well known rapper, with a song featuring a sample from Shirley Bassey. Guessed yet? I'll leave you with this in the meantime:

Saturday, 27 August 2011

31 Songs (A Scottish Fiction Rip Off...) - Song 2

Continuing on my bold treck through songs which have left an imprint on my life in some shape or form.

Song 2

LCD Soundsystem - 'All My Friends'

No not 'Song 2' by Blur, but song number 2 in my list. Sometimes songs come along which challenge how you percieve music, and rip up your preconcieved notions of tastes and genres. Back in 2005, I had heard the song 'Daft Punk Is Playing At My House' and had nodded along to the track's beat. Here's my confession though, other than enjoying the track, it made little impact on me. In 2005 I was very much still listening to what I now term 'chart rock' and a small smattering of indie music. Now I'm not going to apologise for that, much of what I liked then I still enjoy today, even if it isn't the most creative or original music. But if I name drop bands like Hard-Fi, Kaiser Chiefs and Razorlight then you can see what my past self was up against.

My musical tastes have always flexed and changed. When I was younger, I was heavily into hip-hop and rap, something I'll touch on later in my 31 songs journey. Hitting my teens I embraced forty years of rock history, delving into the back catalouges of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, and so on. And in my late teens I had settled on the kind of bands listed above.

Released in May 2007, LCD Soundsystem's 'All My Friends' was a revelation. I first discovered the song through another favourite band of my at the time, Franz Ferdinand, who had recorded a cover. Listening to that intrigued me to investigate further. As mentioned at the start of this article, I knew who LCD Soundsystem were, but had never really delved into their music. You know that way when you hear a song for the first time, and are speechless? Listening to 'All My Friends' had that impact on me, much like I imagine people must have felt the first time they heard Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone'.

The song for me opened up a whole new world of music, not only existing in the present with bands such as Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem and Air, but also thirty years worth of electronica music including Kraftwerk and Daft Punk. I even revisited music I had heard and liked over the last ten years with a new vigour and appreciation, finding new things in bands such as Faithless, New Order and The Chemical Brothers. Music is like a network of roads. You can follow one particular style or genre from start to end all the way down that road, but all the way along there are cross roads, and splinter roads which take you on a completely different journey. It's part of the beauty of discovering music, and that's one of the reasons 'All My Friends' is a special song for me.

The song itself is seven minutes and thirty eight seconds of musical genius. Crafted to perfection by James Murphy, the song starts with a repeating piano note building in a crescendo. A cymbal crash, then another thirty seconds later. Quietly at first the snare drum sneaks in, and coaxes the rest of the drum kit to join in. This is as simple as the music gets throughout the rest of the song, proving that sometimes, less can be more. And those who accuse the song of being monotonous can quite frankly fuck off. The rhythm peaks and dips, ebbs and flows, and works in a way I never thought I could appreciate.

Lyrically the song strikes a chord with me so deeply that it's scary. As with all songs, the meaning can be interpreted differently by different people, it can be skewed and it can be argued over. Whilst all this is true, I think ultimately 'All My Friends' is a song about the transistion from youth to adulthood. Looking back on decisions you made when you were younger with the hindsight of experience. Some people have commented that it refers to the rock and roll lifestyle, which probably has some truth given Murphy's own lifestyle, but I do think it transcends that, and relates to anyone who has reached a turning point in their life, where they need to grow up.

Some lines in the song sound as if they've been picked out of my brain. "You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan, and the next five years trying to be with your friends again." At age twenty, I became a father. It took a lot of adjustment, a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of effort to try and 'get with the plan'. Throughout that time, and even still now, I would often try to cling back to the freedom I had, and try and 'be with my friends again'.

The other line which I particuarly love is, "It comes apart, the way it does in bad films. Except in parts, when the morals kick in." To me, this represents almost everyones transistion from one lifestyle to another. What you are trying to do, the new way of living, does come apart. You can't help but hark back to what you used to have, and quite selfishly at times almost wish you still had that. And there are times when that wishing gets taken too far. Maybe you go out and get irresponsibly drunk, maybe you have an argument. But the key part is the second line. Because ultimately, at least for me and most people, the morals do kick in. And that's what gets you through. Because you know what the right thing to do is.

I love how I can relate my own life story to this song. I've felt lost at the prospect of seeing my friends out enjoying themselves when I can't. I've felt jealous, bitter and resented the situation. And I've then subsequently felt guilty about the above. But despite everything next line is exactly how I feel, "I wouldn't trade one stupid decision, for another five years of life." Now let me clarify that I don't think having kids was a 'stupid decision', but the point I'm making is that despite it being something which changed my life completely, I wouldn't change it for 'another five years of [carefree] life'.

One of the real redeeming features about 'All My Friends' is despite it being writing by James Murphy, presumably about his thoughts and experiences on the subject, everyone can relate it to their own life. Because everyone will have gone through something similar. At some stage in everyone's life, they have the realisation that their life has changed, possibly their friends have changed, but something somewhere will let them relate to this song. Go on, listen to it. Really listen to it. Let me know how you get on.

Official Video Version

Full Length Album Version

Friday, 26 August 2011

Scottish Fiction Teaser

In an effort to start building up some sense of anticipation about my regular Monday night show, I decided on a whim it might be a good idea to post a few teasers of what's coming up on the show every week.

I'm well prepared this week, and I can guarantee a show packed full of Scottish talent. How I've gone nearly six months without playing a track from Louise Connell, a.k.a. Reverieme already is criminal on my part, but tune in on Monday night at 9pm onwards to Pulse Community Radio to hear some beautiful music from her. In the meantime enjoy this little number!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

We're Only Here For The Banter - Black International

Edinburgh band are six and half a dozen. However there's something about Black International which deserves your attention. The three piece outfit completed their line up in 2009, and since have been building towards big things. Post punk influenced pop, their music is much like Edinburgh itself, beautiful with smudges of grim and dirt. Debut album 'In Debt' was released in March of this year, and the band have some high placed admirers including BBC1's Ally McCrae, Vic Galloway. Rumour has it fellow blogger Ayetunes is a big fan too!

The band took some time out to talk to us. Here what they had to say:

Hello, how are you?

Very well, thank you!

Tell us a little bit about your music and influences.

Our music is economical, stripped down, and to the point. Our influences are fairly eclectic, but everything gets thrown in the blender and comes out sounding like… us, really! The aesthetic of the band is chiefly informed by left-field punk music, but if you look closely you can see lots of other things buried in there; 1960s pop, garage and soul, Latin jazz, rockabilly, but all viewed through our utilitarian prism... For example, Feed Me Rhetoric on the album owes quite a lot to Tropicália- the Bossa Nova beat, the fuzz guitar parts, the vocal stylings etcetera- but if I didn't mention that you’d probably never put two and two together. Most of our songs have elements drawn from somewhere you might not expect, and I often sense people struggling to get a handle on what the band sounds like. We can be quite slippery, which occasionally causes unease. We don't mind that though!

Scotland has a thriving music scene. How do you find being a part of that?

It’s an exciting time at the moment, there’s so much quality out there, it’s sometimes hard to keep up with! I think one of the strengths of the Scottish scene is the passion of the people who are writing about it, bloggers, podcasters and so forth; there’s so much genuine enthusiasm, and that’s healthy. We’re proud of the fact we’re a Scottish band, and we’re in some very good company. We’re also keen to get our music heard as far away as possible, so to that end you sometimes have to think of yourself as a British band or even a European one first, and Scottish second.

The album "In Debt" has been out for 5 months now, how have things changed since its release?

When we first put the album out it was probably safe to say that very few people had heard of us. I think our profile has been raised a bit since then, and in places other than Scotland too. I’m not saying we’re suddenly cool or a buzz band or anything, but compared to a few months back we’re getting a bit more recognition. We’ve done things we’d only dreamed of in the past, like doing a live session for Ally McCrae on Radio 1. Most bands in our position would chew their own feet off to get that sort of exposure, it’s humbling and encouraging at the same time. We’ve had some label interest recently, people are offering us gigs a lot more… it’s good to finally get some return for our hard work, even if it’s still on a very small scale.

You put the album out on your own label, how valuable do you think it is to have a DIY attitude towards music?

I think you’d be insane not to have that attitude. You could sit around for years waiting for a label to approach you, it’s even less likely now than it was five years ago. The tools for bands to release their own music are there, it’s fairly inexpensive, straightforward and simple to do. You hear bands occasionally moaning about not getting exposure or gigs, why not start a blog or put on some of your own gigs with like-minded people? It just takes a bit of creative thinking and some basic social skills. Nobody will ever want to work with a band in this day and age who can’t demonstrate a bit of nous when it comes to doing things for themselves.

Which Scottish artists would you recommend to the Scottish Fiction readers?

There are far too many to mention without things getting out of hand, so I'll pick 6 of our communal favourites to keep it sensible- United Fruit, Pensioner, Verse Metrics, Rollor, French Wives and Kid Canaveral. All excellent bands. There are easily two dozen more I could list just off the top of my head.

Some very nice things have been said about the album, what has been your own biggest accolade so far?

It’s difficult to pick one thing, the reaction has been largely positive, and we really appreciate anyone taking the time to listen to it and review it. Personally speaking, it’s always nice when someone comes up to you at a show and says how much they liked the record, I find that’s about as much of an accolade as you can hope for. Craig was wandering around T in the Park this year and someone asked him for his autograph and said they’d loved the album; something like that really makes your day as a musician, once the initial suspicion that they’re taking the piss subsides!

What could we expect to see/hear from your live shows?

Sweating. Swearing. Noise. Lollipops. Our shows are pretty intense most of the time.

And what does the rest of 2011 hold for the band?

At the moment we're making a video for a projected single release, and we're starting to sort out songs for our next batch of recording. We have enough ideas for another album, but whether or not we go down that route again remains to be seen. Apart from that we'll be gigging away as usual, we're off down south again in September for a mini tour which should be fun. There may be some extra-exciting news coming soon, but we remain tight-lipped about that for now! I’m such a tease.

Thanks for speaking with us, would you care to share a joke with us?

Ok, my memory for jokes is abysmal, so I had to ask a friend to supply one. I can only apologise for this…

My mate's shagging twins. I asked how he tells them apart. He said, "It's easy, Sally's got massive tits and Brian has a beard..."

You can check out more about Black International on their website, follow their banter on Twitter, and join in some social networking fun on Facebook.

Destruct_o_ by Black International

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Modern Classics - Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

The latest episode of Modern Classics aired on Pulse Community Radio last Monday instead of my ususal show. The latest album to feature on the show is the 2006 album 'Neon Bible' by the Arcade Fire. An album full of condemnation for aspects of modern society, organised religion and fear of war, it builds on their incredible debut 'Funeral' and firmly cemented the band's place as a force to be reckoned with.

Listen again to the show below:

Monday, 22 August 2011

We're Only Here For The Banter - The Celestians

The Celestians are a four piece consisting of Russell Ferguson, Keir Palmer, Craig Devoy and Keir Fletcher. Originating from Cumbernauld, they released their EP 'Specimens' in August of 2010 to many positive reviews. The band bill themselves as "everything that you haven't heard before." This could be a lot of things, so I asked Russell from the band a few questions to straighten things out.

Hello, how are you?

I’m not too bad, just back from my college induction. Doing an HNC in sound production because I’m in a band and think it’ll be mega clever and no one will have deployed this tactic before… It’ll be good fun.

Tell us a little bit about your music and influences.

My personal musical influences are Angels & Airwaves and White Lies, two very different sounding bands but like every other musician nowadays I would honestly say I try and not take too much influence from other bands, instead we try and let our own sound manifest over time.

Scotland has a thriving music scene. How do you find being a part of that?

I would honestly stick my neck out on the line and say it’s probably the best music scene to be apart of. It’s bustling and bursting with such amazing bands, I think I find at least one new band per week that I could listen to months!

Cumbernauld is often the butt of many jokes, having won the infamous 'Plook On A Plinth' award twice. What impact does the town itself have on your music?

Let’s face it, the majority of Cumbernauld is a bit of a dive, a part from the new ‘waves’ we had installed that lead you to our state of the art Town Centre… I hope you sense my severe sarcasm here but really it isn’t all bad. I find it has zero impact on our music scene! Cumbernauld is the same as Glasgow and other places, absolutely bursting with some really amazing bands.

Which Scottish artists would you recommend to the Scottish Fiction readers?

Well I’m in love with Make Sparks, such a top band that we’re lucky to be supporting in Stirling soon. MakethisRelate are another amazing band who played T in the Park, Download and the like this year thanks to Red Bulls Bedroom Jam. (I’m in their music video, but keep that hushed!)

You got some very positive reviews of your second EP 'Specimens', how have you progressed since then?

Our EP ‘Specimens’ done us an amazing job in getting us out there so it’s been really challenging in progressing. We’ve had a stop start year due to changes in band line ups but I think if you listened to our older songs to the songs we play live you can really hear a definite change, a rise in maturity and a very alternative/dark turn in sound.

What is your songwriting process like?

This can be summed up very quickly. I’ll write a song essentially 99% complete, lyrics and all, take it to the guys at practise (this takes about 2-3 practises we reckon!) and they mangle it into something truly spectacular, the songs I write would be pitiful if it wasn’t for the other members they really make it into something far grander. (apologies for my soppy moment there)

What could we expect to see/hear from your live shows?

Weird faces, sweat everywhere, two speccy b*stards and the occasional half decent tune. We’re very frenetic to watch and listen to, we try and make our live shows better than our recorded songs and we think that there isn’t much point in producing an amazing EP if you can’t perform it live! Overall, we aim our live shows to be an experience rather than just a gig, the aim being that we want people to leave saying ‘aye the band we came to see were good, but Jesus, that band with the sweaty idiot singing were incredible!’

And what does the rest of 2011 hold for the band?

I think our aim is really to just regroup; we’ve had a very unfortunate summer with an abundance of setbacks. Definitely keep an eye out for some form of release and dare I say it… a mini tour. Our mission is essentially to get our music to the most people we possibly can!

Thanks for speaking with us, would you care to share a joke with us?

It’s been a pleasure! A joke? As a band we’re renowned for destroying jokes and not being funny at all but I’ll give it a go…

‘Adele takes all the fat jokes about her with a pinch of salt... a side of fries and a steak’… I’ll let myself out.

You can (and should) check out more about The Celestians on their Facebook, follow them on Twitter and also hear their sounds on Bandcamp.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

31 Songs (A Scottish Fiction Rip Off...) - Song 1

Nick Hornby released a book in 2002 called '31 Songs', which was an autobiographical journey through the world of music, where Hornby selected songs which had a special meaning for him, and wrote about them and what made them so special for him. It's a book that I read and immediately loved the idea of. Music is made to be shared, it's one of the most fantastically intimate things that someone can do. Sharing a song, is sharing a little bit about ourselves, even if we don't realise it. Each week on the blog, I'll share a song and what that song means to me. Feel free to reciprocate.

Song 1

'Keeping Warm' by We Were Promised Jetpacks

During the summer of 2009 I discovered a band from Edinburgh called We Were Promised Jetpacks. I learned of them partly through a friend who had gone to see them at T In The Park because she knew their sound engineer, and partly through my dad who had bought their debut album 'These Four Walls'. I still find it amazing that my dad knew about them, and heard their music, before me, but I'm chalking that one up to the fact my influence on him and his taste in modern music has been very strong. 

Anyway, I borrowed my dad's copy of the album and it blew me away. A few days later I was in HMV and saw the album on vinyl. £12 and an hour later the LP was on constant rotation on my crappy record player. It remained there for the best part of the month of August. The autumn of 2009 was a busy one for me. My fiance at the time, now my wife, and I were busy planning our wedding in November. I had been given the charge of sorting out the music. I think my wife had allowed me this so as to stop me meddling in other affairs, which was fine with me. Much like Rob Fleming in 'High Fidelity' I agonised over the playlist, listening to countless and countless songs. 'Keeping Warm' would not end up on the list, however the song has a special meaning for me for another reason.
My now brother in law and his girlfriend were expecting their first child, the due date was the 20th November (give or take a day or two), which was a little over a week after our 11th November wedding. Sadly they had already miscarried a baby the year before, and there had been some scares along the way during this pregnancy. So needless to say when she was taken into hospital with contractions in September, there were a few worried thoughts. The baby was born 8 weeks early on 17th September. Having already had two children of my own, I felt strange, because I couldn't imagine what it must be like to have the uncertainty of a pre-mature baby. 

As previously mentioned the album 'These Four Walls' had been on heavy rotation during this time. Given what was happening with my nephew being kept in hospital, the words of 'Keeping Warm' really resonated. The first lines, "The chances of being born, are so slim, so keep warm, so keep warm" were such a lift and it was one of those other worldy moments where it felt like that song had been written purely for the situation my brother in law and his girlfriend found themselves in. I never shared the sentiments with them, although I remember discussing it with my wife, and about how, as a family we should do exactly as We Were Promised Jetpacks advised and "take some heart in being born". 

Thankfully my nephew was absolutely fine and much to the delight of all was the youngest guest at our wedding in November. And indeed over time has "learned to talk, and learn to walk" in his own time. We all have songs which invoke memories of a certain time, and of a certain person, and whilst 'Keeping Warm' does both of these, it sticks with me for more than just the fact it reminds me of my nephew. It stirs memories of my own children, and how I felt as a young father. The line, "making plans that you can't keep, that you've outgrown" makes me think just how different my own life has turned out from how I pictured it. But much like the song, which exudes positive feelings, the way things have turned out for me couldn't have been better. 

But even if we strip back all these thoughts and emotions, the song itself is an outstanding piece of music. Eight minutes and thirteen seconds long, it possess a thing which I love. A building intro. The guitars kicks in after thirty seconds. The guitar teasingly draws out a crescendo. A minute in we can hear the drumsticks tapping together, before crashing down on the cymbals a minute later. The bass saves its appreance until one minute thirty seconds providing an sturdy background to the delicateness which has proceeded. Together the parts of music become the sum of an almighty intro, drum beats and guitar riffs crashing off each other like waves off a cliff, each time producing more ocean spray than the last. Over half of song is dedicated to it's intro. For that We Were Promised Jetpacks should be applauded because despite the length, the intro is neither milked nor unnecessary.

I've discussed much of the lyrical content already, but the conviction with which lead singer Adam Thompson delivers them is another merit of this song. The album as a whole is full of this, and if you ever see the band live you can witness this first hand. I'm sure Thompson must have coughed up a lung some nights given the energy he puts into his singing.

Which brings me to the last great merit of 'Keeping Warm'. I've seen the band three times now, and two of those times, once at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, the other at the ABC, the band opened with 'Keeping Warm'. For me that is a statement. A statement of a band who right from the start provide a show full of energy, full of intent and full of passion. If 'Keeping Warm' fails to grab your attention then there's little hope.

Scottish Fiction Playlist - Monday 15th August

Back in the Pulse Community Radio studio on my tod again this week, but to stave off the loneliness I brought a big bag of tunes! You can listen to the full show again below, and hear some of the best of Scottish music. Also check out the full playlist below.

The theme for the second hour of the show was rather topical for a change. Based on the riots in England, I was looking for protest songs. With hundreds of possibilities, listen in again to hear what made the cut.

Scottish Fiction - 15th August 2011 by wilsonnj

The Who - Baba O'Riley
The Beatles - Revolution 1
Bwani Junction - Middle Meadow
Trapped In Kansas - Towerblock
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - The Death Of You And Me
Aerials Up - All Your Mothers Daughters
The Alexander Brothers - The Jeely Piece Song
Take A Worm For A Walk Week - These Luscious Things
Architecture In Helsinki - Do The Whirlwind
Black International - Know You Exist
Arctic Monkeys - The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
The Clash - Guns Of Brixton
Green Day - American Idiot
Bob Dylan - The Times They Are A-Changin'
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Redemption Song
Woody Guthrie - This Land Is Your Land
Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
Gil Scott-Heron - The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Public Enemy - Fight The Power
Bright Eyes - When The President Talks To God
U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday
Sex Pistols - Anarchy In The UK
Special A.K.A. - Free Nelson Mandela
The Jam - Going Underground
Plastic Ono Band - Give Peace A Chance

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

We're Only Here For The Banter - RM Hubbert

RM Hubbert has a long and colourful career in music. Inspired by punk at an early age for the most part of the '90's and early 2000's he played in the band El Hombre Trajeado and in 2010, as a way of dealing with depression and the loss of his parents, RM Hubbert (or Hubby as we shall affectionately call him) released his debut solo album, First And Last.

Hubby was kind enough to join me in the Pulse Community Radio studio and he talked openly and honestly about his music and influences. You can listen to the full interview and show, hearing some great live tracks as well as Hubby's selection of music at the bottom, but for those who like to read, here you go.

Hello, how are you?

Very well thanks.

Can you tell us a wee bit about yourself, for those who haven't heard your music?

Yeah, I'm going to go way back to the mid '70's, I actually grew up in Darnley and lived there 'till I was about 8. I've been a musician for a long time, and started doing this solo guitar thing about 5/6 years ago, to be honest mostly as a way to deal with depression and things like that. So yeah, I made a record called 'First And Last' which chronicalled a year in my life kinda dealing with my parents death and all the stuff around that, but also good stuff, like my dog.

I was in a band called El Hombre Trajeado for a long time and a lot of bands before that. But when I started to write this stuff it was so personal that I kind of felt uncomfortable getting other people involved. So I learned how to play the acoustic guitar properly and did it myself.

You've got a DIY ethos towards your music, would you care to explain this?

It particularly strong in Scotland, particularly Glasgow, and it has been for a long time. Scottish musicians realised a long time ago that we don't really need London and we don't really need the established music industry and established promoters because we self sufficient enough to go and do this stuff ourselves and there's enough people interested in supporting it that it is a very self sufficient scene and it's really exciting. The challenge isn't to make as much money as you can, it's do put on the best nights and the most interesting nights, and to make the most interesting records.

Just at the weekend there I was at the first Scottish independent record fair through in Edinburgh. And it was absolutely brilliant, a whole bunch of Scottish labels all together in the same room bigging each other up. It was a brilliant atmosphere and a lot of people there. A lot of people just going and buying records of bands they've never heard of because it might be interesting and that's a good thing.

I understand that vinyl is your format of choice.

Yeah I came back a lot poorer. Well financially poor, richer in spirit.

Your own record label, Chemical Underground, is packed full of Scottish talent. How does it feel to be on the label?

I really love it. I've actually known the guys who run it before the label existed, 15/16 years anyway. They were the only label I was really interested in working with. I hadn't gone or spoken to anyone, I released 'First And Last' myself initially, and I was quite happy doing that. But Chemical were the only label I was really exicited about working with because I know them and trust them. And I know that even though they are quite a big label now, they still run it like a DIY enterprise, still about interesting music and treating people fairly. So it's really cool.

How is 2011 shaping up for you? What can we still expect from you in the second part of the year?

Well I've just finished the new record, which is a big collaborative record I've been making for the past couple of years. I had this idea that it would be easier to reconnect with old friends if I did it by writing music with them. So I got in touch with a load of people who I've been friendly with over the years but hadn't necessarily done music with or hadn't done music with in a long time. Took two years to make, so that's it finished now. Now I have a wee rest and then I'll be going back out on tour at the end of the year, probably UK and Europe again.

Looking forward to that. You've been touring a wee bit this year, and supported some big acts.

I did Ireland, Europe, Scandanavia and Russia with Mogwai. Five weeks with them. Did a couple of shows with Godspeed You Black Emporer. I just go out and I play as often as I can. Playing live is a kind of weird therapy for me, it makes me feel a lot better about things, so I do it as often as I can. And it's really amazing when I get the opportunity to go and play with bands that I've loved for years and go and travel with them. Very cool thing.

Your 'Play For Food' is a brilliant idea, would you care to explain the idea behind it?

It's weird, it's quite a popular thing in America, house gigs in general are big in America. It actually came from this one show years ago, before I started doing the acoustic thing, I did a show where I think I ended up getting paid about £8, it was terrible, quite a big venue and there was only about 20 people there. And on the way home I was kind of lamenting that I could either get a taxi or get something to eat. And I kinda figured that those same 20 people in a living room would have been an amazing gig, and if I could throw in some food as well it would be really cool. So I had this idea where I will play for food, where people can agree to make dinner for themselves and some of their friends, I'll come along and have dinner and get to know each other, then I'll do a proper concert, not like your mate sitting in the corner playing guitar, and actual show. And it's been really popular, I've met some amazing people through it.

Have you had many people doing this and discovering your music through it?

Yeah absolutely. It's a very intense experience doing it. And I talk a lot about the reasons behind the songs, and you end up being quite close.

How do you feel not having lyrics restricts your ability to translate your meaning in a song, or do you find it makes it easier?

I find it much easier. These pieces of music have very specific meanings to me and I've always really loved the the ability that instrumental music has for people to imprint on it, their own feelings about it. When I was writing these songs in particular, I tried to write words, but they weren't good enough to be honest, they sounded trite. I thought it was better dealt with just with the music. Part of the reason I started writing music was because I was so uncomfortable talking about these things and I need som kind of outlet. When I started adding words it didn't convey what I was trying to.

What I find with the songs off 'First And Last' when I go and talk about them now, their meaning has changed for me because I've lived through the last two years, whereas if they were vocal led songs I wouldn't have been able to change that meaning, it would kinda be stuck where it is. And I like that quality in a song.

You've already mentioned the new record will be featuring musical friends, who is featured? 

We've got Aidan Moffat, Luke Sutherland, Emma Pollock, Alasdair Roberts a very good folk singer. A load of multi instrumentalists, there's a lot of different instrumentation, there's some singing, we've got some Chinese harps, piano's, drums and things like that. It's a little bit different from 'First And Last'.

What influences have you got as a musician?

To be honest I don't actually listen to a lot of acoustic music. My biggest fear is becoming that 30-something guy with the guitar. Which is exactly what I am! It's not the type of music I really listen to a lot. I started playing the acoustic guitar and started learning flamenco as I thought it would be something to take my mind of things at the time. It's kind of weird to end up being that guy!

Most of the music I listen to, I mostly listen to new Scottish music to be honest, 'cause I spend so much time going round a seeing bands playing. There's so much good music just now. The music I grew up with was a lot of '80's American punk music, Black Flag, Minutemen, Dead Kennedys and Sonic Youth. I still absolutely love that music. When I play I think I'm closer to that than I am to an acoustic guitarist.

What Scottish artists would you recommend?

Let's see... FOUND are amazing, I Build Collapsible Mountains, Esperi, Yahweh. Phantom Band as well. I'm just going through Chemical Underground's roster! But that's one of the reasons I was happy to join them because I love all the bands that are on the roster.

How does it feel as a musician to be a part of the Scottish music scence?

It's really exciting. I started playing shows in 1991, it's been a while. And I've kind of seen the DIY scene come and go. And I was very active in the '90's and kinda of ducked out in the 2000's, didn't really do anything for a couple of years. I came back and just found a whole new generation of people who were more imaginative than we were, more adventurous, putting on these amazing events and putting out these great records. And I feel really lucky and humble to be invited to be a part of that.

Do you feel that maybe the advent of the internet has made things a bit easier?

In some ways yeah. You do tend to get a little bit of information overload. It is a lot easier to put yourself out there, but the other side is it's a lot harder to get anyone to listen to it. When I started out we would put out 7" singles, 400 of them, and people would buy it just because it was a new 7" single.

When I first released 'First And Last' I let people set their price for the record, for the CD version and the download version. Adn it actually worked very well. When you treat people like adults, most of the time they'll act like adults, and they'll want to support you and they'll give you money. I would encourage bands to do it.

I do think it slightly de-values music to give it away for free. I think you should give people the opportunity to reward you financially, because it cost money to make it.

There is certainly a certain worth in music, and to pay the person involved does seem right. The music industry hasn't always treated people like adults.

It's getting worse! I've been really into this thing called The Creative Commons, which is an idea of amending copyright, default to the idea of letting people doing anything, but adding certain restrictions, like 'you're allowed to share this with all your friends, but you're not allowed to sell it'. And I think that's been a really interesting development as well. It encourages people to build on other peoples work and to collaborate.

There's a favourite quote of mine by a guy called Tim O'Reilly, the jist of it is basically, "90% of artists in the world their problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity'.

Thanks very much for talking to Scottish Fiction.

You can check out RM Hubbert's website here and you can listen to the full show, including live music, below:

Scottish Fiction - 8th August 2011 by wilsonnj

Monday, 15 August 2011

...And Now For Something Completely Different - 15th August

This week's '...And Now For Something Completely Different' song was originally a poem about the Mitchell Hill Road tower block flats in Castlemilk, which stood until 2005. The Jeely Piece Song has become a famous Scottish traditional song and is a hugely entertaining wee piece (ooh that's bad).

Have a listen to it yourself and see the lyrics below:

I'm a skyscraper wean; I live on the nineteenth flair,
But I'm no' gaun oot tae play ony mair,
'Cause since we moved tae Castlemilk, I'm wastin' away
'Cause I'm getting' wan meal less every day:

Oh ye cannae fling pieces oot a twenty story flat,
Seven hundred hungry weans will testify to that.
If it's butter, cheese or jeely, if the breid is plain or pan,
The odds against it reaching earth are ninety-nine tae wan. 
On the first day ma maw flung oot a daud o' Hovis broon;
It came skytin' oot the windae and went up insteid o' doon.
Noo every twenty-seven hours it comes back intae sight
'Cause ma piece went intae orbit and became a satellite.

On the second day ma maw flung me a piece oot wance again.
It went and hut the pilot in a fast low-flying plane.
He scraped it aff his goggles, shouting through the intercom,
"The Clydeside Reds huv goat me wi' a breid-an-jeely bomb."

On the third day ma maw thought she would try another throw.
The Salvation Army band was staunin' doon below.
"Onward Christian Soldiers" was the piece they should've played
But the oompahman was playing a piece an' marmalade.

We've wrote away to Oxfam to try an' get some aid,
An a' the weans in Castlemilk have formed a 'piece-brigade'.
We're gonnae march to George's Square demanding civil rights
Like nae mair hooses ower piece-flinging height.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Scottish Fiction Playlist - Monday 8th August

Another Monday night Scottish Fiction show on Pulse Community Radio and another guest joining me in the studio! It was my absolute pleasure to welcome RM Hubbert into the studio for a chat about his music. Hubby also took over the musical selection for the first hour, and also played some songs live in the studio.

The tracks Hubby chose were:

Sparklehorse - Someday I Will Treat You Good
Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - (If You) Keep Me In Your Heart
Mogwai - Mexican Grand Prix
Yahweh - Make Me Stop
Minutemen - History Lesson Part II

And the songs that Hubby played live were:

For Maria
Switches Part II
For Joe

You can hear the whole show again at the bottom of the page, and you should because RM Hubbert is both a fantastically open person, speaking with great interest about his music, influences, and Scottish music in general, and a wonderful musician.

The playlist for the second hour of the show was:

Matt The Hoople - All The Young Dudes
Roddy Woomble - Make Something Out Of What It's Worth
The Simpsons - See My Vest
The Drums - Let's Go Surfing
Evil Hand - Returned In Time
Foxgang - White Picket Fence
Golden Grrrls - Beaches
Grizzly Bear - Cheerleader
Jesus H. Foxx - Elegy For The Good Times
Cancel The Astronauts - Funny For A Girl
Shambles Miller - Things That Make Me Angry
Dananananaykroyd - Black Wax

Scottish Fiction - 8th August 2011 by scottishfiction

Monday, 8 August 2011

...And Now For Something Completely Different - 8th August

This picture makes me smile. This week's '...And Now For Something Completely Different' makes me smile too, and if smiling is to be the basis of judging the success of things, then this week's track is a successful fella! I've dabbled in cartoon songs before but The Simpsons are oft overlooked for the musical masterpieces that graced it's early seasons.

This week's choice, if you haven't guessed from the picture yet was the song 'See My Vest', taken from episode 20, season 6 'Two Dozen And One Greyhounds', where Mr Burns aims to complete his exotic wardrobe with the addition of a greyhound fur tuxedo.


Saturday, 6 August 2011

We're Only Here For The Banter - Lou Hickey

Lou Hickey is a singer-songwriter from Neilston, just outside Glasgow. Her refreshing brand of pop is steeped in vintage feel good vibes, and she has a new E.P., 'Minutes, Hours, Days' which came out 4th July. She has two self released EP already under her belt, a wealth of experience supporting artists such as Martha Reeves and Suzanne Vega. And of course Lou was one half of the Codiene Velvet Club along with Fratelli's frontman Jon Fratelli. With a debut album looming large on the horizon, Lou was kind enough to chat to Scottish Fiction.

Hello. How are you?

Very well thank you.

Tell us a little bit about your influences?

When I was at uni, I was a jazz vocalist, and even at home we always had on things like Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and that kind of stuff. And through my brothers and sisters I have a huge love of The Cure and Joy Division. I kinda just listen to a mix of everything, and even though I love of older music I still have to listen to what's out there today, 'cause that's your market. And I'm lucky just now that people are looking to the past for music, but it's always good to keep an eye on what's happening just now.

A big melting pot of influences then! It's August, and that means Edinburgh Festival. You've got a lot going on, do you want to tell us a wee bit about it?

Well I've got my own residency as part of the official fringe, which I didn't realise it was actually part of the 'official' fringe, I thought it was just a low key gig! But it's a gorgeous venue in Edinburgh called the Ghillie Dhu, it's like an old converted church and the top room is a ballroom, and we've got that every Sunday night. It's kind of a Jools Holland vibe, where me and the band will be playing, but I'll also be compering, I'll be introducing a variety of different acts, and we're really lucky to have some great bands such as Sonny Marvello, Pearl And The Puppets, and Jonathan Carr. We've got a real mix and we want to show the tourists that as much as there are great indie bands come out of Scotland, there's so many other things going on that maybe don't get noticed as much.

What Scottish artist(s) would you recommend?

There's a songwriter I've been working with called Jonathan Carr, he's kinda like a Scottish John Legend. He plays the piano and he's got that kinda jazz, Michael Buble thing but he's really quite r'n'b and pop at the same time. I like what he's doing and I hope he gets the right producers and gets the chance to take that a wee bit further. And I'm also a huge fan of Sonny Marvello, we share the same drummer and they're a band from Glasgow who I've gone to see for years. They are an amazing live act.

Obviously you're building up to the album, how's things going in that regard?

It's finished, it's absolutely finished. I recorded most of it up at a studio in the West End called Gloworm, which belongs to a friend. I actually studied music at Strathclyde University, but most people don't believe I'm actually qualified as a sound engineer through my degree, but I'm lazy with it now, I like other people to do it for me. So my friend from uni has this studio, we recorded everything there, but it was over the space of three years, him and I just mixed and produced the album ourselves, and then we've mastered it.

Do you think there will be a sense of completion once it's released?

At the time I think it was amazing just to get to the final stage and get it completed. And now it's mastered it sounds even bigger, so I celebrated that day by ordering a new pair of Vivian Westwood high heels! But now it's the boring side, it's the business side and the organisation. But it's also the case that you don't want to just put something out there, I'd like to build up to it and put a wee bit of advertising behind it.

Your EP 'Minutes, Hours, Days' came out early July, tell us a little about that?

Yeah it was a case of letting my fans know I'm still here, but also to show how my sound has changed. This is a lot more pop than my older stuff. When I first started out I was a lot more blues and it was very melancholy, for the most part I played piano and had someone playing cello. Now with the addition of the band, it's let me recreated the '50's rock and roll pop that I wanted to. I just wanted to make a record that people would dance to.

How does your latest work compare with your earlier releases 'New Shoes' and 'Do It Yourself'?

I've actually taken my first EP offline, because I can't bear listening to it now! It's strange some people still come to gigs and have got it. It's good, but I was like 19, 20 when I wrote some of those songs, and I never really thought people would be listening to them. But your tastes they change and the grow, and I've kinda just decided to make the music I want, which is pop music.

You were one half of Codine Velvet Club, along with Jon Fratelli, how was that experience for you?

It was amazing opportunity, and I think that going into the music industry then you need to realise that every achievement is a bonus, and celebrate the small things, because it can be taken away so easily. But I got to do some amazing things, I got to tour America, play South By South West, got to tour the UK. It was also nice to make an album and not be the person in charge and just sit back and watch and that was an amazing learning experience. Obviously Jon had the pressure, but I had the chance to just be relaxed and take in everything that was going on. And it's good when you've got someone else to work with you can run ideas by.

And how does it feel to be back solo again compared with working with someone like that?

It's more stressful in a way, but I'm thankful for it because there were decision made with Codeine Velvet Club that I wasn't a part of which is frustrating whenI'd always been completely in control.

Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us, all the best!

You can check out more about Lou Hickey and her music on her website. Check out her video for 'Minutes, Hours, Days' below, and also listen to the full interview as well as a live version of her song 'You!' below.

Scottish Fiction - 1st August 2011 by wilsonnj

Scottish Fiction Playlist - Monday 1st August

It's crazy to think I started at Pulse Community Radio six months ago. I like to think my radio presenting skills have improved somewhat since then. Last Monday's show was a great one, down to the fact that fellow Neilstoner, and pop practitioner Lou Hickey joined me in the studio. Lou chatted about her music, her experiences in Codeine Velvet Club, and her new E.P. 'Minutes, Hours, Days' and you can hear/read the full thing here.

Lou also showed me up by picking an astute selection of songs to play over the course of the first hour of the show. Her choices were:

Del Shannon - Runaway
Buddy Holly - Peggy Sue
Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset
Martha Reeves And The Vandellas - Heat Wave
The Clash - Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

I also treated listeners to songs from Lou's new E.P., but not to be outdone, Lou performed a live acoustic version of 'You!'.

The rest of the show was packed full of great music. You can listen again to the full show at the bottom, and here is the playlist in full.

BMX Bandits - I Could Fall In Love
So Many Animal Calls - In Winter, We Should Have Headed For Shelter
The Moldy Peaches - Anyone Else But You
Fiction Faction - A Lot Can Happen On A Summers Day
Wyclef Jean feat. The Rock - It Doesn't Matter
Wrongnote - Devil Give Misdirection
Wilco - Theologians
Vivian Girls - I Heard You Say
We Were Promised Jetpacks - Act On Impulse
Washington Irving - Abbey Gallop
The Unwinding Hours - There Are Worse Things Than Being Alone
Owen Pallet - Hard To Explain
Withered Hand - Religious Songs

Monday, 1 August 2011

...And Now For Something Completely Different - 1st August

"You're 'bout to smell, what The Rock is cooking!"

Yeah it might be grown men in spandex rolling around "fighting" but there's a certain element of coolness about Wrestling, and by certain I mean a microscopic smidgen. However, this week's '...And Now For Something Completely Different' was a long forgotten track by Wyclef Jean before he didn't become president of Haiti, featuring WWF stalwart The Rock with a track called 'It Doesn't Matter'.

Check it out: