How did you get your initial start in music?
- I suppose there have been many starts. My godmother gave me a broken acoustic guitar when I was about 6 that stayed in my wardrobe for years. I never really understood where that came from actually. My first real guitar came along for my 21st birthday – as a present from my parents, just in time for starting college in Birmingham. I learnt to play Ye Jacobites on the train to see Scotland play in the World Cup in Italy in 1990. I wrote my first ropey song in 91, although it was good enough to be invited to play in a covers band at University called Sexual Disneyland – my song was the only original composition, but it was a blast – there were 9 of us, so it was ramshackle fun. It was that experience that made me want to make music my life, so I moved to Manchester and eventually ended up releasing my first single, Sleepwalking, in the year 2000, and built up a lovely network of artists and friends.
What would be your ultimate aim in the industry?
- To be remembered as a true and committed artist that loved, and served, music all his life.
How long have you been writing your own music?
- I started writing poetry about the age of 11, the first was an anti-Thatcher poem rejecting nuclear weapons:
- Ronald Reagan makes a bomb/And Margaret Thatcher takes it/She doesn’t want it in her home/So finds somewhere to place it.
- It’s not rocket science but it was a start, although the songs only came along much later, driven by a more poetic sensibility (my political conscience has never been reflected as clearly as back then). I suppose it’s going on twenty five years of songwriting and I still feel like an apprentice, stumbling across beautiful jewels every now and then.
Who are your top three influences and why?
- This is a desert Island discs kind of question, but the truth is I have loved so much different music throughout my life, from Mozart’s Requiem to The Doors, Nick Cave, Bowie and Lou Reed, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Feist and Chirgilchin. But Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks entered my life at just the right time. I had just come back to Scotland after having a wild time for a few months in London, aged 18, and I was trying to settle into life, to find a place for myself. It would took 2 more years for that to happen, when I went to study at Fircroft College of Adult Education in Birmingham, but I drifted in those years, somewhat lost, and found spiritual replenishment in the songs on Astral Weeks. It was my companion, a magical, mystical document that still has the power to transport and transcend today. I love Leonard Cohen because of the poetic investigations he has into the nature of love and relationships. He was often depicted as gloomy by the media but his album of 1985, I’m Your Man, brought out his wit to the forefront and it was a turning point musically. I went to see him play a few years ago in Lisbon, it was like a secular Mass – the public gave him a 5 minute standing ovation before he even started the show. It was an amazing show too. I also love Patti Smith. I had the great luck to meet her briefly in 1999 when I was living in Manchester. She came to launch a book and gave a breathtaking concert in the Dancehouse Theatre, just her singing and reciting poems with Oliver Ray on the guitar. She really woke me up to the power of the spoken word, but I was also inspired by the way that she incorporated her love for her family and friends into her working life.
Is there anything you would like people to know about your current release?
- It was a very private, secretive experience writing the album. I was working on a big project, 3 albums crossing three countries, with a lot of logistics. I was cautious that the project might not go ahead; these big institutional things are unpredictable to say the least, so I set aside the title, The Shaman’s Call, and the songs, as a private, personal kind of work in progress, a diary even. My idea was to work and explore freely, and that some of the songs could be set aside for one of the three albums if the project went ahead. It was a way to protect myself and the songs really. It gradually became clear that the album was growing into something of its own, in a very organic way. It’s almost like it chose its own path – which is cool, it appeals to my lazy side.
Where are you based and what’s your local scene like? Any favourite venues?
- At the moment I am based in the North of Portugal, in a small town called Famalicão, near Porto. We have a couple of venues here, a cool underground rock club called CRU, which puts on small emerging bands, and a bigger venue, Casa Das Artes, a municipal theatre, that has an auditorium with a capacity for 500 people. I love it there, it’s a real community place, that serves the schools, and local theatre and dance groups, as well as putting on big international acts. I have seen Antony and The Johnsons there, The Dresden Dolls, Rufus Wainwright, John Cale, Peter Hook came with his band last year. So it’s a broad ranging place; I’ve played there many times, and I’ve always felt very welcome there.
Who else can you recommend from your local scene for people to have a listen to?
- The Legendary Tigerman is a great one man band, a guy I admire because he is constantly touring and working with dedication to his craft, Noiserv is another solo artist who has a kind of home-made aesthetic and builds up lovely little melodic loops, sometimes with acoustic guitar and a soft sweet voice – a bit like Andrew Bird. Another rockier project I think is great is Linda Martini. I saw them a couple of years ago at a festival called Paredes da Coura up here in the North – on the bill with Arcade Fire and The Pixies. They gave everything to the performance; you can clearly see that they are the real deal.
Give our readers a round up of where they can find you online and hear more of your music.