This Friday, the 25th May, young Scottish band Hò-rò’s are releasing their second album, HEX. The Mumble managed to catch a wee blether with the band’s ebbulient guitarist…
Hello Sean, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking? Sean: Hello! I was born in Inverness, and soon after moved to northern ireland where my da is from in county down. And im now back in Inverness where it all began.
When did you first realise you were musical? Sean: I think my first memory of being musical was when I was visiting my granny in Mallaig and my uncles had all sorts of instruments lying around. So I started playing with a keyboard that was there. One of my uncles suggested that I stick to all the black notes on the keyboard because it will sound good no matter what you play. funnily enough, I think ive used that mentality throughout my music career.
What instruments do you play? Sean: I Play guitar Piano and drums .
What for you makes a good song? Sean: A good song for me is one that can grabs your attention right away. Whether thats with a catchy chorus, Or an infectious instrumental hook. Also, if a song makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and you’re not sure why? Id say thats an indication that its a good song.
You’ve spent time making music in LA, can you tell us about it? Sean: LA was incredible. I was lucky enough to be invited into various studios to soak up as much production knowledge as possible. I always wanted to go over there and explore americas vast music industry. I ended up working with a Pop Duo named Alabama Capital. We worked together on just about everything you could think of. Songwriting, Production, Performance. It was good to be a part of their journey and to watch them grow as artists.
What does Sean Cousins like to do when he’s not being musical? Sean: My friends often tell me I need to find a hobby! At the moment music takes up all of my time but I wuldn’t have it any other way. Maybe ill eventually get into gardening or train spotting or something.
You are the founding member & guitarist of Hò-rò, can you first tell us what the name means? Sean: Hò-rò is actually a vocable that has traditionally been used in Gaelic song for hundreds of years. So it doesn’t actually have a meaning as such. Its used to embellish the likes of Waulking songs and Puirt-a-Beul . I suppose its just the same as ad lib that is used in songs written in English such as “OOH’S AH’S and YEAH’s”
And the band’s style of music? Sean: For me, the bands style of music definitely falls under the Trad/ Celtic Realm. But within that there are elements of just about every genre you can think of. Were constantly experimenting with new sounds and ideas. It keeps things exciting for us and hopefully the listeners too.
Your first album, released in 2016, was extremely successful & highly praised. It seemed to hit a chord with many people, can you explain why? Sean: Our first album was released after quite a long time of us playing live and touring. So I think there was definitely a bit of anticipation for an album! I think this album in particular struck a chord with a lot of people is because it was very raw and to the point. We wanted it to showcase the talents of each individual band member. But more importantly we wanted the album to reflect what we sound like live. There were elements of everyones playing on the album and of course we threw in a couple of well respected traditional songs too. This seemed to go down well and we are very happy with the outcome.
The band are releasing their next album, HEX, on the 25th May. This time out you’ve expanded into a six piece, who else is in the band & what do they play? Sean: Yes , as I said earlier we are always experimenting with new sounds and vibes. So we expanded our instrumental lineup. We now have DC Macmillan Playing Drums and Paul Martin on the Keys. Both these guys are incredibly talented and they gelled in with us instantly. They bring a whole new element to our sound and we really enjoy the vibe on stage when playing with them .
Can you tell us about the recording of HEX? Sean: We recorded the album over on the Isle of Lewis. It was amazing to get away and have a clear mind to work on the album. It was very relaxed and we had a lot of freedom to experiment with different recording techniques and different arrangement ideas that would pop into our heads.
How did you guys choose the songs & how much input did you have at this juncture? Sean: The song choices on the album were a collective decision. We would each go away and research traditional songs and try and find the right ones for us. I do love this part of an album process. This is where I can really dive into my passion for producing. Constructing a song from the foundations all the way to the finished product. Its a great feeling.
Which song off the album resonates with you the most? Sean: I guess the song that resonates with me the most Ravens Wing a song written by Barry Kerr. Its such a beautifully well written, poetic song about the struggles of alcoholism. Its one of those songs that so many people can relate to. Its a different approach. Lots of songs are about love and relationships. But to be able to shine a light on a real issue that so many people struggle with daily is pretty special.
What does the rest of 2018 hold in store for Hò-rò? Sean: We have been working hard on the release of HEX and we will be touring the album throughout the UK and Ireland starting in June which we are very excited for. After that we will be diving head first into the festivals season playing some great festivals throughout Europe.
Hò-rò will be taking the new album on tour in June and July this year;
Drygate Brewery, Glasgow 15th June Killin music Festival 16th June The Think Tank, Newcastle 19th June Surya, London 20th June Portland Arms, Cambridge 21st June Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast 23rd June Whelans, Dublin 24th June Railway Social Club, Fort William 6th July Dervaig Village Hall, Isle of Mull 7th July Tiree Music Festival 13th July
The Mumble have just had the honour of having a wee blether with one of America’s finest young guitarists, who just happens to be in Liverpool…
Hello Nolan, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking? Nolan: I’m from Tacoma, Washington, and I currently live in Liverpool.
Where, how & when did the Liverpool connection come about? Nolan: The idea of going to Liverpool came from one of my teachers in high school. We were chatting about after graduation and he suggested checking it out and I thought why not. Was ready to see something new. I came over here September 2017, and will be here for at least another year.
So what do you think of Liverpool, & the English way of life? Nolan: Liverpool is great, I think it’s like perfect size for a city. It’s compact and I can walk everywhere, but there’s always something to do. It’s also just really good place for creativity and being a musician I think, there are so many venues that host live music, and I think the general attitude is very supportive of artists. I don’t think the English way of life is that different from back home, I definitely drink a lot more tea now though. Beans on toast as well haha. Everyone has been so nice though and I’ve always felt very welcomed in the U.K. It’s a cool place.
When did you first realise you were musical? Nolan: I started playing music when I was 8 years old, simply because I needed something to do and then realized I actually really liked it. I think I loved the idea of being able to see myself progress in something without having competition, which was not the case when I played sports before that.
Your guitar skills are rather phenomenal at times – when did you start playing & how have you been taught? Nolan: Ah thank you. Started playing guitar when I was 8, I took lessons and I think my relationship with my guitar teacher was a big factor in encouraging me to stick with it.
Who are your influences as a guitarist? Nolan: I’d say my biggest influence is Jimi Hendrix , not only as a guitarist but at as a performer. I feel like he sort of transcends guitar playing when I watch live clips, it’s just raw emotion. The most important thing for me as a player is that communication of emotion, notes are an afterthought really. I’m also a big fan of Nile Rodgers and the funky rhythm stuff he does, and some jazz players on occasion.
You are stranded on a desert island with a solar powered CD player and three albums – what will they be? Nolan: Hmmmm.. probably something by Kendrick Lamar , either GKMC or TPAB. Then Fear Fun by Father John Misty, and maybe something from Tame Impala. That’s a tough one haha.
What music projects have you been up to in Liverpool? Nolan: I have been involved in quite a lot, but recently I’ve cut down to focus more on my own project. At the moment, I have my solo stuff, then I have a side solo project called PONSKI, which is something I like to do to stay creative. I’m also involved in a project called Aztex, where I play guitar and keys and that’s been really fun, something a bit different than I would normally do. I also play in this sort of jazz fusion band called Tucan which is cool. I do the occasional random collaboration as well, anything that keeps me challenged and creative I think is great.
So you’re heading back to Seattle soon for a few months, whats all that about? Nolan: Just going to go home and see my family and friends. I’ll do some gigs, and probably do a lot of writing. Also do some collaborating and a bit of producing for some friends.
So can we hear some of your music? Nolan: Here’s a link to my most recent single:
Nice tune! So, how about your songs, do they come easy, are they well-crafted? Nolan: I try and write something everyday when I have the time, and I think songwriting is just like anything else. You gotta spend the time doing loads of it and then hopefully you’ll get a good song out of it eventually.
Can you describe your songwriting process? Nolan: Songwriting process varies all the time. Most of the time I like to write and produce at the same time, helps me get into the feel of where the track should go, plus you have a solid demo by the end. Other times I just like sitting down at the guitar and piano and write like that, less distractions that way.
How do you know when you have written a good song? Nolan: I can tell when I’ve written a good song, if I have the desire to finish it or go back to it and continue working after the initial writing session.
Well, its been nice chatting to you Nolan! What are your plans when you get back to Britain later in the year? Nolan: Just finish up my last year of university , hopefully do lots of gigs, write lots of tunes, and see what happens.
The last time I heard Duncan Chisholm play was in Perth Concert Hall, when he supported the exquisite voice of Julie Fowlis. This time round he took the limelight and offered to a rapt Perth audience a selection of familiar compositions as well as a few from his new album “Sandwood”, named after the isolated beach in north-west Sutherland. Chisholm has spent the past few years visiting there and drawing inspiration for his new project. If you are lucky to have been to Sandwood Bay you’ll instantly understand the music. It’s magical.
Chisholm’s work is intensely evocative of land and sea, and he captures in sound the Celtic idea of “thin places’ – places in the landscape that are closer to the spiritual than others, in pieces like the opening “The Light of Tuscany.” Chisholm’s fiddle soared above a rolling soundscape of piano and uilleann pipes. The music is mesmeric, almost numinous, but always with a directness that belies Chisholm’s sheer brilliance with the bow. The second composition, “Haze across the sun,” is the musical distillation of a Highland Summer morning where “everything” as Chisholm explained in his lilting highland accent, “is bursting with life.” The piece explodes with the combined talents of Chisholm’s “Gathering”: Jariath Henderson on pipes and whistles, Donald Shaw on piano, Innes Watson on guitar, Su-a Lee on cello, Donald Hay on drums and Perthshire’s very own Patsy Reid on violin. The driving traditional rhythms of this piece build to a climactic shout of sheer energy and joyfulness.
“A Precious Place” brings the tempo to waltz-time. The simple refrain sees Chisholm and Hay (who wrote the piece) lyrical, wistful, and utterly without sentimentalism. But this is just a pause for breath before the Gathering is called again for the jubilant “Dizzy Blue’. Chisholm draws his inspiration from Scots and Irish poets, and the title of this piece is from “Summer Farm” by Norman MacCaig, – “A swallow falls and, flickering through/The barn, dives up again into the dizzy blue.” You could be just there, listening to this. “Running the Cross”, “An Ribhinn Donn” and “The Farley Bridge” saw Chisholm returning to the “Strathglass Trilogy” of albums – “Affric”, “Canaich” and “Farrar”. Again, the evocation of place and the keen feel for the essence of a moment are Chisholm’s recurring idées fixes. “An Ribhinn Donn” is particularly beautiful – a lament for the lost beauty of a brown-haired girl.
It is always a thrill to be exposed to artists new to the ear. Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill opened the evening with wickedly skilful Irish fiddle music. The two play together with the speed and dexterity of the Irish Rugby Team. It was a real joy to listen to new tunes and watch two wonderful performers who held a packed concert hall hanging on each note, as they communicate their own sheer enjoyment through the music. The Gathering were joined on stage by Hayes and Cahill for a finale, introduced simply as a “tune from Donegal”, that was utterly gorgeous and will be one I’ll be searching for just to remember how beautifully a very entertaining evening was rounded out. I left the concert not only wanting to revisit all of Duncan Chisholm’s past work, but to comb again the beach at Sandwood.
Across Scotland this Summer, the words PEACE, LOVE, & MUSTARD will be utter’d over a million times. About 100,000 of these will come from the bouncy lips of Mr David John Blair, the iconic Dijancer of the equally iconic Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5. The Mumble managed to catch a wee blether with the laddie, & thoroughly enjoy’d the experience…
So David, nice to meet ya, can you tell us where you’re from and where you’re at, geographically speaking?
Yo D! I’m (made) from the recycled atoms of collapsing stars. At One with the Cosmos. Geographically on this third rock from the Sun; a wee village called Chryston, North Lanarkshire, Alba.
What’s the best photo of baby David you possess, and can we see it?
I’ll need to ask me maw for that… take yer pick!
We’ll use both. So, as far as the Scottish cool list goes you’re pretty near the top. Have you always been cool or were you a late developer?
Ha! Cheers bro 😉 I find the concept of being “cool” a weird one. I’m just doing my thing and trying to help folk along the way and enjoy myself as well. Spreading a wee bit of peace, love and Mustard wherever I go. I like using the word ‘cool’ but I’ve always had an outsiders non-conformist attitude and a Timothy Leary approach to life i.e. THINK FOR YOURSELF. QUESTION AUTHORITY. I love the 60s and am heavily influenced and inspired by that decade through The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground; The Monkees, blah, blah, blah and the whole hippy and flower power counter-cultrure movement spearheaded by legends like Robert Anton Wilson, Terence McKenna, Alan Watts et al. As one of my hero’s, John Lennon, once said, “If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.” In 2015 I was in Perú to do an ayahuasca ceremony with Quechuan shamans in the Sacred Valley outside Cusco in the foothills of the Andes. When I met Pachamama during that She (“God” is obviously a She) showed me my past lives so in terms of development I think I’ve been kicking about as some form of energy neither creating or destroying but changing form for a good 13 billion years ha! Or, I could be wrong about that and it was just a phenomenal trip! Guess you’d need to try it yourself for experiential evidence to corroborate or refute my “story”. I have known Colonel John Thomas McMustard (Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 frontman) since we were 5 (he was just John back then) from starting Primary 1 together so maybe we’ve been hatching plans for the Dijonverse since then. Maybe. I’m sworn to secrecy on that one until we both synchronously touch the ancient megalithic standing stones outside Dijon in France and then we can reveal The Truth!
Cool! So what were your favorite confectionary as a kid (crisps, sweets, chocolates)? Crisps; two bobbers e.g. Tangy Toms, Dinobites, Space Raiders. Sweets;loved flumps! Chocolates;Topics and Ripples.
Tasty. So David, where the fuck did you learn to dance like that?
Under 18’s raves, over 18’s raves, watching Keith Flint and Leeroy Thornhill from the Prodigy and umpteen B-Boys and B-Girls and Alan Partridge dancing to Kate Bush and ABBA medleys.
As an integral member of the Mustard Gang you can often be seen surfing the crowd in an inflatable dinghy, wearing a crash helmet. Have you ever fallen off?
Yes! A few times. But like a metaphor for life; it can sometimes get you down. But when you look around, you realise that you have a lot of support around you when you need help who can lift you back up and help you reach your highest potential. We all get by with a little help from our friends.
The first time I saw your band was at Kelburn on a sunny afternoon a few years ago. I said to myself at the time you were a great outfit, and in the interim it seems everyone else in at least Scotland has caught on. Can you describe the rising of the Mustard star?
We’ve been playing live. A LOT. About 100 gigs (50 festivals) across Scotland, Ireland, England and South Korea in the last three and a half years. The legion of 6th Dijons (our affectionate name for our loyal following) has grown after every gig and festival.From a capacity 1,900 at our Yellowland Barras gig in March 2016 with our Yellow Movement brothers and sisters The Girobabies, Jamie & Shoony, Have Mercy Las Vegas and The Twistettes; to be voted the highlight of Zandari Festa in Seoul, South Korea in October 2016 to 9,000 watching us at the Garden (main) Stage at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival last year, the support just keeps on growing! It’s been incredible and word of mouth adds to that. We all want to have a laugh and enjoy ourselves when we go out and what better way to soundtrack our ‘Peace, Love & Mustard’ than with the power of music!
So how did the name come about?
The name Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 was gifted to the Colonel, when he was just John, at the Glastonbury Stone Circle by a shaman from Dijon in 1997. It was prophesised. John had already mentally formed the band then manifested us into the physical realm earlier this decade. It was an idea whose time had come.
Right… So, what does David Blair like to do when he’s not being musical?
Activism, reading, running, yoga, meditating, avoiding the mundane, plotting how to overthrow the Tories.
What are your favorite Mustard songs to listen to, and your favorites to dance to?
To listen to would be ‘These Are Not The Drugs (You Are Looking For)’. Lyrically it’s a journey and asks a lot of questions about drug use and it’s effects and how we treat it and those who it affects. I particularly love the masked frontman from Mickey 9s, St Cool’s, contribution; “”(Health giving or medicinal properties, Partake to intake for love’s sake of a pair of E’s, The woes of the world caused by hate are all laid at ease, The eyes of your friends will be blessed to remember these, It’s not about the method but about what you love more, The ego of your self or your compassionate core, It’s the key to perception will you open up the door, These are the fucking drugs that I’m looking for…” And ‘Peace, Love & Mustard’ because that’s our mantra.
To danceto would be ‘Dance Off’. Getting a circle at the front and having a dance battle with The 6th Dijon always throws up some interesting shapes. It’s not about who has the best moves, it’s all about feeling free to express yourself and dancing like no one’s watching.
Cool! So where will the Yellow Juggernaut be rolling to this summer?
May is BIG music industry showcase month for us. First up is FOCUS Wales in Wrexham with international delegates from BreakOut West in Canada to Australian Music Week. Two countries I would LOVE to spread the peace, love and Mustard in! Then we’re playing The Great Escape and five days in Brighton! We’re part of the Creative Scotland Scottish Showcase with some of the best talent up here right now. One’s to watch are Declan Welsh & The Decadent West. Like a cross between Mark E Smith and The Fall with the political leanings of Billy Bragg and societal observations of John Lennon in his solo years and with the musicality of Arctic Monkeys. Then we have, deep breath, FyneFest, Enjoy Music Festival, Eden Festival, Cream o’ the Croft, two weeks in Korea as International Peace Ambassadors to play the inaugural DMZ Peace Train Music Festival between the North and South, North East Chilli Fest, Audio Soup, MugStock, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Party at the Palace, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Lindisfarne Festival and… Live@Troon! I think that’ll be the end of festival season for another year!
Busy, busy, busy… Who are the organisational maestros behind such an intense itinerary?
The Dijon spreadsheet takes an absolute hammering ha! We all chip in. We have also thankfully been working with our booking agent, Antidote Booking, since the tail end of last year. I would personally like to thank them for everything they have done and for all the help they’ve given us. I used to manage and organise a lot of our bookings and it was driving me insane ha! Some might say I always have been but in the immortal words of Alice (in Wonderland), “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
So David, for any future converts to the cause, what does it take to become one of the 6th Dijon?
To become one of The 6th Dijon is easy. You just need a desire to be a part of a music loving community that comes together to be as One. Looking after one another in celebrating the live music experience and having a party with hearts and minds full of peace, love and Mustard. You may say we’re dreamers, but we’re not the only ones. One Love.
The final question comes from the wife, who loves you! She wants to know what do you think of first thing in the morning?
I wake up every morning (when I’m home) and look at this amazing painting in my bedroom of one of my all time heroes by the incredible Glasgow based artist Marcus Raynal Hislop (The Notorious Gasoline Company)… The comedian and philosopher, Bill Hicks. He entertained and educated me as much as The Beatles, John Lennon and Rage Against The Machine. That line, “It’s just a ride.” comes from my favourite quote of his and is well worth sharing with your readers and memorizing…
The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly coloured, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun, for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because… this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people! “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This HAS to be real.” But, it’s just a ride. And we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But, it doesn’t matter because, it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as One. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and ‘defence” each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”
Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s Retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop
So, the Seattle-face’d period of anxiety & self loathing was over, the time of the Orcs had begun. Well not quite Orcs, but definitely dodgy council estate Mancs from Burnage. The one thing these pioneering Britpopeers did keep carrying on from Grunge, however, was proper crunchy guitars, & Oasis had them in abundance. Just listen to the opening of their debut single, Supersonic, when the guitar claws its way down the psychic spine before shattering everything we thought we knew & enjoyed about music
I need to be myself
I cant be no-one else
Im feeling supesonic
Give me gin & tonic
I loved it. From the shaky ploddy drum rattle to the Beatlesque ahhhs, & all those daft lyrics, including lines about cane-sniffing & gin & tonic. On adding the latter beverage to that song called Cigarettes & Alcohol which I’d listened to earlier in the year as the last song on a giveaway NME tape (issued February 12th), I’m like, these guys are just gadgies with guitars. Cool! Thatcher’s Britain had finished, Spike Island was like 4 years earlier, when live music & raving came together as the Woodstock of the Acid House generation. Since then, everyone seemed to have had a major collective come down, but things in that summer of ’94 were just about to change. A new generation, too young to go to partying in the late 80s, were ready & raring to go, & they need a soundtrack of their own.
For once the market adjusted to the music, & a series of definitive albums were released to popular acclaim throughout the year… the retro-rock of Definitely Maybe (Live forever, Cigarettes & Alcohol), Blur’s new-Mod album Parklife (End of a century) & Pulp’s glitzy, disco-intellectual His’n’Hers (babies, do you remember the first time). Oxford trio Supergrass released their honky-tonk I should coco, whose piano-driven tune Allright became the anthem of the summer. Dodgy released their deliciously optimistic album Homegrown (stayin out for the summer, so let me go far) & Beck gave the world his Mellow Gold, whose Loser must be the most famous chorus in the world where nobody knows what they are actually singing. Radiohead released their My Iron Lung E.P., hinting at what was to come in throughout mid-nineties epoch. Ride’s carnival of Light looked after the Shoe-gazers, while Prodigy catered for the ravers. Their Jilted Generation (Poison) was played everywhere & I’ll never forget seeing them play at Newcastle’s Mayfair club, late ’94, a flame-haired Liam rolling onto stage in a see-thro sphere, ripping his way through the clear plastic to begin the first tune.
A few months before that gig in Newcastle I had just found myself in Skegness, your A-typical Yorkshire seaside town. Often battered by the breeze flung ruthlessly across the North Sea from Scandinavian fjords, they often have a certain charm. Places like Scarborough & Whitley Bay are well worth a visit, & the region contains Robin Hoods Bay, a wayfarers paradise of little streets, good ale, old seadogs & their even older shantys. Yet that was the Bay & this was Skeggy. As it was mid-April the place was hardly lively… in truth it was dead. The season was set to begin in a few weeks, so this was the best time to get a job. As I arrived late in the day I bought myself a room in a B&B & settled down for the night. With morning I arose, breakfasted, groomed myself & set off out in the search of work.
Ah Butlins! The paradise of childhood. On several occasions as a boy my family had gone lock, stock & barrel to Butlins for a weeks holiday. It was generally to the camp at Pwhellhi, North Wales, sat idly on the coast & the focal point for the whole of the North West. The affordable nature of the holidays enabled many a working class kid to experience a real holiday, & boy were they good. Games, arcades, football, swimming, snooker, funfairs & archery were just a few distractions for a kid who usually had his head in a comic. Believe me I had a whale of a time & perhaps this was what had drawn me to the camps in the first place. I associated the place with pleasure & escape, & here I was again. Unfortunately, my sacking had been recorded (I had thrown milkshake over this bird who’d try to make me mop the floor – as if!) & I was forcibly ejected from the camp by a burly Security Guard. It seemed all my plans had come to naught & as I trudged along the beach I wondered what the hell was I gonna do. Then I looked at Skeggy & thought, ‘Thank fuck fer that,’ & did the usual thing I did when I was homeless & in a bit of a scrape… I rang Nick.
Now Nick’s mi best mate & the coolest guy I’ve ever had the pleasure to buzz off. We met when we were ten, played footy together for various teams… were rival quarterbacks in the schoolyard when American football hit England in the late eighties… played the Ghost Valley Two track on Super Mario Kart at least a million times… messed about with Live Role Playin & then, as the teenage years took hold, started getting wrecked. The guy gave me my first ever spliff & turned me onto the Stone Roses, took me raving & got me laid… what more can I say, he’s my buddy-buddy longtime. I put my ten pee in the phone box (that’s what it cost in ’94) & dialed that familiar number.
“Alright Nick.” “Alright Damo.” “Listen, I’ve just tried to get a job at Butlins, but it’s gone arse over tits… can I come an crash” “Wait a minute… Mam, can Damo stay… Yeah no worries man.” “Sound… I’ll give you a bell from Skipton!” “Reyt!” “Sorted!”
So I put down the receiver, smiled a smile & left Skeggy… an I ain’t never bin back since.
In the world beyond England’s chilly East Coast the West Indian batsman, Brian Lara, scored 375 runs against a typically weak England seam attack. It was ten runs more then Sir Garfield sobers, who was the first to congratulate him as he lefty the crease. Elsewhere Stockport had been fire-bombed & a middle-aged Irishman called Paul Hill was released from prison. He was the last of the seventeen Irish who had been wrongly imprisoned by Britain after the IRA hit England in the mid-seventies… you had the Birmingham 6, the Maguire 7 & the most famous group, the Guildford Four. A film had just been released entitled ‘In the Name of the Father’ which showed what had happened to Gerry Conlan at the hands of the British Justice system. After threats with revolvers followed by a hard diet of food & sleep deprivation… a broken Conlan signed the first thing in front of him. Combined with the supression of vital witness statements this served to have an innocent man locked up for the better years of his life.
As the train left Skegness I found myself hiding in the toilets to avoid paying my fare… successfully of course. Once I had retaken my seat I sat & pondered upon what the fate had in store for me… little did I know of the fun & frolics that lay in wait. My train meandered back awesterly to Leeds, where I swapped trains & trundled to the old market town of Skipton. Now I’ve never really warmed to Skipton, there’s something a little Stepford Wives about the place, & as the town’s gloomy castle came into view I began to think I’d made the wrong move, rather like going off on holiday & finding yourself in Grimsby. Now as this was 1994, only 6 people in a hundred had a mobile phone, & the concept of text messaging was a twinkle in some clever geezers eye. Hardly anyone was hooked up to the internet so communication relied on the postal service (sketchy at the best of times) & the phone, including queuing at phone boxes when out & about. I rang up Nick, told him where I was & waited the twenty or so minutes for him to arrive. He was driving his mate Easy Ste’s shiny black car & soon I was inside, smoking a spliff, watching Yorkshire turn into the far superior county of Lancashire.
Barnoldswick, or Barlick as its more locally known, is a remarkable little town of about ten thousand souls, perched right on the border tween the roseate counties, & still divided over which of the two counties they should belong to. It is about an hour’s bus ride from Burnley, which I had undertaken many times since Nick’s family moved there in about 1990. The place is mental… everyone below the age of thirty is a raver… the chief currency of the town is weed & it is here that my eyes were opened to music, drugs & fun. On Saturday nights, after crazy hijinks in the town’s pubs, a vast posse of Barlickers would drive en masse to the After Dark club in Morley… where on a night called The Orbit techno would blare out of the giant speakers, the roman ampitheatre like club heaving with many a raver. Wicked nights were had by all as Joey Beltram, West Bam & Sven Vath brought the club to such a pumpin height that the club easily became the techno capital of Britain.
We next drove down the, long sloping road from Thornton-in-Craven & into the hilly terraced streets of Barlick. On the corner of one stood the Rainhall Food House, an excellent Chinese chippy. O, did I forget to mention it, Nick is half Chinese & his mam ran the chippy for years. On many an occasion I said to myself how lucky I was to have a best mate whose mam runs a chippy & I said it again as I sat down in their kitchen to my favourite dish… it was the same every time, a massive pile of chips, fried rice & chicken curry… bliss!
“So what are you gonna do Damo?” “Fuck knows Nick, I’m reyt up fer some adventurin tho.” “Well, I’ve just been on the phone to mi sister Michelle, an she says there’s a room goin near where she lives… rents paid up fer two months!” “Cool… where is it?” “Wales!” “Wales?” “Wales!” “Cool!”
And that was that. In a relative instance we were on our way, the two of us, best mates ready to take on the world. So this is how the world works… one person’s life effects subtly, yet profoundly, another’s. As I finished off my meal I remembered Michelle. She is Nick’s eldest sister (he has three more younger ones) & has always had a rebellious streak. She’s the kind of girl that ends up living in Wales fer fucks sake. Even as a fifth year at Gawthorpe High School, when I was a first year, I remember her prancing about sporting wild, bright purple hair. I quietly wondered what colour her hair was now…
After some final preparations for our trip we called on Easy Ste. Now Easy is a cool guy, a laugh-a-minute & always carrying weed. He lived with his mum, listening to jungle & drawing funky graffiti on his bedroom walls. He’d offered to drive us as far as Manchester, where we’d catch a train to Wales. Before we set off we all had a bucket & a few hot knives & by the time we hit that Victorian megalopoli we were pretty fuckin’ stoned. It was hilarious watching Easy tryin to find somewhere to park. He did tho, & we went for a farewell beer. Next door to the pub was a music shop, & I remembered that Supersonic had been released the previous week by that new Manchester band, Oasis. I wandered in, found a 12″ copy on vinyl & paid my four quid or so… proud as punch I rejoined the lads.
“Who’s them?” asked Easy. “It’s Oasis… they’re pretty good” “They look like the Roses,” said Nick. “I reckon they’re gonna be massive,”
…said I. Now, it would be easy to say I had such an insight, but there was some kind of mystical buzz that surrounded those particular Scallys in the early days. It was the same energy that overtook gingery Alan McGhee of Creation records as he watched them play in King Tuts Glasgow in May ’93. Oasis had randomly turned up & were determined to play 4 songs at this weird city of culture thing with 18 Wheeler headlining. McGhee was up from London, wondering what all the commotion was about went to see the band & immediately signed them once they stepped off-stage. ‘We thought he was takin’ the piss,‘ said Liam, ‘cos he was all armarni’d up, a bit of a smoothie, like.’
From here the juggernaut just kept on rolling, picking up young spirits along the way & depositing them all in a field at Knebworth a couple of years later. I’d jumped off way before then, but I was there at the beginning, listening to Cigarettes & Alcohol on my sisters yellow cassette player one dark evening in February. But there was sunshine in that tune, & hope for a buzzin’ summer. Oasis were simply grabbing Britain all by the scruff of the neck & hauling us into the sun. They were to be the flagbearers, & its no coincidence that their earliest symbol was of a warped Union Jack. Backstage at the Word where they were playing Supersonic on TV for the first time, hypnotic-eyed Liam Gallagher give some interesting shpiel about the formation of the band;
I weren’t into music. I’d be like, shut up with that bunch of crap you’re playing on the guitar, you can’t play it, shut up. I was into football, & being a little scally & that.
Things changed for Liam when he saw the Stone Roses as a 16-year old. ‘It was the first gig I ever went to,’ said Liam, ‘And Ian Brown came on, & he was giving it the vibe & all that.’ Liam was inspired to form his a band of his own, called Rain, which Noel caught on his return from roadieing with the Inspiral Carpets. He immediately took over the band, bought them a load of gear, made them practice 4 times a week, & most importantly gave them the cheeky chappy tunes we would all soon love to hear. By March 1994 they were on the road, touring Britain extensively. ‘Certainly,‘ reviewed Ted Kessler, ‘Liam Gallagher could do with shaking off some of his more latent Ryder-isms – the hunchback microphone molesting, the between-song banter (“Cheers, big ears”?). But he’s twice the singer Ryder was, much better-looking – and if he just stands up straight every now and then, he’ll be on Top Of The Pops by Christmas.’
Backstage at the Word in March, during their TV debut, the Melody Maker were interviewing Noel;
‘If there’s one gripe I ‘ave, it’s this,’ says Oasis leery, cocksure guitarist, Noel Gallagher, swigging from his umpteenth jack & coke of the day. ‘Listen right,’ the fiery Manc carries on, ‘if anybody doesn’t buy my music I’ll be the most upset man in the world.’ We write music for the man who walks dwnn the street to get his copy of the fucking Daily Mirror & his 20 Bensons every day, & he’s got fuck all going for him, he’s got no money. Even if somebody cant afford to buy our record, if they put on the radio & while they’re cleaning the house , & whistle along & go, ‘fuckin’ ‘ell, did you ‘ear that tune?’ That’s what its all about.
As for the Roses comparisons, Liam was basically a Roses fan, & Noel was an Oasis fan. ‘Of course we’re gonna be compared to the Roses. But not even they could write a song like Digsy’s Diner or Supersonic,‘ splurted Noel. ‘And we couldn’t write a fucking tune like Fools Gold or I Wanna be Adored,’ retorted Liam. Another sample of their fireworky fraternal feistiness came in an interview with the NME, in which we hear
Liam: You want to be Andrew Lloyd Webber, yo do. You f—er. Noel:Who’s Andrew Lloyd Webber Liam:I havent got a clue, some golfer or something. Noel:Right, shut the f–k up then
In the same interview, Noel showed how Alan McGhee was a big fan of their music;
I get a buzz giving new songs to Alan McGee, ‘cos he actually thinks we’re the greatest band in the f-ing world. He phones me up at four or five o’clock in the morning: I’ll get out of bed & its McGee on teh other end, going, ‘I’M FEELING SUPERSONIC! GET ME GIN & TONIC! WE’RE GONNA ANNHIALATE THE WORLD, MAN!” That, in a nutshell , is why we’re on Creation records: ‘cos the ‘prez is up at five in teh morning, reciting the lyrics down the f- phone!”
Whatever & whoever they were, they were ready to inveigle themselves into the British psyche. They knew it was coming. The vast majority didn’t but I did, a poppy Stone Roses would do while the real thing were working on their masterpiece. ‘You wanna know something?’ said Noel, ‘this band, in the next two years, will win the Eurovision Song Contets with a track called All Around the World, It’ll sail it by, at least, 30 points., This is the track to end all tracks. We will win the Eurovision Song Contest. Its like an 11-minute epic. Put it this way, if John lennon would have written this track he’d have been shot 5 years earlier.’
As can be seen from the above footage from’ 92, their cockiness was definitely out running their talent. “All Around the World” was eventually released on 12 January 1998, & it did get to number one; not quite the Eurovision Song Contest triumph, but from an early stage Noel could sense something big was just around the corner.
With a few beers down our necks & my new record tucked under mi arm, Easy Ste said his farewells & left us to the road. All about us lay Manchester… or to two kids from Lancashire, Madchester. It was a place where Bez would dance about shakin his maracas, where Ian Brown would swagger about cool as fuck. It was a place where you got shot if you even caught a bus thro Moss Side, a place to go shoppin’ at Christmas & ravin’ if you were feelin adventurous. It was the place of the G-Mex, Old Trafford & the Arndale. It was the city of the Hacienda & Sankeys Soap. To a true Lancastrian (none of this Greater Manchester nonsense) we had a simple name for the place… Skankymancwankland. But it was always the music that belted out of Manchester’s bands that mattered the most. From the Carpets ‘Find out why’ on Saturday Morning TV; to parking me arse on the dance-floor whenever Sit Down came on down a nightclub; to having mi bath after footy to Some Friendly, it was always there. We made our way across to Piccadilly station, checked for a train to Cardiff, & made our way onto the train.
“So how we gonna jump it then?”
Asked Nick, who’d never Faded before. “Easily!”
And off set the train.
TRAINING IN THE ART OF FARE EVASION : THE FADER CODE
1 Remain alert
2 Always keep your cool
3 Trust your instincts
4 Never show your money
5 Know your stations
6 Another five minutes won’t hurt in the loo
7 Know your enemy
8 Know your postcodes
9 The train’s going there anyway
10 When in doubt, clout
11 The train always comes when you’re skinnin’ up
12 It is every Faders duty to baffle & confuse
13 Always remember your free cup of tea
14 There’s no need to rush – unless you’re being chased
This Friday sees Edinburgh-based storyteller Daniel Allison, Dundonian fiddle-player and composer Eilidh Firth, Mumbai actor, writer and director Sheena Khalid, and Kashmiri poet and songwriter Mohammad Muneem Nazir begin A New Conversation. The Mumble managed to catch a wee blether with the Scottish contingent
Hello Eilidh, so when did you realise you were musical? EILIDH: I started getting violin lessons at the age of five, but I definitely wasn’t up for practicing! When I was ten I joined a local group called the ‘Tayside Young Fiddlers’ when I began to enjoy playing and after that my playing improved more and more.
Hello Daniel. You are a true international troubadour. What is it about travelling that thrills you the most? DANIEL: It’s very easy for us to get stuck in habitual ways of doing things, seeing things. Going to a place where nothing and no one is familiar frees you from outdated routines and perceptions, giving you the chance to experience the world and yourself anew. Unless you bring your phone…
You have worked as a chimpanzee tracker. What does that entail? DANIEL: I worked on a chimpanzee habituation project in a developing nature reserve in Uganda. The job was to habituate chimps to human presence so that eventually tourists could come along and see them. So, we would walk through the forests listening and looking for chimps, in silence, all day, every day.
So Eilidh, you are a relatively recent graduate of the RCS; how did you find your studies there? EILIDH: I loved my time at the RCS. It was great to be surrounded by people who were so passionate about traditional music. It gave me a grounding in the context around the music – the history, folklore and language – and they encouraged me to start writing my own tunes as well.
Back to Daniel. Creative Scotland have funded you to give four Scottish tours to date, visiting schools as if they were Dark Age courts & you were the travelling bard. Can you tell us a little about the experiences? DANIEL: I love working as a modern-day bard, but I wanted to have a go at being a ye olden day bard, so I organised tours in which I would walk coast to coast across the country, wild camping and stopping to tell stories at schools along the way. The first one was very hard as I made my schedule too tight, so at one point I walked 28 miles in a day, slept and then got up at 5am to run for miles across the hills in the rain – with horrendous blisters – to get to my next gig. But I learnt from my mistakes and had wonderful experiences, like telling stories outside a chambered cairn on a hilltop on North Uist at sunset, and dancing Strip the Willow down Stornoway harbour at sunrise.
How does travel inspire your creativity & can you give us examples? DANIEL: I love how people often begin creative practices while travelling, even if it’s just writing down what they’ve seen. I think somehow you can leave self-limiting beliefs at home. For me, I see or do things that stir my imagination, and then at some point they come out in a story. Based on that period in the forest, I wrote a story years later about a Tanzanian boy who is possessed by a chimpanzee, and a novella about an English girl encountering a local shaman while living in a Kenyan nature reserve.
Eilidh, you are in integral member of the Scottish folk band ‘Barluath.’ Can you tell us about the experience? EILIDH: We formed ‘Barluath’ while we were still at university and I feel like we’ve really grown up together. It’s been wonderful to travel and perform and I love making new music with them.
What is it about traditional Scottish music that makes you tick? EILIDH: I love traditional music because every player can put their personal stamp on the music. No two performers will play a tune in the same way. I also think it’s great that the music has so much history surrounding it but it’s still as vibrant and relevant today.
…& Daniel, which instruments do you use when you add music to your storytelling? DANIEL: My main instrument is the didgeridoo, which I play in traditional and contemporary styles, but I also use Tibetan singing bowls, rattles, chimes, drums, jaw harp and a few other bits and bobs to give texture to stories.
What does Eilidh Firth like to do when she’s not being musical? EILIDH: I love getting out into the countryside with the dog or up a hill – he keeps me fit! I’ve also recently taught myself how to knit so you’ll usually find me cursing under a pile of yarn!
Can you tell us about A New Conversation? EILIDH: A New Conversation has brought together two artists from Scotland and two from India to create new work based through storytelling and music. I didn’t have any experience of storytelling before this residency, so it’s been fantastic to push the boundaries of what I do. I’m particularly excited about part of the show that looks at the links between mill workers in Mumbai and Dundee. The stories from the other artists have been really inspiring and I’ve loved experimenting with music for the show. We decided to call the piece ‘Where I Stand’ and it looks at our connection to our land and place through ancient myths and a reimagining of contemporary stories.
What will be your contribution to A New Conversation? DANIEL: The meeting of the mythic and contemporary is a strong current in our piece; I think my job has been to hold the place of the mythic, choosing the right stories and presenting them in a way that shows their relevance to Scotland and India now, and to our own lives as individuals. One story I tell is the legend of a poet who went to live in the otherworld but returned because he missed th madness and sadness of this world. Mohammad and I worked together to explore how his own story of a growing up in and later escaping a conflict zone reflects this tale.
Are you finding connections between European music and stories & that of India? EILIDH: I knew there would be links between our two countries and cultures, but I couldn’t have imagined how many similarities there would be. I think both countries are going through periods of change and in some ways uncertainties and it’s been fascinating to see the parallels reflected in the stories brought together in ‘Where I Stand’.
To which places will an audience member’s imagination be taken through the event? DANIEL: A lot of places! Audiences will experience the murder of a giant, Iron Age warfare, industrial Mumbai, cosmic turtles, Urdu poetry, soul-stirring music and an erotic proposition from the goddess of war. I think that’s plenty to go on.
What does the rest of 2018 hold in store for Daniel Allison? DANIEL: This year I’m going to be working hard to get my novel ready to send out into the world. It’s a dark and bloody adventure story for younger teenagers set in prehistoric Orkney.
What does the rest of 2018 hold in store for Eilidh Firth? EILIDH: I’m really passionate about music education and when I’m not performing or composing I love to teach. Over the next few months I’m going to be taking some courses to give me some new approaches to working with young people and taking on some outreach projects to widen access to music. I also have a few jumpers I want to finish knitting and a couple of Munros to ‘bag’!