Interview Music - Written by Roddy
I haven’t written an Idlewild blog since our last record was out I don’t think - I know as a recording artist in 2019 you’re meant to connect a bit more within the cyber realms - what can i say - I am not made for cyber realms. Idlewild’s new album, ‘Interview Music’ is out this week and it has taken a while, and i am engaging! In all likelihood it will probably take another four years to write another post/blog - So I will tell those interested the story of the new records creation…..
We started writing songs for this record on Burns night 2015 (no significance or poetic influence attached) Andrew and Lucci came up to visit me in the Hebrides, and after the plates of Haggis had been cleared away, we took the remaining whiskey up to Iona Library and for three days, with the coal fire going, came up with 12 new song ideas (‘There’s a Place for everything’ being one of them)
In March ‘Everything Ever written’ was released, the first Idlewild record in five years. The album was a somewhat ramshackle collection that started out life with just Rod and I, then Colin got involved, then Lucci, and then finally Andrew - everyone adding their parts and ideas as we recorded and went along. It was recorded in lots of different, make shift places and produced by Rod. It was like a musical scrap book. The record was well received and we were delighted - the tour dates sold out, and we got booked for festivals, and also short tours of Japan and the east coast of America.
Several more new songwriting sessions happened in between all this activity throughout 2015 - in Iona Library again, Rod’s Edinburgh flat, and in Dundee at Andrews studio space. At this point the idea was to release a follow up to ‘Everything Ever Written’ by 2017. A handful of west coast US dates were booked for May 2016, and we decided collectively to use any profit from the shows to finance a studio for ten days in Los Angeles at the end of the short run, to record five or six of these news songs and start the new album properly.
As a band Idlewild spent a lot of time in America touring from 2001 - 2005, and in Los Angeles in particular. In 2004 we recorded ‘Warning/Promises’ in Sunset Sound studios - and spent two months living in a rented house in west Hollywood while we recorded and mixed it.
‘Pet Sounds’ was recorded at Sunset sound, ‘Exile on Main Street’, The Doors first two records, even the frickin’ Mary Poppins soundtrack. Recording my vocals in the same booth where Jim Morrison sang ‘The End’, Carl Wilson sang ‘God Only Knows’ and Dick Van Dyke sang ‘Chim Chim Che-ree’ - still blows my mind. The studio was also a five minute walk from Ameboa music - the worlds largest independent music store - a place I was often found. It was sunny everyday, the rental house had a pool, hot tub and lemon trees in the garden - and we were all 26 years old. Of course - wonderful times and memories.
In 2016 we were not trying to re-create this - it is always a mistake trying to re live the best moments of the past. Every experience is new and should be treated with the appropriate wonder.
Still, to be driving down Sunset Boulevard on the way to a recording studio twelve years later, about to start recording the eighth Idlewild album was a thrill. The spotlight of our major label years might have moved on, but there were plenty people still interested in our music, and we were as motivated and inspired to make it as we were then.
This time we recorded at Kingsize sound labs - a studio complex in the Eagle Rock district of town. The engineer Theo Karon was great - friendly and knowledgable. Kamasai Washington had recorded his album at the studio recently, and Cass McCombs - another band favourite. The studio atmosphere was relaxed, with a certain LA lo fi chic - there was a sitar in the lounge area, and the fridge was stocked with Mexican coca cola.
We hired a 50’s bungalow in Echo Park, an area of the city that I wasn’t that familiar with, but it seemed very laid back and hip - we’d stop at Guisados to pick up tacos on the way home from the studio, and sit out in the back garden eating them, drinking beers, listening to the hum of the city, and the occasional police siren. There is always something new to see in Los Angeles. Just when you think that you might have seen it all and can’t be surprised - you are. Two albums remind me of this time - ‘On The corner’ by Miles Davis and the Beatles White album - the only two CD’s on the hire car stereo. We listened to them a lot. You spend much time in the car in Los Angeles.
In the studio we were very much letting ourselves explore the songs, adding sections and and improvising. The song ‘Mount Analogue’ was eight minutes long and the lyrics, in the chorus especially, were made up as we recorded. I was trying different lines on each take, hoping to get a care free, spontaneous, impulsive vocal, which I hopefully achieved. The song was eventually edited down to 4 minutes 30, but still containing the off the cuff creativity.
When i wasn’t doing anything - which as a singer in a studio, is frequently - I’d sit in the comfortable outside yard at the back of the studio. It was warm. I’d drink cold brew coffee, and read - ‘Going Underground - American Punk 1979 - 1989’ by George Hurchhalla, Andre Breton ‘Nadja’, and ‘A night of serious drinking’ by Rene Daumal - my mind was full of xeroxed gig posters, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, allegorical thought process, Fabricators of useless objects, Inhabitants of strange realms that are only too familiar, and then that great Surrealist question/call to arms - “Who Am I”?
On the last day after leaving the studio, we drove down to Venice Beach and paddled in the Pacific. and then caught the flight back to Scotland. (‘Dream Variations’ ‘Interview Music’ ‘Mount Analogue’ ‘Miracles’ all recorded in LA).
Life took over a bit after that though - Rod opened a studio in Leith christening it Post Electric, and got very much stuck into life as a studio boss/engineer. Having no clear goals with the album as such, and having no band member living in the same place, and all while juggling various other occupations/pursuits alongside families etc - meant that despite another brief recording session in October 2016 (our first at Post electric - of which only ‘I almost didn’t notice’ remains on the album) we wouldn’t work on the songs or the album for over a year.
Lucci, Andrew and Colin busied themselves with various projects and work, both musical and otherwise in London, Dundee and North Berwick, respectively - And me - I reworked some of my song ideas intended for an Idlewild record, alongside new songs that I’d be writing on my own, and some i’d written together with Andrew and Lucci and drummer Danny Grant, into ‘The Deluder’ record, which came out under my own name in September 2017 accompanied by several months of touring.
Indeed there was some thinking that we might never actually finish the Idlewild record. The catalyst for the change of attitude was ‘The Remote Part’ 15th anniversary gigs in Glasgow & London in December 2017. We’d been really trying to focus on finishing the album but were still somewhat unclear how to go about doing this. These shows provided us with that focus - by looking back we realised that what we had created together in the past still resonated with so many people. It made us face forward in the most positive of ways. Our albums are released on our own label now and we oversee the whole process ourselves, so the shows also provided us with the financial means to complete everything. These concerts were about reconnecting, with the past, and with people - playing with Allan Stewart again, and Bob Fairfoull - musicians and friends so involved with this body of work and the collective history of this group. With Scott Hutchison and the poet Michael Pedersen opening each night, these were wonderful & memorable concerts - two of the best I’d ever had with Idlewild - and over 24 years we have had many. Dave Eringa came to the London show. Dave has produced four of our albums, including the two most popular and enduring. We asked Dave that night if he’d come up to Edinburgh and produce the rest of the new album and mix it all. And he did, in May 2018, by which point we’d written a whole new batch of songs, spurned on by the positivity we had experienced those nights bringing the Remote Part back to life (‘There’s a Place For Everything’ ‘All These Words’ ‘Same Things Twice’ ‘Forever New’ ‘Familiar To Ignore’ all recorded with Dave).
And so ‘Interview Music’ is very much a labour of love. It’s taken four years of writing and recording, procrastinating, then writing and recording some more - sporadic/concentrated - it’s got the best elements of both. I think we have achieved a very nice balance of all that is good about our band, all the ideas, creativity and tunefulness that still make us excited to play together, in concert and also in the studio or practice space.
We’re delighted that Allan Stewart is joining us again on guitar for the tour and we have some great bands & friends coming along with us to open the evening of music. We are pulling from a set list of 30 songs, taken from all the records, and we all look forward to seeing you at one of the shows. Thank you again for continuing to support our band.