Insight 2: Glasvegas’ War Is Louder Than Yours – A Conversation.
Second in a string of many interview features. Glasvegas, their new album Godspeed released in April, and almost all of their history is shuffled and sprayed on the table accordingly. Topics turned upside down and inside out could include the relationships between audience and artist; the impact of debuts as a debt never truly paid, and the stability of songwriting processes as a quest to explore an intimate, innate line of questioning whilst the dream devours all and overrides everything from speech to sight. A talkative war, a troublesome puzzle, by Ryan Walker.
This was a tricky one. A Boltonian and two Glaswegians walk into a bar and something happens. A conversation conducted to uncover the furniture in rooms that have been locked up and left uninhabited for years.
To the place where Bowie found life on Mars.
To the place Pink Floyd stood on the dark side of the moon.
The same moon that Killed McCulloch. To the desolate level Numan parked his car.
Perhaps on Fascination Street. Or Penny Lane. Vienna or Utopia. In Heaven or Las Vegas. In Graceland or in Glasgow. Some near-indecipherable dialogue about everything and anything that involves everyone and no one. An encouragement to daydream of satellites and milkshakes below the fast blow of clouds built by bent neon pipes in the concrete night. Fast cars and passing strangers cramped up against the gates of Interzone. An exhaling breath of milky way melodies creeping up behind them at a place where the earth stands still.
I distinctly remembering circling Hyde Park in Leeds many moons ago. Walking, wandering, daydreaming, about a Glasvegas song that sounds like it’s been produced by Giorgio Moroder. Then along came Shake The Cage (für Theo) from their new record Godspeed on their own Go Wow imprint, their first since 2013, released earlier this year. A million, flickering lights and a thousand fading colours later; there is such a thing. I still have the can of Stella James gave me at a gig in Bolton when they placed some terrible venue adjacent to a petrol station.
Years later, weeks ago, I end up chatting to vocalist James and guitarist Rab, about anything and everything. Anyone, and everyone; that should sink into the sentences either interrupted or invited, encouraged and challenged.
LTW: I want to talk about Spotify first of all because I know you’re quite active in terms of updating and adding things to a playlist of things you find inspirational. Thinking about the new album Godspeed; or in fact, in my mind, all of your albums have had some kind of conceptual undercurrent about them, do you think platforms like Spotify can sometimes detract from the impact or importance of an album that has a concept at its core?
Rab Allan (guitar): I think so. It’s funny. A guy that I know messaged me the other day and was like ‘Rab, what are these tracks on the album? Car Exterior and Car Interior? I thought to myself, you’re so missing the point because most people are just so used to hearing songs. I guess we’re a little bit older and still try to do the album thing. As a piece of art that has some meaning behind it. Especially Godspeed which, as you said, has a concept but more so than the other albums I think. Nobody’s actually really touched on yet. But if you listen to the lyrics it’s clear what it’s about. I think the Spotify thing isn’t set up for something like that. It’s more singles drive. Tunes driven. Which it’s fine. I think you just need to accept that’s how it is.
LTW: In spite of this Glasvegas have always had strong singles. The ones that always appealed to me and the tunes I enjoyed were the album tracks. EUPHORIC///HEARTBREAK\\ (2011) in particular…Homosexuality parts 1. And 2. And now Parked Cars from the perspective of Exterior and Interior. These things that maybe people don’t dig deep enough into. So I suppose that’s interesting. How Spotify can quite conveniently provide people with good tunes but by singling those out, they miss or overlook the other tunes that are excluded by virtue of them not being selected for single purposes.
RA: I totally agree. I think you’re right about people missing. When we brought out the first album, songs like Geraldine, Daddy’s Gone, Flowers and Football Tops, if you go from that, to singing about Homosexuality, it was probably a bit of a challenge for a lot of our fans at the time. I think the thing is there’s always been a challenge there, for our fans, about whatever the next album is going to be. We could have released another Glasvegas MK2. And pleased everybody. But the whole point is to keep challenging people’s perceptions of not just music, and themselves.
LTW: Let’s talk about Glasvegas’ albums being a progression from one to the next. And a kind of intrinsic need to challenge, for audience members and for you. To make sure E///H\\ didn’t have Flowers and Football Tops on it, and it didn’t have Geraldine on it, or Daddy’s Gone. But it had You on it, and World Is Yours and the Homosexuality couplets on it. That’s important I imagine for you guys. To move on from what spot to the next.
James Allan (vocals/guitar): As opposed to staying in the one spot do you mean? Yeah of course. But then again. I suppose maybe there are artists that enjoy a more natural…a guess people come into it from different sort of approaches. Aye, for us, we had to make sure we were doing something new.
LTW: Is this kind of constant renewal a conscious thing or is it part of your blood? We were just talking about Spotify and how it could possibly delineate from people’s experiencing this progression, and the power and poignancy of a concept album like Godspeed…
JA: I think that’s alright though. I think that’s alright. To be honest with you. We’re lucky that anyone would want to connect with any song. Never mind a full album. There’s a lot of artists, writers and people in band’s that wouldn’t even get a chance to put anything out. For actually anybody to hear any of the songs and like them. Even that, we’re quite blessed for that. But, if anybody wanted to sort of receive the songs, in a way that would be, the full movie and the album, that’s cool as well. Obviously, we want people to listen to whole songs, that would be better. I don’t mind.
It’s refreshing, and I suppose it should be acceptable by now, given the various, quickening speeds and degrees of heat which fuel the mechanical tides of the industry, each one pouring into a much larger stream of services to be amicable about how audiences consume music. It’s all part of one, giant, musical wheel; and being a part of such, shouldn’t let the impact of one’s work be hampered by how ”the full movie” is watched; or how ”the whole songs” are listened to…but obviously, at the end of the day; the entire sensory experience; medium and message still battling it out on the bloody puddles of the platform; is what really matters.
But they don’t mind. They have their audience; like the audience has their band. It’s convenient to keep things in one’s pocket. The headphones now an essential part of the modern diet. Along with anti-depressants and hayfever pills, surgical masks, and house keys.
Every piece of art is a product to consume. No matter how it unfurls. Everything is an advert. Everything a reference. Every petrol station, another piece of information. All is a performance. For something bigger. For something better. And this notion applies to the cannons of the divine. Sacred tapes replaced by Machiavellian apps and thirsty traps of maddening laughter. But take all you can carry from the album’s thematic drama.
Godspeed as the sun slips behind the hills. Or the office blocks. Or wherever you might be. Unaware of how you wound up there. And the view from the event horizon as one travels from one side of the planet to the other, experiencing and observing, from exteriors and interiors, must surely engender experiences nothing short of psychedelic. Good luck to the fuckers desperate for something more substantial other than the bullets they have to swallow once bitten too many damn times. Falling for faith. In love with letting go. Psychedelia according to what we manage to absorb, driving through the tides, riding through the storms, and how beautiful, and how brilliant, and how tender, and how turbulent it all is. Small worlds and big cities. Fragmented frames. Turgid and strange-tasting below monochromatic rainbows.
The concept is one night. The streets are the wings on either side of the roads we, along with the protagonist at the start of the record, travel down. But what does the start mean? The start as the technical beginning or the start as something we acknowledge to be now, no matter where we find our feet positioned and flags firmly planted.
The start is no longer the start. The start is anywhere we decide.
Therefore, we can start our narrative. A narrative set on a single evening’s occurrence at Cupid’s Dark Disco. The peak of our decisions, the savagery of the impact, the thunderous impulse; pulling us all under below the surface of the days ahead.
Juddering, juggernaut darkwave capable of shaking away the cages built around us all, pumping from towering speaker systems. Where people, with nihilist’s eyes and chasing the tails of something that is in turn, chasing their own, with heart-shaped pills which crumble to dust, are just Dying To Live.
And upon departing the club we see a string of prostitutes cutting across corners and cobblestones. At least a thousand stones later and their bodies are like glasshouses, fragile and shattering in the shivers of the brutal night.
But Choose Life right?
Don’t let life choose you. Everything and everyone lost to the draws of memory. Something burning from the feet up. Another day baying for your blood. The powers that be the fuzzy, furry undercurrent of the modern world, all writhe and wrestle and crawl through the windows of the mind and nailing something manipulative to the walls within it.
”Choose a life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television. Choose rotting away in the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself, choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that?”
Well, you could: ”start/breathe/remember the future/predict the present/lock/snap/hang photographs/cry with laughter/stand alone/wear trousers under a skirt/eclipse your will/spread words/speak above/stand on a wave/calculate quantum mechanics”.
A flock of pale saints, each with an imperfect, pockmarked wingspan, ascends ever so slightly to the sound of John Carpenter meets Underworld intensity and adrenaline. Ramones rocking through the Ronettes at immense heats and intense speeds. Spiritualized shooting through the bloodstream of a swinging Shangri-Las on stage in an empty studio.
LTW: How important are debuts in a band’s history? Do they symbolise something significant for bands as a thing unto themselves?
JA: The good ones aye. If there’s a good one there then probably. I don’t know. I think the thing for me is, growing up my step-dad used to play the doors. And I never really thought I liked music but I liked The Doors. Break on Through, is the first track on their debut album. So that was something that I was probably, consciously or unconsciously aware of that was something special. How you introduce yourself to the world is important. I started to daydream about The Doors just then. Does that make sense?
LTW: Yeah definitely. But this is maybe why debut albums are so important because they provide people with a means to make sense of themselves, and an opportunity to daydream whilst doing so. Rather than just being a shit album or just a good album, it can enable people to figure out certain aspects of themselves can’t it?
JA: Aye, I guess. It’s you introducing yourself to the world but at the same time, there’s probably artists who have found their voice and developed in a certain way a few albums in. I think it’s probably different for different artists but there is something special when it’s…straight off, and gold, right from the start. I quite like it that way. I prefer it that way than the developing after four or five albums. Look at Pet Sounds man. How many albums did the Beach Boys make before that?
LTW: Around the time of the debut what kind of music were you absorbing? In my mind, I’ve always viewed Glasvegas as being Phil Spector producing Postcard Records’ bands in the 1950s. Was that the stuff you were into…you mentioned the Doors, did you listen to the Doors’ debut record together and share each other’s records.
JA: We did. We actually used to do that, Rab do you remember?
JA: What were we into? We were into a lot of the same things.
RA: I guess the first thing would be Oasis and then you kind of branch off that. I do remember James getting really into Phil Spector. Jim used to make CD’s. A mix of stuff for me. And I guess that was always the direction the songs were gonna go in. It was like ‘listen to this, this is the direction the band is gonna go’. And then we kind of all just got on the same page for that kind of stuff. We all loved any of the kind of girl group stuff. Looking back, it wasn’t just sonically. Visually too, looking at things like The Clash and actually looking like a band. There were loads of influences. It wasn’t just music. I remember James giving me CDs with things like Little Angel Eyes and Sam Cooke.
JA: That’s what I remember. I remember that one the most. It would just be like, so many albums. And it would just be like every time we met up. There would be one, absolute, dynamite song. That somebody would bring. And that eventually ran out! Every week. Les Baxter. Unchained Melody. Before the Righteous Brothers. You don’t even know these things exist. Then you get it. Then it would just be like, some other, bizarre stuff like…The Four Lads’ Standing On The Corner. That was one of the first covers we did. I feel for anyone who came to the gigs. It must have been punishment. We had a drummer that had never played. And she had one drum at the time. When she joined we had a drum machine. A sample thing. We didn’t really know how to work it. We didn’t even know what it meant when it was hitting the red. We were singing this mad, fucked-up song, called Standing On the Corner. It must have been quite mental. When we started playing Flowers and Football Tops, you approach it with the same kind of spirit. When I was younger I’d kick a ball against a fence and the ball would come back. I would kick the ball against the other side of the fence. It’s kind of like that. It’s just the same thing. Kicking a ball against the wall, do you know what I mean?
LTW: Yeah. The spirit of the band hasn’t so much adjusted since those early days when you were experiencing the difficulties of using a drum machine, it’s just the environment around you that has changed shape. The whole punk rock attitude of going up and making a load of noise is still intact isn’t it? The elements are essentially the same…
JA: I guess…but some people would say there wasnae anything punk rock about that. I wouldn’t say it was punk to kick a ball against a fence. I guess people call it different things. It probably just means being in a moment. Being yourself. Being true. Not in an overdramatic way. But being true.
The ball against the wall. The adolescent against the fence. A surface to kick against. Blockades and barriers to penetrate and pull down. Like there’s a life on the other side to fall for, fulfill and escape to elsewhere once a drop lands on our tongue’s dry tip. A light to find which teases the mind with its beatific energies and reverberating chimes.
It’s not punk rock to kick a ball against the fence. But it is punk rock to question, and challenge, where you come from. Acts of actively wanting to watch your past burn on the furnace. To create something unconcerned for compromise. To better the suffering, to extinguish the maddening heat behind the eyes, and finally: relinquish the tingle of pins from the agitated design of limbs.
The kicking of something against the fence like the incessant clicking of a retractable ballpoint pen. The ball against the wall like the biting of one’s fingernails. Like the tugging of one’s hair by the handful. A method of procuring answers from the darkest of estates. A means of making sense of the circumference of existence we find ourselves stuck, smack bang in the crippling middles of. To understand our own end. That when the ball comes back, the same ball, our impressions of ourselves, have actually changed.
And hope that when the ball is kicked hard enough, a hole is created, and the answers to all our questions, come flooding through the Other Side. Where there’s a star in the sky shaped like Jim Morrison. A space cadet with angel numbers tattooed on his back. Lazer guided lullabies like Dive, In My Mirror, or Keep Me A Space, their first single in 7 years, a reiteration of classic Glasvegas otherworldliness with guitars the size of skyscrapers, influenced by the transatlantic hits of the 50s and 60s, to create something intergalactic for the modern age. Orbison and Strummer in the same jacuzzi. Morrissey and Meek in the same limousine. Conversations in the dark with a target branded unto the surface of the heart. The alienated and the angelic. The euphoric and the crestfallen. The complex and the deceivingly simplistic.
”I’d like to say that when I sat down to write the songs, I knew everything that was meant to happen” – James Allan.
LTW: What was the reason for wrapping these moments, these truths, in a concept album like Godspeed? Was it just an appropriate kind of narrative vehicle to carry the tunes along and deliver them?
JA: It was a gradual thought really. It was how I imagined the songs to tie together. When you think about writing music; and the ideas…I wanted them to be like when you stumble over or trip over a few things. A lot of the time it’s a gradual thing that happens. You’re not really trying to make it happen. It’s a gradual thing that you end up finding yourself in. And when you snap yourself out of it, there’s the song, and there’s the idea. Over a period of time that was more of the picture I was putting with the album. Aye.
LTW: I like the idea and think it makes sense to kind of write blind and be lead by the songs and taken by the direction they pull you in. You stumble on or tumble over, ideas and over time they could be sutured together to create a cohesive piece of work.
JA: Aye. Writing music…the best way I can describe it is. I don’t know if you ever feel anxious about something. Do you ever get anxious or feel guilty?
LTW: More angry than anxious.
JA: But do you ever feel anxious or feel guilty?
JA: So how that happen? You don’t know where. It’s a feeling that comes. A heavy version of it. You never say yourself ‘right, I’m going to spend this next half hour guilty’. It comes over you. And before you know it, half an hour has passed. You don’t know where the half-hour went. You snap out of it. You may think to yourself ‘I need to get out of this zone here’. It’s the same with songs in a way that’s not really planned. They come and before you know it you’re locked in there and then you have to snap out of it. That’s the best way I can describe it. For some people, it’s different though. For me, whenever it happens, it happens. I don’t know if that’s easier or harder. But to tell you the truth I prefer it that way because there’s more mystery, for me. Ideas for the concept thing, the idea of an album, on one night. It was a gradual thing that happened. I’d like to say I sat down and I had the idea straight away and that was it. But it’s not true. I don’t think that anyone who will sit down and listen to it will need to receive it in that way. Sometimes I was thinking about how can I actually make it something that people can understand. Different ideas. Some parts of it with little bits of speaking or whatever. I think in the end I just had an idea about how I thought it was. I think there were certain times were you had a feeling. Where you thought it was better to let the audience fill in the gaps themselves. Instead of just dragging through with my hand, through every verse and say ‘this is what’s happening here, this is what’s happening here’. It’s better to let them imagine it for themselves. Because you can probably, considering the album is set on one night, imagine it from different places. From different perspectives and angles.
LTW: One of the main things about the album that drew me in was its location. The notions of it being from the perspective from a carpark on a retail estate at night. It’s something that everybody has a sense of familiarity with but each perspective is distinct nonetheless. It has that unavoidable, unanimously known environment that resonates with people, inside and outside, the car…
JA: Aye that was the thing. It’s that car park thing. It was just one of those things I like to come back to a lot of the time so…that’s kind of how these songs came about.
From the perspective of the car, parked or in motion, we come to realise more and more about the world we live in by letting the location pull us forward through time and space. The speakers playing Screamadelica, then Violator, then Loaded, then Transformer, then Playboy, then Strangeways, then Darklands, the electric phase of a magical dream bursting at the seams of every slowly unstitching pick of reality. The notions of mystery have always been perpetrated by the band. Euphoria, or possibly, heartbreak under the guise of it, taking our hand and taking us to…the future, the past, the first, the last. The pretty, giant gates of a beautiful nostalgia, the doors towards the dawn of neon skylines before the city spills onto the streets, everlasting stretches of melancholic landscapes, above which, we shine like stars, and shine so hard.
From the angle of down here, looking up there, and being devoured by the intense fevers of predicament, of possibility. But a lot like guilt, or anxiety, these sensations creep upon us and crawl under the skin without a whisper of a warning. And often caught between one hard place and another; blood boiling over out of desperation to secure our own truth in a world of heads and tails, we fall under the influence of the single syllable: If.
What If drive here, or If I drive there, or If I walk here, or If I walk there, with my lights down low, and my logic turned off; I’m following something, falling in love with a light being switched on my a flicking finger I cannot see, or here. If only…
And his propulsive, ludic, illuminated sense of wanting to equalise the mystery of the modern world with revealing the time-ravaged flesh below the fabric of all it bathes below and slumbers under, has always been at the core of Glasvegas’ clock.
It’s limitless ticking. A ticking like the picking of a certain standard of truth between the teeth. Social workers without their rightful halos. Drug addicts provided with the platforms to reach the ornate, mirrored ethers of pop history.
A ticking like a marching band all cruising toward the finality of the earth’s vibrant, velvet edge. A ticking that, brought us their Mercury Prize-nominated debut in 2008. Then when Van Gough was replaced by Monroe and Glasgow for Santi Monica and luxury beach house accommodations; the sci-fi meets Scarface EUPHORIC///HEARTBREAK\\\. Then Later…When the TV Turns to Static in 2013, produced by Allan. And now, despite how long it went on; despite how drawn out the breath might have been, the long-awaited fourth…the next footstep
Kindred to the songwriting process on Godspeed, or perhaps any prior album by the group, we’d all like to say we can say to ourselves something along the lines of: ‘I’m going to sit down and something will happen’, by virtue of nothing more than we want it too.
But we often want the things we can’t have.
James wanted Rock ‘n’ Roll Star and he got Daddy’s Gone. He wanted Cigarettes and Alcohol and he got Flowers and Football Tops. So things happen for a reason. The serendipitous nature of all things wrapping the past, the present, and the future up practically blinded by all they believe in and bleed for. The writings of the bright ribbons in disoriented states of creative flow. Where sparks fly when seized by a feeling that must be unleashed or face falling to one’s knees.
Unable to deduce how fast, and how heavy, the walls will unfold, and the world will collapse in on itself like a giant city of glass cards. Yet, we cannot be held accountable for the hazy memory of a moment that has consumed us. We merely wake up in the bed, a series of unforeseens, and we merely walk back through the door, with little or no recollection of how we wound up there; with no real sense of accuracy about where we have been, wh with, what for. Every person a possible Pierrot. Suspicious of the shadows they are cast between.
The flattening of one thing, the flowing of another, perhaps Godspeed, and the concept of progression, from one dot on the map to the next, through cities familiar and distinct to each and every but unique in how they are built to bury us in memory and experience; is one which resonates so finely because of this imploring to let audiences fill in the gaps themselves. To let them draw their own map, steer their own ship, tie their own shoes, and drive their own car to wherever the points of desire are burning. To the city’s ripped backside, under the bright and hollow sky, green eyes, blue eyes, grey eyes.
”I think we’re the kind of band that usually do things that other people would avoid. I’m unsure if that’s a conscious or subconscious thing” – Rab Allan.
LTW: When you are working on the songs together in the studio how far along do you have to go before integrating Rab or Paul or whoever into the mix? I know you recorded, engineered, produced the album yourself…
JA: Even now he still blows me away. He still amazes me. Even after all this time, there’s something there that I really admire. The last time we met up, I was amazed. When I’m writing the parts, whatever I can get a sound out of or play it in a way he can understand. And then after that, I always think about, with Rab and Paul as well, something like an idea that they can make believable. It’s like a stamp they put on it and say: ‘this is the truth’. Before that, it’s not got that. When I write it’s like a wee, stary dog, and I give it to Rab, and it’s a monster. I think that’s the best way I can describe it. What about you Rab, it’s kind of like that?
RA: It’s like that when I can remember the parts. It’s funny, when I was rehearsing for this show last week I text him and was like ‘mate you’re gonna need to tell me what the part is for this song’, and he said ‘you played it. I forgot I actually played it. On the album. I must have been…
JA: Half of me was thinking ‘should I just take the credit here?’. What is for In My Mirror?
RA: No it was Dying To Live. The older, my memory Is getting worse and worse. It’s terrible.
LTW: Are there certain songs you don’t play? Not so much because you don’t like them but maybe for other reasons that prevent you from wanting to play them, or do you like giving everything a shuffle and allowing it to have a fair fight live?
JA: I think both to be honest. I don’t think we’ve avoided anything is there?
RA: I think we’re the kind of band that usually do things that other people would avoid. I’m unsure if that’s a conscious or subconscious thing. Getting James’ mother to do a song with us at a gig and stuff. On Change. I think the thing with the band is that we do what we want to do. In terms of choosing songs and playing songs that we want to do.
JA: When you said that I was just gonna say what’s he talking about? When do we do things that other bands don’t? ‘Getting his mum up on stage’. Oh aye.
RA: It’s not even that…it’s also choosing songs we want to put on an album or songs you’re gonna release as a single. Other people would choose all singles to at least try to promote yourself and sell records or whatever you want to do. I’m not gonna say we’re the total opposite or anything like that. Maybe we’re in the position to do that.
LTW: I’ve always noticed Glasvegas are a band that does things on their own terms. And although do have brilliant singles, always seem to be focused on their own foot forward, on their own road ahead…not polluted by other people’s bullshit almost…so maybe it’s that kind of spirit inbuilt in the band I take to and admire the most. Was it difficult when you played the live gig at St Luke’s to play to nobody actually, physically, present? Gigs I’ve been to, either yours or otherwise, are special because of contact with other fans of music and human beings…was that weird?
RA: I felt quite strange walking out. But quite quickly I get into the zone. I just try and have a good time. And I think to myself, if I’m having a good time, surely everyone else is gonna have a good time as well. I think that was a mentality for the live show. It was strange playing to nobody but when I looked over to James and he looked like he was having a good time…and looked at Paul, and I’m like, this is what it’s about.
James decided to record, produce, and engineer the album himself. And although he tells me, along with a handful of other decisions have not been ‘logic-driven’, instead preferring the direction of the inner arrows shooting forth from his heart to wherever the target may be painted; the heart behind bars, wishing to break free, allured to chase a flickering dot to wherever the other dot might be drawn, the fantastical notions of, with or without logic, of Kevin Shields, or Kevin Parker, Moroder, Plank, or Flood (again), J Spaceman or Jean-Michel Jarre getting their hands on, and heads in, something like Godspeed is a concept of my own, I cannot ignore.
In any case; such strategies aren’t true. Such choices weren’t voiced. Because belief intervenes, and belief arrests us in ways others cannot fathom. ”It’s just an understood thing that when we’ve got a feeling that something has got to be a certain way, we don’t really question that”. And the noise took a long time to see the light of day, radiating from the heart of the neon dawn. Waiting for the right time to leave the car park’s edge, back to earth, a return to real, when the night dies and lights are revealed to be sourced from a million differently lit houses and billboards.
There’s an aura that has grown around these characters. Carrying a certain mad disposition. Chaos and order along with the same narrative as everyone else. Because everyone else is unable to ignore the compulsion to be involved. To be associated with the particular trip. Are we saying Godspeed is Loveless? Are we saying Godspeed is Pet Sounds? No. But there’s an undoubted attraction to those kinds of voices, these particular personalities, walking on a tightrope with one side fastened to genius, one side fastened to lunacy, the night before, and the morning after, that shoots fire and vibrancy and uncompromising ideas into the mix of all things. And these characters, these personas, these particulars, walk above lava, no matter how suspended they might be, squashed until they drop in states of squalor, or states of utmost serenity where sunlight bathed the golden glow.
”The band and management have always believed in what I’ve wrote. I don’t know if I could believe that much in anybody else’s thing” – James Allan.
LTW: Why did you decide to perform all duties for this album? To record, produce, engineer and all the rest of it. Was it to cease a certain level of control or watchful protection over the songs that they deserve?
JA: I think it was just a feeling that I had. I don’t know exactly why It was. Just an instinctual thing. Which a lot of it was. A lot of the choices I make in the band aren’t logic-driven. And that can be a wee bit difficult. Was that well said? The thing is, for every band, I’m sure there’s different characters and personalities and stuff, and for us, that’s probably been a wee bit difficult at times for…management and the band and stuff. When I have the ideas, it’s not like I say: ‘this is the way it’s got to be’. But I just believed it could be a certain way and everybody’s got behind it. Now, along the way, when it’s been taking so long. I don’t know if I would have been as patient as Rab was or the band was, or management. I’d like to think I would be, but I’m not sure. For the first year and a half, Rab was saying ‘when’s the album gonna be finished?’ and I’d say ‘soon’. And management would ask. It would make me feel anxious. They weren’t putting pressure on me. They were just asking a simple question. Then I’d be thinking to myself, ‘fuck them asking me again when is this album gonna be finished?’ And then, I thought that was bad. But what was worse, was after a year and a half, people stop asking. That’s worse. After three years I’d think ‘please somebody ask me when’s the album gonna be finished?’
LTW: But maybe if they wouldn’t ask it would’ve turned into Smile or another Loveless. People’s pressures, or being inquisitive about the work is a good thing.
JA: Oh aye. It wasn’t really pressured. Being in the band, I’m in it with my cousin, and my sister manages the band and all that. So there’s success, and there’s the business side of it. And nephews and the other side…what’s your truth that you’re gonna express through the band for anybody who wants to listen? And although I want everybody to get out of the band, everything they’ve dreamt of that they want. In the past, I’ve probably been a wee bit stuck between that. Why I think that’s the best truth to express myself with? I don’t mean stuck by trying to make something successful or anything like that. I mean stuck in the moment where you either accept it or you don’t. Or recognise it or don’t. A position of different interests. That’s me saying that. I say stuck. I mean the question you ask yourself. Because you want the best things for them. But then again, you’re quite quickly reminded…It’s not your choice. So although felt guilty and feel bad about things taking so long and all that. It was one of these things that I felt like that was in my heart. I wouldn’t be able to make that decision if it was just something I had a wee feeling about. It was in my heart. The way it was meant to be. And I really felt quite strongly about it. And that’s probably the only way I would put the band through that kind of thing. Do you know what I mean?
LTW: Even the kind of icons and artists that we look at through the filter of perhaps madness or musical lunacy do so because they invest everything in its end. You wouldn’t put Glasvegas through something if you couldn’t invest all your heart and soul in the thing.
JA: Aye. And that’s not to say along the way I wouldn’t doubt…it’s not like I would doubt whether or not it was the right thing. But I’d probably doubt how good or bad I am. But in my heart I know this is the right thing. The thing we need to do. It’s just one of those things. It’s hard to measure whether is something good in music because people receive it in different ways. But I think that for any band…not wanting to kill each other, after the singer does this kind of thing. The singer and the songwriter that’s not lost their heart, and faith. That’s sociopathic. That amount of time…is that belief or psycho? I always approached it with the same sort of spirit. But along the way I do think I wish I’d be doing it faster.
LTW: Cool. I’m gonna wrap this up by talking about the ‘characters and personalities’ you mentioned within music…the faith and the heart of their singer as being sociopathic or just someone with an unshakable source of belief in what they do. How important are people like McLaren, Alan McGee or Joe Meek or Brian Wilson in the story? McGee maybe more so with the recent biopic that’s been released…
JA: I guess. That’s a good point…Joe Meek aye. The thing is, it would be a different story, and I wouldn’t be strong enough to see it through, without the band. I’d like the say I would be, but the truth is…and it’s fine now because we’ve finished the album, but two or three years ago, you’re in that middle. That uncertainty. There’s no certainty for how this thing is gonna work out. That time there, if Rab for example would have turned around and said ‘fucking hell man, this is not working, and everybody’s panicking’. Then I don’t know what would’ve happened with the album. So when I’m talking about other artists like Brian Wilson, who have done things, I think that’s a big part of it. You hear certain things. Obviously, I wasn’t in the Beach Boys. But you can put the pieces together and work out how it might have went down with that album.
LTW: Sure…I think those people who have a certain personality and perhaps a reputation and a vision of how things could look and sound and feel are important to include in the narrative…to structure the work and how people perceive them. Mark E Smith maybe too…
JA: Aye…I don’t know that much about Mark E Smith. That the Fall?
LTW: I can help with this.
Maybe that’s why we put our lives in the hands of artists. They can hear things, they can see things. The aches and pains in the joints and screws of all that make us human, of all that makes us hollow. They pull the pieces apart and put them back together again. An obelisk, an ocean, a radio transistor they can tune into from afar and channel the energy it expulses. A big picture perhaps only they can see but everyone is available to believe in. If they dare to taste the sensation, often thrust upon us on the ascent, the crest, and the crash, of each heaving wave. Things that carry. Things that crush us to pieces. Because everyone else, anyone else, is sometimes all there is to listen, along for the ride, high on the buzz of an urban hymnal. Without so much fucking logic behind the wheel, merely observing the world, as mortals with gods in their gums, turning itself inside out from the nakedness of new passenger seats.
Where I ride and I ride.
Just dream, dream, dreaming…
Ryan Walker is a writer from Bolton. His archive can be found online here.
Photographs by Molly Brander.