Matt Deighton: Interview
Matt Deighton first came into the consciousness of the music world as singer/songwriter/guitarist with Mother Earth. A band that masterfully mixed soul, funk and rock. After three studio albums on Acid Jazz Records (Stoned Woman, The People Tree, and You Have Been Watching) and one live album (The Desired Effect), they split in 1996.
Deighton’s gift was then captured with the release of four solo albums (Villager, You Are The Healer, The Common Good, and Wake Up The Moths). A treasure trove of pastoral beauty. They revealed a master craftsman at work.
An album, Myngrl Welsh by Pobl Y Bryn, followed in 2015. A four piece Welsh language rock band fronted by Deighton’s wife, Cler Fach. Fach has previously worked with Chris Difford (Squeeze), Roger Daltrey (The Who) and The Cult etc. and has an acclaimed past in music and theatre.
Next month sees the release of Electric Blend, the debut album by The Family Silver. A band consisting of drummer, formerly of The Style Council and Paul Weller, Steve White, and ex Ocean Colour Scene bassist Damon Minchella. Deighton is again fronting a band. We speak to him about this and his musical journey.
LTW: What music did you listen to growing up? What turned you onto music?
MD: From the age of around four-five I was listening to Tyrannosaurus Rex, then by seven-eight Sparks, Queen, The Stranglers, Elvis Costello and the Attractions etc. Punk from my older brother and cousin. By 14, I was into all kinds of music from This Heat, Wire, to early punk of Scritti Politti, Jimmy Giuffre Trio, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Family, Duster Bennett and a lot of music, everyday really.
One of the great things with Mother Earth was you could hear all your influences coming though. Your records introduced listeners to Curtis Mayfield and Gil Scott-Heron etc. I didn’t get that from the Britpop bands. Listening back to the records you made on Acid Jazz – how do you think they sound? What songs are you most proud of?
Mother Earth was an odd mix of influences that had the least to do with a label of that name. We just sneaked in through the back door, then established ourselves as a real live band. This is where influences like The Byrds, Hendrix, Pink Floyd from Chris White (drums) would merge with mine which would merge with Curtis Mayfield, Tower Of Power from Neil Corcoran (bass) via Small Faces, Brian Auger from Bryn Barklam (hammond) and that was our sound… In the studio we rarely captured what we really were about when people saw us live, they never cut us that way in the studio. That’s by no means a complaint, but our influences blossomed more on stage to my ears.
I haven’t listened back to anything I’ve done, not to say I ain’t proud, I am, but as a writer and musician I don’t need to hear what I was up to on You Have Been Watching or whatever, it was done then and captured our feelings then, so it’s done and you move on to what you’re gonna say in a song today really. I’m proud of being in that band at that time, glad we did what we did. Each song was done the best way we felt at the time, so favourites are hard to pick.
You temporarily replaced Noel Gallagher in Oasis when he quit in the middle of touring in 2000. How did that come about and what are your memories of that tour?
I was simply asked, recommended by Alan (White) who was drumming for them then. I guess he knew me from working with his brother, Steve, at the time with Paul (Weller). I have great memories, too many to mention. They were just settling in with the new members so it was rather up in the air when I arrived in Switzerland to rehearse. It was what you’d expect it to be like – a really good time, good crew, good music, good arenas.
Did you enjoy the experience as a solo artist and releasing music under your own name? Are you more comfortable in a band?
For me the word ‘solo’ ended up being short for So Lonely… I was out here, there, abroad and playing acoustically. Playing some of my best songs really and I wasn’t in a position to be able to release any music for an album as I had lost touch with the ‘industry’… so if you saw me live, you wouldn’t be able to actually buy the songs you heard, which was frustrating for a lot of fans. I would be playing something, like For Free, and thinking how much more power and magic it would have if I was in a band again. I began to disappear into the sound hole of my own guitar in the end. Then one morning I decided to sell all my rare folk vinyl, like Davy Graham, Nick Drake, Wizz Jones etc. and buy a Gibson Les Paul. Those albums can be beautiful, for sure, but I was through with them and wanted to express myself electrically again, but in a really good band. Those folk albums were beginning to shrink my mind, and I never thought my name on a poster was particularly exciting, well not as exciting as a band name on a poster, suddenly it’s got a feel to it.
When songwriting with Pobl y Bryn, are the lyrics written in English then translated in Welsh or are the songs born out of the Welsh language. If so – does it lead you to write musically in a different way and explore different melodies?
My wife Clare writes the music and lyrics in Pobl Y Bryn. I chipped in now and again, suggested structures, middle eights that kind of thing. She writes in Welsh from the start, they are really clever poetic lyrics, totally missed by the Welsh music scene which is quite limited and blinkered in as far as it’s acceptance of good writing and music out there. We released an album of solid, fresh, Welsh songs called Mngryl Welsh – and got some good television slots on S4C -but it’s a stone wall out there. What Pobl Y Bryn did for me was to re-ignite my love of the electric guitar and the power of a band again… which got me thinking.
How did The Family Silver come to fruition? And what are your aims as a band? Will you be touring?
Mother Earth were on the cusp of going into the studio proper, in January 2013 until it fell through at the last hour, to record what could’ve been something pretty tasty. All the songs were written etc. but by January it was over. Trouble was, I was left with a bunch of new songs that I now had no band to record or play them with, stuff like A Newer Yesterday, Peace and Love, For Free etc. Someone suggested I approach Steve and Damon who were occasionally playing as Trio Valore. I went down to King’s Hall in South Wales and joined them on stage for a couple of instrumentals, felt the power and saw the future there and then. We got together a bunch of songs and demoed four, one afternoon up here in Wales. They were really good and felt natural.
Time went by and now here we are, a great debut album with a good name too. I was sick of so many crap band names out there that had no imagination to me, dull album titles, dull song titles, no one thinking too hard you know? Anyway, our aim from the start was to not be shit, play honestly with feel and hopefully cheer people up or make them feel good. We’ll be playing in the new year when we feel the album has sunk in.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your musical life?
The freedom to express yourself creatively by song. The feeling you get when you are in the studio and you’re moved by the music you’re making as a band – this has always been the driving force in my life, the influence. Then there’s all the songs you love by other people… so many, every day of my life I have put something on the turntable, every day happy or sad, put something on the speakers, let it speak to you, such a good feeling.
Do you think you could have had the same career if you started out in today’s current music climate?
I never took any notice of the musical climate when I started out, to be honest, I just felt the music and followed it on my guitar. I’m doing the same thing today – I leave the climate for the weatherman.
Electric Blend by The Family Silver is released on November 6.
All words by Michael Patrick Hicks. More from Michael can be found at his Author’s Archive.