Monday 7 June 2010

K&A with The Cinematics

Apart from all the great freebies, the best thing about this blogging lark is I get the chance to ask some of my favourite bands a whole host of questions, without coming across as a nosy, crazed fan. One band I've been itching to interview is Glasgow's The Cinematics. I've loved this band for years and its no secret I think they're one of (if not thee) best live Scottish band around. So when they contacted me for an interview, I was quite understandably chuffed!

The guys have just released their amazing "Silent Scream" EP (available here) and are in the studio working on their third album, the follow-up to last years "Love and Terror" (available here).

Here's what Scott and Larry had to say about the band, those releases, and why (oh why?) the band aren't big in Scotland...

Kowalskiy: Who are The Cinematics?
Scott: In short, we are a rock n roll band, originally from Scotland. I sing, Larry here plays guitar, Adam plays bass and Ross hits drums. Between us we make all sorts of other noises on whichever instrument we lay our hands on at any given time. It’s an often-tried approach, you could say, but I think the end justifies the means. People tend to say that our music is dark, but I don’t think it’s any darker than Elvis Presley or the Rolling Stones.

Kowalskiy: How did the band come about, and why did you choose the name?
Scott: I’ve known Ross since I was about three foot tall and we met Adam at school in the Highlands. We met Larry in Glasgow. However, we originally had another fellow, Ramsay, on guitar. We always had a desire to make large, expansive music, and so “The Cinematics” seemed fitting.
Larry: I think most band names come about because they sound cool. Only bands from Glasgow and Canada try to be witty in their name choices. Most of the world doesn’t understand wit, so it’s a futile cause. You’re really much better picking a name that will impress girls and look good on posters.

Kowalskiy: You released your 2nd album (and 1st with Larry) "Love and Terror" (Kowalskiy's #6 of 2009) last year after a series of pretty turbulent events. Fancy reliving it for me?
Scott: Most of the turbulence arrived when our label, TVT Records, went bankrupt. This would have been fine but for the fact that, as well as TVT not being able to release our record, they insisted that we do not release on any other label, so we were in Limbo for six months until our contract was bought by another company, The Orchard. It’s not really a very interesting story in itself- lots of corporate nonsense and contractual bunkum- but during this period of enforced stasis we wrote songs about our lives at the time. Money got a bit tight, relationships broke down, and everything seemed a bit hopeless.
Larry: Sometimes I think I may be a bit of a Jonah, as the very day I joined the band we learned that the label had went into administration.

Kowalskiy: After the release of Love and Terror, you relocated to Berlin. How does the music 'scene' differ between Berlin and Glasgow?
Larry: We haven’t really relocated, as such. Scott and I both still have flats in Glasgow and we’ve been in London a fair bit this year also. We’ve been staying in Berlin while we write and record the album, but I’m not sure what we’ll do after it’s done. I think we’ll probably stay here for a bit at least, while we tour in Europe. There is talk of moving to America afterwards, probably New York. Most of our plans are in the US, so it would probably make sense to be there full-time, if it’s possible.
Scott: The music and art scenes in Berlin are pretty crazy. The cost of living here is oddly low, so a lot of creative people are drawn here. I imagine that New York would have been like this in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. Being surrounded by interesting people like that is healthy for writing an album. Here it feels much more like we’re at liberty to do whatever we like.

Kowalskiy: You've made more of an impact over there than in Scotland (so much so that you've released new EP "Silent Scream" on a German label). Why do you think that is?
Larry: The EP was released digitally in all territories, but one of our friends in Berlin runs an indie label and he asked if he could license it for a limited-edition physical release.
Scott: Our music seems to be received better outside Scotland, certainly. In the US and in Europe we’ve had much more success, but even within the UK we’re received better in most of England than in Scotland. It’s an odd situation whereby we can easily sell out shows in cities all over the world- New York, London, LA, Berlin, Rome, Paris and so forth- but when we come home to Glasgow we play to less than 250 people. In fact, it’s crazy when I think about it! We’ve been on American Network TV, playing to 18 million people on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, and next month we’re playing live on prime-time MTV Europe, but Radio Scotland only plays our songs once in a blue moon.
Larry: Scotland has a funny attitude to people being successful. Scottish people like glorious failure. I think there is an attitude in the Scottish music industry and media that this band is somehow too big for its boots. The band formed, quickly got signed to one of the biggest labels in the world, recorded an album in one of the most expensive studios in the world with a big-name producer and then packed off to America for most of its touring-existence. That rubs a lot of people up the wrong way and I think these people are delighted that the band hasn’t yet gone stratospheric. Glasgow bands are supposed to wear checked-shirts, have beards, sing in forced Scottish accents and put their records out from their bedrooms, which is fine by me, but we just want make a different sort of music. I mean, some of my absolute favourite bands are Scottish - the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Cocteau Twins, the Associates... - and these bands are all, quite rightly, highly regarded by music fans in Scotland, but only because they never became huge. Take, for example, a band like Simple Minds. If you played them in Nice n Sleazy or the 13th Note you’d get shot. They were the biggest band in the world and Scotland is ashamed of them. Fair enough, Belfast Child is an abomination, but they were a great, great band and I’m proud to say I like them. When I want to feel good about life I put in New Gold Dream, which isn’t considered cool, and I will categorically say that Empires and Dance is one of the greatest albums ever made.
Scott: It’s best, I think, not to get bogged-down in the politics of it all, as it’s not good for the creative process.

Kowalskiy: Can you tell us the story behind the new EP? What do you think the reaction in Scotland will be to it?
Scott: We didn’t intend to release a record until our album comes our later in the year, but we found ourselves with a collection of songs that we felt our fans would like to hear.
Larry: We recorded the EP tracks while on the road at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, here and there after sound checks and on off days. It was really just a little project of mine to stave-off the boredom that comes from waiting around in the tour bus or in dressing-rooms. In the end, when the tracks all sounded good, it seemed like a good idea to stick it out.
Scott: To answer your question, I can’t imagine there will be too much of a reaction to it, in Scotland or elsewhere. Our label were lukewarm on the idea, so there hasn’t been much of a promotional push. In their minds, there are no obvious radio songs on the record, and I guess they’re right. I think the CD release is limited to 5000 copies and most our fans will just download it anyway, so it’s really just a way of letting people hear some songs that we think are great.

Kowalskiy: What's the future plans? And will your new album have a song "Moving (Back) to Glasgow"?
Scott: Well, we need to get this album finished as soon as possible, otherwise it won’t be released on time. Then we’ll tour Europe, the UK and America. It would be good to see some other parts of the world this time around also. Some Japanese promoters wanted to bring us over there after Love and Terror, but we didn’t have time, as we wanted to get another album out first, but it would be great to go there this time. We also get a lot of requests to tour South America. I’d love to play there, but I don’t know what record labels think about that. We’ll try our luck and ask the question anyway.
Larry: I don’t think there will be a Moving (Back) to Glasgow, no. You know the scene in Cinema Paradiso, where the old projectionist tells the boy not to come back to the small Sicilian town until he’s made something of himself? Well, that’s how I feel about Glasgow. I don’t think we’ll go back there, as a band, until we’ve made something of ourselves.

Kowalskiy: Here's hoping you make something of yourselves then! I've always said you're the best live band I've seen. Can you sum up your live show for us, and where's the best place you've ever played?
Larry: We try to be spontaneous: we never play the exact same parts twice. In this day and age, where no-one buys records anymore, your live show has to be special. We have to put on the best show possible and we have to do it with the sweat of our own labour. A great gig is not about the light-show or the band being dressed as giant animals. In my mind, anyway, it’s about going on-stage and kicking out the jams, hopefully connecting with your audience in the process.
Scott: I think highlights so far would be the Bowery Ballroom in New York or at the Arena in Vienna. Also, we played at an outdoor festival in Kaiserslautern last year, where the rain was so heavy during the final support act’s set that the organisers actually announced on the stage that we wouldn’t be performing, for safety reasons, as the whole stage was submerged in an inch of water, even though it was undercover. The crowd went nuts and people actually climbed on-stage in protest. We stuck around for almost an hour, waiting to see what happened, and all the time the crowd were getting increasingly restless. Anyway, the rain stopped and the crew swept the water from the stage. When we finally took the stage, the crowd went insane and it turned out to be a hell of a great show.

Kowalskiy: What would your ideal gig be?
Larry: Outside of time and space, the mini-festival bill would be... Bowie (1977), The Clash (1980), our band (2011), Roxy Music (1973), the Jesus and Mary Chain (1985), with Neil Young (1972) opening, just him and his acoustic. I’d say that the Barrowlands would be a great venue for it, but with Bowie and the Clash involved, we’d probably have to move it to Glasgow Green.

Kowalskiy: Finally, any interesting/embarrassing facts about someone in the band you'd like to reveal?
Larry: As I speak to you now, Scott is on his laptop, watching a video on Youtube compiled by the National Federation of Fish Fryers. Not a word of a lie. He worries me enormously.

Cheers guys!

If that's not enough, here's a bit more from Larry and Scott...

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