Friday, 31 December 2010

2010's Top 10 Albums: #1 - Broken Records

And finally, at number 1... it's last years runners up, Broken Records with their so-called difficult second album Let Me Come Home.  It's no secret I love this band, and I tried my best to put that to one side when putting together my top 10.  In the end though, whether it's a biased opinion or not, this album is a thing of sheer beauty, joy and heartbreak all rolled into one, and a very worthy #1.   Here's just two reasons why...

The Motorcycle Boy Reigns
You Know You're Not Dead

As with the rest of the top 3, I managed to ask the band a few questions about their album, the year gone by, and what we can expect in 2011.  Here's violinist Rory Sutherland with the answers...

Kowalskiy:  What is your take on Let Me Come Home?
Rory: Let Me Come Home is an album we were all happy to make. It sounds strange to say that, but it opened doors and allowed us to experiment with what we do. You have to understand that we had been playing the songs from Until the Earth Begins to Part for about 3 years, so a clean slate allowed us to put to tape all the ideas that had been shelved in the interim. Purely as a result of touring constantly, we realized that our arrangements had become more concise, which is very obvious on Let Me Come Home, we wanted the songs to be immediate enough on the first listen to make you want to go back and hear the layers hidden beneath the surface. That's what I think is most important about Let Me Come Home, we learnt how to give the songs space.

Kowalskiy:  What has 2010 been like for you?
Rory:  2010 has been a busy year for us both on stage and behind the scenes. We released our debut in June 2009 and had been touring it fairly constantly in the UK and mainland Europe. The most important step in the first couple of months of 2010 was to get over to America, and 4AD thought that SXSW would be the best introduction for us over there. Alongside preparations for that, we were constantly working on and developing the ideas of what became Let Me Come Home.  Recording for this started straight after we returned from Texas so we were writing and developing songs in the midst of a very busy period of time. We were in studio with Tony (Doogan) for a month and then we were straight into festival season. Since then we've seen the release of Let Me Come Home and toured the UK in support of it.  Sadly we lost two of our members, Gill and Arne, who left the band to pursue other ventures. We also gained a member, Craig Ross, who joined in August.  In all honesty it's been a hectic 12 months, but we can't wait to get started on the year ahead!

Kowalskiy:  What's been your highlight of 2010?
Rory:  We've had so may highlights this year that it would be impossible to choose just one. I would say touring with The National was a unanimous highlight. They had previously asked us to play with them in 2009 at the Royal Festival Hall where they played a few sketches from High Violet. Having released the album and it taking off in the way it did, it was great to see them finally getting the recognition they deserved.  Our Liquid Room show in the summer was an occasion we'll never forget, it was Gill and Arne's last show in the band and was probably the best show we've ever played. It was also a fitting transition between old and new because it was Craig's first official gig as a member.  Personally however, covering violin duties in Efterklang was great fun for me, and also working on our album artwork with Vaughan (Oliver), who is personal hero of mine, was amazing!

Kowalskiy:  What does 2011 have in store for you?
Rory:  For the time being we are making preparations for our co-headline tour with Freelance Whales in February, and then we'll be off to the States again to start our own headline tour later in February and March. There will no doubt be much more happening this year with festivals and touring but as it stands, we're just concentrating on what we have in front of us.
Let Me Come Home can be bought from Amazon MP3, iTunes and all the other usual places.  As Rory said, the band will be touring in February and March (all details here), with one or two Scottish gigs before then.

Upcoming Gigs
16th Jan - The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow (with The Burns Unit)
30th Jan - Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh (with Freelance Whales)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Exception To The Rule #3 - The Raw Men Empire

And you thought I'd forgotten all about these 'Exception' posts!  Well, truth be told, I had forgotten all about this particular one.  But thanks to the band-in-question's persistence, here it is.  Better late than never, eh guys?  That band is The Raw Men Empire, a four-piece,  "freak-folk" band all the way from Israel.  Now, I'm no expert on Israeli music (my only other encounter was watching Dana International scoop the Eurovision title back in 1998) but this isn't bad at all! 

When I got their email, two things intrigued me about Elodie, the band's latest EP.  First, there was the comparisons with Devendra Banhart, someone I've always found a bit hit-and-miss (though his recent Arcade Fire support set did manage to sway me), and then there's the "freak folk" thing!  It was anyone's guess what I was going to hear when I finally pulled my finger out and had a listen.

To be honest, three songs into the EP and I wasn't hearing either of those comparisons.  To me, it sounded more like The Notwist, not as cold or as glitchy though, and with a load of great harmonies.  No more so than on Fall Down.  It's on the fourth song, Town Full Of Sinners, that the freak starts to come through with some Devendra-esque spoken vocals, yelps and increasingly frantic guitars.  Then there's the brassy finale of Between You And Me which is just beautiful.   All in all, I'm not convinced by the whole freak thing, but if Elodie is a sneaky peak into what these four guys from Israel have to offer, then I can't wait to hear more! 

Elodie is available from here as a name-your-price download.  I asked Nadav from the band what they had in store for 2011.  Here's what he had to say...

Nadav:  We're touring Europe for the first time, starting January 21st. We'll play in Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, the full tour dates are available in our MySpace. Other than that we're working on our next EP, which we plan to record in a secluded cabin somewhere near the Israeli-Lebanese border... beautiful and (believe it or not) peaceful area. Then hopefully another European tour in the spring.

So, no Scottish dates yet, but watch this space!

Friday, 24 December 2010

2010's Top 10 Albums: #2 - How To Swim

Second place goes to Glasgow's orchestral behemoth, How To Swim, for their meticulous, musical masterpiece Retina (or More Fun Than A Vat of Love).  Back in September, I made my feelings known on how good this album is.  Here's what How To Swim's Gregor Barclay had to say about the album, what 2010 has been like for the band, and what the new year holds in store...

Kowalskiy:  What is Retina all about?
Gregor:  The idea with the album was to see how far we could push the heavily orchestrated thing - we experimented with string sections and marimbas and stuff on the last couple of EPs (It Stings When I EP and The Littlest Orgasm), and we wanted to see how far we could go with that and still keep on the right side of sickly. World of Fear, The Ghastly Ones and another couple in there are really us trying to see what we can get away with (WoF was described as an "indulgent car-crash of sound" in one review - that's arguably an accurate description...). Our whole agenda since we were the Electric Honey band has been to try and not be restricted by having no money behind us; if a song needs a string section or an oboe or something, we'll find a way of getting it, rather than leave it out because it's a hassle to organise. I think, overall, that's been something that people have responded to. Even if they're not massive fans of the band, I hope that people see that we're busting a nut to make what we think is an interesting sound.

Kowalskiy:  Sum up How To Swim's year for us.  What has your highlight of 2010 been?
Gregor:  2010 has been a mixed year for us; we were really happy to finish the album and see what people made of it, but we've also seen a few players departing - a couple of guys who'd been with us for years have gone on to do other things, so it's a little bit like the end of an era. I think they can be happy, though, that Retina's a fitting swansong. Gig-wise, our launch show at Stereo in October was a definite highlight; we got a chance to play the album through in full, in order, with most of the guys who played on it (I think we had 15 on stage at one point). Making a very silly music video on Millport was also a blast.

Kowalskiy:  Lastly, what can we expect from How To Swim in 2011?
Gregor:  We're going back into the studio in March or April to record the follow-up to Retina, which is mostly written at this point. It's going to be called Blood Orange, and it'll be a little bit more stripped back than the current album, and a little more poppy.  Beyond that, I'm planning on directing a feature film in the summer, which HTS will provide the soundtrack for. We're hoping to get some gigs down south too, as well as some festival slots - we didn't really do the festivals this year as we were 'between' drummers, so we're pretty keen to make up for that in 2011.

Before all that, How To Swim have uploaded a selection of early demos and recordings from 2002/03 called How To Swim Start Life In 2D on a name-your-price basis, and a wee early pressie for you in the form of Santa's Got All The Best Tunes, their three track free festive EP.  It's a cracker!


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

2010's Top 10 Albums: #3 - Bottle Of Evil

The best thing about this blogging lark is that every-so-often, a great album comes along that you otherwise wouldn't have heard.  Every now and again, that album completely blows you away.   I'll be honest.  When the email arrived from Lanarkshire's shoegazey duo Bottle Of Evil, the coming together of Evil Hand and Bottle Of Steven, I wasn't expecting this to be the case.  The fact their self-titled debut has clinched third place in my albums of 2010 though, suggests it did just that.  Let me just reiterate what I've said before... Bottle of Evil have delivered one of the unexpected, stand-out albums of the year!  And here's just 2 reasons why...

For my top 3 albums, the men and women behind them have been kind enough to answer a few questions.  I spoke to one half of this duo, the evil half, earlier in the year, but here's Derek Bates again to tell us about the album, what 2010 has been like, and what we can all expect from Bottle Of Evil in the next twelve months...

Kowalskiy:  What's your take on your album?
Derek:  We had never really thought about the release when we were recording the songs, as it was such an experimental open-ended period - it was quite strange to actually have a cohesive albums worth of material together. We took time with sequencing and then sent a few copies out, we weren't expecting much though and were surprised at how many people started getting in touch and the string of positive reviews. Listening back we're both still happy with the album, we worked with what we had at the time to make something heavily melodic but still a bit strange. We were disillusioned with the constant string of generic artists and copyists, and wanted to do something relatively unique to us and where we lived.

Kowalskiy:  So what has 2010 been like for Bottle Of Evil?
Derek:  When positive reviews started coming in it was very strange but a great feeling, kinda rewarding after all those hours spent locked away listening to looping delays and click track hi-hats.. I especially have to thank the Scottish Blogging Community who were very supportive from the start. We then decided to get a few hundred CDs printed up, and put them into places like Love Music and Avalanche, whilst sending more out for promotion. At that point we were lucky to get feedback from magazines/websites all around the UK, Europe and the USA, and play in quite a few podcasts. We thought about getting some gigs organised, but quickly realised we would rather be recording more material instead, so concentrated our efforts back in that direction, with a couple of new people joining in the collaborations.

Kowalskiy:  And lastly, what does 2011 hold in store for you?
Derek:  We've nearly finished two tracks that we plan to put out as part of a release at the start of February. We're also working on a video with Benjamin Cottin, a Glasgow film-maker that will coincide with the release of one of the tracks on a certain Scottish EP release very soon, ahem. There will probably be a few months off to get back to our solo material, but I'm sure we'll still pop out a track here and there, maybe for other compilations down the line. Hopefully a new album will be underway towards the end of the year. Overall though, there will be a plentiful output from us both, just in differing forms.

'Ahem' indeed!  While you're waiting for that, head on over to their bandcamp and have a listen to the album in full, maybe even get your wallet out.  I can't recommend it highly enough!

Monday, 20 December 2010

2010's Top 10 Albums: #4 - Meursault

Narrowly missing out on a place in my top 3 is Edinburgh's Meursault with All Creatures Will Make Merry, the outstanding follow-up to their cult debut.  Back in May, I said a few brief words about the album and predicted it'd feature in many an end-of-year best-of list.  Well, last week it was awarded a deserved 3rd place in the second ever Scottish Bloggers and Music Sites awards... told ye!  Here's two reasons why...

One Day This'll All Be Fields
New Ruin

So what does 2011 hold in store for the band?  Chris has left, the guys have added a new bass player and are on the lookout for a full-time drummer.   With that in mind, and from the new songs that crept into their live show towards the end of the year, 2011 could see a new side to Meursault.  Watch this space, and in the meantime, get your hands on the album here from Song, By Toad Records!

Friday, 17 December 2010

2010's Top 10 Albums: #5 - Curators

Kicking off the top 5 is an album I've been meaning to review now for well over a month... with no success whatsoever!   In my opinion, this band are one of the revelations of the year.  They are no strangers to the Kowalskiy blog, having already bared all for one of my idiosyncratic K&A sessions earlier this year, and they were brave enough to be guinea-pigs on the first ever Free Monthly 5-track Kowalskiy EP.  They are of course, Edinburgh rockers, and the best new Scottish band to emerge this year, Curators.

Ever since becoming hooked on those early demos of State of Grace and Turn The Lights Down, I've been anxiously awaiting the release of their debut album Is This A Private Fight?   To say it's been well worth the wait is a massive understatement!  I absolutely love this album.   From start to finish, it's packed full of pulsating riffs and non-stop, balls-to-the-wall rock anthems.  In fact, it's only towards the end of the album that the band hit The Brakes so to speak, and slow things down a bit to give us a breather.  If there is any justice in the world, 2011 will be an amazing year for Curators.  And here's two reasons why (though to be fair, I could have chosen any two tracks from the album)...

If you missed their acoustic session for Fresh Air radio earlier in the week then you can download the session from here!  Also on that show were Jump: Press A, who with Scrap Brain, will be joining Curators in playing a gig at Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh tonight.  Tickets are £5 on the door.  If you can't make it, then head over here, download Is This A Private Fight? and keep your eyes peeled for more in 2011.

UPDATE!  Is This A Private Fight? is now up on Curators' bandcamp to stream with a free download of State Of Grace.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #6

From the cover art of Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #6, you'd be forgiven for expecting a selection of Christmas themed songs.  There is one on there, but really its just another 5 great tracks from some of the best up-and-coming Scottish bands for you to enjoy over the festive period.  In there are some great bands I've come across in the last 12 months, and one or two who I'd expect to see make a big impact next year!  As always, I owe a great deal of thanks to the five bands who were kind enough to contribute these 'crackers'.  They are....

1. Dirty Keys - Only Happy Holidays (demo) (a yet-to-be-completed Christmas song!)

"We wanted to make a recording available to all you Santa fans this Xmas, even if it is just in demo form. We're playing our annual Xmas show on Monday 20th at the Captain's Rest, plus very special guests. You should come!" - Dave Gilles (Dirty Keys)

2. Johnny Reb - Emile (part one) (a snippet of what to expect next year from this much-tipped band)

"an ode to the ill fated boxer Emile Griffith" - Philip Hunter (Johnny Reb)

3. The Paraffins - I Think We're Alone Now (a cover of Tiffany's cult classic)

"I'm afraid its a cover (and one of the most done to death songs on the planet) but it's an exclusive I suppose! Originally did the backing track for a theme night at the Flying Duck earlier this year, so decided to finish it off on an 8-track cassette last week." - Billy Paraffin (The Paraffins)

4. Mammoeth  - Autumn (a non-album track from the artists formerly known as Team Turnip)

"Autumn is a song about coping with change, loving the skin you're in and my favourite season of the year all wrapped up and packaged as a neat wee metaphor. It was written in 2002 and I decided not to put it on the debut album (Nascent, since you asked - in all good record stores now) 'cause I felt it was too introspective, too lyrically oblique and not poppy enough. It was also not new and I was bored of it, much like one gets with all things familiar - wives and girlfriends excepted." - Russell Kostulin (Mammoeth)

5. Thirty Pounds Of Bone - I Was Meant For The Stage (live) (a live cover of The Decemberists' cracking track)

"I really like this song. It’s a beautifully warm and generous song and Colin Meloy is good with words. I learned it to play for a friend’s birthday party and I tend to play it at gigs that are either going badly, or have hardly any people at. It makes me smile. It sometimes seems like it’s a nice way to laugh at yourself in front of people, which any performer should be able to do. The song itself is both witty and tragic. It’s that sort of pathos that you find in statements that appear at first to be supremely arrogant. It’s that winning combination of massive egotism and purpose next to crushing insecurity. Suits me rather well…." - Johny Lamb (Thirty Pounds Of Bone)

Thanks a lot to everyone who contributed, not only to this EP, but to all the others this year.  All EPs are up for free download over on my bandcamp page, with this particular one here!  I hope you enjoy them!

Once Christmas is over, I'll get cracking on EP #7 which will be out on 16th January.   If there's any bands out there who fancy making my life that wee bit easier and want to volunteer a track for one of these EPs, then send me a wee email.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Ten Tracks Presents :: A Website Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas

This Friday, Kowalskiy favourites, and Ten Tracks' most downloaded artist of 2010, Foxgang, join a whole host of bands at Stereo in Glasgow to mark the arrival of the "newly souped-up and easier to use version of the website".  Sharing the stage with them are The BlessingsFrog PocketGRNR, Not Squares, Enfant Bastard, Logikparty, Tokamak, Fur Hood and Blood Blood.  The whole thing kicks off at 6pm and will set you back a measly £10, which also gets you a year-long subscription to the new and improved Ten Tracks.  Get your tickets here or here, and all you Facebookers can RSVP here.

Those of you not able to make it to Glasgow this Friday, fear not!  Foxgang, Not Squares and Logikparty will be in Edinburgh on Saturday to play The Forest Cafe.

I'll leave you with some words from Joe Foxgang... "Get out of the miserable bastard cold and into the heat of a fiery dance inferno".

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

2010's Top 10 Albums: #6 - Thirty Pounds Of Bone

I did say you'd be hearing a bit more from Johny Lamb a.k.a. Thirty Pounds Of Bone this month!  Well, here's one of the reasons why... his fuzzy, folky, gem of an album, Method, which has narrowly missed out on a spot in my top 5 albums of 2010.  Here's what Johny himself said about the album when I asked him a few questions earlier this month, and here's a few reasons why Method is my #6...

Method can be bought on CD or download from here, with a free download of the opening track, Crack Shandy In The Harbour to further whet your appetite!  Just one more Thirty Pounds Of Bone related post to go this year...

Monday, 13 December 2010

2010's Top 10 Albums: #7 - The Kays Lavelle

Seventh on my top 10 albums of the year, but by a mile the most heartbreakingly stunning album of the lot!  If is of course, The Kays Lavelle's Be Still This Gentle Morning.    Back in July, I interviewed Euan from the band and asked for his take on this brilliant album.  Shortly afterwards, the band sadly went their separate ways.  Still, if you're going to leave this album as your one and only, what a legacy to leave!  Here's two reasons why...

Maybe though... just maybe...

Friday, 10 December 2010

2010's Top 10 Albums: #8 - Woodenbox With A Fistful Of Fivers

Before the release of their debut album Home and the Wild Hunt, I'd seen Woodenbox With A Fistful Of Fivers more times than I can remember, and could I find any tracks online??  Could I buggery!  So, it was safe to say that this was one of my most anticipated albums of the year... and it didn't disappoint!  You know the drill by now, here's two tracks to show you why they're in my top 10...

Fistful Of Fivers
Hang The Noose

The album can be bought from Amazon MP3, iTunes, or physical copies from Norman Records.  If you need more convincing then, once again, there's some live radio sessions here, or here from good ol' Mr. Peenko, including a cracking cover of Lady Gaga!

Here's a few upcoming gigs I pieced together from their MySpace and twitter pages...

10th Dec - Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough
11th Dec - Cluny 2, Newcastle
12th Dec - The Arches, Glasgow
18th Dec - O2 ABC, Glasgow (supporting The Silencers)
30th Jan - O2 ABC, Glasgow

If you can't make it to their "very special Christmas show" at Middlesbrough's Westgarth Social Club tonight, then stay tuned to their Facebook for a live stream!  They're on at 10pm with support from, among others, the great Washington Irving.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

2010's Top 10 Albums: #9 - Steve Mason

In at number 9 on the Kowalskiy Top 10 of 2010 countdown is Steve Mason with his brilliant album Boys Outside.  And here's two tracks from the former Beta Band frontman's album to help you understand why...

Boys Outside
Am I Just A Man

This year, Steve has been tirelessly up and down the country plugging the album on every radio station known to man.  You can get your hands on a few of these from here, or from the good ship Peenko here.  If that's not enough, Domino Records are giving away acoustic versions of All Come Down and the standout, title track Boys Outside which Steve performed at the album launch in London earlier this year.  All you gotta do, is sign up to his mailing list here.

As for any upcoming gigs this year... you've had it!  Least you don't have long to wait 'til next year.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

2010's Top 10 Albums: #10 - The Last Battle

So begins my countdown of the top 10 albums of the year, and what a year it has been, particularly for Scottish music.  Sure, there's been plenty of outstanding non-Scottish ones this year with The National, Arcade Fire, Get Well Soon and a certain, flamboyant Icelandic chap to name but a few!  I've decided though, to do the patriotic thing, and make it an all Scottish Top 10.  Even that's been a hard slog to narrow down my favourites, with another unlucky THIRTEEN brilliant albums missing out! 

Anyway, as the album cover suggests, it's Edinburgh's The Last Battle who get the ball rolling this year with their fantastic debut Heart Of The Land, Soul Of The Sea.  You can read what I had to say about it earlier this year here, and below are two of the standout tracks for you to have a wee listen to...

As a wee early Christmas pressie, The Last Battle are giving away current single Natures Glorious Rage along with two other tracks on their bandcamp.  Weather permitting, you can also catch them before the end of the year...

Upcoming Gigs
9th Dec - The Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore
10th Dec - Musa, Aberdeen
12th Dec - The Adelphi, Hull
13th Dec - The Well, Leeds
15th Dec - The Garage, London
18th Dec - Kid Canaveral's Xmas Baubles @ The Lot, Edinburgh
23rd Dec - 3rd Annual Christmas Songwriters @ Leith Dockers Club, Edinburgh

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Electropapknit Volume One

On 9th December, Glasgow-based independent record label Electropapknit Records follow up their debut release of Deathpodal's Exu__Wow EP with their second offering... a 16 track D.I.Y. compilation of 'underground' Scottish bands: code-named Electropapknit Volume One.  Along with some Kowalskiy favourites like the douglas firs, Jesus H. Foxx, eagleowl and of course Deathpodal, are some exciting bands such as Iliop, Battery Face and PVH which are new names to me.  It will be released as a free download from here as well as a limited edition, hand printed CDR which will be available at the launch night at The Winchester Club in Glasgow.   All details are on the poster below...

Friday, 3 December 2010

K&A with Thirty Pounds Of Bone

When a press release describes an album as having "the sad accordion of King Creosote" and "some of the fuzz of Neutral Milk Hotel", it's a pretty safe bet that it's gonna get a great, big thumbs-up from me.  Well, that's how the press release described Shetlander Johny Lamb a.k.a. Thirty Pounds of Bone's new album Method.  It's out on Monday and it really is rather good.  It's full of lo-fi, sombre folk songs, some slightly more traditional than others, and the odd Decemberists-esque sea shanty thrown in too.  I've been listening to it for a few weeks solid now and every song lives up to the "whiskey soaked" billing, and added to the warming tones of Johny's voice, its turning out to be one of my favourite albums of the year.  Here's the man himself to tell you a bit more...

Kowalskiy: Who is Thirty Pounds of Bone, and what's the story behind the name?
Johny: Thirty Pounds of Bone is me, Johny Lamb. Sometimes other people have been involved too. Matt Eaton, Steve Grainger, Mary Hampton, Sally Megee, Gris Sanderson, John Pugh and Al from Le Reno Amps have all had a go. There’s an Irish box player called Seamus near Enniskillen who has just agreed to work with me too, exciting that.  The story behind the name? I can’t tell you that, it’s very personal. People often think it’s the average weight of a human skeleton, I’m happy with that, but it’s not true. Well, it might be true, but it’s nothing to do with me.

Kowalskiy: How would you describe 'your sound'?
Johny: I’d describe my sound as ‘not quite there yet’. Almost, but I’m never 100% happy. Everything could be better. I think the thing is to always try to service the song, rather than trying to make the song fit some notion of what you already are. I’m interested in the idea of trying to make a contemporary folksong, something engaged with tradition, but not owned by it. Music doesn’t develop in isolation, I hope my stuff reflects that. Does that make sense?

Kowalskiy: Hmmmmm! So, growing up on the remote island of Unst, son of a clergyman, the call of the sea and the Church must've been pretty strong. What music did you listen to growing up, and how come the call of music won over in the end?
Johny: Well my Dad wasn’t in the clergy then, he had a ‘real’ job. We left the Shetlands for him to retrain. I’ve not quite forgiven him. As for church, my mother is a stoic Irish catholic, so Dad’s church was work, Hers was proper. I always wanted to work in the fisheries, but not much call for it in the midlands of England. Musically, we listened to a lot of stuff in the car. The Clancys, the Pogues, Clannad, Christy Moore, Richard and Linda Thompson, loads of stuff with that ‘Celtic reverb’ you know? (and lots of ABBA). Then I found out about the Pet Shop Boys, the Smiths, Guns and Roses, the La’s, I just bought 7”s every week. Music became all I was interested in. Still is.

Kowalskiy: It's obvious that these all influences factor into your music. What other people/places/things influence you and your music?
Johny: Influence and intuition are hard things to pin down. In songwriting the smallest decision comes from somewhere. The places that loom big in my songs are Wolverhampton, Plymouth, Cornwall, Brighton, sometimes by name, sometimes not. Shetland takes a significant role, because it fills the role of ‘home’, which for the itinerant is always somewhere you are not. Ireland too, to a lesser extent, because it’s where you should, but don’t fit in. Being a second generation migrant ensures ethnic and cultural exclusion from pretty much everywhere. That’s a bit over dramatic I know, it’s not meant to be, it’s just that when you grow up in a lot of different places, you tend to hold on to whatever roots you might have (or have been told you have), and that can be confusing. I also like to write drinking songs, love songs and songs about whaling.

Kowalskiy: You recently released/are releasing (depending when this goes out) Method through Armellodie Records on the 6th December. Some say there's a bit of King Creosote, Neutral Milk Hotel, and personally, I'd say some of The Decemberists in there too. What can folk expect from it, straight from the horses mouth?
Johny: Those comparisons are all very flattering, and yes I’d agree that there’s a bit of Decemberists in there. What can people expect? I don’t know, it’s up and down I guess, quiet songs mostly, but when it’s big it’s pretty dense. I suppose it’s quite sad for the most part, but I don’t think it’s depressing. It looks at loss. Loss of place, of people, of love. But there’s hope there too. I like old instruments, so you can hear the creeks and whistles, with a healthy bit of noise thrown in. This is the first time I’ve played everything myself, which was really satisfying but also scary. There’s no one to blame if it goes wrong. I try to be fairly straight-forward and direct with songs.  Hopefully it works.

Kowalskiy: You're off to Germany/in Germany to plug the album (including a gig at the brilliantly-named 'Prinz Willy' in Kiel). Also, Woodland Recordings have a cracking, free download of a live album from your Berlin gig last year. What's the reaction been to your music over there? Your success wouldn't have anything to do with the 'whiskey soaked' sound would it?
Johny: I always have a great time in Germany. People have been incredibly receptive over there. My stuff seems to work well in Hamburg, perhaps because it’s on the water. It’s an amazing town, as is Berlin. A lot of credit has to go to Stephen Burch (The Great Park) from Woodland Recordings. He does pretty much all the leg-work for me. He’s a selfless guy in that respect, and a good friend. I like touring with him, he can be a kind shoulder. As for the whiskyness, there are specific beers for each town in Germany, before you get to the single malts. We have fun. That’s all I’m saying.

Kowalskiy: What would be your ideal gig?
Johny: That’s hard. I’d like to do a gig at Hasenschaukel in Hamburg, promoted by Vocoustics from Aberdeen, with the Bad Seeds as my backing band, but with Thomas White, Jen Macro from SBL and Al Nero on guitar. Support would come from Birdengine, Mary Hampton and the Diamond Family Archive. I would also insist that Ben Murray from La Frange would be in my dressing room with a Guinness tap. The crowd would all be weeping golden women, and I’d be joined on stage for duets by the ghosts of Vic Chesnut and Mark Linkous with white sheets over their heads. I wouldn’t make any mistakes and the fee would be enormous.

Kowalskiy: Are there plans afoot to tour the album in Scotland in the new year?
Johny: Yes. I think Armellodie are currently booking shows towards mid/late February next year. The 18th or so. It will be exactly as I described above. But in Scotland.

Kowalskiy: What else can we all expect from Thirty Pounds of Bone in 2011?
Johny: I’m working on another record. It’s a much more complicated affair though. Lot’s of field recordings on various formats. More guest musicians. As for the rest of the year, as many gigs as writing and recording will allow, and there’s two or three interesting collaborations in the pipeline….

Kowalskiy: Lastly, as the son of a preacher man, have you ever been tempted to reach and/or teach Dusty Springfield?
Johny: What makes you think I haven’t already? I’m the only boy who can ever reach/ teach anyone. It’s just that some people don’t like to learn….

Method, along with his 2006 debut The Homeless Children Of Migrant Mothers and last years And They Go Down To It In Ships EP are available from Johny's bandcamp page.  To celebrate its release on the 6th December, Johny and the good folk over at Armellodie Records are giving the opening track Crack Shandy in the Harbour - a true tale of racism and narcotics from his time spent in Plymouth - away free here.  You'll also be hearing his name mentioned a few more times on Kowalskiy before 2010 is out!  Lastly, here's those Scottish dates Johny was talking about above....

Upcoming Gigs
18th Feb - BLOC, Glasgow (with The Scottish Enlightenment)
19th Feb - Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh (with Rob St. John)