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Don’t Look Back: 2014 (Part 2)

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Final part of our “Don’t Look Back” series; which is our look back on the year from the perspective of both musicians as well as various members of the arts community at large, who — despite varying geographical locations and backgrounds — all share the following in common: a deep passion and love for music. We’re both honored and delighted to be able to share the words of these special people through their personal accounts of the year that was: 2014. 

Part 2 of a 2-part series.



William Tyler (Nashville, USA)

William Tyler is a Nashville guitarist and composer who has played an integral part in world-renowned U.S. bands such as Lambchop, Silver Jews and Hiss Golden Messenger. In recent years, Tyler has carved out a deeply enriching solo path, beginning with 2010’s universally-acclaimed ‘Behold The Spirit’ (Tompkins Square) and its exquisite follow-up, ‘Impossible Truth’ (Merge Records), released in 2013. Last April marked the release of ‘Lost Colony’ – a limited-edition 12-inch – featuring the new song ‘Whole New Dude’, a full-band re-working of ‘We Can’t Go Home Again’ (from ‘Impossible Truth’) and ‘Karussell’; a cover of a Michael Rother (Neu!) song.


My year in review:

Hanging with my buddy Michael Slaboch talking records and life in early January. Michael came down to Nashville from Chicago and got stuck in a rare snow storm the precluded his return to the Windy City, which I believe was suffering from some of the coldest temperatures on record. We ate bbq and watched Auburn lose to Florida State in the national championship game while Nashville buckled from the cold outside.

Touring with Califone in the dead of an intense midwestern winter.  We did “Big Ten” country: Minneapolis, Madison, Columbus, Omaha, Detroit, Chicago. I should have brought a snowplow instead of a Volvo station wagon. Beautiful people and music. Frigid temperatures. Haunting drives through cracked Michigan highways covered with snow. Listening to Bruce Hornsby in a Tim Horton’s outside of Benton Harbor.

Taking a series of trains across central and southern Europe on tour in February. Played a rock club that doubled as an indoor shooting range in Belgrade. Played a theater in Zagreb. Played a wine bar in Switzerland. Played a cinema in Lausanne, another cinema in Dresden. Watched “Dallas Buyer’s Club” with German subtitles. Read “Blues People” by Amiri Baraka and “Where the Heart Beats”, an incredible book about John Cage and Zen Buddhism. Train hopped across Italy. Wrote fragments of songs in hotel rooms like you are supposed to. Ate everything that was offered to me. Bought Fernet at an Italian gas station.

I drove across America with my buddy Garland two days after returning from Europe. One day we drove from Nashville to Omaha, the next day across South Dakota to Wyoming. Next day all the way to Coeur D’Alene Idaho. The fourth day we made it to Seattle. I did a three-week tour opening for Daniel Rossen. My other best bud Brad Cook accompanied me for most of the trip. Stoned day off driving through the redwoods for a weird evening of awesome beer and sketchy Mexican food in Eureka, California. Playing a winery in Napa valley. Playing the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Driving across the west by myself in a rental car. San Diego to Phoenix, Phoenix to Santa Fe, Santa Fe to Roswell, Roswell to Marfa, Marfa to Austin, Austin to Jackson, Mississippi. Putting about 8000 miles on that poor rental car. Up and down the east coast. Driving back through the North Carolina mountains to home finally and the ‘welcome to Tennessee’ signs greeting me.

I moved temporarily to Oxford, Mississippi for a month. Spent a lot of time writing and reflecting, walking every afternoon down to the town square and sharing a few drinks with new friends. This was the place my parents went to college and I settled into the lazy, deliberate pace of the environs. I feel like as I grow older, the pull further South is stronger. It felt like home.

Green Man festival in Wales. Epic hang with my man David Morris. Playing to a field of friendly folks as the sun set. Being cold in the middle of August and drinking lots of cider.

Some things I enjoyed:

Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather
“Citizen Four”
Harold Grosskopf – Ocean Heart
Swans – To Be Kind
Bob Dylan – Basement Tapes reissue
Bitchin Bajas
Tashi Dorji
Blake Mills
“The Soul of Designer Records” – Big Legal Mess box set
“Jodorowsky’s Dune”

My favorite modern country singles of 2014:

Blake Shelton – Neon Light
Keith Urban – Somewhere in My Car
Dierks Bentley – Drunk on a Plane
Anything by Taylor Swift


—William Tyler




‘Lost Colony’ E.P. is available now on Merge Records.




Félicia Atkinson (The French Alps, France)

Félicia Atkinson is a French visual and sound artist based between the French Alps. She also co-curates Shelter Press, an independent music label and contemporary art publishing house. Félicia Atkinson also releases music via her Je suis le petit chevalier guise and exhibits regularly across both Europe and the US. Atkinson lives presently in the French Alps and has released over 20 records and tapes with labels such as Shelter Press, NNA, Umor Rex, Aguirre, Spekk, La station Radar, Home Normal. Atkinson has performed extensively all over Europe/USA-CANADA with such artists as: Sun Araw, Grouper, Gabriel Saloman, Theo Angel and Hamish Gilmour, Mind Over Mirrors, Lee Noble. She is also involved in the duo Naked Island on the L.A based label Peak Oil (alongside Ensemble Economique’s Brian Pyle). Her new album, ‘A Readymade Ceremony’, will be out on Shelter Press during 2015. 




Caption: Félicia Atkinson painting yogo balls during the preparation of her latest art show at Saprophyt, Vienna, last November.



New Year’s Eve, dancing with candles and flutes outside in the snowy mountains with my friends, the musicians and artists Mc Cloud Zicmuse, Anne Brugni, High Wolf, Marsh Cavern, Chicaloyoh and Bartolomé, my partner in life and in Shelter Press.
Anne Brugnu makes incredible colorful ceramics and drawings. She just published a children books with Mc Cloud called “bonjour”, published by L’artichaud, here is an image of it:


It’s a very sensitive book about natural phenomena and the marvels of earth. And here is an example of her vivid collages:


You can also hear Mc Cloud Zicmuse’ poetic words and music HERE.


Driving from California to New Mexico with Bartolomé. We also met a series of unforgettable artists. In Joshua Tree we walked among the prickly pears with Alexander Stewart and Lilli Carre. They are from Chicago and make very interesting minimalist animated films. Lilli is also an illustrator and ceramic artist. She exhibited recently at the MCA of Chicago. Here are two images of her sculptures:



Alexander made collaborative films with musicians from Chicago, such as Jeremy Lemos, who plays now in Acteurs and also with Disappears, two Chicago bands that I strongly recommend. I particularly like the specially designed EP Disappears published with the Belgian Sleeperhold publications with a silkscreen on the B-side by this young and talented Belgian photographer, Stine Stampers. You can see the design here:


Here are video stills of Alexander’s films ‘Peacock’ and ‘Power’:




In March Bartolomé and I did an exhibition, ‘The Last Frontier’, at this artist-run space in Basel called OSLO 10. They are also a music venue and there was a wonderful list of music shows during the exhibition, some with shelter press artists and some with people, even if we don’t publish them, we feel related to. One of them played at Oslo 10 in March 2014, it’s the French-Japanese musician Tomoko Sauvage who plays with water and bowls: a mesmerizing and meditative music.


April was a beautiful month in the Alps, with butterflies and flowers everywhere. On the 1st of April I invited Jennifer Tee, an artist from the Netherlands, to make a lecture at the art university I am teaching in: Annecy, L’ESAAA. I am a huge fan of her works that include: performance, sculpture and installation. Some examples of her works here, including her latest exhibition at Signal in Malmo:




In May I played a music show for Videoex Festival in Zürich with the experimental film-maker from San Francisco, Paul Clipson. I don’t know if you are familiar with his works, but he showed his films with a lot of interesting musicians from the Bay Area such as Grouper, Jefre Cantu and Barn Owl, who are all musicians that inspire me everyday. Here are some images of Paul’s films:




June was a month spent listening to Suzanne Ciani’s amazing re-issues by Finders Keepers.


In July I toured in Canada with the amazing Sun Araw and D/P/I. I feel like I learned a lot while seeing them playing and each of their shows was a source of joy. I recommend you to see them live and to listen to their latest album. I also played in Seattle with RM Francis that month, which was the occasion to discover his beautiful and smart music.


August was a month spent in Oregon. I always love Portland. It was great to hang out there with my friends and see very good shows and have such great vegetarian food. Then we spent some time camping at CAPE LOOK OUT before I recorded with my friend Peter Broderick. Stay tuned… the project will be called La Nuit and will be out next summer on Beacon Sound.
In Portland I bought a lot of records at Little Axe Records, Mississippi Records and Beacon Sound Records. One of my favorites is ‘Put No Blame On The Master’, a record of Jamaican gospel, published by Mississippi.


In September 2014 I did a mini tour in Switzerland with the amazing Gabriel Saloman, with whom we just published a record on Shelter Press. I recommend also his records on Miasmah and Infinite Greyscale. When he played in Geneva​, it was so powerful that the sound engineer actually cried. We are all blown away. I also listened very much to the re-issues of K. Leimer on RVNG.


In October I saw Lieven Moana / Dolphins into the future and Spencer Clark / monopoly childstars playing also in Geneva, with wonderful visuals. It was like being in another time. Lieven is a kind of Caspar David Friedrich of modern times.


In November I played at Soy Festival where I had a chance to see playing some people I admire: Lee Noble, Noveller, Steve Hauschildt and Robedoor.
Do you know Lee Noble’s cassette labels NO KINGS? They do amazing artworked tapes that you should take an ear/eye at!


My highlight of December was feeding and meeting the neighbor’s little cat that love to visit us and watching VANISHING POINT by Richard Sarafian and CARRIE by De Palma. I also listened a lot to Valerio Tricoli album on PAN, Miseri Lares. And Bartolomé bought me this wonderful book by and about Robert Ashley, ‘YES, BUT IS IT EDIBLE’ published by New Documents.



—Félicia Atkinson




Naked Island’s self-titled debut, the collaboration between Ensemble Economique’s Brian Pyle and Félicia Atkinson, is available now on Peak Oil. ‘A Readymade Ceremony’ is a forthcoming release on Shelter Press.



Cian Ó Cíobháin_web

Cian Ó Cíobháin, An Taobh Tuathail (Galway, Ireland)

Cian Ó Cíobháin is the presenter of An Taobh Tuathail, a music show dedicated to promoting the very best in independent music. Cian’s show is broadcasted on RTÉ Raidió Na Gaeltachta on weeknights from 22.00 to midnight, Monday to Friday. Cian also compiles a series of compilations which are made available for free download. Presently, the An Taobh Tuathail compilation series is at volume 6 (they have this year been uploaded to Ó Cíobháin’s Mixcloud page HERE). Additionally, Cian DJ’s at 110th Street, Galway, with Cyril Briscoe. As of this year Cian Ó Cíobháin has also carved a name for himself as a specialist wedding DJ.


In January and February, I dipped my toes into English language broadcasting for the first time in eons, with a six-part series on Pulse about my ‘An Taobh Tuathail’ compilations. My thick-tongued mumbling were well received, in some instances it was the first time listeners were able to follow what I was saying on the radio. ATT was shortlisted for two awards this year. In April I visited the picturesque St. Ives in Cornwall for the Celtic Media Awards, then had a night to remember in Kilkenny in October at the PPI Radio Awards. The Lyric FM contingent were seated at our table and helped us to party with panache. The winners of both categories were utterly deserving. JJ O’Shea’s superlative ‘The Global Village’ took the gong in St. Ives and Ray Wingnut’s excellent documentary on the Community Skratch games topped the PPI list.

Two of the best DJ sets I heard this year happened at Ireland’s best off-the-radar summer festival (so secret that I’m afraid to even refer to it by name). A fine summer’s evening somewhere in deepest Longford, the intimate & enthusiastic gathering in convivial spirits, were treated to the DJ début of Roscommon-native Peter Casey who simply blew the roof off the place with a perfect festival set: a combination of bangers, anthems and sing-a-longs. Later on, underground Liverpool legend John Heckle showed what an outstanding DJ he is, reading the crowd perfectly, working some amazing disco basslines into his high-octane techno set…. Speaking of Scousers, following Liverpool last season was a riot. Sure they fell short, sure they may never win the Premiership, but what a gallant effort it was, playing some of the most scintillating football in Europe, which even Pep Guardiola tipped his hat to. Of course, we’re back to a level we’re sadly more accustomed to now, in the wake of Luis Suaréz migrating to warmer climes. In a peculiar way, like when the winter evenings begin to draw in, there’s almost something strangely comforting about being simply mediocre again. Almost.

In other sports, my native Kerry thrilled in their two game battle against Mayo in August before grinding out an unexpected All-Ireland victory in September (unexpected to everyone bar the team and management), ending a five-year Celtic Cross-less drought in the Kingdom. All this without The Gooch. Great to see Star poach an opportunist’s goal in the final. I was DJing in West Kerry a few years ago and he was right up the front urging the crowd to sing along to the words of Warren G’s ‘Regulate’.

Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under The Skin’ was a haunting cinematic experience, made all the more powerful by Mica Levi’s superlative soundtrack. One of her featured compositions ‘Love’ is my tune of the year: somehow evoking ‘Loveless’-era MBV, Badalamenti and Bernard Herrmann. I only recently realised that the movie is based on a book by Michel Faber. I picked up his latest novel ‘The Book Of Strange New Things’, as endorsed by the wonderful West Cork-based author David Mitchell and have been in a trance reading it the past few days… Other movies I enjoyed this year were ‘12 Years A Slave’, ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ and I finally watched ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’. How had I ignored it up to now? Simply one of the finest movies I’ve ever laid eyes on. If only I could roll a cigar around in my mouth like Clint Eastwood. The original ‘Blondie.’

Summer 2014 was one of the most consistently summer-like summers in recollection, the rain seemed to bypass our island. How good was the vibe at ‘Body & Soul’ during the shortest nights of the year? It was my first time in attendance and I was bowled over by the genuinely magical, fairy-tale atmosphere. Galway legend Mike Smalle played a beautiful set under the trees, that weaved everything from Max Romeo to Nolan Porter to Hot Natured into its fabric. Mike was busy recording again this year, his first work since B-Movie Lightning, under the Augustus & John moniker collaborating with Matteo Grassi. Check out their excellent ‘Crosslines’ EP.

In late August, with the help of Galway’s Electric venue, 110th Street hosted a boat party on the river Corrib, where Cyril Briscoe & I were joined by Jon Averill and Sol O’ Carroll. Between the genial atmosphere on the boat, where everyone was best friends by the end of the voyage, followed by a hothouse atmosphere in the club, created by a combination of our guest DJs being on top form and the visiting influx of revellers, it was a day and night that will live long in my memory.

I read shed-loads of books this year but the two that stood out were ‘The Casual Vacancy’ by JK Rowling, a brilliant take on that peculiar and specific genre of ‘English village’ literature and ‘I Am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes, one of the most breathtaking thrillers I’ve ever read. Re-reading Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Portrait Of Dorian Gray’ was a great pleasure. Two evocations of hedonistic life in our capital city in different eras also provided food for thought. Anthony Cronin’s ‘Dead As Doornails’ recounts the lives of Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan & Myles na gCopaleen in the pubs of post-war Dublin. The drinking and the poverty they endured to keep on drinking is utterly startling. Rob Doyle’s ‘Here Are The Young Men’ recounts a different Dublin, that of the early to mid-‘noughties’. If the pre-mentioned literary giants had access to the drugs that the characters in Doyle’s début novel binge on, well … the mind boggles at the consequences. Both books shine a torch into our nation’s gluttonous, booze-centric culture and reveal long, dark shadows extending well into the background.

The best TV show I saw this year was ‘Fargo’ but I was also impressed by ‘Boardwalk Empire’ (seasons 3 & 4), ‘Ray Donovan’, ‘Vikings’ (second season), ‘Love/Hate’ (which found its groove again – though I’d love to sort out their often incongruous soundtrack choices for them) and ‘The Fall’. Caught the first season of ‘Sherlock’ too, the opening episode was particularly good. I waded my way through most of the first season of ‘Game Of Thrones’ but was left cold by its clunky pace and prolixity.

My best nights DJing all happened at weddings. I was lucky to be invited by some remarkable people to play at their nuptials, more often than not in memorable, bucolic settings to intimate gatherings of sound heads. The atmosphere at these evenings were off-the-hook and has encouraged me to launch myself in the specialist DJ wedding market in the year ahead. So (here comes a plug) if you’re getting married and want to avoid the usually stodge, I’m available through or the One Fab Day site.

And what about the night the Sleaford Mods came to Galway? Like Gang Of Four, The Fall, Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins & Bez rolled into one Tour(ettic)-de-force. Middle-aged rock stars showing everybody else how it’s done. Proper.

Oh! One of my music moments of the year was when my truelove bowled me over by playing the soundtrack to ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’ out of the blue at a party last summer. I hadn’t heard it in decades and it completely transported me another place. Somewhere special, beyond mere nostalgia.


—Cian Ó Cíobháin



There will be two An Taobh Tuathail Christmas specials on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, 22.00 – 00.00. Cian Ó Cíobháin is also now taking bookings as a specialist wedding DJ at


DJ bookings:




Seán Mac Erlaine (Dublin, Ireland)

The Dublin-based woodwind composer (saxophonist and clarinetist) and music producer Seán Mac Erlaine is one of Ireland’s best-loved musicians and composers. Mac Erlaine is also a member of the Irish/Swedish four-piece This Is How We Fly and has collaborated with numerous musicians in the past in both live and studio settings (The Gloaming, Bill Frisell, Lisa Hannigan, The Smith Quartet, Iarla O’Lionaird). This Is How We Fly had an extensive European and Irish tour this year promoting their remarkable debut self-titeld album (having been released at the end of 2013 via Playing With Music) while Mac Erlaine also released his latest solo album ‘A slender song’ via Dublin-based label Ergodos. Earlier in the year, Mac Erlaine contributed to the Ergodos-released ‘Songs’ album which featured numerous re-interpretations of songs by members of the Ergodos roster of musicians. In September, Mac Erlaine performed at Dublin’s annual Bottlenote Festival (which Mac Erlaine co-runs) for a site-specific “The Walls Have Ears” series of live improvisations. 


Two thousand and fourteen began in an urban idyll: Prenzlauer Berg. Waiting on fingers to defrost to record a range of songs from John Dowland to Richard Thompson. That record, released a few months later, turned out to be a beautiful thing – listen to Michelle O’Rourke sing! Germany has a lot of saxophone players and a lot of dead saxophone players – I bought a sleeping beauty from a dusty shop – a Martin alto saxophone from 1968.

Nobody saw it coming but in February I made my dancing debut in Willfredd Theatre’s CARE, this was a great eye-opening process working with super people looking into the work of hospice workers.

I was very lucky to find myself lost in Pauline Oliveros’ near infinite reverb chambers in the company of fine musicians broadcasting live to the nation on my favourite medium, radio. More radio followed later in the year working with director Dylan Tighe on a new sound piece celebrating one of our favourite poets, the late Michael Hartnett. We poured many hours into this work and in every moment (almost) there was a richness that can only come when your two singers are the incomparable Nell Ní Chróinín and Iarla O’Lionaird.

Spending time with the three other members of This is How we Fly has been such a rewarding and important aspect over the last few years. In 2014 we got to play in France, Sweden and all over Ireland (Baltimore Fiddle Fair does seem in fact to be the best festival here!).

Other high points included: sharing the stage and shaking the soft, soft hand of maestro Bill Frisell… The honour of playing solo to many rooms of silent listeners over the year… Playing Bowie’s back catalogue in NCH with such a killer band… Walking around Cork City in the very early morning… Walking around the Lower East Side in the almost late night… Swimming through a lake in Northern Sweden at midnight watching the paling sky… Cycling thousands of kilometers through the mountains of Wicklow, the flatlands of Kildare and the streets of Dublin… Cycling a 180km round-trip to play a gig in a sauna…

I loved seeing Ger Wolfe sing in Dublin – gotta be one of the most honest songwriters out there these days. Steve McQueen’s ‘12 Years A Slave’ didn’t hit me quite in the same way his first two features did but this was a fine piece of work. Irish film-maker Pat Collins produced another beautiful work with ‘Living in a Coded Land’ and Lenny Abrahamson’s ‘Frank’ was superb. Contemporary fiction isn’t a strong point for me but I was astounded by the beauty of Tarjei Vesaas’ ‘The Ice Palace’, a Norwegian novel from 1963. Gabriel Rosenstock’s monumental collected poems ‘The Flea Market in Valparaíso’ seems to have slipped under the radar but that can happen easily. Richard Mosse’s work ‘The Enclave’ got a lot of lookers, it blew many of us away. Israeli choreographer Danielle Agami had me up out of my seat whooping after her dance piece as did Irish actor Shane O’Reilly’s piece ‘Follow’ in The Abbey Theatre. A great time for Irish music: The Gloaming album made many revolutions on my CD player (I hope they press it on vinyl!), seems to have classic album written all over it. Deaf Joe’s ‘From The Heights Of A Dream’ is refreshingly really going for something and presented so beautifully – strongly recommended. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Dan Trueman’s fiddle duo record ‘Laghdú’ (also presented as a highly covetable good) is a tender thing of beauty.


Seán Mac Erlaine




‘A Slender Song’ is available now on Ergodos.




Kat Epple, Emerald Web (Los Angeles, USA)

Kat Epple has released 30 music albums internationally, composes music for film scores and television soundtracks, and performs live original music featuring synthesizers and flutes with her various ensembles, including the legendary “Space Music” band Emerald Web (comprising Epple and her late husband Bob Stohl), whose hugely influential music continues to impact music audiences worldwide through many recent re-issues. ‘The Stargate Tapes’ album was re-issued in November 2013 via Finders Keepers, and consists of music originally recorded from 1978-1989; earlier this year, Emerald Web’s ‘Whispered Visions’ has also been re-issued by Finders Keepers, while ‘Catspaw’, Emerald Web’s seminal recording (first issued by Larry Fast’s Audion label) will be re-issued by Anodize in January 2015.


Highlights of my year 2014 include: a concert for dolphins, ancient dead Indians, growling dinosaurs, and ‘Whispered Visions’. These events transpired as I concert toured, recorded new albums, did session work, archived old reel-to-reel masters, and enjoyed some amazing adventures!

“Legends of the Giant Dinosaurs” is a film for which I composed music, sound effects and Foley, for The Hong Kong Science Museum. The high-tech digital animation was projected onto a sixty-foot-wide HD screen with my music and sound effects in surround sound. I enjoyed creating the music, but especially making the sounds of the dinosaurs as they tromp, fight, and perish as a meteor strikes the earth. CRUNCH…….GROWL……..RUMBLE…….SCREAM………EPIC CRASH!

Playing native flute at sunset, on the top of a burial mound built by the extinct Calusa Indian tribe, may have been one of my concert highlights of the year. I felt as though their spirits were surrounding me, and softly singing. Now THAT is surround sound!

My favorite jam session happened one night as I was playing flute for a star-gazer cruise on a beautiful ship on the Gulf of Mexico. A pod of dolphins arrived, then surrounded the ship as they lifted their ears above the waterline, apparently to listen. They all joined in as they clicked, splashed, and squeaked along with the sound of my flute.

There has been a resurgence of interest in the music of my vintage synthesizer and woodwind band, Emerald Web. In fact, this year, our second album, “Whispered Visions” was released on vinyl LP, thirty-four years after its original issue. The master tapes had to be baked and archived after sitting on the shelf for decades. It was very moving to hear the music again after all those years, as it transported me back to the moment it was created so long ago. Music has the power to do that, especially when it is your own music!

I recorded acoustic tracks for a new album with World Percussionist, Nathan Dyke. I played World Flutes in the session, and am now in the process of overdubbing synthesizer tracks to the album. Yep……Thirty four years later, I am still pissing off the purists who don’t like it when I mix ancient primitive instruments and technology. Yay!

My session work on flute, EWI, and synthesizers for albums by a variety of musicians include: New Age pioneer Steven Halpern, enchanting folk musician Mariee Sioux, electronic guitarist Barry Cleveland, and legendary heavy metal guitarist Devin Townsend.

I did manage to get out of the studio once in a while to go camping, running on the beach, and to attend concerts, including King Crimson, the “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass” festival in San Francisco, and a variety of amazing house concerts.

I am grateful for the wonderful experiences that 2014 brought, and look forward to 2015 being even better!


—Kat Epple




‘The Stargate Tapes’ and ‘Whispered Visions’ by Emerald Web are available now via Finders Keepers Records. ‘Catspaw’ by Emerald Web is to be re-issued on 20 January 2015 via Anodize (pre-order HERE).




Roll The Dice (Stockholm, Sweden)

Roll The Dice comprise the Stockholm duo of Malcolm Pardon and Peder Mannerfelt, who released their hugely anticipated third LP this year, ‘Until Silence’, via the renowned UK-based independent The Leaf Label. ‘Until Silence’ sees a brave and intriguing shift in the duo’s sound (most noticeably with the addition of a 26-piece string section ensemble during the recording sessions with an even greater focus this time around on an intensity of emotion across an ever-expanding sound palette) while the conceptual framework of the album draws inspiration from World War One (the album’s title is inspired by a book on the period). To date, Roll The Dice have released a trilogy of monumental albums, beginning with their self-titled debut LP (Digitalis, 2010);‘In Dust’ (Leaf, 2011); ‘Until Silence’ (Leaf, 2014), confirming the Swedish electronic group as one of independent music’s most intriguing and compelling contemporary artists.


Tracks of 2014 by Roll The Dice:

Future – ‘Look Ahead’
The groove and the sample and the 123 /15 hi hat pattern. Lovely.

Aphex Twin – ‘Produk 29’
Surprisingly likable. As I haven’t been a big fan in the past, I had no “issues” with him putting out a new album whatsoever.

Vessel – ‘Red Sex’
Simple and to the point monotony as it should be.

Nils Frahm – ‘Says’
A bit cheesy in the best possible way. Reminds me about us…

Katy Perry – ‘Roar’
I have been force-fed this track every morning all spring by my 10 year-old daughter. A bit like a musical stockholm syndrome…I have fallen in love with my tormentor.

Gazelle Twin – ‘Anti Body’
Just found out about this record, totally feeling the attitude and impact of it. Really got a sound of it’s own which is pretty rare these days.

Klara Lewis – ‘Msuic II’
Klara is probably the artist that has had the biggest impact on me this year. It’s a real privilege to be able to work with such a unique and gifted talent.

DB 1 – ‘Nautil 1/3 B1’
The whole Nautil series on Hidden Hawaii is so amazing but if I have to pick a favorite from the 3 records this has to be it. Perfectly balanced and executed.

Surgeon – ‘Fixed Action Pattern’
The best techno 12″ this year from the best label, Token.

QT – ‘Hey Qt’
The PC music camp is the most punk of 2014. The fact that both my girlfriend and my 3 year-old daughter told me that it was the worst thing they ever heard me play at home makes me like it even more.

2014 Highlights Roll The Dice:

Putting out ‘Until Silence’ of course but also the fact that it turned out exactly the way we wanted.

Semibreve festival in Braga, Portugal: it was a delight to get to play in this beautiful old theatre where they have hosted the festival off the beaten track for several years. The organisers and everything surrounding this small and heartfelt festival was a delight.


Highs 2014: 

My 10 week old Staffordshire puppy, Billie.

Being able to do what I do for another year, to be able to make music and do whatever I want is something I am truly grateful for.

Lows 2014:

The Swedish parliamentary situation which is going from bad to worse rapidly.
We all hope that the re-election in march will clear things up a bit, but as is now its just a farce, with very sinister undertones.

See Mal’s answer. One love, fuck fascism.


—Roll The Dice




‘Until Silence’ is available now on The Leaf Label.




Klara Lewis (Stockholm, Sweden)

Earlier this year marked the eagerly awaited debut full-length release from Swedish electronic artist, Klara Lewis, on the prestigious Editions Mego label. ‘Ett’ was recorded, sampled, edited, manipulated, mixed, produced and arranged by Lewis. A collection of four new works — contained on the sublime ‘Msuic’ EP — would later see the light of day on the Swedish imprint, Peder Mannerfelt Produktion (released on 12″ vinyl last November). ‘Msuic’ sees Lewis further expand the sonic envelope with her signature explorations of field recordings, electronics, rhythm, sound and atmosphere; confirming the Swedish artist as one of electronic music (and independent music at large)’s most exciting new talents.


My top albums:

1. ‘Under The Skin’ OST, Mica Levi
2. ‘Because I’m Worth It’, Copeland
3. ‘All Over + All Under’, Edvard Graham Lewis
4. ‘The Epic Of Everest’, Simon Fisher Turner
5. ‘The Aquaplano Sessions’ (re-release), Donato Dozzy & Nuel


—Klara Lewis




‘Ett’ is available now on Editions Mego. ‘Msuic’ (12″ & Digital) is available now on Peder Mannerfelt produktion.




Seti The First (Dublin, Ireland)

Seti The First is the Ireland-based cello-led group comprising the songwriting duo of Kevin Murphy (cello) and Thomas Haugh (drums, marxophone, percussion). ‘Melting Cavalry’ was the band’s debut album, released in 2012 to widespread critical acclaim. The band’s distinctive sound draws inspiration from a wide number of diverse sources (Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, Henryk Gorecki, The Haxan Cloak). 2015 will see the highly anticipated follow-up to their mesmerizing debut, ‘Melting Cavalry’, entitled ‘The Wolves of Summerland’.


Kevin: It’s probably a question of tunnel vision but for me 2014 was all about finishing our second album which is called ‘The Wolves of Summerland’. We toiled relentlessly and finally put it to bed in December. It marks a bit of a departure from our first album ‘Melting Cavalry’ and therefore was a bit of a nerve-wracking adventure, however, we’re thrilled with the results. Cellos still provide the bedrock but there is much more frantic Marxophone and Zither leading the way; overall there is a more aggressive intend this time out. We had strong themes of unrest and revolution in mind––the dynamics of denial & delusion and the blindness to rising tides of societal upheaval among those in power; and of course, the recurrence of these things time and time again. So we focused on some extraordinary historical events, the rise and demise of entire empires and the regimes that followed, huge moments of passion, bloodshed, tragedy and melancholia. This became the canvas unto which we offered our wandering brush. In November we collaborated with visual artist Brian Kelly at the Cork Film Festival which took these ideas into the live arena, something we’ll hopefully further explore going forward.

Other than that, highlights of the year include playing on Adrian Crowley’s brilliant album ‘Some Blue Morning’. Myself and Seti’s live cellist Mary Barnecutt also played at Adrian’s launch in The Workman’s Club in Dublin which was a special night.

Thomas: Working on the second Seti album likewise dominated my year, rhythm made an unexpected return to my musical outpouring. As we got into the spirit of the music–with all of these big themes and ideas, it just became necessary to have that kind of foundation. It’s been a long time since I got behind the drums to really drive the bus, I just let it happen and it more or less flowed. Some new discoveries for me here too–the Persian Daf (drum), an incredibly versatile instrument. It’s a powerful and sacred centre piece in lots of Sufi music of which I’m very fond. Some Hurdy Gurdy made it on there too and I’ve loved that instrument since my teenage years when I first heard a Nigel Eaton album.

As for the music of others in 2014, Perfume Genius and Wildbirds & Peacedrums come to mind, both of which also took rhythm to new levels on their latest releases. Mica Levi’s incredible soundtrack for ‘Under The Skin’ thrilled me, also Grouper’s ‘Ruins’ and Arca’s ‘Xen’. Hildur Gudnadóttir’s ‘Saman’ took some time to settle with me but it was worth the effort. I also took some time to listen to the works of Ligeti–the music of whom most of us are probably familiar with through it’s prolific usage in films, music that is both terrifying and thrilling in equal measure. Not a bad aul year.


—Seti The First




‘Melting Cavalry’ is available now; its much-anticipated follow-up, ‘The Wolves of Summerland’, is due for release in 2015.




Adrian Crowley (Dublin, Ireland)

2014 marked the special return of Irish songwriter Adrian Crowley with his hugely anticipated (and career-high) seventh studio album, ‘Some Blue Morning’, via Glasgow-based independent label Chemikal Underground. ‘Some Blue Morning’ is the follow-up to Crowley’s masterful 2012 Choice Music Prize nominated ‘I See Three Birds Flying’, and features contributions from Seti The First’s Kevin Murphy on cello; Dublin-based songwriter Katie Kim on vocals and members of London string ensemble Geese, amongst many more.


When I cast my mind back to the beginning of 2014 I am brought back to the familiar recording den with my old friend Stephen. I remember a few crisp mornings where the sun was shining in its wintry way. I’d walk from the north of the city all the way to the south reaches, along the grand canal, the path on the bank with the weeping willows near Portobello and on and on towards Dolphin’s Barn… thinking all the while about the day’s recording that lay before me and wondering how it would all sound by the evening when I’d walk back along the same way along the canal banks to Portobello…and turning then towards Kelly’s corner, up Camden Street and onto Wexford Street, South Great George’s Street… continuing through the city and finally on to the home stretch of North Strand. Those walks were times I would relish every day with a spring in my step for the record that was beginning to take shape. That daily ten-mile leg-stretch became a part of the process of making the record. Yes, I’m pretty sure there is no joy quite like the joy of recording new songs and building an album from the those first glimmers of ideas. And then I finished the record that, later in the year, I would call ‘Some Blue Morning’. 
I suppose much of early 2014 was taken up with making ‘Some Blue Morning’. It is all-consuming and, really, I found little time for anything else. I remember thinking that until I had something complete I would hide myself away. Even after the recording there was that matter of coming up with suitable artwork for the album. Which brings me to Steve Gullick.
2014 was the year I first met the fine gent that is Steve. We had ‘spoken’ over the years and talked about maybe making some pictures and indeed had planned to meet once or twice, usually when I was in London for a gig. But things happened and we never seemed to manage to get to the same spot at the same time. Not until Easter, ‘14, that is.I remember waiting in a café down the street from Highbury and Islington tube station across from Union Chapel. I sat in the window seat with a huge coffee staring out at the brick portico of the chapel. Then the door of the café swung open and Steve was greeting me in person for the first time. He was carrying three cameras. We sat there chatting for some time. About the world, about making records, about people, about life and mutual friends. About Jason Molina who had tragically passed away the year before. Something that has deeply effected me and so many others. Then Steve said, “okay, let’s get started” and we left the café and walked across the busy street and approached the heavy locked doors of Union Chapel. A quick phone call to Les who was working in the chapel that day (installing a new lighting rig) and we were inside wandering about corridors and back stairwells. Steve must have taken more than 800 photos and by the end of the afternoon we were sure that he had captured something that would be the cover art for ‘Some Blue Morning’.
Oh, 2014 was the year I discovered I could play clarinet. There is a charity shop near where I live. One day I ducked in for a quick look round. And there at the back of the shop in a glass cabinet was an opened black box with a dissembled clarinet inside. I knew it had to be mine and a few minutes later I was at home checking on YouTube how to put a clarinet together. A few minutes after that I was getting some sounds. I suppose all those years of playing saxophone in my bedroom had some bearing. I told Thomas and Kevin of Seti The First about this “haunted clarinet” I had found. Thomas called me a few weeks later and asked me to have a go at recording some parts for the new Seti record.
So the next thing you know I’m on a 123 bus to Thomas’ house with the charity store black box under my arm. I’ve been listening to the finished record and I have to say that I am proud to have played a small part in it. I’m so happy that my clarinet notes didn’t end up on the cutting room floor.
I’m trying to remember what films I went to see in the cinema. I spent a week in London by myself in the summer in a little house in Golders Green by Hampstead Heath. A friend of mine kindly let me stay there and I thought it would be a nice way to work on some writing. I did get some writing done but I also did a lot of walking around. One day I went down to Soho and headed for the Curzon Cinema. That’s where I saw ‘Boyhood’ by Richard Linklater. What an incredible film. I didn’t feel the three hours pass. I loved ‘The Double’ by Richard Ayoade which I saw at the IFI in Dublin, the Nick Cave documentary ‘20,000 Days on Earth’ at The Lighthouse Cinema in Dublin. ‘Under The Skin’ was creepy and great.

Oh, and speaking of London, I’m brought back to a late night taxi ride with my sister. It was late September. We had hopped in a cab in Hammersmith and didn’t speak once all the way to Woolwich Arsenal where our younger sister lives. Why didn’t we speak? Well, we both suffer from car sickness and we had just been on a pilgrimage, you see, and were still trying to process the three hours or so that had just passed. I’m talking about Kate Bush. Kate Bush at Eventim Apollo. The opening bars of ‘Running Up That Hill’. Now there was a moment.

But that was the night there was a power outage on stage before the show was due to start. We, the audience, sat waiting for around 50 minutes. At one point when the house lights went up, we all thought the show had been cancelled but a few minutes later Kate is onstage telling us matter-of-factly and down-to-earthedly that “it had been sorted”.

I managed to see a lot of great concerts. Bill Callahan at the Olympia, Dublin in February. Cat Power in July, also at the Olympia. Eels at Muziekgebouw, Eindhoven for Naked Song festival. I was playing at the festival and I managed to duck in behind the sound desk an watched the whole concert (at the end of the concert Mark jumped off the stage and went around the entire auditorium giving hugs to everyone in his path before ending up back on the stage to play an encore).

My Brightest Diamond at The Workmans Club. Shara Worden’s voice is incredible and it was so great to finally see her live. Violinist Cora Venus Lunny played an astonishing improvised set at her album launch in The Grand Social in Dublin. The National at The Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. Speaking of the Iveagh Gardens, I got to see some great comedy there… namely Eddie Pepitone.

Albums released in 2014… I really loved ‘Brothers and Sisters of The Eternal Sun’ by Damien Jurado and wonderful albums by Cora Venus Lunny, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Kate Ellis, Tindersticks, Einsturzende Neubaten, Marissa Nadler… I’m sure I’m missing others and I’ll probably kick myself later.

Well, my own album came out towards the end of the year…early November. I had a kind of belated album launch at The Workmans Club on December 12th. I am pretty confident that was the favourite gig of mine in 2014. I had been rehearsing with the twin cellos of Kevin Murphy and Mary Barnecutt, and also with Katie Kim who sang on more than half of ‘Some Blue Morning’. It felt so good having Katie, Mary and Kevin on stage with me not to mention my good friend Matthew Nolan who plays guitar on ‘The Wild Boar’ when we perform it live (just saying “plays guitar” feels like a gross understatement, though, considering the vast soundscapes he conjures).

Other favorite live moments from the point of view of the stage were the Daylight Music event at Union Chapel with Katie Kim (it just so happens it fell on the Summer solstice. I remember waking up that morning at 4am to the near deafening sound of birdsong from Hampstead Heath. It was quite something). Explore The North Festival in Leeuwarden, Netherlands was special too. That was in a church also, a Lutheran church with a lot of history. Oh, singing some David Bowie songs in The National Concert Hall in July was much fun.

And there was a special show that I was invited to be a part of during the East Cork Early Music festival. Justin Grounds and Ilsa de Ziah who play baroque violin and baroque cello respectively rearranged an hour-long set of my songs which we performed together at L’Atitude for a late night show. It was the first time I sang my songs on stage without playing an instrument. It felt like a new discovery. What incredible musicians. Also sharing the stage with David Thomas Broughton, Roddy Doyle, Mark Andrew Hamilton of Woodpigeon at the Golden Factories event for Young Hearts Run Free at St. Michians Church was quite special.

In theatre… I saw the final show of a seven-day run of ‘A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing’ performed by Aoife Duffin. She was incredible. It was intense and staggeringly impressive. I wondered how long it must have taken her to unwind after giving so much.

This Is The Kit played in the engineering library of The National concert Hall as a part of the Brassland weekend there in December. Well, that was a beautiful show but equally sweet was having them sing happy birthday to my five-year old daughter in the hallway of my house at 7:30am before they rushed out the door to catch the ferry to Holyhead. I hope they didn’t miss it.


—Adrian Crowley




‘Some Blue Morning’ is available now on Chemikal Underground.




David Westlake (London, UK)

The Servants formed in 1985 in Hayes, Middlesex, England, by singer and songwriter David Westlake (Luke Haines would later join The Servants in ‘87). Their unique blend of poignant lyrics, intricate arrangements, and utterly compelling indie-pop sounds was a world away from the mundane and noisy lo-fi scene heralded by the NME’s C-86 compilation the band would later appear on. ‘Small Time’/‘Hey Hey We’re The Manqués’ re-issued double album is available now on 2CD via Cherry Red and on double LP via Captured Tracks. David Westlake’s ‘Play Dusty With Me’ will be re-issued next year by U.S. independent label Captured Tracks.


2014? Deficit, devolution, free movement, Remembrance, Crimea, Ebola, ISIS, One Direction, Rolf Harris. But you know all this already. My 2014 – I got married, I played the NME C86 show, and first time since 1991 I played music with Luke Haines.

I am 49, so the best 2014 music release is unsurprisingly a reissue. It’s the Kevin Ayers Original Album Series five-disc set. The award for best latter-day recording (that I’ve heard) goes to Morrissey, from whom the very existence of new work is always an event. Cherry Red Records reissued C86 in 2014. I am on the compilation, but I always hated that song. Captured Tracks Records will issue my album ‘Play Dusty For Me’ in April 2015. Highly recommended.

Best book of 2014 has to be ‘Coming Up Trumps’ by Jean Trumpington. Multitudes of dull and deluded people trot out self-satisfied memoirs nowadays. Many can claim worth only as purgative toilet-seat reads. ‘Coming Up Trumps’ earns its right to exist – a remarkable life winningly told. Aurum’s paperback selection of John Betjeman newspaper pieces, ‘Lovely Bits of Old England’, is a treat.

Best film – ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’. Impeccable in every respect. Ralph Fiennes delivers a tour-de-force performance. Tenacious and good as Leslie Howard’s Scarlet Pimpernel. Or Anthony Valentine as Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman. There’s one for the teenagers. Someone would have to have a pretentious heart of stone not to love ‘Paddington’, too.

Memorably best new TV – Andrew Graham-Dixon’s BBC documentaries on Paul Nash and William Sickert, with the centennial focus on World War One. Most momentous TV – a repeat in March 2014 of a 1979 episode of ‘Top of the Pops’. Momentous because my wife was on-screen in the audience, then aged 14. Who could have known that thirty-five years later we would be thanking our lucky stars that the presenter she found herself standing next to that week was blameless Mike Read?


—David Westlake




‘Play Dusty For Me’ by David Westlake will be re-issued by Captured Tracks (LP & CD) on 18 April 2015. ‘Small Time’/‘Hey Hey We’re The Manqués’ by The Servants is available now on Cherry Red Records (2CD) and on Captured Tracks (2LP).




K. Leimer (Seattle, USA)

For the third installment in Brooklyn-based RVNG Intl.’s archival series, the tape is wound back to 1970s Seattle, home place of ambient music pioneer K. Leimer. ‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975 – 1983)’ unearths unreleased portions of Leimer’s vast archives and highlights the work of a self-taught visionary whose use of generative compositions ferried his music to infinite resonance. Kerry Leimer was born in Winnipeg, Canada. He was raised in Chicago before his family permanently settled in Seattle in 1967. This year’s ‘A Period of Review’ heralded one of 2014’s most prized re-issues. K. Leimer’s forthcoming full-length player, ‘The Grey Catalog’ will be released on Palace Of Lights in January 2015. 


It’s odd that highly obscure music, written and recorded more than 34 years ago, would matter in any way at all today. So despite performing again and completing and releasing a few albums on our little label, much of the past year was spent talking and writing about the germinal work that was assembled as ‘A Period of Review’. Which made 2014 seem more like 1979 to me. But between bouts of studio time and grappling with miles of tape there was some remarkable listening: Gudnadóttir’s ‘Saman’; the Jakob Ullmann ‘Fremde Zeit’ / ‘Addendum’ box; Taylor Deupree’s ‘Faint’; David Sylvian’s ‘There’s a light that enters…’; Nils Frahm’s ‘Screws’; and A Wing Victory for the Sullen’s ‘Atomos’. impossibly rich diversity and innovation. And now wrapping up the year with ‘Different Every Time’, a book that’s unevenly written but compelling all the same. And the recording — especially important to me because it includes Wyatt performing one of the ‘Experiences’ by John Cage from a record, also thirty+ years old, originally issued on the Obscure label. Now if i could just find the piano pieces from that same document! The free hours that remained were given over to compiling another reissue, based on ‘The Neo-Realist’ (at Risk). A compilation for my fake rock band Savant which will be released in the first half of 2015. Titled ‘Artificial Dance’, it seems set to guarantee that my experience of 2015 will seem more like 1982. But beyond the solace and joy of such sustained musical innovation and accomplishment, the overriding experience of 2014 remains the naked violence and injustice that my country visits upon so many people. Our own citizens routinely and unjustifiably killed by police; The published and redacted details of the Bush administration’s torture program; pornographic levels of wealth set beside unprecedented income inequality; blanket denials of our shared environmental crisis. Just who is meant to be left solvent and able to purchase the refrigerator magnets and iCrap that drives most of the culture?


—K. Leimer




‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’  is available now on RVNG Intl.



Matthew Collings (c) Zeno Watson_zenowatson(dot)com_crop

Matthew Collings (Edinburgh, UK)

Matthew Collings is a Scotland-based composer. In addition to his solo recording and live output, he collaborates regularly with artists from disparate backgrounds, including musicians Dag Rosenqvist from Jasper TX and Denovali label-mate Talvihorros, dancers and filmmakers. 2014 marked the release of Collings’ new sophomore full-length, ‘Silence Is A Rhythm Too’ on the prestigious German-based independent label, Denovali Records.


So, 2014.

Has been another year of slow growth. I spent much of the year wrestling with the idea of Edward Snowden. Realising that my work is much better off with other people, and made with other people…and so am I.

It saw various births and deaths of beautiful people who I will miss and look forward to getting to know. I wonder what role I will play in people’s lives.

This year saw a furry of releases – a beautiful vinyl/photobook with Elin Svennberg, the dark yet uplifting pop of Graveyard Tapes, and a new record in ‘Silence is a Rhythm Too’ and a re-release of ‘Splintered Instruments’ on Denovali. 2015 will expect the Snowden monster to rear it’s head, as well as a record with Dag Rosenqvist which I’m finishing right now.

I’ve been incredibly lucky this year to meet so many amazing, inspiring people. The thought of them keeps me positive when I start to complain about my place and position in the world, which I really have no ground to do.

I’m a very very lucky person.

Some music to listen to this year: These New Puritans, Ben Frost, Talvihorros, Numbers are Futile.

Here’s to 2015 ; chasing sound, not chasing my tail.


—Matthew Collings




‘Silence Is A Rhythm Too’ is available now on Denovali.




Sophie Hutchings (Sydney, Australia)

‘White Light’ is the latest collection of mesmerising piano music from Sydney-based composer and pianist Sophie Hutchings. Beginning with 2010’s debut ‘Becalmed’, the gifted composer has crafted her unique blend of neo-classical, piano-based compositions, which would later be followed-up with the spellbinding ‘Night Sky’ LP in 2012. Both records are available now on the Australian independent label, Preservation. Hutchings is currently working on her third studio album – and follow-up to ‘Night Sky’ – which will be released in 2015.


Does anyone get nostalgic as midnight creeps towards the closing of a year, the beginning of another…… Reminiscent. Looking back over years, contemplating life…….

As a child I often created a sacred moment as the year wound down. Preparing for the approaching strike of midnight, setting up the record player with one of mum or dad’s records. I took life very seriously! Always allowing a moment over midnight to ponder over life… And so we should…… Casting our minds back and then casting it ahead in view of a new beginning.

I often start the year with the goal of uncomplicating my life. Uncluttering my brain… Simplfying and yet as weeks and months go by, slowly or quickly enough, the complicated starts to work its way back in. Whether it be the things in your life or the things you fill your mind with…

There was a lot of creative purging this year associated with writing the new album.. The highs and lows that come with that and life in general. So as I venture down the beautiful south coast of Australia this week, and make my way through the diverse landscapes of Myanmar in January, I want to remind myself of a basic fact. The simple things in life can offer so much contentment…

A boundless vast ocean, lying under a star lit sky, or gazing into an open fire……..Things like these..
I’m going to press the reset button and see how it goes for me this year ….


Inspiring Highlights of 2014:

Reads and Watch:
First read of 2014 – Donna Tarts ‘The Goldfinch’ one of the best contemporary authors to date. Her compelling narratives lead to not being able to put the book down!..

‘Tracks – The documented Solo Journey of Robyn Davidson’ (also known as ‘The Camel Lady’) through the Australian West Desert. The cinematography and soundtrack by Garth Stevenson created for the actual film was also a highlight.

Reading Solzhenitsyn’s contemplative and symbolic story ‘The First Circle’ depicting the lives of a secret research development made up of Gulag inmates set in Moscow. His sayings and philosophy on life pack some punch… Indeed an author to respect.

I watch so many movies so this is a hard one, but first one that comes to mind is Lao film ‘The Rocket’. It wasn’t released this year but was a standout for me. After living in Laos for sometime, Kim Mordaunt (director) was inspired to write the film whilst working on the documentary ‘Bomb Harvest’, and discovering Laos was the most bombed country on the planet, per capita. Two young children play the main characters in the movie, both whom had never actually acted before. It was a really inspiring film and gives insight to a country that has suffered at the hands of war.

I wanted to watch Béla Tarr’s 8 hour epic film ‘Satantango’ this year and it’s on my film hit list for 2015! There’s some beautiful shots HERE from it set to one of my all favourite composers Arvo Pärt.

I’ve been embracing a few new musical eras and genres. 60’s Vietnamese rock, Gamelan and also Turkish singer songwriter Fikret Kızılok!…
Also, ‘Open’ by The Necks was on high rotation.
Cleaning the house to this year’s Liars release ‘Mess’.
Touring with Ólafur Arnalds…
Creatively purging and mapping out the journey for the new album which will continue into the new year…….

All the best to everyone’s start to 2015.


—Sophie Hutchings




‘White Light’ is available now as a free download via Bandcamp HERE. ‘Becalmed’ and ‘Night Sky’ are out now on the Preservation label.



To read Part 1 of Don’t Look Back, click HERE.

To read our Albums & Re-issues of 2014, click HERE.

With very special thanks to all the wonderful contributors for their contributions.
Wishing all our readers a very happy new year and best wishes for 2015.





Time Has Told Me: The Servants

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Interview with David Westlake.

“The Disinterest album came out of a vortex of unspoken, unspeakable frustrations, paranoia, and miscellaneous perversity. Sonically and lyrically, the aim was directly to oppose the on-trend music of the time. No bell-bottomed, baggy banalities playing maraca and wah-wah mumbo-jumbo. More uptight, Kafkaesque outsider pop. More in keeping with the dense, monochrome mood of the film from which the band took its name.”

—David Westlake

Words: Mark Carry, Photographs courtesy David Westlake


My introduction to English indie treasures, The Servants, arrived last year in the form of a Soundcloud mix made by Cécile Schott (Colleen) based on the music that inspired the French artist’s latest full-length release ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’. The wonderfully eclectic tracklist featured Moondog, Laurie Anderson, Brigitte Fontaine, and the adventurous, ethereal indie pop of ‘People Going Places’ by The Servants (taken from the band’s long lost second album ‘Small Time’). Immediately I became utterly transfixed as the deeply affecting lyrics of frontman David Westlake resonated powerfully — a significant musical discovery loomed.

The Servants formed in 1985 in Hayes, Middlesex, England by singer and songwriter David Westlake. Their unique blend of poignant lyrics, intricate arrangements, and utterly compelling indie-pop sounds was a world away from the mundane and noisy lo-fi scene heralded by the NME’s C-86 compilation the band would later appear on. The Servants’ debut single ‘She’s Always Hiding’ is a delicately beautiful pop lament based on gorgeous, clean tones of guitars and Westlake’s stirring vocals. The opening lyric of “She’s always hiding / Like she doesn’t want to be found” opens up a vast world of beauty as Westlake’s poetic prose ascends into the forefront of the mix. The next single ‘The Sun, A Small Star’ would cast a similarly enchanting spell, before the eventual release of the band’s debut album ‘Disinterest’ in 1989. Amazingly, the debut record was recorded and mixed in office hours over five days in a demo studio in Bromley.

Guitarist Luke Haines (who joined The Servants in 1987, and of future Auteur fame), describes ‘Disinterest’ in his book ‘Bad Vibes’ as “existential art rock, ten years too late and fifteen years too early.” Tragically, the album — a work of true art — generated little commercial success that would sadly see the band disbanding in the early 90’s. Some years later, The Servants received their much deserved recognition by a new generation of music obsessives as the great Cherry Red label culled together the band’s unreleased tracks and singles into one CD, entitled ‘Reserved’. The compilation represents a vital document of a truly great band.

Having long been unreleased, The Servants’ second studio album ‘Small Time’ – and follow-up to debut ‘Disinterest’ – finally saw the light of day in 2012. Armed with two Fostex four-track tape recorders, a DR Rhythm drum machine, an out-of-tune piano, a box of effects pedals and a CAT Octave VCO synth, the duo of Westlake and Haines recorded the album in Haines’s own flat in Cannon Road, Southgate. Later that year, Luke Haines would write songs for his new group, The Auteurs, and David Westlake decided to study law. Alongside the release of ‘Small Time’, the Cherry Red-released compilation contained ‘Hey Hey We’re The Manqués’ on CD2, including rehearsal versions of songs from ‘Disinterest’, taped before the album was recorded. Thanks to UK’s Cherry Red and the US independent label Captured Tracks, the rich musical legacy of The Servants has been justly resurrected. Well, Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch (circa ‘91) was trying to locate Westlake in the hopes of forming a band with him, after all.


‘Small Time’/‘Hey Hey We’re The Manqués’ re-issued double album is available now on 2CD via Cherry Red and on double LP via Captured Tracks.



Interview with David Westlake, The Servants.

It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions in relation to your music and the utterly timeless songbook of The Servants. First of all, please take me back to ’85 in Hayes, Middlesex, where The Servants were formed. Talk me through the inception of The Servants, please. What was the original line-up? Who came up with the name The Servants? Can you remember your first rehearsals as a band?

David Westlake: I started a band with a friend called Ed Moran. We’d known each other since age 4, and went to the same schools. Primary in Hayes and on to the Catholic boys’ grammar in Harrow, which was perpetual violence. Ed bought a Fender bass after I started writing songs on an old acoustic. It was Ed who brought in John Mohan on guitar. He was into Django Reinhardt and Scotty Moore. Played a Woolworth’s Top Twenty guitar. We used a drum machine, which meant we could rehearse at home. Work took Ed away, but Mohan stayed with it. We advertised in the NME for other musicians. Phil King rolled up unannounced one Friday evening, after I’d sent him a tape of a few songs. I remember I was taking a bath when the knock came at the door. He played guitar, but we already had two of those. We needed a bass-player, so he agreed to change instrument.

I saw Mohan for the first time in many years after Captured Tracks released the Servants’ Youth Club Disco LP in 2011. We remembered how it was Phil King who persuaded us to play live at all. He gave us an ultimatum: either we play gigs or I’m leaving. Mohan and I would probably have just carried on privately sculpting the art otherwise. We were joined on drums by someone else I knew from school, Eamon Lynam. Phil King nicknamed him Neasden Riots — like the Clash’s Tory Crimes. It was after he was given a police-curfew following his alleged involvement in said fracas. Ed Moran still kept up with the band when he could, helping us out driving to gigs.

We rehearsed at a studio called Westar in Southall, West London. The Cocteau Twins used the place at the same time. The first (unreleased) Servants recordings were by this line-up, for a label called Statik. We were approached by the late Philip Hall about the possibility of signing with Stiff. And Mike Alway at Él, ever the English aesthete, expressed an interest. Neasden Riots’ curfew prevented continued participation in rehearsals and gigs, sadly, so we had to find someone else.

I named the band. The Servant is a 1963 film taken from a novella by Robin Maugham. BBC2 screened it at roughly six-month intervals in the 1980s. I watched spellbound each time. Its certain shade of Englishness — its mood, and what it had to say about the psychology of different types of relationship, about class and power and insidiousness — spoke to me.


As the singer and songwriter of The Servants, you were responsible for a plethora of captivating and truly compelling pop songs which were way ahead of their time. I would love to know what were the defining albums for you growing up, David? How soon did you realize the importance music would have on your life?

DW: The first single I bought was Sparks’ immaculate “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us”. I fell in love with it on Top of the Pops, and would play the single on repeat — with the arm left off the old-style record-player. Defining albums, among too many others: With the Beatles, John Lennon/PLastic Ono Band, Dusty in Memphis, the Velvet Underground’s third LP, side one of Love’s Da Capo. I was just 12 in 1977, but punk meant a great deal. Music was life itself, and I had very particular ideas about what I liked and what I didn’t. Unapologetic tunnel-vision. The Sex Pistols’ album and the singles from it were magnificent, but I loved the Talking Heads’ 77, too. Mark E. Smith and the Fall had a great strike-rate: Dragnet, Totale’s Turns, Grotesque, the Slates 10”, Hex and more.

I grew up with all kinds of ideas about pop sensibility and the crafting of a song. At the same time, I had an ascetic musical puritanism and a constitutional contrariety, which coincided with punk values. As a kid not quite old enough to be in a band when punk happened, yet completely energized by it, I disdained what the Smash Hits breed of vapid pop acts went on to do in the name of pop music. Especially after the monochrome, inky “Printhead” rigour of the 1970s NME and Sounds, with all their edicts and caveats on “rockism”, and the best in punk and post-punk.


The Servants’ first single was the gorgeous ballad “She’s Always Hiding”. Listening to the song today, I am reminded of just how current and deeply meaningful these songs of yours are. The clean guitar tones float majestically beneath your vocals. The opening lyric “She’s always hiding / Like she doesn’t want to be found” conjures up the sound of Pavement’s “Here”, which would not exist for another four or five years. Can you please talk me through the construction of this song? Also, in terms of the single-release, can you recall the day the single was released, what label you were signed on, and your hopes and expectations prior to the release of your debut single?

DW: “She’s Always Hiding” was one of the first songs I wrote, in my teens. It was before I knew even how to form certain chords properly — or conventionally, at least — so I searched around the fret-board and hit on just what I thought sounded good. I remember hearing myself on Peel’s show for the first time with “She’s Always Hiding”. It was a thrill. I had pointed out to me one other example of a song said to have something in common with “She’s Always Hiding”, by one-time NME journalist and early-days Creation artist the Legend. The Servants first recorded a version for the Statik label. I prefer the released version — it has a better feel. I like the drums on the later version, though, on Hey Hey We’re The Manqués — the other half of the Servants’ Small Time double-set.
The single of “She’s Always Hiding” was on Head Records. It was a label set up by then-Creation-employee (later head of the Heavenly label) Jeff Barrett. Head was an allusion to the Monkees. I prefer Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones and The Birds, The Bees as albums, but neither of those would have produced a fit label-name.

The aim was always simply to make good art. Any hope of commercial return was by then informed on one hand by the Velvets, and on the other by the putrefying state of English pop as the ’80s drew on. If you grew up watching clips of the Beatles on TV being chased in and out of Marylebone Station or Shea Stadium and tearfully wailed at by adoring young girls, it came at the same time to seem a perennial rarity for great music to win mass appeal. You couldn’t help arriving at this inverse equation. You could hear on record the Velvet Underground delivering effortless brilliance at Max’s Kansas City only for them to be met with a few but barely enough hands clapping to deserve the description applause. Or see how even a popular group like the Kinks failed to chart in England with the manifestly good Village Green album. Then in the ’80s, the masses lapped up the pop-slop dished out by the glossy Smash Hits halfwits. It began to feel like obscurity might equate with greatness, while mass appeal might equate with stupidity. As a theory it was a handy consolation for being not even close to having hit records, in any event.


I must say my all-time favourite Servants song is “She Grew And She Grew”. The energy and immediacy of the song always strikes me. It’s such an irresistible guitar-pop gem that bands decades later can’t come close to replicating. Was this recorded in one take? What was the recording process like? The lyrics are sheer poetry.

DW: Yes, songs tended to be recorded in one take. On account of both economy with studio-time and the feeling of a performance. You might iron out mistakes with repeat takes, but you risk losing the spirit of the delivery. There is a second version on Hey Hey We’re The Manqués. Also one live take.


Looking back on the Servants’ career, I feel your meeting of guitarist Luke Haines must have been a defining moment where everything just clicked. Did you post an advertisement looking for a guitarist? This is circa ’87 and would lead to your album Westlake, released on Creation in late ’87. I can only imagine you must have had a bucketful of songs ready to record to tape, prior to the recording sessions in Greenhouse Studios, London?

DW: Luke was a joy to work with. I went into music expecting to find any number of like-minds. I don’t mean yes-men. Anyone half-familiar with Luke Haines will know that he would be constitutionally incapable of earning that description. But when you have very particular ideas about what you do you’re incredibly lucky to find even one person you genuinely click with. Luke was that for me. Yes, he answered an NME ad I placed. He replied in the second half of 1986, after the release of the second Servants single, “The Sun, A Small Star”. We met up at a pub outside Ealing Common tube station, the Granville.

The line-up I had up to that point drifted apart the first time we got dropped. In Morrissey’s recent Autobiography he expresses his feeling about Johnny Marr going off to play with the Talking Heads in the words “monogamous I, polygamous he.” The Servants was obviously a far more low-key prospect for any musicians I was lucky to have play my songs with me. But I had much the same intensity of feeling and principle about being in a band. I felt that a great band ought to aim at being a circumscribed union. I was 21, still high on idealism. For a month or two more, at least. I wanted whoever was in the Servants to do only the Servants — monogamously — and not play with any number of other bands, fitting the band in around other bands when convenient. The 1986 line-up’s rhythm section was five to eight years older than me, so they were more pragmatic than about the ups and downs of the musician’s lot. Being good musicians, they had no trouble fitting into other set-ups both while that line-up was still going — polygamous they — and when we got dropped. But I was left out on a limb, not knowing if we would get to make another record. I knew I wanted to keep the Servants going. I liked being in a band, even if the short experience I’d had up to then showed me that the kind of unity I was looking for must be rare. On from that “monogamous I” metaphor, I became wary of “players”.

Luke stayed for five years. For me, the feeling of being part of a unified band came when he joined, so I’m glad that is apparent to someone other than me. We never exchanged a cross word. I was quietly upset when he told me in 1991 he was leaving, but he did everything with absolute integrity. And look what great art he had ready to show the world, so it was natural and right.


How soon did you realize the special musical telepathy that existed between you and Luke? For me, I think of Jagger/Richards, Lennon/McCartney, Morrissey/Marr, and then there’s Westlake/Haines. It’s such a poignant force and I would love to gain an insight into the collaborative aspect of your work together. Was it a case of having a song written, and Luke would then add his guitar on top? It really feels such an effortless process and forms the cornerstone to the Servants’ greatness and timeless quality.

DW: Luke is his own man, of course. The Servants finished in 1991, and he is known for what he did after, so I cannot presume to speak for him. Speaking for myself, having had close on thirty years with little to no fanfare, I am ready to grab my half of this high praise with both hands and not go through the humility motions. Thank you.

Yes, I would write and demo a song and then Luke would add guitar. You don’t need me to tell you that he is a great musician. Technically proficient musicians are not hugely difficult to find, though. It’s sharing, or complementing, a discriminating aesthetic sensibility that produces good and interesting results. And not being in a position where your mind turns to thoughts of murder that makes it last any decent length of time.



After a few false starts, the debut album ‘Disinterest’ by the Servants would finally be recorded in 1990. I was very interested to read (more to the point, I was in utter disbelief!) that the album was recorded and mixed in office hours over five days in a demo studio in Bromley. Can you recall the particular equipment and set-up each of you had at your disposal, David? It must have felt good having the space and time to put these songs to tape. What was your aim for this record, from the outset?

DW: A demo studio in Bromley is right. If this is what you mean by the equipment, I played my usual red Gretsch Broadcaster. Luke played his Telecaster and the old Hofner semi. Alice played a Fender Precision. Standard kit for Andy Bennett, the drummer on Disinterest (and Hey Hey We’re The Manqués). I was, simultaneously, glad of the opportunity to make the record and full of a kind of dead energy. At this time I tended to walk around daytimes wired on the outside, fatigued inside. Paradoxically, I felt often like I was too tired to sleep.

We ended up with the record company for whom we did the album not directly through choice. Luke tells the story elsewhere of how the third Servants’ single, “It’s My Turn”, was released on Dave Barker’s Glass label. You couldn’t help but like Dave. And Glass, while it remained his. But organization and drive were not recognizably Dave’s strengths. Clever me put the phrase “in case of Fire break Glass” in the run-off groove to the single taken from Disinterest, because easy-come-easy-go Dave gave up doing Glass to start a new label with Fire’s Clive Solomon.

The Disinterest album came out of a vortex of unspoken, unspeakable frustrations, paranoia, and miscellaneous perversity. Sonically and lyrically, the aim was directly to oppose the on-trend music of the time. No bell-bottomed, baggy banalities playing maraca and wah-wah mumbo-jumbo. More uptight, Kafkaesque outsider pop. More in keeping with the dense, monochrome mood of the film from which the band took its name.


I think Luke Haines’ description of ‘Disinterest’, in his book ‘Bad Vibes’, perfectly sums up the record and indeed The Servants’ criminally short lifespan: “existential art rock, ten years too late and fifteen years too early.” Looking back on the album’s reception, what were your feelings during this time? It must have been very frustrating to have created such a staggering body of work, only to be kept in relative obscurity.

DW: We had that feeling Luke describes, of being in a tragicomedy scripted by Galton and Simpson. The album would not have happened but for the shared experience of too much of nothing and a resulting attitude of something bordering on nihilism. It was probably a bit unhealthy, but the type of experience you grew up in the ’70s to regard as character-building.


This takes me onto the Cherry Red label’s release of Reserved in 2006, a collection of the Servants’ unreleased tracks and singles in one CD. This is a beautiful document of The Servants, and especially hearing the live-takes and demos of your many truly innovative works. Can you talk me through the collection of these demos and the feeling of revisiting this part of your life? The song “Loggerheads”, for example, was previously unreleased and what a song it is. There must have been many of such songs that have survived, and many years later thankfully see the light of day.

DW: A bright young man called Neal Handley-Sawer does some occasional work for Cherry Red, and he searched me out with the idea of doing a Servants compilation. Naturally I was delighted. Not to come over all too sentimental, but Cherry Red repaired my long-damaged faith. I had my guard up at first, because of disenchanting previous experience. But Cherry Red has principle where certain others do not. At the same time, there is a Hogarth Press-like aesthetic to Cherry Red. Doing some things simply because they are worth doing. Captured Tracks aims to uphold a similar ethic in America, I think. Luke’s support was invaluable, too.

There were some good songs that didn’t get recorded in the studio. There was talk at different times of both “Water Baby Blonde” and “Who’s Calling You Baby Now?” being singles, for instance. So I was glad to be able to include live and demo versions of a few things like that. It was always a good live band, and some of the records I find I play most often are live albums, like the Velvets’ 1969, or Totale’s Turns. It’d be nice to put out some more live recordings like those on Reserved. There are other unreleased songs.

I wish I had given “Loggerheads” to the NME for the C86 compilation. I held it back at the time because I thought we could record a better version. It was recorded at the same session as “She’s Always Hiding” and the b-side, “Transparent”. At the time, no one was more ambivalent about that compilation than the people who were on it. No one expected it would sell well, and I have still not actually heard it. I always hated “Transparent”. C86 has evolved as a subgenre. Bob Stanley had some interesting things to say about it in the notes to the CD86 edition. The original compilation is being reissued in 2014. And I’ll be playing at the NME C86 show on June 14th in London. My first gig with a band for thirteen years. I’ll be joined by my friend Dan Cross, guitar-great from another ’80s band, Perfect Disaster. He played on my Play Dusty For Me album back in 2001.


Is there one song that you feel is the best song you’ve written, David? I’d love for you to recount writing this particular song and indeed where and when it was given its wings?

DW: Speaking of the Play Dusty For Me album, there is a song on there called “Back on Track”. That would be one, in part because it had a therapeutic function for me. It is about surviving devastating loss. Bereavement. The recording retains its authenticity and sincerity. Doesn’t become histrionic. Some fantastic musicians contributed to giving the recording the wings of which you speak. Dan Cross on guitar, as mentioned. And Cormac and Willis Moore on bass and drums. Cormac recorded the album at his P.Boy Studio in Ireland’s Kilkenny. It’s a pity that Play Dusty For Me has never been really properly released in physical form. I realize, anyway, that a therapeutic song about loss cannot sound terrifically inviting to the overwhelming many unacquainted with my, er, oeuvre. I like “Song For John”, also from Play Dusty For Me. It’s inspired by a Wordsworth sonnet, “London, 1802”. The apostrophe in that is to John Milton, but the song is from me to John Lennon and my late father, also John. This could all sound ponderous and odd in equal parts, but “Song For John” is still an irresistible little piece of major to minor seventh-ing and sixth-ing, the like of which I wish Love would have made part of a set of shorter songs on a different side two to Da Capo.


Also included on The Servants’ Reserved collection is the band’s Peel Session from March, 1986. The live songs capture that special spark of brilliance. I love how crisp and clear the instrumentation of guitar, bass and drums are, and your vocal delivery is sublime. My highlight is “You’d Do Me Good”. It must have been an honour for you to record this session for the legendary John Peel. Can you take me back to the day of these recordings and say what it was like to be part of Peel’s sessions?

DW: The Servants’ Peel session was produced at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios by Mott the Hoople’s drummer, Dale Griffin. A privilege in itself. I wanted us to do songs that we hadn’t already recorded and wouldn’t have another chance to record straight away. Dale Griffin was cordial in the morning, but you got the impression he hadn’t been on the cordials at lunchtime. He returned in more waspish frame. He knew his stuff where two guitars, bass and drums were concerned, anyway. The high ceilings at Maida Vale gave a full, resonant sound, as well.

We were surprised when the recording and mixing was completed that we were not allowed a tape of the results. The BBC had a strict rule in connection with intellectual property law which precluded handing out copies. So we had to wait for Peel to broadcast the session and tape ourselves off the radio if we wanted a copy. I understand the Beeb subsequently relaxed the no-copies rule, but it added then to the event of doing it. Having to wait a couple of weeks to hear what you’d done and taping yourself, hoping but not knowing the songs would sound good.


I must ask you a couple of questions in relation to The Servants’ long-lost second album, ‘Small Time’, recently released for the first time by the New York-based independent label, Captured Tracks. This album is such a momentous record, full of interesting arrangements and innovative instrumentation, and not least poignant lyrics encompassing many dark themes. This album was very much you and Luke working as a duo, am I right? I would love for you to discuss these songs, and the day-to-day sessions that took place during the recording of Small Time.

DW: Captured Tracks are first to release Small Time on vinyl, yes. But the album was released for the first time on Cherry Red in England, on CD. Yes, it was Luke and I as a duo. I am so glad that the album has been released. I like the way of thinking expressed in the songs. The bit in “Everybody Has A Dream” which first laments that all you get is nowhere, but then reasons where is there to get? These songs remain very me. In “Aim In Life”, the line about smiling at the victory that is your own defeat, when still you wouldn’t have it any other way. Or in “Let’s Live A Little”, the carpe diem pop reminder that we won’t be here very long, next to the qualified patience and optimism of saying we have the rest of our lives, but how long is that? We recorded the album in 1991. It was always called Small Time. I would head over to Luke’s place on Cannon Street in Southgate with demos. Lead vocal, harmonies and rhythm guitar over programmed drums and a bass-part, and we would work on overdubs. His percussion on “Everybody Has A Dream” is so good. It’s saucepans.


My favourite song on the album is a close challenge between “Fear Eats The Soul” and “Slow Dancing”. The latter is such a gorgeous ballad to bring the album to a fitting close. I love how your acoustic guitar is placed prominently in the mix of most of these songs. I was reading in Luke’s liner notes that a certain secret weapon was at your disposal, namely a CAT octave VCO synth?

DW: The acoustic is prominent by necessity, in fact. We recorded the songs on two Fostex four-track tape recorders. I put the main vocal and the acoustic down live on the same track on most of the songs. “The Thrill Of It All” was the biggest challenge to mix. The lead vocal was on the same track as the rhythm guitar. It came out very low in the mix, so everything else had to be balanced in such a way as to make the vocal as audible as possible without losing the feel of the whole.

We loved the CAT. Like other ’70s synthesisers, it was temperamental. It was as if you had to wait for it to be in the mood. And it could give up halfway through a take sometimes, which always sounds unintentionally amusing. Like on the live version of “Decades”, from Joy Division’s Still. In the last verse, it sounds as though Bernard Sumner hits some keys on the synth at random, aware nothing he touches will sound right now the instrument has given up co-operating. No human musician’s temperament is as capricious as those old ’70s machines. You can hear Ian Curtis trying not to laugh at that point, can’t you? Which is a nice moment to have on record, really.


Looking back today on the Servants’ music, you must feel deeply proud of your work. It is clear that the songs you wrote back then have stood the test of time, and remain as vital today as they did. It must be a lovely feeling to have new audiences and generations discovering your music, and listening to the songs you wrote. Is there one moment during your time with The Servants that you feel is the most cherished memory you have to hold on to today?

DW: I do feel proud of the work. It’s in the notes for Reserved that the Servants — I in particular — earned a reputation for haughtiness. I may have rubbed a few people up the wrong way, on a quest for perfection. But I don’t regret any uncompromising moves made on principle. Yes, it makes it all the richer a feeling if ever and whenever new people discover the music.

I cherish the fact that Small Time is out. Really. I didn’t think it would ever see the light of day. For more than twenty years Luke and I were the only people who had heard it. Luke gave me the tapes for my fortieth birthday, in 2005, and suggested trying to do something with it. The album was like unfinished business, so much work having gone into it all those years ago, never to be heard. Studio-wiz Des Lambert put in a lot of time transferring and synchronizing the tapes. Different parts were on different tapes recorded at minutely varying speeds, so it was a complex job marrying everything together.

The happy epilogue is not only that Small Time did finally get released, but that it was on a better label — Cherry Red — than it would have been at the time. The same can be said of Captured Tracks. And I like the sound. It functions as an antidote when the ear tires of over-worked, over-polished recordings. It is my favourite Servants record.



‘Small Time’/‘Hey Hey We’re The Manqués’ re-issued double album is available now on 2CD via Cherry Red and on double LP via Captured Tracks.

Captions for Photographs:

(i) “The Servants – Hey Hey We’re The Manqués, 1990”

(ii) “David Westlake – Servants main man”

(iii) “The Servants – Live, 1986”

(iv) ‘Small Time’ re-issue by Cherry Red Records.

All photographs courtesy David Westlake.



Time Has Told Me: F.J. McMahon

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Interview with F.J. McMahon.

“I was born like a star
Whose light had gone out long ago
The longer I live
The farther I find I’ve got to go”

—‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’, F.J. McMahon

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry


Last Autumn, the unique song-writing voice of F.J. McMahon came into my path — unexpectedly and unannounced — thanks to Philadelphia-based harpist Mary Lattimore’s mixtape, entitled Keeper Of Beauty. The lush baritone and warm acoustic guitar of McMahon’s ‘Early Blue’ evokes the sound of age-old traditions — folk and americana — yet steeped in a bold, adventurous spirit that undeniably belongs to the here-and-now. Lattimore’s side-notes describes ‘Early Blue’ as “a winter song to listen to in the car”. The debut album, ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’, originally released on Tiger Eye in 1969 — the only document of this gifted singer songwriter — encompasses songs of such emotional depth and striking immediacy that some four decades later, McMahon’s songbook ceaselessly generates new meaning and endless artistic detail.

The beautifully written album sleevenotes perfectly surmises the music contained on ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’:

“F.J. McMahon is a quiet individual in an exciting way. This is evidenced by his singing style, guitar playing and songwriting. The lyrics to his songs hit you at an abstract angle and the come off with the logic and meaning in today’s restless environment. F.J. McMahon is an artist who has something to say and says it in a simple, earthy style.”

—Tiffany Anders (taken from Tiffany Anders’ essay on the sleeve notes to ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’s 2009 reissue on Rev-Ola Records)

McMahon spent a year in Vietnam as a very young man and it is these harrowing experiences that found its way into the slipstream of ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’s deeply affecting world of song. His experiences in Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines had a profound effect on him and upon his return to the U.S. McMahon actively participated in anti-war movements. In the words of the singer-songwriter: “I went through so many experiences between Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines and not just the usual experiences you think of, but because I was military police I got to see a lot of the stuff that goes on under the rocks and behind the scenes. It was obviously such a waste of people and money and material, but these people were getting wealthy off of it! And so I was depressed, disgusted, I mean it just shattered me.”

McMahon was discharged in 1968, having fallen ill with hepatitis after a year of service. While home, McMahon actively helped his friends get out the draft. A short time later, a collection of songs would be recorded on a budget of about a dollar and 98 cents. The local Tiger Eye productions in California, offered McMahon a small recording budget whereby two takes per song were put to tape. The back-up tracks were recorded first — taking no more than half a day — after which the vocals and lead guitar were recorded in the little Accent Records offices. ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’ was effectively captured to tape in about a day and a half.

The spirit of Townes Van Zandt, Fred Neil and Tim Hardin can be felt throughout the nine utterly transcendent songs of ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’ (the album’s title was named after the brand of bourbon popular during the period). The pristine guitar parts — rhythm and lead — performed by McMahon serves the resonating pulse to these particular recordings. The singular voice of McMahon possesses vivid shades of pain, torment, restlessness, hope and survival dotted across the sprawling canvas of sound. Joining the songwriter, Jon Uzonyi plays bass and Junior Nickles plays drums. The fresh and contemporary folk sound reminds me of ‘John Wesley Harding’ era Dylan, whose songs hit you deep and hard. A magical spark floats in the air as ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’ captivates the heart of the devoted listener.

The album’s title-track — and album closer — is a miracle of song-writing that reveals the brutal honesty and directness of McMahon’s absorbing creations. Throughout ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’ some gorgeous electric guitar lead parts are effortlessly blended into the mix. A sense of nostalgia is etched across the song’s narrative: “Now I’m sitting in my one-man room / One day at a time / Think about the times past / And a good ol’ friend of mine” begins the second verse. The song encompasses the hardship, struggle and pain inflicted upon the aftermath of war, and, indeed, internal struggle. The first words sung by McMahon — beneath the exquisite tapestry of drums and interwoven guitar — are words of sheer poetry direct from the depths of an artist’s heart:

“I was born like a star
Whose light had gone out long ago
The longer I live
The farther I find I’ve got to go”

‘Early Blue’ is wrapped in a yearning feel that slowly envelops your very heart and mind. An achingly beautiful lament is created here, and like a rising sun, rays of illuminating light gradually falls through the cracks of despair. The voice sings to you like an old, dependable friend. The lyrics evoke imagery of springtime and someone lost in the surrounding world, particularly on the endearing chorus refrain of “And I run away”. The words are simple, personal, and reflective of a distant past: “Early blue / I see you / Through my window / Becoming lighter / As the sun gets brighter / And the night goes away”. I feel the spirit of ‘Sunflower’ era Beach Boys ascend into atmosphere as an ocean of sadness permeates throughout. The closing verse serves a guiding light to keep on keeping on: “But I know it’ll happen soon / Early blue come to my room next morning / And I’ll try to go to sleep.”

‘Five Year Kansas Blues’ is a folk gem straight from the sacred songbook of Woody Guthrie or Johnny Cash, and would fit perfectly on Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’. In the words of McMahon: “It’s written about a guy who is going to prison for avoiding the draft and the sentence for avoiding the draft is five years, and where you go to prison is Levinworth, Kansas in the federal prison.” The first words resonate powerfully as McMahon asks “How does it feel to feel free?” On the following cut, ‘Enough It Is Done’, a stream of irresistible blues licks penetrate the headspace where the feel and sound reminds me of the immaculate song-craft of Sixto Rodriguez.

‘Black Night Woman’ is a spellbinding love song. A late-night feel hangs in the air as McMahon sings “I remember when she looked at me / She had stars on her eyes”. The peerless musicianship and intricate arrangements of guitars, drums and voice is clear to witness here. Happiness and pain are sunk beneath the riverbed of time, as McMahon sings “I’ll continue beside her soul”. The lyric of “the uneasy feelings that call on me” on ‘The Road Back Home’s opening verse encompasses the dark subject matter of ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’ that reflects the songwriter’s mindset during this period of time. I feel the extraordinary body of work, created by F.J. McMahon, is an album to closely guide you along life’s pathway, reflected in song’s chorus, “I need someone to show me the road back home”. In just under thirty minutes, ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’ becomes a long-lost, lifelong companion.


Interview with F.J. McMahon.

It’s a real pleasure to talk to you about your utterly captivating and shape-shifting record, ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’, originally released in 1969. It was only last year when I first discovered this lost folk masterpiece and I feel very fortunate to have done so, albeit a few years late. The album was written and recorded quite soon after your time in Vietnam, where you spent a year as part of service in the military police. Can you please take me back to the space and time in which ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’ was made? Was it a case that the songs would just flow out from you, as you reflected on life and you’re deeply affecting experiences from being based between Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines? 

FJM: It was the better part of a year before I wrote anything. After seeing the news, the demonstrations, riots and how the country had changed and attending funerals of kids killed in the war it all just kind of boiled over.


It amazes me to learn that ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’ was recorded in about a day and a half. Your singular guitar playing and style combined with your poetic lyrics evokes such a vivid canvas of raw emotion. Can you please recount for me those couple of days in which the songs were recorded to tape, F.J.? I love the layering of the guitars on the tracks — the solos, the rhythm guitars — which is effortlessly placed beneath your lush baritone. You are joined by Jon Uzonyi on bass and Junior Nickles on drums. How did you first cross paths with these musicians?

FJM: The first day we (Jon, Junior and I) recorded the rhythm guitar, bass and drums. We did two takes for each song at PD Sound in LA. Second day I recorded the vocals and guitar lead at Accent in Hollywood. Scott Seeley the owner of Accent was working with Jon on his own album and Junior was just hired for the  first day. Scott Seeley played the keyboard on ‘Early Blue’.


In terms of influences, what were the records, while growing up, that triggered your love for music? Were there particular songwriters and bands that served major inspiration for you to lead you on the song-writing path?

FJM: All early 50’s rock and pop. For guitar Duane Eddy, Ventures, all the country pickers and Hoyt Axton when he was a single folk act.


The album’s title-track, ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’ is a truly breathtaking closer to this special record. I feel the combination of the deeply honest and reflective lyrics and the sublime instrumentation of guitar creates in turn, the pinnacle of the album. Is it true that “Golden Juice” refers to the brand of bourbon that you drank while overseas? It makes for a wonderful title, either way. Lyrics such as “I was born like a star / Whose light had gone out long ago” and “The longer I live / The farther I find I’ve got to go” creates a profound impact on me upon each revisit. Can you please discuss writing this song, F.J. and indeed if this was the song that provided the pathway to the rest of the album? It really is a full-blown masterpiece.

FJM: Really kind words. The golden juice is I.W. Harper bourbon which is no longer made. I wrote this song second to last as it is the realization that what gives life its meaning is both the good and bad. You can’t appreciate one without the other.


A beautiful yearning feel permeates throughout the gorgeous ballad, ‘Early Blue’. For your songs, are the words written on a page first, and a melody sometime later? I feel the spirit of albums such as Dylan’s ‘John Wesley Harding’ and the songbook of Gene Clark and Townes Van Zandt float seamlessly amidst ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’. I love the flow and aesthetics to ‘Early Blue’ and particularly, the minor key bridge as you sing “And I run away”. 

FJM: As a rule I find some chords and/or riff that I’m comfortable with and then just start humming and singing what ever words find their way out.


Looking back on ‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’, is there a song on the record that you feel most proud of? 

FJM: I have learned to like each one. As far as proud……….‘Five Year Kansas Blues’, a lot of people paid that price for their views.


In the liner notes, you describe how the album’s lack of much-deserved attention and recognition was like “a harpoon to the heart for a long time”. Can you please discuss the reasons why you think this was the case? I can think of several other spellbinding albums from the early 70’s folk era that suffered from a similarly lack of good fortune. Did you tour a lot during this time, F.J.? If so, I can imagine you must have played some special concerts where you felt a close connection to the audience, particularly as your universal themes and painful subject matter resonates so powerfully?

FJM: It’s just hard when you put a lot into something and it just disappears, I would slip one of my tunes in a bar or hotel gig now and again. Sometimes folks would like it, sometimes they just clinked their ice cubes and got drunker.


Forward several decades and ‘Spirit of the Golden Juice’ gets its richly deserved re-release on the Sacred Bones record label, introducing your utterly compelling folk songs to a new generation of music fans. This must have been a special moment for you? Your work of true art receives its long-awaited acclaim and recognition. How do you see the album now, some forty years on, F.J.? For me, as a listener, I can’t believe just how fresh and engaging the songs are. The spark of creativity remains embedded deep within the album’s batch of transcendent songs.

FJM: I am constantly blown away by the how well it has been received in the past few years and very grateful. I suppose the down side is the songs seem relevant because the world is still so screwed up.


You grew up in Santa Barbara, California and I read that you started your musical path playing trumpet in a grammar school. Can you recall the moment that triggered you to pick up a guitar and write your own songs? Also, I imagine you must have written poems quite a bit too? I find the words, alone on a page, is true art in itself when listening to your singing voice. What was it like to grow up along the coast? 

FJM: Growing up in Santa Barbara in the fifties and sixties was about as idyllic as it could get. I always wanted to be a writer but had a terrible time with alliteration. My regular stories turned out short and my short stories turned out to be songs, which I guess turned out ok in the long run. What first clicked with guitar was picking up an Elvis Presley fan mag. I thought: OK, this looks cool, beats the hell out of working at a store. What a road that started.


‘Five Year Kansas Blues’ is a master-class in songwriting. Can you please recount for me writing this song? This song could belong on Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ or any one of Fred Neil or Townes Van Zandt’s albums.  

FJM: Thanks again for the kind words. The Am, C, D progression just lends itself to story background. By this time I had been helping kids avoid the draft for almost a year. Some guys couldn’t get out of it and chose to go to jail. Most people don’t have the guts to make that kind of a decision of belief. I wanted to tell their story.


I would love to know how central music is in your life today, F.J.? I would like to think you still play the guitar and write songs. If so, is there a place I can hear these post-‘Spirit of the Golden Juice’ creations? 

FJM: Not a day goes by when I don’t listen or pick up the guitar and noodle around a bit. There are a couple of people thinking of re-releasing the original album with some added new songs or just putting out a second album. We’ll see what develops. Thank you very much for your interest. It’s well appreciated.


‘Spirit Of The Golden Juice’ is available now, via Cherry Red Records’ Rev-Ola imprint HERE and via Sacred Bones Records’ The Circadian Press imprint HERE.


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February 24, 2014 at 11:00 am