Depends how much I've drunk! I'd like to be more like my dog. Adapting stoically to whatever life brings. Always up for some playfulness, ready to explore, greeting others of his kind with the attitude that here is a potential new playmate.
Is music like a drug to you? Could you live without it?
I did live without it for a decade. My guitar was put away in the attic. I turned my back on music completely, had no idea what was going on in the music scene, nor cared. Then I got hooked again. So you could say I'm relapsed addict.
Do you listen to music a lot?
No, not constantly. I have periods where I'm hungry for new music and get really into things. But music is like a drug in that the more I hear, the less impact it tends to have. So I need to have periods where I come off the drug entirely in order to reconnect later. I'd rather just listen to Radio 4 a lot of the time.
What did you listen to last?
That would be Efterklang & John Grant.
When you were growing up who did you grow up listening to and who were your musical idols?
The week's pocket money would be spent on a 7" single by artists from Rolf Harris to David Bowie, you like what you like without worrying about whether it's cool or not, which is the way it should be. My idols were The Beatles. I had all their albums and listened to them all the time. I obsessed about the elements that made up their music, be it Paul's bass lines, their vocal harmonies, George Martin's arrangements. Whatever I feel I know 'instinctively' about music today comes from that formative experience. Later came Marc Bolan, Scott Walker, Nick Cave and all the rest.
What does your writing process look like?
It varies, I don't have one method. Sometimes I have a melody and then go to the guitar to try to give it some shape. Perhaps at that stage there'll be an obvious 'hook', then it's a case of developing, perfecting the melody, knocking off the rough edges. Sometimes playing around on a keyboard or guitar can trigger something, just from a nice chord sequence and a light goes on and you're away. Occasionally songs come quickly, fully formed, but usually there's much work involved. Some need a complete re-write at a later date, only with the passage of time can they be fully realised.
Do you consider it easier to write a melody or a lyric?
Melodies are easy, just appearing out of the air, drop on your head, don't even have to pick them from the tree! Words are very difficult. I am not a poet, it takes a lot of hard work and endless revision to finish a lyric. Jacques Brel said that song lyrics are actually much harder than writing poems, working within much tighter boundaries. Poets are freer to wander. It's tremendously satisfying working out how to convey a meaning or push the story along in a single line. Every word counts when you work within the confines of what might be called the traditional song lyric.
Once a song has been written, how many other people are involved, from getting it on to a finished CD and then to being performed?
I make a demo playing everything, jack of all trades me. Phil Senior ‘marks my homework’. He performs a number of functions, from quality control to song arrangement, and organises things (I am quite disorganised!). I'm liucky to have worked with some fine musicians, the songs really start to come to life with rehearsals where musical details are added. When the song is developed sufficiently, it's time for the recording phase. We do a live take of the band, then overdub each of the instruments properly in layers, starting with the rhythm section. The main vocal is always last. For me, mixing is a big part of the creative process, I couldn't imagine sub-contracting.The tracks then need to be ordered (we still work to the traditional album format) before going off for mastering to add that final polish. The whole process can take a couple of years, we all juggle our time with day jobs. As for the live set, songs are added as we go along.
Which artist do you consider to be under-rated?
A Bolton based band no-one’s heard of called Neuron No, if we lived in a meritocracy they’d be huge.
I'd hope they'd be entertained, surprised, delighted, amused, puzzled ... maybe even provoked.
Do you think it’s important to have role models in life?
I think it's useful if you recognise their imperfections too, like knowing that great philosopher you admired turned out to be an arse to his wife ... I think it's important to know stuff like that, to get a balanced view. I admire and learn from others, but in all modesty there's no-one else I'd rather be. There are some I'd rather look like though ha!
What do you sing in the shower?
Something from a musical... Calamity Jane 'The Deadwood Stage', 'Some Enchanted Evening' from South Pacific. Stirring stuff, joyous!
What's your favourite Saturday night record?
'Love Shack' by the B52s. Guaranteed to get me hopping and bopping.
Anything to confess?
I would have been about ten at the time. I had a model of the NASA Gemini spacecraft, which carried two astronauts. It bugged me that the toy only came with only one, whilst having seats for two. So went to the local newsagent and eventually plucked up all my courage to steal the second astronaut from the one on display. I was convinced for weeks that a policeman was going to come to arrest me. I wish I still had it.
What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
I don't see how anything could be stranger than the stomach lining of a cow with salt and vinegar (thanks Grandad!)..they call it tripe. No wonder I became a vegetarian later in life.
When we die?
There’s a tradition of belief in what might be called spiritualism on my mother’s side of the family, a distant cousin is a medium. It must be comforting to have such belief, but I don’t share it. The lights go out and that’s it, over and goodnight.