Scotland seems to be having a musical boom with bands such as yourself, Mogwai, Glasvegas, Franz Ferdinand, We Were Promised Jet Packs and others, is Scotland the new place for bands to break out?
I don't know if I would say it was the new place for bands, even within that list of bands you mentioned there is a time-span of about ten years. Before that we had Teenage Fanclub, The Jesus and Marychain, The Vaselines, Orange Juice, and more. For whatever reason, there just seems to be a lot of people in Scotland who like making music. I suppose you could trace it back historically, and look to Scotland's long tradition of folk music, on the other hand, maybe it's as simple as the fact that a lot of folk up here would do anything to avoid getting a normal job.
Being an instrumental band from Scotland, the comparisons to Mogwai are straight away. How frustrating does it get to constantly be compared to them? How would you describe how you are different?
The comparisons are inevitable, considering not only that we are both instrumental bands from Scotland, but furthermore we are signed to their label. However, Mogwai themselves state that they would not sign a band that sounds like them, and a lot of bands do. Their influence is considerable, but I think what sets us apart from other bands who, like me, obviously hold Mogwai in high regard, is that I actually go out of my way to not sound like them. As flattering as imitation can be, I would much rather gain the respect of my label bosses by making music that is unique to myself and my band. I think it's important to be aware of the vast breadth of variety that there is to be found in instrumental music. Mogwai is instrumental music but so is Aphex Twin as is Debussy. To attempt to lump together every musician who chooses not to sing as a single genre is kind of crazy. Getting back on point though, as to how our music differs from Mogwai, their music can be very fierce and ferocious whereas I don't even use a distortion pedal. If they are Darth Vader then we are Princess Leia.
Starting off just basically as just you, now the band has seven members. Was there a massive audition process to figure out who would best fit the sound and ethos of Remember Remember?
I don't think I could ever audition somebody with a straight face on. It wasn't like I was plucking the best and brightest from the cities young hopefuls! Everyone in the band is a friend that I asked to play with me because I'd either seen them play with other groups and liked what they did, or we had met and become friends and found ourselves to have similar attitudes towards music. Tommy, who plays analogue synthesisers with us was our driver for a year before he joined. I loved the band that he used to be in and I knew he had a great collection of vintage equipment, but for some reason it didn't occur to me for ages that he might actually want to play with us too, which is ridiculous as having him in the band has really cemented things. We used to have a violinist, Joan, who played on the first album but left to pursue other projects. When putting together the string quartet for this album she was my first choice for violinist so it was nice to have her part of this record too. I like the idea that people are only in this band if they want to be, there not tied down to it and if they decide to leave there always welcome back in some way.
Did the band’s name come from the famous Guy Fawkes poem?
"Remember Remember the 5th of November"? In a way it does. I was born on the 5th of November, Guy Fawkes night or Bonfire Night, as it's known in the UK. It's the day of the year that we "celebrate" the unravelling of Fawkes's plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, by setting off fireworks and having bonfires. It meant I was guaranteed a fireworks display every year on my birthday. For that reason, I've always had the name Remember Remember in mind as a name for the music I was making, even before this band started. It's appropriate to our music as well, the heavy use of loops, delays and repetition. Interestingly enough, Ike Turner, Art Garfunkel, Jonny Greenwood and both Brian and Ryan Adams were all also born on this date. They are all invited to join.
You released your new album, The Quickening last year. How does it feel to release the follow-up to your self -titled?
It feels great! Without trying to sound trite I'm just really happy and grateful that there are people prepared to release my music. I think it's probably true with most bands that towards the end of making one record, you're already thinking about what the next one is going to be like so it's a great feeling to know that you are going to be able to make it happen. So far, people seem to be reacting well to the record too, which is encouraging.
What did you do different with The Quickening that you did from your first record?
On the first record, there were only 3 members in the band, plus a couple of guests. Without a drummer, we had to find alternative methods for creating rhythms. When I started playing live as Remember Remember 6 years ago, it was just me on my own. I didn't want to use any pre-recorded sounds or electronic percussion so I started looking for everyday things that I could use as "drums". These early songs featured drum beats made from scissors, sell-o-tape, lighters, matches, mobile phone chirps, wind up toys, all kinds of stuff. This became, I suppose, kind of a signature technique and the bulk of the songs on the first album used this approach. In part, I didn't want to become known or thought of as gimmicky, or "that guy that plays the stapler", so I didn't repeat this method on this album. In order to convincingly play these songs live a large group of musicians is required. The band that play on The Quickening is the same 7 piece band that have been playing for the last two years. We are Remember Remember now, as opposed to just me plus guests. This album is a reflection of the sound of the full band, the way we sound when we play live. I suppose you could say it's a more conventional approach but I really wanted to try for a sound that was, for lack of a better word, timeless, and not framed in a certain era due to the use of production techniques characteristic to "now".
What does the title, The Quickening signify?
I wanted a title that sounded mystical, but not without a sense of humour. I learned this year about James McPherson, who translated the Ossian epic from ancient Scots Gaelic. There was, and still is, great controversy over whether there ever truly was an ancient Scottish Epic Poem, or whether McPherson simply made it all up. There is something beautifully Scottish about that, whether it's true or just a great wee story it doesn't really matter. The duality. So I started thinking, wouldn't it be great to portray this music as some ancient, Scottish magic-music, but not to root it in established Celtic myth but to just make something up. Then it occurred to me that there already was a contemporary example of a completely made-up, ridiculous Scottish mystical cosmology; the Highlander movies. The second in the series is called Highlander 2: The Quickening hence our second album title.
The sound of the band is very cinematic, would you ever consider doing film scores?
Perhaps a remake of the original Highlander? Starring Adrian Brodie and Ewan MacGregor (playing a spaniard). Maybe not. In honesty, writing a film score is one of my top ambitions. Some songs of ours have been used in bits and pieces here and there, but purpose writing a score is a completely different art-form. When making a record, you are free to just go wherever the music takes you, everything that happens, happens within the music. It's a self contained world. However, when writing a score, you have a responsibility to best serve someone else's creative work. The music has to complement, enhance and, crucially, not ruin the film. It's a remarkable thing how much the tone of the music can affect the tone of the action on screen, and the emotional state of the viewer.