By Mark Glenister
As you may know we have been running a series of ‘Bands in Lockdown’ interviews over the past few weeks, a really simple but effective concept, I send them a list of questions and they answer at their leisure, in the case of Brooders they answered in their pyjamas!
We’ve always wanted to bring you the best of the new upcoming bands, but I thought we should also remind you or in some cases introduce you to artists you may not have heard of before.
I’ve known Ed Harcourt for a long time now, he was one of the first people I approached about some research for a book I was writing, that then sat untouched for years until recently the creative process hit me again, his thoughts are still important as they were 16 years ago.
Back then, in the days of My Space, Ed was preparing to release his 4th Album ‘The Beautiful Lie’. His first album ‘Here be Monsters’ was nominated for a Mercury Prize in 2001. In the time since that nomination he has released a further 8 studio albums, worked with artists such as Marianne Faithful, Patti Smith & Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and for a short period had a hard-core metal band ‘Wild Boar’ whose anthemic song ‘Baby wants a Monster Truck’ lives long in my memory!
Recently his new side project Loup GarouX supported Supergrass on their UK Tour, the band has Ed lined up alongside members of Gorillaz and the Feeling and is definitely the sleazy rock band he has always wanted to be part of.
Due to social distancing, and not wanting Ed to suffer me bumbling along during a Video call, this interview was conducted by the medium of email and messenger chats!
It’s a bit different from our normal format, as knowing Ed, I wanted to get a bit more out of him. He didn’t let me down, and the interview is insightful, honest, funny and with a slight dark side. Just like the man himself, please enjoy this interview and either rediscover or discover Ed’s back catalogue, and look out for Loup GarouX when the lockdown finally ends!
Firstly, how are you? How is the family?
Hi Mark. How are YOU?! I’m doing pretty well at the moment thank you, but I think like so many of us, being in the middle of a major pandemic has its’ dark moments. Anxiety rears its’ ugly head every now & then for both of us but is soon quashed by whichever half is less freaked out! Dramatics aside, on the whole we’re all doing fine and getting on with various projects. Some days there’s this manic energy, the artistic wheel is turning & other days there is a lethargy that one just can’t quite break out from. The kids are doing so great, being super creative and putting up with the whole thing probably much better than their parents!
Do you have a daily routine, are you learning anything new as everyone else seems to be?
Because our children are here the whole time, I think our routines have given way to theirs, what with home schooling etc. To be honest, what has actually given me some focus or discipline has been doing a song a day online, going out for a really long run (we’re out here in the countryside so there’s space and not many people to run into) and catching up on listening to new records whilst I’m out. The new Bob Dylan tracks have been a great soundtrack to that. I downloaded a Learn Spanish app but gave up after a day, my stupid sourdough starter completely failed and the girls in my family dyed my hair jet black, so I’ve been falling into all the predictable lockdown clichés with great ease.
Are you seeing this lockdown as a time to be creative? And has it changed the way you view the industry?
I’m definitely trying to be and there have been some songs already written which I’m really happy with, have been sending ideas to other artists I work with….I’m viewing parts of the industry a little differently, am certainly worried for all the grassroots venues which is why I’m trying to raise money for the Lexington and soon I’ll start on the Bush Hall. Frank Turner has been doing some incredible fund-raising for a number of venues. I can’t imagine how he feels being stuck at home, touring is his lifeblood! To be honest, I’ve become a bit of a studio hermit so not much has changed. With song writing, I just have to sit around with a fishing rod until a big one takes a bite.
As regards to all the streaming services who, when they first started, having struck a devil’s deal with the major labels, well they’ve pretty much screwed songwriters (correct me if I’m wrong, but look at the stats) and artists with their paltry royalty payments; in these drastic times more than ever, we need them to change their policies and change them soon, otherwise the bottom will really fall out of everything.
You’ve been doing a lot of Instagram and Facebook stuff, as well as the Lexington Gig you did last night – Have you enjoyed playing songs you may not have played for a while? Has it made you want to do a solo tour and or album?
100 %. It’s been really nice delving back into old records and songs I hadn’t even thought of for years. In a way, it’s given me a newfound desire to play live again & I am writing my next solo record…I think because I now have Loup GarouX, all my dark rock fantasies can be channelled into that project and I can now concentrate on making a good old fashioned solo piano record.
Do you enjoy Social Media?
Some elements of it are enjoyable & useful. I try to communicate with people, but I’m not always quick enough to the mark and am sometimes distracted to be honest.
Every time I open Twitter, it feels like opening a pandora’s box of puerile playground bullying and shoving matches, so I quickly jump off it again. There’s probably an unhealthy ratio of me following the wrong people compared to friends & acquaintances. I’m not a big user of twitter. Social media can be an intermittent beacon for mediocrity, similar to reality television, where quite a few seem to think they are a critic, a singer, a painter, a photographer, a comedian. But who am I to criticise anyone’s creativity! There is so much amazing art out there too & I’ve discovered some diamonds in the rough. But I do feel it ties into the endless desire to be famous for existing. It’s potentially exhausting and nauseating.
With no apparent end to the lockdown, how has the impacted the Loup Garoux Project?
We’ve had to cancel forthcoming tours, we had some momentum after the Supergrass shows just before the lockdown but that has slowed down; but we’ve been finishing mixing the record via video chat with the excellent Cenzo Townshend who’s in Suffolk and it’s sounding loud, beautiful, dark and epic. We actually have a single and video we luckily made just before the lockdown coming out later this month! The album is nearly done, in fact we’re arguing about the running order as I write.. I’m really excited for people to hear this…we recorded a lot of it in the Wolf Cabin.
As a fan I know how much I miss going to gigs, for the music and for the social aspect, is this something that you miss as well?
I miss it so much, I totally hear you. I’ve met so many of my friends through going to gigs. I’ve met so many amazing & interesting people touring different countries too, it seems like such a distant memory now. I cannot wait to get back out there. I think this lockdown has made me realise how much I miss touring full stop. I think the lack of human contact is something that finally gets under your skin. I know some people who would say they have been self-isolating their whole lives so this is nothing, but I know deep inside, that lack of any sensory contact with people has got have a subliminal negative effect.
We met a long time ago as you helped with research for the book I am finally writing (don’t ask), that day you introduced me to the delights of Tom Waits – is he your musical hero? And what sets him apart from others?
He is up there in the hall of fame for me. I first heard his music when I was 18 years old and it changed my life. It made me realise I could be a songwriter. I started chronologically & I devoured his lyrics. He’s the circus ringmaster of the strange and the beautiful, the melancholy and the outlandish and once you jump aboard, you’ll never get off! His world is seen in cracked mirrors and through kaleidoscopes, he’s God and the Devil in equal measure and that to me is perfect.
Also, that day you gave me a copy of the Brian Wilson book ‘I just wasn’t made for these times’ which I read countless times, and treasure. How do you view him as a songwriter?
Well he’s the godly genius of melody and harmony who descended into a sad & dissonant place for too long. One of my favourite songs by him, which I covered, is called ‘Still I Dream Of It’ a truly heart-breaking piece. It captures the mundanity of his own personal imprisonment and the hell he’s been going through in such a sad & gentle way. I think out of his deep anxiety and madness he was able to create so much beauty for the world which is a difficult concept to grasp & why we must always be grateful for his existence.
If you could have written one song by someone else, what would it be and why?
Oh man, too many to mention. ‘Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis’ by Tom Waits is a contender. Probably ‘Wichita Lineman’ by Jimmy Webb, as made famous by the late great Glen Campbell. I wish I had written it because it contains perhaps the best couplet of all time in song, ‘And I need you more than want you & I want you for all time’ - I interviewed him once and he said he wrote the song in 5 minutes. Curses!
How do you view your career?
I try not to view it. I literally have no idea. It seems to have had it’s peaks and troughs, there’s not much I can do about it, it’s pretty much out of my control…I started quite young and had no idea what I was doing and how to act. I think I may have acted like an idiotic madman. I think I may have burnt a few bridges and built up a ‘reputation’ but that’s all part of life’s rich pageant I guess. Now I guess I’m a fully-fledged ‘responsible adult’…?!
You have worked with some great artists, including Marianne Faithful, and you have produced a few artists as well – do you enjoy being involved in different aspects of making music?
Absolutely, I love collaborating with other people. It’s always a welcome challenge. When you both finally release you’ve struck gold with a song, it’s a very rewarding feeling. Everyone’s different, there’s no particular method to it. Sometimes you can’t even get any blood from the stone though. I still get nervous at the prospect of collaboration, but it usually passes once it’s in full swing. I built my studio so I could do this very easily and at the drop of a hat, it’s such a godsend to have it at my disposal. Collaboration is unbelievably important, because you learn so much from other people and their influence and presence, it helps create your own catalysts, spawns the big and beautiful ideas, similar to reading your favourite book or hearing a quote from an affecting film or play…the stories you heard from your ancestors growing up, archives, epitaphs, old letters, cut out newspaper snippets, soaking it all up….anything goes…er I’m going off on a tangent here!
Despite horrors of this pandemic, the lockdown seems to have a created a lot of really positive community action, and for once social media is being used mainly in a positive manner – Do you want life to return to normal once this is over, or would you like people to be using this time to evaluate their lives and start be part of communities and positive social change?
You’re right there, I’ve seen how reliant people have been on social media, the need to reach out and to connect & also re-connect with those they haven’t talked to in months. The doom-laden spectre of the pandemic has given us a lot to reflect on that’s for sure. We’re all desperate for life to return to normal. If I have any more zoom meetings I’m going to set my laptop on fire.
It’s interesting to see how the more progressive countries who don’t have toxic nationalistic wannabe strongmen have dealt with the virus. I wonder if the world can change for the good post-Covid 19, the cynic in me thinks my optimism may be misguided idealism. At the moment it feels like confusion has been created in order to deflect from the failures of this government. Back to your question - there have been some incredible online campaigns and stories as a result of these dire circumstances, the Save Our Venues campaign being one fine example, having already raised over £1million for some of these grassroots venues…but they’re far from being out of the woods so we have to keep going. So not only are these online communities crucial to our well-being - especially with the communicative & compassionate aspect being so important for people, who are suffering from mental health issues.