Scotland continues to produce great bands
Here’s a conversation we had with Stephen Livingstone from Rock Action recording artists Errors
NT: What was the mindset going into the recording of ‘Have Some Faith In Magic’, You guys had lots of positive press on ‘Come down with me’?
SL: How our music received is not really something we try to think of during or at the beginning of the recording process, I think that would be pretty counter-productive, but I guess the positive response is helpful in the way that it encourages us and highlights the fact that people like our music and will listen to a new record that we make, so it makes it more worthwhile I suppose. I try not to let any feedback positive or negative affect my way of thinking, otherwise you start to make music for other people and concentrate on what worked well last time so you never really progress.
NT: It must be nice to go into the studio with a bit of backing from Rock Action? I think your first demo was recorded in Simon’s Bedroom.
SL: Yeah, we recorded the first record in Simon’s mother’s house in his old bedroom. halfway through recording this record we moved everything out of our studio and set up in Simon’s living room in his flat. It was a more comfortable environment to make music and also the roof in our studio had just collapsed due to rain, so it was naturally time to move out of there.
NT: What was it like playing with Gary Numan? Were scores of people from his Fan Club there?
SL: The Gary Numan show was great. I’ve been a huge fan of his for years, so it was was genuinely an honour to open for him. It’s the only show I’ve ever been heckled at before though. Someone in the audience shouted “Where’s your singer?” as it was back in the days when we didn’t use any vocals at all. It was great to meet him as well, he was a very friendly, down to earth guy.
NT: Errors have quite a progressive sound, Is soundcheck a bit of a challenge sometimes? How do you deal with all the different rooms?
SL: Our set up is pretty complicated and a lot of our preparing for tours is spent working out how the technology/ equipment is going to be assembled, rather than actually learning parts. I always like seeing bands live that have a lot of equipment though, seems like there is a lot more happening that way.
NT: With so much amazing technology in modern music, do you feel that it gets to a point where some bands start to sound sanitized.
SL: I guess with all this technology around it would be quite easy to rely on everything you have within your lap top for example because it’s so much easier and cheaper than using the physical hardware. I think particularly with this record we have tried to move away from using the computer too much. All the synths on Have Some Faith In Magic are physical synths which we’ve collected throughout the years. I still feel i can tell the difference between a soft-synth and the real piece of equipment. A lot of people are talking about the warmth that this album has, I think that’s only really going to come naturally if you use living, breathing, analogue machines.
NT: Was it a tough decision licensing your music for TV?
SL: Not really, we still get to veto most of the stuff it’s used for, particularly when it comes to advertising. There are perhaps companies I wouldn’t be happy endorsing but realistically I’m not that bothered- there are probably items I regularly buy from companies who maybe have a bad reputation. I think if you boycott one company for being unethical then it becomes difficult to draw the line, you could end up starving to death if you look at the histories of every company.
NT: You guys have had Gold Panda, Mogwai, and The Field contribute to your music, is there anyone else you are interested in working with?
SL: There isn’t one specific artist I really want to work with, i enjoy collaborating generally with other musicians/ artists and picking up new techniques and ways of thinking through doing that.
NT: How is the music scene in Glasgow these days?
SL: It’s pretty healthy right now and has been for the past few years at least. There are lots of people dong interesting things at a grassroots level, luckily the sort of careerism that was rife a few years ago has died down a little bit here. In the mid-00s a lot of bands were getting picked up and money was thrown at them, which I reckon lead to a sort of unhealthy environment within certain circles, but that has died down now and everything feels pretty natural again. People are just down it for the love of it.
NT: The new album is released on 2X LP and the other formats of course. Have you found there is more and more demand for vinyl these days?
SL: Definitely, I work in a bar that has a record shop attached to it and I’m genuinely surprised to see how much vinyl they sell. At a time when people don’t tend to have a lot of disposable income and everything is available online for free it’s amazing that people are willing to spend a little extra money to get better quality. I think there is a pressure to make the physical record a beautiful thing that people should want to own because now they have a choice so you have to give them something that is worth the extra money.
NT: Who is the funniest guy in Mogwai? Do they still sell those ‘Blur are shite’ shirts?
SL: Barry Burns is definitely the funniest guy in Mogwai, though they all are funny in different ways.A lot of the US tour was spent crying with laughter together with Barry Burns at really stupid things we’d come up with that just wouldn’t make any sense or seem that funny to repeat. I’m not sure if they sell those t-shirts, it’s a campaign I couldn’t get behind because I disagree with the statement although I find it hilarious that they are a fairly big band made up of grown men in their 30s selling something so petty and childish.
NT: Can you tell me which five albums had or are having a major influence on you.
SL: Last years Peaking Lights album 936 I really liked, production-wise I think it’s incredible.I’m a big fan of the German musician Roedelius, I think Wenn Der Sudwind Weht is my favourite record of his and had a big influence in terms of the subtleties within our music.I’ve getting into the KPM library records over the last few years, especially the early 80s ones, they were sort of intended for commercial use and sound a lot like the music you get on educational videos from the 80s, my favourite of which is Video Age, which features a lot of amazing unsung heros of the synth-pop era.I liked last years Rangers album Pan Am Stories, again similarly to the Peaking Lights album the sort of lo-fi production on this I think is amazing and is a style I’d like to tap into soon.King Crimson’s Discipline record is still one of my favourite too, lot’s of poly-rhythms and confusing time signatures but still great tunes.