Wednesday, 17 August 2011

We're Only Here For The Banter - RM Hubbert

RM Hubbert has a long and colourful career in music. Inspired by punk at an early age for the most part of the '90's and early 2000's he played in the band El Hombre Trajeado and in 2010, as a way of dealing with depression and the loss of his parents, RM Hubbert (or Hubby as we shall affectionately call him) released his debut solo album, First And Last.

Hubby was kind enough to join me in the Pulse Community Radio studio and he talked openly and honestly about his music and influences. You can listen to the full interview and show, hearing some great live tracks as well as Hubby's selection of music at the bottom, but for those who like to read, here you go.

Hello, how are you?

Very well thanks.

Can you tell us a wee bit about yourself, for those who haven't heard your music?

Yeah, I'm going to go way back to the mid '70's, I actually grew up in Darnley and lived there 'till I was about 8. I've been a musician for a long time, and started doing this solo guitar thing about 5/6 years ago, to be honest mostly as a way to deal with depression and things like that. So yeah, I made a record called 'First And Last' which chronicalled a year in my life kinda dealing with my parents death and all the stuff around that, but also good stuff, like my dog.

I was in a band called El Hombre Trajeado for a long time and a lot of bands before that. But when I started to write this stuff it was so personal that I kind of felt uncomfortable getting other people involved. So I learned how to play the acoustic guitar properly and did it myself.

You've got a DIY ethos towards your music, would you care to explain this?

It particularly strong in Scotland, particularly Glasgow, and it has been for a long time. Scottish musicians realised a long time ago that we don't really need London and we don't really need the established music industry and established promoters because we self sufficient enough to go and do this stuff ourselves and there's enough people interested in supporting it that it is a very self sufficient scene and it's really exciting. The challenge isn't to make as much money as you can, it's do put on the best nights and the most interesting nights, and to make the most interesting records.

Just at the weekend there I was at the first Scottish independent record fair through in Edinburgh. And it was absolutely brilliant, a whole bunch of Scottish labels all together in the same room bigging each other up. It was a brilliant atmosphere and a lot of people there. A lot of people just going and buying records of bands they've never heard of because it might be interesting and that's a good thing.

I understand that vinyl is your format of choice.

Yeah I came back a lot poorer. Well financially poor, richer in spirit.

Your own record label, Chemical Underground, is packed full of Scottish talent. How does it feel to be on the label?

I really love it. I've actually known the guys who run it before the label existed, 15/16 years anyway. They were the only label I was really interested in working with. I hadn't gone or spoken to anyone, I released 'First And Last' myself initially, and I was quite happy doing that. But Chemical were the only label I was really exicited about working with because I know them and trust them. And I know that even though they are quite a big label now, they still run it like a DIY enterprise, still about interesting music and treating people fairly. So it's really cool.

How is 2011 shaping up for you? What can we still expect from you in the second part of the year?

Well I've just finished the new record, which is a big collaborative record I've been making for the past couple of years. I had this idea that it would be easier to reconnect with old friends if I did it by writing music with them. So I got in touch with a load of people who I've been friendly with over the years but hadn't necessarily done music with or hadn't done music with in a long time. Took two years to make, so that's it finished now. Now I have a wee rest and then I'll be going back out on tour at the end of the year, probably UK and Europe again.

Looking forward to that. You've been touring a wee bit this year, and supported some big acts.

I did Ireland, Europe, Scandanavia and Russia with Mogwai. Five weeks with them. Did a couple of shows with Godspeed You Black Emporer. I just go out and I play as often as I can. Playing live is a kind of weird therapy for me, it makes me feel a lot better about things, so I do it as often as I can. And it's really amazing when I get the opportunity to go and play with bands that I've loved for years and go and travel with them. Very cool thing.

Your 'Play For Food' is a brilliant idea, would you care to explain the idea behind it?

It's weird, it's quite a popular thing in America, house gigs in general are big in America. It actually came from this one show years ago, before I started doing the acoustic thing, I did a show where I think I ended up getting paid about £8, it was terrible, quite a big venue and there was only about 20 people there. And on the way home I was kind of lamenting that I could either get a taxi or get something to eat. And I kinda figured that those same 20 people in a living room would have been an amazing gig, and if I could throw in some food as well it would be really cool. So I had this idea where I will play for food, where people can agree to make dinner for themselves and some of their friends, I'll come along and have dinner and get to know each other, then I'll do a proper concert, not like your mate sitting in the corner playing guitar, and actual show. And it's been really popular, I've met some amazing people through it.

Have you had many people doing this and discovering your music through it?

Yeah absolutely. It's a very intense experience doing it. And I talk a lot about the reasons behind the songs, and you end up being quite close.

How do you feel not having lyrics restricts your ability to translate your meaning in a song, or do you find it makes it easier?

I find it much easier. These pieces of music have very specific meanings to me and I've always really loved the the ability that instrumental music has for people to imprint on it, their own feelings about it. When I was writing these songs in particular, I tried to write words, but they weren't good enough to be honest, they sounded trite. I thought it was better dealt with just with the music. Part of the reason I started writing music was because I was so uncomfortable talking about these things and I need som kind of outlet. When I started adding words it didn't convey what I was trying to.

What I find with the songs off 'First And Last' when I go and talk about them now, their meaning has changed for me because I've lived through the last two years, whereas if they were vocal led songs I wouldn't have been able to change that meaning, it would kinda be stuck where it is. And I like that quality in a song.

You've already mentioned the new record will be featuring musical friends, who is featured? 

We've got Aidan Moffat, Luke Sutherland, Emma Pollock, Alasdair Roberts a very good folk singer. A load of multi instrumentalists, there's a lot of different instrumentation, there's some singing, we've got some Chinese harps, piano's, drums and things like that. It's a little bit different from 'First And Last'.

What influences have you got as a musician?

To be honest I don't actually listen to a lot of acoustic music. My biggest fear is becoming that 30-something guy with the guitar. Which is exactly what I am! It's not the type of music I really listen to a lot. I started playing the acoustic guitar and started learning flamenco as I thought it would be something to take my mind of things at the time. It's kind of weird to end up being that guy!

Most of the music I listen to, I mostly listen to new Scottish music to be honest, 'cause I spend so much time going round a seeing bands playing. There's so much good music just now. The music I grew up with was a lot of '80's American punk music, Black Flag, Minutemen, Dead Kennedys and Sonic Youth. I still absolutely love that music. When I play I think I'm closer to that than I am to an acoustic guitarist.

What Scottish artists would you recommend?

Let's see... FOUND are amazing, I Build Collapsible Mountains, Esperi, Yahweh. Phantom Band as well. I'm just going through Chemical Underground's roster! But that's one of the reasons I was happy to join them because I love all the bands that are on the roster.

How does it feel as a musician to be a part of the Scottish music scence?

It's really exciting. I started playing shows in 1991, it's been a while. And I've kind of seen the DIY scene come and go. And I was very active in the '90's and kinda of ducked out in the 2000's, didn't really do anything for a couple of years. I came back and just found a whole new generation of people who were more imaginative than we were, more adventurous, putting on these amazing events and putting out these great records. And I feel really lucky and humble to be invited to be a part of that.

Do you feel that maybe the advent of the internet has made things a bit easier?

In some ways yeah. You do tend to get a little bit of information overload. It is a lot easier to put yourself out there, but the other side is it's a lot harder to get anyone to listen to it. When I started out we would put out 7" singles, 400 of them, and people would buy it just because it was a new 7" single.

When I first released 'First And Last' I let people set their price for the record, for the CD version and the download version. Adn it actually worked very well. When you treat people like adults, most of the time they'll act like adults, and they'll want to support you and they'll give you money. I would encourage bands to do it.

I do think it slightly de-values music to give it away for free. I think you should give people the opportunity to reward you financially, because it cost money to make it.

There is certainly a certain worth in music, and to pay the person involved does seem right. The music industry hasn't always treated people like adults.

It's getting worse! I've been really into this thing called The Creative Commons, which is an idea of amending copyright, default to the idea of letting people doing anything, but adding certain restrictions, like 'you're allowed to share this with all your friends, but you're not allowed to sell it'. And I think that's been a really interesting development as well. It encourages people to build on other peoples work and to collaborate.

There's a favourite quote of mine by a guy called Tim O'Reilly, the jist of it is basically, "90% of artists in the world their problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity'.

Thanks very much for talking to Scottish Fiction.

You can check out RM Hubbert's website here and you can listen to the full show, including live music, below:

Scottish Fiction - 8th August 2011 by wilsonnj

No comments:

Post a Comment