In what I am retrospectively calling 'songwriting' month here on Scottish Fiction, there is a slightly serious side behind the Words With Friends Cup, and that is to put the spotlight on the art of songwriting. So I've asked our competitors if they would be kind enough to answer a few questions about their own experiences and opinions, and what is after all a hugely important part of music.
We all have our favourite lyrics, a line we wish we'd written. Music full of pulsating beats, jaw busting riffs, bone shattering bass lines and soaring vocals is great, but it's words that make us connect with a song, make us laugh, cry, cheer or grimace as the story being told unfolds.
This time round it's the turn of The King Hat's prominent song writer Alan Power to chat a little about the song writing process.
As a musician, how do you balance the music with the words?
If there is a secret formula to song-writing I'm certainly not aware of it. I think when most people think about song writing they have visions of some poor bastard sitting in a dungeon chained to a piano or a guitar, forced to write songs for some creep of a pop star, who in turn parades around TV studios and radio station selling their songs to kids with little or no imagination and too much pocket money. How contrived it all seems. The whole concept from start to finish seems horrific.
When I listen to music, I want to hear someone singing like they believe every word that is coming out of their mouth; like the words would burn the throat if they didn't. I think if you’re going to get up on stage and sing about something close to your heart, you better give it your all. It’s very difficult to get over the fact your sharing your most private of feelings with a room full of strangers (and doing so through a microphone), but if you truly believe in your songs, and deliver them with the same amount of passion that drove you to write it down in the first place, I think more often than not people will relate.
What is your approach to songwriting?
I'm not sure how you can find balance between lyrics and the music; it’s never part of my thought process. I’m very fortunate that most of our songs come from Bert strumming away on the guitar. If I hear him play something I like, I jump on it like a tenner on the street. He’ll then record a quick blast of it, and then I’ll take it and listen for a while. Then before I know what I'm doing, I’m writing about something or other. Then we go into the studio and just work on it from there. I suppose the mood of the song is finally set when Carlo and Rusty add their parts
Is there a particular lyric that you wish you'd written?
I sometimes think song-writing is a bit like a magic trick. When you listen to something that stops you in your tracks, you wonder how the fuck they did it; you wonder what happened, and why they were moved to write such moving things. But as much as you try to figure out the why, you would rather just sit back and enjoy the trick. There is a line in the Placebo song "Without You I'm Nothing"; it’s also the title track of the album (which is fucking outstanding from start to finish). Its goes a little something like this
I'm unclean, a libertine,
and every time you vent your spleen,
I seem to lose the power of speech,
slipping slowly from my reach.
You grow me like an evergreen,
You never see the lonely me at all
My heart breaks a little every time I hear it. I really wish I could have written that line.
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