Tuesday, 7 July 2015

We're Only Here For The Banter - Dec '91

The lo-fi and melancholic stylings of Dec '91 have long been pleasing my ears here at Scottish Fiction for a number of months now.  Craig Ferrie, the man behind the name, operates with a prolific nature but thankfully seems to have so far avoided the pitfalls of poor quality going hand in hand with abundant quantity.  There's an honesty that resonates through Dec '91's music, which is one of the reasons why I'm delighted that he will be popping up on our latest Scottish Fiction Presents gig.  Time to find out more from Craig.

Hello!  How the devil are you?

I'm good thanks.

It's the question everyone hates, but could illuminate our readers with a little bit about your music and your influences?

Hah, probably not...  I'm a Scottish singer/songwriter, currently living in Glasgow.  My favourite is a band called Sparklehorse.  My Dad first showed me them when I was like 15 -  at the time my favourite bands were Slipknot and Nirvana - and I dunno, that's when I started to properly open my mind I think.  In terms of work ethic I really empathise with people like Lou Reed, Mark Kozelek from Sun Kil Moon, John Frusciante and all of his solo stuff, and of course Daniel Johnston.  I love how these guys just created and allowed themselves to change, whether its super lo-fi, inaccessible stuff like Frusciante's or proper mainstream like Sally Can't Dance.

I feel like its all legitimate if you are honestly expressing yourself, and in that way it means you can kind of never fail because you're not really trying to be something you're not, if that makes any sense.  Or even if you are trying to be something you're not, it should be because of your own shit, not because of some external pressure like a label or fan expectancy.  Maybe many people don't see the importance of that distinction but I do think there's one to be made.  I recently saw Damien Rice live for the first time and it absolutely blew my mind.  I think I'd like to be able to do what he does live.  Would loved to have seen Jacques Brel live.  I hope to capture that same kind of raw intensity that these guys capture when they play.

What's your song-writing / creative process like?

Real constant.  I write a lot of music.

I almost always write alone, sometimes things come from jamming with other people but usually not.  I use voice memos a lot but even then I often work off the principal that if you can't remember something, its probably not worth remembering.  Saying that, my memories pretty terrible.. 

I don't really demo for recording.  I used to but the demo was almost always better than the final recording.  I think its good not to be too precious.  The problem that I think a lot of musicians can have, myself included, is the tendency to be a perfectionist.  I think that in itself is not unhealthy but problems arise when you start to worry or, perfect, all the things that don't really matter.  The idea of spending years, or even months on recording seems kinda crazy to me.  By that point I'll have moved on, written more songs, or at least I'l; probably be in a different place.  But I know not everybody works like that.  I just think perfectionism tends to manifest itself in a way which actually obstructs what you are trying to achieve.  Some might accuse my writing of being too shallow if I'm saying that it changes like that, y'know not dealing with the root of the issue but I don't think its like that at all.

My Dad has never understood why I write what I write because I can be incredibly specific but I think Sun Kil Moon summed it up pretty much perfectly.  His new album is called Universal Themes,  something which I think might be a bit of an inside joke but its perfect.  This is one of the most specific songwriters I've ever heard, the first song is called The Possum  and is about him watching a possum die or something.  How many people have watched a possum die?  I've never even seen a possum, and yet he calls his album 'Universal'?

And I think its because you gotta deal with the details in order to properly touch the important foundation of the issue and he recognises that.  Its not enough just to say, "I miss the girl" or "I hate death."  You gotta say who/what died, how they died, when, and why.  You know what I mean?  I mean, that possum song is great man.

Tell us about your recent album Quebec.

Quebec  is a collection of music that I wrote and recorded over the course of about a month when I was traveling round Canada and the USA at the start of the year.  I was visiting my friend Catherine whilst I was there and she's studying to become a doctor which meant I had a lot of time during the day whilst she was at Uni to write music or play Mario Kart.  They're pretty much inter-changeable...

Anyway, it was a pretty difficult period, had a massive falling out with one of my closest friends, and it was totally freezing and harsh outside.  I sorta grew this weird fear of leaving the flat and I was having a lot of issues with managing expectation but it was by far my most creative period to date.  That all definitely comes through in the album I think.  Its' a bunch of pretty intimate, low key songs which I recorded using my phone and Catherine's little Yamaha keyboard, 'cause I didn't have any other equipment.  It's the first album I've ever made and it made for a real good lesson.  Sometimes I think people are at their best, artistically speaking, when they have to work within these kinds of limitations.  But yeah, I'm really happy with it.

What could we expect to see from a live show?

Just now I have been playing a lot as a two piece with my friend Innes, who also plays with Polarnecks.  He's a great musician and we work a lot together.  At the beginning of the year we played a show with six of us which was great fun but to be honest, I mostly play alone.

I remember watching an interview with Idlewild once and they were talking about bands who go on stage and play the same songs, in the same order in the same way every night, and just how that's total bullshit, and it is!  If I'm having a bad night then I want you to know I'm having a bad night and equally if I feel great then you'll know!  The point is that I don't believe in treating your music/performance like a product.  It's an expression right?  So go on express yourself, that's what I think, and let your surroundings/exterior factors influence that, y'know.

So I try not to prepare set lists too much, or whatever.  I'd love to think you could come along to a Dec '91 show and just have no idea what to expect.  Could be a six piece band, could just be me with a piano or it could be like a punk rock show.  And all are totally good, I'd hope.  It's that thing of, if a song works when you strip it down to its bare bones, then you have a good song.  That means you can kind of get away with dressing it up however way you want as long as you are honestly expressing yourself.  That's what you get with a Dec '91 show.  Honesty.

What else have you got planned for the rest of 2015?

Good question...  Hoping to get back up north around August to play more shows around Skye, Inverness, Ullapool and hoping to get as far as the North coast, maybe over to the Hebrides.  Have started doing these little jaunts up north with a few friends of mine, Jason Riddell, Jamie Flynn; who also plays in Made As Mannequins; and most recently Lukas Clasen from Polarnecks.  We call ourselves the FOREMOTHERS.  I really love going up and just putting on little nights, people are really open and responsive to original music and look after you really well.  It makes a great change from playing in cities. 

Towards the end of the year I'm planning on heading back to spend a few months in Canada but to be honest I try not to do too much scheduling...  I'll most probably be releasing some more music as I go and maybe put on a show or two in Glasgow before I leave.

And of course I'm chuffed to be playing alongside Mt. Doubt and Deadly Rides at The Hug & Pint on 4th August for your good selves!

What are you listening to at the moment?

I can't get enough of this new Sun Kil Moon album and I recently rediscovered Fleetwood Mac.  Man that song Tusk  is a belter.

Check out more from Dec '91

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