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Eugene McGuinness - Interview

  by Marie Hazelwood

published: 27 / 8 / 2012

Eugene McGuinness - Interview


Marie Hazelwood and Harry Sherriff speak to critically acclaimed London-based singer-songwriter Eugene McGuinness about his just released third album ‘The Invitation to the Voyage’ and its influences

Eugene McGuinness is a critically acclaimed London-based singer-songwriter, who has now recorded three solo albums, ‘The Early Learnings of Eugene McGuinness’ (Double Six Records, 2007), ‘Eugene McGuinness’ (Domino Records, 2008) and ‘The Invitation to the Voyage’ (Domino Records 2012). As well as that he also has fronted a garage rock band Eugene + the Lizards, which includes his brother Dominic on guitar and backing vocals, and which released an album, ‘Glue’, on Domino in 2009. He also plays guitar as a session musician inh his friend Miles Kane’s band. Pennyblackmusic met Eugene McGuiness before a gig at the Warrington Parr Hall, in which he both played in Kane’s band and was also the support act, and spoke to him about ‘The Invitation to the Voyage’. PB: What do you think is your main strength as a songwriter? What do you think is your main weakness? EM: I don’t know. It is a hard question. It is not like I struggle with one element, as I always try to approach each song differently. The last song that I wrote, which I finished last week, involved months and months of writing different pieces and then putting them together. And then, with something like ‘Lion’, my first single from ‘The Invitation to the Voyage’, it was written in a couple of minutes in contrast and I was ready to blast it out. Sometimes it feels very easy and they’re good songs, but it isn’t always easy. It’s not for me to say what my weak point is. PB: Which albums influenced ‘The Invitation to the Voyage’? EM: A few, but not any in particular. I wasn’t really listening to anything as a direct influence. This album is very much my own thing. Something like for example ‘The Idiot’ by Iggy Pop did have an influence. It was not so much an influence on my record but that album was produced by David Bowie during his Berlin period. It influenced me because it sounded like nothing else, like his and Iggy’s own thing. That’s what I wanted my record to sound like. You should concentrate on your own thing. It is very easy to copy stuff. I am not like that. I listen to so many kinds of music, so it is hard to pick a few influences. I wanted this album to sound good when you’re driving in your car! PB: What have you been listening to recently? EM: A bit of Beach Boys, the Vines‘ first album ‘Highly Evolved’, PJ Harvey and Josh Homme’s ‘The Desert Sessions’ and Primal Scream. PB: Which living or dead artists would you most like to duet with? EM: John Lennon, Chuck Berry, and Marvin Gaye. PB: Why did you decide to cover Lana Del Ray’s ‘Blue Jeans’ recently? EM: When you do a cover, it should be a bit of fun and I really liked the song when I heard it on the radio for the first time. It came out as we were practicing. I really liked the chords; they’re a bit like those of Oasis and the Verve. It happened when I was in between singles and I had a gap to fill in. I didn’t want people to lose interest so I wanted to give them something to listen to. PB: ‘The Invitation to the Voyage’ is quite a catchy title. Where did it come from? Were you trying to convey any kind of message with it? EM: When I was recording that album I didn’t think about any direct message. I was travelling a lot with Miles Kane when that album was being recorded, and I realised later that lots of the songs referred to travel. I got back to London for a few days and I finished the record. Then I thought that title really fits. It’s quite a grand title and maybe a bit pretentious! PB: Your music videos look like little masterpieces. How do you come up with the ideas for them? EM: I work quite closely with my mate who directs the videos. We grew up together. When you’re a teenager and you want to be in a band, music videos and even interviews aren’t the thing you necessarily dream about. It is all about being on stage and performing music. Then it comes to this ‘mission’ of music videos, and you’re like, “Shit, what do we do?”(Laughs). So you’ve got two choices really. You can kind of go, “Okay that will do” or you can use it as an opportunity to do something really good. And it helps, if you have some mates, who’ve got some cool ideas as well. At the moment I have a lot of time to put effort into it. I am actually about to do a new one. We are thinking what the idea’s going to be now. It will have a bit of dancing in it again. PB: Do you prefer playing festivals or small venues? EM: They are both very different. Festivals are not necessarily your crowd, but with me now trying to get more people to listen to my music it is a great opportunity, whereas small venues are also great because the people are there for you. I would imagine that if you get bigger that then the festival experience is amazing. When I look at big bands playing festivals it is just unreal. For example the Stone Roses played those shows recently. That was just amazing. But for me at the moment, I have small venues where the sound is really good, everything is crystal clear, and it is nice to have people’s faces in front of you. It is too far away at festivals sometimes. You can’t even see anyone there. PB: Being in Miles Kane’s band must have been a big thing for you. What has been the biggest experience there? EM: All the touring experiences really. Supporting Liam Gallagher, and bands like Kasabian and the Arctic Monkeys have been important. We learned quite directly the professional aspect of music and how they work. But really, it has been just travelling. I was in Tokyo on my birthday and that was ridiculous! After that we went to Russia - We watched the Champions League Final in Moscow in the middle of the day- and we were in Brazil, where we saw the skyline in Sao Paulo and I was like, “Come on, I’m a guy from Essex! This is not happening” (Laughs). PB: Despite having your own career, you have chosen to play with Miles Kane. What have you got out of this and has it been difficult to balance it with your own career? EM: It was an opportunity for me to catch a little bit of distance from what I was doing. I was in the middle of writing my record; I was putting a lot of pressure on it. When Miles came along and asked me to join him, I took it as good opportunity to give myself a break and go travel, play music with my mates. That gave me a bit of time off for myself in which nobody was rushing me. I had a few rough tunes on my iPod and I kept listening to them, deciding when we were sitting at airports whether Ie would keep them, or if they would go in the bin. That was this distance I needed. When I came back to the album it seemed a lot easier than before. PB: You are the front man in Eugene + the Lizards. How do you manage to fit all of this in? It has been three years since your last album with them. Will there be another one? EM: Well, that was sort of an excuse for me. I had some songs at the time but there wasn’t a need for me to do a record, and I didn’t want those songs to be forgotten so I gave them a different name and that’s where the Lizards came from. It was great because I was able to work with my brother Dominic who was in that band. I don’t know if it will be another Eugene + the Lizards thing necessarily but I do want to work with my brother again. To be honest that record should just be called the Lizards without my name involved in it. I think what I want to do is focus on my own thing first and then see what happens. My brother has his own band, and he is about do some stuff and now it’s time for my record. It’s hard for me to predict when I will feel like doing something more with the Lizards. In the next few months I might say,”Fuck it! I’m going to do a garage album!” but who knows? PB: You are a very diverse artist and difficult to stick into a category. Some of your songs are happy; some of them are sad, some suicidal. The critics seem to respond well to you but still you haven’t had a major success. Is this because people can’t pigeonhole you? Do you think this has gone against you? EM: That is what I am saying to myself, instead of “You are shit” (Laughs). Maybe because I am honest, it’s difficult for people to categorize me. But I see that as a positive thing because you can have something like the new Strokes, or anything predictable, or you can have something like I am doing. It is not any sort of revolution. It is matter of me being really honest about my character, and my influences in music. It never crosses my mind about categorization. But if I really wanted to do something like a really retro solo album, I’d probably get a lot of attention but that just makes me cringe. For me to have complete freedom in what I do, if the price is that I don’t get massive commercial success then that is fine with me. I’m happy with what I’m doing and the direction it’s going, and if it takes 10 years to fill a venue this size then I will be happy. I don’t push for success. I’m not desperate. I’m ambitious but not in the way that I will release a certain type of single just to please someone. When you go and record and album and then play it to an audience, it doesn’t really matter if it’s then thousand or three thousand, as long as they enjoy my music. The whole process is rewarding enough. PB: Thank you. The photographs that accompany this article were taken for Pennyblackmusic by Marie Hazelwood.

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Eugene McGuinness - Interview

Eugene McGuinness - Interview

Eugene McGuinness - Interview

Eugene McGuinness - Interview

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live reviews

O2 Academy, Liverpool, 11/11/2012
Eugene McGuinness - O2 Academy, Liverpool, 11/11/2012
Harry Sherriff finds talented London-based singer-songwriter Eugene McGuinness failing to ignite interest in an unatmospheric Sunday night gig at the O2 Academy in Liverpool
Parr Hall, Warrington, 17/8/2012
Eugene McGuinness


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