published: 20 /
In our 'Soundtrack of Our Lives' column, in which our writers describe the personal impact of music upon them, John Clarkson writes about hearing in 2000 London-based indie band Baptiste's first two singles, 'A New Career in a New Town' and 'The Quiet Times'
I first heard Baptiste in the late summer of 2000 in the then flat of Pennyblackmusic webmaster and co-founder Richard Banks.
In those early fledgling days Pennyblackmusic still had its shop, and both the website and this magazine were still very much in its infancy. Both Baptiste’s debut single, ‘A New Career in a New Town’, and its follow-up, ‘The Quiet Times’, each of which had come in limited editions of 500 in 7” vinyl, had after a slow start begun to sell well in the shop. We must have sold 40 or 50 copies of each, which for us were always remarkable sales.
At first Baptiste didn’t have much of an immediate impression on me, but something must have stuck because back in Edinburgh from seeing Richard in London I asked him to send me copies of the two singles and in the coming weeks I kept returning to both of them. Three of four listens of each later and I was completely hooked by both their Velvet Underground/Go Betweens guitar atmospherics and the confessional nature and bittersweet honesty of songwriter Wayne Gooderham’s lyrics.
Towards the end of that year I set up the first of what has been five Pennyblackmusic interviews to date with Wayne, two with Baptiste and three with his current band Kelman. I spoke to him on the phone on a Wednesday night to arrange the interview, and then two nights later on the Friday again on the phone we did the interview itself.
Perhaps in that initial phone call I gave Wayne the wrong impression, that, rather than like his band being another part of the indie sector struggling to survive against apathy, we were a lot bigger than we were. I can’t remember. After talking to me poor Wayne, who had not done many interviews at that stage, was, however, hit by a severe blast of nerves. He stopped off at the pub on the way home from work on the night of the interview to give himself some Dutch courage. One drink became several, and by the time he got back to the house to take my second phone call he was completely plastered.
It was in many ways the interview from hell, one which was punctured by long passages of ramble, but there were other briefer moments in which Wayne showed total articulacy. I wasn’t, however, angry with him. I was flattered and secretly somewhat thrilled. Here was someone whose music I really admired, and he had been so worried about talking to Pennyblackmusic and me in particular that he had gone out and got hammered. It gave us at a time in which we were all at Pennyblackmusic HQ plagued with doubts about our worth and if what we were doing was of any real value at all a massive and much needed injection of confidence.
I wrote up the interview over that Christmas, used the good parts, Wayne liked it and it remains all these years on one of my favourite interviews of time. In the eight years since then I have had quite a lot to do with Wayne who I met for the first time next year both socially and also musically. I often see him when I am down from Edinburgh and in London where he too is based for a drink. I have seen him perform several times, and been to Uptight, the monthly club, he runs with his brother and Baptiste and Kelman’s drummer Marc.
I also met both Anthony Strutt and Dominic Simpson through Baptiste. Anthony had published another Baptiste interviews in his then fanzine, ‘Independent Underground Sound’, and I got in touch with him for research purposes. Dominic, another Baptiste fan, got in touch with me after reading one of Wayne’s interviews on the site. Both have ended up regular contributors to the magazine.
Many of the other writers at Pennyblackmusic subsequently got into Baptiste as well. In 2002 they became the closest thing we have ever had to an in-house band, with one writer or another providing a live review every other month. It must have all been a bit overwhelming and embarrassing, but Wayne, Marc and the rest of Baptiste, however, took it in good spirits.
In January of 2003 Baptiste appeared second on the bill at our first Pennyblackmusic Bands Night at the London Spitz. Their set concluded in front of one of the Bands Night’s biggest audiences with a rare outing for ‘Icarus’, the B side to a ‘New Career in a New Town’, and my favourite of all their songs. Pennyblackmusic writer Ben Howarth still says that their set was the best performance that he has ever seen at a Bands Night. It was to be one of their last performances, as six or so weeks later Baptiste quietly imploded. Although we had already invited them back to play our second Bands Night that April, Wayne swears that it was nothing to do with us.
I am grateful to Wayne for all of that, grateful too for him after Baptiste’s demise for continuing to make challenging and enthralling music as he has done since with Kelman, who have released two albums, 2005’s ‘Loneliness Has Kept Us Alive’ and this year’s ‘I Felt My Sad Heart Soar’. For getting drunk that night and helping to give us faith in ourselves when we needed it the most, I, however, am also appreciative. It was one of the first times that I felt we were getting somewhere. 10 years on from starting we’re still here, and both Baptiste and Kelman have had a large part to play in that.