published: 13 /
In a previous issue of the Pennyblackmusic Magazine, I reviewed The Clientele's album 'Suburban Lights.' If you remember that, you may also remember that I was quite positive about it. Great. We at t
In a previous issue of the Pennyblackmusic Magazine, I reviewed The Clientele's album 'Suburban Lights.' If you remember that, you may also remember that I was quite positive about it. Great. We at the Pennyblackmusic Magazine thought we knew too little about Galaxie 500's "baby brother", and so we decided to find out more. Said and done, an interview with Alasdair MacLean, singer and songwriter in the band, took place and here is what he had to say.
PB : First of all, tell us how The Clientele was formed ?
AM : One day I walked into a history lesson at school and saw a fellow pupil had written the word “Felt” on his pencil case. That fellow pupil was James Hornsey and when I realised anyone in the world had heard of Felt apart from me, we decided to form a band, together with Innes Phillips on classical guitar and Daniel Evans on drums, in the same spirit as our heroes Galaxie 500, the Chills and Arthur Lee. Innes later left to form the Relict and Daniel was involved in a tragic Australian emigration accident.
The Relict has so far released two singles on their own, plus a split 7" single with The Clientele. On the first two recordings, Innes got some help from his former bandmates in the rhythm section. I asked Alasdair to tell us more about this collaboration.
AM : We gave Innes some help with his first couple of releases. But now he’s looking to work with Electroscope, Gav from Billy Mahonie, Pam Berry, Rothko and a load of other musicians who do very different things. The Relict is designed to be a kind of musical collective where people creatively arrange songs that Innes writes. It’s much more experimental and collaborative than the Clientele. Innes had a dream of an artists’ colony where everyone works together, which is not the central philosophy of the Clientele. We always wanted to be unique and totally focused on one vision.
The split single with the Relict came from the idea that we should both try out songs with female singers, cos we were talking about how much we’d been listening to Desert Shore by Nico. That 7” is actually my favourite Clientele recording
Alasdair also tells me he is influenced by paintings and movies when he writes music, and that he would rather be a painter and not a musician. For him, music is a very visual experience, and lyrics and meanings are not very important.
A band that has clearly influenced The Clientele is the aforementioned Galaxie 500. And Alasdair makes no secret of this.
AM : I like Galaxie 500 100%. Kramer's production, the guitar work, the atmosphere of the songs – you name it, we’re into it. Add to that that Damon and Naomi who were in the band run a book publishing company called Exact Change Press that have reprinted lots of great surrealist books in English translation, and respect turns into awe!
PB : What do you think about the British popscene at the moment? Is it easy for a band like The Clientele go get gigs and to sell their records?
AM : We have an easy life nowadays. We’re playing in Berlin and Barcelona as well as the USA this year, so we get to travel, which is a reward in itself. We sold enough records in the UK last year to buy new instruments and fund making a film. Our fans are generally from the market that Belle and Sebastian carved out – people who don’t necessarily read the NME but who have good record collections and sympathy for music like ours. But generally the music scene is really dull here because it’s so full of arrogance and laziness. It’s horribly unhealthy for real music or ideas. The world of the NME is nauseating. These days they’re just lackeys for the major labels: I’m sick of seeing crap, crap bands hyped to death all of the time. It frustrates and depresses me as a British musician, so I’ll just beg everyone not to see us as part of that scene – we want to distance ourselves from it as far as possible. Most bands I really love come from abroad – Sea and Cake, Migala, Aislers Set
PB : Do you have any records at home that you are ashamed of?
AM : Danny La Rue singing Cockney Music Hall songs. If you’re not familiar with him, Mr. La Rue is an entertainer of the old, decidedly camp school, and on this LP he gives vigorous renditions of many 19th century London favourites, e.g. “Any old Iron”, “Fanlight Fanny, the frowsy nightclub queen”.
PB : Vinyl vs CD. What's your opinion?
AM : I don’t give a shit, really. Personally I like vinyl because I grew up with it, from my Dad’s record collection to Creation Records, to 7” singles that the Clientele released. But I’m not obsessed with it. CDs are cool too.
PB : Is your goal to become the greatest band in the world and to play arenas, or are you satisfied with being rather unknown but having a steady fanbase?
AM : That’s a difficult one. When we first formed the Clientele, we wanted to be in the charts, at number one. Our aim was to make music that was ultra-accessible but at the same time complex and soulful. We wanted to change the mainstream of music for the better. I don’t care about that so much any more, partly because we failed! … Now it’s important to develop a vision, and not to repeat ourselves. It’s easy to start obsessing over sales or reviews rather than new songs, but I think we’re heading in new directions with fresh and exciting ideas, and that’s the main thing. We’re on course to sell more and more records anyway!
Maybe they can sell so many records that the members can quit their daytime jobs (because they can't make a living of the music, "it's a drag" according to Alasdair). We hope for great success for The Clientele. If you haven't bought their album yet, then you should.
At last, I asked Alasdair to list his favourite albums of all time. And this is his list:
TOP FIVE ALBUMS (At this moment)
MIGALA - Arde
THE MOLES - Untune The Sky
LEE MORGAN - The Sidewinder
GLEN CAMPBELL & JIMMY WEBB - Reunion
NICO - Desert Shore