Interview: Paul Haig


I must confess to having been slightly nervous about the thought of interviewing Paul Haig. Not because I think he’s going to be a terrifying interviewee, like some artists have a reputation for being, but more because I’m quite in awe of the man. Formerly lead singer of the legendary Josef K, and one of the prime movers on the Scottish independent scene, he has made some seminal records. But on meeting him at Southern X Cafe on Edinburgh’s Cockburn St, he immediately puts me at my ease, and gives me a copy of his latest album, Relive. Not for him the stuffy musician who demands that reviewers listen to the album in painstaking detail before they’ll grant an interview.

First of all, let’s start with the new album. This has actually come out about eighteen months after your last album. How long has it been in the making?

It was quite quick. I managed to get it together in about three months. Pretty intensive recording and writing, but I had quite a few songs from the past. I was going through my old archives, and I thought ‘there are some songs that have never been properly released,’ so that kind of inspired me to make a ten track, in-your-face album. I wanted to stick to that, I wanted to work with the discipline, not getting carried away with any long mixes.

This is a step away from a lot of the stuff you’ve done under the Rhythm Of Life umbrella since you went solo. Would you say it was the most ‘rock-orientated’ of your solo stuff?

Yeah, definitely. I think the last three albums I’ve started to warble again, to use my voice. It’s been a progression; from the first one electronic, the second one a mish-mash and this one…yeah, you could call it a rock album, I grimace to say, but it is.

Is there something about the term ‘rock’? You say you’re grimacing…

It’s just the term ‘rock’! [laughs]

…Can I just ask: Have you read the book Rip It Up And Start Again, which mentions both Josef K and your solo career?Is that an era you look back on nostalgically?

Yeah, I do now.

There was a sense at the time…One of the terms, I think it was coined by Pete Wylie of Wah!, the term of the idea ‘rockist’ – I wondered if there was something about that…

It’s not about the term, it’s just me saying it. In the early eighties, when we were all branching into shiny electronic pop, there was a kind of anti-rockist thing. We didn’t want anything to be like fusty, old rock, even punk rock. Whereas rock now…it’s indie-rock, so it’s okay.I never thought I’d be doing it again, but it’s good fun. I just get inspired by guitars.

You’re still actually based in Edinburgh. Did you ever move up to the big smoke?

I stayed in London many times. The record companies would put me in service flats, on and off, I lived in Brussels at one point, but I love Edinburgh. You don’t have to be in the big smoke, meet the right people…

From where I’m standing, I’ve been in Edinburgh for eight years, there seems to be a lot more confidence in actually staying in Scotland to do stuff. There seems to be a lot of people who are really pleased that Franz Ferdinand still haven’t moved to London three albums in. Even singing in their own accents… I realise that taking the piss out of the Proclaimers is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, but twenty years ago, it was unusual to hear anyone singing in their own accent. Stuart Adamson didn’t seem to want to…there’s a new level of confidence.

Before that you had people like Alex Harvey, which were definitely pretty broad accents, but there weren’t many, no. The whole thing about being independent…It’s easier to make music now, you don’t have to have a huge budgets or record companies.

We briefly discuss how things have changed with the advent of the internet and how this has freed things up, acknowledging that the freedom that the internet gives us may not be with us forever.

I think it’s great, it’s a very good thing. When I started making solo stuff in Josef K, I started making cassettes, cassettes to cassettes, and then releasing an independent cassette! Whereas now, there’s downloading.. I’m impatient, I like things to feel available now.

The DIY thing has come around again. When the Desperate Bicycles put out ‘Smokescreen’ back in 1977, they put on the back ‘It was simple, it was cheap, now go and do it.’

It’s punk rock with technology, isn’t it? It’s the attitude. You don’t have to be technically too talented to do it, which I think is good as well.

When you did the album, playing guitars, did you play the entire thing yourself?

It all started with the first singing album again, I got more interested in playing again. I find myself playing new riffs that I could have written when I was eighteen. It was finished a few months ago, but if you’re going to give it three months, you have to give it time for the press to work it.

On the album there’s a track called ‘Round and Round’ written with Malcolm Ross. Have you written recently with Malcolm Ross?

No, that goes back to about seventeen years ago. He’s used it on his solo album. This time, I thought I should try and go for my most coherent album, which I think we got, because my albums are usually all over the place.

In the early eighties, there was a pub called The Tap in Lauriston, in Edinburgh, long since disappeared…

Yeah, it was raised to the ground a few years ago. Everyone and every band that you could think of, The Fire Engines, The Scars and the Associates, anyone who was doing anything…It’s about time [that there was an equivalent] because that was a hell of a long time ago.

I show him some of the Paul Haig vinyl of the last thirty years that I’ve brought along to the interview.

That’s like another person, it’s so old, it’s kind of surreal!

Do you miss being on a major record label?

Not really, no! If you’re able to do exactly what you want to do, that’s great. Even with budgets you’d get quite a bit of interference from A&R departments wanting to listen to things. You’d have that afternoon when someone was coming along, even one would be a bit nervous and they’d be saying ‘Maybe you should mix it like that’ not because they were being any help but because it was their money.

Is artistic freedom more important than a big budget?

Yeah, it really is. I think it’s really important after you’ve been doing it for so long. For me, now, there’s a certain amount of people that buy my stuff, and like it, and that’s just brilliant. It’s great to know that people are waiting for the next thing.

There’s been a revival of interest in bands from the same era as Josef K, which has seen long unavailable stuff re-issued. I’m thinking of people like Scritti Politti, the Scars, the Prats, the Fire Engines…there is a theory that bands like Franz Ferdinand, particularly in Scotland, have reignited a lot of interest. Do you think that’s true?

Yeah, I do. I don’t think Domino would have approached us to do Entymology, if it hadn’t been for Franz Ferdinand. Obviously there were some people that were interested. In the early days when Franz Ferdinand were just breaking through, I had people that were quite annoyed, saying ‘Oh, they’ve just ripped you off completely.’ We’ve all had our influences, and if you track back, you see what they were interested in.

After Josef K folded, one notable cover was Propaganda’s cover of ‘Sorry For Laughing.’

Yeah, I think Paul Morley had a lot to do with that, but it was interesting.

Interesting rather than flattering?!

Oh, very flattering! An interesting version, so far removed [from our version], but interesting to see what they did. There’s been a couple of versions of ‘Sorry for Laughing’ and a band from Bristol did ‘It’s Kinda Funny.’

A few weeks later, the album is now out. It’s been getting some great reviews and deservedly so. We chatted for an hour about the state of music, and his friendship with Billy MacKenzie, who he clearly still misses very much. Whilst there have been occasional live dates, he doesn’t play live much – and there are no live dates on his myspace page. Paul Haig is clearly a treasure, and Scotland’s current healthy music scene owes much to his work over the last thirty years.

Relive is out now on Rhythm Of Life

Paul Haig -‘Trip Out The Rider.’ mp3

Presenting…Girl In A Thunderbolt


A few days ago, I recived an email from an act called Girl In A Thunderbolt. Intrigued by the name, I went and checked out the myspace and was staggered by what I heard.

Imagine if the spirits of both Eartha Kitt and Siouxsie Sioux came to rest in one person’s body, and that that body came to base themselves in Norwich. A voice to die for and the songs to match it, Maria is setting out to amaze all who hear her. And anyone who includes their influences “the quieter streets of Norwich at night time when the rain makes the street lights reflect on the pavements, cats and vintage ashtrays” along with Hank Williams, Yoko Ono and Nina Simone has gotta be worth checking out, right?


Girl In A Thunderbolt has just released her second EP, Songs For Modern Lovers. She has graciously allowed me to post a coupkle of her songs here, so I will do. She’s gigging in England – and hopefully will come to Scotland, inbetween visits to Norway where she’s been recording her debut album. Everytime I try and find a genre, something else finds me, and it seems pointless to be searching for genres when I could just be listening to the music.

Girl In A Thunderbolt -‘Old Bones.’ mp3

Girl In A Thunderbolt -‘Curtains (Alternate take).’ mp3

Girl In A Thunderbolt website/Girl In A Thunderbolt myspace

Album Review – Paul Haig


Paul Haig -‘Relive’ (Rhythm Of Life)

Paul Haig follows up his last album Come Out Tonight a mere eighteen months later. And as many reviews have attested, it’s an absolutely brilliant record. Whilst I enjoyed Go Out Tonight very much, this is an excellent album that outclasses its’ predecessor.

Much of the work that Mr. Haig has produced since Josef K split in the early 1980s has been electronic based, rather than guitar based. Interviewing him recently, he acknowledged that this is more guitar heavy, and it shows that he is still a fantastic songwriter. Having come out of the same early eighties scene in Edinburgh that was also host to the likes of the Scars, The Fire Engines and The Associates, it’s good to see that following on from Malcolm Ross’s critically acclaimed collaboration with The Low Miffs, his former bandmate is also showing the young ‘uns just how it’s done.

Because right from the opening ‘Trip Out The Rider,’ a song that sounds like he’s banged together the collective heads of Franz Ferdinand and Girls Aloud, this album commands your attention. The title track’s brief elctronic introduction makes way for song that has as much punch and swagger as John Wayne swaggering into town. There’s a rock aspect here to his work that might have been downplayed on some of his earlier work, but comes to the fore here, all on his own terms. The only possible weak track is ‘Listen To Me’ but overall this album is a thoroughly warm listen, demonstrating that when names like Collins, Henderson and Frame are dropped into the conversation, so should that of Mr. Haig.


Relive is out now on Rhythm Of Life.

Paul Haig -‘Trip Out The Rider.’ mp3

Read The Vinyl Villain’s review over here.

33 1/3 Part 25


Kate Bush -‘Never For Ever’ (EMI, 1980)

I’ve written before on this blog about my love for Kate Bush. Certainly, when I decided I was going to do this series (so much for my finishing with my favourite on my birthday; we’ve gone past that but I’m still 33, so I guess it’s not too late), I knew she’d feature. Question was: which album? My favourite Kate Bush album has changed over time, which might say as much about the quality of her music as my indecisiveness. She’s been one of my favourite singers since I was eleven – and when Mrs. 17 Seconds and I started dating nearly five years ago, she and Mylo were pretty much part of the soundtrack.

But ultimately, I’ve plumped for this album. Never For Ever was Kate Bush’s third album, released in 1980, and included three hits ‘Babooshka’ ‘Breathing’ and ‘Army Dreamers.’ It was her first album to reach no.1 in the UK and came not long after her one and only tour. I first heard Kate Bush when she dueted with Peter Gabriel on ‘Don’t Give Up’ in 1986; and then a couple of years later came one of those moments. The Chart Show was music show that ran on ITV for about a decade and one of the features was to play three videos by one artist. So one day in mid-1988, Kate Bush’s turn came to be and they played ‘Babooshka’ (the one with the double bass), ‘Running Up That Hill’ and ‘The Big Sky.’ A few months later I borrowed The Whole Story from the video shop, and then a year or so later, offered an album by my dad, I chose this.

It wasn’t off my walkman much. I loved the songs -even the weird a capella ‘Night Scented Stock’ and the imagery that went along with the songs. The haunting ‘Egypt’ with its’ african meets arabian backing, The demented ‘Violin’ with some of the most amazing vocal pyrotechnics committed to tape. As with much stuff, some of it went over my head – I didn’t know that ‘Infant Kiss’ wasn’t about loving a baby as the story of the governess in The Innocents (the filmed version of The Turn Of The Screw) from her perspective. the fact that i saw that film eighteen months later – and was scared witless – was unconnected.

I was also becoming aware, as a boy on the cusp of adolescence, about my feelings about the world. I wasn’t vegetarian yet, but I was starting to feel uncomfortable about things like Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power. It’s possible that my love of ‘Army Dreamers’ and the astonishing ‘Breathing’ fed into this. My school friends sniggered about the ‘in…out…in…out’ chorus of ‘Breathing,’ just as the words about ‘cutting lines’ on The Hounds Of Love’s ‘Under Ice’ were taken at face value.

Kate Bush herself has been dismissive of some of her early albums, including this and its’ predecessor Lionheart, which I fell for in a big way at the age of sixteen. Given the topics that she writes about, it would be erronoeus and possibly patronising to say that these albums have a naive or innocent charm, but there is a genuine sweetness or sense of wonder therein.

Sure, there have been copyists, but Bush is a true original. And this is the album where her story began for me.

Kate Bush -‘Infant Kiss.’ mp3

Kate Bush -‘Breathing.’ mp3

Album Review – Cuddly Shark


Cuddly Shark -‘Cuddly Shark’ (Armellodie)

Packing a mighty punch, Cuddly Shark follow-up their critically acclaimed singles with this wonderful debut album. Describing themselves as hillbilly rockers, the Glasgow-based three-piece have more in common with the likes of Le Reno Amps and Elvis Suicide than, say, the twee indie with which the city is still associated with. They also list Shellac as an influence, which I definitely hear as well. Yet it’s not about where their influences are from, it’s where they’re going that make this debut such a thrilling, exciting listen.

Right from the opening track ‘Bowl Of Cherries’ the album makes a powerful impression, as does their sense of humour. One track, entitled ‘Jamie Foxx on Later With Jools Holland’ is fifty seconds long and states simply ‘I heard you sing the worst song I ever heard.’ On Woody Woodpecker’ they casually breeze through more ideas in less than two muinutes than some bands do in an entire career.

It’s not all balls out rock’n’ roll (though see if you can spot the Led-Zep baiting though!), ‘Whiteoaks’ is more wistful and acoustic yet still showcases a sound and song that is uniquely their own. And having given the album a blast through, you already find that you can’t cut it down to one or two highlights. They may have fled the bright lights of Elgin (as referred to in ‘The Punisher of IV30’) but this band are truly one of the most exciting bands in Scotland right now.

Cuddly Shark is out now on Armellodie Records.

Cuddly Shark website/Cuddly Shark myspace

Cuddly Shark will be playing the following live dates:

TODAY (Monday November 16) – Captain’s Rest, Glasgow (With The Elvis Suicide); Saturday December 5 -Dirty Martini’s, Kilmarnock; Thursday 21st January – Nice N Sleazys, Glasgow; Friday 22nd January – Hootenannys, Inverness; Saturday 23rd January – Drummonds, Aberdeen; Sunday 24th January – Sneaky Petes, Edinburgh.

This is the video for Woody Woodpecker

Oh, and the first ten tracks of the album are on the myspace page.

A song for today…


“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine
Staying home to watch the rain
And you are young and life is long
And there is time to kill today
And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun

And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter
Never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to nought
Or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desparation is the English way
The time is gone
The song is over
Thought I’d something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells”


I think this will do for today… ; )

Pink Floyd -‘Time.’ mp3

33 1/3 Part 24


Black Sabbath -‘Paranoid’ (Vertigo, 1970)

Before Sharon Osbourne on X-Factor, The Osbournes, Ozzfest…there was Black Sabbath and they were one of the greatest things to come out of Birmingham. Ever.Along with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, they took on the mantle of actually creating what Steppenwolf had referred to ‘Born To Be Wild’ and The Beatles, Hendrix and The Kinks had done in their heaviest modes and created Heavy Metal. Praise be. Led Zeppelin incorporated folk, Deep Purple incorporated bits of classical…

…and Sabbath? Well, two things, really. Firstly, Sabbath had started out as a jazz band. You heard. And listen to ‘Planet Caravan’ and ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ if you don’t believe me. Secondly, having come out of a rehearsal and seen people queueing up to see the Turn Of the Screw [N.B. Most likely The Innocents, which it was filmed as in the 1960s, and influenced Kate Bush’s ‘Infant Kiss’ off Never For Ever.] it was wondered if people would pay money to hear music that would scare them. They would. For four decades afterwards. The front cover of their eponymous debut paid tribute to The Turn Of The Screw/The Innocents and dealt with much horror that would grace a Hammer Horror.

That was early 1970. Before the year was out, Sabbath had issued their second album. Paranoid was going to be called War Pigs. This was a direct reference to the Vietnam War, which was still going on, and the record company baulked. So it took the name of the second track on the album -‘Paranoid.’ That song is probably the one for which Sabbath are best known and still thrills and chills the spine forty years on. Less than three minutes long it’s widely viewed as a classic rock anthem and rightly so. Actually, it’s a classic song. Period.

Yet musically there are other surprises on the album. A few years ago, French act Air included ‘Planet Caravan’ on their Late Night Tales compilation. If you think this is an album of non-stop headbanging indulgence, think again. Oh, and listen to the album. ‘Caravan’ is gorgeously mellow. Then again there are slow rock tracks – anticipating drone rock, stoner rock – whatever you want to call it, ‘Electric Funeral’ and ‘Iron Man’ have it in (Ace of) Spades.

It’s possible to hear Sabbath’s influence in much music of the last forty years – be it Iron Maiden, Sunn o))), Earth, and Mogwai and Magoo issued a split single paying tribute in 1998. In 2006 Flaming Lips covered ‘War Pigs’ on tuor. Whilst antic on stage, on TV and in the papers may have detracted over tiime, do not forget what made Sabbath matter in the first place.

I first heard the single as a 15 year old, and eventually started bought the album in my twenties. It may have taken until the last three years or so, though, to properly appreciate just how and why this is such a great album. Do yourself a favour and check it out.

Black Sabbath -‘Paranoid.’ mp3

Black Sabbath -‘Planet Caravan.’ mp3

Hear it all at Last FM

Album Review: Luke Haines


Luke Haines -’21st Century Man.’ (Fantastic Plastic)

Luke Haines is unquestionably one of Britain’s greatest songwriters. Infused by a knowledge of history and popular culture, his wry observations of life in the UK and bitter melodies should, if life was just, see him as lauded as poet laureate. Though I suspect Mr. Haines wouldn’t accept the position. Few people would think to write a song called ‘Bugger Bognor’ and understand the reference (the dying words of George V) and no-one but Luke Haines could write a song called ‘Unsolved Child Murder’ and put it out as a single. The pairing with him and Richard X on the ‘Art-school Bop’ single in 2006 was inspired, and should have been a hit.

This is his fifteenth album as principle songwriter, and throughout his work with The Servants, The Auteurs, Baader-Meinhof (the group, not the German organisation), Black Box Recorder and solo as well, truly there is none other like him. At the end of ‘The Rubettes’ single in 1999, when he sang deadpan ‘Weren’t the nineties great?’ you knew he clearly didn’t think so, and would tell you exactly why.

There’s a story doing the rounds at the moment that he’s moved to Buenos Aires. The reason for this is that this is what he told a journalist, and there is no truth that he is living in Argentina. But what he has done is produce yet another masterpiece. If musicians’ oeuvres can be compared to films, then I think Haines’ work is comparable to Hitchcock’s Frenzy. Both masters quintessentially English and if Hitchcock hadn’t quipped about putting murder back in the home where it belongs, then I think Luke Haines would have done. Like Frenzy, there are few heroes here.

Despite being quintessentially English, this is also an album about being in exile and songs like ‘Klaus Kinski’ -‘Klaus Kinski went back to Germany after the war’ and Peter Hammill deal with this, as does ‘Our Man In Buenos Aires.’ But if you are in exile, your experience of where you came from and where you find yourself is shaped by what you have come from, the place you have left behind is going to bear heavily upon you. ‘I’m an exile in a foreign land’ he sings on the title track -and sometimes that place seems like the world in which he finds himself.

While I hope he will be with us for many years to come, ’21st Century Man’ might well be his epitaph eventually. With its’ line about ‘Suzy Lamplugh disappeared/David Bowie lost it for years/Died a death in the slap-bass phase/everybody else died of A.I.D.S.’ Whilst many people produce work that is autobiographical, few can do it like Luke Haines can, self-referential, knowing but never self-indulgent.

Long may he run.


Hear two tracks at his myspace/hear him on Last FM

This is just a still for the title track but it is SO worth hearing

33 1/3 Part 23


Love -‘Forever Changes’ (Elektra, 1967)

When Arthur Lee died in 2006, within a few weeks of me starting this blog, I was kicking myself. I wasn’t -and still am not – an authority on his work, but he had been touring this album live, even bringing it to Edinburgh, and I hadn’t made it to seeing him.

Like quite a few of the albums in this series, this is an album that I came to slowly. I remember several people telling me how good it was – including the friend who’d told me about Jeff Buckley and Sticky Fingers. I heard the Damned’s cover ‘Alone Again Or’ without having heard the original to compare it to. Arthur Lee was feted by Michael Head when NME briefly courted Shack. Eventually, I took the £5 plunge in Fopp one afternoon in Edinburgh, a couple of months after I arrived in Edinburgh.

The nearest I had to compare it to was Calexico and Giant Sand. From its’ cover onwards, this conjured up a different world as it appeared in 1967. This is not the anti-hippy bluster of The Velvet Underground in New York, nor what the west coast were up to. Nor does it have any connection with the ‘are we English eccentrics this weeks or revolutionaries?’ of The Beatles, Stones and Kinks in England.

For what it’s worth this is my favourite album of 1967 (yes, above St. Pepper and the Velvets’ debut). I fell in love with it head over heels from that first listen in autumn 2001, and I feel that like a sonic onion, I’m still unwrapping it all these years later. It has been said that it’s the first sign from California that all was not well; that the hippy dream could not last, that it would turn to ashes. Did Lee forsee Altamont and the Manson murders? The assasination of Martin Luther King? Or – as in the case of the chilling ‘The Red Telephone’ that nuclear armageddon was still just a step away. ‘Standing on the hillside/watching all the people die.’ ‘If you want to count me/count me out’ he warns.

And of course, there’s the opening ‘Alone Again Or.’ One of the greatest songs ever written, and certainly one of the very best album openers ever written. There’s so many stars here, the guitars, Lee’s vocal, the brass…give me this over ‘If you’re going to San Francisco Wear Some Flowers In your Hair.’ It should have been a no.1 hit, then again, even The Beatles had to compete with Engelbert Humperdinck in 1967 according to the history books.

From here on in, I started to investigate pre-punk music more. I’ve listened to other Love albums – but I’m still mesmerised by this all these years later. Forty-two years old? This is truly timeless. If Brian Wilson had tried to better this, he really would have suffered in torment.

Love -‘Alone Again Or.’ mp3

33 1/3 Part 22


Blondie -‘Parallel Lines’ (Chrysalis, 1978)

The thing about getting into pop music in 1986 was that the stuff in the charts was pretty poor, only I didn’t realise it at the time. And it meant that my introduction to many artists was not what it should have been iether. Just as my intorduction to Bowie was that awful duet, so my introduction to the wonderful Debbie Harry was the not so great (in retrospect) ‘French Kissin’ In the USA,’ which was the second ever 7″ I bought, and the first one of my records ever to get broken (in a fight with my little brother a couple of weeks later). I did gradually pick up on Blondie through various compilations and heard this album when I was about fourteen.

Yes, Blondie is a band, as the t-shirts read in the 1970s. And out of the six studio albums they made before they first split up in 1982, Parallel Lines is the strongest. My second favourite album of the seventies after Low, though you’d be hard pressed to find two records so different. This is POP. And yes, that’s down to the production as well as the songs.

And you cannot argue with the songs (well, you can, but if you do, you’re a twat). The singles are phenomenal -‘Sunday Girl’ ‘Heart Of Glass’ ‘Picture This’ ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ but so too are the album tracks like ‘One Way Or Another’ ‘Fade Away and Radiate’ ’11:59.’

And sure, I think Debbie Harry’s gorgeous on the front cover (does anyone else think she looks like a school teacher with the guys in Blondie as kids? Oh, just me then.). And getting to see them live in 2004 was great. But even if I’d never got any of the visual aesthetics associated with this, this is pretty much pop perfection. A party record, pop meets punk without either side losing face…what more can you ask for?

For some reason Chrysalis have disabled every bloody copy of ‘Heart of Glass’ so follow this link to see it