by Margaret Chrystall
FOR someone who has just taken charge of every process in the recording of Iain McLaughlin And The Outsiders’ new EP, Iain sounds refreshingly humble about the joys of just being a musician.
After he’s explained the story of the five-track that’s released at the Ironworks gig tomorrow (Friday), he talks about the music that is the core of his life.
“It’s a complete privilege to get to play music anywhere. Sometimes we lose track of that.”
It’s been two years since Iain McLaughlin And The Outsiders launched their much-praised album WeAreAllOutsiders.
Iain mastered that and, spurred on, he and the band decided on a hands-on approach for Falling Through The Dark.
“I wanted the challenge to see if I could do this.
“But this was a full production role – as a producer.
It seems a lot to take on for someone who isn’t a fully paid-up control freak.
But Iain explained why he wanted to be hands-on to create the final sound quality.
“Everything can be standardised at the moment. Everything is really loud, a lot has been manipulated to the grid, the metronome.
"I did think about that approach, but I thought ‘No!’.
“We speed up and we slow down and that’s just us, so we’ll deal with it.
“It was important to me to have a real human element to what we were doing.
“I think there are a lot of artistic and creative qualities to imperfections, that make it really interesting to me.
"You listen to some of the Neil Young records and his voice sounds so fragile. Iggy’s Raw Power is ‘Gwaaagggh!’.
"It’s all in the red – the levels.
"So I wanted the challenge and I wanted to see if I could do it. It’s something that has always fascinated me.
“I really wanted to be in there from start to finish.
So it was just a computer, a couple of really good reference monitors – speakers. Plus an interface and a box of mikes. And a room.
"We made it work.
"I don’t think a beautiful studio is hugely important to the creative process. It’s lovely to have and it does make things easier, but if you want to do something, you do it.
They found a place to record, thanks to IG:LU’s Graham Hanks.
"This has been a five-month process.
"We wrote the songs – two were written already, rehearsed them and the first time a mike went in front of the drums was March.
"We learned as we went, that’s the way they used to work but that was when there was lots of money and people were in a studio for six months!"
The resulting five songs sound very different from each other.
“But everything, that was me and the boys!”
There is one guest on the album, The Whiskys’ singer Kris Douglas.
“Everyone will understand when they hear it – he is going for it in the chorus,” laughed Iain.
Iain offers clues to each track.
“Falling Through The Dark has got me and Aly doing falsetto like soul sisters!
“Blind Faith is like a 20-minute pop song with a big chorus – and it’s got a piano melody in it, so not a lead guitar for the first time which is quite interesting.
“Track 3 is called Tourniquet, it’s got a psychedelicy, Floydy feel to it. It sounds a bit like an opium den – in my head!
“Easy sounds like Raising Arizona, or a Coen Brothers movie – Aly does slide guitar on it. And there’s a riff in it, which is something we don’t do a lot of!
“Track 5 is Human Condition – it’s almost a ballad, but not quite. It ends up with a Sigur Ros kind of ending.
“All very different, but I think they go together well.
"This record has got more of a bounce. The last one was heavy and this one still has moments like that, but it’s almost dancey at points."
So the disco album will be next?
He grinned: "I’d love to do a disco album, that would be amazing!"
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He would have liked to have a few launch dates, but realised they didn't all have to be together like a tour.
"I think it’s important to raise the awareness of something at the beginning, but I don’t think we need to do more dates immediately.
"It’s not like people aren’t selling Led Zeppelin 4 any more.
"I’m not trying to compare this EP with that," he laughed. "But there’s not really a shelf life any more because of the way music is bought."
For the launch gig he has handpicked the three support bands – The Whiskys, Lionel and Red Ronson – but confesses there are so many more he’d also like to have squeezed onto the bill.
"There are five or six more I'd have liked too - but it would have ended up like a showcase night!"
Iain’s nervous about the launch gig.
“We’ll be on for an hour which will be exhausting – you lay yourself bare, but if there’s a reaction, it’s awesome.
"I remember coming off at some bigger gigs, just shaking. There have been some gigs where people are singing along at the end, but it’s come out of nowhere – and I’d be thinking ‘How do they even know this?’.
"I guess the anxieties you feel when you face something like this – they’re important to feel, because it means you care – they are worth it.
“I think it would be easier if you had a persona, a character you became. But the person you see onstage is the person you see in the pub.
"But if you haven’t ...
"We’re exactly the opposite – I attribute my name to the band because it makes an important link with what’s out there and my actual life.It’s funny because I often get asked the question ‘Why is your name in the band name?’.
"It’s not in the band, it’s just my name. and I’m actually trying to make it obvious that the person you see on the stage is the person you see in the pub. It doesn’t change for me.
"I’m not ‘Brian’ by day and ‘Bono’ by night.
"Or Bruce Wayne and Batman ...” he laughed.
That's perfect for the man who luckily didn't mind, actually quite liked me calling him 'the Dark Lord' in a tweet when his EP launch gig was announced.
The music has a blackness to it, a density and a weight that is perfectly reflected in the stark monochrome artwork that has become a signature of the band.
We talk about the title.
Iain says: "Falling Through The Dark - we like dark..."
Iain McLaughlin And The Outsiders launch five-track EP Falling Through The Dark tomorrow (Friday) at the Ironworks with support from The Whiskys, Lionel and Red Ronson with Andy Barnett compering the evening. The EP will be available on digital platforms iTunes and Play Music with physical CDs on sale at the gig.