Billy Liar has been called Scotland's angriest young man, but as Kyle Walker finds out the punk band of one may just be suffering from an over-abundance of passion combined with a Scottish accent.
Q You’ve been up playing the Market a few times before on your many, many, many travels – looking forward to coming back?
BILLY: No bother. I have indeed. I believe this will be my fourth or fifth time at the Market. I am very much looking forward to returning, with a fistful of new songs and stories.
Q You’ve been described as “Scotland`s angriest young man” previously – would you consider that a fair description of yourself? How would you describe what yourself and what you do?
BILLY: In all honesty, I think passion is often mistaken for anger, particularly when combined with a Scottish accent, and therefore people from other countries often assume I'm more angry than I am. But I think with the current state of the world, and the absolutely horrific government in power in the UK that none of us voted for, if you're not angry right now, I really think you need to educate yourself. I see myself as a full punk band, just usually I tour without the other members.
Q What first inspired you to pick up the guitar and start writing songs? What inspires you now as a songwriter? And what would you now tell yourself when you first starting out?
BILLY: A desire to communicate. I always wrote words at home, but with a guitar in my hand, I had the ability to attach those words to a melody, and then I could explain how I felt about things to people, if they wanted to listen. Who listens to lyrics these days anyway? Ha.
As a songwriter now? I'm still inspired by the same desire. And conversations with other people, friends or strangers, or overheard arguments at the bus stop or in the chip shop.
Q You’re on the road pretty much constantly – if I’ve got this right you’re currently touring about with Andy Thomas’s Dust Heart. How’s that going? What helps keep you motivated and driven on a day-to-day basis when you’re out touring? And what do you get up to on the small amount of time each year that you aren’t touring?
BILLY: I just finished a UK & Ireland tour with Andy yeah, straight off the back of a hell of a lot of other tours. We had a blast, he's a great musician and someone who is definitely very easy to tour with. He knows the score.
What keeps me motivated? Strong coffee, good people, good beer, bad beer, these sorts of things.
When I'm not touring, I'm usually booking other tours or shows for myself or other bands, or recording and writing. I spent most of this year living in Berlin in between tours, and there I wrote a play called Clean Sheets with an incredible New Zealand musician called Freddy Fudd Pucker, which we performed every night at the Edinburgh Festival in August. That was a hell of an experience.
Q There might be too many to choose from, but I should probably ask this anyway – is there any gig in particular that stands out as your favourite? Your least favourite? And your weirdest?
BILLY: While touring Australia, I played a punk festival on a boat as it sailed around Sydney Harbour a few years ago. There were bands downstairs, and acoustic acts on the top deck. While I played, the PA speakers kept almost falling into the sea, and people in the crowd had to keep running and catching them. That was one I'll never forget. I also toured as Acey Slade's (Joan Jett & The Black Hearts/Murderdolls/Amen/Misfits) guitar player in the UK last year and that meant a lot to me. He was a major influence in my formative years and has been a good friend for a long time.
I've had too many experiences to have a least favourite. I tour so often that if a gig isn't perfect, I'm well aware there's another one tomorrow!
Weirdest gig? I played at a punk rock slumber party in Charlotte, North Carolina, while touring the States last year with Off With Their Heads. All the bands wore onesies. I was dressed as a cheetah or something.
Q After releasing several EPs, you’ve been taking pre-orders on Bandcamp for your first full-length album – how has that been going? What have you been exploring with this record? Are you looking forward to getting it out there?
BILLY: It's been going well, thanks. I recorded almost of all the record in Belgium at Big Dog Recordings Studio with an incredibly talented musician and studio head honcho Tim Van Doorn, and it's being produced by one of my best friends, and tour comrade for the last few years, Joe McMahon of Fat Wreck punk band, Smoke Or Fire. It's the collection of songs and recordings that I am most proud of being involved in, without a doubt.
Q Over the years, what has been the best or nicest thing that somebody has said about your music? And what has been the, uh, not so nicest?
BILLY: Haha. That's a difficult one to answer. It means a lot when anyone says they are touched or inspired by a song or something. I really appreciate it when someone takes the time to talk to me about their own stories and experiences after a show.
Not nice things? When I was 17 and just starting out, really, I received a live review from the Skinny that called me a "tuneless young punk". They were probably right though!
Q Which of your songs are you particularly looking forward to giving an airing to at the Market Bar, and why?
BILLY: All of them.
Q What’s next on the horizon for you? You’ve got an album in the works, anything else in the pipeline?
BILLY: Lots of touring and festival appearances, as every year, and several splits with other bands that I can't talk about yet. My most up to date tour listings are always right here: www.billyliarmusic.com
Billy plays the Market Bar on Friday, December 8