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Fort William musician Rob McKinlay debuts Paper Machine Music live in Inverness and Garmouth this weekend

By Margaret Chrystall

YOU can hear in Rob McKinlay’s voice the excitement of his teen self clutching the new album he would buy on a Saturday afternoon to take home on the bus, when he talks about the upcoming gigs of his band Paper Music Machine.

The Fort William musician had been talking about his latest album Glimpse and the customised CD copies he made to sell on its release last autumn.

Rob said: “If you just download a song, you can love it. But you don’t have the same connection to it. And I have always loved CDs and records – the physical.

“I still remember being a teenager and going to Dumfries on a Saturday afternoon and buying an album and then I would have an hour bus journey to get home and it would be that way you would just sit and look at it and read the whole thing before you could listen to it, just poring over it and hoping that it was going to be as good as it looks.”

Music has been a lifelong top priority for Rob.

“I have been playing music since I was 15, I got into it through enjoying listening and then thought I could give it a try.

“Then I was living in a little village outside Dumfries and at that time there wasn’t a lot to do.

“It’s ideal playing music in your bedroom for hours. And then when I went to uni joined a band with my flatmate at the time, met some other people and that was me from 1997 – in bands and just doing it.”

Rob was in a band in Glasgow called Viva Stereo, but moved up to Fort William because his partner at the time came from the area.

“Once I had had my kids we moved. Unfortunately we split up, but I loved the area and stayed around for the kids and settled here and I’ve been here 10 years now.”

But the members of Viva Stereo gradually spread out across the country and eventually they could no longer make it work to play and record.

“When I moved up here it became harder and it just got to the point we couldn’t do it any more.

“But I still had that itch and thought ‘I’ll do it by myself then’,” said Rob.

The Paper Machine Music album Glimpse took a few years to put together in the end.

“It was over a long period of time,” Rob confirmed. “I hadn’t done any recording properly for a couple of years with the age of the kids.

Rob McKinlay of Paper Machine Music.
Rob McKinlay of Paper Machine Music.

“But I’ve got a wee studio in the house and I’ve got a drum kit I can play well enough and I have a bass – I played that for years, so I could sort of do it all myself.

“I had three or four tunes and could start on those and then I had other ideas.

“It was that thing where being creative I find it inspires more. Once you start you become more inspired and you get other ideas and you start feeding off it yourself. It probably took me about two or three years to record everything, so overall it was about two and a half years from start to finish.”

Rob laughed: “My wife felt I was going too slow and she gave me a deadline to finish by which I thank her for because otherwise I would have kept on tinkering! I was given six months which was feasible – though I missed the deadline, to be honest. But it was close!”

Rob had a celebration, a listening party – hiring a little venue, playing an acoustic gig then listening to the album while enjoying a few beers with friends and family.

And he had more to celebrate when sending the album to his must-listen radio station 6 Music paid off – Gideon Coe championed it and played it three times over several weeks which gave it profile.

“That was great, a real vindication – I have spent half my life listening to 6 Music. And it was great for album sales as well,” laughed Rob.

He had invited King Creosote to be one of the guest voices on the album. Kenny Anderson was someone Rob and Viva Stereo had got friendly with, playing the Home Game festival in Anstruther and appearing on each other’s work before. Rob thinks 80 per cent of the album was recorded in his own studio, the album produced and mixed by Derek O’Neill, engineer at Chem19 and King Creosote touring keyboard player. Also guesting on Glimpse is Steve Lamacq favourite Lonely Tourist/Plume of Feathers singer Paul Tierney (The Iron Heel) and De-Fence label boss Onthefly helped out on drums on three songs.

Rob says Paper Machine Music is influenced by albums from the 90s/2000s including Pavement, Spiritualized, Portishead.

And the music genre where Paper Machine Music lives?

“For want of a better term, indie rock,” he laughed. “I’m a big fan of The Beta Band and Primal Scream and Spiritualized, so it is that sort of droney sound. But I’m a big fan of Pavement and Parquet Courts, so there is a bit of urgency as well.

“And you can dance to it. It is danceable!”

Rob has assembled his ideal group of musicians to play the Inverness and Garmouth gigs this weekend.

“We always had good gigs in hotels and faraway places,” he said, looking forward to playing live with drummer Jason Dorey, bassist Philip Wickes and guitarist Steve Morton.

“It will be noisy because I like my noise – I am all for making things louder,” Rob said.

Having fun with his music is important to him, his nine to five day job paying the bills to leave time and space for his music.

“You are playing music, it’s not working music – it’s playing it,” Rob said.

“I read that in a bass player’s biography a few years ago.

“He had been burned by the music industry, had been in a band and got ripped off and was left with nothing.

“But he said ‘I enjoy playing music and I enjoyed my time and I am still playing music. I’m not working music.’.”

Paper Machine Music play the Market Bar, Inverness, on Friday, October 18 from 10.30pm with an acoustic set followed by the band. And on Saturday, they play the Garmouth Hotel from 9pm. The CD will be on sale at the gig, numbered and handmade and if you can’t make the gig, you can buy from a limited edition of 100 handmade, spray-painted and stamped copies from https://papermachinemusic.bandcamp.com

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