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Phillip Jon Taylor best-known for his work with band PAWS is back with new solo music and his first gig in two years tonight (Saturday) in Dornoch – plus his first art exhibition in Nairn coming up


By Margaret Chrystall

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“There is a lot going on,” Phillip Jon Taylor agreed after mentioning all the things coming up for him in the next few weeks.

Phillip filming the Haar video.
Phillip filming the Haar video.

Most people who know Phillip in the Highlands, probably think of him as the now Dornoch-based musician.

Though he has been working on solo music for a while, he is still best-known for leading the line-up PAWS which took him touring around the world in the last decade and releasing four albums so far.

And it is ‘so far’ because Phillip and his friend, drummer and music compadre Josh Swinney are just taking a break from PAWS while they pursue some of the things they couldn’t do while touring in the band.

For Phillip that is painting and he has his first exhibition Where The Is Not Was opening in Nairn at Wasps Studio on November 19.

In the exhibition, alongside the paintings,there will be music to listen to, video and a printed guide to the work.

In a way, he is pulling all his different interests together, including his publishing site Wish Fulfillment which brings out his own artwork and photography alongside other artists in zines, artbooks and photobooks.

He laughed: “My disdain for the digital world is probably already quite apparent, but it is why I started Wish Fulfillment Press in 2016.

“As a photographer and painter, I don’t like that everyone just shares that digitally on a screen, so I started printing my own ‘zines and artbooks and photobooks.

“My goal is to make a proper coffee-table painting book and I have been doing ‘zines, paperbacks and distributing them to independent art book shops in the UK for the past six years.

“I distribute them and go to ‘zine fairs and art publishing platforms, and it’s not just my stuff, but some of my favourite artists of all time.

“In London, Babak Ganjei is a multi-practice artist, illustrator and painter. I released a collection of photographs that he took. We are really good friends and he started taking photos of the trash left out in the area of London he lives in which has become a really gentrified area, so he puts pictures of it on his Instragram with a hashtag.

“I suggested we make a paperback book of all the best ones, a curated this of all the garbage he had seen lying around and lay it out like art. He’s a pretty big artist now –he has shot up in the art world.

“I also released a paperback by an Argentinian artist who is an illustrator and ceramics maker who has done work for PAWS over the years, Irana Douer.

“She runs her own gallery in Buenos Aires and she went to the Tokyo Art Book Fair a few years ago, so I made this book for her to have at her table and it was launched there.

One of Phillip Jon Taylor's paintings – part of a triptych. See his work at Wasps' Studio, Nairn, from November 19.
One of Phillip Jon Taylor's paintings – part of a triptych. See his work at Wasps' Studio, Nairn, from November 19.

“It is just something I do quietly in the background but the plan is to merge all this stuff under one roof.

“There will be something published for my exhibition in Nairn, an accompanying paperback. All the details about the work and a written piece about the exhibit and all the individual sizes and the materials used and stuff.”

Phillip laughed again “I’m an art nerd. Art history was and is really important to me, it is kind of what I spend all my time reading about. I love fine art.

“What I make is – I don’t know if anyone would consider it fine art. But I use the right practices and materials and technicality stuff.

“It’s more outsider art, I suppose, because I didn’t go to art school. It’s fun and therapeutic for me to do - I’m doing it like when you are a kid and you are painting and drawing. It is what it is, a compelling thing to do.”

Before the music took off, after school Phillip wanted to go to art school. In the end he went to Glasgow and studied photography at the Glasgow Metropolitan College.

“I got a bursary and started a band. Obviously I wanted to be in art college – that was the fantasy. I wanted to be in a space – coming from Tain – where there were creative people all around me and I was learning art history – which is really important to me.

“I’ve been building a library of fine art books and now rather than running about and constantly touring, I’m reading up on that.”

Phillip Jon Taylor
Phillip Jon Taylor

Before his exhibition in Nairn, there is another debut, as on Saturday night, there’s the launch of his new band in Dornoch.

Then, Phillip will be unveiling some of the new music that he has written over the last year since his last album, Essential Maintenance For Human Happiness.

Talking at that time, Phillip had revealed he’d learned to drum for that album and had recorded and produced it himself.

“I feel know what I am doing now. Last time I spoke to you I had been figuring out ‘Can I play drums? Can I record? Do I know enough to create my own sound in my songs?’ But that all kind of kicked into place at the start of this year.

“Since January of this year, stuff has been pouring out of me.”

Track Haar comes with its own video made by Phillip, featuring a performance in his cottage studio space and footage of night stars and unusual butterflies in the dunes, and a reference to ‘70s ashtrays’ that turns out to refer to the Strathpeffer bus he believes he has been travelling on, on and off, since his teen years in the Highlands.

“Basically there are two whole albums of material finished,” he informs you.

Sadly, a backlog of orders for vinyl means his albums have to wait for release.

“But for the first time, I’m fine with that,” Phillip said.

“I’m confident that I’m only stacking up more and more of the best material I’ve ever made, so it’s not stressful, there’s time and space.

“With PAWS it would sometimes be stressful having deadlines and having to go on tour.

“But this is on my own terms and my manager Craig has been like a guardian angel to me. He’s really helped me stay focused.

“And I have a band which is insane for me, it’s the first time I’ve been playing with other people for a very long time.”

Phillip Jon Taylor with drums in a picture by his current drummer Lewis Mackenzie!
Phillip Jon Taylor with drums in a picture by his current drummer Lewis Mackenzie!

He found a former band member from his youngest years living close by.

“My friend Lewis Mackenzie – I don’t know how to describe it, best pals from when we were teenagers? We used to play in a band together when we were between 13 and 16 and we played every day after school.

“And we did our first gigs, doing Blink 182 covers and stuff. He lives here with his wife and kids just down the road.

“I was saying ‘I need a drummer, I wonder if Lewis still plays drums?’. He was a great drummer, so I knew he would have a drumkit or an electric drumkit.

“He just came up to the house one night for a jam and it just clicked in no time at all.”

The third member of the band is Phillip’s partner Kaleigh Roundhouse.

“Kaleigh plays synthesisers, a 70s Omnicore electronic harp and a loop pedal, delay pedal and a glockenspiel. And I just play guitar and sing, but it sounds so full, even though bass isn’t there.”

Talking about working with all his creative interests – music, painting, video, photography, his zines and photobooks – he laughs when I liken it to a prism, him to a prism, with all these different colours bouncing out of it.

That all of it comes from one person, is slightly mind-boggling.

But apparently he asks himself if he shouldn’t be doing something else.

“I wonder if it’s morally sound to dedicate your life to making stuff?

“But it’s the only thing I feel I can do to keep my head straight, that’s where the drive comes from.

“If I’m going to do something, I just refuse to do it half-assed, so I do everything the best I can and treat it like a full-time job.

“You have these images in your head and I can’t stop until I process it.

“But I think I’m more reflective than I used to be and more mindful of people around me, so it is for me about mindfulness and hard work.”

The beginning of this busy time coming up starts with playing the The Courtroom in Dornoch. But he will also be playing a date in Reykjavik which he has played before a long time ago, as he is going on an ‘adventure’ with a friend to Iceland to tour around.

Phillip in the Cairngorms.
Phillip in the Cairngorms.

“My dear friend Colin, he has a restaurant called Sylvan, and I am going with him, renting a car and driving around on the east coast of Iceland. He is a big hillwalker and outdoorsman,”

Phillip says he wants to see lava flowing.

“I went to Reykjavik with the band Theatre Fall when I was a teenager, to play Airwaves [the festival]. I can barely remember anything about it. I was a kid in school, but I feel like I haven’t been to Iceland because it was so long ago.

“I had my nana’s name tattooed on my left wrist. She gave me some spending money, but I couldn’t go into bars or anything because I wasn’t old enough. So I spent the money my nana gave me getting a tattoo of her name. That’s the only thing I remember about Iceland!”

Phillip, who is also booking musicians for regular live music at The Courtroom, is also hoping he will be able to sit his driving test soon. Covid has left a backlog.

He is looking forward to seeing more films – particularly ones curated by his older brother Paul, who is the film director at Eden Court and of the upcoming Inverness Film Festival there.

“I want to be able to drive to go and see more films,” Phillip said.

“Paul has kind of been my talisman over the years. He created this monster, trying to fulfil all these crazy ideas, it’s all his fault.

“He’s the one giving me art books and guitars and cameras, it’s all him.”

Phillip laughed: “He created the prism.”

Phillip will play live tonight (Saturday, October 30) at The Courtroom, Dornoch. His art exhibition Where The Is Not Was, opens at Wasps Studio in Nairn on November 19. For more info about Phillip: phillipjontaylor.com

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