‘I’m sure in most

people’s heads there are huge divides between rock music and classical music, but for me I don’t really think about it’ - Craig Armstrong

elody maker

The Traverse this year is breaking new ground, transforming itself into an opera house for the first time. Two ambitious commissions have brought together four of Scotland’s leading composers and playwrights. While

James MacMillan’s reputation is already well established, it is the ' emerging talent of former rock star Craig Armstrong which is breaking down the barriers which isolate classical music. Fiona Shepherd spoke to him about his remarkably varied career.

ee that keyboard player with Hipsway? See that founding member of Texas? See that collaborator with The Big Dish? The Blue Nile? Soul II Soul pro- ducer Nellee Hooper? See that com- poser of television themes. classical works, music for Tron Theatre productions. and now Traverse-commissioned, Festival-premiered operettas? See all of them? That‘s Craig Armstrong, that is.

‘This is really how I feel,’ he explains. ‘Ifsome- one phones up it‘s better ifthey‘re a friend and says, “I’ve got this great idea“, whether it‘s Ian (Brown, artistic director of the Traverse) saying, “I have an opera, do you fancy doing it?“ or if someone like Nellee phones up and says “l‘m doing this thing that sounds fascinating“. I’ll just 5 do it.’ |

Craig Annstrong was born and brought up in j Shettleston -— ‘there are more likely places to i become a musician from’. At seventeen he took his violin and piano skills to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music. Back in his native Glasgow, after a stint with Hipsway and a few concertos under his belt. he moved on to form Texas with ex-Altered Images bassist Johnny MeElhone. He left after their first album and the rest is . . . a bit cloudy, as the self- deprecating Armstrong has a habit of glossing over his myriad musical achievements.

He currently has two projects on the go: The Kindness ofStrangers, a ‘group‘ he‘s formed with , singer Louise Rutkowski and playwright Peter Amott, which should start to bear fruit in ; September; and the subject of our chat, the afore— mentioned Traverse operetta Anna. which forms a double bill with James MacMillan‘s Tourist Variations. So, pop and classical? Take [WU bot- tles into the shower? Not Craig.

‘l’m sure in most people‘s hea‘ds there are huge divides between rock music and classical music. but for me I don’t really think about it.‘ Amistrong says. It’s quite a British hobby. this. In America the barrier between serious music and commercial music is not quite the same.’

He cites Philip Glass and Steve Reich as exam- ples of American composers who flit freely between traditionally contrary genres. In this country, a figure like Armstrong with a compara- ble number of strings to his bow - from Texas‘s sleek blues pop to the theme music for BBCZ’s

. gi

14 The List 13—19 August 1993