FEATURE PAUL QUINN
eally, Paul Quinn should have been famous three or four times over by now. After his early days singing Cole Porter and Gershwin while backed by a nascent Aztec Camera and re-creating ‘Isherwood’s Berlin’ in The French Impressionists, he got on the right track by starting up a real live band, Bourgie Bourgie. It folded, but not before the single ‘Breaking Point’ made it clear to all and sundry that Quinn possessed talent aplenty. Sadly, apart from two singles from the aborted Punk Rock Hotel movie and a collaboration with Vince Clarke which scuppered Clarke’s hitherto unbroken string of hits, nothing more was heard, apart from tales of lengthy litigation to liberate him from his contract with London Records.
Having spent most of the last ten years down south, the Dundee-born Quinn returned to Glasgow and declared the Postcard label well and truly relaunched with the excellent album The Phantoms And The Archetypes. It’s intriguing to think what kind of record he might have made if his tenure with London Records had been more satisfactory.
‘Something as challenging,’ he answers, thoughtfully. ‘Something with the same scope. But it was a long time ago that I was having these problems with London, and the kind of record I would have made then would be very different to the kind of record I would make
i now. Similar components, similar aesthetic, but different musically in a lot of ways.’
Why ‘challenging’, though? Because it wouldn’t fit into pre-existing pigeonholes? ‘Because of that, and because it doesn’t make any concessions to being a very listenable piece of product. It’s not a piece of product; it’s what happened and it’s what we’ve done. It’s not aimed as a certain market. It has, luckily, got a certain market, but that was the last thing on our minds. All along, when we’re writing the music and during the recording, we haven’t thought about the listener. I think that would be an insult to the general public if we did that . . . tried to
‘ please them.’
Wait a minute, let’s get some perspective here. To listen to him talk, you’d think that the music
made by Paul Quinn was some kind of ‘Captain : Beefheart duets with Albert Ayler while The . Stretchheads push an oil drum down a ﬂight of ; stairs’ noise-fest. Far from it. The Phantoms 3 And The Archetypes comes from a place where 7 pop and country, soul and jazz settle their ' differences and agree to accompany this deep,
dark voice on its journey through the ether. And
it’s selling very well, mainly abroad. L__
One of this country’s best kept secrets is a singer whose vocal extravagances defy categorisation. Alastair Mabbott meets Paul Quinn, one of Scotland’s great natural resources.
Minding his Ps and Qs
‘All along, when we’re writing the music and during the recording, we
haven’t thought about the listener. I think that would be an insult to the general public if we did that... tried to please them.’
His speaking voice is careful, circumspect, but beneath it all decisive, giving the impression that there’s a lot going on behind that floppy fringe. But he’s a little uneasy about interviews. He is from a charismatic Pentacostal family, ‘a strictly Puritan background’ where ‘to do this kind of thing, talk about yourself, just isn’t done.
‘lt’s not that I’m really averse to it. I certainly don’t mind talking to people. But l find it very strange to . . . to sell yourself. I think it’s very very vulgar.’
In that case, playing live must feel positively barbarous . . .
‘Well, that’s a failing of mine. I recognise that it’s a failing, but it’s something I do well. Something in me has to do it and I get a response from doing it. But it’s a failing of mine, a pretension.’
If that’s how he feels about getting up on a stage, it’s no surprise that Quinn has rationed his live appearances. He played at Postcard’s short-lived Fin de Siécle club and at a semi- secret Tramway show, both plagued by what Alan Home calls ‘the chattering classes, the networkers’. The Athenaeum gig is different in that it’s both seated and being advertised so that people outside Glasgow will know that it’s on.
The Athenaeum holds only 300, so, for the meantime, the rest of us will have to make do with the new single, ‘Stupid Thing’, on which Quinn is backed, as always, by The Independent Group, a star-studded roll-call of Scottish talent which comprises Blair Cowan, Campbell Owens, Robert Hodgens, James Kirk, Tony Soave and Home himself.
Young and inexperienced ‘torch’ singers tend to make a live-course meal out of getting out of bed in the morning, but Quinn approaches ‘Stupid Thing’ with all the control he can bring to bear, and the assured contributions of The Independent Group make for a superb performance. Horne tells me, ‘We’ve got the perfect sound to go with Paul’s voice now. You could never get that in London. In London, they’re too obsessed with what the producer wants.’ Dare 1 add that it’s the kind of superior, sophisticated pop song that Scots bands have consistently aspired to, but rarely cracked, since . . . well, since the days of Bourgie Bourgie. Cl Paul Quinn plays the Old Athenaeum Theatre, Glasgow on Fri 29.
PAUL QUINN DISCOGRAPHY
I The French Impressionists: My Guardian Angel (Les Ilisgues du Crepescule) Collaboration with ‘eccentn'c’ pianist Malcolm Fisher, who lived in Isherwood style above the Postcard ofﬁces.
I Orange Juice: Rip it Up lP (Polydor) Quinn contributes vocals to ‘Mud In Your Eye‘ and is the high voice on ‘Rip It Up’.
I Orange Juice: Tongues Begin To Wag (Polydor) B-side of ‘I Can’t Help Myself‘. More backing vocals.
I Bourgie Bourgie: Breaking Point (MBA) A very different group from the original Bourgie Bourgie concept of a disco-soul group with an ‘impossibly straight’ image, but a great single which convinced many people that the band was destined for big things.
I Bourgie Bourgie: Careless (MBA) Failed to live up to expectations aroused by ‘Breaking Point’. By time of release, Quinn had already tired of group’s lack of direction and left.
I Various: Department (it Enjoyment (IME) Cassette only available through NME. including Bourgie Bourgie‘s version of ‘Little Red Rooster’.
I Pale Blue Eyes (Swamplands) The Velvets’ country roots are pushed to the fore and Edwyn Collins gets to show off the guitar solo he’s been practising for years.
I Vince Clarke & Paul Quinn: One Day (Mute) Performed the not-inconsiderable feat of stopping Vince Clarke’s unbroken run of hits in its tracks.
I Ain’t That Always The Way (Swamplands) Like ‘Pale Blue Eyes’, intended for the never- made Super-8 movie Punk Rock Hotel.
I The Phantoms And The Archetypes lP (Postcard Recordings Oi Scotland) At long last, a full album. It turns out to be more than worth the wait.
I Stupid Thing (Postcard Recordings 01 Scotland) New single. See opposite.
I Fin lle Slecle (Postcard Recordings 0i Scotland) Working title. Due in March or April next year, possibly preceded by a single and/or Peel session with The Nectarine No 9. Then again, possibly not.
In addition to the above, Quinn has appeared, under his own name apparently, on various soundtracks. the titles of which are being kept firme under Quinn’s and Home’s hats. Anyone who can supply us with details can rest assured that their identities will be protected.
a The List 22 6.63%. November I993 _