75,000 Californians. For a self- confessed loner this is not bad going.
‘l think I’ve become far more sociable and gregarious as l’ve got older.‘ says 3 l-year-old Johnson as a cocktail waiter brings him a Strawberry Daiquiri and his LA smog-tan steadily deepens (probably). ‘l’m much happier now than I was in my 20s. There'sjust been a natural change. it’s just a question of confidence rather than anything else. conﬁdence with touring and playing live. l’ve changed quite a bit over the past four or five years.‘
it only took The The ten years from their first ever live appearance. supporting Scritti Politti in Covent Garden in May 1979. to undertake their first tour. That one. in the wake of Mind Bomb, lasted a year as well. When The The tour. they tour. As much should be expected from a ﬁgure as driven as Matt Johnson.
But like he says. he‘s a changed man. This is evident in the grooves of Dusk. the (strictly speaking) fourth The The album. released at the start of the year. For a record that. at the time. sounded like it was recorded in and chewed by the teeth of winter — bleak. bitter and frosty as a cold day in hell — Dusk has proved itself to be The The‘s most multi-faceted and. more pertinently.
conclusion. after all the historical
hectoring and chest-beating. that ‘Ifyou
can 'I change the li'orlrl. change yourself: '
‘l‘m a fairly optimistic person.‘ he says now, blaming his caricatured image — Mr Angst. brows permanently
furrowed. a Steven Berkoff with (more) ?
attitude. wrestling with global ills and domestic demons whilst stalking
deserted midnight streets — on his
inability at expressing any kind of personal uplift in his songs. Now. ‘l‘m still considering. still writing about important things. But being less negative. I feel much stronger and happier as a person than I have up to now.‘
Crossing the border
It has been two years since fligel Clark last played with line & Cry, but the guitarist has been busy developing an already established interest in jazz. It began with due and trio outings with fellow guitarists Dominic Ashworth and Graeme Ouffin, carried on in a duo with pianist Brian Kellock, and is currently focused on his electric quintet.
The band made an exciting début late last year which avoided the usual cliches of jazz fusion, and amalgamated both the rock and jazz aspects of Clark’s experience, with a few more besides. It featured Kellock, Scotland’s best jazz pianist, in the less usual role of electric keyboard player, with saxophonist Tim Garland, Andy Mitchell on six-string bass guitar, and drummer Sandro Ciancio.
‘I wanted to use loads of different styles in the band, but not in just a kind of pick and mix fashion,’ the guitarist says. ‘I had been to a lot of concerts around that time when I felt that the bands in question had one or two good ideas, but had really hammered them to death over the two hours or whatever. I wanted to try to keep the audience’s morale up by giving them some variety in the set.
‘I tried to use the specific strengths of the band in preparing tunes - Brian loves to play on rich chords, for example, so we have a few like that, and Tim Garland has a lovely romantic side to his playing as well as a powerful one, which we also use. Sandro can stand alongside anybody in anything with a Latin groove, and I
; wrote some Latin material mainly for ’ that reason.’
Like Tommy Smith, Kevin Mackenzie and the Bancroft twins, fligel was happy to look south of the border for musicians to augment the local talent, beginning with Garland and now ex- Roadside Picnic drummer Mike Bradley, who was brought in after Sandro had to drop out when a llue & Cry gig clashed with the Duncan Jazz Festival.
‘I like the idea of working with guys from London - I think that has benefits all round. It’s easy to think you are doing really well if you only play with your friends on the local scene, but bringing in musicians from outside gives you something different in the music, and also lets you measure yourself against another standard.’ (Kenny Mathieson)
The fligel Clark Ouintet share a bill with Pinski 200 at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on Fri 3.
In a league of their own
So. presumably. the title ofthe British ,
leg of the world tour is intended
ironically? Jingle Hell anyone? ‘Yeah.
ironically.‘ Johnson chuckles. The title comes from my brother [the painter and The The sleeve artist Andy Johnson]. He designed some The The Christmas cards for me about five years ago and it
had Satan dressed up as Santa Claus
and “jingle hell“ underneath.‘ Chuckles. Humour. Fun. Irony. The
Great Misunderstood Matt Johnson is
coming out to play. dying to get to the
'i Barrowland. peachy-keen to get to
uplifting record. Spare and true. Dusk is : 3 covers. ‘The more I listened to his stuff I the more I thought i really felt I could i do a good job. And also it gives me a
a menagerie of dogs of lust and wolves of hunger. all moving with the feline grace of a thoroughly tuned-in songwriter and accompanying band (including. of course. a certain Mr Marr). From the ‘sinking feeling' of Soul Mining to the CNN world-angst broadcast of Infected, discomfiting in its perceptiveness. via the more unfocussed Mind Bomb. Dusk stands tall as Johnson's most empowering and liberating record to date. As he howls at the close of play. 'The world Is too big/And life 's too short/To be alone. . . To be alone. ' Earlier in the same song. ‘Lonely Planet', he reached the
work on his next record. his long- mooted collection of Hank Williams
chance to have a rest from writing and having pe0ple over-analyse my lyrics and just concentrate on being a singer.
; which is what I really love doing.‘
L Originally an EP. his current short-list
of material is nineteen songs. ‘A great
3 modern American poet.‘ Johnson sighs.
: l l l
. ‘The amount of lives that he
touched . . .‘ Hank. meet Matt. You've a lot in common. i think you‘ll get on . . .
‘ The The play the [Mn-owlaml. Glasgow
on Sun [2.
Mention of the name Graham Taylor may make you think you’re on the wrong pages, or even the wrong magazine, but, you’re right, this is the classical column and no opinion is
, likely to be voiced on the England
football team, or indeed their manager. However, there is more than
| one Graham Taylor in the world and, in ' particular, there is one in Glasgow
i who has done and continues to do a
great service for Scottish singers who 1 have probably rarely, if ever, raised
their voices on the terraces. For the
I City of Glasgow Chorus, much greater . things are on the cards and have been
since their conductor, one Graham Taylor, founded a group called The flew Glasgow Singers in 1983.
low, ten years on, the name has changed to City of Glasgow Chorus,
and the group which he started in order to allow inexperienced singers the opportunity of being part of an upmarket choir is currently undertaking a wide range of engagements, from their own promotions to being the regular chorus for the City of Glasgow Philharmonic Orchestra and the Opera in Concert organisation. Their tenth anniversary is to be marked by a special performance of Verdi’s
‘Requiem’ this fortnight.
‘We started,’ says Taylor, ‘with something like ten singers and the membership has grown over the years, in parallel with the raising of musical standards, to almost ZOO. We still encourage less experienced voices to join - that’s the way for people to learn - and we now have a lot of concerts under our belt. For instance, by the time this season alone has finished, we’ll have done something like fourteen concerts.’ For the Verdi they have engaged a professional quartet of soloists, headed by soprano Patricia MacMahon, and the City of Glasgow Symphohy Orchestra, leader Roger Foxwell. (Carol Main)
City of Glasgow Chorus play Verdi’s Requiem at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Sunday 5 December.
The List 3—l6 December 1993 27