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the

on the streets

Ayrshire’s arts music & culture magazine

Issue 1 Winter/Spring 2014/15

BARNSTORMERS They came, they saw, they conquered. Roman Nose and the electro invasion at Dalduff.

INSIDE: SOLDIER ON / CHRIS DOOKS/ SEAN KENNEDY / NIK KERSHAW/ SCOTT NICOL


Space: Have they been in contact?

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From millionaire engneer to artist

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Centrestage: a community at play

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Design and Production: Raspberry Horse Limited 97 Crofthead Road, Ayr KA7 3NE 01292 268671

P8-9: Roman Nose, the interview

Advertising: 01292 268671

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Thanks: Ian Wallace Sanchez Isle

Soldier On: Gigs, mods and videos

P13: Spooks out at Dean Castle

16-17 18-19

Scott Nicol on life in the music business Sound and vision: a new art collaboration

production

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Not letting the sun go down: Nik Kershaw

art

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raspberryhorse

Chris Dooks: Meet a multi-artist at home

Nurturing Excellence in Arts and Culture Programme Supporting talented young people to realise their full potential in the ďŹ eld of arts and culture. Are you or do you know a young person in North Ayrshire who has a talent in: Creative writing Visual arts Music Dance New media art forms Drama Photography Film

The Nurturing Excellence in Arts & Culture programme provides support and grant funding to young people to access training professional development and employment opportunities. The programme is open to 11 - 25 year-olds in North Ayrshire who wish to improve their skills in their chosen art form.

Information on application forms available online at: www.north-ayrshire.gov.uk/nurturingexcellence or telephone: 01294 274059

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art

word is a

10-12

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the

Special mention to my hero and big brother, Mike Cassidy ;-)

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Sample the power of the written word

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Writers: Gerry Cassidy Craig McAllister Scott Wanstall

Sound and vision: a new art collaboration

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si mu

k o o b

14-17 18-19

Editor: Gerry Cassidy M: 0798 543 9752 E: gerry@ theword ayrshire.com


HOGMANAY HI-JINX n AYR’S Hogmanay Hootenanny should be a blast this year. Hosted by panto star Chris Taylor, the Ayr Town Hall event features music and fun from glam rockers Electric Warrior, the Peas, The Lounge Lizards and Francie & Josie. Doors open 7.30 and throwing-out time is 1am. It’s a fundraiser for Malcolm Sargent House, so well worth the £20 ticket price. Tickets are available from the following outlets in Ayr: Body Art, Billy Bridges and The Black Bull. They’re also available at ticketweb.co.UK and via the booking hotline on 08444 77 1000. Strictly 18+.

FATHERSON JET OFF

n FATHERSON set out on a wee mini tour in December, with dates at London Borderline on the second, followed by PJ Mallows in Dunfermline on the sixth. The following week they’re supporting We Were Promised Jetpacks at The Cluny, Newcastle, on the 12th and again at Glasgow Uni QMU on the 13th.

A FREW WEE EXTRAS

n ALAN FREW has a hectic few months looming. December sees him playing in Inverness, Skye, Perth and Balloch, before a wee pre-Christmas home gig in Mojo in Troon. He’s also playing The Old Ivy House in London. “I’m looking forward to it,” he says. “I haven’t been down that way in a while, although I have played in London at the Troubador, The Bedford and 12 Bar. Other than that, I have a tour coming up in Spring in Holland, Germany and Denmark. I have also been writing, including some co-writing with Stevie Young of The Imagineers and have enough for a new album.”

PREACHING ON

n PREACHER, whose stunning debut album met with great critical acclaim in 2013, are working on new tracks for the follow-up. Expect something special.

NEW YORK, New York, so good they booked him twice. Little Fire will soon be packing his bags and heading off to the US as a guest of the American Burns Association. It’s the third bit of good news he’s had following a couple of months he says were “a bit shit, really”. It comes on top of being the first artist ever to record in Burns Cottage – and landing a full-time arts-based job. Talking about his invitation to fly to the States, he said: “The call came out of the blue. I couldn’t believe it because I thought I’d had my chance a few years ago.” The Ayr singersongwriter had been

America calling Little Fire: We want you here! booked to play in NYC during Tartan Week in 2011 when family circumstances meant he’d had to pull out at the last minute. But now he will have a chance to launch his new Burns collection in New York. “I’ve tried mainly to keep away from the Burns songs that people have already recorded before.Eddi Reader made a great job of Burns on her own CD and I didn’t want people always comparing my

version with hers. Meanwhile, there’s the launch of his own longawaited debut album, High Hopes, at Oran Mor. Among the tracks are some gigging favourites as well as a brace of new songs, including Have You Seen The Moon, which he wrote with Damien Rice at a festival in Switzerland last autumn. He has also played beside Andrew Roachford, King Creosote and Joan Armatrading, above.

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Picture © KAREN GILLESPIE

SOLDIERS OF IT’S been a great year for Soldier On, with gigs at King Tut’s, The Hard Rock Cafe and a series of dates for March of the Mods including appearances in Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool. They also released their first EP, Eggs for Breakfast, with a brilliant video directed by Árpád Horváth. Among the other highlights were dates at scooter rallies, a gig at the Buff Club in Glasgow and a surreal slot at Motherwell Beer Festival. “That was a cracking event”, lead vocalist Jordan Bastock laughs. “There must have been 500-600 people there to try all kinds of beers – Jamaican,

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Canadian and Northern Irish – it was crazy. Everybody was really tanking it and there we were playing our music. “But we got a really good reception from them and it was a great chance to play our own songs in front of a very different audience.” Gig-wise, Soldier On’s scheduled work for 2014 came to an end with a rousing gig at The Clubhouse in their home town of Irvine on November 7. But that didn’t signal early holidays for Jordan and the rest of the band – bass player Liam

Lambert, guitarists Ben Prescott and Stevie Hunter and drummer Ross Butler. They’re already planning their next EP, preparing for a nine-date March of the Mods tour and getting to work on their own short film, The Clingfilm Kid, a mini rock opera, which they’re planning to release in May. Jordan has written the storyboard and the script for the film and the band will take his songs into the studio and continue to work on them until

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FORTUNE

they are finely-honed Soldier On songs. Jordan explains the thought process behind the film: “The story is basically about three differentiating states of mind. Each state of mind represents different emotions. “These emotions are present through the music, the storyline and the actions taken by the Clingfilm Kid. “The film will include physical recordings and animations.” He adds: “I want it to have the same dramatic underpinning as Quadraphenia and I want the songs to follow on like they do in Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.

But it’s March of the Mods that you suspect is uppermost in the band members’ minds. They’re steeped in mod culture and take their influences from like-minded bands and musicians such as the Jam, Oasis, Paul Weller and the Gallaghers among others. But it’s not all about style. MOTM was dreamed up a couple of years ago to raise awareness and cash for the Teenage Cancer trust. An increasing number of venues and acts across Britain have joined in along the years and in 2015 Soldier On have already committed to events in

Soldier On, pictured from left: Ben, Liam, Ross, Jordan, Stevie

Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and Southampton. Meanwhile, there’s that second EP to record and market. If you haven’t already seen the vide for Eggs For Breakfast, do yourself a favour and seek it out on YouTube now. It clocked up close on 4000 views within the first couple of months and it’s not hard to see why it is so popular. It sums up the wit and creativity of the band. Check it out. You can also catch up on band news, dates and events on their website: wearesoldieron.com and via their Facebook page.

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NOBODY knew quite what to expect from A Night of Archaic Resonance. Great bands, yes, a cool setting, yes, good ticket sales, yes. And yet... there was that niggling feeling that it could all go wrong. What if... the sound was crap, the weather was vile or nobody turned up? But guess what? It was a howling success. So there were a few light showers. So what? I piss on your half-hearted rain clouds. The crowd were here to party and that’s exactly what they did. And what a crowd. It was Hallowe’en and the costumes came in every accent of crazy. Scary, funny, tragic, awesome, it was fancy dress through a prism. All of life was here. Inside the T-shaped converted barn at Dalduff Farm the foot-thick walls seemed to vibrate with the throbbing rhythms. Lasers sliced their multicoloured paths mercilessly through the frenzied crowd in an endless shower of fluorescent streamers. It was party time for the psychedelic at heart and everyone was lapping up every minute of it, knowing they were all part of a very special music event. Outside the barn, the air was refreshingly cool as wired-up ravers paused for a cigarette or a breath of air in the moonlit courtyard. A couple of minutes for a chat, a drink, a seat in the chill room or a visit to the loo. Then back in to the barn where the DJs and bands were squeezing every last drop out of the sound as the midnight deadline approached. This was the first ever Night of Archaic Resonance. Ayrshire hasn’t seen anything quite like this before. But if there is any justice in the world this will be just the first of many nights of Archaic Resonance. Dalduff, be warned.

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Dalduff: Hallowe’en night of

Fire-breathing Jordan Bryce, left, in devil getup was hell-raiser-inchief with his spectacular act

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trick and treat musical excess a stunning success POST MORTEM By Scott Wanstall

A Nigh t of A Reson rchaic ance Daldu f Octobe f Farm r 31 20 1

4 ROMA N NOS E Electro Thugs CRAS HC Electro LUB F BIRDH unk E Electro AD /Kraut VIRUS UL Electro OAD CHIGS Glitch + TEC HIP Acid T echno THE W ISE Electro GOLDFISH Madne ss

I feel that A Night of Archaic Resonance was a success. As a fresh-faced business owner I threw myself into a world where only the strong willed survive and I only just broke even. However, I can still feel the amazing atmosphere that was created by people from different backgrounds and age groups coming together and simply enjoying great music, which made it all worth it! The acts themselves were absolutely fantastic, with Acid House, Glitch, Kraut, Electro Rock & Electro Dub all performing through fire, strobe & laser riddled fog. We pulled together a show that will not be forgotten in a hurry!!! As a business owner, I continue to find flaws in my work which I will rectify in the future, but as an individual and a music lover I could not have asked for more! I managed to gather a collective of artists and people who I felt would provide the people of Ayrshire with a chance to experience what is out there at the moment… Scotland is alive with amazing and vibrant musical/creative talent, and this event has proved that we can forge new paths for ourselves if we only TRY! Now it’s your turn!

T-t-t-t-tatt’s all, folks! SCOTLAND Ink’s amazing mobile tattoo studio was press-ganged into use as the ‘green room’. The converted 1970s singledecker doubled up as the dressing room and chill-out area for the bands on the night. Outside it’s just your average past-its-best old bus, but inside it has been transformed into a fully

functioning tattoo studio with all the fittings, all meeting strict health and hygiene requirements. It has been spectacularly sprayed by some of Scotland Ink’s star international tattoo artists. It’s available for private parties, too. Call Scotland Ink on 01292 738405 or visit scotlandink.co.uk

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SCOTT WANSTALL makes discreet enquiries of Roman Nose, headliners of the legendary A Night of Archaic Resonance at Dalduff Farm How was the band created? Did you already know each other, or was there some sort of mystical meeting? We had moved in the same circles for a while but we properly met at a friend’s exhibition, exchanged some stories and promised to hang out again. A few months later we were offered a support slot for the Glitch Mob but we weren’t really a ‘band’ at that point so we bought a projector and some ski masks - easy as that. As a band from the glorious city that is Glasgow, Do you have any interesting stories to share with the readers? Because the three of us are pretty headstrong, we fall out pretty easily. We took the caravan down to play a festival in Derby a few months ago and had a massive fight inside it after the show. Suffice it to say, it’s very hard to throw a good punch when you’re standing in a 2 metre squared box. That’s probably been our highest point. To continue with the previous questions theme, what advice would you have for an aspiring band / project trying to break into the Glasgow scene? Did you have to work hard, or did you know key figures in the city? Cetin is Turkish so he has absolutely no qualms with knocking on certain doors. Perhaps ‘intimidation’ is a strong term but it’s perhaps the correct way to describe how we have got certain gigs, that and obviously working hard! What are your initial thoughts of smaller local events such as A Night of Archaic Resonance? Are they still relevant to a band’s overall growth if they are already making waves in the bigger cities and festivals? We turn down more gigs than we take on and that’s been our rule of thumb since the beginning. If the venue suits us then we go for it. “A Night of Archaic Resonance” certainly fits our criteria when it comes to the physical space itself.

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With reference to the band’s glowing reviews, are you happy with the progress of Roman Nose? Did you expect people to react so well to the group’s overall representation or was it all part of a well laid out marketing plan?

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occult / masonic nature throughout your shows? The masks obviously aren’t the most original idea ever realised but it suits us for a number of reasons. Its make-believe and it allows you to act differently. It also allows us to easily replace the first one of us to quit. The occult imagery is purely aesthetic. We like dark music of all genres from metal to witch house so the 2 go hand in hand really. At a previous show I noticed a lot of video clips that almost serve as a warning to the attendees, with subjects ranging from Fascism & Animal Rights to Orwellian visions of the future (the all seeing eye of “Big Brother” for instance), Are these subjects that the band’s members feel passionate about? It’s another way of presenting ourselves, another avenue for artistic expression. We are trying to create a visual language to fit the music. It’s for people to interpret however they see fit. Although at times some personal propaganda might slip through the net! But then there’s no point in having a platform to engage with people if all you’re going to do is write a fucking album about how much you miss your ex and having a photo of her on the wall! What are your plans (If any) for the future? Do you have any long term goals set out or do you just prefer go with the flow? Do you plan to record with Acoustic drums from now on?

We never really intended on being a band as such, so it’s all positive. It’s just a hobby that we are good at and as long as that remains true, then there’s no such thing as a shit gig or a bad review. Can you talk a bit about the visual aspect of Roman Nose? Why have you decided to wear masks and project various symbols of an

We are always trying to evolve, either in the studio or on stage. As an electronic band we try our best to play as live as possible. That’s meant using acoustic drums, live projections and even electric guitar and bass. We try our best to make every show a bit different and the more control you have over all aspects, the easier that is to do. Ok, the last words are for you! Tell us something important! Alice Glass left Crystal Castles last week so we are going to Toronto to find her.

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Made in

Alloway WHEN you hear about Alloway, what’s the first thing that comes into your head? Burns? An affluent suburb of Ayr? The Kirk in the old village? Wedding venues? The back of a Clydesdale fiver? Probably not a guy in a small office where the weight of hundreds of vinyl records are

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bending the floorboards, where sprawled out on a table are rifle microphones, mixing desks, mini analogue synthesisers, and over on this table, several cultural products to sell; on vinyl, Blu-ray, cd and dvd. So here I am, welcome to my creative nook, which I informally call Mount Oliphant Electronics‌

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Some thoughts on vinyl, Scotland and Ayr in 2014. By Chris Dooks, filmmaker, artist, musician Robert Burns Birthplace Museum has become the main draw for many in visiting Alloway. I’ve certainly become fond of sculptor Kenny Hunter’s seven-foot high enchanting/disturbing wee tim'rous beastie plonked en-route to it. But my creative life in Alloway has yet to directly encounter the bard head-on as I wander around Rozelle, into the village shop, past the cottage and meander into Belleisle Park. We might meet on a night walk somewhere as I wander down The Loaning listening to German music labels on my iphone with names such as Kompakt, PAN or Kareoke Kalk. I do like a contemplative night walk. I sometimes emerge in the early hours to clear my head from my studio work, or kill some time waiting for a wholemeal diabetic loaf to complete in my bread machine. Sometimes I imagine the ghost of the bard looking o’er a green box plonked on the end of our street where BT have recently installed fibre-optic broadband. What would he make of the phrase ‘BT Infinity’ and of call centres in Bangalore? Everyone else seems to be in bed. When I moved here, I found Alloway to be a ‘neutral’ location. It is so suburban and quiet that it allowed me to be myself. The work I make hasn’t become ‘about’ it directly, but it definitely has had an influence. Alloway is still a poetic place, and keeps that energy flowing if you can look past the neat trellises and hedges. Perhaps

there is something in the ley-lines here that has made the last half a decade a prolific time in my multimedia work, which at the moment, happens to be about vinyl records. I am sat in the café in Rozelle House, proofing the new 12” record covers for the last in a vinyl trilogy that will be launched in Berlin, London and Ayr in 2015. It’s the last in a series of fairly niche audio artworks I have been making for my PhD that is hopefully nearing completion. Between 2011 and 2014, three records were made in editions of 500; the first is about a dying harmonium in a barn near Lockerbie and the second features Ayrshire voices speaking about the universe (some are Polish, some are Ayr-born, some are English – the universe doesn’t care). And finally, fresh off the press - in the spirit of an entente-cordiale – the third LP I have been proofing here with my coffee, features pipe bands rehearsing in local competitions on Side One (recorded at Rozelle), followed by a dawn chorus / soundscape sourced in Alloway, and on Side Two the same methodologies are carried out in the South of France featuring the scratchy sound of insects, specifically cicadas. You might think, ‘what have bagpipes got to do with French insects?’ – well, they both have a kind of ‘Marmite’ effect on the public. I don’t think I need to elaborate. One thing that only buying these records (Ian at Big Sparra in Ayr will

sort you out with them) will explain is how they are tied into the phenomenon of having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or M.E. – and there’s not enough space to talk about that here, although the links at the end of this article will allow you to investigate further if you like. I’ve been here in Ayr for six years now, and I started my life here by getting married and putting on a few experimental arts events with my wife, featuring cultural luminaries like Janice Galloway, Alan Bisset, Alasdair Roberts, Wounded Knee and astronomer and author Pippa Goldschmidt (all of which have been archived at www.ayrtime.org). Then we had a baby. And then we had another. Ellie (Eleanor Thom) is an author. Her Scots-language The Tin Kin made a notable literary dent across Scotland the year we appeared here. We used to live in Glasgow. We chose to spend our time here because we needed quiet. We came to work. We work from home a lot of the time. We ended up doing PhDs at the University of the West of Scotland in the new campus. There’s not enough linking between the university and the town in my view, something I hope to change someday. Ellie and I have been working our socks off here in such a way that some of the folks that got to know us in ’09 are just beginning to see us emerge from this suburb again five years later (big shout out to Ayrshire Astronomical Society)! We made those babies in the process,

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surely that’s the real story here? But there are ‘other children’ emerging also. My other babies. The nonhuman kind. I make records and films but not in Berlin or London, instead, in Alloway. And I haven’t given Alloway the credit it deserves in how it co-produced the work with me. I just wanted to put something on record (literally) that says there’s folk like me here. Odd folk. I think when people think of Alloway, they imagine it to be a little gentrified or effete. But I’m neither of those things. And partly one of the motivations for dropping these few words down was to see if I was the only one. Or Ellie. I wanted just to say hello – because it can be, not exactly lonely here in the studio, but I don’t have many local workmates. So maybe this is a quick commercial break to join me on Twitter @bovinelife or I’ll leave an email at the end. In 2013 I pursued a large commission to see if someone with my illness could make a featurelength work. Funded by Visit Scotland and Creative Scotland and managed by Woodend Barn in Banchory, I made Tiny Geographies – six related short films all about Aberdeenshire and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. But it was in my Alloway studio-office that it was edited, some of the most intensive work I have ever done. I had to go on BBC Radio Scotland to chat about it with Janice Forsyth, not in Aberdeen – that was where my boss was sat in an un-manned studio, whilst I was sat in (drum roll) the Ayr studio! Although this wasn’t technically my office, it was a tiny un-manned BBC studio in Ayr near the old harbour. I didn’t even know we had a BBC studio here. But generally, in my creative life, a lot of my work happens here. It is my aim one day to do some kind of regular broadcast from Alloway or Ayr on an online platform. I’m already doing it with work collaborations and I was an early champion of the internet since the mid-nineties. And that stood me in good stead for when I became ill (about sixteen years ago now, see www.afme.org.uk). I have forged international collaborations via broadband with artists (who you need to google) such as Machinefabriek and because I often go for 48 hour-long stretches working, cooking, editing and being a dad in the house,

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without leaving, my Alloway office has become essential to me and shaped the projects that have come out of the front door and through the village’s slowly improving broadband connection (where we left Burns pondering the green boxes at the end of the street earlier)… I am an internationalist who will do everything in my power to remain someone who works and celebrates the local and international together. I’m passionate about broadband internet (see a theme emerging here!?) and the better connected I am, the more self-sufficient I can be despite being ill. That way, I can quickly upload my film works to vimeo, to be shared at high definition in Japan and the easier it is to hear a German musician I fancy bringing to Ayr, and the easier it is to work with my mastering engineer in San Fransico who produced my last yellow vinyl I was checking, in Rozelle House… So it really isn’t a mad idea to see Robert Burns wandering around

Alloway checking the broadband connection, keeping BT on their toes (which they do need). People come here for Burns, but we have to make sure it’s not a one-way dialogue for Alloway and Ayr, or even Ayrshire. So. It’s with little literary grace that I slam on the breaks! All of these words are basically a long preamble into several links. That’s all. But there’s a few and I really want you to visit them. I’d even like you to buy some of the works! Although I sometimes do creative swaps. OK! There are seven links here – linking to various parts of my creative life, all of which have been made in Alloway, directly or indirectly. Enjoy them. And then drop me a line if you like them! www.idioholism.com /www.tinygeographi.es / chrisdooks.bandcamp.com / www.dooks.org / and one from Ellie: www.eleanorthom.com/podcast/Tin Kin.mp3 Lots of love from Alloway, Chris Dooks xxx bovinelife@yahoo.com

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EXPLAIN YOURSELF!

Echo Valley Irvine’s Sean Kennedy is a good old-fashioned singer-songwriter. In the fickle world of music, fads and fashions come and go, but there will always be a place for the artists blessed with the gift of melody and the ability to deliver their songs with heartfelt passion. Sean falls into this category. In the four years since Sean began writing and recording, he’s seen all manner of reality TV ‘stars’ boom and bust, as their one big hit is hastily followed-up by a quickly put together album and everdiminishing sales. All this time, Sean has honed his act and his art, worked on his craft and has quietly gone about turning himself into one of the best prospects our local scene has produced. Earlier this year he spent three months in Nashville, making the right connections, writing songs and playing for everyone and anyone, making sure he got himself known Stateside. “I left for Nashville knowing only two people out there, when I left I had met so many. I worked with some great songwriters and musicians and I got to know some incredible producers, who I’ll be no doubt working with in the future.” Much of Sean’s time in Nashville was spent playing in Writers’ Rounds – songwriting sessions where a group of songwriters play new material to one another – “a great way of showcasing new songs!” Sean’s music is perfect for the countrified deep south, and he and Nashville really hit it off. In fact he’s already planning a return trip for “more shows, writing sessions and the possibility of moving there one day.” In the summer, Sean was invited

Guitarist Shaun McLuskey introduces us to Echo Valley

Craig McAllister VIEWPOINT

Sean Kennedy to perform in Ibiza and filmed a video for Ibiza Uncut’s online TV show. You’ll can watch Sean’s episode online. In a bizarre twist, the video was filmed in the same house where previously Sean had worked on his music with Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor. He’s a wellconnected young man, is our Sean. It’s the live arena where Sean’s songs really come alive though, and luckily he’s been playing a lot recently. Recently, he’s popped up in Glasgow, Motherwell and Irvine. Equally at home on stage as a solo performer or with his band, Sean is slowly but surely creating a name for himself. The next few months are planned out for Sean. “I’m having great fun with the band just now. I’m planning out my album release date with a tour of Scotland, England and possibly the US.” A local musician with international ambitions, Sean is clearly in this business for the long haul and it’s surely only a matter of time before his hard work pays off. You can check out Sean’s work via www.seanckennedy.com and the usual social media outlets.

n Echo Valley are an alternative rock band from Ayr. Over the past year, we have headlined King Tuts Wah Wah Hut twice to sold out crowds, been on tour up and down the country and played at prestigious venues such as the Ayr Town Hall and Glasgow's famous QMU. n With an average age of only 18, we feel things are only just beginning for us. n We take our influences from bands such as Pixies, Nirvana, the Cure. n Echo Valley's sound has a melancholic undertone which is bolstered together with gritty guitars and a pop sensibility. We are planing a Single and an EP for next year with a tour, and hopefully a bunch of festival dates. Going to a few places we have never been before. n We are most excited about going into a pro level studio to record with producer Charlie Lindsay, and we are really excited about our new material. n If you want to catch us live, we have three shows booked for the rest of the year. We're playing a hometown show in Crumbs N Cocktails with Brothers on November 22, UWS' international exchange gig at The Admiral in Glasgow on November 27 and we’re supporting Hector Bizerk at PJ Molloy's in Dunfermline on December 5. n To keep updated with gigs and all info make sure to like our page at www.facebook.com/EchoValleyBand and follow us on Twitter: @EchoValleyuk PERSONNEL: Daniel Taylor: bass & vocals; David Henderson: drums; brothers Shaun and Liam McCluskey: guitars

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NIK KERSHAW

From classical music to Top of the Pops via Bowie, Slade and Led Zeppelin Nik Kershaw holds the record for the fastest-selling ticket in the history of the Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine. He recently played two sell-out shows at the venue. CRAIG MCALLISTER had questions for him. What was the first music you can remember hearing? I grew up in a very musical house. My mum was an operatic singer and my dad was a flautist for an orchestra. At grammar school I’d played violin and around the house there was always lots of classical music playing. Amongst our tiny record collection was Lonnie Donegan’s Battle of New Orleans. This was the first record I memorised all the words to. The record that made the biggest impression was Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. Then in 1973 I saw a David Bowie Ziggy Stardust documentary on the BBC and I thought, “That’s for me!” Tell us about your first forays into playing music. My friend and I would get together. He’d be Mick Ronson and I’d be David Bowie. We played Slade, T Rex, all the glam rock stuff. I really liked early Genesis with Peter Gabriel. But I also liked Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. I was a skinhead for a while, so I listened to nothing but reggae. All of this filtered into my own playing. When did you realise you could make a living from music? At the age of 17 I’d chucked my A-Levels and was working in the Unemployment Benefit office. A local band asked me to join on guitar. They played all the hard

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notes; Steely Dan, Weather Report, all the prog stuff and for three years I learned my trade. I gave up working whilst earning a living playing music. The recession put the band out of work so I bought a little portastudio and started writing my own songs. These eventually got me my record deal. Then MCA Records signed you in 1983. They did. I had a grand plan. All my songs were fully formed. I knew where the drums would go, how the horns would sound, what the bassline was. Really, the records were bigger, better sounding versions of my demos. I had a great producer who allowed me to do what I wanted. On those first two LPs I played everything myself. Suddenly you found yourself in the public eye, with hit singles and instant recognition everywhere you went. That 2/3 year period is all a bit of a blur. You don’t get a letter through the post saying ‘That’s you made it, Mr Kershaw!’ It suddenly occurs to you that things are not normal. I did lots of Top Of The Pops. I always seemed to be on with The Smiths. There was an unwritten rule that we sat in the Smash Hits corner of the studio and they sat in the NME corner. It was very tempting to follow Morrissey and take a pair of secateurs to those gladioli. During that period, was there ever a time when you thought, Enough’s enough. I just want a normal life? In the music business there’s probably no such thing as a normal life! MCA gave me a four album deal, but by the release of

my fourth LP I’d had enough of the ‘pop star’ thing. I was beginning to look elsewhere, thinking about writing songs for others. I was playing Wembley Arena with Elton John. At the soundcheck I was told my contract wasn’t being renewed. So I was half-pushed and I half-jumped. You then wrote The One And Only, which Chesney Hawkes took to Number 1. How did that feel? It was a bizarre feeling. I was aware of the work, the stress, the aggravation that Chesney had gone through to get to Number 1. But I was able to sit back and watch it all with a large glass of merlot in hand, free from the stress. Ayrshire is a hot bed of musical activity. There are lots of new bands playing local venues. What advice can you give to bands and artists starting out? Well, the music business has changed beyond all recognition in the 30 years since I landed a record deal. Nowadays bands don’t need a record company in order to release material, but that comes with disadvantages as well as advantages. In the 1980s I could record with the best producers in the most expensive studios. The industry was awash money when I started out. My main advice is ‘love what you do’. Not everyone will like what you do, but that’s OK. Make sure you have something to say and say it with passion. Play to as many people as possible. Take all the gigs, no matter where they are or who you’re playing to. This is what shapes you as a musician. If you’re serious about your music, your audience will find you.

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At Top of the Pops it was very tempting to follow Morrissey and take a pair of secateurs to those gladioli

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My friend and I would get together. He’d be Mick Ronson and I’d be David Bowie. We played Slade, T Rex, all the glam rock stuff

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Sky-high devotion

Scott Nicol: My passion for music is stronger than ever WITH his ninth CD now available as a download on iTunes, Scott Nicol is as busy as ever... and showing no sign of slowing down. His 2015 diary is already filling up with a short tour in the States pencilled in for April and a couple of gigs later that month already confirmed for Aberdeen. Scott Nicol is nothing if not a grafter. Most weekends he’s pulling crowds at some Ayrshire venue or another – if he’s not booked to play further afield. He took part in the twoday minifest #CS2014 where unsigned acts took the stage to perform in Glasgow Central. Earlier in the year, Scott and his band The Limitless Sky launched their latest CD, High Velocity, storming through a clutch of songs from the 14track collection. Lending support were music buddies John Duffy and Simon Atkinson, with short sets also from Erin McEvoy, Elisa Poli, Chloe Simpson and Sean C Kennedy. The event closed with a spontaneous version of King of Leons’ Beautiful War. Scott commented later: “It was electrifying! It had the whole place on their feet and proved to be an amazing end to a most memorable night.” The new album will not be a disappointment to the fans. There are shades of Springsteen in some of the rockier numbers, with Velodrome and the title track among the stand-out titles on a very accomplished collection. There are more thoughtful, quieter moments, too on the plaintive Factories and Romantic Notions.

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And as if his own live dates weren’t time-consuming enough for someone running his own building business, he is investigating new opportunities in music business management. He has set up Possibility Screams, aimed at nurturing the talents of breakthrough acts and setting them along the road to fulfilling their own ambitions. He has decades of useful experience to share in a business which is infamous for exploiting then mercilessly discarding young hopefuls. Scott’s come a long way since he first took to the stage, aged 15, in a punk band called The Vice. Now, while the music is a bit more melodic, his fiery enthusiasm still burns fiercely. He admits to a few disappointments along the way, but insists: “I am more passionate about what I do now than I was 20 years ago.” Then he reveals the mantra that he lives by: “There’s a saying that goes something like: As long as your regrets don’t overtake your dreams you will never be old.” And regrets, yes, he’s had a few, but then again... One particular regret occurred around 10 years ago when he had every reason to believe that he was finally on the verge of a decent, longawaited break. Scott, who has more than a dozen songs out with three publishing companies in the States, got a call from London about a song he had written called Beauty in the Midst of Chaos. “This was a guy who has worked with Cat Stevens and David Bowie,” he says. “I sent the song down to him and

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I got a call from guy in London about a song I had written. This was a guy who had worked with Cat Stevens and David Bowie... He flew me down twice to record, but in the end nothing happened

then he called me back, twice in the one day. When that happens, you really feel you’re on to something. “So he flew me down to London – twice – to record. They were talking about it being released as a charity single. Paul Jones, who sang with Manfred Mann, was on it. It was like: ‘Wow! I can’t believe this.’ I was getting phone calls at work and being told they were talking to the father of the Bedingfields and at one point they even said they might have Sting involved. Then nothing happened. “Band Aid 20 came out just about that time and I think they must have thought there was no point in bringing our song out. That was a real disappointment. To be built up so high and then have nothing happen. A bit disappointing, to say the least, but you pick yourself up and move on,” he adds, showing the kind of grit that has taken him through the highs and lows of a lifetime in the biz. TLS is the band Scott currently fronts. Sort of. The thing is, there are two bands called TLS, and both of them feature Scott as singer and songwriter. One TLS – The Limitless Sky – gig around the UK while the other TLS – The Luminous Storm – get together for Scott’s dates in the US. Through a combination of hard work, creating his own chances and the benefits of the internet, he has developed a bit of a following across the Atlantic, particularly in Wisconsin, where the second TLS are based. “The first time I ever went to the States properly to play was in 2003,”

he says. “To get that opportunity, all I did was literally call round radio and TV stations in America from my home in Prestwick. “And because you have an internet presence they can check you out and see whether they like you. Through doing that I got slots on TV and radio and a few gigs. Since then I have played over there a few times, in New York, Nashville, Florida and Houston. “US audiences are great. I have found that if they like you they will buy your CD at the end of the gig, more so than people over here. “They are also less ageist. I have fans in my audiences aged 10 and I have played in schools. One of the biggest gigs I have done was in a US high school. I have played in enormous gym halls where one full side is chock-a-block and the audience are all aged between 12 and 18. “Over there, if they like you, they like you, simple as that.” So what does Scott put his longevity down to? “I think I’ve just got better, if I’m allowed to say that,” he laughs. “Of course, you should get better if you do something long enough. “I am also lucky in that there has always been a demand for the type of music I play. I have honed my act over the years and become a bit better – though maybe other people would disagree.” You can check that out for yourself by searching for Scott’s music and videos on YouTube and CDBaby. And if you’d like to check out his live sound, take a look at his Facebook page for gig details.

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SOUND and vision Two class acts collaborate in a project of great beauty

TAKE one Ayrshire musician, add an international multi awardwinning Hungarian photographer and what do you get? Stara Zagora, a multimedia partnership embarking on what promises to be a stunning collaboration. Of course to call Sean McGeoch just a musician and just a photographer does a great disservice to both. Sean has been crafting songs for a decade and the beautiful, haunting, ethereal tunes on the Stara Zagora Soundcloud demonstrate what a special talent he has. Árpád, meanwhile, is a photographer, film-maker and graphic artist with a list of awards as long as your arm. They met when Árpád took pictures for Selective Service, a band Sean played drums with. Sean says: “He did some really amazing and creative pictures for the band. He's really easy to work with cause you know he has a natural eye for a good picture. “He's just awesome, can't really say much more. He is able to convey in one picture what every artistic person feels about life...if that makes any sense.” Although Stara Zagora is described as “a one-man project” Árpád regards himself as very much part of the act. “Yes, I do the visual part of Sean’s music,” he observes. And that Hungarian name? “It means ‘city of poets’ in Bulgarian,” he adds. As an accomplished short film maker, Árpád made a stunning video for another Ayrshire band, Soldier On. Are there plans for Sean and Árpád to make videos? “I certainly hope so.,” Sean says. “I only started the Stara Zagora project a couple of months ago. I've been a bit of a frustrated songwriter for a while so just decided one day I would just record a bunch of songs on my own playing everything and not worry about it too much. I was delighted Àrpàd took an interest and I hope we can work together for a long time to come.’ Reflecting on his inspiration for his music, Sean says: “I have lots of influences. From an early age I fell in love with Radiohead and Sigur Ros. I have always loved ethereal sounding music and sounds that make you feel something you will never be able to explain in words. I get really into one artist and do them to death so when I got into older folk music like Dylan and Neil Young I exhausted them. I hope the music I love shines through.” Sean, who lives in Dundonald and attended Marr College in Troon says he is very keen to perform live, but has no firm plans as yet. “It's still very early days. I have 10 years worth of songs pestering me night and day and I hope to get out and play them soon. I hope to hit the ground running...” After a few evasive answers, he finally concedes: “I'm desperate to play live. I want to tear shit up! In a melancholic way of course. I would say I'll definitely have a gig by January.” I’ll be having a ticket for that one, thankyouverymuch. See you there. No go and take a look/listen at: • soundcloud.com/stara-zagora • soundcloud.com/sean • soundcloud.com/ager and both Sean’s and Árpád’s Facebook pages.

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Profile for Gerry Cassidy

The Word: Music / Winter 2014:15  

Arts, music and culture in Ayrshire, Scotland

The Word: Music / Winter 2014:15  

Arts, music and culture in Ayrshire, Scotland

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