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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

In conversation with Jim Dead.

Tell us a bit about yourself Jim.
Early days are always the best place to start.
So when did you first feel drawn to music, and how did that then move on to you creating your own?

I guess it’s an old cliché, but I remember flicking through my parents’ record collection … it was quite an eclectic collection, too. I don’t suppose that I really became immersed in music until my early teens.
Then I was obsessed.
Spending hours putting together mixes for friends, when not sifting through the tapes and LPs that belonged to my parents and liberating the best tracks from their obscure and often disappointing albums.
I was the one in school preaching music. While I was sorta like the weird kid who liked ‘Heavy Metal’, folks were tuning into the mixes I was giving them.
We started hanging out together and eventually we got a band going.
We were dreadful. Couldn’t really play, but we stuck with it and we made quite a noise.

When you did start performing did you have a clear idea of what you were wanting to do, or like so many others has your experience been one that flows and reflects your own personal current tastes? The reason I ask is because I know so many solo artists who initially started off in pop punk acts as teenagers and then as their tastes in music widened they gravitated to more introspective ways to express themselves?

It’s been quite a journey to get to this point. I sang and occasionally played guitar in a fair few rock bands since 1997.
I was influenced by pretty much all of the alternative rock that I had been discovering since Nirvana.
Blind Melon, Screaming Trees, Jane’s Addiction etc.
Among the racks of CDs I had some Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Johnny Cash and Tom Waits and I started paying a great deal of attention to alternative Country around the end of 1998 or so after a friend had introduced me to Whiskeytown’s Strangers Almanac, American Music Club’s Mercury and Richard Buckner’s Bloomed.
Soon after that I was hooked on Joe Henry and soon that became the music I was immersed in.
That was shaping how I wrote songs and I brought that influence in to the bands. Lyrically I began exploring different themes – telling stories … telling my story and such things. It would be fair to say that I started going down a different path.
I wanted to create something dusty. Just strip the songs right back.

So far you have been self releasing your music. How is that? Do you like the level of artistic control it brings you?
How about financially. Does it feel restrictive in a sense?

I really don’t think there is an alternative. It’s a very rewarding process, really. Even if it does have some challenges. Being able to release what I want is, well, pretty nice. I mean, I could sit on the floor in my kitchen and record something.
Water running, some pots clanging and me telling some story and have that on an album and EP without any worry that someone somewhere at a label has decided to make an executive decision and discard it as useless.
It can be a challenge, though.
Especially from a financial point of view, cause I’m not really business minded.
That whole budgeting for recording, printing, the distribution, etc … it’s tough. I don’t think in terms of how many days I need in a studio, I think about how many songs I have. But I’ve been lucky enough to have met folks who have been willing to give their time and talent, too – I don’t reckon Go Tell, Ten Fires and I’m Not Lost would have turned out like they did without others investing in the projects as much as I did.

The last six months has seen you play some solid shows that are drawing some attention your way. Are you pleased about this?

Absolutely, yeah. It’s nice to know that there are people out there who not only appreciate what I’m doing, but actually get it.
They can buy into it.
Maybe it’s because I’ve played the right gigs, I don’t know.
Over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to meet folks who are passionate about music and they’ve become real supporters of what I’m doing and they’ve been kind enough to write some generous words. I’ll not throw names at you, but these folks know who they are and their words mean a great deal. Cause I know that there’s integrity behind them.

Do you have a loose career plan? I hear people saying things like I am giving it five years and if I get nowhere them I am done. It sounds very much like it's not so much about the music when it is put like that.

I wouldn't say so, no. I haven't thought about making a career as a musician since ... well, I'd say since the early days of being in a band. I think it last crossed my mind in the early 2000s with my old band.
We were very much riding a wave for a while and talking about getting a label, etc. But we recorded an album and I don't think any of us was motivated enough to do anything with it.
Hell, we didn't even take it to sell at gigs.
I wouldn't say that going out on my own has never been about a career though.
I started doing this thing as a way to get stuff out my system and it evolved from that.
I've been lucky enough to stumble into some great opportunities - my songs have found their way into the right circles and at a grassroots level I've picked up some good reviews and supporters along the way - but, it's exhausting trying to make people listen.
I know that's an issue for a lot of musicians I know.
Maybe because of what we do? I don't know.
It's difficult to gain an audience. Don't get me wrong, I like to play these songs, but I can't always rely on friends to come support me all the time ...
So, while I don't have a career plan, I guess I kinda have something. I'll continue to write and record, but I think I need to think long and hard about removing myself from playing to an audience.

Have you any plans for touring? Does the idea of slinging your guitar on your back and heading out into the world sound appealing?

It's something I thought about, yeah ... and I was very close to putting it together last year.
half did.
Some emails to venues down south went unanswered and I kept looking at other venues.
Then other things cropped up and I started writing and recording what eventually became I'm Not Lost.

Right now what do you think about the musical landscape locally? There's been a great deal of discussions among artists and those who work in venues about how tough things are getting. Do you agree that live music is becoming an increasingly hard sell, and if so what are your thoughts?

I don't know. I've never been convinced that Glasgow had a great live music scene.
Let's be honest, there's this great tradition of having live music in pretty much every possible nook and cranny within the city, but whether people are actually interested enough to listen is another matter.
Most of the time there's a chance that the music just aint that good.
Does that constitute what's always considered as a vibrant musical landscape?
Don't get me wrong, I've heard a load of good bands and solo folks and some of my favourite acts are indies.
There's also a few great nights out there that you know you can rely on for a solid line-up.
But I don't think the landscape is in good shape.
It needs a shake.
I don't have the answers. I have ideas. But I've seen a few folks try to create something unique and see it crumble because there's too many free mediocre nights out there.

Nights where you can hear Paul Weller off-cuts, Wonderwall or Brown Eyed Girl.

Merch - Music -

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