One man, or of course woman, bands, and solo acts are often considered indistinguishable from each other, but what they share actually pales into insignificance when we consider what they don’t.
One, the solo act, stands alone in the spotlight and strives to entertain without the safety net of a band accompanying them, and if we are honest they in general plough a similar field as all the other solo artists out there.
They strum their guitars and sing their hearts out and we watch them bravely carry the performance on their shoulders.
The other, the one man band, takes that all to a whole other level though.
It’s not for them keeping it simple and expressing themselves with one instrument.
They want to push outward and incorporate everything they can think of, and with the addition of loop pedals in some cases take what they are doing even further again.
Like pioneers they are pushing at the boundaries of what one person can do, and with that attitude they set themselves on the edge of a ledge and balance there with everything and the kitchen sink on their shoulders as the audience waits for it all to come crashing down around them.
It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, and this is why I hold some affection for their choice to explore the route less travelled that they manically skip in the direction of.
While the solo artists may be in the trenches and considering going over the top and hoping they will survive, the one man band is tying a hachimaki around their head and aiming for the sun.
Is it an act of idiocy or bravery?
Who can really say, but there is an exhilarating aspect to it that certainly ties in with how there is a dark part of human nature that wants to see the tightrope walker fall, the trapeze artists slip.
The element of disaster that casts a shadow over the performance that they provide adds to the performance rather that takes anything away from it, and to extend further into the circus analogies we can also be attracted to what can appear to be superhuman talents that we see displayed under the big top.
Anyone can juggle three balls with practice, but ten?
And similarly many musicians can play an instrument, but five at once over the top of a looped track that was created right in front of your very eyes?
So without any further ado let me introduce you to Lew Palgrave AKA The RagNBone Man.
XXXX - So why a one man band? Is it misanthropy, control over the musical vision, necessity, issues with body odour?
Lew - I got to the point when filling a stage or a room or a record shop with noise by myself was greater than the fear or being alone.
Doing it provides an exhilarating does of freedom.
How important is that freedom to you?
It's massively important as we live in a world where having any sort of freedom is a massive struggle from day to day, the on stage freedom for me is almost complete escapism. It’s something which I’m lucky to have.
How does it feel when you are on stage and trying to push out the sound of a band across to an audience?
I get there every time I play live; take it to the whole band sound level. The noise in my head becomes real. The best noise you can make comes from having your back up against the wall so being alone on stage engages that totally. It feels great.
Do you feel it is necessary to take things right to the edge and let it teeter there for it to have any relevance?
I don't know about relevance but to take something right to the edge or over the edge is a very addictive thing to do if you’re doing it on a regular basis.
It's a good place to be.
I've had the unfortunate pleasure of being addicted to negative shit over the years so although some may find what I do angry or aggressive it's very positive for my life.
I’m not gonna lie, I do what I do for me not for anyone else, if people enjoy it then that’s cool if not then that’s cool too
As someone who doesn’t even have the manual dexterity to play an instrument I can’t really grasp how mentally anyone can maintain what you do. Do you consider that it I something that can be learnt, or is it a natural gift, or even a combination of both?
I never practice like you would in a band which is great, just turning up and making a noise and getting a rough idea of what your gonna do in a live situation is the best way.
I never really had to practice juggling 3 or 4 things at once. I’m just a freak of nature I guess?
How is the process of song writing different from working with others and having to take into consideration their opinions and input? Do you feel it is liberating or constricting?
No band members = no hassles.
I write new songs pretty regularly I only really maybe play them once and then batter it out at a gig.
Sometimes I never play the song again, sometimes I do, and again it’s keeping my back against the wall keeps things fresh.
You can't really do that in a band because the dreaded practice this song 20 fuckin times happens, then by the time you play it live at a gig it sucks.
So repetition kills the moment? Is the idea of playing the same song night after night note perfectly something that you fundamentally couldn’t do?
Correct. It fuckin bores me.
Also I’m not really musically capable of understanding any more than 3 chords and a wee riff here and there.
When you play alone you play songs differently depending on the mood your in, no silly rules
If you were to consider one obvious positive to playing alone like this then what would it be, and similarly what the biggest drawback?
Every time I play live I get to where I need to be which I said before is a massive freedom, on the down side I have a lot of gear for a one man band so carrying it from place to place is a pain in the arse.
That’s the only downside.