Edinburgh’s Broken Records will likely appear on many “Best of 2009″ lists this year with their debut album “Until the Earth Begins to Part”. Acclaim for the band continues to grow and last week, guitarist and glockenspielist Ian Turnbull spoke to Dear Scotland ahead of a European tour that starts in Heidelberg on September 22.
DS. Where are you now and what did you do last night?
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records: At home, writing this. Last night we played a Freshers’ Week show at Dundee University.
DS. Paul McCartney said he got into music to avoid a job – and get lots of girls. What made you get into music?
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records: I’m not sure how far into his career he said that but I’m sure he’d now agree that playing music really is a full time job! I’ve long wanted to try and make a go of playing music for a living, and I know that when me and Jamie moved back to Edinburgh after university we found playing acoustic open-mic nights around town was a far more enjoyable escape from the depressing temp jobs we were doing by day.
DS. On this tour you’ll visit cities all over Europe, is there one place on the tour schedule that you are most looking forward to playing?
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records: Probably the Berlin show because it’ll be the first time Arne gets to play a show in his home city.
DS. Do you feel more Scottish when you are abroad, or do you adapt well to new places? Anything you’ll miss about Scotland?
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records: I don’t know if we feel any more Scottish when we’re outside Scotland, although strangely enough when we did a tour round England with The Twilight Sad it did have a bit of a ‘Scots Abroad’ feel to it! We’re all pretty adaptable and like seeing new places, and if we have the time we do enjoy trying to have a good look around when we’re not playing. Apart from missing my wife I don’t really get too homesick for Scotland because I know we’re coming back. However, I think after a couple of weeks away Andy might really enjoy his first Irn Bru when he gets back.
DS. What will be your first words on stage in Heidelberg, the first show of the tour?
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records: If we give Arne a microphone it’ll obviously be something a lot more complex than “Guten Abend, wie gehts?”. Having said that it’ll most likely be Jamie’s usual “Hello, we’re Broken Records from Edinburgh”!
DS. What is your favourite song of yours to play right now?
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records: I really like a new song we’ve been playing live at some of the festivals over the summer which is quite fast and punky. It doesn’t have a title yet, which is not unusual for us – these things often don’t get decided until someone is actually forcing us to put down something so a record sleeve can finally go to press! I also really like A Promise which I’ve missed playing over the past few months because it’s not always been the most appropriate track to throw into a festival set. I don’t play anything on it until the end, so I get to stop for a moment and just enjoy listening to everyone else for a while.
DS. Are there any Scottish musicians, past or present, that have influenced you?
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records: A lot of us were properly getting into music just as the Chemikal Underground label was on the rise in the late 1990s so I think that definitely had an influence. Certainly The Delgados have had some influence on our music because we really liked their arrangements and use of interesting instruments while still writing accessible pop tunes. Me, Gill and Rory are also Mogwai fans and I think we’ve taken on board some of their use of dynamics. Studying in St Andrews the whole Fence scene was happening around us too, and King Creosote helped us make the first record for another band that Jamie and I were in at that time. Jamie’s original idea for Broken Records was for a label/collective similar to the Fence Collective where lots of bands and their members would play on each other’s songs, but it never really got beyond working with anyone else so we ended up with the label name accidentally becoming our band name.
DS. What should the Scottish national anthem be?
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records: Personally I have a dislike for national anthems, especially when lyrically they’re either xenophobic or triumphalistic, so unfortunately our unofficial “Flower of Scotland” anthem falls into that category. Musically it’s very stirring to watch before a match at Murrayfield, but at the same time I dislike the anti-English sentiment and nostalgia for former glories. I’m not sure if The Corries intended it to be quite so vehemently anti-English as there are also themes of national pride, self-determination and praise of national beauty, but culturally the song has taken on a much more aggressively xenophobic tone. I suppose promotion of national pride is an essential part of a national anthem, but there are better ways to go about it than talking about a battle we won 700 years ago while forgetting about all the other defeats since then. For me it makes “Flower of Scotland” just as faintly ridiculous as Skinner and Baddiel’s “Three Lions”. So on a lighter note, if we have to have a national anthem I’d prefer something like The Gael by Dougie McLean (although that might be a bit too maudlin!), or I do have a guilty soft spot for Highland Cathedral. We had a burns supper down at the studio in Wales and I ‘piped’ in the haggis to that, but unfortunately it was played on a melodica!
DS. How do people react when they discover you are Scottish?
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records: I don’t think anyone has reacted to us being Scottish.
DS. What is the best after-show experience you’ve had?
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records: More often than not at the end of a show we have to pack the van and head off in the direction of wherever we need to be next, so usually the best ones are any time we get to actually stick around and relax at the end! There have been a few memorable ones, but definitely the nicest one was after our show in Princes Street Gardens for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party last year. It was incredibly exciting to be playing to thousands of people and watching them dance to our music all the way up Waverley Bridge. When we came offstage all we did was stand around and have a drink outside our portakabin dressing rooms in sub-zero temperatures – this game really isn’t glamourous or rock and roll at all! But it had been a really difficult, stressful and hectic year for all of us, so it was just good to sit and look back on how far we’d come with the excitement of signing to 4AD and starting to record the album a week after to look forward to.
DS. And finally, many many years from now, when you finish your farewell world tour, is there one place to where you would like to retire?
Ian Turnbull, Broken Records: I’m very happy here in Edinburgh thank you very much. Although a holiday home in Laggan would be fine with me too.
Ian Turnbull was talking to The Dear. ..
Tour dates and ticket information below.