I’d always thought the old adage of ‘good things come to those who wait’ was actually a load of old bollocks, in fact I guess I still do. That being said I am chuffed to bits to have finally managed to get Inspector Tapehead to do a wee interview for me. I think it was around October last year just after their debut album, ‘Duress Code’ was released on Song By Toad, that I wanted to feature them. Having finally met the band in person at the Randolph’s Leap EP launch, I was really taken by their live set and made sure that I would feature them one day.
So who are this band that’s been getting me excited for all these months? Simply put they’re a Glasgow based folk trio that like to mess about with bleeps and gizmos, a Scottish Grandaddy perhaps? As per usual I am selling a band short, all you need to know is that they are one of the most creative and exciting bands in Scotland at the moment.
Would you care to introduce yourself?
We are Inspector Tapehead, a three-piece group residing in Glasgow.
How would you describe the music you make?
Chris: We never did come up with an entirely satisfactory label to describe ourselves. At various times we try to sound old-fashioned (mostly in the form of country/folk guitar parts and sweet Ennio Morricone style refrains) and contemporary (the more electronic and obviously noisy parts). We all love a great range of music and try to bring as much to the band as possible.
Jonnie: I’m trying to coin the term Bleepgrass. Otherwise I refer to it as ‘Sci-Fi blues pop’.
How did you come together as a band?
Chris used to play in Adam Beattie’s Consultants with Roy. Chris and Roy were both longtime Down The Tiny Steps fans and we’d played on a few bills together and that sort of thing. Chris and Roy asked Jonnie if he’d like to get together sometime and start fooling around with some instruments.
Jonnie: I was friends with Adam Beattie and already a big fan of Roy & Chris as part of his band without knowing them personally. I’d heard an early demo of Pherenzik Tear & gone nuts for it. When Adam moved to London & Chris asked if I’d be interested in helping him play his own material, I jumped at the chance.
How did you start out making music?
Chris: We got together and started working on some of the songs that I had written over the last few years. The exciting thing about this period is that when we first got together it was pretty vague in terms of the arrangement – we weren’t sure if Jonnie was going to be playing guitar at this point or how the hell we would approach the songs. It was great to go in with an open mind and discover this instrumentation that works well for us.
Jonnie: imagine if I’d brought a guitar to that first practise. In a parallel universe, there is probably an all-leather pub-rock version of Tapehead playing in some hellish dive every Friday.
What process goes into the way you write songs?
Chris: More often than not, I bring in a song which is finished to some degree. Sometimes the best results come from having a song that has been written as a bare-bones guitar-and-words tune and then trying to arrange it as a three-piece. For me this is a very exciting part of the process where the whole song gets re-imagined through the sharp musical minds of Jonnie and Roy. To either side of this approach are the two extremes: songs which are half-baked and need a little more input and new parts written collectively, and songs where I have a better idea of how I’d like the other instruments to fit around the guitar. Usually however, the songs take a big step from when we first start playing it, to the finished article.
Who are your big musical influences?
Chris: As I said earlier, we try draw from quite a wealth of different styles and blend them in the crucible of melody. Personally, a big moment for me was seeing the genius of Philip Roebuck, one-man band, at the All Tomorrow’s Party festival in 2003. While I had always been a big fan of the blues, listening to Philip’s music and checking out some of the people who had inspired him led me into a rich universe of music and lyric-writing (country and blues singers like Dock Boggs and Skip James, as well as the field recordings made by Alan Lomax). There seemed to be something extremely evocative and moving about listening to these recordings that you rarely hear nowadays. While I’d say that I listen to these older guys quite a lot, I also try to keep an ear out for similarly colourful modern artists. I think you can probably tell that I was listening to my fair share of cLOUDDEAD whilst writing ‘Duress Code’.
Jonnie: I too, am hot for Anticon. Chris introducing me to Vangelis has had a huge impact on my work in & out of Tapehead.
Vangelis – Tears in Rain (Blade Runner)
What kind of influence do you feel that where you come from has had on the music you create?
Chris: In a literal sense, the house I grew up in had a huge hand in deciding the music that I still love to this day. I was very fortunate to have a family who took an interest in my fascination with music and my dad had a pretty good record collection to expose me to and escorted me to my first gigs. My older brother Richard and I would also write songs together, which is where I started out doing that sort of thing. As for growing up in St Albans, there were a lot of talented people to play with and I suppose I was very lucky in that respect.
Jonnie: I started making music in a small town. I think those couple of years before moving to Glasgow had a profound effect on the way I make music. We made our own fun. I think if I’d started later, whilst surrounded by ‘a scene’, I might not have learned to be as resourceful. For me, Tapehead encompasses most aspects of those early fun times.
What can people expect to see/hear from your live shows?
Chris: I’m always very conscious of the fact that we are not the best band to look at, since we are all sitting down out of necessity. Maybe we need a Bez? Hopefully though, we compensate with the sound, which we aim to keep quite broad. Although there are only three of us, we have a variety of instruments to call upon to hopefully keep it from being too samey. We also try to keep the dynamics pretty varied throughout the set to keep audiences interested, with differing success methinks.
Jonnie: I agree. We’re never going to be in vogue as long as we’re sitting down. But we’re ok to look at in the same way that it might be entertaining to watch a monkey playing a gameboy quite competently on a bus.
How did you end up releasing your album on Song By Toad?
Matthew was at the first gig we played in Edinburgh, at the Wee Red Bar, and expressed an interest that very night. He wrote a nice review of the show, which thrilled us to bits. Anyway, we stayed in touch after that and once the album was finished Song, by Toad seemed to be its natural home.
Has there been a particular gig that has stood out for you so far (good or bad)?
We have been pretty fortunate in getting to play some pretty great and unusual gigs for people. We were involved in one of the NTS Allotment weekends in Govan which was exciting. Probably one of the highlights for me was playing at last year’s Fence records Haarfest in Annstruther. Fortunately for us there was a power cut the night we were due to play, so we got to stay an extra night, see more great acts and generally have a good time playing for those fine folk. I would say we are lucky to have not played too many bad gigs.
What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond? Do you have any new releases planned for any time soon?
In the immediate future we are popping along to the Diving Bell studio to film a small session for Precious Productions on Friday, which we are looking forward to. Generally speaking we are working on some new songs that we’re going to start playing at shows around March or so with a view to record them for an EP later in the year. Exciting times at Tapehead HQ.
Inspector Tapehead’s debut album ‘Durex Code’ is available now on Song By Toad Records, you can order yourself a copy here for eight pounds. It is also available on download download through iTunes, eMusic and Amazon MP3.
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