It’s a pretty bold step for a front man to decide to go solo, so after the demise of Falkirk stalwarts, Y’all Is Fantasy Island, it felt like a natural step for Adam Stafford to step out into the limelight. He already recorded a fantastic covers album, “Music in the Mirabel”, plus two prior albums “Awnings” and “Miniature Porcelain”, which I can probably best describe as experimental. Let’s just say they’re not my cup of tea.
However, I have to admit that I have an admiration for his willingness to explore new avenues of music. His forthcoming album, which is due out later in the year has been pleasuring my ear buds for a number of months now. Initially it starts off as a pop record, then before you know it you’re being sucked into a world of hypnotic experimentalism. It’s quite a ride. Rather than reading my ramblings I think it’s probably best if I pass you over to the man himself for some more sensible chat. Just make sure you check out ‘A Temple of The Holy Ghost’ below, go on, do it for me…
Would you care to introduce yourself?
My name is Adam Watson Stafford, I was born in Sunderland, North East England to a Fireman and a Civic Secretary.
How would you describe the music you make?
Can I steal a line from Devo? “The sound of things slowly falling apart…”
How did you start out making music?
When I was 13 my friend David and I started messing about on his sister’s electric guitar. We didn’t even attempt to play chords, it was open-strum on tuneless strings. Our first song, I think, contained the lines “I’ve been somewhere that you’ve not been, I’ve been in a… WASHING MACHINE!”, which was shouted like some sort of great statement. Later we both got proper training as classical guitarists but we were so lazy and incompetent at reading music we both gave it in and formed a melodic punk band. This was around the time of Green Day-mania (the first wave), so you can imagine how that sounded!
What process goes into the way you write songs?
I am a bit like an antenna, picking up radio signals from a station in some lost dimension. Then I have to sit down and transcribe what I hear coming through the radio in my mind. Sometimes, I think: that’s not worth translating, and other times it just happens like as if I am a guide or a medium. The song With Handclaps, for example was translated in about 10 minutes. The music first, then I refine the dial to hear the vocal melody, then I have to listen a bit closer to hear the words. To this day, I don’t think I’ve written any of the songs I’ve put my name to.
Who are your big musical influences?
It started off with the Police, Suede, REM a lot of grunge and punk (unavoidable if you were a teenager in the 90s) then I got a bit older and started listening to Pavement, The Velvet Underground, Will Oldham, Smog, Mercury Rev and then through these bands you find a connection with older stuff such as Love, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and then even older, going back to the pre-war blues of Willie Johnson, Charlie Patton and Skip James… it continues on and on. I don’t think you ever lose the will to be inspired, just recently my music’s been informed by the vocal layering and repetition techniques of Meredith Monk and Steve Reich.
What kind of influence do you feel that where you come from has had on the music you create?
Quite a bit. Growing up in Falkirk we were a bunch of beleaguered stoned teenagers – quasi-intellectuals quoting Travis Bickle, Robert Anton Wilson, William Burroughs and Dr Dre, respectively. We hung about abandoned hospitals and Metal clubs, drinking ourselves into the ground. Most of the stories you hear on Rescue Weekend are true to life: Luke Mitchel in Polmont Young Offenders; the methadone clinic I used live across the road from; the “courtyard of the dead” in A Sight in Sailsbury falls is a reference to Camelon Crematorium and the surgeon in Falkirk Royal who operates on Body Integrity Sufferers. In a way, we were very much a “Falkirk” band as Arab Strap, but obviously completely different.
You are probably most well known for your former band, Y’All Is Fantasy Island, why did you guys decide to call it a day?
In short, two major reasons. The first being the departure of our guitarist Tommy Blair and the second is really that we had no fans. I felt that I couldn’t see much point in pouring all of my energy and effort into a band that no-body much cared about.
Do you miss that feeling of not having a band behind you?
I do feel more exposed and nervy performing on my own without the support of a unit behind me, yes.
You don’t seem to be one for convention, is the chance to push your musical boundaries one of your main drives in creating music?
I think it has to be. I just can’t stick artists and bands that stay within a certain comfort zone, churning out the same plodding shit over and over. Fair enough – hone a style and find your voice but really you should always push yourself creatively. It’s artistically and philosophically redundant to just keep repeating yourself and I can think of a lot of lazy-ass bands that do. There is no frontier that you can’t go to, no dimension too absurd that you can’t explore.
You also run your own label, Wiseblood Industries, how do you find the time to run a label alongside all of your other projects?
The label doesn’t take up much of my time to be honest, apart from when I’m trying to upload a zipfile to the mainframe on a shite connection! I really love it and I’m really proud of everyone involved but it’s really just a platform for me and my friends’ music. Saying that, I’m going to put more effort this year into releasing more of the music on a Tape division of the label, rather than having everything entirely online.
Are there any local artists out there that are particularly exciting you at the moment?
I love Desolve You, the album by Glasgow based instrumental guitarist Alec Cheer. RM Hubbert music is quite life-affirming and I’m liking noises being made by Loch Awe, PAWS, Two Wings, The Son(s) and the new Hey Enemy album. Lady North appeal to me a lot and anything that Daniel Padden releases is manna from experimental heaven. The Scottish music scene is raging like a phallic river!
What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond?
It’s a bloody busy one, I’ve got a solo record that I recorded in Chem19 with Paul Savage coming out after the summer. I’m getting married, starting pre-production on a short documentary and trying to learn how to speak French a little better. I have a sledgehammer in my heart.
Adam Stafford – A Temple of The Holy Ghost
Y’all is Fantasy Island live – “With Handclaps”