13 December 2009

Peenko vs Martin John Henry

It's been about six months or so since the demise of De Rosa, a sad loss to the Scottish music scene, thankfully though we have not seen the last of them. Lead singer Martin John Henry has gone solo and is currently demoing new material which should hopefully see the light of day some time in 2010. I caught up with (stalked) Martin at one of his recent gigs and he very kindly took the time out to answer some questions for me, here's the results....

It's been a few months since the De Rosa split, what have you been up to?

I’ve been tending to my personal life, enjoying a break from making music. De Rosa had been going hard at it for a few years and it was nice to step back for a few months. I’ve been listening to a lot of music rather than writing loads, thinking about how to approach this new solo project.

I really don't want to beat about the bush, so what brought about the demise of De Rosa?
I really believe that De Rosa had run its course. We had worked with such rigour during the making of our two main albums that it was disheartening for us to see them go largely unnoticed. There was a bit of tension within the band at the end of our last tour supporting Doves and it just seemed to show that we were all really tired of it all. By the time we all sat down to talk about things, I think each of us had already decided to call it a day.

Do you find it more liberating working on your own, or do you miss the team spirit that you can get in band?
I miss the band a lot. When it was good it was the greatest time of my life. Being in a band is like having a family around you, people who you trust that can inspire you to be your creative best. Every one of those guys put their own stamp on the demos I brought, taking the music to a place that belonged to the collective, not just myself. The thing is, that band was the only band I had ever been in, and my only experiences of making music had been in that setup. It’s exciting to take on the challenge of creating something on my own, seeing things through from the original idea to the finished recording.

Have you been writing much new material?
I’ve been writing for an album. I think I have about three quarters of it written, but there are a few songs still to come. Andy Miller - who recorded all the De Rosa stuff – will be recording it. I’ve played a few solo gigs in Scotland recently, just to get that first hurdle out of the way. It gave me the chance to try out some new material.

If so, what likelihood is there that we'll see any of it being released?
Anything that I think is good enough to be put out will be released in some form or other. I’m going to do a few DIY releases before the album is finished. I was thinking that these will be short run singles that I’ll sell through my own websites – quickly made, home recorded stuff, you know? I’m going to spend some time making the artwork interesting for these. The main album will be recorded at Gargleblast Studios in Hamilton, and I’m planning for it to be out in autumn 2010.

Have Chemikal Underground/Gargleblast expressed any interest in doing something with you?
Yes. These are early days and I hope to work with both labels again at some point.

What would you is your biggest inspiration in your song writing?
The trigger for composing something new often comes from listening to other people’s music, although other things, personal stuff, bits of language, photographs etc, can be the inspiration behind the words. I was thinking recently that the way I experienced music in my teens - through headphones, where you are placed right in the centre of the recording – is what made me want to make my own recorded music. I think that’s why I enjoy the recording part so much. The record that inspired me to pick up my guitar again after De Rosa was Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle by Bill Callahan, which is a fantastic sounding album. “Working through death’s pain” – what an inspiring line. The music that’s currently exciting me is the album Actor by St Vincent.

Do you find that you tend to come up with lyrics or the music first?
Music every time, but I think it’s more romantic to say that you write lyrics first. Although, I often write lists of titles and choose the most inspirational as a starting point for the music.

You recently covered the Beatles 'Because', for Mojo Magazines 'Abbey Road' tribute, how did that come about?
Dave Henderson, the guy who puts all the Mojo CDs together is a fan of De Rosa, and had asked us to do something on a previous CD. We were away touring at the time and couldn’t contribute anything. He got back to me a couple of months later, after the band had split, and asked if I’d be interested in contributing to the Abbey Road CD. It was really nice of that guy to give me the chance to do this. Andy Miller made a great job of that recording, and it was one of the best studio experiences I’ve ever had.

Where and when can people catch you playing in the flesh?
I’m playing at Sick Kids Sunday at the GRV in Edinburgh on 31st January. Come and see me and help people that need it at the same time.

Lastly, are there any acts that you would recommend that I check out?
Right now I’d get both St Vincent albums if you don’t have them. Best thing I’ve heard in a long time.

Once again I would just like to thank Martin for taking the time out to answer my rambling questions, it was very much appreciated. Now get yourself over to his Bandcamp page and download his new song 'I Love Map', it's cracking. You can listen to it below if you don't believe me.

For even more stuff from Martin head on over to Elba Sessions where you can stream a session he recently recorded for them, do it, do it now.

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