It's been a pretty tiring few weeks in the world of Peenko (i.e. me), so I think it's somewhat appropriate that this weeks Scots Way-Hay post is a bit more chilled. Niall Masson, aka iglue, is a singer songwriter from the Isle of Lewis, who I first caught up at this years goNorth. Yes, I know that I have been featuring quite a number of the bands that I saw up in Inverness, but trust me this guy is more than worthy of your attention. His stripped back style reminds me a lot of early Bright Eyes, with his haunting raw voice makes you feel like you are out on some remote Scottish island, away from all the stress of the city. A place where it's you alone with your thoughts, it's a beautiful wee place to be.
Would you care to introduce yourself?
Hello, My name is Niaal Masson and my music goes by the name of iglue. I'm a young lad with skinny legs and knobbly knees.
The Modern Youth by iglue
How would you describe the music you make?
I try to make my music as honest as possible, a true reflection of me and my feelings. It is warts an all but I think that adds to it, I'd say I'm trying to create a feeling and a reaction within the listener. But to me it is a way of getting things of my chest and expressing myself, I'm not too concerned about being the next big thing.
How did you come together as a band?
Well it happened more because my last band sort of fell apart. There was no animosity but I felt that I wanted to take my writing a bit more seriously and concentrate on lyrics and felt I couldn't do that in the band I was in at the time.
How did you start out making music?
Well on the Isle of Lewis there has been a great local music scene that really kicked off when I was in my early teens, everybody I knew wanted to be a part of it. I had been practising with a couple of mates and we would basically just play At The Drive-in songs and jump about and have fun, we were asked to contribute a song to a local label compilation and that was the first song I ever wrote. It was pretty post punk and pretty basic but it was OK for a first go! I hadn't moved onto vocals at that point and was just playing guitar. I was about sixteen or seventeen at the time, the guys in bands thought we were great and everybody else hated us because it wasn't Jonny Cash. But that was the first spark really, which was about four or five years ago now. Since then I've constantly been writing and been getting more and more serious about it.
What process goes into the way you write songs?
Well for me it usually starts out with an idea on guitar. Whenever I pick my guitar up I just play and play and let it come sort of spontaneously, if something sticks out i'll keep it at the back of my mind and keep going over it whenever I pick up, eventually I'll find another piece that will fit. I suppose it's a bit of a jigsaw really. Lyrics wise I'll sit down and just write what comes into my head, give it a few days and then try and work on it. It'll be mostly about how I feel at the time, I find when I'm angry or a bit down the best times for writing, and for some reason it makes me feel better. I try and make sure my lyrics aren't just filler, if I go back over something and think hey that doesn't really make any sense I'll scrap it, I'm quite hard on myself in that sense. Some other songs will come from poems I've written, which I try to write as much as I can, whenever I have a pen handy. But really I'm kind of winging it songwriting wise in a way, I've never been shown how to do it or taken advice, I've just tried to write how I feel. I'm lucky that a lot of my friends are songwriters and it's not that weird for us because we're all doing it, but I could be writing complete crap for all I know haha.
Men Are Made At Sea by iglue
Who are your big musical influences?
Well when I was growing up I was completely obsessed with At The Drive-in and Biffy Clyro and I have to say I wouldn't be the person I am now if I hadn't heard those bands, they actually blew my mind when I heard them, I couldn't get enough and that influenced my personality, there was no boundaries for them and that rubbed off, they weren't in a band for the masses but for a minority who would like them a lot more and they really had a connection with people! I loved that. I must have seen Biffy Clyro live five or six times in that period(they even played in Stornoway) and their shows were just crazy and best of all they were fucking Scottish! I love Scottish music through and through. We have it all right on our doorstep and that has influenced me massively. I love it all, Mogwai, Arab Strap, King Creosote....and on and on. When I listen to all that stuff I feel a real connection with it. Most of them are on indie labels and are in it for the long haul and you have to respect that. I'd also say that I have been influenced by the big underground American bands from the 80s too, Black Flag and Fugazi mainly, their music was real and their attitudes were amazing, they built attitudes and we still adhere to them right now, it's either DIY or sell your soul! And as I mentioned above there was, and still is a great scene of musicians on the Isle of Lewis, we're all friends and there's no competition between us and best of all it's not about money, it's about the love of it and we all stick in and help each other out and it really has been a motivator. I don't want to write a long list of bands I like but I think I covered the main influences on me up there, there is hundreds though, as with all music lovers.
What kind of influence do you feel that where you come from has on the music you create?
It's had a massive influence, I can see the sea from every window in my house, it just seems to have a soothing effect on me. I can't explain it other than that I love it, when it's completely flat and looks like a mirror and when it's angry. Also if you go out at night it's totally silent, it's quite eerie but absolutely amazing at the same time. You can see the entire sky on a clear night with no light pollution and occasionally the Northern Lights and it really is just a beautiful place with some great traditions. It's made me a bit of a deep thinker I suppose, a deep thinker obsessed with the sea and fishermen. I also luckily went to school with some great writers, it was just seen as normal to begin writing, and we were all supported by local people who loved music and saw potential in us and were patient with us. I potentially wouldn't even have started writing if I had grown up elsewhere. Plus Scotland is nice...
What can people expect to see/hear from your live shows?
Well at the moment it's just myself and a red telecaster, the best backing band of all time. Hopefully you'll break down into tears of joy. That hasn't happened at a gig yet, but hopefully one day. I wouldn't book me for your wedding, I'm far too depressing for that! Has there been a particular gig that has stood out for you so far (good or bad)? Well earlier in the year I played at a GoNorth showcase in Inverness which was pretty decent considering I was only added last minute. I have played there before and usually it's quite empty and you go home and carry on life but this year the place was busy and full of people getting drunk after the seminars. It was a great platform for me and the place fell quiet when I was playing and I got a bit of a lump in my throat. It was one of those moments when you get a bit of a shiver going up your arm, in a good way though! It felt like I had caught the room. Another time a guy asked me if he could give my guitar to his son, always worth asking I suppose, I'm sure one day he'll get that free guitar, live the dream.
What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond? Do you have any new releases planned for any time soon?
At the moment I'm gearing up to letting my four new tracks loose on the internet! I have a good feeling about them, they were a lot of hard work and I think they are the best stuff I've recorded so far! I'm also looking forward to playing during the launch of Kevin MacNeils new book In MacSorleys in September. After that we shall have to wait and see, hopefully it shall be bright and positive though :)
iglue - This Island