26 September 2011

Martin John Henry - The Other Half of Everything: Track by track

Out of all of the albums that have been released this year, this is the one that I have been looking forward to the most. The untimely split of De Rosa a couple of years back was a bit of a kick in the nuts for the Scottish music scene, so it's great to have Martin back making music. With the release of this debut album, 'The Other Half of Everything', Martin has picked up the baton where De Rosa left off and he's sprinted off into the distance with one of the finest albums you're likely to hear in 2011. In anticipation of the release of the album on the 10th of October I asked him do this wee track by track for me, so I guess I'll shut up now leave you with the wise words of Mr Henry and how this awesome wee album came to be...

Breathing Space

I originally thought this would be an interlude somewhere, hence the title. The lyrics were improvised at the point of singing the demo, and remained unchanged. I'm surprised at how good they turned out. When it came to track list the album, no other song could have been first. The opening words just seemed to evoke the landscape, a familiar but strange one. You're transported somewhere else. It also mentions brochs, which are referenced a couple of times on this album. Susan Appelbe played an amazing plucked cello part on this.


This song came from a demo that was written around the time of the last De Rosa album, and it shares the electronic influence with 'Nocturne for an Absentee' from that album. The first verse is about going out for a night out in Gourock on the Firth of Clyde with James and Neil from De Rosa. The words at the big crescendo were inspired by a dream I had about bridges that were expansive and stretched across big vortexes of space-time. I felt that euphoric trance was the only genre of music that could sum up this image.

I Love Map

My wife and I went for a holiday in Skye a few years ago. At the time she lived in the south of England and we embarked on a long distance relationship maintained by phone calls, the M6 and low fare bus journeys. I wrote this song for her after the Skye holiday, just after she went back home to London. It's nice to have written a proper love song, I never thought I'd do that. It fits this album well with the references to places and maps. I had to make sure that it was really big and bold sounding so it didn't sound too soppy.

Ribbon on a Bough

The image of ribbons hung from trees is one that came from a walk I took in a cemetery in Lanarkshire. I had never seen this before, but at the infant part of the graveyard all the trees were decorated with ribbons and wind chimes. It was one of those windy but sunny days and it was just so full of movement, colour and sound. Anyway, I was moved by this image and I wanted to write something that was celebratory but aware of death. There are some religious references in the second verse. Also, I was listening to Robyn a lot and I wanted to see if I could write something really catchy. I don't know if it worked yet, is it catchy?

Seventh Song

This is the second song that references religion. It was written in the wee small hours at a time (of life and of day) that religious people might turn to prayer. I wanted to make a song that had the pensive and reflective quality of a prayer. It has a dual synthesiser/guitar solo. Wow.

Choose Your Words Carefully

Two people I love were fighting and one shouted in anger... “Choose your words carefully!”. I thought it was hilarious and I decided it would make a great title for a song like this. The intro is really different and came when I was playing around with plucked cello samples and a delay pedal. I had been listening to a lot of Aphex Twin and Colleen. The loud part is my first ever use of bar chords in a song. I love them now.

New Maps

My uncle John showed me how to make the best paper aeroplanes in the world EVER. They had wings, a cockpit and a tail, everything. You could make them out of one sheet of A4 paper. He died a while ago and it really affected me and my family. He was the kindest, most gentle person I have ever met. I don't remember how to make the planes any more and it makes me sad. The lyrics also reference another of my songs called Evelyn. That song is about my mother's sister who died at birth. There are loads of things going on in this song. It's quite personal to me and the most difficult to write about. There are a lot of family secrets swirling around in my words.

Only Colour

I wrote the bulk of this song when I was about eighteen or nineteen. It sat unfinished for about a decade then I came back to it and wrote the “under my roof...” section and rearranged the whole thing. It's about the realisation that we're all just energy condensed, but paradoxically we're very solid, and all the stuff that is going on around us – in this case in Scotland – is real, hard, and can knock hell out of you if you're not careful. I love the production on this, Andy Miller did an amazing job. Note the second broch reference. I'm fascinated by how the Scottish landscape has been used for millennia by countless different cultures. I read somewhere that people don't really know if brochs were military installations or religious sites.

First Light

I read a short story by Annie Dillard that really beautifully put across this idea that when we grow up, the child that we were dies. Our personality dies gradually and is replaced completely by our adult one. I don't know or care if this is true or not, the story was amazing and beautifully written. In the song I say that I knew I would die when I grew up. I also reference my hometown and my early adventures playing on railway lines. The song has one of my best lines, “Here's your colour temperature kids!”. James Woodside played some great mandolin on this one. Audio engineering fact: Every floor tom hit on this song has an exhaled breath triggered on top.

A Perfect Landing

On my 22nd birthday I went to a pub in Motherwell with Chris Connick from De Rosa and my pal Allan Carroll. I drank about ten pints of lager and had a shot with every one. Leaving the pub I ran like a bullet into the metal shutter of a Chinese restaurant, badly damaging myself in the collision. Chris carried me home. I woke up with my whole family looking at me in disgust and my leg swollen like a football. I was in crutches for weeks. In the lyrics I suggest that the devil was talking to me, making me do these stupid things, I subconsciously stole the idea of taking the devil's advice from Malcolm Middleton's 'Devil and the Angel' and the television programme Jeremy Kyle.

There's a Phantom Hiding in My Loft

I was teaching in a small village in Lanarkshire when I wrote this song. I overheard an 11-year-old boy talking to his friend when he said “My pal's got a phantom hiding in his loft.” I kid you not. There was a real feeling of darkness about the countryside around there. Like it never really got completely lit by the sun. The personality in the song is based on someone real. I still worry about them.

Martin John Henry - The Other Half of Everything by gargleblastrecords

The Other Half of Everything is officially released on the 10th of October on Gargleblast Records, you can pre-order your copy now via Martin's Bandcamp page. While you're at it you can also pick yourself up a copy of his hand made limited edition single, 'Ribbon on a Bough b​/​w The Other Half of Everything'.

Martin celebrates the release of his debut solo album with a headline show at Stereo in Glasgow on Saturday the 8th of October. Support on the evening comes from two of my favourite artists, The Seventeenth Century and Adam Stafford. The gig is is part of a series of 'Live in Stereo' gigs from Threads of Sound, which are being recorded with tracks from each band being released on iTunes. Tickets for the gig are available in advance from Monorail Records in Glasgow.


  1. lovely article Peenko

    many thanks as ever

  2. Hello thanks for yet another nice and interesting post. Where do you get your inspiration for all this ?

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