I took the same old route of being totally infatuated with music, punk rock really, and the whole DIY sort of thing. My sister took me to see the Clash and the Damned in ’79, so I was about fifteen when I started. I was just totally excited by it. I went to guitar lessons and all that.Instruments
Pretty much anything that’s a band instrument. Guitar, drums, bad keyboard. A bit of bad singing. On the CD from my current project in Japan, I play everything on it. For years, I enjoyed being in bands and that whole band dynamic thing, but eventually, I just got really sick of it. Probably because this thing with the Soup Dragons was eventually all mangers and money.Bands
I was in the Soup Dragons for about five years from the start, about ’85 ,and finally left in 1990, about two months before they went on Top of The Pops . But actually, I was really glad to leave. What was brilliant about it at first was the sort of dynamism of ‘anything can happen’. You just do it and bang, it’s absolutely more than the sum of its parts. Other rock ’n’ roll moments? I couldn’t say in case my wife reads this. Current sounds
I bought that Bright Eyes album by Connor Oberst. He’s a sort of quite hip American guy. I like Arab Strap a lot—they are one of my favourite bands. I loved their last couple of albums and there’s a live one called The Cunted Circus which is totally brilliant. I saw them a few years ago at this St Andrews Hall place, and the music was really stripped down, quite acoustically with just the cello. I’m a sort of Scottish music casualty really. I love Teenage Fanclub, Arab Strap, Mogwai and I’ve been listening to a lot of Edwyn Collins. Music-making
I have something on at the moment in this crazy project in Japan, Aichi Expo . The UK pavilion invited some artists to make sculpture things in the garden. So I did one of those, and it’s got this song with it. I just sing with this Japanese girl. My daughter’s on it as well. Record covers
When I was in the Soup Dragons I did a few of theirs, which I really liked a lot. I was around just at the end of records—I know there are DJs and vinyl freaks now. I loved that idea of the record – getting it home and looking at it— that was my whole youth. I mean, that is what I try to do with everything now, books and everything. I’m interested in the feel of the paper. I love all the info and the wee bits and the run-off groove, all that stuff—this wee, kind of artwork that you hold in your hand, and then there’s the fucking music as well! I buy a lot of freaky second-hand records, sort of genre things. I love Scottish second-hand things, you know those sort of super-laminated, ‘some guy standing alone on the hillside’, and Kenneth McKellar and all that sort of stuff. But I love these second-hand records you buy at charity shops. I love the idea that it’s got somebody’s name written on it like copper-plate writing. The record might be from the early 60s or something. I’ve got quite a collection of Scottish ones. I suppose one day they might appear as something. Art versus musicI really love the music thing, because I can let myself be completely intuitive and just let it go. Quite often I find, if I’m doing a project somewhere, I work my way into it by doing a couple of tunes on the guitar, working my way into the art stuff through the music. With the art stuff, I never really indulge myself or let myself be totally intuitive, because it seems so, like painterly, the magic is shooting out of the fingertips—I just think that’s bullshit. With music, you can’t really do it any other way.Art collaboration versus musical collaboration
My experience of the art collaboration thing is that it’s always a bit hard going and tough, but can be good. The music thing, you know, four people in a room, it’s just utterly magic. Someone comes in with a riff, someone’s got a song and you just start playing. Yeah, there’s nothing to beat it. Although I do music on my own now, and quite like that as well.Musical heroesPunk rock really rocked my boat, but now, now I just desperately try to find something listenable. I admire Arab Strap—they do their own thing and don’t really seem to care too much about their career. And Teenage Fanclub are totally different and so mellow—I like that polarity of Teenage Fanclub and Arab Strap—it’s like Scottish pessimism and optimism.
Ross Sinclair was interviewed by Cedar Lewisohn