Interview with Malcolm Middleton - Bristol

Interview and article by Aline Giordano

Malcolm Middleton at the Jericho Tavern Two years ago I bought tickets to see Robin Proper-Sheppard do an opening acoustic set for Malcolm Middleton at the Bristol Thekla Club. I had heard the name of Malcolm Middleton many times before and thought it would be more than timely to listen to his music before seeing him live. So I bought Into The Woods and the then just released A Brighter Beat. I loved them both! A few days before the gig, it was announced that Robin was stuck in Germany with some visa problems and would not make the Bristol gig.

Back to Malcolm Middleton. But before I carry on I must apologize for taking over two years to write this (short) interview. I can call upon many excuses: my pathetic depression, the end of my relationship, my new relationship, work, laziness and anything in between. It is rather strange to have neglected this interview as I do love Malcolm’s records and I would never miss a gig. I saw him at Oxford’s Jericho Tavern last year, where he performed Red Travellin’ Socks and Shadows from Waxing Gibbous. I bought the Live at the Bush Hall and Sleight of Heart and a few days ago the brilliant Waxing Gibbous. I suddenly thought that maybe it was high time I dug out that interview… So before I (hopefully) talk to Malcolm again – this time about his new album - I leave you with a few words that were collected in the spring of 2007, about A Brighter Beat and Into The Woods.

Malcolm: “The first album [5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine] was laid back, bare and acoustic. Into the Woods was for me about having fun, making a record that wasn’t like the first one, that wasn’t the same as an Arab Strap record, and good natured even though it has depressive lyrics. Musically I wanted to do something more exciting and A Brighter Beat is a step-on from that, a more polished record and not doing half of it in my house, low-fi. It’s the first time I’m using a producer. Tony Doogan; he produces Mogwai.”

This is just the start of the tour. Do you know what to expect from your audience?

Malcolm: "I have no idea. The record is doing ok. It is a new phase. To me the most important part is making the record. To me the record is the defining moment of the songs, not the live versions. I’m too much of a perfectionist, right now I’m thinking this does not sound as good as on the record. Obviously I’ve got great people in the band who are great players and they will add something different live. The drummer, Scott, is on the new record and Jenny, she sings on the new record as well. There are two people from the album."

On Somebody Loves You, there seems to be more work put on the singing performance. I remember an interview where you’re saying that you had no formal training for your voice. I think you’re trying to sing differently on this song, is that something you wanted to do or did it just happen?

Malcolm: "It kind of happened. I really don’t have a strong voice for singing. I can’t control it as much as I would like but I’m getting better and that song is probably the one song I’ve written that I can’t play properly and it pisses me off because every time I play it live I stop half way through it. It doesn’t sound to me as good as the recorded version. It’s probably the first time I tried to use harmonies as well."

I find A Brighter Beat more uplifting….

Malcolm: "A Brighter Beat has more hope. I was just sick of writing songs about misery or depression. I wanted to give it some form of a meaning and turn dark into something more positive. If I’d done another record just the same I would have become a caricature of myself. A Brighter Beat was the last song I wrote for the album and I thought I should really try harder to involve other people and not just sing a song about myself."

What would be the next step?

Malcolm: "I’m not sure. I don’t write so much about relationships and stuff and I don’t tend to write when I’m happy. I’m not sure. I think I’ll probably do what I always do, maybe bigger life questions without sounding too philosophical. Just stuff I generally think about. And maybe I’ll write about happy situations in a way that I can handle that doesn’t sound stupid or too lame. I’ve no idea. I’ve not planned it. See what happens…”

For more details, visit… Malcolm Middleton' website

Photograph © Aline Giordano 2008