We were lucky enough to catch up with the excellent musician Ali Thoburn, following the release of his stunning album, ‘Baggage Handling’. Check out our interview below!
Hi Ali, Tell us about yourself?
I’m a guitarist and singer originally from Liverpool, but I’ve lived in London for the last 20 years. I’ve got long hair, I love cats, and I’ve read The Plague by Camus about 50 times.
What is your songwriting process?
Sitting around with a guitar until something interesting comes out. Often songs come out fully formed with almost all of the lyrics in place – ‘Flowers’ and ‘Nothing’s Wrong’ were both written within the space of about 30 mins one evening in Dublin. Others take more moving around and structure, but I try to stay as close to the original feel of the first time I played it as I can. As a result, my phone is full of audio recordings of rough song ideas. I don’t start recording until the song is in its final arrangement as I don’t use computers and, as much as possible, I prefer to track original guitar tracks to tape.
Tell us about your latest release?
‘Baggage Handling’ had its genesis in Dublin where I was living a few years back. I had taken an analog studio over there and was recording an album of Robert Johnson songs in a loft. During that process, songs started presenting themselves, and I started recording the album at the same time. I finished it in my loft in London. It’s all me on the recordings apart from the drums which are played by best mate Dave Morris, the harmonicas are by Ben Henry Edwards (who’s a f*cking genius), and the piano on ‘Saccharine’ is by my son, Ollie.
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
Well, I don’t know what it conveys to the fans(?), but I think I’m trying to work out some of the issues that we all come across. That sense of confusion and doubt that we’re all prone to. I hope there’s a feeling of hope and solidarity that comes across. And that it’s possible to write a song about funerals (Flowers) using only major chords!
Who are your musical influences?
I grew up listening to Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Dinosaur Jr, Robert Johnson, The Who, Elmore James, Peter Green and then, in recent years, I’ve really loved Nick Drake, Sigur Ros, and Big Bill Broonzy.
Who are your non-musical influences?
Albert Camus, Philip Larkin, Monty Python. The song ‘So It Goes’ references Kurt Vonnegut. Pretentious or what.
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
Every gig that I ever played with my old band at The Hope and Anchor was f*cking joyous. Love that venue – sweaty and marvellous.
What is your funniest gig moment?
Stage diving into a parting crowd at ‘The Picket’ in Liverpool, aged 16. It hurt a lot.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands today?
Where to start? I think the lack of venues is a big problem and far too often, promoters are focused on bullying bands into bringing their mates rather than creating/curating a scene. I think the almost exclusive use of social media to make a way through the industry is a very mixed blessing. A&R departments in labels appeared to have disappeared or have become so used to seeing how big a band is in the social media realm that they have stopped looking for bands based on their quality. There appear to be very few routes to getting your music out there other than playing that game and, to be honest, the game is only producing quantity, not quality. The web is supposed to level the playing field, but actually, it’s full of a very small number of insiders throwing their weight around.
What advice would you give to a band just starting out?
What advice? I think there’s far too much advice thrown at bands/artists today. Far too many people are trying to make bands feel that they’re doing it all wrong. Do it for the love of it. If you don’t love it, don’t do it. Creativity is a compulsion, not a pastime.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
That we all get through this weird time ok and learn the really apparent lessons. I’d hope the album gets widely heard and that I can gig loads to support it.
Make sure you check out ‘Baggage Handling’ from the link below, and you can read our review of the superb release here.
FVMusicBlog April 2020
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