Jan Burnett performing with Spare Snare
The Grand Gestures LP (officially released today) has been one of the unexpected surprises of the year to date. In case you’ve missed out on this so far, it’s a record that’s essentially been curated by Jan Burnett of Spare Snare. Bringing together a diverse range of voices from across Scottish culture, Jan has backed his collaborators’ voices and lyrics with an atmospheric set of electronic tunes. The record’s really quite special.
On his way to rehearsals for the Grand Gestures live debut on Friday at King Tut’s, Jan sat down and dug out his laptop to answer some questions from MPT. Here’s what he did on the train …
MPT – What inspired you to do a record like this?
JB – I’ve always been a fan of electronic music, probably starting first with OMD, then moving backwards to Kraftwerk and forwards to Pet Shop Boys. I was keen to do something with warmth, electronics and loops.
MPT – How did you pick your collaborators for the record?
JB – I was keen to use interesting voices and people I respect with interesting thoughts. I knew everyone in some form beforehand, apart from Jill who was recommended. I approached her, she did her homework, and realised I wasn’t a stalker. Yet.
MPT – What role did your collaborators have in the song-writing process? Did it differ from person to person?
JB – I gave them free reign to do what they wanted, though I did give a brief, saying ‘go as dark as you like’. I don’t think everyone read the brief, but the music put their mind set in that place anyhow. They did the lyrics, melody and vocal on top of my music.
MPT – What were the challenges musically for you in making this record?
JB – Learning depth, warmth and atmosphere without actually knowing you’re doing it was quite interesting for me.
MPT – What influenced your writing for the record?
JB – I put together a CD of some tracks, not always favourites, to give me a template for a feeling. Some obvious, some less so… Gavin Bryars, Portishead, Thomas Dolby, Gorillaz to name a few.
MPT – How much does the LP match up to what you expected it to be before you’d written or recorded a note?
JB – It is weird making a record, I had a vague plan, but these things take a life of their own, and sometimes it goes somewhere you can’t imagine. Hearing the vocals when recording, for me was my favourite part as I deliberately didn’t listen to much of the things the collaborators sent beforehand. I knew they’d be good, I had faith, and virtually all the vocals you hear are within the first three takes.
MPT – You’ve got the album launch at King Tut’s next week – what made you decide to make it a one-off?
JB – Getting everyone together and available at the same time is a wee bit of a nightmare, so committing to one date seemed sensible. It’s not to say there won’t be an opportunity to play a version of the line up for the odd show, but I’d be surprised if we could do a 100% full line up again.
MPT – What are the prospects for a second Grand Gestures record?
JB – Good. I’ve already spoken to other contributors, but it may be some time.
MPT- Why pick the name the Grand Gestures?
JB – I originally had a name, The Fiesta Three which is a Dora the Explorer reference, but as I was recording, it turned in to something less disposable, hence The Grand Gestures.
MPT – Which Scottish acts excite you at present?
JB – This is where I put my size twelves in it. Ask the wife.
MPT – Finally what’s the progress on the next Spare Snare record?
JB – Well, it’s recorded, mastered and ready to go. Maybe this year, maybe Christmas? It’s heavy(ish) and political, not like us at all.