Crazy Tonsilitis – The Pictish Trail interview

pictish_250113_633Although it’s been over 3 years since Johnny Lynch a.k.a. the Pictish Trail released his second album ‘Secret Soundz Vol. 2’, he’s been a busy man in the interim with plenty of live dates on his own and with various other musicians, whilst running Lost Map Records and even managing Tuff Love.

As he prepares to head out on tour both as support to Malcolm Middleton and as part of Malc’s live band, MPT caught up with current affairs on the Pictish Trail.

“I did an acoustic tour at the start of the year with Withered Hand and James Yorkston, which was a great laugh.

“James started a game where we had to lock each other in the dressing room toilets!”

Johnny has also been in the studio and it has been seen him take a new approach to making music.

“I’ve spent the past 18 months traveling back and forward from Eigg to London, recording a new album, which I’m going to be releasing later in the year.

“On paper, 2015 looked like my ‘year off’, cos I wasn’t touring so much … but I was constantly working on the songs, and trying to piece together the album, and it’s really the first time I’ve approached my own music in this way.

“It’s the first Pictish Trail album I’ve done which has been fully produced by other people – it’s not home recorded.  So it’s a lot more confident sounding than my previous output.

“I’m currently rehearsing a band to tour it – and it’s been fun trying out the new arrangements.  There’s songs where I’m just singing, not playing guitar or any other instrument.  I’m tempted to bust out some dance moves.”

20151219_pictish_sAs he did back in 2009 Johnny will not just be supporting Malcolm Middleton on the upcoming tour in support of his new album ‘Summer of ‘13’ but he’ll also be playing in Malcolm’s backing band after filling the same roll back in 2009 (a performance captured on Malcolm’s ‘Live In Zurich’ set). Johnny’s looking forward to the tour.

“I’m a huge fan of his music – both solo and with Arab Strap – and I invited him to play at some of the festivals I put on in Fife.

“He’s always been a really approachable guy.  We’ve worked on quite a few projects together, over the years and I sang on his album ‘Waxing Gibbous’.”

Johnny has fond, and painful, memories of touring with the Malcolm Middleton band.

“I had supported Malc on a UK tour earlier that year, I think – and he asked if I’d be up for joining him on the road for the European dates.

“It’s always expensive touring with a band, so it can make more sense if you involve the support act you are touring with in your own band.  This is something I’ve done a lot, as part of the Fence Collective thing – and it’s something I continue to do with Lost Map, I guess.

“That whole tour was great fun, and very, very drunken.  I had crazy tonsillitis on that tour, so it was really hard to sing some nights.  I remember in Berlin, my tonsils were so swollen, I physically couldn’t sing during my opening slot – so I did a 30 minute improvised electronic set.

“The weirdest thing about that was I sold more merch on that night than any other – ha!

“After my slot, I went backstage to prepare for Malcolm’s set … and my tonsils literally exploded.  All this fluid and blood spilled out of my mouth.  It was crazy.  But a huge relief.  It meant I could sing again!”

Rather than lobbying for any particular songs from Malcolm’s back catalogue to be included in the set, Johnny may try and take the opposite tack to make sure that one doesn’t get played!

“Malc’s the boss. But I just hope he doesn’t do the one where I rap the Fresh Prince in the middle.”

As well as continuing to make his own music and play with others, Johnny has been heavily involved in the progress that Tuff Love have made since joining Lost Map a couple of years ago.

“It’s been an amazing journey.  They are the best band in Scotland, right now – great songs, great sound.  There’s not really anyone else close.

“Their ability to write and record consistently catchy songs, astounds me.  They’re like ABBA crossed with Nirvana, but cooler.

“I’ve loved working with them, mostly because when I play their music to other people, the reaction is instant.  The music speaks for itself.  That ‘Resort’ compilation we’ve put out, that’s going to be seen as a classic.  Every song on it is incredible.  I’m so proud to have been involved.

“Managers, in general, can be quite odd … I never understand why so many of them aren’t musicians themselves.  I think having the perspective of being a musician in my own right has definitely informed my approach as a manager.

“Saying that, I don’t think I’m particularly good at it.  Still, I feel like I’ve had valuable input on Tuff Love’s career as a band, given them confidence, and made some decent suggestions as to how to release their music.

“I love them, dearly, as people.”

As for Lost Map itself, the label is gearing up for its biennial festival in Johnny’s back yard.

“We’ve got our Howlin’ Fling! Festival happening on Eigg in July, some other events, and a bunch of releases coming out on the label, too.

“I’m also currently trying to think of some new ideas on how to put music out there.”

Ahead of the upcoming dates on the Middleton tour the first new material from the upcoming Pictish Trail album, the single ‘FAR GONE (Don’t Leave)’, was released last week and you can listen to it here:

The upcoming UK Tour features 4 Scottish dates between 25th and 28th May and includes an appearance at Beat Generator Live in Dundee on Thursday 26th. More info here – tickets available online or in person from Groucho’s.


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