Under the guise of Broken Chanter, David MacGregor of Kid Canaveral releases his first solo album tomorrow (Thursday 6th September) on a joint release from Olive Grove/Last Night from Glasgow.
With the Canaverals on hiatus (albeit they seem to break curfew every now and again!), David is focussing all his energies on Broken Chanter for now and he commences a tour in support of the album this weekend with an album launch on Friday at the CCA in Glasgow, followed by a Dundee debut for the full band Chanter on Saturday at Beat Generator Live.
Speaking to MPT, David cast some doubt on when or even if the Canaverals will return.
“I am extremely pleased with how the album has turned out. Which is a relief, because I don’t know if Kid Canaveral will make another record – it’s not only up to me, is it?
“There’s no implication of drama there, by the way. The album and touring cycle is an unforgiving thing and inevitably the priorities and desires in folk’s lives shift. The Canaverals have been really supportive. With that uncertainty, I had to put everything into Broken Chanter for the foreseeable.”
The album is certainly worth the effort. It shares identifiable DNA with Kid Canaveral’s recorded output, yet probably marks the biggest jump that David has made between records.
There’s undeniably an element of folk in the tunes, whether it be on current single ‘Should We Be Dancing?’ a slower song like ‘Don’t Move To Denmark’ or on the atmospheric ‘Mionagadanan’ sung entirely in Gaelic by guest vocalist Kim Carnie.
But equally, there’s an electronic undertow to a number of the tunes whilst David’s knack for a great pop melody remains intact on the likes of debut single ‘Wholesale’ or the up-tempo ‘Cheering In The Distance’.
Yet the best is saved for the back end of the record – the brilliant ‘Beside Ourselves’ with a soaring guest vocal from Emma Kupa on the choruses whilst ‘Free Psalm’ co-written with Gav Prentice is a wonderful reflective piece to close the album.
To record his first solo record, David took a different approach to his songwriting.
“Rather than doing a lot of writing at home, I managed to combat procrastination by first secluding myself mid-winter in a closed-for-the-off-season gift shop in Ardnamurchan then in my sister-in-law’s cottage on Skye, whilst everyone else battled through sleet lashing them, melting then freezing the snow underfoot, on their way to the fairy pools. I made the tea, don’t worry.
“I recorded as many ideas as I could empty out of my head and then sifted out the too-deranged and the uninspired.”
Working again with long term collaborator, engineer/producer Gal, the new approach to the songwriting was continued in the studio both in terms of location and working method.
“We packed his studio into the back of a large transit van, picked up Audrey [Tait, drums] and headed for a house on one of the small peninsulas that point their way in to the Atlantic from County Donegal.”
David’s certain that, with the assistance of Gal, he’s managed to create a distance between the album and the recognisable Kid Canaveral sound.
“That first fortnight out in Ireland was the most productive and enjoyable recording experience I’ve had.
“I asked Gal to stop me if anything sounded like Kid Canaveral. It would, after all, be strange if I went and made a record that sounded like that without the rest of the band.
“Otherwise there were no expectations on what it should sound like. I had the ability to approach things differently and the risk of exploring new ways of writing and recording was significantly reduced with the support of Creative Scotland.”
The initial recording sessions were inspired by the location.
“We’d set up so that the ‘live’ room was the one with a huge bay window looking out onto where Drongawn Lough meets the North Atlantic. Audrey and I had the most spectacular views while we were recording.
“Gal had set up a control room in the dining room where he was splitting engineering duties with bass guitar.
“We’d spend the morning of each day tracking one of the songs from demos with me calling out chord and section changes as we went. Gal would halt me if I’d gone off down a dirgey-rabbit hole or encourage me to go further if I was onto ‘weird-but-good’.
“In the middle of the day we’d go for a walk to one of the four beaches that were a stone’s throw away [one night, in the pub a few miles away, the locals couldn’t agree on which murder the beach called Murder Hole was named after].”
Even these walks ended up generating material for the album.
“I made some in situ recordings on those walks. You can hear me misjudge the tide and soak up the ocean on the start of ‘Should We Be Dancing?’.
Daily constitutionals duly taken the trio settled back down to work with two further sessions.
“We’d revisit the tracks in the afternoon and start to flesh them out. After dinner we’d come back to them again and knock them into an ‘almost there’ shape – perhaps through the lens of the bottom of a glass of whisky. Some nights, when we were chasing a particularly productive idea, we’d work into the small hours. The location allowed this without disturbing anyone.”
The record was completed back home with the assistance of an expanded cast.
“We finished the record at Glenwood Studio in Glasgow with contributions from Kim Carnie, Emma Kupa, Gav Prentice, Jill O’Sullivan, and Hannah Shepherd. They’re a smashing bunch.”
Unusually for David’s songs, none of the Broken Chanter material was played live before recording. However, he doesn’t reckon that there were significant the challenges to bringing the songs life with a full band
“Luckily, fairly few. Given that the live band contains some of the very fine musicians who played on parts of the record, it’s been relatively stress-free to arrange.”
You can judge for yourself when Broken Chanter play Beat Generator Live on Saturday 7th September with support from ULTRAS. Advance tickets are available from Groucho’s and online from either Tickets Scotland or We Got Tickets.
‘Broken Chanter’ the album is available now from Olive Grove/Last Night From Glasgow or at any of the upcoming shows [full list]