Category Archives: Martin John Henry
One of the early treats of 2015 has been ‘On The Forest Floor’ the debut E.P. from Henry and Fleetwood a duo comprising Martin Henry from De Rosa and Gillian Fleetwood from the State Broadcasters.
The E.P. is the first substantial work Martin’s been involved with since his solo LP in 2011 and interestingly, it’s perhaps closer in tone to his previous work than the live performance we saw at Randolph’s Leap’s ICDTTM3 the other week. With just the two of them Martin and Gill’s played with a stately air of grace which perhaps owes more to Gill’s other band the State Broadcasters than to De Rosa.
On record however the extra instrumentation lends an extra scope to the songs whilst still recalling the quieter parts of Martin’s back catalogue. Overall though there’s a real sense of serenity in the songwriting.
There’s a strong connection in the songs to nature, explicit in the song titles with even the instrumental called ‘Timber’. Musically, second track ‘Forestry’ may be the key to the E.P. – the early part of the song is hushed but, with layered parts added throughout, it builds to a climax.
After their performance at ICDTTM3, I spoke to Martin and Gill about the forthcoming record and their plans for the near future.
First off we talked about how the collaboration had come about. Although they’d both moved in similar Glasgow music circles for a number of years, it took a Danish pianist (and a Scottish sound engineer) to introduce them as Gill explains:
“We’ve got quite a lot of mutual acquaintances but we didn’t know each other at all until we were touring with Agnes Obel.
“Andy Bush, who’s also in De Rosa, was her touring sound guy which was how I’d ended up touring with Agnes – through Andy.
“When we came to tour in the UK, we were thinking it was all going to be a bit of a slog. In general in Europe you’re much better looked after, the venues are beautiful, the staff are really nice but touring’s harder in the UK. So she was kind of dreading it.
“Andy suggested Martin and he came on board which was just brilliant because he’s got such a great way about him and just turned it into a much better thing than it would have been without him.
“He took the reigns as tour DJ and just repetitively nailed it. On tour you get these difficult dull moments or when you’ve played a good show and he would just have the right song. This guy just knows his music and it was absolutely brilliant.”
Martin also has positive memories of the tours in the U.K. and on mainland Europe with Agnes.
“It was a really nice experience getting to sleep between gigs rather than driving hundreds of miles. Gill was there and we bonded over music tastes, tastes in alcohol and stuff. It was good.
“We really just made friends and talked about working together.”
For a while, with Martin based in Sunderland and Gill busy with other projects, the opportunity to play music in the same room didn’t present itself. But Martin says that the willingness to collaborate wasn’t dimmed.
“We kept in touch and we realised that there was a possibility there that we could both explore areas that we hadn’t had a chance to in our bands.”
“We both had quite a lot of other plates spinning. I do quite a lot of traditional Scottish folk music and I write as well in a string group, more chamber music.
“So time is tricky but we’re both really dedicated to it now and this year we’re both putting it at the front of what we’re doing.”
With a working relationship established an unusual opportunity presented itself as Martin recalls.
“There’s an estate up in the Morvern peninsula called Drimnin Estate. The people that own the estate had some lottery funding to develop an old chapel on the grounds that they would get various musicians and artists in to use the space.
“Up until that point, when we won the commission, they’d only had classical musicians so we were the first different act that they’d had.
“Basically you get the use of the church for the week to create and to play and rehearse then on the Friday night the whole community comes to watch what you’ve done and it was great. There were people of all ages and it was a lovely atmosphere.”
With this experience behind them, they both have definite ideas on how they’ve benefited from each other’s perspective.
Martin: “For me it was getting to look at traditional music and connecting with Scottish music a bit more.
“With Gill, as someone who’s been immersed in tradition and trad folk, she was maybe looking to push the boundaries a wee bit and how she could use her background and the harp a bit differently.”
Gill: “We’re both really into environment and how that shapes what we do. While we’re from really different backgrounds there is a lot of crossover so I think that finding those areas of common ground has become really interesting for us both because you think you kind of know stuff then you realise that you don’t! You meet someone who appears to be really different to you but in fact is coming at it from a different angle which is really inspiring and really refreshing as well.”
Martin also feels that working with Gill rather than the all male members of De Rosa has impacted on his writing.
“It’s a wee bit more optimistic but it’s maybe more romantic as well. I don’t know if it’s working with the male/female thing and I can be more relaxed and softer in my lyrics.”
Place has always been a vital component of Martin’s songwriting as reflected on the two De Rosa albums to date but, for ‘On The Forest Floor’, Martin reckons that his input takes inspiration from a different type of place.
“I think it’s more of an imagined place. It’s nothing new, but the yearning for wilderness and maybe the state of mind that you find in places that are rural and less populated. They’re probably the experiences that most connect you with the real world when you’re in places like that with close friends and loved ones.
“But it’s also about the imaginative potential and the poetic potential of those places.”
In terms of the new E.P. the material was well under way before the Drimnin adventure as Martin recounts.
“Gill and I had done a wee bit in Gargleblast studio in Hamilton and a wee bit at home. So the E.P. was kind of half developed at that point and we wrote a lot of new material there which is starting to be developed. The E.P. was finished after that.”
Gill is very proud of the record but feels that it’s just a starting point for Henry & Fleetwood.
“It’s good to get it out as it’s been finished for ages, as is so often the case with these things but I like it very much. I hadn’t listened to it for ages until it came back in print and I stuck it on and thought ‘this is cool’.
“It’s an interesting little nugget because originally those four songs were going to be the first four songs of the album. But the new stuff you heard tonight is quite different and is evolving. So it made sense to do this as a little nugget and the album will have a different feel.”
Although there’s an instrumental on the E.P., the fact that they played three instrumentals at the CCA doesn’t mean that H&F are going to be an alt folk take on Godspeed as Martin explains:
“Most of the stuff comes out of instrumentals, out of jams, messing about with loops and improvising. The vocals are written later so some of the stuff you’ve heard tonight might end up having vocals. We’re presenting stuff that’s really a work in progress at the moment as well.”
‘On The Forest Floor’ is coming out on Olive Grove Records and both are delighted about that if initially they didn’t think that it was likely, as Gill remembers.
“I’ve known Lloyd (Meredith) since the State Broadcasters album. At first I was like “I’m a music industry cynic, what does he want from us? Surely he can’t work for nothing!” But he really is that nice, he’s a total champ! He’s been super, super good to us.
“I sent him the E.P. because I knew that he’d like to hear it. But I also knew that he’s got so many things on his plate I didn’t expect him to come back and say that he’d like to work with us. So when he did, I kind of fell off my chair! But that’s how he works, if he’s into it, he’s into it.”
Martin was equally pleased to work with Olive Grove.
“Gill’s band had worked with them and I know Lloyd well. I’m always really impressed with the effort that he puts in for his acts. I was just really happy that he wanted to work with us and I knew that he would do a great job with the E.P.”
With a record to promote, Martin and Gill have a series of live dates in the next couple of months, starting with a Glasgow launch for the E.P. which Martin is looking forward to.
“The launch is at the Glad Café is on Saturday the 11th. It’ll be pretty much the same set-up as tonight with just the two of us with maybe a couple of new things thrown in.”
The launch is the start of a run of dates as Gill describes.
“On the Sunday afternoon (12th) we’re doing a free little gig in the Braw Wee Emporium in the Barras Art and Design Centre at the back of the Barrowlands, which is my friend’s shop. Jennifer McGlone runs Glow Arts who do lots of really fantastic community arts projects. She also stocks an amazing selection of CDs.
“In May we’re playing at Brew at the Bog up in Inverness which is my hometown so I’m very excited about that. I’m doing that with the State Broadcasters as well so that’s going to be a fun weekend.
“Then we’re doing a fund raiser for Scottish Women’s Aid, I think, in May (at Summerhall in Edinburgh). That’s going to be really fun, we’ve to learn a cover of a song by a girl band. I don’t know what we’re going to do but I’m championing maybe ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’. So we’ve got a few irons in the fire just now. “
Martin explains that the run of dates is likely to be the last time that Henry & Fleetwood will be in the public eye for a while although, tantalisingly, he raises the prospect of playing live with others.
“After this burst of live stuff up until May, we’ll be concentrating on recording for a few months. We’re going to book some studio time quite soon to get the album done properly.
“But during that time when I’m recording with Gill I’ll hopefully be getting out with De Rosa and playing with those guys.”
It turns out that the aforementioned Braw Wee Emporium is more than just a shop for Henry & Fleetwood as Gill explains.
“We spend one night a week in the shop writing and we sit there and rehearse. It’s a great space because it’s really quiet. We’re trying to write this really quiet music and it’s good for us to break out of the normal rehearsal room things.
“I think it’s just nice to be in a different environment from the standard rock set-up where there’s other guys shouting and there’s macho stuff going on.”
‘On The Forest Floor’ is released on Monday 13th April by Olive Grove Records. You can pre-order the E.P. here or purchase it at one of the following live appearances:
Saturday 11th April – The Glad Café, Glasgow (E.P. launch) with support from Mayor Stubbs and Randolph’s Leap (solo) [More info]
Sunday 12th – The Braw Wee Emporium, Glasgow [More info]
Saturday 2nd/3rd May (day to be confirmed) – Brew at the Bog, Bogbain Farm, Inverness [more info]
Saturday 9th May – Summerhall, Edinburgh – Teen Canteen presents ‘The Girl Effect’ for Scottish Women’s Aid [more info]
Here’s the duo’s live performance of the E.P.’s title track on STV Glasgow’s ‘The Riverside Show’ the other night:
Randolph’s Leap’s I Can’t Dance To This Music 3 – CCA, Glasgow – Saturday 21st March 2015
Yesterday saw the biggest ICDTTM event to date with the 250 capacity event a total sell-out thereby more than doubling the turnout for November’s show at the Glad Cafe.
The afternoon session was kicked off by the first ever solo performance by Kate Canaveral. Principally based around her own songs for the band the highlights were undoubtedly a new song and a really terrific take on ‘Skeletons’ which recast the electro pop tune as an acoustic lament. But there was also a lovely take of David’s ‘Low Winter Sun’.
Next up came my first encounter with Prehistoric Friends. I quite enjoyed them but to be honest a couple of unflattering comparisons were also suggested during their set. Bands with piano to the fore sometimes do that for me. Nevertheless I heard enough to give the singles a go.
The informal nature of the event was highlighted when singer Liam demonstrated a decent throwing arm hurling a Tunnocks teacake to the back of the room where, admittedly ,it was rather neatly caught by Kate Canaveral rather than its intended recipient Pictish Trail.
I also enjoyed Viking Moses’s solo set with an electric guitar. Last time I saw an easygoing North American with an electric guitar was last year when Jon of Virgin of the Birds supported Book Group. There was a similar vibe to Viking’s set although he also briefly set aside his guitar for the piano.
eagleowl brought the first half to a tremendous conclusion. With just a five piece band, their set didn’t reach the level of intensity that the shows around the time of the album release did but it was still impressive. I’d never really before made the connection with Galaxie 500 (albeit with approximately 66% less VU),but it seemed a particularly apt comparison for set closer ‘Not Over’.
The second half of the show kicked off with the gentlest act so far in the shape of Henry & Fleetwood. From the titles through to the laid back nature of the songs there was something essentially rural about their music in person and it’s definitely a different direction for Martin. There were a handful of instrumentals too which brought to mind a pastoral Human Don’t Be Angry. I feel like I’ve been a bit negligent in taking so long to catch them but am glad to have sorted that out now. The E.P.’s great too, by the way.
I missed a chunk of Withered Hand’s set (in part to get an interview for the blog and also in part to a desperate need to rehydrate!) but what I saw was as reliable as ever. There’s a real charm to Dan’s solo performances and that was undoubtedly true of his set last night.
As is often the case he concluded with ‘Religious Songs’ which wasn’t quite the communal singalong it can be at, say, the Queen’s Hall. Perhaps it’s really Glasgow that’s really the more reserved city after all!
Henry & Fleetwood
If anyone reading this doesn’t know by now how entertaining Randolph’s Leap are, they’re simply not paying attention.But from Adam’s initial, ahem, sea captain’s outfit (with a beret?!), through Andy’s, um, *energetic* dancing, to Heather’s inability to make eye contact with any of her bandmates without cracking up, this show scored highly for entertainment even by the Leap’s standards.
Adam too was in fine form even if he seemed determined to live dangerously. Doubtless winding up his bandmates is par for the course but to take on the venue’s security staff and, perhaps even more riskily, his girlfriend? A brave lad!
Musically they took a bit of a chance too dropping some of their best songs (‘Light of the Moon’, ‘Weatherman’ and ‘Counting Sheep’ to name but three) in favour of some new songs and some lesser played gems. But it actually didn’t make a lot of difference – they were as great as ever, undoubtedly helped by the fact that this was the best sounding show I’ve heard them play. Well, outside of Dundee, at least.
Somewhat unusually the Leap didn’t bring their own shindig to a conclusion – that honour fell to Tigercats.
Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly given the delays in the second half and the late hour, a big proportion of the crowd had departed before Tigercats finally took to the stage at the time they were supposed to be finishing.
Fair to say that they missed a bit of a treat, although I have to confess that we didn’t stay for the whole of their set either.
But that was nothing to do with the band, just tiredeness. Because what we saw was terrific, slightly edgy pop (with a hyperactive bassist) and I’ll definitely be checking out their new album on Fortuna Pop.
They’re also back in Scotland on 8th April doing a Bad Fun gig for Song, By Toad at Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh.
If that’s the music taken care of, the comedians were a step-up from last time. Paul McDaniels didn’t quite pull it off for me but Andrew Learmonth was just as good as in November – perhaps not that surprisingly since he admitted up front that he was going to deliver largely the same set.
Richard Brown was a new name to me but he maintained the high standard whilst Josie Long, compering the second half of the show, was thoroughly entertaining and completely endearing but at the same time slightly terrifying! But I was surprised that she didn’t know that Peenko is the mayor of Glasgow!
A great day out then even if the running length proved to be at the flagging end of our endurance spectrum. The good news is, if you missed it, on past evidence it won’t be too long before ICDTTM4 comes around. Don’t miss it!
Proper photos from the show here.
The Bad Books – MPT Live Band of the Year
It’s been another great year for live shows. So doing it differently from last year, here’s the top 10 performances (rather than shows) I’ve witnessed in chronological order:
25/2/12 Human Don’t Be Angry, The Arches, Glasgow (review)
15/5/12 The Big Sleep, Nice’n’Sleazy’s, Glasgow (review)
1/6/12 Bob Mould, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London (review)
7/6/12 Lee Ranaldo, Brudenell Social, Leeds (review)
15/6/12 Marin John Henry, Electric Circus, Edinburgh (review)
25/8/12 Kid Canaveral, Electric Circus, Edinburgh (review)
25/8/12 The Bad Books, Electric Circus, Edinburgh (review)
23/11/12 Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat, Twa Tams, Perth (review)
30/11/12 Cancel The Astronauts, Electric Circus, Edinburgh (review)
22/12/12 FOUND, The Caves, Edinburgh (review)
It’s strictly one performance per act otherwise this would be dominated by my live band of the year the Bad Books. Yep, there’s a good reason I’ve been stalking these guys over the last 12 months or so and I would thoroughly recommend that you catch them live as soon as you can in 2013.
It has to be said though that Cancel The Astronauts ran them very close indeed. They seem to be taken for granted a little, perhaps because they’ve been around for quite a while, but they’re also ferociously good.
The surprising thing about that list is that, whilst the Electric Circus in Edinburgh isn’t my favourite venue by a long way, 4 of my top 10 performances in 2012 were witnessed there.
During the year I went to fewer gigs (38) than in 2011 (41) but saw more acts – 118 acts compared to 106. (and neither figure takes account of the SAY Award ceremony).
In 2012 I saw 18 acts perform more than once (2011 – 13, 2010 – 9). The 18 acts were as follows:
The Bad Books, Cancel The Astronauts (7); Martin John Henry (6), Hookers for Jesus (5), Kid Canaveral, Vladimir (4); Human Don’t Be Angry, Meursault, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat (3); Randolph’s Leap, FOUND, RM Hubbert, Behold The Old Bear, TV21, Sam Barber & The Outcasts, Playground Tactics, Edinburgh School for the Deaf, Withered Hand (2).
I saw 7 acts more than once in both years:
Kid Canaveral , Cancel The Astronauts, Edinburgh School for the Deaf, Martin John Henry, FOUND TV21 and Hookers for Jesus.
Geographically I went to shows in Edinburgh (16), Dundee (9), Glasgow (5), Cupar, London, Leeds, Perth, Glenrothes, Newport-on-Tay, St Andrews, Dunfermline (1).
The shows were spread over 29 different venues, 14 of which I visited for the first time.
Best new venue – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds.
Worst new venue – The Flying Duck, Glasgow.
The most visited venue was once again in Dundee but this time Beat Generator Live (5) rather than Dexter’s.
The biggest gap between shows was a massive 58 days (compared to 24 last year) between the last show of 2011 (Vladimir on the 29th of December) and the first of 2012 (HDBA in Glasgow on 25th February.)
1. Paid to see a Trainwreck – The Paranoid Style
Probably more of a sampler for the (hopefully) forthcoming LP rather than an EP in its own right, but the contents of ‘Paid To See A Trainwreck’, modern Americana combined with irresistible melodies, mean that the album is probably THE most anticipated release of 2013 for MPT.
2. Vanishing Tanks/Now We’re Dancing – Adam Stafford/Rick Redbeard split single
The latest in the series of Gerry Loves split singles, LOVES009 gave us not just the official recorded debut of Rick Redbeard sans Phantoms but also one of Adam Stafford’s best tunes. And a bonus track from each artist. Essential.
3. Intervention – Cancel The Astronauts
If there was any justice in the world, ‘Intervention’, CTA’s catchiest, danciest tune, would have been bought in its millions. Far and way the most commercial thing they’ve done, it was a fine taster for the excellent debut LP. And the B-sides aren’t half bad either.
4. Ace – The Big Sleep
A juddering monster of a tune, ‘Ace’ was the first sign that ‘Nature Experiments’ was going to be the Big Sleep’s best record to date. Not least because non-LP B-side ‘Gas Up The Jets’ is a spooky masterpiece too.
5. Something’s Happening Here – Man Without Machines
An impressive debut release, ‘Something’s Happening Here’ by way of its infectious melodies and boundless energy did exactly what the title suggested and highlights another very heavily anticipated debut LP for 2013.
6. The Handstand Crowd / Low Winter Sun – The Pictish Trail / Kid Canaveral
The first release from the second LP, this 2012 live favourite lived up to all the anticipation. And if the return of Kid C was the selling point for me of this split Fence release, then the Pictish Trail song on the flip finally gave me a route into his music too.
7. Heart, Heart – Withered Hand
Unexpectedly raucous ‘Heart, Heart’ represented the first new WH material in a couple of years. But not the last even of the year as the more reflective follow-up EP ‘Inbetweens’ whetted the appetite for that long awaited second LP.
8. Hermit – Randolph’s Leap
Every bit as infectious at their previous pop tunes, ‘Hermit’ was Randloph’s Leap’s first release for Fence. And as madcap as ever. With many of the records being limited acoustic releases, ‘Hermit’ shows what the full band can sound like and I can’t wait for the in-progress LP to be finished and unleashed on the wider world.
9. In Dreams Lie Guilt – Edinburgh School for the Deaf
In which ESFTD brought their recorded material up to what they were playing LAST summer (2011). A concise EP with several highlight, particularly ‘Of Scottish Blood and Sympathies’(a speeded up second cousin of the song of the same name from the debut LP) and ‘… Alex Johnston’ but none more than the remixed version of ‘Love Is Terminal’.
10. Older Motion Pictures – Letters
A fairly late discovery (this came out as far back as May) but an impressive 4 song collection of majestic, epic rock recalling both Hope of the States and Babygod. Another band with a debut LP slated for 2013.
11. TV – The Wonder Villains
Pure, sparky electro pop from Northern Ireland, the Wonder Villains are unashamedly P-O-P. The capital letters seem appropriate to reflect the irresistible nature of the tunes. World domination surely beckons.
12. The Spanner Works – Mitchell Museum
A welcome return to the fray for the Mitchell boys. ‘The Spanner Works’ hinted that the band don’t have to be frantic at every turn, if it wasn’t quite time to ditch the kitchen sink approach. 2013 will hopefully see the 2nd Mitchell Museum LP.
13. Span / Only Colour – Martin John Henry
Would have been higher had it preceded the LP but the only entirely new track was the admittedly brilliant B-side ‘White Flamingo’. Otherwise this monster 7 track EP contained no fewer than 4 remixes of songs from MPT’s LP of 2011.
Behold The Old Bear / Martin John Henry / Tio Malo – The 13th Note, Glasgow – 19th December 2012
Midweek trips to Glasgow on school nights tend to be rare occurrences these days. But the combination of a tasty bill and the frustration at missing 3 potential shows propelled me through to the legendary 13th Note last night for the Gargleblast Christmas party.
Curiously I’d never actually made it to a 13th Note show before but it’s easy to see why it’s endured as one of Glasgow’s favourite small venues.
First up were a band whose name I’ve been struggling to remember correctly all day – Tio Malo. Not just a new band for me but a completely new name too.
I really liked them. Large passages of the set were instrumental although there were no songs that didn’t feature vocals at some point. But the bedrock of the songs was undoubtedly the bass giving the guitars and keyboards a chance to weave all sorts of patterns through the songs. Good stuff.
Martin John Henry
I seem to be getting back into stalking mode with Martin John Henry as last night was the sixth time I’ve seen him perform in his own right this year.
Again just Martin and his acoustic, it was probably the most fun set this year, especially a jaunty ‘Ribbon on a Bough’ and new/old song ‘Arc’. Even ‘Breathing Space’ ended up with an unintended blast of feedback in the loop.
Otherwise it was a set packed with some of my favourites including the too good for a B-side ‘The Other Half of Everything’.
2013 should see Martin completing the new De Rosa LP and hopefully some live shows to coincide. Certainly his bass player is up for it and would have happily joined in last night!
1. Spectres 2. The Other Half of Everything 3. Evelyn 4. Arc 5. Breathing Space 6. Pest 7. Ribbon on a Bough 8. Cathkin Braes 9. Under The Stairs
Behold, The Old Bear
Behold, The Old Bear were great fun too enhancing the basic set with no fewer than three Christmas songs. Including their own tune ‘Christmas Stalking’ which you can get here.
They’re a little less frantic than Mitchell Museum but I’d forgotten just how lively and how loud the songs can get.
The core set already feels familiar from just a couple of live shows and a couple of tunes on ‘Soundcloud’. The notion that the Digital Bear stuff isn’t a patch on the true Old Bear stuff seemed more than plausible last night. The debut LP on Gargleblast (out in the Spring?) is certainly something to look forward to in 2013.
So well worth the trip athrough and nice to catch up with a few folk.
One more gig this year …
PS Last night also saw the debut of the new MPT camera. It was literally taken right out of the box and used but even these early results, while not great, are promising given that the old one would have struggled to get anything useable at all in the 13th Note. I’ll sort some of the photos out over the weekend.