Monthly Archives: August 2011
Yes indeedy, Story of Film, An Odyssey was screened here in Edinburgh at the Filmhouse this weekend but no, you weren’t invited because it was for friends and colleagues involved in the project- yes, it was just for the special people…and the Bossman, Iain McKinna, was there…no, I wasn’t (sniff sniff)…well to be fair I was away being important elsewhere…
Story of Film is off to Toronto Film Festival and then going out globally in cinema AND the full fifteen hour series is going out on More 4 from Saturday the 3rd of September at 9.15pm, so make sure you catch it because apparently it is STUNNING 🙂
Have I mentioned that The Bossman recorded and produced all of Mark Cousins’ commentary for the series…and he didn’t seem that tall at the time 😉
“Epic…a global vision of cinema” Ian Christie, Sight and Sound
“A brilliant and monumental achievement” Roger Graef OBE, one of Britain’s leading television documentary makers
“Audacious…a treat for movie lovers” Toronto Film Festival
Yes I know you’d like me to interview Mark and frankly I’d LOVE to as well but you know, busy schedules and all that…I mean he’s out there being important and I am too…well ok, not me but look, what would I ask him? You know how my mind works, it hits the Intellectual City Bypass and before I know it I’m off following signs for Random Town and Zany Ville while my mouth is yapping away on rude joke autopilot like a demented terrier in the back of the crazy car…
…and what was I doing that was so important I missed the special screening of Story Of Film? Playing board games…oh yes we did, we really honestly did…while the Bossman was out attending the sceening this weekend, being very cool and sophisticated getting pics taken with the fabulous Mark Cousins… I was embroiled in a tense game of Trivial Pursuits with the three year old sitting on my friends’ dining room table hogging the dice like some kind of overexcited Golem betting at the blackjack table, stroking and kissing the dice and throwing everybody’s turn…I was doing ok too until Match of the Day came on and the fellas did a disappearing act from the table like rats off a sinking ship…
I used to sing in a few different bands…yeah I know, hard to believe right? Ok, maybe caterwauled is a better description…let me tell you there are certain elements to being in a band that are pretty normal across the board, here are Jen’s rules for maintaining band sanity;
someone is always late for practise- it’s cool, there’s always one and yes it will always feel like herding cats for the organised ones…I once stood with the legendary Whizz Jones while we were collecting a group of guitar students together- man that was a beautiful thing to watch- Whizz is hilarious and he collects people up through the sheer magnitude of his gift for telling a good story and being so laidback he sets up a chill zone in the room that everyone gravitates to…
get good at dealing with creative tensions- when I was in a band, we resolved arguments by breaking out the dark chocolate and vanilla lattes (I’m a kitchen gadget freak ok?) for happy mood enhancement- differences of opinion melted away when faced with chocolate, coffee and sugar…I told you I’m a girl of simple pleasures 😉
have your charm offensive off pat- being squeezed into tight spaces together over a period of time (backstage areas/in the studio/all night practise sessions in the garage/ traveling in dodgy vans sitting on each other’s laps, cables snaking around your neck with the guitar case clonking you on the head…) is the life of being a band member- get used to it as the novelty soon wears off and start taking your medication regularly…
…well, now I know where I went wrong…
That said, the Abbeystills seem to have it sorted, I interviewed Graham Hannah recently, so relax and listen to this beautiful track “Blue Summer” enter the chill zone and read about the Abbeystills…
What’s the story behind your band’s name The Abbeystills?
I like the band Portishead and was interested to find out that their name comes from the town where they live. Some of us live in the Abbeyhill area of Edinburgh and thought well why not use our location as a name, calling ourselves the Abbeyhills though was going too far so we adapted it slightly.
How do you all know each other?
I met Valentina (the vocalist) while she was studying for her PhD in Edinburgh (she is Italian, and comes from a little town not far from Verona) She did not take to the vocal chores immediately but after some gentle persuasion she succumbed to the Scottish way of thinking. Gordon, the keyboard player/programmer/technical wizard answered an advert we had in a music shop during a different band lifetime and we have collaborated intermittently ever since.
Is there one member of the band who’s “the daddy” or “the mummy”?!
Being Italian and a good cook Valentina is only too happy to provide cuisine before rehearsals and usually manages to boss someone into doing the dishes afterwards! As it should be…
Who in the band is most likely to get the venue of the gig wrong/ lose the directions/ turn up for a band practice session on the wrong day? This is your chance for a slagging!
I have very bad directional skills and often get lost returning to bed after a late night toilet break !
Tell me about the process you go through with Iain McKinna in the Offbeat Studio to create and mix your tracks? How do you find working with Iain?
I have recorded an album’s worth of songs with Iain and plan to record more. I start by sending him an MP3 of the song to give him an idea of what it sounds like. During my first trip to the studio I take along the Midi information and the guitar wav parts, we import them into the Logic software and then select the suitable sounds for the guitar and keyboard parts. Iain then records acoustic drum and bass parts and we create a basic mix with what we have.
The second studio visit is when Valentina (the vocalist) records the vocal parts, we then produce a further mix which we take home and listen to before returning a third time for a final mix and mastering.
Iain is always encouraging and allows for a very laid back environment, his ability to play and record acoustic drums and bass parts is a service few studios provide. I think he is especially good at putting vocalists at ease and getting a good recording from them.
Do you have musicians who you especially admire? What’s on your playlist at the mo?
I admire songwriters like Elvis Costello, Valentina likes bands such as Pink Floyd and Gordon likes electronic artists like Gary Numan. We all like bands like Air and The Blue Nile. At the moment I am quite taken by Elbow
Most hated household chores
Getting out of bed in the morning (or indeed the afternoon) God I sound lazy…
If you could only have one picture on the wall where you live, what would it be if it couldn’t be a picture of your family?
Rather than on the wall I would like a reproduction on the ceiling the same as in the Sistine Chapel in Rome by Michelangelo, I am not particularly religious but it would be a good selling point
What’s the most impressive thing you’ve seen with your own eyes?
Valentina says that the “Le tre cime di Lavaredo” (the three peaks of Lavaredo in the northern Italian Alps) are particularly impressive, especially at sunset when they become bright red…
If you were in a seance, which musician who’s passed over would you most want to talk to and what would you ask them?
I suppose it would be John Martyn and I would ask him how he created such a unique guitar style and combined it with his particular vocal style to provide such compassion in his work.
(set against the present era of such bland music dominated by TV shows like the X Factor! )
Give us 2 special songs from down your memory lane and tell us what made them special to you at the time?
For me “Saturday Night” by The Blue Nile always reminds me of being in Scotland, especially when I was living in Italy. They are not flashy musicians but they are great at creating a mood.
“Shipbuilding” by Elvis Costello is another of my favourites, great lyrics and a much underrated anti war song.
Who would you most want to be for a day if you could be anybody in history and why?
I think I would like to be Neil Armstrong for the one particular day he became the first man on the moon (if indeed he did?) and see what the earth looks like from so far away
If you had a time machine, where and when would you go for a vacation?
I think I would like to have been in Paris in 1789, during the French Revolution, difficult to get holiday insurance but quite exciting
If you could play a gig with any musician throughout history who would it be and why?
I think I would like to have played in the group “Japan” they could play pop, rock or funk. They had elements of Bowie and Roxy Music but they were one of the first bands to combine electronic sounds with pop with rock successfully. Unfortunately my chance will never come as bass player Mick Karn died earlier this year
Have you got any crazy gig stories to share with us?
It was more embarrassing than crazy, I was playing in a band that were doing a benefit gig, we were just getting ready to play our last and best song and before we could start the DJ started the disco (disco! That sounds ancient)
Oh Graham, the disco is a classic! Read more about The Abbeystills and connect on twitter;