I’ve been very lucky to have music as such a constant influence in my life, even from a very early age. When I started secondary school I started learning the Saxophone which is an instrument I got inspired to start playing after hearing it on the theme tune for a radio show I used to listen to. I think the track was by Steely Dan and it featured a prominent sax solo that made me want to learn it. Playing the sax meant I also took to other wind instruments relatively well so I also played the flute but I was not so good on polyphonic instruments. I managed to get around this to a certain extent by using the music technology that was starting to appear in the late 80’s which my dad, being a computer programmer, was happy to help me out with. I initially played around with it by programming in sheet music such as the hits of the Beatles using a sequencer, sound module and drum machine.
Relatively early on I started to do music with friends, initially it was Paul and Sunil, and we composed some songs with Paul playing guitar. The recordings of these are lost to the mists of time. I also collaborated with my friend James Reid who took the picture of me above when we were in New York. At this point I had also acquired a very basic Akai sampler and so my first attempts in earnest at dance music were around this time. We were also very much into music that featured on the Gilles Peterson radio show and my interest in world music also had an influence. But my most prominent musical influence at that time was David Byrne and Talking Heads, particularly the albums that Brian Eno produced like Remain in Light and Fear of Music.
While I was studying in Edinburgh I got pretty heavily into Drum and Bass and started to produce quite a few tracks which I took down to London to get cut onto dub plates at the legendary Music House. It was there that I met Mowgli who said he liked my stuff and wondered if he could get a copy to play at a night he ran in Leeds. Thanks to Mowgli and his partner Sue I got a resident DJ slot there and on my first night got to play along side Kemistry and Storm. I totally fluffed it due to nerves. But Mowgli continued to encourage my music and he was going to release my Abraxax track on his Dubshack label. Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances this never happened but it was still a great time for inspiration for my music and I met a lot of encouraging people who were fellow musicians and producers. It was at this time I also did quite a few collaborative tracks with Jonathan Kemp and Tom Waring, recording in a rather cosy boxroom where I had my music equipment set up in a flat on Forrest Road in Edinburgh.
After I left Edinburgh I started working for a small company called Keyfax who specialised in producing MIDI files from live sessions done by really top quality musicians which they recorded in their office/studio. I got to learn about and play with a lot of really cool electronic equipment at that time but I left because I had decided to go traveling in India. When I got back my priorities seem to have shifted and I also became less interested in electronic music and started to gravitate more to live and acoustic. I became a member of The Sentinels, a funk band based near Reading, and it was fun and also different as we gigged in various places in the South-East of England, but I was still struggling with some personal issues and was valiantly attempting to try and work out what I was doing while teaching music theory on the ND Music course at Reading College. This was not to last. However living in Reading I still was drawn to the annual WOMAD festival that was held there and this was a big inspiration for me as I had been into world music since I had listened to Andy Kershaw’s show on the radio while I did my homework in my bedroom as a kid. Quite fortuitously I caught a performance by Jalal Nuriddin of The Last Poets at WOMAD and again through some weird good fortune got to speak to him by phone in Paris. I was also writing some poetry at the time and asked him if he had any advice. He told me “It’s like what Duke Ellington said. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” I also talked to him about his doing acupuncture and perhaps this was in some way an influence on my deciding to go back to study herbal medicine which I had been considering while teaching at Reading College.
Music was put on hold for some time while I completed my herbal medicine studies back up in Edinburgh and I also took on family responsibilities. It only rekindled when I decided to hire a clàrsach from The Clàrsach Society, partly for the challenge of learning a new instrument and partly for my own self-care. I took some clàrsach lessons and also my interest in poetry resurfaced and I tried to combine them by doing some recordings of the clàrsach and over-laying my spoken word culminating in the Kyberpoetica album. After some further challenging times in which I unfortunately had to part with quite a few of my prized electronic music instruments I eventually started recording some electronic pieces again, mainly spurred on by a chance reintroduction to my musician friends Jon and Tom via one of our tracks being played on Red Rack’em’s Smugglers Inn radio/podcast show. Hearing Danny (Red Rack’em) and his selection of cutting edge music stemming from his involvement in the scene in Berlin took me back to my interest in Detroit Techno and Juan Atkins. I also started listening to a lot of Gaelic music including Julie Fowlis as I was attempting to learn it through songs. This technique seemed to help me to understand some Portuguese when I was listening to David Byrne’s compilations of Brazilian music.
The Scottish music scene certainly seems very vibrant right now and there are so many talented musicians around it is very inspiring. I’ve been fortunate to have found sessions in Edinburgh, in particular the Black Cat on Rose Street, where my desire to learn about the folk tradition, a distinct gap in my knowledge, has been welcomed and I’ve met a lot of really nice and highly skilled players. One of these was Siannie Moodie who I subsequently recorded playing the clàrsach for a project based around Macpherson’s Ossian. I’m also working on a collaboration with Marcas Mac an Tuairneir right now so more about that soon hopefully. I recently did a Drum and Bass remix for Fifi Rong who is a talented musician and producer and I have the feeling that it will be time for another album of my own again soon.