Eugene McGuinness - Interview - 2012

14 Nov 2012

"It’s for anybody who likes it, it’s not a trendy London thing nor is it a mod thing, it’s not teeny bopper thing, it exists somewhere in the middle of it all because it’d devoid of all the strict regiments all those things have. It’s back to the freedom of one person who likes music a lot. I don’t hear enough people telling me I’m shit..." Mike Harounoff talks to Eugene McGuinness.

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Earlier this year, Eugene McGuinness returned with his genius new record The Invitation To The Voyage, the acoustic guitars been ditched along with the fringe and shy boy demeanour - McGuinness is now an indie-pop powerhouse and has the songs and style to justify such a tag. Whilst the transformation is completley convincing, and when looking closer makes complete sense, questions can still be asked as to what happened between the release of his s/t debut and the record we hold today as one of our favourite's of 2012, so in a East London cafe we asked them and in his own charming, considered, and at times quite bloody serious way, he answered. 

The record’s been out for a little while now, how are you feeling about it all?

I feel good; I’m used to it being out now. Everything that I’ve heard makes me feel good about it. I spent ages waiting for that record to be released, it was a long thing. It feels exactly how I wanted it to be, a substantial chapter in what I’m about.

Has it hit expectation, after a period of change for you must have had high hopes?

To say its reached expectations would not only be a lie but also detrimental to the whole idea of what I do and it’s not that sort of thought gratification it’ll all end quite quickly. I wouldn’t be doing this interview; I’d be in a hammock somewhere sipping a mojito. It’s done well but I see this as an ongoing mission, you just enjoy it. You have to feel like there’s still a lot of work to do and there is. You look around there’s a lot of acts doing very well, and I can’t be worried about that but I know it can always do better.

What was that original mission statement?

The record was simple to make, I wanted it to be quite upbeat. I wanted it to be the best record I could make. I thought if I was my worst enemy and crack the whip as hard as I can on myself then it’ll blow everything else out the water, that’s just how I feel, that’s my own little ego. I worked very hard. The record’s also an exercise in me clarifying my own identity compared to things I did earlier on which where down a bit more innocently and I still stand by and I like, but I took this a bit more seriously. It’s not an easy job, it would’ve been an easy job if I was from the 90’s generation or if I’d come a bit earlier or whatever, Lady Gaga. It’s not an easy job for a guy in my position so I’ve got to make sure I feel great about what I do. It’s an amazing thing to do but only if you’re completely happy with yourself and how you’re doing it that had a lot to do with it, the record was about me being happy with who I was and how I was portraying the person I was.

Is perception quite important to you?

Just my own perception, not anybody else’s. It’s my name, if I’m going to stick my name on a CD to me its like I could do anything it could be a be-bop album, gangsta rap all on the to-do list. For my own clarity, whenever I was 15-16 and decided I wanted to do much and had quite a cartoonish and clear view of what I was trying to do and then that can get a bit caught up in different influences whenever you have the freedom to be an artist. It was important for me to get as close back to that simplified dream I had when I was really young and just all the excitement and fun that was and it’ important for me to actually do that rather than worry about perception at all.

Is this what you initially intended to do when you first picked up the guitar then?

Yeah, in my minds eye, I’d be learning chords and thinking that I’d just be me but a bit older and my brother being older and I’d imagine it and that’s exactly where and who I am. I can’t cater myself to other things; there are others that are more built for that than I am.

Do you feel any discontent with what you did initially as an artist?

No. I just kind of went along with it which is a good thing to do because you, I didn’t really over think it. Now, not to say I’m over-thinking it, I know all the things I don’t want to do the sort of areas other musicians and acts get into that I don’t want to do and how time weathers certain ideas. I just want to be my own if you keep it as honest and as good as possible and be your own evil headmaster then it protects you from sounding naff in ten years or something. I think this record will sound great in ten years, I think those early ones will sound great in ten year’s and still think they sound good now. It’s not like I was picked up some major label and told to sing about…I was going to say Tesco’s but I did that, in a pretty good way – I was the best guy at it [laughs]. I know it’s got substance because I know it’s been untouched by all the stuff and rubbish that kids get caught up in it.

I imagine it comes from organic growth?

It’s all very organic. It’s one thing celebrating that as an idea and another actually doing that. It’s the right way of doing things but it can be quite difficult as well, I could make different decisions and probably make a whack load of money it’s easy at any one point you can just kind of let go of all that and do something shit that other people decide to do.

Was it artistic empowerment you were looking for with this record?

I’ve got that anyway, I don’t need to look for it. That’s not an ego thing either; I feel like I have, other people may say that I don’t. Anything that I do is right because I think about it so much, I haven’t got any heroes in that sense or anyone around me at the moment that I look to in that sense and that must be a clue, I don’t feel anyone else is doing in the right way.

It does feel like you’ve gone through a big period of change here though, however organic the process.

It just happens, it feels a lot more drastic for people because if you change your hairstyle or someone buys you a suit – people think it’s all very considered but those are things people do anyway, in life. It wasn’t an idea that started some rainy night at sea, it was just life I am just a person. If I was in a band I would dream up all these concepts and I like bands that do that but I’m not a band, I’m not an image or a personality, that’s what other people create, ‘oh he’s gone and got a quiff like Alex Turner or Richard Hawley’ - no, you just get bored of looking at your mug all day, you do what I can, I’ll bleach my eyebrows purple tomorrow just to switch up.

Is it really as simple as just going growing up?

Yeah, and it might feel drastic now and people might get fed up in a year or so whenever I don’t look that much different. Or I do and people jus think he’s trying to change again, people always try and crack your nuts – why’s he doing this? The reasons are completely humane and normal and not attached to desperate attention seeking that a lot of other people do. If I was that I could do it a hell of a lot better, I’d be talking to you in a leopard print mu-mu. You do see people, uninteresting people, dress up and stuff. What I do, I’m just a person.

How did you feel about the comments on your change?

I didn’t really understand. People didn’t really talk about me in that sort of way before.

Did you like that people would talk about how you looked and how you sounded now?

Anyone talking about you, for a bit – initially, you feel like the fucking man, initially. Then if you actually listen to it those people just sound silly, they’re not really talking about anything. It’s not even remotely relevant. I can’t let that get to me or anything; it’s a side that I don’t even look at. Each flippant decision I make daily would cause a hell of a lot more fear in what I do.

Have you noticed a change in clientele, in terms of audience?

There are a few more mod’s around because of the Miles Kane thing but it’s pretty varied. I think people still don’t know what to make of it. It’s kind of hard because I don’t know who I’m going to be walking out to onstage, a bunch of girls a bunch of vesper riders. It’s for anybody who likes it, it’s not a trendy London thing nor is it a mod thing, it’s not teeny bopper thing it exists somewhere in the middle of it all because it’d devoid of all the strict regiments all those things have. It’s back to the freedom of one person who likes music a lot. I don’t hear enough people telling me I’m shit.

Whilst you’re not forcing it, it’s been difficult to not mention you in the same breath as Alex Turner and Miles Kane – what’s that like?

That’s just perception, people like that idea. I don’t feel a connection to any other act, it’s not like ‘they’ve got my back and I’ve got there’s’ – there’s none of that and I don’t look for it either. As I say, I could’ve done, been in a band and regardless I’ll always do what I want to do for me to love music and keep me wanting to do it. I probably won’t always work on such superficial sort of level - that sounds very pretentious record, like I am going to release a bassoon choral piece. I just don’t really care about those other acts, not in a horrible way; it just always gets referred back to me. Everyone’s great but it’s got nothing to fucking do with me or my record that’s all me, all my work.

In respect of the lack of outsider influence and it coming from a natural place free of that, what was it like making the record?

That’s it; I guess one of the favourite most amazing parts of doing what I do. I love recording and this record was spread out over a massive period of time and for me that was a great thing because I love it as a daily routine, just to clock in and do a record with people like Clive Langer or Dan Carey. Going intoLondonand spending all day, even those when people think they’re sounding shit, I love that whole process. So, recording the album was a lot of fun as I pitched and synched it, I wanted to have a massive array of things but it’d be centred around, really, quite simple pop songs, simple rock and roll songs as I wanted it to be colourful and piecing that together and throwing loads of stuff at it and seeing what stuck was fun for me and it’s what I love to do. It’s the same with writing, I write a lot and the writing and recording are very similar things – throw a lot at it, throw everything at it just make sure you don’t really care so much when you take most of it away.

What did you get from having Clive Langer and Dan Carey involved?

Clive’s an elder statesman of the British song canon, he worked with Bowie, Morrissey, people like I really like. Clive was brutal in the song writing sense; he had no time for bullshit and I didn’t really know what bullshit was at the time either. He’d be like ‘why are you fucking doing that, all you need is this’ he streamlined a lot of the ideas in my head which were massive and confused and he’d tell me what was great as when you’re in that process it can be hard to differentiate. He was great at being very tough on me and at the time I needed that toughness, it’s instilled in me now. As a producer as well, he just sits back and listens to what we do until there’s something that genuinely excites him.

Was there a big break between finishing with Clive and starting with Dan Carey?

No, just a break over Christmas - we kind of knew what songs were going to be on the record as we’d accumulated 30-odd tunes. Dan, I knew I wanted to have a modern thing on the drums and keyboards, a certain shine which Dan is brilliant at and sonically we just had fun with it. With Clive it was a bit more chin stroking, getting down there, getting the band in the room knocking ideas around with Dan it was more a celebration of it all, seeing how we could scrub it up. Clive was the foundation of the song, Dan was the finish.

What was like taking it out live as you were cooped up in the studio for quite a while?

I was busy, either cooped in the studio or playing live with Miles so I hadn’t done anything live with the band. It became a big deal when we were going to play live again but then it felt good as if it was reborn and box fresh so taking that record out and playing it live made me realise how well it works. At the time I was thinking about it’d sound live but instead someone’s car or a club and live we’d have to do a version of the record but we don’t and it feels amazing. I love getting up there and singing and there’s a lot of people that still need to hear it.

You’re playing London again soon, the 100 club; will that be quite a special show for you?

It’s different not the records out and all the other tunes might have sunk in a bit because live all those songs people weren’t familiar with a few months ago. There should be a different energy there. I look forward to playing the 100 club, Stones have played there haven’t they? For that reason it feels good and it’s red and white - it’s great, looks cool. 

Eugene McGuinness plays London's 100 Club tonight. Limited tix available HERE 

The Invitation To The Voyage is out now on Domino 

Listen to our exclusive mixtape by Eugene HERE and read about his inspirations HERE

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