Wednesday 5 February 2014

20 questions with Mathew Sawyer

(The amazing Mathew Sawyer will be headlining a special London show on Thurs 24th of April which also features Piper's Son and a special guest appearance by Vic Godard. More details to follow very soon indeed.)
1) Where did you grow up, was your childhood a happy one? Mathew: "The majority of my childhood was spent living not far from Hampton Court Palace. I was very much taken with the image of Kathryn Howard as a ghost, running up and down the corridor for eternity, desperately pleading for her head not to be chopped-off. My best memories are of fishing with my dad."
2) Can you remember how you felt when you were accepted by The Royal College? "Awake. My girlfriend at the time woke me up to open and read the acceptance (or rejection) letter to me. It could have gone either way, but getting accepted woke me up pretty quickly".
3) How did you become involved with the Television Personalities, did you enjoy the experience and are any of the songs on the album you recorded with them as good as the band's early stuff? "My pal Graeme was a friend of Dan's, and played with the TVP's before dan became homeless and went missing. When he surfaced again a few years later he was doing some time in prison, he'd been in touch with Graeme and was looking for a band. Graeme played bass and he got me in on drums. It was fun for quite a while, then the fun all fell out quite rapidly and I left. If I was going to put on a TVPs record, I'd pick up The Painted Word or ...And Don't the Kids Just Love It, but all Dan's albums have great songs on." 4) (I read you recorded your last album at home) What do you think it's reasonable to ask a label like Stolen or Fire Records to provide an artist with? (So few people buy music full price) what advice do you have for new bands wanting to get signed to a label? "Although I've only got good things to say about working Fire - I think the label and the people there are brilliant - my advice would be release it yourself. Don't sit around waiting for someone to do it for you."
5) I enjoyed the Protest & Survive exhibition. Do you feel more political as you get older. Do you think young people don't believe protest can change unfair laws? "Culture is precious, you have to take care of it, and not let it be dictated by profit driven entities smothering it with things that have the equivalent nutritional value as a happy meal. I'm appalled at seeing Mumford & Sons, Keane, Coldplay etc. on the telly, pulling those colonoscopy faces for each song to reassure you they mean it. I think they’re hideous, lying, sacks of corporate shit. Coldplay should be minced, and force fed to Mumford & Sons like fois gras geese until they burst. All art and music is by default a political statement. If you endorse a single second of Mumford & Sons, you may as well vote BNP."
6) Vic Godard told me he has sung your songs live. Who else has done covers of your material / which of your songs would you most like to hear one of your favourite bands do? "Vic Godard performed 3 songs from my first record live a few times. Watching him sing these songs was my greatest musical accolade to date. I was made up, as I'm a big Vic fan. Particularly his song 'Make Me Sad', which I think I ripped off the chord progression for an early song of mine. Not telling you which one though."
7) Are you happier on stage with a band behind you? Is is less nerve wracking if it's just you performing? "Most of the time it's much more fun and less nerve racking with a band. But then, when you play alone you don't have to practice with anyone, be in time with anyone, be in tune with anyone, play the song in a particular structure, or stick to a set list. So there's a lot less opportunities to make a mess of it all. You can drift in and out of consciousness, if you like, it might well be awful, but you're not tied to anyone else. Best musical advice I ever got was if you make a mistake, repeat it." 8) Do you have a favourite and least favourite lyric on your new album? "It would be a lie to say I do. But I enjoy singing 'I spent the afternoon drunk collecting feathers', in the song Feeeeling. As it's something I do occasionally in order to make a sculpture". ( ( 9) Who were you art heroes? Which painters inspire you most now? "My art heroes were, and are, Ken Kiff, Jiri Kovanda, Pierre Klossowski, Cy Twombly and Matisse this week. And last."
10) If you were asked to compile a 10 track "Best Of Mathew Sawyer" which songs would you pick? "I don't think I'd do that. The last record Sleep Dreamt A Brother had 10 songs on. That'll do." 11) Which instruments do you intend to learn how to play one day? "I have a piano in my flat - it's an old school one. I played all the piano on the last record, but not very well. I'd like to learn to play it with ease. At the moment it sounds a bit like someone playing with boxing gloves on."
12) Are all your paintings ultimately self portraits and are all your songs ultimately about you? "Yes, I think this could be argued quite convincingly. But also with most other people's work though. And I think this 'about you' business is a bit strong. Because it's 'from you' it's impossible not leave some some of your psychological DNA on it, consciously or not. Maybe it's more correct to say they're 'about your experiences', rather than YOU. Oh, bloody hell. But yes, I'm guilty."
13) Which politicians do you respect and admire? "I've yet to have any politician convince me to respect and admire them."
14) Do you have holidays? Or breaks where you're inactive? "My girlfriend, Vasso, is Greek. Every year we try to go to Kefalonia, an island her granddad was from. It's my favourite place in the world. I'd like to move there one day. Swimming in the sea in Kefalonia is my happiest place. You've never seen red or blue or yellow until you've seen it under the light of the Greek sun!"
15) Are your songs getting darker and gloomier? "Every album I've made, I've said to myself the next one is going to be much more upbeat, that was just a phase etc. the next one's going to be the party record - you'll see! It hasn't happened yet. Although I'm convinced the next one WILL be much more upbeat - a party record - you'll see!"
16) What can you cook and are you good about the house? "I'm pretty much useless. As anyone who's ever lived with me will attest to. Legend has it (started by me) I make a good fish pie. I don't think I've made fish pie in at least ten years. I do make a good gin & apple juice based cocktail, I call a Smithy. And I do like to take off outdoor shoes when I'm in the flat. There's a lot of disgusting stuff out there."
17) Whose opinion on your work do you take most notice of? "Mine first, then Vasso's, then probably Scott King's. I don't know many artists socially, and I don't tend to discuss my work with anyone." 18) Are there any songwriters your age that you feel inferior to? "There's a zillion brilliant songwriters around the age of 36. But whatever they write, and however brilliant I might find it, it's not what I'd do. And they couldn't write my songs either. The point is, that's what mainly motivates me when it comes to writing songs, or making art: Making something that is unique to ME. Arriving at some thing, or place, taking a particular route that no other fucker on planet earth would have taken. Finding your fingerprint before your time is up. I like individuals, hate crowds, crowd mentality. I don't support any team, I'm not patriotic, I like islands, I like people on a one to one basis - then they're beautiful! What I'm trying to say, I'm failing at. Don't feel inferior to others, it's misguided. Love and respect what others do, but staying true to your own vision means it's a one horse race. Let's face it, every time you close the front door there's no certainty the world doesn't shrink like a crisp packet in the oven, you may well have imagined all this nonsense - even these failing words!"
19) Has the death of a famous person (John Peel, Kurt Cobain etc) made you cry? "No. I don't personally know any famous people that have died. I felt quite heavy when Vic Chesnutt and Johnny Cash died. I made a poster about my not wanting Johnny Cash to die when I heard how ill he was, called 'Don't Ever Die Johnny') ). It wasn't too long after my dad had died and I'd split up with my girlfriend. I was listening to Johnny Cash all the time, day and night it seemed. His music was a big help to me. When I found out he'd be dead soon I thought that was one step too far. NOT JOHNNY CASH!!!" 20) What's your idea of beauty in nature? "The sound of Canada geese calling as the fly overhead. Drifting in and fading away as the flock gains distance.
Mathew is having a solo show at Spacex, opening 19th May 2014. This will be his first solo show in a public gallery "'Sleep Dreamt A Brother'" is available on Fire records. For more info:

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