Life Is Like A Box Of Records today is with Colin O’Hara formerly of bands such as Trapped In Kansas and No Kiltr and now in Slowlight. You can listen to their music here: slowlightmusic.tumblr.com
Gladys Knight and the Pips -”Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me”
My first exposure to music as a youngster came like most people through my parents. My mum was into a lot of great Motown and soul music which I still love to this day, stuff like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and Gladys Knight.
This particular track is one of the songs that reminds me of the family parties my mum and dad would throw, in which a “one singer/one song” theme would normally present itself.
My Grandad, who sadly passed away when I was just a boy sung this song on such an occasion. Unaccompanied by music, the room fell totally silent except for my Grandad’s soulful croon, no doubt singing about my late Grandmother whom I never met, it was a pretty beautiful moment and moved some people in the room to tears.
Sitting there in my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pyjamas I remember it quite vividly, and most definitely was my first introduction to how important raw emotion is when it comes to performing music, something I would try to apply to any music I performed many years later.
Madness – “One Step Beyond”
My dad’s music taste was a little different, he was more into Ska and Two Tone style stuff. Madness were one of the bands I immediately identified with as I was pretty young and Madness can be well, shall we say, a bit childish at times. But that’s why I still love them to this day, they dont take themselves too seriously and write great oddball pop songs.
My family has a tradition whenever “One Step Beyond” comes on at a party, all the O’Hara guys get up and skank about the dance floor. It is quite a sight.
The Beatles – “Tomorrow Never Knows”
When I was about 12 I heard some of the “britpop” indie bands on the radio and ended up a bit of an Oasis fan. I got a guitar and an Oasis chord book and started learning the songs, which proved pretty simple but fun to play nonetheless. I remember reading about how Oasis were accused of ripping off The Beatles all the time. I wasn’t too familiar with a lot of the Beatles material, sure I knew some of the obvious stuff, “Yellow Submarine”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” etc. but thought it wasn’t really that much like Oasis.
Anyway, I picked up The Blue Album in Record Fayre in Clydebank shopping centre and played it so much I wore it out. I became Beatles obsessed and pretty much jettisoned the Oasis interest I once had. A friend of my parents loaned me this massive Beatles chord book and I learned the shit out of that.
I have noticed some people my age scoff at The Beatles, maybe regarding them as a bit of a “dads band”, but some of the stuff they were coming out with in the mid to late 60′s was pure genius and ahead of its time. Absolute masters of song craft.
I sing Beatles tunes to my wee baby boy, in particular “Octopus’ Garden”, I like to think he is into them already.
Nirvana – “Aneurysm”
Nirvana were a big game changer for me. I seen the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when I was in my teens and thought it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. The angst, screaming and loud guitars were just the ticket for a 14 year old spotty, confused teenager to make sense of all that frustration. Although I still really like Nirvana, I think I owe more to them for opening doors to some bands that I absolutely love. I may have never checked out bands like Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr, L7 or The Melvins had it not been for Kurt and co.
Fugazi – “Shut the Door”
I think most people who know me would probably have seen this one coming. I am not ashamed to say I am a complete Fugazi fanatic and have been for many years. A friend of mine at high school had a big brother who used to blast music from his room, one time it was Fugazi that he was listening to and at the time I must admit it never really blew me away, but I got a hold of “In on the Killtaker” and listened to it and absolutely loved it. Not long after I picked up the Instrument DVD second hand from Avalanche in Glasgow. There’s a clip of Shut the Door on there that just made my jaw drop, where Guy and Ian have this unison stabby guitar thing going on. That was it for me, Fugazi were the band.
Their ethics have also influenced me too, the whole DIY thing, setting up their own label has encouraged me to get involved with small labels putting out my bands own records as well as records of bands I believe in, regardless of whether it makes money or not.
Hoover – “Pretender”
As a result of my Fugazi fixation I checked out pretty much the whole Dischord Records catalogue that they were part of. There are so many great bands on that roster that I could have easily done ten songs from that label alone on this. Q and Not U, Faraquet, Minor Threat, Warmers, Jawbox, Shudder to Think, Slant 6, Bluetip, I could go on and on.
One of the records that I discovered that really wowed me on Dischord was The Lurid Traversal of Route 7 by Hoover. A dark, discordant, classic piece of post hardcore.
I remember taking the dreaded overnight Megabus to London in 2008 in order to see them with Bluetip, I ended up falling asleep standing up when the support band came on! However, when Hoover took the stage I was buzzing and their set was perfect, Bluetip were stunning that night too. Although I was sleep deprived and a bit drunk it still goes down as one of my favourite shows I’ve ever been to.
The Smiths – “Still Ill”
If I were forced to choose my ultimate guitar hero I think I’d have to go for Johnny Marr.
When I was younger I used to stab away at over-distorted power chords and that seemed the best way to get my musical message across, Marr showed that there are more powerful ways to use a guitar without a distortion pedal. I got into the Smiths when I was in my 5th year at high school, those amazing chiming guitar licks juxtaposed with Morrissey’s misanthropic lyrics had me hooked. In a way I suppose they helped me mature musically and personally.
I usually play Rickenbacker guitars when I play live and this is mainly down to the influence of my favourite players who rock a Rickie. If it’s good enough for Marr, Fugazi, REM, XTC and the Beatles, it’ll do for me.
Minutemen – “Little Man With a Gun In His Hand”
I remember going to see the We Jam Econo: A Story of the Minutemen movie when it aired in Stereo (when it used to be in the west end of Glasgow) back in 2005. Before seeing the movie I knew very little about the Minutemen, I had heard some songs and thought they were great but didn’t even know D. Boon had died or anything. So when the part about the van crash came on I was pretty gutted!
Since then Minutemen have become one of my favourite bands, their sound is so eclectic. Post-punk, funk, avant jazz, American folk; Minutemen had so much to keep you interested. Plus their songs usually only lasted one minute so it would be difficult to ever get bored.
Above all these things though, the thing that really draws me to Minutemen is the relationship between bassist Mike Watt and vocalist/guitarist D.Boon. They had grown up best friends from childhood and then formed a band, and you could tell they were best buddies right up until D.Boon tragically lost his life. It is clear Watt is still heartbroken to this day about losing his friend and it really puts things into perspective, having had a good friend of mine go before his time too, I can relate to that.
Their ethos of being in a band with people you love hanging out with makes the whole band thing a lot more fun.
Don Caballero – “You Drink a Lot Of Coffee For a Teenager”
I formed a band called No Kilter whilst I was at University about ten years ago with my friends Steven Murray, Sam Massey and Westley McCallum. We had many influences but I think one of the bands that we really learned from and were inspired by was Don Caballero. Before we discovered Don Caballero, our songs followed a much more rigid punk rock formula. We started to experiment after getting into Don Cab, playing around with song structures and becoming a bit jazzier, I suppose you could call it “math-rock”. We got the opportunity to support them at the Glasgow ABC2 and it was surreal being on the same bill as a band you took so much influence from. Ian Williams’s guitar work on American Don opened my mind to develop different skills when it came to guitar playing, I started doing more tapping and rhythmic/percussive style guitar work. This style would carry on into my playing with the band Trapped in Kansas.
Al Green – “Lets Stay Together”
I met my Fiancée Heather in high school, we started going out when I was 16 and she was 15 which scarily is 13 years ago now. This July we will be getting married and this is the song we have chosen as our first dance. Heather and I don’t really share much in common when it comes to musical taste, but this is a song we both agree is a cracker and the lyrics could as well be the vows at our wedding.
Al Green is actually a reverend these days, maybe we could get him over and kill two birds with one stone.