Interview: Little Barrie
Published on July 5th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
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Little Barrie are back with their third album King of the Waves and a new drummer – namely Virgil Howe, son of Yes guitarist Steve Howe – so Rocksucker caught up with Barrie Cadogan himself in the aftermath of his band’s Glastonbury performance to discuss the five-year gap since previous album Stand Your Ground, recording the new one with Edwyn Collins and his remarkable career as a session musician extraordinaire, which to date includes Morrissey, Paul Weller and Primal Scream as just some of the big names to have taken him aboard…
How was Glastonbury for you?
It was good. The audience were great; I take my hat off to them because the weather was revolting! I did feel for them. We weren’t there for that long because we played at Eden Project the night before and pretty much just got in there that evening and did the gig. It was really enjoyable, really cool.
Where have you guys been for the last five years?
Yes, it’s been a while since our last album. Things have been slow because we’ve been doing other things, and it takes longer to make records these days so you don’t really have the financial cushion that you might have had before. Also we wanted to work in Edwyn’s studio, which is very busy, so we’ve been waiting for time to become available in there. It’s just an amazing place to work, full of really cool stuff and the atmosphere’s really good.
How is Edwyn? He had his health problems a few years ago.
He’s a lot better than he was but, since he had the strokes, he’s been left with no movement in his right arm so he can’t play the guitar, which is why he had two guitar players with him when he eventually went on tour again. I was playing with him for a bit. Originally it was Andy Hackett, who’s played with him for a long time, and Roddy Frame playing guitar, and I stepped in when Roddy went off to do some of his own stuff. Edwyn’s got a group of musicians around him where he can get different line-ups to work.I don’t think the surgeons or any experts thought he’d have any kind of career at all; it was basically just a blessing that he was still alive and important that he got back some kind of quality of life. He’s proved everybody wrong, really. It took him five years but he finished an album [Home Again], did another new album [Losing Sleep], went on tour and produced for people. He’s living life to the full. It’s an amazing story.
How do his production methods differ from those of Dan the Automator, whom you worked with on Stand Your Ground?
They’re different studios and also different scenarios. Both times we’ve worked with Edwyn have been different. He used to have Wednesdays as a sort of free day when he wasn’t in the studio but he wanted to come in and work on Wednesdays because he was so enthusiastic about us, which we couldn’t believe. The atmosphere there’s very relaxed and just to be in the studio with someone like him, who I admire very much as an artist, a writer and a producer, was amazing.
On top of that, we realized how funny he was when we started working with him: him and his engineer Seb [Lewsley] are kind of like a double act! They had us in fits of laughter so you almost don’t realise that you’re doing any work. It was so much fun but we also got some really good stuff down, so it was a more leisurely atmosphere the first time we went there.
With Dan the Automator, we went to New York and we had two weeks to do everything so we were really pushed for time. Russell Simins from Blues Explosion played drums and he’s a brilliant drummer but we were under a lot of pressure so it was kind of a different scenario. We had to do a lot of work in a short space of time in places we weren’t familiar with so I think we got a bit spoiled working somewhere so amazing the first time round.No disrespect to anyone we worked with on the second record but, because the first one went so well and we had all the equipment that suited what we did, we thought everywhere might be like that, you know? So that’s why we wanted to go back to Edwyn’s to do the third album, especially with the sort of album we wanted to make this time: we knew we could do it in there.
You must be pleased with how it’s turned out…
Yeah, it’s come out good, this one. It sounds good and it was great to work with those guys again.
What’s the significance of the title King of the Waves?
It’s kind of a combination of things. It’s the title of one of the songs and there was a bit of a surf theme threading through the titles and the sound. We hadn’t used a song title for an album title before. Lewis [Wharton, bass] suggested it and I just thought it was a good idea.
Has Virgil been a good fit for the band? Does his dad ever come to watch you play?
His dad has been t to see us play once or twice, yeah. He came to see us when we supported Paul Weller at the Royal Albert Hall. He’s probably played there loads of times himself, actually. Lewis met Virgil when he saw him play at a gig. It was looking like we were going to need a new drummer so Lewis approached him and a few months later he came to an impromptu gig we did at the Hawley Arms in Camden. This is going back quite a few years now. He was really enthusiastic about the gig, we got chatting and Lewis got his number and phoned him up.He did this gig with us after just one rehearsal after having just a few days to learn eight or nine songs; it was this really bizarre gig at a ski resort in France in the winter, outdoors in a marquee, surrounded by people in professional skiing gear and all that. We’d just turned up in black Crombies and suede shoes. It was quite funny, really, skating around on the ice like penguins!But yeah, Virgil was great so we asked him if he wanted to do another gig – we weren’t really thinking too far ahead and didn’t want to put too much pressure on him – but he was probably testing us out as well then and it gradually became apparent that we really wanted to play together.
How did you come to be a live guitarist for Primal Scream?
I met some of the guys from Scream years ago. I used to see Andrew Innes a lot around the guitar shops on Denmark Street and also a good friend of mine is good friends with Bobby [Gillespie]. Occasionally I’d bump into the two of them – Bobby would sometimes be around Denmark Street as well – and we’d chat through knowing Andrew. It turned out that we knew a few of the same people. Then I moved to a part of north London where Bobby lives and we bumped into each other quite a lot; he’d be out taking his son to playgroup in the morning or just going out for a coffee and we tended to bump into each other a lot.We realized that we live pretty much across the road from each other and one day he invited me round to see an old acoustic Gibson he’d just bought, and we ended up messing around on guitars, playing songs and chatting and all that. A few months later he called me up and said, “We’re looking for a guitarist; are you interested in doing a few gigs?” I said, “Yeah, of course.” He left a CD of new songs under his dustbin because he’d gone away for the weekend so I took them home and had a rehearsal with them the following week, just with Bobby, Andrew and the drummer Darrin [Mooney]. It went from there, really.
You’ve supported and even played for some cast-iron legends of popular music. Do any stand out for you in particular?
Playing with Morrissey was cool. They were sort of between guitarists so I was just filling in. One of his guitar players wasn’t well and he had an American tour coming up; he’d already hired an American guy but needed someone to fill the gap before going to the States. I got that because I knew Boz Boorer, the other guitarist in Morrissey’s band. I think they might have asked a couple of guys before me who couldn’t do it and it was the first time I played in front of a really big audience. I had to learn a lot of songs very quickly so maybe I could have done a bit better if I’d had more time but it went well and it was a great experience.
Paul Weller we met through a friend of Lewis’ called Simon Dine who’s a producer who works a lot with Paul; he played Paul some of our early singles and he gave us a few support slots. Later on, he asked if we wanted to play on his album 22 Dreams, and I played guitar on a couple of the tracks from the last album he did [Wake Up the Nation]. He’s someone else I admire a lot and to get to work with people like that is really cool.
Are they nice guys, the likes of Morrissey and Weller?
Oh yeah. Morrissey’s a very private guy so to be honest I didn’t see him much but I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for how hard these guys work. Paul has so much energy in the studio; he’s seemed refreshed over the last three or four years, even more motivated. Rejuvenated, in a way. Primal Scream also have great energy and spirit and I guess that’s why these guys are all still doing it, because their drive and desire to do it hasn’t gone away.
Are there any up-and-coming artists you’d like to recommend?
There’s a band called The Soundcarriers that I really like. We just did a short tour and we got a few bands that we like to play with us: there’s a band called Skinny Love who are a kind of hard-edged garage blues duo, they’re very good. There’s a band called The Fabulous Pentrators who we’ve gigged with often over the last year or two. There’s also a band called We Walk on Ice and a one-man band called Man Made who we played with in Glasgow. I don’t really get much time to go to gigs these days though. I went to a lot more when I wasn’t playing so much.One of the best bands I saw in the last year was Grinderman, while I was out in Australia with Primal Scream. It was a really good billing actually: Grinderman, Scream and Iggy and The Stooges, as well as The Greenhornes and The Jim Jones Revue who are really good (Rocksucker says: a quick Google shows this event to have been the Big Day Out festival). We got to see and meet some bands we really like.
Did you meet Nick Cave?
Yeah, Bobby knows him anyway because he’s good friends with [Bad Seeds and Grinderman multi-instrumentalist] Warren Ellis. They’re good guys and they’re really good live. People say that rock and roll is a young man’s game but when you’re watching bands like The Stooges and Grinderman I’m not so sure.
Finally, could you name – as of this very moment – your top three albums of all time?
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses. The Jimi Hendix Experience – Electric Ladyland. Off the top of my head, the third one would be – and tomorrow it would be different – Funhouse by The Stooges.
King of the Waves, the third album by Little Barrie, is out now on Bumpman Records. For more information and a list of live dates, please visit littlebarrie.com