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John McCusker Blog - Part 2

Mike Harding | 16:41 UK time, Friday, 14 November 2008

Mixing Rock and Folk

John McCusker writes:

I'm writing this from high up in the sky, I'm flying to Norwich to record with one of my favourite bands, a rock band from Glasgow called Teenage Fanclub. Since the age of 12 my love of indie rock has been an equal to my love of folk music, Frankie Gavin and Dinosaur Jr. have always walked side by side in my world!

I get as much of a buzz going in a recording studio these days as I did when I made a demo with my first band...later to be released on cassette only! I love getting the chance to play on records that are very different to the music I usually play, you always learn something new. I made a record this year with two friends, Roddy Woomble and Kris Drever called 'Before the Ruin'. Roddy is the lead singer in the brilliant Scottish rock band Idlewild. When we went in the studio we didn't really know what the record was going to sound like, we had 12 songs that we loved, great musicians with us and loads of enthusiasm.

I personally think you have to be careful mixing rock music and folk music, obviously lots of groups have been very successful doing this and have made great records. I think there is a big danger when the two genres meet that it can often sound like watered down folk music and really bad rock. I was chuffed to be asked to play on Paul Weller's new album '22 Dreams' this year. There is a song on there called 'Where Ere You Go' that Paul wrote...it sounds like a classic old folk song, really beautiful. I think it's a brilliant example of having a great love of different kinds of music but being true to yourself. With Roddy and Kris I really didn't want to make an album that sounded like folk musicians trying to rock out or Roddy trying to be a folk singer. Hopefully we made a record where you can hear influences from lots of different kinds of music and a record where we weren't trying to be something we're not....

I'm writing this last bit of the blog the day after the recording...it was a brilliant day in the studio. When I arrived there sat at the kitchen table was the band listening to traditional singers on the stereo and playing me songs by Shirley Collins and Sheila Stewart that I had never heard before. We went in the studio and they played me their new songs. I think they are a perfect example of a group that loves all kinds of music and you hear their love of folk music in the melodies but they have always stayed true to themselves.

John McCusker


  • Comment number 1.

    Folk and Rock can mix quite well. However, there are a number of "folk" artists who sometimes get a bit precious and see their own exhalted place in their small pond a bit threatened. There are also a number of "folk" fans who can get overwrought at the site of a full drum kit on a "folk"stage or get the vapours at glimpsing an electric guitar. Yet Fairport Convention and the Richard Thompson Band have managed to successfully incorporate both instruments successfully for years, as have Christy Moore and Declan Sinnott and I don't think anyone has ever seriously considered deconsecrating any of the members.

    So it CAN be done, and indeed done very successfully, but the performers need to be wary of not pushing their (potentially conservative) audiences too far too fast. Once the audience (and/or reviewers) have caught up, that is another matter.


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