There’s a sense among reviewers of Big Machine, Eliza Carthy’s new album on Topic Records, that this collection marks the artist’s coming of age moment. I’m not sure how she must feel about that herself. I imagine she’s lost count of the number of times people have said that of her latest albums over the years. From Anglicana through Dreams of Breathing Underwater and ever-onward, Eliza Carthy must’ve come of age more times than her years naturally allow.
Pitching up at Normafest a few weeks ago, David Suff was one of the first faces we spotted in main hall. With his exceptional beard (hipsters, take note), the current Mr Topic Records (and acclaimed artist) is not easily missed, and I made a beeline for his stall, as much to try and engage him in conversation as to check out his wares.
One of the reasons I started the blog aspect of The Grizzly Folk website is that I’m fascinated by the stories that sit behind many of my favourite songs. Whether they’re old traditionals or brand new tunes, there’s nearly always a reason for their existence. And so I thought I’d try and dig about a bit and see what I could find.
In my experience, the best interviewees have a tendency to ramble, and in this respect Johnny Marr is right up there with Sir Tom Jones. Obviously…
Back in 2008, I flew to Tokyo to meet Saya, the mercurial vocalist with Tenniscoats. We initially made contact in conjunction with our 4th Tada Sampler, and – truth be told – I’d become something of a Tenniscoats junkie in the interim. Though she’d been delightful in our email correspondence, I found myself vaguely nervous about meeting her in person.
‘We are singing about life, the great game of poesy. We are speaking of the truth from and at our eyes… the mode of nomadic life from the Tamashek people we love.’
– Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, Tinariwen
My interview with Tim Robbins was always going to be a peculiar one. The actor-turned singer was in Japan for a week of concerts at the Blue Note Tokyo, supporting his 2010 album Tim Robbins & The Rogues Gallery Band, but I was warned beforehand not to mention any of his movies – a tough ask considering that the Oscar winner has been part of the Hollywood furniture for more than two decades – and it was politely suggested that he’d only want to talk about his music. No Susan Sarandon, then. I duly set about studying the man’s only album, and the music that might have inspired it.
I needn’t have been so meticulous. Tim Robbins is a walking encyclopaedia of musical minutiae (seriously, next time you find yourself in a lift with him, ask him about punk, folk, lo-fi…you get the impression he commits it all to memory like words from a script). And so I sat with him for 30 learned minutes, bouncing between family memories (his father was an admired folk singer) and his experiences of fame (‘It’s all in your head’), hearing about how he won’t be ‘going Indonesian’ on his next album, and the Robbins secret to ‘living free’. A wide-ranging interview, then, to say the least, and possibly his first since 1994 (I’m kinda proud to say) not to use the word ‘Shawkshank’…
The closing ceremony of the Middle East Film Festival is a glam affair, starry as the desert sky. But as the cameras flash across the red carpet, capturing Orlando Bloom and Eva Mendes in the way in which they’ve become accustomed, one figure stands aside, happy to go unnoticed. His name is Joe Odagiri, and in his native Japan, he can’t step out of the front door without being splashed across the tabloids.
‘It’s amazing, isn’t it,’ says the actor, watching his current co-star Maggie Q lap up the photographers’ attention. ‘They’re pretty bad in Japan, the paparazzi – I guess they’re the same everywhere. But all this,’ he says, gesturing to the scene around him, unused to observing it from the sidelines, ‘It’s really amazing.’ He goes on to explain that his time at the festival has largely been his own, again something of a reprieve for someone in the Japanese limelight where celebrities are expected to have several strings to their bow. Since arriving in Abu Dhabi, he’s only had one interview request – with yours truly.
Everyone knows Booker T Jones, though not everyone realises it. Despite being one of the most influential musicians of the last half century, he is best known as a session man and songwriter, plying his trade in the background, producing tunes that have been in the foreground more times than you could ever recall.