Adam Stafford

Adam Stafford is undoubtedly one of the most consistently inventive Scottish musicians operating today. Throughout his career, Adam has shed musical identities at will, all the time incorporating elements of different genres into something recognisably his own.

He returns this month with ‘Daylight Slavings’, a new album on Gerry Loves Records. Like its predecessor, ‘Trophic Asynchrony’, the atmospheric ‘Daylight Slavings’ is largely piano based with Stafford building up the songs from some intricate melodies.

Whilst there’s a definite link to Adam’s past work in terms of his melodic sensibilities ‘Daylight Slavings’ certainly can’t be categorised as indie music in the way that previous releases like ‘Build A Harbour, Immediately’ or ‘Taser Revelations’ were. Instead, it’s something more akin to modern composition.

itm? caught up with him earlier in the month to discuss the record but first we discussed his apparently insatiable musical curiosity.

“I mean it’s probably just a case of getting really bored of different styles or different genres quite easily!  I’ve just never wanted to be the type of musician that just sticks in one place and tries to repeat the same thing over and over again, you know?

“Trying to recreate the same thing over again really just doesn’t interest me philosophically or spiritually so that’s probably why I do flit to different things.

“I like to experiment as well. I do a lot of quite wild experimentation at home, and some very embarrassing experimentation as well, but that will never see the light of day! They’ll stay hidden on like hard drives and old tapes and stuff.

“I know a lot of people think I just release any old crap but there is a bit of method to the madness or chaos!”

‘Daylight Slavings’ is, loosely speaking, the third in a run of keyboard-based albums which started with 2019’s tape only release ‘The Acid Bothy’. Adam discussed how he had moved from that starting point to the current record.

“I got a Yamaha CS synth before the whole pandemic happened. I spent a year trying to just learn how to play it because it’s quite a tactile, little instrument. It’s modelled on late 70s, early 80s synthesizers where you would actually have faders and dials and stuff, so it’s quite idiosyncratic to learn how to play it.

“But I guess it’s just a natural progression once you learn a few chords on the synthesizer to move from that to a smaller piano. So, during lockdown I tried to learn how to play an electric Yamaha piano.

“I don’t really play with the left and right hand. It’s usually the right hand is playing the notes and then the left hand is fiddling with the knobs and dials on the piano and stuff like that. So, it suits me really well to just learn on one hand essentially because I’m too lazy to learn on two.”

Adam explained the appeal of the piano.

“Pianos in general, just sound beautiful and the more acoustic the better. We used of Matthew’s (Song, by Toad) old detuned piano quite a lot when we were doing ‘Fire Behind The Curtain’ and it was really nice to play with an acoustic upright piano.

“My Yamaha has quite a distinctive piano sound, which I quite like, that definitely has a kind of ‘Exorcist’ vibe about it. It’s a bit like ‘Tubular Bells’ without, you know, going too far into Mike Oldfield’s past!

“I could probably have done this record on a synthesizer but it would just sound completely different as I think the piano tends towards a more emotional reaction from people listening to it.

“I started writing this one right in the middle of ‘Trophic Asynchrony’ so the two kind of overlapped and I guess it’s like a follow-up album to that. In fact, I sent the mixes over to Robbie (Lesiuk) under the heading of Morose Piano Album!

“It’s kind of half naturalistic sounding and a little bit synthetic.”

Adam has some ambitious plans for his piano material, although he admits that he may not ever be able to fully realise these.

“I’d love to hear it played live as a score by actual concert pianists with four or five different pianos. But I just don’t have the funds to do that. These little Yamaha keyboards are really cheap, so maybe you could have a few pianists doing it on these little keyboards, I don’t know. But it’d be nice to hear it played properly in a concert setting.”

Adam explained that there is one other barrier to moving this music into a more formal setting

“I don’t really read music but you can get, I wouldn’t say it’s AI, but pretty smart compositional software. You can literally play something into the computer and it will score it up for you as you’re playing it. So I would need to utilize that or get somebody that could actually translate the music, like a Pete Harvey or an Emily Scott or somebody like that.

“Me and Ceylan (Hay from Bell Lungs) were talking about this the other week because we’ve been working on a film soundtrack together. She was saying that reading music is just a shorthand between musicians and they don’t have to try and explain it, emotionally. They just write it out and then other musicians would get how to play that.

“Whereas, I think people sometimes who play by ear are a bit more instinctive in their playing. Look at all the blues guitarists that could never read music, but could play just incredible slide guitar like Blind Willie Johnson and people like that.”

With his record label of recent years Song, By Toad now dormant, Adam had to find another to put the record out and he turned to Edinburgh’s Gerry Loves Records, who have previously issued some of Adam’s material including a split 7” which also featured Rick Redbeard.

Negotiations on the release seem to have been fairly straightforward.

“Andy and Paddy from the label knew I’d been recording these little piano compositions, and they came to see me play in October in Leith. It had probably had been a while since I’d seen them both and we were just chatting and stuff.

“And then I emailed them a couple of weeks later and said look if you want, I’ll send you the album. If you want to go for it then I’d like to release something with you and they were really up for it.”

With the release sorted out, Adam is playing two launch shows – at the Hug & Pint in Glasgow on Thursday 27th June and in the Old Lab at Summerhall in Edinburgh on Saturday 29th. Whilst shows in recent years have either featured Adam playing solo or with regular collaborator, Robbie Lesiuk, he has something special planned for these shows.

““It’s the first time since we did the ‘Fire Behind The Curtain’ launch shows that we’ve played as a kind of ensemble and we’re going to be playing as a trio. I’ll be playing keys and Ceylan, who’s also supporting at the two gigs, should be playing violin and possibly keys and all sorts of stuff. Robbie is going to be on bass and keys as well.

“So I’m looking forward to that and hopefully it’ll be a good night out.”

Daylight Slavings is released on vinyl and download on 28 June through Gerry Loves.

Adam Stafford portraits by Andy Lobban.

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