If there’s one saving grace to come out of the last year, it’s that some unexpected new music collaborations have taken place.
One of the most interesting is an international lockdown album between five artists across four cities, three time zones and two continents.
The project features the combined talents of producer/DJ Scott Fraser (London), producer/DJ Kid Loco (Paris), film/art director Tim Saccenti (New York), as well as two Glasgow-based musicians, and producer/musician Bal Cooke, of A Band Called Quinn / Dawnings, and his bandmate, singer-songwriter Louise Quinn, who filled us in on their trans-continental recording.
• So Louise, you have a new project on the go this year, Gates of Light (self-titled album out March 26th, and the first single “Walk On” sounds really good). How did this come about?
When the pandemic struck a year ago, I had to abandon plans I had made to record another DAWNINGS album and devise another gig-theatre show with theatre director Ben Harrison.
Creative Scotland created a new fund (Open Fund) to sustain creativity during lockdown. The uncertainty and claustrophobia of the initial lockdown made me want to reach out to other artists to make an album I otherwise wouldn’t have made. In 2019 Andrew Weatherall remixed and released a track I co-wrote with producer and DJ Scott Fraser called Together More; he wrote a note to go with the release and described the track as ‘sublime magik’.
I have sang on several Kid Loco albums and Jean-Yves (Kid Loco) has remixed tracks and produced an album called Luss for my husband and long-term musical collaborator Bal Cooke and I. Bal and I met film director and photographer Tim Saccenti through a mutual friend from Glasgow, Mal Torrance.
So there we had it; Glasgow, London, Paris and New York. A remote collaboration where we could connect and create with inspiring humans experiencing the same global crisis in different time zones, cities and continents.
• How did the writing process happen for the tracks on the new album? Was it very different from the usual?
Like most people I found lockdown very intense; especially at first when it really did feel like the end of the world. I had a lot of ideas musically and lyrically buzzing about my head and would record them on my phone.
To try and stay sane and connected I listened to a lot of radio phone-ins, watched a lot of news and read tweets and Facebook posts from friends and the online community.
To get the ball rolling Bal and I recorded four tracks; Walk On, This Is How We Sound, Next To Me and Inevitable and sent them to Scott, Jean-Yves and Tim. Scott and Jean-Yves further produced and mixed these tracks and sent us tracks which they started which we in turn added vocals to and other parts.
Tim responded with images and also musical influences which we all shared whilst we were collaborating too. Bal and I have one year old boy/girl twins so we had to record at night after they went down to sleep and on headphones to try and not disturb them. Some nights we only had half an hour to work – so it was quite a slow process.
• How has the development of technology affected your recording processes?
Faster broadband and cloud computing have made it a lot easier to transfer big files. Social media and online references were good writing tools and inspiration for lyrics. We never zoomed or anything – it was all quite old school back and forth via email.
• Are there any livestreams or online gigs planned?
Bal and I are recording a Scotsman session tomorrow night (twins sleeping schedule permitting!). Hopefully we’ll do more as it has been good practising for this. If we could get the whole collective involved that would be amazing.
• You have been in and around the Scottish music industry for quite some time now – what have been the obvious, and not so obvious changes?
I guess with the music industry overall it’s more of a level playing field because of digital platforms, but no-one gets paid, definitely not artists anyway. I think there’s still a real lack of managers in Scotland and a lot of the gate-keepers are still based in London. But I think there are a lot more female artists who are getting into production which is really positive and a lot of young people are mixing up digital art with music and other artforms which is encouraging too.
• Streaming – to stream or not to stream?
Is there a choice? It’s nice that people are buying vinyl again and there’s a resurgence with cassettes.
• Any advice for people starting off in the music industry in 2021?
Trust your instincts, don’t listen to other people (especially older ones like me) and enjoy yourself!
• Favourite tracks of 2020?
‘Take Back The Radio’ – Katie J Pearson, ‘A Hero’s Death’ – Fontaines DC, ‘Laurie’ – Tim Burgess, ‘People I’ve Been Sad’ – Christine & The Queens, ‘Atlas’ – Bicep, ‘This Is What You Did’ – This Is The Kit.
• There has been a lot of discussion about gender in the music industry, including institutional sexism, discrimination regarding festival billings and online abuse. Any thoughts?
I think the recent posting of experiences by women for #ReclaimTheseStreets following the murder of Sarah Everard has made everyone realise how insidious misogyny and sexism are in our society at large which inevitably affects the music industry.
During lockdown a lot of oppressed groups had time to think about how things actually aren’t alright and that perhaps we should talk about them; the group I identified with was female artists which prompted me to write ‘Walk On’. After watching Amanda Vickery’s The History Of Women In Art I realised that female artists have been suppressed since the beginning of time; so many incredible female artists faced so many cruel and unfair barriers to being able to express their creativity and were just written out of history.
I wrote ‘Walk On’ about Italian Renaissance sculptor Properzia de’ Rossi, who when denied access to marble, created beautifully intricate friezes on apricot, peach, and cherry stone. Her reputation was destroyed by a male competitor who launched a smear campaign against her when her talents started to gain attention and win commissions then she died penniless and alone.
• What have been your highlights, and lowlights, of lockdown?
Highlights of lockdown for me have been a slowing down of time in places and moments of euphoria. I imagine it’s maybe like being a hermit or part of a strict religious order; it does something to your brain that way.
I wrote ‘Next To Me’ about this feeling. Also the appreciation of and feeling more connected to nature which inspired me ‘On And On’ which was a track which Scott started.
I’ve had lovely times with my family which have inspired songs like ‘Lullaby’ and ‘And It Goes On’ but have missed my extended family and friends at times too.
Lowlights, well that groundhog day feeling inspired ‘This Is How We Sound’ and the very dark days inspired the song ‘Inevitable’ which I worried was too dark to put out there; but hopefully it will offer others who’ve experienced that darkness a light in that they are not alone.
Making this album was a real light in the darkness for everyone involved; I hope listeners will get that same feeling listening to it as we had making it.