He’s not quite as ubiquitously Christmassy as the big bloke with the beard and red suit, but Malcolm Middleton has won a space in the hearts of anyone tired with the festive season and distraught at the prospect of another X-Factor number one – thanks to last year’s unseasonal mini-hit ‘We’re All Going To Die’. 12 months on, in a Dundee dressing-room in advance of his Tennents Mutual show, itm? chatted to him in advance of this year’s rather more low-key plans…
You’re four records down the line from Arab Strap, how far do you think you work has evolved from those days?
I’ve always treated it as being quite separate, purely because Aidan [John Moffat] did the lyrics with Arab Strap and there was never much focus on the music, it was more about the storytelling. I think that when the second album came out it removed me from it which was good for me.
Do you get fed up of the attempts made to make comparisons to your solo work and your work within Arab Strap?
Not really, I don’t think the lyrics are similar. Aidan’s more about detail, I’m more about vagueness, maybe people get the accents mixed up as they’re kind of similar.
You’re often portrayed as being very downbeat where your work contains a lot of wry humour, do you feel that often gets overlooked?
Yeah – Arab Strap had that too – but people are going to get into it if they delve into it and enjoy it. You also get people who see past it and don’t go there but pick up on the slow tempo and tone of the singing.
Do you think work like Sleight of Heart would have been any different had ‘We’re All Going To Die’ had reached the Christmas number one?
Nothing would have changed – if ‘We’re All Going To Die’ had made number one I’d probably have delayed the release for a few months so I could stay at home and hide!
Was the attention offered by Radio 1 strange for you?
It was strange, it’s something that’s not really been done as it’s always been major labels on the radio. It was good, but I wasn’t the kind of person who they’d give a shave and a haircut, I’m not marketable. I think realistically that it did as much as it could do.
How do you feel about new Scottish bands such as The Twilight Sad or Frightened Rabbit, who aren’t following the current trends of the mainstream but are still proving very popular?
It’s good, especially those indie bands who are making music for musics sake rather than trying to cut songs down to three minutes. It’s like old school Sonic Youth, it’s coming back round to a good era for guitar music.
The ‘Live at Bush Hall album’ is very stripped back whereas ‘A Brighter Beat’ is a full band album, how is future material going to sound?
I’m halfway through writing the next album just now and it’s quite full on, but I’d definitely like to go into the studio and record an acoustic album.
How much do you think your music will progress in the long term for it to remain sustainable?
I’ve been quite cynical about music recently and it’s been quite hard to see why I should write a song, but that’s probably fifth album syndrome! I’m getting bored of solo work just now so I’d like to start a band next year or the year after and do something further away from what I’m expected to do, then come back to the solo records when I’ve worked out more about life.
Malcolm brings his own brand of festive cheer to Glasgow, with ‘Burst Noel’ at Fairfield Working Men’s Club, Govan on 19th December (which includes erstwhile labelmates De Rosa and the Phantom Band, plus Strike the Colours and old chum Aidan with a DJ set. Before that, a gig with James Yorkston in London the 11th. More at www.malcolmmiddleton.co.uk