RM Hubbert’s ‘First and Last’ is a gorgeous display of solo guitar wizardry. However, the album was born out of dark times for the Glaswegian musician
, as it was recorded in the wake of his parents’ death. “The last couple of years have been a difficult time for me and the album just came from that really,” he says. “The music was an outlet and a way of trying to express the way I was feeling. It really gives a snapshot of that particular time in my life.”
In writing the album Hubbert was influenced by flamenco, samba and taiko guitar. However, while he studied these styles he found it difficult to engage emotionally with the music. “Those styles are quite conservative” he comments. “Plus, I’m not really that great at learning other people’s music, so I just focused on writing my own. What I ended-up doing was taking a lot of flamenco’s structures and rhythms and coming up with melodies which were influenced by other styles of music and my previous band El Hombre Trajeado.”
Indeed, Hubbert’s former band were beloved by John Peel but remained relatively obscure. However, interest in El Hombre Trajeado seems to have piqued since their demise. “We’ve gotten more popular the longer we’ve been disbanded” he laughs. “I don’t think we’ll get back together though, after 10 years we realized it had gotten a bit predictable. I’m still friends with the other guys and we still play together, just not as the band.”
Hubbert notes that instrumental albums often descend into “wankery” and was keen to avoid this on ‘First and Last’. As a result the album’s songs are relatively short. “I wanted each piece to be as effective as a pop song” he says. Hubbert is also heavily influenced by punk music, citing the Minutemen as a particular favorite, and describes his own music as punk. “It’s more about your approach to the music, rather than the style of the music itself” he says. “As Mike Watt said, ‘Punk is what you make it’.”
Emboldened by this DIY ethic, Hubbert and his friend Colin Williams have set-up a new open source inspired record label called Ubisano to release ‘First and Last’. The album is released under a Creative Commons License, which allows for remixes and reworking of his music as well as further sharing for non-commercial purposes. Hubbert has also taken a cue from Radiohead and made ‘First and Last’ available on a pay-what-you-like basis from his website (www.rmhubbert.com).
There are plans for releases from other artists through Ubisano, with Hubbert intending to put out material by a new band called Make Love, which features members of Sons and Daughters and Foxface. In addition there is a second RM Hubbert album planned for next year which is set to take a collaborative approach, with contributions from the likes of Aidan Moffat, Alasdair Roberts, Emma Pollack and Luke Sutherland as well as his ex-El Hombre bandmates.
As for the more immediate future Hubbert is arranging a number of shows through his website under the ‘Play for Food’ scheme, where he will play for you and your friends in your own abode in exchange for a home-cooked meal. “I’ve done a few ‘Play for Food’ shows already and they’ve been really good” he enthuses. “In El Hombre Trajeado we did a fair bit of touring where we’d play to ten people in a dingy club, so it’s nice to do something a bit different!”
In uncertain times for the music industry, Hubbert has faith in the DIY approach. “There’s no distribution costs involved in downloading music and if people get interested it could lead to them buying a physical product” he says. “I’ve been able to distribute my music far more widely than we were able to do with El Hombre and in the long run the economics balance out. If people like something they will usually reward you for it.”
‘First and Last’ is available now through www.rmhubbert.com
RM Hubbert plays Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre on the 8th of May.