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When the Paper Machines take over

with Rob McKinlay (of Paper Machine Music)

By • Mar 24th, 2019 • Category: Feature

How solo can you go?

Despite the elaborate sound of debut album ‘Glimpse’, and indeed the ‘band’s name, Paper Machine Music is entirely down to the efforts of one man. Well, pretty much.

“I always had a home studio even before Viva Stereo,” says Rob McKinlay, from his base in Fort William, overlooking Loch Linnie. That creatively experimental Falkirk four-piece followed on from McKinlay’s time “hanging out with folks who had computers,” and from his own 4-track cassette recordings.

“One time I flipped the tape over and worked out I could have backwards guitar – that was revelatory!” he laughs.

But eventually the machines took over McKinlay’s musical life and his attention turned to more dancey tunes. “(Viva Stereo) singer Stuart Gray was of the opinion we had three albums before we have to change.”

And album #4, 2011’s ‘Endure the Dark to See the Stars’ followed a trio of beat-driven efforts . “We went back to being a proper band using live drums and not playing to clicktracks, but by then we’d moved to all corners of the country, and it got harder for us to all get together.”

Fortunately McKinlay was well set up for the next step, as he started to construct his home studio.

“If someone was giving musical equipment away I was the one who’d take it,” he smiles, “so I have this drum kit in the house, a couple of basses, umpteen guitars, synths, a drum machine, all acquired over the course of 20 years.”

But, it seems, there’s only so much you can do on your own – so despite ‘Glimpse’s lush production, which recalls Radiohead and Mogwai’s most elaborate moments, its creator was not satisfied.

“I suppose I reached a point recording the album where it was starting to get a little stale for me – with a couple of the songs I felt I couldn’t do them justice and I wanted them to be a bit fresh.

Fortunately, the now-multi-instrumentalist was able to call on friends including Lonely Tourist and King Creosote to add vocals, as well as Gav ‘Onthefly’ Brown, a drummer known for his work with the Fence Collective.

“I ended up booking some time at Chem19 studio and got (engineer) Derek O’Neill to play some keys to inject a bit of ‘something else’.

“It’s always good to listen back to your own stuff but with others’ involvement, it makes the listening experience more interesting for me and also spurs me on.”

But perhaps inevitably this spirit of collaboration brought back the urge to play with a band live again.

“That’s something I really miss,” he agrees. “The sheer noise – when you’re DIY and working late evenings you can’t justify it with kids in the house!”

However, it was very much back-to-basics for the album, available physically as well as online. “People don’t buy CDs in the same volumes so I hand -made a run of 50,” McKinlay says of the rather attractive album sleeves. “Though once I’d made the first 10 I thought: ‘Why am I doing this myself?’ It’s a bit labour intensive!”

However, the investment paid off with the first run selling out. “It was played a few times on BBC 6music,” he recalls. “It’s amazing how instantaneous it was – it got played once and sold eight albums in that hour.”

But with an album launch tour done, it’s back to the studio to work on new material. That’s no hardship though. “I’ve fallen in love with playing guitar again,” McKinlay confesses. That and listening to new music – and old, admitting to having just recently ‘discovered’ Pavement. I contend that there’s not much of that ‘slacker’
American indie sound in his album.

“I do what I do…” he responds. “ I’m comfortable now, this is what I sound like.”

‘Glimpse’ is available at papermachinemusic.bandcamp.com.

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