Thursday, January 08, 2004

The Party

A few months back, we received The Party’s EP ‘It’s The Small Things That Keep You Awake’, easily the best self-released record we’ve received at VP thus far in 2003, and the press release indicated the kind of maverick mind behind it that we just had to find out more about. James Scott, aka The Party, embodies everything that is great about our ‘alternative’ scene. Totally single-minded, utilising his myriad of influences to create something quite unique in many ways. Also it’s great to have an artist willing to explain their philosophies at length and it makes for very interesting reading. Enjoy!

Why did you decide to record alone? Why ‘THE PARTY’?

Well Skif, I’d been in bands since I was about thirteen & just got bored with the format. I got sick of having to keep other people happy & having to compromise fully constructed ides just so people felt they were getting some input. There’s a myth around bands that says that the most important thing is chemistry & that everyone, if they want to, should be able to have their input. It’s a myth surely created by people with no good ideas so they can be part of something they actually aren’t needed for. It’s to do with egos…some people in bands just can’t believe or at least can’t admit that ANYONE could do what they’re doing & that they’re therefore utterly replaceable. I just couldn’t deal with all that bullshit anymore – musicians can be so precious about the tiniest, most insignificant things & that usually means the ‘vision’ of what you’re trying to create gets mutilated ‘cos the bass player’s refused to use his van for the next gig unless he gets to play his funky bassline throughout the new song you’re working on even though anyone with ears can hear it sounds shit. I wouldn’t deny that some bands DO have chemistry but to my way of thinking it’s incredibly rare. I do actually consider The Party to be a band – it’s just that generally I’m the only member. If a song doesn’t need drums I don’t have to worry about a sulking drummer, if it doesn’t need guitar then the same applies. To me, almost all the greatest music has been created via a singular vision – that way it doesn’t get diluted…& you can only blame yourself when you put out something crap (which is the downside!). I play all the instruments on the records these days but I must confess I detest being referred to as a musician – it always makes me think of punters in guitar shops playing Stairway to fucking Heaven! The name ‘The Party’ was chosen initially just because I liked the sound of it but then I started to think about the various connotations the word ‘party’ has which really cemented it.

What inspires you musically & lyrically?

Musically I’m into so many different things it’s hard for me to see which bits of my listening have influenced me & in what ways. I tend to leave cd’s all over the desk until I eventually put ‘em back where they belong – just looking at the pile on here now (i.e. the last ones I’ve played) there’s MANITOBA, TERRY HALL, SMOG, THE FALL, an Artists Against Success sampler, BOB DYLAN, ED RUSH & OPTICAL, LEE HAZELWOOD & ANNE MARGARET, EELS, THE POGUES, AUGUSTUS PABLO, MACKA B., THE KINKS, FRANKIE MACHINE, JAMES BROWN, JOHN LEE HOOKER, TRILEMMA, FEAR, PUBLIC ENEMY, an old Northern Soul sampler & NICK CAVE. Some of those things & many others will’ve undoubtedly influenced me somewhere along the line. Lyrically, I won’t write about something unless it’s either happened/happening to me or I’ve seen it at very close quarters. Things that interest me, make me angry, find darkly amusing or touching in some way. If you don’t invest something of yourself in it then what’s the point? Sometimes it’s fairly obvious what the songs are about (I think) but other times I like to throw people off the scent a little just to keep things interesting…make ‘em think they’re listening to something they’re not. I always think you never really get to know a good record until you’ve played it at least 40 or 50 times. Records designed to grab you straight away on the first listen often don’t hold much mystique after half a dozen plays ‘cos there’s nothing left to find or understand. They blew their wad too early!

What motivates you to record?

I have a strong desire to create stuff I guess – I always did even as a kid. Sport never really interested me I’d rather be doing something creative. I did play sport with my mates sometimes but I was never very bothered about it. I do occasionally wonder whether sport isn’t some kind of government sponsored diversionary tactic to numb peoples senses…it seems to have that effect as far as I can see. I think of records like a diary in a way. Get it down & out of your system. Move on. When I first started The Party I wasn’t doing a day job & often used to write & record up to 3 songs a day…sometimes one of them would be good! I simply don’t have the time to do that now but in a way it’s improved my self-editing. Now I probably carry a song around in my head for 2 or 3 weeks, gradually adding bits & taking bits away, before I get anywhere near the studio. A lot of these get rejected when they’re still in the ‘head’ stage. It’s a reminder that not every idea you have is great & that, in fact, some of them are fucking shocking & should never become any more than an idea. Drown ‘em before they get out of hand.

How comes you don’t play live? Wouldn’t you like to see an immediate reaction to your work?

Well, partly because of the hassles & limitations of the band format we spoke about earlier & partly because I think the idea that bands should ‘naturally’ play live is absolute fucking bollocks. What utter fucking snobbery. No one is ever going to convince me that something is in some way better or more ‘worthy’ just because it’s played live. I did the live circuit in various bands for years & now I don’t play live…I’m doing the best work I’ve ever done! Any cunt can play an instrument providing they are physically able & want to enough…there’s no great trick to it, just a bit of practice at the start & you’re away! 99% of bands are just trotting out the songs as if they were at a rehearsal anyway…they do it because ‘rock’n’roll (don’t make me laugh, my nan’s more rock’n’roll) A&R men tell them they have to & they’ve bought into the rock’n’roll myth. The fact that they’re buying into a myth established so long ago makes it one of the least rock’n’roll thing I can think of. It’s about as rock’n’roll as buying a pint of milk. The best bit about most gigs is having a beer with your mates…the bands, even if you love their records, are invariably a disappointment. Audiences just whoop & holler at the end of songs ‘cos that’s what they’re supposed to do. The whole thing bores me rigid.

If the musical world were ideal, it would…

…care more about music than commerce. That’s ridiculously utopian I know, but you did say ideal!

Why should people buy ‘it’s the small things that keep you awake…’?

Perhaps they shouldn’t buy it. Maybe it’s not for them. Maybe it is…I’m the last person to ask, I’m way too close to it. I think it’s a fucking great record. I’d buy it & think it was the best £4 I’d ever spent…but if I didn’t think that I’d have no business putting it out! Christ Skif, you tell ‘em why they should buy it, they’re not going to trust me are they!?!…you’ll do a much better job than me…

Suggest a publicity stint to raise The Party’s profile

The best publicity stunt seems to either be death (though you tend to have to be a bit more well known than me for that one to really work) or crime (& I wouldn’t be stupid enough to get caught). To be honest I hate it when bands resort to cheap stunts, unless it’s something like some of the stuff the KLF did (perhaps with the exception of burning the cash) which was at least interesting & didn’t really seem to sell ‘em any more records. The KLF/EXTREME NOISE TERROR collaboration on the Brits some years ago (followed by the dead sheep in the lobby) was great – especially as I really loved E.N.T. & a lot of the other Brit hardcore stuff of the time…I couldn’t believe they were on prime time tv! I read Bill Drummond’s book, 45, earlier this year & it goes into some of the other daft stuff they did…most of it seems to be due to inquisitiveness, bloody-mindedness & an over-active imagination rather than to win public support for the purchasing of their records. Actually, if anyone reading this has an audio or video copy of the E.N.T. collaboration on 3am Eternal please contact me as I’d love to get my hands on it!

What do you consider your best achievement in music?

If I thought I’d had it, I’d give up – there’d be no point in carrying on! It’s always the thing you’re currently working on – at the moment that’s the next record (another full album his time, not a mini), provisionally titled Vandalism Is Fun – that’s a Vanity Project exclusive…although it’ll probably have changed by the time it comes out as it’s only in its very early stages at the moment. Any labels that might be interested in putting it out give me a call as Colchester Recordings are a bit strapped for cash at the moment! My best achievement in music really has been the realisation that all the things the rock folk-lore teaches you are, in the main, absolute bollocks. There’s nothing rock’n’roll/punk rock (delete to taste – it means the same thing really) about aping the past or what some corporate funded cocksnot thinks is great. If you haven’t got the right A&R man, manager or press officer you’re basically fucked & all those people who claim to be into it just for the love of the music won’t give a flying fuck about you or your music. The music scene is just an opportunity to get into places for free & do too much coke. It’s such a cliché but the overwhelming majority of these people are the living embodiment of it. Sorry, I seem to have drifted off the point a bit there…

What more would you like to achieve with your music?

Obviously, I’d like more people to buy the records, but that’s more ‘cos I love the feedback & just want people to hear it. I get a real buzz out of someone really getting what The Party does. Some people really like it but don’t necessarily get it – don’t get me wrong, that’s great but it’s better when they get it too. I guess I just like to feel I’ve communicated something to someone on a similar wavelength. At the moment I’d just like to put stuff out on loads of different labels (some more vinyl would be great too…got the bug for vinyl again after doing the 7” with Always Face The Sea Records). Colchester Recordings is great & I’ll still be doing stuff through them but it doesn’t have a lot of cash & I want to put out tons of stuff!!! They have no problem with me doing stuff with other labels so it’s up to me to hook up with some more people really…

If you weren’t making music just what would you do with your evenings?

I don’t tend to have much time in the evenings!!! I typically work 40-50 hours a week then do another 16+ hours studying as I’m doing a part-time degree. Then I like to spend some time with my long-suffering girlfriend. I also do stuff for Colchester Recordings & like a drink whenever possible. I have to be extremely organised & just put time aside every few weeks to record the ideas that have been undergoing refinement I my head over the previous few weeks! It all seems to hold together somehow. Unless I’ve been drinking I just can’t sit still, I think I might be a bit of a workaholic…I can’t stand wasting time. If I’m determined to relax, I have a couple of drinks & that gives my brain the signal that I’m in ‘relax’mode…otherwise I just can’t! I t drives everyone up the wall…

What are your future plans for recordings?

In the not too distant future (in fact, it will be out by the time this goes to print), The Party will have a track called A Cavalcade Of Monkeys on a compilation album on Colchester Recordings (along with CANDY SNIPER, BEN MARWOOD, EPOCHÉ, CONFORMIST, FRANKIE MACHINE, DUB MONSTER, SEAN PARKER, BILLY IDLE & CAUSTIC GOAT, STEVE RUDD & KILL DIZNEY) & will be doing sporadic bursts of work on the next album. There are completed tracks that may or may not go on the next album – hard to tell to you get enough together & see how they fit - & if anyone else wants to put them out then that’d be great! If time allows then I may be producing an album for BILLY IDLE & CAUSTIC GOAT who want to release a series of 7” albums on coloured vinyl – their songs tend to be around the one minute mark so realistically they could get 14 – 16 songs on a 7” at 33rpm. There’s no label earmarked for that just yet (Colchester Recordings have said they’d love to do it but yet again, they’re limited fund-wise). That’s about it for the time being but we’re always open to offers…

What, with regard to the uk music scene, upsets you?

I think I’ve probably covered that already. But more generally, what gets me the most is the lionisation of the ordinary. There’s so much great music out there but it consistently get overlooked in favour of stuff that has no personality, nothing to say other than the usual vague platitudes & is talked up by certain sections of the media as being everything it isn’t. What I hate most is they way that if the ‘right’ people say someone or something is a ‘classic’ or an ‘icon’, a few weeks later everyone you meet starts parroting the same idea as if they thought of it! The only reason it was said in the first place was because somebody was in someone else’s pocket! Coldplay for instance are a band who I’ve no real problem with – they’re a perfectly ok MOR guitar band if you like that sort of thing, they don’t seem inherently evil or anything but for christsakes, they’re no better or worse than 5000 other bands in a similar vein. Oasis were supposed to be the greatest rock’n’roll band to stalk the earth but in reality they were an above average pub rock band who got extra big due to the grey pound! They effectively appealed to middle aged guys in dull jobs who could feel like they were part of something modern whilst listening to to something that could’ve been in their fathers’ record collection! Robbie Williams has ‘star quality’ because he changes his mind & winks a lot…even a prick like him knows his records are shit. He usually waits until its sold all it’s going to sell then says “oh, that was crap” – then, the most infuriating bit is when all the people who bought the previous crap one go out & buy the next one. Essentially, it’s a lifestyle accessory –everyone loves it so we’d better love it too or we’ll miss out! - they wouldn’t know a good record from a fucking dinner plate…it’s all bullshit really &just not worth getting upset about. There’s a lot of thick people about that’s all. Give a record to make ‘em think that’s what I say…

What, with regard to the uk music scene, delights you?

The only thing that delights me about the uk music scene is the underground really. People like yourself , Losing Today (although they’re Italien!), Is this Music?, No Ripcord, Juxta, My Dead Flower, Modern Dance, Careless Talk Costs Lives, The Scourge, Zeitgeist, Splendid (although they’re from the US), Misfit City & loads of other ‘zines that I can’t think of off the top of my head. Then there’s all the labels that put out stuff they like & damn the consequences. It’s the only good thing about the music scene, there’s some great bands, zines & labels but they rarely get a mention in the mainstream.

Six Desert Island Discs?

6 is that all??!!! Well, I’d have to take ‘It’s Alive’ by The Ramones for when I wanted something full of energy -it’s got to be my favourite live album…, ‘Henry’s Dream’ by Nick Cave – it’s hard to pick one of his albums ‘cos they’ve all got some great stuff on them but there’s some brilliant songs on Henry’s Dream that give me goosebumps whenever I hear them so it’ll have to be that one. The last Smog album, ‘Supper’ has to be their best since ‘Knock Knock’ so I’d have to have that. For a funky moment I’d have to take a James Brown ‘Best of…’. I don’t think I could do without something by The Fall but I can’t narrow it down, I think it’d have to be my own mix Cd with tracks from ‘This Nations Saving Grace’, ‘The Infotainment Scam’, ‘Extricate’, ‘The Unutterable’, ‘Perverted by Language’ and ‘Shiftwork’ – bit of a cheat I know! I’d definitely want some reggae but yet again I’m going to have to cheat with a mix cd including Lee Perry, Augustus Pablo, Macka B., Big Youth, King Tubby, Max Romeo, Junior Murvin & probably loads of others. Bollocks, I couldn’t get ‘London Calling’, ‘Searching For The Young soul Rebels’, ‘Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot’, ‘Powerage’, ‘No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith’, ‘Punks Not Dread’, ‘Why?’, ‘Dirty Rotten LP’, ‘Red Roses for Me’, ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions…’, that is an evil question for a music lover…

3 Desert Island Books?

These kind of questions are impossible!!! Right, I’ll go for ‘X-Ray’, the biography of Ray Davies of The Kinks which is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read, the way he’s written it really gives it an edge…a very creative way of doing a biog. Recently read ‘The Dubliners’ by James Joyce which was good & also ‘A Drink With Shane MacGowan’ which was also a great biography. There’s tons more but to save myself the greif I’ll stick to those three…

One Desert Island luxury item?

Easy! Some kind of stationary set including pens & paper…if you’ve got that then your imagination will help keep you sane, think of all the lyrics you could write, plans you could make until you got – hopefully- rescued. The obvious answer might have been a guitar or piano or something but if you break a string or the piano goes out of tune you’re knackered. Pen & paper is much more versatile…

Any other words of wisdom?

Only that people should check out the Colchester Recordings website if they want to check out reviews of The Party’s records or buy any of them. Anyone at a label or a ‘zine who’s interested in The Party feel free to get in touch.


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