Over the last decade or so music has become simultaneously more superficial yet at the same time, if you want to look for it, more sophisticated. Artists like Barry Adamson have tuned in to the 360 degree audio visual world and produced works that can be poppy and accessible whilst being at the same time challenging and thought provoking. His latest EP Love Sick Dick and the accompanying films epitomise this.
Six songs featuring the exploits of the eponymous Dick as he fails to navigate the world of relationships are presented in a mixture of styles, but all are underpinned by Barry Adamson’s typical dark, unsettling, almost film noire feel. It is excellent stuff, thought provoking, pleasantly poppy, and yet disturbing and unsettling at the same time. They Walk Among Us takes Film Noire into the realms of Horror, combining entertainment with the ability to shock and a having a twist in the tail. The squeamish among you may want to click the link at your own risk!
Rather than just lay out a standard review we thought it would be great to get the opinions of the man himself. On the day that One Hot Mess is played on BBC 6 Music, Barry Adamson talks about the new EP, the development of his instantly recognisable style, and what the future may hold.
Our first discussion was about the EP, and the fact that it is an EP. Why not add a few tracks and make it an album? Well as Barry says, that would defeat the object:
“Its weird I had an album out a year ago. Once you undertake an album it’s a really full on emersion for about nine months to a year. Here I wanted to bring something to the table that was just a stepping stone to the tour really and also just move away from the last piece of work and dive into something where I begin to see myself over a lifespan of work and pick out various themes and topics. This one is about the sort of distortion we find in relationships. I found that if I didn’t commit to the depth of a full album I could bring it to the table quite quickly and successfully, and then just get it out there.
The world’s changing you know. When you talk to people about an album or an EP or whatever they’ll mention one or two tracks. I know people now who just release one track because that’s what people are listening to. They just put that on their play list, and I’m a big fan of play lists so I kinda get it as well. So there’s bit of a movement going. Make something fairly quickly like an EP but keeping the same intensity and you can keep the momentum going.”
The focus on the Love Sick Dick character is the key to keeping the momentum. He finds it difficult to find his way through life.
“Yeah Ol’ Dick there – he pops up and sort of dominates the proceedings, I mean its absurd that’s the thing. But also I look back from my teens up until now and then I look over the songs and I go oh yeah that one was about this and that one was a bit about that and so I see a little pattern emerging throughout. There might be another sub genre going on through the work as well of like crime and a sort of forensic interest. Then there are other things, maybe more sort of spiritual and how that affects me and everything I know from where I sit in the world, and how I view other people. So there are all these things going on in my work but I thought I’d concentrate this time on this particular character and put him through the wringer – and see what happens!
As the EP moves through the tracks there is a definite Us versus Them theme that builds to the climax of One Hot Mess. It’s not the first time that Barry Adamson has been on this territory. It plays to the dark and unsettling tone of much of his work, the 1940s/50s Film Noire, Raymond Chandler, Humphrey Bogard, walking along a darkened street flickering street lights with lots of shadows – you get the idea. Where does that aspect come from; his earlier life and career?
“Yeah, as I said earlier it comes from that kind of distortion in relationships where two people cling onto something, and cling onto each other and it very much is an “us and them”. Then there’s also the sort of isolated figure that Love Sick Dick is and he sees himself very much as an “us” within himself. The other people are out to stop his progress and hinder him. Even the person he has chosen as his intended starts to seem that they are possibly a “them”, so there’s a whole psych-drama going on within that. It relates from the personal to the world stage as well and I quite like that when that happens. It gives me something to sort of get my teeth into for want of a better description”
Do you define that as your style? Is that how you kind of define yourself?
“I think pretty much over the years it’s been made up of the strengths that I play up to. A style has sort of emerged. It’s a style that I’m sort of happy with. It helps me to work with and get around the various themes and topics, and to put people in the world that I’m trying to create. I guess I use cinema you know as a sort of anchor and it gives me the ability to be serious or playful. There’s also a sort of familiarity about my stuff you know, like the unsettling tones, leading to the sort of like the blind alley that Dick seems to be heading towards. Is there going to be light at the end of it or not? I love to play with those things you know. Even with this EP, when I’m talking about the attempt at romance, there’s still a kind of like a teenage trepidation throughout the thing, which I can recall. But there’s also kind of knowing, a sort of experience, complete with failings. I then wrap that all up in the cinema of it, as it’s a place where I think it’s more accessible and I can still put my heart and soul in it. At the end of the day it’s entertaining as well as something to think about.
The psychological theme isn’t limited to the music. The cinematic side of the art comes into play. This has been the story of your long career so far hasn’t it?
“Yeah if I wasn’t doing music I’d probably do something in that field. I’m a big forensic fan and I’m a big Hitchcock fan. The whole of that side of life and the motivations on show give the work psychological leaning. Film and cinema are great places to explore the psychology.
At one end music is about belting out these chords and singing a few words. Being able to add to the medium in a cinematic let’s me describe things, like on different planes, from the mental to the physical, to the spiritual to the emotional and then kind of work through them. I think it is something that’s been slowly developing and it wasn’t rejected so I’ve kind of just carried on. I started off with three albums which were essentially soundtracks to my own inner landscape, ….(Moss Side) Story, Soul Murder and Oedipus (Schmoedipus) and I thought they’d go “sorry mate can you just play bass in a rock band and shut up” but it seemed to be welcomed in some way as an pervasive idea; something that people could get into. I used to love this idea that people would listen to Moss Side Story and going off and creating their own film. Or I’d get a letter from someone who would say “I was on a train the other day listening to Moss Side Story and I was thinking about these things, looking out of the window and then and I was looking out and suddenly I was in this movie. It became a fantastic journey and I listened to it over the course of an hour and as I got off the train and resumed my life, it was like id taken a day out.” That for me is job done. So I continue with these pursuits even though they seem a bit existential and weird and arbitrary but it motivates me and hopefully it brings something to the table for other people so that’s it really!”
Love Sick Dick by Barry Adamson will out on vinyl, CD and download on 14th April 2017.
Barry Adamson embarks on a solo tour in April.
Barry Adamson 2017 Tour Dates
19 April – FR, Paris, Boule Noire
20 April – BE, Brussels, Botanique Rotonde
21 April – NL, Amsterdam, Paradiso (Upstairs)
22 April – UK, Manchester, Ruby Lounge
24 April – UK, Glasgow, King Tuts
26 April – UK, Bristol, Thekla
27 April – UK, London, M.O.T.H Club
30 April – DE, Berlin, Frannz Club
2 May – DE, Munich, Kranhalle
3 May – DE, Cologne, Blue Shell
4 May – DE, Hamburg, Jazz Café