This interview originally ran in The Herald Newspaper (Scotland) on June 7, 2012, under the heading ON THE ROAD TO THE NORTH
Glasgow venue Nice N Sleazy has a lot to answer for. It has long been renowned as a haven for acts like Arab Strap, Mogwai and The Twilight Sad, and now it’s being hailed as the hub that transformed mild-mannered electronica buff and singer-songwriter Julian Corrie into the ultra-pop livewire that is Miaoux Miaoux.
“I first came up to Glasgow to do a work placement at the BBC,” says the freelance sound engineer from Nottingham-via-Peru, who moved to the city in 2007. “A friend invited me along to Sleazy’s open-mic night, so I started going there, singing these little fingerpicking guitar songs, and meeting people like Louis Abbott from Admiral Fallow and Ben TD from Open Swimmer. I’d been really into the electronic scene at uni in London, but I got more into the indie scene up here, and I think that’s why my current sound is a collision of the two – it’s not straightforward dance, but it’s not just indie either.”
That our conversation over coffee and cake veers from Autechre to Dire Straits – via Four Tet, Fleetwood Mac, 90s trance, Venetian Snares, Pink Floyd, post-rock and Pete Waterman – offers some idea as to the galactic appeal of Miaoux Miaoux. Corrie describes his sound as “spacey, hyper-colour indie-dance pop” and his brilliant second album, Light of the North, lives up to such a day-glo tag. It’s released via Chemikal Underground next week.
“I had a really strong idea of exactly how I wanted this record to sound,” offers multi-instrumentalist Corrie, who also played in Glasgow trio Maple Leaves. “I had the idea for it a couple of years ago, and I had the structure for it in my head about a year before it was finished – I’ve got really vivid memories of standing on a train platform thinking about which songs could go where.
“The album’s pretty all over the place in terms of genres, so it was really meticulously planned, and a proper slog,” he continues. “To have it finished is a really big thing, and it wouldn’t have happened without Chemikal Underground. I’d just been plugging and plugging away, and there came a point where I got really pissed off and worn down by it, but then Chemikal approached me last summer. I asked if Paul [Savage, Chem19 ace-producer] could mix the album and that was amazing. It took six days – if I’d done it, it would’ve taken six months. I have this perfectionist thing going on.”
It’s been suggested that Miaoux Miaoux marks something of a departure for the Glasgow label that revolutionised our landscape with bands like Mogwai, Bis and Arab Strap, but Chemikal have long espoused machine music via The Phantom Band’s stellar kraut-folk, and FOUND’s ingenious synth-rock. It ties in with a general groundswell of thrilling electronica throughout independent Scottish pop – from the incandescent likes of Errors and Scottish Album of the Year Award nominees Remember Remember and Happy Particles (all of whom have roots in excellent bygone electro-prog troupe Multiplies) to the celestial arias of Discopolis and the outstanding industrial electro of CHURCHES. Not to mention exquisite mechano-pop duo (and SAY Award nominees) Conquering Animal Sound, who’ll join Miaoux Miaoux at his Glasgow and Edinburgh album launches.
“I think that groundswell is the case across the board, actually, not just in Scotland,” offers Corrie. “The charts are full of electronic production – that sort of big-room trance you used to hear in the 90s. And I think these days there’s also much more acceptance of genre-splicing, incorporating different elements, doing different things.”
You could say that impeccable genre-splicing is Miaoux Miaoux’s modus operandi, and it’s why his compositions work on myriad levels. If you’re after variegated, complex dance music in the vein of Four Tet or Caribou, you’ll find it – likewise 80s electro; 90s house; underground alt-pop; sing-a-long balladry. His collaboration with Edinburgh MC Profisee, meanwhile, on album track Virtua Fighter, showcases his talent as a producer.
Miaoux Miaoux’s 2007 debut album, Rainbow Bubbles, happened “by accident”, but its Aphex Twin and Warp-evoking instrumentals offered clues as to what was to come, as did 2010’s gorgeous post-rock single, Snow. Corrie’s scrupulous attention to melody, and arrangement, is evident; ditto his acute knack for sonically evocative titles (Drip Neon; Voltage Smoke). “Yeah, I guess there are similarities between these records, there’s maybe a shared aesthetic, an approach that they have in common, and again that’s considered – I have a really specific idea of how something should look, and sound, and what it should be called, and how it’s presented. That’s all really important to me.
“I’ve always enjoyed writing,” continues Corrie. “I really liked doing lyrics for the songs at Sleazy’s – playing tricks with words, doing little rhymes, getting everything to sound right, to fall into the right place – that has a big impact on the power of a song. A word in the right place is so important. But the lyrics for this album are quite personal, and that was really hard to do – it’s been quite a turbulent time. It’s not in-your-bedroom-at-3am-with-an-acoustic-guitar, but I suppose it is a break-up album. Hopefully it’s uplifting too.”
Miaoux Miaoux’s debut was instrumental; what prompted him to sing this time around? “When I made Rainbow Bubbles, I wasn’t confident with my vocals, and that’s why the Nice N Sleazy open-mics were really important, because that was the first time I’d really properly performed in front of an audience. I started to get better at singing, and then Muslim Alim [BBC Radio producer] just said one day, ‘You should do more singing – electronic producers are 10-a-penny, but not many of them sing.’ I’m very grateful to Muslim for that. I think he gave me the confidence to do it.”
And that’s how Miaoux Miaoux found his voice. “A lot of my favourite albums are instrumental, textural records, but sometimes you want to hear a person,” reflects one of our brightest stars. “People connect with a voice really strongly, I think. It’s such a human thing.”
Light of the North is out now on Chemikal Underground.
Miaoux Miaoux – Snow – Single of the The Month (The List, Dec 2010)