Interview: Alexander Tucker / Adrian Crowley

This article originally ran in The Herald Newspaper (Scotland) on October 4, 2012 under the heading TAKE A MUSICAL JOURNEY FULL OF EASTERN PROMISE.

It is an exotic and wonderful thing to board a bus in Glasgow city centre and travel to Easterhouse via the world.

For the third year running, Platform arts centre will offer such a psychedelic trip, thanks to sonic bacchanal Eastern Promise. Advancing the festival’s spirit of local and global reconnaissance, this weekend’s performers include celestial-pop voyagers Lightships (aka Teenage Fanclub’s Gerry Love), investigative folk sage Richard Youngs, audio-visual topographer Land Observations, krautrock wayfarers Plank!, jazz pathfinder Matthew Bourne and post-punk / indie-pop trailblazers The Monochrome Set.

Platform’s music programmer Alun Woodward (who also co-runs the Chemikal Underground label and formerly played with The Delgados) has once more ensured that the bill’s home-grown talent is ground-breaking yet garden-fresh, thanks to ecstatic kicks from The Sexual Objects (the latest innovation from art-pop icon Davey Henderson of Fire Engines, Win and The Nectarine No. 9) and Body Parts, an ace new venture from Jenny Reeve and Jill O’Sullivan (Sparrow and the Workshop, The Grand Gestures).

Also on the bill are avant-pop alchemist Alexander Tucker and rustic-pop heartbreaker Adrian Crowley. While their music is markedly different, both acts embrace nature, quarry landscapes and helm expeditions in their fertile work, and both echo Eastern Promise’s sense of adventure, enlightenment and (un)earthly wonder.

Tucker’s pop journey has seen him evolve from hardcore punk to psych-rock diviner. Glorious current album, Third Mouth (Thrill Jockey) furthers his ambient explorations of landscape and mythology, and re-animates the artist’s childhood memories – reinterpreting them and giving them new life. “I think it’s all about trying to understand the past and trying to understand who you are,” he says of these inner voyages, and the new worlds they open, to him, and to us.

“My dad was always like, ‘history is just at the bottom of the road,’” Tucker recalls of his Kent upbringing. “We’d go down to see all these old Victorian landfill sites and we’d find old bottles and old dolls’ heads and all sorts of fossils and interesting broken objects. He was always showing me an alternative version of my surroundings, and that whole psychogeography of my past is totally ingrained in my music and my artwork.”

For Galway-raised Crowley, the immediate landscape and his travels therein define his brooding, beatific folk, as evinced on new album I See Three Birds Flying (Chemikal Underground). “I grew up on the edge of the Atlantic with epic vistas, jagged rocks, sweeping hills and massive skies – loads and loads of rain and a constant westerly wind that was unhindered and uninhibited,” he remembers. “I used to walk home miles in the dark, along the coast road that had no street lamps. The amount of collective hours I spent as a teenager walking home is almost hard for me to believe now. Things just come into your mind,” he says. “I like to think that those endless solitary walks back to the house led me to more places than one.”

These themes of myriad destinations and physical / mental transportation are echoed in previous Eastern Promise shows, such as last year’s To Rococo Rot / Tarwater double-header, which effectively relocated Berlin to Easterhouse; and 2010’s appearance by Josephine Foster, the beguiling US folk savant who has increasingly mined and assimilated Spanish folklore in her art, and whose inquisitive boundary-crossing has seen her relocate to Spain.

Tucker, too, revels in traversing borders. “Thought process-wise, I’m someone who likes to really step out of what you’re supposed to do and what you’re not supposed to do, like with tuning the guitar, or creating these quite complex structures. A lot of that’s because I’m self-taught – I don’t know what I’m doing a lot of the time,” he laughs. Yet Tucker’s songs are welcoming, warm and frequently beautiful, as symbolic recent avant-psalms like Third Mouth, Mullioned View and A Dried Seahorse testify. “Yeah, I want an element of disquiet, but I also want that idea of a song, however abstracted, or however orchestrated,” he says.

You might say Tucker’s self-taught approach is an adventure in itself – it’s akin to discovering the world around you without a map; without readily circumscribed routes and codes. “Absolutely, yeah,” he nods, and speaks of more forthcoming excursions: of capturing sounds in the Dungeness long-grass; making beats according to hip-hop methodology; further harnessing electronics; and generally breaking and excavating new terrain.

The rest of this weekend’s Platform line-up should be similarly intrepid, mind-expanding and fun. Whether looking on to the future or back through the past, underground or up at the skies, into the mind or out on the world, these pop voyagers and their myriad journeys will intersect at Eastern Promise.

Eastern Promise ran on October 5 and 6 2012.

Related Articles:
Alexander Tucker, Third Mouth album review, The List (March 2012)
Adrian Crowley, I See Three Birds Flying album review, The List (Sept 2012)
Josephine Foster, Blood Rushing album review, The List (Sept 2012)
Eastern Promise 2011 preview, The Herald (Sept 2011)
Eastern Promise 2010 review, The Herald (Sept 2010)

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