Record Overplayed
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David Ford interview | Northampton Roadmender | 05/12/04

"I've not enjoyed making music this much for as long as I can remember"

Interview and Photo by Dawn

'I think sad music is essential to the mental well-being of the nation,' says David Ford, reclining in his chair as if he has not a care in the world. 'There should be more sad songs. If there were more sad songs, there'd be fewer sad people.'

Coming from a man wishing to dispel the myth that he's misery personified, you'd be forgiven for thinking that not the wisest admission. Indeed, the final album from David's former band Easyworld was a far more dark and introverted affair than its predecessor. However, far from being tales of doom and gloom, his songs are in fact captivating epics with wonderfully incisive lyrics and lustrous melodies impressively brought to life by his impassioned and theatrical onstage performances. A particular highlight of the evening's set was a rendition of the gloriously scathing State of the Union which saw a unique one man band set-up with layer upon layer of vocals, rhythm and melody recorded on the spot then looped to aesthetic perfection.

'The Japanese helped me with that one,' says David. 'They make a machine called the RC-20 Loop Station. I bought a delay pedal which has a sample function, but only five seconds, and then it would play it back and you could over-dub things. It was a pretty cool way of doing things on your own but still being able to have multiple parts going on. Then I found out that Boss make this thing where you can record ten minutes and just keep overlaying stuff. The sound quality's much better and you can plug microphones into it as well as instruments, so I was able to do almost a full band arrangement just by looping things up. It only works in very repetitive songs where you've basically got a four bar chord loop - you can't do Bohemian Rhapsody,' he smiles wryly, 'but you can do Creep by Radiohead or Holes by Mercury Rev. It just struck me as a cool way of doing the solo thing, just to bring something new to it. It's nice to strum a guitar and sing songs, but you'd have to be pretty special to carry it off for an hour and a half without putting something a bit different in.'

As mesmerising off-stage as he is on it, it's impossible not to become captivated by David when he speaks. Intense and intriguing yet immensely endearing, his responses are instilled with the same passion which makes his songwriting so stirring and enchanting.

'I don't know why I write songs,' admits David. 'I just do it and I like doing it and I know now that it's not because it's a job. When I left the band I didn't know if I'd write anything ever again. I was in the position whereby I was the writer in the band and we had a vested interest in keeping our career going. And nobody said as such, but it got to the stage whereby everyone was so dependent on me producing the raw materials to fuel our career that it almost became as if they didn't care what I came up with so long as I came up with something. And I had very particular ideas about what I wanted to do and it soon became apparent that I wasn't gonna be able to go off and do what I wanted because I had to take care of business.'

Perhaps the lyrics of Easyworld's Til the Day single had a greater resonance than anyone realised at the time: "I get the feeling I'm just not cut out for this / all strategies, hidden agendas and politics"?

'A lot of people are in that position and I'm not complaining, but it just wasn't for me,' says David. 'I didn't want to have to fulfil expectations and pre-digested marketing plans. Nobody ever said it, but at the same time I knew that the label wanted me to write hit singles, the rest of the band wanted me to write rock classics and I just wanted to write really beautiful, honest and emotive songs that I really believed in. And it turned out that that the only way I could do that would be if I did it on my own, unsigned. So I left the band and left the record deal and left the publishing deal and wrote a very silly number of songs in a very short space of time. It was the most creatively fuelling thing I could ever do because I never used to write that many songs for Easyworld. I wrote the second album and I think I only had three or four songs more than actually ended up on there; that was kind of my lot for a whole year's work. I used to panic when it came to doing B-sides because I'd have to write more songs and I'd be so slow at doing them, but after the band broke up I probably wrote 30 songs in two months. And some of them are awful, but I recorded them all and some of them I'm really happy with. It was just such a weight off the shoulders and I didn't have to play songs to anyone, didn't have to give a shit what anyone thought about them and it was fantastic. I've not enjoyed making music this much for as long as I can remember.'

Indeed, the now liberated David is a joy to watch as he revels in his new-found freedom. Following a handful of small-scale gigs supporting his friend Ben Christophers, he certainly seems the most relaxed and content he's ever been.

'I just feel absolutely no kind of pressure, hassle or anything,' agrees Dav. 'I've just enjoyed playing the last few shows more than I can say. I don't just mean the actual shows themselves, but the travelling to them, the hanging out, the soundchecking - everything.'

He even took a high profile support slot to 2004 superstars Keane at Brixton Academy in his stride: 'It's fine 'cause I've made a lot of mistakes and done a lot of bad gigs,' he says honestly. 'But I know that if I forget what I'm doing and I play the wrong notes, forget the words, fall off my chair... none of that seems to phase me. I feel now that I could fall off my chair and still not let it ruin anything because I've made so many screw-ups in the past. It's almost as if these are the really memorable gigs - the ones where you break three strings in the same song and finish it with one string left on your guitar, hacking away. That's rock and roll; it's fantastic and how you deal with it is the thing that people remember. I like the thought that every now and again I'll play a gig and something will happen that people remember.'

And returning to the topic on which we first started, David vehemently refutes those suggestions that his music is miserable:

'I don't think the songs I do are negative. Sometimes they're songs about pain and hurt and sadness and heartbreak - and I love songs like that because I think they're very important. There's nothing depressing about a really well-observed, well-written song about a psychologically difficult subject. There's nothing depressing about writing about feelings if you can really get to grips with it and describe it in an eloquent, original, honest and sincere way. How can that be depressing? At the same time, I never stop doing songs that I think are about hope and positivity and optimism; about accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. If I do songs about bad things and hardships, generally they'll be from the perspective that getting through hard times and coming out the other side is so much better than not having gone through hard times. I think if you've had a right old struggle and come through victorious, it's - if I can use a footballing analogy - far better to come through a really tight-fought, hard game of football and win on penalties and go through to the next round rather than just the opposition not turning up and you going through anyway. You'd always want to have the game. It's always better to struggle and come through it than to just waltz on by.'

Many thanks to David for everything, and to Richard and Jo Griffin. For more information visit David's website at www.DavidFord.mu.

 

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