Record Overplayed
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Paul Pilot interview | Nottingham Malt Cross | 13/07/10

“When I discovered roots music that was the first time that music really broke my heart.”

Interview and Photos by Dawn

Paul "Pilot" Wilkinson first ventured into the music world as one half of The Amazing Pilots – the other half being his brother Phil. Since then Paul has produced for, written for and toured with countless other artists – perhaps most notably Duke Special and Beth Rowley.

Tonight, however, he’s going it alone in a lovely little venue in Nottingham as part of a small English/Irish tour with Rue Royale.

‘I’ve done a few bits and pieces here and there and just guested with friends here and there but never properly gone out and tried to tour,’ says Paul. ‘I’ve been really busy making records for other people or playing for other people and it’s always been in the back of my head that I want to do my own music but it’s just taken a little bit of time to get round to it.’

Lyrically many of Paul’s songs are deceivingly simplistic, not to mention infuriatingly infectious, with choruses guaranteed still to be stuck in your head days after first hearing.

‘It kind of just happens,’ says Paul, ‘but I do really like the idea that you don’t hide behind language - that honesty and openness carry a certain amount of weight and that you don’t always have to be beautifully poetic all the time. That sometimes simply just saying something over a chord carries some kind of value.

I have felt with this solo material that it’s kind of like a conversation that I’m starting with people - with the audience - and it just felt appropriate to not be heavy or particularly deep too early on. It’s almost a little bit like meeting people and I wanted to have some fun and some openness. I think there’ll be a time as well for something darker.’

Paul’s songs don’t fall easily into any rock or indie category. Asked which genre he considers them to come under he thinks for a moment, then laughs: ‘I’d say pillaged fifties country.’ His music is instantly recognisable due to its distinctive guitar sound – something which Paul says was a conscious choice:

‘It’s an old Gretsch. They’re quite sweet whilst also having a kind of bark to them. They’re not as full sounding as a Gibson; they’re good sorts of guitars for rock and roll, rockabilly... but they also do a sort of jazzy thing so it’s a perfect instrument for what I like to do.’

Asked about how he got into music, Paul cites ‘all sorts of things’ as influences. He elaborates:

‘I think when I discovered roots music that was the first time that music really broke my heart. I was into crappy rock music when I was a kid but I just always loved the colour and fun and attitude that comes with music. But it was roots music via Neil Young and Bob Dylan where I understood what, quite often, very simple lyrics can achieve. So I suppose that’s inspiration. But then there’s been a million things everyday that have sparked ideas.’

Paul has had the pleasure of working with so many different people in so many different roles that I ask him if there has been a particular recent highlight. Taking his time, he answers thoughtfully and carefully:

‘I don’t get involved with things which I feel are of no value so I’ve never had experiences which are just worthless. Once you get into doing stuff just for money you’re asking to be sad really.

'But I’ve worked with a really great new band this year called My First Tooth and their album’s coming out in September. I think Ross Witt, the singer, lyrically is really interesting. He’s the first person I’ve heard sing about environmental issues and make it sound truly poetic and romantic, like genuinely heartfelt and believable without ever kind of being heavy on the heartstrings. So that’s the first thing that comes to mind. But yeah, all sorts of stuff.’

One of Paul’s recent musical projects was working with fellow Irishman Duke Special (aka Peter Wilson) on his The Silent World of Hector Mann album. The project involved Peter sending out copies of Paul Auster’s Book of Illusions to eleven friends (of which Paul was one) and asking them to each write a song about one of the silent movies of Hector Mann’s featured within.

‘Duke stuff’s always really good fun,’ smiles Paul. ‘I loved that book and it was brilliant fun to be involved. It’s just a great idea and yep, really good fun. Duke gave everyone a brief that they were to work to. He’s a good collaborator and he knows how much space to give people to really fill out and use their talents properly and have freedom to do it. The Hector Mann thing is a great example of that, where he gave people room to really do what they do and to properly stretch their wings and be themselves but the constraints on it were such that it did sort of fill building blocks of the bigger project. It’s deceptively easy looking to do that but actually it’s very hard to organise collaboration and he’s done very well. It makes it a real joy for everyone to be involved 'cause you almost don’t notice it happening. You know, big things are often very uninteresting. Collaborations can often be the sum of their parts. But that was great, as ever.’

In closing, I ask Paul what’s next in his grand plan. His answer is endearingly enthusiastic:

‘I’m doing a split seven inch EP with Rue Royale. That’ll be out in September and we’ll be touring again. And if I get anything else finished in the meantime I’ll make it available for people. There’s a couple of free tracks available via the website so if people have the EP and want something else, they’re available. But yeah, I just wanna get stuff right. So I guess September’s the next main thing.

‘I really love working with other people - I feel like it kind of charges the batteries.’ He pauses, then laughs, ‘Then you can go and run them down with your own stuff! So yeah I think for me I think it’s a combination of all those things.’

With huge thanks to Paul. Visit for more info on Paul’s solo work.

for more info on the utterly lovely Malt Cross cafe bar.


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