INTERVIEW: Soundtracks For A B-Movie
By Mr Drayton on October 10, 2012 in Music
Mick Ross is a grafter. If he’s not being Axe For Hire with Frankie & the Heartstrings, he’s in the studio polishing sounds for some of the region’s top talent. If he has a spare minute he’s rocking the South Shields groove with Minotaurs, and on top of that he still finds space to write and record a brand new EP for the sonic cathedral that is Soundtracks For A B-Movie.
I first experienced Soundtracks in 2009. They were bottom of a bill featuring Beth Jeans Houghton and Canadian folksters Wood Pigeon. They eviscerated the opposition. I’d not seen anyone attack a guitar with such venom and still ring great shards of melody from it in years, yet his grind never eclipsed the seven other musicians who were sharing the stage.
With a new EP, Ghosts In The Photograph out in October I caught up with Mick. Recently he’s been an honorary Heartstring, playing guitar for hire is a tough gig – essentially he’s joining someone else’s gang, was it good for him? “With Frankie, I knew them, they asked me along – I was sort of unsure, half the stuff I really liked, half of it I wasn’t that fussed about. I went along for an audition; we played the songs I loved. I got a phone call the next day – you’ve got four weeks and then we’re playing the festivals. They really involved me, asked my opinion, never hid my shoes or bullied me. I went in on interviews, but was only ever asked my opinion by guitar magazines.”
If he was offered a shed load of cash to bolster the ranks of a band he wasn’t particularly keen on he would sign up? His reply is an unequivocal no. “I wasn’t offered a shed load of cash. I have to enjoy the people and the music, being on the road for a long time, it’s hard to find space for yourself, people can get on your nerves a bit. Fortunately with most of the Frankie stuff I was really into it – there was only one song I didn’t like, and the band weren’t too keen on it either.”
Had working with the band afforded him the time – and finances – to create his own music? “Quite the opposite. I was happy to come home and produce other people. Having worked with Edwin Collins and Bernard Butler on the Frankie albums I learnt so much, I like to use that, but I wasn’t fussed in writing my own stuff. After I’d come off tour, I was pushed to do more Soundtracks stuff. I had some songs to finish off. I get a riff or a beat in my head, or it starts with a mood or a rhythm. With instrumental music lots of people will keep the same riff going, make it louder, make it quieter, it gets boring. I want to tell a story, if I use classical instruments, they’ve got to be part of the narrative, those instruments and melodies have to do the singing, as it were. It’s meant to be a musical description of a thought.
“If you’re listening to instrumental music you’ve got to feel something. If you listen to Rachmaninov, there’s so much movement, so many dynamics, but nothing ever takes over, it just drifts in and out.”
The new EP opens with a glimmering slice of melancholy, Ghosts In The Photograph. The whole EP is rich with sound. If that sounds a bit daft, what with it being a collection of songs, you have to hear it – the arrangements, the playing, there’s a whole host of very talented folk on board. Do they come along with good grace and a sense of belonging?
“Musicians from the region are keen to hook up. People here see music as a love, not to get signed. Quite how anyone is going to make a living out of music full time – that’s down to luck. It’s really expensive, instruments, recording, then getting it out – it’s the love of it that keeps people going.”
Will the new EP be getting a live airing? “No, I haven’t got the time. I’ve got production to do, work on the new Minotaurs album, the Frankie schedule is going to get busy. Having said that, if I get an album out, despite the massive organisation it takes, we might do it. It’s a great fun, no pressure thing to do, but everyone is really busy.”
As we round things up, I had to ask him if people took the piss out of his love of U2? “Yup! I don’t care really. I’ve got music that’s been with me throughout my life – Interpol, Peter Green, massive influences guitar wise, it’s not fashionable, but Floyd as well, Meddle is a big favourite. Rachmaniov is a huge influence. How he played that stuff, you see the music – how on earth did he play it? He must have had six fingers. I sit and look at it and I think, I want to play this, I must get a prosthetic finger so I can.”
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