Bill Ryder-Jones Talks ‘West Kirby County Primary’, The Songwriting Process And Pavement Binges

Bill Ryder-Jones Talks ‘West Kirby County Primary’, The Songwriting Process And Pavement Binges
25th November 2015 admin

Bill Ryder-Jones started out as lead guitarist in The Coral at the age of 13. After leaving the band for good in 2008 he preceded to write and release his debut solo album ‰Û÷If‰Û_‰Ûª, an instrumental soundtrack of Italo Calvino‰Ûªs novel ‰Û÷If on a Winter‰Ûªs Night a Traveller‰Ûª. 2013‰Ûªs ‰Û÷A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart‰Ûª followed to widespread acclaim, a largely acoustic guitar and piano based record in a more traditional singer-songwriter format. ‰Û÷West Kirby County Primary‰Ûª is a departure from his previous efforts, electric guitars have replaced the familiar acoustic tones and Ryder-Jones bares his influences for all to hear.åÊ

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At the tail-end of a short nationwide tour, Ryder-Jones chats about his new record, disheartening support slots and recording in his home studio. ‰Û÷West Kirby County Primary‰Ûª, his third solo effort, is his most accomplished to date, with swirling, fuzzy guitars and ethereal, whispered vocals, the Manchester-born guitarist displays his lyrical prowess on an intimately personal, introspective record.

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You supported Spector for the first leg of the tour, how did that come about?

I know Fred [Macpherson] through friends, I‰Ûªve made mates with him the last couple of years and he‰Ûªs a lovely lad. I think I was just boozed up one night going ‰Û÷give us a gig‰Ûª, and he was true to his word. It was good, it‰Ûªs kind of hard because we don‰Ûªt sound like them, so it‰Ûªs not quite a fit. But it was good for us to do, it was one of those ones where it can be a little bit disheartening.

The thing is, the portion of their fans who might like me probably aren‰Ûªt going to be the people who rush to get to the front, so the first three rows is all you can really see, and, in all honesty, it was rammed with young girls who looked incredibly bored, but it is what it is.

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The last album, 2013‰Ûªs ‰Û÷A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart‰Ûª was named after a track on the record, is there a song called ‰Û÷West Kirby County Primary‰Ûª that didn‰Ûªt quite make the cut?

That‰Ûªs exactly it, yeah. I was struggling with a name for the record, and I‰Ûªd done this tune, West Kirby County Primary, which, melodically was quite a good tune. I‰Ûªll probably reuse bits of it. I just had one of them thoughts, I thought it was brilliant at the time, then the next morning I work up and thought; ‰Û÷that‰Ûªs a bit sixth form that.‰Ûª I always thought West Kirby County Primary sounded like a prison. It was talking about the state of Britain today, but those four words lived separately and they just sounded like a record.

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The record is perhaps your most intimate and reflective to date, how much does choosing to write and record the songs in your home studio effect the sound?

I think now I‰Ûªm comfortably aware that that‰Ûªs how my records and songs need to be recorded. I‰Ûªm not so sure being in the house itself affects the approach, I think it does more in terms of the sound. There‰Ûªs limitations that I really like, drums can‰Ûªt ever sound too lively or vibey, which I don‰Ûªt mind, that kind of sound does absolutely nothing for me.

The main thing was I just wanted it to sound like the records that I‰Ûªm into, and, by and large, those records don‰Ûªt sound like they were recorded at Abbey Road. But I like that, I don‰Ûªt think they sound like bedroom recordings, but they‰Ûªre just that little bit smaller than other bands, and I‰Ûªm really into that.åÊ

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The previous record was mainly acoustic, was there anything about the songs you penned for this album that made you think they‰Ûªd be better suited to an electric sound?

I didn‰Ûªt come straight from doing ‰Û÷A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart‰Ûª, and I think had I done, it probably would‰Ûªve effected things less. But I think because I‰Ûªd messed around with a record that I‰Ûªd binned and played live, I didn‰Ûªt at any point think I wanted to do something more energetic, because by the time I‰Ûªd scrapped the album that I scrapped,

I just wanted to get back to what I was comfortable with and thought I could do and I thought I was kind of remaking A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart. I didn‰Ûªt realise that something like ‰Û÷Catharine and Huskisson‰Ûª or ‰Û÷Two To Birkenhead‰Ûª might not be what people were expecting.åÊ

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You take on quite a bit of commission work and arrangements for other people, when you go to write that music is it more of a mechanical approach than if you‰Ûªre writing a record for yourself?

There‰Ûªs no mechanical element in the writing of the songs on my records, and there‰Ûªs certainly times where I‰Ûªm doing commissions where it is the job, and it‰Ûªs nine-to-five, but the beauty of the world I work in is if I am particularly uninspired, or just not really writing, that you will always come up with something good because something will always come out.

It‰Ûªs quite a hard thing to pull a piece of music out of your arse if it‰Ûªs just not working, so you definitely have to fall back on the things you‰Ûªve learnt through music at times, which is something I try not to do when I‰Ûªm writing one of my records. An example would be, I didn‰Ûªt think it at the time, but, Two To Birkenhead is so clearly the result of a massive Pavement binge, and that‰Ûªs totally cool, I don‰Ûªt have an issue with it, I just think I‰Ûªm, for the most part, conscious not to do things like that. Like love a band, listen to them and have it reflect in the music.åÊ

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You played a stripped-back version of ‰Û÷Two To Birkenhead‰Ûª in a session for Monocle recently, is that how the songs are usually written?

The songs are always written like that, yeah. The recordings on my phone of ‰Û÷Two To Birkenhead‰Ûª when I first wrote it, it would‰Ûªve been more like ‰Û÷Daniel‰Ûª or ‰Û÷Lemon Trees‰Ûª. Sometimes it‰Ûªs a case of recording a song two or three different ways when you‰Ûªre sculpting a record. I cared less on this one, though. ‰Û÷A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart‰Ûª I very much wanted it to flow in to one thing, and this record was less. I didn‰Ûªt have the time.

I kind of like that it‰Ûªs just 10 songs, there might be a bit of a thread but it just doesn‰Ûªt sound, like, I think the songs are better than they were on the last record but I think the last record, if you‰Ûªre a fan of the album concept, then I think that‰Ûªs a better running album. But I prefer this one.