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Here’s some quotes from the interview with Mike Rawlings, listen to the full show above. The Yalla video footage is now unavailable.
My guest today is none other than Brighton’s finest; the amazing, the wonderful, the strangely attractive Mr Tom White. TW: Oh please.
The reason we got Tom in here today – if you’re Brightonian you will know Tom – he’s a lynchpin of The Electric Soft Parade with his brother Alex, he plays bass for Clowns which is a band I’ve been championing for the last few weeks. He plays lead guitar for Brakes who are utterly awesome and if it wasn’t so much swearing in their songs I’d be playing a lot more Brakes.
The reason I played Walk Like An Egyptian is because our Tom went to Egypt for 6 weeks. Not only did he do a radio show on national Egyptian radio 4 hours a day – was it daily or weekly?
TW: It ended up being a few times a week, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
And he also wrote, composed, recorded an entire album just on a travel guitar and a MacBook. And not only did he do that, he did videos for all of them. They’re on youtube, aren’t they.
TW: Yeah I posted them up on youtube – there isn’t a release for it yet. I just thought I’d get it out there, see what people thought, you know.
Cool. You’ve been playing it live, how’s that been going?
TW: It’s been beautiful. The record is just acoustic guitar and then me multi-tracked on vocals so I figured I’d get a few friends involved to replicate all those parts live. It’s been bizarre, interesting and very sweet of everyone to get so involved and get into it like that. It’s been nice.
I saw one, dear listener! TW: DEAR LISTENER!!
I was in the audience for Monday night down at the Albert but it was brilliant. I really, really liked that. And I liked the guy with the cello that was on before you.
TW: Yeah, Adrian Oxaal. That was an interesting guy actually, he played guitar for a band called James in the late 90’s and he’s gone on to do session work, he teaches and various different things down in Brighton.
I went up to him after his set and congratulated him and said I thought he was really good and that I thought it was a violin but he was really small. I don’t know how funny he found that. Have you got a tune for us, would you like to play us a tune?
TW: We’ll kick off with a tune that’s been pressing my buttons lately. I actually saw this woman, she’s a girl called Janelle Monae, I saw her on the TV at Glastonbury (DJ mentions her quiff) The quiff was amazing…
Youtube: JANELLE MONAE – OH, MAKER
My special, special guest today is Mr Tom White. You just ARE music, basically. I’m not going to embarrass you by asking you how many instruments you play; you play keyboards, you play awesome drums (I said I wasn’t going to say awesome) TW: AWESOME!!
You play wonderful bass, without wanting to embarrass you – you and Sir Damo Waters are bass and drummer of Clowns. That is one of the best rhythm sections I have ever heard. It’s certainly the best rhythm section I’ve ever had in the back of my car.
TW: Do we get a whole drumkit and a bass amp in the back of your car though or are we just miming.
If you can’t, I’ll get a bigger car…
You and your brother, you are incredibly musical, what are your earliest memories of music, what first got you?
TW: Well as the story goes, you know how family stories kind of gain different angles, different bits of information, over the years they get embroidered and they become more elaborate as the years go on. The story goes that my brother was about three and since we were born my Dad always had a piano in the house and the story goes that my brother heard the Eastenders theme tune and aged three he went over to the piano and picked it out. If you imagine a little kid going (hums theme tune) he got it wrong the first time then found the last note. My Dad was like “Wow!” so from there he started learning the piano at about four.
He was about six or seven, I was about four or five and I was like, “I want to do it as well”; typical jealous younger brother. He picked up the violin as well and started having lessons on that so I picked up the piano and did the same. Aged about nine or ten – up until that age music is a thing that’s on in the background, you don’t understand it and then you have that eureka moment, I’m sure most people do, where they hear that first record. Usually it’s The Beatles or Elvis or something kind of really really mainstream, just something that catches their ear.
For us, my Dad had an Elton John Best Of. I can remember exactly, we were in the car, we were on some little family day out and Elton John’s cover of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds came on and he does a weird kind of impression of John Lennon. My brother was like “why is he singing in a weird voice Daddy?” and my Dad was like “he’s doing an impression of John Lennon”. We were like, “who’s this John Lennon guy?” being 8 years old.
My Dad got this tape of The Beatles, one of their early records and the rest is history. That was that moment where we both kind of went “oh, hang on…” Then I guess there’s the next eureka moment where if you’re learning an instrument, that first moment you hear a song and you suddenly realise you can divide the whole sound you’re hearing up into separate instruments. For the first time you kind of break it all down and you hear the piano, bass, drums and guitar and you realise how it’s pieced together.
I guess we just got fascinated by that and spent a lot of our teen years picking records apart and learning how to play our favourite records. I’m sure a lot of musicians learn how to play music by doing that; by falling in love with records and then deconstructing them and putting them back together themselves.
Then we got a 4 track and we’d do covers of songs. I think it’s a fairly standard route that a lot of musicians go down, that’s pretty much how it went for us. Anyway I’ll stop yabbering…
It’s very interesting. Have you got another tune you’d like to play us?
TW: Yeah this is an American band called Fun. Fantastic band. This record came out last year, it’s called Aim and Ignite. This is just an incredible song, my brother really got me into this. This is for Alex, this is Fun with the first track off their album. It’s called Be Calm.
Youtube: FUN – BE CALM
That was utterly beautiful… very intriguing mixture of Queen and Beirut. Do you happen to know the record label. TW: Their record was self-released in the UK.
Anybody who liked that we advise you to tap in fun. Now one of the things I do like to have on this show, I like it when Lyricists – and Tom is a Lyricist – read poetry because music is only one half of a song, you’ve got the Lyric as well. Tom’s going to read us a poem by EE Cummings, so in your own time sir, take it away.
TW: This is a poem by EE Cummings and as my Father tells me, it’s an “eye poem” in other words it looks like it rhymes when you look at it but it doesn’t sound like it and as all his poems don’t have a title this one doesn’t either. It’s from his Selected Poems, Faber paperbacks.
love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail
it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea
love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive
it is most sane and sunly
and more it connot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky
Absolutely beautiful, EE Cummings untitled poem. One of the things that’s great about Tom is that he’s a phenomenal bass player as is this guy, check this out, I don’t need to tell you who this is because you’ll know, the greatest bass player that ever lived.
Youtube: THE BEATLES – THINGS WE SAID TODAY
Utter brilliance, that was of course The Beatles with Things We Said Today off the third album by them, Hard Days Night. The thing that always gets me about them is normally in the industry they talk about the difficult third album, which means that a band starts out, is on the road for 3 or 4 years before they get signed, they build up a backlog of songs, they pick the cream of them for their first album, they’ve still got a few left – all those new experiences for the second album but the third album is known in music circles as being the difficult album. With the Beatles their third album was the first one that was all self composed, less than 18 months after their first album, they were putting out 2 albums a year, incredible band and we love Paul McCartney, we do love John Lennon as well but poor old Paul McCartney, he gets some stick and he doesn’t deserve it, his bass playing is unbelievably good.
Anyway, Egypt, how was it – what were you doing out there?
TW: I got there in mid September last year and it’s still getting on for 40 degrees every day at that time of year. Infact I was there for 6 weeks and by the end of the trip it was only down to about 35 degrees. It was really really hot. So I spent a few days acclimatising myself. I was staying with my friend Claire out there and she put me up or rather put up with me for 6 weeks. So I got settled and then it dawned on me how long 6 weeks actually was. When I booked the trip I was like yeah, 6 weeks… it suddenly dawned on me that it was quite a substantial amount of time to spend in the same place so I got used to the idea of basically being a local and got my bearings and then after about a week or so, I started writing.
It’s very easy to be spurred on by being in a new place, that really gives you a new angle on things. So I got used to the place and got settled and I started writing and I got into a really nice routine where I’d get up in the morning and just sit about and watch a bit of TV and just kind of doodle on the guitar and maybe record down a minute and a half, two minutes of an improvised thing, a couple of bits that I’d written, just record something everyday. Then in the evening I’d go out to a bar and sit and write lyrics and ideas.
Then the next day I’d go and flesh out those ideas and maybe record some vocals. I just went like that for a week and a half. Then I realised I’d recorded 10 songs that really held together. I think any musician will know that the further apart you write things, the harder it is to make them gel, to make them hold together on albums and such like.
The smaller the amount of time you spend on something, the more concise it often turns out and the more it holds together. So I basically spent the first couple of weeks doing that then thought, what the hell am I doing, I wanna have a holiday.
So I went snorkelling and if anyone’s ever been there; Dahab – Sharm, that coast on the Red Sea, the snorkelling and diving is just phenomenally good and just absolutely beautiful. We spent a night staying in these little Bedouin huts on the beach. It was amazing, glorious weather, the most beautiful people as well, really nice.
One of the things that struck me about the Yalla! stuff is it appears you’ve gone a few thousand miles away from home and it’s given you perspective on home because a lot of those songs appear to be about Brighton.
TW: It’s the whole thing of being a songwriter, you can’t really choose what you write about. If you let yourself write, if you don’t control what you’re writing, often you’ll write about the strangest things and yet in the most foreign of places I found I was writing about pretty much a distillation of what I missed or how I imagined how things were back home being however many thousand miles away.
So I was in this amazing place, beautiful sunshine and I was writing about dreary, grey Brighton, rainy Brighton. But you always romanticise the other, whatever you don’t have, whatever situation you’re not in. Obviously there’s a lot of the place I was at in the record and there’s a hell of a lot of thinking about Brighton and putting the last few years of my life into perspective.
Did you get any kind of feeling that there was an impending revolution ‘cos last September would be before the revolution.
TW: I was there September/October last year then I went back over New Year and I was there til the second week of January this year. The weird thing is there was no hint of there being any kind of uprising. I left and about 5 days after suddenly there was all this stuff kicking off over there. I was down in Dahab, it’s a very small town, only 4000 people, there was still not a hint of anything on the TV and the news. I’ve got my own theories about it but maybe shouldn’t share them on live radio.
The army are in control now, aren’t they.
TW: It seemed very weird that our news corporations over here were so interested in it and the west wanted a piece of it and we seemed far too involved for something that was supposedly a national uprising generated by the people of a country. It seemed very weird that we were so involved but you can go on the internet, you can read up about it if you want to know the truth about it and about America’s involvement, the same with Libya, very much the same thing happened there.
Shall we cheer ourselves up with some BB King? TW: Go for it!
During the last track Tom was just saying how much he liked BB King so this is for Tom. TW: He taught me how to play guitar basically, alongside The Beatles and Elvis. BB King was one of those early influences.
He was born and raised in the epicenter of the blues and then he took it forward into the 20th century. This is BB’s Boogie by Mr Blues Boy King.
Youtube: BB KING – BB’s BOOGIE
Yeah proper, proper blues that, BB King with BB’s Boogie that’s I believe what you’d call 1940’s jump boogie. TW: Jump blues, jump boogie yeah.
They also played: BONFIRES ON THE HEATH – CLIENTELE
A wonderful song by Tom White’s solo project, Yalla! recorded in Egypt last year… I’LL SEE HER AGAIN
If you tap in to youtube – YALLA – you’ll get all ten of them on youtube. All written, played, sung and videos produced, shot and edited by Mr Tom White.
Have you got any more gigs coming up?
TW: Clowns are playing the Bull and Gate in London this coming Monday. Electric Soft Parade are doing Truck Festival later this month and we’ve just booked something else but I don’t know if I can announce that just yet.
Don’t worry if you tell me I’ll announce it next Wednesday. So Bull and Gate, Kentish Town, London, Monday, what time? TW: About 10pm – Clowns Facebook
That’s definitely worth it, I’ve been playing a lot of Clowns in the last few weeks. TW: Thankyou Mikey.
Oh I love ’em, I love Clowns, I think they’re an absolutely fantastic band and I genuinely love Yalla! I think it’s a wonderful album infact it’s so good I’m going to say please play us another one.
TW: Let’s have another one. This is called KING OF THE KINGDOM
There you go, King Of The Kingdom, brilliant. We are running short of time and I want to squeeze in some new stuff and there’s 10 Yalla! tracks to do.
Very briefly, your other band, with your brother Alex, The Electric Soft Parade. How old were you when you got signed.
TW: I was 16, he was 18.
Wow, were you still at school?
TW: I’d just finished my GCSE’s and I’d done about a week at college when the label that were courting us – it was a label called DB records – they were based in Chiswick at the time, it got to the point where I was about to start A Levels and they said look, you can either do this or do that and my parents tried in vain to stop us just going full steam ahead into a record deal. We thought of it like “might not get the chance again” you know.
And there’s an Electric Soft Parade EP out soon?
TW: Yeah we’re putting a 4 track EP out, it’s called A Quick One and that’ll be out later this month. More information on our Facebook and online if you want to check it out.
And also it was an Electric Soft Parade gig the other night on Radio 6?
TW: Yeah we did a show on 6 Music – the lovely Marc Riley – LISTEN HERE
So if I play that EP does that mean I’ll be the first person to play it or will Marc Riley have pipped me to it?
TW: We did play two tracks off it on his show, not the actual record.
Next played from Yalla! DREAMT I DWELT IN MARBLE HALLS
Absolutely beautiful… so without further ado shall we have another track.
TW: Why not, this is called LUNGFUL OF AIR
Proper beautiful lovely that is… A real heartfelt thanks to Mr Thomas White for being my special guest today. TW: Thankyou Mikey.
It was lovely to have you. We’re going to play you one more Yalla! song, so what’s this final song?
TW: This is called thankyou very much Mikey for having me…
They finished with: THAT HEAVY SUNSHINE SOUND