We recently played the magnificent track Robot Escape Bid by Adam Leonard on our podcast #30 and as we mentioned, Mr Leonard kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions through the medium of writing down answers. So, here is that full Q&A for your enjoyment.
Hello Adam. How the hell are you?
I’m very well, thanks for asking.
We have to admit to being newcomers to your music, can you tell us a bit about your back catalogue?
I’ll try to. I’m a bit confused by it myself. There have been 4 albums, one of which (‘How Real Is Real?’) is unreleased. The 3 which are out there are ‘How Music Sounds’ (2003), ‘Leonardism’ (2007) and ‘Nature Recordings’ (2010 vinyl & 2012 CD box). There’s countless other little releases and appearances which I’ve attempted to document on my website, The Message Tapes.com
Kicker has got your Nature Recordings LP on order, which seems to be one of the few vinyl releases still available. Is this a good place to start?
That’s the release I’m most proud of, so yes – the perfect place. Enjoy the trip.
Octopus is your current project that is described as an ‘audio retrospective of your recorded work’. Can you tell us about why you have chosen to release 8 songs a month for 8 months and how you have chosen the tracks?
Originally I was planning on putting out a collection of previously unreleased stuff called ‘Anomalous’, but when I looked into it I realised there was a lot more of it than I’d remembered, and also there were a fair number of tracks which have had a very limited release anyway, so I expanded the idea to be more “unreleased and hard-to-get”. I ended up with about 70 tracks, but a release of all those in one go would be too much. So I came up with the 8 x 8 idea to spread it out, and then all I had to do was decide whether to call it ‘Spider’ or ‘Octopus’!
We are going to play one of the tracks from the Octopus project on our podcast, which one should we play? Why?
Ooooo, you choose.
The wide range of styles and sounds employed across the tracks on Octopus make you pretty unpigeonholeable in our view, but you are often likened to Robyn Hitchcock and Andy Partridge. What do you make of these comparisons?
Unpigeonholeable is a good word. But yes, Robyn Hitchcock is a massively flattering comparison – one that I can’t even begin to live up to. He’s an astonishing performer and songwriter. When I started writing songs I had not heard of Hitchcock, and upon finally discovered his stuff it was a total revelation and like “This is exactly what I’m trying to do”. I love his stuff. As for Andy Partridge, I obviously know who he is, but I’ve not heard much apart from the XTC singles. I liked his Dukes Of Stratosphere stuff (if that was him!?).
The first song we heard of yours was the tremendous I’m Gonna Sleep With Myself (Tonight) which naturally begs the question: marmite or moth – which is worse?
A moth in your Marmite, surely.
Your songs have loads of different instrumentation on them, ranging from church organ to lo-fi acoustic guitar to squelchy 80s synth, but what’s the most obscure sound you have incorporated into song?
I do a garage door solo on a song released by my mate Pulco (Ash Cooke). [Is it on this? – TTW Ed.]
The Human League or OMD?
I’m offended by OMD. There’s your answer.
Some of your more lo-fi acoustic songs remind Kicker of his favourite band, Guided By Voices – are you aware of their work?
I’m afraid not, no. Great band name though!
There are a couple of Beatles’ songs (covered in very different styles) on the Octopus Parts 1-3, which we presume relate to the Sgt Pepper remake project you were involved in and we’ve also found a video of you covering Ultravox. What other songs would you like to cover and what makes a good cover version?
A verbatim cover is obviously pointless. You need to come at it from a different angle, and hopefully make people think about the song in a different way. They don’t know it yet, but I want to do a live version of Slade’s ‘Gudbye Gudbye’ with Invaderband. I’m not sure I can hit those Noddy notes though!
I think Pixies would do fine things with UFO Over Bidston and Soft Hearted Scientists could take on The Place You Hid, but who would you like to cover one of your songs? Which one and why?
Great question, and one which I’m struggling to answer. Today the best I can come up with is ‘The Eighth Tower pt. 2’ covered by Jean Michel Jarre, with Vivian Stanshall on vocals.
What moves you to write a song more – love or nature or something else?
Lots of things. I’m all over the place. My two most recent songs are about 1) my baby daughter and 2) a haunted oven on a jumbo jet. It’s just whatever interests me at the time. I can write songs to order though. I remember reading an interview with John Lennon where he said if someone wants me to write a song about oranges, I can do that. So sometimes I just challenge myself to write songs about oranges (although not actually oranges, if you see what I mean). Competition is good as well, I’m in an ongoing life-long song battle with my buddy Gareth Davies. We challenge each other to write songs about a certain subject or in a certain style to see who can come up with the best one. Great fun.
Do you tend to write songs on the keyboard or guitar? Why?
A bit of both, but usually acoustic guitar as I’m only a single finger keyboard player.
What 3 songs would appear on the soundtrack to your life?
- Tell Me Momma – Bob Dylan (Birth)
- Get Your Hands Off My Woman – The Darkness (Life)
- Be Not So Fearful – Bill Fay (Death)
You have a song called Music For A Slow Motion Film – have you written/would you like to write soundtracks?
I did record the soundtrack to a short film called ‘Lucky 7’ in 2011, which was screened all over the world and and won awards and stuff. I’d certainly do more if I was asked. It’s very interesting to see (and hear!) your music breathe and become one with the images. And going back to what I said about Gareth and challenges, Gareth and I have been re-scoring the 1970s disaster movie ‘The Posiedon Adventure’ in Krautrock, just for the fun of it. Invaderband play one of those songs live, but the whole thing is only about half done.
Which band would you have liked to have been a part of? Why?
Oooooo, that’s a hard one. Today I will say Roxy Music. It looked fun AND industrious.
Who exactly are Invaderband?
Invaderband are a Garage-herbaceous artrockgruppe with myself on vocals and rhythm guitar, Chris McConaghy on lead guitar, Rion McCartney on drums and Gavin McCartney on bass. We swap around a bit sometimes and play synths, samples and megaphone. It was purely a live project for the past 2 years, but we’ve just started to record a number of songs in the studio, and they’re sounding beefy. We also happen to be the 4 best songwriters in Derry.
Which other current bands/artists should we be listening to?
In terms of “famous” artists: The Darkness or anything involving Justin Hawkins. People always assume I’m saying this for a joke. I have friends who simply cannot accept I like JH because (and I quote) “you’ve got taste”. And they’re right. I have got taste. And Justin Hawkins is a fucking genius. [Judge for yerself, reader… – TTW Ed.]
Your ominous instrumental Lord’s Station is presumably about getting to the hallowed MCC ground. So, cricket – cool as fuck or a load of old bollocks?
Well, it was more about a spectral tube train that just happened to be near that cricket ground. I’ve no interest in cricket, or any sport to be honest – apart from pub sports like darts and snooker/pool.
You’re in a caff ordering breakfast. You can have tea or coffee and toast. What are the first three other items you will order?
Mushrooms, poached eggs, baked beans.
How can we make sure we keep up with what you are doing?
Many thanks for taking time to talk to us. Will you come and play in Liverpool soon?
I’d love to, and I’m sure Invaderband would love to too.
Thanks for the interest, and enjoy Octopus Parts 5-8 !