This is the second part of my discussion with Jan Burnett of Spare Snare – you can find the first part here.

Here, I presented Jan with all 11 (ELEVEN) Spare Snare albums and asked him to select his ‘one from each’, either a favourite track or one that means the most to him. Jan asked to clarify that we were only talking about the album versions of songs, and I also went through and chose my favourites too. See if you agree.

LIVE AT HOME (1995) – As A Matter Of Fact

Jan: A Matter of Fact.

Kicker: .. is the correct answer. Is it because it’s the first song?

J: {laughs} Yeah, maybe not that album version, but as a song… I think I prefer the 4-track [version], but it’s the one that started it all off, you know? It triggered everything.

WESTFIELD LANE (1996) – Action Hero

J: (picks up Westfield Lane CD) Oh, this is interesting, where did you get that?

K: Oh, I’m not sure, did I not get it off you?

J: Don’t think so, it has a different rubber stamp. It’s a circle one normally.

K: Oh, is it a rarity? Excellent!

J: Hmm… I don’t know how many he made of this – he repressed it without telling me {laughs}, hey ho.

not rare at all, dammit

K: Of course, Guided By Voices and Cobra Verde had a single on [the Wabana label] too.

J; Yeah, the guy who ran the label (John Petkovic) was in GbV for a while… [From this] it’s probably obviously Action Hero, but James Dean Poster is a favourite as well. I’m going to say Action Hero as James Dean Poster has a sample on it.

K: Well, I’ve gone for Action Hero too..

J: I haven’t seen your list, honest…

K: No, no, but we seem to be in tune here…

ANIMALS AND ME (1998) – If I Had A Hi-Fi

J: Out of all the albums, we’ll exclude Sounds, because Sounds has got songs that are off these [other albums], and we’ll exclude the first album, I think this is probably the next strongest album. I think this is our most underrated. Right, I’m going to go with [If I Had A] Hi-Fi.

K: OK. Me too. {laughs}. What do you like about that songs apart from the fact that the title’s a palindrome?

J: It’s brilliant? {laughs} No, it’s weird, the lyrics were so out of date, and then they’ve come back in date. Everyone’s got record players again. I dunno, it [the song] works really well. I think the BBC Scotland version we did in 2018 as part of the Sounds promo is probably the ultimate version, we had slide on it, and it kind of blew me away. It’s on the boxset [The Complete BBC Radio Sessions 1995 – 2018]

CHARM (2001) – Taking On The Sides

K: You’ll know which one I like best on there, but I don’t know if that’ll influence you…

J: Erm, Taking On The Sides is probably the one, although Calling In The Favours… if I have to go with one (It is the One From Each section, Jan! – TTW Ed.)… it’d be Taking On The Sides.

K: See. We agree again, and you knew I’d say that because when you were offering to do hand written lyrics, I made you write out the whole thing including [Charles] Schultz’s spoken bit…

J: Yeah, thanks for that. {laughs}

LEARN TO PLAY (2004) – Why Don’t You Sing In Your Accent?

J: This is a funny record. I don’t always like it, but, er, Why Don’t You Sing In Your Accent?

K: OK, why that one?

J: Well, it’s probably more relevant now than ever {laughs}, but from memory, the recording was at the old Chem19 [with Andy Miller] or some of it was done on 4-track and then taken there. I think it’s got some really good music elements on it, and it’s quite a clever title and lyric as well.

K: I agree. And that’s why I chose it as well.

J: Oh, for fuck’s sake!

K: I don’t know why I’m bothering to ask you all this, I could have done it myself. {laughs} But the thing about that song is it is a Scottish song, right?

J: Aye, I suppose.

GARDEN LEAVE (2006) – Grow

J: This is a good example of where choosing a track to do with [Steve] Albini totally worked because Grow was kind of lost, and I always thought it was a great tune. So, doing it again with Albini with the extra trumpet and stuff, I think really worked. So, I’m going to go with Grow…

K: Well, of course you have because that’s what I went for. {laughs} Although, I do agree that the Sounds version is even better.

J: Yeah, it is a bit lost here, but then this is our lost period where people didn’t buy the records.

I LOVE YOU, I HATE YOU (2009) – Kicking Up Leaves

J: Good title that! The wife didn’t like that title, but… this is where we might go wrong with our choices… I’m going to say Kicking Up Leaves.

K: OK, yeah, I didn’t say that. Why do you like that one?

J: It’s totally about my daughter, actually. It’s a lyric about childhood, autumn leaves… There’s the obvious [choice] Spot The Difference, but no…

K: Well, I went for Qwerty For The Masses, which is also particularly helpful because it gives you that full A-Z of song titles, which I guess is very important and part of your long-term planning. {laughs}

VICTOR (2010) – And Now It’s Over

J: This is quite good, I quite like this, it reminds me of when we did the playbacks [over Twitter] during the lockdown. I do remember them [the albums] better now.

K: So, you don’t listen back very often? It’s like you’ve recorded it, so that’s it now, and you move on…

J: Yeah, well, I will go back in maybe a year or so and listen back, but… Now It’s Over.

K: Oh, And Now It’s Over, right! I went for Didn’t Know Much.

OUR JAZZ (2013) – I Am God

K: Well, Our Jazz, which is not released in any useful form, it was just a download, wasn’t it?

J: {laughs} Well, yes, it has come out on cassette though…

K: Well, sort it out, get it out on vinyl…

J: OK. That’d be quite good. All I can say is that this was when no-one was interested, which is why it never came out physically. But then, there’s tracks in there like I Am God that are good, so, erm, I am going to say I Am God.

K: I mean that is the [standout] song on there, but I haven’t chosen it for a reason [that will become apparent]. I went for Distinctly Obsolete. Do you play that live? You don’t, do you?

J: No, I don’t think we’ve ever played that. It’s obviously about us. {laughs} Well, at that time, it was, like, yeah, nobody’s interested. I think at the time I probably thought it was our last record. It was these four [lost albums] and then we came back. I’m not sure why that happened.

UNICORN (2017) – Not As Smart As You

K: Yeah, so what was the push then? It was a round this time [2015] you came down and played Liverpool…

J: It might have been just having a bit of interest from other people. All of this [album] was done on 16 track. I think Alan and Barry probably had some preliminary stuff they sent to me and I added to it and deleted stuff and chopped it up, and made it what it is… I’m going to go for Not As Smart As You.

K: OK. The ‘pop song’. See, I really like that, but I was listening to the album on the way up [to Glasgow] and the song that jumped out to me was You’re Not Home, which I really liked when I first heard the album, but I’d almost forgotten about it because there’s also the likes of Hope You Never Go, and a few others that you regularly play live, but you don’t play that. But there’s a line in it that goes “this democracy is not yours, free yourself, it’s not yours…”, which is so relevant now.

J: Well, this Unicorn is a Scottish, er, animal {laughs}, it relates to Scotland. This was [about] nuclear war and the [Scottish] referendum. You’ve got the Chernobyl recording, which weirdly I recorded on cassette from Russian radio, Radio Moscow, at the time, in my room in my mum and dad’s house, and I found it, I forgot I had it, and there was also the story of the sinking of a Russian ship off Australia, where forty people died, at the same time. So, I transferred that over to digital and then it all kind of made sense.

K: So, this is the political album then, if there is one?

J: Well, it’s political with a slightly bigger P {laughs}

K: I really thought those lines about democracy in light of the mandated national mourning were really quite striking.

J: Oh yeah, well, it’s also about Trident, why do we have Trident, well, we’ve got the deep water that’s why otherwise it’s be in Wales. {laughs} The English government would be scuppered without us having that here. That’s the only reason they want us: Trident, oil, whisky. The things that make money. {laughs}.

K: So, not Spare Snare then?

J: {laughs} No, not Spare Snare!

SOUNDS (2018) – Action Hero

K: So, these are all songs that are actually elsewhere, but these are Albini-ed versions.

J: This was a good chance, as I said earlier, to choose songs that might have been hidden before or that would suit Albini’s sound, we thought, and I think that worked out. I think on here, it’s probably Action Hero as well. You know, they all have different little stories, the studio memories and stuff. So, with Bugs, the intro, and then where it gets loud, is actually two different recordings. So, he chopped them and joined it up, so fast, on tape… amazing! And you wouldn’t know, but that was his decision.

K: So, would you never have done that yourself?

J: No, I wouldn’t have. So, he’s super fast with his razor blade and putting it all together, so he could do that. It was what I was saying to Raveloe last night, who was supporting us, was if she wanted any advice with mastering or that type of thing, go to someone who does it all the time. Not a mate, it’s like a hospital theatre, you want someone who does it all the time, who’s not going to fuck it up, they know what they’re doing. Partly [this is down to] speed, but also they know what they’re talking about and they’re going to get it right for whatever format you need to take it to get pressed, or whatever. There’s no point in not using someone’s experience.

K: Do you generally like the versions on Sounds more than the originals?

J: No, I think they’re just different. The Live At Home version of Bugs totally fits that album, it’s just different. It made sense not to just do a whole bunch of songs that potentially weren’t very good. For our first time with Albini, we thought let’s choose songs that we know are pretty good, that we know back to front… Whereas, this time, we’ve spent nine months [on it] so we know these songs are good, we know they’re decent and they sound great.

[Kicker chose the Sounds version of I Am God to complete the set]

Look out for that new Spare Snare album recorded with Steve Albini due sometime early next year. In the meantime, you can find the Spare Snare back catalogue on Bandcamp.

Here’s a playlist of all Jan’s selections, plus Kicker’s choices where these differed.

About kickerofelves1

Wizard-in-Chief for Trust The Wizards music podcast and blog. Guided By Voices fanatic.

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