I am genuinely delighted that my first interview for Indie Through The Looking Glass is with the multi talented and lovely human being, Mike Lindsay.
I was trying to work out how often and in how many different guises our paths have crossed over the years. I think the first time was after I heard the debut Tunng album, ‘Mother’s Daughter and Other Songs’ in 2005. I loved it so much, I invited the band to play that year’s Green Man Festival and also checked to see if they’d be up with playing alongside my band, It’s Jo & Danny at the I.C.A. in London. Happily they said ‘yes’ to both!
Both bands were making folktronica and seemed a natural fit. My energy started to go less into my music and more in to the festival at this stage though. Tunng carried on making wonderful genre blurring music and played Green Man frequently. I was happy when they did, as for me, they are always a part of the very essence of the festival.
I later ran into Mike in 2013 after I had moved on from the Green Man. I was managing a band from Denmark, the synth, psych-folk collective, Pinkunoizu. Both bands are on the mighty Full Time Hobby label. Pinkunoizu supported Tunng on tour around Europe and the U.K. and I saw a few of the shows and remember chatting to Mike upstairs at Heaven in London.
We also share a connection with the esoteric independent label Static Caravan, run by Geoff Dolman. I released couple of records on this fabulous label, a solo album and one as The Yellow Moon Band. It was Static Caravan that released ‘Mother’s Daughter and Other Songs’ in 2005.
So here we go….Mike Lindsay, the first interview for I.T.T.L.G..
Do you find your living environment has an effect on your music? How long were you in Iceland?
I was in Iceland for four years! Man it feels like a dream now, and its been four years since I left. That time had a great effect on my music especially because of where it was. Just the feeling of being half blown across the street on the way to the studio in a blizzard, or the immense pink sunsets on the glistening surrounding mountains around Reykjavik and especially Husavik in the north where I lived for 3 months. How can that magic of nature not have an effect? Also with that place there is a great music scene full of amazingly talented musicians that really set the bench mark way higher than I was used to. So inspiring to be around, and a great sense of community where everyone is playing in everyones band and helping each other out. I made a solo record there called Cheek Mountain Thief which was really an experiment for me to immerse my self in new surrounding and new people , collaborate and feel alive!
You said you’re living in Margate now, what’s that like? Where are you from originally?
Margate is awesome! I’m pretty new here, just moved in January with my girlfriend this year, but Im starting to get the same feeling I had in Reykjavik. It’s much smaller here though, but there is a small community of musicians and Artists both from Margate originally and from new comers mostly from London. I love how there will only be 2 or 3 things happening each week that you might want to go to, and you really can just show up as you’ll definitely know a bunch of people where ever you go. It also has Intense beautiful pink sunsets surrounded by the sea and the real weather… so important to feel it… you forget sometimes that we live on an island. I’m originally from Southampton, so near the sea, but I lived in London for about 18 years!
You’re always in the studio, either as a producer or musician, have you got different favourite studios for each of these roles?
Ah well, I always had the London studio in Hoxton that I used to share with Benge (electronica synth guru) this was covered in every analogue synth ever made… all Benge’s.. pretty hard to not have that anymore…. most of the Tunng records were done there except the first which was done in the basement of a ladies clothes shop in Soho!
In Reykjavik I had 3 different studios in the 4 years and my favourite was the last one in the old fishing industrial area over looking the sea and the Mountains. That’s where we did the Throws record and I worked with Farao and Low Roar and Teitur Magnusson. It had a proper live room and a great fishermans café next door.. definitely a favourite. I also finished the last Low Roar record in Monnow Valley Studios in Wales with the might Andrew Scheps. We did a week there and I learned so much.. plus had too much fun jamming drunk at 4am with Andrew on Bass, me on a guitar where every string was tuned to B, Ryan (Low Roar) on Piano, the two interns on anything they could find and My lady Lily on some kind of synth…. Pretty sure it sounded wonderfully terrible.
What’s the most fun you’ve had in the studio?
Making Teitur’s Record was pretty fun. It was supposed to be just him and an acoustic guitar, maybe a bit of piano, but people just kept showing up with instruments. In the end , it had Drums, bass, flute, trombone, synths, backing vocals, guitars pianos, percussion, even Sitar! I had a sitar in studio and Teitur started playing around, then he remembered that Iceland has one pro sitar player.. a guy in his 70’s… so he gave him a call and he wan in the studio that night… Lots of fun.. just dancing around the studio… it all happened in 6 days..
You must be very busy at the moment? It seems to me that you are lucky that you have at least two musicians that you can share and bounce musical ideas from so wonderfully – Sam and Laura…is the creative process similar with each of them?
Actually they are quite similar to work with in that they are both so fast and so good! They are the only two people that I have met who can hear a piece of unfinished music that i’ve laid down, and within minutes they have a note pad out and are writing fantastical lyrics that just flow from the brain to the page… barely a crossing out.. then an hour later… they are on the mic and that’s the take…. So badass!! It’s easy to work with people like that, but having worked with quite a few really talented people now, I know that that true innate ability to write songs off the cuff is rare , certainly not an ability that I have… I take ages with lyrics… so frustrating!
I read that once you and Laura Marling got talking it only took two days until you went into the studio to start recording? What did you talk about on that first proper meeting? Are you planning any more LUMP gigs?
Ha, Yeah she surprised me by saying yes she would be up for working together and that she was free on Tuesday! I had nothing prepared except an idea for a film soundtrack that never got used… So I played her that, which became “Late To The Flight “ and we just kinda continued from there with a few more visits to the studio (back In Hoxton) and I tried to have a new piece of music ready for her each time to bounce her lyrics off. We didn’t really talk at all… just kinda got on with it. Very organic really. I mean we know each other pretty well now since the live shows (Which have been so special) but in the recording process, we just went straight for the creative chat.. We have one more show at the Garage on the 21st November.
The new Tunng album is wonderful. Where was it recorded? What was it like working with Sam and the original line up again?
Thank you! It was recorded in the Hoxton studio and was the last thing I did there. I guess tunng were also the first thing I did in that studio in 2006 for our second record so it definitely felt natural with the original line up to make this record there. To work with the original line up was like slipping on an old leathery glove…. If ye know what im sayin…
How’s everything shaping up for the Tunng shows?
Actually im just about to go to our last rehearsal now. We have been rehearsing in London every weekend for quite a while, and only half the band still live in London these days, so its kind of a commute for the rest of us. Sam’s in Sheffield and Ash is in Somerset .. I’ve got it pretty easy in comparison. Anyway it’s all shaping up nicely and we are very ready to play these shows. We are also requesting that people send us their dreams recorded on their phone , if they are coming to a show, and we’ll try to incorporate them in our show. We just need to know which show they’re coming to… So far weve collected quite a few dreams!
I asked Geoff at Static Cravan if he had any questions for you.
He wondered if you remember him falling down the embankment and losing his glasses after your headline performance in the Far Out Tent at Green Man?!
Ha ! yep… It’s a classic memory.. lots of gin involved I think. He was falling down an embankment which led to our tent.. which he then rolled into.. and pretty much spent the night. Martin from tunng had this big bell tent with a wood burner in it.. so it kinda became full of sizzled goodns after that show… Geoff being one of em.
If you have any photos you can share, I’d be very grateful – any of the early years at Green Man?
Ah man… there definitely were some… My old laptop from those days kinda blew up.. with a load of tour photos and band photos from that time… So annoying.. but they must be on a drive somewhere… ill ask the band at the rehearsal if they have any GM photos from those years…
I’d love to hear your perspective on those exciting times, both as a musician, and as someone who attended…
The first year was at Baskerville Hall in 2005 and it was such a dream… I remember hanging with the Earlies and Adem who seemed to be playing a campfire set every night. You would walk back to the tent and there would be Adem with his harmonium singing .. again! I was talking with him about that the other day… apparently he was waiting for someone to show up and sing with him every night , but they never showed… I also remember Will Oldham’s very high cut off shorts.. Great music and it really did feel like we were included in some kind of special club.
We played in 2006 on the main stage at the new location where it still is and Ash was dressed as a tree… He had bought this camouflage army suit which was basically a bush. Then we all added more branches until he could barely move.. let alone play the guitar.. None of the rest of us were in fancy dress… King Creosote joined us on stage that day.. I don’t remember so much after that other than a lot of laughter and seeming to know everyone there.. good times!
Then in 2007 we headlined the Far Out tent.. or the Folky Dokey tent as it was called then… We blew up about 50 large beach balls all afternoon until we nearly passed out. Then threw them in to the crowd on our last tune… which was a mistake .. as they then kept throwing them back at us.. pretty hard to play when there’s large balls being thrown at you! Any way it was a packed tent even though Lady Joanna Newsome was headlining the mainstage at the same time… We felt pretty proud and I still remember it as one of the highlights of our career . Those days are very dear to all of us who were there I think. There was a lot of magic and we all had a wand! But.. hey.. we just played GM this year again after a long time away and it felt good to be back.. Still clutching the wand…
What music were you listening to in your late teens, early 20s?
Hmmm… well by then I had moved on from GnR and Iron Maiden and I guess it was about 95/96 when I went to Hull Uni to study Radio and drink cheap booze.. so I was listening to…
The Verve, Beck, Radiohead, The Beta Band, Lots of Funkadelic and Parliament, always Hendrix I used to love that first Cardigans record! I guess there has always been Dylan and Zeppelin …. And through Zep I discovered Bert Jansch…
But at the same time I was making really odd electronic music with a sampler and a fostex quarter inch 8 track reel to reel.. odd home studio.. so All a bit confusing…
Finally, what have been your all time favourite gigs to play, is there one that stands above as the best?? Which band? Thanks!
Tunng, Green Man 2007
Tunng with Tinariwen Koko 2009
Throws (with full Male drinking Choir ) Iceland Airwaves 2016
LUMP Oslo Club London 2018
Thanks very much Mike!! X