An interview on my sole day off of the week would have been an unpleasant experience had it not been for the wonderful interview-ee, Richard Colburn – better known to you as the drummer from Glaswegian Belle & Sebastian. He surely brightened my morning with his cheery talks of band life, musical beginnings and alternate careers.
How’s it going?
‘It’s all good, we’re just having a bit of down time before it all starts again, having a new couple of weeks at home just to experience a bit of calm before the storm, if you will’
What’s going on for you guys right now?
‘We’re mega busy! We’re on a never ending tour which is covering so much ground, we’ve just come back from the States but before that we were in the Far East, Australia and Auckland doing some promo for the album and the tour, then we went over to South East Asia to do a bit more, but we’re just about to do some Europe shows before heading back over to the states, it’s such a big country and there’s so many places to go, each time is different and you can always go places you’ve never been before, it’s an awesome place’
You’re heading out on tour soon, how’re you feeling?
‘I love it! I really like the role of being us, putting out an album and then promoting it and then rehearsing for live shows and then touring – the whole package! I prefer doing that to not being busy at all! We’ve got great new management who’re keeping everything organised and making sure we know exactly what we’re doing. With pre-show, we’re very much and LET’S GO AND DO THIS! Kinda band, Stuart will usually say a few words, the second before we go out he’ll be like: ‘remember, enjoy yourselves!’. The production for these gigs is different than stuff we’ve done before, we have about 3 or 4 songs we can use as intros and we’ll do them on a loop so at the minute we’re still a bit like: ‘okay, do I start or is it you?’ – it’ll work out I’m sure… I hope!’
Your latest album was released this year marking 9 albums you’ve created, how do you think your music has deviated since that original offering?
‘Well… We can play our instruments now, so that helps. We’re using tech a bit more nowadays, we use iPad’s to put stuff together which is pretty cool – technology is an amazing thing! I think the process is still the same, someone will have an idea and if it fits another of us will jump on it and work on getting it developed. Since we’ve been working together for so long and we’ve written so many songs as a team things are much quicker now.’
How did music begin for you?
‘I come from a very musical family, I’m actually a 4th generation drummer. My granddad was a veteran accordion player and in a lot of jazz bands – everyone plays something! I played 4 instruments at school but I hit that age where I just wanted to rebel against anything and everything so I decided to sack that off and I was gonna become a professional snooker player in my early 20’s – I fell outta love with that, but didn’t really want to get a job so I figured the perfect place for me was college! [laughs] The only course they had at my local one was a Sound Engineering which I wasn’t fussed about but it struck a chord and I loved it, I met a few guys there and it just clicked. I moved to Glasgow to do a Music Business course which is where I met Stuart… It’s quite a romantic little story!’
You guys have been developing and going for almost 20 years, how do you keep things fresh?
‘I personally tend to do a lot of different bits, I play in a few other bands from time to time and I have my own DJ stuff going on too. I’m actually working on a DJ mix right now! It’s all about chopping and changing… There are a few of us so someone usually has an idea of what we can be doing, whether that be trying new things, going to new places – whatever we’ve never done before.’
What do you love to see in an audience?
‘Enthusiasm! It’s a weird one because reactions are different all over the world. Japan is a particularly interesting one, they’re deathly silent while you’re performing and then they go absolutely mental at the end, it’s a bit like canned applause cause it all cuts at exactly the same moment, whereas you go somewhere like Spain or anywhere in South America and the crowds are absolutely nuts. Stuart talks to the audience a lot and tries to involve them which breaks the boundary between it being us and them, we like to get a few people on stage at the end for a bit of a dance but it got to a point they’d just get their phones out so now if you wanna get on stage with us, you can’t bring your phone!’
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be and why?
‘That’s a good one, well if I wasn’t gonna be a snooker player or involved in music then I’d probably be… A snooker commentator! Everyone wants that job, right? I’ve never really thought about it. Up until now I’ve been lucky enough to not have to think about an alternative. I guess maybe I’d do something creative that wasn’t music, I can’t draw or paint but that’d be fun.’
If you could play a gig with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
‘Hmm, I’m trying to think what I’m listening to right now and what would be good.. I think to go back and perform with all the old Blues players like Sonny Boy Williamson II, to learn what they were like and uncover the legends, I think being in New York in the 1940’s when Bebop first came around with guys like John Coltrane – these people were pioneers and they’re responsible for all the music since then.’
What’s your favourite song of yours and why?
‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’, it just has to be. The way it happened and turned out was really unusual. Stuart and I lived in a church hall for a while, many moons ago, he was a janitor and I just helped out to have a bed to stay in. We used to use it to record, we had a van packed full of recording equipment so the other guys would rock up, unload stuff and we’d just get on with it… With it being a church hall there was no way to control the reverb you were getting, that’s what makes this song so special, it’d be impossible to recreate that natural reverb, even if you had top notch equipment.. Monica’s vocals are incredible on it too. We sort of… Created the impossible, that’s why I love it…’
Travel over the South Yorkshire border into the West Country to see Belle & Sebastian play Leeds Town Hall on the 19th of this month, they’re worthy of your commute.
By Ellie Greenfield