Tell us something about your background and experiences.
I spent my formative years on the island of South Uist. It is located off the west coast of Scotland, way up north. Everybody seemed to sing or play an instrument. It might have been because there was only one television station and I may be wrong but I think it was BBC2… not even BBC1! Anyway, the island itself seemed to sing…. the wind was relentless so I just joined in while staring at the Atlantic in the knowledge that the next stop was Canada.
We lived in the old schoolhouse that had a hall attached and they used to host céilidhs, which are parties where the people provide the musical entertainment. Music and singing seemed like a lot of fun to me and along with my Mum’s Beatles collection, I think I got hooked back then. Later we moved back to the mainland and I ended up in Glasgow playing and singing in bands. Everyone seemed to be on the dole or were apparently being educated somewhere. We had time on our hands and music passed it well. I learned to play drums, bass, guitar and a bit of piano and my at was one big rehearsal room. My neighbours and landlords were a mother and daughter originally from Cypriot Greece…they only seemed to complain when it went silent. I lived there on and off for 14 years…poor souls!
We released some records and toured the University circuit quite a bit and then the rave thing happened which meant ‘P45s’ (unemployment) for most gigging bands back then. We adapted our style and did a kinda dub/dance crossover, which kept us working but the band didn’t want to do the London thing so it all fell apart eventually. I headed there myself, it was good and then it wasn’t. The Libertines had got things going again and my band Zobi were getting noticed but for some reason we never got over the finishing line. London can be grim when money is tight so I headed back to Glasgow and did nothing for a while. Eventually I put together a one-man show called ‘5th and Pontiac’, released the ‘Terms and Conditions Apply’ album, which got really good reviews and did quite well.
I came to Valencia to do a show and decided to not go back. That was eight years ago. I was introduced to the band around six years ago and we started to rehearse and gig under the moniker Skallywag. We were introduced to producer Raúl Nacher who helped kick us into shape. We recorded the album over three sessions within a year and it was decided to take the name 5th and Pontiac and call the record ‘Skallywag.’ The gigs got bigger and better and we played the Low Festival in 2014 but, for one reason or another, things imploded and us three original members had to put a new line-up together. It has never sounded better and we have the songs in the bag for the next record, which we will get done before the end of this year while gigging and trying to sort out a new management deal. That’s where we are at right now.
What are your musical influences?
The Clash were my band. They were the first band I identified with and who made me believe that I could give it a shot, too, even although I was really young. I did my first proper gig aged 12 and that was it…no turning back! I grew up with the Beatles who I think are still the benchmark when it comes to crafting a good song. Bob Dylan influenced my lyrical outlook. Joe Strummer and Springsteen confirmed it. I have been lucky to enjoy and appreciate so many bands and scenes over the years, each one as important as the other and far too many to mention here. From techno to bluegrass, I can love it all and still love listening and seeking out new music because there are still wonderful, talented and creative people making it. Plan B has got what it takes in spades, to mention but one.
How does living as a musician in Spain compare to living as a musician in Scotland?
I have felt really appreciated here in Spain and I have met some amazing people through just being a musician, but I have to be honest and say it was the same in Scotland or Berlin or wherever I have been lucky enough to be. Music, it’s a great thing to be involved in, although the reality remains the same for most musicians the world over I think…feast or famine!
Could you take us through each track of your latest album, ‘Skallywag’?
I have to be honest here and say that I find describing the meaning of songs quite difficult and that might be the reason I write songs and not books, poems or some other creative sport, but here goes….
Lyrically it refers to the cold, shallow reality of thug life and was based on a couple I know, but don’t tell them!! Musically, it’s a cracking wee rock tune and was the first single released from ‘Skallywag’. The video is not too shoddy either.
Welcome to the Ball
A movie clip type song that I like to write. Sometimes based on my life and sometimes not.
All That I Wanted
A true love song. I can’t tell you about who as they haven’t worked it out yet. He-he-he! Nice mellow tune in my opinion.
Turning Me Around
Sometimes people come into your life and make a helluva difference. That’s this one.
Roughly influenced by Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” and what happens when fate throws people together.
Another movie scene ditty…open to translation.
This one’s simple…a drugs bust resulting in a FICTIONAL character disappearing to spend the rest of his life in Mexico. Big rock ‘n’ roll number.
Johnny Come Lately
Again, a love song with some er…sexual innuendo. A nice ballad, though.
Oh No Lordy
The first song I wrote with the band. Hope-fuelled. New country, fresh start.
A dark tune about suicide played with a bright, acoustic melody.
Keep On Keeping On!
Well…what else can one do?
Castles in the Sky
We did a gig in Ademuz, our drummer’s family hometown….a reflection on the night and what you leave behind to keep on moving through life.
Any plans for the future?
This year we plan to record and release the new album, play more shows and return to the U.K and hopefully Germany also. You can follow the band on our FREE app ‘5th and Pontiac’ (available for iPhone and Android), which contains dates, music, videos, photos and contact details for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Both ‘Terms and Conditions Apply’ and ‘Skallywag’ are available to buy from iTunes, etc., on Dogmountain Records.
I will also be embarking on a series of solo shows playing some of my favourite songs. Just me, my guitar and a loop pedal. You can check that out on my MARK Facebook page. Really looking forward to getting out and playing everything from Dolly Parton to the Ramones!
Interview by Owl
More information at Facebook: 5th and Pontiac