Still Burning catches up with local muso Steven Milne, solo artiste, The Little Kicks frontman and The Lemon Tree booker person. Read on kids.
Hi Steven, hows it going? Settling into the new workplace okay?
Im very good thanks. I’ve been at the Lemon Tree for around 7 weeks now and its going well. Last week I got some good feedback from my bosses on the bookings I’ve made so that’s been really positive and the team there are really nice so they have helped me settle in by giving me a warm welcome.
So your job is to book the artists for the Lemon Tree? Will you be hoping to lure a lot of the artists that were already booked for The Warehouse?
Yes, my main aim and focus is solely on the music side of the venue at the moment, I’m not involved with the comedy or theatre side. When I left the Warehouse I had made sure that I’d left on good terms so when they closed down the Warehouse management actually encouraged me to try and take on any bookings that I could. It’s good that the other venues in the city as well as ourselves were able to accommodate most of the bookings.
Your contacts list must be working overtime at the moment all the same?
Yeah, the first few weeks at Lemon Tree were admittedly quite quiet as the venue is fairly booked up and I was mostly just settling in and spreading my new contact details around as much as possible. Then with the Warehouse’s closure coupled with the summer and festival period passing things got much busier of late and my phone and email have been pretty constant. It’s great though and hopefully I can keep it up going forward, we have some potentials pencilled in that Im excited about and I recently booked the New York Dolls among others so I’ve lots to be getting on with for sure.
Any advantages (as a booker) the the Lemon Tree has that maybe The Warehouse didn’t have?
In all honesty I think both venues are great and although it could be argued both work well for different things (what would work well in one wouldn’t necessarily work in the other). I think the main advantages the Lemon Tree has over any venue I’ve worked for is that it has a full-time marketing department whose efforts make a huge difference to sales – especially when you combine it with the strong local patronage the venue enjoys with the Aberdeen public. The in house rig sounds great and it’s also a good size for anything from 75 to 500 people which helps open up the range of shows you can put on.
Before we get onto your own musical offerings how should any artists get in touch re potential support slots at the LT?
My work email is firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m more than happy for bands to approach me for any support slots. Being in a band I know what its like to get a phone-call offering you to play with a big band or one that you like, it’s nice to be the one making that call.
So.. Steven Milne… first of all… how’s the solo career coming on?
It’s going well I’d say although it’s probably only of late that I’ve really started to take it seriously. The solo stuff and the band sit nicely together and the plan is to run the two side by side going forward. The solo material is very different to Little Kicks and people have been responding well to the songs.
Any gigs or recordings pending?
I recently finished recording my first album which is being printed as we speak. It’s a collaborative effort between myself and my musical partner in crime Iain Macpherson who recorded and produced the album. Michael Chang from Indian Red Lopez also put in a cracking shift with the artwork so I’m chuffed with the finished product and cant wait to let people here it. The result of our efforts is an eleven track album called “Chasing Phantoms” which comes out on November 1st on our own label Bedford Records. We’ll also be doing a single in September entitled “Best of Times” which will be very limited and include a nifty cover song on the B-Side. If interested then it’s best to check out the label site http://www.bedfordrecords.com. Theres also some great stuff on there by Ashley Park and some free downloads as well as streams of our tracks. Live wise Ill be touring the album with a full band in October and also doing a single and album launch in the city around the releases – Lemon Tree on the 23rd October is booked for the album launch.
And The Little Kicks… did I read somewhere that you’re set to play the Edge Festival in Edinburgh at the end of the month? That must be something to look forward to?
Yes, we are playing the Electric Circus on the 27th August with Three Blind Wolves who are a great band from Edinburgh so are very much looking forward to that. We have new songs to play and also enjoy a good following in Edinburgh so it should be a great night.
A spot on the Main Stage at Wizard Festival has also been confirmed?
Yes, a double whammy of dates to look forward to on that weekend now with the Wizard slot being the day after the Edge show. Wizard festival is great fun to play and last year we had an amazing time so to be asked to open up the Main Stage on the Saturday this year is a treat and a half. I believe a few of our friends bands are also playing on the Saturday as well so it’ll be a great weekend.
Supporting The Errors and Twilight Sad at the Lemon Tree is a venue that just suits the headliners… agree?
Yes, wholeheartedly. Having last seen Errors in the Lemon Tree in February they will definitely sound great in there and in particular the drum sound was unreal. I’ve never seen the Twilight Sad in the Lemon Tree but I know a lot of local people believe it to be the best venue for them in the city. As with Errors their newest album is immense and are very happy to be on the bill. Hopefully our early slot wont mean we play to an empty room and we can get some people down early doors, if you read this and you are coming please come down early and ill personally give you a free CD if you do and maybe even a pint.
Any other gigs for The Little Kicks that we can look forward to? Did I see Japan appear on your MySpace listings?
Apart from the dates we’ve mentioned we haven’t booked any further dates for now. The main concentration for us is writing, rehearsing and recording new material. We just kitted out our own band room so we plan to spend more time in there working on songs than playing live for the moment. As for Japan, we have been invited to play at an event entitled Japan Music Week in November which takes place in Tokyo. At the moment this is very big maybe in our diary and something which we need to look into properly with regards to funding and logistics but if possible then we will hopefully go across and play. We spent some time in Japan at the turn of the year and even played a gig while we were there and it’s an amazing place which I’d love to go back to.
How has your debut album “Boxing Clever” been received?
It has been received well as we have only seen good reviews of it which is really positive and it still has miles to go because we haven’t even released a single or toured it as much as we should have I all honesty. Between many factors last year – our previous long-standing drummer moving away shortly after the albums completion, my role working gig nights and most weekends at the Warehouse on a sporadic calendar and Toby’s (guitarists) forced relocation to Edinburgh for employment – it hasn’t been as easy to gig together as it once was but with my recent shift in job role and a new drummer in place since last year were steadily rectifying that.
I’m really proud of it and I think it stands up as a good solid debut which represents what we sounded like at that time. They say you have forever to make your first album and that’s certainly true for us as we’d been together for a while and a lot happened to us as a band before we got to the point of “Boxing Clever”. We had several learning experiences which I believe now were vital for us to learn from. Without going into it too much there was two or three setbacks for the band, over a period of a year or so following the time we played T in the Park onwards. Management offers and production deal offers came and through no fault of our own went but took their time to do so.
At the time you see these things as crippling and disheartening and it probably nearly killed us but we only learned from the delay and kept writing throughout and in hindsight none of the things on offer were right for us. If we had done it with the initial offers we had we would not have recorded with Iain (who produced the “Boxing Clever” album) and who did an amazing and very committed job which was undoubtedly more personal than any big studio would do.
Do we have another album in the making?
Yes, were going into the studio in three weeks to start recordings for it. We have the first session booked to do four new tracks, the sound of which will take us in a hint of a new direction that were really happy with and excited about. We all listen to totally different bands now but we do share several common influences which have definitely helped to shape the new songs. There was a small reluctance to put anything down last time round that couldn’t be replicated live but I think this time round there will be a lot more experimentation in the studio. For example, one new song which we will play live at our next show, the whole song is dependent on the rhythm section leading with a focus on a groove and the top melody – it was initially out of my comfort zone but it’s probably the best thing we’ve ever done. I do think were broadening our sound a little and some of the new material will surprise a few people and maybe even convert some naysayers too.
After a bit of discussion Steven has given us a track featuring the “new sound” and you can download it from MediaFire here it’s called Modern Romance… want to tell us a little about it Steven?
This song is a home demo I made as a reference to how the song will roughly sound for the guys to hear. The drum loop is copied from a Fall song and the demo was done very quickly but the feel of the song is there. The song is about a relative of mine who I don’t keep in touch with anymore sadly and we’ll be working this song into our set soon.
Is this when you try to `branch out` of ABZ a bit more? Do you think staying `up here` limits any success a band can have? Depends on your definition of success I suppose.… do you have any advice for young and up and coming bands or artists in the area?
The trick to getting under the right people’s noses I’d say would be perseverance – keep trying and they’ll have to take notice eventually. I would say play outside of your home town as much as feasibly possible and be prepared to put a shift in to get there. This is particularly true for us in the North East and sometimes the travelling /work part is truly shit. It’s rare you’ll meet a touring band that wont be able to regale tales to you of long nights to other cities and back in a cramped van for no money in the early days of their career and it’s what makes them if anything. Some if not most are back to doing so again by tour managing themselves to save money – in this age of no record companies and tight budgets – if your going to try and go the whole hog you’ll have to be prepared to do the work.
Even in our modest level of touring we’ve done some ridiculous efforts to do shows (the 4 hour drive each way same night to support Glasvegas in the Borders instantly springs to mind) but they have usually been worth it. Band’s that come to mind of this nature are people like The X-Certs or Frightened Rabbit who have worked hard to get to the level they are currently at.
Developing a following in your home-town is equally important, use the advantage of enjoying that home support by putting on your own gigs and keeping the door money to fund jaunts out of town, merchandise, posters, cds etc.
If you opened a brand new music venue in Aberdeen, what would it be like?
I don’t think I ever would own my own venue but if I did, I’d steal lots of small ideas from all the good venue’s I can think of! Venue’s I really rate are small places like Sneaky Pete’s, The Captain’s Rest in Glasgow or 13th Note where you can get a good atmosphere with a small crowd but pack it out if you need to. Particularly the Captain’s Rest which has a great layout/ feel -with the music room downstairs and a cool wee pub upstairs where they have good food and nice beers etc. I think if you could go back in time and re-open Dr Drakes that would be a good model for me. On a bigger scale and if I had stupid amounts of money I would model any venue I owned on a venue called Debaser in Stockholm which I once went to. It was probably the best sounding venue and nicest layout I have ever been in and one of the best nights out I’ve ever had.
Any gripes you have with the current music scene, local or otherwise?
I used to get really wound up about things but you’ve caught me in a good mood so this will be a reasoned response. In honesty, I don’t really have any gripes at all locally, I think we have some great venues and there are some good bands around (one gripe I suppose would be I wish there were more new bands cropping up!). I also think between Hen, Captain Tom, Ross AGP, Interesting Music, Vocoustics, Roy Wizard, (not forgetting James Bruce when at Moshulu) and other promoters efforts we have a really healthy scene where we get a lot of bands to the city that through their efforts would not normally bother.
To not sound like a hippy, I will mention a couple of gripes. One gripe I would have is people phoning the venue on the day of the gig to find out when the main band start (happens in every venue I have ever worked in) – GO AND SEE THE SUPPORT – especially the locals. Whatever happened to value for money? If you pay ten quid for a ticket would you not want to see all the bands? I know I do.
My main gripe is probably rubbish bands that are massive. I have a sheer disbelief that someone somewhere thinks that this awful band (insert name here) are actually good live or interesting. An example for me personally is the Klaxons , a band that can barely play in time together and have no good songs to my ears. I also firmly believe that although I’m sure she’s very nice and has sold a lot more records than me, the only explanation for Florence Welch’s singing voice live is that she is tone deaf. I’m waiting for it to be revealed to the public. But those aside, I don’t get mad too often, unless you put Radio 1 on for more than an hour, that upsets me as I don’t agree with brainwashing.
Whats are your thoughts on the Union Terrace Gardens debate?
I think Union Terrace is fine the way it is. I don’t really see why we have to do anything to it whatsoever. I don’t like to pretend to give an informed opinion on political or major debates without knowing the full facts which I don’t in this case but on a basic level, I like Union Terrace Gardens and think that the area combined with HMT Building is really beautiful during the extremes of summer and winter. For that reason, I don’t think they should build anything over it. Hope that doesn’t sound too wooly, you may want to cut all this out and just quote In the Loop’s hapless minister “I’m standing my ground on the verge”.
Your five desert island tracks?
I’m struggling so ive looked up my top five songs on I-tunes for help!
Bob Dylan – Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. Favourite Dylan song from many, and a rare good tuneful vocal from him.
Harry Nillson – Jump into the Fire. My favourite bass riff ever and a rare example of the use of a good drum solo.
Andrew Bird – Plasticities (Daytrotter Version) One guy, loop pedal, two chords but still one of the best pieces of music ive ever heard.
Orange Juice – Rip it Up and Start Again. Reminds me of being a kid but also a great song from an inspiring figure.
Donna Summer- I Feel Love. So if we needed to kick-start an island party we had some disco available.
And finally… your favourite flavour of crisps?
The child in me says Roast Beef Monster Munch washed down with a Cherry 7-Up. No contest.
And thats it Steven, thanks for your time and I’m sure we’ll catch up soon. Still Burning.
The Lemon Tree Website
The Little Kicks MySpace