”We live in a World where music is a popularity contest…What’s real about that?”
Pete MacLeod has been knocking on the door for some time now. The Scottish singer/songwriter – who has supported the likes of Ocean Colour Scene – has come a long way over the years, and played just about everywhere in between with his sharp forward-thinking and unmistakingly British Rock’n’Roll catching the ear. Now, after a few years honing his talents in Los Angeles, Macleod is back with new material, a new band and what Alan McGee calls ‘a great talent’. We caught up with him to get the lowdown.
Let’s start with the new band. You’re playing with ‘The Cancerians’ featuring ex-Oasis guitarist Bonehead – how did that come about?
Well, I came back from LA and recorded Rolling Stone and did a couple of acoustic shows one being at King Tuts in Glasgow and another with Alan McGee at Pivo Pivo (Glasgow) launching my new songs. Some of my musician friends came along to the gigs and we had a chat after the shows. We then went into the rehearsal studio and played the songs together and from there a band was formed. After asking them all what there signs were out of curiosity (must have been an LA thing, ha) it turned out that they were all Cancerians including Bonehead. I thought that’s a sign, pardon the pun and and from there I just named it Pete MacLEOd & The Cancerians. To be honest it felt awkward being around mates and to go out as Pete MacLeod and band, that’s pretty boring isn’t it? Plus this way I can go out with just a couple of them too and not take the whole band. I am lucky enough to be able to go out on my own or with a band. It’s good having the freedom to be able to do both I guess…
Last year you released the single ‘Rolling Stone’ to great critical acclaim – it featured in Q Magazines prestigious monthly ’50 Downloads’ and was even on the radio. Can you feel your audience growing?
I guess I feel a little buzz going on around me just now but I think because I have released all of my songs on my own, I am pretty much inside the box so my focus is pretty much on the music. I was very happy to see the song getting BBC Radio Scotland single of the month and I asked Alan McGee if he wanted to come in and do the interview with me to discuss my music with Janice Forsyth. That was a good little moment and I guess on some levels made me feel a sense of achievement. In regards to my audience growing, I don’t think I am getting the exposure that I would like for my songs but I guess for doing it all on my own it’s not too bad? You can’t force people to like you and I like that fact. It’s good that some things don’t come easy to you in life. I certainly haven’t had anything handed to me on a plate but I’m grateful for that, it’s taught me well. If more people are beginning to like my music then I will take that, yes. Is my fan base growing? I’d like to think so, that would be cool.
The latest brilliant new single is ‘God Speed’ (available now). To me it perfectly sums up your music in 3 minutes; optimistic, catchy and very now – all about the melody. But it’s also the second single you’ve released in aid of Cancer Research. Could we just talk a little bit about that?
Thank-you, that means a lot to me. You may have just added to the growth of my audience by saying that! Haha…Well the big C affects everyone in a family and I thought to myself how could I help with my Dad going through this? He has been a big influence on me listening to music in my youth and clearly through my own curiosity. It was staring me in the face really, I can only imagine that it is challenging for anyone going through that and I just asked my Dad if I could dedicate that tune to him as it is an optimistic song about my journey in life so far even though times can be difficult, we can all get through it. Anyone that feels good after listening to music or by taking in a gig that they connect with will know what I mean with that. Music’s all about moods and connection isn’t it? I get happy thoughts and feel good after listening to something upbeat and melodic if I connect with it. If I listen to something a bit darker then that’s where the song takes me personally. I’m committed. So if anyone gets a good feeling from listening to that song then the positive tone continues to get passed on. It’s coming from a good place. I’d like to think of it like that. Music can be a very powerful signal. It has been for me that’s for sure. I am doing it for the music and the source of where that came from for me.
I remember reading once that your influences all came from your Dad – ‘Every Dad has a cool record collection…’ – Who inspired your music? And what are you listening to at the moment?
Yes I said, “Every cool Dad has a cool record collection”. That was a good few years ago wasn’t it? I’d like to think that my kids will say the same about me one day and so on. Then it has even more substance. I would say that my own curiosity with sounds and with my Dad’s musical taste I had a source to plug into from an early age and from that it’s turned into me writing my own songs. I have so many musical influences. I will have to be boring and obvious and say that John Lennon is a big one for me. Just because he wrote all about the obvious subjects that a songwriter should touch on and open for all to see. Not only did he write about it well but he got the music bang on too. That’s a craft and I connect with that. More so the older I get because I go through the emotions he writes about because of my own experiences in life. I think to myself, ahh that’s what he meant when he was singing about that! I also connect with Bob Marley too though, so it’s very varied but Lennon always has a place in my heart. He done it with the biggest band in the World and then as a solo artist. What more can you ask for? I listen to all sorts of music just now, some local bands where I come from here in Coatbridge and some bands from all over the World. There is a lot of talent out there and some may never be a household name like John Lennon. That’s an eye opener for me on how the business side and of music can be brutal. I’ve always connected to art and music though so I will always be an artist or at least think of myself as an artist. It takes one to know one doesn’t it?
What do you make of the music scene today then? Is Rock’n’Roll dead?
What is rocknroll? What is punk? Is it music or a movement or just a fad or a tag? If it’s believing in something you stand for then that will never die, not for me anyways.
My honest opinion is that I go out with my band for some gig’s and I feel a competitiveness with others and it’s turns me off performing because I don’t play music to compete, I play music to express myself. It’s just the way it is at an upcoming level I guess unfortunately. It’s a band/gang thing…I think some musicians, not all of them but some, have either missed something along the way or been badly coached in life. I played football to compete with others, never music. That’s just my opinion on scenes and what not. I don’t want to be part of any clique or any competition with my music. I just want to create and for it to be heard but I’m not desperate. I can live without a financially successful music career. I have been for long enough now. What always baffled me when I was a teenager was that there was always these events such as ‘Battle of the Bands.’ Why should it be a battle? If you’re trying to be the best at what you do then just be the best at what you do. The competition should always be about bettering yourself and/or your band. Again though, you’re asking me a question and I’m answering it with all honesty and it is only my opinion. People do things their own way, just like I do, so I guess it’s all relevant. The people will decide for you and you’ll soon find out or be found out. Who started that title anyway? ‘Battle of the Bands’. Let’s blame them for it. For me, that sends out the wrong message to kids. It’s like the Derek Zoolander of music. There’s a whiff of delusion in there somewhere isn’t there! Wheres the humbleness in that? Maybe I am just getting old though! Hahaha… But it has never been about that for me. I experienced it everywhere in LA. It not reality to me and thank fuck it isn’t and never will be.
You’ve always been big on releasing your music online haven’t you?
You have to be sussed a little on how things work in regards to social media etc. if you want your music to be heard and you don’t have a huge following or you’re not famous. I can adapt easily though because again nowadays demands that of you as does song writing because you can’t just keep writing about the same experience all the time can you?
I know I would get bored writing or listening to the same thing over and over again. So I would say the big change that I have observed in the industry would be that social networking is a must for any up and coming musician. Whether it’s Bob Dylan’s marketing team doing it for his new album and tour or Pete MacLeod doing it for himself, you still need to be in the game if you want new fans and your music to be heard don’t you? So I would say releasing music online is essential for guys like me. I mean I could go down the road of just releasing my songs on vinyl only but in all honesty I think that would be very pompous of me at this stage. It’s a little too cool for school doing that for where I’m at. That’s like starting a little clique and goes against who I am. When I put music out there I am welcoming anyone to listen to it, not just some musical snob that thinks they know it all. Vinyl is great but you would be a fool not to recognize that digital online stores are more accessible for potential fans of your music. If you’re putting it out there then make it easy for people to have it otherwise just listen to it yourself with your wee club. It’s easy to release online for artists, there isn’t costs for physical copies. There is a good thing about that and a downside. It’s just the way it goes with technology though isn’t it. Things just get smaller and smaller and simpler to store. It’s very fitting to society’s quick paced life at the moment…. I don’t think albums are even as relevant now…they certainly don’t get treated with the same respect they used to.
So where next for Pete Macleod – do you think this is your year? Will we see a new album?
What’s next for me musically? Same as always I guess, which is write, record and play live. If people like my music I am really grateful that they can connect with me on that level. It means a lot to me because I just like doing it myself and it’s who I am. I get a buzz from it. An old friend that I grew up with recently said it was always my calling. That was nice to hear. This year I have travelled a wee bit and met one of my peers which was Noel Gallagher. Bonehead took me along to meet him in Glasgow’s SECC. Bonehead and I had an acoustic gig the next night after Noel’s show and we talked about that between the three of us. Experiences like that are what it’s all about for me. I don’t take pictures or autographs of those experiences; I just take it all in upstairs and store it. It’s something that I have got used to now. I am very comfortable in my own skin these days in terms of allowing things to happen organically. Something I’ve learned on my path so far I guess…I think every year is there for the taking, not just musically but for new positive outlooks on approaching things. I will always keep doing what I do for as long as I possibly can. An album? I could put an album out but I seriously doubt it would be relevant at this stage doing it on my own as it wouldn’t sound as good as I would want it to sound because of finances so for now it will be singles. Which is again fitting to my position and today’s fast paced listeners.
First Record Bought?
If we are talking CD’s then it would be Nirvana’s Nevermind.
First Gig Seen?
It was T in the Park (festival) or the band Cast in Livingston Forum
Did You Really Record One Of Your Songs In A Cupboard?
Yes this is true. I recorded Panic at my apartment in Santa Monica. I put it up on myspace and Q magazine also put that song in their top 50 downloads! I think that was the song that got Alan McGee switched on to my potential. Me and bonehead always have a little joke about that…we always say “Panic, in the top 50 downloads in Q magazine man!” I think I must have said it more than once when we toured in 2008 and we had a few Guinness? Not sure, that was a good time though. Planting a seed with my music. Good moments.
Top 5 Albums?
Wooofttt, top 5 erm, I’m not going to go for obscure ones here just ones that I go back to and listen again and again. I also think that because some have been out longer than others these kinda things are biased. But it’s gotta be, in no particular order: Bob Marley’s (Legend), The Stone Roses (The Stone Roses), John Lennon (Legend, only because it has them all on it), Oasis (Definately Maybe), Nirvana, (Nevermind).
Favourite Gig Venue?
Hollywood Bowl. Got some stories for that venue but that aside it’s somewhere I would love to play one day. Locally in Scotland it would be King Tut’s as I have so many fond memories playing there. Also, a wee mention for a local venue in Coatbridge called Soundwave Studios. They are a rehearsal room and a venue. Great for the local music community.
Biggest Celebrity Fans?
Not sure if Noel or Liam have heard or like my music? It would be nice if they got what I do. Met Paul Weller but I never approached him with my music as I don’t like being THAT guy with the CD. I’ve met a good few celebrities but never gave them my music. So I would have to say at the moment, Alan McGee, Bonehead & Robbie Williams. Robbie bought my music on iTunes with his laptop in front of me. I thought that was cool of him.
Liam or Noel?
Both, without one I wouldn’t have heard the other!
Hula Hoops (the toy) or Hula Hoops (the crisp)?
Both good but for this particular occasion I’m gonna go for the toy for some fun. I eat the beef flavoured hula hoops last week and they were honking!
What are your thoughts on Premature Burial?
Bit of a heavy question man, wouldn’t like to comment on that one I’m afraid. But I don’t like to judge others.