I was listenning to your first two albums and i thought that it sounded like a blueprint, rough patches that led to « the invitation to the voyage ». How would you describe the way you evolved as a songwriter ?
Eugene McGuinness : Very naturally between 2007 and now. My first release « The early learning of » was meant to be a 4 tracks ep. I wasn't even on Domino Records back then. Lawrence from Domino has found out about me early on. The first two albums i wasn't thinking about me as some sort of an entity. I was exploring all types of songs. A year before that i was recording demos in my rooms and those first two records are showing that progression rather than a big pop album. That would have been wrong to do that anyway, i was still learning i was 20 years old. The first album is called « The early learning of Eugene McGuinness » even then i knew what it was... It's actually a bunch of songs and the songs are different from each other. It still is actually. I don't want to be seen as a songwriter or a guitar hero. I'm in-between a few things. But it's very honest, i have developped in a very honest and open way. I like the fact that i sound like a 20 years old on the first album and just a year later i have my own band and it's a lot more mature. Nothing happens suddenly. Even in England people expect sort of dramatic changes instantly. My latest album (« The invitation to the voyage ») may sound like one of those dramatic change if i did it sooner but i have disappeared for the last two years.
Do you think you have found your sound yet ? Is it even possible to find a sound ? It's always evolving...
E McG : Yeah, it is always evolving. But there is a way i like to operate now. It's hard to describe but this way i know what i don't want to do. I haven't found a definitive sound or way of recording yet because i think by that point it kind of killed what you wanna be doing. I like the idea of not knowing what i'm gonna do on the next album. I knew what i wanted to do with that album and i did it but i didn't know what it's gonna sound like. It's inspiring going into something a bit blind to it. A blues album, a mod or an electro album, it's not as simple as that. I know how those records sounds like and i like that but to me in order to record in the first place it has to carry intrigue on my part. I do records to find out what they're going to sound like (laughs).
It's a work in progess...
E McG : Yeah but in a good way. It's not incomplete but I like experimenting.
Listenning to « The invitation to the voyage » i thought, wow he's not afraid to take chances, to try something new to stretch out of your comfort zone...
E McG : I think i get bored otherwise. But i wanted to make as simple as possible to me. I wanted to focus on the singing really. I wanted to do a singing album, with it's own voice. After that it kind of opened completely. The songs were written on a guitar or a piano but i wanted to do it in a sort of widescreen way. Grand modern. In an another way i made it simple because it's all about the voice. Each background suits each different songs.
Speaking of which, you used to play guitar in Miles Kane band and yet it's not a guitar album...
E McG : No really no. On a couple songs maybe. Every thing kind have an equal footing. There is different types of songs on the album and there is different ingredients necessary for each thing. I wanna do more guitar stuff, i like putting different extremes into it. I don't like to make everything just fit together. That does happen but that's just an happy accident. I am more interested in seeing the extreme of what you can do rather than trying to make everything work in one thing.
The track « Shotgun » seems to be very important in your career. Not only it's the first time you use a sample (from the Peter Gunn theme) but you build a whole song around it. How did you get in touch with the « Peter Gunn theme » ?
E McG : I was in a van touring playing Tricky's « murder weapon » who used that sample. I have already recorded some parts of the album and i was touring, i wanted to sample something, just for fun. I didn't think of releasing anything. I remembered the Peter Gunn Theme from the cartoons i used to watch as a kid. « Murder Weapon » sounded amazing and i thought i have to use that sample. I didn't really care about how the songs was going to sound like or anything. It was just pure fun in the studio. I mean i write songs what would be the most unexpected thing to do ? Stealing from somebody else! And we did in just a couple of hours in the studio. You have more freedom when you're using samples because you just play off it. Instead of building something off you. It's something i wanna do more. Having fun instead of being Mr Serious Songwriter.
I am an huge fan of Mersey Beat and Garage rock n'roll...
E McG : The La's ?
Yeah it's actually one of my favourite album ever. But anyway, I think « Lion » might be my favourite track on the album...
E McG : « Lion », yeah ! I think it's my favourite tune too ! It is mad !
It's also a new thing for you that 60's surf music kind of sound...
E McG : Not really, « Nightshift » has a little of « Lion » in it. But « Lion » is like a full version. Anyway i like surf guitar and i want to do more things like that.
You have cut one album (« Glue ») as Eugene and The Lizards. Was it a one time kind of thing ? Is the band still active ?
E McG : That was mainly about working with my brother (Dominic, keyboard player). He was very young at the time. He's still in the band. We've called it Eugene and the Lizards but, really, it should have been called The Lizards. I was signed to Domino Records so i could get it released. Dominic did a lot on that record. That's what is going to happen in the future, i'm gonna work a lot more with my brother. It's gonna be called that. It's gonna be more open, we'll share the singing. We had 4 days in the studio to record a B side to « Wendy Wonders ». It's a lot of time for one single song. We did the album in three days and mixed it on the fourth day. I didn't say anything to anybody at the label ! It's a quick, garage rock thing. A Modern Lovers thing. We like it. It's the opposite of « The invitation to the voyage », on which we spent a long time. But i like the lizards thing, it was one moment.
The latest album is called « The invitation to the voyage ». Do you think music is a lifelong trip ? And if it is, where do you want to take your audience ?
E McG : It is, i was touring with Miles (Kane) when i wrote the album, i was travelling a lot. As you get older, if you have an interest in life, things happened to you. And certain things, about you change. And you can't do anything about that. And other things stay the same. And you can't do anything about that either. And that's interesting. The music reflects that. But the identity that makes you unique in the first place shouldn't change.
E McG : Yeah, the core that get you involved in the first place and put you in that position.
So what would be your thing then ?
E McG : The voice i would say. Everything else could change, but the singing... There is a lot of amazing singers you know... My voice, it's the one thing i'm very proud of. It's my thing.
If tomorrow you can join any band at all on earth...
E McG : The Beatles !
I was hoping you would say The Smiths or The Stone Roses...
E McG : Not The Smiths. The Stone Roses would have been fun. Primal Scream also. But no, it's The Beatles. I would have play the whistle on the background for them (laughs) ! I would have play anything. Easily.
When you travel do you realize how big is the influence of British music on the rest of the world ?
E McG : In certain places yeah. France. It's an identity. Globally. We don't realize it in England because we're all so self-interested. If you ask me about french, italian or brazilian music, there would be stuff that i love, obviously but my knowledge is very limited. Our music and culture has traveled not only in France but way beyond. And you realize that when you travels. Australia, Brasil, Mexico, it's really there. To see an Brazilian mod, it's a mad thing. Weird. But i don't think there is anything happening in England at this moment which is that great. In terms of rock n'roll, The Australians are stealing it.
Many thanks to Eugene for being such a cool guy and to the domino france team for putting this together.