This week’s guest editor Graham Jones – acclaimed author of Last Shop Standing: Whatever Happened to Record Shops? – interviews Times music journalist and lead singer of the band DS3, David Sinclair…
Did you always want to be a music journalist?
The idea never crossed my mind until about five years after I’d become a professional musician. It was hard to make a living and getting harder, when a keyboard-player friend suggested I send a piece I’d written about how to practice in a basement flat in Shepherds Bush (clue: quietly!) to a technical magazine called One Two Testing…. They published it and about six weeks later a cheque arrived in the post. Things were different in those days.
How did you get your break?
The band I was in, TV Smith’s Explorers, got booked to play on The Old Grey Whistle Test. I managed to blag a job as a researcher at the BBC where I ended up working on programmes including The Rock’n’Roll Years and Wogan. By this time I was also writing for Kerrang!, Record Mirror and other magazines. Out of the blue, I got a call from the Deputy Arts Editor of The Times, asking me to review Meat Loaf for them at very short notice, which I did. And that’s the only job interview I ever had.
It seems that every week you have live reviews printed in a national newspaper – you must have seen some fantastic performances. However, what is the gig you attended that made you wish you had stayed in and watched TV?
There’s been a few. I remember a show called ‘Bring Me the Head of Ubu Roi’ by David Thomas (of Pere Ubu) at the Festival Hall, which was so dismal that nobody in the audience clapped at the end. David Thomas was clearly prepared for this, and got the sound engineer to play a huge burst of canned applause over the PA. It was the smartest thing they did all night.
You combine your career with playing in your own band DS3, and are soon to release your fourth album. What is the band’s history?
I started the David Sinclair Trio when I got offered some studio downtime on New Year’s Eve 2004/5. We recorded a song I’d written called ‘Dusted & Rusted’. From there I have written, recorded and released three albums with the band and played hundreds of gigs including Latitude Festival and the Olympic Park. The fourth album – Four – will be released this year, and we will be playing the Riverside Stage at Cornbury, among other festivals.
You famously were the first band to release a track from the Beck album Song Reader, where he encouraged people to interpret his music how they wanted. You recorded his anti–war song ‘America, Here’s my Boy’ which has become a cult classic. How did it come about?
Beck didn’t record any of the songs from his Song Reader album, which was only ‘released’ (published really) as sheet music. I was asked to record one of the songs and write a story about it for The Sunday Times. So we got John Reynolds (Sinead O’Connor’s producer) to produce it for us and the newspaper put together a video about Beck’s album and the making of the song. You can see it (and read it) at davidsinclairtrio.com.
The record was released as a 7” for RSD last year. Any plans for this year’s event?
There are still some vinyl copies of that available. It’s a lovely package. The DS3 are big supporters of RSD. Last year the band went to Cheltenham where we visited The Record Shop, Rise, and played the Badlands show with Willie Nile. Before that we played an in-store session at Borderline Records in Brighton. We’ll be out there again this year, for sure, checking the racks and tracks.
You recently recorded with some famous names on a project that could change the world for musicians. What is the WholeWorldBand project?
WholeWorldBand is an amazing app which enables musicians like me or you to write and play, literally, with stars such as Ronnie Wood, Dave Stewart, Passenger and loads of others, anytime, anywhere in the world. I wrote and sang a song with Stewart Copeland (drummer with the Police) while I was in London and he was in LA. The app is still in beta (test) mode at the moment, but it’s going to change the way music is made. Kevin Godley came up with the idea. He can give you a cool, 4-minute video explanation of how it all works at wholeworldband.com.
Tell us a funny anecdote from one of the artists you have interviewed?
One of the funniest interviews I did was with Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC. They were cracking dry, Aussie jokes and giggling the whole way through. I asked them if AC/DC had ever done a romantic ballad and after much pained thought Angus finally suggested ‘She’s Got the Jack’ – a kind of slow boogie about a girl with venereal disease! The funniest/strangest interview I remember was with Prince who simply wouldn’t say anything. Every question I asked was either “too personal” or “not relevant” or even “too psychological”. I’d gone to New York to interview him. and effectively came away from a 45-minute one-on-one encounter with “No Comment”. Morrissey was amusing. And Carlos Santana was completely nuts! They’re all a bit nuts, to be honest. Except Bryan Adams – he’s the most normal superstar in the world.
Words: Graham Jones
Pictures: Chiara Meattelli