Ahead of a UK tour and the release of his seventh LP, Quays News reporter Emily Ingram interviews musician and collaborative legend Barry Adamson…
From an ex-council block looming over the concrete spires of Salford shopping city, it’s not difficult to imagine how Greater Manchester has managed to inspire generations of poetically sombre artists. I was lucky enough to quiz one-such native this week: legendary collaborator and soundscape mastermind Barry Adamson.
Being of a bleak yet uniquely fruitful Moss Side background, self-taught musician Adamson has more than played his part in the formation of the infamous Mancunian music scene. Released in 1989, his faux film soundtrack debut ‘Moss Side Story’ shows a gritty hint of northern flair which remains to this day.
“I’m influenced by surroundings, but I’m also influenced by what the years have given me,” he admitted.
“Being a kid in Manchester, (there was) that thing, ‘everybody’s a bloody comedian’. That wealth of upbringing, whether it be the angle of things, the humour of things, how people get through life – that will always be with me.”
Yet, Adamson’s work stems far beyond his one-man back catalogue: a brief Buzzcocks stint coincided with his long-term participation as the bassist of their darkly brooding sister band, Magazine, pioneers in the post punk movement. In the years that followed, he worked alongside Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and the king of surrealist cinema David Lynch in ventures that demonstrate his multifaceted nature.
Speaking warmly of his varying collaborators, he explained how they have propelled his solo career to new heights: “You learn from everybody, you pick things up.
“It’s like, for example, Nick (Cave) asked me on the last tour if I’d play a bit of keyboard – I’m not really a keyboard player per se. Now on my own stuff I’m playing it a little more. If he hadn’t said that, I wouldn’t go near it.”
His latest album, ‘Know Where to Run’ bears the fruit of this experimentation: it’s already been described by one critic as “free from musical restrictions and limitations”. Such a summary neatly applies to the unique cacophony of ‘Texas Crash’, an anecdotal track derived from Adamson’s recent experiences on the road.
“There actually was a crash on the highway in front of us,” he explained. “There were police everywhere.
“I had this sort of European synth – what do you call it – a sequence synth, with all these notes going along. Then I thought about what happened in Texas, I thought, ‘how could I bring these two together?’” Humming the tune in illustration, he dismantled the song with dramatic ease to show how his influences affected the process.
“I played on 50s rockabilly music a little bit towards the end, where a ghost on the highway comes back and says the words ‘texas crash’”.
With simplistically eerie compositions like ‘Texas Crash’, it’s clear that Adamson is an artist who often transcends the realms of music and cinema, combining the two to create a visceral experience. In many cases, his work can be viewed as just that – an experience – rather than simply another film or album.
Of course, he plans to take his latest efforts onto the road with him next month, paying a visit to Manchester’s Deaf Institute for an essential homecoming gig. Hinting towards future enterprises, our conversation closes on the theme of musical independence.
“After this tour, I’m off to America and do a few things. Then I want come back and play without my band, just me – sort of Jack Garratt style – going around record stores.”
By Emily Ingram