words: Jack Tractor
pics: Chris Saunders
Seven years after recording it, Jody Wildgoose’s debut album is finally released.
While watching Jody Wildgoose play at the Fox & Duck in Broomhill last year, Richard Hawley, who knows a thing or two turned round and said, “That kid’s got it.” Talking about the idea that some people just have it doesn’t make it any easier to get anywhere though.
“You say to someone I write songs like Marvin Gaye or John Lennon actually for real and how do they know you’re telling the truth?” reckons Jody. “There are so many wannabes and so many who think they are when they’re not and maybe a couple of people who think they are and actually are. “Have you heard of The Solution? I went to see Lord Bishop and the Solution singer [Ian Huddleston] got up for one song and I was just screaming. He was like Kings of Leon that drooling, slurring kind of thing, like Iggy just had a natural overdrive, proper natural.”
Jody does have it. He’s got that rare gift of reeling you in with a melody and compounding it with the same thing Marvin Gaye had, that magicians have, that politicians would kill for: The ability to make the listener believe in what he’s singing.
A year ago we met up for an interview, a glistening EP ‘Misty Morning’ was about to be released. It never was, “it was too polished,” says Jody. It was one of the best things Sandman heard last year, the sort of thing that could be the best thing most bands ever did. But Jody had different ideas.
This month sees the release of his debut album ‘Little White Teeth’ on a small label, Sketchbook, which is appropriate since it’s, essentially, an extended series of musical memos, experiments and ideas that gave Jody the confidence to keep writing. Like Baby Bird did in the mid 90s Jody is releasing his own 4-trk recordings, recorded as far back as 1997 as a body of work in itself. Listen to it in a single short sitting and it’s like getting passively stoned and being on the verge of passing out at smoky party as voices cluster around you fading in and out while someone with a great record collection puts on a series of great cuts – the Beatles, Beck, Motown, a bit of Prince, a touch of hiphop and the kind of psychedelia that shone before it lost its pop heart and got taken over by philosophy students. It’s claustrophic but between the hazy, varisped vocals and phased slurring shine the things that set Jody apart from the rest of the over earnest, solipsistic, solo pack
Rather than hear the results of an aeon of polishing (listen to daytime radio; Conclusive evidence that you CAN polish a turd), it’s the stone just pulled from the rock face. The difference is that diamonds look shit before they’re cut. It’s a great starting point for hearing Jody’s music because, to some degree, it’s where Jody himself started. The other thing about the album is the accessibility of his music, these are all short tunes which access the last thirty years of organic rock’n’roll, taking the essence of the music rather than the packaging as the motor force.
There’s darkness in it as well, subtle and hiding in the shadows, an undertow of introspection, but it’s not faux gloom designed to appeal to appeal to disenfranchised teenagers. Ed Hamell (HamellOnTrial) once said that Nu-Metal could never appeal to him, emotionally it has only one note, like painting from a palette containing only one colour. This album - silly, sad, daft, rocking, has got the beginnings of the spectrum.
Jody’s a friendly, slightly woolly sort of a bloke, prone to heading off at tangents. Not vulnerable so much as not as closed up as many people tend to be and his debut record is a fair reflection of the songwriter himself.
After an unconventional education at a Steiner School Jody joined his first band, Various Vegetables at the age of 11. They got as far as Mark & Lard sessions on the radio and spent much of the next four years or so touring the country before splitting when Jody was 16 – a period of his life where Jody indulged himself with plenty of mushroom and dope.
“I might have felt a bit without purpose when the band split and that might have led my mind into wandering off and thinking about then cosmos or whatever but I always knew I’d do something. I always had a plot.”
Did the tripping have much of an effect?
“Yes. Without a doubt. I was watching Saving Private Ryan and I said to Wendy (his girlfriend) ‘I’d have been one of those blokes cracking up, getting shot to pieces and crying in the corner. And I was wondering if I would have been if I hadn’t smoked and taken mushrooms when I was younger. One day I had an anxiety attack in my bedroom, looking at my window frame thinking what a strange thing this is. What a strange world and I was feeling like an alien, which developed into a full-blown hypochondria, a fear of the uncontrollable. I didn’t like going to sleep for fear of waking”.
Jody was put on a severe disablement allowance, which while it reflected his battered psyche at least allowed him to work on his music. For a couple of years he went busking everyday – the artists he played give a pretty good clue to the ‘classic’ songwriting nature of his music – Beatles, VU, Dylan, Stones, Costello, Marvin Gaye, Hendrix, Pink Floyd – but it’s also American nutcases like Butthole Surfers and particularly lo-fi brothers Ween who inspired to him to get his ideas down.
“Their first three or four albums were recorded on a Tascam 4-trk [the same model Jody’s brother Rob owned and which was used to record much of LWT] but they had drums and bass and everything so I was inspired to throw my own ideas down.”
“When I started I was just doing demos for Brian Day and Ben Key (guitarist and ex-Various Vegetables drummer who play in the new slimmed down JW three-piece) round at Paul Blakeman’s (Jody’s sound engineer) house In the back of my mind I thought they were good and should go on record but my logic said they were too lo-fi, it was 97-98 before that lo-fi trend.”
Jody soon developed a way of recording his material rapidly.
“The first song of LWT to be recorded was ‘Rabbits’. I wrote it in half an hour at home and the next day went down to try and record it. I put down the out of time drum track in 3 minutes with one mic. I was in a rush. Next came the bass and two guitar tracks. It was all done in half an hour I would say. But when it came to putting down the vocals I got stuck, with no compression or posh mic it just sounded drab so I tried messing with the pitch like Ween did. After I’d done the first take I turned the pitch back to normal and it sounded more pro because of the natural compression and the Chipmonkey effect really went with the style of the tune.”
Lyrics were taken from postcards from friends or even a dream he had about Jimi Hendrix, “it was my first genuine love song up to that point.”
“I’ve got this song now, it’s very Sex Pistols, or Eminemy. ‘I can’t stop thinking about the people I hate / I want to kill them in their sleep / and make them go away.’ I was just wound up with a certain group of people who were making life difficult. I wrote it about them and made it as nasty as I could as if I were a madman. It’s like David Byrne said ‘if I hadn’t been a musician I’d have been a psycho killer. It sort of gets it out, if you get wound up to the extent you want to break windows then go and write a song.”
Another set back in ’98 when Jody was hit by a car outside The Boardwalk, actually threw up some benefits. “I broke my leg. The car was going at 30mph and I was flipped up quite a few feet in the air – I want to see it on video. You can get the footage from CCTV can’t you? Anyway, I broke my leg, tibia and fibia and I banged my head. No blood though, not even on the leg. The concussion was huge and kept me in hospital for a week. When I woke up in the hospital I couldn’t remember where I’d last been. I could have been in a coma for six years for all I knew. I hated it in hospital, it was a bit weird in there and I was in bed at home for a month or so. My head injury was making me scared of getting up. And then when I did get up I tried the 4-track but couldn’t get back to where I was before the accident so I decided I needed to get something better so I got my Mum to use her name to get me an 8-trk on HP. The first night I went out after I’d been hit I met Wendy, who I’ve been with for 5 years now, and got stuck into my first serious relationship.”
He’s amiable enough, Jody, but there’s a steel to him which carries him through, a certain faith that he is right to do what he does. His manager once took him to meet a couple of well-known producers.
“They were asking me a few questions and then one of them was like ‘you know you’ve got to be really committed to make it music?’ For some reason I was giving them the impression that I wasn’t. I don’t know, I’d only just met them and was being myself. I just thought it was a bit presumptuous and out of order, as if their way was the only way.”
‘Too many cooks’ is an expression he uses often in regards to how he doesn’t want to make his music.
“I want to do it all on my terms. Forever. I mean, it might be difficult but I want to get to the stage where I’ve got three albums out, good songs, nice sounds, then people might be happy for me to do it my way.” Is he easy to work with? ‘No, not at all, when we were doing the album sleeve I’d want to sit and watch and make sure everything was correct. I’d be like can you move that J there? And five minutes later I’d change my mind
The touring seems set to start up again soon to promote the album and Jody’s bang up for it.
“I’m looking forward to it immensely . I’m really getting stuck into what I want to put across. I’m a songwriter like Dylan or Costello, that’s what I’ve always been. I don’t want to be a pop star based wholly on image. I’d love recognition like Costello, he’s always done his own thing. He is where he is because he writes good songs. If I get anywhere I want it to be because of the songs I write. People buy into superficiality don’t they? Apart from those who genuinely love good music. I mean I think everyone does in their hearts but they just don’t know how to get to that point.”
On a bus heading down Ecclesall Road towards Endcliffe Park where, on a bitterly cold March afternoon, we take the pictures for the interview we get talking about Sketchbooks small roster, Daniel Johnson, Micah.P.Hinson and ex-Beta Band eccentric, Lone Pigeon.
“But I’m the best though, aren’t I?” He grins.