Blimey – another week – another hero – I love this job! Festivals For All caught up with Peatbog Faeries bassist, percussionist, and all round good guy Innes Hutton for an exclusive interview before their forthcoming appearance at this year’s Beverley Folk and Roots Festival, and, of course, a host of other festivals near you soon.
FFA opened proceedings by asking Innes to define that great imponderable – just how do you define the Peatbogs music, which although Celtic music based, features everything from Jazz to Trance – there is a lot going on in the Peatbog mix; “I suppose its Celtic Dance music. Our live show is all about dancing or most of it anyway. Our albums show a broader side to us, but live we’re there – people expect us to ramp it up a bit and so hopefully we do. Celtic Dance covers it. It’s based on traditional Celtic tunes. We just back the tune the way it almost wants to be backed you know. We try and do different things with it and see what direction it’s going… so it’s not a concerted effort to sound Latin or whatever else – it’s whatever suits the tune really.”
FFA commented that whilst Innes is obviously proud of his Scottishness and the music’s Celtic roots, there are plenty of diverse external influences in the music; “Of course we’re proud to be Scottish but at the same time the Geordies in the band are proud to be Geordies! At the end of day, in our music we’re playing Celtic instruments, fiddles and all the rest of it, but once you start playing hopefully the borders disappear… it’s all just about music really – I don’t have a burning national pride! I’ve always been a bit wary of that to be honest – that’s why Tom (Salter) in the band started wearing a bowler hat on stage to offset all the kilts!” he laughs.
You’re based on the Isle Of Skye, does that impact and define the music, FFA asked; “Yes and No, but coming from Skye is a big part of who we are and what we are… its where first our music developed. We started playing Celtic music and mucking about with it here, and that’s how we’ve kind of grown.”
FFA were interested in how individuals steeped in such a Scottish rural tradition in Skye managed to quickly develop influences from totally alien cultures within their music; “We’ve all been exposed to different influences since we were young….. For instance the explosion in world music over the last 20 years or so has been a great source of inspiration for me. I suppose we represent our area in that world scene. Peter (Morrison) was immersed in the Skye scene and when I moved here 20 odd years ago I had a lot to learn and learned a lot from him. We spend a lot of the winter here. I live in a croft and so does Peter. We also have a small studio here that we are developing too.”
So are you the archetypal Local Heroes then, FFA enquired tongue in cheek; “No – we’re not local deities no! We like it on Skye because we’ve quite a low profile here. It’s a real leveller!”
FFA commented that on their latest album Dust, there were signs of a vocal element developing in the Peatbog sound; “Well we’ve always had debates within the band whether we should develop more along that line and in the future we might do more projects with singers and others and develop something original with them.” He mused. “Different music but look at the Chieftains for example, they are pretty much an instrument band but they do a project with this person & that person & it’s a very brilliant way of doing things… they incorporate singers into their world but it’s still the Chieftains! We have talked about it quite a lot – one of these days we’ll have to stop talking about it! He laughs again.
FFA has always been struck by the humorous titles of a number of Peatbog tunes, what’s that about and how do the titles align to the tunes we asked; “Well quite often it’s down to the tune writer…things happen on the road and quite often they’ll say ‘I’m going to dedicate a tune to that.’ Also, we don’t want to be too serious about our music and because there are no vocals, it’s a way of saying we’re not too serious about that! There are a lot of names kicking around which we don’t have tunes for yet.” He confided. So there is a hidden vault containing future Peatbog song titles then? “That’s it!”
How do you create your material we enquired; “Peter Tickell & Peter Morrison are the main tune writers. It’s a group effort regards the backing music and what direction it’s going in. Some tracks are really simple – for instance ‘Naughty Step’ came together so quickly... The first time Peter played it to us we all immediately jammed along and we knew straight away that that’s a winner. Whereas others can be really difficult of course and we’re pulling our hair out!”
The classic Peatbog tune ‘Folk Police’ is a great favourite of FFA and typically encores at all Peatbog shows, has it now become institutionalised, FFA asked; “Well ‘Naughty Step is getting close to it.’ Innes said. “With ‘Folk Police’ it’s one of those that’s developed and developed playing it live. We’ve been playing it a long time…. if there was a night we didn’t get an amazing reaction we’d put it earlier in the set or not play it at all. That’s never happened… people love it so we keep it for the end of the show and once we added the brass to it a few years ago that’s added a different dimension too.”
Is there any area of influence where you wouldn’t go, FFA probed; “I can’t see us going down the Herp Alpert route!” he joked.
So are you looking forward to playing the Beverley festival; “We’re looking forward to playing Beverley. It’s got its own character and it’s always been a very friendly festival for us anyway. I’ve always really enjoyed it. There is a warm crowd… the strength of Beverley is the people that go there you know. The same people are there – the same characters – I really like it.” A recommendation indeed.
Finally, have you any recording scheduled for 2012 FFA asked; “Yes! We’ll be recording… we’ve allocated time at home to do it – we need to get cracking because we hope to have an album out next year ….you’re the first person I’ve told that to – so we need to do it now!” he admitted. So you’ve in the position now where you’ve already got lots of tune titles – just no tunes written for them yet, FFA quipped; “It’s a fact… but we really struggle with album titles - we had such problems coming up with an album title last time that we decided we are not allowed to start the new album before we decide a title!” It’s a novel and unusual approach – but The Peatbog Faeries are a novel and unusual band.
Read more about The Peatbogs HERE.
Read about the Beverley Folk and Roots Festival HERE.
Article by Barrie Dimond