We’ve featured quite a lot of Welsh and Wales based musicians over the past few months and it’s not surprising considering the wealth of talent gracing this small but creatively fertile land (we’re based in Cardiff in case you didn’t know). Pulco, a regular contributor to the weird and wonderful world of Welsh indie music, contacted the zine saying he’d be delighted to have an interview – we like forward thinking artists. Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby replied with a set of grueling questions (well, only a little bit) and the rest, as they say, is history…
Cat On The Wall: I feel very out of the loop considering your new album ‘Small Thoughts’ is your seventh record. When did you begin recording as Pulco? How would you describe where you are now musically/emotionally in comparison to when you first started making music?
Pulco: I graduated from Falmouth Art College in back 1994 and moved to Brighton to start a band with a pair of crack’in musician pals of mine. The group was called Derrero! Fate lead us to move to Wales where we got signed to Cardiff label Big Noise in 1997 who helped us a lot and were kind of our mentors for a time. We worked with Ankst management and got friendly with bands like Super Furry Animals & Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci who in turn offered us support tours and the like. The band recorded a number of Peel sessions and toured constantly! Being in my twenties it was the most exciting time and we worked really hard and had a lot critical success. Musically we all had diverse influences which we mixed up to create our own sound. We could be mellow or rock out but we always tried to retain a quirky level of experimentation that would allow us to avoid being ‘defined’ or pigeonholed.
In around 1998 I started to record a load of tunes on 4-track that I knew weren’t really suitable for the band and I guess that is where Pulco began.
My son was born a few years later and it seemed like the right time to leave Derrero although it was a hard decision to make and it broke up the group! I still feel bad about that.
Since then I’ve lost my drive to play live so much and have just concentrated on making music with the palette of sounds that I have around me at home. Initially I recorded at home because it was my only option but now I couldn’t imagine going anywhere near a conventional studio to make these albums. With Small Thoughts I feel that I have finally refined an approach to music making that most expresses who I am and the life that I lead.
My aim is to leave a bag full of albums behind me when I die that will be a record of what I got up to in life through all the glory and the mundane!
COTW: ‘Small Thought’s’ is a wonderful mixture of catchy songs, sound bites and poetry. What is your creative process when composing? What inspired you during the creation of the record?
Pulco: It all starts in any number of places
- Trashy loops made on my iPod
- Dictaphone snippets of the family
- Just plain old song writing carried through to a final recording
- Found sound pieces put together to underpin a poem
Inspiration tends to come from whatever I’m listening to at the time as well. Recently I’ve been listening to bands like The Woods and Ducktails. I love like minded bands that make gnarly records!!
I just love meandering through it all really! Solutions to sounds seem to come when they are needed and often these things just need time. Not something you can do when you are paying for the studio.
COTW: You have a wardrobe studio… is it actually in the wardrobe? Why did you choose more DIY techniques for recording than venturing into a professional studio? Do you have a favourite piece of recording equipment?
Pulco: Hilarious I know!! I did have the 8 Track set up in the wardrobe once ‘because it was the only place at the time where the kids wouldn’t get to it. So it does have a practical explanation.
My set up is even more portable now. I record everything to a hand held Zoom H4 that allows you to add an infinite number of tracks to a song although you can only play back 4 tracks at a time. I keep a running spreadsheet that details what has gone to which track so that I can work through the recording without missing anything.
Once this is done it all goes on the PC to Cubase which is the first time that I hear the tunes in their entirety.
This setup is ace as I can record as and when the opportunity strikes. Quite a few of the vocals on Small Thoughts were recorded in the car while my lad was in his Karate lesson. I find that these little events are what make Pulco records different. Is anyone else in Wales recording in their car?? People should give it a go, it’s very liberating.
At the moment my favourite piece of equipment has to be the iPod as I’ve got loads of interesting apps on it and it is small enough to go in a kit bag with the Zoom recorder.
COTW: There were some quite heated debates on Twitter about the upcoming Welsh Music Prize and you were involved in some of the discussions. Whether or not you are nominated do you think the prize is a step in the right direction for Welsh music? What are your views?
Pulco: To be honest with you I feel totally removed from these sorts of things. I’m a bit of a dinosaur these days and I don’t reckon that I’m on anyone’s radar to be included anyway. I just crack on making music because it is all I know and I’m not out to get anyone at all!
The reason that I spoke up about the prize was because I felt that the first draft of the announcement lacked transparency regarding who would be eligible for consideration and had nowhere for people to send their nominations to. I guess that I few of us felt that the short list had already been decided.
The organisers avoided answering direct questions that should have had simple answers which made it worse.
I notice now that the website has been amended and bands can submit their albums to the judges which although there is still no clarification regarding entry requirements.
Of course I think the prize is a good thing. Not because of the competition element to it but because we need to draw out and expose brill new music from across the whole of Wales and not just provide yet another platform for the existing groups. I think that there should be a big old comp CD to go with the event showcasing the best of the entries too.
COTW: Your children appear throughout the new album and I find it really sweet! Have you considered writing a record for children? Have your little ones taken an interest in music or is it just “what Daddy does”?
Pulco: The kids seems quite comfortable with me recording them and they love having instruments around
I’ve got an album called ‘28 years of solid lo-fi’ which is currently up to hear on Soundcloud. I had a load of unused bits and bobs which the kids helped me finish over the Oct half term holidays last year. Not so much an album for children as an album by children!!
I use Soundcloud a lot for this sort of thing. It’s a home for the unreleased stuff that I do.
COTW: What are you listening to/reading at the moment?
Pulco: Poetry/books: Philip Larkin, Bukowski and Stevie Smith. I’m in the middle of cool book that I had for my birthday too about the birth of surf music which is really interesting.
Music: No Thee No Ess, The Woods, Ducktails, Dick Dale, Graham Nash, Unexpected Bowtie
COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?
Pulco: I collaborated on a mini album a few years back with Adam Leonard from Ireland which is being re released by Folkwit on Sept 26 the album is called Dan & Headless Bill and is a real hoot!! Then at the end of Nov I’m putting out a free Pulco EP called Sketchbook Seasons.
I’ve got about half of a new album on the go so I’ll be working on that through into next year.
There is also the possibility of a gig in Cardiff this Oct which would be my first gig in the capital for pretty much 10 years!! If it comes together I’m hoping to get on stage with my ex Derrero pal Andy Fung and play a couple of old songs too.