At last, Autumn and Winter mix together, the weather has changed and it feels proper. This time of year always brings greater opportunities to sit down and put on an album and really get into it, especially the type of albums that are pastoral and offer moments of musing and reflection. Singer and Songwriter Huw Costin makes music that suits this time of year perfectly, a pop-song writer ultimately, where his music is honest and has a sense of wisdom and melancholy.
Since hearing about the new album on One Million Sunsets I have been conversing via the internet for a few months with Huw and was keen to hear his new Torn Sail album after being a huge of fan of the bands releases on Claremont 56. A few weeks ago the album appeared in my DropBox and has been played most days since. 'This Short Sweet Life' is an album that will offer to it's listener a chance to hear an artist who puts his heart on his sleeve and is all the better for it. We caught up ahead of his album release and talked about life, music and recording as well as the mix he has provided. You can support the release of the album on the indiegogo website, if you like what you hear, make it so.
- Woob - Light
- Great Raven - The Base Injustice
- Hywel Davies - Apus Apus
- Dennis Wilson - You And I
- Steve Gunn - Way Out Weather
- Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Air
- John Martyn - Bless The Weather
- Ketama & Toumani Diabate' - Pozo Del Deseo
- Aphex Twin - Blue Calx
- Mark Lanegan - Sunrise
- ...bender - The Golden Heart
- David Lynch & Chrysta Bell - Polish Poem
- Robert Wyatt - Maryan
- Robert Fripp & Brian Eno - Wind On Water
- B.J. Smith - Hold On To It (Jonny Nash Remix)
- Simon Fisher Turner - Shishapangma
Firstly, what have you been up to lately?
I spent three days relentlessly working on trying to sell the album, spamming record stores, that kind of thing, and then took the kids on a super cheap caravan trip to Devon, close to Bucks Mill. There were bright pink rock pools, brooks falling over folding cliffs, deep old woods. Beautiful.
What is your first memories of music in your life, what was the first record you bought?
My Dad owned about 5 records, one was a copy of 'On the Threshold of a Dream' by the Moody Blues, there is this really spooky intro on it - a computer voice intimidating a human - which I used to find quite terrifying...still do, but I couldn't stop playing it. The first record I bought was 'Number of the Beast' by Iron Maiden but the record I've had the longest is probably 'Attention!' by Black Sabbath - a German compilation I think, or 'In Search of Space' by Hawkwind.
When did you start making your own music ?
When I was 11 or so my long-lost friend Mark and I taped our favourite bits from 'Brothers In Arms' onto another cassette - all the ambient parts, the intro's and outro's - just for fun. I remember making a sheet-tent in his garden and listening to it in there, that and 'Jolene'.
You seem to have so many influences in your music for me it feels Robert Wyatt, Brian Eno and Animal Collective are never that far away. Who has influenced you throughout your recording history ?
I've never knowingly heard Animal Collective, but definitely Brian Eno for his sense of space. 'Music for Airports' was on repeat when the kids were babies. I have my friend Tom Smyth to thank for introducing me to his music and electronic music in general. Tom worked out of SQC studios in Nottingham with his outfit Miasma and alongside Woob, International Peoples Gang and Undark and released music on the em:t label which was based at the studio. The band I was in at the time had a production deal and spent nights of downtime there mixing with Tom and the other engineers and discovering all this amazing, crafted, strange music and sonic art.
Before that I was really into thrash metal, hardcore and played in bands like that until I became involved with the New Age Travellers and had my mind blown by Gong, System 7, Eat Static, Spiral Tribe, The Orb, all that wild and free festival stuff.
I guess I'm always trying to find the music between the music and the tangents too. Robert Wyatt taught me a lot about singing, if you listen to something like 'Maryan' or 'Muddy Mouse Which In Turn leads to Muddy Mouth' and the way he draws pictures with his voice, his voice becomes the streams and rivers he sings of - just so naturally imaginative. Joni Mitchell has always been with me too, I must have listened to 'The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey' a thousand times. It's perfect. 'Death Or Glory' by Roy Harper is a lesson in emotional integrity, honesty and bravery - a huge influence.
Your band Tornsail released 'Birds' and 'Treasure' on Claremont 56, both releases still stand out on the label for me and are personal favourites. How did you build up the relationship with the label ?
Ben Smith is an old friend. He asked to sing on some of the early Smith & Mudd music so I got to know Paul who owns Claremont 56. I sent him a rough mix of Birds and he asked if he could release it. It's not usually that easy.
The lyrics in 'Birds' is a spiritual piece of writing, where do the lyrics for that song come from and why did you decide to end the track the way that it does as it starts so peacefully and ends completely differently.
Well, I was working in a factory. I hated it. It's about trying to find beauty in a shit world. The tracks write themselves really, they take a long time but there's no other way they could have been.
'This Short Sweet Life' the new album will be released soon, what was it like recording the album and what message do you hope it conveys to its listener.
I've just tried to be honest and true to myself. It's a personal, selfish thing. I'm not trying to please anyone, or write for an audience. I'm not proud of the fact. It just is. If anything I hope there's some solace, some communion in that.
Do you have any specific albums that you turn to for your own musical inspiration ?
It's more a case that some albums move me and widen the landscape, give me new ideas. I guess I try and approximate the feeling those records give me, keep the current flowing. Lately 'Hats' by The Blue Nile has opened my ears, 'Herd of Instinct' by O-Rang, 'Engineers' by Engineers, 'Carl & The Passions' by The Beach Boys.
You have played a multitude of venues across the country, where do you feel most comfortable playing live locally and further afield?
Some friends of mine in Nottingham have a small painters studio, you can just about squeeze 30 people into. I put on occasional gigs there. It's a great atmosphere, too intimate for some, but it's an intense personal experience to play there and it brings out the best - there's nowhere to hide. The sound is great too. My friend Emma (she sings on Ricochets), puts on gigs in Retford - a small town North of here. I've had a lot of love there with different versions of the band - a really supportive audience who take the journey with us. I've always enjoyed taking a trip to Manchester and Birmingham too, I'm lucky to have met some really warm people in those Cities. A good sound, interested people and a little room. That's all that's needed.
Can you tell us a little about the mix, where it was recorded and what music is on it?
I don't get asked to do these kind of things often, so I made a mix like I'd of make a tape for a friend. It is music I really love, I played some of my favourite tracks round while I was working in my kitchen. 'Air' just came on now - it stopped me in my tracks - reminding me of the rockpools and my kids - making the past and future all come together.
Outside of music and recording, what books/films/TV shows/interests do you have?
I don't have much time, but I love reading - just a page sometimes. I've put Foundation and Empire down for a bit - I've really tried but I'm lost, then got into Hangover Square. Moby Dick, David Copperfield, Dr Zhivago - all favourite books of mine. White Line Fever by Lemmy is good too.
Anything else you would like to mention ?
Thanks for giving me this excuse to listen hard to some music and ramble on about it. It's been a pleasure.