INTERVIEW: BIG HOGG
Big Hogg are a 6-piece jazz/folk/prog creature of their own kind, fronted by the Justin and Sophie. They are releasing their amazing new album “Gargoyles” at Nice’n’Sleazy this Sunday 7th May which is streaming on their bandcamp now! We asked them to ask each other some questions and this is what they came up with..
Sophie: Let’s start with the serious stuff; let’s talk about money making and the ethos behind why you want to make music.
Justin: In my experience, if you are trying to make something that is original and fun to do, the fun-ness of it should pervade the spirit of the music. If you can do it on a slightly more amateur or creative basis, that should keep it all quite fresh and enjoyable. Having been in working bands a lot in my twenties it can get quite dry. You go job-to- job, day-to-day, gig-to-gig and it all becomes about what your fee is and whether you’re going to get to play in a nice place and whether you’re going to get to play music and songs that you like with musicians that you like. Sometimes it’s like that and sometimes it isn’t. That’s the musician’s lot, that’s entertainment, showbiz. Have you had any experience of that side of things?
Sophie: My side of it has been unusual because it started as a hobby and has continued to be somewhat of hobby. However now playing and creating music is something I’ve started to do so regularly that I consider it part of my day-to-day life. When people say ‘what do you do?’ I wouldn’t ever say I was a musician, but when people say ‘what have you been up to?’my response is usually ‘oh I’ve played two gigs this month or just made an album’. I like that we all have a musical element to our day jobs – Ross is from a professional composer background, Rich is a musician and teacher, you and Tom have been gigging musicians for a while.
Justin: Yeah Tom’s done a bit of everything – he’s done a lot of production work and run a few of his own bands, I’ve got an LP of his and he’s been around – you used to see him playing with everybody.Nick’s been in hundreds of bands, and because he works with the production and distribution of musical instruments he meets lots of different musicians as well and his take on it is slightly different.
Justin: After nine, ten years is there a sense of Big Hogg music between the musicians and maybe some of the people who have seen us play enough times?
Sophie: It’s not a sound but a sentiment at this point.
Justin: Yeah, there’s a feeling to it.
Sophie: You said that most bands you’ve been in have either petered out or the members have punched their way out of a relationship with one another and what we have after ten years, and what keeps us going, is a nice level of respect between us all. None of us have big egos –it’s not an ego driven affair.
Justin: Well there’s been a couple… not mentioning any names. (laughs)
Sophie: There’s been no clash of the Titans with us.
Justin: We’ve had one strop and one punch in ten years so that’s not bad going. I guess the core has always been me, you, Rich and Ross. The six-piece we have at the moment is definitely the best band and Nick and Tom are particularly integrated into it at this point. Nick wrote a piece, ‘Laudation’, for the record which is as strong as anything and he played most of it himself. I’d also like to see what Tom could offer based on his writing.
Justin: We’re still all pals and that’s the most important thing.
Justin: From my point of view I understood how to use recording studios far better, and therefore the sound production on Gargoyles is much closer to what I’m trying to get, which is the sound of Steely Dan records. Sophie, you contributed vocals and lyrics for four songs on this album, whereas before they were just kind of dumped on you. How do you feel about your songs looking at it now?
Sophie: Gargoyles was a weird process whereby I turned my back on the band for five minutes while busy with university and when I turned back round the whole band had made an album of songs without any lyrics. You handed me this instrumental collection of songs which, when I heard them, made me think ‘fuck, I really need to do a good job on this because these songs really merit something fantastic and I love them.’ I wanted to coax the right sentiment out of the songs without layering too much of my own narrative or without detracting from what the songs contained within themselves. Some of them were humorous, some were creepy, others were serious-or they weren’t – and I listened to it for a very long time trying to think about what I could add to it all , and I was like ‘I’ve got fucking plenty to say right now, I’m upset, I’m raging, and I’m maybe ready to make something out of these emotions that’s creative.’ I went away and listened to ‘My Banana’ which we’d worked on before. It’s got a melodic hook in the middle that we’d always joked sounds like the word ‘banana’, and I knew when that came up I couldn’t sing that over the top of it because my dick wasn’t big enough to carry it off. I started off with something melodic, quite sweet, and when it came to the banana hook I just shouted ‘fuck off! ‘over the top of it and turned it into a song about when you realise you’re quite happy to be single again at the end of a frustrating relationship.(laughs)
Justin: I was initially deeply shocked and spent a short period of time trying to talk you out of it, but I’m glad you stuck your ground there because I’ve noticed since we’ve played it live that moment of that particular song seems to be the one that gets the reaction, so fair play to you.
Sophie: I think that’s what I’ve always tried to do, to find some empathy with a listener and I think with Gargoyles I wanted to have a mix of moments of empathy or introspection, or moments of intense emotion, and another side of the other worldliness on tracks like Devil’s Egg or The Beast where all of sudden you’re not sure how the hell you’re supposed to feel, maybe a bit frightened. This ties into the artwork too.
How do you think the creative collaborationwith Julia Jeffrey on the artwork has reflected on the songs?
Justin: The cover for the first album was a fully collaborative effort. Julia and I sat down in one of the arches in Inn Deep on a sunny afternoon with a couple of pints and we were looking at the stone and looking at the river and enjoying the beer and I said there’s something in this, around this feeling. We were taking about tone and a whole concept for the cover which Julia carried out to the letter. It has a female figure and a male figure who is lying on the ground passed out with a glass of wine. (laughs) I don’t know why but that says something about how I feel about my songs and my performances on that record, and basically the vaguely pissed off look from the female in her garret. We’re trying to have a little bit of fun with it .
Justin: Do you remember the Mugstock gig where we played to about nine people and the sound was awful and no one was there? That was a low point for me. Can you think of anything that can top that?
Sophie: Yeah , my favourite was the first Doune the Rabbit Hole we played where we were on at eleven in the morning on a Sunday.
Justin: Yeah thanks guys, thanks for giving us that time.
Sophie: There’s definitely something in the timing of a full band arriving at a festival. The next morning when we were due to play I’d barely slept and had just dragged some poor young soul back into my tent with me and then I heard you gently call, ‘Erm Sophie, we’re on in half an hour’. You’d been up all night drinking whiskey. When we arrived there was a girl lying passed out in the middle of the tent we were playing. The medics weren’t even sure if she was breathing, and the sound man turned round to us and said ‘right guys, you’ve got ten minutes to play’ and we got up and we did a bizarre set to about three people, and after that I ran out of the back of the tent and projectile vomited. At the time it was horrible, but looking back on it I learned something valuable. (Cackles)
Sophie : Favourite or best Big Hogg gigs?
Justin: Any gig we’ve ever done at Sleazy’s has been great cause I really like playing there. I also liked our launch night for the previous record at Stereo. I’ve done a couple of previous gigs there and they’ve been alright, but that one was great because it was the first time I’d felt it was our night and our kinda crowd. Wickerman was a good one out in the tent just as the sun was going down, and Eden was a bit crazy last year…
Sophie: I don’t know if I would say that was one of my top ones… I’d painted my body entirely white in a bid to add a visual element to the performance, and shouted at the crowd ‘do you like how I painted my arse especially for you, Eden?’ and no one replied.
Justin: I think we might have debuted the Beast there actually.
Sophie: We debuted ‘The Beast’ and my big white arse, and they were terrified out of the tent for good. I think one of my highlights was playing the Barrowlands’. It was exciting to be on abigger stage but to still feel like everybody was on board with us and that they were all still supportive in a giant space like that.
Justin: Yeah I’d like to play there again. I liked playing with the Trembling Bells in Sneaky Pete’s last summer .
Sophie: Yeah I really appreciate the support of those guys. I’,m chuffed happy to have guest vocals from Valinia Black, witchy orgasmic shreiks you can hear on the song ‘Devil’s Egg’, and the mad contributions of Sybren Renema who adds the satanic scrawls of the saxophone in the background.
Justin: I have to admit that I’m so terrified of working with Sybren that I used a recording I’d made of him three years previously for ‘Devil’s Egg’. We love you Sybren.
Sophie: I also like big Mike (Hastings). Mike opened for us recently at an in-store at the New Hellfire Club. I think he’s got the same sense of humour as us and big up to him for occasionally driving us around in his van. I was nearly greeting at the songs he played at the in-store as they were a lovely mixture of something tender, mad and completely hilarious.
Justin: He’s a pal, roadie, and probably my favourite guitarist in Glasgow, or anywhere. The Mike and Solveig record they released last year is one of my favourite contemporary releases from anybody of the last few years; me and Julia play it a lot, and I think it’s great. He’s our opening act at the launch, along with the new act by Lavinia Blackwall, Orion’s Belt. The launch is happening on 7th May at Sleazies where we’ll be playing some tracks from Gargoyles that have never been done live before. Expect a belter!