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4th April 2013

Interview: David Ford

Tom Ingham speaks to David Ford about his new album, why he isn’t really popular and why The Stone Roses killed music

“People are buying less and less; the quality of music is deteriorating so if you put out something of quality people will take interest.” David Ford speaks to me after the release of his New Album Charge and prior to his sold out gig at The Deaf Institute. “The people who come to my shows and listen to my records seek me out and remember me even though I’m not on the TV and radio.”

David approaches live shows differently to most singer-songwriters, using a Boss loop pedal to build and layer songs without anyone else, effectively becoming a one man band. “The loop machine is only for live use, in the studio I like to do things old school and organic, I try and pretend I’m using a tape machine so I don’t cheat too much. The Looping style was born out of fun; I was never good enough as a guitarist or a piano player to freak out with some awesome moves, but because I could do a bit of everything I could and put it all together quite easily.” This approach isn’t without its problems, with just one mistake being enough to ruin the whole process. “It’s gone really wrong a few times, most of the time it’s when you put a really bad note in or just trip over, but you don’t want to eliminate all the danger because without that you don’t have the same sense of excitement. It’s like plate spinning, you kind of want it just to prove it can go wrong – and it does”

David’s annual Milk and Cookies gigs allow him to experiment and indulge in genres that we wouldn’t perhaps associate with singer-songwriters, whilst raising money for a good cause. “The charity gigs are just about getting drunk and having a laugh really. The most challenging cover I ever tried to do was ‘Bat Out of Hell’, it’s very long and it never repeats itself – I never quite nailed it, it was an impossible task on the one piano and to even get close was good enough.”

Released in March, Charge climbed to number 12 in the iTunes charts with relatively little PR. But despite this success his approach to record making hasn’t changed. “It was me in a basement and that was it, no-one else entered the basement for 18 months, although I did occasionally come out to see the sunlight. Working alone is a necessity for me, and its free – my time is worthless. I also like the self determination of it; I stand or fall from my own efforts. If it fucks up I don’t have a producer to blame.” This isolated existence is a very necessary one, and one that doesn’t welcome outsiders. “I can’t co-write, my process is very solitary. To me it doesn’t make sense to write with someone else. It’s a very personal process that happens by accident, I couldn’t do it on a given day or time,”

Playing smaller venues like The Deaf Institute, the audience is treated to a far more intimate show where the humour and the personality of the artist comes across, however if Wembley came knocking he wouldn’t shy away. “It’s a challenge I’d welcome if it ever arose, I’m not cursing my luck playing in these smaller venues. It’s much easier to engage an audience this close. I’ve never been to a gig in a stadium but I imagine the performer has to be pretty damn special to create a connection from 100 yards away. But I don’t think the problem of stadia is something I need to worry about right now.”

Ford wrote his book I Choose This on his experience of nearly making it in the industry, reflecting on what held him back. “I’m holding myself back for certain, and I don’t know how close I ever really got to ‘making it’. I had a deal with what I consider to be the greatest record label that ever existed, Columbia – home of Springsteen, Paul Simon, Jeff Buckley and anyone who was anything to me was on that label. But they were going through some very difficult changes, basically destroying the label to build it back up again and there wasn’t the inclination to get behind me and to be honest I didn’t have the record to do it either.” The mind set of someone trying to be famous is also one David has little time for. “One of the things you have to do to make it big is to peruse that fame at the cost of everything else, and I have friends who wanted to be famous and have became famous and that’s great. Personally I would find it difficult to reconcile myself if I did that, rather than just for sheer excellence.”

Despite his time with Columbia he has no resentment for the industry. “I’ve absolutely no bitterness towards the industry, I’ve not had a job for 13 years and I’m 35 this year. I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I love what I do and I can just about pay the mortgage. It’s never about the money; I do it because it’s very important to the world and wellbeing of humanity that I make records.”

“The industry is a reflection of how the world’s going, the problems with music are similar to the problems in football, we’re in an age of shortermism. It’s people who want everything now and want to get paid for it. Like Chelsea not renewing Frank Lampards contract – the man deserves to be on the books for life.”

The death of Rock n Roll (as he calls it) and the time in which we live is the biggest factor in affecting his popularity. “Popular music as an art form was a blip; it was all to do with population growth. We had a war that wiped all lot of people out – it was pure demographics. The ages that people were in the 50’s and 60’s were perfect, pop music was intelligent and poetic and the audiences were enlightened enough to get it. Standards haven’t fallen but the population has moved on. Popular music now is different because the people have changed, and what I do isn’t popular anymore and that’s cool, however there are still enough people who still get it for me to carry on.”

Briefly studying Drama in Manchester, David has some fond memories of the city but not necessarily its music. “I’ve got to say, no offence intended to Manchester, but I fucking hated Oasis, and I think the Stone Roses are kind of responsible for killing music. For me The Bee Gees and Simply Red are the two best bands to come out of Manchester. The problem with the Stone roses was it was way too heterosexual, before that music was all a little bit gay, and it does need to be a bit sweet and camp – they were so straight it was painful, and then all of a sudden lads started making music. The Stone Roses were a death nail for music and other bands even if they didn’t sound like them there was a certain attitude that followed on from that.”

David Ford’s new album Charge is out now and is available from iTunes

Tom Ingham

Tom Ingham

Music Editor

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