By Vasco Dega
Josh Thorpe, Glasgow-based Canadian rock, experimental music, and sound installations connoisseur, drops new single Manhattan and talks about tingly fingers, travelling to New York, Love & Weather (his forthcoming album), the changing music industry and his plans for 2021…
Hi Josh how are you?
Typing with tingly fingers — it is nearly freezing in Glasgow at the time of this writing.
You’ve released your new single Manhattan, can you tell us about the themes contained within the song?
I used to travel to New York a lot and stay on my brother’s couch in a midtown apartment. Mostly office buildings around there but I loved the crowds and traffic and the nondescript delis for chopped salad. I’d go downtown too, and all over town with friends. New York still pulses with 20th century energy. No matter how many smart devices, you’re still surrounded by cracked pavements, noisy railways, exhaust, and people hollering across the street. And in the song there are oblique references to Sonic Youth and other personalities. But like most of my songs, there’s no big statement here, it’s just flickering images and energies.
The Track is taken from forthcoming album Love & Weather, what can people expect from the release?
Love & Weather is fairly minimalist rock and roll, but it’s made messy with discordant sounds, unusual tunings and chords, lyrics with no real story, layered arrangements, keyboards that are slightly detuned. And although some will call it post-punk or alt-rock, we’re not going for a genre sound or a particular vintage. It’s a bunch of gear from every decade recorded straight to disk in good studio. So you get a sound that’s not just one thing.
How has the pandemic impacted upon the art you create?
It’s certainly been a surreal and sad year. But I feel lucky. My partner and I have found a way to slow down, live better, and take care. This has in turn fed the work. It’s nothing you’ll hear in the songs, but mixing remotely for a good while was a positive thing. When you mix in studio it’s easy to go down a deep rabbit hole of obsessive listening and repetition. Working in separate spaces you have to be more strategic, trust each other, walk away, relinquish control, come back to discover something new again.
One of the videos was made by Paris-based Canadian Mathew McWilliams. It shows Paris streets at the height of lockdown. But it’s beautiful. A cheerful view of people doing one of the few things they can: running.
As a Glasgow-based Canadian, do you take influence from both countries in the art you create?
The sound emerges from Toronto’s underground scene, which brings a lot of genres together and has produced wildly unusual songwriters and composers for decades (Eric Chenaux, Sandro Perri, Jennifer Castle…). Glasgow is smaller, friendlier, easier in many ways, and yet bursting with a talented, energetic, and mature music community. My Glasgow bandmates, Rory Haye and Owen Curtis Williams, are not only talented players, but attuned listeners and experimenters and generous people.
Scottish musicians and bands, yeah lots. One of my favourite all-time groups is Glasgow’s Life Without Buildings.
How has the music industry changed since you began playing in bands?
I’m mystified by the music industry today. It’s tempting to be nostalgic for the old days when indy labels, radio stations, and record shops were how you discovered new stuff. Rather than recommendation engines!
On the other hand, I love the speed with which I find new things that blow me away, the ease of collaborating, and how cheap it can be to make and distribute. I even like the lo-fi experience of sharing music on instragram recorded and played on our poor phones.
How would you describe your sound and where do you think your music fits in today’s world?
Between the cracks. It’s art rock with an experimental spirit. Simple structures that leave room for the listener to listen and unusual sounds that are rich enough to make those simple structures shake a bit. To my ear, today’s world needs texture and imperfection, it needs difference. There’s a lot of the same going on; difference is nice.
If you were stranded on a desert island which three albums would you choose to wash up on the shore?
Do boxsets float? I’d bring stuff that goes with wind and surf. Morton Feldman maybe. Alice Coltrane. My friends improvising on toys and junk.
If you want to hear stuff me and some friends are actually listening to, go to UnusualMusicExchange.com or follow that same handle on Instagram. UME is a kind of magazine without journalism, a library without documents, an ad hoc label.
With live performances on hold for the moment, do you have any plans to find different ways to connect with music lovers?
UME is collaborating with visual artists and galleries in Canada and UK to do some online interviews, concerts, videos. People can get in touch if they’re interested. We’ll do some pretty neat stuff!
What are your plans for 2021?
Three vinyl records, a novella, and, fingers crossed, dinner with friends! Stay tuned.