“Jamie Lee Curtis arrived and gazed upon us with contempt.”
As debut albums go, ‘A Lifetime of Uninhibited Pleasures’ by Lewis native Callum Macleod aka Mother Night is a stunning first outing. A shimmering display of catchy electro-pop that he has dubbed ‘Pagan pop from a cold, Scottish Island’.
For the second instalment of ‘Joy of Six’, we’ve caught up with him to get the lowdown on his recording process and his brief stint as a Hollywood Rock Star:
Hi Callum. Thanks for taking the time to chat. Your debut album ‘A Lifetime of Uninhibited Pleasures', released last April has been on a regular repeat in the studio. How long did it take you to develop your ‘Pagan Pop’ sound?
Thanks for having me! Well, I’ve been writing songs since I was 13, and I’m now 26 so it’s taken me half my life to get to this point. Like most people, I always liked lots of different types of music and for a long time, I felt like I needed to settle on a genre if I ever wanted to have any success. Once I got over this idea and just started making whatever, and letting the music inform itself, is when the (moderate) success actually came. I do find myself returning to a few sounds again and again, but I think if I do have a style it’s the result of just trying to make what I think sounds good, without focusing too hard on a ‘sound’. The name ‘pagan pop’ comes from trying to convince mainlanders that I come from the ‘Island from the Wickerman’.
The album’s loaded with really catchy pop hooks. Are these the first point of the songwriting process or do they come after most of the hard graft is done?
Thanks a lot! I think probably more the latter. I listen to a lot of Rap and RnB and I think probably my process for making music is closest to a Hip Hop producer in that I usually focus on the beat and the groove first before the melody. Once this is in place then I’ll go to work on the vocals and that’s where the melody arises. One thing I have learnt about hooks and melodies is never to record a sub-par part as a placeholder until you think of something better because inevitably that rubbish bit gets stuck in your head and you never get past it. If I don’t have a good idea at the time I think it’s much better to just leave it and try to come back to it later.
“I listen to a lot of Rap and RnB and I think probably my process for making music is closest to a Hip Hop producer.”
Rather annoyingly, because it’s infuriating knowing people younger and more talented, you also do your own surreal collage artwork for the album. Can you talk us through your Graphic Design inspiration and process for the artwork?
Yeah I mean that’s very kind of you to say even if it is nonsense! Yeah, it was a really really long process to get to the goat people thing. I was inspired by a lot of psychedelic album art from the 60s and 70s and initially, I was making these quite overtly psychedelic collages with lots of bright colours and patterns, but it just didn’t quite fit with the music I was making. Then one day I stumbled upon this amazing cache of 60s stock photos with no copyright and from there the goat people idea came together pretty quickly. I think it’s a good fit for the tunes because it’s all quite bright, fun and inviting but also kind of dark and twisted.
We’ve seen images of you back in Black Bay Studio in Bernera where you recorded the album. Can you tell us more about the work going into second album?
Well, I absolutely love it over at Black Bay. I honestly can’t imagine recording anywhere else. Pete is a lovely lovely man and a dear friend and we have a brilliant working relationship. There’s never any fights or ego and we’re more or less always on the same page. It’s been 2 years since we last recorded together and I feel more confident this time, with a clearer idea of how to achieve the sound in my head. We’re still working on it but I already think this is the best work I’ve ever produced, and I’m really excited to share it with everybody. Hopefully, the public agrees.
“ I feel more confident this time, with a clearer idea of how to achieve the sound in my head.”
This year you also got to live a Rockstar life for a week in LA when you went out to perform with your Brother, Colin Macleod’s band on ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’. That must’ve have been a bit surreal?
That was definitely very surreal. On the morning of the show, they sent this huge SUV with blacked-out windows to pick us up. Then they took us to the CBS compound and up to the Green Room where every conceivable human need was catered for by a team of beautiful friendly people with big white smiles. There was a pyramid of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten, and every time we took one a man would appear to restore the pyramid.
At one point Jamie Lee Curtis arrived and gazed upon us with contempt; the musk of our unworthiness clearly offending her famous nostrils.
We played the show as the Production Staff waved signs at the studio audience encouraging them to whoop at climactic moments. Afterwards, I went and stood on the roof of the CBS building and smoked a big fat legal doobie while looking at the Hollywood sign against a candy floss sky. The same blacked-out SUV drove us out again, and as the red and white barrier descended I had the sensation of an inter-dimensional portal closing irreversibly behind us. Then we went for tacos.
Finally, what’s on your own studio playlist right now?
Literally just Casio by Jungle and nothing else