catharsis: the algernon doll interview;
It’s probably not my wisest move to punt the work of an artist who is performing in Glasgow the same night as my next foray into gig promotion, but as Algernon Doll is sharing a billing with Esperi and Lovers Turn to Monsters on 23rd August it’s fair to say that, were I not otherwise engaged, I’d be heading to that one myself. The name is in fact a pseudonym for lo-fi artist Ewan Grant, whose Tom Mitchell-produced 2012 debut Camomile was released earlier this year.
How did you get started writing music and performing?
I’d have to credit my grandparents for encouraging me as they were conductors, pianists and singers aside from their necessary day jobs. I was refused piano lessons at my school as I didn’t show the potential that others, with more money, did so; in spite, I saved up for an old guitar and got heavily into punk and hardcore music where my sloppy playing fit right in. I played in a number of punk bands and in doing that I met some of the most influential and inspiring people I’ve met to date who showed me that all that matters is to play with passion and honesty, everything else is secondary. When I was 17 I lost a few of my best friends in really sudden tragedies and life really set in. I used up all my anger and was left depressed and leaking confidence. Since then, I have channeled this into the music I make today and I’ve finally gotten up enough courage to play it live in the past couple of years, it’s a really cathartic experience..as selfish as that can be.
Three words to describe your sound…
Melancholic, passionate, alt-pop… I cheated a bit there.
What influences you?
Musically, I’m influenced by anyone doing it for the right reasons. I like a lot of ambient/drone stuff (Celer, Sawako), 90s indie like Sebadoh etc, Screamo and anyone with something interesting to say for themselves, Aidan Moffat is an excellent lyricist. I’d say I’m mostly influenced by events in my life and the drive and talent of a lot of my friends who create some brilliant music and art.
As I understand it, Algernon Doll is a solo project. I’m curious, therefore, as to the origins of the name – your music is quite intimate and personal; is it easier to perform under an alias?
Thank you. Yeah, it’s just me! It’s from a short story by Daniel Keyes called, “Flowers for Algernon”. Algernon is a lab mouse who is experimented on to gain intelligence. The experiment works but quickly wears off and he dies. Algernon Doll is my idea of being a manipulated entity in life, be it people or events doing this, and writing music from the prospective of a loved and tortured doll. It’s really just my perspective but it’s less boring than my name and it takes the ego out of things a little bit.
Is there anything you wouldn’t write a song about?
I wouldn’t write a hate song or anything with any prejudice or awful things like that! It seems like I wouldn’t write a happy, cheery song but I’m open to doing that as soon as I feel an emotion that’s so honest that I don’t convey it as cheesy.
What releases/shows do you have planned at the moment?
I’m working on another full-length album with the talented Tom Mitchell at Clearwater Studios in Perth. It’s a more organic, angsty record but it’s also going to be a lot more poppy (in my sense of the word) than last year’s Camomile. I have the pleasure of playing shows with the amazing Franz Nicolay on the 22nd August in Bar Cerberus in Dundee, Esperi and Lovers Turn to Monsters at Sleazy’s the night after and then supporting Willis Earl Beal at Captain’s Rest on the 30th of August. I’ve got some pretty exciting dates coming up later in the year but, unfortunately, I can’t announce them yet.
And what are you listening to at the moment?
I’m listening to The Germs, Dundee’s UNIFORMS’ Terry Butcher EP, Sweet Space by this recently deceased Jazz guy called Billy Bang and my usual amount of Elliott Smith records. I have to say that I’m really looking forward to the new Citizens and Kaddish albums!