NARC MAGAZINE 1ST MARCH 2021
Interview with Dawn Storey for NARC magazine. The full text of this interview is a decent explanation of the project. The full article is here on the NARC website
Hi Stu, how are you and how are you doing in these trying times?
Trying hard to be positive. This pause has given everyone space to ask what is actually important to them, and in musical terms I guess my personal answer to that is songwriting.
So I’ve decided to really artificially force creativity - by writing, recording and releasing 156 songs, during 2021 - I’m calling it ‘Hamburg 156’ - working jointly with Luke Gaul from the band Lyras and recording at Blank studios in Newcastle with John Martindale from Shields.
We’ll pick the best 14, polish them up and release the resulting album in June 2022 - but all 156 will be put up throughout 2021 - as well as a weekly podcast where Luke and I document it and gently commiserate for an hour. We’re about 24 songs in now, or 6.5%!
What made you decide to embark on this new project of 156 songs? Is it the musical equivalent of me taking up cross stitching song lyrics in lockdown in the absence of being able to do much or go anywhere?
Partly. It’s been gently nudged into fruition by Covid, but really deep down I’ve known that quantity (and associated hard work) is the route to quality for years. Tom Robinson has always said you needed to write 10 songs to get a good one and he’s right. So I’m just forcing something that I should always have been doing. The technology to record and distribute a large amount of material easily is also there nowadays – and so, within the specific context and restrictions of this ‘project’ – I am interested in that.
Where does the title ‘Hamburg 156’ come from?
It’s a Beatles/Malcolm Gladwell reference. They played preludin fuelled 8 hours cover sets every night to entertain sailors in 61/62 and it’s generally accepted as how they got good, they simply had to step up. Multiple bookshelves creaking with Beatles literature are testament to my geekery in this area, but this ‘Hamburg’ phenomenon is actually well documented in culture generally and in ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell with his 10,000 hour rule. So I guess we are artificially creating our own personal ‘Songwriting Hamburg’. 156 songs will really, really push us. We may even record something in Hamburg for the craic too, Covid permitting.
Do you have song ideas/ themes pre planned or are you doing them as you come to it each time?
Musically we are finding that trying on another bands clothes to see how they fit for a few hours is both fun and fruitful. We just gently point in the direction of a sound and see what works - and if it doesn’t, well there is always another song coming tomorrow! Lyrically it’s not pre-planned however I’m sure themes will emerge over 156 lyrics.
What else have you been up to in the last year?
Pretty much the last Lux Lisbon gig was the sold old London Scala show in 2017. Getting to that point as an independent artist, in a world were even Nadine Shah can’t make it pay, was really quite exhausting and so I’ve had a break.
Since then I’ve written lots of pop songs with ‘Stark’ but also, strangely, I’d never once done the ‘covers gig’ thing at all ever. Suddenly the simplicity, financial stability and instant dopamine hit of that world really appealed and so I put together a covers band in 2018 and have been touring the UK with that. I’ve done about 100 gigs and it’s an absolute doddle after a lifetime of original material. Funnily enough I think a ‘Hamburg-esque’ force-fed diet of dozens of covers is an area of my songwriting development I had totally missed out on, so I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve also played with mind-blowing musicians on the way - including Luke Gaul, who is a phenomenal guitarist, musician and producer. Over the 10,000 miles we’ve clocked up playing these cover gigs we’ve slowly hatched the idea of this Hamburg project, and now is the right time. It’s also about maintaining a connection with friends right now too, and so musicians from all over the UK like Charlotte Austen, Dickon Collinson, Harry Still, Tom Cooper and Ada Francis are contributing their immense talents remotely.
1st March 2021