Mu­sic: that’s what I want

Ju­lian Mar­shall re­flects on money and cre­ativ­ity

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Wayne Sav­age Š

Money was the last thing Ju­lian wanted for play­ing pi­ano on The Fly­ing Lizards’ cover of the Tamla track. Truth is, he never thought in a mil­lion years it’d be a hit when record­ing it in his flat.

“It cost £6 to make and that was in tape and bus fares, it was noth­ing,” he laughs. “I’d been leant a rather nice grand pi­ano for five years and had a tape recorder. David Cun­ning­ham (the new wave band’s founder, who taught at the same art school Ju­lian’s wife was at) had a cou­ple of mics and we put stuff all over the strings so it didn’t sound like a pi­ano.

“I kind of knew the track (orig­i­nally recorded by Bar­rett Strong) so played it through about three times and David said, ‘Well, Ju­lian, that will do’. I thought, ‘Re­ally?’. He said, ‘Well, you can have a £30 ses­sion fee or a per­cent­age’.

“Hon­est to God, I thought I’d be rip­ping him off if I took the money, so I took a per­cent­age, not think­ing for a sec­ond I’d hear any more about this track. At that time my def­i­ni­tion of a ‘proper stu­dio’ was one that had car­pet on the walls and smelled re­ally nice, and it didn’t.

“I was the first thing to be recorded on it so had no sense at all of what­ever else could go down. Next thing I know it’s at num­ber five, we’re on Top of the Pops and David gives me a cheque for sev­eral thou­sand pounds that paid for the de­posit on our first house.” Imag­ine how Ju­lian and his wife – renowned glass artist Ara­bella Mar­shall – would’ve felt had he opted for a ses­sion fee. “Not good. She was pleased with my de­ci­sion. It re­ally was gen­er­ous. I re­mem­ber tak­ing my son to see Char­lie’s An­gels when sud­denly Money came up and I was like ‘oh my God that’s un­be­liev­able’. Ev­ery now and again it ap­pears on an ad­vert.”

The song­writer – whose new Rupa Ensem­ble make their de­but in Suf­folk this Oc­to­ber – doesn’t com­pose to make money. “That’s one of the rea­sons I don’t call my­self a ca­reer com­poser. That may sound a funny thing to say but it’s some­thing I got very clear about sev­eral years ago. Mak­ing money and writ­ing mu­sic, for me, need to be re­ally sep­a­rate en­deav­ours.

“If some of my mu­sic makes money, fan­tas­tic – I can only write mu­sic if I feel free to ex­plore stuff. If I feel I’m work­ing to a mar­ket it just doesn’t come out right and it’s out on ev­ery level. It just doesn’t work for me,” says Ju­lian, who also had in­ter­na­tional chart suc­cess as one half of Mar­shall Hain, and then Eye to Eye.

In the past he loved writ­ing sin­gles. The whole rai­son d’être of 1978’s Danc­ing in the City was to have a hit, al­though he ad­mits it hap­pened rather too soon for the for­mer’s good. They didn’t re­ally know

“If some of my mu­sic makes money, fan­tas­tic – I can only write mu­sic if I feel free to ex­plore stuff”

how to han­dle it and split a year later.

“It was amaz­ing train­ing in pop­u­lar song writ­ing and the busi­ness. It was such a mir­a­cle when it ac­tu­ally hap­pened. But it’s rather odd, once it had hap­pened it was like, ‘OK done that, that was fun, now what’?”

Ju­lian, who says be­ing a song writ­ing teach­ing fel­low at ICMP Lon­don has kept him on his toes, made the jump to ma­ture com­poser of longer-form work a few years back with

Out of the Dark­ness and The An­gel in the For­est. Cap­tured by the sound world of cham­ber choirs and smaller, he thought it’d be great to have a lit­tle group he could work and learn with. The new Rupa Ensem­ble cur­rently com­prises eight singers, al­though he says the group could grow, shrink, or even in­clude in­stru­ments fur­ther down the line. “I don’t want the size to be a limit to what we ex­plore mu­si­cally. I’m re­ally keen to re­flect my in­ter­ests and be stylis­ti­cally broad, not that we should be a kind of cross­over group in any way.”

A fan of that sense of rit­ual you get from go­ing to a con­cert, the idea is to cre­ate a joint ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween the per­form­ers and an au­di­ence as happy as lis­ten­ing to Kate Bush or James Blake as they are to Wil­liam Byrd. “I’ve no rea­son, re­ally, to be ner­vous but it’s our de­but out­ing, as it were, so there’s a lit­tle fris­son,” he laughs. Ju­lian grew up in a fam­ily of pro­fes­sional mu­si­cians and feels he’s writ­ten enough to jus­tify lead­ing such a group now, al­though he still feels as much a be­gin­ner in many ways when he sits down to write a song as he ever did.

“You ac­quire ex­pe­ri­ence but there’s al­ways a lot of un­knowns. I see my­self as some­body who loves to write mu­sic and it’s al­ways an ex­plo­ration from noth­ing.” It’s in­ter­est­ing and use­ful, he says, to look back at past pieces that rise to the top or sink. “I feel com­pelled to be com­pas­sion­ate to my past. Some of it I’m very proud of and some of it is down to learn­ing along the way.”

De­spite some “wob­bly tracks”, he loves the spirit and en­ergy of Mar­shall Hain’s lone al­bum Free

Ride and is fond of Eye to Eye tracks Hunger Pains, Fall­ing for a Funny One and On the Mend. “Ones I’m not so proud of – twice I’ve done solo al­bums which are just too patchy, well in­tended but only bits of them have come out and for good rea­son. They were sketches, they weren’t re­ally ready to bring to a pub­lic. I can’t even re­mem­ber what they’re called but there are a few tracks that have never seen the light of day that I think, ‘Mmm, good’,” he laughs.

“It was such a mir­a­cle when it ac­tu­ally hap­pened. But it’s rather odd, once it had hap­pened it was like, ‘OK done that, that was fun, now what’?”

PHO­TOS/PER­MIS­SION: Ju­lian Mar­shall

Early days in the mu­sic in­dus­try brought un­ex­pected fame

ABOVE: Ju­lian Mar­shall at home

Ju­lian is launch­ing his new Rupa Ensem­ble in Fram­ling­ham on Oc­to­ber 27.

Ju­lian says teach­ing song­writ­ing keeps him on his toes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.