Every once in a blue moon, a band comes around to renew your faith in good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll again – for me, Marshan is that band. They’ve managed to simultaneously conjure up the folk rock element of Van Morrison, the visceral bombast of Led Zeppelin and Beatle-like melody into one magnificent collection of songs entitled Songs From Southern and Baseline. We talk with vocalist guitarist Graeme Duff and guitarist/piano man/mouth harp dude Scott Miller.
Hellride Music: Please don't be rude and introduce yourselves to those that might not be hip to the Marshan magic. Please include a full Marshan bio.
Graeme Duff: Well the 4 of us were brought together by a major label in an effort to add a recognisable marketable face for homo-erotic rock. At least that what the biog says.
Actually, we're just four guys from Glasgow, Scotland (cue the alliteration frenzy, Scottish stoners, Braveheart bonghitters, Tartan tokers etc), who get together and jam. There is Scott Miller, on harp, piano, guitar & vocals, Malcolm (aka Malky) Thomson on drums, Kevin Burges on bass & tambourine (skilled I tell you) and myself, Graeme Duff, on guitar and vocals. We've been around for a wee while now, playing around and putting some records together, and that about bringd you you up to date.
Hellride Music: ”Braveheart Bonghitters”… that’s the best. My vote for the best album in the first half of 2004 is definitely Songs From Southern and Baseline. This is a heartfelt rock n' roll RECORD (not just a group of songs) that harken back to a better era. I hear CSN & Y, Van Morrison, Led Zep, Captain Beyond and a host of others here. Did you guys consciously try to get away from the more straight-ahead "Stoner Rock" sound of your previous album? Or was it a natural evolution?
Graeme: I think it was pretty natural. The first record had "Summer Hill Song" and "Deep and Meaningless" which I think point towards what we were going to do with this record. Songs... is really our first full length, so the extra time afforded us to put some stuff on there which wasn't featured on Kings Thursday On Friday Street. We did however want to forge our own identity in a somewhat overcrowded market so that may have pushed in a certain direction.
Hellride Music: I hear a lot going on Songs... - blues, boogie-woogie, hard rock, a ballad or two... what or who inspired the sound of this album? It's like your version of Physical Graffiti...
Graeme: I think at the core of the album there is still the obvious 70’s British Rock inspirations, your Zeppelins and Jeff Beck etc. We definitely also took a lot from the early blues and rock and roll artists as well, guys like Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Robert Johnson and Howlin Wolf. On top of that we also have a folk side, which maybe reflects that we're from the UK, I'm not sure. A lot of it comes down to our short attention span for music. We'll do a rock song and then get bored and try and do a folk song. We don't like to repeat ourselves if possible.
Hellride Music: Scott plays a central role here with some excellent keyboard use and harmonica - the young man is proficient at a host of musical instruments. Have both those instruments been under his expertise for a period of time? What does he find attractive about them?
Scott Miller: I started mucking about with the harp a couple of years ago, inspired by the blues greats... especially Sonny Boy Williamson. The way he plays is amazing! Listening to that opened my eyes to how versatile an instrument it really is... it's a very emotional if used in the right way. I also like the fact you can fit it in your back pocket... something that's a bit harder to do with a Les Paul! As for the piano, I'd been meaning to try learning it for ages and ages, but only actually got round to it a couple of years ago. I tried learning as a kid, but it bored the shit out of me. How many times can you play "Merrily We Roll Along" or "When The Saint's Go Marching In" before you just wanna tear someone's head off?! Then years later I heard Jerry Lee Lewis and Memphis Slim, and I wanted to be able to do that. Still trying! Maybe someday...
Hellride Music: Don’t sell yourself short, man… you sound great. Take me behind "Rodger, Heat the Plate". I love that friggin' song.
Graeme: Scott kind of came up with the main riff in the song along with the Hallelujah Lord thing, which basically amused us. A lot of our songs tend to start out as a joke, and that over the top gospel thing just seemed catchy. I tried to add some sleazy nature to it, so as to detract from the God thing (we've actually managed to put the word Hallelujah on both our records, maybe we're the new Creed?) and actually the came up with the lyrics which were largely inspired by our antics over in the States at the SHoD (Stoner Hands of Doom Music Fest). From there we added the organ intro and piano.
Again the intro was a bit of a joke, I actually asked Scott to make it as Beatles as possible. And then finally the end jam section was thrown in and pretty much made up in the studio. The song actually takes its name from our friend Roger from Graves at Sea.
Hellride Music: From the gentler songs on the album, I would have never guessed that you possessed a heart. I thought you were a love 'em or leave 'em kind of guy. When did you get all sentimental on us?
Graeme: It was the sense of heartbreak I had when we never got to say goodbye Chris after the SHoD festival. I guess we'll always have that one night of passion though. Seriously though, we've always strived to write songs which sum up our feelings as a band and the lyrics are no different. I like to think our music captures lots of different moods, because that's what we're like as people.
There's happy and sad and everything in between all thrown in. I must admit though, I'm pretty lazy when it comes to lyrics, things often get written while Scott's recording his guitar parts, so Christ really knows where the words come from.
Hellride Music: Charmer. Tell us about the decision to start your own label, Funbag Records, vs going with Casket Music again.
Graeme: Well we had some offers, but nothing that we thought we couldn't do better than. Getting the record out ourselves has been a really interesting process, there are things I would do differently in the future, but so far we've learned a lot. We don't make music to become rock stars, I really just want to make a record so we can go out and play. And that's really all that matters. If the right label came along, which gave us room to make a lot of decisions for ourselves, then yeah we'd definitely go for it, but we're not holding out for a major record deal.
Hellride Music: I see. Good for you, making rock for the sake of rocking. Did Dave Chang have a hand in Songs...? If so, how did that go?
Graeme: Yeah, he produced it. Dave's a great guy, very much our kind of person, he's quiet and polite, and those things actually make him really easy to work with. I think we've learnt a lot about making a record from Dave, purely from the point of view of performance. We are looking to do the next record with another producer in a different studio, basically because we would like to experiment and try for a slightly different vibe for the next one, but I wouldn't rule out the idea of us working with Mr Chang again.
Hellride Music: Orange Goblin was never the same without him. Don’t start getting crazy and getting Billy Anderson to produce the next Marshan opus…Please predict the future of Marshan at this point in time.
Graeme: Well we've got an appearance at the Stoned from the Underground festival to do in Germany in July. And there will hopefully be some other shows in the summer. We go into a studio in Edinburgh in August to record one song to try something out, and are looking to get down to recording our next record at the end of this year/beginning of 2005, with the hopes that it will be released summer of 2005. We'd also love to come back to the States and maybe do a couple of weeks of gigs over there in 2005, it just depends on how our budget is looking.
Musically, I am torn. Part of me wants the next record to be an all out rock record, but at the same time I've got a whole lot of good folkier songs that I really like, so I'm not sure what it will be like yet. We'd love to be able to do an album a year if possible, as the gap between our releases so far have been too long, and we've got so many ideas.
Hellride Music: Thank you eversomuch for the interview. Please provide us with some words of wisdom as we part ways.
Graeme: Well as always Mr Barnes, it has been a pleasure. I'll be fucked if I can think of anything wise to say, eh...hmmm, oh fuck it.