Pictish Trail is Johnny Lynch, he lives on the Hebridean isle of Eigg, where he runs his label, Lost Map Records. Last year, Pictish Trail released an album called Future Echoes, and this winter he’s heading out on the road this November & December for a special blissed-out / stripped back festive tour, which he’s seasonally entitled the Winter Rewind Acid Reflux tour.
As part of the tour, he’s playing in Cardiff, at Gwdihw, on Tuesday 5th December, and the Crofters Rights in Bristol on Wednesday 6th December, plus many more shows (see below). To celebrate this news we’ve got him to answer our 20 questions, so pull up a seat and enjoy:
Hi, how are you today what’s the weather like?
I’m okay, I suppose. I shaved off my beard yesterday, for the first time in 3 years, and so I’ve spent a lot of today catching glimpses of my reflection and being freaked out. My face is weird. Usually when I shave off my beard I look younger, but now i’m just noticing how big my nose is. My beard seemed to balance that out, before – made it not seem so big. My nose feels massive now. Oh, and the weather is shite.
How do most of your songs start life? A riff?A synth part?Or melody?
Usually strummed guitar chords, then singing a melody over the top. Then a few days later the real writing begins when I try to remember what chords I played, and what the melody was. The whole process of songwriting seems to be trying to remember a song that doesn’t already exist.
Have you ever been starstruck?
I played a show a few years ago, at the Barbican in London, which was pretty surreal. It was the launch of Beck’s book of sheet-music, called Song Reader – and there was a large assortment of acts who had been asked to perform songs from the book, pretty much all of which were massive names. Jarvis Cocker, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Connan Moccasin, The Mighty Boosh, Beth Orton. And, of course, Beck was there. I have no idea why they asked me to perform, I was a total nobody compared to everyone else on the bill. But I was stood a few metres away from Beck, and was totally awestruck. I’m a huge fan of his work.
The Royal Family: should they stay or should they go?
They should fuck off, obviously. They should be stripped of all titles, as well as all their land and property, and each be made to work a zero-hours contract in Buckingham Palace gift shop. Parliament needs to take action to allow the royals to officially renounce their titles, and each palace up and down the country should be turned into a Butlins holiday camp.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you like to be?
I’ve no idea. To be honest, I don’t even know what i’m currently doing. Sometimes I make music, and sometimes I help other people release music, but the whole situation is so fragile, it constantly feels like i’m riding a skateboard downhill and the wheels could come off at any second. And I’ve no idea how to skateboard. That’s part of the thrill, I suppose. Maybe if I wasn’t involved with music, i’d be a thrill-seeking pretend skateboarder.
What’s your favourite book?
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I always really loved George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl, too.
What were you like at school?
My family moved around a bit, so I ended up going to a lot of different schools – and, looking back, I think my personality was pretty different in each place. I guess the consistent factor was that I was keen to be liked by everyone, and so tried to fit in with every group, often at the expense of being myself. There’s nothing more terrifying, as a child, as being singled out as ‘different’. As an adult I realise that all the interesting people are those who are different.
What’s the music scene like back home?
On Eigg, there’s the occasional traditional ceilidh, and if there’s a party going on somewhere, or the bar in the local tearoom is open late, there might be some minimal techno blasting through the wee speakers. I tend to listen to a lot of music at home, dancing with my son in the living room – usually White Poppy or Michael Hurley.
Best gig you’ve played so far?
Every year at Green Man Festival blows my mind. This year’s event was so emotionally intense, that I cried backstage afterwards. Then I rehydrated by drinking my body-weight in booze.
What’s your favourite single?
Of all time? Oooft. God, it’s tricky to pick just one. ‘Boy From School’ by Hot Chip is probably the right answer, today.
What do you listen to in your tour van?
Our tour manager has a van with a CD player, so usually my CD collection (which mostly spans the 90’s and early 00’s when I still regularly bought CDs), while everyone else has their headphones on. Podcasts, particularly the Adam Buxton podcast – that seems to be one that we can all listen to and enjoy.
What were your favourite bands growing up?
As a young child, I grew up listening to Erasure, New Order, A-Ha and Depeche Mode. As a teen, I really loved Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Radiohead, Prodigy, Massive Attack, and by my late-teens i was obsessed by The Beta Band, Beck, Sonic Youth, Belle & Sebastian, Boards of Canada and Underworld. A lot of people I know feel embarrassed by the music they loved when they were younger, but I still love all of that stuff, really. I still listen to all of those artists. I quite like that vulnerable feeling of embarrassment that nostalgia can muster.
Who would you want to play you in the film of your life?
It’d have to be someone a wee bit younger than me, right? Maybe Lena Dunham.
Vinyl, CD, Download or stream?
I really like buying records online, and then them arriving in the post on Eigg, and then opening up the post, and then putting them on my turntable. It’s a long, drawn-out process, but it is very, very satisfying.
What’s the best cover version you have ever heard?
Cat Power’s The Covers Record is, start to finish, the best album of covers I’ve ever heard. I can’t pick one. Every track from that album is the best cover version i have ever heard. Ever.
Tell us about your recent release?
My latest album, Future Echoes, came out last year, and I’ve spent the past 12 months promoting it. It’s the first album i’ve had a full-band sound, so it’s been fun playing it with a full-band, and doing knee-slides at venues across the country. Earlier in the year I recorded some alternate versions, a bit more stripped back and we’re planning to release these in time for the Winter Rewind Acid Reflux tour in November / December. These shows are going to be a lot more intimate, and so it’s going to be exciting (for me, at least) to perform the songs in a different way, whilst retaining some spirit of the original.
Your sound has seeriously evolved what has inspired that shift?
I’m not really someone that can create the same record over and over. I was never taught how to play an instrument, and so my musicianship isn’t strong enough to be consistent from record to record. So, for me, it’s all about who I collaborate with, and putting my trust in them, feeling comfortable enough with them to give them direction on how I think something should sound. So, aye, it tends to mean each album sounds different. On Future Echoes i was working with my friends Adem Ilhan and Robert Jones – both of whom are extremely versatile multi-instrumentalists, very open-minded, and patient. Working with them was the perfect way to bring the songs to life.
Are your live shows as visual as your videos or not?!
The thing I like about my videos – specifically for the recent album – is that I am the only person in them. No one else. What a fucking ego-maniac. My live shows are definitely as ego-driven as my videos.
What festivals have you played this year?
It’s been a fairly busy summer – we did Glastonbury, Field Day, Green Man, a show at the Edinburgh Festival, The Good Life Experience, Iona Village Hall Music Festival … oh, I put on my own festival on Eigg, Howlin’ Fling. That was fun. Festival season has kinda died down a wee bit, now… although there’s a fair few things happening. Mostly indoor all-dayers, as opposed to outdoor festivals. I like a good indoor event. I’m headlining a multi-arts thing in Easterhouse on Friday (which will probably have passed by the time this goes out), where the rest of the bill is a theatre piece, a clown, and some ambient noise artists. I think that should be interesting. There’s a Lost Map all-dayer in Paisley on 22nd October, and then some Pictish appearances at the following: Aberfeldy Festival (4th Nov), Strange Behaviours in Stirling (18th Nov), Alternative Peers Ball in Edinburgh (25th Nov). Then it’s festivus, headlined by Jeezy Christ.
What would be your dream collaboration?
I’ve thought about this quite a lot. I’d really, really love to work with Vic & Bob in some capacity. That would be the ultimate dream. I’ve thought about sending them a letter, asking them if i could put together a süper-tight backing band, to perform all their incredible songs note-perfect but rocked-up, and having them just turn up and sing, and arse about. I think it would be wall-to-wall festival bookings. Main stage, headlining Glastonbury. Can you imagine? People would love it. They’d just have to turn up in a helicopter, run on stage, and we’d be ready to fire straight into ‘Don’t Slip On Loose Muesli’, or ‘Cool Cool Conditioned Air’, or ‘Meals On Wheels’. Think of the characters! Mulligan & O’Hare, Tinkers Rucksack, The Man With the Stick’s Holiday Song. That would be my dream collaboration.
WINTER REWIND ACID REFLUX TOUR
FRI, NOV 17 @ THE GLAD CAFÉ, GLASGOW
SAT, NOV 18 @ STRANGE BEHAVIOURS, TOLBOOTH, STIRLING
SUN, NOV 19 @ CONROY’S BASEMENT, DUNDEE
FRI, NOV 24 @ THE STUDIO, HARTLEPOOL
SAT, NOV 25 @ ALTERNATIVE PEERS BALL, ASSEMBLY ROOMS, EDINBURGH
TUE, NOV 28 @ THE GREYSTONES, SHEFFIELD
WED, NOV 29 @ THE CELLAR, OXFORD
THU, NOV 30 @ O2 RITZ, MANCHESTER (SUPPORTING JANE WEAVER)
FRI, DEC 1 @ THE HALL, LANCASTER
MON, DEC 4 @ HENRY TUDOR HOUSE, SHREWSBURY
TUE, DEC 5 @ GWDIHW, CARDIFF
WED, DEC 6 @ CROFTER’S RIGHTS, BRISTOL
THU, DEC 7 @ PRINCE ALBERT, STROUD
FRI, DEC 8 @ RIALTO, BRIGHTON
SAT, DEC 9 @ PAPER DRESS VINTAGE, LONDON
MON, DEC 11 @ THE STABLES 2, MILTON KEYNES
TUE, DEC 12 @ THE CRESENT, YORK
WED, DEC 13 @ THE TRADES CLUB, HEBDEN BRIDGE