Not long ago I made a podcast tribute to Ariel Pink. I arranged for a load of awesome bands to record covers or remixes of his songs, then played them and talked rubbish over the top. You can grab the songs from my blog. One of the guys involved was Waskerley Way. He contributed a haunting, clarinet-heavy cover of one of my favourite Ariel Pink songs, Are You Gonna Look After My Boys. Waskerley Way is a young guy called Mikey from the north-east of England. This year he's made three amazing EPs full of dreamy, cloud-surfing melodies. You can buy the latest EP from his Bandcamp and pick up the other two for free. You will notice that he writes a lot of songs about cats, so that's mainly what we spoke about.
Waskerley Way looks nice.
The Waskerley Way is cycle path that runs by the town of Consett in County Durham where I'm originally from— it basically follows an old railway line that was used by the local steelworks. When I was younger I'd go on long walks there with my dad as well as ride my bike along it when I had nothing better to do. My family still lives in Consett so I sometimes go back there to have a look. I know it's becoming something of a cliche in these lo-fi circles, but there's definitely a nostalgic element fundamental to my reasoning behind naming my project after the cycle path.
You sometimes sample old computer games. What's your favourite?
There are too many to mention! Among my absolute favourites are Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo classics like Super Metroid and Urban Strike, as well as some lesser-known ones like Gynoug, Crossfire and Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun. I'm great at things like side-scrolling shooters but utterly hopeless at the games they make now, so I don't bother with them. Too expensive anyway.
When did you start making music?
I started my first band when I was 14, playing guitar and singing in a pretty typical teenage rock band. Since then I've been in a ton of other bands but I've more or less settled on doing this Waskerley Way thing for now. The obvious advantage of having a solo project is that you only have yourself to answer to! The first Waskerley Way tracks that anyone really paid attention to were recorded over the summer - I considered it to be a hobby more than anything, and so it remains. I just program some loops using a sequencer (and/or mess about with a sample if I hear something that tickles me), then layer guitars, clarinet and vocals over the top, adding, removing and rearranging bits and pieces until I have something I'm happy with. I finish tracks in a speedy manner because once I start something new I can't sleep until it's at least vaguely close to completion, for excitement and fear of forgetting my ideas! I'm a big fan of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti series of albums where he recorded everything himself, so I suppose he's a significant influence. I think his latest album is great too!
As it's the end of the year, what music have you enjoyed in 2010?
My favourite album of 2010 is a self-titled effort by an acoustic two-piece from New York City called Hank and Pigeon. I went over there back in February to play some acoustic shows and one night they were on the same bill as me. They played a beautiful, beguiling set. They sound a little bit like Low, but rawer. I really liked How To Dress Well this year too; he has some pretty special songs. As for older music, I was on clarinet in an ensemble that played Glassworks by the 20th century minimalist composer Philip Glass. I wasn't familiar with the piece before we started rehearsing it. It's definitely one of my favourite recent finds.
2010 has been a pretty good year for you. What do you hope to do next year? World domination?
I haven't the faintest idea. I'll continue to make music at home as Waskerley Way for as long as I enjoy it, though it'd be difficult for me to tour behind it extensively or anything like that because I went back to school to do a degree this year and I want to do a good job of it. That said, it'd be fun to play some more shows and maybe put out an album if someone's willing to throw some money behind such a release. To be totally honest, I don't think the glo-fi/chillwave/whatevergaze scene is built to last, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if the music goes out of vogue, as it were, and the people that previously loved this stuff begin to get really tired of it. My first two online EPs were free and were downloaded an unfathomable amount of times, whereas the EP I released the other day isn't free so relatively few people are checking it out, which I think is quite telling!
What's with all the cats?
I don't have a particularly good answer for you, I don't even know all that much about cats! All I really know is that they're excellent. There were loads of cats hanging around my street back in the summer - one cat in particular would follow me and then stop and look away when I turned around, as if it was trying to fool me into thinking it wasn't following me. The song "Cat Alert" is about that not-so-sneaky cat.
Download: Waskerley Way, "Cat Alert"
What's your favourite cat song?
My favourite cat song is All Cats Are Grey by The Cure, though I'm quite sure it isn't actually about cats. Maybe The Love Cats, also by the The Cure? Robert Smith looks like a scruffy cat.