King Creosote – aka Kenny Anderson – is co-founder of the Fife-based Fence Collective, a veteran of some 40 solo albums and, with the 2011 album Diamond Mine, the sometime Mercury-nominated collaborator of Jon Hopkins.
His latest Domino-released album Astronnaut Meets Appleman explores the tension and harmony between tradition and technology – between analogue and digital philosophies – and also invokes a feeling, King Creosote says, of “being caught between heaven and earth”.
Ahead of the new album’s release we asked Kenny to mine his favourite albums by other people, for King Creosote’s This Music Made Me…
What with my dad’s status as one of Scotland’s renowned accordion players and local record shop owner you’d think that our house would’ve reverberated with ’70s music of some sort or other. Not so. Until I was 14 I only ever heard Radio 1 blaring from passing car radios so I naturally assumed the Doppler Effect was something built into all forms of chart music, and to date only Franz Ferdinand‘s Take Me Out single sounds proper to my ears.
Aged seven, I was pressganged into a life long service aboard HMS Squeezebox. My well meaning grandmother, thinking she’d spotted me eyeing up the dozen or so cassettes she kept in the cupboard below the TV, would’ve no doubt gone to fetch something by Bobby Macleod or The Tartan Lads. Little did she know that while her back was turned I was two cupboards along getting stuck into a tub of glacé cherries.
Spin on 40 years though and I’m sure she would have been delighted to see my own tape collection installed on the very same shelves, and equally thrilled to hear the classic Scottish dance band line up of accordion, double bass, fiddle and drums that we utilised to full tartan effect on King Creosote’s Astronaut Meets Appleman LP.
Every Langlands Primary School report card of mine contained this parting shot :- Kenneth would do better if he paid attention to what was going on in the classroom instead of looking out the window.
Gamely trailing my newly shod feet into Kilrymont Secondary School in August 1979 I vowed there’d be a sea change, but all of a sudden nothing made sense anymore – the uniforms, the teachers’ faces, the coat hooks, the classes and even the views from second story windows were all devoid of colour – and in particular the subjects of French and English were utterly bamboozling for one only good at “sums”.
For 2 years I spent my days fighting back tears of disappointment and dread, wistfully calculating how old I’d be come the year 2000 and beyond, when without warning 1981 engulfed me in a new romantic whirlwind of alcohol, fashion, girls and music. In such life-affirming songs as Fade To Grey, The Damned Don’t Cry, Night Train and In The Year 2525 I now understood that my early teenage life only lacked eyeliner, face paint and a crazy hair do.
Outside of my rent and meagre living costs a lot of my student grant went on music and the equipment needed to play or make music. As a reward for scraping over yet another hurdle of term exams I would down a quarter bottle of vodka and fresh orange and jump aboard my no-frills bike, head for HMV on Princes Street and spend whatever cash I had left on refills for my Walkman.
This particular day and in my inebriated headlong rush to buy Talk Talk’s Spirit Of Eden I flew straight into and over the back of a stationery cab and landed miraculously unscathed in a pile beside the passenger door. The next thing I knew the door flew open and gave me a good clout on the head.
A few hours later I was on the Stagecoach to Aberdeen, hungover and sore all over, bitterly regretting my choice of this weird new music until out of nowhere I Believe In You seemed to thrill my entire being as the bus crossed the hump of the Forth Road Bridge. The dent on my head now tingled with something quite other worldly and as I ruefully traced the worn groove on the sole of my right trainer I vowed to fix a brake or two onto my bike.
Within a day of arriving in Amsterdam on the first, and as it turned out our only, day of inter-railing, Bruce Bell and I found ourselves squeezed into our rockabilly Dutchman’s Renault 18 as part of a five-piece busking band boasting an accordion, mandolin, double bass, banjo and fiddle.
I was a complete novice when it came to playing music on the street, and we quickly swapped our set of safe Irish and Scottish reels and jigs for the wilder hoedown of bands like the Kentucky Colonels.
Not only was I overjoyed to learn that America had added words to many of our tired traditional tunes, I also grew to love tape hiss and vowed to un-box my Fostex 4-Track as soon as I got home.
During my second year of busking, the band had withered to a part time duo, and instead of playing accordion I found myself being driven across much of France towards ever more exotic sounding market towns carrying a load of dodgy street merchandise.
The constant paper whispering of “French jail” from the boot was largely drowned out by this masterpiece … Oh, and a bit of Vivaldi now and then from driver Eric’s collection.
Les Negresses Vertes just sounded like they were having a whale of a time, and without having to lug amplifiers, so I set my sights on an acoustic record deal.
On my return from Europe in 1991 my brother Iain and I upgraded our gate lodge on Teasses Estate for No 2 Gardener’s Cottage, and within months our recently departed neighbour Spike changed his mind and moved himself, his girlfriend Debbie, and his entire 23 collection back onto the Estate and into the gate lodge.
What with there being no electricity down there, he’d entertain himself by phoning us in the dead of night and playing battery powered tape loops from the band Ween down the line.
I both love and hate Ween in equal measure, but they were definitely the band to listen to when venturing back onto the Fostex 4 Track, especially in early autumn when the fields around us pure filled with magic mushrooms.
My brother and I moved onto Brigton Estate on the south side of St Andrews in spring 1996, and over the summer the Pigeons worked on their demo tape from the flat he shared with John Maclean in Streatham.
I was still reeling from having just heard Dry The Rain and I Am Unknown when Gordon snatched the tape away and shoved this onto the stereo proclaiming London to be a pit of evil and that we should listen to the most beautiful and heavenly piece of music ever written instead.
The Pigeons soon after became The Beta Band, and regarding the wheel of musical geniuses that Taverner spins on it is easy to slide my brother’s five-song demo tape into the spokes like a well thumbed football card.
Like my dad before me I ended up running an ailing music shop with a pal on South Street, St Andrews, but unlike my old man I actually enjoyed some of the music we were trying to sell to students alongside the White Ladders, Plays and Be Here Nows of the era.
I moved the fledgling label fence records into the back shop and we soon began to attract the local musical oddballs with our daily shop playlists and our display of cryptic posters for our label live shows in Aikman’s Bistro.
Sparklehorse had a big influence on the King Creosote records I was making at the time, and I miss him a lot.
Knowing fine my propensity for off-kilter and untidy loops, Gav Broon aka onthefly gave me a present of this album I think to educate me in the finer art of sampling and looping.
This is one of the few albums I own that will coax the question “Who is this?” from a late night listener.
A fortnight ago I was finally going through a box of CDs that I moved out of my old Fence office and shoved on a two-album collection from this duo of Simeon and Dan Taylor. Holy shit. I’ve played little else since, and I am eyeing up my sequencer, synth and drum machine with apple relish alright.
This is the future, and I already hear many of my favourite bands in this music, not least the brilliant Archie Bronson Outfit. Further into the collection on the song Ruby, a banjo makes an appearance and I am struck by how close the busking Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra of the early ’90s came close to something that is actually cool as f*ck, and that King Creosote’s irreverent sampling techniques are nothing new by the standards of these NY psych groove pioneers.
King Creosote’s album Astronaut Meets Appleman is out now through Domino. He plays London’s Hoxton Hall on 7 September 2016. Tour dates and further information can be found here.