A Grand Salvo Interview
Grand Salvo aka Paddy Mann is one interesting human being. He writes lullabies about bears trapped under ice, farmhand's stealing his wife and tree's threatening to smash his windows in. It's alternately hauntingly beautiful and quietly devastating. He also has an amazing first serve. Here's some questions posited to him via ye olde chalk and slate...
You seemed to first appear on the music scene pretty wholly formed and confident of what you were doing. i didn't even hear of you before your first record was already out, which seems an anomaly in our town when most bands release a few EPs before they even think about a debut. What's the deal? Did you decide on arriving by stealth or were people just plain ignorant of you beforehand?
I wanted to release an EP, Richard (Pharmacy Records) wanted an album, and we ended up recording enough for an album. I guess it was a kind of gamble in terms of the potential devastation to my confidence if it was panned, but thankfully it was warmly welcomed. I was not wholly formed and confident, I just delivered the songs very quietly and sparsely and to put into it plainly and sincerely only what I had. I knew that to try and simulate some kind of band dynamic would be a total write off, I tried to believe fully in the song while I was playing it. Still I was terrified and didn't know what I was really doing.
I began playing music on my own because I couldn't stand the idea of forming a band with strangers. The old high school band I'd been in had just disintegrated and I couldnt see any way forward from my situation. The idea of putting up an ad, meeting, rehearsing, trail running, accepting or rejecting people was horrendous. And even after that, to then have to offer up my songs to be toyed with and talked and worked into thin air, the whole thing was impossible. Although, I probably would have met some lovely lead guitarists.
Your imagery and kinda 'lone farmhand' sense of loss, colours and inhabits your music vividly. So much so that you don't get much of a sense of you as an individual, which is fairly unique in the folk-singer genre people place you in. do you find your music cathartic in the traditional, confessional sense? are you using these narratives and stories, most placed in distant history, as a protective blanket? Is it starting something new of yourself or finishing something old?
The end of that long question sounds crazy and nonsensical. I've written some very uncomfortably personal and revealing songs, which are made up stories about other peoples pets.
In a world where the singer/songwriter variety tends to get them a $2000 Maton acoustic and a pork pie cap to get up on stage, you tend to use what look at face value, to be shithouse instruments. Yet these bring with you a unique sound. is this important to how grand salvo sounds in the end?
I like to own things that have been used lots before I get a hold of it, preferably for years and years. I love finding a guitar that everyone else has put back down, and fixing it back together just enough for it to play. A thing like a guitar has to have history and tone, a sound that you know is its own. I've played new and expensive Matons and I think they're awfully shit.
A lot of what you do relies on the space you create simply by being a lone figure. Spare playing, odd chord progressions, and words implied or left hanging rather than repeated. Yet you've played on occasion with just one other guitarist, and others up to a full band and string section. But recently you've being performing almost constantly with Zoe, who sings some amazing harmonies with you. How did this come about and did you worry about it upsetting the delicate persona you've constructed so far? Will she be on the next recording and is she now a 'member' of the band?
I'd heard Zoe sing once over a crowded corner hotel and loved it, and I knew that if the situation ever arose I would ask her to sing with me. I knew that her deep mellow tones would perfectly balance my whining falsetto.
I never intended to sing with Zoe so often, but when we began she had a strange mental block about harmonies and needed lots of practice so the early stages were quite intensive, then suddenly it was working and its just stuck from there. I dont trust that many people in the music situation. She will be on the next recording.
You demand silence at gigs, simply through the low volume you play at. Do you find this works to your advantage, people getting self-conscious/silent etc, or does it remain a test to see whether you cut through at all?
The way I play, the volume and the delivery and everything, is something people can either lean into or ignore. So people end up concentrating or just talking over it. In the early days it was mostly talking. Ive had some terrible shaftings in my time, it just has to be the wrong room or crowd and its like a strange self-imposed humiliation.
Often too, because I never play any harder, I'm completely inaudible. Of course on the other hand some shows can be almost silent, these are what make it justifiable.
If you were to make it there, your cover sticker at HMV would boil it down to say 'think Will Oldham, iron and wine, smog, cat power etc' - do you feel like you're playing the part of that quasi-mythical cathartic story-telling guy, or are there other more disparate influences you draw upon?
HMV labels and interview questions. I'm just like most other musicians, I rip people off and I do my own thing. I like applying the techniques of others to a completely incongruous idea. All the core ideas though; the moments your trying to capture, they have to be your own. You have to listen to your neuroses.
And lastly, what's next? Your music and live show strikes me as the kind of offering that would do well in other parts of the world, especially considering the track record of the artists mentioned above. Are you going to stick it out in Australia for a while or take it overseas? And what new recording/s you got comin up?
As soon as I get distribution overseas I'll go and play until they listen, or until they talk me into the ground. I just need someone whos not me to set it all up. The next album is almost done, it is cursed and has taken a very long time. Its going to be a childrens story book album.