I wonder how many songs have been released featuring just one man and his guitar. It’s got to be a fairly impressive number. It’s tempting to think that this simple combination has already thrown up all its possible permutations in the history of music and that the listening audience of the 21st century demands something just a little more sophisticated.
And such a view would not be unsubstantiated. Anyone who has frequented local gigs or small scale music festivals will know that when the solitary singer-songwriter wanders up to his stool armed with just his trusty acoustic, it may well be a good time to get a drink/go to the loo/go home.
However, I guess a lot depends on that ‘one man’. If, for example, he happens to have wild ginger hair, sprouting from both his scalp and chin, sport a pair of glasses with the lenses wedged into the frames by pieces of cork, and go by the name of Ross Spencer, I warn you- do not, for any reason, leave the room. Instead, find a decent spot and prepare yourself for to be utterly entranced by one of the most immersive and powerful live performances you’ll ever experience.
Ross is an incredible talent who has already produced one of my all time favourite albums (Ego Mute) and has just released a new 3 track EP, featuring title track ‘Fallujah’ (performed at SputnikLive last year, see the above video).
We caught up with him and submitted him to the Sputnik interrogation. I’ve split it in two to help those of you with limited attention spans- part 1 today and part 2 next time. Have a read and then go and find out what I’m on about by buying his new EP (here)
Who are you and why do you make music?
I am D Ross Spencer (secret Dave, always been called Ross), and I’ve been writing and performing my own songs since my late teens. Other than that I like to skateboard, draw weird cryptic patterns, and look at the hidden geometry in trees (note to self, stop showing off).
Why music? I guess it helps me connect with my feelings, it’s a wonderful balm for the soul, and it’s like an exploration, diving in caves without a map.
Also, I just read an excerpt from an essay by John Fowles which explains Prof. Gilbert J. Rose’s proposition that some children retain a memory of the transition from an infant who identifies with the mother, to a singular entity and the dawning of a reality in which they are in some sense, alone. It reminds me of our separation from perfect unity and continual community with God. Anyway, what he goes on to say is that these children go on to be artists, in an attempt to recreate that state of unity, of oneness, and in a way going back to that place on behalf of others.
Your lyrics are consistently fantastic, seeming at once intensely personal yet also readily relevant to me, as a listener. How do you usually write lyrics? Do you have a usual method or way of writing or is it more spontaneous?
My favourite way to write is on the spur of the moment, when I jam one out for an audience or with friends, but most of those songs, ‘Rhubarb’ being an exception, are only there for the moment and can’t be retrieved. So when I compose by myself I let the music develop to a point where I feel moved to jump in, till I’m ‘feelin’ it’ as they say in street vernacular (do they still say that?) Then I see where The Spirit leads me.
The words are often connected to pictures and moods in my head, which is how I then remember them, replaying the film so to speak, and reliving feelings.
I don’t have much confidence that I can communicate my thoughts directly in a way that people won’t find patronising or boring, or that I really have anything of much importance to say that hasn’t already been said, so I rely on vagaries, collage, and unstructured thoughts and songs.
I find the themes of small animals, a sense of wonder and worship, and a pining for resolution and justice coming back again and again. Fruit and veg seem to often crop up in my freestyling as well, along with fierce animal alliances planning rebellious raids with the aid of hot air balloons. There’s a head film still in development, not sure how that one ends yet. Plenty of angry badgers and hedgehogs though, for sure.
Sputnik will keep everyone informed as to when Ross’ angry badger film is being released! We’ll be back with part 2 of the interview early next week.