Bill Cummings 03/12/2010
Under appreciated is an oft overused word in the music industry, but Cardiff based singer/songwriter/promoter and cult local musical figure John MOuse aka John Davies is certainly that. Starting out his musical life in JT Mouse(who released one album and a series of Eps) an outfit made up of the talents of local indie stars Sweet Baboo, Spencer McGarry (of the Spencer McGarry Season), Rhun Lenny, Mike Kowalski (both went onto play in Zabrinski). Other players included Paul Jones (of the Room Orchestra and the Jones O'Conner group), V Lloyd, the drummer from the Big leaves all led by the song writing talent of John Davies(aka John MOuse).
When they split in 2006 he released his first solo album, under a new Moniker John MOuse, his second solo album'Humber Dogger Forties' is one of the cult sleeper albums of the year in these parts. An album that touches on elements of country, folk, and nearly shambolic indie redolent of the Fall and early Pulp, but is shot through with John's unique delivery and schizophrenic musical palette. Switching from the twisted streams of consciousness that characterise 'Sex With You' and the wonky string-led gay incest of 'The Last Great Rhonda Romance', through to bitter sweetness of toe-tapping ditties like 'If I were an Oyster' that's vaguely reminiscent of the Mouldy Peaches and playful pop culture references and relationship metaphors of recent dance floor filler 'Got You Shaking your head (like David Gray)” or the 60s flecked ghostly balladry of 'Corney Island.' 'Humber Dogger Forties' is an album full of heart, imagination and tunes, tackling its themes of dysfunctional relationships and childhood memories with a real relish: it's a genuinely splendid long player! I caught up with John for a brief delve into his mind via the medium of email:
Hi John, how are you today?
Just arrived at Parc Hall, recovering from a cold, that everyone seems to have had, tired from a lack of sleep from my 2 year old and 4 month old waking up at 2am and then again at 5. But in general, really happy.
Why John MOuse and not John Davies?
When I started releasing solo stuff I did initially put the demo's on Myspace etc under the name John Davies, but then i changed my mind, and went with John MOuse.
I am vaguely aware of your work under the guise JT Mouse and your previous solo album can you give us a brief potted history of your musical work so far?
Ok. So I started on new deal for back in 1999, and they paid for me to record some demos. These demo's were picked up by two small Cardiff Independents. So in 2000 and 2001 they released the 1st JT Mouse single, and an EP. We then toured constantly, including a trip to Germany, where I beat border control travelling without a passport. In 2003 a third Cardiff Independent released the JT Mouse album Clusters.
Then I split the band and returned in 2006 with a collection of home made demos recorded on an analogue 4 track tape "It's A Universal" which was the 1st release under the John MOuse guise which the London based Crocfinger records released. This was followed up by this year's album "Humber Dogger Forties."
Humber Dogger Forties is a cracking album, that really explores memories of childhood and human relationships, over what period did the songs emerge and do you keep a notebook to scribble down the words?
First of all thanks, I am glad that you like it. The songs were written from around 2007 - 2009. I am not a prolific writer in any respects. I could put this down to time constraints, work, family, etc. But maybe that's not the case. I like to do normal things in life so that makes the writing fuller and have more richness.
A notebook. I have tried to keep a notebook, but I am too disorganised, the lyrics are on any peices of paper I can find when I need to write the songs. I do a lot of pre-editing in my mind, thinking of ideas, lyrics, melodies, before anything goes down on paper. Then sometimes the song comes out really easily and sometimes I have to cut back and edit the words I have written. There is no set process: it's quite random.
How would you describe the album in five words?
Really fucking brilliant: go buy!
Who was involved in the production and recording of the album?
It was recorded at Crocfingers HQ by Teddy Crocfingers: who is the songwriter and producer of a great band called Prince Edward Island. They have also recently become my backing band on the few live shows that I have played to promote the album.
Your vocal delivery varies as much as the musical genres tackled on this long player, how intentional are the styles adopted or do the melodies/vocal approach emerge alongside the music/lyrics?
Yes the second one.
Someone in the SWN programme described you as a anti-Folk hero, how do you feel about that?
People can say what they like. That's up to them. I wouldn't describe myself as a hero, and I would not describe the music as anti folk either.
What songwriters would you say you admired, and what albums do you look at as reference points?
OK. Malcolm Middleton is my favourite I reckon and I look to his albums quite frequently. The Prince Edward Island stuff as I don't think you can't help but get influenced by what is close by. I love the lyrics and delivery of Bill Callahan.
I can't say that I admire Bob Dylan: I am more astonished by the immense quality of his song writing. Please note however that I do not aspire to any like Bob Dylan, that is way beyond me.
Music writers have compared you to Beck, Kurt Wagner, early Art Brut and Pulp what do you make of these references?!
Music Writers have to sell magazines and they have to tag you onto bands, artists that the readers would have heard of, so I have no issue with them doing this if the rest of the journalism isn't lazy. However if people read this and think they are going to a replica of one of these bands live then they will be in for a shock, cause I certainly ain't any of them, wouldn't want to be, they are great at what they do, and I do something totally different. I love playing live and winning audiences over. I love seeing smiles on their faces. You can't get that from the album, unless I go into their rooms and listen along side them, but that would be a bit creepy really.
I really love the eclectic nature of the songs I guess it would be impossible to try and clumsily pin the album down to one style, since you touch on country, anti folk, string led pop and even beat boxing all in your unique style! Was the intention when you went into the studio to attempt a different interpretation with each track?
No, quite the opposite. The big problem I had with the JT Mouse album was that is was eclectic and went in different directions all the time. But it just seems to happen. It must just be my nature.
Someone I know referred to the song 'The Last Great Rhonda Romance' as a relationship song with a twist?What's the twist?
It's a gay incest love song, between a midget and a giant.
Your new single "Got you shaking your head (like David Gray)" is really playful, switching from pop culture references to toe tapping singalong what's it actually about? A relationship? A trip to the disco? Is your tongue firmly in your cheek here? You aren't a closet David Gray fan are ya?
Lets clear this up then. I don't really like David Gray, however I did buy the famous album, but took it back to the shop a couple of weeks later. I wanted to write a song that people could dance to in Indie Disco's, so I went to Corcfingers and said i have three Chords and the line, "She said, you've got the coolest friends". I said to him, make it sound like a song you could dance to in an indie disco, a bit like a Pulp song or something. They then sent me a demo version of it, he used a discarded Prince Edward Island Riff, and mumbled some lyrics. It then became a song about the boy in the disco being pissed at his missus cause she thinks his friends are better than him, maybe she is with him to get to his mates.
So I went and recorded the vocal, but it was still missing a hook, so I went away and they came back with the shaking your head line. It's a catchy marmite moment I think. My interpretation is that he has got her shaking her head because she can't believe that he's killed his mates. Then again it might just be a catchy line, you'd have to ask the Teddy Crocfingers.
What's your favourite song on the album?
Got You Shaking Your Head (Like David Gray)
Do you feel proud of former JT Mouse members Steve Black(Sweet Baboo), and Spencer Mcgarry(of the Spencer Mcgarry Season) who both seem to be doing well for themselves these days?
It's always good to see people being creative. I hope they are doing what they want to do. They were key members in JT Mouse, and i wish them success in whatever they do.
What do you make of the Welsh music scene at the moment do you find its a little cliquey sometimes?
I don't know really. I don't go out. So I don't know who is who. Cliquey, I don't know?
Why do you think that not many people have actually heard your music when you consider your prolific output??!
Cause I haven't got loads of money to tell people to listen to it.
What local acts would you recommend to our readers?
Is London local? If so, Prince Edward Island. Welsh bands? I don't know really, I heard one track from the new Gentle Good album , and that sounded really good, like Nick Drake but really authentic. I'm still a bit stuck with the Welsh Bands from a few years back, so maybe people could go and revisit the MC Mabon Albums, or the Zabrinski albums.
Thank you for answering these questions and good luck!
Thanks for asking such lovely questions. All the best John
John MOuse's new single 'Got you shaking your head (like David Gray)' is out now on Croc Fingers records its taken from the album Humber Dogger Forties find out more about both here:
John MOuse- Got you shaking your head (like David Gray) by godisinthetvzine.co.uk