“He’s the Chorlton-cum-Springsteen anti-superstar.”—Paul Morley
Has it really been a decade? It feels a lot longer. It feels like yesterday.
It was June 2000 when the Mercury-winning, seminal The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, announced the arrival of the badly drawn genius of Damon Gough. It’s been a curious, wonderful, inimitable, unpredictable decade of major prizes and minor incidents, all possibilities and pissing in the wind, at the end of which we find Goughstarting the new decade as he did the last…at a creative peak, and back on his own label. “It feels like a new beginning in a lot of ways,” nods a refreshed and revitalised Gough over a pint in a Manchester beer garden, “it definitely feels like I’m on a roll.”
Penning the soundtrack to last year’s Caroline Aherne film The Fattest Man in Britain sparked a period of unprecedented creativity for Gough, resulting in a wealth of great new songs. Invigorated and inspired by the approach of artists like mid-period Bob Dylan or Neil Young, who would go into the studio to record an album when the songs were flowing, rather than when the music industry cycle dictated to them, Goughdecided the best way to capture this surge, and give the songs the exposure they deserved was to release a trilogy of albums. “I’ve got such a wealth of ideas I want to work on,” explains Gough. ”and intrinsically, as a creative person, you don’t want to switch off the flow of ideas, because that’s what keeps you ticking.”
The trilogy is called It’s What I’m Thinking—”It’s just a wry comment on the fact that that’s all I’m doing, just writing the songs, and within the songs is what I’m thinking”—and the subheading of the first album is Photographing Snowflakes. “I was having a drink one night with some friends and someone said ‘What do you think is the hardest job ever?’” explains Gough, “And to me it’s got to be photographing snowflakes. It’s impossible. People do it but I’ve no idea how they do it.” It’s also an analogy for what Gough wants to achieve with this trilogy, grabbing those moments or songs that come from nowhere and capturing the moment. Photographing snowflakes.
Through the falling snowflakes of the first album the picture that emerges of Badly Drawn Boy coming to terms with a new maturity—”Throw me to the lions, make me a man” he sings on The Order Of Things, and “All I ask is you treat me like a man” on You Lied—and a period of reflection and reevaluation. “Well for a while I thought it was amazing, and I still think you’re the one” he explains on A Pure Accident, “I know you will forgive me, for the things that I’ve done wrong, I’m sorry I never liked your favourite song.”
Being back on his own label, and working closer again with longtime collaborator Andy Votel, has also re-energized Gough. “It feels like everything has reconnected to what I’m doing.” Having originally made his name on Twisted Nerve, the label he founded in the late 90s with Votel, there feels a certain synchronicity with Gough, having spent much of the decade on major labels, being back on his own label. “I don’t want to slag off major labels,” he stresses, but with the industry going through a period of flux, “things have almost by default come back to my way of thinking.”
There are plans for future one-off Badly Drawn Boy releases, like the original release of ‘I Love You All’ as a music box but, stresses Gough, “the important thing is it will all be driven by me, and by whatever suits the songs.”