‘IT’S been a total whirlwind of a crazy old year,” says Kenny ‘King Creosote’ Anderson, at home in the East Neuk of Fife, “but it’s 2013, so what did we expect?”
He’s not exaggerating. The year started on a miserable low for him, as the dissolution of his professional relationship with fellow Fence Records traveller Johnny Lynch gave way to a nasty ankle break just before he was due to embark on a national tour (a tour which he completed nonetheless).
Fast forward to a much happier end of the year, taking in more additions to a prodigious recorded output on the way, and he’s had another child, and will also be one of the key names performing as part of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations. “We haven’t played Hogmanay for a while,” he says, “and I guess it’s about time we did it again, although I may have been in a diazepam haze when I agreed. Last year I was playing the Golf Hotel in Crail, so this’ll be a bit different.”
Anderson says he’ll have his full band of eight or nine “depending on who can face actually playing Hogmanay”, although his appearance the next day at the Scot:Lands concert treasure hunt around the city will be more sedate. “I’m anticipating a few hangovers in the band,” he says, “so I’ll be curating Lobster:Land, which is one of ten events trying to recreate a part of Scotland, and a bit of a flavour of what they’re about.”
Unsurprisingly, his neck of the woods for this project is Fife. “I’ve enlisted fellow musicians Withered Hand, Gummi Bako and others,” says Anderson, “and an artist who lives across from me in Crail called Kenny Drew. He held an exhibition in Pittenweem this year where he dressed up as a grumpy fisherman and showed all this sea-related glassware. I’ve also gone to the museum cap in hand and asked to borrow some creels and fishing nets – we’re going to try to recreate the quiet of the East Neuk.”
It seems like that quiet might have been getting to him a little earlier in the year, because his usual liveliness was curtailed by five months on crutches with a double leg break – he didn’t quite appreciate the severity of it at the time, he says now. He’s since heard of people with similar nasty injuries whose healing hasn’t gone well and who have had their foot removed, but at the time he struggled on bravely.
The tour wasn’t a great experience, as he recalls, but there appears to have been a certain satisfaction in making it over the finish line. “There were a few funny moments trying to get on escalators and so on,” he says, “but even just getting on and off stage in small venues, it’s so easy to muck that up. I very quickly realised how hard it was to get out of who I am and get zoned into the job, I was too rooted in Kenny Anderson and I couldn’t get into the KC thing. I’m not one for cancelling shows, but I was really happy to get home.”
Shortly after returning from tour, however, he enjoyed one of the better professional experiences of his year. A week after he got back, at the start of May, he was off again to Mull, to use some studio time he’d booked on the island with Gordon Maclean, artistic director of An Tobar Arts Centre, and what started off as a hobble on to the ferry with no new songs prepared ended two weeks later with his completed Three On This Island record, due out next year. “All of the songs were written as they were being recorded,” he says, “so they were all about the year up to that point. It’s a raw record – probably quite grumpy.”
Featuring Maclean on double bass, his son Sorren on electric guitar and Seonaid Aitken on violin, among others, the record is also described by Anderson as “shoogly”. Thoughts return to his and Jon Hopkins’ Mercury-nominated album Diamond Mine, and how it was described at the time as a record which sounded like Fife – does this one sound like Mull? “Well funnily enough I had a tour cold at the time,” he says, “so when I sang, it didn’t quite sound like me. It sounds raw and as if I’m struggling, and that suits the songs. Not that I want to make it sound awful and say that’s the Mull sound – I’m really, really chuffed with it.”
His other major recording project this year has been the first King Creosote film soundtrack, a collection of new songs and rerecorded old tracks written to score New Zealand director Virginia Heath’s Scots documentary Oursels As Ithers See Us (a working title). “She’s very interested in the Scottish film archive,” says Anderson, “but instead of that top-down look where you get to see royal visits and that sort of thing, this is more of a people story. She’s covered a whole raft of ways of life from around Scotland in the early 20th century and drawn out the stories from them, it’s very poignant and funny. They’re using 12 or 13 of my songs and lots of incidental bits, so I’m basically the narrator.”
When you consider how badly it started, the year’s gone pretty well in the end. Alongside the happy family developments, Anderson speaks of many other projects: of making low-profile recordings to help fund the local boat club; of the satisfaction of hand-making sleeves for reissues of his CD-R back catalogue; and of his involvement in the refurbishment of Anstruther’s Dreel Halls, and the hope it can attract touring bands at some point in the future. He’s written and recorded three times as many songs as last year, somewhere in the thirties, and his calendar is already filling up for 2014.
“I’m keeping myself busy,” he says. “But I’ve always been the same, if I’ve got downtime I fill it with something else. When I had the leg and I was getting the blood tests and so on, they found out my thyroid runs pretty fast. I just have to be doing something, I always have to be getting into a guddle.” Long may it continue into next year and beyond.
• King Creosote plays the Hogmanay Street Party’s Scottish Stage, Edinburgh, on 31 December; and Scot:Lands at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh, 1 January