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Lord Cut-Glass interview: A real touch of glass

LABEL boss, session musician for well-known friends, one quarter of Scotland's most indie band (retired), traveller, comic book fan – Alun Woodward is surely Scottish music's very own renaissance man. How strange, then, that he's only just got round to releasing his debut solo album, four years after his old band the Delgados split up.

"I started working on new songs almost as soon as the band broke up," says Woodward, once he's finished enthusiastically recalling his recent co-headline tour around Japan with Aidan Moffat. Moffat is signed to Glasgow-based Chemikal Underground, the label Woodward runs with his fellow ex-Delgados and the first home of Moffat's old band Arab Strap. The pair played in each other's bands, found a museum dedicated to classic manga Lone Wolf and Cub and soaked up the country's architecture.

"I wasn't happy with the first bunch of songs, though," he says. "It felt like I was subconsciously filling in the other parts exactly the way the rest of the Delgados would have played, so I scrapped them and started over again. I wanted the songs to have their own voice, I didn't want them to sound like the side project of a guy that used to sing in another band."

In the end what he came up with was Lord Cut-Glass, a haughty alter-ego of sorts. "It would be funny if I came on stage on a horse or something," says Woodward. "I'm sure there are people out there who could happily pull that kind of thing off, but I'd feel too uncomfortable. It's just a name, it's just something I read in a book when I wasn't feeling too well and thought was funny, because it sounded so posh. I won't be on stage in my jodhpurs. Only in the press shots. And in bed."

Lord Cut-Glass is a sizeable departure from the Delgados' sound, although Woodward doesn't describe it as a self-conscious effort to be different. "I tried not to think about things I'd done before and just make everything on it sound natural to me, although I decided pretty early on that I didn't need any electric guitars on the record, because I wanted to rely more upon a classical guitar sound. Flamenco guitar is something I've listened to a lot over the last couple of years, so I lent a couple of those albums to Paul (Savage, producer and ex-Delgados drummer) when it came time to record the songs. That was more a stylistic studio reference for him, because those guys can really play like f*** and I can't."

Where Woodward's current musical output is rich and elegant, awash with strings, brass and some beautiful compositional elements, his lyrics are often cuttingly direct and to the point. For example, of Even Jesus Couldn't Love You he says: "A lot of people really deserve to have a song like that written about them." He won't elaborate on whom, if anyone, such barbs might be directed at, but he's happy to tell the stories behind some of the album's lighter moments. Picasso, for example, is about "a girl I was friends with as a teenager who was about to go off to a convent. I thought that was a bad idea because I fancied her – it was the wrong decision for her to go and spend her life covered away when there was this wee guy that wanted to go out with her. It seemed a dreadful loss. She was good at art, that's why it's called Picasso.

"I'm generally quite shameless when it comes to writing about people I know, though. It can cause problems. But the funny thing is, one of my friends came up to me recently and said, 'That song Even Jesus Couldn't Love You – that's f***ing about me, isn't it?' No it's not, but it's really funny that you think it is. I think it was the 'cocaine, pills and tat' line that he recognised."

Another track on the album with a particularly memorable lyric is Look After Your Wife, which Woodward describes as an observational piece. "I sometimes think there's an eagerness on people's part," he says, "to get a wife or a husband the same way you get a new bike or a house, like it's something you have to do to complete the set of growing up. That's how people end up in these dreadful relationships that are like takeovers more than they are partnerships. If it's a selfish pursuit to wait around and decide what you really want from life, even if it is just going to the pub with your mates every night, then there's nothing wrong with that."

While Woodward's songwriting has been missed on the Scottish music scene, particularly as his old Delgados writing partner Emma Pollock has already established a solo career, this musical comeback isn't quite the day job. "I get the same out of Chemikal Underground as I always have," he says of the label he's still involved with daily, "which is a mixture of elation and depression. It's always been a hard business, it probably was 30 years ago and it still is in the current climate. What I get from it, I don't really know – I just like finding bands, thinking they can do well and then being able to work with them. That was something else I loved about Japan, bringing back loads of albums and then wondering if I could sell a record sung in Japanese to anyone in this country.

"I guess it's the same as making my own music. If I wasn't releasing records, I'd still be writing the music. I like doing it and I can't seem to stop."

&#149 Lord Cut-Glass plays at King Tut's, Glasgow, on 27 June. His eponymous debut album is out now on Chemikal Underground.

 
 
 

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