SPENDING a morning in the company of Sushil K Dade, better known as Future Pilot AKA, is exhausting. At his home in Bearsden, there is tea to be made: "I'll just go out to the garden and milk the cows, ha, ha, ha, only joking. I'm the Future Pilot and I need fuel!" There are his two small children to be entertained: "I'm just going to connect my son to the universe". And there are tablas, cavernous Punjabi dhol drums and acoustic guitars to be played.
As father and six-year-old son noisily strum the three chords of Batman while talking constantly, it's not hard to see why Dade has developed a sore throat over the festive break. Quite simply, and in the nicest possible way, he is completely and utterly bonkers. On personality alone, it's no wonder he has been such a fixture on Glasgow's underground music scene for the past 20 years.
The Scottish-Asian experimental musician began his career playing bass in the Soup Dragons, the Bellshill baggy punk-rock outfit that in the Eighties kickstarted the careers of artist Ross Sinclair and Paul Quinn, who would go on to be in Teenage Fanclub. Since then Dade has been in the BMX Bandits, turned down touring with Kylie, been championed by John Peel, worked as a driving instructor (alumni from his 'Future Pilot' driving school include most of Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits and The Pastels) and, under his bizarre moniker Future Pilot AKA, collaborated with a cornucopia of musicians from all over the world.
He made his first album with Falkirk bassist and composer Bill Wells. He got Philip Glass to talk about recording with Ravi Shankar over one of his tracks, and Belle and Sebastian vocalist Stuart Murdoch to recite 10 minutes of devotional Hindu chanting over another. Along the way he has worked with artists including Cornershop, Alan Vega and Mikey Dread.
Future Pilot's latest offering, entitled Secrets From The Clockhouse because "it felt like we were inside this mad building, the Clockhouse in India, and we were making secret music for the universe" - it was made in a converted stable in Glasgow - is no less star-studded. Suffice to say it includes a live recording of Alasdair Gray taking a psychometric test.
What do the neighbours make of Dade's music-making, most of which is thrashed out in his house and adjoining garage? In Future Pilot AKA's spirit of collaboration and "seizing the moment", they join in. "Have you seen Rear Window?" asks Dade in his wonderfully camp, falsetto voice. "When we first moved in I would be sitting here playing bass while everyone was sleeping and the walls were vibrating. I looked over the road and saw one of the neighbours, this wee guy, playing saxophone. I thought, 'he'd be great in my band'."
Being Dade, it wasn't long before he was catapulting over the road to introduce himself, and sure enough, they've ended up working together. He is so full of energy and unbridled enthusiasm that it's not surprising people rarely turn down the opportunity to collaborate with him. Before recording the "skeleton" of Secrets From The Clockhouse over three days in Glasgow a couple of years ago, Dade sent out invitations to more than 60 of his friends, family and musicians. Many turned up, and when they did, an instrument was thrust into their hands.
Other neighbours and local children regularly join in the Sunday jam sessions in his garage, which Dade says have produced many albums' worth of recordings. His saxophonist neighbour has set up a music therapy course at a nearby hospital, where Dade is considering recording his next album.
If there is one, that is. Having worked with most of the cream of Scotland's music scene and, as he repeatedly says, feeling like he has "been there, done that, got the T-shirt", Dade wants to do some-thing completely different next time round. He might make an album in a school because he loves the acoustics in assembly halls and thinks out-of-tune school pianos are "incredible". Failing that, a hospital or aircraft hangar appeals.
Dade has worked with most of the people he wants to here, and as with his lauded second album A Galaxy Of Stars, which traversed the globe on a labyrinthine musical journey, he is keen to look beyond the borders of Scotland.
"I'm not closing the door or turning my back on Scotland because I love it so much, but I kind of feel this album is a good conclusion," he says. "I don't want to make out that this is the end of Future Pilot, but I think it's important to move on. To be honest, I feel like I need to go to a different country to record. Maybe I'll go to Cuba... no, Tokyo!"
Dade's latest album, perhaps best described as an eastern folk-pop-free jazz stramash, does seem particularly grounded in Scotland, with contributions from Gray ("the Andy Warhol of Glasgow's West End"), Karine Polwart, Unkle Bob and Concerto Caledonia, as well as Sonic Youth, the Go-Betweens, and the Stooges.
It may be a stellar line-up, but it's the contributions of Dade's wife, Vinita (vocals), and son (percussion), a "pilot in training" who has already contributed to two records and even designed the album art for an upcoming compilation of underground music from Scotland, that seem to matter most. Dade's 20-month-old daughter may not have any albums under her nappy belt yet, but he confirms that "she is a rocker".
He has also given up the driving lessons (because "now I'm like, death to cars") and is working full-time as a radio producer at the BBC. But judging by how many instruments he has picked up while I've been here, music won't be on the back burner for long.
It was Dade's father, an avid collector of Indian instruments, who turned him on to music when the family was growing up in Maryhill. "On Sundays there were jam sessions and all the uncles would come around in their flares and tank tops," Dade recalls. "My dad played sitars, tablas, harmoniums, but he was no virtuoso. He just had enthusiasm and that's where I got my attitude from. There are too many things in the world to be scared of, so playing music is the last thing you should fear." Under his Future Pilot guise Dade has persuaded drummers to play triangles, and guitarists to take up keyboards because he likes the innocence of picking up an instrument for the first time.
The Dades are also huge fans of Robert Burns and Future Pilot AKA recently spent five days holed up in a mansion in Dumfries with musicians including King Creosote and Karine Polwart, writing some 50 songs in the spirit of Burns which culminated in concerts in Stirling's Tolbooth. He is also curating a Burns Mela as part of Celtic Connections which will include artists such as Johnny Kalsi and the Dhol Foundation, bhangra DJs, Dundee's Michael Marra, flautist Michael McGoldrick, tabla virtuosos, major Indian musicians and "Ravi Burns on sitar". Future Pilot AKA, with mystery guests, will perform dub versions of Burns songs and Alasdair Gray will do a reading. All appears to be well in the Future Pilot AKA universe.
• Secrets From The Clockhouse is out on Jan 22 (Creeping Bent). The Burns Mela, Jan 28, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow