The Scotsman Sessions #318: Mother Night

Welcome to the Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts sector still impacted by the pandemic, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, Isle of Lewis-based musician Callum Alistair Macleod, aka Mother Night, performs his recent single Chronic

As the arts world emerges bumpily from the lockdowns of the past two years, it seems appropriate that the latest Scotsman Session film should take the music out of the living room, the practise pad, the home studio or any other makeshift rehearsal space and embrace the truly great outdoors of the Hebrides.

Mother Night is the electronica alias of Lewis-based musician Callum Alistair Macleod, who self-styles his music as “pagan pop from a misty isle” – and a particularly windy one on this occasion, with Macleod intoning the rhyming quatrains of recent single Chronic against the big sky backdrop of Ness, near the northernmost tip of Lewis, exposing its “big concepts and ancient ideas” to the Hebridean elements.

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“The song is about being at the mercy of fate, like being locked on a path that you can’t ever hope to understand,” says Macleod, “so the title comes from this idea of an incurable condition, but also pertaining to time.”

Mother Night

Macleod first began recording as Mother Night seven years ago, drawing inspiration from chaos theory and Norse mythology, as well as the darkest corners of the discotheque. “I was making weird formless electronic compositions and wanted to make the pivot back to traditional song structures,” he says. “Mother Night marks the beginning of this transition as well as the beginning of my creative relationship with Pete Fletcher of Black Bay Studio, who has collaborated on every Mother Night release and whom I love very dearly.”

Fletcher’s studio is a treasure trove of analogue synthesizers and tape machines, housed in a converted crab processing factory on the island of Great Bernera. Macleod produced Mother Night’s debut album, A Lifetime of Uninhibited Pleasure, from this distinctive setting in spring 2019, spreading the word with live dates on the mainland before the pandemic struck and Macleod returned home.

“I know it was a stressful and painful time for many but I actually had a really nice time in the original lockdown,” he says. “I wrote hours of music, walked in nature, reconnected with family. It came at the end of tumultuous time for me personally, so it was a welcome chance to decompress and take stock of what was important to me. I think it affected Mother Night in the sense I shifted my focus from trying to achieve worldly success to the place I’m in now which is all about creative freedom. Process over outcome is my ethos now.”

Macleod’s plan now is to retire the Mother Child moniker while he’s ahead. “I truly believe this track is the best that Mother Night has to offer, and I think creatively I’ve given this project my all, so now as I enter my third decade on earth I’m going to try and broaden my creative focus for a while and try some other things. So you could call Chronic a swan song I guess, but I doubt I’ll be away for long.”

Chronic is out now on Wee Studio Records