Laish – Interview – 2016

Laish is the song-writing project of Danny Green, a sensitive, introspective singer-songwriter, now based in London, who we’ve been following for some time at Brightonsfinest. Formed in 2008, while he was also drumming for Sons of Noel and Adrian, Green’s band quickly became part of the much-feted Willkommen Collective, at the centre of Brighton’s alternative folk scene. Having released a couple of albums, recorded at home, Laish were off, with great support from BBC Radio and a live show that took him as far afield as India and Israel. The latest Laish album, Pendulum Swing, recently released in November 2016, was partially crowdfunded and the first recorded in a professional studio. It’s a triumph of a record which seems to be catapulting the group to new heights, with a really positive critical reception. I asked Danny a few questions to find out more…

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Wakefield and spent most of my younger years in Ilkley, the sort of place you go for a nice Sunday walk and a cup of tea.

Is there much of a music scene there?
Ilkley no, but it is only a 30 minute train to Leeds. I remember back then, the thirty minute journey felt like an age. Leeds had a very interesting scene. My cool older friend, James, used to give me obscure music and invite me to shows of the most unusual bands he could find in Leeds. There was a healthy post-rock, post-punk, experimental noise scene happening. I was drawn to bands like Hood, a local band who had released probably hundreds of records of bedroom lo-fi experiments and more polished albums released on Domino. I loved being musically challenged, finding the most uncomfortable, noisy weird shit and just enduring it. Absorbing the awkward energy of what is essentially unenjoyable, punishing music. You suck it in with a grimace like a cigarette. I did my first show at the Packhorse, as Cabinet, my band with Rob Cunningham. We used to play gentle instrumental music inspired by Tortoise, Jim O'Rourke, Mogwai and Godspeed. We didn't want to be punishing and loud ourselves.

When did you move to Brighton and what made you come down here?
I moved to Brighton the summer of 2007. I was previously in Newcastle where I had studied English Literature and Philosophy. I then spent a year in India where I began to find my voice and develop my passion for writing, playing music and travel. Returning to Newcastle felt rather underwhelming and I kept hearing about how amazing the scene was in Brighton, so I just got on a bus and moved down, having never been there before. I was happy I made the move.

You used to play drums with Sons of Noel and Adrian – how did that come to an end, are you still on good terms with them?
Sons of Noel and Adrian are my family and it was hard to leave that band. Drumming with them was such a primal activity. Every week I got to cathartically bash it out and scream my guts out. I really miss that. I got to travel all of Europe and get paid to make music. I learned everything from them. After about six years, I left Brighton and moved to London, desperate for a life etcha-sketch. From the point that I left, Sons pretty much stopped doing shows. I'm excited to see they are now releasing the new album and planning shows.

Pendulum Swing is your third album – how do you feel about it now it's out in the public domain?
Very happy. I find it fascinating seeing the responses come in. Getting messages from friends and supporters telling me they are listening and enjoying. Reading the reviews. Seeing the pirate websites pop up offering free downloads. Radio DJs contacting asking for copies. All this new heightened interest and activity. It does feel good to have three albums behind me, each with a distinct flavour. I feel encouraged to create the next thing. I am desperate to find some regular studio time and get to work on new material.

Did your move to London influence the album?
The songs were written either at the tail end of my days in Brighton, or in the first couple of years while I was in London. I was coming to terms with the end of a relationship and the beginning of a new one. I was getting my head around the idea of being a self-employed person, not having a job job. I began teaching the guitar and songwriting freelance.

Being in London is very inspiring. One is surrounded by hard working, creative people. There is a sense of endless opportunity and potential. It also feels like a high wire act. The rampant consumerism and glittering wealth can be blinding and grotesque but that isn't my world. Despite the horrors of closing venues and rising rents, there is still a healthy musical subculture and a lot of amazing talent endlessly expressing itself.

There's a song called 'Gambling' on the album – is that confessional?
I don't have a gambling problem myself, no. While in Brighton I worked for many years in a call centre and one chap who worked there had a pretty serious gambling problem. He would sit at his desk all day, filling in A4 sheets of squared paper and taking them down to the bookies on his breaks. He often complained about losing large sums of money. I found him to be a tragic/comic sort of character.

How did the launch show go – I hear you had a ten-piece band?
It was beautiful. We were seven. I had picked up a brutal sore throat cough over the weekend but for the show I was able to put it out of my mind and just enjoy it and feel present. We played an extensive set, a Leonard Cohen cover and received our first ever standing ovation.

Will you be touring the album now?
Yes. We needed the album to come out and to get some fresh attention before booking shows so now that people like Steve Lamacq have played ‘Learning to Love the Bomb’ many times, it helps with getting shows. If you're reading this and want to bring Laish to your house gig, local venue etc, then perhaps you can help – why not drop me a line?

You used some crowdfunding to get this album done, how was that process for you?
I've become a bit evangelical when it comes to crowdfunding. I love it and would recommend that anyone try it for their next project. It was incredibly time consuming, but I have never felt so much engagement with my supporters. I felt that for the first time ever, people I knew were actually taking the time to listen to my music. I had asked them to invest in it, and their investment gave them ownership and an interest in the songs that perhaps they had never had before.

What kind of music were you brought up on?
Michael Jackson, Queen, Cliff Richard, Bananarama. Can't you tell?

Can you remember the first album you owned?
The first CD I bought with my own money was Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by Smashing Pumpkins. Still absolutely love that album. It is extraordinary in its ambition and delivery.

What drives you to write music?
At this point in my life it feels like it is the most important aspect of who I am. It is the immortal part. I am happy that I spent all this time and effort in my life to record and share the creative part of me. The sensation of tossing freshly baked tunes into the future is strangely addictive. I just love working on songs. Of course it can often feel like a really futile, arrogant, selfish, stupid thing to do, and the sacrifices any musician makes are endless. But we are all just addicted to the process.

Have you always played the same style of music?
Essentially when it is boiled down, I suppose what I do is indie pop. It was my first love. Britpop and American Grunge. Blur, Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Pulp, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Supergrass, Super Furry Animals. I am finally making the kind of music my 15 year old self would have enjoyed.

Before getting to this place, I explored post rock instrumentals with my band, Cabinet, and improv noise music with Over Kodiak and then I got totally sucked in by the folk movement in Brighton. It was an intense time and the Willkommen Collective was an endless parade of exquisite collaborative songwriting. Sons of Noel and Adrian, The Leisure Society, Kristin McClement, Woodpecker Wooliams, Animal Magic Tricks, Dancehalls, Rowan Coupland. All incredible.

Do you prefer writing music or performing live?
Writing music is the home game, the hard grind of creative energy and real life work with more of a structured routine. Touring is the away game, the journey, the celebration, the public showing and way more chaotic. It is more like living in a dream. I am happy to have both aspects in my life.

What has been the highlight of your musical career so far?
Playing at End of the Road was incredibly special. It felt like I was put in front of an audience who would appreciate what I was doing. I absolutely loved it. And it was a trip being able to wander around backstage and make tea next to people like Stephen Malkmus.

Do you get to go to many gigs? Any highlights of 2016 worth talking about?
Yes I suppose I've been to quite a few great shows. I usually tend to enjoy smaller venues but I've recently found myself at Brixton Academy, the Roundhouse and Shepherds Bush quite frenquently, trying to get my head around the idea of playing in large spaces. This year I have caught shows by Damien Jurado, Sharon Van Etten, Courtney Barnett, Andrew Bird, Ezra Furman, Pixies, Wilco, This is the Kit, Rozi Plain, Alabaster dePlume, Kristin McClement, Benedict Benjamin. Green Man and Smugglers Festivals were also fantastic.

What are your plans for next year?
Touring, writing, collaborating, recording and decorating. I am in the process of moving into a new flat and I am excited about having a new space to live and work in.

Read our review of Pendulum Swing here:
Photo by Daniel Alexander Harris