Band Interview: Marshall Chipped

Marshall Chipped Photo

So first of how did you all meet?

I got to know Michael first through a mutual friend on the open mic circuit around Glasgow around five years ago, then met his brother Peter through hanging out with a crowd of us that would go to jam nights and house parties around the city. MJ, my flatmate at the time and I were often up at Michael’s flat, or they’d be down at our place jamming.

There was no grand plan to form a band at that point though, I was doing Marshall Chipped as a solo project then. I’d record things at home with me playing all the guitars and bass over drum machines. It was just a home studio recording project at that point, but eventually I got the itch to start doing it live again.

For a while we were rehearsing as a four piece with Peter on drums, Michael on lead guitar and an old friend of mine Jimmy McKee on bass. That lasted until Michaels wanderlust took hold and sent him hitchhiking around Europe for a year. We carried on as a three piece and recorded the ‘Time And Distance’ album. Around the time Michael came back over Jimmy was looking to return to uni and retire from the music scene so that’s where the current line up started.

Where are you all from?

Michael and Peter are from Edinburgh, I grew up in Ayr. That’s where the band’s name comes from, I’ll get on to that later…

How long have you been playing your respective instruments?

Longer than I care to remember! I started learning to play guitar in my last year at school, although it was first year at uni when I really started getting somewhere with it and could just about call myself an adequate strummer, a standard I’ve just about held to ever since!

What genre of music do you consider your work to be and what are your influences?
It’s mostly a pretty indie-pop sound, all jangly guitars and vocal harmonies. It’s a weird mix of influences between the three of us though. I’m the band’s indie obsessive, I was a teenager during the Britpop years and know the R.E.M., The Cure and The Smiths back catalogues inside out, so all the jangly rickenbacker stuff comes from me. Michael and Pete bring pretty different things in to the mix, playing as they do in noiser grunge and metal bands (They’re also members of Visceral Noise Department, Midnight Force and Pyre Of The Earth) so they bring that in which stop songs from getting too indie mopey!

Do you do covers and if so what’s your go to?

Very occasionally we’ll throw a cover into the mix during a Marshall Chipped set. We all busk, and Pete and I briefly played in a covers band a year ago so we have a pretty varied and random selection of material we can draw on when we do have the urge to throw something into the set. I think the last one we actually did on stage was a sped up punk take on Sleeper’s Inbetweener.

What if anything does your name mean/why are you called that?

I said earlier on I grew up in Ayr. I’m an Ayr United fan, and the club has a fierce rivalry with Kilmarnock. There’s not a lot of places to gig in Ayrshire, and when I was starting out doing gigs down home it often involved going over to Kilmarnock. The name was picked purely to wind up someone who’d agreed to book me! It comes from the 1999 Scottish Cup, Ayr and Kilmarnock were drawn together in an Ayrshire Derby match. Kilmarnock were expecting a walk-over but Ayr won 3-0. The third goal has gone down in Ayr United legend, Andy Walker dinked the ball right over the head of Killie keeper Gordon Marshall and dropped it into the back of the net – Marshall Chipped…

Do you have a process for writing your songs? /Which of you writes the songs?

Usually what happens is I’ll get an idea for a chord sequence or a riff and I’ll record a quick demo at home with a drum machine. Then I’ll go around with that on my iPod for a few days, weeks, months (it can be a very slow process!) until melody lines start forming in my head. Then I’ll record a second demo and sing the melody line with garbled nonsense syllables and take that recording around with me until words start attaching themselves to it.

By this point I’ve sent the demos over to Mike and Pete and they’re thinking up things they can bring in for the bass, drums and backing vocals. Then starts the long and slow process of finding a time when all three of us a free at the same time to rehearse!

What are your rehearsals generally like?

We practice in my flat, so it’s all of us hooked up to the computer on headphones, instruments into amp simulators and Pete on an electric drum kit. It looks like something out of the Matrix but it stops the neighbours from wanting to lynch us!

What song do you remember most from your childhood?

My mum and dad will tell you that pretty much from the moment I could move myself around I was fascinated by their hi-fi. I can’t remember it now but I’m told as a toddler I was always watching how the record player worked, this great big spinny thing that you dropped a needle onto and music came out of the speakers. Dad made the mistake one day of taking the covers off the speakers so I could see the cones vibrating and I pushed the tweeter in. To this day you can still see marks where he had to fix it!

As to specific songs I can remember from childhood, I remember my brother and I listening to Sgt Pepper over and over again. I think this is a big part of where my love for recording overdubs comes from. It was the first thing I can remember hearing where not all the sounds were natural musical sounds from instruments, and I was told a bit about how it was made. The story of how that was put together still amazes me now. It’s all too easy to take for granted that I can sit at home in front of my computer and have access to every recording technique ever invented at the touch of a button, but they had to invent all that themselves and record onto a four track!

What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?

Mostly the hardest thing is getting all of us in a room at the same time these days! We’re all members of at least three other bands, Pete’s been doing a Masters degree as well, so the challenge is to get time together to make music. We don’t gig quite as often as we’d like to, but that does mean that it’s more of an occasion for us when we do.

How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?

We have pages on social media: Facebook and Twitter

Our album can be downloaded from bandcamp:

But the best thing is to see us live. We’re playing a free entry show in Box in Glasgow on Friday the 2nd of March, and I’m often playing acoustic versions of the songs at open mics around the city. And there’s every chance you’ll run into one of us busking in Glasgow if the weather’s good!

Have you released anything yet/if you have how has it gone down and are you planning anything for the near future?

We’ve got two releases available at the moment. ‘Time And Distance’ is an  eleven track album released last year. It’s gone down pretty well, and one of the songs did something I’ll never get the chance to and played for Ayr United! Last season they occasionally gave ‘Little Victories’ a play over the tannoys at Somerset Park before games! Unfortunately we got relegated that season…

The other release we have just now is ‘Now That’s What Aye Call Music’, a vinyl-only compilation album of Glasgow bands put together by the guys at New Hellfire Club. We have a track on there that was recorded at the same sessions as the album but not included on there, so it’s exclusive to the LP. I never thought I’d have the chance to release something I’d written on vinyl, so I’m ridiculously excited at this!

As for future releases, we’re working on some new songs at the moment but it’s too early to say when they’ll come out. They’re mostly at the instrumental demo stage just now and who knows how long it’ll take until they’re finished. Lyrics are always the part that seems to take longest for me to finish.

Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?

Our next show is coming up on the 12th of April in Buf in Prestwick, a wee show to try out one of the new songs live for the first time. We’ve played all over between all the bands we’re in, and mostly it’s all been good. Two of the standout shows for me are the gigs we did in King Tuts and Stereo. The Tuts one was the first time we’d been invited to play in one of the big name venues, we were supporting Desert Planes that night. I don’t think I’d been that nervous before a show in ages! I can’t really remember much about the gig, the nerves turned into adrenaline when we went on stage and the whole night passed by in a blur after that.

We’ve been pretty lucky with Marshall Chipped, it’s only really with solo covers gigs that I’ve got any horror stories about venues. The very worst place I’ve ever played was a few years ago in a pub on the outskirts of Falkirk. I was booked to do a three hour covers set on a Saturday night. I got there and it was dead. By the time I set the PA up the audience consisted of three neds who were doing lines of coke off the pool table and threatening to beat me up with the pool cues because I wouldn’t play Wonderwall. When they left, the owner tried to get out of paying me because the pub was empty!

What do you think about downloading music online?

I’m slightly wary of it. I love record shopping, hunting for albums, stumbling over things you didn’t know about and being intrigued by the look of the cover. I like that it used to take some effort to find things. The fact that you had to buy it, you made an investment with an album. Aye, your pal might make you a tape of something they’d found but you’d usually then go and find a copy yourself because you wore the tape out listening to it. When you only have access to a small number of albums you listen intently to everything you can get your hands on. The deep cut near the end of side two that didn’t grab you at first, that someone today would skip over, eventually you’d click with it because you’d spend time getting to know it because you had nothing else to listen to until you could save up some pocket money, or got something for a birthday. I’d graduated from uni before I got my first iPod, I was still listening to albums in full on a CD walkman. I think it’s amazing that you can have access to every piece of recorded music on your phone now, but that amount of choice is so overwhelmingly vast that I don’t think people have quite the same attention span for albums as they used to. If a track doesn’t instantly connect you’ll hit next until something comes on that you already know or sounds good from the first second. That Tinder-style instant gratification factor that comes from everything online depresses me.

What’s your outlook on the record industry today?

It’s in a very weird state. But then, the record industry’s always been precarious. There will always be people making incredible music, and very often it’ll get heard by their mum, half a dozen of their mates and if they’re lucky a few people beyond that. That’s never stopped people making the music though. There’s always the hope that it will connect with people, even if only a few hear it.

There are ways to make a living in the record industry, it just takes a pretty realistic idea of the career you can have. Very few ever make it huge, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make enough to have a good standard of living and keep making music. We all go out and busk, do covers gigs, write songs that earn a wee bit in royalties, and play in enough bands that we can earn enough to keep doing it. We’re our own very, very small scale record industry. Write songs ourselves, record them ourselves, sell them ourselves. The majors might well die off, but we’ve already seized the means of production.

And let’s end with something a little different…Which famous person, alive or dead, would you have dinner with and why?

I’m tempted to say Pete and Mike, because with one thing and another we’ve had little to no chance to catch up lately (which is why this interview took so long to get finished, sorry about that!). But I think I’ll say Robyn Hitchcock. I’m a huge fan of his music and the strange rambling but always incredibly funny monologues that punctuate his gigs, so I imagine he would be good company.


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