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SOMA Magazine » Archive » James Allan/ Glasvegas
James Allan/ Glasvegas

Few examples better illustrate the well-known inferiority complex of the Scottish than the 1996 indie masterpiece Trainspotting. “It’s shiet being Scottish! We’re the lowest of the low. The scum of the fucking Earth!” Mark Renton deftly exclaims with a sentiment that can only be calmed by massive amounts of heroin. Evolving as it did to the north of what at times has been the seat of civilization, Scotland’s self esteem issues might be wellfounded, but they have also been put to use in creating a need to prove otherwise, at least in certain members of the population not reliant on heavy sedatives.

William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace epitomized this need for acceptance and respect by hacking off as many English heads as he could find. He meant it, man. 800 years later, we find Wallace’s tenacity and passion alive and well in the form of Glasvegas’ charismatic frontman James Allan. Glasvegas was a welcome blast of northern intensity when it exploded onto the scene with its 2008 self-titled debut album. James’ imploring rasp on tracks such as “Geraldine” and “Daddy’s Gone” had pundits lauding them as the new Clash; his resemblance to Joe Strummer only helped reinforce the notion. The NME proclaimed the group decade-defining.

Glasvegas embraced its sudden fame; the black-clad quartet— rounded out by James’ younger cousin Rab Allan, Paul Donaghue and drummer Caroline McKay—set out on a path of world domination, including multiple tours in Europe and America, which by 2009 had netted the group award nominations of Oasis-like proportion. Allan embraced the rock and roll Lifestyle whole-heartedly as well, and his excesses were welldocumented in the British tabloids.

By the end of 2009, it was obvious that ‘dehydration and exhaustion’ had taken a toll and in the early months of 2010 the band decamped to sunny California. With new drummer Jonna Löfgren aboard, Glasvegas set up shop on the beach in Santa Monica with the intent of making its follow-up album. Mastermind producer slash genius Flood was engaged to help meld Allan’s complex creations into the soaring anthems Glasvegas would become, and the result, EUPHORIC///HEARTBREAK\, which was released this April, is spectacular.

Following the band’s first New York show in over a year SOMA sat down with a healthy and relaxed Allan for a chat about Glasvegas 2.0.

You looked great onstage last night, been working out?

Yeah, well I went running that morning in Central Park.

The show was spectacular.

That was my favorite gig I’ve ever played; it was an important gig, and I appreciate it when people go to that level (of excitement). A lot of our music isn’t really fast-paced so it can be quite intimate; I was really proud. When I got there (to New York’s Bowery Ballroom) I thought it was teeny—last time I thought it was big—funny how over time your perception can change. It’s like sometimes when you walk down the street and you feel like a little ant and some days you feel taller than others; it’s probably just a mental thing.

You’ve adopted a new look for this tour, from all black to all white. Nice contrast.

The white outfit—every day is a (British detergent) Daz test. Geraldine helps a lot; she washes my socks at the hotels.

Does the band feel like it’s running at full-speed after having not played much for a while?

Right now I don’t think anything can stop me; physically you never know, but bands are fragile and you just have to cherish the moment. There’s so much happening right. Now I know why I’m in rock and roll; I want to hear the lyrics in my head at a certain decibel. I’m really excited right now.

It would seem that the sojourn in Santa Monica recharged everyone’s batteries.

I used to fantasize about the Santa Monica beach. There are snapshots in the lyrics of the album that come from me walking the bike path on the beach hearing Vangelis in my head and dreaming of the optimism I found in Blade Runner, how things are going to be okay. Some people say I’ve changed, but the surroundings will never define the artist. The artist is the artist. I’m just a lucky guy who’s walked it well and am just trying to make my luck last as long as I can.

Hooking up with Flood seems to have been A stroke of genius.

Flood, what a beautiful soul, I can’t believe how nice he is. He threw magic dust onto the tracks and really brought them home. I saw before my eyes that he’s a master—you can’t say that about A lot of people. I asked him what he thought when he first met me, and I thought he was going to say that I was a nice guy and all, but he said that it seemed that I needed a bit of lovin’ and that I lacked confidence. I was a little disappointed when he said that. (laughs)

The press materials talk about the fact that you had your mother record the spoken word part at the end of the last song, but what’s the beautiful French spoken word bit that opens the album?

I was going to speak those words myself but then decided that I wanted a French opera singer to do them, so I asked one of my friends, Zoe in Toronto, to translate the words into French, and she sent me an mp3 of her speaking them; I decided that that would be better than an opera singer. I quite like the fact that she’s probably surprised that she’s opening the album. It was all coincidental; she was just translating for an opera singer!

Reaction to the album, at least in the UK, seems fantastic.

On average, I’m surprised at the positive reaction because there’s a lot of baggage and preconceptions about me. Some people have accused me of being self-indulgent and that [the music’s] rubbish. Even in the bad reviews I feel that they have got something from the album. Some people are calculating bastards, so I try not to take it personally.

Well congratulations on the wonderful new album and tour.

Thanks; we’re just warming up.

– Adam Pollock

THE SPRING ISSUE


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