Multi instrumentalist and accomplished painter C Duncan from Glasgow has been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize for his debut album ‘Architect’. ‘Architect’ is a stunning record with lush choral harmonies and acoustic instrumentation, textured like contemporary dreampop and all recorded at home in Glasgow on his bedroom studio setup, gradually built up one layer and one instrument at a time. Christopher recently had a chat with Mark Millar to discuss his nomination.
Congratulations on your Mercury prize nomination, when did you find out you were nominated?
CD: Thank you, about 2 days before the announcement I got a phone call from my radio PR guys, they said “you can’t tell anyone until Friday until it’s announced”. So it was pretty difficult I couldn’t believe it when they phoned to tell me that.
How did it feel when you were told of the nomination?
CD: It was really surreal, I knew the album had been put forward by the label but I never thought it would get as far as being nominated, so it’s amazing feeling.
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Are there any records on the list that you like?
CD: Yeah, I really love the Roisin Murphy album, I am very happy that she’s on the list too. It’s got a really strange vibe to it that I really liked.
What have you been up to since the announcement?
CD: I have been doing a lot of interviews, things have gone very busy all of a sudden now that I am in the public eye. People want to chat to me which is nice because whenever the album came out, it was well received but not many people had heard of it or anything so since its been nominated hundreds of people have been listening to the album and I’m getting lots of nice comments from people, it’s been really great.
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What music were you into growing up?
CD: All sorts really, whenever I was a teenager I was into heavy metal music but not so much anymore, I went through that phase at school. Towards the end of school I started getting into Bjork and Radiohead. I listened to a lot of classical music as well, in particular modern contemporary classical music. When I was 15-16 my taste started broadening and then I went on to study Classical composition at university, so I listen to a lot of different styles of music.
Did you always intend to do music as a career?
CD: Yeah I did, both my parents are musicians I always thought I’d probably end up doing it as well. I got to the end of school and I really wanted to study music and now it’s all I think about, it’s kind of a vocational thing for me I feel weird not writing or playing music.
When did you start writing the songs that became Architect?
CD: I wasn’t sure if I was going to make an album at first. I had a bit of time when I was writing lots of songs and started playing around with new equipment that I had bought to record with. I was kind of writing song by song thinking “this is a lot of fun”, but they were varied styles so I never saw them as an album until I sent some stuff down to Fatcat Records and a few months later they asked me to write an album. It wasn’t until then I thought I could put this into an album and write lots more tracks and tie it all together, but I never intended to do it like that to begin with.
How long did it take to record the album once you had decided to do it?
CD: It took just over a year to do; it was quite a long process, I did it all myself in my bedroom which is probably why it took so long, and I played all the instruments.
What is your song writing process?
CD: I usually start off with a melody then I start harmonising then I start thinking about lyrics. I don’t know if that’s a backwards way of doing it but it’s very music driven. The lyrics are important but I think of the music first then I think of words that fit the music as opposed to making music that fits the words, that’s still how I write music so I guess that’s my process.
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It’s a very musically complex sounding album, how did you go about putting a band together to play the album live?
CD: It was Fatcat Records who said I had to go out on tour. Whenever I was making the album I knew at the end of it that I would have to do some shows but I tried not to think about it, but at the end I thought “dam what am I going to do?” I thought of doing shows by myself and taking backing tracks and samples but it all sounded a bit karaoke, so for the past few months I have been putting a live band together, it’s a four piece with drums, bass, keyboards and me on guitars and we all sing. It was tricky getting it all together at first but now that it’s going we all know what to do and we all know there’s going to be lots of singing involved. I think it translates well live.
Had you ever performed in front of an audience before?
CD: No not at all, I tried not to think about playing live, it was something that I was terrified of. It was one of the reasons I studied composition as opposed to playing music because I don’t like to play music in front of people I like to be in the background, that certainly was the case but once you do twenty gigs it’s still a bit nerve wracking but it’s exciting now, I’m actually really enjoying being on stage now.
Are the songs getting a good reception live?
CD: Yeah, they are more and more so each gig we play as the band are getting tighter the audience are getting into it, it’s very cool it’s a really nice feeling.
Do you plan to record your next record in the same way? Or now that you have a band will you use them?
CD: I have already started recording and it’s another album with just me. It’s a bit different than Architect. I might go into the studio to do bits n bobs but I think I’ll do a lot of it from home again but with better equipment and do up my home studio.
You design and paint all the sleeves for your music; do you get the same enjoyment from painting as you do from writing music?
CD: Yeah I do it’s a very different enjoyment when I’m making music it’s very intense and head down. I have to use my brain quite a lot. (laughs) With painting I find it very relaxing also when I’m painting I listen to a lot of music, when I’m recording I don’t catch up on new albums that are being released. Whenever I’m painting I can spend hours listening to music whilst painting which is really nice.
So what is next for you?
CD: We are about to go out on tour with Lucy Rose from the 1st November and halfway through the month we are going off to Europe to do some shows, then in the middle of that we are coming back for the Mercury prize which will be a lot of fun. Throughout November we are touring the UK and a bit of Europe and then coming back in December to tour Scotland, so it’s a busy month ahead.