INTERVIEW: Scottish Multi-Instrumentalist C DUNCAN discusses third album, ‘Health’

INTERVIEW: Scottish Multi-Instrumentalist C DUNCAN discusses third album, 'Health'
Photo credit: Jordan Curtis Hughes

Released via Fat Cat Records on March 29, 2019, C DUNCAN’s third album HEALTH sees the Scottish multi-instrumentalist ditch his bedroom studio and work with other producers, engineers and musicians for the first time. Warm and harmonically rich, Duncan delightfully juxtaposes the vibrant and wholesome aesthetic of the album with an often-darker lyrical undertone, pushing himself to refine and explore new ways of writing.

As the sole protagonist of his self-carved niche, Health sees Duncan evolve and expand its parameters in mesmerizing fashion. Mark Millar caught up with Christopher to chat about recording Health and the upcoming spring UK tour. 


Photo credit: Jordan Curtis Hughes

You recorded your first two albums ‘Architect’ and ‘The Midnight Sun’ at home in your bedroom – so, what took you from the bedroom to the studio for your third album ‘Health’?

I wanted to do something different. I wanted to expand my sound because there is only so much I can do by myself. My own skill sets can only take me so far in recording, so I decided to progress into a studio. Also, I toured quite a bit with Elbow over the past couple of years and got to know their producer and keyboard player Craig Potter pretty well, and we started discussing the possibilities of working on an album together, and that was the other thing that pushed me into the studio. 

Was Craig Potter your first choice of producer?

Yes, he was actually. I love the way Elbow’s records sound – there is so much going on, and there is such clarity to it. He has a fantastic way of getting the best out of every instrument, so the listener can pinpoint exactly each instrument, whereas my music up until now has been very kind of washy. So I respected Craig for that and really wanted to get into a studio with him.

‘Health’ is also your first collaborative project. How did you initially feel working in the studio with producers, engineers, and musicians for the first time?

It was a bit weird (laughs) – it was so far out of my comfort zone. I found the whole thing a bit daunting on the first day because I wasn’t used to it, but as soon as we got into it properly, and that first day was out of the way, it was just brilliant. It was so nice for me to have people to bounce ideas off and have other musicians around to use on records, as opposed to the things that I can do and the things that I can play. It was nice to get other people involved to bring their skills to it.

Did you have demos prepared, or did you write from scratch in the studio?

I had all the demos ready. I had demoed the album to the same standard as the last two records, so if anything went wrong in the studio, we could release the demos. They were to a standard that I was pleased with. All the writing was finished, and I was good to go. I was pretty prepared by the time I got there. But as things happened, we ended up ripping it all apart and putting it back together in a different way which was great.

Were you precious with the songs initially?

Yes, with my previous records I have been very precious, and it’s because I know I’m going to record them myself anyway, so I have got complete control over them. Whenever I started writing this record, I already knew that I was going into a studio, so although the demos were to a high standard, I knew there would be a lot of changes made. So I wasn’t as precious, but there were things that I definitely wanted to keep, but other than that I was pretty easy going.

Your vocals have been pushed to the forefront on this record for the first time you can make out what you are singing now. Are you more comfortable with your voice and what you are saying?

Yes, that was one of the main things for this record. I wanted people to hear what I was singing about (laughs). I guess it’s about building confidence – I’m a composer, that’s what I trained as, I didn’t train as a writer. That was always the thing that took me a bit longer to get used to and to get better at. I wanted to put more time into the lyrics on this record, and I was happy I did. From now on I have the confidence to do more of it.

Health is a very personal record especially with songs like ‘Impossible’ and ‘Health.’ Where you comfortable putting those songs out there?

I was – again, it was one of those things that took a bit of time to get used to. The scariest bit is showing the first person the song once it’s finished. But you know it’s something I need to get over, and I did. It was beneficial to me to be so open I guess.

Overall was it an enjoyable experience recording in a studio for the first time with other people?

It was absolutely great fun.

Do you think you will continue to work in a studio?

I hope so that’s the plan. I would love to work in Blueprint studio again with Craig, but we will see where the next record takes me.

How is your relationship with Fat Cat records? Do they let you do what you want?

Pretty much, that’s one of the great things about independent labels – there’s no pressure to make pop hits. Fat Cat signs you because they like your sound and then they let you progress, which is so good, because it means you have the time and space to get on with what you need to get on with, and progress at your own pace. It’s been great. 

You begin your spring tour in April. What can fans expect from the shows?

We are a four-piece live band. It’s going to be fun and fairly breezy I reckon and enjoyable I hope (laughs).

The last time we spoke you were out on the road for the first time with a band. How have you found that developing live over the previous three records?

It’s one of those things you get used to. It’s taken a few years to get to where we are now – I now feel much more confident on stage. I enjoy it now, whereas if you’d asked me that three years ago, I would have said I hated it, but now I enjoy it as much as making music.

Of all the music in your collection who do you have the most albums by?

Okay, it’s a slightly weird one, but it’s probably The Melvins. I am a huge fan of The Melvins – I love them, they have so many records; I try to collect all of them. I have about fifteen to go, but now I must have about twelve Melvins records.

What have you been listening to recently that you could recommend?

Today I bought a vinyl – it’s the new Beth Gibbons record. It’s her performing Gorecki’s third symphony, and it’s sublime – it’s incredible. 

C Duncan is pleased to announce a new UK tour for spring 2019 – tickets are on sale now for the following shows;

Friday 19th April                    Aberdeen – The Lemon Tree (tickets)

Thursday 25th April               Newcastle – The Cluny (tickets)

Friday 26th April                    Manchester Band on the Wall (tickets)

Saturday 27th April               Birmingham Castle & Falcon(tickets)

Monday 29th April                Bristol Thekla (tickets)

Tuesday 30th April                 Brighton Komedia (tickets)

Thursday 2nd May                 Norwich Arts Centre (tickets)

Friday 3rd May                       Nottingham Rescue Rooms (tickets)

Saturday 4th May                  Leeds – Live at Leeds Festival 

Sunday 5th May                     Leicester Handmade Festival

Tuesday 7th May                   Oxford – The Bullingdon (tickets)

Wednesday 8th May             London Scala (tickets)

Friday 10th May                     Edinburgh – Summerhall Arts Centre (tickets)

Saturday 11th May                Glasgow – Maryhill Community Centre Hall (tickets)

Xsnoize Author
Mark Millar is the founder of XS Noize and looks after the daily running of the website as well as hosting interviews for the weekly XS Noize Podcast. Mark's favourite album is Achtung Baby by U2.

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