‘I’m not overly pleased with who I am’: Ex-Coral guitarist opens up ahead of NQ gig

Having released his third solo album West Kirby County Primary last week, former Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones comes to Manchester to play a sold-out show at Gullivers on Friday.

The penultimate gig of a headline UK tour, it comes after debuting material from the album, including single Two To Birkenhead, over summer and during a recent support slot with Spector.

Ahead of the gig, MM chatted to Bill about how his music has changed since his last record A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart and what motivates him to write.

Wirral-born Bill wrote the songs for West Kirby County Primary in the childhood bedroom of his family home, after previously scrapping an albums-worth of material.

“I’d lost my way with it a little; I wasn’t sure what the point was. I’d nearly made a record that I wasn’t happy with,” he said.

“It isn’t incredibly profitable for me, there’s no reason to do it other than for selfish reasons.”

“As soon as I realised that, I realised it was more about actually having an opportunity to do what I want to do and to get a sense of self out of it – then it was all quite straightforward.

“I realised that I should be writing for reasons that I’d written in the past, which is just to express myself and just to, maybe like myself a little bit.”

Although he has moved away from the piano ballads of his previous album, lyrically his new songs remain deeply personal and introspective, and Bill describes the album as a ‘collection of incidents.’

“Musically [influences] are always the same, the Gorkies and the Super Furries, but I think more than the music, it’s more just life,” he said.

“Without getting too melodramatic, I spend a lot of time not overly pleased with who I am, so I think making the music feels like I might be doing something positive.

“Music has its own internal rule system, the way it works, and it’s quite nice to able to put something that has happened inside something like that.

“It’s like making amends, or finding a way of putting things in boxes if you’ve got something that’s been bothering you.”

Although he is just about to complete a UK tour, Bill admits he has always preferred listening to albums to seeing music live, and that he has never ‘got’ music festivals.

“I’ve never really loved going to gigs much. I like listening to music in my own space and not much one for the ‘shared experience’, the whole Coke-advert thing,” he said.

“The people that I love, I would love to have seen live.

“Nick Drake, for example, never liked playing live, it just wasn’t what he thought his music was for – now I would have loved to have seen him.

“But I can’t ever imagine myself really going to festivals. Obviously I’m in a minority because they’re a thing that artists strive towards, a good festival slot, because it can do great things for your career.

“But it’s never something I’d choose to go to as a music fan, so I’m not sure I get it.  The sounds not very good and no one wants to shit in a bucket; I’m not sure how I feel about them to be honest.”

Bill’s suspicion of live music seems tempered, in part, by his desire to avoid letting the modern focus on the authenticity of ‘live music’, and the reduced profitability of album sales, to affect his song-writing.

“Playing your own shows is great, people singing and stuff like that is lovely,” he said.

“I’m just conscious of not getting carried away with it.

“I think there’s a real danger for a lot of musicians where the live circuit is more profitable now, and a lot of good bands sound like their records are made to played in big arenas.

“And for me, I’ve got to be conscious not to let myself get carried away with the possibilities of getting more successful, having an effect on the song-writing.

“I certainly think the onus on making shit-tons of money through playing live does temper the way people write and it dictates what kind of band they want to be.

“It is fine for other people, the [Arctic] Monkeys have done it quite well. Their last record sounds like a band who wanted to go and be big, in a way that U2 would do that and Oasis would do that, but it’s just not for me.”

Despite having produced albums for the Wytches and Hooton Tennis Club, as well as playing on Alex Turner’s soundtrack for the 2010 film Submarine, Bill feels it is important that his solo work is not collaborative.

But says that his producing work ‘energises’ his song-writing.

“With production you see how great it is when a group of people come together to do one thing, that’s what I enjoy out of producing,” he said.

“I love being in the studio with musicians and seeing them bring this world that they’ve created to life, I think it’s a really positive thing, it energises me.

“It really got me back on track with making this record, the [Hooton] Tennis Club stuff, it made me realise how important it is to just commit to this thing you’re doing and remember why you do it.

“There’s nothing more positive than being around people who are trying to cope with life through art, it’s a really brilliant thing.”

Having left the Coral in 2008, Bill says he retains a ‘good relationship’ with his former band mates and although his songs have changed stylistically, his reasons for writing songs remain the same.

“When I was in the Coral music served the same purpose, but I don’t really think I was aware of why and how it works,” he said.

“You get into music, I think, out of a need for escape.

“I think when I was younger it was probably just about, without being conscious of those things.

“When you create a world for yourself to live in, I think it’s a comfort, I think that’s what I got out of the Coral.

“I think part of the reason why it all went tits up is that world that I found myself in, was not of comfort anymore.”

But even though his solo music has changed since his time in the band, he says he is happy for there to be a crossover between his and the Coral fans.

“I don’t doubt that there’s a large section of Coral fans who would rather I not do this now and was back in the band just playing my part.

“That’s what happens when you’re in a successful band, but that’s not really of my concern.

“But if people like the Coral and they like me it’s safe, because I think the Coral are a great band, and if people are only into me because they like the Coral, then that’s fine as well.”

Image courtesy of Rachel King, with thanks.

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