Interview:: The Primary 5 (Paul Quinn)

Fresh off the release of their excellent debut “North Pole”, their appearance on Planting Seeds’ Rick Nelson Tribute “Easy To Be Free” – The Primary 5 continue their winning streak with a new LP “Go” filled with sugary melodies and timeless hooks. You may remember Paul Quinn as drummer from Teenage Fanclub and The Soup Dragons. Paul stopped by Parasites & Sycophants HQ to chat about his influences, songwriting, recording the new LP “Go”, Teenage Fanclub and lots more.

Parasites & Sycophants: Paul, thanks for hanging out with us folks here at Parasites & Sycophants

Paul Quinn: Pleasure to be here.

P&S: As an introduction, when did your career in music begin? If you can remember, what was the name of the first band you were in?

My first notion to play drums and be creative happened when I was around 14 years old, I can remember playing my parents sofas with knitting needles when I was much younger, so I kind of think I was destined/fated, whichever way you look at it, to play drums. I bought my first kit, a 4-piece gold sparkle Premier kit for £45 with my first wage from my first job after leaving high school, my parents weren’t very happy but I was ecstatically happy. A few weeks later I was in my first band, 7-ID, playing Clash & Sex Pistols, amongst others, covers, a really exciting time.

P&S: What were some of the records that influenced you as a youngster?
PQ: I come from a large family of two sisters and five brothers, so there was always music and records. Neil Young’s “Harvest”, Roxy Music, David Bowie, Sweet, Where all the bands I grew up with. My eldest brother had Marty Robbins records which I can remember playing a lot. As a teenager I grew up in the punk era And was a massive Clash fan, discovering ska with The Specials being a big influence and discovering the whole Trojan scene that influenced them, Postcard with Orange Juice and all those brilliant Scottish bands and songwriters.

P&S: Who are your all-time favorite artists/bands?
PQ: I would find it almost impossible to single out one band or person, I like so many artists for many different reasons, be it from a songwriting slant, arrangements, There voice, everything, the whole package. I think there are very few people who have had or have everything. I think these are genuine geniuses: Elvis Pressley, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Beatles, Jagger & Richards, Gram Parsons, Gene Clark, The Stones, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, Roger Nichols, Rogers & Hammerstein, The Carpenters, Abba, The Raspberries, Neil Young, The Band, Dylan the list is endless.

My all time favourite band for right now would undoubtedly be the amazing Shins. I think James Mercer is a brilliant songwriter, who in myHumble opinion, has everything that a great songwriter should have: great melodies, smart arrangements, pop sensibilities in abundance and a fantastic bunch of musicians around him. A very cool and clever record label behind him is also a great thing to have. All things good that lead to good things. The 3 Shins records Are never that far away from me. I also think Ben Kweller is really great. I love Music & Movement, Findlay McDonald ex of Speedboat, Teenage Fanclub and BMX Bandits band, based in Glasgow. There debut album “This is…Music & Movement” is a work of art, start to finish.

P&S: Growing up in Scotland, what were some of the groups other Scottish bands took notice of as a sort of measuring stick for success?
PQ: I don’t think success was the key or the lure to music for anyone I knew when I became involved in making music or being in a band; we wanted to play and write And be creative and enjoy doing just that. I think some bands or people just set out to be successful and I think that’s where it all goes a little pear shaped as a A lot of these aspirations don’t ever become reality and you end up with people who become disillusioned or delusional! We all wanted, at a certain stage, to make records, then slowly but surely you start understanding the music business and all that goes with it. I think as kids growing up we listened to a wide variety of music. Bellshill, where I come from, is a small industrial town, roughly 12 miles east of Glasgow, and had a fantastic collective of like minded people who would eventually go on to make there own mark in music. Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, The Soup Dragons, BMX Bandits, Superstar all came from the same scene and the same town.

P&S: With you joining The Soup Dragons in 1990, the LP “Love God” took off with the hits “Mother Universe” and “I’m Free” (both favorites of ours)- was that your first taste of commercial success in the music industry?
PQ: I did a two week long UK tour with The Soup Dragons before being asked to join them and then went into the studio and recorded “I’m Free” which was the first Song I recorded with them. I remember recording some demos in Glasgow with them but I’m Free was the first to be released commercially. I’m Free completely Changed our lives as a band as it peaked at No 5 in the UK Top 10 and the whole thing just kept gathering momentum, the venues got bigger as did the crowds, The tours where longer, the destinations further away, it was a fantastic wave to be surfing and we did enjoy it until we stopped enjoying it and then we said that’ll Be that and it ended.

P&S: Following your stint with The Soup Dragons, you followed with membership in another great band – Teenage Fanclub – how did you get together with Norman Blake and Co?
PQ: Norman was one of the music loving and like minded people that I grew up with in Bellshill, I’ve probably known him most of my life. My first musical involvement With both Norman & Raymond (McGinley) was pre Teenage Fanclub’ and a band called The Boy Hairdressers. I played a couple of shows with them, I then Joined The Soup Dragons a while later and a few months after that Teenage Fanclub where put together. At the time of The Soup Dragons split, Norman was at Home enjoying a break from touring and I was dealing with the fallout of The Soup Dragons, he knew what was going on and during that time I helped him out Programming drums for demos he had which was a great release from the stress of dealing with lawyers etc. Chas Banks (TFC Manager) then called me a good 6 Months later and told me Brendan had left the band and the guys would like me to be their new drummer. Being a huge fan of the group and them as songwriters And people made the decision to join very simple. I’ve been quoted as saying “ It was one of the best moments of my life being asked to join Teenage Fanclub” A quote I certainly wouldn’t disagree with even if I can’t actually remember saying it.

P&S: You were with Teenage Fanclub until the recording of “Howdy” – what led you to decide to leave the band?
PQ: I had decided to leave the band during the pre-production rehearsals for “Howdy”. I would never had walked out on the guys or leave them with the situation of finding & rehearsing a new drummer for Howdy as rehearsals where pretty far down the road by that time. There wasn’t any problem within the band and rehearsals where going really well, so I recorded Howdy and very soon after it was finished I told the guys I would be leaving as I wanted to do something new. I’d been working pretty much full on for the past 11 years, rehearsing, recording and touring and really just wanted a break from the music business in general, that break lasted roughly about 4 months!!!

P&S: After leaving TFC, you took it easy – even going as far as leaving the music business. You then decided to write songs – what was the turning point that made you want to pick up a guitar – as opposed to your usual instrument, the drums and eventually form The Primary 5?
PQ: Yeah, I took some time out, 4 months as I said, and suddenly found myself wanting to be creative. Norman had left an acoustic guitar at my place and had very kindly asked me if I wanted to keep it when I called him to let him know I had it. I did keep it and over the next 3 or 4 weeks I’d written Easy Chair, Comin Home, Field of Dreams and I’ll Lay You Down. I could muster a few chords but not to the extent where I would, or in fact do, call myself a guitar player, I’m a drummer who plays a bit of guitar, writes tunes and sings, but at that time it was just me an acoustic & 4 songs that I didn’t really know if they where any good or not. It wasn’t until I’d met Ryan who at first just wanted to help me get them recorded as he had an 8 track digital desk and I thought he was a guy who wanted to be a recording engineer. I knew he played guitar and soon realised very quickly that he was very sharp on the understanding of arrangements and parts and was really quick in playing parts I was asking him to play. It was in this initial 4 song session that I knew I had met someone who could take what I had forward and very soon those 4 songs became ten that was to become our first album” North Pole”

P&S: The Primary 5 are essentially a duo – How and when did you meet Ryan Currie?
PQ: I met Ryan through a friend, Ian Anderson, whom I hadn’t seen for years until I bumped into him and he told me he was looking after this young band and would I like to come to one of their rehearsals to check them out, which I did and their singer/songwriter/guitarist was Ryan. Ian asked me if I could drop Ryan home as he lived on route to mine and it was during this drive that Ryan offered to get involved in recording the songs I had after asking me what I was up to, that was in late 2001

P&S: Was your time in TFC influential on the overall sound of the melodic harmonies of the Primary 5?
PQ: I suppose the biggest influence that rubbed off from my time in TFC was the fact that you make the kind of record you want to make. Of course I think I would be lying if I said my time with the band hasn’t influenced what I’ve done with The Primary 5 musically. We come from the same musical background and share a similar passion in making and listening to music. I learned a lot about how to make records by simply being in the studio with them. My involvement with TFC was to play drums and I loved that. I had no involvement in the song writing process and never shared or aired my views on anything to do with the recordings or songs after I had put the drum tracks down. Not that I’m complaining as I just sat back and watched the other guys create these amazing songs around my finished drum tracks. I never intentionally studied what they did or how they did it. Just being in the same room was all it took to pick up on how to work songs and work in the studio.

P&S: “Go” is the second Primary 5 LP – how did the creation and production of the new record differ from your debut album “North Pole”?

PQ: The creation of the songs was pretty much the same process as the songs for North Pole. I don’t demo songs; I have a Dictaphone and just hum melodies into that then figure out the chords that go around the melodies. Probably the same process every song writer goes through, nothing exciting I’m afraid!!

The main difference between the production of North Pole & Go was the budget. For North Pole we didn’t have one, for Go we did. We received funding from The Scottish Arts Council towards recording costs which enabled us to go into proper recording studios and record Go. We used Reel Time Studios in Scotland and Rockfield Studios in Wales. Ryan engineered recording the drums, I engineered the bass, Raymond McGinley engineered the guitars and Norman engineered the vocals. We took what we done at Reel Time and moved camp to Rockfield, Wales where we hooked up with Nick Brine ( Oasis, Bruce Springsteen, Stone Roses, Beta Band, TFC) who had mixed North Pole. We had intended to spend the time at Rockfield mixing the record but we still had recording to do. Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion, A lot! We really where under pressure as we had 5 Days to get it finished, which we did thankfully, very tired but very happy at the results.

P&S: Any particular song or songs that stand out as far production difficulites, studio fun etc – during the recording sessions for “Go”?
PQ: I think the song that caused us most problems was The Great Escape. There was an absolute feel that that song needed and it took us a bit of work to get it to where it ended up, but really we didn’t have any real problems as I knew pretty much the arrangements and the parts I wanted to hear. The Reel Time sessions where really very focused and workmanlike as the schedule of the studio didn’t allow for long hours, whereas Rockfield was very long hours and with long hours comes the cabin fever madness and a great deal of laughing occurred. The time at Rockfield I think regenerated my enthusiasm for the songs and where to go with them hence the fact we did loads of additional recording at Rockfield, there was a great spirit between myself, Ryan and Nick and we where all determined to make a better record than North Pole. We certainly feel we did sonically as I think it’s a better sounding record, whether I achieved anything personally with regards the songs being stronger than the songs on North Pole, then that’s for other people to answer. But I personally feel it’s a stronger record than North Pole, it was great fun to make and we’re both very happy with the end result.

P&S: What prompted you to enlist the help of Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley for the sessions?
PQ: I had always thought of asking Norman to get involved with the vocal recordings as his knowledge and ability in that dept is second to none,
I felt that I would be very comfortable vocally working with Norman and Ryan as I thought these songs would stretch me vocally and I needed all the help I could get really!!, seriously though, Norman was brilliant in the fact that he told me just to sing as naturally as I could and that’s how I felt very comfortable and certainly more confident vocally, so getting Norman in certainly worked.. I asked Raymond to get involved for a number of reasons, firstly his totally honest approach and his understanding of how to get the best performances. Raymond also brought a lot of amazing equipment to the session and knew what I was looking for. I also wanted to free Ryan up to be a guitar player instead of being the engineer and guitar player. I felt that this worked amazingly well and I was thrilled at what Norman & Raymond brought to the record. I also got Norman to sing some backing Vocals on the chorus of Off Course and Raymond played the outro to Stars & Stripes.

P&S: Speaking of the new LP, you are now signed to London based label Re-Action Recordings, how did that deal come about? And what happened to your imprint Bellbeat music?
PQ: I had decided long ago that I wouldn’t be bringing a second record out on Bellbeat. I’d really put North Pole out myself as I thought it was the right thing to do. I’d thought about approaching other labels with North Pole but reckoned that I would asking other people to put out a record by a guy who had never written a song before, had never played guitar or sang before and was by all accounts a drummer. I could just hear the comments: “Another drummer with lead singer disease” ie a drummer wanting to front his own band after being stuck in the background for years. This was never the case as I had never intended singing at all in the band, we just couldn’t find a singer after months and months of auditioning, so I felt I had to let people know that I basically put my money where my mouth is so to speak, which I did and North Pole was a success in my eyes as I didn’t expect to sell 1 copy never mind the thousands it did sell worldwide. Signing to Re-Action was a fairly straightforward process. Innes Reekie, who I’d known for years as a journalist, contacted me through myspace, asked to hear the new record as they where interested in putting it out. After hearing the record Innes flew to Glasgow from London, we spoke, thrashed an agreement around for a month or so and eventually came to a deal we where both happy with and here we are.

P&S: I see the band is playing several shows in support of the LP – Any plans to hit US shores?

PQ: Yeah we’re playing a few shows around the UK and hopefully some festival appearances too. We’ll also be playing a few European shows And hopefully Japan. I would love to play in the U.S with The Primary 5 but as yet we’ve never been invited so the answer to the question is No, No plans to play in the U.S. We’re open to offers though!!!

P&S: Paul, we truly wish the best for the band – the new LP is fabulous and we hope you come to America soon – thanks for everything!
PQ: Thanks very much, my pleasure.

The Primary 5 will be playing in the UK – get out and see them!
June, 9 2007 @ Bellshill Cultural Centre John St, Bellshill, Scotland
June, 10 2007 @ Cabaret Voltaire Edinburgh. Scotland
June, 12 2007 @ The Luminaire, London

June, 15 2007 @ The Forum, Darlington
June, 16 2007 @ The Mixing Tin, Leeds
August, 25 2007 @ Underbelly (with Attic Lights) Cowgate, Edinburgh, Scotland -Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
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