Thursday, 7 June 2012

Indietracks interview #16: Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern

Darren Hayman is best known as the singer-songwriter of the much-loved Hefner. Following the band's split in 2002, Darren is now six albums into an increasingly idiosyncratic career path and writing the best tunes of his career, as showcased on the first two instalments of his "Essex Trilogy" and "January Songs" where he wrote and recorded a song for every day of the month. In the latest incarnation of the Secondary Modern, Darren has gathered together a tight, tough, but soulful folk-rock orchestra reminiscent of a more urban Incredible String Band or an Anglicized Lambchop.

Hello Darren! We're looking forward to welcoming you back to Indietracks this year - your Friday headline set is really going to kick off the festival in style! Without giving too much away, have you got any special surprises planned for your set this year?

The surprise will be if I hold the guitar the right way round. I haven't seen or played with the band for five months as I type this. I suppose the beauty of having 12 albums to draw from for a set means there will always be surprises. It would seem churlish to not play one Hefner song at Indietracks.

We've heard a rumour that you're changing the name of The Secondary Modern - is this true and, if so, why have you decided to change it?

I think this will be the last gig as The Secondary Modern. We are going to become Darren Hayman and the Long parliament for the next record, 'The Violence'. The whole album is about the 17th Century Essex Witch Trials. Secondary Modern just didn't fit.

Plus I like how it will fuck everything up on Songkick.

2011 was an enormously busy year for you, and we're massive fans of The Ship's Piano and the January Songs and Vostok 5 projects. If this isn't too daft a question, how do you stay so prolific? Are there particular "rules" that you always set yourself, for example, as you did with January Songs?

I don't feel particularly prolific. I don't even feel particularly hard working. I think the question is what makes everyone else take so long? It's making words and tunes up. It's fantastic fun.

I have this idea that I've always believed in that you are recording or writing 'A' version of a song not 'THE' version of the song. I think that idea of a perfectly recorded song is the downfall of many bands. People should be ready to fail more often. Failing is fine. It's only music. Make a record. Didn't work? Make another one.

I'm planning on dying at some point in the next 30 or 40 years. I haven't got time to dick about not making records.

I sort of only have 'rules'. Working briefs. It's hard to think of the record by me recently that hasn't had some kind of self imposed restraints or connecting theme.

What are you listening to at the moment? Is it still jazz? :)

Yes, pretty much. It makes me immensely happy. For the first time in ages I'm really excited about buying records and discovering new sub genres. I don't completely understand it or why I like it, which makes me like it even more.

I never thought it would happen, but yes it just makes me happy. I think Rock or Pop people shy away from Jazz because initially it seems so egotistical. But now I think the opposite. I think of jazz as this generous, collaborative genre and pop/rock being all about spotlights and glitter.

Apparently you have an instrumental album coming out called Lido soon, which we're very excited about! Can you tell us a bit more about it? And when will the witch trials album come out?

At the time of writing it looks possible that both might come out this year. The Lido record in August and The Violence in Sept/Oct.

Despite Vostok 5 and Ship's Piano and all these other things, 'The Violence' is really the record I've been working on for about four years.

We’ve heard you're a huge fan of all things steam-train related. For steam train novices - are there any things in particular you would advise people to look out for at the Midland Steam Railway?

Well actually, I'm not a steam fan, I'm a heritage diesel fan. I love DMUs (diesel multiple units) the little green and yellow bus like trains that often work at Indietracks. I love the fact you can see out of the front.

It's a reminder of a time when there was more trust in the world.

What's going to be on your compilation tape as you travel up to Indietracks?

Trying to think what the common delineator is in the band at the moment. I have a nice compilation of Lovers Rock at the moment. Maybe that.

Finally - how is Lego Beluah? Does she still exist?

The life-size Lego model of my dog is nearing completion. She'll be finished any month now.

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