2013 Artist Survey: The Spook School Interview | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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2013 Artist Survey: The Spook School

Niall McCamley, Adam Todd, and Nye Todd on First Heartbreaks, The Omen, Lyric Tattoos, and How We Should all be Giving More Hugs

Mar 07, 2014 Web Exclusive
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For Under the Radar's 11th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to the important issues of the last year, as well as some quirkier subjects. Check out our current print issue and digital issue for surveys from My Morning Jacket, Foals, Amanda Palmer, Local Natives, Wild Nothing, These New Puritans, Lanterns on the Lake, Xiu Xiu, and Summer Camp.

Here are answers from Niall McCamley, Adam Todd, and Nye Todd of Scotland's The Spook School. The band's debut album, Dress Up, is out now on Fortuna POP!

Top 8 Albums of 2013

1. The Ballet: I Blame Society-Nye Todd: I love the deadpan humor of this album, especially songs like "Turn You" and "Meaningless." Why gay bars insist on playing Lady Gaga when they could play "Turn You" instead, I really don't know.

2. ONSIND: Anaesthesiology-Nye: Sometimes with "protest" songs, the actual song bit can get kind of lost, and you're left going "Yeah, I agree with what you're saying but this is essentially a three-chord rant." ONSIND are one of the few bands I've heard that combine meaningful lyrics about the world we live in with brilliantly well-crafted songs.

3. David Bowie: The Next Day-Nye: If this was just my list, then this would be at the top, no doubt about it. I never thought this album would happen, but it did and it's fantastic. David Bowie continues to surprise and bewilder and be just the best thing that ever happened to music.

4. Joanna Gruesome: Weird Sister-Adam Todd: This album gets me so excited. I would genuinely rank putting this record on and jumping about my bedroom like an idiot as one of my favorite recurring activities of the past year.

5. Sweet Baboo: Ships-Adam: This album just has something about it that makes me feel like everything's going to be all right. I started listening to it when I was feeling pretty disillusioned with a lot of stuff and it kind of represented an imaginary, better future. It feels a bit like a big hug from someone who knows you really well (and is wearing a really nice soft jumper).

6. Swearin': Surfing Strange-Adam: I've still not quite got into it as much as I did their debut, but there's some fantastic songs there.

7. The Planes: Echo Forever/Forever Echo-Adam: This deserves to be here for the song "Sonic Youth" alone. Another one of those ones you just can't resist jumping around your bedroom to.

8. Tullycraft: Lost in Light Rotation-Niall McCamley: After dancing around to "Twee" at every indie pop disco it was really cool to get a new album. It's just so bouncy and fun. The title track is so catchy and I love the back and forth vocals on "No Tic, All Tac." They always get me dancing and losing my clothes.

What was the highlight of 2013, either for you personally or for the band?

Adam: We toured Europe by train 'cause none of us have a car. It was great.

Nye: I also really liked our shoestring European tour. It was pretty much just traveling around by train, seeing incredibly lovely people who were very nice to us indeed. And we got to make a right racketwhat more could you want? Covering The Spice Girls in the merch tent at Indietracks was also great fun, and having an actual album out in the world is strange and cool and exciting. Oh, and David Bowie bringing out an album.

What was the low point of 2013 for you?

Nye: Er...can't really think of any. It's been a pretty great year. Lou Reed died, that's a pretty great loss for all fans of wonderful music.

What are your hopes and plans for 2014?

Adam: We want to play as many shows as possible with bands we really love. It'd be really cool to play some countries we've never been to. Like the U. S. of A.!!

Nye: I'm excited to write more songs! We've evolved quite a bit over the years and it's fun hearing that affect what we come up with.

What are your thoughts on the passing of Lou Reed? Did his music influence you at all and in what way?

Adam: Yeah, it was really strange to hear that Lou Reed had died. We found out about it the day after we'd played a gig then gone back to one of the audience members' flat and listened to Transformer all night. That album in particular has a big influence on us lyrically. It has some really funny silly lines. I remember sitting in the back of the car listening to our dad's copy of it on cassette and laughing out loud at the lyrics to "Andy's Chest." It was only years later that I realized the meaning behind a lot of the songs. I like that. How really liberating lyrics about the queer underground were almost disguised in these sometimes silly-sounding pop songs. It's like a sneaky Trojan horse-style rebellion. I bet there's loads of transphobic idiots who list "Walk on the Wild Side" as one of their favorite songs. I think that's brilliant. I hope there's similar idiots who go on about how much they like our music. Or maybe I don't. I don't know.

What are your thoughts on the U.S. government shutdown and the debt ceiling debate?

Nye: I'm not a fan of political parties (whether in government or opposition) acting in a way that damages the people that they are meant to be representing in order to score political points. And plunging state workers into a state of uncertainty and turmoil in an attempt to botch an already passed law...that seems like a pretty big example of that. I don't profess to be any kind of expert on U.S. politics, but yeah, that's about what I got from it.

What are your thoughts on Obamacare, now that it's being implemented?

Adam: Seems like a step in the right direction to me. At least they're moving forward. Unlike in the U.K. where they seem to be dismantling everything that was ever good about the NHS bit by bit.

Nye: Yeah, I agree with Adam. I'm a huge fan of universal healthcare. I think the NHS was pretty much the best idea ever. Obviously Obamacare is a huge distance from universal healthcare, but at least it's a small step towards a fairer system.

What is your opinion on the extensive government spying on the world's Internet/phone usage? Is Edward Snowden a patriot or traitor?

Nye: I think it's certainly worrying. Do I wish that it wasn't happening...yes. Do I think  that governments will stop using such a powerful tool...not in a million years. And I'm not sure whether I think that Edward Snowden is either. I don't really like either term, I don't think it's ever as simple as that. I think that he's a man who did us a good deed by piercing the veil of secrecy a little, but I don't know his motives, so can't say any more than that.

What are your thoughts on music streaming services such as Spotify and Rdio? Are they good or bad for musicians?

Adam: Uhhhhhh...... I don't really know. I don't use Spotify much. Not because I'm ideologically against it. Just because I don't like listening to music like that. All chopped up with adverts in the middle. And you can only listen to it when you're on the Internet, which means you're probably going to get distracted by something else. It doesn't let you properly get into an album. I like getting a record or CD, falling in love with it and playing it over and over again for weeks. So in that respect I don't think it's good for musicians or listeners. In terms of ripping off musicians money-wise I don't think Spotify is to blame. There was already this "music should be free" culture way before Spotify arrived. They just cashed in on it. I hope it's not "the future of music listening" though. It really doesn't allow people to give music the attention it deserves.

Who was the first person to break your heart? Whose heart did you first break?

Niall: I dissected a cow's heart once in a biology class. I had to poke it with a scalpel. I'm pretty sure I broke it beyond repair. It was around 2005, probably a January, and let's say it was Monday. I'm also fairly certain my biology teacher fed it to his dogs. Since then I have made sure not to let anybody try to dissect my pumper-of-blood. Don't break my heart! It keeps me alive!

What was your most embarrassing moment in high school?

Adam: All of it.

Niall: My teacher once played a tape I made of singing "Papa Don't Preach" in front of the class. I still maintain it was a wonderful reworking of a timeless classic.

Do bad reviews bother you and which negative review has affected you the most?

Adam: I don't really mind if someone says they don't like our music (in fact, I quite like it sometimes). I get more annoyed if someone completely misinterprets it.

Nye: I'm with Adam, I'm more annoyed by misinterpretation. Or not even misinterpretation, but when someone misinterprets what we're saying and then insists that they are correct. Because I ultimately think that a song can mean whatever you want it to mean, and everyone's own personal meaning is valid...but don't tell me that a song isn't about what I say it's about, because I wrote it, and I kind of know.

What moment in history do you most wish you could've witnessed in person?

Nye: 1973, David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust Tour. Or if I got a week or so, I'd make sure to see T. Rex too.

What was the first R-rated (17+) movie you remember seeing and how old were you?

Niall: I remember someone just telling me the plot of The Omen and I got nightmares. I didn't even have to watch it to get scared.

Have you ever been caught naked by someone who you wish hadn't? Who was it?

Niall: I enjoy being quite naked most of the time, including on stage. I'm more interested in showing my naked body to those who haven't seen it yet rather than dwelling on the times I inappropriately showed a little too much nipple in the name of titillation.

What's the weirdest/grossest thing you've ever eaten?

Adam: Animals.

Which lyric written by someone else do you most quote?

Nye: I have the lyric "Deep in a dream, I set the compass to spinning" from the Patrick Wolf song "Bluebells" tattooed on my wrist, so probably that, seeing as people are always asking me what it is.

What's the biggest scam in the music industry today?

Nye: Is there a scam? I don't know. Unsuspecting artists getting ripped off by major record labels I suppose...isn't it always that? Things like The X Factor, etc. I don't see as a scam because their purpose is to provide entertainment, and they succeed at doing that (at least to those that enjoy those shows). And Britain's Got Talent gave the world Jedward, so you've got to be grateful for that.

What's the weirdest and/or worst place you've slept while on tour?

Megabus. Always Megabus.

Did you attend your senior prom? What was that experience like?

Adam: I broke a swing in a play-park then was sick in the kitchen of the most popular guy in my school. I look back on it with pride.

Niall: I was 17 and thought I was really cool. So I didn't go. Instead I went to a pub. In a tie. Did I mention I thought I was really cool?

How and with whom did you lose your virginity?

Niall: Still working on that, get back to me in a few years. Being naked all the time surprisingly hasn't helped that much.

If you could travel to a parallel/alternate universe, which changes in history and/or your personal life would you like to see there?

Nye: I would like for there not to be any need for any of those words that end in -phobia or -ism, because such prejudices are ridiculous and there's no excuse for any of them. I would like it if some of the wonderful gender-bending fashion from the '70s hadn't died out. I don't think I'd like to change anything about my own personal history, because as much as I regret some things, if films have taught me anything it's that changing the past has consequences, damnit!

What was your favorite bedtime story as a child?

Niall: My dad tells a great bedtime story called "If you know what's good for you, then you will wake up at a reasonable hour and not disturb me from my well-earned rest from doing the job that lets you buy stupid football stickers that you don't deserve." Come to think of it, the title of the story was also the story. My dad is very postmodern.

With Pixies, David Bowie, Suede, and My Bloody Valentine releasing new music after years away from the studio, what rock icons would you like to see make another album?

Nye: David Bowie. If we're throwing away plausibility, then The Kinks and T. Rex.

Adam: I don't really think I have any desire for rock icons from the past to make any new records. As much as I really like all those artists, it's quite worrying that these were the "exciting" new releases of the year. I'd really like for one of the really exciting, intelligent new bands around at the moment to grow to the same level of popularity as Bowie or Dylan or The Beatles even. That would be really, really fun.

Doctor Who turned 50 in 2013. If you could travel in space and time with The Doctor in the TARDIS, where and when would you like to go?

Nye: See answer to [What moment in history do you most wish you could've witnessed in person?].

Who would you most like to sing at your funeral?

Nye: I'm not sure I'd want anyone to sing at my funeral, unless it was like a fun punk band or something and everyone just had a big party. Maybe Buzzcocks, if my funeral is about 30 years ago.

Do you have any other thoughts about the current state of the world or the state of the music industry?

Niall: I think more people should give each other hugs. They are really nice and underrated. I'm sick to death of shaking handsI want to shake bodies. This in turn will surely reform the music industry to more fairly distribute monetary gains by large conglomerate companies into funding programs that make pursuing music a viable endeavor that rewards novelty and experimental rock-operas. But yeah...hugs!

www.thespookschool.com



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