We spoke to writer Irvine Welsh and producer Kormac about their new collaboration "Another Screen"
Welsh: "Come over and kick my cunt in, rather than sending me a text. Ideally shag me… but if you have to just beat me to a savage pulp, then so be it."
Screens. I’m looking at one as I write this. You’re looking at one as you read this. Some of us will look at more screens today than faces. Is it simplifying life, or trivialising it? It’s something Irvine Welsh felt needed addressing. While sitting in an Edinburgh flat with the soulful, electronic producer Kormac, the pair had envisaged an entire track, aptly titled "Another Screen".
Irish artist Kormac earned his name four years ago now, with his debut album Word Play: a melodic bustle of jazz and hip hop, mashed together by vintage samples gleaned from years of dedicated crate-digging. His artistic crosshairs have moved since then - onto his forthcoming second album Doorsteps - and roused by the drive to do something different, he set about making his own organic bank of source material. The pursuit led him to the homes and studios of Micah P. Hinson, Speech Debelle, Bonobo vocalist Bajka and more. And, for the spoken word big-band mash up above, it took him to door of legendary Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh, the author of Trainspotting, Filth, The Acid House and Porno.
Riding on Kormac's sharp guitar picks and dancing piano melody, the voice of Welsh will always prick the ears of anyone who has ever been young and off their tits, especially when he’s telling the Tories to fuck off. So, as we premiere the video for their collaboration, I caught up with Kormac (on the phone from Ireland) and Irvine (on the phone from Chicago) to have a quick chat about this song, life as creatives and human interaction.
Noisey: Kormac, how are the shows going for this new album? You have a big band now?
Kormac: I’ve had a band since I started putting out records on a solo basis, but I’ve certainly changed it as the music has evolved. I used to play with four guys who sang close harmony, as I was addicted to 30s and 40s American gospel music. With the new record taking a different shape, I’m trying something different. I have brought in tubas, more electronics and stuff like that. It has grown.
What was the idea behind creating this arsenal of special guests?
Kormac: It was really just to try and do something a bit different. The obvious thing I could have done after the first record would have been to just approach loads of rappers and throw lots of money at them, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to give myself lots of different people to work with. So, I set about trying to meet interesting people, and people that would be quite a turn for me musically.
How did you two come together?
Irvine: We had a mutual friend over in Ireland. Plus, I knew Kormac from reputation. I thought he was a very eclectic and skilled musician, and I felt it would be an interesting thing to get involved in. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of what we would do. He came across to Edinburgh, whilst I was there working on a book, and we knocked it together very quickly didn’t we?
Kormac: I think it was the quickest song on the entire album.
So it all happened at a flat in Edinburgh?
Kormac: Yeah, I showed up at the front door with a small portable recording set-up, and a very expensive mic, which we hung over a clothes horse - if my memory serves me correctly.
Irvine, did the words of "Another Screen" draw on something you had previously written?
Irvine: No. I was living in Dublin at the time, but I was over in Edinburgh, because I was working on this new book. When you’re a writer, your whole life is basically a screen. You work all day looking at a screen, then you crash out and watch football in the evening on a screen. You’re clarting around with your phone on Twitter whilst doing that, and you’re looking at a screen again. And I started to think: “You know what? You could actually go fucking mental here.” Plus, when you write fiction, you’re stuck in a room with people who don’t exist. Talk about the definition of creepy. So, I was glad Kormac came over so I could do something a bit different.
Kormac: I don't think it could have worked any other way than actually meeting with Irvine. With all the artists I worked with, we got into the same room to do the songs. That way it happens naturally and organically. There is stuff in those lyrics that spawned from me and Irvine on the day, having that human interaction whilst we were creating.
It’s nice that the song captures both of your sentiments at the time when the two of you are deep in separate projects.
Irvine: He was in the middle of his album, and I was in the middle of my book. The way technology is right now, anything you do that is a creative endeavour is almost always a technological one. I have a pal who is a sculptor - he says he now spends so much time on screens: concocting and designing. When it actually comes to using his hands, it’s quite a small part of the process. This song is very much orientated around that. Technology is a fantastic thing though. I certainly would never have written a single book if I had to use an ink pot and a quill. It has made art more accessible. The downside is that you lose a lot of the human contact and the social interaction, which I think you can’t afford to do as an artist in any kind of sphere. That is what the song is regaling against.
I liked how some of the lines intimated that even a negative human reaction would be more preferable to more computer screens.
Irvine: Yea! Come over and kick my cunt in, rather than sending me a text. Ideally shag me… but if you have to just beat me to a savage pulp, then so be it.
Kormac: [laughs] I definitely need to walk away from the screens a lot. I rarely have good ideas when I’m sitting down in front of fucking empty session files. I need to be away from it, to generate the ideas. It’s a tough thing to learn. You automatically think that when you need to work you should be sitting down in front of a laptop, but I actually had to train myself out of that.
Irvine: My best thing is to jump on a bus. Sat on the back of a bus, you’re surrounded by amazing characters who will tell you their life story at the drop of a hat. Especially in America. In America, normal people just don’t do public transport, so it’s just me and the crazy people.
Were you two involved in the concept of the video too?
Kormac: I would love to say yes, because I’m really proud of it, but I really wasn’t. It was friends of mine from London called Andy and Elizabeth. Andy had done some of the layouts on the vinyl for the album, and they wanted to pitch me an idea they had for it. They showed me the build, and the tone of the thing, and I just loved it.
Irvine: It’s brilliant. It could be improved with me lying in my Speedos on the beach though.
Brilliant. Thanks for chatting guys.
Kormac's album Doorsteps comes out on October 20th.