Two years ago, Lone Wolf's excellent debut The Devil & I landed unsuspectingly on Drownedinsound's doormat. Produced by Duels' James Kenosha and comprising ten pieces crafted in the style of Neil Young (had he spent his early twenties gallivanting between the Pennines). DiS liked the record so much we awarded it 8/10 upon release.
Since then, it all seemed to go a little quiet for the man known to his parents as Paul Marshall. An amicable parting of ways with label Bella Union coincided with a return to the drawing board. New ideas in place, eventually turning into songs, the blueprint for The Devil & I's long awaited follow-up was cast. This time however, much would be dependent on whether there was enough demand to justify releasing another record. Having once again called upon the services of Kenosha and fellow Duels member Jon Foulger to work their magic in the studio, the final decision on whether Lone Wolf's second record would see the light of day came down to "us".
Enlisting the services of Pledgemusic, the project was launched on 14th May of this year. Featuring numerous artefacts from a download of the album plus a handmade "Thank You" card (£8) to having a personal credit on the record as "Executive Producer" (£500), it was probably beyond its creator's wildest dreams that the project was funded in full within thirty days of being set up.
Now, the labours of that project, The Lovers, will finally see the light of day on 12th November. Last month, DiS caught up with Paul Marshall aka Lone Wolf in a field at the Leeds Festival. Here's what he had to say...
DiS: Although The Devil & I only came out two years ago, it seems like you've been away much longer than that. When did you first start writing the songs that would eventually become The Lovers?
Lone Wolf: Well, the weirdest thing is I didn't start writing it, if that makes sense? The Devil & I was demoed to fuck. Every single part of every single song was written from a certain perspective, and so I spent more time than I'd liked to have done going back in the studio reworking what I'd already started. It was hard work, and something I didn't really want to have to go through again on this record, so I spent time watching some of my Leeds cohorts; Wu from Stalking Horse and Owen Brinley who used to be in Grammatics; to see what they were doing, and I liked the idea that once you've demoed something, that's kind of where the magic has happened. So I decided to see what would happen if I put myself on the spot. I wrote two songs from the record, 'The Swan Of Meander' and 'Needles & Threads' and started playing them live for a while, but the rest of the record pretty much happened there and then. I had recorded a load of ten to fifteen second ideas on my mobile phone. I'd recorded little guitar parts and percussion parts, things like that and then I'd go into the studio, listen back to what I'd done and work on making a song out of it.
DiS: Were either 'Needles & Threads' or 'The Swan Of Meander' written around the time of The Devil & I?
Lone Wolf: No. 'Needles & Threads' is the oldest song on The Lovers but it isn't that old. It was just the first song I wrote where I felt like I was onto something new direction-wise. I had started writing lots of stuff before that which sounded like The Devil & I and it just felt really uncomfortable. It just sounded like everything I'd ever written before and it wasn't exciting me. And then I came up with 'Needles & Threads', which was like a totally new sound for me, and that was the catalyst for the direction of the new record.
DiS: You've used Pledgemusic to launch your new record. What made you choose that route and was there any point where you were worried about making the wrong decision?
Lone Wolf: First of all, I don't have any money. I'm just like any other musician in this day and age. Unless you're fortunate enough to be able to headline the main stage here at Leeds Festival you're probably going to find money hard to come by. Then I started scouting around for a label that might want to put the record out, and I got bored really quickly. I wasn't enjoying the process of having to wear my heart on my sleeve while speaking like Oliver Twist from the Charles Dickens novel; you know, "Please sir, can I have some more..?" It got to the point where I just decided I didn't want to hire another team. The other reason was because I never really know what's going on out there. I'm not in a position to be able to understand trends, or how or big small my fanbase is. I saw it as a test. I actually said at the time if I don't reach the pledge target I will quit as Lone Wolf and the record won't come out. That's what I said to myself, although I never told anyone else that. It was my way of finding out whether or not anyone wanted to hear another Lone Wolf record. It was a massive gamble because you're effectively asking people to buy into something they haven't heard.
DiS: You must be blown away at reaching the target so soon, just thirty days after launching the pledge project?
Lone Wolf: Absolutely! It was the most exhilarating, positive experience I've ever had. I can't believe the level of support I got from people throughout that process. It honestly brought tears to my eyes at times. I expected to see my friends and family's names popping up first, yet there were all these names of people I didn't know or recognise! One guy came along and pledged to be the "Executive Producer", and then the actor Nick Frost came along at the very end. I'd played with him on a Radio 4 programme a few years ago and he said he loved The Devil & I. We've stayed in touch on Twitter ever since and I tweeted that I only needed another 12% to reach my pledge target, so he messaged me asking how much 12% was. When I told him, he threw another £500 in to be one of the "Executive Producers"!
DiS: Looking through some of the pledges, one that stands out is the solo performance in their house for £250. Did anyone take you up and that pledge?
Lone Wolf: Yeah, I've had a few actually. There's two in Holland, one in Brighton, and then a guy who's asked if I can play at his fiftieth birthday party. I'm going to do a bit of a special set for that one because he's something of a superfan.
DiS: Will you be playing songs from all your records at the house shows, including Vultures?
Lone Wolf: The plan is to give people a list of songs and they can then choose the setlist. It's their show. The main purpose of this pledge is for me to shake the hands of every single person either physically or virtually that's contributed to me reaching my target. I want each and every one of those people to get something personally from me so they knew they were investing in me rather than just paying for something to get done.
DiS: And of course the live shows you're aiming to play in support of The Lovers. Can we expect a similar mix there?
Lone Wolf: It will be mostly material from The Lovers, but at the same time there's got to be at least a couple from The Devil & I in there as well. It would be cruel of me not to play 'Keep Your Eyes On The Road' live. It's the one song I have that most people kind of know.
DiS: And '15 Letters' too maybe?
Lone Wolf: I won't be playing that. I hate that song! Not because it's a bad song, but because I can remember what I was doing when I wrote it. I can hear my thought process of verse-chorus-verse, trying to write a little pop song even though it's very dark lyrically. I almost feel like that song's the "fake song" on The Devil & I. By fake, I mean in trying to create something that was perhaps easier to access. It almost makes me feel a little bit dirty. It's the total opposite of what's on The Lovers because those songs just came out. You're listening to my brain vomiting on that record. It's a collection of everything that was happening in my head at the time.
DiS: Did going on tour with Wild Beasts influence your approach to writing music in any way?
Lone Wolf: I guess it did, I mean Wild Beasts are close buddies now. We've spent a lot of time together and Tom (Fleming) is like a big brother to me. One thing I did learn from spending time with Wild Beasts is that they just don't make mistakes. They're the only band I've ever been on tour with where I've watched their show every single night because it was always flawless. They never get boring, even though I got to know the set pretty much off by heart by the end.
DiS: You've also created your own imprint - It Never Rains Records - after leaving Bella Union. Was it a mutual decision to part ways?
Lone Wolf: I've always been Lone Wolf by name and lone wolf by nature, and I think it was better for both of us that I went off and followed my own path. I'm not the easiest person to deal with because I tend to worry about everything. I'm very much a control freak. I like to know what's happening, when, where, etc, etc. I can't imagine it being very nice for a record label to have somebody phoning them up all the time asking what's going on. I should have faith that they're doing their job, but I find that hard to deal with. I'm the same with any member of a team whatever I do, I always feel like I'm constantly watching them or looking over my shoulder, wondering what they're getting up to. I think I've embraced being alone and just got on with making a record.
DiS: With regards to The Devil & I, is there anything you'd do differently given the power of hindsight?
Lone Wolf: I'd spend a lot more money on it.
DiS: You've recently become engaged to your long term partner, Sofi. Did that inspire the record's title, The Lovers, or indeed any of the songs?
Lone Wolf: No, not really. Me and Sofi are as close as you can get. My love for her is astronomical. I do feel like I'm indebted to her in a lot of ways for putting up with me. Our relationship and future marriage had nothing to do with the record. The Lovers is very much a trip through my head and you're meeting all the various voices that do kind of dictate my life for me. And by that I don't mean in a paranoid schizophrenic way but in the way when you're lying in bed and you're trying to go to sleep and you're fighting with yourself over things you've said fifteen years ago or whatever. If you met the person you said it to fifteen years ago they probably wouldn't even remember it yet you still do. It sounds as pretentious as fuck but that's where the name comes from. It's almost like having a massive lovers tiff in your head.
DiS: And the songs, 'Ghosts Of Holloway' for example?
Lone Wolf: 'Ghosts Of Holloway' is a reference to when I first started to play gigs in London. There's something about that strip of the A1 when you first come into London and you go through Archway and onto Holloway Road and all that. I used to get really nervous when I reached that part of the journey because there was always this vision in my head that London was the place to be. The place where dreams are made! Nowadays I don't think like that any more, so it's almost like when I do go down those roads it's like passing the ghosts of the person I used to be. This album's very much about me, whereas everything I've written before has tended to be very narrative based.
DiS: What about 'Good Life' and 'Two Good Lives'? Are they linked in any way? Is there a concept running between the two?
Lone Wolf: Not as such. 'Two Good Lives' is about two different personalities talking to each other and openly admitting that their love is just a waste of two good lives. Whereas 'Good Life' is basically just saying all we want is a good life. It's not openly conceptual in that there's no particular running theme with the songs, but then at the same time every song is like listening to a different fight inside my head. The last song on the record, 'The Lovers', is the only song on the album where I talk from the perspective of my own mouth.
DiS: Once again James Kenosha has produced your record along with Jon Foulger, who's also in Duels. What does James bring to your music and would you ever consider working with anyone else in the future?
Lone Wolf: James is like my comfort blanket. He knows how to handle me. He knows how to deal with my doubt fits, as it were. He knows how to get the best out of me. I'd find it really hard to go elsewhere at this present moment in time. I will do eventually because you have to. As for Jon, me and him have become really close friends over the past couple of years and I love Duels, particularly The Barbarians Move In, which is a ridiculously underrated album. We listen to a lot of the same music. We've always wanted to make music together but never quite had the time. We argued like fuck for the first few days because I had visions for the record whereas they convinced me to take a few steps back and try to keep the record within a certain sound. I wanted to put electronic beats on it and Jon would be, "I'd advise heavily against that. This record should stay within a certain set of walls to retain the right sound throughout." And he was right. It just took me a couple of days to realise. It's like when James first turned up and he immediately started playing bass over the top of one of my songs, I was like, "What are you doing? This is MY record!" and then Jon would chip in with his ideas and at first we constantly argued. I'm all about my ideas, and because it wasn't my idea I was initially dead set against it. It took a few heated discussions and everything moved along sweetly after because I realised that the purpose of getting Jon involved was to hear his ideas, not just seek approval of my own.
DiS: I also believe you're going to be involved in writing the score to a Tunisian film entitled 'Bastardo'?
Lone Wolf: You genuinely never know who's listening to your music, and in this case it was a director called Nejib Belkadhi. He wrote this really lovely tweet saying how much he loved The Devil & I and that he wanted me to score his film. At first I politely turned him down because I didn't really enough about him and I had all the pledge stuff happening with the album, almost like a "Thanks but no thanks." And then he sent me an email which basically went, "No, fuck you! You are doing the score to my film!" So I got chatting to him and realised he was serious. He brought me over to Tunisia and treated me really well where I saw the film and was blown away by it.
DiS: What's the film about?
Lone Wolf: I don't want to reveal too much about the film before it comes out but the general theme of 'Bastardo' is about the abuse of power. It's set in this village that hasn't got any mobile phone signal , and this guy builds a GSM ray aerial on top of his house and sets up his own mobile phone business in the village. But it gets to the point where the aerial becomes like the power of the village and he starts charging people to use it and becomes almost like a mafia boss. Just because he has a mobile phone aerial on top of his house.
DiS: Is there a projected release date?
Lone Wolf: Well, a lot of that depends on me really. It's being edited right now, but I think the plan is to release it next year in time for the film festivals.
DiS: How far into writing the score are you?
Lone Wolf: I've barely started yet to be honest! I've only just been over there and seen the film. He wants the score to be ready ideally by October, or at least in demo form, so as he can put as much music in there as possible before he submits it to the Berlin Film Festival. I have ideas from watching it. I'm a very visual writer. I put a comment on Twitter the other day asking people to visualise what colour they think 'The Swan Of Meander' sounds like. It's blue to me, so the record will come out on blue vinyl, because I think what's what The Lovers sounds like. Not blue in a negative way, just like saying blue can be the sky, which is positive, or blue can be the sea which is a beautiful thing to look at but you can also drown in it. It's so pretentious to say that but that's just the way I hear things.
DiS: Will the score for 'Bastardo' be released as a separate piece of music?
Lone Wolf: I don't really know what the deal with that is yet. That all comes down to contracts at the end of the day, what I'm allowed to do with it and stuff. I know my publishers will own the rights to all the sounds and songs, so I'd like to think it would come out. But it's going to be very sparse. My vision for that is very Spirit Of Eden style piano.
DiS: You're also involved in the pledge process for the Spirit Of Talk Talk book, having contributed a song to the accompanying tribute album. How did that come about?
Lone Wolf: I got approached to add a paragraph to that book about a year or so ago, and then I was asked to do a cover, and ended up doing 'Wealth', which is the last track on Spirit Of Eden. What was great about it was that I ended up working with Alan Wilder. He heard my version of 'Wealth' and really liked my voice, which was a great honour, so he asked if I'd sing on his cover of 'Inheritance' so I'm actually on that Spirit Of Talk Talk compilation twice. I've still never actually met Alan in the flesh. He invited me to his house to go and record but his wife was about to give birth so I ended up recording it in Leeds and sending it down to him, which is a shame but we keep in regular contact via email.
DiS: You got chosen by Richard Thompson as part of the Meltdown Festival he curated in 2010. How was that?
Lone Wolf: Meltdown was just incredible! That was an honour too. I don't know if Richard actually asked me because that was something that came about through Bella Union. I don't know if they pitched it to him and he said "Yes," or if he approached them; I actually don't know. All I know is I got booked for it, but he did introduce me on stage and said some really nice things about my guitar playing. I was chatting to him backstage afterwards about Nick Drake for the best part of an hour. Playing the Royal Festival Hall, it really doesn't get much better than that. They were tuning the piano in between soundchecks! I've never seen that before. I played 'This Is War' during the soundcheck and there was a guy standing there with a tuning fork. The moment I took my hands off the keys he was there, readjusting and tuning them. It was like, this piano has to be pitch perfect, which is crazy. It's a wonderful venue and the sound onstage was just beautiful. I think that was the first time I played with Laura Groves in the band as well.
DiS: Will Laura be part of the band when you go on tour with The Lovers? Will it be a full band this time round?
Lone Wolf: I do have people in mind. The problem is, it's all about money. Obviously when I started the pledge project it was with the intention of funding an album and a tour. Unfortunately the album has cost a little more than I initially thought it would. You can't tell until the record's uploaded, so I'm at a bit of a crossroads in my head about what to do, because I need a band. The only trouble is I want my band to get paid. They're working to do something for me. They're doing what I'm telling them to do, so they deserve money for that. Now I need to obviously get paid in order to pay them. I'm just trying to figure out the most affordable way to make this work. I have got plans to work with session musicians from London, which will be a bit different because I'm used to working with friends, but even then, it is still reliant on me being paid in the first instance. Playing live is quite daunting for me now. It used to be something that I really looked forward to. Recently I've gone back into my shell a little bit. I don't like being judged on stage any more. I don't like that people are turning up to watch me and decide whether it's good or bad. It's almost like I'd rather them just hear music. I quite like making records, and that's it really. I'd like to be able to make more records. I don't know if this will be my last Lone Wolf record.
DiS: Have you got any new songs ready for the next record?
Lone Wolf: I've got a few bits and bobs, none of which really sounds like Lone Wolf. This is the thing. I know my point with this record was Lone Wolf doesn't have to sound like anything, but I've made some really noisy, synthy stuff recently. I wouldn't rule out this being my last record as Lone Wolf. As I said before, I don't like to tread the same path too many times. All it means is I might give a new project a new name.
DiS: Any new names in the pipeline?
Lone Wolf: Nothing yet, but I can already feel a change coming. I don't believe in doing something because you can, I believe you should do them because you want to. People think it's vain if you listen to your own records, yet you should love that record. If you can't listen to it, who else can? It's not being narcissistic. You made that because you thought it sounded good.