Interview | Fraser McGowan – Caught In The Wake Forever

Q. Firstly, thanks for taking the time for this interview. Can you give me a bit of background on yourself (musically), how you started recording etc. Did you start at an early age?

It’s no problem at all, thank you for asking me to do the interview. In a sense I was actually quite a latecomer to making music. I was made to go to piano lessons when I was a kid but I didn’t really like it. As a teenager music was a big part of my life but I never considered that I could actually make something myself. I was never that creative back then.

When I went to university, Arab Strap and a few other Scottish bands like Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscure & Idlewild had all released their first albums. I kind of got into that scene (if you could call it that). I started messing about with drums & started playing in this really bad 80s style punk band. By the time I was about 22 I began writing a lot of lyrics, I planned to write a poetry book or something nicely pretentious like that. After a while I bought a classical guitar & struggled with it, put it away & returned to it a few years later. I also got a 4 track and started messing about with effects & synths & making strange sort of odd noise experiments. I still couldn’t play guitar that well, I could play a couple of Leonard Cohen songs, that was it.

I formed Small Town Boredom when I was about 25, that’s when I got interested in music production. At the start I had an 8 track which we recorded our first album on, and about 5 years ago I got a stolen copy of cubase (which I still use) on an old computer. My set up has just grown & evolved quite slowly & naturally from there.

Q. The name, Caught In The Wake Forever is intriguing. It’s a tired question, but I have to ask: where did the name come from and what’s its significance?
The name comes from a line in the NBC show Nip/Tuck. It was a while ago so I cant remember in what exact context it came about but one of the characters said something like “you make one mistake and you’re caught in the wake forever”. I wrote it down as I really liked it and when it came to starting a new project it seemed a very natural fit.

Q. Your latest album, Against A Simple Wooden Cross is a great achievement. Can you tell me how you came to incorporate background or environmental sounds into the recordings?
Thank you very much! I had always been interested in the use of environmental recordings in music and through the years I’ve incorporated a lot of lofi static or noise in my tracks. Up until recently I only had old 1980s style dictaphone that I used for background ambience and field recordings.

Last summer I bought a Zoom H2 digital recorder and it made a big difference in the sounds I was interested in. It opened me up into a whole new word of possibility. It’s amazing when you put headphones on and press record when you’re outside, I could sit for hours listening to all the details of the environment, I fine it very relaxing.

So I took the recorder on holiday with me last year and set a whole day aside for recordings, we went to the beach & along the cliffs & into the small villages near where we were. I think I ended up with over an hours worth of tracks. When I got home it was just a case of trial and error, some were better than others and it’s just a case of editing them until they work how I need them to.

I like using field recordings in instrumental tunes, for me it gives them a very personal feel, a kind of secret meaning that only I will ever know, it helps keep them tied to me in a sense.

Q. Can you name some of your favourite albums by other artists, ideally a mixture of stuff you’ve always liked and more recent discoveries?
Hmm this is a hard one… there are too many, some older albums that I always go back to are

Songs of Love and Hate by Leonard Cohen
Tindersticks (The 2nd Album)
Kerosene Hat by Cracker
A Story In White by Aereogramme
Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers By The National
Scars by Paul Goodwin
Centralia by Norfolk & Western
Good Morning Spider by Sparklehorse
Substrata by Biosphere

Some newer discoveries that have really stuck with me are

Life Is People by Bill Fay
Ruis by Somni451
Attack On Memory by Cloud Nothings
Time by Jacob Bro

Q. The Scottish music scene is really thriving at the minute. Many of the bands I’m familiar have a melancholic feel to them, and some artists (such as yourself) have been through personal trauma. Is that a coincidence or is Scotland the capital of gloom?!
Ha, I’m not sure how to answer that really. Personally I don’t think the scene over here is that great, maybe I’m too close to it to get perspective or maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places but yeah, we Scots do tend to have more of a glass half empty type of approach to things…. maybe were just more realistic.

Q. How does your work as Caught In The Wake Forever differ from Small Town Boredom?
My work with Small Town Boredom musically was very much a collaboration between me & my friend Colin, it was pretty much 50/50 when it came to writing. It was very acoustic based & very natural & timeless. Where as my work as Caught In The Wake Forever is entirely me on my own in my studio. Musically it’s a lot more instrumental & ambient, a bit more abstract & there are a lot more electronic elements within the albums. Over all I think Small Town Boredom was a bit more miserable than my new stuff, if that’s possible.

Q. What’s your opinion on music right now, any albums jump out at you this year?
If I’m being honest, I think there is far too much music right now. I feel a lot of the time I find myself having to wade through a sea of mediocre releases to find anything worthwhile, it can be hard to find truly unique & inspiring music these days, especially within the ambient community.

But on the other hand there have been some truly amazing releases this year. I think you just need to know where to look. I find myself drawn to smaller labels recently as opposed to trying to find anything by individual bands. That’s why I feel so honoured to have an album out on Hibernate Recordings, as a label they release one quality record after another, its very inspiring to see.

I’m really looking forward to the new Dakota Suite record that’s coming out soon but so far my favourite release of the year would have to be Cyanometry by Spheruleus, it’s such a wonderful piece of work.

Q. Any plans to do any touring?
No, I’m afraid not, maybe one day soon though

Q. Outside of music, what else goes on in your world?
I just recently started working part time as a support worker for people with mental health problems & I also do some mastering work for a variety of labels & one off projects. I also volunteer, running a music group for adults with learning difficulties. Out with work I have a five year old son who I spend most of my spare time with, he keeps me on my toes!

Q. What’s next for Caught In The Wake Forever?
Next I just plan to record a follow up to Against A Simple Wooden Cross, the next chapter so to speak. I have a few demos done already, it’s just a case of finding the time.

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