Wednesday, May 05, 2010
AMAZING STEVE MASON
Former Beta Band singer launch eponymous and career-best solo project in collaboration with pop producer Richard X
Text by David Hellqvist | Published 28 April 2010
For the lucky ones to catch it, Beta Band's Farewell tour in 2004 was a sad moment. The UK lost one of its finest, daring and experimental bands, but gained - as it turned out - several musical offspring in the Scottish band's immediate break-up period. The other Beta Band members formed The Aliens whilst singer Steve Mason started up a handful of solo projects; Black Affair and King Biscuit Time being the most successful ones. All good, but Mason, and his fans, were missing something. That little extra ounce of confidence that Beta Band had when they were at the top. Along the way, it seems, that missing piece of brilliance found its way back home and now, recording under his own name (always a good sign), Steve Mason presents 'Boys Outside', an album that distinctively leaves you with that great Beta Band taste in the mouth, but still manages to push on through to the other side, ie forward pushing music and new grounds to explore for Mason. Produced by Richard X, of Girls Aloud and Rachel Stevens' fame, it has just enough pure pop ingredients in it to melt perfectly with the experimental sound craze that Steve Mason is finally serving up.
Dazed Digital: What’s the main difference between this album and your previous solo project under different names?
Steve Mason: On my previous records I was unfocused, it was me trying to find a sound I felt comfortable with. I enjoyed Black Affair, but for a while there I had five or six MySpace accounts going. Way too many to keep track of…
DD: Are you using your own name now because you have finally found a sound you’re comfortable with?
Steve Mason: Yeah, I wanted to bring it all together. I feel comfortable with this sound, it’s almost like I’ve grown up. I have no longer any pseudonyms to hide behind and I take full responsibly myself for this album.
DD: How did this change come about?
Steve Mason: Age, I suppose, and I was running out of band names…
DD: Isn’t Richard X an odd producer choice for a predominantly acoustic album?
Steve Mason: Well, it’s not all acoustic - half of it is electronic. It’s also piano led and inspired by R’n’B music. The aim was to make seamless and forward thinking music, so Richard fitted perfectly in! This is my most complete solo album - it feels properly finished.
DD: How did you two meet?
Steve Mason: Richard came to see Black Affair play live and said he’d be interested in working together. I had always wanted to use a proper pop producer, even when I was in Beta Band; high glossed pop mixed with very experimental music.
DD: Is the collaboration continual?
Steve Mason: Yeah, I would like it to be, but next time he might charge me for it!
DD: What influenced the album?
Steve Mason: Me, how I feel, my relationships. People I meet and see. Things I hear, politics and the state of the country.
DD: There are definitely similarities between 'Boys Outside' and older Beta Band stuff - Do you miss the band?
Steve Mason: I don’t think it sounds like Beta band, it might have echoes of it, but that makes sense since I wrote the music for Beta Band. But I want to go forward, not backwards. I would be ashamed if I had to go back in time to find inspiration for my music
DD: Any chance of a Beta Band reunion?
Steve Mason: Yes, when hell freezes over! You should never say never, but I would have to be a madman to reform Beta Band now….but then again, I am quite mad…
DD: What do you reckon about The Aliens?
Steve Mason: It’s not bad but it’s not my bag.
DD: Lost & Found is a great single, tell me about the video!
Steve Mason: It’s not about me as you might think. It’s a about a dream I had where a suicide pact between a boy and a girl goes wrong. It’s directed by a couple of guys who call themselves John Major’s Daughters. They showed me some French films with a hint of slight danger in them as inspiration. I just love the old man in it – no one has old men in their videos these days!
DD: Someone labeled the album ‘electronic soul’ – what would you call it?
Steve Mason: I don’t agree or disagree with that. Journalists love making up names for different kinds of music. They called Bets Band’s music for Folktronica. This album is me, it’s Steve Mason. That has always been the thread running through my music.
DD: You have fought off depression several times, is music a good or bad weapon for that? There is that age old question if ‘we listen to pop music because we’re sad or are we sad because we listen to pop music…
Steve Mason: Dunno if it helps, but what I do know is that there is an enormous feeling of satisfaction after finishing off an album. There’s a feeling of not having wasted away my entire life…
DD: Favourite track from the album?
Steve Mason: It has to be Stress Position!
'Boys Outside' is out Monday 3 May on Domino/Double Six