Interview with Fraser McGowan – From A Harbour Softly Drawn

Interview with Fraser McGowan – From A Harbour Softly Drawn
by Killian Laher

No More Workhorse caught up with Fraser McGowan, now recording under the name From A Harbour Softly Drawn:

It’s been a while since we’ve been in touch.  How have you been?

Hi Killian, it has been a while indeed, a few years I reckon! I’ve been good thanks. Busy with work & family life. My son’s now 15 years old & currently doing his national 5s, so that’s keeping me on my toes most days.

What have you been up to since the last Caught In The Wake Forever release?

Well, that was my last release under that name. So I just kind of stopped & I took about 6 months off from making any music at all. I think that was the first time I had ever done that. I’m usually always chipping away at it. I wasn’t sure why I had finished up with that project but I just had a gut feeling that my music under that name had ran its course. Then the whole lockdown thing started & after work, like everyone, I was in the house every night. After a while, I started recording sketches & ideas again in my home studio. A bit of an escape really & a bit of fun. I’ve always enjoyed recording without the limitations of recording for a specific project in mind. It was nice just to make music for myself, without the thought of ever releasing it.

I also started making quite a good library of environmental-based field recordings. I would drive to seaside towns in Scotland in the middle of the night when no one was about & record the water from the shores. In complete silence at 3 or 4am. I became a bit obsessed with the movement & varying sounds of the sea. Eventually, I had enough ideas that a sort of narrative around what I was doing naturally formed.

Tell me about the name change, From A Harbour Softly Drawn.  Is it different from your previous work?

The name was originally going to be used as an album title, Sketches From A Harbour Softly Drawn. It was very much born from that “lock down” environment. I missed being outside, I missed being around nature. I’ve always been drawn to the small Scottish seaside towns & the islands around here. I guess I just wanted to reflect that in the music I was making.

I wouldn’t say there’s a major shift in direction so far with this new project. More of a continuation of where I finished with Caught In The Wake Forever. I’ve always seen my musical projects like chapters in a book. I’m just onto a new chapter now. For instance, take the track Blank Spots from my new vinyl. This is my debut under a new alias but personally, I see it as a bit of a follow up to my album Under Blankets which was released a few years ago by Fluid Audio. It’s got that same zoned out, meditative feel to it.

I would definitely say I’m leaning a bit more into ambient & field recordings these days though but with slight hints of jazz throughout some tracks. I suppose that’s a bit of a new approach for me. For the upcoming album I’m currently working on, I’m using mostly my modular eurorack system, piano, sampler, field recordings & a mellotron keyboard. It’s coming along well & hopefully, I might have something finished at some point early next year.

You’ve started a label 4th Ward Private Press, is that right?  Will you be releasing your own music exclusively or do you plan to involve other artists?

I did indeed start a small label (against my better judgement). It’s always been something I’ve thought about, on & off over the years. I’ve dabbled in self-releasing before but I’ve always wanted to do something a bit more substantial.

It wasn’t until I was sent the track TEKEL (Seven Sisters) by Andrew Wild, that I actually thought, wow, this is really something great, I need to start a label & release this! I remember sitting on my bed with headphones on, listening to it for the first time & just being blown away by the micro world of sound he created. I’ve been a big fan of Andrew’s paintings for a long time & this was just the perfect audio representation of what he does with a paintbrush. It just tickled my brain & ears in all the right places.

<div style=”font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;”><a href=”https://soundcloud.com/caughtinthewakeforever&#8221; title=”4th Ward Private Press” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>4th Ward Private Press</a> · <a href=”https://soundcloud.com/caughtinthewakeforever/02-andrew-wild-tekel-seven-sisters&#8221; title=”02 Andrew Wild – TEKEL (Seven Sisters)” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>02 Andrew Wild – TEKEL (Seven Sisters)</a></div>

At that point, I had just finished up my track Blank Spots & had been stuck with what to do with it, whether to send it to a label or not. The two tracks, I felt, sat very well together & that’s how this first release came about. It took a while to get everything just right with the audio & then we sent it off to Taylor Deupree for mastering & that just brought the whole thing to life.

It’s taken probably over a year & a half to get everything together, for all the ideas to make sense. It’s been a complete collaboration with Andrew so far, his expertise with art & design has been really invaluable. The whole thing wouldn’t have happened without his time & patience.

Going forward, I plan to release some more works by myself & by a few other artists I love. Vinyl is an expensive choice for running a small label that no one has heard of, so it’s probably going to take a while to get funds together for the next release. But vinyl is what I listen to myself. I love buying it & I love sitting down with a good record at night. Hopefully, 4th Ward Private Press will reflect this going forward & resonate with those who feel the same.

When we were last in touch you mentioned some song-based work as Small Town Boredom, did anything come of that?

Its coming along… very slowly. Myself & Colin Morrison (the other half of Small Town Boredom) have written a lot of songs but only about half an album has been recorded so far. I’m going to see Idlewild with him in Glasgow next month, hopefully, we can put in place a few plans for next year & really push ahead with the ideas we have & get the album finished.

Do you think the current music scene is healthy?

I’m not sure I’m the right person to comment on the “music scene”. I’m quite out of touch with what’s current or what’s happening these days. I know I don’t like Spotify & streaming platforms, they aren’t something I use. But that seems to be the way things are done these days. There’s definitely a good amount of quality music out there at the moment though & I’m still constantly going to gigs, so it can’t be that bad.

Have you any urge to play live at all?

It’s not something that I think will ever be on the cards with any of my solo work. But if I manage to get the singer-songwriter stuff with Colin finished, we might play a few gigs. I do feel a bit too old to be doing that sort of thing now. I don’t know, we’ll need to see…

Anything else you’re working on?

I’m still doing the occasional mastering & production jobs. I’ve actually just finished up mastering the new Madder Rose album that’s going to be released next year through the amazing TROME Records. The 90s teenager in me was extremely excited to have the opportunity to do this one. I was a big fan of them when I was younger & it was very special to get to be involved with their new record in a small way.

I’ve also been in touch with a few artists about the next release on 4th Ward Private Press. Hopefully, something comes from that & I have some news on that early next year.

The new EP is available here.

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