Pugwash's Thomas Walsh is back with another gorgeous collection of sparkling guitar pop, Silverlake. He talks about the album’s creation and where he's going next.
Once you start Thomas Walsh off, Captain Pugwash himself, it’s very hard to get him to stop. Hot Press roused the man from his sleep with our early morning (crack of noon) phone call, and the rambling conversation that followed went on for an hour-and-a-half. The reason for the pow-wow is Pugwash album #7, Silverlake, yet another bright and shiny thing of beauty, with all the usual touchstones – E.L.O. The Beatles, The Beach Boys and XTC. Who am I leaving out? “There’s a huge dollop of people like Ray Davies and Michael Penn as well,” notes Thomas, “but you’re not wrong.”
The album is a collaboration with Walsh’s long time mate, Jason Falkner (Jellyfish, Beck, Air).
“Back in the ’90s, Jason was one of those American artists, like Michael Penn, that I just fell in love with,” reflects Thomas. “For me, his album with The Grays and his first solo album, Author Unknown, are two of the greatest records of the last 30 years. His phone number was passed to me years ago, and he ended up contributing to both Jollity and Eleven Modern Antiquities, so to do a whole record with him was always the dream. Once I knew this was going ahead, I wrote the whole thing in about six days. I play acoustic guitar, but Jason plays everything else. I wanted his stamp on it, his sound that is so well loved.”
Hot Press is particularly taken with the gorgeous ‘Sunshine True’ and album closer ‘Autarch’, which could easily pass for something from the Beach Boys’ Holland album. The word autarch means ‘absolute ruler’ (I know because I looked it up), so Thomas, is that you now?
“It’s actually about Trump, but that’s very good – I’m gonna use that. That’s the real answer, probably!”
The reason I ask is that the old Pugwash of the last two records are no more. “We broke up through e-mail,” explains Thomas. “I was excited that the project I wanted to do with Jason was coming together. I was also very sad, but the email read a little arrogantly. I mean, I didn’t say ‘Hey guys, fuck youse!’ I just said we can’t do this anymore.”
Were you just knackered and broke? “Completely and utterly,” nods Thomas. “In a way, when you’re 47, going on tour in America for three months is really an amazingly stupid thing to do. You do that when you’re 27, or 17. I mean, the people were great. One guy drove a thousand miles just to buy merchandise – he had to go home to work or his kid or whatever, so he didn’t even get to see the gig!” Did he never hear of the postal service? “Well, he got a picture with me as well! But they are amazing people really, and they do grand gestures like that.”
These kind of passionate fans have kept Thomas afloat, purchasing demos and outtakes through the web.
“That is essential for me,” he notes. “I have so much stuff I’ve recorded over the years. I can make a few bob and it’s kept me going. With the new album, Kickstarter helped me raise something like $30,000 in three weeks. Things like that drive you to make a better record too. Thankfully, the core of my fan base prefers the physical product to the free. They make it happen."
“Here, it’s either playing to a load of hoojahs at Knockanstockan only to hear the organisers say there is no money as they know they can fill the line up with Mrs O'Reilly’s Pigeon Factor or whoever, who’ll play for nothing, or the pile of fucking cackology that is the Other Voices TV show, with Dickie Fucking Magpie and his exploding acoustic guitar, performing some song about a dead cat and it’s muck. I don’t get asked to do these things.”
That being said, he does plan to push the new record.
“I’m extremely proud of it and the way it came about,” beams Thomas. “I want to work it intelligently for at least 12 months, with hopefully some big support slots in 2018. I’m doing shows with the Divine Comedy now, and I may get a band together in the new year, as I’ve had some nice offers. As long as it’s me, it’s Pugwash, that’s the way it’s been since day one.”
Proper order, long may it continue.
Silverlake is out now on Lojinx, and Pugwash are currently on tour with The Divine Comedy. Dates include Ulster Hall, Belfast on December 7, and the Olympia, Dublin (8 & 9).
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