Caturday with Charles Watson

Gemma Lacey

This Caturday we speak to Charles Watson, the London based songwriter and producer and member of indie duo Slow Club and garage-rock group The Surfing Magazines. Charles recently started solo writing and is releasing a new album on May 18th and his UK tour runs through May and June. We talked about his creative writing processes, favourite books to read, and past collaborations.

You talk about repeated imagery with this record, can you tell us about some of the themes and images you were working with and why those resonated with you? Particularly the parts of “Hello, America”
When I started working on this record I was carrying around a copy of Hello America in my bag, mostly because I liked the cover. It had an illustration of an old American car with a giant lizard crawling across the roof. What’s not to love? I ended up picking random pages from the book and making lists of words that looked fruity and unusable. I started to pick up on the narrative through the language alone. There are lots of images of things falling to pieces and nature taking background. I guess after a while I just always had the book with me and got really excited because I didn’t really worry about what the songs were going to be about because I knew they were all going to be about everything being totally fucked. Pressure off I thought. :)
Writing and music can seem to be quite separate creative processes- how do the two work for you? 
I see them all as the same thing, to be honest. They are both vehicles that allow you to disappear for a while. I guess you’re using different skills but the feeling is the same. I always to try to have some sort of other thing on the boil while writing music as it will eventually feed back into the songs. There’s always a song that needs to be wrestled to the ground in order to be finished. Having something you can go do that isn’t watching epic fail compilations on youtube seems to work more often than not. I think I just need a hobby.
The other thing which interested me is that writing is usually a more solitary process and music more collaborative. How do you balance those two things?
I guess you’re right. Writing fiction isn’t stuff I ever wanted to be out there for public consumption. It’s more a way of figuring out ideas before they go into songs. Writing lyrics is really fun but is also quite restrictive in its form. Making records up until this point has been quite collaborative, so to do something that is completely solo was slightly daunting. That’s why I sent a big long email to all my best mates and said HELP ME MAKE AN ALBUM!!! In the past I have spent a lot of time making demos at home and this time around I wanted the first time I heard the song fully realised to be the album version. I made acoustic demos so the band could hear the song but without giving them aesthetic guidelines to stick to. Although the guidelines were tucked away in my brain and if anyone stepped out of line they knew about it!!!!!
You collaborated with Guillemot’s Fyfe Dangerfield and Hot Club De Paris’ Paul Rafferty, what was it about their style that complemented what you were doing?
Paul and Fyfe have very unique styles, as do Paul Jones, C.A Smith, Avvon Chambers and Rob Jones who also played on the record. I suppose it wasn’t so much anything particular about each player, but more the fact that I hoped all those people in one room with a bunch of nice gear and the right songs might create something special. We all had loads of space to spread out in the studio so each person could have their own little station. What a bloody laugh.
What other artists, writers and musicians influence you- pick a top 3 if this is tricky!
Laura Poitras – I saw the Laura Poitras show at The Whitney a few years ago and worked my way back from there. She is a force of nature!
William Eggleston – Eggleton’s photography all looks accidental and deffffo wasn’t.
Patricia – I heard her cover of Knights In White Satin on a comp called Dames Of Paris. I have been chasing that bass sound ever since.
We’re told you have 3 cats! What are their names and are they fans of your music?
We do have three cats. Arthur is the oldest and then we have a pair of Persian sisters called Kimchi and Bobbie. As you might imagine, they all love my music and are endlessly enthusiastic to hear what’s new.
This is your debut solo record, are you excited to share it?
I cannot wait!  I’m so happy with it. I listened to the test pressings last week having not heard it for a while and I was really stoked. I wanted to make something slow dreamy and dark. I hope that’s what people hear!
What 3 books, have had the most impact on you personally or as a writer?
Raymond Carver  – Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?
Miranda July – No One Belongs Here More Than You
Ernest Hemmingway – The Old Man And The Sea
Finally, what are you most excited for in 2018?

Click to listen to Charles Watson’s Caturday playlist

Charles Watson’s album is out 18th May, and his UK tour starts 19th May – 2nd June