Interview with Stephen Cochrane of SubJuno
Stephen was the songwriting powerhouse behind This Ground Moves. He played guitar in the band and added his vocals to the songs, but those compositions were largely from this talented young fella. I met up with him in July in the pleasant surroundings of the Forth pub’s roof beergarden.
I begin my asking about his upcoming single Nancy’s Song.
JO: You can tell by the sound of the new single that This Ground Moves songs were largely your writing.
SC: Yeah, but all of This Ground Moves was me. I wrote every song we ever did. ‘Cos’ that was my job! I’m not that great a guitarist so I had to bring something to the table, or else I’d be just someone playing chords badly on stage!
JO: Having listened to Nancy’s Song it has a This Ground Moves “edge” about it but also a slight poppiness.
SC: Yeah I wrote it (Nancy’s Song) when I was in TGM but I don’t think the rest of the band were that interested in it. But as soon as I wrote it I though “That’s gonna be a single, that’s coming out.” Whether or not the band are still together. And I was going to do SubJuno anyway, I’ve got 46 songs written for it now!
JO: 46? Crikey!
SC: My problem at the minute is I don’t know which ones to put on the album.
JO: The best ones?
SC: Yeah but although it’s not a concept album as such, every song relates to another song. I’ve got to pick 12 that “talk to each other”.
JO: Have you got a favourite song so far?
SC: Find Someone – I think that’s the best song I’ve ever written by about a million miles. I may release it separately from the album.
JO: SubJuno has a different sound though.
SC: There’s a bit more 80’s sounding synths etc.
JO: A lot of 80’s inspired music happening right now.
SC: yeah but you should borrow from the 80s, from the 90s. A lot of what’s going on now is just shite. The problem with music now is it’s very very boring or just safe. I mean, what’s the point? Kanye, X Factor, it just not for me.
JO: People do enjoy it though.
SC: Yeah they do. Not everyone wants to come out on a Saturday night and watch a band. We used to have “New faces” and “Opportunity Knocks”
JO: I swear it was better!
SC: It was MUCH better!
JO: So the name, SubJuno?
SC I wanted to call the band “Subrosa” a legal term meaning “under the rose”. Private meetings would have a rose displayed over the door to signify what was discussed was private. I found out there was a prog rock band in the 70s called “Subrosa” so decided against it. The Roman god Juno was “of the earth” so SubRosa is meant to mean “under the earth” or “underground”. It sounded right.
Jo: So, the new album, how’s the release coming along?
SC: I’ve been working with John at Loft studios as he can get the sound just how I like it. Loft did the This Ground Moves album at their old studios. I’m on a label now.
Jo: Oh, great stuff!
SC: Yeah, I’m not sure I’m meant to say who they are yet. But they have a release plan and it’s looking like the last week in September for Nancy’s Song. They’re sorting that for us. To be honest I really can’t be bothered with all that side. It’s good to have a label doing that for us. What I want to do is just write songs. I don’t want to do the business side any more. I had my label and it showed me that it’s not where my strengths lie. I’m a songwriter. It’s all I ever wanted to be.
JO: You can’t do both.
SC: No you can’t. Unless you’ve got £100k you’re prepared to put in. With TGM only about half of the money spent was got back. It’s different when you have a label dealing with all that. You know what it is? I don’t even see myself as a musician. I’m a songwriter. If I was dealing with the business side, all the songs would be about the stress of running a label. Songs are better written when you can focus on them. Write them in ten minutes! You’ve got to be prepared to sit in a room with a guitar or a piece of paper and have an argument with yourself. That’s how I do it. I think I’m quite prolific. Can I call myself prolific?
JO: I think with 46 songs in the bank yes.
SC: Yeah I suppose I’m prolific. Isn’t Prince supposed to write a song every day? I bet a lot of them are crap! When I write songs, I’ve been doing this long enough now to know in the first 3 seconds “this is a good song”. If it’s not, I don’t carry on. You have to learn what’s going to be good and what’s not going to be good. I always wanted to write songs. I would finish work and sit at home in me bedroom, two hours every night writing song after song – and they were terrible! Really bad. Then about 3 months in I wrote a song called I’ve Been Down. I’d been in a band as soon as I got a guitar. It was very punk in the sense we couldn’t really play at first. But once I wrote that song I just kept on writing. In about 2003 I wrote up Light Up Life and that sat around until This Ground Moves.
And so that was the period when I was really getting good at what I do. And I am good! Don’t care if anyone thinks that sounds arrogant!
JO: Ha ha, nothing wrong with that. You had a good gig at Corbridge Festival this year. Think you’ll do it again?
SC: Yes, maybe do it with a full band. It was good doing an acoustic set, but my proble right now is that the band’s not ready yeat. I’ve got a guitarist starting this week. But I don’t think I’ll do it like the old band.
SC: No, I don’t think I’ll do the proper band thing again.
JO: One question I’d like to ask then, although it’s like discussing an old girlfriend, is how did This Ground Moves drift out of being?
SC: I think I just got tired. We’d had The Soviets, This Ground Moves, it went on for years. At first it was me and Micky (Cochrane) and then Andy Mackin joined. But as time went by it just got tired. And it was costing a lot of money. It got to a point it wasn’t really worth it.
Jo: I was wondering if it was the old “musical differences” thing, especially as you were doing all the writing.
SC: Ha ha!
JO: Especially after getting the sync (music onto visual media) on CSI New York – one of you getting all the money and the others getting fed up – that can happen and it’s usually called “musical differences”
SC: Ha! Yeah! I was SUPPOSED to get more money as the writer but haven’t had any yet! They (licensees) have ages to pay up. But I just wanted to write that first album and then hand over the reins to the rest of the band. But I don’t think they were interested really.
|This Ground Moves, Corbridge Festival 2013|
JO: With this release, a lot of people are going for the EP format but you are going for an album.
SC: You see, to me, four songs is a single. I remember when you had a single and you had 3 B-sides. It’s changed and nobody cares about B-sides anymore. I don’t think people care that much about singles any more, it’s all died. So I think an EP might get “lost”. And I have the album all there.
JO: Yeah you’ve got enough to pick and choose ..no filler!
SC: I’m going to come across really arrogant again because there really is no filler. It’s the best body of work I’ve ever written. I’m going in next week to record a song called Moves To Hollywood and I know how I want it to sound, how the album will go. An EP to me would be just throwing four songs together.
JO: Great, so we’ll get a real “play it in the car” CD. I found that with TGM, great for long journeys!.
SC: That would have kept you awake! It was quite loud in parts! There’ll probably be one or two anthemic songs on the album when I finalise it. But like you said earlier it’s more pop.
JO: Intelligent pop?
SC: I hope so! I’ve got a song called Pyrrhic Victory which I think is a really poppy sounding song but the lyrics are quite obscure. My bassist asked “What the hell’s a pyrrhic victory?”. I had to explain some of the terms used. But then you have Nancy’s Song, an out and out love song.
I don’t think I’d ever say “I love you” in a song. It’s a bit dull isn’t it? James Blunt You’re Beautiful, for example. If everybody wrote a song about people they’d seen on a train and fancied, it would be really dull. But then he goes from saying he’s seen a girl on the subway, then says “You’re beautiful”, so now he’s saying that to me? If James Blunt thinks I’m beautiful, that’s fine, but why’s he talking about this girl?
Jo: Ha ha jealous?
SC: Yeah who’s this girl, what’s the craic James?
With the help of Peroni we had further discussions on the way social media has taken over people’s lives:
SC: I don’t need to know what time you’ve gone to bed, really. People post the most pointless things.
SC: And I’ve got this image of being out on the beer all the time…I get tagged and I wasn’t even there! I do like Twitter though, it’s like standing in the street shouting your opinions.
Stephen also has opinions on the “Three Kates”
On Price: So much cleverer than she makes out. Everything she does is planned for publicity. Amazing businesswoman.
On Moss: Always admired her. Again, carefully planned press exposure, keeping her in work. Clever woman. People slag her off, I like her.
On Hopkins: Terrible woman. Nothing clever about saying nasty things for attention.
I asked Stephen the important question “What is your favourite cheese”?
SC: When it’s grilled.
JO: Is there much taste to it?
SC: Yeah it’s lush, dead meaty. Halloumi pasta. You can’t whack a bit Halloumi pasta, a bit garlic, tomatoes.
JO: Ooh sounds canny!
SC: See I like cooking. I used to hate it but I’ve learned the worst can happen is it goes in the bin.
Watch out for the release of Nancy's Song in the autumn, with the album release to be confirmed!