The Pictish Trail (AKA Johnny Lynch) is currently touring his latest album Future Echoes, with upcoming shows in Edinburgh and Dundee. The musician took time out of his busy schedule to talk about festival appearances, his record label Lost Map and memories of playing live in Edinburgh.
Future Echoes has been out since September 2016. Now that quite a few months have passed and you have had time to tour the album, has your relationship to the songs changed any?
It’s been a bit of a long-distance relationship. I live on an island in the Hebrides, and if I’m playing my guitar at home it tends to be new songs, or fragments of new ideas, the same chords going around and around. The songs on Future Echoes are like old flatmates who sometimes come around for a cup of tea and a catch-up, but whom I mostly see on the mainland, when I’m over rehearsing with the band and drinking booze. I have a very boozy relationship with those songs, now. I usually end up telling them that I love them, before passing out and waking up with the smell of kebab on my fingers.
Previous albums Secret Soundz. Vol 1 and Vol 2 feel very much like companion pieces, but with Future Echoes we have a set of songs that have a brighter and more positive tone. Were you initially looking to write the third instalment of Secret Soundz, or was it always your intention to take a different approach with Future Echoes?
The Secret Soundz albums were like an odd jigsaw of songs I had written long before recording, whereas the songs on Future Echoes were kind of shaped during the recording process. Less like a jigsaw, and more like a game of Jenga, constantly taking bits out and adding layers, trying to keep it all balanced, but also on the verge of collapse. If that sounds too pretentious, just imagine it was a game of Nude Jenga, where there’s the added peril of getting one of my private parts lodged ‘neath one of the bricks. It’s a very personal record, is what I’m saying.
You are performing at The Caves in Edinburgh on 13 April. Having appeared at the venue many times before, do you have any stand out memories from performing there?
I love The Caves – it always feels exciting to be in there. About 5 years ago, I put on a show that was the 10th Anniversary of James Yorkston’s Moving Up Country record, and it was a pretty emotional gig for a number of reasons. One of the reasons was that my laptop had been nicked earlier that day. Also I sat down too quick on an uncushioned bar-stool and squashed a private part. I’m getting quite emotional just thinking about that.
On this latest tour will you be performing solo or with a full band and will this influence your set list at all?
Full band. I’ve lost a bit of weight, recently, so we’re not as big as we once were. It does mean I can dance more. The biggest influence on my set list is whether my equipment works or not. If none of it works, it probably will be a solo show.
As well as making your own music, you run the label Lost Map. Are there any bands or musicians that have new releases coming in 2017 that you would like to mention?
I could give you any number of exclusives, but I feel that would detract from the Pictish Trailness of this article. I’LL TELL YOU WHAT, THOUGH… I’m going to have a brand new Pictish Trail album available for sale at this show – it’s a live album, on cassette. That is not a joke. But there are jokes on it – it’s a live album that was recorded at The Stand.
Outside of Lost Map’s Howlin’ Fling Festival on the Isle of Eigg, do you plan on making any other Festival appearances this summer?
Yup, and I’m feeling good about them. There’s quite a few festivals lined up this year, actually… some have been announced and I think others will be announced soon. It’s going to be a busy summer, which is good, because it means I’ll be outdoors and not just stuck in the house watching old episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway? on repeat on YouTube. That’s my main vice at the moment and it’s not a healthy one, that’s for sure. I’m always excited about playing Green Man, in Wales – it’s my favourite festival, just really good vibes, and consistently a great line-up. Tell you what, though – trying to think of what to wear onstage at festivals is proving tricky. Can’t get away with baggy jeans and checked shirt anymore. Those ‘authentic folk’ days are gone. People want pizzaz. They want flair. They want tight fitting trousers, a gold-sequinned cape and obscene quantities of glitter. Unless you’re American, in which case it’s fine to still wear a trucker-cap and have unkempt facial hair. It’s not fair. British audiences get embarrassed by home-grown acts quite quickly – so it’s probably a good idea to embrace the novelty circuit early on and pre-empt the backlash. Within five years I’ll no doubt be in a super-group with Mr Motivator and the blue dancer from Misty’s Big Adventure, playing to a tent of fed-up 10-year-olds waiting for the guaranteed nu-rave nostalgia of Mr Tumble.