Skyscraper Magazine » These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: The High Llamas
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By Sean O'Hagan July 26, 2011

A SMALL PLANE OVER THE SOUTH DOWNS: The South Downs is a range of hills in Sussex, not far from London, but it may as well be a hundred miles away. At the top of the Downs, one can see the English Channel and the white cliffs [of Dover]. A week back I was there, alone on a ridge, when a single engine plane flew over. It was a solitary sound, a small picture against a summer blue sky and perhaps the essence of childhood happiness. This has always been in my mind as a favourite story board; I imagine it’s 1965, pre-mass communication. A weird innocence we hanker for.

A SPONTANEOUS EVENING WITH FRIENDS AND MUSIC HITS THE DECKS: I worry that I get little time to idle over music, the stuff that shaped me. On the increasingly rare occasions when a group of friends just happen to wind up in the front room, I love nothing more than to DJ all night at a steady, sipping beer rate. I will not try to impress, just force my total prejudice and politic of music and sound on the assembled bods. Everyone is smiling in the end.

WINDING DOWN AFTER A GIG: This is a Llamas thing. I love playing a not too spectacular gig somewhere off the beaten track in Europe and winding down in a surprisingly odd little bar in the odd little town that we happen to be in, a bit of local colour and a real sense of quiet achievement. Gig was really nice but no big deal, but the wind down was special. I Iove those days. It’s really the moment when I say, “Yea. I’m in still a band, and I still love it.”

THE SPORTS NEWS IN THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER: A UK broadsheet. I get to read it after my 11-year-old son scours it. I tell him not to spill the news, as I look forward to reading the football over a Marmite bagel and a cup of strong tea at 7:45 AM.

WALKING UP TO THE EMIRATES ON A MIDWEEK EVENING: Arsenal play at the Emirates off the Holloway Road. Being on a 60,000 bods heading towards the ground, maybe picking up some chips on the way, and a program. The evening night air is alive with expectation. It’s quite magical. You really feel the love for the club. You can touch it.

FAREWELL ALDEBARAN: The classic psyche folk record made by Judy Henske and Jerry Yester (Straight, 1969). I think in times of odd insecurity, I reach for this record and feel reassured. I sometimes wonder if it’s one of the greatest records ever made. We can learn so much from its eclectic, avant-folk character. No two tunes on Aldebaran sound the same. Amazing.

DREAMING OF MY NEXT VISIT TO NEW YORK: I love New York, but have not been for seven years. I feel genuinely alive and on the edge of bliss when I’m there. Seeing as I cannot get there for the moment, one of my favourite things is dreaming of the next visit to NY.

A FENDER BASS COPY WITH FLAT WOUND STRINGS: This instrument is cheap and cheerful, the strings have not been changed in years, but it always delivers the right sound. Plying this little gem with a Dunlop .78 nylon pick is as close as we can get to Joe Osborne.

A NEW PAUL AUSTER NOVEL: Seeing the new Paul Auster hardback in the bookshop is always a happy day. I know the next few days are going to be given over to Mr. Auster, and I reserve a place for him… always… followed on by his good  wife.

RUNNING: Running from Peckham to Vauxhall Bridge on a spring evening, looking over at the Houses of Parliament, then running back. Exhausted but buzzing, I drink a cool Peroni and watch Newsnight. I write a lot of lyrics as I run, and sometimes just dive on a copy book as soon as I hit the home to get the ideas down.

ZOOM H4 RECORDER: My Zoom H4 recorder is a mini digital recorder that I take on all trips, as you sometimes have time on your hands and you tend to write on those occasions. The wee recorder is a vital companion and has been all over the world with me.

THE BBC: When I hear the authoritative tines of Radio 4, or the mystery of a late night Radio 3 new ensemble session, I know the world is okay, for me at least, in that moment. A sense of calm falls upon us.

Sean O’Hagan (pictured top left) is the frontman and songwriter of the London-based, 1960s-inspired indie-pop group The High Llamas. He was formerly a member of the band Microdisney, and he has frequently collaborated with Stereolab and Super Furry Animals. The most recent High Llamas album, Talahomi Way, was released by Drag City Records in April.

Photo: Steve Brummell

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