Adam Stafford's album of two halves
The best things come, they say, to those who wait. Anyone who heard Adam Stafford’s new album may recognise some of the hooks from live shows, including the snaking guitar licks on ‘The Witch Hunt’. That tune was conceived nearly eight years ago. But the Falkirk musician has had plenty to keep him from working on the other 12 tracks that form this magnum opus.
Stafford’s polymath approach to art includes film – having directed The Shutdown, poet Alan Bissett’s tale of an accident at the Grangemouth oil refinery. Despite that and a music video for Kilsyth band The Twilight Sad being award-winners, he’s found that movies don’t always win out.
“Music is the easier pursuit because it’s instantaneous,” he says. “I still have to work hard on the arrangements and structural aspects and the production and execution, but it is more of an organic process. Film production is more protracted and costs more money and, to a certain degree, involves more collaboration and organisation.”
Fortunately, he’s able to combine the two whether making soundtracks, or his very filmic music.“I love cinema and music in equal amounts though and would be hard pressed to choose one over the other. I plan to make another short film soon, the right idea hasn’t grabbed my imagination yet.”
Also stymieing the creative process has been a battle with depression. However, while that can hinder the creative process, ultimately he can make it work for him.
“It’s definitely more cathartic now - I used to be very ambitious and want to achieve grand things,” Stafford admits. “I have been in therapy for nearly a year now and have come to realise that all of that feeds back into being an underachiever when I was young. But it is still nice to share or otherwise I would just be making stuff and not releasing it.”
That sense of underachievement may come from the fact despite much of his output being uncommercial, just about every release has received acclaim – from his band’s lauded output to his solo work including SAY-nominated ‘Imaginary Walls Collapse’. Great self-expectations, you might say.
Since his band Y’All Is Fantasy Island split Stafford has worked on what appear to be solo releases – including the SAY-nominated Imaginary Walls Collapse. However, and perhaps happily, he’s been among friends recently, with former bandmate Robbie Lesiuk producing.
“This record has other collaborators – more than I’ve ever worked with before – such as Pete Harvey who arranged the strings, a choir and a string quartet. Thankfully, everything is worked out beforehand so we don’t really have jam/writing sessions where everybody gets stressed out by an arrangement that is not quite working.”
The new release, on Edinburgh label Song, By Toad, is quite the beast of an album, a double 12” on vinyl. The second half was written during what the composer calls “a horrendous bout of bad mental health - and the music reflects that,” he confides.
“I’ve created all of my output suffering from depression; it’s just now I’m having more guts to discuss it openly. I hope in some small way I can help reduce the stigma because I have friends who really struggle with it too but are too proud to talk about it.
“As for the creative process, there’s nothing more stifling than an episode of depression.”
Despite all this, Stafford has produced another epic long-player which will be topping critics choice lists at the end of the year.
As he says: “There is darkness and light - just like on every release.”
Fire Behind The Curtain is out now.