Nev Cottee / Aficionado / Wonderful Sound
Where are you from?
The North Of England.
Where are you based?
What made you start?
It was really my brother and his mates who got me into music. They used to go into town when I was too young to do so and come back with all these amazing records by The Stones and Lou Reed and that was that. I started playing guitar. Just sat in my bedroom learning the basics.
What makes you continue?
It’s the only thing I can do well… Plus I love writing songs, the whole process…
How would you describe your sound?
Lee Hazlewood on a space walk. I’m probably not the best person to ask. I like everything from The Stooges at their loudest and rawest to Bert Jansch alone with his guitar. It all goes in the mix and comes out like it does. I think this footage of Jansch is phenomenal, just perfect.
Where is your favourite place to play / party / other?
My favourite place to play is Glasgow. I’ve never had a bad gig there. I’ve not had too many bad gigs full stop but up there is a always special. To party, Palma de Mallorca, I lived out there a while ago and there’s a cool group of people who know how to live the good life…
What are you most proud of?
Probably my songs.
Who are you working with?
I work with some great musicians, Mason Neely from Kentucky who produced the album, Carwyn Ellis whose band Colorama you should check out…
In the band there’s Rod Smith who is my guitarist and right hand man, Dom Marsh on Bass, Chris Hillman on Pedal Steel and Rik ‘Sticks’ Walker on Drums, all top musicians to a man. We’ve also just had Christian Madden start playing with us, he plays with a bunch of people including Cherry Ghost and his band The Earlies are playing again this summer. Go and see them!
Chris Hillman from the Flying Burrito Brothers?
Ha no! He’s a young man from Manchester whose dad was obviously a fan. Inevitable that he’d become a musician and be drawn to The Byrds, Buritos… and the like. I’d seen him play a couple of times in and around Manchester and asked him to put down some parts for the album – which are amazing. He’s a busy man at the moment, as you’d expect being top of his game, so if we can hang onto him I’d be very glad…
I Know The Earlies. I have a ten minute odd version of that “Morning Wonder” track and their “Secret Broadcast” mixes were great.
Like I said they’re back playing live in the Summer so miss them at your peril. They all think they’re the best band to ever come out of Manchester. The problem is they might be right…
How did you meet Mason Neely?
I met Mason through Carwyn. I used to be in a band with Carwyn and the pair of them live round the corner from one another in Cardiff. I had some songs ready for my debut album “Stations’”and we decided to do some recording with just the three of us. It went perfectly. It was just a case of something working instantly with very little effort. Always a good indication. We repeated the trick for the new album “Strange News From The Sun”.
How does the collaboration work? Are you sitting in a studio together, or bouncing files off one another?
We record together for a couple of weeks, getting the basis of a track down. Then it’s a back and forth thing with Mason and myself adding ideas and trying different things out. Some of the tracks are done, nailed within a week others can take a few months. I like the idea of sitting on a track for a while. The next album though I’m hoping to record live, just an acoustic and double bass.
Did the Aficionado hook up happen through Colorama?
I’m an old friend of Jason Boardman, who runs Aficionado with Moonboots, and yeah, after the “Hapus” release it just seemed the natural thing to do for everyone involved. A meeting of minds. I’m really grateful for all the legwork they do getting my name out there and producing these wonderful pieces of vinyl that have my name on them. There’s nothing like putting your own record on a turntable… that’s what it’s all about.
How did you meet Miles & The Wonderful Sound?
I met Miles through Carwyn, an old friend of his. He’s been putting out these fantastic releases on his label for the past few years so I was very aware of him. Again, Miles has been making it all happen and get the album to where it is now, and a nicer bloke you couldn’t hope to meet. God knows what he’s doing slumming it with us northerners….
The strings and arrangements on the new LP really suit the lyrics, one of those one plus one making far more than two situations and listening to the finished songs you can`t help but mention Lee Hazlewood. Is Lee Hazlewood an influence on either of you?
I love Hazlewood, a one off, totally unique. People draw comparisons because of the vocals but there’s definitely a songwriting influence as well. He was always willing to take songs to a strange place and that’s something I like to do. Something like “Nancy & Me” it’s just beautifully put together with the strings and the guitars and like nothing else you’ve heard before…
Who else would you cite as influences on songwriting and arrangement? I can hear Serge Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier and Ennio Morricone, and The Tindersticks. Songs like “Travelling Light” and “Rented Rooms”. Proper heartbroken storytelling. Have you had your heart broken much?
That’s a big question… Well if you can hear Serge I’m very happy. He’s definitely an inspiration on all levels. I was listening to “La Horse” the other day. That stuff was years ahead of its time.
Morricone is always going to be there. Those soundtracks are just part of the world we live in. One note and you’re there. We were trying to create some of that drama on the album.
A broken heart… well nothing is ever going to be the same once it happens. I know a friend who writes songs about pretty much nothing else. He’s been burned a few times and he finds a lot of release writing about it. I’m a bit more matter of fact about life, detatched. But I’m trying not to be. Maybe my songs are a way of finding out what I feel…
I can hear The Beatles odd tuning and Robbie Basho`s picking, which made me think of Voice Of The Seven Woods. Do you know Rick Tomlinson?
There’s a few open tunings on the album, a Nick Drake one that I’ve really got into. The Beatles, well that’s just inevitable having listened top them for the past 30 years… Not aware of Robbie Basho or Rick Tomlinson but I’ve just had a listen and it sounds great. I see what you’re saying.
I can also hear The Jam on one of the tracks.
Which one? i`m a big fan of The Jam..
There are a few Peter Buck “The One I Love” guitar arcs on the album. I was wondering if this was a nod to your Noel Gallagher association? You were in Proud Mary who were signed to Noel`s Sour Mash label. Are Proud Mary still around? Are you still involved?
I’m not involved anymore. They’re still mates and they do the odd gig here and there. We used to go to the Hacienda and be stood with Noel in the bar, having a beer and talking about T-Rex and Neil Young, while everyone else was dancing. We were very set in our ways. When we signed to his label Noel was very supportive and it was great time being 25 and gigging all over the place, even supporting Neil Young, so it came full circle. These days I’m on my own… and I’m just getting going…
How easy is it these days to write a proper song? With so many songs already out there, how difficult is it to avoid cliché?
Collaboration helps on this score, but I have a very good bullshit detector, I know my stuff. It doesn’t matter that there’s so many great songs out there. Once you’ve started you just follow your instinct rather than try to copy something else. The songs write themselves… you just have to be there to guide them.
What are your plans for 2015?
To release this album, play some live shows and write the next album… hopefully.
When I google you I keep getting pictures of Peter Cook. Why is that?
A few people have said I look like him over the years, so he’s my avatar, and I can’t think of a batter avatar to have in life… I particularly liked his Norwegian character Sven who would phone up late night radio shows in London and moan about his ex-wife for two hours… Heartbreak is no joke…
Nev Cottee`s “If I Could Tell You” is in the shops now on Aficionado, while the album it is taken from, “Strange News From The Sun” will be released on Wonderful Sound in May (You can put in a pre-order here / https://wonderfulsound.bandcamp.com/album/strange-news-from-the-sun).