It’s a fuliginous Glasgow night and I make my way down the unctuous streets to Finniestoun, armed with some essential journalism tools such as a handful of vinyls, a Dictaphone and some beers – I’m on my way to the abode of one David Spence (AKA The Spengler). A talented and gifted individual, he strums simple, beautiful songs with lascivious lyrics and a seedy, urbane style. There is a genius glowing beneath it all, his catchy lyrics are more contagious than a sneeze on the London Underground, and his rhythmic timing will caress you with songs like; ‘Tripping Girl’, ‘Shall We Meet in Mexico?’ and ‘Miserable Day’ which are favourites among the local unsigned scene; both in Ayrshire and Glasgow. Spence hails from West Kilbride in N.Ayrshire and in different musical carnations he has conquered the unsigned scenes of Largs and the Three Towns separately – next on his list is Glasgow and he has been living up here for a couple of years now, brewing up new concoctions and absorbing inspiration to fuel his tireless creativity.

 

   When I got to his flat he was with another talented local musician, Damien Frazer (leader of Sambayabamba), and they are having an impromptu jam (as so often happens at Spence’s). Damo plays a few heart-warming songs, but with attitude and a moody, bluesy edge, and Spence strums out some of his splendid repertoire, the two even duet on a cover of ‘Roadhouse Blues’, mixing it effortlessly in with their own original music…it’s more than impressive.

 

   During a break from blowing the blues away, we sit round the kitchen table with rum and beer, and I field some questions at Spence through the clingy hashish smoke that hangs on the air like ethereal cobwebs, to try and get inside the mind of this genius talent, a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to stay there…25 year old Spence is garbed in a plain white tee, unassuming hoody and drainpipe jeans, perhaps the only ‘flashy’ aspect to his dress is the rockers’ choice motorcycle boots upon his huge feet – standing six foot two, he is an impressive figure, but with a comely attitude that always puts one at ease. Bearded, mop-topped, and red-eyed he begins to roll, guitar propped by his side, a large bodied Florian semi-acoustic, as I ask my first question…

CHRIS: A basic one first, but always interesting to know, what are your influences?

DAVID: Since the over-manipulative age of 13 I have been heavily influenced by none other than ‘The Doors’. From first listen, the hot night addiction grabbed at my soul and gave birth to a decade of music, travelling, life and creation. They opened ‘the doors’ and I was free. (Spence pauses to lick and roll) As I cast my memory back it’s as if it was only yesterday – the dearest mother had requested that I watch a movie along with her about her favourite band, to which I replied “save your pish, you had me listening to Bananarama last weekend!” I eventually gave in through unconditional love and before the first interval of Oliver Stones’ ‘The Doors’ I was online, dial up connection, might I add, ordering as many albums as my allowance would allow. Morrison’s writing style, vocal croon, and overwhelming image was my introduction to real music, influencing the majority of early tracks written with [my band] T.V, and aiding my stage performance whilst playing larger venues than we were used to at the time. To this day, there is always a ‘Doors’ element within my tracks – whether it’s  reflected in my writing style or stage performance. 

Many other artists have been of major influence, from George Harrison to The Pixies, Echo And The Bunnymen to E.L.O., Velvet Underground to Jesus And Mary Chain. It’s impossible to identify every influence, as I am constantly being introduced to new music and always taking a little something from which ever track I’m tuned into, whether it’s in the lyrics or general layout and composition of the song.
As a solo musician, the one and only ‘Man In Black’, Mr. Johnny Cash, has been the biggest influence of all. The confidence I needed when leaving my band T.V. as a solo musician was found in him, and for that I am eternally grateful…

C: He’s a major influence on us all. Have you played any gigs lately, open mics, or jam sessions?

D: Over the last few months my main focus has been on securing the correct property for jamming and recording in, whilst making sure it’s fit for my partner Tuesday. We’ve settled on Argyle Street in a cracking listed building just along from NHC head quarters and the neighbours are great. You know first hand Chris, the level of noise that’s been made in the flat and we’ve yet to receive a noise complaint! (cracks into a grin as wide and oily as the Clyde) So, as for gigging, it’s been limited up until now. I’ve been playing regular open mic nights and jam sessions when I can, and spending all free time on writing and reworking existing tracks before the recording process begins, and of course guesting on your [radio] show on a Sunday sometimes (4-6pm every Sunday). All the work behind the scenes will be well worth it come this winter when the gigs will be in the region of two and three a week.

C: Any coming up soon?

D: As I said previously my full focus is on preparing all my material making sure it’s tight and ready to go this winter. I’ll be poppin’ round Pivo Pivo most Mondays for the jam session, and have a few gigs in planning as we speak which you’ll find out a bit more on at a later point. Like to keep some element of surprise for the readers. (he says, with a wolfish grin)

C: You mentioned earlier you were in the band TV, but departed to pursue solo work, what were the main experiences you took from that band, what did you learn?

D: I’m going to be honest here and reword… I never left T.V. to pursue a solo career I ruined our band and almost myself in the 2 years we had been together. I can put my hands up and honestly say… I single-handedly disbanded T.V. As is all too common in our industry of choice… Drugs, drink and women got the better of me, stole my focus, sent it spiralling in the wrong directions, depression set in and writing came to a complete stop. For the other members it was a horrible, brutal experience, I mean how pissed would you be if you’d secured the biggest gig of your career and your front man’s nowhere to be seen? Then he’s found passed out, three-days-no-sleep, and three-bottles-of-Jack later, dead to the world, unable to speak, let alone sing and perform! This was a regular occurrence that eventually led to bad-blood, and, eventually, the end of T.V. as we knew it. Now that’s off my chest I can actually get to answering your question.

   Apologies Chris, T.V. was a band spawned from nowhere formed in a matter of weeks and propelled heavily into the local music scene at the time. We worked passionately with each other, creating friendships of a kind I had never experienced before and am yet to experience again – putting more than all our effort into creating our ‘indie psychedelic’ sound we were known all-too-well for throughout the Three Towns (Ardrossan, Stevenston and Saltcoats) and Glasgow – T.V. showed me confidence, taught me how to be, and taught me why… I was born to be a musician, born to sing, to write and to love. My focus was on writing the tracks at first and working together to bring body to skeleton, to give it life and allow it to breathe and take shape. At times, the writing was shared, and this proved to be some of our best work, collaborating on tracks, and bringing all influences to the table. I suppose in a way, I was lost in so many fresh new experiences at the time, that I allowed myself to be swept up and carried away on a crashing wave of chaos, I was nowhere near mature enough to focus and make sense of my dream, my only dream, music. Looking back, I’d loved to have gotten a hold of myself and kicked seven shades of shite into that foolish personality of mine, squashed the ego, and made it clear that that was the wrong direction to be taking your band in, but hindsight’s a bitch. There’s plenty that I’m sure all would want to change, but the beauty is we can’t, we learn, we move on, and we improve in both skill and ability to reason. 

C: T.V’s time was in the Tam Skinner era of Vicki’s, a thriving time for Ayrshire’s local music scene in Largs, we were both heavily involved in that scene, about five years ago, before I was even a music journalist. I have some beautiful memories of that time. What are your fondest memories from then?

D: Now where do I even start!? Tam (Skinner) took me in around 2010, I was working 60 hour weeks in ‘Fluid’, the bar across from Tam’s Place, ‘The Victoria Hotel’ (The Vic). I was running a jam session on a Thursday night and Tam had asked I pop over introduce myself as they had recently moved to the area and Tam’s main focus was to provide Largs with live music, Monday to Sunday, January to December, and wanted everyone on board who was in any way, shape, or form, musically-minded. Of course, I accepted Tam’s offer of moving across to The Vic, to work the bar and become involved in the jam nights and gigs he had in waiting. Not long passed before The Vic had established itself as ‘the only place to be’ no matter what day of the week, many bands had came from far afield and cross-Atlantic with acts such as Alabama 3, Albert Lee, Rab Noakes, Chantel McGregor, Gandalf Murphy and The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams, (I’ll add a few more here, The Animals, Men At Work, Junkyard Dawgs, The Stranglers, The Sharpes, and many, many more!) all gracing the main stage in Largs. All of which I had the pleasure of jamming and getting pissed with. The one night that I will never forget, and I think Chris, you can verify this one for good, was a ‘Wild Turkey Saturday’ – T.V. were supporting Baz Warne of ‘The Stranglers’ an unbelievable gig for us at the time. T.V. took to the stage…open with ‘Baker Street’, not the Gerry Rafferty song, slide on into ‘Crucifier’, then come alive as we kicked into ‘Gloria’, also not a cover…and…shit…the mushies that we’d shared, you, Damo, Derek and I, started to kick in! Fast! Hard! Too hard! I Started trippin’ balls… the band kicked into ‘Alone In The Nightmare’…first verse in, and I run off and out The Vic, all the way up the promenade…I kept running until, I can’t remember, and I can’t remember who found me. As I ran off though, the story goes that the band played on, everybody thought it was part of the act, that I was building them up for the climax and would walk back on and launch back into it, but fuck me, what an anti-climax that must have been. On returning to The Vic, a while later, I was ripped to pieces by the band, distraught and disappointed at myself, however I was still trippin’ balls and forgot within 5 minutes that we were even playing in the first place!

   One person who has forever touched me and I am blessed and eternally grateful to have even met her, never mind had the laughs, crazy nights and share the love that we all have for her – is Fiona Galloway. Fiona was one of a kind. A true being, loving and loved. Fiona sadly passed away, however she will be forever in our hearts and come to life trough every track we write or play.

   I could speak forever about ‘The Tam Skinner Era’ but editing probably won’t allow so I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank Tam and the Skinner family for bringing us all together and sending us out into the world educated in the way of life and music.

C: Indeed, it was a special time for all of us, individually and together. I was good friends with Fiona too and even had the privilege of going to her last gig with her, The Waterboys. She is still sadly missed very minute.

 

Okay then, what do you go through to prepare yourself to write a song? Or is it more spontaneous, if so, what inspires your writing?

 

D: When writing a song, it’s a bit of weird ‘yin’ for me…I never sit intending to write about a certain subject or feeling or emotion etcetera…I literally mess about with a few chord progressions, find a melody that works, and start rhyming off words from the top of my head to the melody. The words eventually become images and metaphors, that then become a strong leading verse and a chorus, and then the track takes life from there. I usually have the chord structure and song layout finalised and then start on the lyrics. 

C: “Cum dried stains on the love you’ve blamed and the way you look at me brings on euphoria like ecstasy” is an example of your lyrics, off the top of my head, because I was seriously addicted to your song ‘Trippin’ Girl’ from the second I heard it! (We all laugh at the choice of lyric example).

 

You’re heavily involved in the Glasgow music scene, what local acts do you think are ones to watch?

 

D: Some of the local acts I’ve been to see recently have blown me away, whether it’s been a friends band, or a new name, there’s a massive amount of energy flowing in all directions throughout Glasgow and it’s all thanks to these guys. If naming a few it would definitely have to be Samba Ya Bamba, (gesturing to Damo, who sips his rum and smiles) Evil Edison, Brogan Blues, James Michael Rodgers, Damien Fraser’s solo stuff, (gesturing to Damo again) Will Johnstone, The Well Fired Rolls, Chris Hart, The Dirty Grin…the list is endless, just get out and check them out for yourselves!

C: Any favourite Glaswegian venues that support local music?

 

D: Glasgow plays host to so many amazing music bars supporting all local and unsigned acts, I’d be here a fortnight taking a week to list them all. I’d definitely be checking out Pivo Pivo, Broadcast, Nice n Sleazy’s, Cafe Rio, The Hidden Lane Parties – pretty much anywhere with an open mic night or a jam.

C: Any chance of an album being recorded to spread your much-loved songs even further afield?

 

D: Well, I’ll be heading down Largs way again this winter to record the demo in Kelburn Studios, Nick Hodge’s gatehouse in the Kelburn Country Park, where they have the Kelburn Garden Party, which is my favourite small festival! Nick’s a great guy, eccentric in every way, he knows me inside-out through years of recording with him. I trust that Nick will work his magic and really get to capturing the sound and style I’m aiming to achieve. Works starts end of this month, so hopefully by end of December we’ll have a nice clean polished and mastered demo ready for press.

C: I’ll look forward to it greatly, make sure I’m the first to get to review it, I think some of your songs have ‘hit’ written all over them! And on that note, appropriately, and finally – where do you hope to see your career as a musician in ten years’ time?

 

D: With you…pissed…stoned…jammin’ ‘Sex Pistols’, you on vocals, me on guitar…to a not so happy open mic crowd, wherever we may be…”Herroning”* whoever we may see…and in the words of one of my heroes, Alan Ginsberg, “We’ll be real heroes now in a war between our cocks and time; let’s be the angels of the world’s desire and take the world to bed with us before we die”

   The author, Chris Herron, and the interviewee David Spence, would like to dedicate this article in loving memory of Fiona Galloway, a cherished friend and dedicated lover, supporter and promoter of the local music scene, who sadly passed away in May 2012 – still missed, every day, all the time.

                                                   C.T Herron & D. Spence

                                        

 Originally published in Amped Up Scotland 09/10/2014                       

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