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The Pictish Trail – Powerhouse of Funk

Perfectly
representing the organic mix of traditional and electronic
instrumentation with quality songwriting and unself-conscious
experimentation that characterises the output of the Fence Collective
is Secret Soundz Vol.1, the first long-player from The Pictish Trail
aka Johnny Lynch.

Born and raised in Auld Reekie before
moving to the US as a teenager (where he became a big fan of the likes
of Beck and Pavement), Johnny Lynch was drawn back to study at St.
Andrews University by a love of the Beta Band and Belle &
Sebastian, and it wasn’t long before he made a fateful encounter with
Fence founder Kenny Anderson aka King Creosote. “Kenny used to play pub
shows in St. Andrews and they’d be three hours long with different
songs every time. I got the Beta Band connection when I saw him and his
brothers singing She’s The One, which Gordon (aka The Lone Pigeon and
lead songwriter of The Aliens) had written. It was just amazing seeing
that and being a fan of that band.” And the rest is history.

Despite having released material for years, Secret Soundz
is the first “proper” album Johnny’s released, but he’s philosophical
about his chances of breaking through into the mainstream. “Maybe
people will buy the record and become new fans of Fence or maybe
they’ll just be sworn off buying anything by anyone Scottish ever
again!” chuckles Johnny. “I know people were burnt really badly with
Deacon Blue – they ruined it for us!” And although there are three
excellent tracks that were recorded with The Earlies – who also played
on Kenny’s first major label album KC Rules OK – the album is
extremely varied, and far removed from any predictable attempt to
replicate his pal’s winning formula. “I wanted it to be a kind of
hodge-podge thing because a lot of the songs have been done at
different recording sessions – I mean I respect bands who go and do a
ten day stint somewhere and record a thing all at the same time – like
Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska – but I wanted things a bit fucked up and a bit weird.”

Far from the cabin fevered sparsities of The Boss, Secret Soundz
is influenced by bands like Hot Chip – who Johnny admits to being a
massive fan of – though he says that by comparison “the equipment I’m
using is absolute shit!” There are also similarities to fellow Fence
artists Barbarossa and Found, not surprisingly as Johnny, who runs
Fence on a daily basis, was the man who signed both acts and still
speaks excitedly about the pair.

“The Barbarossa record I got through Adem – we put out an acoustic
EP, and then James had also recorded stuff with Simon Lord from [now
defunct electro rock band] Simian, which was the sort of music I get
really excited about – it’s the same thing with Found because they’ve
nailed proper songs with something that’s a wee bit experimental but
not for its own sake – it’s not too arty, it’s pop music. Man, you
should hear the new Barbarossa stuff, he sounds like Justin Timberlake!
He’s done a few tracks with Diplo who did the MIA record.”

So given his taste for genre-hopping artists, can we expect Secret Soundz Vol. 2 to be Pictish Trail’s answer to Beck’s infamous Midnite Vultures?
“I’m not sure,” Johnny ponders. “I might not even call the next record
Vol.2. But I do love that album – powerhouse funk is an overlooked
genre!”

Published in The Skinny Magazine, September 2008

By Milo

Freelance writer and content creator.

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