Cross-legged on the floor of the King Tut’s smoking section, with the quiet roar of St. Vincent’s Street behind him, Ross Clark sits with a lit Camel in one hand and a suspicious wee moustache on his face.
Clark’s band, Three Blind Wolves, are eager to soundcheck, but due to Tut’s being firmly embedded in the commercial district, they have to wait until six o’clock.
If you’re from Glasgow and haven’t heard Three Blind Wolves, then you may as well be living under a rock.
Originally Ross Clark and the Scarfs Go Missing, they’ve built a strong reputation as a live act, as well as being responsible for well-received mini-albums like Sound of The Storm and The Maybe Forest.
Read on for Clark’s take on Three Blind Wolves’ upcoming debut album, South By Southwest, their new single, open mic nights, and black metal.
You did a tour of the United States in March. What was it like travelling so many thousands of miles to play a Scottish Day Party in Austin?
Ross Clark: “Yeah, that was actually our second US tour. We did an East Coast tour back in November and it was great, it was absolutely amazing. We did a three-week tour – a week prior to South By Southwest, and then a week afterwards. We basically started off in Atlanta, Georgia and then played gigs the whole way across. And then at the Scottish Day shows, we got to play with some good Scottish bands – [We Were Promised] Jetpacks, Django Django, The Twilight Sad and the Xcerts. Too many bands to mention.”
What was your South By Southwest experience like?
RC: “Intense! Really intense. The heat is insane. And because I knew we’d be going to Canada, I didn’t bring any shorts. I only had black t-shirts and tight jeans! But you just need to throw yourself into it and drink as many margaritas as possible. We did about twelve shows over five days. The hangover and dehydration factor was increased at South By, but you just get on with it. It was an absolutely amazing experience.”
What was the highlight of the tour?
RC: “Well, South By itself was amazing. I think the highlight overall would be when we played in New York. We were there for two days, and we recorded the b-sides to the next single there. The whole thing was great. It kind of died when we left America and entered Canada. We had no money and three-week hangovers. I had the flu. All the colour was completely drained from my face. That’s my fault, though, because we were just drinking so much. We went to Nashville, too, and New Orleans is pretty crazy.”
What was Nashville like?
RC: “Amazing! The actual gig itself was dead, because it was the Sunday on the last week of South By, so pretty much the whole South is rubbish for gigs. But we had a good time, and we met up with some friends in Nashville. We drove from Austin to Nashville in a day, and it was an eighteen-hour drive. We got to Nashville about eight o’clock in the morning, the day of the gig. Good fun.”
A tour of the States is a milestone for any band, but what’s next?
RC: “Hopefully just going back, man! We’ve finished the album, so we’re hoping to get that out, and then more touring. More gigs!”
What can you tell me about the album?
RC: “It’s called Sing Hallelujah for the Old Machine. It should be released early next year. We’re putting the first single ‘Parade’ out on October 15th. That’s going to be available on iTunes, and we’re doing limited edition seven-inch singles. So we’re going to do that, and then just keep touring. I want to tour for the rest of my life. Maybe make more albums. But definitely, the plan is to go back to America, and then tour more of Europe.”
What was Doune The Rabbit Hole like?
RC: “It was probably the most hungover gig we’ve ever played. I thought I was going to be sick during the gig.”
Where were you the night before?
RC: “Banchory, outside Aberdeen. We played this amazing Woodend Barn place. We just bought hunners of booze and then had a van party, and then we went to another party after that. We all stayed up til about seven in the morning, so we had about two hours sleep, and then drove to Doune. It was a beautiful place, and the gig was good as well! But it was very muddy, and we were playing on the Sunday, so everybody was a little bit worse for wear. Good gig, but just letting you know that I was suicidal while I was playing it. Sometimes it’s good to play festivals on a Sunday, when everybody’s a bit fucked. You kinda feel like, ‘We’re gonna save it! We’re gonna save it!’ Good fun.”
What can you tell me about ‘Parade’?
RC: “What d’you want to know?”
What’s it about?
RC: “It’s about feeling like a downward kinda guy. It’s about having someone in your life that keeps you truckin’ on, whether it’s a friend, or a girlfriend, or boyfriend. Times are hard just now. You’ve got to keep yourself moving on.”
Who did the artwork for it?
RC: “My girlfriend, Louise Holsgrove. She’s available for any commisions! But it’s absolutely amazing, the artwork, isn’t it? She designed all our t-shirts, and she’ll be doing the album as well. We’re trying to make it as psychedelic as well. I’m only going out with her because she’s an amazing artist. We’re just all going to ride on her coattails.”
Three Blind Wolves were effectively born from open mic nights, weren’t they?
RC: “Well, we were really more born from acoustic nights. But yeah, now I’m pretty much the Godfather of open mics in Glasgow.”
You’ve got the one in Box, and the one in the Oran Mor.
RC: “Yeah, any night of the week, you can see me playing somewhere.”
What is it you love so much about those kind of nights?
RC: “I just like throwing myself into playing for three hours. I feel it keeps my chops going. It keeps me playing guitar all the time, and writing all the time. I love playing to anybody who’ll listen, really.”
What’s the best acoustic/open mic night you’ve ever had?
RC: “Well, I’ve done the Oran Mor one for a long time, and I just started the Box country night. It’s always good when everyone joins in, and then you get a big singalong at the end. They’re all good! They’re all good in their own ways. They keep me grounded, and make sure I don’t get a big head.”
What is it about country that attracted you to it in the first place?
RC: “I grew up listening to Neil Young, and then when I started performing in the singer/songwriter role, I listened to Bob Dylan, and all these other acoustic guitar players. That’s how I fell in love with country music. The songs are simple, but everything you could ever want from a song, you can get in two minutes. They’re songs about people, and times that everybody’ll recognise. I also love that there’s no status to it. These are songs that people listen to in any kind of mood. Country music spans songs about so many different things, like drinking, and fighting, and being sad.”
You posted a Liturgy video on the Three Blind Wolves Facebook page, sandwiched between videos of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and George Jones. Are you into the heavier stuff?
RC: “Oh yeah, I’m really into heavy stuff! I’ve always been into heavy music. Our sound engineer is really into it, and sitting in the front seat of the van, you’re subject to whoever’s going to put music on. I’ve just been listening to loads of black metal. It’s awesome. When we’re touring it’s always some crazy dance/house music, or techno, or hip-hop, or black metal.”
Would you ever put out any music like that?
RC: “I’m thinking about it! I could put out a seven-inch. Fuck it, yeah. I’ll do a heavy metal record. That’d be great. I love how people don’t know why I’m into it. They don’t understand why I’m into it. But it’s awesome! Slayer and shit like that.”
What’s your favourite Slayer album?
RC: “Right now, it’s Seasons In The Abyss. I’m just going to go with what I’m digging right now. It’s a little punkier. I like it when metal slows down. I’m a big Sleep fan, and i’m into sludge music, but then I write really nice country songs. I think people get upset about that sometimes. I listen to metal, and talk about metal, and people get worried we’re going to become a metal band. I think we definitely will get a little heavier, a little more rock-y.”
You can take elements from metal without worshipping Satan.
RC: “There’s so many records that I want to make. A metal record is one of them.”
What’s your goal when you write a song?
RC: “I don’t have one. I just fucking write it, and I write it because I want to write it.”
Where does it come from?
RC: [puts his hand on his heart] “’Right here, man!’ It comes from anything, really. Absolutely anything. Sometimes someone will mis-say something, and that’ll inspire me to write a song. I’m as guilty as anybody of writing songs from personal experience.”
Are there any bands in Glasgow that you think should get more attention?
RC: “Three Blind Wolves, man! Washington Irving are probably the greatest band in Glasgow, and actually, the greatest band of all time. John Knox Sex Club. Carnivores are amazing. They’re really loud, and really aggressive.”
Words: Christopher Macarthur-Boyd