Interview: James Yorkston

Matthew Bayfield has a chat with folk singer/songwriter James Yorkston

James Yorkston Ahead of his appearance at Field Day festival in London next month The ‘Beard took a brief minute to stroke chins with folk singer/songwriter James Yorkston on everything from his beautiful LP of last year I Was A Cat From A Book to festival line ups and not listening to grime.

Bearded: Hello Sir, thanks for taking the time to speak to Bearded. What’s 2013 brought you thus far?

James Yorkston: Some interesting collaborations mostly. I'm half way through a tour with Seamus Fogarty and Pictish Trail where we're playing and singing on each other’s songs – I’m playing Nyckelharpa too on this tour, which is fun. Then later in the year I'm doing something with Sparrow & The Workshop – they'll be my band (!) …which could be very loud indeed. After the summer, I've got another tour being booked, this one with a couple of musicians from very different backgrounds to myself. I’m really looking forward to that one.

Your LP from last year seemed to walk a slightly darker path than previous works, is that something you find to be cathartic when playing live?

I can barely play the sad songs from it live, to be honest. But, there's enough light in there that I can pull out, besides I've got – what, 7 official albums now? So plenty of material to choose from.

The arrangements also felt a lot looser than on previous albums; was this a deliberate move or just how it happened on the day?

It was deliberate move, but also one built from necessity. It was mostly recorded live whereas in the past I've sculptured things at home over months, then bought them into the studio and given them a wee polish. It's always good trying different things and the chance to work with those musicians (Jon Thorne, John Ellis, Luke Flowers) was too good to turn down.

Field Day is probably one of London’s stranger festivals in terms of line-ups, with acts such as yourself mingling with experimental groups like Animal Collective and DJs playing grime. Do you try and plan your sets taking into account these sorts of things or just go wherever you feel?

We don't really fit in 100% with most festivals, but I think that's the same of most bands, everyone represents a side of the music, a flavour. It's all just pop music at the end of the day. I don't think I've ever heard any grime, funnily enough… or the Animal Collective.

Do you prefer the festival set up, or the more intimate gigs?

I prefer mixing it all up. Festivals can be great, but so can tiny wee pub gigs. Variety keeps things interesting for me. I love touring different countries, but then we just did some shows less than a mile from my house and I certainly appreciated getting home after the sound check and cooking some good food.

I always remember being surprised to find Kieran Hebden produced Just Beyond The River and in the past you’ve had tracks remixed by Four Tet & Kode9. Is the electronic thing something you’d consider taking further?

Of course I would. I'm not very good with pushing those buttons, but it's all just noise really, isn’t it? I like the noise that folk like Kieran and Jon Hopkins make, Squarepusher too, even Pictish Trail's stuff is pretty bleepy. So long as it's good noise, it's good noise, whether it's made on a bouzouki or a laptop.

What’s your view (if any) on digital production techniques? Your work always has a most organic feel to it.

It definitely has its place and we do use it. Every album we've done has been recorded on both tape and digital, using the bits which suit us best from each format. I try not to use auto-tune at all, but there probably is the odd concertina part which is pulled into time here and there. A lot of the beauty in music is found in mistakes or inaccuracies though and I think they exist more with tape.

And lastly: Are you sporting a beard of any form at present? If so, what style have you gone for?

I'm always a bit beardy, but hopefully never more than a month's growth. Once I look like my
old geography teacher I shave it off and start over. I'm just lazy, I guess.

Big up and many thanks for taking the time sir!

You can keep up with everything Field Day related: @FieldDayLondon

Mr Yorkston’s most recent record ‘I Was A Cat From A Book’ is available HERE
Field Day tickets can be bagged HERE