‘Manchester’s sun-drenched crooner’ may be a little hard to fathom in a city where it always rains. Yet listen to any of Nev Cottee’s albums and you will find such a statement certainly holds up in this case. Even when at his darkest, as arguably his latest ‘Rivers Edge‘ underlines more than most, Cottee draws as much from those haze West Coast vibes as he does the wet streets of home. Comparisons to the likes of his musical heroes Scott walker and Lee Hazlewood are certainly undeniable yet I’d throw in more than a little sun-kissed psychedelia into the heady brew Cottee conjures up over his last few albums. They all warrant repeated listens and it isn’t long before you are utterly under the charm of a singer-songwriter who draws from the past but very much resides in a sonic present. AUK caught up with Cottee to see how he was coping in lockdown and what music is wafting through the air in his place to keep the boredom and anxiety at bay.
So, Nev – lockdown. Any positives?
I live quite a solitary existence so it’s not been a major change for me. I spend a lot of time either recording or writing at home anyway. If anything the lockdown has knocked me off my stride a little bit. I can’t complain. Everything’s fine. My family, my friends are safe.
I think one of the major positives is the reset for the planet. I’m out in the garden every day and just hearing the birdsong, the peace and quiet is a wonderful thing. I’m really treasuring that at the moment. Getting out of myself and into the world – paying attention. I’m also hoping some big questions are going to get asked after all this and we can move away from this bullshit insularity that’s built up in England. I also hope the UK printed press dies and scuttles off to a dark forgotten corner.
The most important thing to take from all this however, is that never again will we take the pub for granted. I’m dreaming of that day… sat in some mythological beer garden with a pint of Guinness. Anyway it’s been quite productive period for me on the guitar. I’ve got a couple of albums worth of material and now I need to demo it. The only drawback being that the studio is going to have to wait a while – no big deal.
So what records are keeping you sane in these crazy times?
‘Cowboy In Sweden’ – Lee Hazlewood
No one writes songs like Hazlewood. He’s a constant inspiration. So simple. One of the things that I like about him is how he confines himself to simple rhyme yet still comes up with songs that are distinctive and uncliched. He has a real personal feel to the story-telling yet leaves the songs open to interpretation.
‘Bawlers’ – Tom Waits
A late night album. Loads of out-takes and stuff that never got released over the years. I think it’s his best album. Again the lyrics… “The world don’t care and yet it clings to me and the moon is gold and silvery…’.
‘No Accommodation For Lagos, No Discrimination’ –Tony Allen With Africa 70
I like to dance. I’m good. I’m a serious dancer. I’ve got the moves. Not much opportunity at the moment so I like to get down in the front room sometimes. This is the album to get you going. Start to finish is just one long glorious groove. RIP.
‘Surf’s Up’ – The Beach Boys
Production wise this is better than Pet Sounds in my humble opinion. I think the songs are stronger as well. Environmental collapse, spiritual quests, Disney, death… It’s all here. I like how it tails off at the end with Brian losing it. Stunning.
‘Joia!’ – Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18
My mate Carywn. We’ve been in a few bands together and he got me going on my first album ‘Stations’. A lovely guy and a annoyingly talented one as well. For this one he went off to Brazil and got an amazing bunch of musicians together for some Welsh Tropicalia. Fair fucking play. Particularly like the guitar.
‘No Regrets’ – Walker Brothers
Scott Kitsch. How good is this. I didn’t know it was a cover until a few weeks ago. A proper 70’s production number. And the way he sings it blankly like he really can’t be bothered is genius. A great track to try out your Scott Waker impression.
‘Trans Europa Express’ – Kraftwerk
Another one who passed away recently. Florian Schneider – what can you say. There was a red hot summer back in the 90’s when me and my mates played this album non stop. The German version though. It always takes me back there.
‘I Declare Nothing’ – Tess Parks
I love Tess. She’s out there on her own. We met up and tried to do a duet of sorts for my last album but it never came off. Maybe for the next one. Let’s see. This album came out a few years ago – a collaboration with Anton Newcombe.
‘The Village Green Preservation Society’ – The Kinks
The best album ever (c). If you want to know what it means to be English then this is it. God bless the village green.
‘Colour Of Spring’ – Talk Talk
There’s so much hope in Talk Talk’s music so a good one to end on. I think it’s one of a few albums from the 80’s that has stood the test of time. So many got ruined by that terrible gated snare sound everyone used. Thank god Mark Hollis knew better.
‘Rivers Edge’ is out now on Wonderfulsound