With a brand new album winging its way to funders as I type Duncan and his Big Heads have only gone and assembled an absolute cracker and what might well turn out to be his best solo work thus far.  Always a most interesting guy Duncan stepped forward to offer some insight into the making of this record ‘Don’t Blame Yourself’ for pulling up a chair and reading on so here goes…What did you do differently recording this album to your previous releases?

Bugger all. As with all the previous albums I wrote the songs at home and made demos which I sent to the rest of the band. This time though there were bits I deliberately left unfinished for the others to fill in. We played quite a few of the songs live before recording them which helped them develop. Otherwise Karen laid down a drum track using the demo as a guide. Everyone piled in with their ideas in the studio but I recorded all the keyboard and vocals at home, including with a few people who pledged to sing on the album. That was fun.

As a band who’ve been together for a while now, there seems to be great chemistry.  Do you bounce ideas off them and are they willing participants?

They do everything I say (Believe that and I have a used Mitsubishi I’d like to sell you). We do get on incredibly well and enjoy each others company. Makes it a lot more fun.

As they have their own things going on do they come to you with ideas for Duncan Reid songs?

Until now, no. But in this lockdown I made a video about writing a song (see it Here) Part of that was showing how I start with doodles I sing into a dictaphone. Nick stole one of them from the video, finished the song and I’ve added lyrics. It’s seriously great and I’d like to do more like that. Less work for me going forward. There are other people I’d like to write with as well. I subconsciously stole the idea for Motherfucker from Simon Love. I’d like to write more with him. Sophie is very secretive about her song ideas. I’m going to prise them off her.

There is a definite shift in sound on this record (I hope you don’t mind me saying) more in line with how the band sounds live was this organic or was it an intentional move?

Intentional. When I recorded Little Big Head I wanted to (a). do as much as I could myself to see if I could, and (b). Get away from that classic Les Paul through a Marshall sound. It’s a very charming album, I think, with a deliberately Power Pop sound. The albums since have become more and more band albums and we’ve strived for a harder and harder sound. There are 14 tracks on this one with the usual sprinkle of softer, dreamily arranged songs with strings and synths. But there are also about 8 rockers that are designed to be hard.

Where did the title come from?  Always curious why bands plum for a certain title for an album.

Sophie suggested it. She suggested Bombs Away for the last one and Don’t Blame Yourself for this one because it’s her favourite Track. I don’t argue with her because I value my life quite highly.

You’ve included the sleeve notes which comprehensively detail what the songs are about.  Not something generally done bands like to keep a mystery about what it might be about but you’ve really pulled back the curtain. tell us why you’ve done that?

I’ve done it on every album and it’s very popular. I also write blogs on our website going into greater detail about certain songs. I do it because I enjoy it and I’m very proud of my lyrics which make me think I’m very clever 😉 Most of the songs are about my life, things that have happened to me or stories I’ve come across that I find interesting. I think that by giving people more insight into what’s underneath the lyrics, they also will appreciate just how clever I am.

Are you constantly looking around for ideas for songs or do you just wait for an idea to come to you?  what songs came the easiest to write and record and also the opposite what took longer something you didn’t give up on that you’re really pleased with?

I am always looking for song ideas. Sometimes a cute phrase will come into my head which I’ll write down to store up for later. Looking at my notes now an example is “A sad salad in Dundalk” which comes from the time we played at the Stags Head in that overly hospitable Irish town and had a lock-in after the gig. We arrived back at the hotel in the early hours having had no dinner and gatecrashed a wedding to get something to eat. The leftover salads were very sad. What a great story for a song. It’ll turn up one day along the lines of “Saved by a sad salad in Dundalk”. I often go long periods where nothing occurs to me then I’ll see something to spark it off. Like, on the new album, the stranger in a pub who told me I might as well buy him a drink because we could all be dead next week and you can’t take it with you. Cost me a pint but I got a song!

What did the rest of the band contribute musically or lyrically even?  We know they are an endless source of inspiration?

So much. Listen as an example to “Welcome to My World” or “Future Ex-Wife”. Listen to those intricate pop-punk type guitar bits that Sophie and Nick weave around each other that I would never think of. Listen to the drums on “Tea & Sympathy” which has been transformed into a “Police” like track. And Karen’s backing vocals. She sounds like an innocent cherub which is very amusing given what I could blackmail her about. Only trouble is she can blackmail me back!

Mortality figures several times throughout the record does having a band of naughty children help deal with that or are they part of the reason it comes to the fore?

Yes. They will be the death of me! I guess being an extremely old git playing on borrowed time creeps into the writing. The couplet in the “Grim Reaper” sums it up really: “Hear me playing these old fashioned songs. All designed to make him sing-along” I.e. I keep playing to keep the Reaper at bay. And having a bunch of naughty puppies around does that for this old dog. BTW I think my vocal on the last line of that song is the best I’ve ever recorded and Karen’s harmony on it is perfect.

Politics is also a subject you touch on or rather politicians were there ever any consideration to tone it down or cover up ‘Motherfucker’ when can we expect the concept album where you take down the cabinet of clowns we currently have?

Oh boy. As I say on the cover, reading the tweets of an Essex lad idolising an aristocratic prick who, if he met him, would think the lad with his tattoos was just a common oik made my skin crawl. I didn’t hold back in the song did I? My wife is waiting for the politician in question to sue me. Better hope we don’t get loads of attention I guess!

Within the title track of the record you to look at global problems, polarised opinions do you think the pandemic and lockdown will reset the gap somewhat or will people just go back to how things were?

Exactly the same opinions are there as before. I saw a post from a government supporter depicting Boris Johnson as a Bodacea type defending the NHS from a foreign virus. I doubt the individual will have considered that the NHS is largely staffed by low paid immigrants and that, if they die helping to save our lives, their families have no protection under the law from deportation. So, we are all united behind the NHS and carers but all in our own individual ways which still reinforce our individual prejudices. That’s not surprising. I’m a bit of a stuck record in trying to get people to watch “The Great Hack” on Netflix. It’s really important people appreciate the level of sophistication with which we are bombarded on social media to influence us and reinforce the views lurking under the surface. And that political parties in all countries, as well as Russia and China, are doing it on a massive scale. Because we are bombarded with our own tailor-made messages divisions will increase. Sounds like the ramblings of a nutter doesn’t it but watch the program. “Don’t Blame Yourself” is about those divisions and the way the internet is just one big bar fight.

Ballad of a Big Head alludes to having a great time, pandemic aside is this Duncan Reid at his best on this record and the recent live shows?  How good is your songwriting now 2020 compared to before or throughout your career are you more confident now being the frontman than before?

I’ve always been a great front man. Casino Steel called me that in The Boys. It was just my job, as I wasn’t a songwriter then, to be the guy at the front, jumping around, getting the crowd going. I’ve always been able to feel an audience and affect them by looking them in the eye. It’s hard to describe but when it’s at it’s most intense it’s the best feeling in the world. And, yes, I think I’m better now than I’ve ever been for a couple of reasons. More and more I become this other person on stage and that person seems to get funnier and more in tune with the audience. The other reason I’m better is that I’m in the best live band I’ve ever been in surrounded by people who are also great at showing off. Because that takes the pressure off I seem to grow with it.

Before a record is released there is a period where you think “Is this record up to scratch?” You’ve heard it so much you just don’t know. Now a few people have heard it and they are raving about it and saying it’s our best. So I must be a better songwriter, producer, musician and singer (although I think I’ve always been brilliant!) 😉

Staying with the lockdown I see you’ve been busy making videos, has this been a creative time song wise?

Every cloud I suppose. It’s been frustrating releasing a record and seeing a great run of tours and festivals collapse around our ears but I have been writing so that’s good.

‘Dave’ is such a great song are there any plans to make a double concept album record one is where you takedown your twelve most interesting political figures then the second record is songs about your fans because if you have writers block I know a bloke called ‘Bellend’ he’s an endless sauce of musical inspiration.

In a word ……no. No plans along those lines. But I know Bellend and I have a song up my sleeve called “Knob” for him.

Do you look back at the time you’ve spent writing and recording an album and reflect or is it full stop and move on?  If you do reflect what are you most proud of with the new album?  It had a few bumps along the way from crowdfunding to lockdown you must be delighted all things considered it even became a physical thing at all.

Right now, as we are so proud of this album, it’s all about promoting it in whatever way is possible especially given we can’t do the thing we are so good at which is play live. And yes on top of Lockdown we had the whole Pledge thing going belly up the day after we started. But actually we were really lucky. No one lost any money and we learned how to do it without paying what would have been over £1,000 to Pledge Music for them to waste on their expenses. That £1,000 was a great help in getting the album made.  There isn’t one thing above all else I’m proud of about the album. The songs, playing, sound …you name it, it’s all great. The variety though. I don’t know of other bands in our area who have as much variety. Some of the more “77” fans who follow us say “I wish you’d stop writing those slow songs”. I just reply: “You are a cloth-eared dunderhead”. I think that’s reasonable.

Have you ever been approached by other musicians to write with is that something you’d like to explore?  Maybe something out of your comfort zone?

No one has ever approached me. Probably a fear of me saying no since people apparently find me a bit frightening. I’d like to do it.

Finally, As always you make it look easy and always like its always a pleasure and never a chore what next for you guys?  Lockdown restrictions being lifted of course what would you like to do you haven’t already done or somewhere you’d like to go play?

We’d love to get back to everywhere we’ve played up till now, especially the US. I’d even amend my opinion of Boris Johnson if he could get the Americans to change their visa process for musicians so that you could get one without bankrupting yourself. Now we have 3 hours of catalogue over 4 albums to chose from I’d also love to make a double live album. One album unplugged, which we are brilliant at, and one the full on live experience with Sophie on Nick’s shoulders.