Emma Pollock: The former Delgado on going solo

The mum, label boss and former indie band member tells Elisa Bray about being in charge

Emma Pollock is a mother, a co-founder of the record label Chemikal Underground and is also a solo musician in her own right. It's a lot to have on the go, but "Adrenaline" – one of the songs on her debut solo album Watch The Fireworks – says it all.

Pollock thrives on being busy.

"To not have something to work towards can be a dreadfully depressing thing. I just need that purpose otherwise I begin to go off the rails, which is probably why we started Chemikal Underground and a band all at the same time – which most people would realise is completely insane, but of course we persisted with that state for 10 years, being busier than I ever thought possible."

Back in the mid-Nineties, Pollock was one of the four members of indie band The Delgados who set up Chemikal Underground, and pioneered a new Glasgow scene discovering bands including Mogwai, Arab Strap and even the Brooklyn-based Interpol, whose first EP they released in 2000. While running what became one of the most successful indie labels, The Delgados went on to release five critically acclaimed albums in 10 years, including the Mercury Prize-nominated The Great Eastern. The band were at the peak of their career playing 2,000-capacity venues when they split in 2005. Then, three months later, Pollock had signed to 4AD Records who have the Pixies and Scott Walker on their roster. You might think that with the clout of The Delgados and their dedicated fanbase behind her, she could almost step into where she had left off. But it's not that easy, Pollock explains as we meet the night after she played her album launch at The Social, a tiny London venue of the kind she played with The Delgados at the start of their career.

"I basically had to say to myself I'm going to have to start again. You'd be surprised at how much you still have to re-establish yourself. It's not as if anybody was that familiar with any of the names in the band."

It might also come as a surprise that Pollock chose not to release it on Chemikal Underground, but the decision represented another step towards establishing herself as a solo artist.

"I would have had to ask my friends to put out my record and we would have been having that conversation a month after the split and that was going to be too hard for me and them," she reflects. "I really needed to take a step away from what I had known for over a decade and I needed to have new people involved to make it feel fresh from every perspective."

Signing to 4AD also means that she has been able to retain her involvement in the running of Chemikal Underground. When she is not taking five-year-old Ben to school and when she's not in the studio recording, you are likely to find Emma Pollock working in the Glasgow Chem19 office. It's that "Adrenaline" theme again, but it also shows that after 10 years of being one of two vocalists in a band, perhaps being in the spotlight has a new and uncomfortable intensity.

"The thing is, if this was the only thing I did I think I would find it a little uncomfortable – it's a bit like looking in the mirror all day. It's just too much. With The Delgados it was all about four people, and now it's me personally, so it's difficult to see the wood from the trees.

"It's a different make -up now because it's not a band and I'm not sharing with other people. It's different and I'm adjusting."

It is undoubtedly an exciting time of change and rebirth for Pollock. But it also comes at the end of an era for Chemikal Underground who have made it through their first generation of bands. Since The Delgados split in 2005, last year we saw Arab Strap – one of the label's earliest signings – call it a day, and the label's latest split was Aereogramme this year.

Pollock looks on the label's end of an era with philosophical optimism: "It is really sad, but at the same time sometimes things come to a natural end. I don't think all bands can continue forever. There are bands out there who put out classic albums and it's good they stopped when they did. It's really hard to continue making consistently good records with the same fresh perspective that an artist is capable of when they started their career. It's partly why it's exciting for me to do something like this now because it does create this very fresh way of looking at things."

It is another reason why having the input of Victor van Vugt (Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and Beth Orton) when he produced the album was so positive.

Pollock admits to a tendency for being negative, reflecting on her song "The Optimist" as being a response to the "dark difficult time" when the band were adjusting to splitting up. "You can take a situation and paint it black or you can take a situation and say there has to be something good in this somewhere. I do find it difficult sometimes to see the bright side which is one of my greatest failings", she says. But there is no such negativity in Pollock today. She looks forward, radiating a contagious buzz of excitement about the new work. Pollock is a huge fan of Dusty Springfield and Sixties pop. You can hear her love of the production of the time: strings, elaborate arrangements and the importance of melody all shine in Watch the Fireworks. She oozes enthusiasm for "If Silence Means That Much to You", a tune that encapsulates all that she loves in a song. "It just sounded to me like it could be from a Sixties film soundtrack and the melody just sounded like it could comfortably appear on the Dr Zhivago soundtrack." She talks excitedly about how they dug a Sixties hammer dulcimer out from their cupboards for the chorus.

While the songs retain similarities to The Delgados (their eclecticism and the changing tempos) it is this eccentricity that keeps the music fresh.

"I wanted to make it as eclectic as possible because I knew there was going to be only one vocalist. And that was already ironically a bit of a concern because I thought there's always been Alan and I – there's always been that contrast so I wanted to make sure the record wasn't too samey. And so one of the ways I could combat that was to write lots of different types of song – some with a full band, some stripped down."

Next Pollock will be touring her new album in America, something she's excited about, but she dreads being separated from her son. It was another factor in the decision that her husband, the former Delgados drummer Paul Savage, would leave the new band so the couple's son will have a parent with him.

Having been part of a pioneering music scene in Glasgow, Pollock's focus is now pure song craftsmanship, she says. "I wouldn't pretend I'm breaking any musical boundaries here – but there is still a lot to be said for simply being able to write a great song and that's what I want to be able to do.

"I'd rather write a timeless record than a record which is trying to capture a zeitgeist.

"I'll do it for as long as it and as long as I have the opportunity."

'Watch the Fireworks' is out now on 4AD Records

Arts and Entertainment
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris
architecture

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham
Downton

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album