Portrait of an artist in the making
Badly Drawn Boy is challenging pop's establishment. He's that hard, is Damon.
Friday 23 October 1998
"The thing about doing something that can potentially fail at any moment," Gough observes philosophically, "is that sometimes it will do." How could a 90-minute cabaret of half-finished original songs and karaoke Smiths and Simon & Garfunkel cover versions possibly go wrong? "I knew it was going to happen - I just hadn't put any effort into preparing it, and usually for my show to be as shoddy as it is takes quite a bit of preparation."
Damon Gough didn't get where he is today by being over-prepared. On leaving school in the late Eighties, he started work in a recording studio. "I was trying to learn engineering but I could never really get my foot in the door. You either bundle in like a bull in a china shop and take everything over, or you end up on the sidelines making the brews." Inspired by visions of a lifetime of tea-making, Gough picked up a guitar and beavered away writing (but not singing) for various bands for seven years while earning a crust working in his parents' printing business.
Finally realising that if he wanted anything to happen to his songs he was going to have to sing them himself, he released two EPs, helpfully entitled 1 and 2, on his own Twisted Nerve label. The thrill of getting his first 12-in single back from the pressing-plant still looms large - "I remember looking into the grooves and thinking, `that's me in there'," Gough recalls euphorically. "Then I took them into the shop and they started to sell and I was thinking `Who would buy them? What do they look like?'" Who did buy them and what did they look like? "Spotty geeks and beautiful girls," he replies.
The two EPs swiftly sold out their initial 500-copy print runs, and Badly Drawn Boy became the subject of an unlikely bidding war. Gough's "works in progress", from frenetic home-made Sixties caper movie recordings to wistful acoustic laments, with the odd flash of Third Man-type bazouki and a Sister Sledge cover version thrown in for good measure - finally secured him the backing of The Verve's intimidating management stable and a high-profile deal with X-L, the same label as The Prodigy.
EP3, his first release for X-L, shows a commendable determination not to yield to commercial pressures. Gough insists that his music is "more about capturing the essence of a moment than trying to get the perfect intro, middle eight and outro for radio", and he is not kidding. EP3 contains six tracks (twice as many as the maximum number now qualifying for the singles chart). Of these, three are instrumental interludes: one sounds like a CD sticking; one is even called "Interlude"; the third, "Kerplunk by Candlelight", is a twinkly electronic paean to MB Games romanticism.
Of the three "proper" songs, one meanders jauntily like the theme to some millennial Ealing comedy, while the other two firmly establish Badly Drawn Boy's credentials as a major new force in British pop music. The lovely, lilting two-step of "I Need a Sign" will do nothing to deter those trying to hang an unhelpful "British Beck" tag around Gough's neck; and "Meet Me on the Horizon" is a gorgeous neo-folk rhapsody, with the line: "We go there just to be there" - as near a thing to a perfect statement of the Badly Drawn Boy aesthetic as the world is ready for.
Next year's first long-playing record has, Gough insists, "got to be a classic". He cites the debut albums by Air and The Smiths as inspirational examples of "records that you put on and you've got to listen to all the way through... Hopefully, everything is going to open up and spiral outwards - so long as I manage not to lose the plot and start writing anthems". It looks as if the middle ground between Elliott Smith and Aphex Twin is Badly Drawn Boy's for the taking.
`EP3' is released on Monday
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 3 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Royal Academy of Arts' Tim Marlow: Bronze statue of lovers embracing at St Pancras station is a lesson in 'how not to do' public art
Britain's Hardest Grafter: Petition set up as Twitter reacts to BBC 'poverty porn' series pitting low-paid workers against each other
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'