Throughout the year we shall be asking Oxford musicians to talk to us about the importance of lyrics in music. Each interviewee will be asked the same six questions in an attempt to discover which writers, poets and themes Oxford’s musicians find the most moving and inspiring. This time, we asked Ollie Thomas of The Old Grinding Young.
1. Who is your favourite lyricist of all time?
I would say Nick Cave first off but then his style can be a bit one dimensional as he seems to sing a lot about women and killing people, but then so did 2pac and no one ever gave him a hard time. Elvis Costello opens up loads of colours with his lyrics. He puts ugly, uncool and strange word combinations into this almost unpleasant awkward pop.
“You left the motor running. But I know you’re so attractive.” – ‘Lip Service’
I lurv it. Although my number one super duper fave of all time is Scott Walker.
“That’s a nice suit, that’s a swanky suit…been a pope like no other…I’m looking for a good cowboy.” – ‘Cossacks Are’
2. Which lyrics make you smile or laugh the most?
Man, Captain Beefheart makes me laugh.
“A lot of people liked my pig.
One little girl used to put her fingers in his snout.
I put a fork in his back!” – ‘China Pig’
I guess you got to hear him shouting “I put a fork in his back” and be sitting quietly on a bus to fully enjoy that one.
3. Which lyrics emotionally move you the most?
This is from Duncan Browne’s song ‘My Only Son’
“A million miles across the star land
He keeps on shining above everyone
He says you may have lost your holy mother
But I have lost my only son” – ‘My Only Son’
Sounds like Lionel Richie lyrics written down but when i first heard it when i was 15 on my mums record player I did some man tears in secret. Urr..wait that sounds rude. I cried out of my eyes.
4. Who is your favourite Oxford lyricist?
My favourite oxford lyricist is Adam from Von Braun.
“God he’s make a real good lover. but nothing comes his way!” – Henry’s Girl.
And my new favourite
“With my boot pressed firmly on your windpipe!”
All shouted by Dave in a wild kinda way.
5. How do you approach writing yourself?
I write by thinking about the words and rhyming patterns non stop in my head from start to finish of a song. Might be a few days or a few weeks. Either way, if I’m writing some new lyrics I’m probably not listening to what anyone is saying to me! I try and do it while I’m doing something else kind of mundane. I think most things I write rhyme. Maybe all of it. I write most things in a narrative way too, like a story. I can’t seem to do it any other way!
6. Which lyric(s) are you most proud of?
Some of the new stuff I’ve written for Old Grinding Young is my best so far. I think the lyric “she went weak at the knees, ‘Oh why wont you stop?’, and he filled her up with mr whippy, and stuck a chocolate flake on top’ on ‘Innocent Tailor’ from my old band ute seemed to make people laugh! New lyrics for a song I wrote about a guy whose jet-pack stops working as he’s escaping from the tower block he cant seem to leave. I think he might not even have a jet-pack and be on drugs but, all the same hey??
“And the engine coughed, like a hair balled cat, as if little strings, had been attached, and the heave-ho pulled, me back toward the ground, entwined so tight, as if i’d been bound.”
It’s no masterpiece but its all I’ve got!
The Old Grinding Young are performing at the One Note Forever live showcase tomorrow evening at the Port Mahon (21st Jan). But get there early if you haven’t already got tickets! Pre-sale has sold out and only a limited number will be available on the door.