In the Middle with Pictish Trail

Being a big fan of Johnny Lynch or, to call him by his stay name, Pictish Trail, I was slightly nervous when I was told to ring his landline due to a lack of mobile phone reception on the small Isle of Eigg. After half expecting someone else to answer the phone, when Johnny picked up he soon put me at ease, being more than happy to talk about his music, tours and record label- Lost Map Records. It was also lovely of Johnny to take the time to talk to me only an hour before the tickets went on release for his very own Howlin’ Fling festival on the island.

You organise and run role the Howlin’ Fling festival, is there something about festivals that you particularly like?

I love people coming together, but in terms of organising my own festival it’s a nice excuse to have all my friends on Eigg. It’s also good for my label-Lost Map Records and to put on events like this to get all the bands together and kind of show off in front of each other. It’s also such a tiny event so it’s nice to see the people who have supported you throughout the years.

I saw you at Greenman festival performing with Sweet Baboo and your set was hilarious, do you think comedy is important in music?

Well it’s important in my music, I’m not the most versatile musician, a master of an instrument or anything like that. Sometimes there’s nothing worse than seeing an act take itself too seriously, it can be damaging if you’re too distant or if you’re over earnest or too nice. I tend to make the performance a bit light-hearted. I’ve toured with comedian Sophie Long and people have a weird rule not to mix music and comedy but I think anything that feels a bit wrong should be attempted. I always try to push myself to do something that feels like it shouldn’t work.

Is there anyone you would really like to work with?

If I could work with anyone then I would really love to work with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. They’re my absolute heroes.

The music video for ‘Afterlife’ looks like it was a lot of fun to make, how do you come up with music video ideas?

The last one I did was with James Hankin who’s a funny guy and been in bands I’ve worked with before. For ‘Afterlife’ I said I want a green screen and I want you to make me look as desperate as possible. We filmed that in the space of like four hours it was really quick and me basically looking like I’m in a pantomime. I have this thing where I always have to be in my own videos, for the last three videos it’s just me. It’s done on purpose but maybe it’s a little ego-centric. Some people go through torture making them and I can’t be bothered with that. For the video ‘Far Gone’ I ran around the island and I spent about 18 hours of the day running and the next day I thought I’m never doing a video like that ever again.

Do you have any exciting upcoming plans including the festival?

I’ve got quite a few things coming up, gigs and some festivals including Fieldday and Greenman. I’m really looking forward to the show in Leeds. I’m bringing the band down for this show that we are doing at the Brudenell. I’m sorting costumes for it now.

Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to for Howlin’ Fling this year?

There’s a lot of things I’m dreading, there’s so much work. I can’t announce any of the bands yet but the bands we have booked so far I’m amazed said yes. I’m also excited about seeing everyone again, it’s not really a festival it’s a big party.

How do you find running a record label and finding musicians to sign?

It’s something I’ve done for a long time, I used to run a label called Fence Records back in the day. Working with other musicians has always been a part of who I am as a musician. I can’t imagine solely working on my own music at any one time, it’s really exciting working with other people. It’s not hard to find good music that you can feel passionate about, there’s so much good stuff out there. What I enjoy about working on the label is working with my friends who I trust and have good fun with. We maybe do two or three albums a year but as each year passes it builds up a good catalogue. I’m more interested in putting out stuff I’m really passionate about and putting on events where everyone’s getting together.

Apart from running a festival, record label and working on your own music, what else do you do on the Isle of Eigg?

I spend a lot of time watching Nashville, you know when you watch a series and you can’t stop? But I also spend a lot of time listening to podcasts when I go for a walk every day. I just became a father so being a dad takes up a lot of time. It’s really amazing; being a dad is probably a full time job.

Soon after the interview the tickets for Howlin’ Fling festival sold out in just under five minutes. If you weren’t one of the lucky ones then you can still see Pictish Trail at the Brudenell Social Club on the 14th of April.

Catch Pictish Trail at Green Man 2017. Get your tickets here

Phoebe Berman

(Image: Lost Map Records)

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