Mac McCaughan // In Short

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For the past 25 years, Mac Mcaughan has run landmark indie label Merge Records with fellow co-founder Laura Ballance. Which means the duo – who also launched Superchunk so many years ago – can certainly rest easy with the knowledge that their contributions to music are safely set in stone. But clearly the music still runs strong in Mac’s blood. So when he arrives to play London on Wednesday (November 11th) please go and proffer a firm handshake.

This Spring, Mac released his first solo album under his own name, titled Non-Believers. Now, his overseas tour is coming to end at the Courtyard Theatre with a suitably British take on outsider rock, full of alienated lyrics and cold keyboard licks. Or as he puts it: “I was thinking about a time when bands were using keyboards and drum machines to relate through their music a disaffection or alienation”.

Captivated bands such as The Cure, OMD, and Cocteau Twins, Mac added: “I’m constantly discovering and consuming new music, so why does an old New Order song trigger the kind of emotional response that it does? What appeals to me are songs that deal with the messiness and ambiguity that come with any transitional period.”

I’m not sure that Non-Believers is going to go down as a classic in the Merge Records catalogue. Then again, it’s hard to fuck with Polvo’s Exploded Drawing or Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, so it’s an unfair yardstick. But when the album hits its stride, such as on the swaggering Box Batteries or the icy synths of Wet Leaves, it is a very fine thing indeed.

We caught up with Mac while he was conquering Portugal and asked him a few of the burning questions. And in return he talked Obama, the power of The Birthday Party live and reminded us here at London in Stereo HQ that it was probably time to watch Valley Girl again…

If I had to describe my music in 3 words, I’d use…
Ask anyone else…
Joking! OK, if I really have to answer this question, I’d say: awkward, mostly sincere.

My favourite film ever is…
Valley Girl

The most famous person I’ve met is…
That’s a toss-up between Barack Obama and Patrick Stickles

The song I hate the most is…
It’s funny: songs I used to hate sometimes work their way into my psyche and I develop an irritating soft spot for – see “Year of the Cat” or Naked Eyes’ version of “Always Something There to Remind Me”.
But one song I continue to hate is Lee Greenwood’s awful “God Bless the USA” which I assume you are blessed to not have to ever hear in the UK.

The worst job I’ve ever had is…
Delivering jams and jellies to people too poor to afford it but who agreed to buy it to appease the Police Benevolent Association or something. I was supposed to deliver it and collect their money. I lasted a two and half days.

If I was in a tribute band it would be…
Container Drivers: A Tribute to The Fall

My favourite word is…
Soundcheck is over
Is that one word?

If I had a super power I’d want it to be…
Ability to remember lyrics, my own or others’.

If I could play a gig anywhere it would be…
I’d love to play a show in Addis. London is more likely to actually happen though, and soon…

I think you should listen to…
Your grandparents

If I could see anyone play live it would be…
The Birthday Party on the Prayers on Fire tour

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Mac McCaughan plays the Courtyard Theatre on November 11th