Having taken a break from music since Doves released their fourth album Kingdom Of Rust in 2009, Jimi Goodwiin returned this week releasing his debut solo album Odludek on Monday (24 March). He spoke to Q about his past, present and musical future...
How the devil are you? Alright! My voice has been going a bit from going back out there and doing gigs. I'll have to go off and train. I need to smarten myself up again! But the only way to get your gig legs back on is by doing it.
So let’s start at the end. What is it: ex-Doves man? Sometime Dove? Doves are on hiatus? Come on what's the situation with your band? Honestly, we never ever said, so never say never! We’ve not discussed it. It’s one of those things, but I hate bands when they say it's over and then they come back. Why say it if you don’t mean it? Maybe they do mean it at the time and then four years later they’re supporting Heaven 17 on some fucking 80s rebound tour. I don’t know. Maybe it was prudence on our part but we don’t know if it’s over. So why jinx it by saying it is? Kingdom Of Rust did take its toll. We made the record we finally wanted to make, but boy it was pulling teeth at times. When you’ve been in a band with people you’ve known since you were 15 it was like: “How do we pull new shapes out of each, how do we excite each other?” That’s what took the time. It took three or four years of going to the studio day in, day out and it felt a bit like punching the clock at the time. But you’ve got to put the hours in man.. We needed a break.
So what are we going to call you? [long pause, then laughs] I’m a Dove! And may well be again. We’re not trying to dangle anything, we just don’t know. We still love each other, Andy and Jez apparently have a great record on the go, they’ve got things in the fire. I know them too well, they can’t not write music.
"It was a really weird time in my life. A lot of ups and downs. Making the record was exhilarating and exhausting..."
Let’s call you the solo artist Jimi Goodwin for now, though it doesn’t feel like you ever set out to make “the Jimi Goodwin record”? No, no! In my head it was a fantasy album with a guest list of crazy rappers! I definitely wanted it to be as wide as it is and as mad as it is, but after so much time collaborating, to trust my own hunches and not have to run anything by anyone for validation was daunting! I never thought I’d do this. I had a bit of mini crisis – well it didn’t feel mini at the time – where all the clichés that never happened, happened. I’m 40! I’ve been in a band in my whole adult life and we’ve just called time on it for a while. We did our last gig in October 2010 and by that Christmas I was going: “Do I even like music any more? Am I any good at it? Have I got anything to say?” I’d never questioned music since I was seven years-old.
Did you ever think about packing it in, getting a non-music job? Bloody hell! That would only have been in the reassesses of my mind, that terrifying thought of “what else can I do?!” but it passed thankfully, it passed. By April 2011, three or four months sans the boys, I was thinking “Come on, get writing!” [Opening track] Terracotta Warrior came pretty early. In fact, I loosely demoed it on my own and played it to the guys, but we didn’t have enough time to do it properly. So it was good to have something in reserve to start with.
When did you get a sense those songs would be for your solo record? It was an album from very early on, but I was loathed to call it “solo” or whatever. I wanted to hang it on Odludek from day one. Forget Jimi Goodwin this is Odludek! It was something for me to frame it. From my previous experiences of making a record, all those best laid plans go out of the window in the first two months, but at least it gets you going... but I like the idea of a persona or something to explore.
Just Odludek? It’s a Polish word that means loner or hermit or pilgrim. I don’t even know why I came across it. It might even have been in late Doves and I thought “I’ll bank that word”. To me it’s a bit enigmatic and has a bit of mystery. In my head I didn’t want it to be some Jimi Goodwin Band, it sounds so boring. To me it’s Odludek. Forget my name. As I go forward, if people get it, then I’d be happy if it just becomes the framework for this project.
What was inspiring you? Did you feel you were tapping into to something particular at this point? I was tapping into the record collection. I love that label in America, Stones Throw and I’ve always loved hip hop and sample culture. I just wanted to bring that eclecticism that I love in other people’s records to my record. That was where the idea of possible collaborations with rappers and songs not having traditional structures came about. So I’d done all this without the actual collaborations. I didn’t want to do verse chorus, here’s the middle eight, that doesn’t interest me. I wanted the songs to be unpredictable. The only analogy I can make was it was bringing the best bits of music I admired to my own. That was the only blueprint.
"I was asking myself, Do I even like music any more? Am I any good at it? Have I got anything to say? I’d never questioned music since I was seven years-old..."
Yet despite the variation, Odludek sounds like an album. Where did that coherency come from? One thing I noticed is that every time we finished the sessions, the songs kept getting burnt off in the same order. Every time I wrote a new one, it fitted after the previous one! I kept leaving the studio in the Forest Of Dean and listening to them on the drive home in the same order. I didn’t have to compile this one! Whatever I’ve written, whether I knew it or not, I’ve written for a reason. I’m liking this hunch thing, not second-guessing everything.
It might just be your voice, your ability to mix melancholy and hope, but it is a cathartic album. Was it a cathartic for you or is that just how you sing? It was! It was a really weird time in my life. A lot of ups and downs. Making it was exhilarating and exhausting. But I couldn’t have asked for the record to go better. I’m really proud of what I’ve done and I don’t normally say things like that [laughs]. It feels right. I’m trusting my instincts a lot more than I have in a while. In a band you see you all take the weight, you can negate things like press or if you’re having an off day. It’s all on me now. I don’t know how I feel about that yet - I’m early doors into it - but the songs I’ve got nothing to hide behind. I wouldn’t have put them out unless I felt really strongly and passionately about them.
You play pretty much every on the record too? It was pretty much me and Dan [Austin, producer/engineer]. I got friends in at times, but even though there’s two drummers on there it’s me playing both kits! One in one speaker, one in the other. I love panning and placement of sound. That’s why I like a lot of 60s production when they had no choice but to do it.
If you’re playing everything how hard is it to achieve in reality the sound in your head? Drums come dead quickly to me because it was my first instrument. I’d probably still be a drummer now but my brother joined a punk band and got me kit robbed when I was 12! I was like "What am I going to do now?" and my dad had an old acoustic so I picked that up. I just wanted to do something! [laughs] Drums went down dead quickly. Guitar I’m not the greatest, so there’s a bit of tongue hanging out and a lot of tunings to get there. It’s funny someone said to me it sounds live which is brilliant. It doesn’t sound forced or laboured even though I pretty much played all the instruments. I’m glad it sounds immediate.
"I’m a Dove! And may well be again. We’re not trying to dangle anything, we just don’t know..."
You do have a little help on some of the backing vocals on a couple of tracks… [Elbow’s]Guy Garvey’s on Hope and on Man V Dingo. A great person to call on! If he was hanging out I’d get him to sing.
What was it like hearing it when it finally came together? Great! Most of the time it was real fun. It started to take real shape in the Spring of last year. That’s when I realized I had something on my hands here.
You said at the start you’ve been playing live again, are you enjoying that side of it? Yeah, I played a few gigs last week. I was wringing my hands about it in rehearsals a couple of times thinking “will this work?” but everyone I’ve got in the band is someone I’ve wanted to work with for years so I’m surrounding myself with good players and they’ve bent over backwards to make it happen. I’m enjoying it. I’ve chucked in a couple of Doves tracks. I just asked the band which ones they wanted to play, but mainly it’s the bulk of the new record. I like the idea of starting again as a new band. I like the fact I’m at the point I can just about do an hour with my debut record… and then pad it out with some old Doves tunes! [laughs]
You could always write some new Jimi Goodwin songs too... I already have! I’ve got a couple in reserve that I still love that didn’t make the cut and I went to Sweden in September for a writing session with some of the guys out of [Stockholm band] Dungen. That was great!
So finally, are you planning any more chart battles with Lady Gaga with this project? Solo artist to solo artist this time? She infamously kept Kingdom Of Rust off Number One in 2009, supposedly by a handful of copies... [Laughs] You tell me! That was bizarre wasn’t it? Six copies, or so you hear... It’s all good! Paul Stokes @Stokesie
Head to Jimigoodwin.com for more.