Focus: Graham Thompson | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Who are you? 
My name is Graham Thompson. 

What is it you do?
 I do the vocals and play bass for Ballpeen with my good friends Rory and Adam, I play drums in a band called OZO with Mike Vest (Bong, 11Paranoias, Lush Worker) and Karl D’Silva (Drunk In Hell) and I have my own mobile recording studio called Sound Schitty. I also recently released my own album under the name Sea Ninety. 

How long have you been doing it? 
I’ve been playing in bands since I was about 13, so around 24 years now. I’ve been in a lot of bands in Newcastle in that time including Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaind, Drifts, Jinn, Grace, End Now, Gullich and many more. 

Ballpeen have been together for around 3 or 4 years now, I think our first gig was in the summer of 2017. OZO only started last year but have done a lot of work already. I’ve been recording with the Sound Schitty set up for around 2-3 years now. I don’t really advertise it much and mostly work with my own bands and friends. 

What inspires you? 
I think influence and inspiration can be easily confused, at least in my mind. In terms of inspiration, I suppose it’s principally the enjoyment that comes from creating music and eventually recording it, playing it live or releasing it. The whole process for me is fun, so knowing that at each step in the process I’m going to enjoy myself is a big motivator. The satisfaction in writing a good song that you really like/playing a great gig/getting a good response from an appreciative crowd/coming up with a concept for a project or artwork and seeing it through to production/mixing music to the point where it sounds great and you’re happy is a very good feeling and knowing that any of those things are within your grasp inspires me to keep doing it over again. 

Tell us about your music. 
Ballpeen is great fun, I’ve been in bands with Adam since I was 15 and Rory is a great guitar player and fun to be with. The band is really easy to be a part of as everyone is pretty relaxed and doing it for the right reasons. In my experience if you can make a three-piece band work it’s the best. We recently released an 8 track cassette called Pachinko on Cruel Nature Records and have just released a split double CD with our good mates Onlooker on Serial Bowl records. 

OZO came about after Mike approached me last year to do a recording project. I go in and improvise a bunch of drums and pass them to him to do his thing on. Mike brought in Karl on alto sax and it made the whole thing so great. That’s been a good challenge for me and one I’ve enjoyed. We released an LP called Saturn last year o Riot Season and have a new LP out soon on Drone Rock Records called Pluto. 

The Sideline Wait was an album I recently released under the name Sea Ninety. I’ve always wanted to do an album where I did literally everything, I wrote, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered the whole album and did the artwork (with the exception of a couple of songs that my good friend Bruce Hobson (Onlooker/Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaind co-wrote). It’s something I’ve been working on for years but was never happy with, lockdown gave me the perfect opportunity to sit down without distraction and get it finished. I released it on Bandcamp without any fanfare and have been really surprised with how well it’s been received by a small audience of, mostly, friends and family. 

Finally, I’ve been recording music for a lot of years but wanted to do more of it and improve my chops. I decided to invest in a bunch of reasonable equipment and over the course of a couple of years have been slowly upgrading the gear and sharpening my skills. I called my mobile studio Sound Schitty as I thought it was a good way of making it clear that I don’t take myself too seriously, but I thought if I did give myself a name then people might find out about me and I’d get asked to do a little more work. I have a long way to go before I’ll be really happy with the final results but I’m seeing improvements with each recording. 

What have you got coming up in the future? 
OZO’s LP Pluto goes up for pre-order on July 31st, Drone Rock Records are pressing two different colour vinyls that look really good so I’m excited for that coming out. I think this LP is a real step forward from our first LP. I wanted to take a bit more time and ensure it was right and we managed to do that. 

Before lockdown I was in the middle of a few recording projects with Sound Schitty, including working with Tankengine, O Captain, My Captain and a posthumous album for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaind. Hopefully I’ll be able to start working on those again in the coming months. 

I’m in talks with someone around the possibility of doing a very limited vinyl release of the Sea Ninety record, things are looking good so I hope that comes off. 

Where can people find out more about you? 
Either in the Cluny after practice or at these pre-prepared online destinations: 
facebook.com/ballpeennewcastleband/
facebook.com/OZOJAZZBAND/
facebook.com/soundschitty/
seaninety.bandcamp.com/ 

The OZO LP can be pre-ordered here: https://dronerockrecords.com/shop/pluto-pre-order/ 

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