INTERVIEW: JP Riggall | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Ian Allcock

JP Riggall is a master terraformer. Digging the foundations, erecting landscapes for his songs to exist in, he understands that context is everything. A slow moving drama noir needs time to be. “I guess I’m doing fine”, would mean next to nothing over a bleep and blooped groove, but oppressed by broken up guitars and driving drums the lyric invokes a double take. He’s not waving, he’s drowning.

Long-time fans of Riggall and his previous work with The Broken Broadcast will recognise his familiar mantric repetition on new album Hotel Wilderness. Is he trying to convince himself or us, or both, or neither? Whatever his reasons, he plants earworms firmly. After one listen to The Vagrant, the chorus is a passenger and companion for the rest of the day.

I was in Newcastle for a week in January, ended up doing a lot of walking to pass time and wrote a lot of lyrics.” Riggall explains about the evolution of the album. “By the time lockdown hit I had an album written and time to record it.”

Initially mooted as an acoustic guitar and organ-fuelled record, the soon road forked again: “By the time I finished The Vagrant and producer Martin Trollope (aka Harbourmaster) sent me a mix back I knew I was going to do an alternative rock record.”

I wanted to create a fictional wonder made of real places

On his second solo record, is Riggall settling into the spotlight? “Nothing beats playing live with your mates and notes hitting together perfectly, it’s an amazing feeling. However, recording as a band can be mind-numbing sometimes. I much prefer to write as we record, by the time you go in to a rehearsal room it’s still fresh but you have a good understanding of your parts and can still ad lib a bit.” He’s still managed to capture that band-in-a-room urgency whilst maintaining the grandeur of the record. “I have a lot of instruments (as well as some talented friends in Ian Dixon and Snowy) so I thought I’d see how sonically different I can make things. Of course there’s A LOT of guitars in there!”

In comparison to his debut solo record, The Long Dark Bright, Hotel Wilderness kicks up more of a sonic fuss. However, he explains that it comes from a similar place. “It is very, very similar in theme; I think its a niche that I write from lonely perspective, there’s a lot in my songs about missing people or searching for something, I must subconsciously find the metaphors easier. I guess this is The Long Dark Bright’s slightly more adjusted and heavier big brother.

Along with his creation of environments for his songs, Riggall is also invested in the visual landscape. It’s not surprising then that this was created very early on: “The artwork was done with help from Andrew Johnson (Cherry Head, Cherry Heart) about three years ago. The vision on the record sleeve is what’s been with me since the start. I wanted to create a fictional wonder made of real places.”

Coronavirus, lockdown and the shadow it has cast on the arts cannot be ignored, but the time has afforded Riggall a period of creativity which has borne magnificent fruit. Can he dodge the domino topple of live shows and what can we expect? “There’s definitely going to be some form of live show, even if it’s spring, this album has some great sounds which would be great live. I think I’ve got a few of the gang together to play everything pretty close to the record too, maybe some ad lib here and there…”

JP Riggall releases Hotel Wilderness on 20th November


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