Los Angeles-based songwriter John Andrew Fredrick has released his 17th full-length as lead songsmith of The Black Watch. ‘Magic Johnson’ is released in the UK this week through Atom Records and is bound to delight fans of The Cure, The Go-Betweens and My Bloody Valentine. This is jangly, artfull and literate record that is crammed with charm and tunes. Our man Mike D spoke to Fredrick earlier this week.
Hey, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. How has this release been received so far by your fans and by the press?
Ah, cheers. The Magic Johnson LP’s been really quite well-received–we’re super-chuffed by the response from both press and fans. One reviewer said it was too long which is a trifle irksome on account of I possibly agree! I really like an album to be an experience–if that’s not too vogue a word–and an experience you want to experience right away, and again. Think of all the records one got as a kid and immediately one flipped them over to the A-side to have another go. That’s what I look for myself even today as a fan of great music.
Can you tell me why you chose the name The Black Watch? Are you of Scottish origin or what does this mean to you?
I wanted something both musical and martial-plus lower case a la e.e. cummings; and yes, I’m a third Scots, a third English, a third Irish. I was adopted and that’s all they know of my birth parents-aside from the fact that one was a musician and one was a teacher. Isn’t that mental? That’s what I became.
Who is involved in this latest release and who is playing what? Is this the first time you’ve worked together?
Scott Campbell, who produced Acetone, Carina Round, Stevie Nicks, and lots of other artists both produced and engineered. Andy Creighton did a lot of the jagged bits on guitar whilst I did the jangly bits. Jagged-jangly! That’s us. Fellow by the name of Rodrigo Moreno did the bass. He’s a session guy and very knowing. I’d say: “Do an Entwistle on this one!” and he’d do it. “More Macca!” and he knew. I mean, I played some bass as well–imitation Peter Hook. “Peter Hook!” I’d tell myself and away I’d go. Haha. Andy Campanella drummed and his brother Rob from the Brian Jonestown Stupidity played some piano. Rob’s out of that silly band now and also producing lots of stuff for bands here in LA. I’m so happy for him.
Do you record at home sometimes or is a professional recording studio the way to go?
Home studios in Los Angeles are just so professional. The one at both Scott’s and Rob’s houses are as top notch as any we’ve ever worked in; and let me tell you, we’ve been in some scarily spiffy studios. It’s gotten to the point where I feel most comfortable in studio homes: we did some of the tracks in Andy Creighton‘s tiny shed out back his tract house in El Sereno. Sort of just makes you feel even more miraculously artistic that this grand giant sound’s coming from a place that could just as easily be used for tools. Guitars are tools any old way, aren’t they, though? My favorite tools, really. Hands down.
Your sound sounds very ‘British’, if you don’t mind me mentioning that. Can you tell us about your influences and how you see your sound personally?
Well of course I grew up on The Beatles and the Kinks and the Stones so that’s pat. But English literature’s been something that infuses, suffuses, you might say, the stuff I write. I always jest that I’m a recovering Anglophile. And I’ll never recover-so no worries. People use it as an epithet to hurl, really. Which is nasty and silly. I have quite a few English friends who live here who are mad for Americana. I don’t see the point of that, but I’d never slag them for it! An earlier version of me would have, however! Haha. Even the Byrds worshipped all them 60’s British bands. Our sound’s like that line from Tennyson about “I am a part of all that I have met.”
Do you think that your environment in LA has shaped your music in any way?
Yes! A new new LP on a great label from Germany called A Turntable Friend-they mostly have bands from the UK. The record’s called Brilliant Failures and it’s something we’re frightfully excited about as it’s better than anything by Guns and Roses or Janes Addiction, that’s certain! Ha! Do you mind sending it to those quite nice girls in Warpaint? They sure can play, but they’ve never written an actual song in their lives.
That was cynical Mr.John Andrew Fredrick from The Black Watch. I can’t say that I agree on everything I heard, but “I disagree with some of what you say, but I will defend your right to say it to the death.” Certainly, I like very much The Black Watch records and before the new album releases, here is ‘Magic Johnson’.
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