John Stammers

Waiting Around

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Fittingly titled, Waiting Around is the fruits of melodic craftsman, John Stammers’ labour. Arriving no sooner than six years since the release of his 2011 debut; a physically demanding day job and fascination for all things analogue has made way for a record of stark beauty and enduring quality - delayed only by an unyielding sense of intrepid experimentalism.

“Recording to tape is my favourite thing to do and I only get to do it two weeks a year because it’s so expensive,” John explains. “When you’re working to tape you have to rely on favours – stealing bits of time here and there which means you’re at the mercy of other people’s schedules and there could be months between sessions. It’s frustrating, I’m not gonna lie, but I’m in love with tape and what it does to the music. It’s unpredictable in a good way, adding sounds and crunch harmony.”

Just as tape passes between reels, music-making has ebbed and flowed throughout John’s life. Song-writing in Manchester before relocating to London, John, like his grandfather before him, is no stranger to a solid work ethic; Waiting Around’s enchanting mysticism was created around six 10-hour days a week of building and painting to fund the excessive cost of analogue studio time. “The physical and mechanical side of working with your body is a total escape from anything creative,” John says of the contrast to writing in the comfort of his own home.

“My Grandfather was a tough Glaswegian steel worker and played the piano Scottish bandstand style, penny whistle and chromatic harmonica,” John remembers. “He could recite scores of Rabbie Burns poems on cue. My first single ‘The Fridge’ was about seeing him after his wife of 62 years had just died – he went from the stern iron man at the top of the table, to a cowering, inconsolable old man. My songs are usually about someone I know well and their life, an experience I’ve seen them having or hard myself.”

Sounding like its own reel of ticker tape, Waiting Around is punched with even more magical moments; given its name, it’s a wake-up call (“It means you’re wasting your life and not being as productive as you or I should be!” John says), whilst beautifully warm songs recall friends as well as past and present loves. ‘Stepping Round Her Clothes’ captures the feeling of being young and in love whilst fiancée Yasmin plays a starring role in ‘Woman.’ “’Risky Flowers’ is about a troubled young man I knew who smoked heroin; he didn’t do it regularly but then I once met him and he looked bad. People said they didn’t recognize him. Then I didn’t see him for ages – that was three years ago,” John says.

Waiting Around also features the varied skillset of John’s many musical friends. Paddy Steer (Home Life, 808 State) lends his expertise by way of homemade percussion, Nancy Elizabeth plays Celtic harp and adds warmth with her vocals, piano melodies are provided by Aidan Smith and Alfie’s Ben Dumville plumps up proceedings with rousing trumpet sounds. Produced by Jim Spencer (The Charlatans, Bert Jansch), Miles Copeland (Superimposers), and Dan Munslow (The Monks Kitchen, Luca Nieri), the album was recorded in Eve studio, nestled in Manchester’s city suburbs. “The idea was to book the studio for two weeks and rehearse in my cellar,” tells John. “We got to choose which tape machine to use, synths, compressors – the perfect place to record if you’re geared to analogue and like 18th century chapels.”

An introduction to a new mystical world, Waiting Around fuses the great Brit folk-jazz traditions of Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, Davy Graham, with further-flung sounds of Gene Rains, Eden Ahbez, Moondog and Sun Ra. Whilst their influence would not sit so brazenly on John’s rolled-up sleeves, each one possesses inspiring techniques; “I deliberately listen to how music is recorded and put that into my process,” John explains. “A lot of percussion in exotica stuff or Indian, South American folk gives me ideas. Things like a distorted reggae hi hat or a backing vocal that’s way too loud and bleeds all over the other musicians – I like natural accidents which you only get with tape.”

John Stammers: Waiting Around

Waiting Around John Stammers 4'28''
Steppin John Stammers 3'04''
Woman John Stammers 3'44''
Risky FLowers John Stammers 4'48''
Miss Valentine John Stammers 3'37''
I See The Signs John Stammers 5'12''
Oblivion John Stammers 3'49''
Your Time John Stammers 3'21''

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