Ewan Thomas, aka Ewan Whosarmy, has released his awesome new video ‘Moving On’. In this article, he tells us, with total candour, which is indicative of his artistic approach, about his inspirations, his way of working, and future plans. Please read to the end and check out the video.
The new release from Ewan Whosarmy
Q. ‘Moving On’ seems like quite a departure from your previous material. I am picking up elements of New Order and Death in Vegas?
‘Fantastic’ seems a tad hyperbolic mate, but thanks!! Haha!
New Order have featured massively in my musical education, so no surprises there. I think the synth/strums combo is what gave Kasabian a huge edge with their debut album and throughout the whole catalogue. Gary Numan’s Splinter and Savage albums really pushed the boundaries with that sound. Not to mention Music for the Jilted Generation being one of the seminal albums to mash up the punk and electronic genres in ‘94. That had a profound effect on me as a kid.
In all my early tracks, I’d tried to include either acoustic or electric guitars. Then they’d be developed into more simplistic, dance-based tracks. These tend to go down better when your live set ideal is to get a crowd moving.
This track came off the back of a 24-hour round trip to Scotland. I was primarily listening to the likes of Nirvana, Chilli Peppers, Oasis. Then I realised that I wouldn’t be able to use those artists’ tracks in a video released on YouTube. So I got home and hit the studio.
Although it seems a ‘departure’, this track sounds a lot more like the stuff I wanted to produce when I started five years ago, but you have to play to a crowd at some point and they’ll quickly tell you what they will and won’t move to. This one’s less ‘dancefloor banger’, more earphones in, hit the gym, or jump on your bike and thrap-round-some-back-roads-type deal.
Q. The motorik vibe of the song suits the promo video well as you cruise round on your (non-German) motorbike?
Yea, not sure how the Triumph Tiger will be received by the BMW riders on the next big trip around Europe in ‘24! (Once I buy the new one of course. Last one got stolen, but that’s another story.) I wouldn’t be seen on anything other than Hinckley’s finest though! Haha.
Q. Are there live drums on the track? Guitars?
Well, you could say that the Chilli Peppers played the drums on this track… you COULD say that. OR, you could say that I sampled the first bar from Dani California! Electric and acoustic guitars plucked and synths plinked by yours truly.
Backstory to the new release
Q. Care to let the readers know the backstory to ‘Moving On’?
I split with a chick and decided to fuck off to the Highlands (Oban) for 48 hours on a pleasure-seeking pilgrimage! Drunk a shit ton of Islay single malt, Lagavulin, and Caol Ila mainly. Met, drank, sang, and danced with some beautiful European tourists. Then rode around some of the silkiest roads on the planet for a day, soaking up the lochs, mountains, and all the scenic serenity that abundantly scatters that part of the world, before returning home.
Q. When writing tracks do you actively try and banish the sounds of other artists or do you let it permeate your brain while you are working?
Hmmm, the writing ‘process’… I’m not sure that I ‘consciously’ try to do ANYTHING when writing. The music comes from 20 years of practice, sitting at a desk, and creating beats.
I’ll start programming a beat, pads, or riff, then start to hear melodies and beats in my head as I play what I’ve written and will add or subtract as I go to create (in MY mind) a noise that some people refer to as music. I’ve never had any music ‘training’ as such, which I’m sure would be evident to a professional sound engineer.
That said, I’ve always had a kind of synaesthesia, in that, I’d listen to the likes of The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Underworld, or other electronic artists and would shut my eyes to see how elements of the track were panned to the left or right, or stereoed or monoed, and was fascinated. When I got into mixing down my own stuff it gave me a new understanding of what was going on in their compilations. It was like hearing music for the first time. A completely fresh perspective.
But there really is no method, just madness. I hit the desk and whatever comes out, comes out! It’s very freeing because I’m not contained by any particular genre, unlike other producers I know. It’s all based on how I feel at the time I guess. But the latest live tracks need to have the energy to get people up and throwing some shapes.
But there really is no method, just madness. I hit the desk and whatever comes out, comes out!Ewan Whosarmy
Q. As an act, Ewan Whosarmy has undergone radical changes. Previous iterations had a guitar player and person on laptop with you confined to vocals, then you were playing guitar. Now it’s just you programming and singing. The solo version must be incredibly difficult to perform live?
Ha! Yes, there have been many different attempts at achieving ‘live’ performances. In the beginning, I’d spent so much time around pals who were rap artists, who essentially play a backing track and rap over it. I thought that I could get away with that by having a DJ play a set that I’d compile for them and me singing and strumming (badly I might add!! I am NOT a guitarist by any stretch of anyone’s imagination!)
I’m not sure why, but it never quite felt genuine. It felt very karaoke-ish. I mean, Sleaford Mods manage it impressively, but with the style that I was putting out at the time it just didn’t feel right. I’m not sure I ever felt entirely comfortable as a standalone frontman either.
I met Neil McLellan who’d been interested in mixing down one of my tracks, which hasn’t happened yet but the man’s understandably busy with way more established artists. He told me to get into Ableton Live. So, I bought an APC40 MK2, got Ableton on a fresh Mactop Pro, and spent an eight-hour night trawling internet tutorials teaching myself how to use it and never looked back.
I’ll bounce a multitrack of a song out of Logic Pro X: drums, bass, synths, percussion, pads, all as separate ‘stems’. Port it into Ableton, where I can cut and loop all the tracks and drop out certain elements as and when I feel.
It’s effectively a live mixing desk, as such. You then have the ability to turn a five-minute track into a 10-minute track, adding extra builds and drops, and looping.
It was tricky to begin with – although you’re not beatmatching, you still have to hit certain cues and build and dismantle the tracks as you progress. You’re not just focused on one song as a whole, you’re focused on every element of that song, so it has it’s own complications – but it becomes more fluid and more enjoyable each time and the more I rehearse.
One of the biggest benefits is that I no longer need to rely on anyone else to perform a set in any venue. If they’ve got the rig, just plug me in, wind me up, and let me go!
Any additional musicians like Mike Hawkins or Lenny ‘Busty McLean’ Jennings are then the icing on the cake. If and when they’re available they can come and adlib over the top of the already laid tracks.
Q. You have never been one to shy away from your ‘recreational’ past-times in your lyrics? Having turned 40 do you think you’ll leave such material behind? Or are you of the opinion if it’s good enough for Mike Skinner or Sleaford Mods?
I don’t know what you’re talking about mate!
After the recent DG|DA gig, David Arscott (DA) (lovely feller) was discussing collaborating (as had David Gooday [DG] in the past) and he said: ‘your lyrics are like a less watered-down version of Sleaford Mods’.
Albeit sounding, once again, like hyperbole to me, that was some of the highest praise I could ever receive.
I revere lyricists who write about real shit. The irony, that Sleaford Mods, who come from a middle-class background, writing working-class lyrics with connotations of impecuniosity, makes their work even more poignant.
Yes, I’d much rather be tucked up watching flicks on Netflix or taking a two-wheeled crotch rocket out on the open roads for a hoon nowadays, but who the fuck wants to listen to songs about that? I might as well write a bunch of soppy love songs and sell out like Ed fucking Sheeran! (See the lovely carousel below. Which artist is the favourite of Ewan Whosarmy?)
Having spent 20 years on the front lines in the rave scene through my teens and 20s, I’d like to think that there’ll always be a party punk within trying to break out, break rules, call out fakes, and idolise hedonists.
The problem is, there are so many crazy stories from that era to tell. Perhaps a more tasteful little book of chronicles as opposed to barking them into people’s ear’oles from a stage, hey?
The immediate future
Q. What’s next up for Ewan Whosarmy?
Honestly, after the Record Store Day debacle – when I played after Freestylers had murdered it with a one and a half hour breaks set and I managed to CLEAR a ramjammed Hot Box in about 30 seconds flat!! One of the funniest moments in my five years of performing – my don’t-give-a-fuck attitude was compounded.
One of the funniest moments in my five years of performing – my don’t-give-a-fuck attitude was compounded.Ewan Whosarmy
I’d spent years stressing about how a set was going to go and being hyper-critical of each performance, whether situations were out of my control or not.
Rissa, Crickstafari, and DJ Eye-Ree, and myself recently descended on Bristol to play The Old Stillage. (My second time at the venue after Sergio Vilas and myself gigged there summer 2022. Wicked place, great vibe.) I went there thinking ‘fuck it, just enjoy it’ and I had one of the best sets ever. It’s given me the bug to start writing and performing again at selective gigs. I’m aiming to come out with a whole new live set for 2024.
Always keen to collaborate with Concrete Slugz, collectively or individually. I’ve also offered to start putting the rappers’ backing tracks into Ableton to give their sets more of a DJ flow as opposed to stopping and starting the tracks, so watch this space.
DG|DA really blew my mind the other night. I was riffing lyrics over their stuff while I was watching on. If we can get a jamming session together I’d be in my elephant [sic] there I reckon.
No doubt Chris ‘Murph’ Murphy will be putting on The Tide Festival again in 2024 and delegating all the organisation out to the usual suspects, which usually includes me! It’s always a great bunch of people (mainly dirty hippies like myself) and an eclectic weekend of music.
Yep. Still pushing on mate, with a more concerted vigour. More sniper style than scorched earth! I’m still about.
It’s time for you to pledge your allegiance, and join Ewan Whosarmy on his journey.
Why not head over to SoundCloud to check out Ewan Whosarmy’s back catalogue?