Words by Ed King / Pics by Edward Taylor
*Chris Tye launches his new album, The Paper Grenade, at The Glee Club (B’ham) on Sun 23rd Nov. For info & tickets, visit http://www.glee.co.uk/performers/chris-tye.htm*
“…you remember when MySpace used to be big?”
Chris Tye is explaining The Paper Grenade, his old music moniker and name of his new album. “I used to do instrumental music under that name and it was one of those titles that wouldn’t go away. It’s still up there somewhere because I’ve forgotten all my passwords.” Modern footprints; popular culture can become anachronistic quicker than it used to.
We’re sitting on The Glee Club main stage surrounded by a living room familiarity and sound engineer mutterings. Birmingham Review first covered Chris Tye at Folk for Free gig last December, the sheets of winter rain staining the bright lights and backdrop of the open plan Symphony Hall Café Bar, but the snug Glee Club surroundings feel much more appropriate.
There is immediate warmth. I’ve not met Chris Tye before but he’s on the ubiquitous list of respected regional troubadours, and to have never put ‘The Glee Club’ in a sentence next to his name feels oddly incongruous. Now I get to add ‘album’ and ‘launch’.
“I played a gig in Coventry at a pub called The Mordseley,” continues Chris Tye, “and was speaking to someone in the crowd afterwards about people we’d known who’d had cancer. Her mother had died really young and we got talking about how you’ve got to make sure you don’t have too many days that are just a non event, like a paper grenade.” It’s a confident metaphor, original on an old theme. “It struck me a good way of describing that; these non events, these non days, these paper grenades where nothing happens.”
But the journey to The Paper Grenade was not quite as carpe diem, with Chris Tye “spending three years trying to record an album myself,” and embracing every aspect; “writing it, playing most of the instruments with the exception of drums, producing it, engineering it, thinking you know, what works for Prince. Then I realised how difficult it is really is. I did finish an album but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted it to be.”
Then just as Chris Tye “was about to knock it on the head” a referral from Fink put him in touch with Tim Bidwell. “I went to visit him (Tim Bidwell) and he has a lovely home studio in a lovely part of Brighton; went out got drunk, and I woke up with a week’s worth of dates in the diary.
It was such an important phase; I could write songs with him the vehicle dragging the ideas out of me.” After knocking out “six tracks in a week”, The Paper Grenade started to take shape – with Michael Clarke (Ron Sexsmith, Dan Whitehouse) coming in later to share production credit and instrumental burdens.
The result is a ten track album that covers the range of faces Chris Tye can bring on stage. “My tendency is to make down beat, melancholic acoustic,” admits Tye, “and I was desperate not to do that with this record. We decided some of the songs needed to be fairly big, a lot of electric guitars and big drums.”
“I wanted to structure it like a good live set; start upbeat to capture people’s attention, run though some of the melancholic bits in the middle, get a little bit psychedelic at the end then finish with the title track.” With a bonus acoustic demo of ‘Vicious Words’ as encore, curtain down.
But The Paper Grenade still feels personal, despite the eventual collaborations – something that can distill or distort a creative endevour. I never write in tandem. Some of the album artwork was even done by Chris Tye’s daughter, Daisy, who has track eight named after and dedicated to her.
“You know when kids paint and you put down a split open cereal packet underneath, so the paint doesn’t go on the table,” explains Tye, “I took up her painting and that was on the table I had load of different ideas but I couldn’t get away from that one.” It’s oddly beautiful too, an oil swirl of watercolours on the back cover. Don’t look at it and think.
Chris Tye seems to have found something else in The Paper Grenade too; a reinforced zeal, new blood to keep moving. “As a starting point, which I really do see it as, I wanted to represent all aspects of what I might do. The next album might be more in depth; I’m thinking me, a piano and a quartet – embrace the melancholic section in the middle.”
As a fan of most things ivory, and melancholic, this sounds good to me. And as Chris Tye confirms, “people like miserable, it makes them happy; it makes me happy.” A sentiment that kept busy with unrequited lust and Tori Amos albums throughout my blotter acid munching teens. But one that would not be unwelcome on The Glee Club programme, should this be the venue to host round two.
But first things first; Chris Tye launches The Paper Grenade on this stage in a full band showcase on Sunday 23rd November, with support from Sam Redmore and Vijay Kishore.
I look around the room and try to imagine it full of more familiar faces. The sound engineers start to mutter in more obvious tones. The room is no longer ours but I feel comfortable enough to ask the obvious.
“Markus (Sargeant, The Glee Club music promoter) has given me a lot of good support slots here,” explains Chris Tye, as we pack up like the end of picnic. “You know it’s always going to be a quality gig; a good sound, for me and the audience. It’s a quality seal at every turn.”
And as we walk quiet steps out of The Glee Club, I’m gifted a copy of The Paper Grenade. “It just made sense to be here.”
‘The Paper Grenade’ – Chris Tye, live in Cheltenham. Click here or on the image below
Chris Tye plays at The Glee Club (B’ham) on Sunday 23rd November, launching The Paper Grenade – with support from Sam Redmore and Vijay Kishore. Ed King will be there for a Birmingham Review.
For gig info & tickets, visit http://www.glee.co.uk/performers/chris-tye.htm
For more on Chris Tye, including online purchases for The Paper Grenade, visit http://www.christye.co.uk/
For more from The Glee Club venues, visit http://www.glee.co.uk/