Scottish outsider brings home his extensive back catalogue
This article is from 2008.
It’s the stuff on your doorstep that always goes unnoticed. While we heap plaudits on underground legends from across the pond, Scotland’s own talented outsider Jackie Leven remains unheralded.
‘I can’t get arrested in this country,’ Leven laughs, ‘but my last single and album both charted in Germany, and I do well right across northern Europe.’
It’s to Leven’s credit that he discusses his lack of homegrown success without bitterness. The 58-year-old Fifer will spend the next six months touring the world, taking in China, Australia and Canada, almost always to larger audiences than in Britain.
It’s a strange state of affairs. In a career spanning 35 years, Leven has created an extensive and varied back catalogue, somewhere between the wilful artistry of Tom Waits and the curmudgeonly literate folk of Bob Dylan, all imbued with a quintessentially Scottish sense of self-deprecation.
Having produced everything from psych-rock to punk, he’s recently settled on a consummate bluesy-folk, his songwriting and guitar playing, as evinced on latest album Lovers at the Gun Club, stronger than ever.
In the past he’s not had to seek out problems, with a biography including losing his voice for two years after a near-death strangulation, and subsequent heroin addiction, but 2008 finds Leven in cheery mood.
‘I’ve reached an age where you say, “Wait a fucking minute, am I going to trudge around the world being in a sulk?” You’ve got to have fun and believe in your own songs, it’s as simple as that.’
With over two dozen albums under his belt, Leven is certainly prolific but nothing in the studio or on stage is ever carefully planned.
‘You’ve got to leave yourself open to new things,’ he says, ‘I like the permanent sense of not quite knowing what’s going to happen.’
And he remains enthusiastic about the new music he sees around him at festivals and gigs. ‘There’s more effort being made now than for a while,’ he says. ‘After punk, people were all about attitude, but attitude is not very nutritious and in the end people want to be fed by their music. I know I do.’
Cabaret Voltaire, 0844 499 9990, 8 Aug, £8.