Kevin P. Gilday & The Glasgow Cross release new album Pure Concrete
- Arusa Qureshi
- 28 May 2020
We speak to poet Kevin P. Gilday ahead of the release of his second album with multi-instrumentalist Ralph Hector
As far as collaborations go, the musical partnership forged by award-winning poet Kevin P. Gilday and multi-instrumentalist Ralph Hector is one of real finesse. As Kevin P. Gilday & The Glasgow Cross, the duo have crafted a unique sonic palette via the merging of contemporary spoken word and post-punk/electro instrumental arrangements, bringing to the surface each artist's individual musicality.
New album Pure Concrete, the follow-up to 2018's Experience Essential, is described as 'a cracked hymn to the city of Glasgow', with Gilday's dynamic and honest poetry providing a resolute examination into the truth of modern life through themes of alienation, uncertainty, love and grief. Below this, the landscape that Hector conjures with everything from vibrant synths and jazz percussion to fuzzy guitars and melancholic piano lines offers something colourful and rich, rounding everything off with a cinematic precision. Ahead of the album's release, we caught up with Gilday to find out more about Pure Concrete and the story behind the duo's collaborative project.
How did Kevin P. Gilday & The Glasgow Cross come to be? How do each of your individual modes of creativity fit together?
I'd performed a spoken word set as support for a band Ralph was in at the time. We hit it off and Ralph floated the idea of perhaps putting some of my poems to music – that in time became our first album, Experience Essential. It was only really supposed to be a one-off collaboration but it went so well we decided to start writing together. That was two years ago – the result of which is Pure Concrete.
I think we really accentuate each other's strengths by staying the fuck out of the way to be honest. Ralph lets me go on my poetic journeys without too much editing and I really trust Ralph's technical prowess to make the right decisions for the composition. It's about trust at the end of the day. We're both very chilled out so there's no competitiveness, it's liberating to be on the same creative team.
Can you talk a little more about Pure Concrete and its main themes and ideas and what your mission statement was with this record?
Musically, we really set out to expand the way spoken word could be used in the context of a piece of music. So often it's a gimmick or a 30 second bridge – we really wanted to give the poetic delivery equal weight to inspire the sound of the record. Lyrically, I was very interested in exploring urban loneliness, the negative power of nostalgia and how the two things interact. How places and locations tie us to memories and stop us moving on with our lives. Through that there are definitely deeper explorations of grief and mortality and the things we do to counteract the inevitability of those thoughts. Mental health, and the effects of generational trauma are another theme that runs throughout the record. All cheery stuff! Honestly though, I wanted to say something personal and true and unique which could also be related to in a universal way. And there's redemption in it all too – there's an acceptance of death, and an inherent rebellion in that.
How does Pure Concrete relate to Experience Essential both musically and thematically? What are the main elements that changed for you between 2018 and 2020 musically and more personally that fed into this album?
I think that Experience Essential was more of a collection. Some of the poems that formed the basis of that album were over seven years old. In many ways it felt like a document, a chronicle of my poetry etched in a record. Pure Concrete is far more cohesive and organic, a fact I think you can hear in the work. On a personal level I think we were both dealing with grief, with upheaval, with an awareness that we don't have an unlimited time to fanny about and hope that something nice happens. We talked really honestly about being open to following our instincts and making an album we could be really proud of, something that wasn't subject to any influence or compromise. I think dealing with mortality at such close quarters made us really determined to create the work we feel compelled to, while we're still here.
How did you find the response to 'A Sensitive Man'? And why was that song chosen as the first single from the album?
The response was so overwhelmingly positive, it felt great to have people really connect with a song and a message like that. I've written about masculinity a lot in my career but this was the first time I'd really re-appropriated some big macho energy in order to deconstruct it in a way that's actually really fun to listen to. We chose it as the first single because, well, we thought it was a bit of a banger… But also because we wanted to make a statement and put down a marker – let everyone know that we had an album of real power and depth on the way.
What have you been doing to pass the time during this period of lockdown?
I've been working hard. My creative partner Cat Hepburn and I have moved our Sonnet Youth shows online, which has been a tough adjustment but is starting to feel weirdly natural now. I've been creating new work for the National Theatre of Scotland and their Scenes for Survival season, I've also just been writing some new poems, I've been leading online poetry workshops and streaming live shows from my living room. It's a brave new world, and it's never going to be as good – but I don't want to sit on my arse and wait for it all to blow over when the world needs art.
What are you most looking forward to doing once things are slightly more back to normal?
I just want to hug my pals, truly. Fuck, I just want to hug everyone. The thought of performing a live show to an audience makes my hair stand on end just now. Imagine packing some people into a basement venue, having a fun show then getting the pints in afterwards? I'm going to revel in the little things as soon as I'm allowed to.