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LISTEN: Tim Burgess - Oh Men
The Quietus , February 3rd, 2014 07:16

Plus, Burgess tells us about this new track and the Arthur Russell cover he'll be releasing on Record Store Day

An early highlight we can already confirm for this year's Record Store Day, April 19, is a new single from Tim Burgess. 'Oh Men' was written with Kurt Wagner of Lambchop, Burgess' songwriting collaborator on his last solo album, Oh No I Love You, and is gilded with saxophone by the pioneering New York composer Peter Gordon, who also appears on the B-side, an ace cover of Arthur Russell's 'I Couldn't Say It To Your Face'. We've got a first listen to 'Oh Men', a brilliant, languid cut, sitting simple, poignant piano chords over a cycling drum machine rhythm, and working up to a plaintive falsetto sign-off from Burgess, who's also filled us in on the background of the release - listen and read below:

Can you tell us about these tracks for RSD?

Tim Burgess: Yes. It's two songs - one's a cover and one is an original song. The cover is originally by Arthur Russell and is a song of his I was doing on my last solo tour. We loved performing it but it was always on my mind to record it. By a series of various alignments of New York minimal disco planets I found myself working with someone who worked closely with Arthur, a composer/arranger/genius called Peter Gordon, who also happened to be the head honcho of Love Of Life Orchestra. Peter had worked on much, if not most, of Russell's recorded material and was the key member of his live set up too. I wasn't sure if it was the dumbest thing imaginable to ask him to work with me on a cover of a song that he played on so long ago. Peter said it took him 35 years to get that song out of his head, now it's back again... He wasn't sure if it was the dumbest thing imaginable, too, so we recorded 'I Couldn't Say It To Your Face'.

The other song is one I wrote with Kurt Wagner. We'd written my last album together and I just loved the process we'd become used to - I knew I wanted to write some more, so I sent him an idea and it went back and forth across the Atlantic a few times and eventually we had 'Oh Men'. Peter Gordon worked his magic on this one too. The arrangement, the drums and the beautiful sax. It was brilliant to work with the two of them. We made a good team.

How did you end up working with Peter Gordon?

TB: I used to buy records in Amoeba when I lived in Los Angeles. One of the guys there, Joel, used to put vinyl nuggets to one side for me. Real under the counter stuff. I'd go in and he'd be like, "Psssst, Tim, check this out", and he introduced me to so many new records. One of those records was Love Of Life Orchestra's 'Casino' 12". I took it home and played it and I was hooked.

I'd been working with Factory Floor and they were fans too. Nik [Colk Void] mentioned the track 'Condo' from the 'Casino' 12" was possibly her favourite song of all time; that song kinda became an anthem at the Warehouse, the sadly now soon-to-be demolished building in Seven Sisters where we all lived and worked in for the last three years or more.

Nik contacted Peter via Facebook about a Factory Floor collaboration they had planned. He came over from NYC to work with them, and the gig that came of that at the ICA was absolutely mind-blowing. We became friends, he would tell me stories about having worked with Arthur Russell, Jill Kroesen and Laurie Anderson. We found we had quite a lot in common and we agreed to work together at some point. Halfway through writing 'Oh Men', it struck me that it was the perfect opportunity to give Peter a shout. I sent him the songs as they were then and he applied his magic.

What does 2014 hold in store for Mr Tim Burgess?

TB: The year seems to be waking up a bit. January sometimes feels like everybody's having a snooze after their Christmas dinner. The days start getting lighter and everyone kind of jumps to it.

First up is the BBC 6 Music festival at the end of February, I'm DJing there and doing a spoken word thing and an acoustic performance too. Before that I'm doing a Twitter-based takeover on the station on February 16 for a couple of hours one Sunday night. Then, not long after that it's Record Store Day - as well as my single, O Genesis are also putting out a record by a Manc band called Dub Sex. Over 25 years ago they recorded with legendary producer Martin Hannett; some of the songs were released but one track remained unheard until very recently. The band had got back together for a one-off gig and decided they'd like to do more. They brought the Martin Hannett recording to me and I loved it. That takes us up to April - things really start to speed up then. I've got a few festivals I'm doing, DJing for the Quietus at Field Day being an obvious highlight.