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Baker's Dozen

Lost Tapes: Heather Leigh's Baker's Dozen
Jennifer Lucy Allan , July 22nd, 2020 10:15

Heather Leigh takes Jennifer Lucy Allan on a wild ride from teenage dancing on acid to Depeche Mode to collaborating with Peter Brotzmann via Britney Spears, Miles Davis, DJ Screw and The Dead C in this week's Baker's Dozen

Heather Leigh is a music obsessive. She has been searching out music, buying mail order cassettes, and sending off for records since she had the pocket money to burn. Speaking as a fellow obsessive, she knows more about music than almost anyone I know.

Heather Leigh's main instrument is the pedal steel. She plays a custom instrument, built to her own specification, from which she drags ferocious riffs and crooning, melodies, which her vocals embrace in lustful lyrics and a yearning sensuality. Since 2015, she has also had a duo with saxophone colossus Peter Brotzmann, with whom she has toured almost constantly, and produced five albums. In more recent months, she's been working more intensely with musician and producer Shackleton, after contributing vocals to the standout track on the gnostic psychedelic album Reach The Endless Sea by his group Tunes Of Negation. She has also released bold full-length albums on Editions Mego and Ideologic Organ – the lush studio album Throne, and raw song forms of I Abused Animal respectively. Bruce Russell of The Dead C said of Throne, that “if Patty Waters had been on the soundtrack to Paris, Texas, it might have been nearly this good.”

Originally from Houston, Texas, she has lived in Glasgow since 2004, where for many years she ran the legendary underground record store Volcanic Tongue with her partner, the writer David Keenan. She came up through the US underground, playing in an assortment of projects, regularly releasing CD-Rs and cassettes of her solo work and as a member of various groups. Her most recent album, Glory Days, was recently released on Boomkat's Documenting Sound lockdown label, which tQ said was "like the murmurings of a disco diva's soul, drifting eternally bereft through a cobwebbed cellar in which pumped men once danced and fucked".

"I was going to have a quiet year," she says. "I knew I needed to work on new music seriously in a way that you cannot do if you're on the road. But that was not my mindset when lockdown happened. I was worried about 1000 different things. It felt difficult to have the concentration to actually work on new music the way I had envisioned it. Glory Days was exactly what I needed, to kick my ass into shape, to keep working, even though it feels like things are falling apart."

Leigh is, at this point, a stalwart of the underground and experimental music scenes she operates within and without. However, despite the underground's attachment to the cassette as format, and her Boomkat release being on tape, when we talk through her formative musical experiences, it is revealed that she not only has a long history of collecting tapes, but also a habit of losing them.

Heather Leigh's Glory Days is out now, click the picture below to begin reading Heather's Baker's Dozen selections