Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Thirteen Convulsions: Geordie Greep’s Favourite Albums

Black Midi frontman Geordie Greep takes Cal Cashin through the thirteen albums that have gripped him the most, from the majesty of Bach to the mania of Léo Ferré

Geordie Greep, frontman of precocious noise-rock combo Black Midi, has always been a somewhat elusive and mysterious character. He gives little of himself away in interviews, and his Twitter account is largely dedicated to boxing. This distance often comes across in his lyrics, as he masks himself behind absurdist narratives and cryptic vignettes.

This has never been truer than on Black Midi’s third album, Hellfire, which was released last week. The mangled and malfunctioning spawn of noise rock, vaudeville and jazz fusion, Hellfire moves away from the abstract writing on predecessors Schlagenheim and Cavalcade. It’s sung mainly in visceral first person narrative, with each track seeing the frontman take on a new, tilted persona. Lead single ‘Welcome To Hell’ is written from the perspective of a wicked captain, lambasting a traumatised private, whilst ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ tails a reluctant contract killer whose deed is duly punished by Satan himself.

“I’ve just been trying something different,” Greep says. “When you write in first person, there’s always more scrutiny on the honesty and veracity of it. So, for me it has come with having more confidence.” The characters are indeed masterfully crafted, but spending the duration of Hellfire with them sheds very little light on the Delphic frontman.

One can really spend a lifetime in the curious world of Black Midi’s music without ever really understanding the erratic narrator. But a sojourn into thirteen of Greep’s favourite albums goes some way to piecing together the cipher.

Greep often cites his influences as novelists, which goes some way to explaining his literary and often impersonal writing style. His Baker’s Dozen goes some way to reinforcing this, with grizzled storytellers like Tom Waits and Willie Nelson making an appearance, although the singer insists that lyrics are rarely important to him when he listens to music. “Actually,” he says, “with most of my favourite lyrics, I don’t like the music that goes with them. And vice versa. Although Tom Waits is definitely an exception.”

The rest of his picks reveal a man that is completely enamoured by centuries worth of music. He loves classical music, and is aglow when discussing the intricacies of Bach, and he talks passionately about many different genres from across the globe. Reserved and cryptic when talking about his own music, he is a profoundly expressive individual when he gets the chance to open up about this list of musical curiosities, 13 albums that range from Boredoms and Isaac Hayes, through to salsa’s inimitable cantante de los cantantes (‘singer of singers’), Héctor Lavoe.

Of course, on new album Hellfire, the infernal realm of Hell, or rather its ungodly inhabitants, are Greep’s primary subject matter. “I like stuff like Isaac Bashevis Singer’s stories, and The Master And The Margarita,” he says. “Stuff where the Devil, or a demon, comes to this world and starts interfering, rather than Hell itself.” But rather than music that channels the same unholy energy as his own, Greep’s list of his favourite records is instead coloured by music that leans towards religion. Not because of Greep’s own faith, but because of his fascination with the devotion that the almighty can inspire.

“I have to say, though,” Greep adds finally: “I couldn’t say these are my favourite 13 albums of all time, they are rather just 13 albums that I think are spectacular

Black Midi’s new album Hellfire is out now via Rough Trade. To begin reading Geordie Greep’s Baker’s Dozen click on the image of him below

First Record

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today