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Preston School Of Industry

Spiral Stairs To the uninitiated, the post-Pavement solo project of taciturn US lo-fi musician and songwriter Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannberg to his nearest and dearest) may sound more like a northern middle management mill training course than a popular music beat combo, but then his previous – and much-missed – outfit always did have something of an Anglo-centric vibe going on

Even that band’s moniker favoured the UK-centric Pavement over their own native ‘sidewalk’; moreover, Scott’s love of bands like Echo And The Bunnymen and The Fall is still a source of fond memory: “I first heard them working in a record store. Being around 18-19,my young ears were starved for new music and these bands satisfied that. I think I liked the simplicity of the records. Lots of one-note solos, but still melodic.”

But let’s start, as Julie Andrews tells us, at the very beginning, which is indeed a very fine place to start. Forming Pavement with Steve Malkmus back in 1989 and renaming himself Spiral Stairs, Kannberg spent the following eleven years and five albums touring around the world before Pavement unceremoniously sunk into the asphalt in the summer of 2000 and he retreated home to concentrate on his label Amazing Grease Records, releasing music by Oranger, Carlos, Sunless Day, Cole Marquis, Aaron Nudelman, and the Moore Brothers. Discovering a four-track of songs originally slated for Pavement’s final album Terror Twilight, he refocused on creating his own music, prompting him to dig out his trusty Tascam, grab a passing drum machine and get taping.

Even the most cursory of listens to the woefully overlooked results of this intense bout of songwriting, All This Sounds Gas, or indeed his later effort, Monsoon, reveals a body of work which is as wilfully out of touch with the latest record company sales figures, chart trends or high gloss production values as it’s possible to be without actually recording direct to acetate after having been stranded alone on a desert island for the last 20 years (possibly using one of those birds with long pointy beaks that you used to see on The Flintstones to record with).“I like the feel of the demo,” Scott insists. “A few songs on Monsoon are actually the demos with a few extras thrown in. I can’t stand it when a record gets over-produced, it just loses all the feel and emotion. I genuinely feel that a lot of the best ideas are the ones that are your first."

Spiral Stairs

Those of you – and you are in good company as the album sold nothing like as many copies as it deserved to – that failed to pick up on All This Sounds Gas when it was released in 2001 (a fine collection of resolutely upbeat if seriously under-produced little gems in the lo-fi Velvets meet Smog vein) missed a little gem which sounded unlike anything else around at the time. It was also something of an emotional release for the newly- motivated multi-instrumentalist songwriter. “Yes, definitely. I had over thirty songs, but most of them were unfinished. I never really wanted to or had the chance to get to work on them before 2000, but when I did, it all flowed out.”

Was there any sort of conscious effort on his part to make the album sound unlike his previous outfit? “No, not really. It was hard not to [sound like Pavement], I guess. I did, however, consciously try to incorporate other sounds and instruments into the songs that I would’ve never had the chance to do in Pavement, things like horns, and I was given time to experiment with different sounds, which was great
Andy Basire

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