Steve Mason on new EP Coup d'état and why Simple Minds were ahead of their time
Former Beta Band man turned solo star Steve Mason returns to Ireland next month for dates in Dublin and Belfast. The Scottish singer-songwriter spoke to David Roy about his ‘surprise' new EP, Coup d'état
IT'S been a productive year for Scottish singer-songwriter Steve Mason. Having enjoyed great reviews for his fourth solo LP About The Light, released in January, the former Beta Band man has now recorded a brand new EP, Coup d'état, which will be coming out next week.
The Brighton-based Fife man's latest includes three new tunes plus a nice Tim Goldsworthy remix of key About The Light song America Is Your Boyfriend, with lead track Like A Ripple marking something of a surprise musical break from the preceding Stephen Street produced album's brassy gospel and soul-flavoured sound.
Instead, the Brendan Lynch-produced Like A Ripple finds Mason channelling Simple Minds – the post-punky electronica of the Scottish group's early number I Travel, thankfully, rather than the lighters aloft stadium mush of Belfast Child et al.
"That is a track that was so ahead of its time," enthuses Mason. "They had to release that three times before it actually did anything; I think it was like 1979, 1980 and then 1982 or something like that. I remember that track from youth clubs when I was a kid, and I remember that high [mimicks synth sound] 'doot-doot-doot' thing. I just thought it would be great to put a little bit of that in there."
Featuring powerful guest vocals from About The Light backing singer Eli doing her best 'Denise Johnston in Primal Scream' impression, it would be a shame if Like a Ripple required multiple releases to finally catch the public ear – though this already seems unlikely given the positive response it has received from plays on BBC 6Music and elsewhere.
"If it takes three times for it to be a massive hit, I don't mind – just so long as it's a massive hit!," laughs Mason, whose amusingly titled upcoming tour Keep Warm This Winter – Cause Trouble includes stops in Dublin and Belfast.
He adds of the EP: "I didn't need to put out something new, but it is good to have some activity going on around when next year's festivals are being booked and also to kickstart something around the tours we're about to do. It just helps.
"Me and Brendan had been working on Like A Ripple for a little while and it was getting to the point where I just really needed to just put it out, because I was so happy with it.
"I thought it would be great to do an EP, because they're my favourite format: it's not anywhere near as much pressure or stress as an album but you can get over way more than you can with a single track, obviously.
"It was really good fun and easy to put together, which is kind of what you want really."
Indeed, alongside the aforementioned remix, Coup d'état is a quality package which also features the dancefloor-friendly piano house-informed tune Against The World and the funky Latin-flavoured strut of the uber-catchy Head Case.
"I love the simplicity of that one," enthuses Mason of the latter tune. "Me and my very good friend Martin Duffy from Primal Scream knocked that together, we just wanted to make a really nice, simple song.
"With Against The World, that's a song I did a rough demo of probably 15 years ago [which dates it to around the time of the Beta Band's split] and just never got around to putting it together.
"There's a brilliant producer in Brighton called Steve Mac who's worked with everyone [including Westlife, Ed Sheeran and early 90s house heroes Nomad]. I was doing vocals at his studio for another thing and I thought it would be great to get him on board for that one.
"So it all happened very organically and quite quickly. It's a great little EP, man, I love it."
UNKLE man Tim Goldsworthy's remix of America Is Your Boyfriend adds a little extra pep to the opening tune from About The Light, another instantly memorable Mason composition that was based around a playground taunt and infused with an anti-capitalist, USA-sceptical sentiment inspired by him witnessing the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster.
"I had the line 'America is your boyfriend' in my head for a long time and I wondered what the hell I was gonna do with it," says the singer-songwriter.
"I thought I'd said everything I wanted to say about politics on [2013 album] Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time but you can't help yourself sometimes. When something like Grenfell Tower comes along, it just sort of takes your breath away at what these scumbags are capable of.
"Every single British prime minister seems to be more and more out of touch and every single American President appears to be more and more like something from a cartoon. It's bizarre."
As mentioned, Mason will be heading out on tour soon, so fans in Dublin and Belfast can expect to hear a selection of songs from right across his back catalogue – including, hopefully, Coup d'état, if he can work out how to perform his newest electro-flavoured tunes.
"Right as we were putting it out it suddenly occurred to me, 'Oh, my God, I'm actually going to have to play this'," admits Mason, who will be on the road as part of a stripped-down trio for the upcoming Irish dates.
"But yeah, I think we're going to have to attempt them, even though I'm still not quite sure how.
"Having done a three piece tour before, there's something really special about it – you feel that wee bit more exposed than you do with a full band, but you can still make a hell of a racket with three people, man. You can move from very intimate gentle stuff to a big full-on kind of sound.
"If you've got strong songs, they still work no matter how you play them."
:: Steve Mason plays Whelan's, Dublin, on November 27 and The Empire in Belfast on November 28. Tickets via Stevemasontheartist.com. About The Light is out now, the Coup d'état EP is released on October 18.