5 Questions with Rags # 73 – Tom McGuire (Tom McGuire & The Brassholes)
Sometime in the last couple of months of 2018, the great YouTube algorithm smiled upon me and sent me a downright infectious tune called “Ric Flair,” by Tom McGuire & The Brassholes, a band I had definitely never heard of before. Instantly enamoured with the incredibly catchy single, the song quickly found its way into my daily listening diet. You know that feeling where you find a band but then there's only a few songs/videos to help satiate that new sonic lust? Well, that's the feeling I was engulfed with when I started digging a bit more but thankfully for myself, and the rest of the unsuspecting world, Tom McGuire & The Brassholes were mere months away from releasing their self-titled debut album. “We started the record through a crowdfunding campaign last December (2017), which was ultimately successful. We recorded over January and February, and a bit of March too. It's been ready since then and we've been dying to have people have access to it. Nobody knew who we were though so we had to kind of build it up to get the point where there would be interest in the album. It's been around about a year we've been waiting to show this to the world,” McGuire says, speaking to me from his home in Glasgow, as he prepares vinyl copies of the album to send to those ahead-of-the-curve listeners who preordered the album. And finally the time has come.
Released into the world January 18, Tom McGuire & The Brassholes is already starting to dazzle listeners with its scope, intimacy, storytelling and straight-ahead musical force. While the album is deep and rich, brimming flourishes and fresh ideas – a clearly thought-out and dense peice of sonic art – “Ric Flair,” that first single that hooked me and apparently a whole gaggle of other people, was created in nearly complete spontaneity. “Me and some of the guys in the band used to host jam sessions in town. Where there would be no one to play I would sometimes just make up songs on the spot to keep myself on my toes. One night I asked 'What's the next song gonna be?' And someone piped out 'Ric Flair!' Ooookay, here we go and I just spat out the chorus line and we spontaneously played the song and it was pretty sick. I held onto it...thankfully I remembered it. I went home and wrote it more fully and I'm very glad I did because it's the reason so many people are caring, having an idea of who we are.” He's right. Because as more people find that song and now the album, more people are going to bring Tom McGuire & The Brassholes into their lives. And that means more people dancing, more people experiencing the sonic joy that this incredible band can deliver. And that can only be a good thing. Rags Music is proud to have Tom McGuire as a guest for this instalment of 5 Questions with Rags, as The Brassholes set off on what is sure to be a massive year for this phenomenal band.
1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?
First album I bought with my own money was...I used to be into punk rock. I still am actually, I love punk rock. My first record I got was a compilation from Nitro Records called Deep Thoughts and it was a killer. And I got Green Day Dookie on cassette tape. That's my roots. I remember that well. My first CD was punk rock and not some shite pop.
Yeah, I've asked that question a lot and there are some pretty regrettable answers.
I'm proud of me. There's nothing to be ashamed of for me.
2. When's the last time you did something for the first time?
Right now there's a lot of firsts happening for me. Being on national radio was a pretty big deal. We were on BBC Scotland when 'Ric Flair' was coming out. We went on BBC Scotland and played a session.
3. What's your favourite household chore?
My favourite household chore? My wife is laughing her head off right now. She just did a wee, smug dance. I'm not fantastically proficient in chores...These are mad questions, man, jeez...My favourite chore, in the sense that it's my least despised chore and it's a chore I can succeed in doing, is probably doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen. It's systematic, you can see the effect. I don't like cleaning the bathroom because I don't notice it's dirty and if I don't notice it's dirty til I clean it, then it doesn't perceivably look any different to me after I've done the job and in a way I can't deal with that. But if there's a big pile of dishes in the kitchen, then you clean it up and you can go, “I've done a good job with what I've done there.”
It's my favourite too because dishes is also my best music listening time.
That's something that's true as well. You get yourself a task like that and it allows you to listen to music. Just sitting down and trying to listen to music, we're all just too distracted now, so if you've got a task that doesn't require a great deal of attention, you're set to listen to some music.
4. If you could spend the day with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?
Hmm, wow. Man, these are tough questions. What about you? What would be your answer? Maybe I can get some inspiration...
I would probably spend the day with my mom's dad, my grandfather, and just talk, ask him questions. He died when I was pretty young and I don't know a ton about him.
Ahh, that's a fantastic answer and I'm going to have to steal it. I would hang out with my maternal grandparents, probably when they were younger. I knew them when they were older, but it was tough to keep my grandparents on a single topic, so I'd catch my grandparents at a time when they could give me a focused answer.
5. What's your best memory of a teacher?
My music teacher in high school called Mr. McKinnon. He looked like a regular, older dude but he was pretty cool. One day he sat at the piano and just started playing killer boogie-woogie piano. The classes jaw dropped. I was a musician in school as well. Me and a couple of the guys played in a band. One day he stopped the lesson and said, “You know what we're going to do today, this is gonna be valuable, we're gonna have a jam.” A few of us could play but lots of people couldn't, so he gave them a triangle or whatever, and the whole class had a big jam. “This is great, this is fantastic.” He was also just a lovely guy as well. Being a music teacher has got to be a stressful, tough thing. There are drum kits in the class and you basically have to listen to adolescents who don't know how to play or compose themselves. I remember thinking I couldn't do that.
6. Your guest question comes from here in Victoria and the homie, producer SIDEWAY: Can you pinpoint the moment you decided to pursue music as a career?
I can! I've been playing music a long time, but this was fairly recently. I always played music pretty well and I was always involved in bands of some sort. At no point did I consider it a viable option to be the main thing I was doing until recently. I was making a small living playing music at bars and busking with some of the boys in the band – that's how we actually met – gradually making more and more of a living, a bit of a name for ourselves. At the time I was at the end of an existential cloud of grief and I was trying to find some kind of meaning. I had started, and almost finished, this university course to be a radiographer, until last year. It was the end of the third year, I was doing quite well and I was just about to go into the fourth year, where I was gonna be qualified and have a proper 9-to-5 – a proper good, sensible career. I said, “I'm miserable here. I'm doing quite well in music. I've never really tried before...” I always thought you have to be in the right time and place, but I found myself in this situation surrounded by amazing musicians and we were doing something quite special. That was the moment I said, “I'm not going back to uni, I'm dropping out. I'm going to pursue this and see what I can do.” So I can pinpoint the time and that time was about a year and a half to two years ago. Immediately preceding the crowdfunding campaign to raise money for this album. And the album actually confronts these issues. The very first song talks about this experience of frustration at the institution I was in and the leap of faith it took to come out of it and play music.