Imagine the scene. Our first interview for the page, full of questions, ideas and anticipation. We were soon to learn that similar to working with children and animals, musicians can also be unpredictable.
We first gave Owen a little gift of a personalised cappuccino cup and filled with Izzy’s awesome home made tablet which triggered off a cosy wee chat about his auntie in Dunoon and even Irn Bru ice lollies! We talked about Owen’s mum and not only has this amazing woman created a talented and very handsome family but also mentioned that I didn’t look old enough to be an “Owen Paul” fan. From that moment on I have been as big a fan of Owen’s Mum as I am of Owen. A parent who has supported her children unconditionally throughout their lives even when put upon, like when Owen brought approximately 30 unannounced guests home after a U2 gig at 2 in the morning. Owen was a major part of my eighties bedroom wall décor so to be sitting in the kitchen of a local pub beside him with Izzy and her camera poised and ready was kind of surreal. At that very moment the structured interview plan was out the window. Cue charismatic chatty star and babbling giggly fan girl!
Louisa: I guess that you are probably scunnered to the back teeth of questions about the eighties?
Owen: No I’m not. I mean I disappeared for about 15 years on purpose so no one would ask me that stuff, I didn’t want to know about that stuff, I didn’t want to be that guy. Then about 5 years ago, something happened. I did a wee thing for the BBC and Rogue Traders and they asked me to do something just for a laugh and my partner said “you know that is who you are, get over yourself and grow up a bit” (sniggers) and from then on we got a Facebook page, a website and started making records again. It’s like I am having the time of my life. I have done loads of other brilliant jobs, but haven’t done music for ages. I used to tell my brother off for this, if you got something to contribute get out there and give it to them!
Louisa: We get that now, if we mention Owen Paul everyone says “oh that guy that did that song in the eighties”
Owen: Yeah, that pop bubblegum guy, so imagine being me and I am aware that everyone thinks that I am that guy that did that one thing, whereas I have got CV as long as your arm. I’ve been a punk since I was 14/15, been in indy bands, have done gigs with “The Clash”, “The Beat” and “Anti Nowhere League”, I know all these guys, they get it so why can’t mainstreamers get it? The pop thing killed my career in a second because I am a rock guy. If it doesn’t mean something don’t sing it.
Louisa: So I am going to try and focus more on NOW but that doesn’t mean the odd question from the past won’t pop in there though. So, the new album is out and has already been played to death by me but could you tell us a wee bit about it and how it all came together although we may have covered most of that already? You said before that you wouldn’t do anything again until it was exactly what you wanted to do.
Owen: I was obsessed with that. It is going to sound clichéd but I had to get to a point where I was comfortable in my own skin. It’s a cliché but it’s true. If I get five seconds on TV, radio or whatever I don’t want to be singing that *BLEEP* thing. Let me sing something else even if they hate it. Just give me the time to sing the other thing that I do because in my head I do it pretty well. So when I got to that point where I could make a record that I was in control of and could produce it myself I knew it was right.
Record companies would say you have to get to the chorus within sixty seconds or it won’t get any airplay, so I spent 10 or 15 years getting myself financially secure so when I got back to the studio I didn’t have to give a shit what anyone thought, I was just doing the thing that I wanted to do. So as you know now that you have heard the album, track one is six and a half minutes long because I wanted it to be! What I didn’t want was someone telling me you have to cut it by thirty seconds and then blaming me when it went wrong.
There are occasions when a song needs to be more than 3 minutes long and I believe b*llocks to the rules, just do the thing.
Izzy : Do you have any Scottish influences in your music?
Owen: Actually, weirdly I am not that patriotic which hasn’t done me any favours from the start because the “Daily Record” and “Radio Clyde” want me to say Scotland is the best place to play gigs ever but it was as good as Newcastle and they don’t like that, they want me to be overly patriotic and unless I am that way I won’t say it. Musically although I am a jock my family are all Irish, and there is a thing called 3-4 time and somewhere in my heart that resides and in my head all my songs will start like that, then I play it to someone and they say “that will never work” and I don’t think I should be making that kind of music. I was a Bowie fanatic when I was a teenager and then in my older years I thought U2 were the awesomest band the world had ever seen but what’s the point of me making the same noise they make. They do that, I do this.
Jumping between subjects, when “My Favourite Waste of Time” was huge and I had the next record coming, the guys at Sony said they weren’t happy with it and it could be more “poppy” and I was like “you’ve already got Bros on the label, they do pop, I do that. If I die by that then I am ok with that but please don’t let me die because of a decision you make”.
Louisa: So I am guessing all the songs now are written by you?
Owen: Yes, no collaborations or anything like that.
Louisa: Which song from the current album is your favourite and why?
Owen: “Forever Dreaming”.
Bruce Springsteen said that most artists have got four songs in them and each song they are doing is them in pursuit of the song they are after. It might take fifteen albums to get, but “Forever Dreaming” during that project/album/time, well I think I nailed it and I don’t think I want to go there again. It is a song, although it sounds quite morbid, that I wanted to have played at my own funeral, not because I want to upset anyone because it is quite a positive song.
Louisa: Well I guess if anyone can write the theme song to your life it would be you!
Owen: That is why I am most proud of that song because I think I nailed it and I could move on to the other songs and that’s dealt with.
Louisa: There are a few songs on the album which appear to have a recurrent theme throughout relating to and elusive, perhaps unrequited love.
Owen: You’re just a romantic Louisa.
Louisa: Maybe I’ve picked that up wrong but does this reflect on personal experience and a particular individual or are you just a patter merchant?
Owen: That’s quite funny, I wasn’t expecting that last line but no, it’s none of those. If you take the song “The One” for example, that is not me singing about me being the one for somebody and without getting too hippy or weird, it’s more about, I’m trying to avoid the word spiritual but it is much more about that. Not bible bashing or something but I’ve always felt we are all connected in a certain way and I believe that. So, now if you go home and listen to all the songs you thought were about unrequited love and replace the me being the individual and make it us I think you will come to a different conclusion. That doesn’t mean I am right or wrong or anything.
Louisa: Yeah, but then if you write a song people are going to interpret it in their own way. It’s like a poem or a story but you’ve maybe shattered my illusions somewhat. Anyway, we are all inclined to be our own worst critics. Does this apply to you and have you ever had times when you doubted yourself or lost faith in your own abilities?
Owen: NEVER, that is going to sound very egotistical. Many times I’ve thought can’t win or I’m barking up the wrong tree and just wanted to do something else.
Louisa: But you still knew you had it?
Owen: I knew, but then who doesn’t?
Louisa: Well I think a lot of people don’t.
Owen: I think out loud people will say they lost their mojo, lost confidence or whatever but in their heart of hearts they know.
Louisa: I could argue that.
Owen: I was a bit of a square peg in a round hole, made a stupid pop record accidently but I love it and it’s brilliant and I wouldn’t ever regret it but it took me 15 years to get over it. At no point in my own head did I ever miss being that Owen Paul guy until my partner walked into my life and said “you are that guy, why are you not being that guy in public?”
Louisa: But it wasn’t something you were consciously aware of regretting at the time?
Owen: I wasn’t regretting or missing it at all but it is who I am. Should I spend my whole life hoping that they get it? That I am the real deal? Or should I just go out there and do it? And my partner said “get out there and show them even if you don’t sell a single record” So I did.
*Enter Owen’s brother Brian McGee*
Louisa: It has been mentioned several times over the years that the Sex Pistols influence made you want to pursue a music career.
Owen: Can I tell you a story about that? Brian is in this story too.
Louisa: Yes, it might even answer the question I was going to ask anyway.
Owen: This story is absolutely true. Johnny and the Self Abusers, they came to our house. Jim, Charlie, Tony Donald on bass and Brian was drumming and they had vinyl obviously as CD’s didn’t exist. They played The Damned “New Rose” and The Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the UK” and they are in our basement which I wasn’t privy to but I heard The Sex Pistols and thought “What the f*ck is that?” That made me want to learn. Has that answered the first half?
Louisa: Yeah , but what I wanted to find out was with punk being your inspiration and kind of what you do, how does that relate to the genre of……….?
Owen: I don’t sound like I am a punk? But you just watched me bleed my heart and soul about things that I give a shit about. Isn’t that punk?
Louisa: Well, yeah in a way I guess.
Owen: Well don’t ever ask me that question again! (all with a degree of humour attached)
Louisa: Can I just squeeze in one last small question? The last time we spoke (briefly at a Q&A session in Pivo Pivo) you had just received a box of memorabilia from your Mum’s house and we discussed the now famous white tshirt. I am curious to know if the tshirt was in there and indeed what else?
Owen: My mum has moved several times and last year when we discussed this she had just moved again and given me this box. My life in a box. That box has now been transported to London but we haven’t even opened it and Louisa, you don’t think I remember, but I do, if that white tshirt is in that box you are getting it!
And Owen knows I am holding him to that ☺
There were so many more questions we would have loved to ask but the fifteen minute timescale ran to forty five minutes and so there just wasn’t enough time but Owen was an absolute gentleman with a fabulous sense of humour (when he wasn’t saying I talk shite and calling me a bitch, all in jest I hope). He was very easy to talk to and the most genuine down to earth guy you could imagine.
If you want to check Owen out for yourself then go look for the album “About Time II” in all the usual places, such as Amazon, iTunes etc.
Words and pictures originally published here.