Monday, 13 January 2014

FINGERNAILS AND FAIRYTALES: An interview with David Jaggs from The Ragamuffins!

Below is our interview with David Jaggs from the superb Ragamuffins.
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What was your earliest musical memory and what pushed you towards pursuing a career in the music industry?
"I started having keyboard and piano lessons at quite an early age and my parents were very encouraging and supportive in terms of my formative musical education but there was never any real thought of a career in the music industry or anything. I remember a lad playing a piano piece when at primary school at an end of year assembly and him being awful but still getting a massive round of applause and me thinking 'I want some of that!' so that's probably contributed to me wanting to play and perform. Jealousy..."
What sort of records were played around the house when you were younger and did these records have an influence on your songwriting?
"Being brought up by two Liverpudlians from the sixties there was tonnes of Beatles on the record player but for their sins my mum and dad didn't have the best taste in music, so I remember hearing the 'Stars' album by Simply Red a lot. Perhaps Mick Hucknall's faux-soul warbling's have influenced me somehow but The Beatles certainly did. The first CD I ever received was the first Beatles Anthology compilation and hearing the songs stripped down and demoed might not have been that interesting to a pre-teenager but it was certainly eye-opening I suppose!"
Had you been involved in any other bands prior to The Ragamuffins?
"Yeah, we all have and are! I had (have?) an electronica-ish side project called 'Venus In Faux' but that's taken a massive back seat, and I also played for my friend John's band 'Bel Cartel' for a while. Sam has an outfit called 'xmenbteam' that he fronts, Florin plays for a breakbeat ensemble called 'Hot Botz Brass Band', Alex helps out playing bass for a stupidly talented Mancunian singer called Charlie Cooper, Xav steps in to cover for all and sundry across the North West on drums and Ed plays for 'Stealing Sheep' and the 'Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band' on trombone! We keep busy when the 'Muffins are quiet..."
Can you introduce the band and tell us what everybody plays?
"Me - guitar, vocals and songwriting; Xavi - drums; Florin - trumpet and vocals; Alex on bass; Sam on keyboards and vocals and Ed on trombone and vocals."
How did The Ragamuffins begin?
"Well, the band is my baby I suppose with me writing the songs and being the surviving member from the early days but it started back in 2008 when we put the MKI version of the band together, but it sort of fell apart about two and a bit years later with people leaving the region and going to study in foreign climbs and all that. Our trombone player Ed was the main impetus behind getting a new line up together in late 2011 and early 2012 and we recorded an album, 'Irony Curtain' which was by far the most ambitious recording we'd done up to that point and a really good 're-launch' point for the band."
Where did the name The Ragamuffins come from?
"It's just from an affectionate term my nan used to call me as a lad. I know it's got various reggae connotations which is fine by me, but that's where it came from as far as I was concerned!"
How would you describe the sound of The Ragamuffins?
"It's indie-pop in it's broadest sense but there's definitely soul (particularly northern soul) elements and even jazz elements in some of Florin's trumpet parts and the chord progressions we're using at times."
You have recently released an EP entitled “The Benefits of a Downhill Paper Round”. This a very standout title. Where did it come from and why did you choose it as the title of the EP?
"It's a flipped-around interpretation of the old saying about someone who looks really grim for their relatively young age of 'they must have had a rough paper-round!'. I just thought it was a fun phrase that summed up some people I know and have met recently very well!"
The packaging and artwork of the EP is clearly very well thought out. Is this an important part of a release for The Ragamuffins?
"Yes definitely. I think with the kind of D.I.Y. band that we are it's really important to give our fans a properly packaged little collection of songs, with artwork and an image to draw a record or an EP together. The 'Irony Curtain' record was a mission to put together and going into various home ware shops and explaining some pie-in-the-sky art idea to someone who clearly thinks you're crackers isn't always easy but it certainly adds some soul and life into an EP."
What was the influence behind the artwork?
"It was just the first thing that came to mind when I thought of the title. Each of the three recent EP's has had a title first and then I've had a mad concept around that."
 The opening track on the album is called ‘Shoegazing’. Is the band influenced by the shoegazing bands of the late eighties and early nineties?
"Erm, not particularly. I do play a Fender Jazzmaster though... The title is about gazing at your shoes in a literal sense though."
My personal favourites on the EP are ‘Fingernails & Fairytales’ and ‘Declan, Put Your Dancing Shoes On’. What is ‘Fingernails & Fairytales’ about and what influenced it?
"'Fingernails' is about a mutually destructive relationship but the actual music is what happens when you learn a new chord in the shape of that weird diminished chord that underpins the vocal melody and everything. It made the chorus sound much more uplifting too. The tribal sounding floor tom intro was something I heard on 'There There' by Radiohead and thought would sound really nice live especially."
What about ‘Declan, Put Your Dancing Shoes On’?
"That's about Margaret Thatcher's funeral last year. Specifically about the revisionism in the media which seemed to come from so many quarters in the immediate aftermath but more worryingly about the various calls for the current government to try and continue and honour her rather poisonous legacy. I'm not particularly keen on throwing my support behind any political party, not from a desire to sit on the fence, but because you look at the way that bands were manipulated in the mid to late nineties and in some ways made to look very foolish by an establishment that ultimately didn't live up to expectations at all. Thatcher and her ilk however, they just go against almost every fibre of my body and I felt that I HAD to write something in response to the falsehoods that seemed to be clogging up the front pages last April."
Do you have any 'rituals' before you go on stage?
"Not really, a few beers to ease any nerves aside, but I do find it difficult to immerse myself in watching other bands playing on the same bill. It throws my focus a little bit even though you want to give other acts some support."
Any live dates coming up?
"Yup, we're playing Dry Bar in Manchester on Thursday the 13th of February and supporting Dodgy in Hurst Green (near Preston) on 29th March. We'll have more coming up shortly."
Any new songs in the pipeline?
"Oh, plenty! A soulful vibraphone epic called 'What Was Beautiful' is ready to go already and we've got some big brass breakbeat fun coming up too. We're going to go straight back in the studio as soon as we sell enough copies of our current EP's and albums to finance it so get over to our bandcamp site and help us out!"
When can fans be expecting the next release?
"April or May is probably as good a bet as any. I think we want to get a big promo video in place for the next releases!"
Who would be your dream collaboration?
"I'd LOVE to work with Roots Manuva on something, maybe provide a big chorus hook and a tasty beat and let him weave his magic. Other than that we could push The Ragamuffins reggae angle and collaborate with Jimmy Cliff or maybe follow up on the lookalike angle and get some songs written with Mr Costello."
Who would be in your dream supergroup?
"Trumpet - Miles Davis (obviously) and Chet Baker; bass - James Lee Jamerson; guitar - Nile Rodgers and Steve Cropper; trombone - Rico; keys - Steve Neive; drums - Clyde Stubblefield and vocals - me (I'm not passing up the chance to sing with that band)!" 
Favourite Beatle?

"George (he funded Monty Python films so gets bonus points!)"
Favourite band?

"Belle & Sebastian."
Favourite new band?

"Jagwar Ma."
Favourite song?

"Ever? Crikey, impossible to say..."
Favourite album?

"Probably What's Going On by Marvin Gaye. A politically conscious record with phenomenal playing on it, great, timeless songs and Marvin's voice. Just the end of Mercy Mercy Me that bugs me."
Vinyl, CD or download?

"I'd be incredibly hipster and say vinyl but for me I've grown up hoarding CDs and so my allegiance is always going to be to them!"
Style icon?

"Michael Caine! Yeah, Michael Caine!"
Favourite clothing brand?

"Hmm...on a majority vote I'd probably say Hugo Boss but we're a little bit biased...don't know if you can really have a favourite 'brand' though, it's just what you can wear to look good."
Favourite film?

"As with favourite song that's almost impossible. Probably have to plump for The Big Lebowski though based on the number of times I've watched it, or the Indiana Jones trilogy (I re-watched Crystal Skull for the first time since the cinema over Christmas and it WASN'T as bad as I remember but CGI monkeys and aliens killed it for me...)"
Favourite TV show?

"Arrested Development."
Who would play you in a film of your life?

"Chris O'Dowd, or maybe the lad from Kick Ass, Steve Coogan would have to play Xav, Brad Pitt for Alex, Seth Rogan for Sam, Gerard Butler for Florin and Ed would play himself (as he can actually act)..."
Favourite food?

"Italian. Pizza, pasta, boss wine, and boss beers. Can't go wrong eh?"
Football team?

"We've got two Liverpool fans, one Steaua Bucharest fan, one Prescot Cables fan and two neutrals I suppose."


Hope you enjoyed this feature on The Ragamuffins! Check out our previous feature on Joe Symes & The Loving Kind!

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