Shortly after watching Callum Easter’s incendiary set at the O2 in Digbeth, Birmingham (along with half of Bearwood) I grabbed a chance to get him to agree to a short Q&A. He’s a reluctant interviewee (didn’t want to do a face to face at the venue) and has built a reputation of being a bit of a benign Lou Reed figure, who doesn’t suffer fools but would prefer not to have to encounter them in the first place, which is understandable and, it’s true, I can be that fool, sometimes.
In some ways, Callum Easter could be an escaped Pogue, or one those original punk rockers who would have hated being called a punk or a rocker, frozen in 1977, just after being kicked out of art school. Indeed, he has the demeanour of a seen-it-all war correspondent who has given up reporting and now sits in a hut drinking vodka and laughing at the bombs. It’s a genial cynicism that has a golden thread of life-joy running through it. Tired, enervated yet interested and somehow energised, too.
Sensing that Callum is in it for the long haul I put him in the category of occasionally desperately poor but never desperate. Fixated, would be a better description, on making new colours and, like his good friends Young Fathers, frustrating the gate keepers by being almost impossible to categorise. A bit of an old-school beat. There’s a lot of power in ‘unique’.
Callum Easter is a classic ‘slept-on’ - when the powers that be awake they will, no doubt always have been fans.
OUTSIDELEFT: I struggle to find other musicians to compare you to. Who do you identify with? And why?
CALLUM EASTER: Maybe Davy Henderson (Fire Engines) or Moondog. Guys that are used to being outside in the weather. You’re reacting to your surroundings. Plugged into the noise like you’re checking someone's pulse.
In my head its a congregation, everyone on the level. I identify with everything really when it’s like that.
OL: What do you think about the world today? Positives… negatives…
CE: I think everything’s gonna be alright yeah? Ordinary love is going to come through right? The thread of common mankind, across races and faiths, is going to pull us through yeah? Divide and conquer forgot, left to the history books?
I don’t have a TV at the moment so I’ve not watched the news in a while. I get bits and pieces from social media. You’ve always got to follow the money at the end of the day. That’s always gonna be the problem.
"I’D SHOOT MYSELF IF IT WOULD MAKE EVERYTHING ALRIGHT. I'M EASY."
OL: You’ve got a gun with one bullet. You can’t miss and you’ll never get found out. Who do you shoot?
CE: What, like shoot some big fat cat balloon and cause some kind of domino effect? It’s never the way I reckon. I’d shoot myself if it would make everything alright. I’m easy.
OL: How Scottish do you feel when you’re out of the country?
CE: I feel a lot less Scottish than I sound and that’s about as Scottish as I am If you’re into that kind of thing. I feel less and less from anywhere. I’m from the sea I reckon. We go way back.
OL: Are you a part of the Scottish music scene?
CE: I’m not sure. I feel half in, half out. I’m open to a scene but I spin a lot of plates and Edinburgh can be a strange place for that kind of thing. It doesn’t feel that joined up but maybe I need to get out more. I’ve always felt like an outsider really.
OL: Who have you got more in common with? A portrait painter or a house painter?
CE: Not sure. Portrait painter sounds like a strange job and so is what I do. Portraits and songs have things in common I reckon. Listener/viewer, you place yourself in that space and it tells you more about yourself.
I’ve written a lot of songs as a painter and decorator though. Deep in the magnolia for days, singing songs over and over until they’re fully formed. I’ll cut in whilst you get on the roller and we might get away with one coat yeah? Get the fuck out of here.
OL: A priest or a shaman?
CE: Easy, shaman. On the magic mushrooms pissing from the fourth floor of the scaffolding on another shaman’s house. Waking up the neighbours with the spirituals. Sometimes the head stings but you got to open up that third eye, ha ha ha.
OL: A novelist or a historian?
CE: I don’t know much about history and love is a circle and this can of ‘refreshing golden ale’ is delicious and I remember putting my hand up in class when I was 8 years old when the teacher asked if anyone thought they would one day write a book and everyone looked at me like an Alien. I think there was only one other of us who raised our hands and she was a very good reader for her age.
OL: A waiter in 1930s Paris or a barman in 1990s Edinburgh?
CE: Waiter in 1930’s Paris. Sounds more interesting.
OL: What are you hiding?
CE: From who? It’s all buried and gone by now.
OL:Have you ever been electrocuted? If so, how and when?
CE: Yeah. Trying change a light bulb that had exploded so I ended up getting a good zap. I was about 14 years old. I learnt how to turn the mains power off after that.
OL: What does it mean to be cool? Are you cool?
CE: I’m cool thanks. How are you?
OL: New York, 1972 or Berlin, 1989? Liverpool, 1963 or LA, 1966?
CE: New York 1972.
Images on this page by Anthony Harrison
Thanks to Callum (very busy person).
Music available from Moshi Moshi and Lost Map on Bandcamp here
Website and live shows at callumeaster.com
Callum Easter live in Birmingham OL review, here
Callum Easter will be performing live with Young Fathers, in the USA until the end of the year and then next year, more America, UK and Europe. His new album will be out in Autumn, 2024.