Monday 12 October 2015

David Ford - I Sincerely Apologise For All The Trouble I've Caused

To celebrate the ten year anniversary of his debut album I Sincerely Apologise For All The Trouble I've Caused, David Ford is playing a series of commemorative shows. Even The Stars goes back in time to reminisce how low-fi homemade demos and videos and a series of intense live shows turned him from the front man of a dropped post-Britpop outfit to one of the hottest unsigned properties in the business for a few short months in 2005.

The demise of Easyworld hardly merited a mention in the music pages when it was announced in the summer of 2004. Their second album, Kill The Last Romantic, had been released to a collective murmur earlier in the year – an album that straddled the angst-riddled teenage angst of their debut with an older wiser, more reflective world view on the likes of Til The Day (which contained the immortal line “I’d gladly put up with your shit till the day that I die” which would have been rightly lauded as genius had it been penned by Steven Patrick Morrissey).

Fans of the band brought up on two-minute punk blasts as they supported the likes of The Bluetones and King Adora at the turn of the century turned their nose up at this supposed volte-face from declarations such as “You make me wanna drink bleach.”  The band went out with a whimper with two scarcely attended sets in the middle of the afternoon at 2004’s V Festival.

Their front man David Ford, a hat-wielding Manchester University dropout, aspiring centre-half, painfully shy gentleman of hard-working middle-class Eastbourne stock, appeared to be consigned to the scrapheap of a generation of bands that record labels had signed as the final embers of the Britpop party were dying out.  Labels were shedding bands and staff left, right and centre as some form of unethical cleansing, only putting their money on sure-fire hits and ditching any pretense to supporting anything artistic but commercially difficult to sell. Easyworld’s label Jive was sold off to Sony and the roster decimated.

As this was going on, Dave Wibberley, an A+R man of some distinction who had worked with Easyworld, was about to suffer a similar fate, but convinced that Ford had something special, talked the purse string holders to buy David a recording set-up he could utilize at home in lieu of paying for studio time to create demos and b-sides. The ulterior motive was to create some demos and see if there was any interest when the inevitable happened and Easyworld were dropped – a low-cost low-risk enterprise that would sate Ford’s creative instincts and test Wibberley’s unwavering faith (that’s as strong ten years on as ever) that Ford had something special. It was a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained without any pressure.

Using looping technology, which then was something that “proper” musicians shied away from, and which KT Tunstall was later to Ford’s detriment be lauded as bringing to the mainstream, and the rudimental set-up at home Ford fashioned fifteen demos which would form the basis for his debut album and part of his second.

These became known as the Apology Demos and ten of them were made available in extremely limited runs of fifty of two five-track cds, one sold at his live shows and the second at his annual Milk and Cookies charity show where he raises money with a live show that mixes his own songs with covers that should never be attempted (Bohemian Rhapsody, Stan, Paranoid Android, Bat Out Of Hell and Toxic to name just a few – you get the idea).

He then started out playing some low-key London shows, opening nights at venues such as The Bedford in Balham, The Betsey Trotwood and 93 Feet East with a support slot for Keane at one of their three sold-out Brixton Academy shows thrown in for good measure.  Suddenly a murmur started to rise about this one-man band that didn’t say much on stage, but created a real cacophony of noise such as the vitriolic rant of State Of The Union and the caustic, self-deprecation of Cheer Up You Miserable Fuck.

It was a low-fi video of State Of The Union, recorded in the basement of Ford’s house in the studio he had fashioned from borrowed and self-built equipment that was to bring Ford to a wider audience. Artists strive today for a viral hit and State Of The Union was just that at a time when the music industry was trying to work out how to use the internet. There's a story that the video was used in a big US label by the boss to show his team how the million they'd just spent on a glossy video that recycled old ideas had nothing of the immediacy or impact of Ford's homemade movie.

Starting with Ford opening the door and walking down the steps to the basement and sitting down and playing the song, all filmed in a grainy black and white which was part-art part-financial necessity was a genius move. It helped that the song channeled into a growing apathy and disdain with the political system that accompanied Bush and Blair’s second terms in power.

State Of The Union was very specific in its accusatory tones without referencing specific events which makes it as relevant today in times of austerity as it was back in 2004 - ”clever men know all that and all this and they will talk and they will talk and they don’t fucking listen” and “what a model of Christian behaviour, preach on with the message of Go Fuck Thy Neighbour.”

Whilst the murmur started to grow into a buzz, Ford worked on those demos and molded them into the nine songs that made up I Sincerely Apologise For All The Trouble I’ve Caused without record label support, a truly DIY record created by one man roping in friends from home to help and the staunch support of a manager convinced by the talent he was nurturing and thrilled by the songs that were being sent as they were completed.

By the time the album was completed, and the intention hadn’t necessarily even been to make one, there was significant interest in David Ford. The State Of The Union video had done its work and the live shows, expanding in length and adventure, were doing their work in building a dedicated audience transfixed by his ability to fashion these songs either on his own or any combination of friends in his band.  Ironically, it was Independiente, home of Travis that had been swallowed up by the same Sony corporation that had ditched Ford and Wibberley less than twelve months earlier, that made the loudest noise and offered the chance to licence the album to them as well as potentially make use of Sony’s distribution network both in the UK and overseas.

The album itself is something of a revelation. Ford jokes that the record label didn't realise that all the songs lasted six minutes and all had some form of swearing in them which made them unsuitable on both counts. Even the title of the record, which comes from a line in the b-side A Short Song About Shoes, doesn't do him any favours in that respect. It's part of his self depreciating humour that has served him so badly over time and it does this record a massive disservice.

I Don't Care What You Call Me opens the album and its title is a caustic put down to detractors. Lines such as "I know I let you down, but Christ you let me know, every time and time again" and "rain it on down, what else can you throw at me that I haven't heard before" display a degree of contrition, but more eloquently put than any singer songwriter that springs to mind.  It became the second single off the album in the "radio edit" format that cut out obscenities.  It's followed on the album by State Of The Union.

Some of Ford's best work comes from him sat at a piano stool and What Would You Have Me Do? is no exception as he laments the breakdown of another miserable relationship accompanied in parts by some longing lonesome strings - "I don't blame you from blanking me that time, from all the awkward how are yous and I'm just fines, but I'm a fool for you"

Cheer Up (You Miserable Fuck) is a prime example of Ford's penchant for swearing rendering a song completely and utterly commercially inappropriate. A song of communion with a brilliant set of vocal harmonies that bring it to its conclusion and makes it the perfect gig-closer. It shows again that he's not afraid to laugh at himself - "don't you think that it's time, you say hey this one is mine, maybe do what you want to do, because you are no fun."

A Long Time Ago is look back at a youthful relationship - "I sat on the wall till your parents drove by, I walked to your door, I remember how you smiled, oh that was a long time ago" - and it's Ford's innate ability to craft simple words into something evocative that yet again shines through on this album. Instrumentation is simple, but stark and affecting and devoid of any unnecessary clutter.

Don't Tell Me is one of the harder songs on the album, led by an angry guitar that matches the mood of betrayal that Ford is expelling "oh will you pretend like you want me." Like so much of the album the base simplicity of the song is what makes it so raw and appealing.

At the shows around the time of release, Ford told us that Katie was a song about his crush on the news reader Katie Derham although there's no mention of her specifically in the song although the line "for goodness sake, now you I'd hate to come over obsessive but I'm really really really not like that at all" hints at the subject. It concludes with a beautiful mouth organ part that's wholly in keeping with the rest of the song.

If You Only Knew is a tale about a barmaid in Ford's hometown of Eastbourne. Incredibly popular, but plagued with self-doubt, the song is telling her that she's loved by those around her - the message being crystal clear "and if you only knew how everybody loves, you wouldn't feel so alone." It's one of the most direct and specific songs on the album.

The album concludes with the eight minute Laughing Aloud, a song that builds from a solitary acoustic guitar and builds slowly adding strings and piano into the mix as it winds its merry path before drums kick in for the last couple of minutes. It somehow manages to sound very epic yet at the same time retaining its intimacy.

I Sincerely Apologise is an album even Ford would struggle to replicate. By the time his second album Songs For The Road hit the shops, he'd gone through a near breakdown at the pressure to create a hit record from the label and arguments over its production and the need to play the marketing game that labels insist upon.

Since then he's released a couple more albums - Let The Hard Times Roll and Charge - and an endless series of critically acclaimed EPs to support his constant touring, but there's something unique about I Sincerely Apologise that captures a moment, a time when there was no pressure to create something to sell but simply to write songs for the sake of writing songs. The results are a record that will forever stand the test of time and hopefully will one day get the recognition its timeless brilliance and honest simplicity deserves.

David Ford’s website can be found here.  He is also on Twitter and Facebook.  I Sincerely Apologise For All The Trouble I've Caused will also be released on vinyl for the first time by the end of the year.

David's tour playing the album in full continues at the following venues in October :

12 - Salford Kings Arms
17 - South Woodchester The Convent Hotel
24 - London Bush Hall

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1 comment:

  1. Fabulous piece that brings back all the heady excitement of those days. Without for a minute dismissing the brilliant songs and gigs that came later in his career you are so right in saying that this album captures a moment of freedom and simplicity and pure creativity for its own sake - great times!