HAVING taken over from Shirley Manson in Goobye Mr MacKenzie last year, Scottish singer SEIL LIEN released her debut album ‘Shatter’ earlier this year. We spoke to her about the record, her history in fine art and the Scottish music scene.
“It was great, they (Goodbye Mr MacKenzie) are a brilliant bunch. A surreal moment for me was playing their first big come back gig was at The Garage and I’d never seen anything like it. Die hard fans hadn’t seen them for 25 year, folks were loosing their shit, the electricity was tangible in a way I’ve never felt before. It was joyous! I think the band were quite taken aback by the reaction of everyone, I’m going to say something controversial in that I think it was even better than the Barrowland gig!”
Released back in April, ‘Shatter’ is SEIL LIEN’s first full record, despite writing and performing for a number of years.
“This is my first album although I’ve been writing, performing, and collaborating for a while. I saw a collaboration between Akram Khan and Nitin Sawhney at The Tramway. It really left an impression on me, from then on I wanted to write music that would be the setting for something visual. Soon after that I met Scottish/Icelandic percussionist Signy Jakobsdottir and she invited me to perform some improvised music with her at Scottish Dance Theatre up in Dundee. It was a really eye opening experience, I went on to explore improv over the next few years. At the same time, I was introduced to Glasgow’s thriving Noise scene by my friend and noise artist John aka NOMA. He was playing with hair dryers and electrical toothbrushes, toys through guitar pick ups and pedals. I’d never seen anything like it! I loved what he was doing and he taught me that my vocals weren’t just a means to sing a melody that had been written on guitar, it was actually an instrument in itself. Between this revelation and learning the art of improv, it changed the way I would write forever.”
Working with Glasgow-based singer Rico Capuano, SEIL found their relationship as friends making for a better creative process and finished album.
“I’d sang on his album Violent Silences years ago and we became friends. Having that friendship made for a better album, it allowed for hard truths, ripping stuff apart and sticking it back together without any awkwardness. Laughing… there was a lot of laughing.
We both pin a lot of importance on vibe, how things sound but also the atmosphere in which things are created, I think it’s really is important. I did most of the vocals alone with Rico. I trusted him and felt safe to really go to places I’m not sure I could have if someone else had been at the wheel. I could scream, shout, cry, laugh in the booth and I felt I was in a safe space to do that. He really listened, I was really lucky to have him.”
With a background in fine art, SEIL often finds herself approaching her music in the same way, as a form of self reflection.
“My approach is the same… it’s not really geared to wider commercial acceptance but rather as an external reflection of my internal thoughts and feelings. So, there’s no filter other the artistic aesthetic so neither are commercially driven in that sense. They are just different vehicles of expression. One can definitely influence the other, when I started making improvised music which was a process in which you try to empty your mind and just channel pure expression. I found it so hard but it was really rewarding and I took this process to my artwork and It’s really changed the way I approach my painting.”
With Scottish music thriving like never before, SEIL points to the strength found in diversity as one of the key factors driving this scene’s success.
“There’s such a diverse scene of genres… if you look for it. There are always little pockets of people doing, expressing, experimenting and being supported. There are so many smaller venues that really keep the music scenes alive and I really hope there’s minimal damage post lockdown.”