Miaoux Miaoux: "I’m obsessed with writing perfect pop songs"
It’s the indie label that’s become a benchmark of quality by releasing some of the best contemporary music from Scotland and beyond. But Chemikal Underground’s latest addition to their growing roster of artists marks something of a departure for the company.
Julian Corrie, aka Miaoux Miaoux, is a DJ, producer, multi-instrumentalist and bona fide electro performer. Tall, slim and articulate, he has a firm idea of what he wants to do and how best to do it. He describes his music as “spacey hypercolour indie dance pop”, and freely acknowledges the likes of Caribou and Four Tet as primary influences.
All things considered, he doesn’t sound like the most obvious of signings for a label most widely known for working with guitar slingers such as Mogwai and The Phantom Band. When The Skinny meets Corrie in a Partick cafe, he admits he was slightly surprised when Chem supremos Paul Savage and Stewart Henderson approached him following a gig last August.
A freelance sound engineer, the 26-year-old works regular shifts at the BBC Scotland studios at Pacific Quay. Amongst his responsibilities is engineering live sessions for radio shows. His regular contact with bands means he is familiar with an industry which is renowned for promising much but delivering little. His initial reaction to interest in his music is thus one of measured enthusiasm and hard-headed realism.
“Being in the music industry and working with bands, I’ve heard a lot of people say: ‘Let’s do this, it’s brilliant, we’ll get you in, we’ll pay this, that and the other and it’ll be great’ – and you’re like 'awesome', you get really excited and then nothing ever happens. So my reaction was: 'that’s really great – but I’m not going to get excited as these things have a tendency to fall through.'"
But the promise of a deal was very real. And signing with Chemikal provided Corrie with the much needed impetus to finally complete his debut album which he had been working on for almost two years. The end result is Light of the North, due for release this June.
Recorded and produced by Corrie himself at his small studio in Glasgow’s Hidden Lane, it was subsequently mixed by Savage at Chem 19. It’s fair to say it’s one of the most eagerly anticipated album releases of the year. Bloggers, critics and anyone lucky enough to have witnessed one of his energetic live shows have taken to waxing lyrical about Miaoux Miaoux in recent months, despite having so far limited himself to releasing a handful of singles and indulging in the odd spot of remix work.
To many, Corrie is still a relative unknown. But that's all set to change. Born in Nottingham, he spent his early childhood in Peru, where his father worked. Having learned the piano from a young age, he became interested in the possibilities of sample-based music through his older brother, who introduced him to the likes of Portishead and the Propellerheads.
"I got into sampling, and then I got into trance when I was at school, and the whole thing just combined. I’m obsessed with writing perfect pop songs. I think Miaoux Miaoux has become a combination of that – my excitement about trying to write good songs, and also being really into synth sounds and production techniques from the dance music that I’ve heard. It’s a bit funny, because I’m a little worried that I could fall between the cracks. I think people want quite simple separations in their music.”
He began a sound engineering degree at Surrey, and first visited Glasgow to complete a placement at the BBC. He confesses that he was “fucking terrified” when he first arrived. "Everyone down south has this horrendous image of Glasgow. It’s snobbery." Happily, Corrie quickly found he rather liked his adopted home, thanks in part to becoming a regular at the weekly open-mic night at Nice N Sleazys, where he got to know bands like Admiral Fallow and Zoey Van Goey.
Here he would perform "terrible songs" on acoustic guitar, which had the effect of leading him away from the sample path he was doggedly sticking to. Miaoux Miaoux was born when Corrie relocated to Glasgow permanently in 2010. "It was a reaction to the sample based stuff I had been doing," he says. "I’d spent a lot of time doing it and I was convinced it was going to be successful.
“I had spent about a year and a half on making a record. I brought it out, gave it to a few people, and no one really cared. I thought 'fuck it; I need to do something else.' Miaoux Miaoux is supposed to be a reaction to that. It could mean anything; it’s like an offcut, whatever. There’s no prescriptive rule of what it should sound like. I know that sounds like a terrible idea to sell yourself – I know I couldn’t do a bluegrass record under that name.
“But the album [titled Light of the North, two tracks of which you can listen to here] has turned out to be quite eclectic. It will be interesting to hear people’s take on it. There’s even one track that someone even said sounded like Oceansize. I’d never even fucking heard of Oceansize!"
Corrie says he is "extremely pleased" with his now completed debut, which he credits in part to working with veteran producer Savage. But, being unaccustomed to twiddling his thumbs, he has already begun to think about tracks for his next album, very much viewing Miaoux Miaoux as a long term project.
"I have to really commit to this. People like it, and it seems to be going really well. I have so many ideas about things that I want to do. I really want to make some dubstep for example, but the question is: do I release that under the Miaoux Miaoux label – would people be really confused? So is it worth doing another name for that? I don’t know.
“Earlier today I had a photoshoot [for this very rag], and I was thinking 'This guy has gone to all the effort for me' – it would be stupid to make up a new name and start again, unless it’s a specific project. So there will be another Miaoux Miaoux album. I’ve started writing for it, I’ve got maybe two or three tracks. I think it’ll probably be an EP actually and it’ll hopefully come out late this year. It will have more of a winter sound."
In the shorter term, Corrie hopes to take Miaoux Miaoux to the summer festivals, and is currently on the lookout for an established booking agent. He says he is delighted that he ended up signing for Chemikal Underground, being a man that firmly believes in happy coincidences. “I have a lot of basslines on my phone that are just me humming them on the street. It’s the beginning of a lot of my tracks. It’s always
best to start things in the most random way possible."