Good Trip, Bad Trip: The Pictish Trail

Breakfasts good, arsepieces bad…
The Pictish Trail

Furry of face and woolly of hat, Johnny Lynch is the modest mogul behind the much admired Fence Records (until last year) and new label Lost Maps, while also making sweet, sweet soundz as The Pictish Trail. He’s also hooked up with Moshi Moshi for a full release of the semi-seminal Pictish albums, ‘Secret Soundz Vol. 1 and 2’, out now. And another new venture, the Howlin’ Fling Festival, launches on his home island of Eigg in July, with Beth Orton, Steve Mason, Alexis Taylor, and the whole Lost Maps roster – quite a campfire choir. 

Meanwhile, he’s just back from tour. So, Mr Trail, tell us some tales…

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The Pictish Trail, ‘Wait Until’

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Best Trip…

“The best tour is always the last one I’ve been on. I really love being on the road. It all depends who you are touring with, as opposed to the places you travel to, really – and I’ve been lucky that most of the tours I’ve done over the past few years have been with good friends. 

“My whole attitude to touring evolved about six years ago, when I did my first headline tour as Pictish Trail, accompanied by my pal, Rozi Plain. She was amazing – really full of energy and enthusiasm. Particularly about breakfast. “JOHNNY,” she’d squeal, as she zipped up her sleeping bag each night, “IN APPROXIMATELY EIGHT HOURS WE ARE GOING TO EAT A DELICIOUS BREAKFAST! GOOD NIGHT!” 

“Breakfasts are now one of my favourite aspects of touring. Breakfast! It’s the meal that hangovers made you forget.”

Worst Trip…

“One of the worst trips was with a previous band, that I played guitar in, years ago. We had the supposed ‘luxury’ of a tour manager – who was a complete arsepiece from day one. Totally incompetent, as well as being relentlessly misogynistic, lazy, arrogant, and a pervert. Plus he made a really annoying slurping sound whenever he drank a beverage. Ugghhh. 

“I had to leave the band, in the end – his attitude towards women was intolerable, and it was starting to rub off on the rest of the group. I don’t know if he was just trying to fit in, be ‘one of the lads’, but he made a month’s worth of touring feel like a freeeeaking eternity. I’m no killjoy, I like to party as much as the next guy – but disrespecting women is not my scene.”

My favourite foreign venue…

“Playing La Cigale in Paris was a standout treat. The venue is the perfect shape, and it’s in an amazing location, really close to the Sacré Coeur and some great places to eat. I was supporting Kate Tunstall, and so it was a completely packed-out show. The stage is incredibly well designed so that everyone can see you, making interaction with the crowd really easy – which, when you’re doing a solo show, is really important to me.”

I’m surprisingly popular in…

“I don’t know if I can say I’m ‘popular’ anywhere, really. I know that I get my biggest crowds in Edinburgh and London, but I wouldn’t say I’m popular in either of those places. Somehow, though, I've managed to make a full-time career out of music for the past 10 years… so maybe I’m surprisingly un-popular? Ha! Ach, I’m always surprised to see anyone turn up at my shows – truly. Music’s all I can do, really... so I’m not able to give it up, now.”

The best, or worst, exotic foodstuff…

“For the most part, a tour budget will dictate what you can and can’t eat. We recently played in Dundee, on a Lost Map showcase tour, and we all went for dinner at a gourmet burger place. There was about seven of us in the group, and the burgers were all quite small, and overpriced. Luckily, Suse from Tuff Love found a pube in her chips, so we got her burger for free, and all the rest at half price. Cha-ching. She had to throw half her chips away, mind.”

The most interesting item I’ve brought home…

“I’m not a big one for souvenir shopping.  I’ll buy records, because record shopping is one of my favourite things to do, but that’s about it really. I tend to lose more stuff than I gain – except weight. If I come back home with all of my musical equipment still working, I’m happy.  This never happens, though.”

The most intriguing human I’ve met on the road…

I briefly met Wayne Coyne at Camp Bestival a few years ago. Total dude. He was stood at the side of the stage during our gig, and came up to me at the end of the set and was all like ‘DUDE, YOU WERE TOTALLY F*CKIN' ROCKIN’ OUT ON THAT GUITAR, MAAAAN! F*CKIN’ AWESOME!’

“That meeting really couldn’t have gone any better. I’m a big, big fan. Even if you’re someone that doesn’t like The Flaming Lips, you can’t deny what an incredible creative force of nature that man is – he’s living, breathing proof that creativity does not die with age. The ideas he’s brought into fruition, even over the past five years, are stunning to me. The Flaming Lips are a huge inspiration.”

My essential travel item…

“Uuuuughhh, I hate myself for saying it, but it’s my phone. I use it for emails; for bugging people on Facebook and Twitter about coming to the shows; as a Sat Nav so that I can find the shows; as a personal stereo; as a fart-noise app; recording ideas for new songs; booking accommodation online, etc. If I could do my entire set on an iPhone, I probably would. Don’t hate me.”

My essential travel tip…

“Always have a positive attitude. If you’re feeling down, remind yourself that life is good, and that you are a good person. This will make you feel better, and it will make those you are touring with feel better. Being moody and grumpy will only spoil your journey, and your show. NOW GO GET ‘EM, TIGER!”

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Interview: Si Hawkins

The Pictish Trail’s new single, ‘Long In The Tooth’, is released on August 18th. Johnny plays at the Old Queens Head in London on July 1st, with Rozi Plain and Tuff Love – all sorts of information and that can be found at his official website

Related: more Good Trip, Bad Trip features

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