Leading up to the final Scratch Electric Kernow performance in February 2019, we asked our tutors to share some insight into their experience and musical influences, as well as offer advice to young musicians starting out in the industry. Our first SEK Spotlight features Phil Innes. Read on to find out what musical tips he has to share…
Phil Innes. Tutor for SEK.
Describe your current involvement with music:
I’m a member of the Ludi Kernow electric guitar quartet. I also make music and sound for theatre, art installations, and videos. I have a little studio so I do quite a bit of recording, sound design, voice overs….
How did you achieve a career in music?
To begin with, just playing in bands the same as many other people. I’ve always played acoustic guitar as well, but electric guitar is really my first and enduring love. These days I use whatever means are necessary to make music and sound but nothing else is quite as exciting to me as the electric guitar. At the same time as playing in bands, I was developing an interest in theatre. I did a bit of acting and went to Cornwall College to study A level Theatre Studies. Through the connections I made there, I was asked to make music for theatre shows. That became, in a fairly organic way, a bigger part of my musical activity. I love the variety of stuff that you get to make when you’re making music for other situations. I moved to London for a few years in my 20s and learnt a lot while I was there. Not just about playing but about recording. Being a music educator is just an extension of my enthusiasm for sharing music; so that’s always something that I’ve naturally done but I’ve been doing it in a more official capacity for about 20 years now. I’ve only just recently completed a music degree – and that’s sort of taken me off somewhere else…
Who are your musical idols and why?
Gosh… too many to mention! And if you asked me again next week I’d give you a different list. Radiohead! They’ve made so much amazing music. Music that is angry and angsty, music that is warm and tender, music that is introspective and makes you cry, music that makes you want to punch the air and sing at the top of your lungs… They’ve never been afraid to push into new areas. A band with real integrity! Tom Waits is a hero. There’s a common thread in my musical taste: I love theatricality! But I don’t mean “jazz hands” West End theatricality as such. With an artist like Tom Waits, his entire output feels like one long theatre project. He draws you into a world of places and characters… His music is beautiful but in that way that a rusty vintage car might be beautiful, or a piece of furniture with the paint peeling of it. I love PJ Harvey. Again, an artist with real longevity and still making music that seems vital. I love Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams…. Morton Feldman!! Let’s talk about Rothko Chapel by Morton Feldman! Music that sounds like a ghost most of the time – almost not there at all at times. And then has this beautiful viola melody that knocks me over every time. Gah…. Too many heroes! Anna Calvi, Flaming Lips, Chris Thile….
What are your future music aspirations?
To just be better at it! It’s a bottomless pit… and to play live more. Live playing was the cornerstone of my musical life for really long time but more recently I’ve become a bit tied to the studio. Over the last couple of years there’s been more live playing and I’ve been reminded of how much I love it.
Why do you think the Scratch Electric project is beneficial to young musicians?
Because playing together with other people is usually a good idea but when there’s that many electric guitars it becomes a BRILLIANT idea! It’s not something you get to do very often. It allows us to find out other, less obvious things that the instrument is capable of.
What advice do you have for young musicians wanting to pursue a career in music?
Oh I don’t know… be passionate! But that doesn’t necessarily mean being noisily passionate; some people are passionate in a more quiet, intense way. Other advice: always have a spare set of strings! Ha! Make sure you know at least one AC/DC riff. Never be late for a rehearsal or a gig. Don’t hide in the loo when it’s your turn to make the tea.