Daniel Wylie – Interview and new Cosmic Rough Riders album

Daniel Wylie has been around the Scottish music scene for around 30 years. From his beginnings with The Thieves and their catchy debut single “Talk Your Head Off” through various incarnations of Cosmic Rough Riders and solo releases. He has just released new album as Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders and it is a great listen. On the album, he has enlisted the help of some other well-known names within Scottish music to record the album with.
Daniel took some time out to answer some questions for me.
New Album and previous releases
Thegingerquiff: This album is the latest in a growing list of releases from you via The Thieves, Cosmic Rough Riders/Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders and solo.
How does this album rank for you amongst all your releases?
Daniel Wylie: It’s definitely one of my best. I think it sounds fresh and exciting and has some of the best melodies I’ve written so far. The guitars roar and overall, the album has a real edge to it.
I was trying to reverse the process of band gets older and makes blander records…I wanted to make an album that sounded like it was  made by a young band at the height of their creativeness…edgy, fresh, melodic music…and I think, with the help of my collaborators, we managed to do that.
It’s not a boring, burned out, end of career type of record…it rocks and it has tunes you’ll end up singing in the shower.
Tgq: What are some of the highlights for you from your back catalogue?
DW: I stand by all my albums. At the time of release, I can guarantee I thought they were all great. I don’t listen to them now but I know they’re good and I stand by all of them.
However, if I was to choose a personal favourite, it would be Fake Your Own Death. I think it’s my Automatic For The People. An album of beautiful songs.
A lot of folk only know my Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine, album which is frustrating for me as I know I’ve made better records since.
influences and inspiration
Tgq: Where does your inspiration come from in your song-writing? Both musical influences and themes for your songs.
DW: I almost always start with a melody. Some little tune will just pop into my head…I’ll grab my acoustic and find the chords to fit it…singing any old words that come into my head at the time. I’ll record the idea onto a cassette on an old ghetto blaster I’ve had for years.
When I go to make an album, I’ll go through my tapes and pick out the best melodies, then get to work on the lyrics.
Inspiration can come from anywhere and nowhere. I love early R.E.M. Steely Dan, Neil Young, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and The Beatles. If you’re going to be influenced by other people’s music, you may as well listen to the best…to the masters. My taste in music is wide and varied and it all influences me.
Lyrically, I like relationship themes but I also like to throw in something dark. I know my limits and occasionally I’ll push myself beyond them and come up with something a bit unusual for me. Melody is king though…if you don’t have the tunes, you might as well be a poet instead.
 Origins in music

Tgq: Going way back in time now. I remember seeing The Thieves several times back in the day and also remember your spot on Channel 4’s “Famous for 15 minutes” with Harry Enfield.
You never got to the stage of releasing an album. What happened with The Thieves?
DW: The Thieves did record an album but it never got released as we pretty much broke up after recording it…and no one knows where the tapes are.
The Thieves, was a great apprenticeship and it lasted for a few years but there comes a time when you have to recognise that no one is offering to sign you and that must be for a reason. We had a great time and a great following around Scotland but a couple of the guys were losing patience because the record companies would come up to see us and say…you’re almost there…we didn’t know what we were supposed to do different to make us the real deal that a record company would want to sign…so we split…and I went solo under the name Cosmic Rough Riders.
The biggest change for me was when I started to play along to R.E.M. records and realised how easy a lot of their songs were to play…and what made them truly stand out was the quality of the tunes…it made me a better songwriter.
Tgq: Your band for this album reads like a list of the great and good of Scottish bands. With the likes of Neil Sturgeon (Goldenhour), Johnny Smillie (Thrum), Jim McCulloch (BMX Bandits/Soup Dragons), this has resulted in a stunning album. Tell us a bit more about working together.
DW: All of those guys are great songwriters and musicians in their own right. They understand how the studio works and I’m very lucky that I can call on them to play on my records. They make it easier for me to make a record. I’m grateful that they are willing and able to share their talents with me…to help me sound better.
Neil Sturgeon, Johnny Smillie, Stu Kidd, Steph McKellar, Jim McCulloch…also Raymond Meade and Tom McGarrigle…I salute you all.
 music in the 21st century
Tgq: It is easy for joe public to listen to music these days with all the streaming and download options available. However, it is probably harder today for bands & musicians to make a career or money from it.
I have the vinyl of your new album. (I’m a bit old school and like to see and feel the product as well as listening!). What changes have you seen and how has it impacted you? (I know vinyl has made a comeback recently but also conscious that it is an expensive business to self release vinyl)
DW: I understand the benefits of streaming with regards to reaching more people…listening on the move and so on…and I’ve just recently given in and allowed my music on streaming sites…but in order for me to keep making music, I need enough people to either buy the CD or the Vinyl. Even buying the download from iTunes or Amazon, is more of a help than streaming.
It’s getting more difficult to continue making albums and I know a bundle of folk who have already given up music or are just about to give up. It’s easy to get down about it and feel sorry for yourself…but ultimately…I just get on with it.
I’ll be making at least one more album…an acoustic album. Every time I make an album, I feel it could be the last…this one will be no different…it’s my last until I see that I have enough money to make another.
 get the album!
Tgq: Where can we get our hands on the album?
DW: You can buy the CD and Vinyl direct from me via www.facebook.com/danielwyliemusic . Just message me on Facebook. You can also buy it on ebay. The digital version is on iTunes,  Amazon and other download sites. If you live in Spain, you can buy the vinyl direct from the label…You Are The Cosmos Records…from their website. It’s out there…if you want it…you will find it.
Tgq: Do you have any plans to play live dates on the back of the release?
DW: I’ve just had the all clear after a couple of years of heart trouble and a couple of minor procedures…but even so…I have no plans to play live…however, this might change…if something came up that I liked the look of…and if it paid enough, then I would certainly consider it.
Scenery for Dreamers

The album is eminently listenable. It combines rockier tracks reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub/Big Star, which probably isn’t surprising based on some of the backgrounds of some of the musicians on the album, with some beautiful acoustic ballads.

The opening track “Rope (Everybody Lies)” is just one of the many guitar orientated tracks on the album. Despite the downbeat nature of the lyrics, the song is upbeat with its “ba ba ba” refrain and melodies.

This refrain is repeated on another song a few tracks later, this time on moving ballad “A Gravestone Without a Name” bemoaning the futility of war.

“Cold Alaska” is another of the albums more exuberant songs. With sanguine melodies and guitars leading up to a vocal break, the track ends with guitar hooks anyone would be proud of.

Side one closer (yes I’m listening to the vinyl) “Jingle Jangle Morning” is another guitar hook laden track with expansive soaring vocals.

“I Dream About You” feels like waking up from a dream. Starting with an echoey vocal and Smithsy acoustic guitar before bursting into life with driving guitars and effervescent lyrics. The song slips between the two effortlessly throughout.

“I Want to Kill Your Lover” comes across like a beautiful melodic ballad with acoustic guitar. Then you realise what the lyrics are saying and the song takes on a whole new almost stalker-like feel.

Vibrant guitars again on “Full Moon on the River” with lyrics celebrating the beauty of life. Then the tempo comes back down again on album  closer “(Won’t You) Just Smile” with a Simon & Garfunkel acoustic ballad feel and fade to close.

An exquisite album awash with tunes, melodies, harmonies and huge hooks that will have you listening time and time again.