Ian Donaldson – Interview – “A Rainbow in the Basement” & “….And Then The Stars”

Ian Donaldson

There has recently been a lot of activity from one of Scotland’s stars of the 80’s – Ian Donaldson. Those of a certain age will remember him being the front-man for H20 with their chart hits with “I Dream to Sleep” and “Just Outside of Heaven”. (Good excuse to put this here….)

Ian has returned recently with a debut novel “A Rainbow in the Basement”. On the music front, he has also been back in the studio recording a solo album due for release early next year and has announced a couple of album launch gigs in Glasgow.

He was recently kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Ian, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this. When I first saw your debut novel last year and then saw the name of the author I was pleased to see you back albeit in a slightly different direction, but still in the creative arts.

A Rainbow in the Basement

thegingerquiff: “Rainbow in the Basement” is out now on paperback, I bought it last year when it came out and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The book is set across 2 locations – Glasgow and the USA. Without giving any of the plot away, what was your inspiration for the book?

Ian Donaldson: It all started with a dream I have about 20 years ago. I woke up and scribbled down what I could remember of it. Strangely enough the same thing happened the following night.

I had the start of the book. From there it was, let’s see where Matthew wants to go and what does he want to say and who will he meet? I tried not to force anything and ideas and conversations just seem to follow.

tgq: I also started writing a book 20 years ago but I’ve not got very far! I keep going back and re-writing the first chapter every now and again. May be I can take some inspiration from you.

How long did it take to write? What was your writing process – were you disciplined and set aside time or was it just as the muse took you?

ID: We must have started writing about the same time Neil!

I don’t mean to make it sound easy – it wasn’t. I’ve lost count of the number of times I rewrote it and then put it away – unhappy and frustrated because it wasn’t ‘right’ – only to bring it out again and go back to the start.

I don’t know how to give in once I’ve started something. A curse and a blessing I suppose.

And yes – when I was working on it I was disciplined. I fought sleep and stole time to get it done.

(I detect a theme here – it started with a Dream…. You fought Sleep to get it done.)

tgq: I’ll bear all that in mind. I have enjoyed writing my blog since I started and I’m keen to get back to writing the book. Watch this space (maybe in another 20 years….)

What about a follow up to “Rainbow..”– have you any more books in the pipeline?

ID: I have started the follow up to Rainbow and another idea. It also deals with fantasy and reality, history and magic. And people.

tgq: I’m not going to give any of the plot away, I’d just encourage people to seek it out and read it for themselves. I look forward to reading your next book.

Just to whet your appetites if you haven’t read it though, here is some insight from the back cover of the book:

“…And Then The Stars”

tgq: I mentioned at the start that you have a new album coming out. Most people will know you from being the vocalist with H20 who had some memorable songs in the 80s – debut single “Hollywood Dream”, hit singles “I Dream to Sleep” & “Just Outside of Heaven” along with later singles “Take my Breath Away” & “Blue Diamond” amongst others. Also a memorable solo version of the Walker Brothers “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”.

I know you’ve played a couple of live dates recently as well as being out and about promoting your book. You have just announced your solo album “….And Then the Stars” will be released on Toy Town records early next year. Tell me more about the album – how did it come about?

ID: I have been working on new songs for the last few years. In between the times when Rainbow was in the cupboard due to my frustration and inability to know how to improve it!

Like the words and conversations in the book I decided to let the lyrics ‘out’ – for them to come from whatever direction they wanted to begin from and then shape them instead of writing for a market – oh, the people who liked H20 may like this or that.

It’s 30 years later, we’ve all grown, had families, experienced love and loss and ill health and had time to reflect on life. All the songs on the album tell a different story. Some are dark. Some are uplifting. Exploring different emotions.

tgq: I look forward to hearing the fruits of your labours. You were also part of Scottish “super-group” Four Good Men – tell us about how that came about and what are your highlights from that time?

ID: That came about by chance. I was DJing in a club. I got friendly with one of the stewards. He knew Derek Forbes from Simple Minds and suggested we meet.

We did and hatched a plan to form a band of musicians who had been successful before to do our best known songs. Enter Bruce Watson from Big Country and Smiley who played drums with Robbie Williams. It was a bit of a revolving door at times due to people’s availability so Kirk Brandon, Jim Prime, Graham Duffin, Malk Button, Steve Harris and Jane Button were some of the others who were involved.

We had some great times. Touring Canada and the US was fun. Playing festivals was pretty special. And writing some new songs that we played live for a time was very satisfying.

tgq: How does it feel to be back playing your own music again?

ID: Only one answer to that question Neil – the BEST feeling.

Not only to be playing the new songs, but to be performing some H20 favourites too. And being able to ask musicians that are wildly talented and who are also my friends is a great position to be in.

Being signed to a new label – Toy Town Records is a good feeling. Head of Toy Town is Gordon McNeil. He is also co-producing the album. He is very supportive and creative. The ideal place for me to be.

tgq: I know you have planned some live dates to support the album, tell us more about these.

ID: I have 2 dates arranged to launch ‘…And Then the Stars’. Fri/Sat 9th & 10th Feb next year at Websters Theatre, Glasgow.

Tickets are £20.00 available from toytownrecords.com and Websters.

This includes a ticket for the show and a signed copy of the album sent to your door a month before the album’s release.

I’ve ordered mine. Get yours quick before they’re all gone.

Ian’s uplifting new single “Ticker Tape Parade” is available now to download from iTunes if you can’t wait for the album to come out. (Spot the Dream to Sleep reference again)

Hear a short clip here.

Thanks again to Ian for his time, and I’ll look forward to reviewing the album & gig on 2018.