R13 talks to Malcolm Middleton as he tours the UK this winter.

R13If we start off talking about your song writing process, your songs obviously seem very personal, do you have to be in a certain mood to write a song with the same emotions?
Malcolm: I suppose I only really write songs when I’m feeling a certain way, otherwise I won’t even go near a guitar. Writing songs and music is a good way to externalise feelings and moods, thereby solidifying them and being able to deal with them head on. It’s also quite relaxing to just mess around and create something; it helps my self-confidence.

R13Do you come up with lyrics or a melody of some kind first?
Malcolm: Lots of different ways. Sometimes the music comes first and I’ll hum along until words form. Or if I have words written I’ll try to find a melody from them.

R13Do you write as a kind of catharsis or with an audience in mind?
Malcolm: Originally it’s been for myself, but that changed after my second album. For better or for worse I became aware that there was an audience. I do still try to write from a vacuum but it’s never going to be airtight. This confuses me as it’s sometimes hard to personal stuff if I’m aware that someone will hear it. I try not to think about it too much though.

R13I imagine that writing material as a solo artist can be quite hard if you’re self-critical, do you find it hard to stand back and rate your songs or is it easy to hear a promising tune?
Malcolm: I find it quite easy, that’s where being extremely self-critical helps. But then things get blurry as the line between “self-critical” and “delusional” isn’t always obvious. I just have to trust my instincts at the time.

R13If you don’t write with a particular audience in mind, does it surprise you that you have such a loyal fan base?
Malcolm: I’m not really sure if I have a loyal fanbase or not; it’s hard to tell these days. It’s always nice to hear that people like my songs though.

R13You’ve been steadily producing albums for the last few years, how often do you sit down and write songs?
Malcolm: Not often at the minute, I’m deliberately trying not to. I play guitar every day but all the lyrics recently have been crap, so I’m concentrating on just the guitar playing.

R13How do you choose which songs deserve to be on an album?
Malcolm: I’m not sure, just the ones I like the most I think. It’s always a bit sad when favourites fall by the way because of bad production or whatever, and just end up as half-finished b-sides.

R13You’ve said that you’d like to release some anonymous material; what kind of music would you be focusing on?
Malcolm: I’m not sure yet. Something not centred around typical song structures. Lots of clean electric guitars. Who knows, but just some faceless nice music with no identity.

R13Do you have a particular favourite song on ‘Waxing Gibbous’?
Malcolm: ‘Kiss At The Station’. It’s good fun to play live.

R13What’s the best thing about touring?
Malcolm: Coming home and hiding for a week.

R13What’s the most interesting show that you’ve ever played?
Malcolm: Arab Strap played Manchester town hall with Belle & Sebastian in 1996 or 97. The stage was in two parts on opposite sides of the room. Aidan and myself were on one side, and our drummer and bass player were across on the far side of the room. It was pretty hard keeping in time and signalling to each other but it was good fun.

R13You come across as someone who is very down to earth, do you enjoy attention from fans and the media?
Malcolm: Not really, but I try to be friendly if people are being nice to me.

R13Finally, who are your favourite emerging or less well know bands?
Malcolm: I’m currently enjoying Twilight Sad, Dutch Uncles, and The Replacements. And Fleetwood Mac.