This isn't a list of all my favourite ever bands or artists - there is plenty of music I like that I've never tried to emulate - for example I wouldn't even know where to begin sounding like And Also The Trees...
This is the material that I've encountered along the way that has inspired me, or provided blueprints for musical and lyrical styles that I could follow and build on, or simply set me in a direction towards some kind of discovery.
The Comsat Angels
The Comsats have been my all-time favourite band since 1981. I can't claim to sound anything like them, because I don't. However, their music is all about a certain atmosphere, and every time I add ambient guitars or ethereal keyboards into a mix, somewhere in the back of my mind I'm trying to capture a small piece of that atmosphere. Ultimately their influence hangs over my work in the same way that Jan Todd's watercolour painting of the band hangs over the music area in my spare room.
Having been absorbing the music of XTC since 1979 it's not surprising that some elements of their sound ended up in mine. Andy Partridge is the master of the catchy, quirky pop song, and some of my more unusual efforts are no doubt channelling some of his influence. He was also a prolific home recorder, and some of his "Fuzzy Warbles" collection of home demos is not so different sound-wise to mine! I'm also a huge fan of Colin Moulding's songs with their more thoughtful lyricism.
Simon and Garfunkel
It wasn't the first time I'd heard S&G in 1984, but it was the first time their music struck a chord (no pun intended) with me, and it was pretty much the catalyst for me picking up the guitar. Unlike the post-punk stuff I'd been listening to for the previous few years, this was music I had a chance at being able to play. I studied Paul Simon's songs, and his guitar playing - learning how to fingerpick along the way. Musically and lyrically the influence of Paul Simon is all over the songs I wrote in the 80s.
The university record library enabled me to discover even more music from the 60s. The Beatles were certainly in there, but I think I took more from The Kinks. The songs of Ray Davies, with their character studies, social comment and vignettes of English life suggested a lyrical direction for me, and probably led to the "visual" style of lyrics that I employed on my early songs.
I have no idea what most of Elvis Costello's songs are actually about, but I've always admired his use of puns and wordplay. My own efforts don't even begin to compare, but I have tried to introduce some wordplay into my lyrics at various times.
The career of The Smiths roughly coincides with the time I was at university, and therefore the time of my most prolific songwriting. I identified with many of Morrissey's lyrics, and there is no doubt that some of his themes of loneliness and isolation crept into my work. I wouldn't necessarily say this was a healthy influence, but for better or worse it's definitely in there.
Apart from one single ("The Boy Done Good") I haven't bought a record by Billy since the 80s, but the period when I was starting to discover my songwriting voice coincided with the period when Billy burst onto the scene as a dynamic performer, alone on stage with an electric guitar. I bought his first three albums and his songbook, learned how to play most of the songs, and used a few of his guitar techniques in creating my own. Billy Bragg showed that you didn't have to be a virtuoso guitarist, a great singer or have a band to get a message across, and I liked that.
Hook And The Twin
A modern-day influence - I first saw Hook And The Twin play live in January 2010. Although it was the other band on the bill I had come to see, it was HATT that left a more lasting impression, as it was the first time I came across looping. They are a duo comprising Marcus on drums and Tom on guitar, bass and keyboards, building up his sound through loops. I was fascinated by the way such a multi-layered sound could be created live by two people, and it was this that led to my eventual experiments with loops, and Space Rock
, and a whole new way of creating music.
The Title Sequence
Another brand-new influence - I came across TTS playing on the same bill as Hook And The Twin in 2011. Another duo, consisting of David Bailey on classical guitar and Nick Crofts on keyboards, they expand their stage sound not by loops, but with a backing track from a reel-to-reel tape deck - bringing back memories of the Tandberg for me! I'm trying for a similar effect in my experiments with MIDI backing tracks. Also, David Bailey's guitar playing - the full beauty of which is heard on his 2007 solo album "The Way That Things Are Done
" - makes me want to become a better guitarist.