FEATURE

Artist Feature
Pulco

Interview

Ashley Cooke was a member of the much loved Derrero, a band who became a firm favorite of John Peel and Steve Lamacq. Derrero formed in the mid 90’s and signed to the Big Noise label, releasing three EP’s and a self titled album. When Big Noise dissolved Derrero signed to Sylem, a label run by the band Melys and released what was to be their final album ‘Comb The Breaks’. During their time Derrero toured with the likes of Super Furry Animals and Grandaddy and were without doubt much loved by their fans and music critics alike.

When Derrero came to an end Ashley continued to record and create music under the name Pulco. Pulco abandons the traditional way of recording music in studios. This is lo-fi music recorded at home using everyday sounds and huge creative imagination. Over the last ten years Pulco has released seven albums and an EP, all off which are available on his BandCamp page.

November 2011 saw the latest release from Pulco, an EP entitled ‘Sketchbook Sessions’, this EP contains five tracks that enthrall and excite the listener from the word go. Opening track ‘Whistle Frog Finds A Way’ opens with spoken dialogue and running water and instantly grabs your attention. The acoustic melody joins to create a sublime piece of music. ‘Don’t Stand Down’ showcases the dreamy vocal style of Pulco. ‘Party Started’ contains an infectious melody that leaves you wondering why radio stations are not all over this song. ‘Hair’ is a chirpy song with some genuinely laugh out loud lyrics. The EP ends with ‘Knuckles’ which is just over one minute of experimentation that cements the overall vibe of the record.

We live in a world where there is so many things wrong with the music industry and so many people getting into music for all the wrong reasons. Thankfully there are artists out there who are creating music out of love and because it is what runs through their veins. Pulco is certainly one of those artists.

'Party Started', is taken from Pulco's latest EP, Sketchbook Season.

Ashley took time out to have a chat with us about his musical journey thus far.

You’ve been releasing music for the best part of fifteen years. What are the biggest changes you have seen during that time?

Music and bands themselves are pretty much the same. The creativity that drives people to make music hasn't changed but the context in which music is presented and consumed has altered radically.

10 years ago we relied on the opinion makers such as radio and mainstream press to alert us to new music and Bands couldn't get to the opinion makers without a record label and pluggers etc. Buying a CD sometimes gained mythic status as you searched around trying to find that elusive album you’d heard about and our access to music was kind of restricted to our own record collections and that of our mates.

These days I think that we have all the music we need. Most of us have large digital collections of tunes and web access to stream pretty much anything we want to hear. The process of getting music to a new listener has changed.

Since the advent of social networking and blogging platforms anyone now can be an opinion maker and music can be promoted, sold and bought independently of record shops and labels. As a consequence there is a lot more noise out there and folks are fighting for an audience which is a shame but at the same time it is a perfect situation for the DIY musician.

I dream of what else may have been possible for us to achieve with Derrero had we had been able to utilize today’s technology!
I love the holistic online environment that you can create around yourself which enables you to reach out and personally interact with your supporters because that’s how records are sold now. There seems to be little money in music for someone at my level though because I don't tour and flog merchandise and I ain't interested in being on the X factor!
It's all about the conversation.

What are your thoughts on the current music scene?

I live up a mountain in North Wales so I'm well out of the politics and goings on in places like Cardiff. I'm not sure who the top dogs are at the moment and I don't really care.

Wales seems to have a strong balance of bands though as always and I do try and keep up with what’s happening but with my love of lofi, if it's not been recorded on a Dictaphone in someone's toilet then it may well pass me by.

My brother in law is in Y Niwl and they have had a great year playing with Gruff Rhys. I love H Hawkline too as do my kids.
Actually I’m one of the selectors for this year’s Welsh Music Prize so I better start listening!!!

What advice would you give to a young aspiring musician?

1. Try to find your own voice and don't compare yourself to anyone! You can never be like anyone else but yourself.
2. Based on that exploit your weaknesses as well as your strengths. They are the things that make you different.
3. Focus on your music and not your hair and clothes etc. an image comes from within.
4. I think that these days if you want to rise above the digital noise then you probably have to get out on the road and meet real people, be an old fashioned entertainer.
5. Finally, be professional!

How did it feel when you heard John Peel play your music? Can you remember where you were when he played your record?

Wow! I don't remember where I was when he played Derrero for the first time but I know where I was when I heard he had died. We were in the car waiting at traffic lights down by the old Ninian Park footy ground in Cardiff and it came on the radio. I met him a few times too.

We loved doing the three sessions that we recorded for his shows; you would get to Maida Vale early cause you didn't want to miss a second even though recording never started until lunchtime!! Peel never went to the sessions himself which was funny. The last time I saw him he popped in to the Studio when we were mixing Derrero's last album cause he was big pals with Welsh band Melys who owned the place. We played him a few songs and he grinned a lot!! Then he told us some of his stories about when he was evacuated to Wales during the war!

What was touring with Super Furry Animals like?

Derrero's manager was also Gruff’s guitar tech so we got to know SFA socially first because they rehearsed in the same place as us. Playing gigs with them was great; the situation taught us a lot about how things worked for bands who were on that next level. We also got to borrow bits of their gear to record with which was ace!

You abandoned the traditional way of music with Pulco, was that a conscious decision?

No, not to begin with because recording at home was all I could afford, but 4 track recorders are in my blood so I couldn't have seen me wanting to take Pulco into a studio anyway. In the years since I've had kids the opportunity and the need to somehow let domestic sounds into Pulco records has become much more central to my way of working. Also, as I have less time I tend to have portable equipment that allows me to work on tunes as and when I can. I feel it important for me to let everyday sounds into my music. It's a bit like taking photos.

If you could recommend one album/EP to someone new to your music, which would it be?

I'm into the last EP Sketchbook Season as it represents where I am at the moment and it has all of the elements of my sound. Spoken word tunes, homemade drum loops and my shitty guitar.

That last album Small Thoughts would be a good choice too!

What are your plans for the future for Pulco?

At the end of last year I asked a load of mates to set my poetry to music. It was an open brief and everyone's contributions have been different. The result is an album called 'The Man of Lists' which is due to be released by Folkwit Records in June. It's been really nice to indulge myself in the spoken word side of Pulco again. During the run up to the album coming out I will be posting profiles of the folks that have helped me on my website (www.pulcomusic.com). There are some quick links up there now if anyone is interested. They are all excellent musicians and the world deserves to hear them.

I'm also finishing up another Pulco album inspired by a chap called Lionel Mapleson who recorded opera singers to wax cylinders in the early 1900's. He is the godfather of home recording!! I feel good about the new tunes. You never know, after 10 years it could be my breakthrough album!!! Not.

Thank you very much for talking to us and good luck with the new album.

A pleasure. Thank you.

Steve Tay

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