“My rehearsal room for the last 10 or so years was an an unused dance studio in a 16th century mansion house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I guess at one point it had been a youth club or the like, as it’s walls were covered in pages of Smash Hits! magazine from the mid-eighties – Kylie Minogue, David Hasslehoff, Adamski plus a whole heap of folk I’d never heard of. It’s a big old room and I when I first moved in I found the whole place a wee bit eerie. The load in was up a narrow, winding, stone staircase, which was a nightmare when moving the Hammond organ and Leslie speaker that we used to use in my old band.
When the my old band split, I kept the room on. It was ridiculously cheap – £100 a month – and started using it for the JY recording. Most of the songs from my albums were at least demoed up there, with quite a few being released. I think on the last record, The Year Of The Leopard, four of the songs were entirely recorded by myself in the rehearsal room.
Being a community centre, the room was surrounded by other, smaller rooms, where other bands would rehearse. Mostly this didn’t affect me, as I tried to get there by midday and leave at 6pm, which would be too early for the other bands, who on the whole had jobs and such. Or were just late risers. Sometimes though, I’d be shaken out of my slumber by the sound of the band upstairs playing an Oasis song over and over. And over and over. Or the band to my right doing their sub-Depeche Mode tunes. The fusebox for the entire mansion was based in my room, and on two occasions I tripped the fuses of the rooms with the offending bands in, just to shut the blighters up. On the third occasion, I accidentally tripped my room’s switch and lost the afternoon’s work. I took that as a sign not to do it again.
I had all sorts of folk up there to do interviews and filming. It was very easy to direct them to a council run mansion. It got pretty cold though – the windows were decrepit and doors ill-fitting. I ended up smuggling up a small gas stove and using that from late October to May. One Swedish guy came away with the impression I was winding him up and wrote quite a scurrilous account of our meeting – as if I’d set myself up in this windy old house to appear eccentric. Hmm.
I shared the room with another band – a part-time band made up of (I imagine) bankers and finance folk. Real people with real jobs. The deal was, they got three nights a week and a weekend day, I got the rest. Easy peasy. Their equipment was the best money could buy – shiny P.A., expensive, pristine Les Paul guitars, 24-piece drumkit, etc. They even hired in a lighting rig for a few months, I guess so they could pretend they were on stage. My gear, on the other hand, was old and gigged. The only items of value being the guitars. Everything else was just left in its case until it needed using, surrounded by JY merchandise, broken equipment, boxes of CDs from bands of yore and old cider bottles.
I moved out earlier this year when I bought myself a wee house back in the East Neuk of Fife. I have a room dedicated to music in the new place, so gave up the old place. I was delighted when I heard it’d been passed on to Tom Bauchop of the UNPOC – a band I occasionally play in, so I’ll be back, for sure.”
As well as making his own music, James Yorkston regularly plays with the Fence Collective and UNPOC. He is signed to Domino who have released three of his albums – Moving Up Country (2002), Just Beyond The River (2004), The Year Of The Leopard (2006) and last year’s compilation of b-sides and eps, Roaring The Gospel. He regularly releases work on Fence Records and Houston Party Records. For more info and details of upcoming gigs go to www.myspace.com/jamesyorkston.