Q&A with Musician, Driving Instructor and Sound Sculptor Sushil Dade, of Future Pilot AKA
When I called Sushil Dade on his cell, he asked me to call back in "three minutes because I'm sorting the money." Sushil is a driving instructor in Glasgow, a role he sees as being very close to both his paintings and work as prime "sound-clash" motivator in Geographic's Future Pilot AKA. (Previous collaborations have included arch noise manipulators Telstar Ponies and Belle & Sebastian.) Like his spiritual forefathers the Pastels, Sushil creates gentle, soulful music?sometimes so sweet it could melt a window. On his long-player Tiny Waves, Mighty Sea, traditional Indian songs and odes to the ocean and paddle steamers are mixed in with mantra-like refrains, snatches of pure spirituality and found beats: like one of those mesmerizing underground bands High Fidelity hinted at the existence of, but never quite got round to showcasing.
Sushil, when he was very young, was in a chart Scots band that was thoroughly ridiculed across the land for its opportunistic changes of sound. But he's such a lovely fellow no one ever mentions that anymore. We recently conversed by telephone, as I pounded the keyboard.
My occupation is musician, driving instructor, sound sculptor. Age not known. Origin Indian, Scot. Is that you typing? My God! How do you type so fast? Next time I come down to Brighton, it would be worth sampling your typing.
What motivates you?
Even before I was born I was making music in the womb. I used my mum's umbilical chord as a bass guitar and I've been rocking out since. Life, emotion, environment?there's something inside me that just makes me do it. I don't have a choice in the matter. Everyday experiences, walking about town, eating food, smelling, interacting with my family, friends. I'm a very emotional person?when I pick up my guitar, it all comes out? I can't pick up my piano. It's too heavy. Next question, as John Lydon would say.
Can a parallel be drawn between your driving lessons and your music?
There are definite parallels. I see my role quite often as a primal social-worker-type character. Whether it's through my music, my art or my teaching, I am giving, creating, passing on skills and hopefully inspiring confidence in others. My music is like a vitamin for people to suck on. It enriches the lives of those around me. I want to stop speaking and just listen to you typing. It's like having your own wee personal mice scuttling around frantically.
Did you say primal social-worker type, or primary?
Both. I'm a big sucker for parallel parking. When you teach the way you speak to people, when you have a conversation that's orchestrated?to me that's musical, the way you interact with people, you show them respect. When you play a live concert you rely on feedback from the audience, the same way as when you're teaching. When you're driving and when you're performing, you make friends?hopefully. I don't want to be too presumptuous here.
How did Future Pilot start?
I've been making private tapes since I was a small child, since I was 11 or 12 and was given my first tape recorder. I suppose my first official sound clash was a 7-inch given away with the first Telstar Ponies album, Telstar Ponies Vs Sushil K Dade. That really was the first official Future Pilot AKA record that inspired the whole idea of collaborating and having sound clashes with other people. That continues through to the present day, to the end of my life basically. It started six, seven years ago. Since then, I'm sure you know the works. Quite often they're heroes of mine or people I admire, or sometimes pupils of mine, people who've never even been in the studio.
What do you look for in your collaborators?
Openness. Someone who doesn't have any strict rules the way they work, someone who's happy to respond to my music. I don't particularly look for someone who's particularly proficient on an instrument, more someone who is up for it, happy?someone like Norman Blake [Teenage Fanclub]. He didn't sing so much as play the drums on my last album. Alun [Woodward] from Delgados played harmonica. I like people being up for things they wouldn't normally play. I made Stuart Murdoch [Belle & Sebastian] sing just three words over 10 minutes. He liked that perversity of my discipline. And I invited some of my pupils to take part. I didn't know them as musicians, so I guess I was taking some sort of risk, but then again, so were they by turning up. Of course it's raining today in Scotland, so watch your braking distances, as they'll be double.
How does Future Pilot exist?
He exists on many different levels. The way I approach my work is that he doesn't exist just when I go into the studio. That would be like saying a Christian only exists when he goes into a church. I worship every moment of my day?eating, driving and living. Future Pilot doesn't happen just when I put on my leather pants and my Ramones t-shirt, it's in everything I do. Right now I'm sitting in my car, it's an extension of Future Pilot. I call it Auto Pilot. When I teach people, I have all that in my head. Everything I do is Future Pilot?whether it's painting, teaching, Future Pilot is there and available to the public.
My wee boy's just painted his first picture and I've been assisting, so to be honest I'm more of an assistant and he's the main painter?it's like Salvador Dali had an assistant to help him paint half his pictures. I'm painting with sound. You must know that.
You have an individual approach to playing live?
Who told you that? I don't like having to replicate the records. That's complete nonsense. And I don't like playing with the same people again and again. I don't have a fixed lineup. After a couple of shows, everyone is sacked or possibly leaves on their own accord, but we still remain friends. I have the luxury of not being in the same lineup every six or seven years. That ties in with my collaborative outlook. I have made cups of tea onstage and given them out to members of the audience, and I jammed with John Lennon?I played along to a bootleg of "Imagine." John was there with me, coming out the karaoke system. Apparently he had a very good time.
Or it can be just a trombone player and myself. The last few shows have been as a four-piece. I did a charity show at a motorway service station, raising money for NSPCC [National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children]. I love karaoke systems. I performed "Brimful of Asha" there, with some dancers, and we raised some money. It depends on what the venue is like and the budget is like and obviously what I had for dinner. I bet you're glad you're not promoting.
What makes good music?
Honesty. Soul. Passion. Uncompromising outlook. Open and share. Good clear vision always helps. Instruments and p.a.'s are secondary, we can always adapt around those. There's got to be pure moments. Purpose, as well. There has to be a point. I want to make music available to the common man, inspire people. Everyone has God inside them. Everyone should at least try to see what's inside them and expose what they find there.
Tell us about Maid of the Loch.
My sweetheart. She's lying under renovation in Loch Lomond right now, she's a little paddle steamer, there's going to be a Maid of the Loch EP next year, with remixes from Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens, Angel Corpus Christi and Pedro from Dot. I'm hoping to plan some shows onboard next year. We're hoping to get her to sail again in 2003. That will be her 50th anniversary? My God, I'm in love with a piece of metal.
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