The man behind Ed The Dog is Ed Wetenhall, a graphic artist and musician who is currently in the middle of a move from High Wycombe to London. He recently released his second album Untitled.crashed.crashed.crashed, which is an impressive array of of indie-rock and garage-pop tracks (I’m convinced Damon Albarn & Graham Coxon would be proud to have made this album). He’s kindly taken time out from the move to take part in this Q&A, so read on to find out more about the album, touring, biscuits, and the alphabet!
~ Tell us a bit about yourself… you’re a solo artist, but given the above pic, are you a multi-instrumentalist or did you get some help with the new album?
Both! I play most of the instruments on my records, but it’s always nice to write / record with two of the live members – Charlie and Zak – who can be great to bounce off. It can get VERY lonely on your ownsome and I often get to the stage with my songs where I get full on imposter syndrome, i.e. “this is crap, I’m crap, this is the worst thing I’ve ever written, I’ll never write another good song” etc etc. Whenever it goes to that place, I try to gauge a reaction from the guys which normally brings me back to the reality of what I’ve made. Usually it turns out to be not as bad as I thought.
~ When was Untitled.crashed.crashed.crashed (UCCC) written & recorded, and did the various 2020 lockdowns create a problem for its completion & release?
The track or the whole record? If the latter, I suppose it was recorded very sporadically over a two year period between touring, working and – inevitably – lockdown, though even then I’m hesitant to say the last. Lockdown didn’t really have a great effect on the record to be honest. My mind was all over the place and I could barely gauge what it was I actually wanted to write / say. I think I became so caught up in the process of writing ‘something good’ that I lost the ability to have fun with it somewhere down the line, hence the kind of enormous overhaul of the record last summer before we got UCCC in December. It was a pretty scary thought deciding that the record I’d made just wasn’t ‘right’ in some cosmic way, but I’m very glad I took my time in the end. I’m so proud of this record now and the fans reaction to it has been really overwhelming.
~ What did you find most challenging when making the album?
Probably the ‘pushing past imposter syndrome’ bit with each song and just generally having the confidence that I’d written something good.
~ What’s your usual song writing process?
My process is a fairly common one I suppose: Normally I come with my best stuff when I’m just messing about with a guitar or piano or whatever, and I’ll happen upon something that speaks to me in some way. Normally I’ll immediately whip out my phone recorder and ‘jot down’ whatever it is I have musically and then turn off the recorder to start delving further with it. I’ve tried leaving the recorder running before but it just makes me very self-conscious, and I also know future me isn’t going to listen back through the 20-30 minutes of experimentation anyway because I’m a lazy arse.
I then start establishing some kind of loose structure for whatever I have, whilst also humming / singing a melody for it. A few words might pop out but it’s never anything concrete and this is the only other time the phone recorder gets pulled out so I can recall the melody if I forget it (though I am also of the mindset that if I do forget the melody, it probably wasn’t very good to begin with). The music and lyrics tend to morph on their merry journey through phone demo, to demo, to fancy recording, and lyrics are usually something I do in a hurry at the end when I’m actually recording the vocals for the final thing. I like this pressure on the lyrics at the very end, really forces you to confront all the nonsensical filler lines that have been sticking out like a sore thumb during the demoing.
~ What’s the best advice you’ve received about making, recording, & releasing music?
When I was at uni, we had a commercial songwriter come in for a guest lecture once in the third year. I have absolutely no idea what his name is or what band he used to be in annoyingly, but he did say something that has really stuck with me – “finish everything”. When I embarked on this whole solo adventure, ‘throw everything at the wall and see what sticks’ was the mindset I went in with and I demoed something like 50 or 60 songs before deciding on the 10 that would work as a record together. More than half of those songs and ideas are complete crap really, but that’s kinda the whole point. Purging yourself and completing even the smallest nubbin of an idea is a very cathartic and useful way of working I’ve found. It removes the ‘umming and ahhing’ from the ‘what should I write’ equation and you can judge your output much more fairly.
~ As and when normal life resumes, what are your plans to tour and promote the album?
I’m planning on expanding the live band by one member because the new songs have a heck of a lot more going on sonically than the ones from Shame, and the plan is to do a full UK tour of UCCC and then – Brexit depending I guess – try and do and EU run and maybe some of the US if we can? If life without shows goes on a heck of a lot longer and the record I’m working on right now is out, we might do three nights in a row, or something playing each of the records in full instead, and then tour a mixture of all the albums.
~ If you could collaborate with a famous musician or band, who would it be and why?
Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors, or Andy Partridge of XTC. Both of these imaginary sessions would be disastrous in terms of writing I imagine. I’d just end up picking their brains for hours on end and nothing would get done! Also, I hear meeting your heroes is never a good idea anyway…
~ What are you eating too much of due to lockdown?
Biscuits. A friend pointed out to me my love of biscuits a couple years ago, and lockdown has only fuelled that flame it seems. Perhaps I’m playing up to my canine moniker a little too much eh?
~ Aside from music, do you have any other creative skills? (or obscure talents!)
I make art too! You can visit my website edwetenhall.com if you fancy taking a gander at my paintings and drawings. The only obscure talent I have is that I can say the alphabet backwards faster than I can say it forwards. Thankfully this is a written interview and I don’t have to prove that here and now. You’ll just have to come to a future post-pandemic show and force it out of me.