While it has its moments, this blog has never been the best for delivering new or breaking news….it’s far too retro in style and scope for the most part. One of the consequences is that you’ll rarely find reviews of freshly released albums but another is that, all too often, something of significance will have occurred and I’ll have fail miserably in providing the sort of coverage the event deserves.
It was Mike over at Manic Pop Thrills who carried this snippet of news back on 14 November 2018:-
“Talk about burying bad news on a busy news day.
As half the country was fixating on Brexit and how many resignations might happen as a consequence, around 5 pm this evening Falkirk based musician/film maker Adam Stafford was announcing a different type of resignation on Twitter:
Thanks folks, that’s it. I’m finished with releasing and performing music. There was a bunch of Y’all is Fantasy Island reunion and solo shows booked for the new year, but I’m cancelling them this afternoon…
it’s been a weird year but it’s all getting mentally draining now and there is only so long you can throw everything into something and get so little back, only so long you can play to half empty rooms to muted applause…
only so long you can slavishly obsess over an LP that no one particularly wants or needs. So thanks to everyone who has been kind over the years, especially to @gerryloves & @SongbyToad & @CreativeScots . So long for now xo”
Mike went on to pay a very fine tribute to Adam….which can be read in full here….and I can’t better these particular words that he used:-
“Even if Adam was only playing to half a dozen people, he still put in a mesmeric performance as he was never less than fully committed to the moment on stage.
On record, with the assistance of long term collaborator, Robbie Lesiuk, he always strived for the imaginative, often meshing what on the face it would appear to be contradictory styles into something wonderful and cohesive. Over a trilogy of albums for Song, By Toad he veered at will from abstract soundscapes to accessible pop gems, yet all the time sounding only like himself.
And that’s not to mention the ‘Reverse Drift’ soundtrack to his book of photos on Gerry Loves Records or even the ‘Torments Through Supernatural Flogging’ EP only available through his own Bandcamp.
His final album, this year’s astonishing ‘Fire Behind The Curtain‘, is a remarkable, all-instrumental double album, arguably his defining statement. It’s incomprehensible that this record won’t be in every Top 10 list for 2018 – other than for the fact that most people simply won’t have heard of him.”
I never got round to reviewing Fire Behind The Curtain, partly on the basis of rarely reviewing new LPs (which itself is based on not wanting to post mp3s of new material), but also for the fact that I know my love for Adam’s music isn’t widely shared among regular readers. Although it comes nowhere near as close to Adam’s frustration about playing to empty rooms and making music that nobody wants to hear, it is frustrating to put together a lovingly crafted blog post and find it achieves no feedback and very few hits and so there ‘why bother’ conclusion is reached.
Adam’s final album was an astonishing and deep piece of work but had an ambition that was unlikely to bring him many new fans who were previously unaware of his genius, a description I’ve often applied to him in the past and will continue to do so in perpetuity. The album, if it does indeed prove to be his last, is a tremendous swansong not just for the artist but also the label Song, By Toad which wound down last year after ten incredible and innovate years.
The news of his quitting the music business was difficult to absorb and even now, some two months on, I’m still quite bitter about it – not at Adam, but for the fact that so many who are lauded daily have less talent in their entire body than Mr Stafford has in his pinky-nail. But then again, that’s the cruel and unjust nature of the music industry.
The signs that he was nearing the end of his tether can be gleaned from some of the media interviews he gave in May 2018 to accompany the release of the new material. He admitted that the second half of the album was written during ‘a horrendous bout of bad mental health – and the music reflects that.’ He also added:-
“I’ve created all of my output suffering from depression; it’s just now I’m having more guts to discuss it openly. I hope in some small way I can help reduce the stigma because I have friends who really struggle with it too but are too proud to talk about it.”
It is alarming to realise that those words appeared in The Scotsman just 24 hours before the discovery of the body of Scott Hutchison, someone who was well known to Adam given that his own first band, Y’All Is Fantasy Island, were often on the same bills as Frightened Rabbit back in the days when the latter were setting out. Adam’s interview would have been given before Scott’s initial disappearance and there’s no question that the grim outcome would have shaken him to the core.
I have been fortunate enough to get to know Adam Stafford a little bit over the past few years, stemming back to him accepting an offer to support Butcher Boy at a gig that I promoted back in 2011. I’ve seen him live on numerous occasions at all sorts of venues. He cared passionately about his art and on every single occasion, whether there were just a handful of paying punters or the venue was packed and hot, he never failed to give it his all, ending every show drenched in sweat and on the verge of seemingly physical exhaustion.
I’ve learned over those years that he is a very modest and unassuming individual, someone who is genuinely grateful when anyone comes up to him to offer thanks and/or congratulations. I think I can just about get away with calling him a friend, and my hope is that over the coming weeks or months, however long it takes, I’ll hook up with him for a sit down and a gab. I’ve made the offer and said that I’d be happy to keep music off the agenda – so with a bit of luck he can educate me on aspects of his other passion, movies and film-making.
I’m going to end this with another opportunity to enjoy a criminally neglected 45 from the Y’All Is Fantasy Island era, one which would have sounded superb blasting out of the transistor radio during the daytime and as part of chart rundowns. It formed part of my set at the last Simply Thrilled Night and I’ve every intention of airing it again next time around:-
One day, I’ll find time to pull together an ICA.