Under the name of X-Lion Tamer, Edinburgh-based artist, Tony Taylor, likes to create 80s-tinged pop songs about romance, friendship and, eh, suicide. He once said his music sounds like, ‘the ending credits of low budget 80s teen movies – played on your mate’s Amiga’. A bit like a John Hughes film, if Erasure and Junior Boys had been asked to do the music. I met up with him in a Swedish bar to talk pop.
What type of music would you say you make?
I say it’s pop. Other people sometimes call it electro, or electro pop, or dance or synthpop, but I think it’s straight pop. I just happen to use electronic instruments when I play.
What do you think makes a good pop song?
There are two types really, aren’t there? There’s the love songs; the ones that say ‘I love you’, ‘I have loved you’, or ‘I want to love you’, then there’s the songs that want you to get down to, get funky. Something like ‘Holiday’ by Madonna – it’s exactly that. It’s a naked, fun time, party record. I try to make party records that have a sense of loss or emotion to them.
Madonna is one of your favourite artists. Who else do you like?
Erasure, Yazoo, Cyndi Lauper – I like clean sounds, and I tend to like stuff with that 80s analogue synth vibe to it. I like to pick from lots of genres though. I’m just as happy to listen to old Belinda Carlisle as the new Fuck Buttons 7”. I take influences from all kinds of music – stuff you’d hear in clubs, soundtracks to 80s movies, Burt Bacharach… There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure; you either like something or you don’t.
What about your lyrics? Although you call them party records, ‘Neon Hearts’ is about feeling empty inside, ‘Life Support Machine’ is about suicide letters, and ‘I Said Stop’ is about a bad break-up.
I like the idea of making melodically driven pop music, that sounds quite melancholy, but is uplifting at the same time. Music can be immediate and catchy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have any depth. I like big hooks, and big melodies that will stick in your head, but I try to combine them with lyrics that aren’t throwaway. I love British music’s ability to do that. People like The Smiths, The Auteurs or Hefner, they all do stuff that sounds quite joyful on the surface, but underneath it’s quite heartfelt.
So do you think British pop and say, American pop, are very different?
A lot of British pop is very kitchen sink. It’s not necessarily positive, and it really focuses on the day to day stuff. It’s just some guy who’s sitting in his flat feeling miserable. The American stuff often feels more widescreen, it makes you think of rolling prairies and wide open spaces.
And you prefer the British approach?
Yeah, I like down to earth lyrics, but then giving them a bit of glamour with some electro and pop sounds. I also try to avoid earnestness. I hate that in music.
You seem to be building up a good following in Scotland now. You’ve come a long way from that gig you did last year in a pub where you spilled a pint over your laptop during your first song…
Yeah. That was embarrassing. [laughs] But actually it was probably the best thing I ever did. I ended up claiming a better laptop through my insurance. So, career wise it was pretty clever.
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