Track By Track: Black International – In Debt


Way back towards the tail end of last year Black International were roped in to be one of my rare interview guinea pigs. At the time they mentioned that they were working on finishing off their debut album. Well that album, In Debt, is now all finished and released, so I roped Black International’s Stewart Allen in to coming back to tell us all about it.
Due to me being (a) lazy and (b) rubbish I’ve yet to write a review for the album, but I wouldn’t have asked Black International for a track by track run down if I didn’t like it.

Thanks to the magic of Bandcamp embeds you can listen to the whole album as you read too. If you like it, buy it. Now, read on to learn about the mysteries of the Brazilian Trilogy, and other things.
A Million Mouths
This song probably had the longest gestation period of anything we’ve written, as I was terrified that I couldn’t think of any lyrics for it, and always felt ill whenever I contemplated doing them. I think we started rehearsing this in 2008 before temporarily abandoning it, but the general chord sequence may have been kicking around for two or three years before that. We finished it a week before recording started. Nail biting, etc.
I can’t remember much about the process of writing this one, but the basic structure was finished before I took it to the rest of the band, which is quite unusual for us these days. Believe it or not, we had a sort of Sly & the Family Stone thing in mind when we were arranging it, which I think shows in the rhythm section. Imagine there are trumpets and grunts on it and you’ll see what I mean.
Dread (Excerpt)
The ‘excerpt’ in the title refers to the introduction, which was originally a complete song but wasn’t very good, so we binned most of it and bolted it onto another song. The first of what I’ll call the Brazilian Trilogy, as it was written on a little Spanish classical guitar I got from a charity shop while I sat around trying to copy Jorge Ben.

The lyric idea owes a little bit to McCarthy’s Charles Windsor, but doesn’t have quite the same level of joyous nose thumbing. I’d say it was supposed to be ‘darkly comic’, if I were a bit more of a twat.
Word Virus
Imagine my disappointment upon finding out that the title was subconsciously pinched from a William Burroughs book. I thought I’d struck gold, but alas, he’d beaten me to it. Still, at least it was Burroughs and not Enid fucking Blyton.

This one was written extremely quickly in rehearsal, and I finished off the lyrics at work the next day when I was supposed to be doing some dull task or other. If my former boss is reading (doubtful), I’m sure he’ll be pleased.
Know You Exist
Originally this had the somewhat childish working title of ‘Sonic Urethra’ when I first started it, as it sounded a bit like… actually, do I even have to explain that? It doesn’t sound like Sonic Youth anymore. Musically it was very much a collaborative effort, if it’d been left up to me it would have been a shapeless twenty-minute drone. Luckily Craig has a good ear for structuring stuff.

I can’t say for sure, but the “Here’s your hair shirt, son” line was probably cribbed from the title of a Birthday Party song, called (strangely enough) The Hair Shirt. I was in a bit of an odd place when I wrote these lyrics, but it’s ALL FUCKING FINE NOW OK?
Does what it says in the title. We just fancied having a bit of breathing space and dividing the album in two, so did this one evening near the end of mixing. I could give a proper in-depth description of how it was made, but nobody wants to read that shit.
The City Is Dead
This song dates back to around 2007 along with Monument and You Can Trust Me, so I can’t really remember much about its inception. It’s supposed to be a rockabilly type thing, but has been put through our patented ‘bombastic washing machine’ and the colours have run a little bit.

Lyrically it’s a bit of a jumble, but I suppose it’s about dropping out of repetitive cycles of living and doing something fun instead. We’re deep, man, what can I say?
Again, it was written a while ago and my memory is hazy… I remember doing some of the lyrics in a bar on George IV Bridge in Edinburgh one Saturday afternoon. Spot the deliberate mistake, metallurgy fans.
Idle Worship
The second of the Brazilian Trilogy, I’d have thought it was quite obvious in this instance. Close your eyes, visualise it slowed down, samba rhythm, acoustic guitar, singing in Portuguese… You could almost be mugging tourists in São Paolo!
Feed Me Rhetoric
Brazilian #3 (sounds like a humiliating waxing routine). I’m doing my best Jim Morrison croon on this one. Should I buy a pair of leather trousers, hmm? Call myself ‘The Crocodile Baron’ or something? Anyway, Lovely Latin drumming from Craig I must proclaim, and it seems to be a firm live favourite with audiences, so we hardly ever play it.

And yes, I know how ‘rhetoric’ should be pronounced, but it doesn’t fit in that way. So fuck off.
You Can Trust Me
This started out as a little folky number but when we began working on it properly we focussed it through a Birthday Party-esque prism and noised it up a bit. Are you still reading this? If I were you I’d have gone home ages ago. You really are a glutton for punishment.
In Debt is out now. You can buy it from Bandcamp – where you can get fancy CDs and T-shirts as well as a download – and the usual digital outlets, like iTunes and eMusic.
If you are reading this on Saturday then it isn’t too late to make it to a Black International album launch gig. They play The Admiral in Glasgow tonight with Rollor, Ex-Men and fellow Aye Tunes interview victims Male Pattern Band. Doors are at 7pm and if you stick around afterwards you’ll get free entry to the Pretty Ugly club.
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