“And that’s the choice I make, for Christ’s sake”
Paul Marshall has just released “Lodge”, his third album under the ‘Lone Wolf’ moniker. Spurred into action by the news that “The Lodge”, a recording studio run by his friend and former musician colleague, James Kenosha , was set to close, he pitched up, locked himself away with predominantly acoustic instruments for a week and this wondrous piece of musical beauty is the result.
Paul was gracious enough to do an in-depth interview about “Lodge” and the reasoning behind it, but before we kick into that, let’s set the tone with this short but powerful invocation of an opening track from the Marshall/Kenosha joint production, featuring David Warmegard on trumpet. “Wilderness”.
“Will the wilderness fall asleep, if I speak? I’ve been waiting for you to come, and hold me, in your leafy arms, but I’m frightened by your love”
That’s it…no more, no less. It is electrifying in it’s complex simplicity – complex of feeling, simple of language, full of space, sparse of sound and yet not. It is an intriguing start to the journey of “Lodge”.
Q: I notice on your Twitter blurb – Not a ‘singer-songwriter’.
You sing and you write your own songs, so why do you feel that you are not a “singer-songwriter”? Is that a push against being labelled / boxed in?
PM: “Well yes. I feel like just because the first album I ever made was acoustic, I have then forever been carrying the ‘folk’ pigeonhole on my back, and I do not feel that is an accurate representation of who I am, especially if you listen to ‘The Lovers’ for example. I am indeed a singer-songwriter in the most obvious sense, however I feel like there is a grey area in which ‘singer-songwriter’ translates to ‘folk’ very easily. I’d just rather be known as Paul Marshall, and each work be described as what it is, rather than try to nail me to a genre/stereotype.”
Q: You dropped the Lone Wolf moniker/project, but then returned to help stop the sale & subsequent conversion of The Lodge! Were you intending to drop out of music permanently or were you walking away from that musical persona??
PM: “Largely, I had had enough of being a part of ‘the wheel’. I used to be a guy who wrote music, went out and played it for a few people, really enjoyed it, then I’d make more music etc. All of a sudden after I got signed, I found I wasn’t really very comfortable making music within some kind of binding of ‘I really hope so and so likes it’ or forever asking myself ‘is this going to sell?’ ‘will people like this?’ etc. I never used to make music that way, so why did I suddenly feel like my music had to be fulfilling a job description all of a sudden? So changing my name to ‘Lone Wolf’ started as a way to try and make something more ambiguous than just Paul Marshall, but it ended up being like a demon I had to please.
So really, I was just trying to go back to who I was before.”
Q: You have just released a new album – “Lodge” – its reception has been comprehensively favourable. How important is it for you for your work to be critically well received?
PM: “Great reviews can be just as harmful as bad ones. One can inflate your ego and turn you into an smug arse, the other can take you down a dark path to depression. The key for me this time round was to be entirely happy with the record I’d made no matter what. For the first time, I can honestly say I would not change a note on this record. So if that is the case, it really shouldn’t matter either way whether people like it or not. All I ask is that if you are going to write about it, at least listen to it properly first, and that is the one thing I am most happy about with regards to reviews. For the first time it feels like people have attempted to get inside my head an join me on this journey. For that I’m eternally grateful.”
“Still, I say, I wouldn’t have it any other way”
Astonishingly, as well as writing all the songs, and laying down all the vocals, Paul played all the instruments on this album, bar the trumpet, himself: piano, bass, drums and synth! It’s not everyone has the ability of interest to be able to master instruments across strings, keyboard and percussion, so naturally the question had to be asked!
Q: You play all the instruments on your new album “Lodge” – how did you manage to become so accomplished across a variety of instruments? Are you trained, classically or otherwise, or self-taught?
PM: “I had lessons on the keyboard when I was young, and I got up to grade 4, but I always messed up my sight reading. I realised that bizarrely throughout the whole time I had been learning, I had been kind of skim reading the music, and then playing it purely by ear/muscle memory. So I can’t read music at all anymore and I just do everything by ear and I generally have no idea what I am playing. I have no idea how I was built that way, but I’m one of those people who cannot really play one instrument that well, but I can usually knock out a tune on whatever I pick up after a bit of practice. This was my first record where I played the drums and that shows! ha ha.”
Q: The first thing that hits me when I start playing the opener, “Wilderness” is “The Rainbow” (SoE), the whole Miles Davis trumpet thing (it’s there again on “Alligator”). Is that deliberate or just purely coincidental? This song is full of pauses or spaces – do you feel it’s necessary to have voids within the sound and why?
PM: “I have always said that musically I didn’t really want to make it sound like Talk Talk – it was never my intention, however I wanted the ethos to be the same. I wanted to have the balls to stop worrying about whether the listener will get bored in these spaces or if they will skip. For me the silence is a beautiful instrument within itself. It provokes unease and that is very much the theme of the record in general. Same goes for two other big influences (ethos wise) with ‘Tilt’ by Scott Walker and ‘Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go’ by Jason Molina.”
Both breathtakingly beautiful and painful, this searingly honest track, is the most gorgeous of the album. And that Falsetto! Goodness. #Goosebumps.
Q: “Alligator” is a very beautiful song, like a musical reverie. What was the inspiration for this song and for the album in general?? Is there a common theme or various (maybe linked) themes throughout?
PM: “Well I’ve made no secret about the fact that I’ve needed to talk openly in my lyrics about the anxiety I have been suffering with over the past couple of years. After I lost my record deal I started to feel like a complete failure, and I had a very hard time convincing myself otherwise. This was a dark spiral downwards. So I needed to write about the deeper feelings I have been struggling with and hope that maybe some people out there would perhaps allow me to do so by listening.”
“Eyes above water, body out of sight”
Q: How do you see this album in terms of your own musical development in comparison with the last album “The Lovers”? Are you following a journey, or is each album independent, a reflection of where you are, in that moment in time, almost like musical snapshots?
PM: “I very much have to allow my brain to do what it wants to do and when. The only rule I set myself is that I won’t repeat myself musically. I like to think that I have created something that is an individual entity and then I wait for a while until something inspires me to come up with an idea of where to go next. Bizarrely if you listen to all of my records, they have gotten simpler and simpler as they have gone along. The Devil and I was about 100+ tracks per song, and now on ‘Lodge’ we are down to 5 or 6. I guess that means that my journey has lead me to realise that just because you have the option of throwing the kitchen sink at a record, you actually do not have to.”
Q: How do you write your songs…words first, music first, bits of both, randomly or methodically? What inspires a sound, a choice of chord, major/minor? Where do you start? How does the music come to you?
PM: “Usually for me it is something that just kind of happens. A lyric will pop up, my hands will just happen to fall onto a chord sequence that pushes my buttons etc. I don’t really have a process as such. I know what mood I’m after and sometimes that is enough.”
“I’m taking steps just to be someone”
‘Taking Steps’ is a dark, stark song, haunted, and, hauntingly honest. The music is taught, tense, almost rigid in form – the static single metallic percussive beat, the low, reluctant strum of the bass, the staccato choppiness of the piano, the hesitant vocal. Sonic opposites juxtaposed but discernibly separated replicating the desperate and frantic isolation of the lyric. This is one brilliantly clever track, possibly one of the strongest, definitely the most intriguing of the album.
Q: In your Feb 2013 interview with Best Fit you said
“I’d write about everything like two lovers – the brain and the heart. I personified the feelings so it was like a couple arguing in their home. Not necessarily a concept album, but it definitely has a theme – every song is a fight.”
Did you find writing down and personifying your feelings, and musically acting out the fight cathartic? Is the fight over??
PM: “The fight has definitely been pacified to some degree. I will always struggle with anxiety because that’s just how I am built, however saying everything that I have on this record, and just knowing it is out there is a huge weight off my shoulders. I can actually listen to it myself and it’s like I’m giving myself a good talking to.”
Q: Quoting from the same source
“Marshall is resolute in wanting change, never sticking to the same thing and never repeating himself.”
How heavily were you influenced by artists from the past and are you influenced by any from the present?? How difficult, if at all, do you find it to keep changing, reinventing your songs, the sounds, and themes? Do you see the road as endless, or do you feel that you too will ultimately come to a silent pause, if not end?
PM: “As I mentioned before, I am more inspired by the mood/ethos of a record than the music on it. That I just generally choose to enjoy for what it is. There are many other artists such as Jason Molina, Robert Wyatt, Syd Barrett, Beak, Scott Walker etc that all left a mark on me to make me make this record.
I don’t find it too difficult to change because all I do is ensure I do not repeat myself. I do not need to rush these things. I have said now that after this record, it could be another 10 years before I make another. If that’s how long it takes for me to find inspiration, then so be it. I’m willing to wait if it means the best record possible will come out of it.
I actually certainly do not think the road is endless. That is why Lone Wolf has to stop here. I’m aware that there is no music that Lone Wolf as a guise can make after this record. I’ve revealed far too much about who I am. There’s no enigma, no mystery. There’s actually just a human being underneath, so why not just make music as that human being and see how long that lasts.”
Q: When you finish an album do you carry it around inside you, still critiquing, checking back (in a ”I should have done that differently” way), and so on, or do you file it away under completed, job done, move on?
PM: “It’s always hard to draw a line underneath a project and say, right, thats it. But with this one, I had such a strong, vivid idea of what it was going to sound like at the end, and so I just had to keep within the confines of that endgame. I only had 6 days to make it, and so I didn’t really have time to let myself go off on a tangent. So for this one it was definitely, job done. ‘The Devil and I’ however took 6 months! I have no idea why. Bloody stupid really.”
“Over there….there’s your way out…..over there”
‘Crimes’ is a musical screaming match – all the elements are at odds with each other – it shouldn’t work, the sounds are inverted, flat, heavy, lugubrious. With slack percussion, a manic synth based siren sound running through it like a knife ripping it’s heart, the stab, stab, stab of the bass piano; it is a muddle of musical nightmares glued together by the powerful magnetism of the vocal – at times soft, at times forceful, but always controlled – and lifted by airier treble piano chords. It is wrong but so very right. A stroke of genius.
Q: How did you end up involved with the ‘Spirit of Talk Talk’ project and why did you pick the song ‘Wealth’ to cover?
PM: “Toby the chap who organised it just approached me out of the blue and asked if I’d be up for it. As far as ‘Wealth’ was concerned, it was a challenge, but I was clearly already having inklings that I might start playing with space more on my own recordings, so therefore, I thought i’d give it a go.”
Q: Following on from that, what gave you the idea for the video for “Wealth”? Why a beach, on an obviously very cold day and why shoot in B&W? Was that a deliberate choice for a more pared back, more basic, (less #wealthy) look??
PM: “That was actually the idea of my friend and photographer Danny North. He deserves all of the credit for that video. Apart from my performance, which actually came out of me nearly dying of hypothermia! True story. A huge rainstorm came in as we were about to shoot and Danny made me do the whole take in it. I was freezing cold and turning purple by the end and I could barely stand up after the shoot. Thank god it was in black and white!”
Q: You scored Nejib Belkadhi’s film, ‘Bastardo’. Any other film or tv score projects in the pipeline? Is this something you’d like to continue to pursue in between albums (presuming there will be another album!)
PM: “I’m for hire on that front. Genuinely. ‘Bastardo’ was the most fun I’ve ever had. I’d love to score another film.”
‘Lodge” is a mature approach to letting go, a lyrical expunging of the fears, anxieties, blackness that have been a part of Paul Marshall’s life. It is truthful, honest, reflective, angry, sad and hopeful. It is both inward and outward looking and seeking. Reflective but not to the point of self-indulgence. Lone Wolf has been unmasked, and what remains is the man, Paul Marshall. He has told us about himself through song, and it is up to us to choose to listen. This is one story well worth hearing, and I for one, am glad I’ve done so.
Q: When the promo is over and the tour is done, what’s next on the agenda??
PM: “Paul Marshall needs to start making music again. Lone Wolf is becoming a guise of the past.”
With “Lodge” Paul Marshall has closed the door on his long standing other self in “Lone Wolf” but in doing so he has opened the door to a fresh, new future. We wish him well.
‘Lodge’ is available via Amazon on
Paul Marshall // Lone Wolf tour dates via website – http://iamlonewolf.com/
*Note – I’d like to extend a huge thanks to Paul Marshall for taking the time out of his super busy schedule, and, putting so much effort & enthusiasm into doing this interview. Very much appreciated!