As a stalwart of the Antihoot scene, Lach certainly has a lot to talk about. We sent Sophie Alexander to interview him after his last performance at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe…
MTTM: So, for anyone who’s unaware could you give us a brief history of the Antihoot and how it came about?
LACH: The Antihoot has been the heartbeat of the Antifolk scene. When I first broke off from the folk scene and started the Antifolk scene up on the lower east side, it was just an open stage, a freedom zone where people could do what they want. There was a sense of community and spirit, but also of artistic challenge and criticism where you could get feedback on what you’d done.
I got a loft space and I put in a stage and I slept on the stage.
So the Antihoot’s always been part of whatever venue I’ve been running and the last incarnation of the Antihoot, other than the Fringe Festival, was outside Sidewalk Café in NYC and I ran it there, for 15 years.
I left there 2 years ago but the open mic scene is still going, but I’ve moved on.
MTTM: You’ve completely moved on from Antihoot? Or do hope to bring something similar to Edinburgh, outside of the Festival period?
LACH: I don’t know. I don’t have any plans. Part of coming to Edinburgh was to not have plans. To live in the unknown, to live in the reality that time is simultaneous and not linear.
And part of that anti-philosophy for me, is that everything we’re born into, that we didn’t create ourselves, we need to make decisions about whether we still want those rules and those filters in our minds. Whether its being told what nationality you are, what religion you are, or even how time works. Or the way we should have an ego that plans our survival every second of our lives, and criticises our actions about whether we’re attaining our goals or not.
MTTM: So, with regard to this sort of anti philosophy and being told what we are, what we have to be and what we shouldn’t do, do you think the media is responsible for that?
LACH: Well yeah. I have a line in one of my songs ‘enemies are an astonishing mirror, they make our lives so much clearer’. There is the dark side, but there’s the rebel alliance too. And we’re just as strong – actually we’re stronger because we have love and love is the strongest force, stronger than your desire for money. Haha, how did I get onto this?
MTTM: I don’t know if you’ve experienced much of the Edinburgh music scene at all? But it’s pretty exciting for what is a smallish city.
LACH: I agree. I feel it. That was one of the motivating factors in coming here. I felt it last year.
There’s such an influx of great local stuff, and I was thinking how come no-one knows about this stuff. With what you were saying about the media control of our art intake, the media doesn’t control it, we control it, and we give up control. And freedom is something that constantly has to be guarded and fought for. True liberty.
Most people are scared of actual freedom so they allow these rules and these other deciders to decide things for us, but good art needs to be discovered, we need to seek it out. Part of the ethos of Antifolk was that, in any hometown you will have as interesting, life changing, great art as you will in anything that’s being fed to you on the conveyor belt of the media. But you have to go and seek it out, and invest in it emotionally.
I felt at the end of the year last year, a lot of the local musicians were like “we wish you were staying so we could get something together”. And I was like “you get something together”! You see how it’s done, you’ve been watching for a month, do it!
MTTM: Go on…
LACH: I was being interviewed for The Scotsman, and I was saying I felt like Edinburgh was San Francisco circa 1964 and a half. Like, Jefferson Airplane still didn’t have Grace Slick as their singer yet. But it was bubbling and you could see the trends coming together. And I think that Edinburgh has that. It has all the makings of it; although it’s under the shade of Glasgow.
Glasgow and Edinburgh, I know there’s this rivalry. It’s bull. It’s all so colloquial, it’s an illusion! We’re all just brothers and human beings. When UFO’s land, they’re not going to say ‘We’re landing in Glasgow instead of Edinburgh’. They’re just going to land and go “Yo, what’s UP?”.
With that said, Edinburgh has been growing in the shade, which has allowed it to grow. And tell me if I’m wrong, but no-one comes to Edinburgh to make it in the industry. What’s beautiful about that is that the artists who are here, have been able to create, without the onus of doing it right to get a record deal. And that’s very much what Antifolk is a rebellion about.
You don’t write songs to get a deal. You write songs because you’d go crazy if you didn’t. You just got to write songs, it’s a calling. Antifolk is an ethos. So Edinburgh has that going for it. And I felt like it was a simmering pot and I wanted to get inside and stir it up with the rest of the vegetables here.
MTTM: Can you tell us about Anti-idol?
LACH: That was also part of the idea of the Antihoot this year at the Festival, we chose an act or two every night, and we called it Anti-idol. And we’re going to put that out on the local label Song, by Toad Records, who put out my new album ‘Ramshackle Heart’.
I think with the release of something solid like that, which you can send out to newspapers and radio, they can get a sense of what’s happening in Edinburgh.
And there IS something happening in Edinburgh. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about psychedelics which I haven’t in a long time, which is very 1964 San Francisco. There are places to play. So I’m interested in exploring it. I don’t know if I’m going to start a club, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
MTTM: What are you doing after the festival?
LACH: Post fringe I’m going to go into a coma for a few days. And then, I’ll see. I wrote a book, based on last years show called ‘The Day I went Insane’. So I have to get this out to a publisher. I want to work on getting the live from the Antihoot Edinburgh CD together too. So it’s all going on!
MTTM: You seem to be an enigmatic figure, and then suddenly coming to Edinburgh, playing a daily show for a month, which is so physically taxing. So why the Festival? Why all that pressure?
LACH: I just like to be on stage and play. Being on stage is like having a place to meditate every night; only my form of meditation is playing music. And when you have an audience there, it brings it up to another new level because you’re not just communicating with yourself, or your concept of God. You’re communicating with other people.
I mean we create art for two reasons: communication, which is either with yourself, if you believe in something higher than yourself, then that. And with people.
The other reason for making art, is profit of some sort. I don’t mean profit like an evil word, but just to make a living. Fisherman fish, and artists make a living by creating. When those two combine, and the profit is made from the result of the communication of your love, then, cool.
They’re actually producing a documentary on my move here, for BBC2 Scotland. Which is another thing. I guess I’m working on a documentary, a book..
It’s really funny Sophie, because when you asked me what was next, I was like “oh, I’m just going to take it easy for a while”. When actually, I realise I’m working on a tv show, a book and a record!
MTTM: Chilled then… Taking it easy.
LACH: Ha, right! But other than that, I’ll watch some Doctor Who episodes. You know, relax a bit.
MTTM: Well, thank you so much for talking to me.
LACH: Thank you for asking me; it’s been a pleasure.
Lach’s newest album, Ramshackle Heart is available to download and buy now.