On The Radar: Sad City


Sad City (known to his loved ones as Gary Caruth) has previously made music under the names LA and My Tiger. His latest incarnation returns to Phonica with his new EP ‘Introduction To Lisboa/ Sloe’. With a truly original sound, swimming in deep, lush and widescreen electronics, this latest offering consists of 6 marvellous tracks that will have your ears longing for more. We caught up with Sad City to dig a little deeper into his world;

Where are you from, where are you now?

I grew up in Bangor, Northern Ireland. I’m now based in Glasgow, Scotland.

What's in a name?

Whatever the namer wants.

What have been the main influences on Sad City- musical or otherwise?

I can’t really answer that. Maybe, the sound of trains, like the rhythm has always influenced me. Sounds like wind and water and the sensation of not quite being able to make something out, whether it’s a conversation or music, like experiencing a memory live, the sound from it. The notion of hearing music coming from a boat out at sea during a storm, from the shore. I’m kind of striving to make my music sound like that right now, in a way.

What was the first electronic record you ever heard? How did it make you feel?

Probably Firestarter by Prodigy. My brother bought the single. In fact we both bought it, but I think I bought it because he bought it. It made me feel scared and a bit energetic. I liked it.

What was the music of your teenage rebellion?

The music I listened to varied a lot during my teens. I got into Hip-Hop when I was about 15 & I got very into Sonic Youth (I used to obsess over them – I saw Thurston Moore recently in a record store in Glasgow called Mixed Up Records and stood there thinking about how I could speak to him then decided I couldn’t and left and regretted it immediately) & then No Wave music around the same time. Today, I don’t listen to as much No Wave but I still go back to it every few months or so. The main thing I liked about it was that it sounded totally new to me, compared to other music I’d heard at the time. I think that’s the reason why I’ve always listened to a lot of different music at the same time. Experimentalism is what binds it all together and what attracts me to it so it’s easy to go from listening to some of Chris Watson’s recordings to the Boredoms or from Arthur Russell to Theo Parrish or King Tubby to John Cage or Anti-Pop Consortium or something else that sounds interesting.

First and last record bought?

First – Meet the Flintstones by the B-52’s.
Last – Playboys / Come To Me / Cool Summer Breeze 12” by The Original Playboy on R&S & an LP of music from some Satyajit Ray films.

Do you have a set idea in mind before you begin producing or does your music come about more spontaneously?

It depends on the situation. If I’m at home, I’ll sit in my studio and work on things that I may not intend to use necessarily, but just want to experiment with; concepts I’ve been thinking about, or maybe working on soundtracking something. If I’m with my recorder and pick something up, I’ll maybe get ideas about how to use it or something might jump out because of a rhythm that the recording has picked up or the tone of whatever it is. Usually, once I record something that I’m into, I’ll start recording other things around it that can end up as a collection of tracks. That’s what has happened with previous releases. I don’t really have a regimented approach to recording music.

Any plans for a Sad City LP? (Your music would suit the album format nicely)

Definitely. Working on EP’s has happened unintentionally really. I’ve always liked working on music in small batches, sort of focussing my energy on a small project so I can finish it quickly and move onto something else. But I’ve been thinking about recording a full length a lot recently. I think I’m at a point where a lot of the ideas I’m having about music and recording and sound are running together, in a cohesive way, rather than a conflicting way. I’ve been speaking with a couple different labels who are up for an album, so hopefully that’ll happen next year.

Would you resurrect the 'L.A.' alias?

Probably not. I recorded as LA for a short burst of tracks that have never been put out. I’m not even sure if I still have them all. My friend Julian has some I think. I’d be interested to hear them. I think the ideas I had with that stuff, I’ve integrated into the other stuff I work on, so I’m not sure LA stuff would sound much different from music made as Sad City. I don’t know. Maybe in the future if there is a reason to. Who knows.

How did the Phonica hookup occur?

I released my first record, Gestures through a record label in the US called Underwater Peoples. Phonica stocked the record and Nick Williams there was really into it. He got in touch to speak about a possible release through them and it went from there.

What compelled you to start producing music?

I was in a few different bands growing up and throughout university, but never any that I feel like I’ve been able to properly experiment in – which is most likely my fault. I feel a lot more comfortable experimenting on my own. That’s probably how electronic music came about. I listened to a lot, but I think the idea of making some on my own was what appealed to me.

If you can whittle it down to 3, what are your favourite BoC records?

Today – Alpha and Omega, You Could Feel the Sky & Opening the Mouth. Yesterday it might have been – Dawn Chorus, Ready Let’s Go & Smokes Quantity. Tomorrow it will likely be something different.

Having not seen you play live and finding little information on the ever resourceful web, what equipment have you used when playing live?

I have about 4 different midi controllers that I use with some different pieces of software and an old, cheap Korg drum machine and a Korg Electribe.

What's your opinion on the ridiculous digital vs analogue debate? Does it matter whether music is made on software like Ableton?

I don’t really see the point in debating between the two. The only debate I see exists on a practical level – if you begin making music using analogue equipment, it may be impractical to integrate or to switch to using digital software/equipment; likewise, if you begin making music digitally, it may be difficult to integrate analogue equipment into your setup. Unfortunately, there is a lot of sort of material elitism that seems to creep up in music, where judgements are made on someone based on what ‘gear’ or setup they have. Whether someone expresses themselves musically using a guitar, or a drum kit, or a cello, or a Dictaphone, or a saxophone, or a piano, or a keyboard, or a laptop, or a sitar, or a trumpet, to me it’s still the same musical expression. If you have something to express musically, it is for nobody else to judge what way you choose to express it. I try to ignore that sort of debate because it seems pointless to debate it.

If your sound was a visual thing, what would it look like?

The dreams that my cat might have while lying asleep on a small steam boat floating along a river running through a canyon on Mars either 14 billion years in the future or 19 billion years in the past. I think.

What’s the best piece of music you’ve ever heard?

A recording of some school kids singing a nursery rhyme in the deep south of America in the 30’s from the Library of Congress.

What’s your favourite place on earth?

Probably my parents’ back garden in Bangor.

When did you last stick your head in a bass bin?

11 minutes ago.

Are you a kick drum, hi hat or a snare? And why?

Snare. It’s a long story.

And the most profound question of them all: cats or dogs?

I wouldn’t eat either.

‘Introduction To Lisboa/ Sloe’ is out now via Phonica.