“Like if a psychotherapy session was turned into a musical”
Former Fish Tank frontman, Ed Wetenhall, has gone solo and reinvented himself as Ed The Dog. His debut album ‘Shame’, released last month, is quirky, original and perfectly rough around the edges. It chronicles his journey through anxiety and adulthood and the entire album was written, performed, recorded and mixed by Ed himself. The album is packed full of bass-heavy tracks, 90s vibes and raw, gritty riffs. There is a playful injection of 21st century cynicism and tongue n’ cheek lyrics and I can’t get enough of it. Ed took some time out of his busy schedule this week to answer some questions…
So Ed, who or what first got you involved in music? The year was 2004. Two things happened in one week. I watched Franz Ferdinand perform ‘Dark of the Matinee’ on ITV2 and my brother James suddenly had a drum kit in his room. Naturally I wanted to be as cool as both Alex Kapranos and my big brother so I tentatively asked my parents for a guitar. My mate George Bungey then taught me how to play ‘Seven Nation Army’ on one string and that was that!
How would you describe your style of music for someone who has never heard it? It’s like if a psychotherapy session was turned into a musical. The Strokes conducted by Daniel Johnston are the pit orchestra.
Why did you decide to leave Fish Tank and go solo? It was just time to move on really! We gave it a good ol’ slog but it just wasn’t going to yield what we all as individuals wanted out of it. We had a good long day in the sun though!
Your debut album, ‘Shame’, was all written, performed, recorded, and mixed by you. Did you enjoy this process? Any challenges? Favourite parts? Though I did do most of it myself, this record really wouldn’t have come together without collaboration and advice from a ton of close friends I could count on to be honest with me.
It can be a very lonely experience making a record by yourself so I had a lot of cheerleaders come and go to get me through it. Jamie, from one of my favourite bands Indoor Pets, came over once and gave me some really good notes on a bunch of the songs. It was really encouraging seeing his reaction to the demos because a lot of the time you get so involved with making every detail of the track ‘perfect’ that you lose sight of the bigger picture.
After I’d hashed out the demo album, Zak Tozer and Charlie Lashmar (who are also in the live band) came over and added their own ideas to loads of it. I think they really understand what I’m trying to achieve with the project and therefore, were really key in taking the demos from being scrappy to scrappy-in-a-good-way. They also, like Jamie, gave me plenty of encouragement throughout the process.
Do you have a favourite song on the album? Or a favourite song to perform live? The song I’m probably most proud of is ‘Weirdo Years’. Just feels like I got most of what I wanted to say right with that song. We haven’t played a show yet but ‘God Damn’ and the title track ‘Shame’ have been super fun to play in rehearsals.
You said the songs focus on experiences dealing with anxiety. Is music an outlet for you to deal with your anxiety? Definitely! Literally just picking up an instrument and creating something soothes some primitive part of me. If I write something I think is decent, it can level my mood for days. Music is very much like therapy for me in that respect.
The songs on this album are also all very personal. Do you always draw from personal experience when writing songs? Yes. These days 99% of my writing comes from something real and personal. It’s very hard to undo that mode of writing now. During Fish Tank it was very much the opposite. I used to actively cloud songs in as much random imagery as possible, to mask the various snippets of personal truths scattered throughout that discography.
Has the way you write songs changed a lot over the years then? Massively yeah. Aside from them becoming more personal, they’ve also become way less complex. When I was at university and discovering all this incredible underground math rock stuff, I was really focused on writing very musically dense ‘Prog-Pop’. Essentially, I was trying to cover as much musical landscape as possible in three or four minutes. That was great fun and certainly got me more focused on getting better at guitar and performing live but I was never happy with how long the process of writing those songs was.
After I left university, I started working as a freelance songwriter which really honed my skills and I got a lot more into stripping things back and making things feel more personal and real.
Do you have a standout show or festival that you’ve played? The last Fish Tank show was always going to be bittersweet but it was just such an incredible vibe in the room that night. The energy was amazing and to see how many people had come to together to enjoy our last hurrah was very touching. It will definitely stay with me forever.
There was also the time I was writing and playing lead guitar for a project called ‘Disaster Artist’ where we got offered a corporate gig to play the Hall in the Barbican Centre. I was so stoked to play this massive legendary room. We sound checked super early at 10:00am, hung around till our stage time at 9:00pm, and then just before we hit the stage, all 1000 punters at the event left. We played one song before the sound guy told us to leave. Such a wonderfully humbling experience.
And finally, what are you currently working on and do you have any upcoming shows this summer? I’m finishing up albums 2 and 3 for next year. You’ll hear about my first few shows real soon though!
Follow the links below to discover Ed The Dog’s music and keep an eye out for his upcoming shows:
By Eveline Vouillemin – Up&Coming