My Firsts: Euan Hinshelwood of Younghusband

Culkin Interrupted

Jun 13, 2019 Web Exclusive
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My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to Euan Hinshelwood of Younghusband.

Younghusband are a London-based trio and they released a new album, Swimmers, last week via Opposite Number. Swimmers is the band's third album, the follow-up to 2015's Dissolver. Hinshelwood set up a studio in a barn in Greenwich, England, which is where Swimmers was recorded. Hinshelwood is the vocalist and guitarist and the band also features Joe Chilton (bass) and Adam Beach (guitar).

In a press release announcing Swimmers, Hinshelwood had this to say about recording the album: "I didn't play the songs to the guys before. For the majority of the record the band had only heard the songs on the day of recording them. We then went over the top of those bare bones but at the core of it I wanted to get something loose and gritty."

Hinshelwood added: "There were so many things we liked and disliked about our first two records. We thought we'd try and find a middle ground. I wanted to bring us back to that place between the first and second record but with more confidence in songwriting. Maybe being a bit more extreme-a bit more emotional extremity and openness." 

Read on as Hinshelwood talks about his earliest experiences with recording music and attending festivals, as well as getting hit in the face with a golf club, his first broken heart, and how his first movie experience was interrupted.

First instrument? 

A broken 3/4 size Spanish guitar, the head had snapped off and my dad glued it back on. I started learning on it when I was seven and it stayed good until I was about 14. Wrote my first song on it, it's sitting in the loft at my brother's place now. 

First band you were in? 

The band was called Noble Wilson, named after the Wilson football from the film Castaway. We rehearsed in Jamie (the drummer's) garage, his dad-Martyn Oram-is a folk musician and had an old beat up PA he used to take around gigging. We did about three shows at a well-loved but short-lived club night called Fuzzy Logic in Watford, ran by my best friend Lee. Last I heard Simon Francis, the bass player, now plays for Kylie Minogue and Jamie is a comedy writer. 

First recording device?

A Panasonic mini cassette recorder. I used to spend hours singing into, recording other people, recording covers. 

First music festival you went to?

Glastonbury 2004, I was 16. It was completely overwhelming, in a good way. I was having a rough time and it was a real release. It felt like freedom, although I knew it wasn't. Saw some amazing music and had some weird, incredible experiences, I don't think I blinked for three days, and I didn't do drugs. I went back pretty much every year for another eight/nine after, either as an attendee or playing, but none of the experiences has quite beat the first. 

First professional recording session?

It was with Liam Watson at Toe Rag studios in London with a band I was in called The New Shapes. I was 17. White Stripes had just recorded Elephant there and Liam was a sought after producer, although he had been making wonderful albums with Billy Childish and other great Medway and beat bands for years. An all analogue 8-track studio, everything pre dated 1964. Even the floor tiles and heaters. It was an experience that shifted the tracks for me, pretty much overnight. I ended up buying an 8-track Tascam tape machine and recorded the first two Younghusband EPs on it. When I got my own space a few years back I bought a bigger 24-track tape machine and that's where we recorded Swimmers. Not because I think tape is better, it's just what I learnt on and I love the process and how it makes you approach performing and listening, although it can be a pain sometimes. It all stemmed from those two days at Toe Rag, and the influence of my wonderful, late friend Adam Lambert, who played drums for The New Shapes and was the first Younghusband drummer. He persuaded me to get the tape machine. He had the same one, and taught me the basics. We would spend hours upon ours talking about recording and music, microphones, production, sending each other songs. He would critique my demos, I'd get so excited when I had new songs to send him. Sometimes it felt like I was writing songs for him. I loved him very much and miss him greatly.

First time you had to go to the hospital?  

I was hit in the face with a golf club when I was eight. It was in accidentI was standing behind a kid and when he swung back the club smashed up into my face. The kid flew off on his bike and said he was going to get help, I've never seen him since. We used to hang out a lot, I hope he was okayhe must have felt awful, he looked terrified. I remember just being in this crazy shock. It felt almost like complete calm. I walked slowly across the park to my house, blood gushing out my face, and a guy helped me to my door. It was a beauty, just under the left eye, 17 stitches.

First best friend?

Joe Buckley, my next door neighbor where I grew up in Watford. We were born two months apart, had the same child-minder, same nursery, same school, same football team, had music lessons together, he was (reluctantly) in Noble Wilson, my first band. His dad is a playwrite and his mum a linguist and teacher, they were influential on me growing up too. His dad showed me one of my favorite films, Cry Baby by John Waters. We used to make up plays and perform in his house to both sets of parents and whomever else we could drag in. We wrote songs together, had who could sing the highest competitions (he could, always). He's one of the best pianists I've ever heard. As we moved into our teens and went to different schools we naturally drifted a little. He studied in Japan for a year from the age of 18, when he came home our different paths in life were obvious but we were really supportive of each other. He's now an incredibly talented linguist and is about to go and spend a year in Uzbekistan as part of his PhD studying the language and how it's developing. I'm out on tour at the moment and going to catch up with him in Barcelona tomorrow where he is studying before he sets off.

First movie you saw in the movie theater?  

Home Alone with my mum, but they abandoned the screening halfway through because someone went for a smoke in the toilets and set the fire alarm off. Lots of very upset kids. 

First time your heart was broken? 

Romantically, about five years ago. The experience went into Dissolver. But we're pals now and I see it as a positive thing to have happened, in the end. 

First TV show you were obsessed with? 

There was a show called Faking It on Channel 4 years ago. Basically, a person with no prior experience in a profession or role would try to learn all the skills over a month, change their image and attitude and go head to head with people who had been doing it for years in an event or competition, and judges would try and find the fake. They had episodes like factory worker to fashion designer, punk singer to orchestral conductor, painter and decorator to conceptual artist, vicar to car dealer, naval officer to drag queen. Quality, quality TV.

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