David McAlmont and Guy Davies interview
David McAlmont is back in a new musical partnership called Fingersnap.
First, he was the singing half of Thieves alongside multi-instrumentalist/producer Saul Freeman; then in the mid '90s he partnered ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler in McAlmont & Butler; more recently, he took part in an unlikely collaboration with composer Michael Nyman. But for the most part, out gay singer David McAlmont has performed as a solo artist, known simply as McAlmont.
For his latest musical incarnation, he's teamed up keyboard player and songwriter Guy Davies. Together, they are Fingersnap. The pair's first single, 'I Wanna Rise', is out now, along with the 'Smokehouse' EP. When we meet, they are basking in the afterglow of a sell-out concert at the Jazz Café. Our discussion ranges from gay rights and religious fundamentalism to sweet soul music and their ambition to release 'the greatest album ever known to man.
What brought you together?
David McAlmont: 'I was working with producer Steve Leroni [Black Grape, Hanson] on the difficult
“post-McAlmont & Butler” album [1998's “A Little Communication”]. The guitarist I was writing with knew of a brilliant keyboard player and brought Guy along to the studio. Guy had very strong instincts for what I could do musically. We became friends and went on tour together, and began to work on the final phase of “A Little Communication” together.'
Guy Davies: 'It was the voice for me. Playing music with someone with a voice like David's is pure joy. Luckily we have a chemistry that still works all these years later.'
DM: 'I got sick of being McAlmont! It sounds like a weird thing to say, but I never wanted to be known as McAlmont. I didn't feel it was a suitable name for a recording artist. It was when Thieves split up that the record company and my managers thought I should be called that. It was never my idea. Plus, I no longer wanted to be a solo artist. I wanted to be the singer-songwriter in somebody's band. We tried various names, but every time we checked on the internet they'd been taken. One afternoon we were adding some finger snaps to a demo and Guy said “Fingersnap. That's a good name. Has anybody taken that?” I checked and nobody had.'
GD: 'David and I decided to get back together in July last year. The name was a natural progression with wanting to do something new and lay to bed the “McAlmont &” collaborations that had happened previously. A new start felt liberating.'
'Get back together', 'a new start' - you sound just like a couple. So is Guy the 'straight man' in this partnership?
DM: [Laughs] 'I'm the glamour and he's the muscle! But I've never worked so hard in my life. He puts me through my paces.'
GD: 'I like the “laydeez” - pronounced just like that. I'm also the Wise to his Morecambe.'
How would you describe your music?
GD: 'Soulful, socially conscious and most importantly rhythmical. That was the pre-requisite.'
DM: 'Great British soul music.'
You've got new song called 'The Bishop of New Hampshire', addressed to bishop Gene Robinson and featuring the London Gay Men's Chorus. What inspired you to write to him?
DM: 'Gene Robinson is the gay bishop who was elected in the liberal state of New Hampshire and whose election led to a schism in the Anglican community. I'm a big fan of “Amelia” by Joni Mitchell [a song from the 1976 album “Hejira”, which is addressed to pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart]. I wanted to borrow that device for some time. I was depressed one January morning to hear about another murder of a gay activist in Uganda. I began to think about what LGBT people are up against internationally and I effectively wrote Gene Robinson a letter to see what he thought about it all.'
What are your personal thoughts about religious intolerance?
GD: 'If you want to worship a god of your choice, that's fine. But religious fanaticism is now an excuse used by governments to justify the persecution of different groups or to justify domestic and foreign policy.'
DM: 'That's why I wrote to Gene, because he has been able to find a way to “serve God” despite institutional religious intolerance. His stance demonstrated to me more clearly than anything that religion and scripture are created by people. Therefore anybody should be able to serve god in their own way, without being dictated to by those demagogues who think God speaks only to them.'
Fingersnap perform as part of A Very Polari Xmas at The Royal Festival Hall on Mon Dec 12. The Smokehouse' EP is out now.