‘It’s a chance to sit and listen’

I Am Kloot

I Am Kloot

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Interviewing John Bramwell is almost as enjoyable as listening to one of his albums.

I chat to the I Am Kloot frontman on the phone, as he’s driving round Keswick in a campervan, on a mini-break with his girlfriend.

“Blimey, that’s a hell of a dog,” he says, breaking off from telling me how he comes up with his melodies. “It’s a sort of Jack Russell but I’ve never seen one like that before.”

A second later there’s a noise in the background.

“Bloody hell, a jet fighter’s gone overhead. Can you hear that. This is like a 3D phonecall – you’re living it with us.”

Bramwell, in a sort of quiet, good-humoured and unobtrusive way, has been one of the country’s most consistent songwriters for the last decade.

A solo artist for about 15 years in the 80s and 90s, he spent a brief period booking bands at Night And Day (“best thing I ever did – built up a lot of contacts”), then formed I Am Kloot.

Six albums on, including the 2010 Mercury-nominated Sky At Night, and Bramwell has much to be pleased about.

He claims he hasn’t made much money but sounds as happy as Larry.

He isn’t even worried about turning 50 this year, though does confide a few of his friends seem to have passed away recently, “which does make you think”.

He speaks with a 
contagious enthusiasm and litters his answers with 
funny anecdotes.

If he’s like this all the time, his girlfriend – sat beside him in the passenger seat and as detached from the music industry as you can get (she’s works for East Cheshire Council) – can’t complain about lack of entertainment.

Tomorrow night Bramwell, without his Kloot bandmates, is playing a show at 53 Degrees in Preston.

There are still tickets remaining and anyone who wants a masterclass in songwriting should head there.

Bramwell says he likes playing solo shows because it is a different, maybe more reverent audience – plus he needs a few quid.

“I’m always honest about this – I’ve never made a fortune from music,” he said. “I live off the bands I’m in and I’ve never had more than a couple of thousand quid in my bank account.

“But it’s not about money for me – I am a songwriter, I’ve played guitar since I was five and it’s what I’ve done all my life.

“I’ve been in Kloot now 14 years and it has been great.

“But I like to be busy and when we came off our last tour, straight away I booked 10 solo gigs myself. But as soon as I did that, I started getting emails every day from promoters and it’s looking like I’ll be doing 50 solo gigs before the year is out.

“It’s nice, though, because my style of guitar playing is Paul Simon-like fingerpicking, not strumming and always has been, even when I was in a post-punk band as a 16-year-old in Hyde.

“With the band the audience at gigs has more of a football crowd mentality, whereas at solo shows it’s pin-drop silent because I think a lot of people like the songwriting aspect of what I do.

“So this is a chance for the fans who are into this kind of thing to really sit down and listen.”

Bramwell is an interesting fella. Born in 1964, the year the Beatles really got going, he has a touch of the John Lennon about him, with his snarling, distinctive vocals.

He has played in bands since the 80s, spent a stint on Granada TV under the name Johnny Dangerously, released a solo record in the 90s called You, Me and the Alarm Clock (described by The Guardian as “one of the greatest albums you’ve never heard”), and worked at Manchester city centre bar Night And Day before forming Kloot.

At the time he was in his mid-30s, so he was naturally pretty chuffed when the band’s debut album Natural History was a success.

“We were pretty crafty really because for the first nine months of Kloot’s existence we didn’t gig, we just spread this rumour that there was this brilliant new band and got a guy to do some press,” he said. “As a result we had 300 people at our first gig and it went from there.

“Being the age I was it was pretty nice to suddenly get the first international record deal of my life, to start touring abroad, to get a John Peel session, to get asked to play Glastonbury, to get a record out in the shops – it all happened in one go really.”

A decade and more on, Bramwell and Kloot are still going strong. He has written the soundtrack for the forthcoming BBC drama From Here To There (about the IRA bombing of Manchester) and promises a new Kloot album at the end of next year.

He also promises a trip to Blackpool. “I don’t know why but I’ve not really played there,” he muses. “We supported Doves at the Empress Ballroom about eight years ago but nothing since. Right, I’ll have a look at a few venues and get myself there.”

n In the meantime you can see Bramwell at 53 Degrees in Preston tomorrow. Tickets are £15 from www.53degrees.net