Pete Murdoch, aka Birds Of Hell has been busy writing songs about climate change, dogging, falling in love on a work training day and Spiderman advertising pizza since the hugely popular Norwich-based Sargasso Trio disbanded. His amazing track Astronomy Programmes has had over 150,000 plays on Spotify and he’s been heard on R6 Music. Lyrically dense and personal, with a range of sounds and instrumentation that’s rare to hear, especially from just one man, he plays on the regular around Norwich both solo and with a band. He’s mind-blowingly unique, incredibly talented and a lovely guy to boot. I spoke to Pete ahead of his headlining show at Norwich Arts Centre this month.


Did you grow up in a musical household? My parents don’t really play, but my Dad was always playing records when i was a kid; mainly jazz and classical and a lot of Dire Straits. My grandparents were both retired professors at Te Royal Academy Of Music. We saw them all the time so I constantly heard them practice, teach and perform. Later I inherited my two older brother’s music tastes; Te Wedding Present and Te Smiths stick out. How has the close knit music community in Norwich been of help to you thus far? Where do I start? I could write a book of thank you’s to all the people that have helped me over the years. More broadly, it’s good that I can go out and see local bands and think ‘Bollocks, they were great, I’d better go home and sort my shit out’. Tere’s a competitive element, but it also makes you feel like you’re part of a vibrant, credible scene. We exchange ideas, discuss what’s working and what’s not, support each others gigs and releases. Sometimes when you’re struggling with it all, feeling demoralised and often skint, all that stuff can really help you keep going. You’ve been Birds Of Hell for a few years now, and have released some singles but no

album as yet. Is there one on its way? Yep, it’s nearly finished. Should be out in the autumn, just dotting the I s and crossing t s. Why are you called Birds Of Hell? When I first went solo I just a had a bunch of songs on acoustic guitar and somewhat predictably, was just playing under my own name. My son, who was nine years old at the time, heard me writing a song one day and said ‘Dad, that sounds so depressing it should be called Birds of Hell’. I thought that was much more interesting than just performing under my own name. It allowed what I was doing to grow into something else, to maybe include other sounds and other people. Also, I liked the idea of people seeing the name and thinking it was one thing and then discovering it was something else. Not to trick people, but to encourage looking a little deeper. Te mentality of ‘It does what it says on the tin’ is a bit boring when it comes to music. When I first joined twitter I had loads of goth/metal/punk bands follow me just coz of the name. Which has been your most memorable gig to date? Te last one was pretty good. Te audience were singing my lyrics back at me. I was right up my own arse for a couple days


after that. Would you say that making music is cathartic to you? I’m thinking of the sadness in Practice Punching My Hands, Son, or the rage in Let’s Have Te Window Open. Yes, partly cathartic, but also other stuff. Practice Punching helped me work out thoughts, memories and ideas. Structuring them into a song helped. I remember listening to Kate Tempest read Brand New Ancients on the bus and being in tears. And now reading Grayson Perry and realising lots of people are thinking about all this stuff. Men are a bit fucked up. Let’s Have Te Windows Open was the result of too much Facebook and too much Sleaford Mods. It’s a depiction of my state of mind at the time. I guess there is catharsis when I perform it; screaming my sweary head off. I think a lot of people feel utterly bewildered by the bombardment of incoherent apocalyptic stories or climate change, corruption and conspiracy next to videos of kittens. Which other musicians have been of long term inspiration to you? Sonic Youth, John Coltrane. And er Dire Straits. Sonic Youth for the bravery, innovation and noise. John Coltrane for going deep anwd spiritual without going wanky and boring. I

don’t know how Dire Straits have influenced me, but I was subjected to so much of it as a kid that it must of influenced me somehow. Maybe I should wear matching sweatbands for my head and wrists. Your song Hometown Rage features your grandma singing, even though she died some years ago. How did that come about? My grandma, Joyce, died in the 1940s so I never met her. But when my grandad died a few years ago we found all these old “78s in his loft and a couple of them were recordings of Joyce; she was an amateur opera singer. My family asked me to record them into a computer so the recordings could be preserved and shared. Hometown Rage is a song about my childhood and it just felt right to have another voice from my family history, a history before me, drifting into the song.

LIZZ PAGE Read this interview in full online at outline

INFORMATION Birds Of Hell plays with a full band at Odd Box Promotions’ night at Norwich Arts Centre on 1st April along with Teen Brains, Rory McVicar, Waves and LK. Tickets just £5.50 from ueatickets.

Phot by Jo Millington

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