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Friday, Dec. 8, 2006

He is Little Barrie

Guitarist-for-hire Barrie Cadogan has played with Primal Scream and Morrissey -- but it's his own self-titled band that he saves his very best licks for


By R. SCOTT
Special to The Japan Times

As painfully thin as a stereotypical 1970s British rock guitarist and sporting a roosterish haircut to boot, Barrie Cadogan drops into a chair in the lounge of the ANA Hotel in Tokyo and confesses to having drunk a little too much the night before.

News photo
Barrie Cadogan (right, with his band Little Barrie) might be a fan of Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry, but this didn't stop him bringing in hip-hop uberproducer Dan the Automator on board for his latest album.

That said, his quiet way of speaking seems to be a function of his personality rather than his physical condition.

The late-20s Cadogan is on tour as a guitarist with Primal Scream, a group that some will associate with the '70s image of skinny rock musicians with roosterish haircuts. Sounding as if he'd like nothing better than to crawl back into bed, he says he loves playing with the band.

"I knew some of their material but not all of it," he says. "But I had a little more time to prepare than I've had in similar situations in the past. When I toured with Morrissey I had to learn his songs in three days."

Cadogan has quickly developed a reputation as one of Britain's finest all-purpose rock guitarists, but mainly through his work with his own band, Little Barrie, who have just released their second album, "Stand Your Ground." Scottish pop guru Edwyn Collins, the ex-Orange Juice frontman who produced the trio's first record, "We Are Little Barrie," once called Cadogan "the best guitarist of his generation"; a description that may not hold as much interest as it did in the '70s, when fretwork was more important than anything.

Cadogan may be a Jimi Hendrix fan, but he mostly admires players who can do more with less.

"Blues players like Hubert Sumlin are an obvious influence, but even the guys whose technique is simpler, like Lou Reed, you can really learn something from. He's written some amazing songs, but he can also play his guitar."

Like G. Love without the hip-hop affectations, Little Barrie trades in funky soul and R&B, a preference that may be more instinctual than determined.

"I used to be in an instrumental band in Nottingham [in central England]," he says. "We played different styles of music and were mainly into psychedelic groups like The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield, but we also liked the blues. I wanted to make music that would make you dance -- soul records with more of a rock 'n' roll attitude. I started singing because we couldn't find a singer."

Despite the energy he puts across on stage, he doesn't have much confidence in his vocal abilities.

"The singers I admire aren't surprising. I love Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Bobbie Gentry, Tony Joe White; people who sing rhythmically."

Cadogan also learned from working in a London guitar store that specialized in vintage American instruments. That's where he met members of Primal Scream while putting together Little Barrie.

He and his friend Wayne Fulwood moved to the capital because Nottingham was too provincial. Fulwood played drums, but more importantly it was his raucous background vocals that made "We Are Little Barrie" such a wild ride. Unfortunately, Fulwood left the group earlier this year.

"Touring was getting to him," Cadogan says. "And I think he wanted to concentrate more on his singing. Wayne only took up drums for the band and he did an amazing job, but musicwise he wanted something different."

Because Little Barrie is a power trio centered on Cadogan's singing and playing, it's easy to assume that there's little stylistic difference between the debut and "Stand Your Ground." But the loss of Fulwood and the unavailability of Collins, who suffered two strokes in 2005 and is still recovering, forced a change.

"When we made the first album we didn't have a record deal," he says. "We made it purely on Edwyn's generosity. Things were much more high-pressure this time. We had to make a record fast, so we flew to New York and recorded it in 12 days with Russell and Dan."

Producer Dan "the Automator" Nakamura, who has worked with Gorillaz and many underground hip-hop artists, gives the new disc a punchier sound; while the raunchier rhythms come courtesy of Russell Simins of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, who plays drums on the bulk of the tracks. Simins was more or less a stopgap, and since then Cadogan has hired Billy Skinner to play drums full time.

Skinner had plenty of time to learn the band's songs before Little Barrie resumed touring this fall. Cadogan, still smarting from his Morrissey memories, made sure of that. "I would have played the songs better if I'd had more time to prepare. Generally it was OK, but you could tell some of the fans thought, 'Who's this guy?' "

Little Barrie play Dec. 11, 7 p.m., Shibuya Club Quattro (advance tickets sold out); Dec. 13, 7 p.m., Hiroshima Club Quattro ([082] 542-2280); Dec. 14, 7 p.m., Shinsaibashi Club Quattro, Osaka ([06] 6281-8181); Dec. 15, 7 p.m., Nagoya Club Quattro ([052] 264-8211); Dec. 18, 7 p.m., Daikanyama Unit, with Five O'Clock Heroes (Creativeman, [03] 5466-0777). All shows 5,500 yen in advance.


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