Ian McCutcheon first came to prominence on the independent music scene when he joined the legendary shoegazing act Slowdive in time for their last album, 'Pygmalion'.

When Slowdive were subsequently dropped by Creation Records, they changed direction and labels and became Mojave 3. Whereas Slowdive were ambient and loud , Mojave 3's records are fragile and countryish.

They have since gone on to release four albums on 4AD, 'Ask Me Tomorrow' (1996), 'Out of Tune' (1998), 'Excuses for Travellers' (2000) and 'Spoon and Rafter' (2003), and are now at work on a fifth.

While many of Mojave 3's songs are written by the band's frontman Neil Halstead, both Ian McCutcheon and keyboardist Alan Forrester have helped out with some of the songwriting on Mojave 3's last two albums. McCutcheon has recently decided to branch out more on his own as a songwriter, and has formed his own band Loose Salute (formerly Loose Shoes) in which he is assisted on vocal duties by Lisa Billison and Charlotte King, both of whome are ex-cooks. Loose Salute released their debut EP, 'Suck It Up, Buttercup, at the end of last year.

Pennyblackmusic spoke to Ian before a gig in which Loose Salute played support to the Czars at London's Islington Academy.

PB : I originally became aware of you when you joined Slowdive for their last album, 'Pygmalion' in 1995. Simon Scott, the previous drummer, left and you replaced him. How did that come about ?

IM : I think Simon gave them quite a bit of notice that he was leaving the band. I don't know the exact story of why he left, but he is also a pretty good guitarist and songwriter and I think was going in a different direction.

Both myself and Neil Halstead have a neutral friend called Wendy who is actually the person who gave Mojave 3 our name. I was with Wendy at the London Garage gig which was the last gig that Simon played and the next day Neil spoke to Wendy and told her that Simon was leaving the band. I hadn't been playing that long, but maybe because she had out with me the night before Wendy mentioned my name and suddenly before I knew it it I was thrown in at the deep end and was playing a headlining tour in America. I just blagged my way through it really.

PB : You learn as you go along anyway. Prior to that you had been playing other instruments as well, hadn't you ? I know you can play the guitar.

IM : I play guitar very badly but I can play enough to be able to
write. I had been in a band called The Mermaids, a sort of little indie band, so I was writing stuff already.

PB : After 'Pygmalion' you regrouped as Mojave 3.....

IM : Yeah, I wasn't really into that album but I was glad to be involved with it because I learnt a lot just by working with Neil.

PB : Did you form the Loose Salute, originally the Loose Shoes because you wanted to write more songs. You have written a few in the past which have come out on Mojave 3 albums. Was it because Mojave 3 weren't fulfilling you enough?

IM : Yes. Mojave 3 work as you know at a very slow pace. It is important that whoever has got a creative edge should do other stuff. I think everyone is happy doing Mojave 3, but in my own personal situation I wanted to be doing stuff constantly and that doesn't happen with Mojave 3..

PB : You are also all scattered in different places now as well. Where are you currently based?

IM : I am pretty much based in Cornwall at the moment. It had
it got to a point where I had a s**t load of songs and they were
never going to come out on a Mojave 3 record and then I met Lisa and Charlotte.

PB : Is it true that you discovered Lisa in a restaurant ?

IM : Yeah it happened when we were recording 'Excuses for Travellers' and she was singing over Dylan's 'Blonde on Blonde'. Both her and Charlotte were working as cooks, I heard them singing and that was it. I had all these songs, but I' m not confident about singing. I will never be an out-the-front front man.

PB :But people say Neil Young can't sing and he has done alright out of it.

IM : Bob Dylan as well.

PB : Exactly.

IM : Anyway at the time I said to Lisa "I have got these songs
and do you fancy doing something ?" and she was up for it and it just went from there.

PB : The first time I saw you guys was at the Brixton Windmill
in December in 2003. How long had the Loose Shoes been going by then?

IM : About nine months live because it was at the end of February that year when we played our first gig. We have been doing about a gig a month since then because everyone has a lot of other different stuff going on as well.

PB : And there is a lot of you guys?

IM : Yeah, we are down to six now. We were up to double figures at one stage.

PB : Why drop Shoes for Salute?

IM : There was a lot of hideous bands in America with shoes in the title and there's also a lot of loose shoes on the net.

PB : .Loose Salute sounds more Americana. When I last interviewed Neil Halstead I asked him to to describe the Loose Salute and he described the band as being hardcore country. Would you go along with that ?

IM . Em !

PB . After that first gig, I would say that it's very Americana flavoured , but it has also got a very early 70's vibe that takes you
back 30 years without trying too hard.

IM : Good.

PB : But its not cheesy.

IM : Good, that's the vibe.

PB : That' s the vibe you were aiming for ?

IM : Yeah, I like that stuff.

PB : What's the reaction been to the EP ?

IM : .I don't really know to be honest. 'The Daily Mirror' said we were a name to watch.

PB : Do you have enough songs for an album?

IM : Indeed.

PB : Is it recorded?

IM : We have got songs at various stages. Nothing is completely
finished. We have still got to master everything.

PB : Work has started on the new Mojave 3 album. You're the main songwriter with Neil these days, aren't you ?

IM : Sort of. Al is very instrumental these days as well .This album has had the three of us writing, which was the case with the last one as well really. I am not sure if Neil wants to include me on the credits for it but I have done some of the production on it as well. I also produced the last Seafood album. I don't want to just sit there and play the drums and then go home. I play a bit of guitar on the new Mojave 3 album and Al's been playing lots of different stuff.

PB : How different is the new album to 'Spoon and Rafter' because that was diffferent and quite a radical change?

IM : This one is a bigger step.

PB : What future plans do you have for Loose Salute ? A new LP?
A new EP ?

IM : We are happy we got the deal to do the one EP. We hope that that will generate interest.

PB :. What sort of fan base have Loose Salute got?

IM : There isn't one. We contacted Mojave 3's website to
say that I was doing this as well, but beyond that we haven't played that card at all. At the end of the day, I'm the drummer in Mojave 3 who helps Neil to write. Hopefully Mojave 3 fans will like it because its' influenced by the same people and by Neil's songwriting as well. Some of the songs on the EP also wouldn't be out of place on a Mojave 3 album.

PB : Thank you for your time, Ian.

PB : Cheers.

The pphotographs that accompany this article were taken by Bob Stuart and orginally appeared on his own website www.underexposed.org.uk

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