The Withered Hand Christmas Special

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Do Christmas songs have to have bells on?

“No. When we recorded ‘Real Snow’, Darren (Hayman from Hefner, who recorded the track) and I differed on this. But in the end I came down on the side of it being a full-on Christmas song and we stuck sleigh bells all over it. I’m happy with that decision now but it means it is gathering dust the rest of the year!”

What are your childhood memories of Christmas?

“Those memories are always coloured with being one of the kids who knew real fast that Santa was not real and had to keep quiet about it. We didn’t celebrate Christmas in our house, in fact it was a religious observation NOT to celebrate, our brand of evangelism forbade it. Also sitting out of Christmas celebrations and assemblies was a bit heavy. I had to sit and do homework in the canteen and the whole school would have to file in right past me.

“I also remember the Christmas just after my parents’ split. I got more presents than I’d ever seen before and I didn’t want any of them.”

What does Christmas look like to someone on the outside of it?

“It looks like parts of the whole thing are really bogus. At the same time I could see people were happy to have a reason to take some time to be together. I still feel that way about it, like it’s a good thing.”

What’s been the best thing and the worst thing about participating in Christmas as an adult with your own family?

“The perfect foil to all of this Christmas stuff is that I never celebrated it as a kid, so I simultaneously discovered it via my own children and wife (yippee!) and also feel real bad about the big lie I compromised and participate in now yearly. The worst thing is dodging awkward questions about Santa now I am shamefully colluding in this myself. And the best thing is it sometimes snows. To be honest, I find it hard to relate to the feelings my wife describes about the magic of Christmas but I’m happy to take her word for it and hope my kids are experiencing it. Snow, on the other hand, blows my mind!”

Who’s been thrilling you with their music in 2011?

“John Vanderslice – listen to his beautiful album White Wilderness.”

Who thrilled you most musically in 1981? 1991? 2001?

“1981? Adam and the Ants.

“1991? Nirvana or Sonic Youth.

“2001? I think I went off music for a few years around 2001.”

What are you hoping 2012 will bring (either musically, personally, or globally, or all three)?

“Peace and clarity.”

How’s your relationship with ‘folk music’ these days?

“Purists bore me. Same as it’s always been.”

How’s the real snow up there in Edinburgh?

“It’s just about melted. We made a snowman though, as soon as it fell. He’s looking a bit weary.”

When’s the next Withered Hand record out?

“Good question. A vinyl EP comes out on Fence in February. I have a few more recordings in the locker. But the difficult second album? Ask me next Christmas.”

I will. And I will be hoping for one more Christmas Withered Hand weepie to toast the passing of another year.

‘Real Snow’ is released by Fence Records on mini-CD inside a Xmas Card. To own a copy of this song you must subscribe to Fence Records Chart Ruse EP Series BEFORE 16 DECEMBER 2011. More details here.

*If you don’t believe me, here’s Withered Hand’s ‘Religious Songs’:

I don’t really know what I should do
Like, should I be passing this bread along to you?
And I don’t really know what the wine was for
‘cos if it was Jesus’ blood, wouldn’t there be more?
I’m knocking on Kevin’s front door

I’m singing religious songs
And getting the words wrong
My hair’s getting too long for this congregation

Religious songs
I’m getting the words wrong
My hair’s getting too long
And they’re saying
“How does he really expect to be happy
When he listens to death metal bands?”

If there’s manna from heaven then you’re disinclined to share
You stole my heart and I stole your underwear
You said religion is bullshit, it’s all about metaphor.
Well if I need a fence to sit on
Then I’ll sit on yours, sit on yours
Dreaming of Babylon’s whores

… I knew you so long I ran out of cool things to say
I still bump into friends that we both had yesterday
When they ask me how I am, I lie and say I’m doing fine
They still manage to tell me I’m an easy lay holiday
Well that’s okay, remember you thought I was gay?

Well, I beat myself off when I sleep on your futon
I walk in the rain with my secondhand suit on

Beat myself off when I sleep on your futon
I walk in the rain, and I’m thinking
If I happen to die tonight in my sleep
I’ll have cum and not blood on my hands

I’m inclined to say “Take that, Zooey!” but that would be unseasonally graceless.

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