Former Snow Patrol Bassist on New Band, Little Doses
Mark McClelland on new beginnings, old times and working with the wife
Little Doses are playing at Auntie Annie's on March 11. It's the band's first time in Belfast since 2006. Being based in Edinburgh, are you looking forward to coming home?
Absolutely. I can’t wait. I have a huge amount of friends and family in Belfast who have supported me through my life, and I want to celebrate the release of this record [Riot Rock Soul] with them. The Northern Irish music scene is really vibrant at the moment and I’m really looking forward to seeing the support acts for the night, Documenta Drone Pop and Unquiet Nights.
Do you remember the last show you played in Northern Ireland with Snow Patrol?
It was the last night of the four-night run in the Ulster Hall at the end of that crazy year . I think I have a framed poster somewhere. I was told it broke all box office records for the venue since the 1970s.
What do you remember of gigging in Northern Ireland in the early days, and what changes have you noticed since then?
Gigging in the early days was pretty much hit and miss. We started off in the Duke of York and in Robinson’s Basement, places like that, during the holidays from university. We were supporting bands like Disraeli Gears and Oliver’s Army, who blew us away and helped us up our game. From what I can see now, the live scene is light years away from what it was – bigger and better venues, more belief and interest in local musicians.
Why have Little Doses chosen to release Rock Riot Soul yourselves on Black Ditto Recordings?
I’m not going to lie – it’s definitely the tough way to do it. But almost every record I obsessed over in my teens – and still obsess over – came from this independent, outsider point of view. So there’s plenty of inspiration to draw from.
It’s easier than ever to make a song available, the challenge is letting the wide world know that it exists. We don’t have the haircuts, the youth or the newsworthy drug addictions to be marketable. If you believe in your music, you’ll find a way.
The album has been five years in the making. What has taken you so long?
Well, it’s been five years or so since the band started, not since starting the record – that’s maybe took two years. We’ve had a few changes of line-up during that period, which really knocks the wind out of your sails.
You lose your momentum, have to find the right person with the right sound and attitude, then teach them the songs, wait for a relationship – both musical and personal – to develop, and then you are back when you started. Added into the mix, I had a baby and got married in that period, so I don’t think you could say I’ve been resting on my laurels!
Is it easy being in a band with your wife, vocalist Kirsten Ross? How is it for the rest of the members – guitarists Mike Skinner and Chris Alderson, and drummer Michael Branagh?
Kirsten is incredibly talented. I’m very proud of her, and it feels totally natural to have her on stage with me. We’re not sitting in the corner snogging all the time backstage, so I hope it’s OK for the guys! The touring schedule as it was when Final Straw broke for Snow Patrol was incredibly tough on a relationship. You’d get home sometimes one day a month, you’d be in different time zones or caught up on stage, and it was hard to grab a quiet moment to phone home. I’d hate to be away from my family like that again.
Little Doses seem to steer away from exploiting the 'ex-Snow Patrol' angle. Is this so fans will discover the band in its own right?
I don’t want Little Doses to be overshadowed. It’s so much more than a side project. It is inevitable that comparisons will be made, and it’s hardly a level playing field – I am prepared for that – but at the same time I hope Snow Patrol fans find out about Rock Riot Soul and take the time to listen.
After 11 years with Snow Patrol and seeing the band finally break into the mainstream, how easy was it to pick yourself up again after the split?
I was devastated for a long time, but I didn’t want to be this angry person. I don’t want to be defined by that event. I have so many positive things happening in my life, and I concentrate on them, for the sake of my family and friends and my own sanity. I want to enjoy this life – it’s the only one I’m getting.
How does it feel to be back in the pubs and clubs, while your former bandmates play arenas and stadiums?
It can be a drag when you know you’ve played a stunning gig, but you come off stage and the soundman has dropped the ball. That doesn’t happen when you’re playing the big venues, but apart from that it’s just a matter of scale. Personally, I never go to see bands playing big gigs – the Ulster Hall is as big as I’d want it to get. Stadiums and arenas feel empty and soulless to me as a punter.
How much can you say about your exit from Snow Patrol and the subsequent legal battle? [In September 2007, McClelland issued a writ at the High Court in London seeking 25 per cent of the band’s earnings since he left in March 2005.]
I don’t really want to dwell on what happened. I was fired and a replacement was brought in. Everyone knew, but I had no clue – no chance to talk about it, no indication there was even a problem. All ties were suddenly cut.
Then I had four years of fighting for a fair settlement. Every penny I had was spent. It was settled literally on the court steps, two days before we were scheduled to begin the trial. I can’t discuss the details, but after that I did feel more positive. It was finally over, and with the right result.
Have you listened to any of their albums since you parted ways?
It’s kind of hard not to hear a Snow Patrol record. I’ve tried to be objective. There’s been the odd song I thought was pretty good, but I haven’t sat down with a CD.
What are Little Doses’ plans for the summer and beyond?
We’re hoping to pick up some interest from this record and maybe play some festival slots and play bigger and better gigs, further afield. We’re fired up and dying to showcase what we can do live.
Little Doses play Auntie Annie’s, Belfast, on March 11. Rock Riot Soul is out on March 5.