1. Massive Attack | Unfinished Sympathy
I remember watching MTV in the '90s and always hoping that the video would come on. I wondered who the girl was walking through the streets of LA and wondered why this Music was having such an effect on me. I shared a room with my brother and I would play his records when he went out to work. He had the best record collection you could ever imagine. Blue Lines was my favourite album back then and Unfinished Sympathy - my favourite song... It still is. I love the string arrangements by Wil Malone who also worked on The Verve's classic album Urban Hymns and many others. The lyrics mean more to me now than ever before... Like a soul without a mind and a body without a heart, I'm missing every part... A song about being cheated on?... You just can't let go and you want them back so much, that's how I hear it... It's just an incredible piece of Music.
2. Moby | Porcelain
Back in 2002 I was working for a travel company called Euro Camp. Our job was to take down and clean campsites after the summer holiday season had finished and the customers had left. There was about 20 people in the group... We would spend our nights around the camp fire, playing guitar and drinking vodka. I was seeing a beautiful Scottish girl called Jayne and Life couldn't have been better. Unfortunately, one morning my boss caught me smoking a joint in my accommodation and I was sacked instantly. I had to leave and find my way home, but I didn't want to go back so soon, so I stayed in a hotel in the mountains of Lauterbrunnen and I met a cool English guy who said I could stay with him until I found something else... He was a drug dealer and he also ran a bar in the valley. I would spend my days writing songs and putting skunk into bags for him to sell to the tourists who came down from the Ski slopes in Wengen. He only had one CD in the house and it was on repeat the whole time I was there... It was Moby's 18 album. Whenever I hear anything by Moby... It always takes me back to that time in my life. I am going to choose Porcelain because it's on the soundtrack to one of my favourite films, The Beach, but I own and love all of his albums.
3. Beck | Lonesome Tears
When I finally got back home to Manchester I missed Jayne very much, so I would take the train to Edinburgh to stay with her whenever I could. One day we were walking around the city and I found a little record store called FOPP... I hadn't heard Beck's album (Sea Change), but I bought it anyway...I loved Beck already because I had seen him support The Verve at Haigh Hall in 1998 and he was such a great entertainer, but I never expected anything like Sea Change from him... It's a beautiful, heart breaking album. He really is a genius. It's one of those albums that you buy for all your friends, I think I bought it ten times... Saying to people you have to hear this record... I looked at Jayne through the window as the train pulled out of Edinburgh station... I had tears in my eyes and so did she... We both knew it was over, we never fell out, we never broke up, but it just wasn't the right time for us. I can listen to the album now and, even though it's sad, it reminds me of how happy I was and how much fun I had that year.
4. The Verve | Bitter Sweet Symphony
I can't deny and I am not ashamed to say that The Verve changed my life. In 1997 I was studying at College. I was walking down the corridor one day and these lads started shouting Verve at me. I didn't have a clue what they meant, but it carried on for a few weeks. I told my brother about it and he laughed and said that The Verve were a band and that I looked like the singer Richard Ashcroft. Later that week, my brother bought the album and I just got hooked on it. I watched them at Haigh Hall in 1998 at their homecoming gig. It's still the best gig I've ever been to in my life. Beck and John Martyn supported... It doesn't get much better than that. I stared at that stage and dreamed of one day being a frontman in a band. We had to walk for miles after the gig, through the countryside back to my mate's house... I got knocked over by a taxi... A proper hit and run... I could hardly feel my legs... I limped back to my mate's house in agony, but I was still buzzing from the best gig in the History of Music. It's difficult for me to choose a track by The Verve because I love everything they have ever done, but Urban Hymns is without doubt my favourite album ever... The Verve changed everything for me... The way I acted, the way I dressed, everything. Nick McCabe sent me a message on Facebook recently saying that he liked one of my songs... I nearly fainted.
5. Portishead | The Rip
I used to go to a sandwich shop called Marriots on Oxford Road in Manchester. There was a nice Polish girl called Asia who worked behind the counter... Every time she put ketchup on my sandwich, she would make a Love heart shape with it. After a few weeks I asked her out for a drink... We laughed a lot but it was hard to talk because her English wasn't the best at the time and I couldn't speak much Polish. Asia went back to Poland in the summer and invited me to go visit her and have a little holiday. I was always up for an adventure, so I thought I would go for it. I landed in Poznan and met up with Asia outside the airport... She was stood with two guys who had skin heads, dressed all in black. We got into a car and drove miles and miles into the countryside. Nobody spoke a word to me and I was starting to worry because I didn't know where I was going or who these guys really were... Asia suddenly seemed like a stranger... We turned off the main road into a forest and came to a little wooden house... Call me paranoid, but I was thinking I might be killed. More people started to arrive and Asia introduced me to everyone... It turned out to be one of the best holidays I've ever had... Everyone was so friendly, even though we couldn't understand each other. When we drove back to Poznan, we listened to the Portishead album Third. I'd seen Portishead perform some tracks live on Later... With Jools Holland a few weeks earlier and loved it... So I bought the album. Beth Gibbons has one of the most haunting voices I've ever heard. The Rip will always remind me of driving through Poland in 2008... What a band, what a tune, what a trip.
6. Spiritualized | Sway
I lived in Longsight, Manchester, for 3 years in a run down house. In fact it was falling down. I lived there with a few mates, most of them were in bands or could play an instrument. We had a recording studio set up in the damp cold cellar and I would spend most my time in there getting wasted and playing keyboards. There always seemed to be a band in the house, people asleep on the floor, beer cans all over the place... It was such a mess that house, but I had some great times there. I met two people around that time that had the biggest impact on my Music taste, a boy called Joe and a girl called Jo. I met girl Jo at a gig at Jabez Clegg in Manchester. I had a Walkman on me and played her some of my songs. We became good friends, I would go see her at a coffee shop called Misty's where she worked and she would cook me omelette and chips to try fatten me up... I was 6ft 2, but only 9 stone, and I think she thought I needed looking after. She would make these amazing tapes for me to listen to and turn up at my house at ridiculous times in the night whispering Phinxy, Phinxy, let me in! at my window... She got me into Super Furry Animals, The Velvet Underground, Nick Cave and a brilliant band called Maupa. Joe boy played me Spiritualized for the first time and they just blew my head off... It was late one night and he been to a dance club. I will never forget that night, I just couldn't believe I hadn't heard this band before. Jason Pierce is a genius and an inspiration... I can relate to the songs he writes. Go watch them live, they are the best live band out there.
7. Kurt Vile | Baby's Arms
I read somewhere that Kurt worked as a fork lift truck driver and that his work colleagues used to tease him and had no idea that he had already written about 8 albums and was just waiting to sign to a label. I imagine it was a difficult to get a hard hat on that big hair... I have seen him play lots of times. Once I went to Brighton, booked a hotel and went to watch his gig on my own. I met him and his sax/guitar player Jessie and gave them a copy of my album. Then I travelled to Belgium with my friend Matthew to another gig... We drank lots of gin on the plane and lots more gin when we arrived, I had my pocket picked that night and lost my phone. I nearly got into a fight and I was dancing in a shop on the way back to the hotel... I was so drunk. The next day Matt forced me to get up and go for breakfast, I had to watch him eat these tomato meatballs and chips... I kept running to the toilet to be sick, it was a dreadful day but the gig was brilliant. For the rest of the holiday we sat in a park listening to Kurt's new album Wakin On A Pretty Daze. I am a huge fan of his songwriting style, he uses lots of altered tunings and finger picking and his lyrics are great. Kurt used to be in a band called The War On Drugs who are also brilliant.
8. Josey Marina | Beyond The Black
I met Josey when we played a gig together at FAC 251 in Manchester. It's a great little venue, it is owned by the people connected to the old Haçienda club and the famous Factory Records label. After our soundcheck that night, we went over the road to a pub to meet our friends... We didn't plan on catching the first act, but we got back over to the venue just in time to see Josey play her Acoustic set. We all just stood there and said Wow!!... Josey is by far the most talented song writer I have ever met and I can't believe she is only 18 years old. She has supported us at nearly every gig that we have played since and we have become good friends... Her song A Frozen Heart On Fire on YouTube is absolutely heart breaking and beautiful. If you haven't already, you should buy her EP from Bandcamp, even if it's just to hear the lyrics to Beyond The Black. She is a star.
9. Justin Sullivan | Ghost Train
An album about the Ocean, the Stars, road trips and ghost trains. I love New Model Army, they are the band I have seen the most, but I prefer Justin's solo work. They sell out gigs all over the World and I don't know many other bands who have a following so passionate. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you get to see Justin play Acoustic gigs in pubs and tiny Music venues in tiny towns. Apart from NMA fans, obviously, I don't know anyone who has ever heard this album. It's up there with anything by anyone, ever. I went to watch Rae Morris in a church a while ago and before the gig they played Justin's album... I couldn't believe my ears... I ran to the sound man and asked him who had put the album on and he said it was the artist's iPod... So I know that Rae Morris is a fan. I urge everybody to listen to this album... It would be on my desert island.
10. Ludovico Einaudi | Waterways
This tune is difficult to listen to now because I broke up with the love of my life and it reminds me of her. She introduced me to Ludovico's Music. We went on holiday to Venice and bought a ticket to go watch him play, it was an open air concert. I felt a little out of place because everyone had smart clothes on and I had a Richard Ashcroft T-Shirt on. I bought a vodka cranberry juice for my girlfriend and it costs me 20 euros... She laughed. It was an incredible gig in the most beautiful setting. We sat high up at the back, under the trees, under the stars, watching the boats go by. I will never forget that gig and I will never forget that time... It was perfect and I was happier than I have ever been. Times change and people change, you can get your heart ripped out, but nobody can steal your memories. Music saved my life so many times and I know that I can relive all the best moments through these songs and the songs I write. Peace and Love.