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Tweed Profiles - Toby Mottershead

Tweed Profiles

Toby Mottershead is the frontman of The Black Diamond Express, and goes solo under guise The Jack of Diamonds. He is known for his style—for some, seeing him in casual wear might make them think him ill! We popped by his wonderfully detailed abode and grilled him in a way only WS can.


1 - 'Desert island Discs' is a favourite of ours so we are going to use this question to find out what you would take with you to keep you spirits up. You know the drill - 8 pieces of music, one book and one luxury item - go!

  1. Arvo Part - Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten

  2. Robert Johnson - Come On in My Kitchen (take 1)

  3. Jimi Hendrix - Machine Gun

  4. Dr John Plays Mac Rebennack

  5. Billie Holliday - Good Morning Heartache

  6. J.S. Bach - Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor.

  7. Hoagy Carmichael - Stardust

  8. Sandy Denny - Who Knows Where The Time Goes (Nina Simone also does a fine version but the prize goes to the original recording - first cut when Sandy was just eighteen years old).

Book: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam.

Luxury item: my guitar!

2 - Talk us through an average day in the life of you.

Well, being a musician means my daily life is rather varied. I enjoy the variety of experience this life affords and I think I would quickly tire of a repetitive daily routine. The most important and enjoyable aspect of my day is playing the guitar. There are always new things to learn, work to be done on the various aspects of my playing, different styles to practice, it never ends. The boundary between work and play is rather blurred, to me they are one and the same. To answer the question, there isn't an average day, but there may be an ideal one. This would consist of coffee, cigarettes, reading and plenty of playing.

3 - You're now focusing more on your solo career - how does it changes the way you make music?

Playing solo is very different to playing with a band because you have to be completely self sufficient. You may lose some depth in terms of the layers in the arrangements but you also gain a kind of freedom to constantly tweak the pieces. The band has always tapped into the mythology of the blues, the power of the old gospel preachers and the sounds of the rail road. To summon this requires a certain attitude, a primal energy, I lose myself in it completely and go somewhere else. You really have to get your mojo working to front an eight piece.

When I appear by myself there is nothing to hide behind. It is a more intimate experience so I have to channel my energy inwardly. Over time playing solo has taught me just to be myself when I perform, it's the one thing only I can do.

4 - If you hadn't followed your passion as a musician, what do you think you’d be doing today?

My fist ambition as a boy was to be an illustrator. As a teenager I was fascinated by Bruce Lee films and then decided I would become a stuntman (much to the chagrin of my high school 'careers advisor'). At school my Physics teacher, Mr Flemming, once speculated that I'd end up as some sort of "manic street preacher" (meant in the literal sense). He wasn't far off the mark there.

5 - We're guessing that the life of a musician must be full of weird and wonderful happenings. Could you share with us a memorable tale?

A few years back I went to play a show in Paris with Tom McCLelland (the harmonica player from The B.D.E.) after the gig I found Tom at a cafe up the street, he'd met an antiquarian book seller there and was drinking wine and sharing a cigar with him. Upon leaving a rain storm came over so we ducked into an old junk shop for shelter. Inside was a mad jumble of strange objects, books upon books upon stones, jewels, trinkets, taxidermy, from which sprang this curious Indian man and he beckoned us to come in out of the deluge. He was old as time but started quickly moving furniture around to accommodate us. He showed us his collection of gemstones and talked at length to Tom about Geology, then he produced some unusual brass instruments and we talked about music. He told me that in his culture the act of making music is akin to "a conversation with God". He was rather an amazing man.

toby with amazing antique seller Wonderful photo of Toby with this mystic antique seller—even wearing WS 's tan Prince of Wales check William suit!

Later we found a local bar and drank Pernod with the regulars. I ended up giving marriage advice (in French) to a very drunk patron planning to divorce his wife. I don't even speak French. C'est la vie.

6 - If you could only play one instrument for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?

The guitar. I spent my youth dreaming about playing the instrument but only really took it up at the age if seventeen. With the guitar you get back what you put in, it will always reward the time you invest.

As Jimi once sang "my baby don't love me no more...but that's alright - I still got my guitar".

7 - Your music and personal style make for a very strong image. We're wondering how does one affect the other and did one of them come before, or did it all come naturally?

For me the two things have evolved simultaneously. It started with red socks and went from can never have too many socks.

I always thought my granddad had style, he was a character and a good old fashioned gent. I took early inspiration from how he presented himself, both in dress and manner.

I think the way you dress affects how you behave to a certain degree. If i wear a suit I tend to up my game, walk straight, and generally get more done. The early delta players like Blind Willie Johnson, Willie McTell, Son House, they all wore suits to present an image of themselves as men of the world. When Robert Johnson got his first pay check (in 1936) he went straight out and bought a flashy double breasted pin-stripe suit, fedora hat, and a Gibson guitar. He came from a poor rural background in Hazelhurst Mississippi so naturally he wanted to show the folks back home he was doing alright.

8 - If you could give one bit of advice to your younger self, which would it be?

Be yourself. And stop clowning about. I'm still giving myself the same advice today.


9 - Could you share with us what, in your opinion, is Edinburgh's best kept secret?

I don't know that it's much of a secret but I love to visit Greyfriar's graveyard when I am in that part of town, I have spent a good deal of time there over the years. During spring and summer the Kirk stays open all night so you can go in there and play, commune with the spirits, or just get some peace.

10 - What is your favourite Scottish word and why?

Huam - the moan of an owl in the warm days of summer.

Why? I find it amazing there exists a word for that particular sound at that particular time. I have been waiting for a chance to use it...I am still waiting.

Toby wears an Archie shirt, navy silk knit tie with a much loved two piece we sadly no longer sell in store!

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