For someone once signed to a major label as a bona fide pop star, Sushil Dade’s current musical activities seem somewhat unconventional.
Following The Soup Dragons’ 90s chart success with ‘I’m Free’ and ‘Mother Universe’, Dade has been trading under the Future Pilot AKA moniker for some time now. Indeed, he has been working on new album ‘Orkestra Digitalis’ for nine years.
“I never really understood why you HAVE to record another album, there has to be a reason,” he muses. “I had no time pressures as it was for me, a hobby if you like, another side of my life.”
The post-Top of The Pops life, as well as qualifying as a driving instructor, includes his current day job a producer at the BBC. “I’m exposed to different music and love all music. One minute it’s Rachaminov and the next the Associates, but that’s all cool.”
That love of music stems from his childhood. “There’s something quite magical about sound coming out with a wee box with a battery, how does that happen?
Like so many, his childhood interest in music was informed by nights spent listening to crackly radio under the covers. ”I’ve been going to bed with the radio as well since I was a kid so that was like a pillow for me.” And his uncle’s cassette player. “I got free rein to play his tapes, I guess hearing ‘Strawberry Fields’ when you’re seven is pretty trippy, you know?”
Future Pilot’s catalogue contains four long players, the most recent from a decade ago, including two releases for Geographic – the Glasgow indie helmed by Stephen Pastel and itself an offshoot of the Domino label which included Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys on its roster. And like its predecessors, Dade’s newest release has been pieced together as a massive grab bag of influences from his much-loved childhood pop, his rock past, and his Indo-Caledonian heritage.
With work and family life demanding his attention, Christmas holidays – a time when studios and free time are available – became rare bursts of activity.
He mentions the Long Now Foundation, a sort of art project which has constructed an unusual clock. “Each second signifies a decade, or a minute could signify a century… anyway, I decided to wait a year, maybe two, as there was no rush.”
This ‘relaxed’ approach meant that if one of his guest performers was unavailable, Dade would simply wait until they were.“I played a wee fantasy game – who would I like to have involved in this piece… oh actually, Emma Pollock, Ron Sexsmith, RM Hubbert…”
Or another hitmaker who has retreated to the underground, Robert Wyatt. “We’d been exchanging postcards over several years,” Dade reveals, “When I first asked, he wasn’t available. I think another few years passed and I wrote again and after that a cassette appeared in my letterbox and it was just his vocals.” ‘Tutti Shutti’, the first single from the album, is as out there as anything else, the ‘Shipbuilding’ hitmaker aping a trumpet for the main melody.
As well as his new extended family of vocalists, his own relations are an integral part of ‘Orkestra Digitalis’. Wife Vinita reprises her role as vocalist as she has on past Pilot releases, son Anurudh who has his own band is on percussion and daughter Radhika, sings on a song she co-wrote when she was five.
Eventually the album was released, but in an unconventional way.
“I was a bit fed up with the industry and the way records are distributed and consumed, so I thought I’ll give away one track every month, and do a wee sonic treasure hunt, so I went to Millport one day, and hid it under a rock.”
This unusual approach to music distribution continued, with CDs being placed in trees and ditches and, eventually, a series of clues led to the final completed release being discovered in a picnic hamper near Faslane – “possibly quite foolish” he laughs.
And that might have been that, until friends on the record persuaded him that the album was worthy of a proper release – in lovely, if somewhat conventional white vinyl.
“It does feel quite traditional now, records are even outselling CDs,” says Dade. “Given you can listen to everything essentially for free, on Spotify or Youtube, I guess the industry’s come full circle.”
Sadly for anyone just getting into the delights of Future Pilot, bad news. This will be the ‘band’s final release. “Future Pilot’s been together longer than the Beatles, so it’s probably a good time to give up,” Dade laughs.
However, his love of music means he is far from retiring completely.
“There’s so much stuff in my archives that needs to come out – Robert Foster, Alisdair Gray – so I feel I should draw a line under this and that’ll prompt me to clear up some stuff that’s knocking about.”
I suggest that given the time he is taking to release music, a brand new set of recordings could be a while in the making anyway. The artist to be formerly known as Future Pilot agrees. “It could be 15 years and I could be in my mid 60s or 70s!”
So, there will be more to come, just not under this name, Dade confirms.
“You could argue I’ve split with myself!”
‘Orkestra Digitalis’ is out now on Glass Modern. More at glassmodern.bandcamp.com