Gig Islands talked to young and talented Andy Muscat about inspiration from London streets and British venues, the first festival he attended, influential music heroes, the best pubs and most romantic places of Portsmouth, and, of course, what to expect of a new EP.

What was the first venue you played? 

The first venue I played would probably be the Portsmouth Labour Club, which was supporting some friends of mine who at the time were called ‘Harley Walk’. I must have been about 13 at the time and played to a small audience, who cheered and seemed to like it, it was a great buzz! It was definitely special but not a personal favourite gig as I’ve played some amazing places and am very privileged to have been able to do so!

Where would you prefer to see your favorite band live? What would be that band (from any moment in history)? Are there any music heroes who influenced you much?

I would love to see The Rolling Stones, or to have seen John Lennon or Marvin Gaye. Also Etta James or to see Aretha Franklin would be great too! All of these have influenced me, also a big influence for me is Paul Weller, and I’d love to meet him, seen him live a few times and it’s always an amazing gig.

Many outstanding musicians had played at Portsmouth Guildhall and 100 Club where you have performed as well. Could you feel that you were playing at venues with rich music heritage? Is it important for you?

You could definitely feel it, but in different ways. The Guildhall is a massive venue, and at the time I played completely solo, so to be on such a massive stage with just me was strange but an experience I’ll never forget. As for the 100 Club, that was a special gig for me. It was a milestone, and a point in my career where things started to go well. It was the first ever gig with the backing band, we had loads of friends and family there and we got an amazing reaction. And to top it all off, as we walked offstage we found out that ‘Benefit’ had gone to number 1 in the UK Unsigned Chart. Then we all had a few Sambuca’s and a funny journey home! You could feel the heritage in there, and smell it too, it’s definitely an aged venue, but a great one!

What are your dream venue and dream festival to perform at?

Dream venue is a tough one, obviously it’s anyone’s dream to play at stadiums or the O2, but probably KOKO in London would be a great one, or Hammersmith Apollo. Festival would have to be Glastonbury or Isle of Wight, although there are some amazing international festivals and it would be a dream to play Benicassim in Spain!

What were the first gig and the first festival you visited? Any highlights from the recent gigs you have been to?

First gig I think was a Queen tribute band when I was fairly young, and first festival was Benicassim when I was 17. That was incredible, Oasis, Paul Weller, The Killers, Franz Ferdinand and 50 Degree heat on a beach, what more could you want from a festival! Recent gigs… Victorious Festival was great (which we also performed at), I don’t really get much time to go to gigs but would love to go to more. I’m looking forward to seeing Stereophonics next month as I’ve wanted to see them for a while, so that should be cool!

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Could you recommend more musicians from Portsmouth and surroundings to our readers?

Yeah sure, there’s a lot of great music around! I would definitely check out Kassassin StreetThe PlanesGeorge Wedlake and some slightly bigger bands The Milk and also The Moons!

Living in the UK do you feel it is full of music heritage? 

Erm yeah I suppose so, you don’t really notice too much, only when you visit certain places where they celebrate the heritage but it shows in the venues you play when you can say ‘I’ve played the same venue as …’.

Have any cities or places inspired any of your music or lyrics?

Yeah, London’s a great place, I lived there for a few months and that definitely gave me some inspiration as it’s such an exciting place to be! Also random places influence me, nightclubs etc!

Is there any special place in the UK where you’d like to shoot a video for one of your songs?

I’d love to do a video in central London, somewhere busy and full of tourists like Picadilly Circus, or Carnaby Street because of the heritage!

Imagine you are back home from a world tour (that’s going to happen soon, Gig Islands believe). What would be the first things to do in Portsmouth?

Haha thanks very much, hope so! First things would be Micks Monster Burger on top of the hill for chips. Then a night out on Albert Road, followed by a late-night curry!

What places would you recommend to visit in Portsmouth? Any insights that cannot be found in a city guide? Are there any pubs you would particularly recommend to our readers?

Places to visit…er… The Belle Isle is a really nice pub, with great food! Albert Road, which is just a massive pub crawl, Pop World (for some cheesy 90s dance classics!), the seafront in Southsea is really nice, there’s a small rubbish amusement park but it wouldn’t be the same without it! Gunwharf is good for shopping and there’s a few nice restaurants down there too!

Where should visitors to Portsmouth take a picture to have a proof they have been here?

Maybe Spinnaker Tower? It gives a nice view of Portsmouth (so I’ve heard… I’ve not actually been up it!).

Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth. Source: www.lusas.com

Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth. Source: http://www.lusas.com

What is the most romantic place in Portsmouth? Where would you recommend to take a girl for the first date?

I’d recommend… not Portsmouth. Ah I’m only joking, Wagamama is a great restaurant and in Gunwharf, or Koh Tai is meant to be good, The Garage is nice, kind of weird qwerky tea place!

Which upcoming gigs are you especially looking forward to perform?

Definitely Tonic 2 at the Pyramids! It’s a great line up (Terry Hall from The Specials, From The Jam, The Lambrettasetc) and it’s the only big venue in Portsmouth I’ve not yet played so it should be a good one! And it’s all for a great cause (a charity for mental health). [The event was held on October 12, 2013. — Editor]

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When should we expect an album?

Well, we’ve got another EP on the way in the next couple months, we’ve just got back from Essex recording the first half with Mitch Ayling (Drummer for The Milk), and then we’ll be recording the rest soon with James Birt of Clik Productions. It’s a lot different to the first EP, much more old school Soul, feel-good music to dance to! Can’t wait for everyone to hear it, and the first single ‘Do Yourself A Favour’ is on Youtube at the moment with a behind the scenes video of us recording it!

Any other plans or news you’d like to announce.

Not that I can think of at the moment, we should hopefully have some more gig announcements soon in Portsmouth and London so keep your eyes peeled on FacebookTwitter and at AndyMuscat.com for the EP details! Also we’ll be doing some more acoustic sessions over at YouTube.com/AndyMuscatUK very soon!

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