Friday last saw Non Canon – the solo project of Oxygen Thief’s Barry Dolan – release his highly anticipated and fantastic sequel album. Simply titled Non Canon II, the release witnessed Dolan document our increasingly turbulent culture with folk wit and rich, luscious instrumentalism. Whilst the record is a solo affair in name, Non Canon II is actually the product of collaboration and friendship, a release that saw a manner of musicians peppering the record with their talents. With that in mind, we got in touch with Barry Dolan to find out who’s who on Non Canon album number two.
“Like my debut album, Non Canon II features guest appearances from a number of musical friends who succeeded admirably in turning the ideas I had in my head, and on my lo-fi Garageband demos, into real life actual music. Let me introduce you to the band."
"Gareth Amwel Jones played in a band called My First Tooth who I got to know over the years, and who even ended up playing at our wedding. Gareth and I have pretty similar tastes in music, especially when it comes to 90s indie rock, so I knew that he'd be perfect for Non Canon recordings as I could say things like "can you do something a bit like the pre-chorus in High And Dry here" and he'd know exactly what I meant. He nailed his parts on the first album, even though he had flu, so I wanted him back for the follow up. We spent an evening rehearsing, tracked drums and a few guitar parts at Bink Bonk Studio in Bristol, which is a wonderful space to record. After we went for Mexican food and drank beers. Lovely. Gareth can also be heard drumming for Lucky Shivers and Big Loss."
"Jon Clayton, who also recorded my first album, tracked this at his OneCat Studio in Brixton. I met him when supporting Chris T-T & The Hoodrats, who he played keys for. We didn't get a chance to hang out this time around as all the parts were being tracked over the space of about a week after I demoed them. We had a beer a little while later when he was in Bristol to play drums with Hurtling."
Violin & Viola
"Violin and viola were played by Hannah Johns, of The Leylines. I can't remember where I first met Hannah, but we've crossed paths many times. She didn't play on the first Non Canon album, but she was strong-armed into the fold when I put a band together to play a few full-band live shows to close the book on the first record. We recorded her parts in the spare room at my house, you can see part of my Doc Marten collection in the background."
"I met Ryan Brooks, more usually found smashing the hell out of some drums in both Super Goliath and Left Side Brain, on the dancefloor at a rock club in Bristol called The Bierkellar (RIP) about 20 years ago. We were two of only three people headbanging like crazy to The Wildhearts - 'Suckerpunch', so I gave him a flyer for a gig my band at the time were doing. He gave me a cassette (!) of his band's demo. I loved the cassette, he came to our gig, and have been big pals ever since. Ry came over the same day as Hannah recorded the string parts. We borrowed an electric piano from our next-door neighbour and rigged it into my wife's laptop, which meant I could chat to him while he played. Afterwards we had a few beers and played Untitled Goose Game."
"Drum programming on the song 'MMXIX' was done by Alex Ball, who I've known since I was about 16 when we played in our first band together (the one that I invited Ryan to come and see, actually). He has since become a composer, songwriter, and popular YouTuber in the world of analog synth fandom. He played bass and string parts on the first Non Canon record, so I still wanted him involved in some way this time around."
"Guitar on 'The Cavalier Years' was played by Chris Bewick. Friend, neighbour, baker, brewer, luthier, there's nothing this guy can't do... including playing a guitar part that I wrote, but was absolutely incapable of playing consistently when tracking for some reason. He saved me from losing my mind, so thanks Chris...Thris."
"Pete Fraser lives in Sweden, is a composer, vocalist with Down I Go and guest saxophonist to the likes of Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Jamie Lenman, Enter Shikari and, most thrillingly, Chris Kamara, We gradually got to know each other over Twitter, but I can't quite remember how we first crossed (internet) paths...probably by having loads of music pals in common. I knew very early on that I wanted a horn section on the record as an excuse to work with Pete - I sent him the parts I wrote and said that he was free to "go nuts" with a solo if he would be up for that too. The part he sent back a part for 'The Sayings of the Seers' is my favourite thing on the whole record - it absolutely shreds. He also supplied some backing vocals for a couple of songs too."
Trombone & Trumpet
"Trombone and trumpet were played by Ben Whyntie, the now former drummer in my louder band Oxygen Thief, and recorded at Old Blacksmiths Studios. Ben's brass-playing expertise were another reason I wanted to have a horn section on the album, to play off against the saxophone. Also having spent many a night on the road together playing Oxygen Thief shows, it was fun to have him involved in my other project too."
Double Bass & Electric Bass
"Which brings me onto Neil Elliott who played double and electric basses, and who is also a recently ex-member of Oxygen Thief. He also mixed the album at Old Blacksmiths Studios and carried out some additional production work in the process. Neil had the unenviable task of taking all these parts, completed by people in different studios, in different countries, and stitching them together into a coherent whole. I think he has done an incredible job to be honest - Neil has a great ear for what a song needs, and taught me a lot during his time with Oxygen Thief. Oh yeah and he wrote the bass part for 'And Another Thing...' because I forgot to provide one, which turned out to be one of my other favourite parts on the album."
"Last, and by no means least, come a suite of guest backing vocalists. There's far too many to list here, but I wanted to doff my cap to Olivia Awbrey from Portland, OR, USA, who also has an album coming out during lockdown, Owain Paciuszko, who directed and edited the video for The Sayings of the Seers, and to Monty...my furry child who contributes the final piece of audio on the album (not piano btw, this photo was just super cute)."
Non Canon II is out now via Xtra Mile Records. Purchase the album here.