Douglas MacGregor is a London-based musician, composer, writer and teacher whose music appears in the gaps between classical, folk and experimental music. Douglas MacGregor has released 2 full-length solo albums as well as two EPs. He has also appeared on numerous other studio albums and frequently collaborated with poets, dancers and artists. He has written music for films, including the Dartmoor Interlude which won Best Foreign Experimental Film at Mikro FAF 2017.
MacGregor’s music often deals with place, space, memory, acoustics and, latterly, grief. In 2017, he studied a Masters in Ethnomusicology where he focussed his research on the cross-cultural role of music in grieving rituals around the world. This, combined with his own experiences of grief, inspired his new work and led him to found the project Songs of Loss and Healing which aims to provide a resource for those wishing to explore the connection between music, loss and grief.
I might have been an engineer in another life, but music always drew me like a moth to the flame.
Some artists may have an idea or a concept first and then find a way to express it. I’ve always had a welling up, a desperate desire to express something that I could never quite put my finger on. Music has been a way to work through that. I feel mostly in the passenger seat when I compose, observing where the music takes me. Often, I feel that - rather like the Indian composers who believe that Ragas pre-exist their composition - I am only fitting together the pieces of a ready-made puzzle.
As for influences, I’ve been a life-long genre hopper: Schnittke, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Nirvana, Bembeya Jazz National, Beethoven, Mark Ribot, David Bowie, Shostakovich, John Zorn, Puccini, Captain Beefheart, Indian Carnatic music, Davy Graham, Eduardo Falu, Roy Orbson, Elvis Presley and a whole host of traditional forms of music.
I actually started off playing drums, joining my first band at twelve years old and playing in bands until my mid-twenties. However, my own music progressed evermore towards solo expression on the guitar and use of natural acoustics. Indeed, the guitar only really clicked for me when I discovered the delta blues of Robert Johnson, Skip James and Son House aged eighteen. The pain turned into beauty jumped out the speakers at me and set my musical course for the next fourteen years. And fourteen years later something happened to me.
In the past, I never wanted to draw attention to it, but the more I pushed it away the more evident it became how central it was to my being and what music meant for me: my mum died when I was seven years old and my childhood was ripped apart. But I never grieved and for all that time, I was rudderless except for music. Music was my crutch and guide, and following music allowed me to express artistically all that I couldn’t otherwise feel.
Quarter of a century after my mum died, I finally grieved properly and all the buried hurt and joy came flooding out. I consciously explored this process to its depths with music writing the seven pieces of music that form the album Songs of Loss and Healing. I decided to record each of them in a separate location and produce a text for each exploring music’s role in grieving. In some ways, this collection is the culmination of a twenty-five year journey.