It's the morning after Howlin' Fling, a festival that Johnny Lynch, aka Pictish Trail, orchestrates from his home on the Inner Hebridean island of Eigg. The aftermath is all around us and Johnny's had about three hours sleep. Not that you'd ever guess that. He seems full of energy, humour, and genuine, almost tangible excitement for everything he's involved in: his label Lost Map, his festival, his own music...

More than three years on from the release of his last album, Secret Sounds Vol.2, the Hebridean "sonic hermit" is back with a new LP that could confidently be described as death pop. Recorded in London and written entirely in the idyllic seclusion of Eigg, its themes are dark and at times disturbing but their musical treatment is far from downbeat. In fact, even with all of its deviations into psych, hip-hop and dreamy skewed folk, this is by far the most bonzo pop record Johnny has ever done. Death might something of a constant presence but that's no reason to be too serious about life.

With the Howlin' Fling clean up operation gathering pace around us, we chat about the origins of Future Echoes, why he changed his name, and the trials of running a record label from a remote Scottish island.

Suicide, ghosts, death, sleep paralysis, car crash, loss of friendship... your new album, Future Echoes sounds like fun. Existential party bangers all around, right?

I think that's why I had to make it a pop record: just to balance it out, otherwise it would be too miserable. I think there is a lot of hope in the record and it's also about coming to terms with all those things. But it is predominantly a record about death (starts laughing) in its many forms.

You wrote the album on Eigg and recorded it in London. The two places are almost polar opposites of each other. Do you think having that distance, psychological as well as physical, made an impact on the way that it sounds?>/p>

Totally. The previous record, Secret Soundz Vol.2, was all recorded on Eigg. The difference is we were in a cottage recording in six days, doing everything in a moment. With this record, because I was travelling to and from London, I spent more time thinking how I wanted things to sound and also how I wanted things to change. I've never really had that opportunity with records before: you record something outside, you've captured the moment and that's it. Whereas with this, when I recorded something I was able to come back home, think about it, change the writing, change the lyrics and change the arrangements. Then I would go back and go, "OK, I like this part but I want to change this."

Do you see Future Echoes as a sequel to Secret Soundz Vol.2? What relationship does it bear to your previous work?

This record is still me but it also feels like a new start. I've even changed my name. I've taken the "The' out of it, so now it's just Pictish Trail. I wanted to make a new definite start of things 'cos I was approaching these songs in a different way. My songwriting process had previously been much more cumulative. I would write and record lots of stuff on the hoof and then it would just come together; but with this, I had time to think about it as a full record. It is probably the first album I've recorded as an album. Other ones are like collections of recordings that I made to fit as albums. Also, a lot has happened since 2012 when Secret Soundz Vol.2 was recorded. Everything since that point has fed into the record and even stuff that I hadn't dealt with beforehand has fed into this record. Sometimes it takes a wee while to process things. So there's stuff like car crash I was in. That took a little while for me to process. The previous record was coming to terms with my mother's death and this record is more coming to terms with my own mortality.

Life/death opposition does seem to be quite prominent on this record. Was there any specific event that got you thinking about this?

(Laughing) I've just had a son. When you have a child you question your mortality. We lost a child before and that certainly had a big effect on this record. And I went through the biggest break up of a working relationship that ever happened in my life. My life was in complete upheaval and I'm glad I took the time to make this record. I think if I'd recorded some of the songs at the time I started writing them, it would have been a much angrier record.

But it sounds pop, which highlights the seriousness of your subject matter.

I'm a huge pop fan. And I think that dichotomy between heavy subject matter and uplifting pop melody has always been an interesting thing. I think it's just a way of dealing with it, isn't it? It's cathartic and this record has been really cathartic for me to play and perform. When playing these songs in front of an audience, people respond jumping up and down to songs that I've written about quite heavy things that happened in my life. It's brilliant! It's exactly what it's there for!

Tell us about how you moved from your DIY sound to a more polished pop sound.

I surrendered more control on this record. Previously, it's been the case of playing myself 'cos there wasn't anyone else. I've never recorded any records as a band, so it would just be me playing. I've never learnt an instrument. I've always kind of picked up something and then just worked out whatever fits the song. With this, I had Adem Ilham, Rob Jones (Sweet Baboo, Slow Club) and a drummer Alex Thomas (Air, Bat for Lashes, Squarepusher). They are much better players than I am (laughing).

Is there going to be a full band when you hit the road in the autumn?

Definitely. I don't think I could do it solo. Obviously, there will be instances where I'll get booked and there will be acoustic, stripped back versions. I just did a tour with Malcolm Middleton. Myself and Suse (Bear) from Tuff Love played as a two-piece. That was as stripped back as we could get it. For me, it was a band-sounding record and that was the point.

Does your band have a name?

That's why I changed the name to Pictish Trail. Now it sounds more like a band as opposed to just one person.

On this album you've also rekindled your relationship with Adem Ilham. Does it mean that we might get some new Silver Columns material?

Very possibly. We're chatting about it. We've put some dates in the calendar to work on new things. I suppose this record has a lot of links with Silver Columns 'cos the way it was recorded was done in a similar style to the way the Silver Columns album was done. I would go down and spend some time with Adem; we would record some stuff, and then we'd have three or four months apart before recording again.

The opening track, 'Far Gone (Don't Leave)', is a dedication to Fargo. Am I right in thinking that the title of the album, Future Echoes, is a reference to Red Dwarf?

OH, WELL DONE! (Laughing) I love that show. I thought it was hilarious but Red Dwarf has become a bit embarrassing to enjoy. It's had lots of repeats and people think it's cheesy and dated, but I think some of the ideas they had were really fun. They were poking fun at a lot of science fiction stuff at the time.

Yes, the idea that fragments of the future can filter through into the present definitely sounds like a science fiction plot device.

I was thinking a lot about it. The title, Future Echoes came together in a song called 'Afterlife', which was about the future and how life repeats itself. Not only life repeating itself whilst you're living it but also how your life is continued on by your children. So that was me thinking about my son, how my life might be repeated through theirs and how maybe I'm forecasting their life through my own life. That sort of stuff. The reason I went for it is 'cos it's about my children. It's also about questioning my mortality and my children's mortality, and realising that life is kind of a linear thing.

I guess your life is now very firmly bound with Eigg. What's life on Eigg like? Do you miss it when you go away on tour?

Massively. My life here is so separate from my touring life. I've got two very different lives. My life on the road - which I love - is about seeing people, socialising and performing. My life on Eigg is predominantly about being with family and having time to myself. I'm a bit of a loner (Burst out laughing).

Are you the only Lost Mapper on Eigg?


How does running a label from such a remote place work practically?

It's hard but it keeps me more focused. Since living here I've become a lot more driven. I know if I need to get shit done I have to organise it, which has actually made me a lot more communicative.

I'm guessing your internet connection is reliable here.

It's amazing. When I was living in Fyfe it was really slow but here upload speeds are incredibly fast. I can upload an album quicker than I could anywhere else.

Are you the only person dealing with day-to-day running of the label?

In terms of the acts, I'd say "yes" but Kate (Lazda, from Kid Canaveral) helps with putting together plans, admin and webshop stuff. We've been pals since about 2001. She's my best friend and she makes suggestions as to what I should listen to. My friend Malcolm helps us with writing biographies and press releases, working out strategies of how to present our bands to people. I trust my friends. Anything that comes through I'm really into, I send to both of them to get their feedback.

What about essentials like rehearsal space?

I have to travel to Glasgow now. My previous band, Massacre Cave, had band members from Eigg. Each of the players have since moved on. The thing about living on Eigg is that if you're a young person you can't rely on people staying. There's life beyond Eigg. For me, it's been difficult. I can't do rehearsals here with my band, so I have to travel down to Glasgow which takes a full day to get to. It's a real effort but it pushes me to be more thoughtful, to make them count. I've been saved by Suse from Tuff Love. In the same way that I took a back step on performing everything on the record, it was important for me not to be dictatorial. I didn't want to be the person who was kind of responsible for every single part of it. I got Suse on board 'cos she was really keen to experiment with it and for her it was a real fun challenge.

Is she the only Lost Mapper involved in your band?

Her girlfriend Kim is in the band. Iain (Stewart), the drummer from Tuff Love, is in the band. Suse has definitely been instrumental in how the life band has come together.

Lost Map has had a really good 12 months with Tuff Love, Victoria Hume, Rozi Plain all getting a lot of press/media attention.

It's been exciting to see it. In the years when I'm recording and writing I put a lot of effort back into the label, so it kind of works back-and-forth. The label will probably go into decline now I've got my own record. (laughing).

What do you think is a common, core aesthetic of Lost Map?

My main thing is collecting voices. I really like the spectrum of voices that we have on the label. Each person has a different voice. There's nothing that really falls in with any current trends. I'm sure every label feels that way about all their acts, but with everything I put out I make a real effort to get to know the person. It's a huge part of why we work with who we work with.

And lastly, do you have a song on the album that has a special meaning for you, something you listen to frequently?

'Rhombus' is probably my favourite track on the record. 'Rhombus' was going to be the name of my son who passed. It's the last one that I wrote and recorded. I didn't have a fully realised idea of it until I was recording it. One of only few songs on the record where the writing was happening whilst we were recording it.

Future Echoes is out on Lost Map on 9th September 2016. Pre-order you copy here.