Thursday, 26 July 2007

Underage Bands Piece

Here is a piece I did on the underage bands phenomenon for the US edition of Vice Magazine.

Holy shit, it’s the future of rock and roll! And the future of rock and roll hasn’t started having its period yet. There is definitely something great about looking at little kids playing in bands. Like how a bass guitar is sort of bigger than most of their tiny little bodies and that they have to put cushions on their drum stool to reach the crash cymbal. Haha. It’s like watching the cute show on VBS come to life and play show tunes in human form. And what’s more being kids they are way ahead of all of you lazy, tired, self obsessed, beer-gut bores who sit in pubs talking about how great that Seven Ages Of Rock show was on Saturday night that you watched while you were having a quiet ‘cokey one’ in. You all deserve to die. Here is your replacement.

These bright eyed bunnies are utilising online social networking, peer to peer downloads and all-ages shows across the UK to play live, get their music available for free, meet kids just like themselves and laugh and jump up and down and fun stuff like that. They have a created a nationwide DIY network that in a weird way is closer in spirit to the early 80’s hardcore underground than pretty much anything since. Instead of letters, zines and 7’s these kids are using Livejournal, Myspace and BitTorrent. Its sort of like a Black Flag Van tour set in Tron. All of this is totally terrifying for the music industry. You’ve got to remember that these guys are basically like the Tory party: fat, white, middle-class and totally out of touch. Except that they kid themselves into thinking that they know what is happening because PR’s email them all day and hey! If your inbox is full of new bands and you go down the Buffalo Bar once every three months you totally know what’s up right?

When the underage thing began to take off these dinosaurs shat a kidney. The usual channels had been subverted and suddenly there were hundreds of kids hanging out at Way Out West and Underage in Elephant. Clueless as to how to convert a bunch of kids who just drink coke and ran around all day then sing about it into label success the underage nights became a&r gangfucks with pretty creepy overtones. It was like band sex-tourism with acts getting signed just because they didn’t have pubes regardless of what they played. Leo Silverman who runs Brille records told us it was a pretty heavy scene down there: “I felt like a single spermatozoa swimming around with basking sharks all gulping at straws”. Wow. We talked to four bands that have come out of the whole thing with deals and their integrity intact as well as young Sam Kilcoyne who is sort of like Albert Grossman of the whole thing.


Sam Kilcoyne

Talking to Sam Kilcoyne is kind of scary. He has a voice like a thousand yard stare. What were you doing when you were 14? Listening to Skee-Lo and trying not to get caught beating off that’s what. Sam listens to Suicide and puts on Underage in Elephant & Castle, the night that set the standard for under-18’s nights in London. He has booked a whole festival this August in Hackney that will be like a big celebration of the fact that Underage is the best party in town. But none of you can come because you are all too old.

Vice: What was the original idea behind Underage?

Sam: The only place where you could go and see good bands if you were under 18 was Way Out West and living in South-East London we couldn’t even afford the train fare. Instead of going to the Ivy House, which was the only shitty venue in Peckham, we just put our own night on. I literally just wanted to see the Horrors and that was it. I had no intention of it being a regular thing. We did it and a lot of kids thought it was the best thing that they had ever been to and a massive percentage of them thought that it was the shittest thing that they had ever seen.

What is your booking policy at the club?

I don’t know. Whatever I’m into at that moment in time. All I want is The Liars and Suicide to play my night and I’ll be happy. Out of the acts we’ve had Black Lips were amazing, Second Sex were shit hot and Tiny Masters are unreal. If a band is 15 and they have a great look and everyone loves them I still I won’t book them if I think they’re shit. Fuck ‘em.

And what is your policy with regards to over 18’s trying to get into the night?

Fuck off home. Go somewhere else. What are you doing here?

How about the a&r’s that look desperately at what gets booked at Underage as a litmus test for what they should be signing?

It’s a fucking joke; every band has got a manger now for a start. If a band wants to play let them play. It’s pathetic. Everyone has a preference to Virgin or whatever and we constantly get hassle from the majors. Calls from Polydor saying can we get all these names on the list. When Patrick Wolf played I almost lost it. There were about 100 people on the list and that is for a guy who already has a major label deal.

How about the other nights that have a ripped you off?
I might not like the nights themselves but I love that people are doing it. It’s gone from no choice to as much choice as possible. I think there should just be more and we should all keep pushing it.

How important has online technology and social networking sites been to making Underage possible?

I am a lazy fucker so I don’t flier. I put it up on Myspace and who comes comes. So yeah, without that no night. I probably should be out there force-feeding my flier to every teenager there is but I really can’t be bothered.

What happens when you are 18?

Once I’ve done the festival in August I might do a couple more then I’m either putting a line under it or passing it on to someone younger. I think it’s a good idea and should be carried on. I’m no rush to put on an adult night, there are so many in London that to make it work you better make it pretty fucking extraordinary. So I’m taking it to Paris.

The Underage Festival takes place in Victoria Park in Hackney on the 10th of August

Pull In Energency

Pull In Emergency are all 14 apart from Frankie who plays the guitar and is actually so old that he is having to do GCSE’s. Half of them were in a band before that only wrote songs about loosing your socks. Or the band name had something to do with socks. They don’t remember. The first song they wrote is about being stuck on one of those long busses that snake around central London all joined up with accordions. It’s called Bendy.

VICE: Hi Alice, your manager told us you were at Sports Day.

Alice (guitar): Our Manager?

A guy called Alex?

Oh Alex, yes. Haha, he is only 19. He plays in that band The More Assured. He looks after us though.

It is very quiet. Are you sure that you are at Sports Day?

Erm. No actually. I pretended I was sick. I hate Sports Day. Please don’t print that though.

You sound pretty posh.

We all go to Public School. We all work fairly hard. The band fits in around school I guess. We all knew each other from school apart from Frankie, we met him after our first gig.

Where was that?

At Nambucca in Holloway. We were all 13 and the show started really early. There must have been 50 11 year olds crammed in there before the bouncers even turned up. I don’t think they knew what to do with us.

How do your parents react to you playing in places where people are drinking and smoking and stuff?

They are supportive but they don’t really know what goes on. If I let them come to more shows maybe they would.

How does playing somewhere like Nambucca compare to playing an underage show?

For a lot of the kids that go to the underage shows that is their whole scene. It is something they feel a part of and they just go to those nights. That is great but all ages shows are really fun as well. It is more of a mix of people. We played All Ages at Dingwalls that was really good. If you have a fake passport and look old enough you can get out there and do other stuff. I Dj in a collective called the Straight Necklin Crew and we play all over town.

What sort of stuff do you play out?

21 Seconds by the So Solid Crew always seems to go down well.

Emergency Pull In have a single forthcoming on Mute Irregulars.


Tiny Masters Of Today

Tiny Masters Of Today really are tiny. When they started out they were only 10 and 12 years old making other kiddie bands in the US like Smoosh look like the Grateful Dead. Twelve months later and as well as being a year older they have a gained a drummer. His name is Russell Simins and he used to play in some band called the Jon Spenser Exploding Blues or something and they have a recorded an album with a hand from Karen O, Nick Zinner, Kimya Dawson and even Gibby Haynes from The Butthole Surfers. We caught up with the Tiny Masters on the first day of Summer Vacation.

Vice: So, Summer vacation. You guys excited?

Ivan (guitar): Nope. It’s too hot to do anything.
Ada (bass): I just slept over at my friends house and I am going to camp for two weeks. It will be fun, real outdoorsy.

Over in the UK there are a lot of underage and all-ages shows. Do you guys play those kind of shows in the US?

Ivan: Sometimes. We played an all ages show at a place called Pete’s Candy Store. That was fun. We also play a lot of adult venues though with a bunch of adults as well as kids.
Ada: At the shows that aren’t all-ages there are lots of adults. It was really weird at first you know that adults would want to come and see us but I am used to it now.

Do the old people ever go crazy?

Ivan: I guess sometimes. They dance a bit or whatever. Once a drum tom fell off the drum kit and this guy picked it up and started dancing all over the place with it like he was crazy. And another time some guy threw a bottle at us. I don’t think he was mad, I think he was just maybe drunk or something. My dad went crazy at him though.

How did you find the kids in the UK compared to the US?

Ada: Everybody was nice. No one was mean to us and the shows went well.
Ivan: The UK kids are much cooler.

Cooler?

Ivan: Yeah, they just kind of dress cooler.

Did any girls come on to you because you were in the band?

Ivan: No!

Never?

Ivan: Maybe once.

What was she like?

Ivan: She was very pretty.

OK. How was it making a track with Karen?

Ivan: Very easy. We just made the track and she sang the vocals.
Ada: The studio was awesome, I had a big stack of Harry Potter books to read.

Do you guys want to play in bands forever?

Ivan: Maybe. I guess so.
Ada: I think I would like to be a writer or an Egyptologist. Maybe a rock star part-time.

Tiny Masters Of Today have an forthcoming album on Mute Irregulars released August 6th.

Poppy and The Jezebels

Poppy and the Jezebels are from Birmingham. Despite being outside of the London network these 15 year olds have not let that stop them playing shows for well over a year now. Maybe it’s because they are removed from the capital but their music does not share the frenzied pace of London’s under-age bands. They sound closer to the Velvet Underground but being played by 4 Nico’s instead of just one.

Vice: How’s Birmingham?

Dom: It’s good. We had an inset day today so we’ve been out charity shopping.

None of the kids we have spoken to have actually been at school when I’ve called. I’m pretty disappointed. Do you actually go to school?

Dom: Yes. I don’t enjoy it much but I like art. Music lessons are shit, they never encourage you to do what you want to do. They just make you sing a stupid song and all the instruments are really old.

How is it being an all girl under-age band?

Dom: We did actually have a boy in the band before. He played drums before we met Mollie. He was very unreliable though.
Amber: We played a show once and we were standing by the stage getting ready to go on and some boy was all like “check out the groupies”. You just ignore that.

How does the Birmingham under-age scene compare to London?

Poppy: It’s different. There are very few under-age specific nights but a lot of all-ages nights that are good mix of really young kids and older people. We’ve played all ages in shitty pubs and skate parks. All over really.
Mollie: In London it is a real scene and the young kids go really crazy but if you are not a band they know or friends with them a straight under-age crowd can be quite judgemental. At an adult gig they have usually come for just the music, there is no scene or trying to impress people.
Dom: We’ve played with The Nightingales a few time in Birmingham. We even played the Wulfrun Hall with them. That was good.

You are signed to a subsidiary of Reveal did you notice a lot of industry attention at your shows?

Amber: It’s really weird. Through Myspace you get contacted all the time by all these a&r guys who want to be on the list but because you don’t know who they are or what they look like you never know if they are there. You can usually spot them though, older people standing at the back staring that aren’t parents. It’s pretty creepy.

Faceless a&r guys. Weird. Sounds like that Mr Smith guy in the Matrix.

Poppy: A bit like that yes. We are just lucky, my Dad looks after us and we are signed to a really cool label.

Poppy and The Jezebels have an EP forthcoming on Reveal Records.

Smoking Wheelie Bins

Here is a piece about kids in Barnsley getting high from smoking wheelie bins. My friend Jack Adams wrote the original and I edited it. It was published in Vice Magazine.

Designer Drugs Are Out
Wheelie Bins Are Where It’s At

You can stick your coke, pills and ketamine enemas and no one does those fancy drugs with numbers and letters in either because no one knows where to get them. Council estate kids up north have so little to do that they’ve had a spasm of true British ingenuity. They have been stealing, then setting fire to plastic wheelie bins and inhaling the fumes. Wow, petty crime and drug taking, great!

The trend, most popular in the Barnsley area of the UK, started with kids robbing off-licences and rolling away the stolen booze in wheelie bins. Having drunk everything the next step was obviously to set fire to the bins and inhale the toxic fumes. It has gotten so bad in Barnsley that over a two week period around one hundred bins have been stolen. The council is now giving out chains and padlocks so residents can lock up their bins.

Warren Hawksley from solvent abuse charity ‘Re-Solve’ told us that the trend has stemmed from Scotland where it’s commonplace for bored kids to shut themselves in a phone box and use a lighter and aerosol can to burn the plastic inside. This basically creates a hotbox of poisonous plastic smoke. Inhaling smoke from a burning plastic bin is far more likely to be fatal than regular solvent abuse as the chemical composition of plastic fumes is incredibly toxic and not a substance designed for ingestion by the human body. No shit.

Upon being asked his worst solvent-related horror story, Warren grimly informed us of a case in Northern Ireland where four youths spent days getting high on solvents, stole a car and gang raped a three year old girl. The IRA contacted the police and media, telling them not to worry, as the situation was being taken care of.

Inhaling bin fumes is pretty much the weirdest thing we have heard since tramps crushing up urinal freshening cubes and smoking them in rollies made from tobacco harvested from fag ends off the street. In short: pretty low. Solvent abuse kills more people in the UK every year than either amphetamines or ecstasy.


How to be a bin-fume inhaling dropout.
Step 1 – The Ingredients
The first thing you need is a plastic wheelie bin. Inside this there should be at least one bag of rubbish, which will that lung full of fume that you are about to huck its own distinct flavour. Mmm. The ‘lucky dip’ of general household waste will ensure that no two experiences are identical.
Step 2 – Get Cooking
Use lighter fluid or petrol to get the fire started. Once lit, allow your bin to simmer for 10 / 15 minutes until a healthy amount of noxious death smoke is pouring out of it.
Step 3 – Get Involved
Lift up the lid, stick your head in as far as you can and inhale as much smoke as you can for as long as you can.

Step 4 – The Fallout
Our guinea pig reported a feelings of nausea, coupled with disoreintation and a strange buzzing sound in his head for a couple of minutes. He felt a sense of euporia ten minutes down the line, but we put this down to the fact he had been sick so many times that he was glad . With this in mind, we have decided to file bin inhaling under ‘aquired tastes’ (next to olives, monogamous relationships and ketamine).

Zines Roundup

Here is little roundup of print zines that I did for Vice Magazine.

Zines

Why Zines are still great.

This is a magazine. Most of the people involved in this magazine are people that really like magazines and care about them and had their identities shaped by things that you can actually hold in your hands and keep in big piles in your bedroom. Things that were put together by people who gave a shit about what they were putting in front of other people on a monthly basis. The Internet has lowered the bar for what is acceptable and any sense of standard has evaporated. Blog culture and the ease of online self-publishing makes it acceptable to moan about your tampon getting wedged uncomfortably at a right angle in your pussy for a whole day and with a single click hundreds of people can read all about it. Lazy publishing has lead to lazier audiences who feel savant simply by being online. If you are having to photocopy, glue, paste, hand draw and assemble each individual issue you make sure what you let go in is worth the effort, it’s a simple but effective editorial tool. This makes zines a kind of self-regulating sub-culture of publishing where standards and relevance have remained high despite the great odds stacked against them.

Literary Zines

400 Words

This one is kind of like a zine version of McSweeny’s. Instead of new fiction all of the stories in here are true and autobiographical and in keeping with their concept of “short short fiction” they have to be 400 words or less. It’s a little bit like a compendium of our new “It Happened” feature, and the length of the stories make it great toilet reading. Their issues are also themed. Hey, maybe they just got all their ideas from us? Anyway the theme for this one is “compulsions” which makes for an interesting read.

www.400words.com

Arty Zines

Nieves Books

Nieves is this amazing independent publishing house based in Switzerland that’s been going since 2001. Every year it puts out zines from people with so much talent that it makes normal illustrator guys weep green tears of unadulterated envy. Each zine is limited to about 100 copies; looks beautiful and when they are gone immediately become more rare than a straight guy in The Joiner’s Arms. Thurston Moore, Daniel Johnston and Fergadelic have all done exclusive zines for Nieves in the past. Here is a brand new one by a collective that includes Dennis Rousski and a guy who goes by “Vertical Overload”. Cool.

www.nieves.ch

Crystal Vision Collective

Here is a zine by Catherine Osterberg who is part of this London based collective called Crystal Vision, they kind of have a Forcefieldy/Fort Thunder thing going on and they make weird outfits and knitted installations and weird stuff like that. They have already curated a show at the ICA where they were called “London’s six sexiest illustrators and artists”. This zine definitely makes me feel pretty sexual. It is full of vaginas with magic powers and trees that look like penises. Its like a hipster art version of the Anne Summers catalogue. Shit, I’m getting a boner.

www.myspace.com/wearecrystalvision


Zines By Bands We Like

Brain Bulletin
Brain Bulletin is a small, sweet zine written by a small, sweet girl called Alessi who sings folk songs. Her dad produces TV shows like Modern Toss, which also has its own fanzine but it’s not as good as this one. Each page is covered in little details and hidden stuff and looks like it’s taken a whole day to put together. There’s handwritten short stories, comic sketches, twee little drawings of girls and trees as well as quotes like: “When I grow up, I’ll be all grown up,” and lots of other cute stuff. Basically, it’s like reading the stream of consciousness of a dreamy sixteen-year-old.

zooey@brainbulletin.net

The Horrors
The best thing about this zine is that it makes it seem like fun to be in a band. There’s none of that crap where you have to pay $25 to access the “backstage area” of a band’s website so you can get the chance to download tossed away b-sides and “exclusive footage” that is all over YouTube anyway. The whole darkness of it all reminds us of Whitehouse zines in the 80s. This particular issue comes with a free girl group CD compilation of heartbreak songs chosen by Faris, which they haven’t even bothered to clear the samples for.

www.myspace.com/thehorrors

Perzines

321 Go

Remember that movie “The Fantastic Voyage” where the characters get shrunk and injected into the diplomat guy to save his life? A perzine is a bit like that but without the whole pressure to save someones life vibe. You just get to spend some time hanging out inside someone else’s thoughts for a while. It can be interesting and more often than not a little scary. Think Leslie Arfin’s awesome Dear Diary column but laid out with doodles and cut and paste bits. This one is by a young girl who lives in New York called Jade. You find out all sorts of stuff about her like that she can’t decide what her favourite colour is so she just likes the whole rainbow, that she loves free samples of stuff and that she once had self harm issues but talking about it in print made her realise that life was pretty OK after all. Funny, frank and moving perzines are pretty good.

www.myspace.com/321zine

Music Zines

Last Hours
Lets Just Pretend

Music is something that is covered extensively everywhere. People love talking about music almost as much as they like listening to it. Probably more in fact. The problem is that most people that have opinions about music are idiots. A Blog is a platform for these insufferable cunts to spout their ignorant musings unedited and unstoppably everywhere. What you really want is a nice timely roundup every now and then of all the releases you might have missed and interviews with bands that are actually interesting enough to bother hearing from. Punk kids started this whole thing anyway and tend to be pretty funny as writers because they hate everything. Here are a couple of UK punk zines. Last Hours is kind of the flagship UK title that is still going and has pretty high production values, they even try and have a go at photojournalism every now and then (hang on, a bunch of ex punks doing real journalism, that sounds familiar). Lets Just Pretend is a cool DIY effort that ticks all the boxes. Both are like a breath of fresh air after reading more than 5 minutes of 99% of the stuff online.

www.myspace.com/lasthoursfanzine
www.myspace.com/letsjustpretendfanzine

Zines That Are Actually Comics

A 52 Second Silence For Topsy and The Blackest Gnome
Flesh And Bone

Sometimes guys put out really nice comics in tiny runs through miniscule labels to the point where they kind of fit in to the whole zine thing. Companies like Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics have taken the whole idea to the comics mainstream but there are still plenty of guys putting out weird little books like these. Malcy Duff makes noises in Usurper and these two books are both awesome, A 52 Second Silence For Topsy involves the progressive decay of an elephant until it looks like a giant melted vagina and I’m not even going to pretend to know what is going on in The Blackest Gnome. Flesh and Bone is by David Bailey who is part of the Mount Pleasant collective and features characters that remind me of a nightmare version of that Funnybones strip you read when you are a kid.

www.missingtwin.net
www.itsmountpleasant.com

Weird Zines

Braindead

The good thing about zines is that they can be about anything. They don’t even really need to be about the same thing within the same issue. As you would imagine from the title, Braindead generally involves a lot of horror. You get cut and paste, line drawings, lists and loads of horrible things like ladies with Little Shop Of Horrors style monsters for pussies and true storys about guys dicks getting electrocuted in thunderstorms all put together by sXe kids in Maidstone. Good times.

www.myspace.com/666braindead

Peter Hook Interview

Wow! I got to talk to the guy who did the bassline in 'She's Lost Control. Cool. For Viceland.com Blog.

Peter Hook/Hacienda/Fac51 25th Anniversary

The Hacienda (www.myspace.com/fac51thehacienda) is one of those places that somehow became the centre of everything that was good almost by accident. Tony Wilson and the New Order guys set the club up in 1982 so that their bands would have somewhere to play and they could have a clubhouse for their gang to hang out and get fucked up in. As with everything Factory related the design of the place was one million years ahead of everyone else and has influenced two decades of club architecture since. After hosting shows by guys like The Smiths, OMD and Cabaret Voltaire the club became the home of acid house and Ecstasy and gave birth to the kicking, stoned baby of baggy. Pretty important place then. Fac 51 had to finally close its doors due to poor financial management and the fact that whatever money did get made tended to be filtered back into the hands of the dealers that pretty much ran the place. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the opening of the club Manchester museum Urbis (http://www.urbis.org.uk/has) set up an exhibition celebrating the clubs legacy and Peter Hook is curating a night that hopes to get people partying like one E could still knock you out for the whole night. Good times. We spoke to Hooky to see what was up. He is a really nice guy who laughs and swears a lot.

Vice: It has been 25 years why a party now?

Peter Hook: It just fitted, Urbis were doing the exhibition and the idea of the place has never really died for a lot of people so I think it works. We managed to convince Sacha and Graham Parke to DJ. The only problem is that it is in the museum which means they’ve given all the tickets away to press wankers. They wanted it to be about the exhibition, I wanted it to be about having a massive fucking rave with everyone getting off their tits.

So you are DJing at the party, no bass solo sets?

Nah I’m really into DJing now. It really re-vitalised me at a point where I was pretty fucking jaded. Mani out of Primal Scream had some cunt let him down so I stepped in. I never really appreciated how technical playing records was, I just though they were loner guys who liked being alone in a DJ booth but there is a real fucking art to it. I play everything from 77 onwards and you have to make it all work playing stuff for the dancefloor and stuff to please yourself. I play anything from punk through to hard dance and LCD Soundsytem. It’s also a great way of getting paid to get pissed.

The Hacienda was recreated for ‘24 Hour Party People’ did seeing a mock up of the place not make you want to re-open it?

The thing is that if we were to try and do it again it would have to be on our terms and you just can’t really do business like that anymore, look what happened the first time around: financial fucking black holes and villains all over the place. The place was my little baby though whatever happened. When they built that set for the film a company put an offer into buy it just before it was due to be knocked down. The demolition balls were literally about to swing and the call came through over the walkie talkie to stop them but the builder on site misheard and gave the wrecking crew the go ahead. I was over the fucking moon. Seeing the club in the hands of someone else would have been like watching someone shag your missus. Nightmare.

So what can people expect on Wednesday night, why no bands, wasn’t that a big part of the Hacienda legacy?

Just a proper fucking party. No two ways about it. You don’t want bands when you’ve got DJ’s mate, it’s like if you were watching Faithless you want them to totally rock out with the beats, if they get the acoustic out it would ruin everything. We’ve enjoyed doing this one so much that we already have one planned for August.

Marnie Stern Interview

Here is an interview that I did with guitar shred girl Marnie Stern for Vice Magazine.

Marnie Stern

Hot girl wanks off guitar. Cool!

Guitar solos are ruling. No matter how much some old guy in the pub, dribbling into his bitter at closing time goes on about how important three-chords and ’76 and blah and blah and blah are guitar solos still rip. That’s why people stand on tables and play air guitar when people put Maiden on the jukebox. Shit, even punk bands like Integrity and Ringworm knew the power of some high-end tapping. When you go see Marnie Stern play its probably one of the greatest things ever. You get the big shit eating grin bit and the pump your fist in the air bit because at last it feels like you are at that Van Halen show that you always secretly dreamed of being in the front row for; except its like Don Caballero in the middle of an epilectic seizure are the backing band. And then you open your eyes and a beautiful, frail, elfin pixie from heaven is playing this stuff. The usual sweaty guy doing windmills with his foot on the monitor and shorts so short his wrinkled turkey-skin sack is hanging out is nowhere to be seen. It’s a pretty great feeling. Like thinking you have got three numbers on the lottery but then the Thunderball comes out too. Bonanza!

I heard that you didn’t listen to any music until you were 23. What were you doing instead?

When I was little I’d listen to the classic rock station but while I was at NYU doing journalism I was really just into that, the studying really. Also, all I had to listen to there was the radio and the radio in New York sucks big ass. I was more into reading. Mostly Presidential biographies.

Who are your favourite Presidents?

Lincoln, Adams and Clinton.

Would that be your dream jam, you on guitar and Bill on Sax?

Maybe that would be my moms dream.

OK, how did you go from Presidents to wanting to be a guitar hero?

I went to go see Neil Hagerty from Royal Trux one night in Brooklyn and he had this big white double neck and basically just wanked off all night and I just knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a guitar wanker.

Your music sounds like you have attention deficit disorder.

Quite the opposite. I am very compulsive. I knew I wanted to be good at the guitar so when I made that decision that was all I did. Practice guitar for three or four hours a day. I am also very lazy and hate socialising so it all fitted in. I could just stay in my apartment ignore everyone and practice in this weird reclusive world. To begin with I didn’t even have other humans to play with. Just my I-Pod. Now I have Zach (Hill of Hella) playing drums which is pretty awesome actually

What was your I-Pod called?

I didn’t know that you could give them names.

Marnie Stern’s album ‘In Advance Of The Broken Arm’ is out now on Kill Rock Stars.

www.myspace.com/marniestern1

Malajube Interview

Here is an interview with the band Malajube that I did for Vice Magazine.

Malajube

In Quebec they still basically only listen to the French equivalent of a Magic FM Sunday medley: mmm easy listening heaven. Johnny Halliday is still their number one selling local artist. I just made that up but you get the idea. So when something actually good comes along everyone points at it and goes: “Hey these guys are great! They are our great guys!”. But then being the only good thing in a mire if lobotmised dullardry tends to get you noticed and once Malajube broke out of Quebec they found themselves hounded around SXSW by bloodthirsty A&R guys chasing them like they were a four man Wally in a big Where’s Wally hunt combined with the golden ticket from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.

You guys sing in French. How are we meant to have a clue what you are singing about?

Well actually, we are not worried that the English speaking audiences won't understand what we are singing about because we know they won't understand.

Ok. Accepting. I get it. Maybe I need to be more like that sometimes. Malajube? What does that mean? It sounds weird, like a yet to be invented Jelly Belly flavour.

No. Actually it's the name of a disease here in Northern Qu├ębec. It can get so cold up in the north that your eyes freeze together. You can't keep them open. In order to unfreeze them you need to warm them up in a warm place for a couple of minutes. It hurts a lot and it's really bad for your eyes. That is what it is to be caught by the Malajube.

The record is called Trompe L’oeil. Who are you trying to trick exactly?

We actually want people to think we play world music. But then they put the cd on and they realized they’ve been tricked! So far it seems to have worked.

But if you guys are from Canada then to people over here maybe it is world music?

Maybe. We had not thought of it like that before.

You are pretty well known in Canada and have won a bunch of awards and people love you and all that kind of stuff. Why bother coming here and busting your asses all over again playing to two people. You could just sit at home playing Tiger Woods Golf or something. It seems to have worked out okay for Rush and The Tragically Hip.

Playing small, sweaty crazy places and proving yourself is fun. We played a festival in the West of France once, I really don’t remember the name. We drove for about 12 hours and we got there right in time for our set. It was the night of the world cup foot final so nobody showed up although it was a huge festival with huge stages and a bunch of bands playing.. We actually played one song in front of 20 really drunk people. We now call it the puke fest!

I like how you called the Football final “the foot final”. Like a direct translation.

Thanks.

Lovvers Interview

Here is an interview with the punk band Lovvers that was published in Vice magazine.

Lovvers

Punk Astrologers save UK live scene

What happened? Last summer it felt like we were on the verge of something great. Bands were being exciting and original and kids were putting on parties in squats and every weekend was like a holiday you wanted to go on forever. A whole year later and we’re stuck with a big fat nothing. Dubstep has become the new breaks for public school boys, the clubs are empty, the line-ups all look the same and bands have gone the lazy route so you end with unspeakable derivative shit that makes you want to eat your hands off like Hadouken. Fortunately, if you look hard enough, you can usually find hope somewhere and as ever it usually comes from a bunch of punks who weren’t really paying attention anyway. As Mika Miko and No Age gave LA a kick up the arse with their riotous sets at The Smell, bands like Lovvers are finally making going to shows in the UK fun again. Four kids from shitty towns across the UK who met in Nottingham, they have managed to force a bunch of influences that should never work together into a scary good live show. Watching Lovvers is like your witnessing Drive Like Jehu play Pavement songs with Darby Crash up front. As unlikely as it sounds that works out so well that their debut 7” with the first thing to sell out on Jonson Family in living memory and the blogger geeks are hailing them as the second coming of Christ appearing nightly on a stage near you.

Wakefield, Coventry, Skelmersdale and Worcester. Jesus. Who has the worst hometown?

Steve (Drums): Worcester and Wakey are awful and even the people that live in Skelmersdale call it Scummersdale. I'd say hands down that I have the best hometown. Coventry is ok.

Shaun (Vocals): No way, the only good thing about Coventry is his dog. It has a medical problem with its ass. It keeps popping out. They have had to sew its ass in. I’m not sure where the poo comes out.

I heard you had a pretty rough first week together as a band?

Michael (Bass): After our first gig in Spalding we were driving back to Nottingham and Henry fell asleep at the wheel. We went into a dual carriageway lamppost at 70 miles an hour in a tiny Corsa with all of our gear in the back. We all ended up in hospital with concussion and cuts and bruises and shit apart from Henry who was totally fine. Then a couple of days later Steve got a bit billied and decided to jump off the Trent Bridge because he thought the water looked nice. He hit the bank and shattered both his ankles instead. He couldn’t walk for weeks.

Did you not take these to be pretty bad omens? Like some celestial power was telling you that this band was never going to work out?

Henry (Guitar): I could never believe that a celestial influence was 'cursing' our career, as I have a Grade 1 knowledge of Jyotish, which is a brand of Vedic astrology. This tends to keep me content at all times. My father designed a computer program that takes your birth time and latitude and converts that data into your Jyotish chart. My chart has Jupiter in the main house, which means that I am 'fun loving', 'gregarious' and generally seeking enjoyment over most other things so despite an alteration in the house of health these events did not affect me.

The name is kind of gay. Are you just trying to appeal to faggy indie kids?

Michael: Wouldn’t it have been ‘The’ Lovvers if we were going for that?

Henry: We have a covers band called The Hatters but we have only worked out ‘Parents’ by The Descendents so far.

Lovvers second 7” ‘Near Enough For Jazz’/‘Special Needs’ is available on August 13th from Jonson Family Records.

www.myspace.com/letscommunicate

Duck Chuwkowski

July Vice Reviews

Liars
s/t
Mute

5

Pretty much the same as the last one. The best thing they have done is still that ‘Mr On Your On Fire Mr’ song off the first record. Maybe Berlin bums them out or something but they just don’t seem to be enjoying it all that much anymore.

Bad Brains
Build A Nation
Megaforce Records

6

Reunions don’t work. When will punk bands get that? You can’t be angry at the world like you were when you were 19 after the mid-life spread has hit and you have a mortgage and stuff. Just go read Hamilton and get depressed or something. This sounds like a faded version of the glorious ROIR tape in that it oscillates between attempts at blasting punk and those funky reggae stabs but has none of the horrible ‘Quickness’ era metal bits. HR still sounds pretty nuts though.

Bang Gang
Bang Gang Presents
Modular

7

Like a big 2 disc hipster version of a Ministry Of Sound compilation, Modular gives you a bunch of electro-indie-house tracks for ‘out’ and ‘in’. Will be on repeat up and down the Kingsland Road right about now.

Voice Of The Seven Woods
The Far Golden Peak Part One
Blackest Rainbow Records

10

There are only 333 of these in the world. You should really try and get one though because it’s a single 25 minute track that makes you feel like you are suspended weightless in a bottomless pool of virgins. It will put all your other free-improv-avant-folk-drone CDR’s to shame.

Jonny Trunk Presents…
Now We Are Ten
Trunk Records

10

Jonny Trunk may be one of the last true mavericks in what is pretty much the most boring industry in the world ever right now. Trunk is the label that goes to a whole load of trouble re-releasing things like ‘The Wickerman’ and ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ soundtracks as well as 12” spoken word records by obscure 70’s porn stars. This retrospective comes with some nice liner notes that include thanks to Vice editor Andy Capper for giving Trunk’s reissue of The Clangers a 10/10 Album Of The Week review in the NME.

Grave Temple
The Holy Down
Southern Lord

9

Southern Lord was kind of coasting on autopilot for a while but this thunders them back to ‘White 1’ era greatness. These three tracks, weighing in at just over an hour, were recorded live in war torn Israel last year. The band is made up by O’Malley, Oren Ambarchi and Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar so you can sort of guess what it sounds like: shrieks and drones galore.

SSS
s/t
Earache

8

Last time I checked Earache was a Death Metal label. Whatever. They have now put out the three best Thrash records in ages. Out of the Evile, Municipal Waste thing and this I’ll probably plump for this because they are from Liverpool and the singer is an 8 foot tall guy who likes to drop kick fake kids in the pit like he did at the Old Blue Last when they played with Pulling Teeth.

Pelican
City Of Echoes
Hydra Head

3

More like City of depressingly boring AOR post-rock. You can almost hear the music research departments on all those Planet Earth nature documentaries thundering over the horizon to license every tack. What happened guys? Australasia must have been such a towering idyl of perfection that they shot all their creative load in one go.

Souvaris
A Hat
Gringo

8

Wow, after the depression that set in listening to the Pelican record this pretty much made my day and reminded me why I like atmospheric, instrumental stuff. It’s sort of like how I imagine running as fast as you can on your own through some snowy field in the Alps might feel.

Tiny Masters Of Today
Bang Bang Boom Cake
Mute Irregulars

8

For a little minute I was going to sit on the fence with this one but after two and a half seconds you just have to kind of fall in love with the wide-eyed innocence of it all. The guy from the Blues Explosion, Karen O and Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers couldn’t help it either. They are all here. Come join the fuzz party. Way better than Smoosh.

Patton Oswalt
Werewolves & Lollipops
Sub Pop

10

It has been said before but Patton is still probably the closest, funniest thing that we have to Bill Hicks. Not just in terms of how is voice is sort of whiny and he does those funny microphone things but also in the way he rails against things like G Rated filth, pedantry and the jilted alternate hell that 2007 has become. The KFC sketch is worth it alone: failure piled in a sadness bowl.

Video Hippos
Unbeats The Leash
Monitor

8

What is going on in Baltimore right now? Its like the whole town has been hit by the goodness branch or something. Maybe Dan Deacon is some high priest and all these Future Shock guys are his good time disciples.

V/A
The Great Koonaklaster Speaks
Table Of The Elements

10

Usually tribute albums are pretty much the worst things ever and should only live in motorway service discount bins next to Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown audio tapes. John Fahey however managed to single handedly influence a whole school of guitar players so this one is ok. All the faces are here: Sir Richard Bishop, Jack Rose, No Neck. You know the drill.
Menomena
Friend Or Foe
Barsuk

8

Like Deerhunter if they were happy. Or the Shins if they were into looping sounds and hadn’t turned shitty after album number two. Craig Thomson did the cover which is why its pretty amazing.

The Angels Of Light
We Are Him
Young God

10

I would have given this top marks on sight anyway but then I listened to it and wanted to give it 20. How is it everyone else grows up and gets awful but Gira just keeps getting better?

Oli N Clive
Excuse Me
Trial & Error 7”

8

This sounds like the theme tune for the politest, nicest guy ever as he strolls down a country lane in a little village where everyone is friends and they have the best nights ever drinking cider till dawn and playing traditional songs in jug bands and stuff like that. Its probably the exact opposite of that village where Alex James and Jeremy Clarkson pretend to be farmers.


Turbo Fruits
s/t
Ecstatic Peace!

7

This one sounds like the guy from the Kings Of Leon fronting the Blues Explosion. It’s actually the kid from Be Your Own Pet fronting his two mates but it still sounds lithe, limber and spiked with a fair bit of goodtime southern soaked menace.

The Train Chronicles
Romancing The Bottle 7”
Real Gold

8

Good times down on the farm from within the walls of the city. Picks, strums, melodies and deft turns of phrase. Martin comes on like the Hackney Langhorn Slim and we are all the better for having him around.

Iron Lung Interview

This was a joint effort between me and a guy called Jaimie Thompson who I have never met for Vice Magazine.

Fetch The Pliers!
-Iron Lung Will Dissect You-

Iron Lung are two guys from Nevada. They did not like it there so much so they moved to Seattle where they formed a two piece band that plays power violence. Power violence was an early 90’s kick in the ass for the bloated, fat, pointless corpse of what hardcore had become. Bands like Infest and Crossed Out and labels like Slap A Ham and Lengua Armada put out fast, blasting records closer to Siege than Cro Mags that made everything feel vital again. Ten years later and things have got shit once more but along with bands like Fucked Up and Commercial Suicide, Iron Lung are here to stop you weeping every time Bring Me The Horizon comes on the radio. They have songs with names like ‘Sternal Abnormalities’ and ‘Horizontal Respiration’. Don’t let the Dougie Howserisms get you down on these guys though, they just toured the UK and played so hard and fast that all the New Era cap kids in the cut-offs didn’t even have time to play the dance-in-a-circle-and-touch-each-others-bum game that they usually love so much. It was all just too fast and too hard. And there was only two of them. It was great! Talking to Jon and Jensen after the shows they seemed pretty nonplussed by what was being hailed on messageboards as the tour of the year so far. They just wanted to play 20 songs in 10 minutes and leave. They are my new favourite band.

Vice: What’s with all these little hardcore fags wearing Crossed Out patches when five years ago they were into Earth Crisis and Hatebreed?
Jon Kortland (guitar, vocals): Dude, It's only a matter of time before they'll sell Crossed Out T-shirts in Hot Topic, but I guess “power violence” can be used as a term to describe a form of music totally separated from whatever 'hardcore' has become. As far as our role in continuing that sound, we have no plans of stopping any time soon.

What’s with the obsession with medical equipment, death and the general crushing futility of existence?
Jensen Ward (drums, vocals): We live in a world where shock value has been totally negated by the reality of existence. All the 'sick shit' imagery in music is totally idiotic. I have a hard time believing that some guy recording music on his computer in his mother's basement would have the courage to leave the house, let alone murder another human being ... and write a song about it.

Are you saying that you would murder somebody?
No. That would be totally illegal.

Iron Lung's new album Sexless//No Sex is out now on Prank Records.

Chrome Hoof Interview

This was for the Viceland.com Blog.

Why was everyone calling Devandra Banhart’s stuff ‘freak-folk’? He just had long hair and sang about butterflies the whole time. There is some guy that does the express check-out at Tesco’s on Liverpool Street that looks way freakier than him. And I bet he’d sing about wanting to skewer city bankers with shredded baked bean tins if we gave him a chance. You can tell, it’s in his eyes. Chrome Hoof sound like if Silver Apples and Neu were the house band on that planet where the Clangers lived and they all dress in tin foil monk outfits. Chrome Monktime! Jarvis got them to support fellow cowl-wearing dudes Sunn O))) at Meltdown and they have a record out next week on Southern that sounds like flying in a spaceship around Sun Ra’s head. Pretty freaky.

We caught up with Milo and Leo Smee, Chrome Hoof's founders to see what makes them happy.

Vice: So you're set to support Klaxons on their next tour, even though you started out years before they even formed. Are you secretly jealous of their success?

Milo (drums/keyboards): No. They're a good bunch and have been working really hard and we like their songs. It's an incredibly rare occurrence for us to like new bands, especially lyrically. It's refreshing to hear something we like actually pushed and doing really well.

Your stage show is bright and shiny and makes me feel like I am in some strange future past. Ho do you feel about ‘nu rave’?

Leo (bass): Kids want to feel part of something when maybe not much is going on so they just invented a term, a genre. As an old person who was part of the late 80's/early 90's rave generation I can see no comparison with either the music or movement itself. I'll still be wearing repugnant tracksuits when they have al swapped theirs for blazers.

Tracksuits? Aren't you more into metallic monk cloaks?

Leo: Several of us suffer from stage diorreah and pissing problems, no lie. The outfits go someway towards helping this. Pointey white shoes and skinny jeans wouldn't really work for us.

How do you relax?

Leo: Hot knifes and speed bombs.
Milo: Putting ourselves up for ridicule and taking it really badly.
Leo: And snooker and darts.

Hoofs are pretty disgusting anatomically. What’s the name
Chrome Hoof hoping to achieve?

Milo: It is futuristic yet earthy. An attempt to pleasure two mistrisse's simultaneously you could say.

Chrome Hoof's ‘Pre-Emptive False Rapture’ comes out next week on
Southern Records.

2007 Is A Pretty Scary Place

This was a blog post for Viceland.com that never was. It was too 'environmental'.

If you walked past St Paul’s today you would have seen a bunch of hippies outside waving banners and yelling. Usually I want to throw my coffee on those guys but this time they are on to something that matters as of right now. One of Blair’s final decisions before going off to be an actor or whatever is one that will really actually affect people. He has handed the process of planning permission from a publicly accessible committee procedure of democratically elected, accountable politicians to a shady non-governmental group with 100% approval and 0% accountability. Way to go Western first world democracy!

We spoke to Tom Picken from Friends Of The Earth. He told us that the new measures would lead to scary things like nuclear power stations and airport runways being forced through planning by the Government regardless of consequence or proper scrutiny. In 1997 a group of regular members of the public overturned the Nuclear giants Nirex application to build a Godzilla sized plant in their back gardens
(http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/19970317160347.html).

The protestor dudes, going under the group name, ‘Planning Disaster’
(www.planningdisaster.co.uk), have managed to find a sense of humor somewhere amongst the Steely Dan sing-alongs and incense burning. They submitted planning permission to the Corporation Of London’s Planning Office to build an incinerator next to St Pauls. This obviously won’t get approved as it won’t pass the current public approval process. In a months time however that is exactly the short-term gain long term death sentence project that will get approved by the new and pretty creepy sounding ‘Infrastructure Planning Comission’ who sound kind of like the evil council of cylons in Battlestar Galactica. They are set to remove the right for local people to be heard and cross examine developer witnesses at public inquiries as well as restrict what issues a development can be challenged on full stop including safety and important environmental factors.

2007 is a pretty scary place.

July Playlouder Reviews

The Sunburned
Z
Ecstatic Peace

4/5

This ever elusive and oft times illusory collective released their earliest recordings well over a decade ago under the ‘Shit Spangled Banner’ moniker on a label called Ecstatic Yod. Many years and many myriad releases later they find themselves releasing a full length on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace. A fully released full length and everything. Not the limited and hard to find CDR’s and LP’s of yore but a CD that anyone can buy in the shops.

The shifting entity that comprises The Sunburned Hand Of The Man has used a constant stream of releases on varying formats to constantly chart their exploration of sound. Their consensual, inclusive approach to the breaking down of musical constraint with an almost primitive and intuitive glee saw them to some extent hailed as forefathers to the weird-folk movement at the turn of the millennium. Sunburned are not pre-cursors to anything. They exist out of step from all, beholden only to themselves and the moment in which they create.

A wonderful example of the Sunburned ethic in action is the (recently beautifully reissued on Eclipse) documentary-like double LP Wedlock, which charted the journey to, and celebration of, band members Paul Labrecque and Valerie Webb’s wedding in isolated Alaska. A riotous and joyous freak out of extended instrumentals seemed to beckon the listener into the jams. The record seemed an invitation to join and celebrate in sound the feelings that so truthfully and simplisticaly seemed to pour from these individuals bought together to share both an emotional moment and their mutual expression of that moment through music.

The sheer scale of The Sunburned Hand Of The Man’s discography and their spontaneous approach to creating music makes it difficult to make any generalisations about specific periods of their career. The collective can involve anybody that is in a given location at a given time (as with Wedlock) or as few as three members clustered around lead and lynchpin John Maloney creating tribal drones live that resemble nothing that they have recorded previously. And yet somehow the mark of The Sunburned consistently courses through all that they touch.

To some extent this release, with its naming of the band simply as ‘The Sunburned’, its singular title of ‘Z’ and the mysterious symbols denoting track titles, represents one the groups most pared down and stripped back releases to date. Gone are the rambles of Rare Wood or The Trickle Down Theory…and in their stead screed walls of sound. Perhaps it is the latent influence of Moore but the sonic reduction of Z is that of a no holds barred attack, closer in spirit to the no-wave of bursts of Sonic Youth at their most raw. The tribal spirit remains with a sense of the whigged out pervading even the albums harsh noise rock moments. During the third track they build a most intense head of steam managing to sound almost like a more cosmic version of Comets On Fire, were such a state possible, while the witterings of electricity bring to mind recent efforts from the Yellow Swans similar attempts at sonic nothingness.

Perhaps The Sunburned Hand Of The Man’s greatest achievement is to create a sense of reaction in the listener beyond the aural. Along with fellow outsider explorers such as Magik Markers and Gang Gang Dance, The Sunburned manage to evoke almost physical reactions in the listener. Shifting of guts, feelings of uneasiness. The manipulation of sound to affect emotion. While Z might not be The Sunburned's easiest listen or most triumphant recording to date it certainly successfully evokes the dread paranoia of Maloney’s intended manifesto:

“Z is about infinity and the double dimension we all live in yet don't fully understand. Z is the sound of that feeling you get when you think you're being watched or followed by the omnipotent one”.

Jennifer Gentle
The Midnight Room
Sub Pop

4/5

With a band name pinched from a tune off The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and sporting an inlay card shot of Marco Fasolo looking the image of The Madcap Laugh’s era Barret it is no surprise that Jennifer Gentle’s second album for Sub Pop mines the same vein of psychedelic pop as the bands beguiling and accomplished debut. This second time around though the loss of the bands second member, drummer Alessio Gastaldello, also seems to have stripped the band of a sense of effervescent positivity. Essential a vehicle for Fasalo’s expression The Midnight Room poses a disturbing but relentlessly gripping listen.

Much is made of Fasalo’s love of Nino Rota’s film sound work as well as his appreciation the scores of Kurt Weill and this influence is none more apparent than in opener ‘Twin Ghosts’ that sets the tone for the remainder of the record: blanched almost to a sepia, cold and sparse and haunted as the title of the track. From the off Fasolo suggests a landscape empty of joy and strangely barren. While the ensuing tracks all utilize piano and chiming guitar to create more fulsome psyche stomps it is interesting that the percussion remains spartan throughout the album. Almost allowing the nightmarish ghosts of the sounds to air uninterrupted. Or perhaps it is merely the manifestation of the lack of Gastaldello’s presence.

Either way it would seem that over the spartan base of haunting soundtrack-like structure the album is ridden over roughshod by what appears to be a psychedelic ice cream van driven by the ghosts of Don Van Vliet in his Trout Mask and Tom Waits at his bleakest Raindogs best, particularly in the tracks ‘Telephone Ringing’ or ‘Mercury Rising’. The album has a dense sense of tone and deep foreboding capturing the very voices that may have driven Barret mad. ‘Quarter To Three’ or ‘Granny’s House’ cause the listener to feel like they are being dragged through Dylan’s 'Desolation Row' by characters garbed in the garish creepiness of The Magic Roundabout as a backdrop organs sigh depressed in the wings.

While the slight upbeat lilt of ‘Take My Hand’ and ‘Electric Princess’ offer takes on the kooky love song skewed so far sideways that you can feel The Coral giving up on The Wirral from here the sense of dread never diminishes. In all seriousness, if ‘The Ferryman’ or ‘Come Closer’ was playing on repeat in The Red Room in Twin Peaks you would all be going insane as soon as you stepped inside. Remorselessly compelling.

Ryan Adams
Easy Tiger
Lost Highway

4/5

Apologies up front here if you don’t share my opinion because for the rest of this review you will just have to suspend your qualms and operate under the aegis that Ryan Adams is one of the great songwriting talents of his or any generation. In fact; fuck your qualms and look at the facts. This is a guy who penned Faithless Street when he was barely 20, has released and made available for free on his website over 300 mp3s in the last year alone and that is on top of the three studio albums (one of which was a double) he released in 2005. He is basically the living embodiment of Gram Parsons with the prolific bent of Dylan and the will to tour of Garcia.

Like him or not just accept that the guy has a huge, restless, hungry and prodigious talent. Having spun the gamut from the stripped down singer-song writer approach of Heartbreaker to the Burrito Brothers pedal-steels of the wondrous Jacksonville City Nights to the piano-led soul searching of 29 and Love Is Hell to the slick production of Gold to the Working Man’s Dead meets American Beauty country rock of Cold Roses, Ryan has done it all. Even his ‘demos’ record, Demolition, had a ballad in the shape of the Gillian Welch duet ‘Tomorrow’ that basically blows holes in every Josh Ritter shaped pretender to the throne in two notes. Jesus, even his Self Portrait style ‘joke’ record Rock and Roll had ‘So Alive’, a single so vital that I clearly remember the usually fairly erudite Ian Camfield exclaiming speechless and hands in air on XFM that: “they’ve done it, they’ve created the perfect single”.

So, we’ve established here that Adams is very good at writing songs. And he writes lots and lots of them all the time And he writes them just like he wants to. This means that sometimes albums are not perfect. He is sort of the anti-Blue Nile in that respect. He releases what he wants, when he wants and if the record company don’t like, sod ‘em, he just releases the stuff online anyway and if they really lean on him he goes and releases something like Rock and Roll just to piss them off. Hell, he even got Love Is Hell re-issued as intended eventually.

The boyish rebel with the will to self-disrupt and destruct is well document. Watching him on stage in Nottingham in 2004 I was struck by how strung out and confrontational even by his standards he was. Two days later he was being flown back to the US with a pin in his arm after falling off stage and having crowd surfed to the bar and back. Recent interviews have revealed that those days were, as many suspected, filled with more than just the red wine he so loved to swig on stage. The very same interviews have also admitted that he is now sober.

So Easy Tiger is a Ryan Adams record born of sobriety. It is also a Ryan Adams record born of something that we really aren’t all that used to. For perhaps the first time Ryan has done that which none of us expected and had a go at making the record that the record company actually wanted him to make. Not in a self-sabotage Rock & Roll manner but in a measured application of his talent to a coherent sense of structured songwriting that met with what he felt was being demanded of him. The title of the album tells us as much, its not like he’s hiding it and calling the record Death Whores of Babylon III or something. Had he had it his way Ryan claims he would have made another dueling rock record with his now seemingly permanent backing band The Cardinals.

Instead we get a polished take on every facet of his craft attributed solely to Adams and an album that it feels was considered as just that: an album. Not so the sketchbook approach that he has in the past shared with Dylan of a record being a ‘record’ of what was played in the studio, snatches of what was relevant or inspired at that given point in time, flashes of genius captured in wax. The MP3 outburst of 2006 has proved a more than ample sketchbook from which to distill and craft these 13 songs and produce an album that on a first listen could seem a little pedestrian but on repeat visits cements itself as perhaps the most consistent edifice of his myriad legacy.

‘Two’ sees Adams take a ‘Harder Now That It’s Over’ melody to a lovely duet with Sheryl Crowe (hence continuing the obligatory duet tradition, see Cold Roses Norah Jones appearance), ‘Off Broadway’ and the harmonica break riddled closer ‘I Taught Myself To Grow’ recall the piano led moments of 29 and Love Is Hell while ‘These Girls’ strips everything down to a finger picked acoustic and beautifully phrased vocal. It is interesting to note, in keeping with the sense of the ‘album as considered work’, that both ‘Off Broadway’ and ‘These Girls’ have appeared previously as sketches in the unreleased albums The Suicide Handbook and Destroyer respectively. ‘Tears Of Gold’ and ‘Pearls On A String’ take Ryan back past Jacksonville City Nights to the ‘Parsons meets Replacements on your sleeve’ joy of Whiskeytown. The stomp of ‘Goodnight Rose’ flags up The Dead once more while ‘Halloween Head’ evokes the grinning goofball humor of ‘Damn Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)’.

If you like Ryan Adams you should now go out and buy this record and love it. If you don’t like Ryan Adams then here is a great place to start.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

My Dour Highlights

A bunch of my friends are going to the Dour Festival so I made them a list of good stuff.

Jam's Dour Highlights to print out, laminate and keep.

The below are my picks of the lineup. The things with one star are highly reccomended. Three star things you just have to trust me and go see. Even for like 10 minutes. Or you could just ignore this list, use it as toilet paper, get pissed, take a bunch of jills and dance to Andy C. That sounds like pretty good fun to me...

-1990s (Jerky Indie from Scotland, ex-Yummy Fur. Some of it sounds a bit like Roxy)

-A Hawk And A Hacksaw (This guy used to play the drums in Neutral Milk Hotel, now he is a one man band who covers the Israeli national anthem on his accordian. Totally nuts. I had the honor of supporting in him in one of my few appearances with 'Nottingham's most shambolic band' aka Jones Of Colorado)

-Adult (Glacial Detroit electro)

-Amon Tobin (Ninjatune guy.)

-An Albatross (Amazing Screamo with the added bonus of having a frontman who thinks he's Mick Jagger instead of your average annoerexic, aggraphobic self harming screamo frontguy who got molested by his dad with a cactus every night. Or something. I dunno, they are all pretty fu3ked up those Midwest screamo guys.)

-Anthony B (He smokes weed everyday)

***Autechre (Simply. The. Best)

-Bright Eyes (meh, I guess)

-Brujeria (Mexican Death Metal guys who went on to be in Fear Factory. They have now reformed, amazing. Jarv, one for you mate)

-Busy P (Ed Banger label boss so that will be straight up French Electro. He looks like a cross between a wolf and that cartoon guy Droopy)

-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (I guess...)

*Converge (INCREDIBLE hc. Josh go to this. Seriously minbending, genre-breaking music. People that write about how the Blood Brothers "break the mold" just haven't heard of Converge. If they had they'd wet themselves and go back to listening to The Pigeon Detectives. What kind of a name is that for a band anyway? The Pigeon Detectives?)

-Digitalism (French Electro that isn't actually from France)

-DJ Mehdi (French Electro that is actually from France)

*Dr Octagon (aka Kool Keith, miss him at your peril, he was once convinced that he had 'cereal power' and could produce bowls of cereal on demand. No lie. He is nuts)

*Erase Errata (Angular Lesbian punk funk who have been realeasing angular Lesbian punk funk on Kill Rock Stars since Moving Units were in diapers.)

-Errol Alkan (You might know this guy. He plays records. According to Snaar he likes having candles stuck up his bum during sex)

*Guitar Wolf (Jap free guitar pioneers. Insanely good. Like Lynard Skynard in some far off Manga future)

-Hot Chip (They went to school in Putney and it is thanks to them that Skream is on this bill)

-Jah Shaka (The great Dub Pioneer of London who won 6 consecutive Notting Hill Carnival soundclashes in the mid 80's and heads the only soundsytem that legendry engineer Sir 'Coxsone' Dodds reckoned could truly challenge the classic Jamaican soundystems)

*Joe Lally (He played Bass in Fugazi, this is reason enough)

-Justice (“We are……French and everywhere as of yesterday”)

*Kid 606 (He will blow you away. But he is gay so might also want to blow you off. Breakcore/gabbacore schizo nutbag and propreitor of Tigerbeat6 who put out things like Knifehandchop and Drop The Lime. He once made a 2" CD. This is too small to actually be played on 99% of CD players as it just falls through the tray.)

*Luke Vibert (King of acid soaked techno, amazing)

*Merzbow (This guy is like the Dyaln of Noise)

***Michael Gira (He was the main guy in Swans, you HAVE to go see him. He is one of those 'important'/'cannonical' things like the Associates or Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica record that 'music buffs' like that pr1ck John Harris always name drop but never actually listen to. Gira is amazing, he will most likely just be playing solo with acoustic guitar. Whatever he does will be funny, brutal, honest, abrasive and perfect.)

-Midlake (Ok Americana)

*OM (The two guys from Sleep who aren't Josh Pike. Josh Pike went on to do High On Fire who Greenwood knows all about, OM is just like Sleep but on quallades. Sleep had a record called Jerusalem that is one 58 minute stoner/doom jam that opens with line: "take me away bong in hand off and up to the riff filled land so you get some of kind of idea of doomy Om is...)

-Para One (More f*cking French electro, he is on Institubes 'the new Ed Banger Records')

*Part Chimp (Incredible London fat c*nts, like Shellac with a death wish. I have NO idea what they are doing on this bill as compared to every other act they are 'tiny'. Great, great band though.)

-RJD2 (I can feel Pooly's boner from here)

-SebAstian (Yes it is meant to have a big A. These Ed Banger guys always come to everything together. Pay for one get them all. That is why there are literraly 8 of them on the bill)

-Shy Child (Ex-Guapo/Supersystem, great synth punkfunk)

***Sick Of It All (This will make Jarv happy. NYHC legends, expect a circle pit, "go fast/no go slow". If I was there I would probably break my ankle again doing 'Potential For A Fall')

-Simian Mobile Disco (French Electro from London. Make sure you go see enough guitar bands or else all this electro is going to drive you nuts)

-Sizzla (Maybe he will crucify some gay men on stage? Or burn them. He is not allowed in the UK so make the most of seeing Dancehall's cheeky homophobic king in action)

-Skream (The only Dubstep thing there. Wobblewobble.)

-Stones Throw Night (again with Pooly's hip hop stiffie, Peanut Butter Wolf is one of the best ‘party’ DJ’s I have ever seen. He sh1ts on Diplo and his baillieghettofunk)

***Sunn O))) (I talk about these guys a lot. Just go. Trust me on this one. Life changing and beyond the realms of music)

-The Cinematic Orchestra (good afternoon stoned music, might send you to sleep late on)

-The Horrors (Hey look it's the facking Horrors, right bunch of rotters they are, right cheeky cants they are, gosh they might do something not arf naughty like throw an egg at the farkin crowd. Farkin 'ell mate. They all went to Rugby you know. Don't know where they get this idea that they are Dickensian guttersnipes from. Good tunes though)

-The Notwist (Highly recomended, fragile post rock, like how if Explosions In The Sky were still good and used sillier instruments)

-The Skatalites (Made the arguably the best Dub record ever. 'The Guns Of Navarrone'.)

-The Thermals (G'wood knows about these ones)

-Two Gallants (I'm unconvinced but Slammer and Barn swear by them)

-Uffie and Feadz (Yup, MORE froggie electro. Edbanger again, she is hot and apparently "ready to f*ck". He is her boyfriend though. Imagine watching your hot, scantily clad girlfriend get wasted and jump into crowds of guys while singing: "I-I-I-I-I'M READY TO F*CK" every night. Must be a tough life for old Feadz, I definitely feel for the guy)

-Venetian Snares (Insane Breakcore from a guy who's name in actual real life is Aaron Funk. This is what Jungle should have become instead of that excuse for mediocrity that D&B has sadly wobbled into)

***Vitalic (Go. Go. Go. Literally F*CK all that Edbanger electro. Compared to this that is good for nothing but The Old Blue Last on a Friday Hoxton Hipster bullsh1t background muzak. This is the real deal. I have heard this guys next LP and it sh1ts on pretty much everything since his last one. Grin inducing, hug everyone dance like you don't care perfect.)

-Wilco (Go see Jeff grow old gracefully. Not blown away by ‘Sky Blue Sky’ apart from Nels Cline's guitar stuff. I am having a revisionist Wilco period. Summerteeth rules! If Bill Fay turns up onstage like he did in London that will be worth going to Belgium for alone)

*Wiley (If he turns up to this I will eat a pair of my Y Fronts)

***Wolf Eyes (Much like Sunn or Lightning Bolt these guys are a band I talk about a lot. They pretty much deconstructed how I approached 'music'. What could be quantified as music, how it can be approached as a medium yadda yadda yadda. Whatever. Going and seeing these guys live is one of the most visceral experiences life can offer. I have gone well out of my way to see them over the years and own more of their music than any other artist whose name does not include the words 'Bob' and 'Dylan'. If you ignore everything else on this list please, please, please find out when Wolf Eyes are playing. Get totally f*cked. Push right to the front. And stay there for at least 15 minutes. Or whenever it gets loud. When it gets loud if you still feel nothing just go. If you don't get it under those circumstances there is no point prolonging the agony)

***Wu Tang Clan (If they do 'Da Mystery Of Chess Boxin' I will be sad I wasn't there)

Wow! That really is a great list of bands. I am super jealous and hope that you all have a super wicked awesome time.

I hope at least one thing on here is something you might not have gone to and you see it and enjoy it.

Be sure to make me a list when you get back of all the great bands you saw that I did not mention and go: "ha ha you pretentious, cocky, big-headed pr1ck, they were amazing and you've never even heard of them, in your face! They weren't even on your sh1tty little list, hahahahah".

xjam

Second Life Feature

Here is a little thing on the Second Life webite that I wrote for Vice Magazine but never saw the light of day.

There are now over 5 million registered ‘residents’ on SecondLife.com who regularly use what is looking increasingly like Neal Stephenson’s Metaverse from that novel Snow Crash. The population increased by 951% between 2005-2006 and Linden Labs, the company behind this virtual land of opportunity, are seeing annual financial growth rates of 287% for the site they see becoming a ‘3D web-browser’, a concept that marries the social-networking of sites like Myspace with the cash-cow commercialism of Amazon.com.

We decided to sign up and see what the deal is. The site is free to join and has it’s own currency the ‘Linden Dollar’ ($I US get you about $250 LD) with which you can buy pretty much anything: land, property, weapons, drugs, sex. You name it, just point your avatar in the right direction and have at it. Linden’s laissez-faire approach to regulation has led to an almost frontier-like free for all which any enterprising young turk can grab a piece of like canny Japanese chick Anshe Chung, SL’s first ‘virtual Rockerfella’ who’s been bringing in over $150,000 a year in real estate investment.

The multinationals have been quick to catch on, SonyBMG launched with a virtual Ben Folds show, Toyota are selling virtual cars and Harvard have opened a distance learning school. Rudy Gulliani has even opened a campaign headquarters for his presidential campaign in SL.

The relative lawlessness of Second Life has made it ripe pickings for a thriving vice and drugs trade as well as several pretty weird political developments. The recent establishment of an HQ for the extremist French National Front saw the Second Life Liberation army buddying up with the Second Life Left Unity Party to have a good old fashioned riot and various vigilante hackers regularly set off maliciously encoded ‘bombs’ against companies such as our friends American Apparel whose scantily clad models they object to.

This is pretty ironic considering sex seems to be everywhere. We sent our avatar dude into the Initiation Island but weren’t all that sure what we were doing and had neglected to buy any clothes. As we were ‘playing’ as a chick some kindly fellow approached us, talked us through the clothing process and then attempted to lay us, hmm. Our first trip into a bar led to an encounter with some virtual hookers who offered “the works” for $1200 LD, about $5 US. We again came a cropper here as we’d forgotten to purchase any genitalia and the girls got kinda pissy when we revealed our pixelated nothingness.

Although you can purchase weapons the peaceful nature of SL means that the use of them will lead to a suspension or if you do anything really naughty, like try and kill someone, a ban so if you are into tearing shit up best stick to World Of Warcraft. The current SL drug of choice is called Seclimine, here is how one SL peddler touted his wares: “Seclimine is intended to get you and your avatar good and dopey, disoriented, and wondering why the walls are melting and the floor is made of meat”. Ohkay. To be honest in order to get anything out of this it seems you’d really have to put a lot of time and effort in and I’m not really that into ending up some 23 year old heart attack victim from excessive role playing and Red Bull consumption.

White Rabbits Interview

Interview with melodic New York indie-poppers White Rabbits for the Viceland.com Blog.

White Rabbits Interview - 26 / 06 / 07

Your music sounds like it should be from Montreal, but you are from New York. How did that happen!
That Hurts man! Yeah, we get the Arcade Fire comparison a lot. I’m guessing that is what you are getting at? They are a fine band, but I don’t think they came up once as an influence when we were making the record. They are one of those bands that sort of changed the field for bands like us.

You got an 8.1 on Pitchfork Media. How is the ‘pitchfork effect’ working out for you? Painful?
I guess in the states it helped out a lot, we were just about to go out on an unscheduled tour when the Mystery Jets had problems getting Visas. We were gonna go out on the road with them, but they couldn’t make it over to the States. That review helped us out a lot, we had a much bigger crowd and we sold a few records, well a lot of people stole our record! We don’t care about that so much.

Your name kinda sounds like you should be making incidental music for The Tweenies.
You know, choosing a name for a band is always such a painful and awkward thing…

Is it just a rip of that Jefferson Airplane song?
I think that was probably mentioned. We wanted to call ourselves ‘The Grateful Dead’ but it was already taken. I think we were after a non-intrusive name that doesn’t mean anything really. Although we just found out about the white rabbit superstition thing where you are supposed to say ‘White Rabbit’ three times on the first day of the month for good luck.

Really? I haven’t heard about that We usually do ‘Pinch, Punch, first of the month’ So how is the action on tour? Have you been fucking like….well y’know…
Action? Watching Wimbledon has been about as good as it gets for us. Saying that though, the television reception has been great!

So how have you found the UK so far?
Rainy, muddy and expensive

Is that how you would sum up the UK in three words?
Nah it would be ‘God bless America!’

Lets stay with three’s. What three things make White Rabbits the band they are today?
Steven King, Dr Dog and pints of beer.

Thanks

Battles Interview

An intervfiew with the proggy math-rock band Battles for the Playlouder.com website.

The Wrath Of The Math
(Battles defy you at every turn)

The name itself implies a sense of the unsettled, not a single conflict but an ongoing war. Although they claim they chose the moniker simply because “it just looked good on paper” Battles is a wonderfully fitting description of a band that constantly challenges, re-invents and re-interprets itself. Flashing bolts of mercurial sculpted sound vie with syncopated bursts of staccato repetition all of which hurtles along atop a propulsive beat that no digital source could replicate.

The early part of this interview took place almost two months ago when Battles were a band with two interesting EP’s and a single to their name and the thunder of an already fearsome live show building behind them. Although these early recorded excursions were generally well received a sense of expectancy hung around the bands debut long player that was only fitting considering the calibre of the involved artist’s previous work.

John Stanier had played drums in the hardcore band Jehovah’s Sickness before making his name with early 90’s riff-metallers Helmet, and went on to work with Mike Patton in Tomahawk. Ian Williams practically invented the term that continues to hang, albatross-like, around Battles neck with proto-mathrockers Don Caballero and later with Storm Stress, a similar path that David Kanopka had trodden with Lynx. Tyondai Braxton’s experiments with free noise were no doubt influenced by his father Anthony Braxton’s legendry improv work and he had collaborated with Prefuse 73 and Jon Zorn prior to the call of Battles.

An impressive roster of course means little if the music that it produces fails to match the weight of its Wikipedia entries. 8 weeks down the line, some glowing record reviews and triumphant live performances on the South Bank, ATP and across the country however have seen the weight of expectation cast aside as if it such a thing had never existed. In the minds of this band it almost certainly never did for the sense that the greatest expectation comes from within these four artists themselves was apparent both in March and when I caught up with Ian again this week.

You’ve all played in pretty influential bands prior to playing in Battles, has that affected your approach to Battles or have you come to it with a completely fresh approach?

John: With me, the only way that it has come to play in Battles is that I played for a really long time in Helmet, for ten years. But that’s it, playing in that band for ten years obviously caused me to develop a style but from day one of Battles the whole purpose was to do something that none of us had done before. I’d say for the most part our previous bands have little effect apart from maybe a technique.

Ian: Totally. Also, different ideas turn you on 10 years ago. Don Cab and Storm & Stress were fun at those points in time but it’s good to set yourself up in new situations musically. It keeps it fresh and it keeps it honest.

Tyondai: For me there was a real desire to get beyond my past, to create a new sound with new ideas. In a way reacting against what I’ve done before. In Battles, I’m way more interested with ideas of solidified, cohesive song structures. You can never escape yourself completely but you always want to evolve and all of us have come into it with that exploratory philosophy both as individuals and as a collective. My Dad obviously had an influence on me but mainly in terms of inspiring me just to be fearless in my approach and work like hell.

How did you guys all meet up?

Tyondai: I’m originally from Connecticut but I met Ian when we were both living in New York and we played around loosely at first for about a year getting used to each other then we met Dave and the idea of it formally becoming a band appeared on the horizon but it was really when John came along that it became clear that we really had something and that was at the end of 2003.

Was there any reason why your initial releases were singles and EP’s only?

John: The honest answer is that the band was beginning to gel and sound like a band so we wanted to tour but we had to have something to tour with so we did Tras the single and two EP’s but they were all actually recorded at the same session. They were released really early on and we had a period of two years of touring and playing together working stuff out as we went along.

Tyondai: All those early releases though were really documents of us struggling to find our sound. There has never been an end goal as in: at the end of the road we want to sound like this or that. The question mark has always been the journey and the EP’s kinda charted that, the new record is us playing around with the sounds established on the EP’s; a more refined version of that early sound.

Is there any reason why you went for Warp Records over here in the UK, which is more commonly associated with dance music?

John: Weirdly I think they parallel our growth, that attempt to diversify their sound is sort of the same path we’re on, it just made sense from the get go.

Dave: It was cool, they were looking not to be pigeonholed and that was exactly the same thing we were looking for, we’re both evolving in tandem.

How did you hook up with DJ Koze for the remix on the Atlas single?

John: My girlfriend lives in Cologne so I just bumped into him over there, we were mixing the album and it was actually all just done over the phone but it worked out really well I think.

Why the choice to incorporate far heavier use of vocals on the new record?

Tyondai: I know from the outset that this band has been viewed as an ‘instrumental’ outfit but internally we never saw it that way, it made sense on the EP’s to be more reserved in a way as we were still trying to sculpt our sound, there are vocals on there but on the new record I thought it would be cool to introduce that element more heavily and play with the stereotypical vocal structure. Take it on in a Battles mode.

The general consensus on the record has been very positive. Had it not been would that have had any effect?

Ian: Obviously we are very happy that people dig the record but we started out making the music independent of any kind of outside perception. The whole concept of breaking up the early material into EP’s was partly so that there wasn’t a chance for that stuff to be judged as a body of work. We are happy to be working below the radar, whatever radar that there is! There are two sides to it I guess, you are always gonna hurt a little if someone criticises your work but what makes this band fun is that the challenge comes as much from ourselves you know? I don’t think any of us would really care as long as we were pleased with the record.

How do you feel about the fact that the positive press you have been receiving will no doubt bring you very much onto the radar that you once successfully operated below?

Ian: We have a pretty strong sense of a system whereby we are just making music for ourselves, which I think that we will always maintain. It is a love of what we do that drives the ship as opposed to the crazy winds of the press or whatever. The audience reactions have been great though, you can see that people have listened to the new record and to see people reacting to the new material is great. As you tour those songs the reactions help the songs grow, as the crowd respond more the dynamic of the energy of a live show dictates that you play more so it gives a feeling that it is helping the songs grow.

How was the show at ATP?

Ian: It was really awesome. We played the Saturday night and the room was packed, I think there might have even been people queuing out the door! Seeing so many people at a Battles show was pretty insane but you know ATP is always awesome so that was good.

Are you looking forward to touring the record in the US?

Ian: Sure, it’s coming out on Warp over there too, they have an office in New York. It’s funny you know, in the ‘olden days’ like, in the 90’s (laughs quite a lot) you could get kind of well known on the East coast or the West coast or wherever but with the way things have gone with the internet and the whole spread of media it’s all just one big place to tour ha-ha!

June Drowned In Sound Reviews

Two reviews I did for the DrownedInSound.com website in June 2007.

Night Of The Brain
Wear This World Out
Station 55

8/10

Some records are impossible to judge objectively outside of the context that they come cloaked in. The critical vacuum that some argue should exist is an idealised impossibility. It is the framing power of context and the juxtopositional relationships that sprawl between records and their creators that allows for criticism to exist. With no common reference or point of comparison it become difficult to posit the album in a place of communal understanding.

This is my convoluted and arseholic way of saying hey! I am going to compare this record to lots of other records and that Wear This World Out cannot be considered independently of its creator: Cristian Vogel.

Vogel has ploughed a successful and diverse career as producer of techno, half of innovative electronica duo SuperCollider alongside Jamie Liddell and as a studio producer and remixer for Radiohead, Chicks On Speed and Maximo Park.

While this record fails to scale the dizzy heights of Liddell’s sublime Multiply there is such a variety of styles and nagging sense of possibility in this record that it demands being returned to. It hooks the listener with shorter opening tracks Ghosts, Golden Shower Song and Viki The Tall which all conform to template that falls somewhere between a slightly woozy, slowed version of Q and Not U’s energetic dance punk mixed with almost dream like post rock sensibilities before the pivotal Connecting Charges (the track that most closely resembles Vogel’s straight electronic work and in this full band context appears the albums weakest cut coming on like Tricky fronting a faceless track from a generic chill out compilation) that then segues into a series of tracks all around the 7 minute mark that have more in common with the gentle, exploratory avant-rock of Gastr Del Sol or The Sea and Cake or even perhaps the O’Rourke produced efforts of Wilco displaying a willingness to explore and nose around the limitations of the form while never quite straying into self indulgence. The intro and outro of Winter Wine for example toy with strange static noises more commonly found in records that appear on Harbinger Sound or No Fun than a techno imprint. The bass and drums are unsurprisingly fairly prominent throughout. For a man of Vogel’s background the rhythm acts as an anchor from which the more exploratory sounds can fly and all in all Wear This World Out offers and intriguing and enjoyable listen that benefits repeat visits.

Whighnomy Bros & Robag Wruhme
Remikks Potporri II
Freude Am Tanzen Recordings

8/10

We have reached a stage of flux in which ‘dance’ music (in the loosest of definitions) copulates so freely with ‘indie’ music (again in the loosest of terms) that practically no indie release is complete without a perfunctionary dancefloor edit from this months producer du jour. In 2005 unless you had a Paul Epworth rerub on the backside of your 7 you may as well wave goodbye disco success and in 2007 Phones has been discarded for the ubiquitous SMD while the Ed Banger and Institubes stables offer a kind of readymix package whereby you basically get the guitar song remixed without even asking for the edit in the first place. Some artists have even decided that they could actually do with other people remixing their whole albums (witness Bloc Party and Architecture in Helsinki).

The presumptuousness of these artists of the worth of the original work comes across as conceited and the workmanlike approach to remixing has demystified what can be one of the most noble of musical endeavours. Unlike the cover version, which by its nature dictates adherence to the original, the remix allows the remixer to take that which made the original song special and place it in a different context either to create contrast (on this record witness the remix of Matthias Tanzmen’s Bulldozer) or to complement and ameliorate the qualities of the original (here the stunningly glacial remix of Future Sound Of London’s Lifeforms).

“Stripped my heart and ripped it apart, all in the name of fun,” echoes Gahan over the Wruhme remix of Depeche Mode’s Lillian, if this album represents these three producers having fun then it is a masterly and well-applied sense of fun. The calibre of artist represented on this second selection of remixes from the Whignomy Bros and Robag Wruhme is indicative of the trios standing and it is a respect well earned. They offer a wonderful case-study of the remix applied correctly, the essence of each of the songs is snatched and framed in sounds and rhythms that give it new lease of life and renew the possibilities of what could be assumed the song could be.

Any of the collections 10 tracks could be chosen to demonstrate the point but two stand out in particular. The Wighnomy Bros remix of Gustav’s We Shall Overcome is given a glitchy microhouse beat while chiming, slightly off kilter sounds create an endearing backdrop for the vocal which is reminiscent of Karin Dreijer Andersson at her most simplistically piercing. Ellen Allien and Apparat’s Way Out meanwhile offers another enchanting vocal but this time the Whighnomys and Robag create peeling swathes of beats akin to vintage ambient Aphex efforts while a bed of techy melodic stabs carry the listener to whichever way it is that is out. The collection is topped by an exclusive Wruhme original, which departs from the melodic sense of space that runs through the remixes and attacks the listener with relentless strings and breaks. An unexpected nugget atop a collection that demonstrates that used correctly the remix is a tool of boundless possibility.

Mika Miko Interview

Here is an interview I did with the all-girl LA punk-rock band Mika Miko for the June 2007 issue of Vice Magazine. They ruled muchly.

Mika Miko

When I’m sitting all alone in my room and I’ve got bored of beating off I dream of this perfect band that mixes the rawness of The Germs and The Wipers, the couldn’t-give-a-shit anger of Black Flag and Reagan Youth but sort of with the dancey bits of Liquid Liquid or ESG. Like punk-funk if that wasn’t a disgusting word that no-one can ever use again. Oh, and all the band members are super-cool hot chicks that you want to hang out and party with all the time and maybe make out with sometimes but it wouldn’t be weird cos they are all just, y’know, into skating and stuff and don’t really care. And no-one else knows about them. Holy shit my dream has come true!

I’ve heard you guys play at a lot of house party’s. Is this because LA is really boring and everyone goes home from the bars early and doesn’t smoke and stuff?

Jessie: We used to play a bunch of all ages shows at The Smell cos when we started we were like 15, 16, 17. We do a few house parties but they keep getting shutdown by the police and stuff.
Katelyn: And we kept getting injured.

Injured?

Jenna: Yeah, we are the most injury prone band in the history of the universe, between us we have had cracked skulls from PA’s falling down, cracked knees from car crashes and broken ankles and wrists from skateboarding. That’s why we only ever get to practice for like 5 minutes and when we do we get idiots like you on the phone.

Sorry, I won’t be long. The LA Weekly mentioned you along with The Like as being responsible for making the LA live scene interesting again, you don’t seem anything like The Like to me.

Katelyn: I know nothing about them. But we did once do coke with them in the toilets at this club on Sunset though.

Really?

Michelle: No, but we were at a party in Hollywood once and Jennifer smacked Dave Navarro. I was right there, he was walking around topless and she just smacked him, all I can remember was that his fucking nipple rings jiggled, hahaha.

That really is a haunting image. You name sounds weird to say. Where did that come from?

Jennifer: We have never told anyone the truth behind our name so you should feel pretty special. Basically we were all at my aunts funeral and afterwards my babysitters mum was saying that she used to be in this punk band called Mico and Nico. For some reason under the circumstances we found that hilarious so we just decided to change it a bit and steal it in homage.

I prefer the Dave Navarro story. Do you ever get strange reactions from audiences for being an all-girl punk-rock band? Do they expect you to be Rrriot Girls or something?

Jenna: Only in New Mecico where we stopped for a gas and this girl was like: ‘wow you’re a chick band, I’ve never seen a chick band before’. That was weird.
Katelyn: Whenever we play north Carolina it is a pretty weird scene. Those kids have nothing to do so they have to party double-hard to make up for it. It’s not their fault though. They can’t help where they are from.

Mika Miko have a new EP entitled ‘666’ out now on Post Present Medium. Their previous LP entitled ‘C.Y.S.L.A.B.F.’ is also available now on Kill Rock Stars.

MIA Interview

This one was for the XL labels in-house magazine.

Reflecting Come What May {MIA}

Brave, fearless, always changing, always different, always challenging, always creating. Since exploding into the inert collective unconscious in 2005 MIA has not only done all of these things but lived all of these things. Her music is her, a mess of beats and a discordant hodge podge of sounds that only a life so hecticly lived and willingly embraced could shine out. She is not scared and she will she prevail. Her new record, Kaya, continues where Aurular left off, it’s mix skittish mix of styles, tempo’s and lyrical deliveries all ready to stun and seduce but are we ready yet for MIA?

So, the albums all done and the singles sounds great, are you excited about how this record will be received?

I don’t know! It’s weird; one thing just follows another to a certain extent. I am very excited about the video. It was my first time in Jamaica and it was amazing but it was really intense. We had to audition all the boys for the video and we only had five days to get the whole thing done. In that time I was also trying to have fun and go out and party and keep up with the dancers ‘cos they basically never sleep, they come to the shoot all day then they are straight out to the parties that don’t end till midday then they are back at the shoot again. It must be the rum, it keeps them going!

How would you compare the sound of Kala to the sound of Aurular?

Aurular was definitely my sketchbook, MIA was the first song that I ever wrote over in the Caribbean and Galang was the first song I wrote when I got back to the UK and both of those stuck. All the mistakes I made went on that record. This one is far more about the effect of environments. It’s my environmental record!

What happened with the recording sessions and the whole Visa situation?

Well apparently Bono has taken my case to Condoleeza so I should be alright now, ha-ha! Basically I had a month booked with Timbaland in Virginia and that was the only month he had booked away for me and that month was the only month I had booked away for him. That period was basically going to create whatever it was that this album was going to be. But… they denied my Visa into the USA. The whole time I had just wanted to be in a single place that was mine surrounded by my things: my records, my clothes, my photos, all the things that inspire me and allow me to be creative and all of those things were locked in barrels in customs. My life was in all these bits all over the place, so for ten months I just went to various countries and recorded here and there and just thought fuck it, it is what it is. I talked all this shit on this first record about art as a reflection of environment and suddenly I was living that out under a different set of codes that I just had to make work for me and that is what the album is about.

Is the angrier, harsher sound of Kala your reaction to this set of circumstances that you have been placed under?

Yeah for sure, I was pissed off a lot of the time. A lot of people were saying that the whole visa situation was being influenced by my Dad’s background. Whether or not that was the case I was just angry that there was no means of raising these points and having a discussion. You can’t have a conversation with these people; they do what they want to you. They were telling me that my identity matched someone on the wanted list and that they had to clear me from that list and it was that sense of guilty until proven innocent that amazed me because if they actually checked into my life they would see that I was just a Sri-Lankan refugee who came to England at 11 and went to St Martins and became a musician. I never had my Dad around in my life and even then if they checked his background they would see that he is not associated with the (Tamil) Tigers. He is associated with the revolution in Sri-Lanka but the Tigers also killed his movement so it is all a bit ridiculous. I originally wanted to go to every anti-American country in the world and record a pissed off angry song at America but it didn’t really work out like that, ha-ha.

The new record retains Aurular’s sense of genrelessness. You kind of hop between styles in a very carefree way. What music influenced you early on?

Well everyone always writes that I just met Peaches and Justine and decided that I wanted to do music but I had been hanging around people who make music for years, I had just never wanted to do it. I used to listen to a lot of dancehall so when I got to Jamaica that just sounded like water to me. I listened to a lot of Hip Hop because I went out to stay with my cousin when I was younger who lived in LA and she was a Sri-Lankan girl who thought she was black in a big way. She picked me up at the airport looking all thugged out and I had the best time just listening to all this gangsta
rap with her and hanging out with all these rappers and real-deal gangsters. It was crazy, there were all these guns and drugs around but compared to all the jungle raves I had been going to in the UK with all the Brick Lane Bengali kids there was just nice vibes, good people, loads of barbeques and hanging out and this was in South Central! Maybe it’s the sunshine.

What finally inspired you to make music yourself?

In England I constantly felt burdened; my brother was in and out of young offenders, my mum was getting evicted and I was on the dole. Although I had gone through St Martins and got a degree, which supposedly meant I could do anything, I was just making art and not really making any money from it. When I was doing the artwork for Elastica I’d go and take a photo, go the pawn shop and pawn my camera in for £50, go to Snappy Snaps, get the film processed, get paid £50 by Justine and the process would begin again. I’d never made money until I managed to sell a few paintings, Jude Law bought a couple and suddenly I had £1000. It was the most money I’d ever had at once and by chance one of my friends needed to get away ‘cos she needed to clean up so we went to the Caribbean in 2002. Every day I was waking up to soundsystems going off and by 6 everyone is getting drunk and there is a party here and a party there and I was working in the bar and dancing in the clubs and for the first time it felt like I had space and didn’t have to think about anyone or anything. I felt totally integrated into that culture and welcomed by the whole local scene. I just felt totally embraced by the people and the music and once I was there in that moment I couldn’t help but be in it. Before I left I’d had these ambitions to be a filmmaker and I’d been nominated for the alternative Turner Prize and all that stuff but once I’d come back I became obsessed with making music and exploring this new territory. Suddenly it was like I didn’t need to do anything else. It was the first time I had been able to minimize my life, I didn’t need to go out anymore or hang out with people. Music was all I did for 6 months; I’d wake up at 8 in the morning and not brush my teeth and just write and fall asleep at 5am on top of my 4 track. It was just so exciting, like wow! These two buttons do this and that button does that.

What came out of those early sessions definitely had a serious degree of originality, perhaps such originality that even now some people are still only just beginning to catch up with it.

Yeah, I remember when I was doing that stuff I only played it to about five other people. I just felt almost apologetic about how weird it sounded. I just accepted that that was what I sounded like and I thought that when I was good at it I was going to be better than Beyonce! But instead it went all over the place and everyone just said how different it was, no one said it was banging! I don’t even try and describe it any more, I just need to grow up into this music like a skin and live in it as well as I can. Luckily I’ve got to a stage now where I no longer need to justify it or package it or present as this or that, it is what it is, simple as that.

How will the new record work live?

It’s very difficult because my musicians are from this village in India, if I plucked them out of the environment they come from and take them off on tour I would ruin their lives for ever, they are just kids who have never left their village, I flew them out to Chennai and they couldn’t handle it. I’d just end up getting them in trouble on tour, they’d have to start drinking and doing drugs and coming to after parties, it just wouldn’t work! Even for Birdflu and Boyz though those songs have 25 drummers on them so replicating any of it live is going to be a difficult. But I’m playing Glastonbury so watch out!

Would you still like to go and just record somewhere cut off from the world for a month?

Oh for sure! That is the plan for the next record! A month in Beverly Hills…