Tuesday, 4 March 2008

NME Radar Piece: Minimal Dubstep

An unedited version with links.

A Meeting Of Minimal Minds

Dubstep is part of the furniture. Go on. Deal with it. It’s OK. In 2008 you are as likely to hear Caspa’s ‘Cockney Thug’ at White Heat as you are at DMZ or the latest Skream in a Skins ad on E4 as you are down at FWD. A decade on from drum&bass’s choke hold over British underground urban music and dubstep has become its mirror image.

Unfortunately, much like drum&bass before it, it seemed for much of 2007 that dubstep had fallen foul of formula. Repetitive, uninspiring bass-wobblers reminiscent of being stuck inside Mr Oizo’s head on a ketamine bender seemed to have gripped the scene. Thankfully, while everyone else was doing the Flatbeat dance to third generation Benga rip-offs something really exciting was happening while no one was paying attention. And it wasn’t happening in London at all…

Techno has always been an acknowledged influence on dubstep. However, it’s space and minimalism was something sorely lacking in the crowd pleasing bass wobblers all the public school kids in string vests were doing gun fingers to. If you look beyond the immediacy of the dancefloor it is possible to find a raft of producers and labels more than happy to play with the limitations of the form and occasionally throw the whole lot out of the window. These artists can mainly be found in dubstep’s ‘second’ city: Bristol.

The singular most important influence on this crop of producers is the ‘Hardwax’ axis of labels based in Berlin and governed by egg-headed minimalist geniuses Moritz Van Oswald and Mark Ernestus. Chain Reaction, Basic Channel and Rhythm Sound are all imprints which, along with the Detroit based Deepchord and Echospace labels, have had a considerable impact on the ‘Bristol sound’. By taking inspiration from Berlin and Detroit and applying it to a London born sound the Bristol producers have the supplied the scene with a much needed of a kick up the arse.

The primary ambassador of this emerging sound is Rob ‘Pinch’ Ellis (http://www.myspace.com/tectonicrecordings) founder of both the city’s major rave, Subloaded (http://www.myspace.com/subloaded), and its premier label, Tectonic (http://www.myspace.com/tectonicrecordings). Pinch has done much to foster, encourage and inspire the meeting of techno and dubstep both in his deep, meditative DJ sets as well as in his own productions. After a string of stunning 12”s on Tectonic and electronica label Planet Mu his debut album ‘Underwater Dancehall’, released at the end of last year, is every bit the measure of Burial’s lauded second LP. It explores themes that could easily be played to raised hands on Berlin dancefloors any night of the week.

In Pinch’s wake, pockets of individuals equally inspired by the meeting point of techno and dubstep have sprung up west of London. After years behind the counter at the cities excellent Rooted Records (http://rootedrecords.co.uk) the man known as Peverlist (Tom to his mum) set up the Punchdrunk label (http://www.myspace.com/punchdrunkrecords) to help showcase the minimal sound emanating from Bristol. The label goes from strength to strength with releases from RSD (http://www.myspace.com/dubrockers), Gatekeeper (http://www.myspace.com/gatekeeperproductions). Similarly the H.E.N.C.H. (http://www.myspace.com/henchstep) and Ruffneck Diskotek ( http://www.myspace.com/ruffnekdiskotek) collectives have helped give Bristol a sound of it’s own as well as bringing through young talents such as Headhunter (http://www.myspace.com/dubstepheadhunter) and Wedge (http://www.myspace.com/wedgedj).

The Bristol scene is insightfully watched over, poked fun at and commented on by elder statesman and blogger Gutterbreakz whose Blogariddims 25 mix late last year (still available at http://gutterbreakz.blogspot.com) moved effortlessly from Deepchord and Echospace 12”s into a selection consisting solely of Bristol artists as if to say: “look! These made this”.

[It is not only the West Country which has found inspiration from the point where glacial Germanic precision and warm London sub bass meet. The emergence from The Hague of the numerically monikered 2562 (http://www.myspace.com/2562dub) gave the movement further international colour. His records have been released on Hyperdub (http://www.myspace.com/hyperdub) by the ever-astute Kode9 (http://www.myspace.com/kode9) whose own productions are also heavily influenced by the dub techno continuum, so much so that he released the LV and Errol Bellot cut ‘Globetrotting’ which could easily fit into Rhythm & Sounds ‘Burial Mix’ series.]

Back in London the final link in the minimal ‘dubstepno’ love-in comes in the shape of the Skull Disco label run by Lancashire born producer Sam Shackleton. Everything, from the imprints unique artwork and exacting quality control to its idiosyncratic sound sest it apart from the dubstep mainstream. Flirting with Arabic percussion and Berlin inspired dub techno, Skull Disco’s output shares a great kinshp with Bristol/Berlin axis and almost inevitably caught the eye of minimalist renaissance man and all-round sonic alchemist Ricardo Villalobos.

While the Chilean techno godhead had been mixing dubstep tunes like ‘Midnight Request Line’ by Skream and ‘Left Leg Out’ by Digital Mystikz into his four hour plus sets for sometime it was in Shackleton’s ‘Blood On My Hands’ that he saw a true connection. So much so that he personally asked to remix the song. The result was a jaw-droppingly perfect 18-minute workout of controlled, minimal space, stasis and pressure. This final gesture made the Berlin/Bristol/London axis complete. You can check out the remix as well as work by Skull Disco’s other equally exciting artists Appleblim (http://www.myspace.com/appleblim) and Gatekeeper on a 2CD retrospective compilation available form the labels website (http://www.skulldisco.com/).

While there was cause for getting a little worried for a minute the massive variety of influences and cultural meeting points that go into making dubstep interesting should continue to do so for a while yet. As long as you keep looking in the right places…

Sebastian Tellier Interview

This one was for the viceland.com blog

Sebastian Tellier Wants To Make You Moan

You know Sebastian Tellier. French guy? Beard? Shades? Loads of hair? La Ritournelle? Yep that’s the one. While Tellier remains most well-remembered for La Ritournelle’s perfect marriage of glacial production and jabbing, longing strings that yelped like yearning broken hearts crying into wells of despair there are far more strings to the hirsute Parisian’s bow than you may realise. Not least of all an appetite for fucking that makes Russell Brand look like a sexually repressed seven year old Catholic convent kid with penis hatred. This prominent preoccupation of young Sebastian’s formed the central influence and subject for his third LP which he worked on with Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo entitled erm… “Sexuality”. We caught up with Tellier in a plush Bloomsbury hotel where he was sipping vodka and orange with his shirt splayed alarmingly. I was scared.

Hey Sebastian how’s things?
Very good. I feel filled with life. But I must apologise as my English- it is very bad. I might use a bad word. I am sorry.

That’s ok. I don’t know how to say anything in French other than: “where is the hairdressers?”. Why do each of your records have a titular theme? Surely that just narrows down what you can write about. Like only singing songs about green socks or something.
I try to take inspiration from a single thing. For example on “Sexuality” I took inspiration from my own sexual fantasies and my own sexual experiences. I think that is the challenge for the artist. To translate these everyday things into something universal. Something with music that is in the state of perfection.

Have you reached the state of perfection yet?
La Ritournelle is an exampl. I have not reached that again. That song was written when I was in love with a girl who did not love me. That was a powerful state of emotions. That mix of happiness and sadness. In general I prefer to make special things out of the mundane.

Like making a song about fried breakfasts?
That is very English. No, more just normal life. For example in Paris I do not live in the chi chi area where everyone pretends to be a bohemian and does nothing all day except maybe drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. I live in the business district where it is all very clean. Many straight lines.

As well as straight lines you seem to be big into sex. What is about sex that gets you going?
Sexuality is a natural no? I want to make music that excites women. For me sex is very involved with love. Sexual love is the greatest feeling. The album is my musical representation of perfect sex. I try to explain to the world the Latin concept of sex.

Do you have a girlfriend?
Yes. She is my muse. On the record there are many samples of female moaning. That was my girlfriend. I took her into the recording booth and fingered her sensually. Those moans are moans of sexual pleasure.

Right. The record was produced by Guy-Man from Daft Punk, how was that?
It was the first time I had worked with him and for me to work with the man who has achieved such great things with Daft Punk was a dream. In the studio he gave me confidence and allowed me to achieve my dream.

Did he wear his helmet in the studio?
No. It would be very hot.

You have also done stuff with Tony Allen and Mr. Oizo. Do you just like getting other people to do the work for you?
I have a great imagination and image of my songs. These other musicians allow me to realize these imaginings. They allow me to live my dream life. I am lucky to have these people making my dreams with me who are geniuses and masters

Is there anyone you have not worked with who you would like to in the future?
Prince would be the ultimate but he said no to Michael Jackson so this may be impossible. Working with Guy-Man was like working with a god though. Not a king, a god.

Do you feel any affinity with the Paris Ed Banger scene?
I am not part of that scene but I am a very big fan of Sebastian. In his music you here the night. The dance and the sweat. I like Oizo obviously and Air and Phoenix.

You recently posed for Playboy. I missed that. Did you get stuff out?
No it was just a fashion shoot. And Playboy is for the guys. They do not want to see guy’s stuff. They want to see a beautiful woman. I am always happy to be in magazines though. It makes me happy.

James Ford from Simian Mobile Disco once told me that he gets musical inspiration from space through his afro. Do you get yours through your beard?
No, my face is just in need of covering.

You look a little like ‘The Dude’ from the Big Lebowski.
That is better than saying I look like a fat Vincent Gallo. A girl once said that to me. I was not happy.

iD March Review

The Death Set
Counter Records

Despite a release on Ninja Tune’s newly created Counter imprint this first from Australia via Baltimore’s most hyperactive is about as far from Bonobo-style navalgaze as is imagineable. The unlikely named Beau Valesco and Johnny Sierra pogo through 18 tracks in under 26 minutes, smashing and grabbling liberally from punk, casiotone and no-wave with infectious abandon.

Psychopedia Interview With Anton Newcombe


“What goes on in your mind?”

“I think that I am falling down”

The maxim that The Fall would still be The Fall were it to consist solely of Mark E. Smith and “yer nan on bongos” is equally applicable to the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The outfit has existed for over a decade as the primary outlet for the creative talent of Anton Newcombe. A mercurial presence whose fragile genius has sadly only begun to permeate the collective subconscious through the one-sided portrayal of his troubled strivings for artistic freedom in the 2004 documentary “Dig!” Newcombe can be a stubborn, self-absorbed, egotist. However, the documentary’s portrayal of a man bent only on drug and alcohol fuelled self destruction in the name of artistic achievement with a propensity for in-band and audience-targeted violence bears witness only to the negative elements of a man assured both of his own intelligence and vision.

It is remarkable how closely Newcombe’s creative approach and output mirrors that of one of his most obvious influences: Bob Dylan. Both glorify the enraptured state of youthful innocence and yet seem aged and knowing before their time. They both have a “wrestles hungry feeling that don’t mean no one no good” and feel the urge to be out “on the road heading for another joint” in a state of constant movement and renewal, ever changing, ever creating. Among other fragments and disjointed musings Newcombe insists during our interview that he is currently working on “four or five” albums simultaneously.

Out of these constantly spinning projects it is the Massacre’s upcoming 13th studio effort, “My Bloody Underground”, that I ostensibly met Newcombe to discuss. The bands first album in four years was recorded in Liverpool and Reykjavik with traditional Jonestown haste and features the bands traditional neo-psychedelic riffing combined with a nod to the more avant-garde. The record is notable for the appearance of Ride’s Mark Gardener and the fact that it is a stunning body of work comparable to the band’s sublime highs watermarks “Take It From The Man!” and “Thank God For Mental Illness”. Newcombe, however, remained happiest stalking the grounds of his West London hotel imparting his knowledge of Blitz-era London and attempting to instill the need for “civic duty” in passers by. Over double Smirnoff and tonics he had been dinking since midday of course…

In the past you have expressed weariness towards playing in England. How are you feeling today sat here in Lancaster Gate?
I think English people are Anglo Saxons. There is no unified peoples here, there are different kinds people. I like parts of them because they are us and I am not into bullshit nationalism and I don’t care about your bullshit nationalism. I mean I just don’t care you know? You can be into whatever team and I will cheer them, Liverpool or whoever, I will be all your girlfriends all night long. I just don’t care. But the reception you get here can be beautiful sometimes.

Is it a similar case in Europe? I saw you play at Primavera three years ago and your emotions on stage seemed to oscillate pretty wildly.
That place? It was just such a rude situation being there. Lou Reed had his sensei sitting in a yoga position right by the side of the stage next to him as we were playing. It was just fucking ridiculous. We just wanted to look at clouds and go swimming but they wouldn’t let us. We did it anyway a bunch of times, just dived straight into the Mediterranean off of those concrete blocks. It was the first time I had ever swum in the Mediterranean and it was a beautiful experience but they didn’t want too many people doing that. Oh no.

Can I ask what motivated you to write this new record and in particular the first track on the record?
First up this isn’t the new record; it is just the one that is being released now. There are others, this one only took four days to get down and there are four or five others that could go down at any time in my head right now. I work constantly. I only sleep for two hours and twenty minutes a day. My wife will attest that. With regards to the song I assume you mean “Bring Me The Head Of Paul McCartney On Heather Mills’ Wooden Peg (Dropping Bombs On The Whitehouse)”? That was inspired by the apocalypse. But I don’t even care about that. What I think about is being the best husband I can be to my wife and raising my child and being a civic-minded individual and being respectful of other individuals and being a pillar of my community. I don’t care about rock and roll. I couldn’t give a damn. But to get it down we just took a walk. I mean really it took about six seconds to come up with it and about 20 minutes to cut. If you take out the cocaine and whatever. But I’m not gonna get into that, I can tell looking in your pupils you got a sorcery full of secrets and deceit. But I am not the judge or jury that you need to convince with those irrational eyes. Anyway there are a whole load of kids here so we can’t talk about that, they are here in London experiencing and enjoying and that is a beautiful thing so best behavior and full steam ahead.

Did you feel the need to create as a child?
Well music is only one means by which I express myself. I have been programming computers for the CIA since I was 5.

As someone who has expressed concern over the current state of near apocalypse is that something that you have considered the outcome of?
I couldn’t say if it was good or bad, it is impossible to establish a unified opinion. I will tell you that it’s like saying “is the internet bad?” You can map the human genome with t or you can download porn or you can use the genome to destroy others so whole thing really is triangular. But it’s not my business to exist inside of some tea party with H.G. Wells in Oxford and create some kind of science fictions. I just don’t care as you or I shouldn’t really be alive right now.

What makes you feel that way?
Everyone is walking around like an idiot, ripping everybody else off and everything you think, concepts of nationalism, which is all a joke. I am bound to die but I have not encountered that yet so for now I will try and be the best I can be for my wife.

Is that the state of mind you record in?
No, we tend to go away and take many drugs, huge handfuls and reach the state of the bezerker. You can look that up if you don’t know what it means. My wife is Welsh and it is a very Welsh state, very primal and bezerk, lots of drinking and we were all bezerkers but again because of the children in the next room I cannot speak my mind freely on this position. I don’t need sycophants attempting to pop off on me.

This record sounds an equal to anything else you’ve done. What are you hoping to take Brian Jonestown Massacre now?
To prepare for the apocalypse.

Sex Vid Interview

Interview with the best hardcore band I have heard in the last year.

Sex Vid

The internet has made everything too easy. Remember when you used to have to send a cheque away to some PO Box just get hold of a ‘zine and in the back of the ‘zine you’d see a list of records by bunch of bands you knew nothing about? You’d have to sort of guess whether or not you were going to be into them pretty much just by their names or (if you were really lucky and the ‘zine was posh) the sleeve? It was great! Like a little adventure.

Ok, ok, I’m totally lying out of my ass. It’s pretty nice being able to type a name into that little search bar invitingly perched up there on the right hand side of your screen. It’s just hanging out there at all times offering you one click knowledge on any given subject. However, the sheer over-reliance on Google and it’s lack of total omnipotence were totally rumbled while trying to put this interview together.

I first heard Sex Vid’s urgent and awfully recorded punk on a 7” from the very kind of distro that relies on word of mouth and mail order. The band’s utter disregard for any sense of production values or standard hardcore precepts was totally refreshing. But I could find no more information on the band beyond the track names printed on the sleeve. Have you ever tried Googling ‘Sex Vid’? That’s bad enough, try ‘Sex Vid Hardcore’… After a steady hunt that finally led to the bands singer Judd via a doom metal message board I managed to carry out an interview via email with RJ who plays guitars and, like the rest of the band, he couldn’t give less of a shit about ‘internet presence’.

VICE: How would you describe what Sex Vid are playing underneath all that fuzz?
R.J. (guitar): We dig 80's American hardcore, but we want to take influence from other sources. All the retro 80's stuff is really fucking dumb. We just want to play heavy, loud music without any sort of costume bullshit or nonsense like that. Just give it our own deal. All that throwback shit seems too much like a one-dimensional re-enactment or something. Weak.

You can go from pretty traditional hardcore to a Dead C cover in the space of a song. Are there any collective band influences?
Being under the influence is an influence.

Where did the name come from? Put the name in a search engine you get a bunch of porn, put ‘hardcore' in there as well and it gets even lairier.
We did not intend that at all. A totally unintentional by-product of the name was the 'impossible to search' thing. I am not even sure where the name came from. It just sort of stuck. As a band, having an online presence isn't a major concern for us. That kind of thing does not suit us, so we never messed with it. Maybe for some other band
it's cool, but not us. What does 'lairier' mean?

Sex Vid’s third 7” “Nests” is forthcoming on Dom America, P.O. Box 971, Olympia, WA 98507, USA

Queen Of Swords Interview

Interview with great new project from Trencher guy Liam Sparkes and John who sells records in Selectadisc (I still call it that, fuck you).

Queen Of Swords

Liam Sparkes has played in more London DIY bands than you can shake a whole bushel of branches at. From Harry Stab and Human Bomb to Drumize with Eye from the Boredoms and DJ Scotch Egg. He is probably best known as the stupidly quick, asthmatic drummer guy in casio-grindcore pioneers Trencher. And for being out of it on LSD 99% of the time. Which must make inventing things like casio-grindcore about as easy as waking up in the morning and breathing. Despite constant mentions in these pages we have never featured Trencher for some reason. You should definitely go see them before you croak. They are great. They also seem to play everywhere every week so it shouldn’t even be too big an effort.

Anyway, to make up for never bothering to feature Trencher in the past here is a rundown on the latest in Liam’s long line of musical projects: Queen Of Swords. I actually put on the bands first ever show and, as it just seemed like a bit of fun for Liam and his fellow record store clerk buddy John Macedo, had no real sense of expectation. The ensuing mess of laptop-skewed Zombi atmospherics and skittish Tarantula Hawk rhythms pretty much made everyone in the room drop their beers and leave after the last note as they figured they must have just witnessed the headline act. The last bit is a bit of lie. But a few people did drop their drinks ‘cos it was so loud and looked real shocked.

VICE: How did the idea for doing a laptop/drums duo come about?
John Macedo (laptop/effects): I’ve known Liam for years and I was doing a remix of a Trencher B-Side when he gave me some drums he’d recorded to do something with. I put a few synths through distortion pedals and Granular synthesis patches and that was that. The idea was to have the two of us as core members and other people collaborating with us here and there. We’ve had Mark from Trencher and John from Palehorse playing with us live so we’ve played as a duo, trio, quartet and quintet. We wanna do Queen Of Swords Big Band as well. And a Drum Orchestra and a Synthesizer Orchestra.

It sounds a bit like the Imperial Battle Cruiser taking off with a metronome having an epileptic fit in the background.
John: I wanted to incorporate early electronic and ‘classic’ analogue synthesizer
sounds as well as Max, MSP and computer processing but
in a more rock context. I just wanted it sound like a bunch of shit I’m into like Morton Subotnick, Burning Witch, Gasp, Can, Bastard Noise, Basic Channel.
Liam Sparkes (drums): I think we just had an aim to make apocalyptic, overwhelming sound or an ode to classic sci-fi soundtracks we like. Just not something boring. Something like the sounds of a bubbling cauldron.

What is your favourite sword?
Liam: A Wilkinson sword
John: He uses it to make his moustache look nice.

You have just started tattooing Liam, what’s the best thing
you have tattoo'd on someone so far?
Liam: Caricature of Vincent Price saying 'go fuck y'self'. Also an ice-cream wearing sunglasses.

Queen Of Swords debut 12” is forthcoming on EyesOfSound.


Vice February Literary

My February Vice literary reviews including an interview with scary Oxbow guy Eugene Robinson.

Unseen UK
EBS Publishing

For our ‘Heroes?’ Issue waaaaaaaaaay back when we sent a Polaroid Land Camera out to every single contributor so that they could take a photo to illustrate their piece in that months magazine. It went from person to person and the shots were pretty great and massively varied. We felt pleased with ourselves. Not in a smug Donald Trump way. More in ‘well that worked out ok’ uncle John Peel way. Someone at the Royal Mail must be keeping tabs on us ‘cos they totally pinched the idea for this here book. It’s ok though. We forgive them. You know why? Because this collection of photographs taken on single use cameras by working posties on their early morning routes is quite simply amazing. It’s like putting the Viking hat on in that show Knightmare and seeing the suburbs, cities and countryside with a new set of eyeholes. If I started describing the shots I’d ruin how great it is. Trust us. Go order a copy. All the cash goes to Help the Hospices anyway so even if you are a tasteless amoeba you will have at least done one good deed in 2008.


Schapiro’s Heroes
Steve Schapiro
PowerHouse Books

Steve Schapiro was one of those photographers who existed in the golden age of photojournalism. A period that existed for a brief moment after the creation of the cult of celebrity but before it’s all consuming, maniacal egotism caused it to draw up barricades separating itself from the very public which had birthed it. What makes Schapiro’s striking black and white photographs so ridiculously, eye-poppingly good is not the call sheet, the names speak for themselves, but the access. You don’t get Muhammed Ali sparing in the gym, you get Muhammed Ali playing Monopoly with his kids. You don’t get Andy Warhol pouting in the Factory, you get him feeding his rabbit. You don’t get the only fucking shot ever taken of Samuel Beckett not looking like he was carved out granite, you get him gazing absentmindedly at his goldfish bowl. Can you imagine a photographer capturing Lindsay or Paris mucking out their chihuaha beds unless it was for $500,000 and an OK! spread or an episode of The Real Life? And what have any of those people ever done to even have film wasted on them? I wish I was back in the golden age. Schapiro sure makes it look fun and more than a little mysterious.


Min Gronlandske Family Ilaquttakka Inuggit
Camilla Stephan
Milik Publishing

We ran a selection of intrepid Dane Camilla Stephan’s unpublished photographs from her time in Greenland back in ‘The News From All Over’ Issue last year. A lot of people had a lot to say about them. It’s easy to see why. Living in Greenland is about as far removed from 300 freeview channels and Dominoes Pizza being delivered directly to your mouth via a single synapse wriggle as you can get. Up there on top of the world it’s -40 degrees, you have to go out and catch you own narwahl (totally nuts whale/unicorn beast that looks like it was invented by Dr Seuss to scare small children into bed) for breakfast and if you are looking for anything you are as likely to go scavenging the town dump as the non-existent Tesco Metro. Camilla knows all about all of this because her Grandma is Greenlandic and moved to Denmark because she had fallen in love with Camilla’s meteorolgist grandfather who had been stationed there. In this collection you get a heap of photos from Camilla’s trip back to Greenland to find out how her grandparents lived and it is in turns sad, happy, harrowing and beautiful. Pretty much all the things a life well lived should be.


Paperback Issue 1

Shh. I’m going to tell you a secret: I know nothing about art. Nada. Zip. Nichts. It’s a big scary thing and I have no frame of reference. It makes me feel like a little ship bobbing away in a massive ocean whenever I’m confronted by it. I wasted my whole formative youth listening to records and reading magazines about records. I can happily hear a song and mentally place it into a box and file it with all the other songs in my head but show me a painting and I will just say yes or no. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like art. I like it lots. I go to openings and actually look at the work as well as drink all the free Becks and everything. I have plenty of friends who ‘do’ art as their main thing. They are all fun people who like life and their work tends to make me laugh or at least giggle in enjoyment. The crushing inferiority complex created by the people who wrote the press release for this forthcoming magazine made me hate art all over again. I wanted to walk down Brick Lane on a Thursday evening with a nailgun and get them all for destroying my innocent appreciation of the stuff inside their publication. Apparently if I’m not aware of the “famous” wooden toys produced by the Swiss manufacturer Naef I won’t ‘get’ a piece of the work they cover. I was angry for about 12 seconds about all this then I looked at the nice pictures, photos and words inside and got all happy again like my god daughter when you put the Tweenies on. Bring on Issue 2.


Live At The Masque (Nightmare In Punk Alley)
Brendan Mullen
Gingko Press

CBGB’s will forever be remembered as the venue for making shit happen. Fair enough. Take Television, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Blondie, The Voidoids and The Ramones and you have a bunch of bases covered. However, if you take a look at the other notorious shithole right on the other side of the country where things were happening night in night out and you have a pretty strong argument for the birth of hardcore at the very least. The Masque, off Holywood Blvd and Selma Av, was run by a rowdy Sot named Brendan Mullen and played host to The Dils, The Weirdos, The Screamers, The Germs, Plugz and the Mau Mau’s countless times. It was these inner city freaks, fuck ups and drug casualties who offered the alternative to New Wave that the angry kids out in the suburbs of Hermosa Beach and San Pedro came into town to see every week. It is fitting that Black Flag played their first and only Masque show at the venue’s closing party in July ’79 as if to usher in the new era that would go a lot faster and a bunch angrier than their effeminate, smacked out, kohl eyed elders ever thought possible. A valuable document of a city about to explode.


Fight (Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Ass-Kicking but Were Afraid You'd Get Your Ass Kicked for Asking)
Eugene S. Robinson
Harper Collins

How did Eugene get this shit put out by Harper Collins? We’ve been getting regular visits in print from everybody’s favourite radical thinking former body-builder, ultimate fighter, bouncer, singer and all round loveable loony tune since he wrote the ‘Vice Guide To Getting Beaten Up’ for us way back when for our UK Launch Issue. That seems like a million years ago and ever since Eugene has been doing what he does best: fighting, fucking and living to tell the tale.

And not just living to tell the tale to a few buddies over a pitcher down the bar but ripping and roaring and howling the tale at anyone who’ll listen as part of his Oxbow stage show, via spoken word appearances and now collected all in one place in print.

A book might just about be the best way to digest Eugene’s unique take on the everyday. Actually experiencing it first hand pretty much necessitates confrontation. Oxbow performances generally end in nudity, degradation and glass shattering violence. Even via the written word Eugene’s wild-eyed intensity comes pouring off of every page. But at least you can close a book. It’s a little harder turning off a naked, bicep bulging, tattoo’d hulk who’s just jumped on your back and thrust his cock in your face.

It’s been a while since we caught up with Eugene so we decided to give him a call and see how the whole beating up and getting beaten game was treating him.

VICE: Hey Eugene, how are things?
Eugene: I am, as ever, staving off the states of total internal and external implosion and explosion.

How do you tend to keep the mist from descending?
I try and maintain states of deep breathing and counting to ten. But you know, drink drugs and whatever narcotics and opiates are available. Maybe church?

When was the last time you went to church Eugene?
My church is wherever I chose to be at any given time. I am always at church.

Hang on, are you driving and talking at the same time? In England you’d totally get a smack on the wrist right now.
We still have certain freedoms here. If I was in Texas I could be drinking while driving. And shooting a gun of course.

Since we’re calling about a book which is about fighting I guess I better ask you about fighting. What is the worst beat down you’ve ever taken?
Brian ‘The Fury’ Johnstone once called me out over an article I’d written in GQ saying he’d been choked out after 7 minutes. He came at me and it was like being in the jaws of a force of nature. Absolute pain and A&E time.

Yikes. And what is the worse dusting you’ve ever handed out?
When I was living in New York I took out someone who had raped a friend. That motherfucker is lucky to be alive. He was very close to death indeed.


Cat Shit Coffee

Another Vice 'Wazzup' news piece on the most exclusive and expensive coffee you can buy.

There’s cat shit in my coffee!

It’s amazing the length that some people will go to in order to diversify their everyday addictions. Coffee, for instance. You wouldn’t think a lot of people would be massively inclined to sip a cup java made out of beans freshly collected from wild cat shit but like a bad joke out of some Saturday Night Live sketch, it turns out that this is the most expensive type of coffee in the world. It is sold for over £183 a pound and despite the obvious gross out factor every ounce of the scant 500kg produced annually gets snapped up
According to Ben Fowler, senior buyer at Firebox.com, the company that distributes the product in the UK: “The average consumer is someone looking for a rare and unique gift, wanting to obtain a luxury product or someone who loves exploring interesting and unusual types of coffee. Someone bored of Starbucks”.
Well, we were pretty bored of Starbucks so we dispatched the intern to Selfridges and spent a day drinking cat crap coffee.
Hour 1
The stuff turned up in 57g vacuum-sealed bag which retailed at £24. Although the packaging suggested that Civet shit-beans “make a great cappuccino” we decided not to sully with milk and went whole hog for a cafetiere of the stuff straight. We even skipped out on the sugar. The cafetiere yielded two cups and I got to necking the stuff eagerly.
It tasted exactly like any other Americano at any average high street coffee house. No poop vibes whatsoever on the palate. There was an almost immediate sense of slight euphoria and my heart was soon going like I’d necked a whole wrap of gutter speed.
Hours 2 and 3
After the initial body shock of cafetiere 1, I proceeded more cautiously. I don’t know where the whole caffeine heightening concentration myth came from but by this point I was totally zoning out and by cup 4 my computer screen was beginning to look like a Magic Eye puzzle. I had also developed a pretty chronic case of the runs.
Hours 4, 5 and 6
As I loaded up cafetiere 3 I was having weird flash backs to stuffing the bowl of a bong with skunk way past the point you knew was sensible. It was the end of the bag though so I pressed on despite serious hand tremors, a back sticky with sweat, my piss sinking of coffee and one of those annoying bouncy up and down legs. I think maybe my right eye was also palpitating in time with my fluttering heartbeat. As I drained the dregs I felt totally wrecked.
Having finished 6 cups of the stuff I headed out to a show and drank a few pints, nothing major. I suddenly found myself craving junk food. After my fill of hot wings from the 24 hour chicken place in Mile End I woke up to what felt like a hernia in my head, stabbing pains in my heart and lungs and the urge to puke and crap ceaselessly. This nauseous hell continued for the whole day. It sucked. Steer clear of cat shit coffee. There’s nothing classy about spending all day in the crapper.

Death Set Interview

An Interview with Gold Coast via Brooklyn punks the Death Set

The Death Set Don’t Watch Neighbors

I am in love with Baltimore. Which is a little weird as I have never actually been there before. In my head it’s a mysterious wasteland filled with derelict warehouses strewn with the victims of Edgar Allan Poe stories and fringed by the high rise projects that you see in The Wire while Gram Parsons records croon quietly out of late night dockside bars. Even if it’s nothing like that it would still be great to go there just because every bit of music that comes out of the place right now seems to somehow be original, entertaining and best of all fun. Maybe it’s the low rent, communal living and abundance of arts based colleges or maybe there are just a bunch of super talented guys there right now. Either way you can’t really argue with a city that’s produced acts as varied and interesting as Dan Deacon, Spank Rock, Double Dagger and Cass McCombs. The Death Set arrived in the city as outsiders from Australia and soaked up the towns club, punk and Wham City scenes only to forge them into some weird hyperactive amalgam of the lot. Try imagining Video Hippos doing Fascist Fascist covers with a live show that has caused structural damage to several squat venues. For a band that make the Libertines look like Dire Straits in terms of holding it together the improbably named duo of Johnny Siera and Beau Velasco have managed to put out a hefty slew of 7”s on labels like Super Busy Bodies and Every Conversation. They now have a CD due on new Ninja Tune offshoot Construct but don’t worry: the one thing they sound nothing like is DJ Kentaro.

VICE: Is there a hierarchy in Baltimore with Dan Deacon as like, Old King Cole, Spank Rock as the court jester and Ponytail as the court choir?
Johnny Sierra (Guitars, bass, samples etc): When I first got to Baltimore I just happened to move in next door to the original Wham City so we used to play a bunch of shows there and I met Dan and all those guys. I met Spank Rock through our friend Emily Rabbit who put our first EP and there are just a bunch of connections between us all. We’ve done tours with Ponytail and live with their drummer and I mastered their last record. Nolen from Double Dagger is doing our artwork and everyone helps each other out. It’s nice.

You play all your live shows on the floor and people seem to always go nuts. Did you just see a Lightning Bolt show one day and think: “those guys are onto something there”?
I first saw ‘The Power Of Salad’ when I was living in Australia and it was pretty inspirational but we just did this one tour that had no stages and found it more fun to get in peoples faces. The reaction is usually pretty good. We played a basement in Brooklyn a few months back with Dan and people were running outside to throw up from heat exhaustion. The roof was also covered with some asbestos like crap. People were grabbing onto these water pipes covered in it and afterwards all these kids broke out with a weird grotesque rash. It felt like a thin layer of glass all over us for days.

I heard you had a side project called Retarded Kitten?
That was just stupid songs I wrote that weren't Death Set songs. One of the dudes who did it was in Lifetime so that was pretty cool.

In which soap does Alan Dale give the better performance: The OC or Neighbors?
I had to Google image search that dude. Fucked if I know. Not all Australians watch Neighbors you know.


Jimmy Jam Jar

Den Elliot Interview

I interviewed the photographer Den Elliot about his candid photos of a depressing seaside resort for Vice. Have a look at a sample of the photos at bananacake.org.uk



Den Elliot might never have ended up taking photos had it not been for a previous life as a conservationist. Before you reaching for your ‘stone the hippie’ rocks you should hear the way Den talks about his time spent wandering around the windswept crags and leafy forests. As he patters through tales of dewy dawns and solitary sunsets in his lilting West country drawl it’s almost impossible to imagine how anyone wouldn’t want to take photos of all the great stuff that gets served up by planet earth every day.

Except that Den didn’t actually reside in the Arcadian forests of wonder he spent his former working days conserving. He lived and grew up in and around Weston Supermare’s Bournville estate. Bournville consists of a group of high rise tower blocks and council housing built to serve as accommodation for a planned chocolate factory that never arrived to revitalize the area’s ailing economy.

Den’s time out in the fields and forests inspired him to put himself through a photography degree at Falmouth University where the work of photographers like Tom Wood and Donovan Wylie encouraged him to return to the Bournville of his youth and capture the spirit of community and resilience he had experienced every day growing up in the area.


VICE: What first made you think you wanted to take photos of things?
Den Elliot: Just being surrounded by all this stupidly nice scenery when I was working as a conservationist. That made me go out and get a cheap Fuji point and shoot just to kind of catalogue all this stuff I was seeing.

What were you shooting initially? Like, sheep and stuff?
There weren’t many sheep around actually. It was more all these massive open spaces with no other human beings in. It was really eerie. You could walk about for hours and not see another person. Just trees and fields and forsests.

You sound a bit like a Jack Johnson song right now. How did taking shots of ‘mother earth’ lead you taking shots of a Somerset shithole?
Well, I’d never even thought about going to college or University you know? I was just interested in going out and working. Taking photos of all this scenery made me actually want to go and study something and learn how to do it well. I went back to college and I thought it would be like being back at school but I was well into it. Learning all this new stuff.

Yup, learning can be ok. Shocking but true. Was it at college you began to develop your photojournalistic style?
I began to develop an idea of what I wanted shoot during my foundation. My lecturer there exposed me to people like Donovan Wylie, Chris Killip and TOm Wood whose work on Liverpool really made me realize I could go and shoot the kind of stuff that had surrounded me all the time growing up.

What drew you back to Bourneville? You know the chocolate factory never got built right?
Well that was part of the economic problem in the area. It was where I had a lot of memories bound up. The time I spent out in the countryside prior to taking up photography reminded me of my time growing up there in weird way. How you could be surrounded by buildings or natural landscape and still feel alone. Plus going back there and remembering things like the tin roof above the corner shop where I got off with my first girlfriend. Things like that made me want to go back and capture it all.

Some of the shots here feature characters who look like they might be a bit of a handful. Did you ever get any opposition from the scally wags you were pointing a flash at?
Well, to an extent I find taking pictures goes against my natural instincts. I am pretty shy and putting yourself in a situation where you are having to be really forward and very much in a public state at all times isn’t the easiest thing in the world for me but that makes the whole process more rewarding.

So no one chased you out of the estate for your camera?
No I tried to be accommodating and clear what was I doing. Most of the people in the photos were into it once they had got over their initial weariness. I also offered them prints of the photos once they were processed which a lot of people were really into. I really wanted to show the sense of community that the estate maintains. Outsiders might no see that. They might just see walking ASBO’s and dole queues or whatever but growing around up there I knew it wasn’t like that. I had some of my best memories there and wanted to portray that.

The photo’s have a weird ability to kind of make you heart plummet like a lead balloon pumped with sadness then leap with springs of joy in the same shot. How did you feel while you were shooting them?
It was great to be there documenting this place I’d grown up in but elements of it were saddening, the lives some of these kids were living. The sense of re-exploring my own childhood through them and these places was sort of polarized by my granddad dieing at the same time which put the whole thing in perspective.

Psychedelic Horseshit Interview

Psychedelic Horseshit are the best band I have listened to in 2008. I actually heard them in 2007 but only listened to them this year.

Psychedelic Horseshit

You may recall us going on about Times New Viking the other month. TNV are a great outfit who, if the world is a just place, will reap major rewards this year and get massive crowds swaying to their wall of weird, lo fi rock and roll that hides tiny nuggets of pop swaddled away in its psychedelic fuzz. If the world were an even more just place then just twice as many people will be going nuts to the band billed as Siltbreeze Records Stooges to Times New Vikings MC5.

Psychedelic Horseshit coined the turn ‘shitgaze’, formed on a whim at a party and made up their name on the spot because it was the first thing that sprang to mind. Theirs is an unrefined, unpredictable and chaotic mess of sound which leaps in your face like a drunk old guy at the bar demanding change and won’t leave you alone until you’ve kicked it in the balls until it can’t move anymore. They have been chased off stage in more states than seem possible in their short existence but all the tour stories wouldn’t be worth an eighth of a shit if the music wasn’t the most heart poundingly great racket since that My Bloody Valentine covers record Comets On Fire never made.

VICE: Having formed on the spot had any of you had any experience in bands prior to Psychedelic Horseshit?
Matt Horseshit (guitar, vox & ‘shit’): First up that story about forming one night is totally true, only there was way more weed and babes involved at the time than in the re-tellings I keep reading here and there. But nah we were never in any other bands. We didn't know that there were any other bands. We thought it was just us and the Royal Trux.

How much of your show is improvised? There is a real sense of the unpredictable about you live stuff.
We have songs but they rarely get played the same way twice. Not because we're super awesome and like to improvise but because we really suck and can't play the same way every time.

What colour would a psychedelic horseshit be?
It depends on the drugs you are on and whether you are shitgazing or not. If you are then it'd be changing all the time like David Bowie. If not, then you can't see it anyway. Why would anyone be paying attention to the shit on the ground though? That said we usually take acid to make our shit psychedelic but I suppose drinking cough syrup would work just as well.

How do you feel about the growth of ‘shitgaze’ into a recognized movement?
Ah shitgaze. A movement after my own heart. That came from my sick obsession with My Bloody Valentine and our shite efforts at shoegazing. Shitgaze is gonna take over the world, haven't you heard? That new MBV album will have a sheen of shit glossed all over it and then everyone will forget about shoes forever. We're coming to get you.


Psychedelic Horseshit’s debut LP Magic Flowers Droned is available now on Siltbreeze.

Vice February Reviews

Here they are:

Vice February Reviews

Family Battle Snake
Sweet Mine Of Child
FBS Recordings

8 Yet another in the seemingly endless slew of releases from the warped mind of young Bill Kouligas. This one is on 3” CDR so I imagine that if you popped it into your laptop by mistake it would probably end up creating a similar noise as it slowly destroyed both itself and your computer to the sound that comes out of the speakers when you actually play it on a regular CD player.

Debt Dept
Paw Tracks

8 There seems to be some overarching theme here involving the affects of the economy on the individual. Or maybe that’s just a facile reading and I’ve got it all wrong? Regardless, Excepter still sound like two bands attempting to play each others set lists and then falling out before making up and hugging it on out.

Eugene S. Robinson
Hydra Head

5 Eugene likes fighting. He likes fighting so much that he has made a career out of telling people how much he likes fighting. He sung about it in his band Oxbow, he wrote about it for us in the ‘Vice Guide To Getting Beaten Up’ and if you ever run into him it’s a pretty safe bet he’ll either fight you or talk to you about fighting. The problem with this release is that hearing Eugene talk about fighting and nothing else for a whole disc gets really tiring. Almost physically exhausting. Then you realize that there is a whole other disc left to go and you decide to go out and buy a new belt that fits that belt buckle you’ve had knocking around your room for so long.

Digital Penetration Vol.2
alt < delete Recordings

8 alt < delete reminds me of Kitsune without the money. But with the one thing that all of Kitsune’s money can no longer buy: taste.

Trouble In Dreams
Rough Trade

9 Yank indie-pop has to hit saturation point soon. You can’t move for being swamped by Band of Wolf Parading Decemberist Rubdowns at every turn. It’s getting silly. I might drown in approaching middle-age melancholia at any minute. Then once in a while something like the Silver Jews record or this new one from Bejar comes along and it all makes perfect sense again.

Hello, Voyager

8 This sounds like Patti Smith covering the whole of Swordfishtrombones. Sound scary? Now imagine that with added disjointed strings and wanton static bursts courtesy of Thee Silver Mt Zion Orchestra. Not for moments of mental fragility. Like Sunday evenings after you haven’t slept for two days. I won’t be trying that one again soon.

P.W. Long
God Bless The Drunkards Dog

10 This is so all-American that it should replace Springsteen in the hard drinking, late nights, early mornings filled with work and blood red steaks for dinner washed down with 6 pint pitchers bracket of the bar room sing-along cannon. Except that P.W. is the real deal. And having the real deal stare you in the face every day is far scarier than having a walking Gap advert greet you from the bottom of the jukebox.

The Sword
Gods Of Earth

4 If you took High On Fire, subtracted the intelligence (which, lets face it, was at Fred Flintsone levels anyway) and blew the whole thing up the arse with a bicycle pump full of over-the-top gas then you would end up with The Sword. Kind of like a pompous riff-metal balloon animal: amazing fun for the first 30 seconds but soon boring as hell and waiting to pop.

Geoffrey Oi!Cott
The Good, The Bad & The Googly
X Fist/Boss Tuneage

10 This a cricket themed Oi record by a band called Geoffrey Oi!Cott entitled “The Good, The Bad & The Googly”, performed by guys with names like W.G. Disgrace and featuring songs with titles such as “Dart’s Player’s Wives”. Which part of all this is not screaming “10/10” at you yet?

Rod Modell
Incense & Blacklight

8 Miss all of last years hyper-limited Echospace 12”s but still want to listen to something that makes you fell like your trapped inside of an iceberg while old transistor radios hum and clunk somewhere in the near distance? All is well in the world for you then as Rod Modell has decided to release a CD that won’t disappear within five minutes of its onsale date.

Jungle Rescue

This is a thing I wrote for the 'Wazzup' news section of Vice about a Jean Prouve exhibition at the Tate Modern.

Ever heard of Jean Prouvé?

Nope? Ok here’s Prouvé’ 101:

He was the young turk of 19th century architecture who applied industrial concepts to minimal design. This means he basically had a sheet metal fetish and made simple, clean cut stuff to put in your house half a century before Ikea made millions from doing the exact same thing.

Like all people with an over-loaded greatness quotient Prouvé was unknown in his own lifetime but now his works are more sort after than copies of the first Velvet Underground acetate.

The scarcity of original Prouvé’s has led to a weird cottage industry of obsessives and collectors who scour the world looking for undiscovered gems. The Holy Grail of lost Prouvé loot were the three concept houses, which, it was rumoured, had been dispatched to the French colonies in the ‘50’s as a blueprint for cheap, sustainable housing. No one knew if these things existed or if it was all an elaborate architectural in-joke.

Until a guy called Eric Touchaleaume, who is basically the Indiana Jones of Prouvé hunting, decided to go to war torn Congo-Brazzaville to find out. He discovered two of the fabled ‘Maisons Tropicale’ in the Congolese jungle, riddled with bullets but salvageable.

After ‘charming’ the locals into parting with the structures, dismantling the whole lot, wrapping them in banana leaves and doing a little more ‘charming’ with the outbound customs to the tune of £23,000 Touchaleaume headed back to Paris with the fabled Prouvé’s in tow.

He swiftly flogged the first to rubber skinned hotel owner and sometimes Uma Thurman humping guy Andre Balazs for $5m. Balazs decided to kindly let the Tate Modern exhibit his new 5 million dollar flat-pack toy which, for people who care about design and stuff, was a pretty gigantic deal.

To commemorate its significance the exhibit curators commissioned our staff photographer Ben Rayner to shoot the three week assembly process for a time-lapse installation and forthcoming book, While we laughed at Ben every day when he tramped into the office after 12 hours shooting in the freezing February cold and rain the resulting film is pretty amazing so we had a chat with him once he’d thawed and the building was all built and stuff.

VICE: Couldn’t they just have left a video camera running the whole time, why did you even need to be there?
Ben Rayner: They are the only team in the world that could put that building together and they need a human being there taking photos. You couldn’t like just let a robot do it.

It looks like a treehouse. Surely you wouldn’t actually want to live in it?
It would be pretty good if I could live in it on the Thames like a big houseboat. I would get massive mirrors and interchangeable wall colours and one of those controllers where you can control the hi-fi and TV all in one. And a beer tap. A Red Stripe tap. Then I’d live in it.

Was it the most boring job you’ve ever done?
Nah I once had to take photos of a Norwegian woman’s kids. That was really boring. I just spent all day smoking fags, drinking loads of tea and talking to the French builders. They told me weird stories about heroin and women that I can’t repeat here. Oh, and I hung out with my friend Jose who was helping me out. His dad bought us a whole octopus for lunch one day.