Covering the most diverse and nebulous of musical subgenres in a suitably eclectic manner, Eyeplug’s post punk paradise recognises no boundaries. Everything from the animalistic acapella of Furious Pig to the diaphanous dubscapes of dystopian rock can be found under this brutalist roof.
Covering the most diverse and nebulous of musical subgenres in a suitably eclectic manner, Eyeplug’s post punk paradise recognises no boundaries. Everything from the animalistic acapella of Furious Pig to the diaphanous dubscapes of dystopian rock can be found under this brutalist roof.
Artifact – The Dawn Of Creation Records
Cherry Red CRCDBOX19
The final two discs (4 & 5) on Creation Artifact – The Dawn of Creation Records 1983-85, are devoted to demo recordings and BBC Sessions which were hosted by Janice Long and the late John Peel. It is to some extent generally agreed that demos and BBC sessions are a hard sell for casual music fans, and the question that might be asked is do we really need a pile of old scrappy recordings and demos from bands that were not exactly household names? On the other hand if you are a rabid fan of obscure Indie bands and share the same obsession for music as the late John Peel then these discs will be a welcome inclusion on the Artifact box set.
Listening to demos is a good way for the listener to see how a song develops into the finished article. However, it is rather difficult to get a feel for the entire recording process here, as the tracks on disc 4 have to a large extent been completed. Some of the recordings have variable sound quality and some of the bands and in particular Biff Bang Pow! have an amateurish lo-fi quality, which would not have sounded out of place on the Pebbles and Back From The Grave compilation albums.
However, the bonus of having these demos included on the Artifact box set is that some of these tracks are finally seeing the light of day for the first time. There are three songs included from Meat Whiplash, and their only other known recording was the Jim Reid produced single Don’t Slip Up, (which is included on disc 1). It is a shame that these tracks were never officially released as Meat Whiplash have been unfairly tagged as a Jesus & Mary Chain clone, and what the fuzz guitar drenched Losing Your Grip, Always Sunday and Walk Away demonstrate was that Meat Whiplash had promise that was never
The other highlights on disc 4 are The Jasmine Minks, who have five songs included here, but superior versions of these songs can be found on discs one and two of the Artifact box set, and the Cut Me Deep (The Anthology 1984 – 2014) compilation. The inclusion of the X Men also boosts this disc considerably and A Tryst For Liszt, Stone Cold One Note Mind, Home and Planet Of The X all have that exuberant and infectiously poppier take on the Pyschobilly genre.
The final disc in the Artifact box set comprises BBC Sessions, and it would be fair to say that for most musicians a spot on the John Peel show was a coveted slot indeed. These sessions gave the artists a chance to reach a national audience, and even though many of the bands did not necessarily have any notion to be famous, a John Peel session did their chances of some success no harm at all.
The Loft, The Bodines, The Jasmine Minks, The Moodists, The X Men and Meat Whiplash are all included here, and almost without exception John Peel was one of the very few people to give these bands valuable airplay, and it is thanks to Peel that many of the releases by these bands ended up in our record collections.
The BBC Sessions on this disc do not really reveal anything that has not been heard already on the previous 4 discs, and in hindsight it might have been more beneficial to include (if available) on this disc some dialogue between John Peel and the artists who appeared on his show, and ultimately including two discs of demos and BBC Sessions does feel a bit repetitious as superior versions of some of these songs already appear on the first three discs, which makes discs four and five for rabid music fans and completists only.
Many of the bands included on Artifact are to some extent long forgotten, which makes this box set such a timely welcome. The success of Creation Records was built on the foundations of these pioneers, and although the quality of the output is variable there is still more than enough to keep listeners happy for many hours, and for better or worse this is where the story of Creation Records begun and the rest as they say is history. BUY HERE!
Artifact – The Dawn Of Creation Records
Cherry Red CRCDBOX19
The third disc on the Creation Artifact – The Dawn of Creation Records 1983-85 is a mixed bag of assorted tracks, which cover a few singles, demos, album tracks and live performances, which were recorded at Alan McGee’s weekly club night The Living Room. This event was held in a tiny room above a pub in central London and it served an important purpose in that it gave a lot of unknown bands some much needed live exposure, and it provided McGee with the income to start Creation Records.
The money Alan McGee made from The Living Room was used to produce records by the bands that played at this weekly event. The studio time afforded to these bands in the fledgling years of Creation was pivotal as it gave them the time to hone and perfect their sound. Even more importantly these bands had a passionate music fan in McGee, who respected them as artists and always made sure that what profits were available was distributed evenly among the bands, and more importantly any surplus income was used to fund the release of
Alan McGee’s first band The Laughing Apple also featured Primal Scream guitarist Andrew Innes, and they recorded three singles for their own Autonomy label, including Participate/Wouldn’t You this single is featured here with McGee on bass. Participate in particular is a bruising slice of minimal post-punk, and you can’t help disagreeing with the self deprecating McGee, who felt prompted to start his own record label because he came to the conclusion that as a musician he was not particularly good.
Biff Bang Pow! reappear on disc three with an alternative version of Fifty Years of Fun and Waterbomb. The aforementioned is almost identical to the single version featured on disc 1 while Waterbomb is an unremarkable instrumental, which featured on their 1985 debut album Pass the Paintbrush Honey.
Not much is known about J.C Brouchard only that he is French and he is a fanatical fan of the brilliant Indie band Felt. His fanaticism is such that he even penned a (rather hard to find) book about the band called Felt, Ballad of the Fan in 2011. However, Brouchard did a bit of moonlighting as a recording artist in the 1980s, cut a single with Biff Bang Pow! in 1985. The swirling dreamy psychedelic inspired Someone Stole My Wheels/Sunny Days has all the jangly psych pop hallmarks that were associated with Creation acts at the time, and this somewhat melancholic single is a real hidden jangle pop gem and a welcome inclusion on this disc.
The Revolving Paint Dream also pops up again with an early version of the single In The Afternoon. This single is possibly sung by Andrew Innes, and although this is a pleasantly surreal recording it has the feel of a demo and does not capture the essence of the official single (on disc one of Artifact), which featured the beautifully breathy and fragile vocals of Christina Wanless.
The Bodines have an alternative version of God Bless featured here, which is identical to the original on disc two and you could question the merits of its inclusion here. Two tracks by The Jasmine Minks The Thirty Second Set Up and Somers Town, are taken from their 1984 debut One Two Three Four Five Six Seven, All Good Preachers Go To Heaven album. Both of these tracks blend the energy of post-punk and 1960s melodic pop, and The Jasmine Minks deliver these songs with their usual soulful verve and energy.
The Jesus & Mary Chain have a couple of demos included here and the first is an early version of their debut single Upside Down, which is a fuzz driven garage monster that almost captures the drenched in violence ear bleeding assault of the original single, which is featured on disc two of Artifact. However, the real surprise here is the demo of Just Like Honey, which is arguably better than the original version of the song that opens their 1985 debut album Pyschocandy. This version of Just Like Honey is a tambourine and acoustically driven track, with just a hint of electric guitar coming in at the midway point of the song. To describe a song by The Jesus & Mary Chain in their 1984-85 period as fragile and gentle is a bit of an anomaly, but that is exactly what this song is, and it is quite brilliant and could have been released as a single in its own right.
The Membranes formed in 1977 and have released a slew of singles and albums spanning an almost 40-year career. They recorded one album The Gift of Life on Creation in 1985 and two tracks from this album are included here. I Am Fish Eye and Gift of Life are delivered with sledgehammer abandon and are a discordant blend of experimental noise and distortion. How many people can claim to have heard of The Membranes? It seems remarkable that this band are not more well-known, but as these two tracks demonstrate The Membranes were very influential and this influence surely must have rubbed off on Sonic Youth, and one listen to their albums Goo and Daydream Nation may just clarify
The very first album release on Creation Records was Alive In The Living Room. This album consisted of live recordings between 1983 and 1984 and these tracks, including a few bonus live tracks are also included on this disc. The first thing that will strike the listener is the poor sound quality of the recordings. Apparently members of the audience were roped in to help with these live recordings, and they were given hand-held recorders to capture the whole live experience of the bands who played at The Living Room.
The poor sound quality also highlights another problem and that is with the bands themselves. Many of them seem to be willfully incompetent live and the shambolic mess of these live gigs is epitomized by The Legend (AKA Jerry Thackray) in particular, who seems to take a delightful glee in his own incompetence as a musician, when he ironically announces to the audience that he will play Arrogant Bastards slow because he does not know any chords.
However, a shambolic live performance can still be an absolutely powerful and defining moment for the band and audience. So the live tracks featured here are not total disasters, and the stand out moments are The Jasmine Minks cover of the Love Garage-Punk classic 7 & 7 is, and The Television Personalities A Picture of Dorian Gray. There is a charm in the amateurish so-called musicianship to some of these live recordings, and if you are a fan of shambolic pop then you will appreciate these recordings, but will no doubt be put off by the poor sound quality, which make them sound nothing more than unofficial bootleg releases.
Stayed tuned for the final installment of the Creation Artifact series as we take a closer look at discs 4 and 5. BUY HERE!
Artifact – The Dawn Of Creation Records
Cherry Red CRCDBOX19
The second disc on Artifact – The Dawn of Creation Records 1983 – 85 contains the rest of the singles from this period, and a fitting way to kick off this disc is to unleash the full throttle ear bleeding assault of crude noise makers The Jesus & Mary Chain. The East Kilbride upstarts released just the one single on Creation Records, and what an explosive debut this record was. Upside Down and its B-side, Syd Barrett’s darkly satirical Vegetable Man was the blue print for the industrial white noise fest of J&MC seminal Pyschocandy album.
The Jesus & Mary Chain became one of the most divisive and controversial bands of the 1980s. Their live appearances were notoriously shambolic, and the band played with wrecked instruments, including a bass with just 2 strings and a drum kit that contained only 2 snare drums. This minimalist approach and seemingly total disregard for their craft was deceiving as brothers Jim and William Reid were music obsessives and were enthralled to 1960s pop in the shape of Phil Spector’s girl groups and The Beach Boys.
The Jesus & Mary Chain seemed to blend the cacophonous noise of the Velvet Underground’s White Light, White Heat and Sister Ray with songs that appeared to be influenced by 1960s Brill Building pop. Upside Down is a scary, brooding, violent mess of a song and it could be argued that this record was single-handedly one of the biggest influence on the nascent Shoe Gaze scene.
Their cover of Vegetable Man is incredible and it would be fair to say that Syd Barrett’s songs were too precious, disturbingly beautiful and uniquely him that no one should go anywhere near them. However, The Jesus & Mary Chain capture the essence of Vegetable Man and convincingly put their own musically chaotic stamp on this track, without making it appear like a pale imitation of
The absurdly named Meat Whiplash also came from East Kilbride and they released only one single on Creation Records in September 1985. They can claim some notoriety for being the opening act at the infamous North London Polytechnic gig headlined by The Jesus & Mary Chain, in which Meat Whiplash guitarist Stephen McLean threw a glass bottle in to the crowd, which proved to be the catalyst for a riot. The single Don’t Slip Up and its B-side Here It Comes are both fuzz guitar wig outs, with vocals seemingly recorded in the far distance to the point of being inaudible. Although this single owes something of an obvious debt to the Jesus & Mary Chain, it was still distinctive enough to earn a number 3 place on the indie charts, where it spent an incredible 13 weeks.
Taking their name from an Enid Blyton children’s novel, Five Go Down To The Sea recorded a 12” single at the tail end of 1985 featuring Singing In Braille, Aunt Nelly and Silk Brain Worm Women. These three tracks are unique in that they sound like nothing else on disc 2 of Artifact, and Five Go Down To The Sea obviously did not care about commercial success and seemed happy to make a discordant induced noise with crunching guitar riffs, pounding drums and nonsensical lyrics, which suggest that Captain Beefheart may have been an influence on this group.
Derbyshire four piece The Bodines recorded just three singles for Creation Records and featured here is the 1985 single God Bless/Paradise. This particular single has an Echo and the Bunnymen feel with its choppy guitar sound and high tempo, which was almost typical of that 1980s indie guitar sound and this particular single it could be argued was a direct influence on the nascent jangle pop scene, in which The Bodines were an integral part of as their subsequent single Therese featured on the NME’s influential C86 cassette.
Melbourne band The Moodists only made a fleeting appearance on Creation, and included here is the 12” EP Justice and Money Too; You’ve Got Your Story and Take Us All Home. The Moodists already had 2 albums under their belt prior to cutting this EP with Creation, and apparently the EP was recorded in a day and it is perhaps this haste, which makes this record a little unremarkable and hard to distinguish from other more well-known Creation acts on this disc like the The Bodines and The Jasmine Minks.
Biff, Bang, Pow, The Jasmine Minks, The Loft and The Pastels all make a reappearance on disc 2, and normal service is resumed as the jangle maestros all pitch in with shambling melodic pop that is almost typical of what you would except from bands signed to Creation Records in this period. Love & Hate by Biff, Bang, Pow yet again doffs its jingle jangle cap to 1960s British Psychedelia and What’s Happening/Black & Blue by The Jasmine Minks are both sung with plenty of soul, and this particular single has a harder edge and a sense of post punk urgency that still sounds fresh as a daisy 30 years after it was
It is still quite unfathomable why The Loft were not more well-known and why they remain nothing more than a cult phenomenon to rabid Indie music fans. Their final recordings for Creation include Up The Hill & Down The Slope, Your Door Shines Like Gold and Lonely Street. The sublime Up The Hill & Down The Slope climbed to the top of the Indie charts in 1985; and it is this particular song that should have been the catalyst for The Loft to go on to greater commercial success. But this never happened and the band imploded in spectacular fashion onstage at the Hammersmith Palais in 1985, and front man Pete Astor eventually went on to form The Weather Prophets.
Yet again it is The Pastels who taste the sweetest as their final single on Creation demonstrates. I’m Alright With You, Couldn’t Care Less and What It’s Worth are delivered in that deceptively lazy manner, with hushed vocals and wry humorous lyrics. The Pastels lacked any kind of clichéd rock n roll machismo and their influence is subtle but far-reaching. They quietly blazed a trail throughout the 1980s Indie guitar scene and they are remarkably into their 34th year and despite only five album releases in this period they are still a relevant force to be reckoned with. One listen to I’m Alright With You, (this version being superior to the latter album version) will hopefully show the listener why the band are still revered by many, including their more celebrated Glaswegian counterparts Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura.
There is probably nothing more to say about post 1990 Primal Scream, and their success has rendered them part of the rock n roll aristocracy whether they like it or not. Their emphatic fusion of dance and rock n roll from Screamadelica to their latest album More Light has put them in a rare position of still being somewhat relevant when virtually all of their 1980s peers have either disappeared or are happy to continue rolling out the yawn inducing but lucrative greatest hits tours.
It would be fair to say that pre 1990 Primal Scream output is virtually unknown, however, they did create such lovely, gentle dreamy jangle pop that deserves more consideration. All Fall Down/It Happens was issued in 1985 and these tracks show the first incarnation of Primal Scream in thrall to 1960s West Coast pop and psych. Bobby Gillespie’s vocals sound sweet and fragile and the hazy sunshine pop of these tracks serves as a more than welcome antidote to the rumbustious shenanigans of some of the other artists on disc two of Artifact.
Keep your eyes peeled Indie boppers for part three of the Artifact story coming your way soon. BUY HERE!
Artifact – The Dawn Of Creation Records
Cherry Red CRCDBOX19
Artifact – The Dawn of Creation Records 1983-85 is a 5 CD box set containing 124 songs devoted to the early years of Alan McGee’s Creation Records. The collection pulls together singles, album tracks, rarities, demos and BBC sessions by a diverse range of bands including The Pastels, The Bodines, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Loft, Primal Scream, The X Men, The Legend, The Jasmine Minks and The Membranes. Also included is a 12,000-word essay by journalist Neil Taylor plus a detailed biography off all the bands signed to Creation Records in this seminal period.
When Alan McGee set off from Glasgow to London in 1982 to pursue his dream of being a musician and forming a band, it would be fair to assume that he could never have envisioned that within 15 years he would form arguably one of the most influential indie labels in the UK, sign some of the most iconic bands of the 1980s and 90s, sell half of Creation Records to the monolithic and corporate Sony Records, and end up in No 10 Downing Street quaffing champagne with Tony Blair.
The story of how Creation Records came into existence is fascinating as it is improbable. The label itself was started in 1983 in conjunction with McGee’s influential club night The Living Room. This seminal early club night was set up to showcase bands that McGee liked, and the success of the club allowed McGee to use what profits there were to start releasing singles by the bands that were a regular feature at The Living Room, and thus Creation Records was born and the rest as they say is history.
This article will focus on disc 1 of the Artifact box set and the bands featured here became the blueprint for what might be considered the definitive indie sound, while embodying the DIY ethos of punk. However, there are a few exceptions on this particular disc that do not necessarily fit this indie stereotype. With hindsight you would have to question McGee for giving any recording time to The Legend, aka Jerry Thackray. Both singles are feature here, including the ridiculous 73 in 83, as well as You (Chunk Chunka) Were Glamorous, The Legend! Destroys The Blues and Arrogant Bastards. These songs are spoken word, rambling and nonsensical but good fun nonetheless.
Glaswegian cult band The Pastels teamed up with Creation Records to record a number of singles in 1984, including Something Going On, Stay With Me Till Morning, Million Tears, Surprise Me and Baby Honey. The core members of the band were Stephen McRobbie and Katrina Mitchell, and the songs included on this particular disc clearly display their talent for recording joyously catchy shambling pop songs with nonchalant ease.
The problem for The Pastels was that they were never very prolific and only sporadically recorded when they seemingly felt like it. This might explain why they remain nothing more than a cult phenomenon. The highlights here are Something Going On and the beautifully ragged and dreamy pop of a Million Tears. These melancholic and angst ridden tracks are joyously uplifting, despite the sombre nature of the lyrics. Both songs are addictively catchy and they feel immediately familiar after only a couple of listens.
Revolving Paint Dream and Biff, Bang, Pow, owe something of an obvious debt to 1960s pop, beat and psychedelia. Revolving Paint Dream cut 2 singles and 2 albums with Creation, and featured here is the first single Flowers In The Sky. The band featured former Primal Scream guitarist Andrew Innes and on occasions Alan McGee. Flowers In The Sky has a continuous Byrds like guitar chime, and despite its slightly pastiche nature it is nonetheless still a great and catchy tune. However, it is the B-side In The Afternoon that may attract the listener’s attention. This particular track was written by McGee and has a dreamy swirling organ sound coinciding with a chiming guitar melody. The song is completed by Christina Wanless’ breathy, fragile vocals, which blend in beautifully to create a song that should have been a stand alone A-side in its very own right.
Biff, Bang, Pow took their name from a song recorded by 1960s freak beat band The Creation. Their early singles featured Alan McGee on guitar and vocals and included on this disc are the singles, Fifty Years Of Fun, Then When I Scream, There Must Be A Better Life and The Chocolate Elephant Man. All these tunes have clear British psychedelic influences, and a swirling organ sound (Then When I Scream) and jingle jangle guitar wig outs on the other 3 songs. There is also a cheeky bit of riff pilfering on Fifty Years Of Fun, and the opening guitar chords sound suspiciously like the opening riff to The Who’s So Sad about Us.
The Jasmine Minks have several songs included here including, Think, Work For Nothing and Where The Traffic Goes, which were all recorded in 1984. These singles are fast up-tempo numbers, featuring the almost customary jangly Rickenbacker sound, and sit somewhere between 1960s pop and post punk. Not much is known about the X Men, but they did record some great records for Creation in 1984. Bad Girl, Talk and Do The Ghost all have a demented psychobilly thrash and these tracks would not sound out of place on the Nuggets and Pebbles compilation albums. Do The Ghost in particular is a fantastic single and on first listen there is a somewhat obvious comparison to the deranged sound of The Cramps. However, according to the notes in Artifact the song was inspired by The Novas stupendous 1964 single The Crusher.
It seems incredible that The Loft only released 2 singles with Creation Records, before disbanding in 1985. The 3 songs included on this disc demonstrate a promise that was never quite fulfilled. Why Does The Rain, Like and Winter all have the customary jangly guitar work delivered by guitarist Andy Strikland, and ruminative lyrics delivered in a somewhat languid tone by singer Pete Astor. These tracks ably demonstrate that The Loft could have been a creative success, but they never stuck around long enough to find out. Why Does The Rain in particular is an outstanding single and was one of the first releases on Creation Records, and it is arguably the most accomplished single that was released by the label in 1984.
This early period for Creation Records yielded nothing by way of commercial success but as the songs on this disc demonstrate it was a creatively fertile period for the bands on this fledgling label that always seemed on the verge of bankruptcy. McGee’s dedication and love of music somehow kept the label afloat and gradually the hit records and commercial success arrived, but that is another story. Stay tuned pop pickers as we delve even further into the Artifact box set in part two, which will be coming your way soon! BUY HERE!
Gavin Chappell-Bates is a singer, guitarist, songwriter and live looper from Cambridgeshire, England performing effervescent emotive yin/yang indie pop. His music shape shifts from acoustic balladry to punk to Britpop to anthemic alternative rock. He sings songs about growing up, politics, suicide, love, hope and determination.
Gavin features regularly on BBC Introducing, and other radio stations worldwide, and has been played nationally by Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music and XFM and Amazing Radio DJ Jim Gellatly. He was nominated for Best Male Solo Artist in the 2015 NMG Awards.
After playing in various local bands, Gavin decided in 2014 to embark on a solo career. He released his first EP – ‘Black Holes’ – in February 2015, followed by second single – ’95’ – in July. His third release – ‘We Are The Ones’ – was released on 5 October 2015. His debut album, recorded by James Coppolaro at Mix 66, will be out early 2016. Friends, family and fans voted for their favourite songs to appear on the album.
We caught up with Gavin recently on his travels…
01. How did you get started in music?
I picked up the guitar around the age of eleven inspired by some of my friends who were playing and from being introduced to The Beatles. I had a couple of lessons from Ezio’s Booga to begin with but then I began to teach myself, both to play the guitar and to sing.
02 .Where did your direction come from?
I think a lot of my early musical direction came from trying to prove people wrong. My family didn’t think I’d stick with the guitar and then, once I’d been playing a while, I was a figure of fun at school for my ability and passion. I suffered with depression and anxiety and would often just lock myself away in my bedroom with my guitar. It, therefore, became my way of getting through dark times. It was my solace and my only real friend so my playing and song writing stemmed from that.
03. Who were your major influences and inspirations?
The Beatles were my first major influence, and that followed into some other rock ‘n’ roll artists such as Buddy Holly. I then discovered rock music and became a big Aerosmith fan. My ambition was to be able to play the guitar like Joe Perry (I’m still working on that!). I was then lucky enough to be growing up in the 90s so I was surrounded by Britpop, alternative and grunge music. I was, and still am, heavily influenced by bands like Placebo, Suede and The Smashing Pumpkins. My biggest influence, however, has been Manic Street Preachers. When I was a teenager and I first discovered their music so much opened up for me. I heavily related to their music, lyrics and style. I knew from the first seconds of listening to ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ that they would be my most important influence now and forever. That is still the case.
04. What inspires you to make your current type of songs and sound?
All of my influences and experiences go into the music I make but I am very determined to write songs that are uplifting, positive and emotionally resonant. Whilst there are darker elements to my forthcoming debut album, I hope people can find some kind of cathartic experience in them. It is all about letting go, moving forward and turning things into something positive. My current single ‘We Are The Ones’ is a good example of that.
05. What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your shows?
Because my songs are written and recorded as full band arrangements and I am a solo artist, I live loop on stage. I transform my songs and play variations of what people will hear on the recordings. I layer things up to create a big sound and so I can covey that same feeling of euphoria that is on the recordings.
06. How do you begin writing your songs? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?
Sometimes I just sit down with my guitar and play around until something happens. Mostly this is completely unintentional (i.e. I am not trying to write a song). With lyrics, I have a pad that I keep close by and I am constantly jotting down ideas, themes and lyrics that come into my head. I am already starting to write my second album which will have a clear theme running all the way through so I am constantly adding bits to that musically and lyrically.
In terms of themes; as mentioned earlier, I want my songs to be positive mainly, but I am looking at the whole cycle of life. Birth, death, love, loss, our place in the universe, society, politics, etc. I studied philosophy at university and am therefore heavily interested in politics so that comes out in some of my music. I am, however, more interested in the ability of human’s to achieve greatness and push ourselves on to better things.
07. How has your music evolved since you first began playing?
I hope it has evolved quite a lot. When I read back through my early lyrics they were very adolescent and highly influenced from the pain and anguish I was feeling at the time. My lyrics are a lot brighter now and (hopefully) more mature. Musically, I understand a lot more now about the structure of songs and melody. I have also stopped trying to rip off my favourite artists and instead am just writing songs that come naturally. I am sure their influence can still be heard in my music but in a non-deliberate way.
08. What has been your biggest challenge? How were you able to overcome this?
Anxiety and depression. That is not the friend of a performer. It meant for many years that I didn’t get on stage. When I did it was almost physically unbearable. It also meant that I didn’t engage with the audience and I probably came across as quite rude. Whilst I still get nervous I understand that the most important people in the room are the audience and I am there to make them feel good. Engaging them is such an important part of being a musician, and that includes talking with them after the show and finding out what they thought. I faced up to my mental health issues a few years ago and since then it has become a lot easier to perform. Not only that but I was holding myself back musically. When I finally released myself was when I started my solo career and planning my debut album, something I’d always dreamed of doing.
09. If you could pick any song, what would you like to cover most and why?
The one song I often cover at gigs is ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E King. It is such a beautiful song, lyrically and melodically. I have put my spin on it though and I am hoping to record that in the near future.
10. Where do you envisage being in five years time?
I currently work part-time to pay the bills so I hope that in five years’ time I won’t have to. I’m no longer a 12 year old boy looking for fame and adulation, I just want to be playing music to people that enjoy what I do. I hope to have a core fan base and be touring and recording regularly.
11. Who would you most like to record with?
I don’t think I’d cope in the studio with many of my major idols, the pressure of recording is hard enough as it is. I am thinking about quite a few collaborations for my second album however. There are so many talented musicians in the Cambridge scene who I would love to work with. So that may include people like Bouquet of Dead Crows, as well as some Taiko drumming, choirs, orchestras and possibly even some rapping (not from me)!
12. What should we be expecting from you in the near future?
My debut album will be out in spring 2016. This will be accompanied by a full UK tour. I’ll then be hitting the festival circuit before looking to tour Europe later in the year. I’ll see where that all takes me but then I’ll be looking to record album number 2 as I have lots of ideas and demos bubbling away for that!
My next tour will be in Spring 2016 to support the release of my debut album but I have a few local gigs dates before Christmas:
31 October – Norwich Arts Centre
6 November – The Portland Arms, Cambridge
7 November – The George, Huntingdon
26 November – The Oliver Cromwell, St. Ives
19 December – The Pembroke Arms, Biggleswade
All gig info can be found here:
*Link to buy the current single: ‘We Are The Ones’
Born in San Diego, California in 1987 and raised in Tecate, Mexico until the age of 8 when he then moved to the United States – producer/singer/songwriter, Michael Jack Dole, lived somewhat of a nomadic childhood. His vast array of early life experiences laid the foundation for Dole’s lyrical creativity which he vividly captures and illustrates in his somber, yet beautifully raw crafted lyrics.
The name ‘Empire of Gold’ was inspired by a homeless man Dole met on Venice Beach who, after listening to him play a few songs, told him “keep doing what you’re doing kid – it’s like you’re building an empire of gold!” Even though the man seemed to be poking fun at the idea of such a grand dream, Dole found encouragement and challenge in the man’s words and decided to do just that. Some of his many early inspirations include Kurt Cobain, Elliott Smith, Green Day, John Lennon and specifically Conor Oberst – mostly for his lyrics and his ability to ‘make poems come to life!’ Eyeplug shot some Questions his way recently…
01 How did you get started in music?
I got my first guitar as a present when I was 14 and took lessons at a local music store for a year. After a year I felt I wasn’t learning anything worth spending money on, so I stopped and just started playing by ear. I didn’t get serious about writing music until I was a freshman in college. I had moved from Chicago to California all by myself and I would play and write music when I felt depressed or lonely. That is when I really started accumulating a huge catalogue of songs – from summer of 2005 till 2014; when I started recording and taking music much more seriously.
02 Where did your direction come from?
My direction came from a dark, depressing time in my life. I had a rough childhood in which I lost both my parents and moved to America from Mexico at the age of 8. I was then raised by my aunt and uncle until I was emancipated at 18 and made the decision to move to California. This was initially my starting point of all my creative writing.
03 Who were your major influences and inspirations and who do you despise?
At first my major influences ranged from metal (Slipknot, Mudvayne) to punk acts of the 90’s (Green Day, Offspring). But at the heart of it all, it was musicians like John Lennon, Elliott Smith and Conor Oberst that really inspired me to get creative with my writing. I started off completely as an acoustic artist, with 90% of my songs written in this form. The musicians and bands that I would consider my major influences today had completely slipped under my radar when I was growing up; those being Nirvana, Melvins, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains and just the grunge movement in general. When I finally came into contact with these types of acts, they sparked something deep within me and just catapulted me into a whole new level from then on.
I don’t really despise any artist. Even the genres that I don’t enjoy listening to (Pop, Country, anything having a commercial or heavily processed mainstream sound), I still have respect for as artists.
04 What inspires you to make your current type of songs and sound?
It really boils down to the changes we have seen in the music business in recent times. I’m just a guy that feels he was born too late and missed the great explosion of early 90’s rock; that being the musical revolution that took over and made MTV a channel full of greatness instead of the crap is showcases now. If I can just somehow, some way, bring a little piece of that back, I will have succeeded as a musician in my own eyes.
05 What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your live shows then & possibly even now?
As of right now, I am a one man band. I don’t necessarily like doing acoustic sets, so I don’t perform live. I want to keep Empire of Gold as a solo project so I don’t expect to be doing any live sets until I can acquire some session players. Which costs some pretty Dollars of course!
06 How do you begin your songs? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?
I grew up listening to melody instead of lyrics. As a kid I didn’t think lyrics were important. It was all about the melody and movement of the song. So when I started writing music, that’s what I would focus on first and still do to this day. When I can get a song to “move” me and make me feel emotion with no lyrics, then I know I have a song and then begin to write lyrics. While I’m in the process of writing the melody, I always get a sense of what type of a story or emotion would fit the song and that is what I base the subject matter on.
I will say it’s usually a depressing tone. I don’t like, or I guess am just not good at, writing happy go-lucky songs.
07 How did your music evolve since you first began playing?
Lyrically and emotionally it hasn’t. What has evolved immensely is the style. It has evolved from acoustic singer-songwriter to a stripped down, raw grunge act.
08 What has been your biggest challenge? Were you able to overcome this? If so, how?
My biggest challenge has by far been producing and engineering my own music. I had to buckle down at my job and save a lot of money to finance my “studio”, which is in a closet… but also learning the skill and art form that music engineers have had to hone in on. It’s been a LONG two-year process of learning how to record the best sound, which microphones, best mic pre amps, which interface, how to EQ, compress, different types of compressors, automate, limit, how to pan instruments, which reverb, how to use reverb, what levels, digital or analogue, summing, blah, blah, blah the list goes on!
There has been many times in my walk with music that I’ve wanted to just give up, but I always told myself that I would be that guy that looked back and could tell others, “It’s hard.. very hard at first, but just keep going and with trial and error, you will learn the craft and be able to look back and smile at all your hard work.” I know I took the road less traveled, instead of just hiring a professional, but in the end I think it’s what sets me apart even more. From concept to production to distribution, it’s all me, and it feels damn good.
09 Do you play covers? If you could pick any song, which would you like to cover most and why?
I don’t know if there is one song in particular, but there is an album. I want, and will, cover Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album raw and straight from the heart just like Kurt wanted to.
10 Where did you envisage being in five years time?
I envisage being backed by a label. I kind of prefer a small label in which we can grow together. But within five years, I see being well-known and being a musician as a full-time job.
11 Who would you most like to record with?
Dead: Kurt Cobain Alive: Paul McCartney (At least meet!)
12 What should we be expecting from you in the near future?
I will be releasing my debut LP “Crass” with a couple of singles with music videos to appear before it’s release.
Lost Dawn: Lost Dawn (Easy Action)
Falmouth’s Lost Dawn has the kind of fearless attitude that makes some bands great and others not so much. Their self-titled premier full-lengther is the kind of album that will grow on even the most jaded fan of this kind of music – a cross between overt pop inclinations with a slight psychedelic twist, and loose nut, rave-up experimentalism. The first two-thirds of “LD” lo-fi’s its’ way into your brain cells wonderfully. There is a distinct Marc Bolan vibrato to the effects-driven vocals that meshes well with the reverb boogie of “Breaking Bad” and “Count On Me”. Drums splash and attention spans expand and it all makes perfect contrary logic until “Manchild” when, for over six minutes the band builds from a fairly typical rhythmic pattern and heads for the very outside edges of their sound. Call it a rave-up or simply a progression to the limits in the confines of the song-it works to create a new sense of what this band is capable of when they stretch. Closing with hippie dream ballad “Kennedy”, Lost Dawn turns the tables again and all told this pleasing set builds a strong case for watching what this band does to follow this.
(11 tracks) GRAB A COPY HERE
Honey: Weekend Millionaire (Easy Action)
Blame grunge. Blame Courtney Love. Blame anything else but poor Cornwall, U.K. trio Honey for their immediately identifiable retrograde sound. Sure, every band has roots and most bands can’t shake a sound-a-like framework at the outset of their careers. We’ll give the three in Honey their first fault. Originality is a difficult and delicate thing to grab and shape into something a band can stand behind proudly. It needs to come from within the group rather from their record collections… eventually. Singer/guitarist Sarah Marie Tyrrell has guts to spare yet mewls and roars like you’ve heard it before. Points given for a guitar-centric roar that chop chops at chords defiantly while drummer Sammy and bass guitarist Ele complement heroically. That part works. Sometimes the deck requires a quick re-shuffle before the players can get down to a serious game. Honey is at the table and ready to deal except the cards are marked and the dealer already knows exactly what will be played next. Next?
(10 tracks) GRAB A COPY HERE
Brian James: The Guitar That Dripped Blood (Easy Action)
Brian James’ distinctive guitar tone, riff-craft and sonic song-writing style is on full alert here on this new one from Easy Action. Ten top tracks that echo the Damned, Stooges and James’ own previous solo classics (Tanz Der Youth, Brains etc) and that push this one hard. James doesn’t handle all the lead vocals here though – it makes little or no sense to me that James would have anyone other than himself sing. His charismatic drawl is everything that these songs need. Guest vocalist Adam Becvar (4 tunes) sounds similar enough to be unnecessary and but different enough to want to hear James back taking the lead. This is a rough and ready release and guest guitarist Cheetah Chrome grinds it out with James on ‘Becoming a Nuisance’ just to add that little bit more Stoogey-grind so beloved by both guitarists. (10 tracks.)
Formed in London in 2007, the band is a colourful explosion of flamboyant, high-energy performances and musical miscellany. As well as originals, the mix includes traditional Balkan, Klezmer, Turkish, Russian and Gypsy tunes, plus even a small hint of hip-hop.
TSMB is a fearsome blend of clarinets, brass, percussion, guitar and vocals. Highlights from its strange and wonderful history include shows at Glastonbury, the Royal Albert Hall, WOMAD, Kensington Palace, HMV Forum and The Roundhouse, as well as recording at Abbey Road and Air Studios. The band has taken the music all around the Balkans and as far afield as Georgia in the Caucuses and beyond!
Always open to adventure, the band’s recent projects have included a unique collaboration with DJ Yoda which proved a firm festival favourite, and curating an ongoing series of events as part of a residency at Shoreditch arts hub Rich Mix.
You got together around 2007, what were you all doing prior to this date?
Nick: Some of us had been in the London Gypsy Orchestra. The TSMB was formed out of the LGO brass section, plus our bandleader Issy and some others. There was a violinist and a mandolin player initially.
Issy: I had originally studied as a clarinettist at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and originally had trained to play clarinet in a symphony orchestra. However over the course of college realised that although I loved classical music, I wanted to explore other musical styles too – I had spent some time in West Africa and Czech Republic and realised that I need to play more than just classical music. After leaving college I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to really do, but then discovered this style of music through the LGO and fell totally in love with it and haven’t looked back since!
Emily: I’m a relative newcomer, having joined in late 2011, and the band was a total change of scene from what I had been used to – jazz, and before that some classical whilst studying. I had just returned to the UK feeling slightly negative about pursuing music after teaching it abroad, and TSMB was exactly what I needed to revive and completely reinstate my enthusiasm for playing!
What brought you all together and how did you decide on that moniker?
Issy: Some of us would meet up before LGO rehearsals and jam different tunes. Then at one of the LGO gigs, we were short on the set length and the conductor asked if we wanted to play some of the tunes we had been working on, and TSMB was born! After that, we then got to play at a Balkan Beats night in the Buffalo Bar and Radio Gagarin night at the Notting Hill Arts Club and things just sort of grew from there onwards.
There was a bit of a joke at the time about how it would be awesome to have a gig as the in-house band on the Trans-Siberian Railway and one of our members has actually contacted them a few times to offer this service, though we have never heard back. However, the name stuck!
What are the diverse influences that shape your current sound?
Nick: We like a range of current and past Balkan sounds. I like everything from Klezmer from the 1920s to the soundtrack pop of Goran Bregovic, the somewhat traditional sounds of bands like Taraf de Haidouks and Fanfare Ciocarlia to modern electronic oompah from any of the countries, east of Berlin, doing it.
Issy: When choosing songs, I also have been looking a lot at Turkish artists such as Selim Sesler, Tarkan, Sefarad and Candan Ercetin. I have also learnt a lot from other musicians I have played with in the past such as Çiğdem Aslan (She’koyokh) and Illana Cravitz (London Klezmer Quartet).
Emily: Our repertoire spans a pretty wide geographic area. It’s mostly arrangements of traditional tunes, but through our mish-mash of musical backgrounds and influences (not only Balkan and Klezmer but classical, jazz, South American, African, punk…) the band has come to develop its own distinctive sound. From this, some of the tunes have grown into rather personalised takes on the original style, as opposed to faithful reproductions!
Nick: Too add to what Emily says, there are so many of us, and our ages range from mid-20s to mid-70s, so we all bring something with us from our own experience and memories of music, and culture in general. One of our trumpet players, Pippa, saw Louis Armstrong play in the late 50s, for instance, and quite a few of have lived abroad, in Eastern Europe and Turkey, and you can’t help but pick up a bit here, a bit there, not all of it conscious, but it definitely emerges, helps us onto the same wavelength, I think.
At present you are a 13-piece band, how does that function when touring and the onstage set-up?
Nick: We’ve toured using just public transport – long train journeys through Austria, Hungary and Bosnia – and using local drivers and minibuses. It looks chaotic from the outside, I guess, but usually everybody and everything gets gathered up together! We are lucky enough to have several sound engineers in the band, who have been able to quickly sort out the various onstage set-ups – sometimes, in the Balkans, these have been products of enthusiasm rather than expertise, lethal in the wrong hands…
Issy: I think we have known each other for a while and have learnt to deal with difficult situations together. Also, even though we are numerous, we don’t actually need a lot of onstage equipment such as drumkits, and we are equally at home playing acoustically or plugged in.
Emily: We have a giant water bed big enough for 13 that we take with us on overnight trips. Not really, but we did once manage to get some people to believe that in the bar after a gig.
What can someone that has yet to see your live show expect to see and hear?
Nick: We put on a big show, I think, no matter where we play. We are kind of loud, and now have a large repertoire of songs. We dress up a bit, make up a bit, wear clothes from the Soviet Union, are into wigs and frocks. We feature horse-dancing competitions, singalongs and trumpet duels.
Issy: The live show is generally quite interactive – I can be quite merciless on the audience! I think though our main feature is fun – both for the performers and for the audience. There is definitely no standing around looking moody and staring at our shoes whilst onstage.
Emily: It’s very energetic stuff, and works best of all when the audience are willing to throw themselves into the spirit of things! Recently we have had a massive, high-speed, hokey-kokey-style circle-dance, people on each other’s backs pretending to be galloping horses, and Madonna singalongs in a Russian oompah style. I’d like to say it makes more sense when you’re there in the middle of it, but maybe it doesn’t. You’ll have to come and see and judge for yourself!
What types of people do you attract along to your events?
Nick: I’m not sure there’s a typical TSMB audience member. We’ve played for late-night crowds off their faces in clubs and at festivals, for shoppers innocently heading for Primark, for tourists and locals passing by in squares in Bosnia, for people in parks in Georgia, and for children and their parents in Regents Park, and none of them have thrown things at us.
Issy: We generally have quite a mixed audience of all ages and nationalities. This has been quite noticeable at our monthly events at Rich Mix, where there have been people who come along every month to see us.
Emily: For a while there was a group of people dressed as Elvis that used to show up quite regularly.
Nick: Oh yes – the Elvi. (Presley, not Costello…) Where are they now, I often wonder… sometimes wonder…
You have played many big established festivals and historic venues, what were the high and low points and stand-out memories?
Nick: I loved playing on the bridge in Mostar in Bosnia on our first tour. It was a real highlight, the first of many. I also loved playing to big mad crowds one night in Glastonbury, while the next day’s gig by the side of some tent – it wasn’t even in a field – to some hippies, toddlers and a dog (and the dog didn’t even stay) was NOT the best experience. However, you play to whoever’s there. One of the many gigs we did during the London Olympics was so badly organised we played to about 5 people, but we still played our socks off, as did everybody on that bill I love regular nights like the Hootenanny in Brixton, where people go determined to have a good time, and you can really feel that.
Issy: Playing in Sarajevo was real privilege and it was incredible to play to a room full of people who sang along to every word and jumped to their feet at each new tune. Also playing at WOMAD was absolutely unbelievable. I think my least favourite gigs have been when we have played at corporate events – although those gigs are good for the bank balance and allow us to invest in new albums etc, they are somewhat hard work…
Emily: We’ve played to some of our biggest and most enthusiastic crowds at festivals, and I have to say I enjoy playing at our current ‘home turf’ Rich Mix as well. It’s also great to play at specific Balkan nights as you get to perform for people who already really love the music. My least favourite gigs are any that book us to march for long periods of time in the freezing cold and rain, which happens more frequently than I’d like as a downside of the implication of having ‘March Band’ in your name.
What Countries are most receptive to your current set?
Nick: We’ve played in the Balkans, and had no ‘coals to Newcastle’ moments. Imagine if a group from Sarajevo came here playing Morris Dancing music, we’d probably throw rocks at them. We get a good reception wherever we go. A kid in Gori (Stalin’s birthplace in Georgia) did ask us to play some Led Zepplin, which we weren’t able to do!
Issy: Also randomly according to our online sales, we get an awful lot of downloads in Japan!
How do your songs develop? What is the usual process of writing new material?
Nick: Music for the TSMB has to fit a certain brief: usually minor chords, a tune that will fit into the modes used in eastern music. I’m a bit crap at lyrics, and don’t care for them, much, but the ones I write are on-topic: sad tales from what I call the Soviet Onion.
Issy: It tends to be a mixture of traditional tunes which myself and other members transcribe and arrange for the band and then originals in a similar style written mostly by Nick, but also Emily and Sarah (our trombone player). We have also brought in tunes and jammed/arranged them as a group.
Emily: They often come in fully arranged (as it’s easiest to approach writing for a band of this size with a certain degree of organisation), but do also evolve. When we’ve played with new percussionists they’ve sometimes added their own spin to an ‘old favourite’ tune and we end up with a totally different and fresh feel underpinning it which the rest of us will follow and develop.
What are your Heroes and Zeroes from music and beyond?
Nick: I have a lot of respect for people who stick their necks out to do something that goes against the grain. So in pop I like early Roxy Music and 1970s Bowie, from punk I was a big fan of early Adam and the Ants and The Clash. I’m a big fan of people like Lee Perry and Toots Hibbert (the most unique voice in reggae). Joni Mitchell is brilliant, an innovator, and without the ego of the other people from that whole sixties thing, a lot of which I hated – I love sixties pop. I’m a big Shangri-Las fan, too. I’ve liked most of what Bosnian bandleader Goran Bregovic has done, though part of his drive to create new music in the Balkans seems to have involved not crediting a lot of the original musicians. Filip Koutev, who brought lots of Bulgarian music to the fore, was amazing. I love Balkan music pioneers the Three Mustaphas Three. And I still love bands from what now seems like long ago, like The Monochrome Set and The Band of Holy Joy, still innovating after all this time.
Issy: I am a huge fan of ska and reggae, so probably one of my all-time favourite bands is the Specials. I generally admire people who try and say and do something with their music or art form, such as Pete Seeger.
Emily: In a similar vein, I respect artists who are innovative and original (Björk, Miles Davis, Prince, The Beach Boys). Having said that I can also appreciate the craftsmanship, if not the artistic vision, behind a well-produced pop song.
What is your current favourite music and influences? What do you think of the current music scene?
Nick: Being well over the age of anybody I would have listened to when I was young, I sort of don’t offer a strong opinion. Ha ha, but here’s one anyway: A lot of it seems very bland, X-Factor-type stuff, young people’s music paradoxically determined by old farts. Middle-aged parents seem to like the same music as their teenage kids, and I don’t think that’s ever good for culture in general. However, I’m sure that’s not the whole picture! The current bands I know and like are Vampire Weekend and Bastille – there, that’s their cred gone… I also think Imogen Heap is doing some interesting work.
Issy: Malian musicians such as Amadou and Mariam are great and I really love the guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. I think there is a massive schism between how the music scene is represented in the mainstream media and what is actually happening. I would say it is a really exciting time to discover music: whatever you think of it, the Internet has given us the ability to access music from around the world and the live music scene in London particularly, is incredibly diverse – on any night of the week you could probably see any style of music you wanted. I mean the fact that we, as a bunch of English people in London, play Balkan music, and people actually come and see us is amazing, and I think testament to the vitality and inclusivity of the current music scene.
Emily: I agree that a narrow range of music is hugely over-represented in the mainstream media. I think Issy is completely right about the diversity of interesting music available, if you just scratch the surface. In booking bands to play during our residency at Rich Mix we have tried to represent this and offer something to people that is outside of their usual listening habits – prog rock, Bollywood, folk, a funk band with 5 trombones – nothing is off limits! In terms of my current favourite music, I like Beirut a lot – they also heavily incorporate the Balkan brass sound and other ‘world’ musics – we play a Turkish song called Şiki Şiki Baba in the style that they covered it in.
You have collaborated with DJ Yoda, how did that come about and work out?
Nick: Rob Kelly, our percussionist and soundmeister at the time, wrote him a fan e-mail, almost, suggested we do a collaboration, and so it happened. (I make it sound easy; it took a lot of hard work from our bandleader Issy.)
Issy: We thought we were playing a gig that DJ Yoda was headlining and I had been quite a fan of his for many years (went to quite few of his early gigs when first arrived in London as a student). Down the pub after rehearsal I was talking to Rob about how awesome it would be to play a track with him and Rob said why not? So the next day he sent him an e-mail and he got back to us! It transpired he wasn’t actually playing the event (was the promoters’ mistake) but had listened to our stuff and was up for a collaboration. So we met up, chatted about some ideas and then jammed some in our next rehearsal. The initial process comprised of trying stuff out, recording it, seeing what worked until we pieced together a set.
What shows/events have you got planned for the near future?
Nick: We’ve been booked to play at a brass band festival in Paris, in the Champs de Mars, underneath the Eiffel Tower, which will be brilliant. Our residency at Shoreditch Rich Mix continues till July (middle Wednesday in the teenths each month) and on July 15th we have the Band of Holy Joy headlining. We haven’t played the Hootenanny for a year or so, and being back there will be great.
Issy: Also got some upcoming gigs in London (Hootananny and Magic Garden) as well as some festivals (Wilderness and Boomtown so far confirmed).
Are you involved with any other outside projects?
Nick: I’m working on a bunch of tunes for an imaginary eighties girl band called the Angri-Las as part of one of my writing projects. I also play in a Clash covers band – not so much ‘dad rock’ as ‘walking stick punk’.
Issy: Just started recently rehearsing with a group called Klezmer and Cake.
Emily: I play in a Mariachi band, as well as in various bands’ brass sections as and when the opportunities come up!
Nick: Various members of the band are professional musicians, and work on a variety of projects – percussionist Chris gets around playing everything from a full kit to a triangle, and Sarah, one of our trombonists, is running away to join the circus for a while and playing in the band, putting up tents and, possibly, some tiger / clown management.
How does the Media generally respond to you?
Nick: We are generally ignored. Does that sound bitter? I’m not sure that we mind! We got a bit of mainstream press coverage when we worked with DJ Yoda, though some of it was on the lines of ‘Yoda’s got this brass band in tow’, and mentions of us ‘wiggling, tooting and parping along’, as if we we’d been slotted in as an afterthought.
Issy: A certain famous daily newspaper has on numerous occasions got its facts wrong which is quite amusing, once described us a “Bavarian oompah band” and another saying we are from Russia! However we have had some lovely reviews, particularly memorable was the review the Times did of our WOMAD show (“But better than both was the Trans-Siberian March Band, a 13-piece Balkan brass ensemble of flamboyantly dressed Londoners, who played a hugely entertaining collaborative show with the hip-hop turntable virtuoso DJ Yoda. Lively and witty, they proved to be perfect festival crowd-pleasers.”) and also a great review form the Arts Desk when we supported Mahala Rai Banda.
Emily: I would say that the reviews we have had have been generally very positive (particularly of our festival shows), but that the vast majority of the time they do get our name wrong (‘Trans-Siberian MarchING Band’).
Nick: Yes, the ‘-ing’ thing. On the one hand it’s not that big a deal, but on the other it’s slightly annoying if we’re working with people who can’t even pay THAT much attention. There was even a teeshirt printed after one series of gigs we took part in, with our name spelt wrong.
Is there anyone that you would dream to work with on a mini-project?
Nick: I think Imogen Heap would be perfect to work with; open to ideas and influences, and not afraid to be adventurous. I think we could do great things with almost any kind of act, but it’d have to be something we could contribute to, in the same way in which we worked with DJ Yoda – part of the main course, and not the watery side salad.
Issy: Quincy Jones or Nile Rodgers.
Emily: Open to suggestions. As well as mashing our tunes up with 90s hip hop, we have also been on stage with banjos and with Bollywood Brass Band, so I’m pretty confident we could make just about anything work. In fact we always enjoy as good challenge!
Please feel free to plug any of your recordings that may be for sale?
Our first CD The Tractor Makers’ Ball is a collection of originals and classic Balkan tunes, and is available as a CD or download.
What does the future hold for you all?
Nick: We carefully plan all of our chaos: the ‘difficult second album’ has been recorded and will come out sometime this year; we have a load of gigs arranged up to the summer.
Can you tell us a joke please?
Emily: What cheese would you use to hide a small horse?
Nick and Issy: We don’t know. WHAT cheese would you use to hide a small horse?
Emily: Mascarpone! (# Total silence ensued for quite some time as did the sound of distant Church Bells)
Nick and Issy: Hmm, lucky we’re musicians, and not comedians…
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