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DozenQ – Darren Deicide

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series DozenQ5

Darren Deicide was born on Halloween in the rhythm and blues filled environment of Chicago. Colorful reviews describe his playing style as ‘blending the best aspects of blues, rock n’ roll, and punk!’ We recently caught up with Darren and here’s what he had to testify…

01 How did you get started?

One day Satan said ‘Give them hell’, so I did.

02 Where did your name come from, being based on the IOW how does that influence things?

‘Deicide’ was a nickname I was given from old friends, and it has stuck since childhood. I think a combination of alliteration and my natural disposition named me.

03 Who are your major influences and inspirations and who do you despise?

I think any artist that is genuinely engaged in their process absorbs influences from every angle, like a sponge. I couldn’t exactly point to everything that makes each one of my songs what it is. I’m simply a byproduct of Americana, a mutt living against the grain of an empire in decline. So I consider my music a return of sorts. It’s a return to the aesthetic trends that existed before we bred a certain type of pretension into American culture, and I despise all the forces that are driving this decline. The complacent, the obedient, the fake, and the willfully ignorant are all at the top of my shit list at the moment.

04 What drives you to make music?

I wake up and ask myself that question all the time. I think this goes back again to the difference between a genuine artist and someone just repeating a schtick. I make music because, for whatever reason, I was hardwired to do so. To not, would be a life bereft of something. There are a lot of musicians like that right now, who exist in the undergrounds of America, and regardless of whatever the zeitgeist, they will continue doing what they do simply because they are compelled to push the aethers in one direction or another. Musicians are explorers who just can’t not take the muse into new and strange places.

05 What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your live show?

They can expect to boil a hell-broth with me. They can expect to be taken to an unholy church of drunkenness and rage. They can expect to hear the primal call of shamanistic blues. They can expect an infernal juke house. Don’t be surprised if I wind up stomping on your coffee table.

06 Who writes your songs? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?

I write all of my songs. Inspiration comes from many different directions, but I consider my music a type of playful terrorism. To me, that has been the tradition of the blues, from its roots to all of its mischievous children that have been spawned through the decades. The blues is a subtle rebellion, an innuendo of that which dare not be spoken. In this day and age, there is no shortage of subjects that need to be mocked and ridiculed with the prod of surrealism, eros, and fantasy. I am merely assuming the mantle.

07 How has your music evolved since you first began playing?

I think it has gone a number of different directions. It began as a sort of amateurish and crude version of what I do now, as I started in a bunch of punk bands. I still was working that energy out, until I started exploring some conceptual angles with Temptation and the Taboo, Part 1 and The Jersey Devil is Here. The Blues Non Est Mortuum really feels like a finished product to me, the culmination of everything that I’ve been doing with equal parts of everything and nothing overstated.

08 What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Were you been able to overcome this? If so, how?

I think the biggest challenge I, and most musicians face, is to overcome the invasive presence of media. Just about every venue, especially in America, has televisions up and an audience with their eyes glued to cell phones. It has created a horde of people that just aren’t present and it is sapping energy from the value of musical performance. On a great night, that is overcome, smothered by hand claps and a singing audience that have given themselves to the rapture. How else can we overcome it? Might I suggest smacking cell phones out of people’s hands and leaving its fate to the mosh pit?

09 Do you play covers? If you could pick any song, which would you like to cover most and why?

I have covers up my sleeve, but I generally don’t play them live. I do like the idea of taking ‘traditionals’ and reinventing them, as what had been common practice in the folk tradition. I’ve always liked to see the evolution of Americana classics in that process, which somewhat mimics ‘The Telephone Game’. My contribution was to take Skip James’ ‘Devil Got My Woman’ and transform it into ‘Devil is my Woman’. I was nudged by Rev. Adam Campbell to do it. Don’t worry, buddy. I didn’t forget you. I played it for Back from the Dead: The Harsimus Sessions, my live video series, and it’s on The Blues Non Est Mortuum. But I don’t get into covers as a matter of course. The bar cover band is a useless, old charade. It’s time to get relevant and original, people.

10 Where do you envisage being in five years time?

I don’t know. Predictability is overrated.

11 Who would you most like to record with?

My partner in crime, Ethel Lynn Oxide. Soon she will be evoked from the fog.

12 What should we be expecting from you in the near future?

See question 11. There will be no spoilers yet, but don’t expect me to disappear anytime soon. There will definitely be more touring in the works if I don’t wind up in a place like jail. You’re all going to have a hard time shaking this guy.
 

Web Links

Facebook: facebook.com/darrendeicide
Twitter: twitter.com/darrendeicide
Instagram: instagram.com/darrendeicide

Tour dates:
Shows can be found at darrendeicide.com

Link to buy the current LP:
The Blues Non Est Mortuum, the latest vinyl release, can be found RIGHT HERE

 

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Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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April 3, 2017 By : Category : Blues Dark DozenQ Folk Interviews Music RnB Tags:, , , ,
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Nick Churchill’s Interviews Alex James

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Nick Churchill Interviews

NC: It’s late autumn in the year 2000 and the Britpop party was over long ago, leaving its most creative mixers with almighty post-Millennial hangovers. One of its most dedicated bons vivants, Alex James is sitting at his glass-topped kitchen table in the basement of his home in Seven Dials, off Covent Garden. Over there is the double bass he used on the previous year’s hit single Tender, as copious tea and too many cigarettes (his Camel, mine Silk Cut) fuel a lively, chatty conversation of many things, of cabbages and kings.

Blur have spent most of the year on a break as reports emerge that dark forces have been threatening to swamp the band. However, a new single – the musically adventurous groove of Music Is My Radar – is on the cards and Blur: The Best Of compilation is due on October, affording hungry critics (if not the band itself which saw the release as little more than another piece of ‘product’) the chance to review Blur’s sonic progress and considerable achievements since their 1990 debut, She’s So High.

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They didn’t tour in support of the compilation and it would be another year before they reconvened in London to start work on the album that would become Think Tank. Not long after, guitarist Graham Coxon was asked to leave and the remaining three members continued recording in Morocco and finally in Devon.

By the time the album came out in 2002 the musical landscape was barely recognisable from that of the mid-1990s that had been Blur’s hitmaking peak. Parklife, Country House, There’s No Other Way, The Universal, even Song 2 had fused punk, 60s psychedelia, music hall and pure pop to provide Britpop with a cor-blimey soundtrack and the band lived lives to match.

The songs on Think Tank though captured a more mature band of musicians, in control, deep in thought and anxious to explore a vast musical palette that would inform singer Damon Albarn’s subsequent music with Gorillaz and The Good The Bad & The Queen. It was a record made by three men (and a cast of collaborators) who had completed a long and riveting journey over the previous 12 years and needed to go their own ways – Albarn deeper into music, drummer Dave Rowntree into politics and the law; and Alex into starting a family (he married Claire Neate in 2003), farrning and cheesemaking.

Blur’s reunion in 2009 was one of the most welcome of recent years and saw Graham happily back in the fold. For now, their future remains unwritten.

The full extent (and maybe some more) of Alex’s partying was revealed in his rock ‘n’ rollicking 2007 autobiography, A Bit Of A Blur, as was his most public apology to his long-standing then-girlfriend Justine with whom he’d been in a relationship since they were teenagers together in Bournemouth, but on that autumn day in West Central 2, Alex was presenting the acceptable face of being young, gifted and good looking in the wake of London’s longest and grooviest party since the swinging sixties.

Especially as his mum is going to be reading this in the Echo!

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NC: How’s things?

Oh, mum’s really excited, I feel like a 21st century Max Bygraves!

Blur’s history is really that of the 1990s. We’ve all seen the headlines, heard a few of the rumours, partied to the hits and sweated at the gigs. We’ve been having a ball, but it looks like you’ve been having a bigger one.

I guess popular culture is inevitably analysed in terms of decades and fortunately we formed in 1990. But there’s been two babies arrive in the band as well so I think we all kind of thought we’d have a bit of a break this year, an underline if you like. Graham and Damon both have little girls. Things have changed. I’ve had 10 years as a pop star, it’s my normal life.

So, you’re pretty used to it all then?

Yes. Yes. You get used to everything. Camus said that after three weeks in prison you stop thinking about everything else. I’m sure he’s right. Even in the ridiculous days of when we were on the news all the time life still takes on a routine. When you’re on tour it can it is brilliant, but your time is organised so effectively that the only choice you end up with is what you want to eat. It can be like that, but you learn how to organise yourself. It’s really bad manners to moan. I’m not moaning. Pop stars who moan, it’s just very bad manners to do that.

But the life is alien to most people – it seems incredibly glamorous – so can it ever be just a job?

I don’t know if it is just a job actually. Being a musician is easy. All you’ve got to do is think about music 24 hours a day. It’s never really felt like a job.

You did well at school, Bournemouth School, and went to Goldsmiths to do French, you weren’t destined for music. Or were you?

It’s funny that it is something that if I told my careers officer I wanted to do this he’d’ve told me to get a fucking life, but the point is that music is actually Britain’s fifth biggest export industry. It is a viable thing to aspire to. It’s kind of taken as a given that you know what you want to do and it’s actually one of the hardest things you have to do is decide what you want to do.

If you know what you want to do you’re really lucky. I worked in Safeway for a year – horrible!

Probably in a town like Bournemouth there aren’t the possibilities that there are somewhere like London. Blur are very much a London phenomenon. It’s the old story: people come to London and meet each other. That’s the hardest thing to do is to meet the people.

You were a regular face in the crowd on the Bournemouth music scene of the mid- to late-1980s. Things were pretty good for a while back then weren’t they?

There was a brilliantly vibrant music scene in Bournemouth when I was growing up. It wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t. I still keep in touch with some of the Readers Wives and some of the Farkle Family. The bass player from the Farkle Family is an A&R man at Echo Records, Darren Woodford. He’s done really well, he’s got Moloko and they’re really good. A lot of people are teachers, which is worthy.

Did you have ideas to be a professional?

No, I always told everyone I was going to be a rock star. Wanting to do something is kind of 80% of it, it really is.

What about when Blur got together? In the early days you were called Seymour and you’d been in bands in Bournemouth, did it feel like a long term band?

I don’t think we’ve ever sort of envisaged the end. Especially when you’re young like that you think everything’s going to last forever. We formed as friends really and that’s the best way really for these things to happen I think. It has to be on that basis. It would be unbearable to be anything else, it just can’t work. You can’t be in a band with people you hate. It’s horrible when people do fall out – usually about power struggles.

There have been all sorts of reports about tensions in band as you moved on from The Great Escape into the darker waters of the Blur album.

Yeah, but during There’s No Other Way me and Graham we having fights with each other in people’s cars and in radio stations. There’d be punch-ups and we got all that out of the way quite early on. I think all you want to do when you’re 21 is getting fucking pissed and show off and you’re given unlimited capacity to do that with big amplifiers and loads of booze!

Which you may have embraced more readily than the others?

Well, the whole of the music business is carried out in pubs and bars. From the moment you sign the deal the booze starts flowing.

Silly question, but was it fun?

It was Operation Fun, I think it has to be. I think people can tell when you’re bored.

As a fan it’s always interesting to watch a band grow up. You follow the songs and hear a bit about how the people involved are growing as people. Other things become important. There are marked changes between the Blur of The Great Escape and the Blur on the Blur album and again into 13 which seem incredibly personal.

The words were the last thing to get written on that record. I think what we were trying to do with that record was convey some attempt at emotion. If you can do that then people… I think you’ve just got to keep yourself interested and once you learn how the industry works you can operate a lot more effectively and efficiently. You got to keep thinking of new reasons to get up in the morning. The only thing you’ve got to go on in making music is your state of mind and it’s a natural thing to do to change.

It’s inevitable really. All great bands do it. You have to be bold but you can get into trouble, especially kids –  they can tell if you mean it. That was something that ended up becoming a bit of an albatross really when it escalated with Oasis when sales became the ultimate test of whether something was good or not. The bands that I liked when I was growing up – The Smiths, New Order – I suppose Blue Monday sold a lot but The Smiths never sold many records, but they’ve gone on to become the most influential band of the 80s probably, especially amongst American bands. I don’t think they ever even toured America, did they? They’ve gone on to become, you know, you couldn’t have REM without The Smiths.

Did Blur set out to make something that would last?

When you start out you’re just absolutely convinced of your own genius. Even when I was in bands in Bournemouth I thought they were the best band in the world – and, who knows, they may have been, but… All novices want to destroy the machinery and then become part of the machinery. I am an old fart! The last part of growing up.

It wasn’t long ago you were writing columns like Alex James Is Unwell for Select magazine, and something similar in The Idler.

I can’t remember writing that. I think we all walk very close to that line, don’t we? “And so far from satisfaction,” Joni Mitchell.

Can life in Blur be a bit of bubble? Is it difficult to take yourself out of it? You still visit your parents in Bournemouth quite often, is that your great escape?

Definitely, being in touch with some kind of some kind of normalness. The great thing about being in a band is that there’s four of you to keep each other sane, in no matter what kind of petty way. It is a playground, the music business – it’s all ‘He doesn’t like him’, ‘They’re a gang’, that kind of thing.

Any regrets?

Je ne regrette rien. Depending on how you’re feeling today you either regret everything or you don’t regret anything.

So there’s no middle ground?

If you’re happy then there’s an infinite number of ways of getting to that point.

Do you feel lucky, punk?

Yeah, you think it’s fucking lucky I bumped into these guys, but then you think it’s a fucking good job my parents met. So, yes, I feel fucking lucky.

I try and analyse it and I think all you can say is that you’ve got to take your chances. None of us had any idea what a life in the music business had to offer really, we just had some vague aspirations of being paid for being drunk and gorgeous! We all took a risk really. To find something you like doing you have to. You do meet, you can have everything, but something’s got to happen as well, something extra’s got to happen; I think what that extra thing is that people have got to like it!

There’s a lot of mystique attached to the music business but the longer you go on doing it, intellectual property is just as substantial a commodity as bricks and cement. I’m all for debunking the mystique of music really. We’ve spent a long time playing together and we’ve got good at it.

How long can it go on, can Blur be this generation’s Stones?

I like the way Marianne Faithful [with whom Alex wrote some songs] has aged more than the Stones. I think she has always kind of reflected how old she is in her music. They’re a nice bunch the Stones, god bless ‘em, but I think REM have done it very elegantly, thank fuck for REM. They didn’t really go globally massive until about their seventh album.

You’re 31 now, do you worry about dignifying your age?

It doesn’t matter how old you are. It’s not something you really contemplate. It’s not something I contemplate very often. As long as you’re willing to adapt to the way you feel you can’t go wrong. The future is top secret isn’t it? We’ve all become in demand as songwriters and producers. There’s plenty of ways it can go. I wouldn’t trust a record producer under 30.

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Country House – can you explain that?

What were we doing there? It just all got a bit… It was our baroque period. I think! What the hell we were doing taking that round America, it was complete blind optimism. It is a beautiful little cul de sac in the history of pop culture, but it’s a fucking odd record.

An oddity?

It’s veering towards a kind of musical, The Great Escape was a musical really, it wasn’t an album. It was a stage musical with a chorus line.

Strange tour too with Damien Hirst’s stage set design incorporating those giant burgers and pill. Was that done to get up the noses of Oasis – even a little bit?

When we making that record we weren’t thinking about them at all. That just came to light afterwards really and then we kind of made our bed and it wasn’t something that was ever going to… It’s an odd record, very sort of doom-laden. It’s the bleakest record we’ve ever made. Country House is up, but it’s about this guy who’s a knackered, twisted, failure of a man who has run away from everything.

Not just your record company boss Dave Balfe then?

He was chuffed to bits actually. Noel Gallagher lives in a big house in the country now, doesn’t he? It’s kind of ironic.

You’ve recently acquired a euphonium, why?

The truth about that was my dad wanted a euphonium and I got them to give me a free one if I had my photo taken with it, so it seemed a fair trade. I have a blow on it when it comes out at Christmas. Sugar Town by Nancy Sinatra, that’s the best bit of euphonium playing and it just gets better.

How’s your musical? [* It had been reported Alex was working on a musical with songwriter Jez Ashurst, with whom he later co-wrote ex-Coronation Street actor Richard Fleeshman’s second single, hit Hold Me Close]

I’ve seen Jez a few times, but it’s a three year project that will most likely break a man! That’s something to do for when I go bald I suppose. It’s a genre that needs reinventing I’m sure, but it’s a lot of work though. It’s like drug habits or something – everybody’s got one. How’s your musical? Talking about your lumbago!

What’s next for Blur?

I will definitely make another record. We’ve got expensive lifestyles to support. Probably around Christmas-time I think. It’s been good. We’ve all gone off and done our own thing so we can bring that back to the band. It does feel like coming home. I’m all for everybody doing that.

Is it daunting to step off the rollercoaster and take a break?

It was only a six-month break. There’s so many things you want to do and you haven’t got time because you’re always on fucking tour.

You don’t always get as much time to make music as you’d like?

That’s very true. It only takes three months to make a record and 18 months to market it and the cost of the thing. It costs. You can get…

[breaks to arrange lunch with a friend] (in faux American accent:) Let’s have lunch: that’s life in the music business!

So, you can get a top producer for two grand, you can get a studio for two days for around a grand a day, that’ll get you the best studio. You can make a number one record for four grand. But you can’t get it to number one unless you spend another two hundred grand on a video, marketing, touring, doing TV shows always costs the record company money.

The product itself doesn’t take much time and energy – four grand when you think about you sell half a million of them. It’s the great thing about pop music. Something that films suffer from is that it takes two years to make a film and there’s so much money at stake but by the time the thing comes to the light of day it has been focus grouped to hell, I mean, they change the ending if focus groups don’t like it, so there’s very little freedom.

But four grand? Fuck that, get on with it. It’s all about just having one great idea; and, you know, I’ve done it and that’s a bloody great thing.

The 90s was a decade that was defined by its music in a way that the 80s wasn’t I think. Three minutes can change your whole being. JK Rowling said that in the Harry Potter books, that music is the strongest magic of all – maybe I’m a fucking magician!

There have been questions about your fidelity to Justine…?

We split up for a year or so, but we’re back together. Known her since school. It’s still the person I will spend my life with – that’ll look good! It’s been said before but fame is an aphrodisiac, I’ve not really been made famous in the way that Damon has. If you want to dedicate your life to shagging you can, you don’t have to be in a band to do that… Hello darling! (Right on cue, Justine comes in upstairs.)

So, would you say you are more sensible now?

Yeah, balanced. You have to have something to come home to otherwise you just drift around the world, don’t you, if you don’t have that sense of home?

What are you excited by?

I’m perpetually thrilled by everything and awed as well. I think it’s important never to lose your sense of awe. I’d hate to be jaded.

You have some fairly stellar circles of friends, but do you still have the eyes of a fan?

Yes, but I’m sure they do as well or they’re not fucking human.

But some of them get so huge they must lose touch forever, how about the Stones?

There does come a point when you think: ‘Actually it’s not going to stop, I’ll be living in La La Land forever’ and once you’ve worked that out then you can carry on.

Are you there?

Yeah, maybe.

Could you envisage doing something other than music – writing or acting perhaps?

I’d like to write, writing’s good [he does a monthly column for Q magazine]. More than act I think. It’s that old thing of falling into the trap of thinking you can do everything just because you’re good at doing one thing and a lot of offers do come your way. I like to work in food, become a food scientist and research the properties of seaweed.

Can you cook?

Yeah, Yorkshire pudding. Like all men I can cook one thing. My grandad was a cook – at the [five star] Royal Bath Hotel in Bournemouth.

How often do you get back to Bournemouth?

Four or five times a year. My sister doesn’t live in Bournemouth any more, she lives in Farnham, at college. It’s just really evocative and as you get older you start to really cherish childhood. I can’t imagine a better place to grow up than by the sea. People are less tainted.

You were a regular at the Hot House [club, now Sound Circus] a few years ago.

That was great. Bacchus was good, that’s a shame that’s gone. There’s a lot of nightclubs in Bournemouth. It definitely did me good growing up in a kind of pleasure haven, but I guess this is a tourist resort where I live now.

Are your wild days behind you?

I hope so. It’s not so elegant to be wild in your 30s is it? When you’re younger it’s like being put in a speedboat and you say: ‘How fast can this go?’ I think everyone has a fairly wild time in their 20s – your 20s are for getting drunk and as long as you know when to leave that behind you’ll be all right.

Do you, or did you, have a problem with drink?

That’s a thing you’ll have to ask the others! I think if the work’s getting done. Getting drunk is fun, but you have to stop drinking sometime. As long as there’s someone drunker than you then you’ll be all right. Some good advice – as long as you take one day off a week to phone your mum.

How did your parents react to those reports?

Well they’d go: ‘Are you drinking too much?’ Then they’d come up here and get absolutely hammered in the daytime! I don’t think it was a problem, but there’s booze everywhere you go.

Anything stronger?

Not really, I think booze is the best rock ‘n’ roll drug, especially when you’re travelling as it just levels everything out and increases your sense of possibilities.

You’ve said there’ll be another Blur record, but what about the long term?

For sure. You have to take it one record at a time. I think the reason we’re not touring anymore is I think it’s the records you are remembered by, ultimately.

So, will you tour?

Yeah, you know. That is something we will do but we’ll be more relaxed about it. Because of the global nature of the industry when you’ve had hit records you’ve got to be everywhere at once so it does get a bit mental. I reckon we’ll just get a bit more relaxed about it and get on with it.

What do you do for kicks?

I fly aeroplanes. I’ve been into Hurn a few times and got really shouted at last time for taxi-ing the wrong way. I fly little ones, I’ve got a real old banger of a plane. There’s a discipline to flying planes which I like. Getting a pilot’s license, there’s a lot of Zen about it – you learn a lot about yourself and being responsible. It’s a good way of touring as well and you can smoke in your own plane!

The drummer was flying and we had to go to Manchester or something and we said can’t we take your plane and he said yeh, and we got in and it was 40 minutes to Manchester, fucking hell! This is great!

I had a go. I’ve got a real old banger for an aeroplane, nothing flash.

I wouldn’t say I wake up in the morning and go ‘Where am I going to get my kicks today?’ not like when I was 25. I read a lot.

Do you get bored?

Probably, I must do.

Are you dangerous when bored?

I think I have a lot of my best ideas when I’m bored; or at least idle. Let’s set The Lord’s Prayer to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, that was a good idea.

Ever fancied doing the rock star thing and living abroad?

I’ve always liked France. I was doing a French degree when I was at college. I don’t have loads of homes. People who have lots of homes and don’t live in them are silly – you can only live in one place at a time. Something about France though, everybody’s got another country don’t they?

Maybe after the second best of album?

Goodness knows, but it’s kind of nice just to be in one place for a reasonable length of time. I always imagined myself living in the country when I was little, but I’m a total city mouse. New York, Barcelona, Paris, London … cocktails! It’s very damp in the country, have you noticed?

Purbeck, that is one of my favourite places in the world. Kimmeridge is somewhere that I’m drawn back to again and again and again. It’s just so utterly timeless and kind of austere. The Purbecks are a lovely secret that we shouldn’t tell too many people about. I’m drawn there as much as anywhere really.

Can you foresee fatherhood?

Yes, I do actually. Two of the band have just become fathers so I don’t want to look like I was just joining in there! I think people are having babies later in life and I would like to have kids one day. Maybe we should get a dog first and see if it dies!

How are you with gadgets?

I rejected and refused to acknowledge technology for years, but now I’m just completely up for gadgets these days – anything that requires a battery I’ll have one! The internet’s not quite as good as watching telly yet; I think it will be soon. We’re kind of Stone Age cybermen, aren’t we? It’s very exciting.

Dave’s our computer faculty really. I’ve become very fond of Japan actually in the way that everything is designed to last you two years and is then thrown away. It’s a different way of doing things to us but it’s equally valid if the technology is going to be better in two years.

We’re an old country, resistant to change.

Yes, and we’re obsessed with our past in a very smug way with Americans!

Do you think the internet will bring everyone closer to everything?

It’s just one more media, it’s great. It’s just going to make it easier for everybody to have access to stuff.

How you do deal with getting recognised in the street?

I usually put a hat on. When you‘re hatching your little schemes you don’t want to be noticed, but it takes a lot of energy. But then everybody’s famous these days. How many people are in the national papers regularly every year. Probably something like one in a thousand people is in the papers every week, it’s not that unusual.

More people are famous for being famous though, what do you make of Big Brother?

That was a brilliant job, I loved that show.

Have you earned your fame?

I’m not really famous though, I’m in a famous band. It’s very convenient really, I only get recognised by people who like the band.

So you get the pluses and not the minuses?

Hopefully, yes! I know famous people and I’m not like them.

How do you judge if it’s all worth it?

I still feel like I want to get out of bed in the morning to do it. I don’t think you ever get to the point where you feel like you’ve achieved anything. As soon as you do achieve anything, you’re on to the next thing to the point where you just go: ‘rRght, finished’. Memory is not what the heart desires, you’ve got to keep it coming.

Is that a pressure?

Some people react badly to pressure and some people don’t. You would say this is a high-pressure business.

How do you contribute to writing Blur songs?

It’s pretty much like you see it, the drummer plays the drums, the bass player plays the bass, Damon sings and Graham plays the guitar.

Damon will turn up with something usually as he writes most of the stuff on acoustic guitar, so it’s like a vocal melody probably with no words or maybe one line and then we just bash it around. The new single, [Music Is My Radar] he just brought in a little squeezebox thing he’d bought for 99p or it came out of cracker or something and it was that and a rhythm.

You just become a production team, on the new record the drums are brilliant. Everybody’s really pulling their weight on it.

I think we just all enjoyed hammering it out together. We thought we were making a b-side. We’d recorded what we thought was going to be the single so there was no pressure at all and we were just able to go in there and totally let our hair down. You can make music, or you can make records like that these days because it all goes onto a computer and you just edit the best bits together. That’s how this record was made, half an hour jam.

We’re so familiar with each others’ sense of musicality or whatever and you can communicate after playing together for such a long time. Damon is the driving force, but there’s only room for one of those in a band really.

Is Blur a democratic band?

No I don’t think so. Anyone who tells you a band is democratic is lying. I think we’re all totally flying. There is a dynamic there, there has to be, but there’s always a point where he’ll just say fuck off!

That’s why it’s relevant that we’re a band. There’s something about the four of us playing together that works, there’s a chemistry there that’s genuine and as long as that exists we’ll continue to make good music. Who knows how long it will last for? We’ll know when it’s not there.

Any chance of a solo album or project?

The thing about music is that it’s a very collaborative process. Even if you wrote and produced or whatever on your own you’d still have to have a record company or a video made or whatever. Normally you are collaborating with a band or you are collaborating with a producer. Learning how to collaborate is a big skill to master. It’s not one person.

Does music excite you in the same way in always did?

Yeah, if not more because I kind of know more about how it all works. We’ve always got lots of other collaborations on the go, about half of which work. Just odds and sods appearing in a record shop near you soon!

You mean like Fat Les?

I think we might do the French football song. I’d quite like to enter Fat Les in Eurovision, I think that’s the future of that band. It’s a good cast. Fat Les will probably end up being a musical, you got a good cast for a musical there. God knows what’s going to happen there.

Fat Les does Country House?

No, Jerusalem – a 200-year-old poem and an orchestra! Yes, it’s a bit Country House in spirit. I think the Country House video – Graham hates it – but it’s very colourful. But you know if you’re going to get an artist to make your video you know you’re going to get good colours.

Would your parents give interviews?

I’m very nervous about my parents being exposed. I’m sure my mum would like to do it, but let me talk to them. I feel like I trust you but it’s very easy for them to look foolish.

They are obviously very proud of you.

I’m proud of them. I try and kind of keep them away from it all – it’s not a real situation. It’s fucking ruthless out there.

If you’d only ever had one big hit, what would be your legacy?

Well, Song 2 earns the most, so that would be it. It’s on its third car now, I shit you not! The Americans want to release it again, it’s still being a hit in America. It’s crazy, four years later. It’s just ridiculous. If you get a couple of records away in America you’ve made it. It kind of has a knock-on effect in all these weird places like Madagascar.

The industry and our perception of success are very western-centric.

A third of the world doesn’t have electricity so how do they play their guitars?

If it ended tomorrow, would you owe anything? Are you comfortable?

You’re never quite comfortable enough, you can always get a bit more comfortable. There’s a guy called John Kennedy who runs one of the big labels, used to be lawyer – a lot of people who run big labels are lawyers, particularly in America. He said the only way to make a lot of money out of the music business is to write your own songs, record your own songs, be able to play live to a lot of people and sell a fuck lot of records for a long time.

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You mean like Chris de Burgh?

Lady In Red. It’s my mum and dad’s favourite. I think it’s a beautiful song, I wish I’d written it, but I’d change the rhyme dance and romance.

He meets his market?

I don’t know if you can do that, but you have to believe in it. I’m sure Jackie Collins thinks her books are brilliant, but I think you’ve got to believe what you’re doing is brilliant otherwise it just doesn’t wash. I’ve tried doing music that way, but it doesn’t work.

I don’t think The Great Escape was any more contrived than Blur was really, The arrangements were a lot more elaborate, but the core of the thing was there were more devices involved, singing about a third person or whatever, but you can only sing about yourself really and there’s only about five things you can say: I love you, I hate you, I’m bored, I’m angry and vindaloo!

Where did you get your first bass?

Southbourne Exchange & Mart for 50 quid, sold it when I was at school. It’s a real shame some of those shops have gone.

Was Graham he first person I met having got out of the car at college?

Yeah, stupid isn’t it? Scary. But when you look back at the whole of your life you think your parents might not have met.

You changed the name from Seymour to Blur, did that sound like a big band’s name? Did you still have that confidence?

Oh, totally. You’ve got to have. It doesn’t happen unless you’ve got that confidence.

So you sit in the pub, talking about being famous? Did Seymour do the same?

Yes, so did [Bournemouth band] The Rising. If you talk about it seriously enough it will become real. As well as actually talking about it you’ve got to become pro-active and take what is the next step. The old drive thing.

You can sit around being a genius all day, but you’ve got to stick yourself in people’s faces. That’s what cuts the mustard. It’s amazing, the quality of the music that is made In this country is amazing. You can go to Camden on any night of the week and see three great bands, fully formed. They need to get money spent on them. It takes a million quid for a major label to launch a band. It’s a lot of money.

Do you fancy finding a protégé?

I ran a label for a while, but if you have a failure with that kind of investment, any kind of failure will sink the whole thing and that’s what happened to us. We tried to compete with major labels at Christmas time with a record that was never going to get on the radio. It was all good but proteges are all very well but you can’t really control creativity at all. That is just kind of learned, it just happens.

You’ve got more freedom in Blur though.

You have to earn that. Certainly, early on, it was very regimented and the purse strings were being held by other people. You’ve got to go into the studio and do this…

When people are doing that you either learn how to stand on your own two feet or you get knocked over. It’s very easy to see the transition in the life of the band between the first album which does have some great moments but it was A&R-ed in a very particular way to fit a market that existed at that point in time, which we benefited from no doubt.

Modern Life Is Rubbish, the second album was just completely against the grain of everything that was happening, but that is the only way to proceed. I think you have to make your own world and live in it. If we hadn’t have had people saying exactly what we should do we probably never would have worked out what we wanted to do, so it cuts both ways.

Modern Life Is Rubbish seemed to herald a change that nobody was expecting – is it your best album?

It didn’t have the singles on that Parklife did, but three of the songs on that record were done on the same day. They were great times actually, believe it. When you first thought you’d found a direction and you’ve had a vision and you were totally convinced of it and you don’t care who else believes you or what anyone thinks.

It was the first Britpop record. The American label wanted us to re-record it with Butch Vig who made Nevermind and we said no! Why? Because at that time there was just nothing else happening in this country. There was Suede I suppose, but they were never going to be our pals were they?

Probably not, but it had kind of foretold the Blur v Oasis thing.

It had. It’s a fucking playground, I told you.

Who hates you at the moment?

I think we’ve all grown up a bit and grown out of it.

Nick Churchill

Nick Churchill has written professionally for more than 25 years. Currently a busy Journalist undertaking a wealth of celebrity interviews and human interest features to writing speeches, generating web and media content and production scripts. His first book, Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth - got great reviews. He has also worked on projects for Duncan Bannatyne, Harry Hill, James Caan, Scott Mills and Peter Dickson, the voice of The X Factor. His obvious passion for words and natural genuine integrity is most refreshing.

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August 5, 2015 By : Category : Eyeplugs Features Front page Indie Interviews Tags:, , , , ,
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The Trans-Siberian March Band – Interview

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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Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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March 17, 2015 By : Category : Exotica Eyeplugs Folk Front page Interviews Post-punk Tags:, ,
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Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies – LP Review

Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies – The American Metaphysical Circus – Album review

The American Metaphysical Circus by Joe Byrd & The Field Hippies is a Psychedelic/Experimental album, which has been re-mastered and re-released by Cherry Red Records subsidiary Esoteric Recordings.  The album was originally released in 1969 and is something of a minor cult classic, owing in part to the fact that Joe Byrd was a member of the equally experimental and influential United States of America, whose one and only long player proceeded the aforementioned album by a year.

The initial intrigue in The American Metaphysical Circus it could be argued is that it bears something of a passing resemblance to the cult classic by the United States of America.  Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies were equally as experimental as The United States of America, and for many Byrd’s work with the Field Hippies might seem a logical progression to his previous work with TUSOA.

The American Metaphysical Circus album title was also used as the song title on the opening track of TUSOA, and the album is also conspicuous by the absence of any meandering guitar solos, which were prevalent in the late 1960s. Of the 12 songs on the album only a couple of tracks have electric guitars on them, instead the classically trained Joe Boyd opted for the pioneering use of the synthesizer and a myriad of other instruments including the harpsichord, electric violin, piano, organ and the obligatory bass and drums.

However, it would be too simplistic to compare Joe Boyd’s work with TUSOA and subsequently with the Field Hippies as similarly experimental and avant-garde.  Once the listener becomes immersed in the American Metaphysical Circus they will discover a very intellectual and much more ambitious project in the form of a somewhat oblique narrative.

The American Metaphysical Circus is a conceptual piece, which is not immediately obvious on first or even a second listen. The album does not initially seem linear or thematic and there are 12 songs split unevenly into 4 suites with long and bizarre titles. The idea of collating songs into a suite may seem an unusual concept in itself, except that Jefferson Airplane pulled of a similar trick in 1967 with their After Bathing at Baxter’s album, in which they also split the songs of the album into 5 suites.

The interesting thing about The American Metaphysical Circus, however, is that it eschews the perceived notion of what constitutes Acid Rock in the late 1960s, and this as Joe Boyd suggests in the liner notes was a need to defy Rock n Roll convention and instead the album is a broad canvas and encompasses a myriad of musical styles, including Vaudeville, Rag Time, Jazz, electronic noises, and some conventional Rock n Roll.

Again this was not necessarily an avant-garde or novel idea as most of these musical influences could be heard in a slew of late 1960s Psychedelic records, which does make Joe Boyd sound like he is contradicting himself somewhat. However, what sets this album apart is that Joe Boyd was a classically trained musician, and the partial result of this was that he sought to avoid the traditional 4-piece band set up and opted instead for a loose musical collective, which included members from Jazz Rock group Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Repeated listens of The American Metaphysical Circus reveals some disturbingly dark subject matter. The liner notes help to unlock the enigma to some extent, and thankfully the lyrics to all the songs are also included, so the listener can bear closer scrutiny over the subject matter. What makes the album even more challenging as a conceptual piece is that Joe Byrd is tackling three separate issues, which makes the album less cohesive and somewhat fragmented as a result.

What does help the listener is the fact that the album is divided into suites, and three of these suites deal with LSD, politics and the ageing process.

The album opens with three tracks under the sub heading The Sub Sylvian Litanies, which apparently is about a bad acid trip. It begins with an atmospheric swirl of ambient noise courtesy of the synthesizer, and a few minutes in a disturbing mantra sung by Victoria Bond ‘waiting to die’ is repeatedly sung, which then blends seamlessly into ‘You Can’t Ever Come Down’. This song has disturbing lyrics like ‘thousands of eyes but there’s no place to hide’, which is basically about a bad acid trip and set to rock music, which is reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane.

The next suite of songs under the sub heading of American Bedmusic 1: Four Dreams for a Departing President needs no explanation at all considering the release date of this album and the political climate in America in 1969. The clues are all in the title, however, listening to the four tracks in this particular suite reveal a complex list of grievances and ironic digs at the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson including his domestic programs, which included ‘A Great Society’ for all Americans. However, this was amid growing political and public unrest at the escalating Vietnam War, which eventually led to the demise of Johnson and a fractious Democratic Party. Boyd tackled these subjects with plenty of gusto and irony and in a myriad of musical styles, including a scratchy and lo fi ragtime song titled ‘Mister 4th of July’.

The final twist in this dark saga is the plight of old folks who once they have outlived their usefulness are removed from society’s view and sent off to old people’s homes to await their death. The 4 songs under the sub heading The Southwestern Geriatrics arts and Crafts Festival is a thoroughly disturbing tale about Leisure World, which was a retirement development in California where the needs of those over 65 were taken care of in a supposedly idyllic landscape, which included a series of diarized events and activities to entertain the elderly. The full horrific tale is about a community that is supposedly living in a utopian society but really what the songs and spoken word dialogue is telling the listener is that it is dystopia disguised as utopia.

The American Metaphysical Circus is a very dark and complex piece. However, it takes repeated listens for the full narratives to reveal themselves. The reason for this is because the stories are couched in irony and the complex music and genre hopping on the album can distract from the narrative, which is at times oblique. However, this album serves as a worthy companion piece to The United States of America, and for those familiar with Joe Byrd’s first foray into Psych tinged experimentalism should definitely add The American Metaphysical Circus to their collection.

Long John

Charming Chap and a new sharp force for Eyeplug, being a toppermost writer with a keen appreciation for things of quality and distinction. A well known face on the London ‘Mod’ Scene but with an open mind and heart. Got a strange interest in Pirates? One to watch out for!

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March 17, 2015 By : Category : Cult Eyeplugs Front page Music Psychedelic Tags:, , , ,
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Mohair Sweets reviewed by Scenester

Mohair Sweets

You Better Read Before You Sign (CD Mohair #01)

Sandwiched in between the wheezy grind of the hurdy-gurdy, an unsettling narrative about a vicious murderer,  and peppered with piano tinkling and ghostly skip-rope whipping, we’re treated to two slices of dirty, fuzzy blues of a distinctly late 60’s strain in ‘You Better Read Before You Sign’ and ‘The Green Light’. With a voice that’s sounds like it’s had more than its fair share of trouble, the title track’s sage advice is laid down over a classic supporting cast of troubled keyboard wash, subtle drum and sweet and sour lead guitar, the latter supplying a lead out solo that wrenches out every fibre of resentment and regret it can find. Close on this track’s worn down heels, ‘The Green Light’ leaps in, a full throated vocal declaiming over an 18-wheeler of a riff that doesn’t let up, even in the mean-faced lead breaks.

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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February 2, 2015 By : Category : Blues Front page Music Punk Reviews Rock Tags:, , ,
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Lloyd Cole – Nick Churchill’s Interviews

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Nick Churchill Interviews

It’s 30 years since Lloyd Cole first troubled the charts. Not that he’s particularly celebrating the fact, but three decades is a milestone in whatever walk of life becomes a chosen path. Chart star, cult figure, folk singer, deep thinker, golf swinger (when last reported he was playing off 6.5, fact fans, but has been 5.3), whatever your view of Lloyd Cole, amusingly, he was once described as a ‘talkative bookworm’ , there’s plenty about the man to pique the interest.

This August he’ll make his first visit to the Jurassic Coast to play the Purbeck Folk Festival. Playing solo, he’ll mine his back pages for songs to play and maybe even try out a brand new one.

Having come to the fore fronting The Commotions and wracking up hits like Perfect Skin, Brand New Friend, Lost Weekend, Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken? and Jennifer She Said, Lloyd has since pursued a solo career that has seen him assimilate a range of styles from orchestral pop and sparse folk to synthesised soundscapes and edgy rock.

Through it all the quality of his writing, always literate, peppered with cultural references and laced with humour, has remained beyond question. In 1995 he scored a minor hit with Like Lovers Do from the album Love Story, co-produced by Stephen Street, desk jockey of choice for the likes of The Smiths and Blur.

Since the turn of the century he has explored a largely acoustic setting for increasingly folk-inspired albums such as Music in a Foreign Language (2003) and Broken Record (2010). Last year, he released Standards, his 10th solo album and only his 2nd since 1995 to feature a full band of musicians, including power pop godhead Matthew Sweet and sometime Lou Reed drummer Fred Maher.

Lloyd Cole headlines the Sunday night (24th) at Purbeck Folk Festival, which runs from August 21 to 24 at Wilkswood Farm, Langton Matravers, near Swanage. www.purbeckfolk.co.uk

But first he took time out from a hectic touring schedule to field a few questions…

Congratulations on the Standards album, as a listener it felt like Lloyd Cole had come home, how did it feel to make?

Well, the basics were done with Fred Maher and Matthew Sweet, so that was a return to something not done since 1991. But the recording was in LA. So pretty far from home and the mixing was in Bochum, Germany, again far from home. The album sounds pretty much as I wanted it to and maybe the palette is familiar, but the sound is a good deal more electric and, well much louder, than anything I’ve done before…

Was this the right time to make an electric album with a full band?

I guess so. Later finally asked me on…! After almost a decade in self-imposed exile as a would-be folksinger, I developed an itch I wasn’t expecting. It seemed that there were aspects to my old life in rock and roll that I missed. Tour buses and product managers, certainly not. But the interacting with musicians, the camaraderie and the joy of hearing one’s music enhanced and elevated by the aesthetic of others, absolutely.

You manage to reference a pretty good record collection’s worth of artists in the lyrics on the album, where do they come from?

They just surface. It’s what I do. Like a tic.

How did you imagine your musical career would pan out 30 years when you first started to make a Commotion?

Every album always feels like the last one. Even Rattlesnakes. My retirement plan was supposed to kick in after a 45…

The whole experience of making Standards was, for me, rewarding, perplexing, fabulously enjoyable and heinously stressful. Singing with a rock and roll band in the studio I felt exactly as I did in 1987 or 1995, and then I would see my reflection in the glass of the gobo and wonder who this old guy was…

What drives you to get up and write songs these days?

If I have an idea for a song that excites me, or an idea for an album that excites me, sometimes one leads to the other. I need some spark. There are enough Lloyd Cole songs out there. We don’t need any more unless they can have a chance to be great. I’m happy we got these songs finished, because I’m not sure I’ll make another record like this again.

What have you got in store for fans at the Purbeck Folk Festival in August?

The same as always with my solo show, songs from 1984 until 2014.

Just down the road is the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club, where Peter Alliss cut his teeth. Do you fancy a round?

I won’t have my clubs with me this time, but I will definitely bear that in mind for the future, thanks.

Are there any similarities between songwriting and playing golf, does one prepare you for the other at all?

Golf is what I do to escape the rest of my life. I try not to think about anything other than getting the ball in the hole.

Your previous album Broken Record was part-financed by advance sales and artists are making increasing use of crowd-funding to get records made, do you welcome the way the music industry is having to change? Is it a good thing?

No idea. I did it out of necessity. It’s a lot of work and I don’t plan on doing it again, but I’m thankful to those who made it possible.

What’s coming up for Lloyd Cole; any ideas for your next album?

Top secret, but there is plenty afoot. There will be at least two major releases, or re-releases over the next year or so. And I’m on tour all year, it seems.

Purchase tickets to see Lloyd Cole at Purbeck Folk Festival HERE!

Web Links:

lloydcole.com
facebook.com/Lloyd.Cole
twitter.com/Lloyd_Cole
myspace.com/lloydcolemusician

Photography by: Kim Frank & Doug Seymour

Nick Churchill

Nick Churchill has written professionally for more than 25 years. Currently a busy Journalist undertaking a wealth of celebrity interviews and human interest features to writing speeches, generating web and media content and production scripts. His first book, Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth - got great reviews. He has also worked on projects for Duncan Bannatyne, Harry Hill, James Caan, Scott Mills and Peter Dickson, the voice of The X Factor. His obvious passion for words and natural genuine integrity is most refreshing.

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April 8, 2014 By : Category : Eyeplugs Features Festivals Folk Front page Gigs Interviews Music Pop Tags:, , ,
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DozenQ – Froskull

This entry is part 8 of 19 in the series DozenQ 4

Froskull – Blazing A Trail For Progressive Rock In Music City! “It’s a very inclusive genre… You can use your imagination on a much broader scale and draw from all sorts of influences that you might have as a musician.” – Brett Hammond, Froskull

Previously named Stephen Rockford Hammond Band, Froskull is the new moniker for Hammond’s current lineup featuring Jason Schond, Brett Hammond, and Adam Dennis.

Born and raised in Nashville, Stephen grew up at the very intersection of American musical culture. The spell of Music City ascended nascent childhood interest to wizardry as a performer, composer, and producer. In 2008, Stephen released his first full-length album, Flux Punch, named for the dissolved band in which he wrote the material.

Shortly after the album release, Stephen recruited bass guitarist Jason Schond and founded the Stephen Rockford Hammond Band. While the group began performing songs from the critically acclaimed Flux Punch, Stephen brought a new and even higher level of sophistication to his songwriting. His newer amazing material subsequently transformed the band’s set lists into complex mosaics of electrifying fantasia.

In 2011 Stephen recruited his brother, guitarist Brett Hammond. Adam Dennis took over drums in 2012, and Stephen renamed the band Froskull.

As the band’s new image spread to the Internet community, music lovers worldwide engaged with Froskull’s first recordings. Froskull’s holistic musical style placed them in the spotlight of Jazz, Fusion, and Rock talk shows. They shared the stage with a spectrum of artists: from Nashville country stars Chris Young and Lee Brice to Rock and Roll legend Derek St. Holmes. A 2013 episode of 6minor Films’ Songwriter was dedicated to a glimpse inside the band’s process for writing, rehearsing, and performing.

A long-anticipated tour de force, Froskull’s 2014 full-length album is a shining dose of captivating euphony. A self-titled release, Froskull hallmarks the band’s technical eloquence, dynamic caprice, and aggressively cosmopolitan style.

Though nothing short of a fastidious progressive rock band, Froskull defies easy classification. Froskull’s wild expressiveness and “pan-genre” feel emote with average listeners while provoking more particular music lovers to lend an ear.

01. How did your band get together?

We were all living in Nashville looking for each other. We live in a town dominated by country music and really wanted to meet other musicians that were interested in creative, smart, progressive music. Stephen met Jason in 2008 shortly after Jason moved to Nashville. Stephen and Brett are brothers, but had never played in a band together before Brett joined Froskull in 2010. Stephen, Jason, and Brett met Adam through a craigslist ad.

02. Where did your name come from?

The band was first called Stephen Rockford Hammond Band years ago. The name was really long and uninteresting, no real potential for “branding.” Stephen has thick, curly hair and used to wear a big afro on his head. Friends still call him “Fro.” He named his recording studio “Castle Froskull.” That’s where the band name comes from. It’s named after Stephen’s studio which in turn is named after Stephen’s old hairstyle.

03. Who were your major influences and inspirations?

We have different backgrounds, but our common threads include music from many genres. We talk about Stone Temple Pilots a lot though it may not be obvious in the music we play. We were all really into the old prog rock that existed on the fringes of commercial music like Rush and Yes. We also like the sound and production quality of more modern bands like STP and Soundgarden. Nowadays it’s difficult to pinpoint an outside influence because we are really finding better ways to express ourselves and explore our own sound.

04. What drove you to make music together?

Honestly, in a way we are REQUIRED to make music together. The kind of music we play can be technically demanding at times. Frankly, it’s tough to find the kind of musician in Nashville who is capable and willing to rehearse this kind of music. We get along well and have chemistry, but we have to stick together because there aren’t many in Nashville who want to do it the way we want do it.

05. What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your shows?

For starters, we don’t like to run our mouths between songs. It’s one song after the next. Boom boom boom. We do very dynamic and capricious sets, and unlike most prog rock bands, we don’t write songs over four minutes long. It’s always a very up and down, stop and go set. It’s interesting to say the least. We keep attention and hate staying at one tempo or volume for very long.

06. Who writes your songs? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?

Stephen writes everything. The lyrics are usually weird prog rock stuff like exploring outer space, the significance of human lives and human relationships, existentialism, abstract points of view, religion and philosophy. Much of the music is heavily instrumental. Sometimes he writes about women, though.

07. How has your music evolved since you first began playing together?

We first began playing music from Stephen’s 2008 release called Flux Punch. That material was a little progressive but closer to the kind of Rock music you hear on the radio. When he returned to writing, things became way more sophisticated and technically challenging. The newer music is also more fun to play. The Froskull album is really out of this world compared to Flux Punch.

08. What has been your biggest challenge as a band? How were you able to overcome this?

Nashville is full of resources for musicians, but many of the resources are out of reach for small-time indie bands like Froskull. It can be difficult to find capable people who are willing to help you (even in music city). We continue to develop our brand pretty much by ourselves. We aren’t just musicians anymore. We have had to develop our skills as communicators, video producers, graphic artists, web designers, etc. We learned to wear all the hats needed to get things done the way we want them done. It’s funny because we often meet other musicians who have seen our online content and believe we are “connected” to someone in the “industry.” Truth is we aren’t connected to anyone at all. We make the sacrifices and do it all ourselves.

09. Does the band play covers? If so, do you argue over the choice of songs? Who usually gets his own way?

Sometimes we play a cover. Stephen used to like playing Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times.” Believe it or not, we often play our version of an old Bobby Brown song called “On Our Own.” We don’t argue over choice of songs. Stephen is the primary writer and the only one willing to do an arrangement of a cover for Froskull. Stephen always gets his way.

10. What do you love and hate outside of music?

We all really love women and beer. Some of us like Star Trek. We might all hate driving in Nashville.

11. Who would you most like to record with?

We especially like producer Brendan O’Brien. It’s a fairy tale idea, but we like the records he makes. We think a Froskull album produced by O’Brien would be a most fascinating marvel.

12. What should we be expecting from the band in the near future?

6minor Films has just released their first season of “Songwriter.” One episode was dedicated to a glimpse inside the band’s process for writing, rehearsing, and performing. Songwriter is now available on Amazon. We are doing a workshop for the Nashville Songwriters’ Association International next month to help promote the 6minor Films release. The Froskull album release is April 10. Stephen wants to get back to writing as soon as possible, but first we expect to play shows in our neck of the woods and promote this album as best we can. Prog rock isn’t in high demand in a country town, but we have the attention of the Internet community. So although we will enjoy getting back into the clubs and doing what we love, our promotion efforts will be focused on the web.

Web Links: 
froskull.com
facebook.com/froskull
twitter.com/froskull
soundcloud.com/froskull
reverbnation.com/froskull

Tour dates 2014:
April 10 @ The East Room in Nashville (CD release)
May 22 @ The Rutledge in Nashville
(Nashville Songwriters Association International Workshop)

Link to buy current single:
itunes.apple.com/froskull

admin

Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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March 25, 2014 By : Category : DozenQ Front page Indie Interviews Music Rock Tags:, ,
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John Lydon – Nick Churchill’s Interviews

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Nick Churchill Interviews

Nick Churchill has kindly given exclusive permission to Eyeplug.net to revisit some of his classic interviews from the past few years or so, also his reviews and selected articles from his own archive. We hope that you enjoy these as much as we do and feel free to share them accordingly! First up, none other than John Lydon.

As the first new music from Public Image Ltd in 20 years is released, John Lydon is donning his showman’s hat and talking it up, a one-man army of startling soundbites. The album, This Is PiL, is out on May 28 and is Lydon’s attempt to assimilate all that’s happened to him in his 56-year journey from cradle to stage. Self-funded and released on the band’s own label, PiL Official, John’s still doing it for himself.

It’s the only way he knows how. Savaged by the self-appointed arbiters of cool for participating in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here and starring in a TV advert for Country Life butter, John couldn’t give a hoot. He wanted to get Public Image Ltd back on the road and in the studio… and there’s only so many Sex Pistols reunions the world can take.

Ah, the Sex Pistols… still gobbing after all these years – though spitting was never actually young Johnny Rotten’s thing. Winding up the public was though, which is why he’s given the green light to re-issue God Save the Queen in time for the Jubilee bank holiday weekend. The fact that PiL’s album comes out the same weekend is, of course, a complete coincidence.

John still loves the Pistols, but accepts the band is a dead end. He is absolutely consumed by the endless horizon of PiL though. It’s his creation, everything he wants it to be – and more. Passionate, pluralist, cantankerous, quirky, awkward, PiL is John Lydon at his unmediated finest and there are few things finer.

As the good folk of Bournemouth will be able to see when PiL play the O2 Academy on July 31 – a mere 36 years after the Council banned the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK tour from the Village Bowl.

“’Ello. ’Ello. ’Ello.” The voice on the phone is unmistakable as it unintentionally intones the  stark opening to Public Image, PiL’s 1978 debut single. What follows is a 40-minute private audience with one of modern music’s most iconic figures… and he doesn’t disappoint.

’Ello John, pleasure to speak to. You’ve taken your time getting to Bournemouth so what are you bringing to share?

I come bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It has been a while and it’s been an uphill battle financially. They’ve had a stranglehold on me for years for nearly two decades, but I won’t take no for an answer. It might take me a very long time to get a yes but here we go – yes yes and yes!

Public Image is, I mean I put everything I have, my heart and soul into it, that’s just the way it is. Although I’ve been attached to some very large labels from time to time they weren’t really helping it to run along.

It’s very upsetting to think of all the bands that those labels have signed which are just pale imitations of PiL. It’s a bizarre world we live in, but, you know, you’ve got to have resilience. It’s what made Britain great.

I get the sense you don’t care for the music business too much?

It’s a bit like the blitzkrieg really, or the Blitz of London, without being too amateur dramatic about it, but record company shenanigans are a little bit like it – the nightly raid into your psyche, the endless intrusions by these creatures – why can’t you write a hit? But I have, there are many of them. It’s really about the demise of the record industry, which they brought about themselves. They deserve it.

In the same way I’ve had few things to say about the Royal family, but as individual people I don’t mind most of them. The trouble is record companies become institutions very quickly and that’s when it goes wrong.

There are new labels, a few little ones, and we’re working with one or two of them so the hope is they don’t go that route. As soon as you stop being able to phone up your record company and speak to a human being you know it’s over. Once you hear that automated voice telling which box to dial into, you know it’s the end of the line. Virgin was a lovely company, back when they had that place in Vernon Yard… God, that was a long time ago.

It was, John. I wonder if you’d go on holiday to Jamaica with Richard Branson now as you did after the Pistols split in 1978. What was that all about?

Yes, well he was the only one at the label I was still vaguely attached to who knew anything about reggae, who was warm to the ideas. It was very good because emotionally it helped me no end. It was a very difficult period after deciding to break up the Pistols and he helped me right through it. It warmed me up to the idea of starting a new band so I did.

I learned how to write songs in the Pistols and then I learned how to deconstruct with PiL. For me, I have to know what the rulebook is, then set fire to it. It’s a bit like reading the Bible, you read out the lines that you need and lose the drab. I’m no evangelist, no fundamentalist! The music really is an amalgamation of all the influences from birth until that current point isn’t it? But it isn’t copied you have to be true to your environment because once you stray outside of that you end up with art nouveau jazz and that don’t do anyone no favours.

Punk’s angry tide washed away an old guard and sent the bloated prog rockers running for cover. Now that the punk generation is as old, than those it deposed do you listen for what your contemporaries are doing?

No, because it interferes with what you’re doing so I don’t listen out for it, but every now and again I hear something and I’m either disappointed or pleased and leave it at that. There isn’t a huge wall of judgement going on, not now. There used to be – I loved taking the mickey out of The Clash, but they gave me all I needed on a platter, it was so easy. They definitely helped.

But I tell you who’s come out of it well – Paul Simonon. What he’s doing in Barcelona, his artwork is stunning, absolutely stunning. Creativity doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with music and he’s at the point where he’s making something wonderful. Shame it’s all Spanish themes but he does live out there and you do have to be true to your environment.

Where do you get your energy from John? You’re 56, what keeps you going?

It’s compulsive in a very weird way. It’s not an obsession but it is obsessive, the need to be creative and to be challenged by the effrontery of the powers that be, of their lies. That peeves me. And there’s the fuel for the engine, while there’s pain in the world I won’t be short of a song or two. It really annoys me at how those freedoms that have been so hard fought for have been allowed to let slip by the way. It is such a controlled state that we live in. Back when the band was starting it was done with a brutal police force, now it is done with a camera on the street corner. It’s all removed from reality, from the humanity. We’re all part of the machine now and do not have a separate agenda. But they’re not interested in the crime, or stopping the crime, they’re interested in the fine. They’ve finally managed to turn crime into a money making machine which is horribly impressive in its own way.

Got all your own teeth?

Actually I’ve not got all my own teeth. Just lately I’ve had four implants in the front of my mouth because the infections were overwhelming. I only hope it doesn’t affect my singing voice. Mind you I can feel the weight of all this titanium, I’m magnetised – very useful for picking up safety pins.

That would’ve been handy once upon a time…

Still is actually, safety pins are always useful.

Is it hard work to be John Lydon, PiL singer, agent provocateur, polemicist and commentator? When can you just be John from Finsbury Park?

There’s a lot of love in what I do, I’m all about love. When I was in the Jungle that was entirely me, that’s how I am. I want a cup of tea I’ll go and get the wood. I want a shower and I’ll use the bloody great pond that was there. That was me. It’s pointless to be anything other than yourself when there’s that many cameras pointed at you – far more than CCTV anyway. What I can’t be doing with is people moaning about what they can’t have or can’t do. Just do it – half the fun of everything is doing it for yourself. I won’t be molly-coddled into acceptance and programmes like Mock the Week make it easier for politicians to get away with it, they’re not helping. They make fun of politicians and we have a snigger and suddenly all’s well with the world. Well, I’m sorry, but all is not well with the world. It’s the British way though, too politically correct. We’ve got to get back to shock tactics, that’s where human beings thrive isn’t it? Go and talk to the old folks in the neighbourhood, the old boys and girls, they have tremendous things to say, great stories, learn a bit. It’s worthy to be in their company, be honoured, get used to the old lot, they’re not to be ignored and spurned, that’s how they end up alone and defenceless. Get over it.

Are there people you look up to, people who’s advice you heed?

It’s easy for me to say this at 50-plus, but I’ve always been that way, I’ve always listened to the adults around me, always have. I listened to Pete Townshend – ‘I hope I die before I get old’, what were you thinking of there, Pete? Ridiculous. Something I never fail to point out to him when I see him. But I’ll tell you this about Pete Townshend, he is a good fella though. Always helpful, he’s not a selfish bleeder, he looks out for young bands, he does. He gives them studio time and hints and let’s you in on a few tricks of the trade, there’s not many in this industry that do that.

Talent needs to be nurtured and encouraged…

You need to feel you’re part of something. When we started with the Pistols it was just a wall of hate like we had no right exist – is that how that load of old codgers is behaving? They need to understand. I would welcome hearing what they had to say but I think they took too literally that Never Trust a Hippy thing because I think deep down they all knew that’s what they were. They’d got their safety, their positions and their careers all lined up for them and they didn’t want change. But change is wonderful – you change your underpants, change your music!

Your passion for music seems undaunted by the passing of time?

You should learn from music, not imitate, but expand on it. I don’t like that world dance stuff because I find what happens is it’s all concocted from these wonderful flavours of different cultures and concocted into elevator music where the beats become very monotone. It’s painting by numbers and that would be the antithesis of me. Finding the real stuff happens quite naturally if you get yourself out and about. And again, you must listen to the old fellas, they’ll tell you a thing or two. You realise the more you travel, people are generally the same the world over – good-natured, deep down inside if you give them a chance.

How was America? There’s a lot of anti-American feeling in this country because we think the American people are like their politicians.

It’s just a veiled jealousy, it really is. Those fellas, they really do believe in get up and go, you know. They don’t sit back and moan, it’s not the American way and I love them for that. That’s not our way though, but the colonies are doing well!

You’re back in London now so was it time for a change, or is it work?

My family’s here – business too sometimes. It was police harassment that drove me out, it became monotonous it was so regular – constantly visited on a Friday night. Don’t know what they expected to find. It got that I got to know one or two of them, I’d see them in the pub in the week and they’d apologise to me for last Friday’s raid – ‘Sorry about that’ – and we’d laugh. That’s a very British response. It’s how things really are, not the way they’re supposed to be. We forget that each individual policeman is just like us, they’re part of a community, with families and things like the rest of us, they’ve got to get along, they’re not their job. It’s not really a Them and Us in anything, not really. It’s all Us.

You must have noticed some changes though.

We’ve got this current thing with Red Ken and Boris, has that made it yet to the rest of the country?

It’s like a Punch & Judy show…

It’s become a real Punch & Judy show, yes, thank you, we’re on the same wavelength. It makes people look away from the real issues. That’s how Labour got away with what they did last time. They spent more time advertising themselves than they did on doing anything. What a mockery they made of us, the damage is done the Labour Party threw it all away and for what? They became, well I don’t know, just a corrupt organisation above a bookies on the high street. I’ve got to begrudgingly say I used to like the Iron Lady – hated her politics, hated what she was doing, but at least she meant what she said. The lady’s not for turning, up until the point she turned, there goes the let down yet again. Even though you might not like them or disagree bitterly with them, you do like the sense of at least they mean what they say. Power corrupts. They get used to no-one saying no, that’s it…

A bit like rock stars then?

Oh yes, absolutely. This vision of pop stars meeting back stage at the festivals and getting on with each other, whoa, no way! Kin’ hell it’s the seven deadly sins re-enacted. It can be highly entertaining, but when you’re nervous and you want to get on and do your bit it can be very, very annoying to have to put up with them. I tend to shy away from it, but then again that seemed to earn me the reputation of being slightly aloof.

Do you cultivate your separateness?

Yeh, I find that what a lot of people are trying to do is steal your thunder, to keep you unoccupied on the job in hand. Particularly if they’ve just come off they don’t want you to go on and be better, whatever that means. In music, the principal of competitive behaviour shouldn’t exist.

But they try to turn music into a competition, look at the glut of so-called talent shows.

American Idol is currently unwatchable. It’s not really interested in music, it’s searching for characterisation of things that people know – territories and avenues of music explored 30 years ago and they now just want a theme park version of that. It’s always here’s the rock singer and no doubt they’re wearing a fringed jacket with long hair, the country singer. It’s misrepresentation and breaking down of things into departmentalised boxes and remove the genuine hostility. American Idol couple of years back approached us, they wanted to use Pretty Vacant for a singer they had on called Bo Bice. He was the rock ’n’ roller and he was the bloke I was referring to earlier in the fringed leather jacket and long hair. There was no way on Earth I was gong to give permission for this, never ever. With all the hardcore elements of the song removed.

Incredible, a total lack of understanding…

Well, that explains Simon Cowell… but then the Pussycat Dolls wanted to do a version of Pretty Vacant too. I’ll tell you, it’s a constant battle to try and preserve the sanctity. I’m not being overly precious and many bands do do cover versions, but it’s when these kind of institutions try to co-opt you, you have to say no, you really do. That’s why we turned down the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame because they were trying to co-opt us into a dead institution that never gave us any help in the first place.

There’s still a massive demand for the Pistols’ music though and you’re re-releasing God Save the Queen for the Jubilee.

We’re re-releasing them in chronological order and if you want them on vinyl that’s all well and good, there it is. No harm done and it’s not being rammed down your neck. And for me, it’s an unfortunate coincidence because it comes out at exactly the same time as we’re releasing this new PiL record, it’s almost like Universal what are you doing to me? It’s intriguing though to compare the two.

As it was when the first PiL album came out just around the time the last few Sex Pistols singles appeared – the ones without you. What can we expect from the new PiL?

Prepare to be stunned! I hope it’s everything that has happened to me in that record, otherwise what the hell am I doing this for? Of course it is, the longer you live, the more you learn, the better you will be at portraying the truth and the more accurate I hope I’ve become in my songwriting. I don’t mind exploring my faults in a song, in fact they’re full of them because that’s all part and parcel of learning to grow up, the honesty. But when I put myself on a stage I know that I’m begging for an open wound! There’s no protection at that point, I’m not hiding behind an image and I sink or swim by the thrill of the moment. I enjoy that, but I panic like fuck before I’m on. But for me, the most honest I am in my whole life is those moments on stage.

The current PiL line up is a mix of old and new faces. Guitarist Lu Edmonds and drummer Bruce Smith worked with you in the 80s, while bassist Scott Firth is new to the band – a tough gig being as previous PiL bassists like Jah Wobble and Jonas Hellborg have left big shoes to fill.

It’s very hard to pull it off because we like to play for two and a half hours. Lu and Bruce are very tuned into one another and I’ve known them for years and the new bass player is phenomenal.

That’s quite a difficult thing to do for a young man to come in and not be an imitation of something that’s gone before. We like our bass in PiL but it’s not a regime, it has to find its place. I loved Scott the moment he turned up with his resume – the Spice Girls and Steve Winwood – I said: ‘Genius! This is exactly what we need.’

PiL has had something like 49 different members! We joke about that, but in a weird way Public Image is kind of university of music, it’s a music school. We’ve launched so many different careers. It’s a shame some of them aren’t grateful, but they got their diplomas, what more can they ask for? They’re my babies and I love them, every single one of them. There’s no resentments or anything in me like that and everybody who knows me knows that.

People do take exception sometimes though, don’t they?

Yes, isn’t that great? That’s how us as a species are. We all know when we see mistakes what makes you so angry is that you’re aware you have those mistakes in yourself, you’re really hating yourself and it’s kind of a learning lesson for a few of them out here. I went through that very early and learned that running around badmouthing doesn’t get you anywhere… unless it’s the Sex Pistols. We just love to do that with each other. There’s a camaraderie in it that we never understood.

Do you still have fun with those chaps?

Yes, yeh, I really do. The Sex Pistols is a finite part of history and mustn’t of course be forgotten, but I don’t know if we’ll do more because I can’t write a song for them. As soon as I get pen to paper I want to put it into PiL and I can’t help that – I just love PiL so much.

Public Image Ltd  – This is PiL
Out May 28 on PiL Official through Cargo UK Distribution

Tracks:
This Is PiL
One Drop – “It is about my early youth in Finsbury Park. Fantastic! Hello, we’re all teenagers don’t you forget it! At any age, stay young.”
Deeper Water
Terra-Gate Human
I Must Be Dreaming – “Well, you know, I must be to put up with these governments.”
It Said That
The Room I Ate In – “That’s about drugs and council flats. And there’s a tragedy that still continues.”
Lollipop Opera – “It’s basically a beautiful bunch of background noise and music to sum up Britain and all its wonderful ambidextrousness.”
Fool
Reggie Song
Out of the Woods

Nick Churchill

Nick Churchill has written professionally for more than 25 years. Currently a busy Journalist undertaking a wealth of celebrity interviews and human interest features to writing speeches, generating web and media content and production scripts. His first book, Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth - got great reviews. He has also worked on projects for Duncan Bannatyne, Harry Hill, James Caan, Scott Mills and Peter Dickson, the voice of The X Factor. His obvious passion for words and natural genuine integrity is most refreshing.

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March 14, 2014 By : Category : Articles Eyeplugs Features Front page Punk Tags:, , , ,
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Vic Godard – 30 Odd Years (Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of the Vic Godard – 30 Odd Years review.

DISC TWO

01 We’ll Keep Our Chains

A Bolan/Bowie-esque fuzzed out Glam start to Disc Two with a super catchy singalong with soaring soulful backing vocals that underpin this feel-good anthem! Wow, what a start!

02 Common Thief

With backing Vocals via Janan Kura and Sez Pistols legend, Paul Cook on Drum duties this track builds into a mini Northern Soul style Masterpiece with an  inspirational Doobie Gray stomperlong that mirrors loves’ true ups and downs!

03 I Wish

A classic classy track written by the magical Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas team, with old friend Edwyn Collins on production control and also Bass, Backing Vocals and bits of corking Guitar work make this milestone track once dealt with by none other than giants such as Nina Simone and Solomon Burke, and even with an instrumental cool jazz version used by Barry Norman’s Film Review Show, which was as genuine, honest, heartfelt and bullshit free as this version.

04 The Writers Slumped

Off on a big tangent next with this angular P.I.L meets Rolf Harris whilst attending a Freestylers’ Dub-Step Show work-out that again shows that Vic and the Crew can do as they damn please!

05 Back In A Void Agian

A Stonesy/Bolan/Primals feel to this one with an Art-rocker snarl and just enough bite to hit home!

06 At The Circus

‘Singing In A Circus Ring’ exhales Vic as ringmaster with this catchy, clever Cha Cha Cha choon, with plucky plucked Melodies weaving and bobbing and the Sawdust hiding all manner of secrets!

07 Americana On Fire

Almost a spoken word chaotic intro with a Cash meets Clash via the Magic Band evoking a sorta drunken Tequlia border party, with great added Spagbowl-Western Postman style whistling!

08 Ambition

Originally released as a 7 inch instant spikey classic in 1978 via Rough Trade, this was and remains one of my own personal fave, cherished possessions and still to this day makes the grey hairs stand up on the back of my neck (when once they were dyed jet black). The version icluded here is an alternative live sounding lolling rolling punky bluesy mash-up, which captures the fun and art but could never be a patch on the single version of course. I remember Billy Childish once stopping a show as he had spotted Vic in the crowd to say heartfelt words to the affect of ‘Thanks for ‘Ambition’ Vic, British music went downhill after that record!’ He really may have a point!

09 That Train

Localised references to Mortlake Station drive this garage-skiffle explosion that includes strange and painfully held long beyond long notes towards the jumbled conclusion. Short sharp and rollling! Taken from 2010s ‘We Come As Aliens’ LP.

10 Stool Pidgeon

Can be found also on the 2009 ‘Live In Stereo’ Collection and builds to a classic Indie Rock style affair as good as any of that ilk!

11 Why Did You Shoot Me?

Begins with a Talking Heads type feel, choppy, bouncey, angular and frenetic. Also taken from the  ‘Live In Stereo’ Collection.

12 Derail Your Senses

A stop and start no-wave yarn that seems to confront delusion, confusion and the mystery of reality. It manages to make sense somehow.

13 Not Watching The Devil

Really great rounded Drum sound on this Elvis style rocker also from the  ‘Live In Stereo’ Collection that buzzes along with excellent artful production from Murray Robertson and some sterling guitar work!

14 Imbalance

The opening track from 1993s ‘End of the Surrey People’ LP which has a slight Blur-esque feel and pace which was very much of it’s time in many respects. The guitar and bass weave through each other in this instrumental piece that sets up that LP nicely!

15 Blackpool

A George Formby style beano to the great traditional ‘British Northern Seaside Resort’ which shows Vic and the gang can capture a unique blend of pathos, fun, humour, irony, cheek, wit, honesty and nostalgia all in one place and space. Clever, charming, catchy and warming. Dada meets Music Hall and they have an ice-cream whilst paddling. Simply smashing and make you want to take a boozey punt of the Doney rides!

15 T.R.O.U.B.L.E

Troubled romance is in the air, daydreams escape to pastures anew, being kept on your toes spelt out clearly a la title! Curls of brass and vibes pinpoint the hooks with a perfect rhythm section that builds the atmosphere wherein danger lurks! Another cracker!

16 The Wedding Song

Bossa Nova romance with heart strung violins, plucked tickled tones, and breezy accordians in a sort of surreal Dean Martin romp in the sunshine.

17 Music Of A werewolf

From ‘We Come As Aliens’ – Spacey, Esquivel style swinging moonlight safari within a Joe Meek subliminal style soundscape shapes this horror-popper and keeps us guessing!

18 Take Over

Another tune from 2010s ‘We Come As Aliens’  features some classy screaming and offbeat capers. Paranormal paranoia can indeed be fun.

19 Back In The Community

Total cracker of a piece about ‘lessons in humility’ to get back to the ‘sense of community’, valid and well considered observations that ring true today.

20 Best Album

The opening track of ‘We Come As Aliens’ – swinging Indie Rocker with a hint of Southern sullen soul, builds into an almost Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons style chorus workout with subtle key changes, swirling yearning organ and smooth layers of backing vocals which are superbly engineered and produced to make this work wonderfully.

21 (Oh Alright) Go On Then.

A slightly obtuse and bitty sound on certain parts of this one (it may be my ears)  but some great hornets nest style Sax work.

22 Johnny Thunders

The 1992 7 inch single that was released on Rough Trade that became a set-list fave extoling ‘C’mon boys quit this town forever!’ Vic always rated the late, great Thunders (RIP) as his guitar playing wove together groups of notes and not just chords and therefore a big step up from the Brit Punk that was displayed at the time which often seemed slightly frustrated and stunted by lack of ability to develop bigger sound ideas in the songs. This tune captures a genuine affection from a golden period in music.

23 Outro With Paul Reekie

Rightfully rounds off a fine, diverse and solid 30 Odd Years double CD collection which is well worth grabbing. Paul Reekie recounts the influence and affect that Vic and Subway Sect had on the Scottish Scene with bands such as Orange Juice, Josef K and The Fire Engines (and the entire Postcard Records sound) openly and proudly doffing their tartan caps in admiration. Maybe we should follow their lead and re-discover the true pioneer spirit that made for brave, risk taking and strong independent thinking with highly original and artful results.

We at eyeplug thank Vic and all of the various allies, musicians and various Subway Sect incarnations who have made these 30 Odd Years so wonderfully Odd, we salute your genuine Ambition.

I’ve been walking along down this shallow slope, Looking for nothing particularly.

Credits (where they are due)

Subway Sect: Bob Ward, Paul Myers, Rob Symmons, Colin Scott, Steve Spartan Atkinson, Johnny Britton, Chris Bostock, Dave Collard, Rob Marche,
Sean McCluskey, Becca Gillieron, Sophie Politowicz, Leigh Curtis, Paul Trigger Williams, Mark Laff, Gary Ainge, Kevin Younger, Mark Braby & Paul Cook
The Black Arabs & Paul and Terry Chimes, Pete Thomas & Jumping Jive, Working Week
The Bitter Springs: Simon Rivers, Dan Ashkenazy, Nick Brown, Paul Wizard Baker, Paul McGrath & Phil Martin
Mates Mates: Andrew Ribas Escandon, Andriu Luc Ma, Luca Ferran Font, Fim Jorbel Errapicas, Erra & Pau Orri Comerma, Pau
The Sexual Objects: Davy Henderson, Douglas Macintyre, Graham Wann, Ian Holford & Simon Smeeton

Vic Godard & Subway Sect

Albums

  • What’s the Matter Boy? (1980), Oddball/MCA
  • Songs For Sale (1982), London
  • Long Term Side-Effect (1998), Tugboat
  • We Come As Aliens (2010), Overground
Compilations
  • A Retrospective (1977-81) (1985), Rough Trade
  • Twenty Odd Years – The Story of… (1999), Motion
  • Singles Anthology (2005), Motion

Singles

  • “Split Up the Money” (1980), Oddball/MCA
  • ‘Stop That Girl’ (1981), Rough Trade
  • ‘Hey Now (I’m in Love)’ (1982), London
  • ‘Johnny Thunders’ (1992), Rough Trade
  • ‘Won’t Turn Back’ (1993), Postcard
  • ‘No Love Now’ (1996), Garcia
  • ‘Place We Used to Love’ (1999), Creeping Bent

Vic Godard

Albums

  • T.R.O.U.B.L.E. (1986), Rough Trade
  • End of the Surrey People (1993), Postcard
  • In T.R.O.U.B.L.E. Again (2002), Tugboat

Singles

  • ‘Stamp On a Vamp’ (1981), Club Left
  • ‘Holiday Hymn’ (1985), El

admin

Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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March 14, 2014 By : Category : Front page Indie Picks Post-punk Punk Tags:, , , , ,
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DozenQ – John Cee Stannard

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This entry is part 7 of 19 in the series DozenQ 4

John Cee Stannard has been a singer-songwriter for more than fifty years and during that time has been privileged to work with lots of talented musicians. Before releasing his first solo blues based album he was a founder member of the folk group Tudor Lodge which was originally formed in 1968. We started playing at the White Horse in Reading, England and later we made appearances at other clubs on the folk circuit. In 1970 Lyndon Green and John were joined by American singer and flautist, Ann Steuart.

Tudor Lodge then toured the English folk circuit for over two years, teaming up with manager Karl Blore towards the end of 1970, and releasing our first album in 1971: “Tudor Lodge” (Vertigo 6360043). Later that year, we appeared at the prestigious Cambridge Folk Festival and also at Weeley Festival in Essex.

In January 2011, I wrote half a dozen songs. One of them was a bluesy number; five of those songs fell by the way side, but the blues number had struck a chord. Over the next few months, a couple of dozen blues based songs had joined the growing list of songs which took me in a completely new direction. It was as if I had found his voice. By the summer I knew that these songs had to be the basis of a solo project. It took until August of 2012 for recording to start, and by December it was done. Mixing took a further three months. In May 2013, the John Cee Stannard Blues Orchestra CD, the “Doob Doo” album, was launched.

01. How did you get started in music?

My introduction to pop music was the late 50’s, the days of Radio Luxemburg, Perry Como still at the top of the charts, then along came rock ‘n’roll. Elvis, Cliff, Tommy Steel, Marty Wilde, and the list goes on. I got my first guitar around 1958 for seven guineas. I started strumming chords to “When The Saints Go Marching In”. Got a lot of help from Bert Weedon’s “Play In A Day”, and concentrated on learning all those Shadows tunes. Hank Marvin was a hero then. Maybe still is. The first group I was in was called (don’t laugh) Jonny Ringo And The Rustlers. OK, you can laugh. This was around 1959 and I played lead guitar a la Hank Marvin, and of course we played Apache, as well as many non shadows instrumentals of the time such as “Walk Don’t Run” and “Perfidia” by the Ventures. Great days. Then the 60’s came and the Beatles influenced the future of pop in a big way.

02 .Where did your direction come from?

Much of my direction over the years has come from what I can and can’t do. I found picking out simple melodies very easy. So the early pop, Hank Marvin direction was clear. I could never play big, fast and furious solos, or be a fast and furious rock person, so that direction was blocked. The mid 60’s saw many brilliant Hammond based RnB outfits burst onto the scene. Zoot Money is still at it, as is Georgie Fame. So I fancied a go at keyboard no, unfortunately I couldn’t really play, but I didn’t see why that should stop me. So I bought a farfisa compact organ and learned to play Green Onions. That tune got me into a local pop group, The Mackandas. The next change of direction came when I gave my sister a lift to the Albert Hall to see Bob Dylan’s first concert there. I knew nothing of this music, but when the Mackandas split, the lead singer (John) his girlfriend and I formed a trio, called The Trio, and we started with some Dylan material. That partnership was short lived, but it led me to the local folk club, the White Horse in Reading (Run by a chap named Sid who refused to advertise in case the government paid him a visit). That of course led to Tudor Lodge and the next 47 years of music. The new change of direction came purely by chance after writing a few blues songs. I did not decide to do that they just came that way. So the change of direction to blues was drivel solely by the songs. This was then reinforced by an absolute love for what I was doing.

03. Who were your major influences and inspirations?

I honestly believe that everyone I see influences me, even if only in a minute way. Mike Cooper was a major influence. I’m talking about his work in the late 60’s, up to maybe 71′. But strangely, it is only now that it is influencing some of my musical style. Paul Mills has also been an influence on this new musical path. He contributed some great piano work to “The Doob Doo Album”. Whilst Hugh Laurie has not influenced the musical style and delivery, his albums, particularly his first album, were quite an influence on the approach to album production.

04. What inspires you to make your current type of songs and sound?

The one fact that inspires to to continue on the path I seem to be treading, is quite simply, that I am having so much fun. It is satisfying and rewarding in so many ways. I’m having the time of my life so of course I want that to continue. What greater motivation or inspiration could there be to continue this current song writing and performance style?

If you are asking what inspires the individual songs, the answer is, almost exclusively nothing. Other than the huge musical heritage of the blues. Outside of that, it is fiction, and I don’t decide to sit down and write a song about this or that. They are never about me (with one very small exception.)

05. What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your shows?

I find this one hard. Luckily at a show last week, a superb local singer named Richard Cox-Smith came up with quite a good genre title Easy Blues. Although amplified of course, it is essentially acoustic blues tho I prefer to say blues based. It is not hard, full on blues. There is some country blues. Some with a slight rag-time feel, some with a slightly jazzy feel. Rock’n’Reel said the album was “…a very English nod to the blues.” I can’t argue with that. American singer songwriter rock and amazing guitar player Janet Robin said the album is like Doctor John, I don’t really see that, maybe a bit on the album.

06. How do you begin writing your songs? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?

I guess we’ve already covered this to some extent. To answer the first part I doodle. I pick up the guitar and just play around. If a riff or phrase sounds good I repeat it over and over and see if it takes me anywhere. At the same time I will doodle with words anything random. If I’ve been listening to an album by someone else, then a continuation of their theme may come into it. Once I have a verse of words, I look at it to see if it contains a theme I can carry forward and develop. Often I have no idea what a song is about as I write verse 1. A case in point is “Hid Behind The Door”. This is about domestic violence. When I was doodling the first verse, I was drawing on a song I wrote in 1972 which never went anywhere but I remembered the first few lines. It started random, but the last line of the first verse when it came seemed to be about an abusive situation – so I simply followed the theme for the rest of the song. It was an afterthought for the album – but some people say it’s their favourite track. So I don’t pick a subject or theme equally, I won’t shy away from a theme if it presents itself. For example, I was doodling a tune which wasn’t bluesy at all but I followed it through to see where it would go. As it developed, so the words for the first verse came along when I looked back at it, it seemed rather dark, maybe about someone who had had enough of life and wanted to move on. I thought of people who are terminally ill and desperate to be allowed to pass but medical science, coupled with (possibly misplaced) ethics, force us to keep them here for as long as possible so I had a song about euthanasia and suicide. It was far too dark for the album, and the wrong style of music, so I put it out there as a single called “Let Me Go”. A lovely video by Badger Music Media, see it HERE!.

07. How has your music evolved since you first began playing?

Firstly, with respect to the playing, very little in the way of gradual evolution just the occasional huge mutation. 10 years of flat-picking melodies and strumming fairly rigidly. Then along came the finger picking style (largely claw hammer) for Tudor Lodge, which remained almost unchanged for 47 years, and remains so. But then alongside that three years ago in 2011, the blues/rag whatever it is came along and is now an established line running along side the Tudor Lodge line. During this last three years though, the more bluesy style of playing has continued to evolve and develop. Starting with fairly straight forward songs and becoming a bit more interesting and varied. Learning how what you don’t play can be as important as what you do play. And last year, after over 50 years of guitar playing, I decided I could not put it off any longer, and I started having lessons. Thankfully my teacher is not trying to make me unlearn all I’m doing wrong, but is helping me to stretch my ideas and my playing good move. Secondly the music almost exactly the same pattern of development. 10 years of pop. 47 years of folk starting with the songs I wrote 1968 – 1971, and continuing with the songs Lynne has been writing for Tudor Lodge. Then three years of writing my own blues based material and mixing that with standard covers of people like Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, and one or two surprises in a blues style such as “Raining In My Heart”

08. What has been your biggest challenge? How were you able to overcome this?

Ok objectively standing back from it all trying to be honest, lack of confidence. I never really thought of my music was good enough to stand on it’s own. With Tudor Lodge, I have always admired Lynne’s writing and playing, so I could hide behind that. With my own music, yes I was having fun, then making the album was really for me, I found it hard to take it that seriously. But then everyone who contributed, all these fine musicians who did sessions for me, they all found it credible, the feedback was quite astonishing, that in itself was a learning curve for me. How did I overcome it? Well thankfully it was the process that helped me overcome it. I am now feeling really quite confident with it.

09. If you could pick any song, what would you like to cover most and why?

I always though I should never do a song like ‘Georgia’ because the definitive versions have been done. I recently learned it as an exercise. I was persuaded to try it live. It wend down surprisingly well. My teacher recently gave me “God Bless The Child” as an exercise. I just might try that sometime soon. If I thought a could do them justice, then to cover a classic like one of those would be one hell of a thing. Why would I want to attempt that?  because it would be one hell of a thing.

10. Where do you envisage being in five years time?

Hopefully still making music. Hopefully still running Tudor Lodge alongside John Cee Stannard and Blue Horizon. We have been so lucky to get the number of gigs that we have since putting the Blue Horizon trio together last autumn. But to get ourselves on the Blues Festival circuit would be a dream. To get a small tour of the UK, or even the continent would be wonderful. To get, even just a handful of gigs in the states would be slightly WOW. Yes of course big gigs and tours would be great, but to make a living at it would be wonderful.

11. Who would you most like to record with?

I’ve had a few dreams here. For some reason, Sandi Thom was one of them. Karla Bonnof is one, though that wouldn’t work well with the blues. Someone I would love to have guesting on an album of mine would be Beverley Skeete. Yes I do day dream of other collaborations, but these are largely completely unattainable. But then what’s wrong with the occasional fantasy.

12. What should we be expecting from you in the near future?

I have just started work on the next album. This will not be the full Blues Orchestra as on “The Doob Doo Album”. It will be just me and Blue Horizon, (Mike Baker on Guitar and Howard Birchmore on harmonica) with added bass and drum. I hope to get that completed and launched by the end of summer 2014. Then I would like to do an album with a jazz band. The material is more or less sorted, and I have had initial chats with potential collaborators. It would be nice to get that done before the end of 2014. I will definitely want to do another Blue Horizon one after that as well as a couple of other album projects I am still developing. Plus, I spent 5 years writing a novel, and if there is no traditional publishing deal in the next few months, I plan to e-publish it myself. My objective is to achieve that before 2014 is done. I’ve recently started writing the occasional blog, which is fun, so will develop that. I also present an on line radio show most weeks and plan to continue with that. It goes out on Blast1386 Thursdays 1:00 to 3:00pm UK time.

Web Links:

johnceestannard.co.uk
facebook.com/johncee.stannard
twitter.com/JohnStannard46

admin

Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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March 12, 2014 By : Category : Blues DozenQ Folk Interviews Music Tags:, , , ,
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