BU ST ED !
FACE THEIR TOUGHEST INQUISITORS: YOU!
BRIGHT LIGHTS BIG CITY
THEY CALL HIM
INTERPOL WOLF ALICE AAL
FOR PARTICULAR REASON
INSIDE THEIR MASTERPIECE
THEIR TIME IS NO NOW!
“THIS COULD END AT ANY TIME”
“IT’S BEEN WILD. IT’S BEEN HORRIBLE.”
2 6 -PAG E G U I
FOO FIGHTERS LCD SOUNDSYSTEM THE VERVE
Kıllers Kılle le lers T The Th he
Exclusive! Brandon Flowers fights back from the brink Plus!
LIAM GALLAGHER PLAN B LANA DEL REY EVERYTHING EVERYTHING
Contents October 2017
This month’s highlight: Hitching a ride in Bad Seed Jim Sclavunos’s car to go and see The National at their festival in Upstate New York.
RACHAEL WRIGHT, HOLLIE FERNANDO
“Anyone for golf?” Wolf Alice raid the dressing-up box in Seattle (p30).
“Pull up a chair”: Tricky reveals all (p38).
FEATURES 30 WOLF ALICE
We join the workaholic London four-piece on their US tour as they wrestle with life in the fast lane.
From Bristol to Berlin, it’s been a long, strange trip for the man also known as Adrian Thaws.
In our second extract from Meet Me In The Bathroom, New York’s sharp-dressed men look back on the unhinged events surrounding their debut album.
54 EVERYTHING EVERYTHING
Welcome to Belarus, home of the finest
condensed milk and hosts to Manchester’s premier (whisper it) boffin rockers.
62 THE NATIONAL
The band of brothers and their lead singer reckon they’ve finally put all the fighting behind them, but has it been easy? Q goes to Upstate New York for the lowdown.
70 THE KILLERS
COVER STORY: Is the end nigh for Brandon Flowers and co? We join the band in their hometown of Las Vegas as they face a moment of truth.
82 MAVERICK: MIKE SCOTT
All hail the chief Waterboy, a man who has always stood out from the crowd, whether reinventing Celtic soul or palling around with the great god Pan.
(Left) Liam Gallagher’s up for it in the studio (p14); (below) “Oh, for Pete’s sake!” The Libertines answer your pesky questions (p24).
INCOMING 8 THE VERVE
We get an exclusive sneak peak at a new access-all-areas photo book on the band.
10 JEHNNY BETH
The Savages singer on her solo LP, her part in the Britpop wars and why jelly is rubbish.
14 IN THE STUDIO: LIAM GALLAGHER
“I’m on fire!” the ex-Oasis man informs us as we get the inside story of his debut album.
20 VOTE NOW! Q AWARDS 2017
…And you could win tickets to be there!
REGULARS 24 CASH FOR QUESTIONS: THE LIBERTINES
Albion’s finest talk burglaries, bust-ups and being helped out by the “crack fairies”.
28 10 COMMANDMENTS: CHUCK D
Wise words from the Public Enemy leader.
36 RECORD COLLECTION: LITTLE DRAGON
From Jimi to Joni, the Swedish pop collective dish out the vinyl solutions.
128 Q MAIL
Josh Homme and Noel Gallagher feel the love. Russell Brand, not so much.
130 LAST WORD: VINCE STAPLES
Don’t get him started on F Scott Fitzgerald.
The 2015 Mercury Prize winner tackles the refugee crisis on his ambitious second.
Where there’s a Will… We raise the curtain on Ben Drew’s Shakespeare’s Globe gig.
LANA DEL REY
The LA chanteuse keeps it casual on a stunning return to the fray in Brixton. Forever in blue jeans: Lana Del Rey live in London (p96).
It’s a case of never say never again for James Murphy as he returns with his first LP in seven years (right).
It’s back to basics for Nottingham’s man in black on his new album. But is it any good?
Travel with us back to 1997, as Richard Ashcroft and pals hit the heights on the mega-selling, era-defining Urban Hymns.
LISTENING GUIDE LISTE
From glam racket to ambient revolution, the essential releases from rock’s ock’s brainiest man.
CHARLIE@LIGHTENINGPRODUCTIONS.COM, SIMON SARIN, TOM BARNES
THE WORLD’S BIGGEST & BEST MUSIC GUIDE
As a leader of adventures, Belinda Kirk believes exploration is an experience worth sharing. For her, true wealth is found when taking groups of people to places theyâ€™ve never been before. San Miguel have been exploring the world since 1890. Throughout our journey we have discovered more trailblazers like Belinda who share our thirst for discovery, creativity and new experiences. This unique collection of inspirational people form the San Miguel Rich List, coming 12th October.
Backstage... Sky high: The Killers photoshoot on the roof of Caesars Palace, August 2017.
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[...And this year’s summer holiday read is...]
Editor Ted Kessler [A Thousand Pardons – Jonathan Dee] Art Director Daniel Knight [Home – Harlan Coben] Production Editor Simon McEwen [The Songlines – Bruce Chatwin] Reviews Editor Niall Doherty [The Last Good Kiss – James Crumley] Front Section Editor Chris Catchpole [As I Walked Out... – Laurie Lee] Associate Copy Editor Matt Yates [The Origins Of Totalitarianism – Hannah Arendt] Associate Art Editor Salman Naqvi [What Does This Button Do? – Bruce Dickinson] Subbing Martin Boon [Berlin Noir – Philip Kerr] Editor-in-Chief Phil Alexander Contributing Editors: Laura Barton, Mark Blake, Tom Doyle, Simon Goddard, John Harris, Dorian Lynskey, Matt Mason, Sylvia Patterson, Peter Robinson, Laura Snapes, Paul Stokes
CONTRIBUTORS: Words: John Aizlewood, Matt Allen, Eve Barlow,
Keith Cameron, Michael Cragg, Hannah J Davies, Dave Everley, Eamonn Forde, Andy Fyfe, George Garner, Pat Gilbert, Ian Harrison, Rupert Howe, Craig McLean, Phil Mongredien, Paul Moody, Rebecca Nicholson, James Oldham, Peter Paphides, Andrew Perry, Simon Price, David Quantick, Victoria Segal, Kate Solomon, Bob Stanley
“Waiting for The Killers, from the roof of Caesars Palace, I can see many Las Vegas landmarks on the strip below: the Flamingo Hotel, a scaled-down version of the Eiffel Tower and, in the distance, a golden Trump hotel, which later elicits a “please don’t get that in the shot” from the band (I try to hide it behind Dave’s hair). It’s all a far cry from the overcast day in London two weeks earlier where I shot Brandon for the cover. The temperature here is an unforgiving 44 degrees and as I kneel down to photograph the band, through my jeans I burn my knee on the rooftop, much to their amusement. The heat is unbearable but to The Killers, Vegas natives, it’s met with mild indifference and just a bit of a squint. The suite we are shooting in costs $35,000 a night. We swerve the minibar and bring our own cola. Thank you, Killers, for introducing me to one of the most bizarre cities I’ve ever visited.” ALEX LAKE, Q CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER
Chief Photographer: Alex Lake Photographers: David Andrako, Tom Barnes, Gaelle Beri, Will Bremridge, Michael Clement, Andrew Cotterill, Guy Eppel, Hollie Fernando, Oliver Halfin, Ross Halfin, Austin Hargrave, Ed Mason, Max Montgomery, Ryan Muir, Simon Sarin, Victoria Smith, Gianandrea Traina, Marco Vittur, Tracey Welch, Andrew Whitton, Rachael Wright
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NEW ADVENTURES IN MUSIC...
In which we get the inside track on Liam Gallagher’s debut LP, chat to Savages’ Jehnny Beth and slurp noodles with Ghostpoet.
URBAN RENEWAL GUITARIST NICK McCABE AND PHOTOGRAPHER CHRIS FLOYD REVISIT THE VERVE’S 1997 MASTERPIECE.
wenty years ago, Urban Hymns propelled The Verve from former space-rock longhairs, whose singer talked a good game, into the biggest group in the country that didn’t have a member with the surname Gallagher. Now reissued as a deluxe boxset featuring B-sides and live performances, including their 33,000-capacity homecoming show at Haigh Hall, Urban Hymns went on to sell more than 10 million copies and remains the 18th best-selling album in UK chart history. “We knew it wasn’t going to fail,” recalls guitarist Nick McCabe. “We were riding a wave of confidence and we knew what we were doing was good. It’s quite a rare thing, when you know you’re making a record that’s going to be huge.” After Richard Ashcroft broke up the band following 1995’s A Northern Soul, he regrouped with bassist Simon Jones and drummer Pete Salisbury two weeks later. McCabe was invited back in late 1996 to add sonic texture and work on the more sprawling full-band compositions for what had started out as the singer’s solo album. McCabe: “I considered it a ‘Richard minus me’ record that didn’t quite work, so when I was drafted in I had to turn it into a Verve record. My instructions were to ‘fuck it up’ – in those words. Make it a feast for the ears.” Also out this month, The Verve: Photographs By Chris Floyd documents the recording of the album and follows the band as they toured the world in its wake. “I’d been on tour with them in 1994 and when they were recording Urban Hymns I went down to the studio,” remembers Floyd. “They played Bitter Sweet Symphony
Getting the tinnies in: The Verve (Nick McCabe, centre) backstage at The Leadmill, Sheffield, 1997; (below) Let us pray: Richard Ashcroft, Olympic Studios, London, 1996.
“IT’S QUITE A RARE THING WHEN YOU KNOW YOU’RE MAKING A RECORD THAT’S GOING TO BE HUGE.” NICK MCCABE
and it was mind-blowing. I just said, ‘Can I take some pictures of you working?’ It was everything that I had dreamed of as a young boy, dreaming of a life in photography. To be around a really great band when they’re making a great record. It was a privilege to be there.” Floyd’s book ends with the Haigh Hall show in 1998 as the group were hitting their commercial peak. Yet the tensions that
drove them apart three years previously and would also derail their 2007 reunion soon resurfaced, and McCabe left shortly afterwards following a bust-up with Ashcroft. “I’ve got old guy syndrome now – I remember the good times,” says McCabe. “Richard has a human entitlement to be flawed, but the guy that made that record couldn’t have been a twat. He was on the best form that I’ve ever seen him. When I listen to
Confidence man: Ashcroft in New York to shoot the Lucky Man single cover, 1997.
Urban Hymns what I hear is the beautiful person that I knew back then and that guy was a good friend to me. I still maintained a good relationship with Richard up until the day he threw a beer bottle at my head.” Through multiple break-ups and flying beer bottles, The Verve always had a stormy internal chemistry, but in 1997 it’s one that created their masterpiece. CHRIS CATCHPOLE ■ The Verve: Photographs By Chris Floyd is out 21 Sept via Reel Art Press and Urban Hymns: 20th Anniversary Editions is reviewed on p112.
Where Are You Right Now?
THE SAVAGES SINGER ISN’T A FAN OF WOBBLY PUDDINGS OR NORTHAMPTON, BUT SHE IS REALLY GOOD AT DOING THE WASHING.
Here’s Jehnny: Beth at work on . her solo album
“I DON’T UNDERSTAND JELLY. IT’S LIKE IT’S ALIVE. I HATE IT.”
Call her band “Sausages” at your peril…
Hello. Where are you right now? I’m in Paris in my studio working on my solo album. I wake up quite early and have two or three hours of meditation and yoga. I moved to Paris in February so it’s a new city for me. You are on We Got The Power by Gorillaz alongside Noel Gallagher. Did you feel like a UN peacekeeping envoy after the Britpop Wars? I felt I was having some kind of a moment with Gorillaz and I was standing between Noel and Damon [Albarn] during rehearsals. I wasn’t instrumental in the reparation of that relationship. They did it by themselves – like adults. You grew up in Poitiers, which is twinned with Northampton. Have you ever been there? The first time I ever went to England was on a school exchange to Northampton. It’s the city of [’80ss goth rockers] Bauhaus, so I was excited to go because I was a fan. But when I got there I couldn’t believe it was so miserable. It was grey, raining all the time and not what I had in mind. I understood where the music was coming from. All of these lyrics – “Sandwich bars, and barbed wire/Squash every week into a day” [from 1982’s All We Ever Wanted Was Everything] – I got it then.
On the Wikipedia page for Poitiers you are not listed among the notable people from the city. What do you need to do to get onto that list? I need to up my game. Maybe it’s because I don’t really go back so much. What is the most French thing you’ve ever done? I am doing a movie at the moment, playing the part of a famous French writer called Christine Angot. I am acting in French in a French movie with a French production in Paris. I couldn’t be more French than that. When you write it down, Savages looks a bit like Sausages. Everybody loves sausages, maybe you should change your name and be more successful? That is a running joke in the backstage area. We call ourselves Sausages. We have put that on ourselves. You should play as your own support act as Sausages. I would love to do that. You could say that every song’s a banger. I like that very much. The French look down on English cuisine. What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve eaten in England? I don’t understand jelly. It’s made from cow’s bones. I am scared of that. I can’t take it. It’s like it’s alive. I hate it. Savages all dress in black. Have you accidentally put black clothes in a wash with white ones and ruined them? I am really good with my washing. All of our socks are black and, because we sometimes do a wash together, you end up with socks that don’t belong to you. The technique is to ball the socks that match so they don’t get separated… That’s a really good trick. What are you doing 20 minutes from now? I’m going to make some tea. I hate the English way of drinking tea with milk. I have posh green tea. It’s more Japanese, my style. Not very English. EAMONN FORDE
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Help Musicians UK is the leading independent music charity, empowering musicians since 1921. For more information please visit helpmusicians.org.uk or call 020 7239 9100 HelpMusiciansUK @HelpMusiciansUK Backing musicians throughout their career. Registed Charity no. 228089 Be Charlotte (EAF supported artist) Photo credit - Ian Coulson THE IC MEDIA
Branching out: Girl Ray (from left, Sophie Moss, Poppy Hankin, Iris McConnell).
New to Q
harmonies. The result is something nostalgic but not out of place alongside the ramshackle indie-psych of contemporaries such as Mac DeMarco and Whitney. Starting out trying to emulate the masters was bold but, they thought, why not learn from the best? “It TEENAGE LOVE CAN BE AN AWKWARD AFFAIR. PREPARE TO FALL FOR THE TRIO WHO SPIN IT INTO WRY, INDIE-POP GOLD. made me appreciate how hard it is to achieve such a full sound,” Moss says. “Or how irl Ray are worried about being sentences they didn’t start. They’re just 19, but intricate a song is,” adds Hankin. “You’re kind happy. When you trade in to them Earl Grey feels like a long time coming of like, ‘Fuck, that must have taken ages.’” heartache-laced DIY pop that – Hankin and drummer Iris McConnell are old They may be young, but in chronicling the jangles with the sound of school friends who eventually plucked up the nail-chewing lows of teenage relationships, awkward teen love, what do courage to ask classmate Sophie Moss to play Girl Ray’s songs are impressively well-crafted. you sing about when everything’s going well? bass after years of thinking she was too cool. Stupid Things is an initially simple journal-like It is, guitarist and lead songwriter Poppy The trio bonded over the vintage pop song about having a crush before its mindHankin estimates, “a hundred thousand per albums that are mixed and matched to form bending reprise moves it from a quick cent” easier to write songs when something’s the foundation of their sound – noodle on the piano to a sultry, going wrong in your life and it’s fair to say that Pet Sounds’ layered warmth, the quasi-R&B groove, while the For Fans Of: things are on the up for Girl Ray right now. kaleidoscopic arrangements on cornerstone of the record is a Cate Le Bon, Their first album, Earl Grey, is just out and Todd Rundgren’s early solo LPs 13-minute epic that gives the Gorky’s Zygotic the North London three-piece are excitedly and there’s even the odd flash of album its name. It starts out as a Mynci, Todd talking over each other and finishing ABBA in their bittersweet gentle acoustic reminiscence and Rundgren
MARCO VITTUR, ALEX LAKE
Get This Track: Stupid Things
THE TUNES ON REPEAT IN THE Q OFFICE THIS MONTH. THE NATIONAL TURTLENECK Anyone who’s seen The National live knows that there’s a fierce rock band behind their composed exterior. But they’ve never let it out on record until the frenzied Turtleneck, a manic, spiritual tribute to influences Nick Cave and Afghan Whigs (see p109). Out: now, on 44AD.
“IF YOU THROW A TV OUT OF A WINDOW YOU’VE GOT TO THINK: ‘WHO’S CLEANING THAT UP?’” POPPY HANKIN
swells into a tumultuous jam, all wah wah pedals and horns. “Not to blow our own trumpet…” Hankin begins before McConnell cuts in: “But we did blow some trumpets. Some real trumpets.” With touring their equivalent of going off to university, you might expect Girl Ray to be downing hard liquor and trashing hotel rooms every night, but they don’t feel the need to venture out of their tight-knit gang. “We’re such losers…” Hankin says, before McConnell takes over again: “We have one beer and we’re like, ‘OK, that was fun, we’ve partied enough.’” “You know,” Hankin adds, “if you throw a TV out of a window you’ve just got to think: ‘Who’s cleaning that up?’” With Earl Grey out in the wild, Girl Ray are brainstorming situations that would give Hankin something to write about on album two. Someone suggests buying her a hamster and then killing it in front of her, or McConnell and Moss running off with a new best friend. It’s hard to imagine things getting that dark – but when Girl Ray’s pain sounds this good, you secretly want them to suffer. KATE SOLOMON
ANDREW WEATHERALL DARKTOWN FIGURES
Paul Weller: getting down on a “horn-assisted groove.”
equal opponents and we both antagonise,” neosoul polymath Sumney sings, enveloped by silksoft harp. The languid Quarrel – culminating in Stevie Wonder-worthy funk – suggests a man too assured to be suckered into a fight. Out: now, on Jagjaguwar.
LORDE AND JACK ANTONOFF ME AND JULIO DOWN BY THE SCHOOLYARD (LIVE AT OUTSIDE LANDS)
A highlight from the dance maverick’s vocals-free new album, Qualia, this slow-burning groover reimagines The Cure’s A Forest put through King Tubby’s mixing desk. Out: 29 September, on Höga Nord Rekords.
Lorde cited Graceland as a big influence on latest album Melodrama, and tipped her hat to Paul Simon with this sweet acoustic live cover of Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard, backed by Melodrama producer Jack Antonoff. Out: now, on YouTube.
Following on from last year’s moody Ultra LP, this title track from the elusive dubstepper’s new EP is a jungle-led slab of clattering percussion, elastic-band bass and brooding atmospherics, suggesting no let-up in this producer’s ever-increasing sonic dalliances with The Dark Side. Out: 8 September, on Big Dada.
The video pays tribute to Mary J Blige, while the self-assured approach to hook-ups nods to TLC and Salt-N-Pepa, but the slinky hall of mirrors vibe of the first song from Kelela’s debut proper is all the DC artist’s own. Out: now, on Warp.
MOSES SUMNEY QUARREL “Calling this a quarrel so immorally implies we’re
would give it away as the work of the ex-Jam man. Out: now, on Parlophone.
MOUNT KIMBIE BLUE TRAIN LINES One of the highlights of the electronic duo’s forthcoming third LP, Blue Train Lines sees South Londoner King Krule deliver an arresting bark over murky, d’n’b rhythms (see p107). Out: now, on Warp.
COURTNEY BARNETT & KURT VILE OVER EVERYTHING Opener from the shaggyhaired guitarists’ duo LP finds them trading tips on how to stave off the blues, like speed-reading the news, getting outside and, above all, writing songs. In a hurried world, their pace is appealingly languid. Out: 20 October, on Matador.
BENJAMIN CLEMENTINE PAUL WELLER VS GOD SAVE STONE FOUNDATION THE JUNGLE MOTHER ETHIOPIA Stand-out track from the If it didn’t have his name on the sleeve, there is almost nothing in this skronky, horn-assisted Afrobeat groove that
Mercury Prize-winning artist’s second album, I Tell A Fly (see p101). Out: 15 September, on Behind/Virgin EMI.
Solo rock’n’roll star: Liam Gallagher at work on his debut album, Snap! Studios, London, March, 2017.
BARRY BRECHEISEN/GETTY IMAGES, CHARLIE@LIGHTENINGPRODUCTIONS.COM
“I’M SURE NOEL’S RECORD IS GONNA BE GREAT, MAN, BUT I FEEL DOUBLE PROUD OF MINE.”
In The Studio
LIAM GALLAGHER: THE BIG PA PAYB AYBACK
AS HIS SOLO LP REACHES COMPLETION, THE TIME FOR TALKING IS NEARLY DONE. NEARLY... iam Gallagher has not been hanging about. After announcing his nowimminent debut solo album, As You Were, with a Q cover story in June, he’s been back in the public eye for the first time since Beady Eye’s final shows in March 2014. Clearly enjoying the return to the limelight, he has achieved a near-incandescent state of Liamness, which will have thrilled Oasis diehards. “I’m on fire at the moment – on fucking fire!” he barks during a rare bit of downtime in Pasay City, Manila. The Philippines are the latest stop on a breakneck tour schedule which has taken in Glastonbury, UK club shows, New York, LA, Chicago, Canada and China. After tonight’s engagement in the Philippines, the itinerary rolls on through Japan and South Korea, before winding up at the Reading and Leeds festival. “Now I’ve got the whole world ‘As you were’-ing me,” he enthuses. “Everyone’s saying it – people in China going, ‘Az yew waah!’” If Liam has the wind in his sails currently, it’s largely down to the completion of As You Were. “It’s worth shouting about,” he says, “there’s some proper tunes on there. At the gigs everyone’s been buzzing off the new stuff. We did one with Richard Ashcroft, and he was going, ‘What’s that tune you played at the end, man?’ It was You Better Run.
As they are: Liam and band perform at Lollapalooza, Park West, Chicago, 2 August, 2017.
He goes, ‘It sounded like fucking gang music, stage, Liam had no band so the music was like the Hell’s Angels booting the door open.’ mostly assembled by multi-instrume multi-instrumentalist There’s a couple of odd ones, too, and that’s Dan McDougall, sometime session drummer the beauty of writing with people.” for Tom Odell and Ellie Goulding. Stripes To recap, on signing with Warners earned, McDougall was signed up for Liam’s last year, Gallagher was hooked up with live band, which also includes Babyshambles yshambles co-songwriters, including LA-based Greg bassist Drew McConnell, Kasabian and Kurstin (Adele, Beck) and Andrew Wyatt Beady Eye guitarist Jay Mehler, guitarist Mike from Swedish indie-pop act Moore and keyboard d player WHAT WE KNOW Christian Madden. For Miike Snow. Kurstin’s three F the contributions range from final piece of As You ou Were’s Due: 6 October 2017 first single Wall Of Glass’s jigsaw, this line-up piled Title: As You Were harmonica-squawking glam into Abbey Road to cut stomp, through to the Eleanor the thunderous I Get By. Producers: Dan Rigby-style portrait Paper “It’s been good to o be back Grech-Marguerat, Crown, while Wyatt’s at work,” he says, “singing Greg Kurstin Chinatown stretches Liam’s songs to the people, who’re Song titles: voice into Jam ballad territory bored out of their fucking Chinatown, Paper (think 1979’s bitterly soulful minds. It feels like the there’s a Crown, Doesn’t Have The Butterfly Collector). For new vibe there, so maybe ma the To Be That Way, What It’s Worth, written with break’s done everyone ryone good. I’ve All I Need, Come Cherry Ghost’s Simon Aldred, Maybe they’ve realised ealised how Back To Me, You meanwhile, has the anthemic shit it is without me.” Better Run, For What sweep of Oasis’s Don’t Look As October’s release elease It’s Worth, Wall Of Back In Anger, the Noel-led date approaches, Liam’s Glass, I Get By song Liam staked a claim for verbal sparring with his elder Influences: with a spellbinding a cappella brother is reaching fe fever pitch John Lennon, early version at Glastonbury. – coincidentally, Noel’s oel’s third morning runs, Hell’s Seven tracks were recorded solo record is slated ed to appear Angels, The Jam at Snap! Studios in Finsbury soon after. Not one tto miss a Park, with producer Dan window for a dig, Grech-Marguerat (Lana Del he dismisses Rey, The Vaccines). At that Noel’s rece ecent appearances ances with U2 as “irr “irrelevant – not playing ying new songs, not doing nish”, and his current band as “Beady Eye Lite”, thanks to its recent incorporation ation of guitarist Gem Ge Archer and drummer drumme Chris Sharrock from Liam’s last band. “It’s like we’ve come full circle,” cle,” he concludes. “We’ve slagged off every ry single fucking band in the universe, and no now me and him are going head to head. I’m sure his record is gonna be great, man, but I feel double proud of mine, really confident. confide I do exactly what it says on the tin. I’m here he to give the people what they want.” As he always was. ANDREW PERR PERRY OCTOBER 2017
“THERE’S SOME FAULTY WIRING THAT MEANS I’D BE LIKELY TO JOIN A CULT.” Mary Epworth: “I’m going for Kraftwerk meets Eurovision.”
New to Q
Epworth and her brother – Adele producer Paul – would try and search out mythical devil dog Black Shuck, while today she matter-of-factly states that glow-worms are a current “massive obsession”. “I am still a subscriber to [paranormal magazine] Fortean Times, put it that way,” she says of her interest in the outdoors and the otherworldly. “I’m the sort of person If Dream Life was a pastoral adventure who’s mentally predisposed to see ghosts. into the weirder corners of the English There’s probably some faulty wiring that countryside, then new LP Elytral is a sci-fi means I’d be the most likely to join a cult.” vision of gamma ray synths, clattering drum Resisting the allure of rural occultists, machines and minimalist electro-pop that Epworth fronted indie act Bambino as a pitches her closer to the cosmic Krautrock of teenager, later working as a backing singer Jane Weaver than it does Steeleye Span. before finally crafting her debut LP, an The two records may sound light years endeavour partly funded by gigs as a movie apart sonically, but what binds them extra. “I was a zombie in 28 Days Later,” she together is Epworth’s fascination with the recalls. “It was shot at night so I had to get a natural world. Elytral takes its name from commuter train home covered in blood.” the outer-shell that protects a beetle’s wings, Having self-imposed limitations to make while beneath the brittle electronic exterior, Elytral in just two weeks on instruments she its songs constantly refer back to had no idea how to play, Epworth For Fans Of: nature and the ocean. Watching is thinking about the follow-up. Goldfrapp, The Sun Go Down’s ticking “I like the idea of making arty, Jane Weaver, electronics give way to twittering annoying music, but also making Kate Bush bird song, while the synth-and-sax it entertaining,” she muses. cacophony of Last Night is about Expect a concept album about Get This Track: drowning under the waves. glow-worms and satanic hounds Me Swimming Growing up in East Anglia, imminently. CHRIS CATCHPOLE
MARY EPWORTH JOIN THE NATURE-LOVING COSMONAUT ON A TRIP TO THE WEIRD SIDE…
ogged out in a mirrored headdress, black boiler suit and giant, custom-made wings, Mary Epworth looks like an intergalactic queen in an old episode of Doctor Who as she greets Q on a drizzly afternoon in East London. “I’m going for Kraftwerk meets Eurovision,” cackles the singer as she swishes her iridescent appendages around her. Fans of the psychedelia-spiked folk on Epworth’s 2012 debut Dream Life might be surprised to see her dressed like she’s about to help Tom Baker tackle the Cybermen, but then her music itself has gone through a remarkable metamorphosis of late.
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You saucy devil: Ghostpoet prepares to dive in.
THIS SOUTH LONDONER SPECIALISES IN MUSICAL DREAD. BUT GIVE HIM A BOX OF ORGANIC VEG AND HE’S ALL SMILES.
negative, it’s just the reality of what we’re living through.” But even by his own measure this record is, he concedes, “kind of pretty dark”. Fuelled by a stretch spent reading dystopian literature – 1984, Lord Of The Flies, The Day Of The Triffids, and watching Adam Curtis’s unsettling documentaries, it has a lyrical keenness and a musical glower. “I’m always
“Never have noodles or spaghetti on a first date.” CAN I YOUR TAKE , MR R E ORD poet? ghost
Favourite restaurant? “Ohhh, what was it called? It’s in Tooting Broadway, it does panEuropean fare and the staff are really friendly. I’ve had a lot of romantic moments with my love in that particular restaurant.” Brown sauce or ketchup? “I try and avoid sauces, but I would say ketchup.”
Culinary speciality? “A bean chilli. That’s my fave – relatively easy to make and full of vegan goodness.” Dream dining companion? “My wife, of course.” Death Row dinner? “Actual organic vegetables – they have to be tested, so this would take a while and would put off the execution.”
his takes me back to dating,” says Obaro Ejimiwe, looking uncertainly at his bowl of unwieldy Vietnamese rice noodles. “Never have noodles or spaghetti on a first date.” It is a Tuesday in August, and we are sitting in the rainy day gloom of Margate’s Old Kent Market, a small arcade in the heart of the Old Town. Today the stalls are largely closed, and the building half empty; a couple of children, in the throes of summer holiday boredom, restlessly half-play a nearby piano. Ejimiwe is better known as Ghostpoet, the South London-born, twice-Mercurynominated artist who specialises in innovative and often playful depictions of modern-day dread and unease. With the release of his fourth album, Dark Days & Canapés, it seems the clouds have only gathered further. “With all my records I’m always trying to capture the time, the moment, the zeitgeist, so to speak,” he says, as the cumbersome peanut noodles and a plate of spring rolls sit cooling. “If I didn’t write about the times we’re living in currently I’d feel I was cheating myself. I’ve always hated people wanting to make music that has the ‘ignorance is bliss’ attitude – that’s not me being pessimistic, it’s not me being
going to be drawn towards darker emotions and feelings,” he says. “And I’ve always been drawn to that kind of music. I used to like Sepultura, the Brazilian metal band, I was into Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, and then I discovered Nick Cave and he became the Count Of Darkness for me.” He pauses and grabs a hasty forkful of noodles, then questions the wisdom of a column that involves conducting interviews over a meal. “Who started this thing?” he laughs. “Was it you?!” Last winter, Ejimiwe and his wife moved to Margate, and he is now in the midst of setting up a radio station with a bar and café on the seafront. “I’d done radio in London in various forms for a while,” he explains. “Moving here I thought if no one’s started a radio station by the time I move down I’ll give it a go.” Giving it a go has involved a fair bit of leg work. For the past few months he has been busy finding a location, wading through paperwork, making planning permission applications. “It’s taken ages,” he says. “And I could’ve started it in my garage if I’d wanted to, but I like to do things properly.” Ejimiwe chose today’s restaurant because “me and the Mrs dined here once” and because it offers a range of vegan dishes – he gave up animal products a year and a half ago. “After I went to visit a friend in New York,” he explains. “I was veggie but I dabbled in meat from time to time, and New York was only my second time in America so I just wanted to do the American thing – eat everything, have everything 10 times bigger.” When he returned, somewhat overfed, he decided to take a break from eating meat for a while. “And two weeks turned into a month. A month turned into three months,” he recalls, “and I found I wasn’t missing meat.” He is, he declares, a decent cook. “Yeah. I’ll blow my own trumpet,” he laughs. “I’m not a great freestyle chef, but being vegan makes it easier.” He talks with enthusiasm about the weekly vegetable box, about the importance of seasoning in vegan cooking, about his new-found love for Padrón peppers. “And purple sprouting broccoli!” he adds, his face lighting up, and just for a moment the prince of musical brooding looks something close to joyous. LAURA BARTON
FIND YOUR RHYTHM
To celebrate the breadth of musical talent and innovation on display at the 2017 Hyundai Mercury Prize, Hyundai are offering you the chance to win some great prizes.
PHOTOS: JMENTERNAT A IONAL.COM AT
o matter what your tastes, the last 12 months have been a thrilling period for British music. From alt-J to The xx, Stormzy to Sampha, J Hus to Glass Animals and beyond, the shortlisted artists for the 2017 Hyundai Mercury Prize show the sheer breadth and depth of creative innovation currently taking place across all musical genres. Whether it’s Ed Sheeran sitting down to pen another world-conquering mega-hit, Kate Tempest crafting a piercingly insightful invective or Loyle Carner picking just the
right rare soul sample to match a rhyme, any artist needs the physical and mental space to transform that spark of inspiration into a masterpiece. With that in mind, Hyundai will be sharing the stories behind the 12 shortlisted records to show how an inspired idea can lead to one of the Albums Of The Year, ahead of this year’s Awards Show on 14 September. ■ Listen to The Sunday Night
Music Club in association with Q on Absolute Radio to catch The Road To The Hyundai Mercury Prize, highlighting the shortlisted artists from this year and past years.
Note perfect: the 2017 Hyundai Mercury Prize showcases the very best in British music.
WIN TICKETS TO THE 2017 HYUNDAI MERCURY PRIZE OR AN ALL-NEW HYUNDAI KONA SUV For your chance to win, simply post on Twitter or Instagram using #HyundaiMercuryPrize, or comment on a promotional #HyundaiMercuryPrize post on Hyundai UK’s Facebook or YouTube page. Hyundai are giving away six packages for the 2017 Hyundai Mercury Prize for two adults, including tickets, one night four-star accommodation and £250 spending money. There’s also a chance to win an all-new KONA by Hyundai. T&Cs: Open to UK residents aged 18 or over. Valid UK driving licence required for the Hyundai KONA. Ends 20/09/17. Enter before 23:59 on 06/09/17 for 2017 Hyundai Mercury Prize tickets. Visit mercuryprize.hyundai.co.uk/terms for full T&Cs.
THE Q AWARDS VOTE NOW!
Double the fun: win the chance to see Manic Street Preachers (below) and Sleaford Mods (left) on Q Awards night.
LAST CHANCE TO VOTE FOR THE AWARDS 2017
THE WORLD’S GREATEST MUSIC AWARDS ARE LOOMING AND WE NEED YOUR HELP TO PICK THE WINNERS. SO GET VOTING – AND YOU MAY WIN A PAIR OF VIP TICKETS TO JOIN US ON THE DAY!
ast year a galaxy of stars live performances by Manic Street Preachers (including U2, The Rolling and Sleaford Mods, and promises the same Stones, Muse, M.I.A., degree of star-studded pageantry, live music Blondie, Ray Davies, thrills and no doubt the usual food-and-drinkJohnny Marr, Biffy Clyro, related mayhem. And what’s more, if you’re Bastille and many more) quick, and you hotfoot it along to descended on the Qthemusic.com now and help us choose the Roundhouse in London for the annual winners from this year’s nominees Longlist, awards – the most exclusive event in the which closes at midnight on 31 August, you music calendar. Plus, could win a pair of VIP after the ceremony, Balcony tickets to the awards-goers were music’s most prestigious AT QTHEMUSIC.COM treated to a DJ set from event. If you miss that New Order followed by deadline, fear not, you Longlist closing date: a live performance from have a second chance to Midnight, 31 August the recipients of the Q vote (and also be in with Classic Album gong, a chance to win a pair of Shortlist opening date: The Charlatans. VIP Balcony tickets) in Wednesday, 6 September This year’s ceremony, the Shortlist vote, which Shortlist closing date: which takes place on opens on Qthemusic. 18 October at the com on 6 September. Friday, 6 October Roundhouse, will feature After the Longlist
vote closes, we will whittle down the nominees to your Top 5 in each category (Top 3 for Q Best Film) and you will be able to vote on the Shortlist nominees up to the closing date of 6 October. This is the final chance to have your say on who takes home the awards on the night. If you want to join us at the sold-out Q Awards ceremony and aftergig, the only way in is to vote! All the Q Awards winners will be announced at the Roundhouse, Camden, on the evening of Wednesday, 18 October. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @QMagazine to keep up with all the gossip and winners on the night. The awards are voted for by the readers of Q magazine, Qthemusic.com and the staff at Q. The final decision is the reserved right of the Q staff. Help Musicians UK is the official charity partner of The Q Awards 2017. Terms & Conditions: Travel, accommodation and other costs are not included. The two sets of winners will be notified within a week of voting on the shortlist ending on 6 October.
VE R ACLUB
ALEX LAKE, SIMON SARIN
THE Q AWARDS 2017 IN ASSOCIATION WITH ABSOLUTE RADIO ARE SUPPORTED BY:
T H E q awa R D S i N a S S O C i aT i O N w i T H a B S O L U T E R a D i O p R O U D Ly p R E S E N T …
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18 O CTO B E R , 2 017 RO U N D H O U S E LO N D O N 24 hours pre-sale to Q subscribers, Roundhouse members, Manic Street Preachers’ and Sleaford Mods’ mailing list recipients starts at 9am on 31 July. General sale starts at 9am on 1 August.
V i S i T qT H E m U S i C . CO m f O R f U L L D E Ta i L S
The highlights from Q partners Absolute Radio this month include interviews with Black Grape and LCD Soundsystem…
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM INTERVIEW
Absolute Radio, 3 September, 9pm James Murphy joins Danielle Perry in the studio to talk in depth about recording the new LCD Soundsystem album, American Dream. As well as discussing what shaped the sound of their fourth long-player, Murphy touches upon the importance of releasing records on vinyl and why he’s asked LCD fans to put their mobile phones away during gigs.
THE WAR ON DRUGS INTERVIEW
Absolute Radio, 10 September, 9pm Adam Granduciel is in conversation with George Godfrey about the new War On Drugs album, A Deeper Understanding, his follow-up to Q’s 2014 Album Of The Year, Lost In The Dream. They also chat about why the band is not very good at taking time off and the influence that Bruce Springsteen has had on the new record.
This month the music has been heavensent. For those who remember Orbital’s genius The Box single, Four Tet’s new track, Two Thousand And Seventeen takes you on a similar dulcimerinspired journey (could that sound any more middle-class?!). It’s breathtakingly simple, but so damn effective. Hopefully an album will follow soon.
BLACK GRAPE INTERVIEW
Absolute Radio, 10 September, 10pm Shaun Ryder and Kermit join Pete Donaldson for an entertaining interview which spans the band’s career from rising out of the ashes of the Happy Mondays to the making of their critically acclaimed third LP, Pop Voodoo.
MERCURY PRIZE HIGHLIGHTS
Absolute Radio, 17 September, 8pm Highlights from the awards, with
As a big fan of Scottish bands such as Mogwai, Aereogramme and The Twilight Sad, I was very excited to hear the new release by Out Lines, who are signed to Mogwai’s Rock Action label. The collective are made up of James Graham (frontman of The Twilight Sad), Kathryn Joseph (who won 2015’s Scottish Album Of The Year) and producer
Danielle Perry backstage interviewing all the stars at this year’s Hyundai Mercury Prize ceremony.
Absolute 80s, 24 September, 9pm The drummer and founding member of The Police joins Absolute 80s to talk about his life in music. ■ LIVE MUSIC ON-DEMAND
Download the free Absolute Radio app to listen to extended highlights on-the-go from a whole host of summer festivals.
Marcus Mackay, and I have begun a heady, droney, misty love affair with their music after hearing lead-off single, Buried Guns, from their Conflats LP [out 27 Octoberr]. Also, don’t forget to tune in to my show on Absolute Radio at 9pm on 3 September to hear
me chat to LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy [see below] about new LP American Dream, which is out on 1 September. He is a real gent and very funny too, with some great stories about working in London and why he decided to re-form LCD – apparently now was the right time to do it. ■ Listen to The Sunday Night Music Club from 8pm every week on Absolute Radio.
This month Sunday Night Music Club presenter Danielle Perry has mostly been listening to…
Black Grape’s Shaun Ryder and Kermit get juicy on Absolute Radio.
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The Libertines WORDS PAUL STOKES PHOTOGRAPHS TOM BARNES
Bust-ups, burglaries, regicide and the best way to clean a broken toilet… Pete, Carl, John and Gary face a grilling from the Q readers. he Libertines – more specifically, Pete Doherty – are not known for being punctual. However, as excuses go the one they’ve given Q must be a first. Prior to the band’s performance at Truck Festival in Oxfordshire, our interview is delayed by two hours because Doherty had been trying to buy a couple of live chickens en route. The detour was in vain, however, because the poultry had sold-out. Something co-frontman Carl Barât is relieved about as it means “the bus isn’t full of bird shit.” Still, compared to what The Libertines have endured over the years, poo, feathers and eggs are nothing. After Barât, Doherty, bassist John Hassall and drummer Gary Powell broke through in 2002 with debut LP Up The Bracket, igniting fervent fan devotion for their tune-laden, Albion-inspired indie, their career has been hamstrung by fights, drugs, a split, prison sentences, more drugs and rehab (the latter three are Doherty alone) before reuniting in 2010. They’ve since got it together to record a new album, 2015’s Anthems For Doomed Youth, and are ambitious for their future. Not only is a seaside tour and recording time booked for later this year, but they’re planning to open a hotelcum-recording studio in 2018. Freerange eggs might be off the menu for now, but to test the band’s customer service skills let’s see how they get on with some enquiries from Q readers.
What celebrity couple would Pete and Carl compare their relationship to? Amy Bowden Green, v ia Q Mail John Hassall: Posh and Becks.
Carl Barât: Laurel and Hardy is a bit obvious, isn’t it? Pete Doherty: How about Trilby and Svengali [from George du Maurier’s 1894 novel Trilbyy]. But who is the barefoot girl and who is the genius piano player? Gary Powell: Clint Eastwood and the orangutan [from Every Which Way But Loose]? I’m not going to suggest who’s who…
[Debut single] What A Waster had the word “divvy” in its lyrics. What other oldschool insults should be brought back? Dylan Harper, Maidstone GP: Mackerel! CB: Giffer. PD: Your mum’s got a wooden back! What does that mean? Fuck knows. “Divvy” originally came from people who were a bit scatterbrain, they’d lock them up for next to nothing. It meant the mind was diverse, that’s where divvy came from: “He’s a bit diverse.”
The good old days: The Libertines back in 2002.
How did it feel watching Razorlight become so big just as everything was going a bit awry for The Libertines [frontman Johnny Borrell was very briefly in a line-up of The Libertiness]? Jenny Merrick, St Leonards-on-Sea PD: Right! There was a wonderful pub called The Albion around Brick Lane way and it closed down. It did have an evil atmosphere, now and again, but at the time, I was looking for that as an observer, not a participant. Johnny Borrell, evil incarnate, he saw me carrying the pub’s sign home and said, “Where are you taking that?” I said, “I’ve got to drag it all the way over to the other side of Whitechapel.” So he said, “No, leave it at mine.” He’d bought this swanky new hipster place on Brick Lane, so I did. I came back the next day in my van and I don’t know what he’d done with it because it wasn’t there and neither was he! That’s actually a true story. I’m not slagging Johnny Borrell off, though. It was probably a different Johnny Borrell… CB: He was never in The Libertines, was he? He only played with us twice. PD: Look, he was a very good mate of John’s. JH: He still is a good mate. CB: John played on his record the other day. But sorry, was Johnny in The Libertines? PD: We told him we were right up shit creek and if he was going to help us out [and play bass at a show], then it would be amazing. But if you say you’re going to do it, do it. Don’t phone from Cardiff, two minutes before the gig, saying you’re living the dream with Alabama 3. GP: He did two rehearsals. CB: Exactly. If you don’t pop your cherry and you don’t do the gig, you’re not in the band. What’s wrong with an Englishman wearing a baseball cap? Wendy Farrell, Thanet JH: It’s alright if you’re playing golf. PD: Does this person need it explaining? Who asked? Wendy? Obviously she’s someone who is in love with a person who wears a baseball cap. Wendy, just forget about the whole thing. How did you break the ice when you all first met to discuss reuniting? Lisa Bray, via Q Mail JH: We all went down the pub. PD: That’s right. How the hell did we [break the ice]? I don’t know. I think we’re still chipping away at it. What’s the best Carry On film? Giles Gleeson, Rotherham JH: Carry On Loving, because my relation is in it. Imogen Hassall played Jenny Grubb. GP: The one where the dude sings, “You loveth me, yeah, yeah, yeah”? Carry On Henry! That’s genius.
“Who did the washing-up when we lived together? The crack fairies!” Pete Doherty
Jack the lads: The Libertines (from left, Pete Doherty, Carl Barât, John Hassall, Gary Powell), backstage at Truck Festival, Steventon, Oxfordshire, 22 July, 2017.
Cash For Questions
“Got any Blu Tack?” The Libertines get to grips with the pesky backdrop.
CB: Carry On Camping. It’s got Babs’s [Barbara Windsor indsor] great moment and at the end they realise their wives are actually alright. PD: [Delivers a series of Sid James and Kenneth Williams impressions] One of them has this great moment, where they open a window and you see footage of a sewage dump taken from some Spanish documentary. Then it’s back to [Kenneth Williams voice],“Oooh, have you seen the view? I’m going down to complain.”
Is it true bouncers were employed in the studio when you were making your second album to keep the peace? ace? Were they ever called into action? Gregory Smith, via Q Mail JH: We did need to use them because these two [Pete and Carl] had a massive fight on Who did the washing-up washing-u when the first day of recording. you all lived together? PD: I remember exactly what Simon Chester, happened. You were saying that via Q Mail your sister said that I’d gone CB: No one. We didn’t through her knicker drawer eat much, though. in that so-called burglary [of Barât’s flat in 2003]. GP: The plates and CB: Well, you can take it up cups ended up in the with her. bath at one stage. PD: No, you said, “That’s why CB: We had to flush you can’t come round any the toilet with Evian Bog standards: more,” and I said, “How are because the water the band had toilet [supply] was broken. we going to write new songs?” dramas when they PD: Who did the washing- all lived together. And you went, “Well, you seem to think up? The crack fairies! you’ve written them all!” I was like,
ALAMY, PHOTOSHOT, MIRRORPIX
Noel Gallagher once said that the mark of a truly great band is if other bands start sounding like them and people start dressing like them. Does the number of young men prancing around in trilbys and pointy brogues in your wake confirm your place in the cultural pantheon? Mike Terry, Ashford PD: Show me a time I’ve ever worn pointy brogues. I never wore pointy brogues ever. A rounded brogue, yeah. GP: Everyone dressed like us. More to the point, everyone dressed like you [Pete].
PD: What did I think of everyone wearing trilbys? Well, I didn’t have a percentage on it. Anyway, they weren’t trilbys; the brims were far too small, they were we like a dysfunctional pork-pie hat. GP: A Porkdora. PD: Did ya? [Kenneth Williams voice] Mmmmmm! Carry On P Porking.
Clash of the titans: Libertines producer Mick Jones joins the band onstage in 2004.
We are family: Imogen Hassall, John Hassall’s relation, in Carry On Loving.
“Come on, Carl, let bygones be bygones”, but you went, “Get out of my face, man.” CB: I never said that. PD: And then you [to John] asked, “What’s going on?” And you [to Carl] said, “Nothing, Pete can’t handle his drugs.” And I went fucking mental. CB: Oh yeah, you didn’t like that. PD: I leapt at him but before I could throttle him – I was straight out of the ’Ville [HMP Pentonville] and mad for it – this hand plucks me out of the air! Bang – the bouncer’s got me. Carl goes, “I think we need another one…” Libertine is a posh perfume, but what would Libertiness smell like? Kirsty Bean, Southend-0n-Sea PD: There is a fragrance called Libertines, have a whiff of that! [Offers Q his armpit, then adopts a Scottish accent nt] Smell my face! Has John ever answered a full question in an interview without being interrupted? Kieran Needham, via Twitter JH: No. CB: You didn’t get interrupted then. PD: Don’t start making people feel sorry for John. How much actual “production” did Mick Jones do on your debut LP? Andrew Moore, Grantham PD: We were talking about this today, toda [to Barât] go on do it… M CB: [Mimes pushing faders and does Mick Jones’s voice] “We’re going to make a record and in 20 years’ time I’m going to be talking about each track and I’ll be like, ‘This is great, this one is really eally great…’” PD: We need to get him back on board, boar man. Pete, what’s the best thing abou about living in Paris? And what do you miss most m about England when you’re awa away? Brian Ellis, Poole istfully] I’m not really living anywhere istfully PD: [Wistfull at the moment, to be honest. When I’m not here I miss these enormous surges of belief
in everything around me, when the poison is washed away and the slit in the sky is true and clear, it’s not concrete or man-made… although it’s men and women that draw my attention a lot of the time, what with nature disappearing so fast. But still, joy prevails, piping through the meadows wild… What was Jeremy Corbyn like as a warm-up man before your Wirral gig? James Thomas, Molesey JH: Well, he said hello to Gary, but blanked me. I think that someone who had such an astute view of the Iraq war, and stood against it, has a chance of being able to deal with the situation at the moment. That’s very positive. PD: …I tell you what I don’t miss [about England], I don’t miss The Sun and the Daily Mail, and of all fucking people [journalist] Stig Abell criticising Jeremy Corbyn. No, he doesn’t have answers like Stig Abell keeps
“Jeremy Corbyn would have the Queen’s head, if it comes to it.” Pete Doherty
Time for heroes: Jeremy Corbyn “has the energy” to right all the wrongs, says Pete Doherty.
saying, but he has lots of questions about things that are wrong and the energy to do something about it. If the generation growing up now want somewhere half-decent to live they’ve got to sell their souls. How did that happen? There was a revolution in this country. There’s a statue of him [Oliver Cromwell] outside parliament. He chopped off the King’s head in the street and the blood ran through the cobbles because he wanted to make changes. That’s our England. And that’s Jeremy Corbyn. He’ll have the Queen’s head, definitely, if it comes to it, if it meant housing and education for all. When this was announced online, Gary seemed under the impression that he was getting paid for the questions. So, if you all got £25 for this one, what would you spend it on? Ian Jenkins, via Q Mail GP: Stuff for me. A month’s subscription to Babe Station. Actually, maybe not that… CB: Book tokens for Gary. PD: 23 euros... [suddenly snatches Q’s question sheet] Right, let’s have a look… [reads a question] “Who was the biggest diva when you supported them, Morrissey or John Lydon?” JH: John Lydon. PD: [Ignoring the answerr] Chris Waddle [ex-footballerr] used to work in a sausage factory, right? I had this dream where he kept nt] “Come on, man, bury saying, [Geordie accent them sausages!” I was in a field with him. He went, “Pile that mud properly and bury them sausages.” I’m not into interpreting dreams, but what does all this mean? [To Carl] Do you ever dream about me? CB: Sometimes. PD: Periodically? CB: Yeah, sometimes. What’s wrong with that? PD: [Sighs] I don’t know, I was hoping you’d give an example… To take part in Cash For Questions, go to Qthemusic.com, follow @Qmagazine on Twitter or visit Facebook (facebook.com/ qmagazine). £25 for each question printed! If yours is printed, email Qmail@
“Part of Public Enemy’s rage came from the fact we had nowhere to sleep.”
Chuck D: the new yoga teacher wasn’t taking any shit.
Chuck D Commandments
The hip-hop veteran delivers his golden rules for life.
MAKE A STATEMENT
We came in on the tail of people who really broke hip-hop, guys like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash who were singles-orientated, so Public Enemy brought an album standpoint to the hip-hop game. We did 10 songs on a 12-inch, instead of two. We pioneered a new level for the art form. The key was never repeating yourself. We had to make people realise rap wasn’t a fad or temporary or a gimmick. We made statements. It was hard but enjoyable.
Public Enemy were full of different personalities – polar extreme personalities – but all these different characters wound together to make a statement. What kept us united? Having no fucking hotel rooms. We always slept on the bus. Nothing was easy, but it shouldn’t have been. That keeps you focused. Part of the rage onstage came from the fact we had nowhere to sleep.
PROVE THE HYPE
Better by design: Chuck D’s a big fan of Iron Maiden “graphically.”
Rage is their band. Sure, they know Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, but those are their dads’ or older brothers’ bands. This is a group they call their own.
GET A GOOD FONT
I studied graphics, design and communications at university and when I finished I wanted to give hip-hop graphics a similar mystique to those used by bands like Iron Maiden. I got into the band graphically, before their music. I really loved the Iron Maiden font and I wanted something similar for Public Enemy. What’s my favourite font? Impact.
Part of the Public Enemy glory is the story. It’s not just a sound. We emerged in a period where that story had to be heard. We could not not tell our story. The sonics THOU SHALT and the record made the breakthrough but we had COVET THESE to prove the hype. We were representing this new, FIVE ALBUMS exciting genre so our challenge in 1987 was to be as intense as any rock band that came before us.
PUT TURNTABLES ON THE NATION CURRICULUM
WORDS: PAUL STOKES PHOTOS: ANDREW COTTERILL, GETTY
I was raised as an artist, my schooling was as an artist, my profession has been based on artistry so I can tell you art will set you free, if you really dig it. Unfortunately, most people aren’t educated in the arts. One of the best things was after World War II the UK set up all those art schools. Lots of bands jumped to the front because they met there and learnt something. Instruments, turntables, lyrics, art… it should all be a part of the global education curriculum.
START WITH THE TITLE
I like to write the title of every song down first, on paper, then go from there. The title gives me a direction for what road to take. There’s no pressure on coming up with titles. I’ve never had writer’s block, but I have many titles I haven’t found songs for yet. The title is the door to your song, so you want it all glossed up so people want to walk in.
One thing I’ve learnt from being in [supergroup oup] Prophets Of Rage is that while people are coming to the show as fans of our three bands, we’ve found from playing live and looking into their faces that there are people in their 20s saying Prophets Of
Sly & The Family Stone There’s A Riot Goin’ On “Sly was a combination of everything before him, plus the funkiness and the get-down.” Run DMC Raising Hell “Simply, it’s a classic.” Prophets Of Rage Prophets Of Rage “It’s mine, but I want to listen to that over and over and over!” Wu-Tang Clan Wu-Tang Forever “It’s got Triumph on it, which is my all-time favourite Wu-Tang track.” Ice Cube AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted “I co-produced this and it was how the West was finally won. It was an unbelievable work that showed individuals can make it. A magical time.”
DON’T FEAR THE SUPERGROUP
KNOW YOUR HISTORY
[Prophets Of Rage age guitarist] Tom Morello doesn’t like to say “supergroup”, but I think Prophets Of Rage are a superr group. We come from superb backgrounds, so when we get onstage the pressure is on to present something that’s beyond people’s expectations. We have to be super to do that. The other five members of Prophets Of Rage are the best in the world and I have to step up to that every time.
I’ve been a historian from minute one. I felt hip-hop history should be chronicled and preserved. They do the same thing in rock very well, but I feel our art form is improperly curated and improperly preserved. It’s a 40-year-old genre and I think we can do a better job of clarifying what it is and what it ain’t to the masses, so I’m publishing a book: This Day In Rap And Hip-Hop History [out in Octoberr]. It’s important for hip-hop and rap to not just be freestyle. It’s important to know the facts and context of what you’re doing.
HELP OTHER ARTISTS
I enjoy working with new artists on the SpitSlam record group. I kind of manage it, but we have a philosophy that we don’t control our artists’ businesses, they choose to let us help them. So, no bank is going to get broken – we don’t do loans. Instead, it’s like a guild, an association. Servicing artists’ dreams and curating their art gives me great joy.
Life appears to speed up as you age, as workaholic Londoners Wolf Alice are acutely aware. They toured tirelessly to let the world know about their Mercury-nominated debut album and subsequently found themselves out of step with their old routines. Laura Snapes joins them back on the road ahead of to hear how theyâ€™re trying to slow the sands of time. PHOTOGRAPHS: RACHAEL WRIGHT
their huge second album
Alice in wonderland: (from left) Theo Ellis, Joel Amey, Joff Oddie and Ellie Rowsell, Portland, Oregon, 22 July, 2017.
heo Ellis walks up to Seattle’s Sunset Tavern, pointing to his heart and shaking his head. “I just got tattooed in the stupidest place.” In a few hours, his band Wolf Alice will play the minuscule club, and his bass strap will feel like a lawnmower shearing the shamrock from his skin. Drummer Joel Amey escaped lightly with a new earring. “Any time we have free time, people panic and are like, ‘Gotta get something tattooed or pierced!’” he says. Wolf Alice are three weeks into a tour of American dive bars. Their bus smells like it. A packet of ham, a sourdough loaf and a stolen toaster litter the living space, like a lingering threat to make a very stale sandwich. Their vintage spoils, including singerguitarist Ellie Rowsell’s white cowboy boots, spill from paper bags. Seattle comes after the tour’s longest drive, a two-day leg from Denver punctuated by a visit to a waterpark for Rowsell’s 25th birthday. They pack in activities to stave off madness. Things are more salubrious outside the bus: the gleaming galleon looks like a spaceship next to narrow Ballard Avenue’s boutiques. The Camden rock band are doing tiny venues to prepare for their UK tour, where they’ll play huge rooms for their second album, Visions Of A Life. It’s bolder on every level than their 2015 debut, My Love Is Cool – the only rule in recording was “make sure you don’t hold back,” Rowsell explains in a raucous Greek restaurant after soundcheck. Wolf Alice toured for three years before releasing their Mercurynominated debut. It taught them how to be a band in both the musical and traditional sense – they found their sound, and earned a reputation as party animals. They’re obsessed with rock’n’roll lore, like California punk icons The Germs and their late frontman, Darby Crash, who intentionally overdosed on heroin, age 22. “Wanting to be a martyr,” Ellis says in bewildered awe. “And it was the day before John Lennon got assassinated, so no one spoke about it,” adds Rowsell. But Wolf Alice are taking this small tour easy “for a few reasons,” says Ellis, including his recent diagnosis with type 2 diabetes. If My Love Is Cool was Wolf Alice’s coming-of-age album, Visions Of A Life is them “adapting to age,” says Rowsell, and its anxieties – like time slipping through their fingers. That is not the
sexiest sell. But their nuanced soul-searching is balanced by the album’s monstrousness. A woman faints within minutes of tonight’s gig starting. On new single Yuk Foo, Rowsell shrieks, “FUCK THE WORLD AND YOU AND YOU AND YOU” like Veruca Salt fronting Steve Albini’s beastly Big Black. Moaning Lisa Smile plunders the fetid nastiness of PJ Harvey’s Rid Of Me, and they walk off leaving feedback to groan and stutter. These are all-ages shows, bringing security guards to bars that usually host placid blues bands. “They look baffled, like, ‘People are actually having fun?’” says Amey. Wolf Alice are a gang, but they didn’t know each other before the band. Rowsell found guitarist Joff Oddie through an ad, and Amey and Ellis joined later. They’re a welcoming bunch, Amey deadpan, Rowsell quiet but enjoyably dry. Ellis says Oddie is solely dedicated to mastering fingerpicked guitar and smoking cigarettes. Rowsell says Ellis sleeps with his eyes open and his bunk curtain pulled back, “like he can’t bear not to have one last conversation. “Somehow it worked,” she says. “Maybe it’s because we didn’t grow up around each other since we were 12, so we got to know each other. Sometimes that’s more valuable.” They supported each other through the mania of their debut. “Touring 24/7 never really gave us the chance to lap [success] up,” says Rowsell. When they found out that Moaning Lisa Smile had been nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Performance, “We were in bumfuck nowhere sharing a hotel room, and we had to wake up at 7am to go and drive to a second bumfuck nowhere.” Still, their lives changed completely. “It becomes difficult to determine whether you’re feeling fuckin’ emotionally unstable because you’re becoming a 23-year-old adult or you’re in a different city every day and you’re pretty strung-out and tired,” says Ellis. Amey and Oddie are 26, Ellis and Rowsell 25. “Is it not true that life moves quicker in your early 20s?” Rowsell asks. “I definitely had a bit of crisis when I stopped touring,” says Ellis. “We did 147 shows in a year. By the end of it you’re like, ‘I haven’t got a girlfriend any more, I dunno if any of my friends like me, and I’ve got a stoopid fucking haircut.’” He stops, appalled to hear himself whine about touring. “It’s not bad. But it definitely can be tricky.” Back in London they found themselves writing quickly. They Visions of a rock star life: only went to LA because they (clockwise from wanted to work with Justin Meldalleft) Theo Ellis Johnsen, admiring his productions ducks for cover, for The Raveonettes and M83. “We Portland’s Star like rock, indie, punk,” says Rowsell. Theater; Joel “But we also love highly polished Amey enjoys his hair; Ellie production – how do you make Rowsell and Joff guitar music sound like a massive Oddie load up pop song without it becoming too on the craic in sheeny?” Worried that going to LA Portland.
The roaring 20s: Wolf Alice, Star Theater, Portland, Oregon, 2017.
ed touring. We did 147 shows in a year. pp sto I en wh sis cri a d ha ly ite fin de “I y more, I dunno if any of an d ien lfr gir a t go ’t ven ha ‘I e, lik e u’r By the end of it yo f**king haircut.’” Theo Ellis id op sto a t go I’ve d an , me e lik s nd my frie will be seen as a cliché of rock excess, they stress their work ethic, recording six days a week for three months, though they got evicted from their rental home when a friend accidentally put a brick through their window. This time, they were more fearless as writers. “Knowing that bravery is better,” says Oddie. “It gets a positive reaction among us.” An attack like Yuk Foo would once have scared them, but this time it was a breakthrough. “It’s knowing no one’s gonna judge [Rowsell] for singing, ‘I wanna fuck all the people I meet,’” Oddie continues. “Well,” she says. “It’s being sure in yourself that no one has a right to judge you.” Written in an Ohio hotel room, it’s about expectations of her as a woman in a band, in society, as someone’s girlfriend, “a musical manifestation of an outburst of rage,” she laughs. Visions… is a big, brawny rock album, and Wolf Alice want it to take them “as far as no artistic compromise will get you,” says Oddie. They want to be headlining festivals alongside their peers, shoving the heritage acts from their comfortable perches. Tonight it takes them as far as the local Irish joint. Among Ellis’s tattoos is a wonky black rectangle on his right forearm. It looks like an unfinished Black Flag tribute. It’s actually a pint of Guinness, which glows “like Harry Potter’s fuckin’ scar” as they approach the pub. Last time they were in Seattle, a fan got arrested for shitting behind a bar. Bus call is at midnight to make an early radio session in Portland, so they’re having a quiet one. But trouble follows them. They’ve assumed responsibility for a friend who’s so wrecked she pukes on the floor, then staggers outside demanding a margarita. Rowsell and
Ellis bring water. They ring her dad, call her a taxi and take down the licence plate number in case. They call it a night. On the bus, Amey rues the state of his bunk. “I have too many keyboards in my bed. And five hats.” ortland stinks of hot piss. The stench swamps a car park opposite the Star Theater, where fans have been queuing since 9am. Two Vancouver teenagers on their first road trip have brought roses. Outside the bus, Ellis, topless, polishes his DMs, listening to The Germs on his phone. Mastering domestic tasks on tour is important to his sense of routine. The radio session was weird, Rowsell says – the host assumed she was Alice and the boys were her session musicians. She’s growing out a mullet that she got in LA and “instantly regretted”, though it suits her intense face. Onstage, she looks like she’d burn down your house, drawing power from the quiet moments in her performance as much as the fury. One to one, she’s clearly uncomfortable. Performing comes more easily than small talk, she says, hugging a cushion and twisting a scrap of ribbon in the back of the bus. Her dad would video their early shows, which she studied: “The only time I would ever cringe was if I really didn’t think I was being myself.” She’s cagey about the personal experiences behind the record. The gauzy epic St Purple And Green is about losing her gran to dementia; chiming opener Heavenward a tribute to a late friend. On Planet Hunter, she alludes to leaving her “mind behind in 2015.”
WOLF ALICE She explains, vaguely, that it’s about adapting to adult responsibilities and no longer being able to blame awkwardness on being a teenager. “You’re like, ‘Damn, I’m an adult and I still feel like this!’” She squirms with pride and discomfort when she says, “There’s something sexual” about After The Zero Hour, a dissonant, vocalstacked outlier. “It’s about a next step, breaking through one feeling and into another,” she says, then clams up until a comparison with Lorde’s Writer In The Dark piques her interest. “I really like her album because she’s broken up with her boyfriend and realised it was great. Sometimes there’s a bad association with writing break-up songs, but when I listen to that album, I think it’s important.” She won’t reveal whether Visions is about a break-up, but she relates to Lorde’s post-split euphoria. “It’s this age,” she says. “People go through break-ups in their early 20s because you’re changing and you can’t keep up with another person. These feelings would probably happen anyway, regardless of coming in and out of a relationship. Like, ‘I’ve got to cling on to being young and having fun, and getting as many experiences as I can. What am I going to think and write about when I’m older if this is supposed to be the funnest time of my life?’” The tour manager knocks and says it’s time for photos. The band do individual portraits against the Star Theater’s mangy velvet curtains, Oddie and Ellis vamping expertly. Q’s photographer asks Rowsell to put her tortoiseshell sunglasses on. “Inside?!” she baulks, and shakes her head. he band follow the photographer to a nearby antique shop, past dozens of rough sleepers. “How does the world’s biggest superpower have so many homeless people?” Oddie shakes his head. “The holes in the net are so big.” Wolf Alice have become activists. Last December, they organised Bands 4 Refugees, a series of charity concerts where they performed covers alongside mates including Swim Deep, Years & Years, Slaves and Peace. Rowsell fronted a Labour campaign video urging young people to vote. They played the Tories Out march in July. They’ve always been engaged, says Ellis, but maturity and national unrest – and witnessing this kind of poverty – inspired them to use their platform seriously. Bands often say they don’t want to speak out because they’re scared of making mistakes. Wolf Alice see it as a chance to learn, to reclaim politics for the people rather than intellectuals. “I think anyone that claims to know what they’re saying doesn’t
fucking know what they’re talking about a lot of the time,” says Oddie back on the bus. “If that’s the reason you don’t wanna help, then that’s gonna stay that way for a long time, if not forever,” says Rowsell. Ever-wary of seeming dogmatic, she says bands have an opportunity to speak out, rather than a responsibility. Lily Allen, Akala, Years & Years’ Olly Alexander and Owen Jones inform her social awareness, so she knows Wolf Alice might inspire others. “I’ve always been scared of politics because if you have an inkling something’s wrong but no one’s talking about it, you can be easily convinced you’re wrong,” she says, “so there’s strength in numbers: multiple artists coming together to stress what should be obvious.” They say their generation distrusts traditional media, especially the left’s dismissive attitude towards Jeremy Corbyn and his youth cult. “It’s togetherness,” says Oddie of the giddy phenomenon. “The left hasn’t been properly represented in years, so it’s a big thing that the left has a fucking voice again, and a real chance.” They start shouting over each other in excitement. “It’s so easy to be critical of people who are outwardly positive instead of trying to make a change,” says Amey. “You had your go, it’s called New Labour, it didn’t work!” Oddie adds. “That’s why it’s so good to get other people to be proud about it as well, so if we’re all going, ‘D’oh!’ at least we’re doing it together,” Rowsell shrugs happily. Hours before the Portland gig, the band are climbing the walls. The tour ends in two days. The fans’ roses are wilting. The bread is still out. Rowsell messes her sleek mullet until it explodes sideways. “I like it not slicked back,” says Ellis, which makes her flatten it. Paired with the cowboy boots, she thinks “it’s too throwback.” Tonight’s venue is big enough for fans to mosh properly. The band feared that the new album’s title track was too indulgent – a mini suite that goes from shredding to baroque metal and gothic chants – but the response is immediate. Afterwards, Ellis’s only regret is his undone white silk shirt. “It was so cock rock!” he says, appalled. “What am I, in Van Halen? Playing bass as well, what a wanker.” “Why does that make it worse?!” Rowsell asks. “Cos it’s not as hard as the guitar!” They head to another Irish pub for a nightcap. A traditional band are playing, and the four thump their glasses against the table and cheer. Wolf Alice are anxious to slow time and make these experiences last. Before they know it, the Visions Of A Life era will be over. Rather than live fast, die young, they’ve figured out the only way to deal with the future’s swift onset is to try to make it a better place.
“People go through break-ups in their early 20s because you’re changing and you can’t keep up with another person. Like, ‘I’ve got to cling on to being young. What am I going to write about when I’m older if this is supposed to be the funnest time of my life?’” Ellie Rowsell
Critical mass: (left) Ellie Rowsell makes her voice heard at the Tories Out march (right), London, 1 July, 2017.
Now, thatâ€™s a pair of trousers: Wolf Alice take in the sights, Portland, Oregon, 22 July, 2017.
THE ALBUMS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
LITTLE DRAGON THE SWEDISH ELECTRONIC POP COLLECTIVE ON THE RECORDS THAT SHAPED THEM.
Joni mitChell blue (rePrise, 1971)
Yukimi Nagano (vocals): “When I was 15 my mother moved to California while I was still living in Sweden, so she sent me this as a birthday gift. She wasn’t sure what to get me, so she gave me an album that she really loved. I listened to it every day, although at the time Joni was singing about things I didn’t quite understand yet. It reminded me of my mum when I listened to it, but it also opened up my imagination. I really appreciate that mum chose to share a piece of herself, instead of trying to understand me at a difficult age.”
the Jimi henDrix exPerienCe eleCtriC laDylanD (traCk, 1968) EB: “This album was in my parents’ record collection – they had the version with the naked girls on the cover, so for some reason when I was 11 I really wanted to listen to it! This album is so fantastic. Of course, there’s Hendrix, but Mitch Mitchell’s drumming is brilliant. He has a jazz orientation and the way he plays across a wide spectrum of songs is amazing. My favourite track is 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) – it’s progressive rock at its best! It was – and still is – a very powerful record for me.”
Jean-miChel Jarre Zoolook (Disques Dreyfus, 1984)
Erik Bodin (drums): “I guess it must have been when I was about nine years old that I started to get into a lot of music that my older sister was listening to – and she was ork hip-hop trio] De La Soul. really into [New York I particularly liked this album because it was like a cartoon. There was a story that ran throughout the album about some guys who found this mixtape and were listening along. I thought that was hilarious. De La Soul have a very creative way of building albums, which is a lot of fun. I even still like the skits.”
Håkan Wirenstrand (keyboards): “I remember seeing Jean-Michel Jarre play a live concert in Paris on television when I was about eight years old. I was so impressed by everything that was happening onstage that I bought this album. It introduced me to this world of synthetic, musical landscapes. It was the first time that he used samplers, so it’s a collage which blew me away. And him being French made it cool too. I’m not a fan of everything he’s done since, but he’s definitely a big hero of mine.”
D’angelo vooDoo (Cheeba sounD/D/virgin, 2000)
Donny hathaway live (atlantiC, 1972)
YN: “I really zoned into music in my early teens and this was an album that came up while I was studying at high school. The first time I heard it I got chills from his voice. It’s music that gives you a kind of anguish because it’s so good. I remember it messing with me, and thinking, ‘Who am I to want to be a musician?’ I was so mouldable. I felt like this piece of clay trying to find its shape, so I was both intimidated and inspired by D’Angelo. It’s so beautiful, poetic yet still political. His voice and the songs felt so deep.”
FW: “There’s something about live albums that I really like. People should do them more. The vibe with the crowd here is great – you really get the feeling from them how good the music is, and the bass solo on the last song, Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything), is the best bass solo I know. Little Dragon have not done a live album yet.” HW: “We had a digital recorder on tour with us for a few years, though.” FW: “Yeah, we did do some recordings so maybe we should release one. This should inspire us.”
John Coltrane a love suPreme (imPulse!, 1965)
Digable Planets blowout Comb (PenDulum, 1994)
Fredrik Wallin (bass): “When I was at high school I got into jazz from hearing Miles Davis played in record stores. Then I saw the cover of this. It’s so stylish and as I knew Coltrane through Davis, I bought it. It really hit me. It’s quite intense and it demands your attention because it’s a journey, every time. The bass builds and builds, then when the chanting comes in it’s – I don’t know what the word is in English – it’s just really cool, spiritual even. It’s an album you can put on when you’re with someone you really like… as long as they don’t hate saxophone.”
HW: “I’m from a rural part of Sweden so hip-hop came into my life very late. This was the only rap album our local record shop had. Listening to it was a totally new experience. Previously, I’d been listening to rock and this introduced me to funky grooves. I got a sense of big city life from it, but to begin with I didn’t get the lyrics because my English wasn’t great. Plus, as a kid I was into environmental issues so I was confused when they rapped about “the black power” and “the green power” on Jettin’. Now I get the whole picture. After this I was bored listening to plain rock.”
WORDS: PAUL STOKES PHOTO: ABE COLOMA
De la soul De la soul is DeaD (tommy boy, 1991)
They’ve got it covered: Little Dragon (from left) Håkan Wirenstrand, Fredrik Wallin, Yukimi Nagano and Erik Bodin, San Francisco, 11 August, 2017.
“D’Angelo gave me chills. I was intimidated and inspired by him.” Yukimi Nagano
TRICKY has spent his whole life running. From Bristol, from Massive Attack, from overwhelming solo success and the taxman. But on the cusp of 50, heâ€™s finally coming to terms with his legacy. ANDREW PERRY watches him tuck into bacon and eggs, and wonders whether the prickly Tricky Kid is finally mellowing. PHOTOGRAPHS: HOLLIE FERNANDO
NAME HERE In the hot seat: Tricky, Miranda bar, Ace Hotel, London, 4 August, 2017.
NAME TRICKY HERE “My attitude was, ‘I’m gonna turn music upside down.’” Tricky, London, 2017.
the most of a rare UK visit, Tricky has ordered a hearty fry-up at Shoreditch’s modish Ace Hotel. After stints living in Bristol, London, Manhattan, New Jersey and LA, the 49-year-old has based himself in Berlin since 2015, “eating good”, his personal trainer being his primary social contact. “I’ve been craving an English breakfast for a year,” he says, wide-eyed, downing a double espresso. It’s not yet 10am, am, and the peripatetic rapper/producer is intense company, more alert than the characteristically nocturnal figure he cuts on his latest LP, Ununiform. Tricky himself is, as ever, an elusive vocal presence on the record, skulking in the shadows behind a cast of guest singers, including Russia’s MC Scriptonite, Italian art-movie royalty Asia Argento, and his bluesy protégée, Francesca Belmonte. Also unexpectedly on board is Martina Topley-Bird. She was Tricky’s vocal foil on Maxinquaye, his 1995 solo debut, and the pair became parents to daughter Mazy during their brief relationship. It was a strange time for Tricky, as he became distrustful of the record’s international acclaim, thrust into an unstoppable machine. “When Mazy was only two weeks old,” he recalls, aghast, “she was in Asia with us on tour.” Tricky and Topley-Bird’s working association ended around 1998, though having a child together has kept them on good terms. He admits that she pushed him into collaborating again. “I’ve never been interested in doing it,” he says, “because I’ve always seen that as the past.” He eventually caved in, but hung on to that stubbornness, making her record her parts without letting her hear his. But when they slotted together with almost alchemical ease, it told him that perhaps they should work together again in the future. “But just because people want me to do it doesn’t mean anything,” he warns. As a rule, Tricky doesn’t do heritage, but there are further signs that his position may be softening on that score. He freely admits that another song on Ununiform, The Only Way, is a close cousin of Hell Is Round The Corner, a highlight of Maxinquaye. “It’s like me ripping myself off,” he laughs. “Even a couple of years ago, I would never have done that, but I’ve just realised how much of an influence I’ve been.”
not too far-fetched to suggest that Tricky’s creative restlessness and need to keep moving hark back to his upbringing. Born Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws in Bristol’s Knowle West, his first memory “is seeing my mother in a coffin, aged four,” he says as he tucks into sausage, bacon, beans and black pudding. His Jamaican father, Roy Thaws, had left the family home before he was born, leaving his Anglo-Guyanese
Tricky business: (above) reunited with Massive Attack’s Daddy G (left) and 3D, 2016.
mum, Maxine Quaye, to bring him up as a single parent. She died in uncertain circumstances, either eithe due to complications resulting from epilepsy, or by her own hand. “In those days, it was old school,” he recalls of her death. “You always had the person at home for a week or two before they were buried, so everyone from the family could come and see them. This was in my grandmother’s house in Barnstaple Road. [Mum] was next door to my room, so I used to go in there, get on a chair and look in.” In the years following the burial, he was passed around between his grandmother and various aunties. He got int into petty crime in his teens, and was soon serving time at HMP Brist Bristol in Horfield for buying counterfeit bank notes off a mate, who duly “grassed me up”. “I knew I’d end up there at some point,” he says. “My uncles have been there, my little brothers have been there, my friends have been there, my friends’ sons have been there.” He says sa he would have loved to emulate his uncles, who were “hardcore “hardcor dudes” whose bruising exploits afforded them a powerful local reput repute: one was murdered by a rival gang. A cousin went the same way. way But for Tricky, just a couple of months in prison was enough to deter him from ever going back. “The boredom of it was just insane,” he recalls with a visible shudder. “When you go in, you get fed first of all, and the food was fucking disgusting. It was like, fish, peas, some mashed potato, and I’m looking at it, and the guy next to me goes, ‘You ain’t gonna eat that?’ I goes, ‘Nah’. And he goes, ‘Can I have it?’ So I give it to him. I had a month or so, two months. I goes, ‘How long have you got?’ He says, ‘Two years’ – like it was two days, right? That mentality… “I never had no problems in there, no bullying or any of that,” he concludes. “It was a life choice – the boredom, the shit food, seeing how conditioned you can get in there. I just knew that wasn’t for me.” Emerging from Horfield, aged 17, he threw himself into clubbing his way around the country, funding his escapades by packing food for supermarket chain Iceland, and polishing brass panelling outside City buildings while squatting in King’s Cross. He never actively sought out a career in music-making, he says. Rapping, initially, was just “a buzz – like going to a squat party and smoking a spliff.” He’d scribble down words in advance, then grab the mic at mates’ all-nighters. He didn’t realise he was any good at it until Bristol’s Wild Bunch, which soon evolved into Massive Attack, spotted him at one such bash circa 1985, and invited him
“I KNEW I’D END UP [AT HMP BRISTOL] AT SOME POINT. MY UNCLES HAVE BEEN THERE. MY LITTLE BROTHERS HAVE BEEN THERE. MY FRIENDS HAVE BEEN THERE...”
TRICKY to join. He says he didn’t even know he was officially part of their crew until he saw his name on one of their posters, and despite historic evidence to the contrary, remains dismissive of his role in the group. addy] G,” says Tricky, “I was saying to him, “Last time I saw [Daddy ‘I was never really a member of Massive Attack’, and he goes, ‘What are you talking about? Of course you were!’ But they were taking it more seriously than me. I was still more interested in going to clubs with my mates, or checking out a reggae soundsystem that was over from Jamaica.” Even as Massive Attack took off and got signed, he fully lived up to the sobriquet he’d been apportioned in the Wild Bunch, as the Tricky Kid. “They even did a video called Where Is Tricky?,” he says with a grin, “because I wasn’t turning up for things.” He was virtually never present at interviews, often listed not as a core member, but as a “collaborator”. For Tricky, Massive Attack’s success was a matter of mere financial expediency: “I was getting paid a wage, and I didn’t have to work in Iceland or do anything dodgy.” Somewhat disparagingly, he describes group leader 3D, aka Robert Del Naja, as “ambitious, a planner, whereas I just fumble along.” That underestimates Tricky’s key contributions to the group’s early repertoire, including Daydreaming, from 1991 debut
Blue Lines, and Karmacoma from their second album, 1994’s Protection. But their partnership ended when Del Naja turned down a track he’d written, called Aftermath. “I had it for three years on a cassette,” he remembers, “and I played it to my cousin Misha – we’ve always been close, she’s like my mumslash-sister. I said, ‘Can you believe they don’t want it?’ And she goes, ‘Do it yourself, then.’” That suggestion fatefully coincided with two chance encounters. One day, while crossing the road to Misha’s house, he bumped into 16-year-old Martina Topley-Bird. He didn’t really know her, but on a whim asked if she would sing on Aftermath. Around the same time, he says, “this guy who sold weed comes up to me in a pub and says, literally, ‘If you ever wanna do anything, I’ll give you some money.’ So I got 500 quid off him, pressed up a white label, brought it to London, took it to some radio stations, and six weeks later I had a record deal.”
“I F**KING HATED IT, GETTING RECOGNISED, EVERYTHING... [MAXINQUAYE] WAS THIS MILITANT ALBUM, BUT IT’D GONE ALL COFFEETABLE.”
ex-girlfriend/ The odd couple: with Topleya rtin Ma tor ora collab ut album deb t) gh (ri Bird in 1995; same year. Maxinquaye, from the
for his mum, Tricky’s debut solo album, Maxinquaye, transformed him from a peripheral figure into Britain’s first truly credible rap artist. It was entirely his own vision, recorded in a home studio in Harlesden paid for by Island Records. “I wasn’t interested in being the richest dude on the planet,” he says, “or having the fucking top cars. My attitude was, ‘I’m gonna turn music upside down’ – a competitive hip-hop thing, like, ‘Nobody can fuck with me – I’m gonna make music that nobody’s ever heard before.’” There was, however, a curiously vulnerable side to his music, encapsulated in the interplay between TopleyBird’s haunted coo and Tricky’s mumbled anti-rapping, which was ostensibly a mask for his insecurity about his voice. “I didn’t think I was that good a vocalist,” he shrugs, “I always felt I needed a girl in front.” There was also a street reflex in there – a ducker-anddiver’s antipathy towards the spotlight. “Losing your anonymity is the worst thing that can happen to you,” he affirms, “and I think my music shows that. You see a lot of young artists today who think celebrity is part of the music, but to me the perfect arrangement would be to do your music, then disappear.” Not that that was possible in the mid-’90s, either. When Maxinquaye hit Number 3 on the albums chart, Tricky was thrust into a glare of publicity from which it would take him many years to recover. “My time was taken after that,” he groans, “and I fucking hated it, getting recognised, everything.” One night he went to see True Romance and was horrified when he heard rip-offs of his sound playing over the ads before the film. “It was this militant album,” he spits, “but it’d all gone coffee-table.” Tricky wasn’t enjoying himself. He’d interface with the media zonked on hydroponic skunk, swerving between funloving incoherence and surly passive-aggression. All his trauma and paranoia soon fed into his ensuing music. Island’s Chris Blackwell had encouraged him to inherit the rebel crown of the label’s late icon, Bob Marley. His next
Wearing his art on his sleeve: live at the 6Music Festival in Bristol, 2016.
move, though – a subdued collaborative record under the pseudonym Nearly God, featuring such unlikely guests as The Specials’ Terry Hall – was not what they were after. “No, it wasn’t,” he says with considerable relish, “but I had ’em by the fucking short-and-curlies!” Thus far, he’d only signed a makeshift deal. He recalls playing a show where one of Island’s top brass was in the crowd, urgently waving a full contract at him. Reading it backstage, he had a clause inserted that allowed him to shop any record Island refused to other labels – shrewd psychology, as Island weren’t about to let anyone else release a note of their hot crossover star’s music. At a meeting in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, he says they even offered him the producer’s job on U2’s Pop album. “Bono played me the demos,” he says, “and it was really good – as good as The Joshua Tree. I was like, ‘Look, you want me to put beats over it, but that’ll ruin it.’” He pauses. “If I’d known what I know now, I would’ve done it, because they weren’t looking for ‘better’, they were just chasing ‘new’. I could’ve done any shit, and they would’ve liked it. I turned down Madonna as well.” Instead, Tricky plumbed greater depths across two further claustrophobic and very “difficult” records of his own. “It was like, ‘You think you’re into my music? Well, let’s see if you’ll stay with this then’ – almost challenging people to stay with me.” Predictably, the majority drifted away.
enduring image of Tricky as a wild-eyed ruffian who smokes too much dates from those postMaxinquaye years, and is hard to reconcile with the charming, engaging presence mopping up bean juice today. At those late-’90s shows, he’d growl indecipherably on the mic, shaking his head manically as if having visions or a seizure. Unbeknown to him, he’d been suffering from a digestive disorder, candida, which brought on ferocious headaches and blackened his mood (ordering breakfast today, he scrupulously checks that his black pudding is gluten-free). Blackwell shocked him out of a spiritual black hole when he announced that he was selling Island. “Suddenly I didn’t know anybody at the label,” says Tricky. “And it was like my period was over.” Ever beneficent, Blackwell put him on to Californian alt-stable Epitaph/Anti-, who’d also taken on Tom Waits from Island’s roster. The association didn’t last, and after five years in the wilderness, he popped up unexpectedly at Domino with 2008’s Knowle West Boy. It wasn’t the best match, with bust-ups over a pairing with Suede’s Bernard Butler, and some overly proprietorial A&R-ing. “I’ve forgotten more than those people will ever know about making music,” he fumes. In his private life, he’d mercifully eluded the public gaze, initially OCTOBER 2017
TRICKY cooling his heels at a two-acre property in rural New Jersey. He had cash to burn and indeed he burnt it – “on my daughter’s school, and on a house for her mum, so they have their security” – but he soon regretted not keeping a tighter rein on his finances. “I don’t even know what happened to the house in New Jersey,” he confesses. “I remember living there for about seven years, then all of a sudden I was in LA – really, what happened to that house?” One year, he also managed to squander a staggering $200,000 200,000 on a chauffeur. the dawn of the 2010s, Tricky had to get pragmatic. Landed with a colossal bill from the IRS, he grudgingly signed up for Maxinquaye shows alongside Topley-Bird, causing outrage among fans expecting a straight rendition by inviting mates on to freestyle with him, “to kill the boredom.” “I don’t know anyone so mostly I’m by myself...”: Tricky, Shoreditch, London, 4 August, 2017.
In 2013, he signed with Berlin label !K7, who offered him his own imprint, the tellingly named False Idols. dols. Then he received a hefty tax bill from HMRC, so his first three albums were created in the shadow of debt repayments. yments. The new one, Ununiform, he says, “is the first one I’m not doing for the taxman.” It’s fittingly perverse that, now free of that burden, and enjoying the creative liberty of being his own boss, Tricky is finally inching back towards the kind of music that his long-suffering mid-’90s fanbase might actually want to hear, with Topley-Bird at his side. He’s also been visiting Bristol again, reconnecting with old mates, even guesting on Massive Attack’s 2016 Ritual Spirit EP. In Berlin, he lives an artist’s outsider lifestyle: “I see my trainer three times a week, and my manager Horst [Weidenmueller, CEO of !K77] occasionally. Otherwise, I don’t know anyone, so mostly I’m b myself, sitting outside, watching by ching people.” With a life balance that suits him, he’s furiously productive, and has just signed Vampire Diaries actor Kat Graham to his label. When We Die, that Topley-Bird collaboration, feels like a turning point in Tricky’s creative narrative. Latter-day albums such as 2010’s Mixed Race and 2014’s Adrian Thaws have loosely explored complex themes of identity and artistic self-realisation. The new track may sound gloomy, but for Tricky, it was a spiritual eureka moment. “It’s a conversation between me now, and the younger me,” he explains. “The young kid’s like, ‘What the fuck do I do now? My mum’s dead? Where do I go? I don’t die young, not like [uncle] Michael?’ So I’m saying back, ‘Nah, it’s gonna be alright. You’ll end up going on tour, travelling round. It’s all gonna be good.’” There’s more conflict in his past than most will ever experience, but at last Tricky seems close to reconciling with it.
“I DON’T EVEN REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED TO MY HOUSE IN NEW JERSEY. I WAS LIVING THERE FOR ABOUT SEVEN YEARS... REALLY, WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT HOUSE?”
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MY NEW YORK IS INTERPOL
To mark its 15th birthday, InTerpol are currently playing their debut album, Turn on The Bright lights, from start to finish in arenas around the world. In our second extract from lIzzy Goodman’s meeT me In The BaThroom, we hear about the recording of that epochal record, and about how its success sent the band on safari through new york’s unhinged, hedonistic nightlife. 46
Leading lights: Interpol (from left, Sam Fogarino, Daniel Kessler, Carlos Dengler, Paul Banks) arrive in style, 2002.
Cast of Characters Paul Banks: frontman, Interpol Sam Fogarino: drummer, Interpol Daniel Kessler: guitarist, Interpol Sarah Lewitinn: journalist, blogger, DJ Jenny Penny: scenemaker Moby: DJ, musician Thomas Onorato: doorman, Motherfucker, Tiswas, Misshapes Nils Bernstein: publicist, Matador Records Rob Sheffield: journalist Joe Levy: journalist Marc Spitz: journalist Anthony Rossomando: guitarist, Dirty Pretty Things Jason Baron: founder, The Darkroom Karen Ruttner: publicist, manager, DJ
The sky’s the limit: Interpol in New York, 2004; (inset, right) their 2002 game-changing debut album, Turn On The Bright Lights.
Paul Banks: Carlos didn’t want to be out of the city. Sam Fogarino: Peter soon came up with a very simple phrase: “Shut the fuck up, Carlos.” Everybody took it in good stride, even Carlos himself. Paul Banks: That wasn’t because he hated nature. Carlos would go camping before he was a city guy. He had dreadlocks and was kind of hippy, but his social life was very important to him. He didn’t want to miss out on his social life. So it was more like, “Can I bring this girl to the studio, then, if we’re going to stay the night?” or “Can I go back to the city and come back tomorrow for the session?” And he did, he brought girls. He had his cake and ate it too. Sam Fogarino: Did we need to get the hell out of the city? Totally. In the city there were too many distractions. Everything was in close range, be it alcohol or cocaine or girls. Daniel Kessler: Most of the songs that are on the demos ended up on the first record.
Sam Fogarino: Daniel was fretting over how long things were taking because that’s what he did and that’s what he does. And there was a couple of creative arguments, but nothing out of the norm. Paul Banks: I was a big fan of the music we were doing, felt like that couldn’t be fucked with, but I had my issues with my vocals. The first time we ever did a demo I said to Carlos, “Dude, I feel like I should sing PDA an octave up because my voice sounds fucking weird.” I don’t identify my voice as being that bass-y. That baritone that I’m known for? It was, “Where the fuck did that come from?” I was not a fucking singer at all when the band started. I wanted to emulate how we sounded in the rehearsal spaces, but when you get into a good studio and it’s like a fucking spit guard and a $5000 microphone, it’s pristinely clear. So when we did that record, I was just drunk a lot. I was on scotch, because it was wintertime. If it was summer it would have been vodka.
aul Banks: We recorded Turn On The Bright Lights at Tarquin Studios in Connecticut, with Peter Katis. Sam Fogarino: Peter and I had known kno each other for a couple years already. He had built this studio in the attic of his Fairfield mansion. We were going to all these studios that were really small and I just didn’t feel it. I finally said, “My friend Peter has this mansion and a really good recording facility. We could probably get it done under budget.” And it all worked out. Paul Banks: The studio is a big, old… I don’t know if you’d call it Victorian, a few-hundredyear-old house that was once a mental hospital for kids. The whole top floor is a studio. So you just come and live with Peter as a band and make your record. Sam Fogarino: We all had our own rooms and I did a lot of cooking for everybody. We’d take runs to the supermarket and smoke a lot of pot. Paul Banks: I don’t think I ever did drugs at Pete’s house. Maybe just weed. Sam Fogarino: I cooked lots of pasta. I’m of Sicilian blood, so if I can’t do that I get a demerit.
Sam Fogarino: He was just insecure about his voice. Nobody else felt that way. Paul Banks: One thing that pissed the band off was when we did Obstacle 2, the “I’m gonna pull you in close” line. I did something that’s totally unconventional. We recorded my vocal with distortion on. Whereas, like, every other producer for every other song ever, it’s like, “Just sing it clean, so we can have options, and then I’ll put distortion on.” I said, “No. No one should ever hear it that way. Print the distortion on my vocal, and this is the vocal take.” Later, when they heard the vocal, Carlos said, “Can you turn the distortion down?” And Peter told them, “Nah, there is no turning the distortion down. That’s the vocal.” Carlos was pissed [off]. Sam Fogarino: Paul has this thing, going back to how he would describe the most simplistic drum beats in a very complicated and detailed way – that’s how Paul operates. It doesn’t matter if he’s not speaking the
“all of a sudden this song starts playing and I’m like, ‘oh my God, this is an Interpol song on Friends.’ It was so confusing.” thomas onorato
themselves, but he refused. It was like, “I don’t care if you don’t understand me. This is how I want it done. Figure out a way to understand me.” So at that point the record was done and three songs that would end up on the next album, Antics, were already written. We recorded ecorded …Bright Lights and finished it and it was mixed, and we had some downtime before we started really doing anything. And I remember Daniel saying that we really need to seize this downtime because as soon as we start hitting the road it’s going to be that typical thing: you have your whole life to write that first record and six months to write the next. So we took that energy from being in the studio and recording this record and went right back into the rehearsal space. Then we went on the road for a year and a half. Daniel Kessler: All I ever wanted to do was make a record. When we started doing our first tour and selling out, I wasn’t even shocked as much as it was happening too fast. It was nothing I expected or thought would happen or even hoped would happen; my dream had already happened, in a way. Sarah Lewitinn: I remember, one time, when, like, Interpol’s first album came out, their manager, Brandon, came over with a friend. We were just doing tons of cocaine and listening to the Interpol album. Brandon was so in love with the band and couldn’t believe what a wordsmith Paul Banks was. I remember him just feeling this sense of pride for Paul about this one line, “Don’t waste wine when there’s words to sell…” We were on the roof of the building, looking out at New York, talking about how gorgeous the album was. This was before the development of the Lower East Side. The Lower East Side was still short. It literally had not grown up yet. And the sun was coming up. It was just the perfect New York album. My New York is Interpol.
You Could SaY We Had No ruleS Part 2:
Interpol’s Untitled soundtracks Joey and Rachel’s clinch on Friends in 2003.
language; he doesn’t care. What he wants to get done has to get done. He knew what was right, even if there was a little bit of a lack of confidence; aesthetically he knew what he was going for and he was dead-on. A lot of people would give in if they couldn’t explain
Jenny Penny: Interpol were just so crazy good. I’d sometimes just sit by the sound booth and cry. You even knew at the time that it was super special. You knew, “This is amazing.” Moby: Maybe a year after The Strokes broke, an old friend of mine from Connecticut, Peter Katis, played me a record he had just made by some band called Interpol. He said, “Oh, you might like this, because you like Joy Division.” I listened to it and said, “This is really good.” Then they blew up. Thomas Onorato: Interpol were hometown favourites, then, all of a sudden they have a OCTOBER 2017
Call us David: hanging with Messrs Byrne and Bowie, Madison Square Garden, New York, 2003.
a show, a show where they would play this super-fucking-mellow, dramatic rock. Art rock. It had none of the stasis and stagnation of art-rock but all the pomposity and pretension. I mean, it cannot be said often enough that they put out their debut album and the first song on it was called Untitled. Thank you very much. This is a historic level of ego. It’s like, “Wow, this is some serious poser shit,” and it was part of the appeal of the music. Joe Levy: Interpol is not a New York band, for me. They dabble at international sound, and it’s why their sound comes from a British band as opposed to one out of New York. Nils Bernstein: I never thought they sounded like Joy Division. I never got that and I still don’t. Marc Spitz: I know first-hand that you don’t want to ask Interpol about sounding like Joy Division. They will tell you that they don’t sound like Joy Division and their fans will tell you that they don’t sound like Joy Division… but they sound a bit like Joy Division. Paul Banks: What used to be upsetting to me was, if I were to die, my obituary would mention Joy Division. It was like, “I’ve got to just put enough work behind me so that the New York Times is not going to mention this fucking guy Ian Curtis in my fucking obit.” Daniel Kessler: I get the whole, “Oh, it’s
a cross between this and that.” I get it. The whole post-punk thing but what’s frustrating is it’s something you’re baptised with. You’re wearing it around your neck. Paul Banks: It just feels dismissive. But I also look at it as “boo-hoo. The world didn’t give you a fucking blow job for the first thing you did.” People focus a lot on the superficial aspects of the band, like fashion and shit, and I don’t want to even perpetuate that thing by talking about my bitterness. Rob Sheffield: Boy, they were good. They were really good. Sam Fogarino: I think a lot of it – the increase in partying – had to do with the bus. It symbolised upward movement. We weren’t in a van any more. That meant the venues were getting a little bit bigger and people were really catching on. It wasn’t for nothing. We didn’t just decide, “Well, let’s get a bus and go into debt.” Business-wise it all made sense on paper. And that’s when I started noticing that I didn’t have to move a muscle. It became easier to meet people; the party would just gravitate toward us. Jenny Penny: Fans would always invite them over to a house or one of their hotel rooms. The most fun was when we went to the Midwest and someone would invite us to some huge house in the middle of nowhere, and give you any drugs you wanted. And beer.
GETTY, JENNY PENNY, KAREN RUTTNER, PHOTOSHOT
song on Friends. Do you remember that? I was at a friend’s house who was watching the next-to-last-episode of Friends where one of them professed their love to another one… Sarah Lewitinn: Joey to Rachel! I only watched that episode for that moment. Thomas Onorato: …all of a sudden this song starts playing, and I’m like, “Oh my God, this is an Interpol song on Friends!” I was so confused. But obviously it was good for them. Nils Bernstein: After Turn On The Bright Lights came out, everything ramped up. Daniel Kessler: We went back out on the road, in the UK at first. It wasn’t like we had a smash radio single, but we had a song getting played at certain times of day on radio stations. Rob Sheffield: Before I saw them live I was already a fan. I didn’t know they were such handsome bastards. I was like, “What the fuck? Who are these dudes in the Dolce & Gabbana suits? Can’t they leave anything for dorky dudes? They sound like this and they’re hot dudes that are well dressed? Fuck them.’” Paul Banks: You know the guy in Pavement playing Letterman in shorts? That’s not because he forgot he was doing Letterman that day, you know? All bands think about what they wear. Rob Sheffield: The suits were another anti’90s thing. They were dressing up and doing
INTERPOL Let’s party: at London’s Dengler Colum Hotel, 2003 bia , “the grand with w of enablers izard ” Jason Baron (cen tre).
Kessler and Banks, Cardiff Barfly, 2002.
There was this girl who hung around, Alexis, who we all agreed was the most insane person on the entire planet. One time we were in this car, on the way to some party at someone’s house in San Diego, and when we got there she goes, “Oh my God, Jenny, I did something really bad. I peed my pants.” So we go to this house party and she pushed me into this room and locked the door and went through some girl’s closet. She pulled out a jean skirt, put her pee-soaked pants in a plastic bag, put on the girl’s jean skirt, and we went to the party. Daniel Kessler: I guess you could say we had no rules. Paul Banks: Carlos and I were the guys who partied. Daniel was always a little more measured. Daniel Kessler: They had a sort of libertine way about them. Self-preservation was not on their agenda. They were out for, “What does the night have to offer?” I didn’t pursue debauchery quite like they did. But while we were touring, I had a lot of fun; it was a really nice time meeting people, going out, touring the world, travelling, going to this bar and that bar, getting drunk. Sam Fogarino: I just remember getting on that bus and thinking, “This could end tomorrow. I’m just going to savour this in every possible way.” Anthony Rossomando: For every scene, there’s always someone who is creative, who’s not a musician or player; he’s creating an atmosphere where people come together and get high and listen to great music and have really long, involved discussions that they don’t remember about really personal things. For this scene, Jason Baron was that guy. Paul Banks: Jason photographed Interpol in London.
h nny (wit Jenny Pe ol were rp te : “In Dengler) o crazy good.” just s
“Carlos’s social life was very important to him. It was like, ‘Can I bring this girl to the studio, then, if we’re going to stay the night?’ And he did, he brought girls. He had his cake and ate it too.” Paul Banks Jason Baron: It was right before the album came out. Interpol was the first band I ever shot – for NME. Paul Banks: Carlos and Jason hit it off, and then I would tag along with those guys. Jason just knew how to party. Jason Baron: We became friends very quickly. We had a lot in common. Sarah Lewitinn: I’m trying to think how I first met Jason. There was a hotel room? Interpol were there? He was friends with Carlos? Let’s be clear, a lot of people met because of cocaine. Paul Banks: Then he moved to New York
You are feeling very sleepy… Carlos Dengler, Irvine, 2003.
and opened the Darkroom, the biggest and most amazing party scene of that era. He single-handedly made that happen. Jenny Penny: After Darkroom opened, that’s all it was, just Darkroom, all the time. Jason Baron: I came over to New York for a friend’s wedding with a carry-on piece of luggage and just stayed. When anyone from New York would go overseas, they’d be the last people standing. So all over the world, the thought was, “Those people are crazy! Let’s go to their city, and when we go to their city, we’re going to be crazy, too.” When people would come to New York from anywhere else in the world, I was kind of the point man if you wanted to get in trouble. I was an excuse for a lot of break-ups. Anthony Rossomando: The stories I have from the Darkroom with Jason… fuck. It was called the Darkroom, and darkness descended, my friend. Jenny Penny: You’d go every night. You’d get a drink upstairs, a double of something, and go straight to the basement, and just see who showed up. Jason also lived upstairs, so there was that. Jason Baron: You develop a lot of new friends really fast in New York. I guess there’s an international degenerate underground. OCTOBER 2017
INTERPOL Anthony Rossomando: Jason was an excellent host and the grand wizard of enablers. He was constantly just like, “Let’s do this, take this upstairs, what about these two? Yeah, she’s hot…” Jason Baron: Honestly, I could abstain from sex for, like, 10 years and still be proud. Sarah Lewitinn: We all lost years of our life in that place. Anthony Rossomando: It was like swimming in a pool of cocaine; it was just diving into a sea of white. Jason Baron: One of the funniest ones is that Australian band, Jet. I get a phone call from one of them and they’re like, “Have you seen our singer?” I’m like, “No.” They’re like, “He’s in your bar.” I go downstairs, and this dude is just chilling there. They’re supposed to be in DC opening up for Oasis in 15 minutes. He’s like, “What’s up, bro?” Anthony Rossomando: Yes, it was dirty, but you’d also have emotional heart-tohearts in there with people that you’d only see in that room. I only saw Paul Banks there. I think Paul lived under Jason’s couch. I also think that Paul had clean sweaters waiting for him there. Jenny Penny: Paul always wore extra layers. Anthony Rossomando: I looked awful, I was dirty, I had shit under my nails. But Paul! He’d have this sweater tied around his neck like fucking James Spader – James Spader of the music scene. Paul Banks: Anthony who? Anthony Rossomando: It was more wild than other bars. At those other places, you still had to go to the bathroom to take drugs, or the kitchen, the weird room. The Darkroom was more… community based. No one was too possessive about their drugs. There was an abundance. Jason Baron: The first week we were open The Libertines had the after-party for their Bowery show at Darkroom. I gave those dudes a couple of free beers and they didn’t leave for a week. Jenny Penny: I’d come home at 10am every day. I would just go home and take whatever
“At that age, I felt my only way of accessing real things was in a dark room late at night where drugs are involved.” Paul Banks
sunglasses around. Talk about being prepared for the inevitable… Paul Banks: Jason and I became close, close friends. I loved spending time with him. Jason Baron: Me and Paul would be hanging out, watching Saturday Night Live, and he’d be like, “Yeah, I like that band,” and 20 minutes later, that band would show up at the bar. Paul Banks: I was like a fixture in his apartment from four am to six am. Jason Baron: Then there was Bushie. Paul Banks: Bushie is amazing. He was a coke dealer who would beat people up… and play street ball and wear awesome sneakers. He was so fashion-forward. He would be wearing neon windbreakers. He was like a male counterpart of M.I.A., but way earlier; that’s how ahead he was in terms of fashion. Jason Baron: Paul and I would be at my place playing chess, and I’d go knock on Bushie’s door, just to see what he was up to. Bushie would open the door buck naked. Just this little white dude buck naked with 18 girls behind him, piles of drugs everywhere, and he’d be like, “You want some?”
“It was more wild than other bars...” Darkroom, in New York’s Lower East Side, where Interpol and the city’s movers and shakers would visit.
sleeping pills someone had given me. I’d put on a movie in my bedroom and try to sleep. I had a blanket nailed to my wall to block out any sunlight, and my roommate was always leaving for work or something. Paul Banks: I’d wake up around two. Or when I’m really rolling, five pm, six pm. Coffee, then maybe Bloody Marys before coffee or right after coffee, then beers in the early afternoon. And then maybe pool after dinner. Then, from playing pool, Whiskey Ward to Max Fish for more pool, and then Darkroom until close, and after that, Jason’s place until six, when I would try and get back to my girlfriend at what I thought was a respectable hour, rather than go to the full 11 am. Anthony Rossomando: I remember sharing sunglasses with Paul a couple of times. Somebody was keeping some spare cheap
THANKS TO MARK POWELL FOR LIGHTS/PHOTO RIGHT
“After the album came out, everything ramped up...” (left) onstage in Los Angeles, 5 October, 2003; (far left) backstage in LA, the same year, with touring keyboardist Eric Altesleben (far left).
Paul Banks: I remember one day when he came down from his apartment upstairs to supply the party at Jason’s, wearing just sneakers and a T-shirt. He was bending over, you know, balls out, and I don’t think he was aware that he had no pants on. He was just gone. Karen Ruttner: There was a story that went around that Axl Rose showed up in the apartment one night. Jason Baron: Yeah. He did. This was prekitsch, cool-again Axl, this is Axl with corn rows, before Chinese Democracy. I was hanging out – I think Paul had just left – and I was just sitting there with some people when someone’s like, “I’m bringing Axl by.” I’m like, “Fuckin’ alright,” and the dude came by. He had the tight curls. He was wearing hip-hop clothes. He kept going, “Yo, you want to hear the CD?” talking about Chinese Democracy. I convinced him my CD player didn’t work. He was the last one out, shaking beers in my apartment. Paul Banks: I always had an inclination toward that world. When you go out and it’s
Still turning it on: Interpol revisit their debut LP live in Budapest, Hungary, 15 August, 2017.
late, you’re seeing something that’s more real. You’re seeing people loosened up. Loose around the edges. And real crazy shit can happen. People get into real fights, and people get fucked up. At that age, I felt my only way of accessing real things was in a dark room late at night where drugs are involved.
■ Meet Me In The Bathroom: Rebirth And Rock And Roll in New York City 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman, published by Faber, is out now. OCTOBER 2017
ocated 400 miles east of Moscow, Minsk in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus doesn’t regularly crop up on many UK acts’ touring itineraries. Conscious of the fact that an English rock group might be at a loss for things to do in the country, a thoughtful local promoter sent Everything Everything a list of a hundred things to do in Belarus compiled by the national tourist board. At a loose end between sound check and show time? Take part in a traditional potato harvest. Unhappy with your hotel? Spend the night in a hayloft instead. Want to get those social media numbers up? Take a two-and-ahalf-hour drive to the condensed milk monument in Rogachev to have a photo taken with a can of the stuff. “One of them was to get up at 5am to listen to the birds singing,” notes drummer Michael Spearman with a puzzled expression. “That was literally it. I mean, surely you can do that anywhere?” Due to time constraints, the condensed 54
milk monument will have to wait for now. Instead, today’s pre-show sight-seeing trip takes in futurist memorial The Mound Of Glory, the eternal flame located in the capital’s Victory Square and a visit to Solidarity – a 60-foot-high bronze relief depicting heroes of the socialist revolution that now sits incongruously on top of a branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken. As they get out of their van and pose for photos in matching stage outfits, a huge crowd suddenly disembarks from the nearby subway station. Even though the band are headlining a festival a few hundred metres down the road in a couple hours and are literally standing next to a poster advertising the fact, no one bats an eyelid. “The curiosity around these sort of shows is reason enough for us to do it. Plus, we always like playing in front of people who might not know us,” reasons bassist Jeremy Pritchard of the decision to break their Belarusian duck. “We have no idea what to
everything everything name here
Move on up: Everything Everything (from left, Jonathan Higgs, Michael Spearman, Jeremy Pritchard, Alex Robertshaw) at the Mound Of Glory war memorial, near Minsk, 30 July, 2017.
“Where is everyone?” Everything Everything take a breather at Dreamland Amusement Park, Minsk, 30 July, 2017.
expect from the show, will anyone know any of our songs?” It’s an adventurous move for a band who have just released their fourth album, A Fever Dream, and announced a 10,000-capacity show at Alexandra Palace back home, yet the situation feels like a fittingly bizarre juxtaposition for Everything Everything. Since forming in Manchester in 2006, the quartet have delighted in hurling disparate elements together into their own hyperactively eclectic hybrid. A frenetic splurge of guitars, robotic R&B and euphoric choruses over which singer Jonathan Higgs delivered tongue-twisting, and frequently impenetrable, lyrics in a garbled falsetto. Against a backdrop of indistinguishable landfill indie rock, absurdist references to 56
Faraday cages and the configuration of laptop keyboards heralded a welcome return of intellect and ambition. Or, for some, marked them out as a bunch of smart-arses. “It’s incredibly lazy when people hear something that isn’t totally bland bollocks and go, ‘Oh, it’s boffin rock,’” recalls Higgs, bristling at the mention of some of their early criticism. “What kind of stupid fucking term is boffin rock? What, because we don’t sing about getting pissed? Fuck off and listen to The Pigeon Detectives if that’s what you’re after. If that’s what it takes to get labelled as ‘brainy’. If you put one finger out of the helicopter door, immediately you’re like, ‘God knows, Einstein…’” He catches himself and cools down. “Some people might not want to think about things when they experience art,
but that’s what we do and if you like it come and have a listen. You can experience Everything Everything on a physical level too and just enjoy the tunes. I dare say a lot of people can’t even tell what I’m saying because I sing in that stupid voice.”
HHH hen they’re not admiring Soviet war memorials or bamboozling casual listeners with Dadaist wordplay, Everything Everything like to while away the empty hours that accompany life on the road watching films about other bands. The stoned
pomposity of Pink Floyd’s Live At Pompeii has been a recent source of hilarity, as has a 2006 television documentary detailing ’90s boyband East 17’s doomed attempt at a reunion. Another tourbus perennial is Some Kind Of Monster, Metallica’s borderline Spinal Tap document of internal strife and group therapy sessions. “We’ve watched that about 50 times,” admits Spearman. “Every time you watch that film it becomes slightly less funny,” adds Pritchard. “You think, ‘Shit, I’m starting to recognise certain things…’” There wasn’t a documentary film crew shadowing Everything Everything when they made their third album, 2015’s Get To Heaven. If there had been, they wouldn’t have captured much mirth judging by the way the band talk about the period. When touring for previous LP, Arc, came to an end, for the first time they were faced with an empty diary and nothing to think about other than what their next record was going to be. In this vacuum, Higgs found (Left) Third LP Get To Heaven (2013); (below) “Who’s for chicken nuggets, then?” East meets West at the Solidarity relief in Minsk city centre.
himself sucked into an obsession with rolling 24-hour news. Having been on medication for depression since the making of Arc, overloading his brain with stories about Isis, mass shootings and impending global doom dragged him into a downward spiral. “They fed each other. The more I got into it, the worse I felt, so the more I got into it,” recalls the singer. “The catharsis was trying to get it out into music and that fuelled me to get into it even more. All I was thinking day to day was about this stuff and being like, ‘Well, I’ve got to write a song…’ My head was full of this awful shit so it fed off me and I fed off it. It became an all-consuming feeling.” The lyrics Higgs brought to the table for Get To Heaven plunged head-first into such heavy vibe subjects as the mindset of suicide bombers, the rise of the far right and the beheading of aid worker Alan Henning in 2014. Both rightly concerned about their friend’s mental wellbeing and mindful of the fact that they could be about to make the mother of all downer records, his bandmates’ response was to write a set of hugely melodic, danceable bangers. “I was really worried about Jon. He wasn’t very well in terms of how much he was being affected by what was going on and the lyrics reflect that,” recalls guitarist and co-songwriter Alex Robertshaw. “A lot of the positivity in the music was my way of trying to balance that out. I was literally writing that stuff because I was worried that we were about to make the most depressing, horrific album of all time.” “Alex was talking about Cyndi Lauper and all these sugary things and I was boiling away watching terrorists behead people and thinking, ‘Fuuuuuuck!’ But the juxtaposition of the two was great,” adds Higgs brightly. “We didn’t think ahead like that. We just did what we did. Some of the lyrics the guys didn’t even hear until I was in the booth.” He leans over with an impish grin, “…and they couldn’t stop me. ‘Sorry guys!’ Locks the door. [mimes shouting to producerr] ‘Press record!’ ‘Jon! No!!!’” In person, Jonathan Higgs isn’t the brooding presence his brow-furrowing lyrics might suggest. Thoughtful, yes, though he’s quick to deflate too much self-analysis with a jolt of candid, self-deprecating humour. Growing up in an isolated village in OCTOBER 2017
Eastern promises: Everything Everything headline Minsk’s FSP Festival, 30 July, 2017; (inset, below) new album A Fever Dream.
Cumbria 20 miles away from the nearest secondary school, Higgs always felt like an outsider. A guitarist who as a teenager refused to play chord sequences on the grounds that other people had already played them, for him, music offered a space where he could revel in his own weirdness. Exhibit A: a recently discovered cassette of original songs recorded with a keyboard when he was just seven years old. “There’s this great one on there called Spaceship Crash In Deathland, which is this siren going off, all these weird chords and then at the end I press down on all the keys at once so it went, ‘Boooooosh!’ like an explosion going off. It was awesome.” That sounds like it could be an Everything Everything song... “Well, exactly. Am I not ploughing the same furrow all these years later?” Everything Everything’s latest album A Fever Dream is the sound of a band settling into their idiosyncrasies, while relaxing some of the rules they’d previously forced upon themselves. Adamant that they couldn’t repeat the psychological toll of Get To Heaven, songs were started collaboratively 58
while they were still on tour. The result is a record that rather than being diverse for diversity’s sake, weaves its constituent parts into a more coherent whole. Lyrically, while it still explores the gloomy events foreshadowed on their last record, this time around Higgs casts himself as a perplexed observer to the nightmarish realities of Trump and Brexit. Quick to poke fun at the ridiculousness of it all rather than wag a finger at the listener. “Everywhere you turn there’s a strong opinion about everything. I didn’t want to be another braying, boring person with the same
“Any chance of a beer?” Jonathan Higgs attempts to flout the FSP Festival’s “no-alcohol” policy.
JusT soME of THE THIngs To ExpErIEncE, accordIng To THE BElarus naTIonal TourIsT Board. H Try to solve a Rubik’s Cube in Gomel, which is as tall as a human. H Twist cornflowers into a wreath. H Take photos next to a can of condensed milk at the condensed milk monument in Rogachev. H Buy Belarusian linen clothes to feel better in the summer heat. H Wake up at 5am and listen to morning birds’ trills in the forest. H Spend the night in a hayloft. H Feel like a midget next to the five-metre Gulliver sculpture in the Dreamland park of sculptures.
H Take part in the traditional potato harvest in the autumn. H Walk down “sobriety alley” in the township of Mosar in the Vitebsk Region being sober. H Get rid of stress by spending a night on beehives in one of the farmsteads in Belarus. H Take a photo with the tank in the homeland of the legendary game World Of Tanks. H Dance for two days in a row at the summer festival Freaky Summer Party!
view as 60 million other people,” he reasons. “I’d much rather sing about what it’s like to live in a world that’s so full of opinions.” Though he admits to a brief period spent trying to reason with belligerent alt-righters in online forums, Higgs says he’s learnt the importance of switching off and focusing on the personal relationships that actually matter on a day-to-day basis. It’s evidently done him and his band the world of good. “Things are actually a lot worse now, but I don’t get into stuff in the same way. I don’t let it get to me,” he ponders. “Maybe I’m just bitter and hardened now.”
HHH riving on site later that evening, any worries tonight’s audience might not be entirely au fait with their back catalogue have been replaced with the knowledge that the festival Everything Everything are about to headline is alcohol-free. Having enjoyed yed a couple of lagers with the others before heading out, OCTOBER 2017
In your honour: at the Mound Of Glory war memorial, near Minsk, 30 July, 2017.
penultimate track No Reptiles, they’re utterly transfixed and screaming for an encore. This is a song, bear in mind, about terrorists whose emotional climax is the line: “It’s alright to feel like a fat child in a pushchair.”
Pritchard is shaking his head in disbelief. “We can’t be more half-cut than the audience, it’s not right.” Taking place at the Dreamland Amusement Park, Minsk’s annual Freaky Summer Party offers plenty of alternatives to all-day drinking. There’s a jam market, a dog show, ramps where BMX daredevils gamely hurl themselves into the adjacent river and a configuration of three empty shipping containers where “DJ Gary” is playing UK garage hits with his turntables balanced on top of a stack of wooden pallets. Despite Robertshaw’s repeated requests to be allowed
inside, the bizarre upside-down house next to the stage remains locked and off-limits. Judging by the number of people singing and cheering the opening bars of certain singles once the show begins, Everything Everything are by no means playing to a crowd of complete strangers in Minsk, but it is apparent that the majority of those tentatively swaying along are drawn there out of curiosity rather than any particular fan allegiance. Yet as the show progresses, you can see them getting more and more into it. There’s a mass rush to the front during Regret’s clipped tango and by the time of
arlier in the day, Higgs was expanding on the pitfalls of commenting on the current climate as a songwriter. “The very political bands don’t know what to do with themselves. Like Arcade Fire, I would have thought it would have been bang up their street, but they’ve managed to cock it up in an incredible way. It’s like they’ve blown a fuse,” he notes of the more clunky polemic on the Canadians’ latest album. “You can’t possibly keep up with this thing that’s happening. All I can do is stand on the side and go, ‘Hey, wanna have a hug?’” We live in troubling times. Though it was a torturous journey to get there, Everything Everything appear to have found their own way to make some sense out of it.
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For many years, THE NATIONAL existed in a permanent state of conflict. But gradually, the two sets of brothers and their dominant singer have learned which buttons they can press and which to leave well alone. LAURA SNAPES joins the group at their seventh albumâ€™s grand unveiling and in their studio in Upstate New York to hear about their new equilibrium.
Home comforts: The National (from left, Bryce Dessner, Scott Devendorf, Matt Berninger, Bryan Devendorf, Aaron Dessner) at the bandâ€™s Long Pond Studio, Stuyvesant, New York, 15 July 2017.
In the zone: Matt Berninger ponders the big issues.
he National have touring whiplash. This summer they’ve y’ve been putting themselves through the ringer, ringe bouncing between giant festival stages – such as Glastonbury, where they played second on the Pyramid Stage to the Foo Fight ighters – and the kind of dive bars that they left behind after their 2005 breakthrough, ough, Alligator. A few days before Glastonbury onbury, they were at a small club in Paris. On a violently hot weekend nd in mid-July, they’re in Upstate New York, throwing a unique festival for 700 fans at Basilica Hudson, former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur a 19th-century factory that forme turned into an alternative rnative arts venue in 2010. udson is imposing and dilapidated, like a cathedral Basilica Hudson that’s gone to seed. A tree grows through a tall window, the ground is scrubby, and unluckier leftovers from the town’s whaling industry lie abandoned towards the water. Trains sail through the grounds, their horns blaring eerily. The National have called this weekend’s event Guilty Party after a single from Sleep Well Beast, which they’ll perform in full. The unfinished environment suits the event, and the ruined grandeur of the band’s sound – they’re still working out how to play some of the new material. The National could be taking it easy, coasting around arenas as they prepare to release their seventh album, Sleep Well Beast. Their upcoming world tour is sold out. Their last album, 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me, hit Number 3 in the US and the UK, and was Grammy-nominated for Best Alternative Music Album. Until 2010’s High Violet, they were pegged as slow-burners, masters of tense, elegant rock records that slowly revealed their charms and spread like a secret. But these days, they’re rock stars happily underselling themselves. “Our sense of chemistry definitely dates
from when we played tiny, tiny clubs,” guitarist and pianist Bryce Dessner explains. “There’s always a sense of bands growing bigger and bigger, it’s, y’know, market capitalism or something,” he says, mocking himself. “But it’s a language that actually has nothing to do with creativity or art or music.” A circular stage has been constructed in the middle of Basilica Hudson for The National to play in the round. In each corner of the room, acts who played on the album have their own mini stages: noise duo Buke And Gase, German electronic act Mouse On Mars, Steve Reich-influenced ensemble So Percussion and viola player Nadia Sirota. After individual support slots, they’ll collaborate on The National’s performance. The idea stemmed from a small festival that Bryce and his twin brother Aaron staged in Berlin last autumn. A small group of curators (including Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon) invited almost 80 musicians (from a South American classical guitarist to members of alt-J and grime MC Trim) to spend a week making new work at a former East German state broadcasting complex, which they then opened to the public. Although Sleep Well Beast was almost complete, the Dessners took the songs along for other artists to mess with. “We’ve always had this tradition of challenging what we’re doing, trying to open the windows,” says Bryce. “When you have five men in a band, there’s the self-importance of a rock band – like, ‘Oh, my guitar is so sacred!’ So we try to avoid feeling too precious, and Berlin was the furthest we’ve ever gone with that. There was a fair amount of letting people come in and tear this record apart. Like Mouse On Mars, they’re interesting because they look on guys with
“We’ve understood how emotional it is for all of us. So the fighting makes sense, and we’re OK with it, but we’ve figured out how to step away from the live wires.” Matt Berninger
New York (up)state of mind: the Basilica Hudson plays host to The National, July 2017; (above) “Coming through!” Matt Berninger goes on one of his customary walkabouts. OCTOBER 2017
THE NATIONAL guitars as like, ‘Oh, you make songs? How quaint!’” The set-up made Sleep Well Beast their loosest album since the band’s career peak with Alligator and 2007’s Boxer – it strips away the dense orchestrations of their last two records for a confident spacious approach that swings easily between (for them) unprecedented guitar freakouts and sad, wry ballads about how hard it is to maintain long-term relationships, whether that’s with their wives, or each other. The National have been together 18 years, though they’ve known each other since their teens. This intimacy and community is key to their survival, says guitarist-pianist Aaron Dessner. “I don’t think the band would work without the presence of outsiders and alchemy with other people. It gets a little claustrophobic – there’s a certain point at which we need input, or want it, and I think everybody’s really happy with that.” Although it was their idea, the band are nervous about this weekend’s unconventional arrangement. It shows in a good way. A few songs swerve perilously close to disaster, but it challenges them to work on the fly, and turns the end of the new album’s title track into a thorny, unruly swarm. They finish with Terrible Love, and reckless frontman Matt Berninger passing his comically oversized bottle of white wine into the crowd, who happily start sharing spit. “You see, we’re selfless,” he deadpans. “Washington, take note.” he morning after the first show, the band have convened at Aaron’s countryside home, half an hour from Basilica. Across the grass from his blue farmhouse is the Long Pond Studio, a handsome, barn-sized edifice that he built for the band. Its muted wood exterior and cosy crannies almost disguise its obviously massive cost, a neat analogue to the band’s own humble rock star dichotomy. It overlooks a small, grassy lake where Aaron’s six-year-old daughter is floating on a giant inflatable dog bone. Bryan Devendorf swims laps, his lanky drummer’s limbs rippling through the dark water. It’s disgustingly idyllic. Sleep Well Beast was the first album recorded here, kicking off in April 2016, the day after the Dessners’ 40th birthday party. (The studio is on the album cover.) Although Brooklyn
Standing room only: The National play to 700 fans at the Basilica Hudson, Hudson, New York, July 2017; (below, from top) 2001’s self-titled debut album, 2007’s big commercial breakthrough Boxer, and 2017’s Sleep Well Beast.
You haven’t aged a day... the band as they looked back in 2007.
is part of The National’s mythology, they no longer live there: Bryce is in Paris, bassist Scott Devendorf on Long Island, Berninger in California and Bryan back in Cincinnati. All five are now dads since Bryce’s first child was born during recording. Everyone has at least one side-project: Berninger’s cocksure band EL VY, Bryce’s esteemed classical career, Aaron’s production work, and Scott and Bryan’s LNZNDRF, an outlet for their New Order obsession. Long Pond became their hub, leading them to spend more time together than when they were neighbours. Having this space made the new songs looser, their relationships kinder. They had attempted starting the record six months earlier in a studio near Berninger’s home in Venice, with no plan other than to jam. “It was a fucking disaster,” Bryce says, rolling his eyes as Scott laughs. The pair sit in deck chairs on the pond’s small dock, Bryce absent-mindedly gesticulating with his niece’s oversized gold plastic sceptre. “We’re not used to that environment. Ironically, Matt attended that session far less than any others because he lives there. He famously went to meet Obama without us, while we rehearsed!” On The National’s past two albums, recording had become piecemeal and painstaking. Although Bryce dismisses the Venice session, it was the first time they’d improvised in a room since
“Aaron hates the inflatable floaty toys. So every time I come [to his home] , I get more obnoxious floaty toys. That’s how I’ve been taking out all my creative anger with Aaron, by filling his pond with inflatable pizza slices.” Matt Berninger Alligator, their third record and first great one, and they got two songs out of it: Day I Die, which runs on the same punchy bravado as Mr November, the band’s calling card, and Aaron’s unprecedented, swaggering guitar solo in The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness. It reminded them of the value of jamming together – especially with Berninger, who usually works at home and arrives late in the process. “We had been narrowing ourselves into these corners of me working alone, Aaron working alone,” says Bryce. “If we kept working that way, how we could evolve would become limited. So we tried to all be in the same room. Matt was super-involved, sitting on the couch directing us.” His involvement was significant – the frenzied Turtleneck came after he goaded Aaron and Bryce into a guitar duel.
“We’re very aware of bands trying to sound like they’re 22 again – ‘we’re young and we’re angry!’” Bryce mocks. “And so in the past we’ve censored ourselves. It’s absurd, but somehow it works.” Once the Long Pond sessions started, the process was casual yet hyper-productive. (They left a wealth of looser, guitar-heavy material on the shelf.) The only plan was to leave more space for greater live experimentation later on. “And having different dimensions to the sound where not everything is sympathetic,” Aaron adds, joining the dock. “It’s supposed to be a little bit more subversive in places. We felt we’d been making more and more graceful records, so let’s make one that’s not.” Bryan climbs out of the water and takes his place on the pontoon. Just as he and Aaron start talking, Berninger, in a dashing ladies’ OCTOBER 2017
straw sunhat, swims up and yells, “WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING UP HERE, AN INTERVIEW?” and then floats away on an inflatable ice-cream cone. “You see why the studio works,” Aaron says. “He’s happy.” alf an hour later, Berninger, wearing a white shirt and damp swimming trunks, takes a seat on the dock. “Can I get a rip on that?” he asks Bryan, who hands over his slim black weed vaporiser. “It’s midnight berry,” the drummer says, and dives elegantly back into the water, leaving the frontman alone. Since moving to LA, Berninger’s adopted a quasi-ironic gnarly surf-dude tone. These days, he seems happier to play with the concept of rock star arrogance, half inhabiting it, half wielding it to disguise the anxieties that make him so compelling. As two sets of brothers and a dominant interloper, The National have always fought. (In 2013, Matt’s brother Tom directed Mistaken For Strangers, a brilliant documentary about their dynamic.)
Berninger has a raw temper, which he’s mostly wielded against Aaron. Fired up on midnight berry, he offers a long and rambling explanation. Growing up in southern Ohio in the late 1980s and early ’90s, he wanted Nancy, his band with Scott, to be like Afghan Whigs, Guided By Voices or local heroes Brainiac. “Seeing Greg Dulli come onstage, accidentally spit a cigarette into the face of the girl right next to me, that was southern Ohio at the time, it was crazy cool.” By contrast, Aaron, Bryce and Bryan were in a band called Project NIM, “more of an Allman Brothers, 10,000 Maniacs kinda thing” that was bizarrely popular in Louisiana. When the five moved to New York, their bands broke down, they started The National, “and Aaron quickly became the musical leader. We were often coming from very different directions, and it stayed that way. But then we realised that was exactly why this thing is interesting.” Long Pond had a calming effect on their relationship, as did the realities of life in their 40s – Sleep Well Beast references losing parents. “Like, really, are me and Aaron going to get in a huge screaming match over a musical bit while all this is going on?” Berninger gestures towards the splashing kids. “It’s silly. And we know that now. Also, I think we’ve understood how emotional it is for
Time for an air-guitar solo? (left) The National rehearse in Long Pond Studio, Stuyvesant, NY; (right) “So whose turn is it to make the tea, then? No one’s? OK.”
Boxer’s Fake Empire in an ad) and Hillary Clinton. “Politics is personal, love songs are political; if you’re a white man writing a song about a woman, I think of that as political. What am I gonna say about my wife, am I gonna have her back in the hard moments?” He had written some more explicitly political material. “But when Trump won, the colour of the sky changed, and the awareness of what America is and what it came from and might go back to – that’s terrifying! Those songs were political, but they were political the wrong way right now. The ideas became totally fucking obsolete.” Scattered band members leave the pond and retreat back to the studio to get dressed for Q’s photos. At Guilty Party part two, Bryce is hoping for more chaos than the more composed first night. “I would love the songs to start to take a walk and shift again. Cos Mouse On Mars can fuck it up if they want to, literally – Andi [Toma] figured out how to hack the click track and change the tempo, which he did in rehearsal, but we said, ‘No, really, please don’t!’ But tonight I think I’m gonna tell him to do it.” hether or not Mouse On Mars have jacked into The National’s node, tonight’s show is fearsome. Bryan’s drums are explosive and compressed, and on Turtleneck, Berninger flings a cup of wine at Bryce, who ducks (it hits Q’s photographer). Bryce gestures to give Mouse On Mars a beat during I’ll Still Destroy You, then turns back moments later wearing a stunned expression that seems to say, “I don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, but keep doing it.” The album’s title track becomes similarly abstract as dark flickering sounds ricochet between the performers, like erratic fireworks bouncing around the room. This is the first time that most people here have heard this material, yet the band are already tearing it apart. It has an obvious invigorating effect, prompting them to reimagine songs that they never, ever play for the encore: Wasp Nest, from 2004 EP Cherry Tree, and Son, from their self-titled -titled 2001 debut. They end with Demons, a wry Trouble Will Find Me song where Berninger makes peace with his attraction to sadness. It’s a fitting closing note: self-aware and assured. “We’ve always kinda not belonged, and embodied varying versions of not being cool,” Bryce said back on the dock. “But I think it’s been a couple years now that we’re just kinda comfortable relating to ourselves. The National feels like a really healthy thing to be right now. I think part of being in a band is being prepared to let it go. There’s still a sense that it could end at any time. Even with a record this good, it feels like it would be a good swansong, if that’s what it was.” The National’s music is riven with anxiety, thanks to Berninger’s jittery eye on the world, and probably always will be. Yet ironically, their newfound confidence in their identity has allowed them to give it an inspiring mid-career overhaul, their balance of experimentalism and pop making them feel like legitimate peers to Radiohead. Their studious, collaborative nature knocks the ego out of being a rock band, but in Berninger – currently downing tonight’s double magnum of white wine and screaming into Bryan’s face – hold on to just enough to keep things dangerous.
“There’s still a sense that it could end at any time. Even with a record this good, it feels like it would be a good swansong, if that’s what it was.” Bryce Dessner
all of us. So the fighting makes sense, and we’re OK with it, but we’ve figured out how to step away from the live wires.” Ultimately he found a healthier outlet for his passive aggression. “Aaron hates the inflatable floaty toys,” he smirks. “So every time I come, I get more obnoxious floaty toys. That’s how I’ve been taking out all my creative anger with Aaron, by filling his pond with inflatable pizza slices. I’ve learned to be relaxed about tension – they let me flip my lid a little, and I know not to personalise it like I used to. And vice versa. We’re a bunch of guys with big egos, all of us.” The lyrics to Sleep Well Beast are as much about Berninger’s bond with Aaron as with his wife, Carin Besser (who co-writes and edits his lyrics). Dealing with his usual subjects – “anxiety, desire, love, fear, death, monogamy, politics” – they explore the tension between self-absorption and accountability. “Guilty Party started being about what happens when a long relationship falls apart. I’ve been in a relationship with Aaron longer than Carin. They’re both a part of every single song. Our relationships are this fabric, and the threads of them are not isolated, they’re not singular, they’re not disconnected.” He sees it as a political record, though not in the way fans might expect given the band’s previous campaigning for Obama (who used
Keeping the faith: Brandon Flowers, Las Vegas, 1 August, 2017.
“It’s finally time to
SHARE MY LIFE. PRIVATE what’s been happening in
Things that I’ve kept
Brandon Flowers has the perfect rock singer life. His band The Killers are stadium-sized. He lives in a Las Vegas mansion with his childhood sweetheart and their three sons. He has the lot. And yet behind the façade, everything started to unravel: his group, his music, his wife. Simon Goddard finds him at the dawn of another Killers album, but also at a crossroads, with band members bailing and his family leaving Las Vegas… are The Killers facing the final curtain? Photographs: Alex Lake
those who want to know kno and appr appreciate such things, Brandon Flo Flowers looks good in his underpants. The They’re dark navy, a snug fit, and Flo Flowers has plenty to snuggle. He’s not normally so immodest but since there’s nowhere else to change his trousers in the backstage Portakabin, everyone present, including his sister, gets a quick eyeful of Flowers’s cotton-clad cott bouquet. In any case, he’s too happy happ to care. The Killers have just played a short set on the Las Vegas Strip outside Caesars Palace, the iconic casino hotel where drummer drumme Ronnie Vannucci’s mum worked for 40 years as a cocktail waitress and where the 18-year-old Flowers waited tables at Spago’s Italian restaurant. It was here, at Caesars, that Morrissey once popped into Spago’s for a pot of tea and a mushroom pizza and where Flowers, the most quivering Smiths apostle in the Northern hemisphere, kept the Holy Grail his idol sipped from. “The Teacup” is still one of his most treasured possessions. But tonight it’s Flowers who is the venerated pop saint, playing to a few thousand fans and as many more mor as can cram onto surrounding hotel balconies, while televised to over 2.5 million viewers of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!. The Killers are here to pr promote imminent fifth album, the blockbusting Wonderful Wonderful, opening with its satirical hip-thrust channelling plastic soul Bowie, The Man. Yet the location kicks a visibly overwhelmed Flowers down a nostalgic rabbit hole, soon sharing stories with the crowd about the band’s origins. origins About the scummy apartment “just behind those
“[Drugs] have been glorified. There’s no other word for it. Even though we know what it leads to and how many casualties there are, we STILL do it. So I gave it a shot and I wasn’t very good at it.”
songwriter bares a great deal more than his underpants. “Things that I’ve guarded, protected and tried to keep private for years,” Flowers tells Q. “I felt it was finally time to sing about them. To share with the world what’s been happening in my life.”
euning’s Koval Lane
apartment of pauper cuisine infamy is no longer there. Nor is the original location of thrift store Buffalo Exchange where Flowers and Keuning went clothes shopping for The Killers’ first gig. There, between the vintage rails, they bumped into 20-year-old fellow Joy Division fan Tana Mundkowsky who gave Flowers her phone number. “Oh, I was never the type to give anyone my number,” he flusters. “And from what I gather, she swears she isn’t like that either. But she had the guts that day.” Just as well. Flowers and Mundkowsky married in 2005 and have three sons: Ammon (10), Gunnar (eight) and Henry (six). The Café Espresso Roma where Flowers and Keuning played that first gig in February 2002 is also gone. They performed three songs as an acoustic duo at an open-mic night including a cover of Side by Travis, though their memories differ on the two originals. Flowers is sure they played their defining anthem, Mr Brightside, the first song he and Keuning wrote together, and future B-side Under The Gun. Keuning thinks it was “a song about being dumped” called Replaceable and another called Newsman. But both agree it was the most nervous they’d ever been in their lives. “I’ve never been so terrified,” says Flowers, reminiscing the evening before the Caesars show at their rehearsal space a few blocks west of the Strip. “The whole time I was looking for a spot to throw up on the ground as I didn’t want to hit anyone. I can still remember looking down thinking, ‘If it happens, then I’m going to the left.’ After that I started to drink before we played.” To the 60,000 fans present at this July’s Hyde Park gig, Prince Harry included, the thought of Flowers as a vomiting wreck sits at ludicrous odds with the master showman who sprang onstage amidst a shower of fuchsia confetti in a pink leather jacket lip-curling, “I got news for you, baby, you’re looking at The Man.” Live, Flowers is a first-class honours pop scholar, reaping the benefits of intense study of a heroes syllabus of Elvis, Bowie, Bono, Springsteen, Neil Tennant, Dave Gahan and, his tea-swilling holiness, Morrissey. He is a mercurial Frankenstein’s monster of them all yet, OCTOBER 2017
When you were young: (above) Flowers in his school yearbook photo; (left) the muscle-bound 2017 family man version.
casinos on Koval Lane” where guitarist Dave Keuning lived, so poor that he’d subsist on white rice or ramen noodles with ketchup. etchup. And how, in a premobile age, Flowers would leave song ideas on Keuning’s answering machine between shifts as a busboy at the nearby Gold Coast, among them a deadpan Lou Reed pastiche – “you gotta help me out, yeeeeeah, yeeeeeah” – the spark of All These Things That I’ve Done from 2004’s multi-million-selling debut Hot Fuss. Then they play the song and for all of its moon-lassoing five minutes and 49 seconds it feels the biggest, brightest thing on the whole neon skyscrapered Strip. Which is why, in the cramped Portakabin, trousers changed, Flowers is all aglow. “That feeling you get onstage,” he says with his Tom Cruise smile, “it’s like being plugged into the universe.” Keuning, too, sits looking strangely serene, ene, though it’s harder to fathom where his head is orbiting. Because five hours earlier he took ook Q aside and dropped the bombshell that this could be one of his last gigs with The Killers. Bassist Mark ark Stoermer has already announced he’ll no longer be touring with the band, swapping the road for the refectory as he begins a BA in art history at New York University this September. Stoermer was due to play tonight, onight, Vegas included, but excused himself due to o a recurring back injury. Keuning, similarly, is quitting the road to stay at home with his son in San Diego. What all of this means for the future of The Killers is anyone’s guess. But the timing, certainly, seems odd: just as they’re about to release the most emotionally motionally intense album of their career, one in which their singer and chief
THE KILLERS musically, uniquely his own monster, one with the bone structure of a 1940s Hollywood leading man, the kind of silly good-looking that makes women (and men) topple into furniture when he enters the room. In visage, voice and posture, Brandon Flowers is as fabulous a pop star as you’ll find on Planet Earth in 2017. It just didn’t come naturally. “Brandon was a reluctant frontman,” says Vannucci, whose Vegas garage doubled as the embryonic Killers’ rehearsal HQ. “He was very uneasy about the whole thing. He used to just scream into the mic, out of nerves. He always had something but he couldn’t quite spell it out. It was definitely cultivated and fostered.” “It took a long time,” Flowers concurs. “Because I had such reverence for singers. I idolised Morrissey. I know everybody says that but I really, really did. So I felt what right do I have to grab a microphone? If you’ve seen [1991 concert video] Morrissey Live In Dallas, why would you even attempt to be on a stage? You’re not gonna look that good, you’re not gonna have that admiration from a bunch of people. So it took me a long time to get over things like that. Even today, we just saw Depeche Mode in Bilbao, Spain and I saw things they did and walked out of the gig with my tail between my legs.” You don’t normally get this sort of
“I was telling Bono I was having a writing slump. I asked him, ‘Have all the songs been written?’ Bono said, ‘That’s a hell of a song title.’ So I used it.” humility from people who’ve packed out Wembley Stadium, as The Killers did in 2013. But then Flowers’s ego has always benefited from the heavy ballast of a besotted fan. A clue to his personality is offered by the portrait of Elvis Presley that hangs in his home. Not ’50s Elvis, or even Flowers’ favourite 1968 Comeback Elvis, but Elvis as a blond-haired four-year-old boy. “I love pictures of people before they were famous,” he says. “When they were young and innocent. I don’t know why.”
Even at the age of 36, there’s something strangely innocent about Flowers: not quite Peter Pan or Forrest Gump, but markedly devoid of cynicism. Like The King, he’s “gee shucks, m’am” polite and, though not lacking confidence, in conversation the ghost of that stage-frightened shyness he’s otherwise managed to overcome still lingers. He also has a habit of punctuating his sentences with an endearing nervous laugh, a high-pitched helium “hehehe” something like the sound of an elderly spinster toe-testing a cold bath.
Casino royal: (below, from left) Dave Keuning, Mark Stoermer, Brandon Flowers and Ronnie Vannucci, Las Vegas, 2017.
Anyone who still hasn’t twigged The Man is Flowers’s playful poke at alpha machismo, not the braggadocio swagger it may first appear, really ought to hear The Laugh. Brandon Richard Flowers was born in the Vegas overspill of Henderson on 21 June, 1981 as America swayed to the croaky charttopping tones of Kim Carnes’s Bette Davis Eyes. Inheriting the Anglophile alternative music tastes of his brother Shane, 12 years older, he insists he was never the wimpy kid of indie cliché. “I wanted to be good at sports. I wanted to listen to The Smiths and be quarterback of the football team.” Were you? “No! [The Laugh] And I never even played football. But I had it in me that I wanted to be good at those things. Maybe it was something to do with wanting to please my dad.” Flowers’s fondest childhood memories of his father Terry, a grocer who converted to
THE KILLERS Mormonism when Brandon was six, are watching the weekly boxing show Tuesday Night Fights. “They were some of the best times in my life. Sitting down and bonding with my dad, staying up waiting for the heavyweights at the end. Anything that he got excited about, I wanted in.” He was eight years old when he and his dad watched Mike Tyson’s shock title defeat to Buster Douglas in 1990 on pay-per-view at a friend’s house across the street. The memory of the hitherto invincible Tyson hitting the canvas has haunted Flowers ever since, one which he decided to “dig into and explore” on the new Killers song Tyson Vs Douglas. In its lament for a fallen fighter laden with sampled ringside commentary, I tell him it’s not unlike Morrissey’s 1995 single Boxers. Ever the apostle, he impulsively bursts into the latter’s opening line in priceless Moz-mimicry. “[sings] ‘Losing in front of your home crowd…’ [The Laugh] Yeah, I suppose. But the song’s really about me and my family, and the way I’m perceived by my kids. I don’t want them to see me go down like Tyson.” Today, Flowers is dauntingly muscular due to a daily exercise regime: like Robbie Williams, he is of the firm belief that no one likes a fat pop star. But as a kid he struggled to
defend himself, as he found out after his family upped sticks to Nephi, Utah when he was nine. “I took a beating a couple of times by some of the country kids,” he laughs. “They’re tougher than city kids. That’s just a fact. I mean, you should see their hands! These kids grew up on farms, getting up with their dads, handling rope and animals. So I was at the mercy of them a couple of times. Just for being different. I learned that I was either gonna stay away from it, or learn to fight. [The Laugh] So I just stayed out of it.”
lowers returned to Vegas
to finish high school, living with his aunt opposite the Sam’s Town casino that christened The Killers’ second album. After a false start with two film students in a synth-pop trio, Blush Response, then baptised by the live fire of Oasis at the Hard Rock Hotel in May 2001,
Glamorous indie rock’n’roll: The Killers, – minus injured bassist Mark Stoermer – play a special televised gig, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, 31 July, 2017.
he finally found his destiny in the classified ads of a local newspaper. Dave Keuning, nearly five years Flowers’s senior, had relocated from Iowa hoping to start a band as it was cheaper living in Vegas than New York or Los Angeles. He was on the brink of giving up and leaving when Flowers answered his Musicians Wanted listing. “We immediately hit it off,” says Keuning. “So I gave him a tape with a couple of songs. The very next practice he came back with lyrics. One of them was Mr Brightside. I was like, ‘Wow! This is fun. This is good.’” “Brandon and Dave were as crazy for it as I was,” says Vannucci. “It was a shared attitude. We’d play some local sports bar, we’d get dressed up and we’d perform like we were headlining Knebworth. We all revved each other up. Then we got Mark in on bass and that’s when we really started happening.” None could have foreseen the astonishing nought to 60 success The Killers reaped with the release of 2004’s Hot Fuss. “The rocket ride” as Vannucci calls it. “It was so fast,” says the drummer. “I love that it happened but we weren’t prepared for it and, as a band, we didn’t really know each other. We met, we spent a year making songs and then you’re suddenly tied to this rocket with three other guys and you learn about each other quick. It’s dreadful. It’s fucked up. I still think we’re normalising a little bit from that.” Flowers managed as he’d been managing ever since the stage fright of that first coffee shop gig. With booze. “In the early days it’d have been Coors Light. [The Laugh] That’s what I started with. But it developed from there. Oh, hell…” One of his earliest childhood memories is of being in his mother’s car driving up and down aisles of a casino car park. With adult hindsight he realises they were searching for his dad. Though sober since his conversion, Terry Flowers was an alcoholic, as was his dad and his dad’s dad. I ask Flowers if, as the child of that alcoholic lineage, he was scared that history was repeating itself. His answer is unexpected. “No,” he says calmly. “I think I used it as permission. Instead of being afraid of it, it almost justified it for me. Which is what scares me about my own kids.” The subject of Flowers’ hedonistic past – as he’ll broadly specify “for the first couple of albums” – still makes him deeply uncomfortable. The Laugh becomes increasingly jittery until he subconsciously places a hand over his lips like an open lid poised to shut his mouth mid-speech should he need to. Presumably, you must have moved on from Coors Light to spirits? “Probably. And then by the time we’re making Sam’s Town it was different things.” Drugs?
“The centre of my universe”: Flowers with wife Tana and their three sons, Hyde Park, London, 8 July, 2017.
“Las Vegas is tainted for my wife. I’ve got streets I’m nostalgic about. But it might remind her of something that triggers [her illness]. I’m leaving my town because it’s better for her.” “[The Laugh 12-inch remix.]” You don’t like talking about it, do you? “I’ve never talked about… [panicky smile] yes] I’ve just never… [guilt-inducing puppy eyes I… I don’t wanna talk about it.” Did you feel like you were trying to pretend to be somebody you weren’t? “I felt like I had to do it, yeah,” he says, relaxing a little. “Almost to be seen as relevant, y’know? Around the same time it was The Libertines and The Strokes and the way that they were perceived, so if you weren’t going into that area then you must not be ‘The Real Thing’. It’s been glorified. There’s no other word for it. Even though we know what it leads to and how many casualties there are, we STILL do it. It’s STILL done. So I gave it a shot and I wasn’t very good at it. It’s not for me.” Flowers has been clean and sober since becoming a father 10 years ago. To the outside world, he and his wife Tana appear to have the perfect family, living happily ever after with their three boys in a $4 million Spanish Colonial-style mansion with its
outdoor pool, “Belgian staircase” and the grand piano given to him by his pal Elton John. But for the last five years, as Flowers has toured and recorded, both with The Killers and solo, he’s been putting a brave public face on a very private domestic nightmare. “It’s been… wild,” he says, searching for the right adjective. “It’s been horrible.”
n 2013, Flowers’s wife Tana
gave an interview to the website Mormon Women in which she alluded to an abusive family upbringing and her issues with anxiety and depression. “It’s medical and I have the symptoms,” she admitted. Flowers says he always suspected there was “something lurking” in his wife. “But it didn’t manifest itself completely till she was around 30.” Tana was eventually diagnosed with an extreme form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), known as Complex PTSD. “What separates Complex PTSD from other forms is that it
involves multiple traumatic events,” he elaborates. “It’s not just one thing that triggers it. There are so many things that have happened to her. I didn’t understand it before. And no way would we have made it without her getting help.” Tana’s condition finally became critical in August 2015, the month Flowers was touring his second solo album, The Desired Effect, when he suddenly cancelled the last six American dates. The official explanation was “due to unforeseen circumstances.” “I cancelled that tour,” he now reveals, “because she got to a point – this is really hard for me to even say the words – but she was having suicidal thoughts. That was as bad as it got.” As he tried to cope with the severity of his wife’s mental illness, simultaneously trying to raise three young children, his creative muse understandably went AWOL. “I was really struggling,” he says of his first efforts
In the pink: The Killers play to over 60,000 fans at the British Summer Time festival, Hyde Park, London, 8 July, 2017; (right) the radiant Flowers.
to start work on the next Killers album in October 2015. “It had been three years since [2012 fourth album] Battle Born. I knew it was time to write a new record but when I sat down to see what happened, nothing was coming. I started to doubt myself.” He still ritually forced himself to sit at Sir Elton’s piano every single day. “I never gave up on it but they were terrible rrible songs,” he says, rolling his eyes. “And so many of them. There were nights when I’d listen back and just feel so defeated.”
I ask if, as a praying man, Flowers ever turned to God to relight his fire? “I feel like it’s weird to ask for that when I should be praying for my family and their safety and things like that. But I do feel like I’ve gotten to the point sometimes when it’s, [looks upwardd] ‘Aw, c’mon, just throw me a bone!’ [The Laugh] But it’s rare that I do that.” Luckily, Flowers didn’t need God as he had the next best thing: Bono. It was Father’s Day 2016 when he visited the U2 singer in his Malibu home. “I made a pilgrimage,” he
jokes. “I was telling him I was having a writing slump and asking him with there being so many great songs already, what do I have to offer? And at one point I asked him, ‘Have all the songs been written?’ Bono said, ‘That’s a hell of a song title.’ So I used it.” Have All The Songs Been Written? began an alchemical catharsis, purging his pain and self-doubt in words and music. “I realised that me sitting sit down making up a story wasn’t what I was meant to do right now,” he says. “I knew kne on this album I finally had to
THE WONDERFUL WONDERFUL ONES
Knopfler” as officially dubbed by ’80s pop bible Smash Hits. The Dire Straits sultan swings his strat across Have All The Songs Been Written?. The Killers previously covered the Straits’ Romeo And Juliet on 2007 B-sides and rarities album, Sawdust.
An A-Z of ingredients for The Killers’ new LP. ARC H I E
Vannucci’s boxer dog, as heard snarling on The Calling. “I was just playing with him in the studio. We recorded it fast and pitched him down so he sounds like a lion.”
Italian baroque painter and bad tennis loser. Stoermer was studying his painting The Calling Of St Matthew for an online art history course and showed Flowers, inspiring The Calling.
BONO Flowers’s opticallysensitive Irish pal who inadvertently christened Have All The Songs Been Written?. Bono also suggested The Killers use U2 producer Jacknife Lee for the album.
E NO, BRIAN Arch Egghead Of Pop whose An Ending (Ascent) from his soundtrack for 1989’s Apollo missions documentary For All Mankind offered a score for The Killers’ Some Kind Of
Love: an Eno cover, with his blessing, as opposed to an actual Coldplay-style collaboration.
HARRE L SON, WOODY Star of Natural Born Killers and Flowers’s favourite ’80s sitcom, Cheers, heard reading from the Gospel of Matthew at the start of The Calling. Harrelson dialled his cameo in from Hawaii via his iPhone.
K NOPFLE R , MARK Or “Mark ‘Horrible Headband’
KOOL & TH E GANG While The Man sounds more in debt to Bowie’s Fame, Fashion or Golden Years, its disco shimmer actually comes courtesy of Kool & The Gang’s 1975 R&B hit Spirit Of The Boogie. Vannucci, meanwhile, based his drums on Siouxsie & The Banshees’ Peek-A-Boo.
M C CARTNEY, PAUL Mentioned along with Bruce Springsteen in Out Of My Mind, a song about Flowers failing to impress his wife with A-list namedrops. Last January The Killers joined Macca to play
“One of my favourite quotes is from Johnny Cash. About how, ‘Being a Christian isn’t for sissies. It takes a strong man to live for Jesus. It’s harder than living for the devil.’” look at myself, who I was, and everything rything going on in my life. So a lot of the songs I’m singing about my wife.” Flowers says it was only through ough writing about Tana’s situation that he came to fully appreciate the complex nature of mental illness. “It helped me understand what she was going through because I could put words to it, wrap my head around it and really eally navigate it. A lot of relationships fall apart when these things happen. As a songwriter, I had to dissect it.” You must have had to ask her permission to sing about and discuss all this in public? “I did, and I’ve never had to do that before. She was reluctant eluctant at first. But then some songs became Helter Skelter at a private e New Year party in the Bahamas.
TE DDE R , RYAN Multi-million selling American songwriter, producer and go-to-guy for the likes of Beyoncé, Adele and Ellie Goulding. Collaborated ed with The Killers on the track Life To Come.
TRUM P, DONALD Run For Cover dates back to sessions for 2008 third album Day & Age, but only by finishing it in 2017 could Flowers throw in a “Fake news!” reference to everyone’s favourite apocalypse-itchy Twitter troll.
Eponymous heavyweight eight champ of Tyson Vs Douglas, inspired spired by his 1990 title defeat to Buster Douglas. Boxer Sonny Liston, who died in Vegas of a suspected heroin oin overdose in 1970 1970, pops up in Run For or Cover.
TYSON, M I K E
THE KILLERS so beautiful that it became a bonding thing. Me sitting down running lyrics by her, and playing these songs for her at the piano. It ended up bringing us closer together. It feels very powerful now. She’s totally embraced it.” The first song he wrote for Tana was Some Kind Of Love, based upon the tune of Brian Eno’s instrumental An Ending (Ascent). “That’s how bad my writer’s block was,” he half laughs. “I was struggling to write so much that I ended up writing over Brian Eno songs.” The finished recording is all the more heart-wrenching for its angelic choir of Flowers’s three children sweetly singing, “Can’t do this alone/We need you at home.” “Oh, it’s heavy,” he agrees. “It’s sad. I’d be driving them to school and teach them the part and we’d sing it every school run so we wouldn’t waste time in the studio. They got it right away. It was nice, but it’s also hard. The kids don’t quite understand why they’re singing what they’re singing yet. But it’s very emotional.” Tana is also the “motherless child” of Wonderful Wonderful’s dramatic title track. “Her mother pretty much abandoned her,” he clarifies, “so that’s the first trauma in her life.” Another song, Rut, was so transparent a lyric of pain and salvation that Flowers took the uncharacteristic step of explaining the words to the rest of the band. “Which is something I never do. The only other time was with Human [its much grammaticallyr?”]. debated “Are we human or are we dancer?” Before that lyric was ever controversial to the world, it was controversial for Ronnie and Mark. So with Rut I had to explain why the song meant so much to me. Because we’re not normally communicators like that. [The Laugh] It was a very strange process.” Exactly how strange a process only becomes clear the next day when Q talks to Keuning during Q’s photoshoot in Caesars’ swanky Nobu Villa penthouse; $35,000-a-night of Japanese furnishings, “Zen garden” patio and a purple baize pool table as hired out by the likes of Justin Bieber and J. Lo. Asked about the making of Wonderful Wonderful, the guitarist doesn’t exactly bubble with enthusiasm. “It is what it is,” he says non-committally, going on to mourn the fact that, for whatever reason, he wasn’t very involved towards the end of the recording “which is when most of the stuff got done.” He adds that his favourite track is Run For Cover “because it’s nine years old.” I ask about much of the LP being about Flowers’s wife and how he took the news when, as Flowers says, he explained the lyrics of Rut to the band. Stoermer had earlier confirmed to Q that, indeed, Flowers did. But Keuning seems genuinely confused by the question. “Which songs are about Brandon’s wife? I didn’t know that.”
“In Vegas, it was normal for places that we knew and loved to get blown up. Then they built something bigger and better in its place. That’s totally part of our DNA as a band.” The conversation suddenly feels very awkward. It’s when I then ask about Stoermer’s decision not to tour that Keuning’s cat comes skulking out of its bag. “I’m not supposed to say anything,” he says cautiously, “but I’m not touring either.” He adds there should be an official statement made by the time this issue of Q goes to print. The catalyst, he says, is the upcoming “crazy tour schedule” and his unwillingness to spend time away from home. Like Stoermer he still, in theory, hopes to continue recording with The Killers. “All I know is I’m
not touring,” he says. “I honestly don’t know what happens after that.” A week later Keuning emails Q to expand upon his motives. He begins by saying he, too, found the Vegas Caesars gig highly sentimental: he still has the old answering machine Flowers mentioned onstage in the back of his closet. He states that he and Flowers “are still close… like brothers”, though adds, “It’s fair to say we are not always on the same page and have different lives with different agendas.” Nevertheless, Keuning’s hopes chime
Band of brothers: “We’re still close,” says Keuning (far right) about his relationship with Flowers.
with Stoermer’s that they’ll yet play select Killers gigs in the future. “I love the music, and the fans,” he concludes. “This was not an easy decision to make. That’s for sure.”
ack in 2010, when a
29-year-old father of two, Flowers told Q he suffered from a “fear of missing out on my family.” That fear has only intensified. “I still feel guilty when I’m away,” he says, echoing what sounds uncannily like the same conundrum as Keuning’s. “My wife and my kids are the centre of my universe. So when I’m home I’m totally devoted to them.” It’s seven years since Flowers lost his mum, Jean, to brain cancer, aged just 64. His
dad, Terry, is still “doing great” and turns 73 this September. Lately, Flowers has started to accept what some of us possibly dread as we grow older. “You can try as hard as you want to kick against it but I see myself doing things, and hear things coming out of my mouth and it’s like my dad just entered,” he laughs. “There’s grammatically incorrect things I say which he says. I do it even though I know it’s wrong. Like, he’ll say, ‘You’re not going anywheres’. He’ll throw an ‘s’ on there. I’ve noticed myself doing that every now and then.” Flowers hardly watches TV any more but does, time permitting, binge on the occasional boxset. “Better Call Saul,” he enthuses, “it’s just as good as Breaking Bad.” He’s not much use in the kitchen though he is trying to learn his dad’s legendary spaghetti recipe ( just the sauce – the prospect of making fresh pasta is greeted by a thigh-slapping, “Hell, no!”). But even on days off he never fully stops working.
The Killers’ studio, Battle Born, is only six minutes from Flowers’s house. “It’s a rare day for me not go in.” But all this is about to change. Flowers is leaving Las Vegas. Not because he wants to but because, for the love of his wife, he has to. “The whole town is tainted for her,” he explains. “I’ve got these streets and areas that I’m nostalgic about. But to her it might remind her of something different that triggers [her illness]. So I’m leaving my town because it’s going to be better for her.” Their new home is in Utah, America’s Mormon heartland where Flowers spent his later childhood. “It’s bittersweet,” he says. “But I also have great memories of being a kid in Utah. There’s a little bit more freedom there, so I’m excited. I’m looking forward to the snow with my kids, and bringing home our first Christmas tree.” So you’re actually going to entrust “The Teacup” to removal men? “It’ll be alright. [The Laugh] It’s in a weird little box. It’ll make it safely to Utah.” When Flowers began sorting through his things ready for the move he found his old collection of mementos from when he and Tana first dated. She, too, discovered her own box of keepsakes. In Flowers’s, he still had the torn scrap of paper with her phone number on that she’d given him close to 16 years ago in Buffalo Exchange. In Tana’s, she found the original sheet it was torn from. “It’s so cool,” Flowers smiles. “Because you can put them back together. And they fit perfectly.” Reflecting on his wife’s ongoing recovery and their marital survival, Flowers attributes their resilience to a shared “faith”. As a Christian and a Mormon he clearly means it in the religious sense. “One of my favourite quotes is from Johnny Cash,” he adds, “About how, ‘Being a Christian isn’t for sissies. It takes a strong man to live for Jesus. It’s a lot harder than living for the devil.’ Heh!” Yet a different sort of faith, in the secular sense of blind optimism, seems just as evident in Flowers’s steadfast commitment to his band: whatever, or whoever, might constitute their as-yet uncertain future. “My identity is as the singer of The Killers,” he states proudly. “That’s who I am.” The heart and ambition of Wonderful Wonderful doesn’t sound like The End. But those who fear it might be should perhaps take comfort in Flowers’s uniquely Vegascentric group philosophy. “Growing up in Vegas, it was totally normal for places that we used to know and love to just get blown up,” he says. “And then they built something bigger and better in its place. I think that’s totally part of our DNA as a band.” Something bigger and better. As Flowers’s dad might say, The Killers aren’t going anywheres. OCTOBER 2017
â€™Boy wonder: Mike Scott, The Covent Garden Hotel, London, 3 August, 2017.
IK MMIKE IKEE SCOTT Celebrating the wildcards who’ve inspired cult worship
PHOTOGRAPHS MICHAEL CLEMENT
his brain. “It’s tapping in my feet. I’ve got a groove going in my big toes.” It’s perhaps no surprise to learn that Mike Scott is tuned into different frequencies from the rest of us. Ever since The Waterboys’ emergence in the ’80s, there’s always been a distinct air of otherness about the Scottish singer. At the time of New Romantics, he was very much an Old Romantic, a poetic soul raging with a passion that he poured into the cinemascopic rock that was soon labelled by journalists as The Big Music, after a song from the second Waterboys album, 1984’s A Pagan Place. He remains an outsider and something of an anomaly to this day. His latest album, Out Of All This Blue, The Waterboys’ 12th, is a sprawling and knowingly eccentric 23-track double with a soul and hip-hop underbelly
and ’70s-echoing, Curtis Mayfield-styled string arrangements by Trey Pollard of Spacebomb Productions recorded in Richmond, Virginia (although most of it was done in Scott’s home studio in Dublin). Subject matter ranges from Keith Richards in Mister Charisma to The Who’s late bassist John Entwistle’s private pub in The Hammerhead Bar (where Scott imagines a phantasmagoria of drinkers including a Tory MP and disgraced radio DJ) to the unnamed egocentric rock star lambasted in Monument. “It’s aimed at a rock star but I will never say who,” Scott twinkles, enigmatically. “Someone I’ve met once but don’t know very well.” The final quarter of the LP, meanwhile, is given over to a suite of love songs for Scott’s new wife as of last year, Japanese artist
or as long as he can remember, there’s been music playing in Mike Scott’s head. Like some uninvited radio broadcast that no one else can hear, there is a constant soundtrack of riffs and melodies and grooves humming away in his inner consciousness. Although this might sound like a form of benign psychosis, The Waterboys’ singer and bandleader is quite at peace with his perpetual playlist of the mind. “I’ve got music in my head right now… ta-ka-ta-ka-ta-ka,” he sings, voicing a shuffling soul vibe currently rattling around
He smoked joints with Dylan. He met Pan on a fishing boat in Galway. But more, much more than this, The Waterboys’ Mike Scott did it his way, creating his own brand of spirited Celtic soul music for over 30 years. “I didn’t want to be the biggest,” he tells Tom Doyle. “I wanted to be the best.”
MIKE SCOTT Megumi Igarashi, aka Rokudenashiko. Igarashi is renowned for her cartoony works based on her own vulva and has attracted the ire of the authorities in her homeland, resulting in her being jailed twice on obscenity charges. Scott thinks the furore surrounding his wife’s art is “ridiculous… she’s kooky, brilliant.” The singer, of course, cuts quite a distinctive figure himself, sitting today at a window seat in the restaurant of The Covent Garden Hotel in London, sipping espresso macchiato while sporting a black cowboy hat and grey-and-silver striped cowboy boots, every centimetre the classic rocker. “I have to confess,” the 58-year-old offers with a grin, “for me, fashion in music reached its peak with The Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash video. I still want to look like that today. I can’t help it. That’s where I came in, and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”
Mike Scott (above, second left) in pre-Waterboys band Another Pretty Face, 1979; (right) 1985’s commercial breakthrough album, This Is The Sea; (below) onstage in 1986 at the Glastonbury Festival.
about spirituality and ancient magic, leading to an enduring fascination with what he calls “the mysteries”. “I was looking for answers and a form of spirituality that worked for me,” he says. “Church Christianity had no interest for me at all. It seemed grey and boring. As I understood it, spirituality was something to do with magic and joy and adventure.” Later in a witchcraft store in New York named Magickal Childe, he bought a blank Book Of Shadows, which the proprietor told him was used by witches to write down their rituals and spells. In it, the singer began plotting an expansion of The Big Music for his next album, 1985’s This Is The Sea, feverishly filling the book with lyrics and grand schemes for the record. The result was a landmark album of the era, its enormous, driving production providing the canvas for wild-eyed songs such as Don’t Bang The Drum and occult-ish incantation The Pan Within. This Is The Sea is best remembered though for mystic anthem The Whole Of The Moon, the hookline of which came to Scott one night in New York when asked by his then-girlfriend if it was easy to write a song. “Wanting to show off,” he remembers, “I said, ‘Yes it’s easy, I’ll write one now.’ I looked around for something to write about. There was the moon up above Gramercy Park and I wrote down, ‘I saw the crescent/You saw the whole of the moon.’” Later covered live by Prince, The Whole Of The Moon was to become Scott’s most famous song. Upon its release, elease, it even attracted the attention tention of the singer’s idol Bob Dylan, who in 1985 invited The Waterboys singer to jam with him at The Church Studios in North London. “Fantastic,” Scott enthuses. “He knew how to deploy his Bob Dylan-ness. He said, ‘I really like that record you made, The Whole Of The Moon. That’s my kind of music.’ So lovely. He was funny, telling tall stories but with a twinkle in his eye. They always say don’t meet your heroes, but he was cool. “And I’m proud to say,” he adds with a smile, “I’ve smoked a joint that Bob Dylan has rolled. And I’m even prouder to say Bob Dylan has smoked a joint that I’ve rolled.” Much like Dylan though, Scott was earning a reputation for being an artist unwilling to play the music industry game. He refused to appear on Top Of The Pops to promote The Whole Of The Moon because
VIRGINIA TURBETT/GETTY, BARRY PLUMMER
ike Scott always stood out. Particularly in Scotland in the 1970s, when after his parents’ break-up, he moved from Edinburgh with his mother to the west coast town of Ayr. It was a rough and violent environment to grow up in, particularly for someone who in their teenage years fronted a rock band called White Heat and very much looked the long-haired, freaky part. “I was no use at blending in at all,” he says. “But I got used to carrying myself in a way that would not attract violence. I wanted to look and sound like my favourite rock’n’rollers. We would go onstage playing My Generation. Flinging my guitar off the stage and all that.” On one memorable night when White Heat bagged a gig at the local Protestant Orange lodge’s HQ, Scott was asked to sing God Save The Queen while a bloke called Walter accompanied him on the “moothie” (ie, harmonica). “I thought he meant the Sex Pistols’ song,” he says now. The more punk-friendly Edinburgh was where Scott first made his mark in a group called Another Pretty Face who attracted music press attention and late-night radio plays from John Peel. The band signed a major deal with Virgin, then lost it, then changed their name to Funhouse and landed another with Ensign Records, before splitting. When the company decided to keep Scott on, his solo demos were to form the basis of the debut self-titled album by his new band The Waterboys in 1983. Scott was always attracted to intense, “visionary” rock figures such as Bob Dylan
and Patti Smith. The first Waterboys single, the thumping, piano-driven A Girl Called Johnny, was in part a tribute to the latter, who as a fanzine writer he’d met in London five years earlier. The experience had proved illuminating. During the day Smith was lovely. That night, coming offstage after a gig at The Rainbow Theatre, she had seemed drunk on her own power. “The audience’s affection and craziness had all gone into her,” he remembers, “and she was a scary character then. I know myself now as a seasoned performer, it takes a while to learn to process those energies.” Ahead of the second Waterboys album, A Pagan Place, Scott discovered the philosophy section of Foyle’s bookshop in Charing Cross Road, London, and went through an intensive period of reading
Captain Scott: The Waterboys leader makes his entrance, The Covent Garden Hotel, London, 3 August, 2017.
a) he was on tour in America when the offer came through and b) like The Clash, he considered miming on TV to be “cheesy”. A worse crime was that in the era of MTV, he really wasn’t into making videos (although he did relent to making a performance-based one for The Whole Of The Moon). “I didn’t want to make videos,” he states, “because the purpose of my songs was to put pictures into people’s minds. I always think of Space Oddity and Ashes To Ashes. When I hear Space Oddity, in my mind I still see the guy spinning round and the Earth from space. When I hear Ashes To Ashes, all I see is that video.” Just when it seemed The Waterboys were poised to follow U2 into the stadiums, Mike Scott moved to rural Ireland, settling in Connemara on the island’s remote west
“Church Christianity had no interest for me at all. It seemed grey and boring. As I understood it, spirituality was something to do with magic and joy and adventure.” coast. Dropping out of the public eye, he became entranced by traditional Celtic music and over the space of two-and-a-half years, made the next Waterboys album, the rootsy folk rock of Fisherman’s Blues. “I didn’t want to be the biggest,” he says now. “I wanted to be the best.” Moreover, it was all part of Scott’s ongoing musical and spiritual adventure. There were, in his mind, mysteriously transformative moments along the way.
In his 2012 autobiography, Adventures Of A Waterboy, he vividly remembers an incident when he was on a fishing boat sailing out of Galway Bay and he caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror. “To my amazement [I] see a creature who is not me,” he wrote. “The god Pan is looking back.” “It wasn’t a hallucination,” he stresses today. “Pan is an ancient personification of the values of wildness. And I think when I go to wild places like Connemara and I spend
You can keep your hat on: Scott with Ian McNabb (far right) and Crazy Horse, Glastonbury 1994.
“I’m proud to say, I’ve smoked a joint that Bob Dylan has rolled. And I’m even prouder to say Bob Dylan has smoked a joint that I’ve rolled.” screen with a montage of goats in the clip for the album’s first single, The Return Of Pan. To promote its follow-up, the stomping, revelatory Glastonbury Song, he filmed a video in which his head could be seen peering down from a cloud as he sang the chorus hook, “I just found God.” Mortified, and believing viewers would think he was suffering from some kind of messiah complex, Scott killed the release of the promo, infuriating his record company and the director. “It’s only sneaked out in the YouTube age,” he says. “So I did my job well. I buried it. This was my fucking work, and this was my
GIRL CALLED THE BEST OF 1AJOHNNY The Waterboys
The pick of The Waterboys and Scott solo, from yearning Celtic folk-rock to mystic tales of romance and big-hearted soul singalongs. 86
Brilliant debut single with loping piano riff and lyric inspired by the attitude of Patti Smith: “She discovered her choice was to change/ Or to be changed.”
n the ’90s, Mike Scott’s soul-searching took another path, to the Scottish spiritual community of the Findhorn Foundation, based near Inverness, where he lived on-and-off for over two decades. “At Findhorn, the belief is that spirit, or the sacred, is inside everybody,” he explains. “Meditation is one of the tools by which you come into contact with your own core.” Perhaps inevitably, the tabloids tracked him down to the community, one running a sensationalist story under the headline: “Cult Saves Rock Star From Drinks Hell”. “It was very funny,” he says. “It pissed me off as well, just the invasiveness of it. But it was also very funny.” Performing solo as part of the community’s Friday night theatre shows also put Scott in touch with the lighter side of his nature. “I’d be on after the comedians and before the builders’ group doing their jokey fashion show,” he says. “The Friday night concerts at
THE WHOLE OF THE MOON This Is The Sea (1985)
“I have heard the big music,” sings Scott in this yearning rocker, meaning his spiritual calling, although later used to describe The Waterboys’ sound.
Classic anthem which became an unlikely Balearic rave hit in the early ’90s, thanks to its rolling groove and the ecstatic nature of its saucer-eyed crescendo.
“Come with me on a journey beneath the skin,” Scott invites a lover, in this song concerned with searching inward for an ancient spirit.
THE BIG MUSIC A Pagan Place
fucking song, and this video made my song look like a piece of shit. It wasn’t gonna come out. Fuck that, mate.”
THE PAN WITHIN This Is The Sea
sufficient time there, I begin to see that in my face. Next day I would be looking in the mirror and it would be gone. It wouldn’t be there. I’d just see a bloke looking back at me when I was shaving.” But this acute sense of mysticism further fed into Fisherman’s Blues, which by its completion had involved the recording of over a hundred songs – enough material to fill up 374 rolls of master tape. Scott admits he was spaced out when mixing the album. “I was so deep in it that everything sounded absolutely crazy to me,” he recalls. “All I could hear were the flaws. I’d been listening too long.” Released in 1988 at the height of acid house, Fisherman’s Blues was a bold and brilliant anachronism filled with spirited performances and great songs. The Waterboys were a band entirely changed. This writer saw them on the tour that followed, at a mental folky/punky show at London’s Kilburn National Ballroom in February 1989 where multiple fights broke out in the crowd. “That was a crazy tour,” Scott nods. “Very, very full houses. A lot of drunkenness in the audience.” But after a subsequent album, Room To Roam, similarly recorded on the Irish west coast, Scott realised he had to quit the country, particularly when he realised he had developed too much of a taste for Guinness. “I never went to AA or anything like that,” he points out. “I stopped by myself. I haven’t drunk since 1991. Put it this way, if I hadn’t stopped drinking, I would’ve had a problem. I thought, ‘Hang on, that’s not in the plot for me.’” Instead, the next stage in the plot was a move to New York and the more straightahead rock of 1993’s Dream Harder, after Scott signed an eye-popping $2.8 million deal with Geffen Records. With its release though, the singer faced a dilemma: should he bow to the pressure from his new label to make videos? “There was a long soul-searching attached to it,” he admits. “Would I join the world or would I be a holdout? In the end, I thought, ‘OK, I’ll try it.’ I don’t know whether I wanted a quiet life or whether I wanted a hit.” But Scott didn’t enjoy the process, and looked acutely uncomfortable sharing the
Findhorn were very irreverent and took the piss out of the community. I liked that. It helped me to learn to not take myself too seriously.” In recent years, Scott has been consistently prolific as an artist, and latterly seems to be enjoying a new surge of recognition. This year, U2 used The Whole Of The Moon as the storming intro music for The Joshua Tree tour. “Everybody keeps sending me videos of the audience singing it,” he says, clearly chuffed. In 2013, Ellie Goulding covered his song How Long Will I Love You? (from 1990’s Room To Roam), taking it to Number 3 in the charts. “I like that she made it her own,” he states. “But there are changes in the lyrics and I’ve never been able to figure out whether she’s doing it deliberately or whether she’s just got it wrong [laughs].” All the while, The Waterboys have continued to evolve, with an ever-changing cast of characters that makes them, in Scott’s estimation, the band with the biggest number of current-and-ex-members in rock music history – topping Santana, or even The Fall. “It’s in the 80s now and we’ve four new members coming in on tour this autumn,” he says. “So it’s maybe been 86 or 87.” Ultimately, then, Mike Scott’s adventures are far from over, his life continuing to take surprising twists and diversions. The latest, of course, being his marriage to Rokudenashiko. He initially contacted her “For me, fashion in through Twitter, and once he’d music reached its peak travelled to Japan, the two with the Stones’ Jumpin’ became a couple, resulting in her Jack Flash video.” Mike subsequently moving to Dublin Scott cuts a dash, Soho, and the birth of their son in London; (below) the new February ebruary of this year. LP, Out Of All This Blue. “I didn’t know whether we might be looking at a long-term, long-distance romance,” he says, a touch wistfully, clearly a man in love. “But I knew that my heart was telling me to go.” It’s a recurring theme in his tale. Wherever Mike Scott’s heart tells him to go, he follows, from one mystery to the next.
FISHERMAN’S BLUES Fisherman’s Blues (1988)
GLASTONBURY SONG Dream Harder (1993)
The peak of the Irish folk-rock years, as the singer pines for a life of waterborne romance “away from dry land and its bitter memories”.
Touching tune in which Scott takes us through the tales of each of his romances. Includes the couplet: “It started up in Fife/It ended up in tears.”
Staccato groover with cryptic lyric that sparks with the joy of enlightenment. “I just found God,” cries an invigorated Scott, “where he always was.”
Six-minute highlight of the first of two Mike Scott solo albums. Documents his journey to Findhorn, and was duly recorded in a studio in the community.
AND A BANG ON THE EAR Fisherman’s Blues (1988)
LONG WAY TO THE LIGHT Bring ’Em All In (1995)
LET THE EARTH BEAR WITNESS An Appointment With Mr. Y Yeats (2011)
Standout of Scott’s LP that set music to WB Yeats’s poetry – two verses from two plays are turned into a paean to freedom fighters.
Soul showstopper with hip-hop beats and big-hearted sing-along chorus: “When you walk in the room/Love walks in with you.”
LOVE WALKS IN Out Of All This Blue (2017)
r e v e N An Missue Iss n! i a g A
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THE WORLD’S BI GGEST & BEST MUSI C GU IDE E D I T E D BY N I A L L D O H E R T Y
98 LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
We thought we’d seen the last of James Murphy in 2011, but he’s back.
96 LANA DEL REY
The wardrobe may be low-key but the star quality still burns bright for Del Rey’s live return.
112 THE VERVE
We travel back to 1997 for the reissue of Ashcroft and co’s mighty Urban Hymns.
SIMON SARIN, CHRIS FLOYD
HOW WE REVIEW The Q Review is the definitive music guide. Its hand-picked writers are the undisputed experts in their fields, and they rigorously adhere to Q’s worldfamous star-rating system.
Buy this now! Essential for any collection.
Rest assured, satisfaction is guaranteed.
Good within its field, but perhaps not for everyone.
For die-hard fans. Even they may be disappointed.
Move along, there’s nothing of interest here.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SCHEME HIP-HOP SOUL MAN’S THEATRICAL REINVENTION AT SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE.
SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE, LONDON MONDAY, 24 JULY, 2017 HHHH o Plan B or not to Plan B: that is the question. And not just because the long-awaited live return of this particular artist is being conducted in the resplendent environs of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre tonight. Standing in his dressing room beforehand, exhibiting a degree of befor weight loss that renders him almost unrecognisable, Ben Drew outlines how that question came to dominate his thoughts. It emerged when he finally paused to reflect on the remarkable six-year stretch that saw him evolve from acoustic-wielding rapper on 2006’s Who Needs Actions When You Got Words to stirring soulsinger on 2010’s The Defamation Of Strickland Banks and the authoritative orator of the London Riots on 2012’s Ill Manors. Somewhere along the line he started to feel torn. He is quick to pinpoint the cause. “The industry of fame,” exhales Drew, inspecting his sharp suit in the mirror. “Being famous, being in demand, doing gigs – just doing that shit all the time. You don’t have any real relationships – you have no time for a private life. I was sitting down going, ‘What do I write about now?’ You think about what you’ve experienced: getting on planes, getting the red carpet rolled out, partying, hanging with beautiful women you never see again, drinking… I needed to turn my back on that. I was feeling pretty empty inside.” Yet that only partly explains why Plan B has been off-radar for so long. Yes, Drew decided to take a three-year
sabbatical aft after Ill Manors, but it wasn’t necessarily the one he envisioned. “Just as I made that decision, my partner turns round and says that we’re having a baby,” he beams. “I thought, ‘There goes those three years!’ Ironically, it was exactly what I asked for. I wanted to reconnect spiritually, and nothing gets more real than that. That completely aligned me on a path of what’s most important. Fame is temptation. Everything is laid out on a plate for you, not just women throwing themselves at you, it’s parties, it’s alcohol – it’s all of that. I’ve got a kid that I need to be there for, I can’t be out all night getting smashed. I want my daughter to grow up having a father in her life.” This lifestyle overhaul is indicative of an impending change in Plan B’s music. On his forthcoming album, due later this year, Drew explains there won’t be any rapping – it would, he says, be an inauthentic representation of where his life is at right now as someone preoccupied with raising his child and choosing wallpaper. His soulful comeback single, In The Name ame Of Man, demonstrated monstrated this maturation – a song decrying a broken world, accompanied byy the powerful puppet-led video that, among other things, recreated the harrowing
All the world’s a stage: (right) Plan B, aka Ben Drew, returns revitalised; (below) The Globe theatre, London.
“BEING FAMOUS, BEING IN DEMAND… I NEEDED TO TURN MY BACK ON THAT. I WAS FEELING EMPTY.” PLAN B
If music be the food of love, rock on: Plan B raises the roof in London.
SETLIST Down But Not Out Til You’re Dead In The Name Of Man She Said The Recluse Heartbeat Prayin’ Stranger Queue Jumping Love Goes Down (acoustic) Kidz (acoustic) Grateful Lost My Way End Credits Wait So Long Encore Ill Manors Stay Too Long
image of drowned Syrian infant refugee Alan Kurdi. Tonight is not so much The Defamation Of Strickland Banks as it is The Reinvention Of Ben Drew. “This is a really special gig for me,” he says. “The venue is amazing. It’s small numbers but when you have a venue like this, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about business, it’s about art.” Drew says he spent last night freaking out about forgetting lyrics. Now, just hours before showtime, he’s having an altogether different ’mare: he is ankle-deep in a conundrum involving his socks. “I can’t work out which ones to wear,” he says as he leads Q over to a table displaying pairs of every colour of the rainbow. It’s a big decision. We leave him to it. Before his choice is revealed
onstage later, The Globe’s audience is first treated to a performance by the Flabbergast Theatre – the same puppeteers behind the In The Name Of Man video. Tonight they fail to summon its hard-hitting punch, primarily because they’re making puppets dance to The Prodigy and dispensing slapstick nuggets of the “Did you just bop me on the ’ead!?” variety. It’s a funny, entirely odd, start to the evening. The show proper begins when Drew emerges – having settled on red socks – to rapturous applause, his jawline strikingly framed by white face paint. He is in strong voice, his backing band are slick and, to top it off, The Globe looks beautiful. The venue certainly plays a part in making tonight special – as does the
sky for not pissing directly into this open-air theatre. It is, however, to Drew’s credit that the setting doesn’t outshine the music. In The Name Of Man is given a moving airing, one only slightly diminished by Plan B’s crew throwing toy soldiers – replete with parachutes – from the top tier. It’s a nice idea, but one that draws focus away from the song, something that happens again during closer Stay Too Long as glowing inflatable balls bouncing around become a distraction. Regardless, the new songs show a songwriting and vocal talent that has grown significantly. Of particular note are Grateful – a song Drew wrote for his daughter – and Heartbeat, in which he lays bare how “things are different now that I’ve stopped caring”.
reappear wearing a mask. Here begins a cunning ruse: Drew has actually relocated to The Globe’s first tier. He finishes the song while looking down at people who are still watching his miming, masked doppelgänger unaware. Viewed from on high it’s thrilling to see the ripple of understanding spread through the floor. When they do finally turn around they see Drew flanked by people wearing two-tone masks, which were distributed mid-song. It’s a neat trick that tees up a stunning two-song acoustic set, with Love Goes Down showcasing his voice and Kidz his lyrical intensity. That the unnerving brilliance of No More Eatin’ is omitted tonight is a shame, but the procession of hits Drew otherwise has at his disposal keeps the crowd in full voice, especially for She Said and Prayin’. Even better is Ill Manors, complete with a snarling, phlegm-flecked delivery that sees Drew not so much treading the boards as curb-stomping them. It is no easy feat to make a live show from songs this diverse. Earlier in the evening, Q asked Drew – in light of his renunciation of fame – what success is to him in 2017. “Just connecting with people from all walks of life, of all ages,” he replied. “That’s all I’ve ever tried to do. That’s success.” It would be hard to view tonight as anything else. GEORGE GARNER
If there is one recurring problem tonight it resides neither with making unfamiliar material connect nor reaching every nook and cranny of The Globe. Instead it is a perfectionist streak that occasionally derails the show’s momentum as Drew’s vocal ambitions collide with technical gremlins. At times his frustration shows as we get a song re-started here or a battle with in-ear monitors there. For the most part, he styles it out, even quipping, “You don’t know that one so you can’t hear I fucked it up.” It is a minor quibble given what follows. As is only fitting, the night is not without theatrical gravitas. Indeed, the standout comes during new song Queue Jumping as Drew withdraws into a rising cloud of thick smoke at the back of the stage only to seemingly
Playing to the gallery: (above) Plan B and masked friends blindside the audience at Shakespeare’s Globe (below).
“THE VENUE IS AMAZING. IT’S SMALL BUT IT’S NOT ABOUT BUSINESS, IT’S ABOUT ART.” PLAN B
“Just connecting with people. That’s success.” Plan B makes a scene. OCTOBER 2017
LA THROWBACK’S LOW-KEY RETURN: HEAVY ON SMOKY NOSTALGIA, LIGHT ON NEW SONGS.
LANA DEL REY
BRIXTON ACADEMY, LONDON MONDAY AYY,, 24 JULY, AY LLY, 2017 HHHH uck it.” Lana del Rey has spent the last two minutes leaning over the piano whispering to her pianist, and it’s impossible to tell if she’s laughing or crying. It’s three days after the release her new album, Lust For Life, and she seems relaxed and confident at this surprise London show. Putting the mic
to her lips, she throws caution to the wind: “We can’t do it. But I’m just going to do it a cappella for you.” “It” turns out to be Love, lead single from the new record and one of only three of its 16 tracks that gets an outing tonight. “You can sing it with me if you know the words,” she adds, all fluttering eyelashes and faux innocence, because of course the crowd knows the words – these rideor-die Lana Del Rey fans have been queuing outside Brixton Academy since breakfast, snagging their tickets in the three minutes it took the show
to sell out. Half of the front row spend the entire show clutching bouquets of flowers. Whether they know the words or not is irrelevant, though; Del Rey doesn’t need them. She doesn’t need the piano or the bass, just that warm, archaic voice and perhaps a little bit of reverb on the mic. She casually shrugs out the goosebump-inducing rendition like she’s reading out a shopping list, and the crowd echoes every syllable as if it’s gospel. With her wallowing embrace of ennui and twinkle-eyed fascination with mid-century Americana, Del Rey inspires hopeless devotion, even cult-like obsession. If some of these hardcore fans are having a religious
SINGING THE BLUES
Songs of faith and devotion: “Some of these hardcore fans are having a religious experience tonight…”
SETLIST Cruel World Cherry Shades Of Cool Blue Jeans Born To Die Summertime Sadness Video Games Serial Killer White Mustang In My Feelings (intro) Ultraviolence Ride Love Off To The Races
Rey of light: the singer prepares for her cameraphone close-up.
SHE HAS THE AIR OF A STAGEHAND WHO’S STEPPED IN FOR THE STAR AND BLOWN US AWAY. experience tonight, it’s little wonder – she hasn’t played a show in London since 2013 and has released three LPs since then. Famously uncomfortable as a live performer, she hides any nerves well. There’s not much more than the occasional awkward handwring to suggest that she could think of a hundred places she’d rather be than here. In some ways, it’s the ideal venue to showcase her richly ironic, occasionally histrionic pop given the melodrama of its Venetian-style arch and romantic, unusable balconies. The stage is given an intimate jazz club feel, complete with a double bass (that never gets played – classic Lana) and a backdrop of sepia-tinged videos made by someone who’s been watching too much Twin Peaks. Del Rey herself is dressed in a simple blackjeans-and-top combo, giving her the air of a stagehand who’s stepped in for the star and blown us all away. It’s all very Lana Del Rey, never playing to your expectations while somehow also being exactly what you expect. Only a fool would have turned up anticipating a rave but even so, it’s a single-speed show and one that is just too slow to dance or sway to without looking like you’ve sunk one too many whiskies, a problem Del Rey also has as she sways randomly around the stage.
Like the new record, she is strange and bewitching. The ironic euphoria of Summertime Sadness is tempered by fan-favourite Ride, a bluesy number about her career frustrations that she rarely plays live and inspires her to quip, “Not really, though!” after a line about singing the blues getting old. She’s in a playful mood, so when someone shouts a request for Lust For Life cut In My Feelings she busts out a couple of verses a cappella for a laugh, proving that if you strip back all that layered production, she can evoke a smoky dive-bar atmosphere using her voice alone. She finishes with the dark and doomy Off To The Races, which descends into a cacophonous psych-influenced jam as she exits stage left and leaves everyone guessing at whether or not there’ll be an encore. Following an album launch show light on songs from the new LP, the crowd is expecting Lust For Life’s title track to take us home – then the house lights come up. After years of insular self-examination, the album sees Lana Del Rey fired up about politics and featuring guests for the first time. She brings neither to Brixton, preferring instead to focus on the past. But after all, Lana Del Rey has always had a thing for nostalgia. KATE SOLOMON OCTOBER 2017
● NEW ALBUMS ● REISSUES
BACK TO REALITY
Anna Of The North
Bodies Of Water
Death From Above
DFA/COLUMBIA, OUT 1 SEPTEMBER
Hercules & Love Affair The Horrors
Nothing But Thieves
Prophets Of Rage
The Rolling Stones
Stone Temple Pilots
Various: Manchester – North Of England
JAMES MURPHY PONDERS THE BIG ISSUES ON MELANCHOLIC RETURN FOR DANCE-PUNK COLLECTIVE.
One scene in LCD Soundsystem’s valedictory 2012 concert film/ documentary Shut Up And Play The Hits stood out for its brutal honesty: James Murphy in his New York storage warehouse, looking at the vast array of synths and guitars never to be used again by the band he’d just split, and dissolving into tears. Elsewhere in the film, Murphy vaguely tried to explain the thinking behind his decision to break up the band: fear of failure, a desire not to blight their catalogue. His acute emotional response makes the return of LCD Soundsystem no big surprise really, even if after their 2011 Madison Square Garden send-off, it’s a slightly embarrassing U-turn befitting of that other band who can’t make up their minds, Theresa And The Tories. Four songs into American Dream, in the self-explanatory Change Yr Mind, Murphy addresses his selfdoubt and volte-face: “I’m just too old for it now/At least that seems to be
true.” But this fourth album proper proves it really not to be true and the parts that echo the grooves and moves of LCD’s past still spark with energy – not least the Remain In Light-era Talking Heads blast of Other Voices, Call The Police’s brilliant repurposing of David Bowie’s Red Sails and the wry vocoder funk of Tonite, where Murphy detects existential crisis in current radio pop hits beaming out through “what remains of the airwaves”. Musically, we’re always somewhere between 1979 and 1982, the bookends of American Dream being Bowie’s Lodger and Depeche Mode’s A Broken Frame. Generally though, the tone is darker and more melancholic than previous LCD albums. Both opener Oh Baby and the Roy Orbison-styled bolero of the title track are spectral electronic torch songs that could soundtrack the end credits of the current series of Twin Peaks, while How Do You Sleep? mixes Joy Division’s Atmosphere with pulsing Echo & The Bunnymen tom-toms in an ambivalent lament for a friend lost to cocaine. Loss is a recurring theme: of
LOSS IS A RECURRING THEME: OF YOUTH, IDENTITY AND, YES, EDGE.
THE GAP YEARS
youth, identity and, yes, edge. But Murphy has clearly found his drive again, mostly after waking up to face his own mortality. Amid the title track’s journey through a comedy acid trip, exhaustion and borderline insanity, he remembers watching an unidentified leather-clad rock star going tonto onstage, before revealing him to now be dead. The result is a lightning bolt epiphany: “Get up and stop your complaining/You’re the only one who’s been destroying all the fun.” In a similar, if even more poignant vein, it’s impossible not to read icy closer Black Screen as an elegy to David Bowie, who in his latter years was close to Murphy. The clues are all here – the figure who “fell between a friend and a father” was too ill to go to the LCD man’s wedding. Murphy, in turn, is now backing up their email conversations and obliquely admitting he stopped turning up to the Blackstar recording sessions (which he’d been invited to co-produce) through fear of inadequacy. Now, Bowie is everywhere and nowhere, disappeared from the radar: “You could be anywhere on the black screen.” It’s a beautiful end to an album that advances the sound of LCD Soundsystem and more than justifies their return, while retaining all that was brilliant about them in the first place. Top-drawer grooves? Check. Mixed with humour and anxiety? Check. Now, as before, nobody does it better. HHHH TOM DOYLE Listen To: Other Voices | Tonite | Call The Police | Black Screen
Three other great return albums.
David Bowie The Next Day
Kate Bush Aerial
Blur The Magic Whip
A surprise magic trick of a record. Where Are We Now? was poignant but misleading: that aged-sounding Bowie was nowhere to be found elsewhere in this energetic burst of art rock. HHHH
After 12 years away, Bush produced her first double to make up for lost time. The first disc contained the mysteries of King Of The Mountain and π; the second the elegant songsuite A Sky Of Honey. HHHH
A comeback album that vibrated with Blur’s old energies (Go Out) along with a gentle rumination on the distance Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave had travelled together (My Terracotta Heart). HHHH
LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy: “generally, the tone is darker than previous LCD albums.”
ANNA OF THE NNORTH
BODIES OF WAT WATER
TRANSGRESSIVE, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
DIFFERENT, ERENT, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER ERENT
MEXICAN SUMMER, OUT 15 SEPTEMBER
THOUSAND TONGUES, OUT NOW
Canadian indie-pop quartet’s sweet’n’sour break-up record. Alvvays don’t stray too far from the psych-influenced sound of their 2014 debut on this follow-up. Most of the songs on Antisocialites seem resigned to “the break-up fantasy arc” that underpins the album, singer Molly Rankin littering the pros and cons of being unattached throughout. There’s some fiery moments in between the melancholic, shrugging indie-pop: Hey fizzles with anger, Rankin’s voice antagonistic and weirdly distorted, guitars sliding languidly between notes. The feathery soundscape is what Belle And Sebastian might have come up with if they were more into reverb. It’s not a wildly eclectic trip, but for dependable hooks and relatable emotion, Alvvays are spot on. HHH AT SOLOMON ATE KATE Listen To: In Undertow | Hey | Forget About Life
Norway/New Zealand duo’s debut. She’s Anna Lotterud, best known for a pair of collaborations with Tyler, The Creator and he’s New Zealander Brady Daniell-Smith. Together they make winsome dream-pop, where she croons like a melting ice maiden and he backs her with warm, lavish backdrops. It’s all very tasteful, but this is a raw break-up album and there’s real emotional depth to the broken Moving On, the lonesome Friends (“I don’t think I’m strong enough for us”) and Always, where she sighs, “I’m tired of being in love” with the weariness of one who’s tried it too many times. Best is Someone, where Lotterud sounds utterly bereft and Daniell-Smith deploys the hook from Kim Carnes’s Bette Davis Eyes to devastating effect. Lovers isn’t instant, but perseverance brings great rewards. HHHH JOHN AIZLEWOO WOO W D Listen To: Someone | Always | Friends | Moving On
DEDICATED TO BOBBY JAMESON Lo-fi LA trickster’s 11th. Bobby Jameson, who? That would be the thwarted cult musician who, as Chris Lucey, made the ’65 curio Songs Of Protest And Anti-Protest, and who later wrote a blog of his struggle for justice against the music biz (he died in 2015). For Pink, the tragedy, haplessness and strangeness of the story is powerful grist to the mill. As ever, his audio aesthetic suggests worn VHS soundtrack/’80s FM radio with songs that variously suggest Zappa, Tiny Tim and, in the title track, The Doors. But there’s no denying the potency of Tango In The Night-era Mac swooner Feels Like Heaven, doomed home-taped confection I Wanna Be Young or the skinny-tie reverie of Bubblegum Dreams. Confusion’s left in its wake, of course, but such is the price of the peaks. HHH IAN HARRISON Listen To: Feels Like Heaven | Dedicated To Bobby Jameson
SPEAR IN THE CITY
Glorious sunshine music from Californian collective’s fourth. Like Arcade Fire with an inferior budget, LA’s Bodies Of Water have been trundling along merrily for more than a decade now. An ever-rotating collective led by deep-throated David Metcalf (recently recovered from a bout of the potentially fatal Murine typhus) and his wife Meredith, their sound is both intimate and expansive with a vaguely spiritual undertow. On this fourth LP, the hook-laden Here Among You is as celestial as pop music can be: if they have a breakout song it’s this, but it’s far from the only moment of magic. The brief title track twangs like the Twin Peaks theme; Teachers is a heart-breaking sibling to Lou Reed’s Perfect Day and New World rumbles like a campfire clapalong for the mischievous. HHHH W D JOHN AIZLEWOO WOO Listen To: Here Among You | Teachers | New World
DEATH FROM ABOVE OUTRAGE! IS NOW
LAST GANG/WARNERS, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
ALEX CAMERON FORCED WITNESS
SECRETLY CANADIAN, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
Oddball Aussie songwriter keen on concepts. Alex Cameron comes at the world from a decidedly different angle to everyone else. He initially promoted his last album (2016’s Jumping The Shark) by applying latex wrinkles and scars to his face so he could be more in character as an aging downand-out. This time round he’s claiming that until 20144 he was a private investigator. That’s what provides the lyrical inspiration for this record. To add to the general air of strangeness, the music accompaniment to these (probably) tall tales is a kind of wafty ’80s MOR replete with saxophones and chiming keys. Unfortunately, aside from Stranger’s Kiss (a direct and affecting duet with Angel Olsen), the overall level of artifice here is simply too steep to surmount. HH JAMES ES H HAM E OLDHAM Listen To: Stranger’s Kiss 100
LP three from Toronto bass/drum dance punks. For all the noise and excitement generated, Jesse F Keeler and Sebastien Grainger’s period as a band first time round could have been easier: after James Murphy’s DFA label forced them to add the suffix “1979” to their name in 2004, they then downed tools from 2006 to 2011. Now back in possession of their original moniker, Outrage! Is Now makes a convincing fist of them not sounding like a band pushing 40. With various electronic bolt-ons, their rhythm-sectionwith-singing-drummer core is a durable machine, able to fit into multiple rhythmic modes, with QOTSA stinky rock growl (Caught Up), house music moves (Freeze Me) and a curious echo of the Sweet (Never Swim Alone) among the attractions. Consider lost time made up. HHH IAN HARRISON Listen To: Caught Up | NVR 4VR
Death From Above: “mate, the dress code memo clearly stated black on white.”
Benjamin Clementine: “there’s something of The Man Who Fell To Earth about him…”
SOUL ASYLUM MERCURY WINNER’S OPERATIC ODYSSEY ABOUT THE REFUGEE CRISIS.
BENJAMIN CLEMENTINE I TELL A FLY
BEHIND/VIRGIN EMI, OUT 15 SEPTEMBER
BENJAMIN CLEMENTINE tells Simon Price about the concepts behind his second album.
On first album At Least For Now, listeners had no expectations. Second time around, they think they know you. How do you expect them to react to I Tell A Fly? “They’ll either relate to it, or move on. They won’t be hearing At Least For Now again. This album is maybe for a different crowd. I’ve challenged myself to not just sing about myself, but to look at the world around me.”
As someone from an immigrant family, and someone who has been homeless in a foreign land, do you feel a natural empathy with refugees? “First of all, I hate the word ‘immigrant’. I call them aliens, I call them flies. If you consider yourself a better species than an ape, gorilla or chimp, internally you should know that we will forever be travelling different paths and
crossing lines. If you can’t empathise with people trying to find a safe place, then to me that is evil.” But calling refugees “flies” sounds dehumanising... “When you’re poor, people look down on you and walk away from you. Everyone is a fly. Horseflies, butterflies, houseflies, different kinds of flies that do different things. In Ancient Greece, in painting, a fly symbolised healing.”
On the final track, you warn “Barbarians are coming!” Who are the barbarians? “The people who perpetrate fear. Since about 2010, I’ve noticed there’s been this focus that we must be scared, we must be on our toes. And the best way to stop that fear is to keep dreaming, which is why I sing ‘Dreamers, stay strong!’ I sound very American right now, haha…”
When Benjamin Clementine arrived in 2013, he seemed to have dropped in from nowhere. In fact, he’d come via almost everywhere. Born in Crystal Palace, raised in Edmonton, the self-taught singerpianist survived a strict Christian upbringing to abscond to Paris, honing his arresting style by busking on the Metro, before returning home to make a jawdropping appearance on Later… and deliver At Least For Now, a debut that merited comparisons to Antony And The Johnsons, Nina Simone and Jacques Brel. It won the Mercury Prize. There’s something of The Man Who Fell To Earth about Clementine, and this, combined with his peripatetic backstory, may be why the ambiguous phrase “an alien of extraordinary ability”, on a US visa form, resonated enough to catalyse a chain of thoughts that led to his second LP. I Tell A Fly ditches the autobiographical approach of its predecessor, edecessor, and weaves an allegorical narrative of refugees (characterised as “aliens”, “birds” or “flies”) fleeing from Aleppo to the Jungle at Calais. It’s reminiscent not only of Clementine’s classical heroes Satie and Debussy, but of previous stabs at conceptual rock opera (Brian Wilson on Smile, Mark Wirtz on A Teenage Opera, Serge Gainsbourg on Histoire de Melody Nelson). Its components include bitterly ironic onic interpolations of God Save The Queen and Guns N’ Roses, backwards voices, jaunty music hall, and at one point, an entirely new genre: harpsichord & bass. Its mercurial, episodic structure and lurching time signatures, combined with the stark power of Clementine’s voice, make it as unsettling as anything in Scott Walker’s recent oeuvre. Anyone expecting an album of unchallenging fodder is in for a shock. Like the voyage faced by its desperate, stateless subjects, I Tell A Fly is no easy ride. HHHH SIMON PRICE Listen To: One Awkward Fish | God Save The Jungle | Ave Dreamer OCTOBER 2017
SAFETY FIRST PROSAIC NINTH FROM WORLD’S BIGGEST ROCK BAND.
CONCRETE AND GOLD
RCA/ROSWELL, OUT 15 SEPTEMBER
Behind the goofy grin, Dave Grohl is a shrewd operator who knows the value of having a hook to hang an album on. For 2011’s Wasting Light, the shtick was a back-toanalogue-in-my-garage brodown. The follow-up, 2014’s Sonic Highways, went several steps further with its all-star albumwithin-a-TV series approach. The pitch for the Foo Fighters’
ninth album is two-pronged: recruit an A-list pop producer (Adele and Sia collaborator Greg Kurstin) and cook up a record that, in Grohl’s words, “sounds like Slayer making Pet Sounds.” While the idea of teenage symphonies to Satan sounds appealing, the reality is more prosaic. Concrete And Gold is a straightforward Foo Fighters album, albeit one that does occasionally fulfil its promise to deliver both aural lavishness and maximum heaviosity.
At its best, as on the alternately corrosive and chiming Run or the industrial wah-wah of La Dee Da, the combination works perfectly. But elsewhere, Kurstin’s production trickery merely papers over the cracks of average songs – The Sky Is A Neighbourhood is a turgid dirge that all the weaponised vocal harmonies in the world can’t enliven. For all of Grohl’s grand talk, there’s ultimately nothing here to scare the horses. Arrows and The Line are the kind of million-dollar
Foo Fighters (with new recruit Rami Jaffee, third right): “straightforward.”
FOR ALL OF DAVE GROHL’S GRAND TALK, THERE’S ULTIMATELY NOTHING HERE TO SCARE THE HORSES.
stadium anthems only the Foo Fighters seem to write these days, while the charms of Dirty Water depend on your propensity for sleepy, middle-of-the-road rock ballads. Either way, Brian Wilson and Beelzebub can sleep easily. HHH DAVE EVERLEY Listen To: Run | La Dee Da | Arrows
Deerhoof: their “riotous colour palette” extends to their dress sense too.
MUSIC FOR THE AGE OF MIRACLES
TA T PETE, OUT 22 SEPTEMBER
First new music in seven years from English pastoral poppers. Everything you need to know about The Clientele can probably be explained by the fact that their penultimate track here, Erik Satie-like instrumental North Circular Days, features a recording of the wind blowing outside late art-house filmmaker Derek Jarman’s former home in Dungeness. This is a group keen to capture the “otherness” of the natural world in their music and lyrics, matching it to singer Alasdair MacLean’s soft croon. If this smacks of pretentiousness, the results really aren’t, mainly because we’re never far away from a gorgeous melody, such as the one in the semi-detached wander through London in Lunar Days (“The strip lights shine/I disappear”). A work of lovely, floaty wonder. HHHH TOM DOYLE Listen To: The Neighbour | Lunar Days | North Circular Days
JOYFUL NOISE, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
Art-rock veterans reinvigorated. San Francisco’s Deerhoof have been pursuing the art-rock dream for over 20 years now. Their latest is a self-conscious epic – a maximalist call-to-arms that takes aim at the big
issues of the day and even dares to throw in a Bob Marley cover (Small Axe) for fun. Amazingly, it’s a triumph. Vibrant and outwardlooking, the record has a buoyant, dancified energy that flows from I Will Spite Survive’s multi-faceted euphoria through to their pointed reconstruction of The Staple Singers’ Freedom Highway. Guest
appearances by Laetitia Sadier (ex-Stereolab) and actress/rapper Awkwafina add to the riotous colour palette, but Deerhoof make sure they never lose control of the moving parts or the central, highly politicised message. HHHH E J MES JA ES OLDHAM Listen To: I Will Spite Survive | Freedom Highway
K-SCOPE, OUT NOW
SUNDAY BEST, T, T OUT NOW
LOOSE, OUT NOW
KILL ROCK STARS ST , OUT NOW
Former Mansun leader’s solo debut. Mansun’s knowing quirkiness and prog undertow mean they sound newer now than they did in Britpop’s heyday. Since that band imploded in 2003, leader Draper has surfaced occasionally with Skin and Spooky Action collaborator Catherine AD, but only now has he finally launched his solo career. Essentially, he’s Mansun with more oomph and more nods to peak-period Depeche Mode and the long-lost Associates. At its worst (Jealousy Is A Powerful Emotion), he’s overwrought and stodgy. More often, though, Draper is an unceasingly self-lacerating lyricist unafraid to deal with his past, and there’s musical majesty in the mighty Feeling My Heart Run Slow and the psychedelic fizz of Don’t Poke The Bear. HHH JOHN AIZLEWOOD Listen To: Feeling My Heart Run Slow | Don’t Poke The Bear
ELY L TRAL LY
Sister of Adele/U2 producer Paul crosses over to the dark side. Five years ago in her video for Long Gone, Mary Epworth could be found in a sunlit field of flowers looking like a model in a ’70s Flake advertisement. Now, in her creative headspace, clearly night has fallen. Elytral is a far tougher proposition, rooted in hard-edged electronics, and in the case of opener Gone Rogue, skronking avant-jazz saxophone. It ushers the listener into a decidedly noir atmosphere akin to a synthesized take on Kate Bush’s The Ninth Wave. Epworth lets the light back in by the end, resulting in the transformation in Lost Everything that was perhaps the point all along: “I had to break myself/To remake myself.” All in all, a brooding and brilliant record. HHHH TOM DOYLE Listen To: Gone Rogue | Me Swimming | Lost Everything
IN THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS American folk-rock sibling goes it alone with impressive results. There was always something special about American folk-rockers Felice Brothers; something spirited and slightly ramshackle. For his debut solo record, the band’s lead singer and songwriter draws from the same well. He enlists four of the original band members and, by any other name, offers up a 10th Felice Brothers album. But it’s something more personal too: many of the songs here are reflections on the past – on a childhood Felice spent in the Catskills, the changing face of America, on the demons to lay down before imminent fatherhood. Tracks such as Will I Ever Reach Laredo and Signs Of Spring offer particularly fine examples of his characteristic mingling of hope and loss. HHHH LAURA UR BA URA B RTON TON T Listen To: Will I Ever Reach Laredo | Signs Of Spring
Sleater-Kinney/R.E.M. supergroup: less than the sum of its parts. On paper, a band that includes Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, which originally convened to perform live sets of Bowie covers, is an alluring prospect. The reality, though, is something of a letdown. While there are nods to Television’s twisting riffs and, on the glam stomp of Come Back Shelley, T.Rex, much here amounts to solid AOR, by turns over-polished and underwhelming. Tucker’s voice has always sounded most striking when articulating emotional extremes, but many of the songs simply sound too mannered for her. There are sparks of excitement on the more urgent The Arrival and No Forgotten Son, but given the CVs of those involved this is a disappointment. HH PHIL MONGREDIEN Listen To: The Arrival | No Forgotten Son | You And Your King OCTOBER 2017
BERLIN-BASED BRISTOLIAN STILL CASTS A SPELL THAT’S ALL HIS OWN.
FALSE IDOLS/!K7, OUT 22 SEPTEMBER
Despite its title suggesting a fresh outbreak of turbulence, Tricky’s latest offering is trailed by its ofttroubled creator as the work on which the 49-year-old -year-old finally makes peace with himself. “I’ve got nothing to prove now,” he claims. Naturally, Tricky has had plenty to live up to in the past, having debuted in 1995 with one of the great artistic statements in modern British music. Yet after a period of not always convincing readjustments, this 13th album since Maxinquaye finds him again operating in the shadowy creative edgelands he knows best. Relocated to Berlin and apparently living a reformed life, Tricky, nonetheless, understands the enduring appeal of his restless, enigmatic persona: “Hear my voice and you get a buzz,” he murmurs over the febrile techno beat of Same As It Ever Was. As on last year’s Skilled Mechanics project, he also gains added strength through collaboration, from surprise cameos by Russian MC Scriptonite (four tracks were recorded in Moscow) to beguiling interactions with husky-voiced female singers. On the languorous Wait For Signal his voice curls like smoke around that of actress Asia Argento, while his former muse Martina Topley-Bird is as bewitching as ever on Massive Attack-like finale When We Die. The sole track Tricky performs solo is The Only Way, his voice reduced almost to a whisper over a viscous breakbeat layered with strings and acoustic guitar. Haunted and broken as he reflects on a missing lover, it’s not only an affecting lament, but the most Tricky-like he’s sounded in years. Let’s hope he’s here to stay. HHHH RUPERT HOWE Listen To: Same As It Ever Was | Wait For Signal | The Only Way | When We Die 104
Tricky: “again operating in the shadowy creative edgelands he knows best.”
RAMROCK, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
COOKING VINYL, OUT NOW
EVERY MAN FOR EVERY MAN Mellow roots reggae from Ramsgate. The Ram in Ghetto Priest’s label Ramrock stands for Ramsgate, the Kent town where dub supremo Adrian Sherwood set up shop seven years ago, bringing a number of his posse with him. One such was Ghetto Priest, a sometime football hooligan and post-office robber, who turned to Rastafarianism while inside. Every Man… has the easyrockin’ vibe of a ’70s Lee “Scratch” Perry album, its musicality subtle and Sherwood’s dubbiness muted, so all focus is channelled into ’Priest’s sweet voicing and the power of a soulful batch of tunes. These include several written by Texan associate Jeb Loy Nichols, choice covers including Lizard’s Satti I, and an ace adaptation of the Robert Burns poem, I Murder Hate. HHHH ANDREW W PERRY Listen To: Ghetto Life | Satta I
SEEKERS AND FINDERS
Globe-trotting Gypsy punks’ ongoing world tour continues. Gogol Bordello singer Eugene Hütz is a walking travelogue. A refugee from post-Chernobyl Ukraine, he washed up on the shores of North America as a teenager before settling in São Paulo several years ago. The immigrant experience is reflected in his band’s patchwork of styles, with punk rock, dub, tropicalia and klezmer music all in the mix. On their seventh album, the feral spirit that once fuelled them has been superseded by the wisdom of experience. With its freewheeling fiddles, Saboteur Blues flies the Gypsy-punk flag high, but If I Ever Get Home Before Dark and opener Did It All – a duet with fellow traveller Regina Spektor – put thoughtful maturity front and centre. Oddly, it suits them well. HHH DAVE EVERLEY Listen To: Saboteur Blues | If I Ever Get Home Before Dark
HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR OMNION
PIAS, OUT NOW
US producer adds personal touch to collaborative party. When Andy Butler debuted his Hercules & Love Affair project back in 2008 it was elevated by the vocals of Antony Hegarty. But while the latter has become one of the most arresting talents in contemporary pop, Butler has found it harder to break out of the disco-revivalist scene he helped create. His fourth album shows a continuing talent for both dynamite house beats and reframing idiosyncratic vocalists, even making a sequinned Hi-NRG diva out of The Horrors’ Faris Badwan on Controller. But it’s Butler himself who delivers the most affecting statement, Fools Wear Crowns’ electro-shimmer only heightening his candid reflections on a recent battle with addiction. HHH RUPERT RT HOWE W WE Listen To: Omnion | Controller
London alt-rock quartet deliver big songs but few fresh ideas. InHeaven know their way around a tune. Boasting turbocharged riffs, instant hooks and the striking vocals of guitarist James Taylor and bassist Chloe Little, it is easy to see why Julian Casablancas’s label scrambled to spread their gospel in America. Their great talent is musical alchemy, with Stupid Things playing out like Springsteen’s Born To Run colliding head first into the Ramones’ Pet Sematary. There is undoubtedly a certain genius involved in pulling this off coherently. Elsewhere, however, they don’t so much merge influences as outright clone them, with World On Fire piggybacking Marilyn Manson’s The Fight Song unforgivably hard. InHeaven’s potential is huge, it’s just not fully realised here. HHH GEORGE GARNER Listen To: Stupid Things | Baby’s Alright | Drift
88 WATT ATT ATT TT,, OUT 15 SEPTEMBER
MUTE, OUT NOW
MR.INTL/SKINT/ KINT BMG, OUT NOW KINT/
The Horrors: “Tunnel vision, us?”
THE HORRORS V
WOLFTONE / CAROLINE INTERNATION A ATION AL, OUT 22 SEPTEMBER
Sinister pop surgeons’ fifth LP. After bursting on the scene like the monstrous hatchling from their Sheena Is A Parasite video, The Horrors underwent a series of beautiful mutations. Having chewed through garage schlock and Krautrock goth, they settled on queasily synthetic psychedelia around 2011’s Skying. V feels
bigger than its predecessors, but it still disturbs, precise musical adjustments – an ounce of Fools Gold on Press Enter To Exit, a pipette of ’90s dance-pop on Something To Remember Me By – mirrored by cold, de-personalised lyrics. “Are we holograms/Or are we visions?” asks Faris Badwan over Hologram’s Gary Numan crunch, the factory setting of a record that’s mighty unreal. HHHH VICTORIA SEGAL V Listen To: Hologram | Machine | Press Enter To Exit
The sound of 21st-century prog. The quiet rehabilitation of progressive rock is one of the more unexpected musical developments of recent times. Not for Leeds five-piece KOYO the Tolkien-style concepts and side-long keyboard solos of their cape-wearing forebears, though. Rather, their debut album takes Mogwai’s shifting soundscapes as its jumping-off point. The pill is sugared with stadium-rock dynamics and retro synths on Jettisoned and Lost In The Kingdom, though their true colours shine through on the spacey eight-minute excursion Tetrachromat (Part 1-2), which even throws in a sax solo for good measure. Its rejection of current trends is admirably bold, though you wish they’d push things even further out every once in a while. HHH DAVE EVERLEY Listen To: Jettisoned | Lost In The Kingdom | Tetrachromat (Part 1-2)
Stripped-back band go wild in the country. Never the most stable compound, Liars appear particularly fragile on their eighth album. Since co-founder Aaron Hemphill’s departure, the band name is now occupied solely by Angus Andrew, who made the uneasy TFCF after returning to his native Australia. It was recorded out in the bush and it shows, the downbeat electronica of 2012’s Daniel Miller-produced WIXIW or 2014’s bleepy Mess degrading into isolated acoustic meditations and off-beam confessionals. “I push down all the terrible thoughts inside,” sings Angus on Cred Woes, complete with alarming My Sharona breakdown, but under all the Iggy Pop mumbling, splintered ballads and warped Western themes, it seems they keep bubbling back up. HHH VICTORIA SEGAL V Listen To: Cred Woes | Staring At Zero | No Help Pamphlet OCTOBER 2017
Jake Bugg: for him, black is always the new black.
AFTER THE STORM JAKE BUGG
HEARTS THAT STRAIN VIRGIN EMI, OUT NOW
Last summer, Nottingham’s leading early-20s troubadour broke a three-year silence with On My One, which sought to diversify radically beyond his initial folkrock sound. With tinges of Europop production and even rapping aboard, it revealed a crisis of confidence over where exactly this precocious talent would fit in as a mature artist. Now back with his fourth longplayer just one year on – and with a shirt sponsorship at his beloved Notts County FC lined up for November – Jake Bugg seems a 106
lot clearer about who he really is, as Hearts That Strain U-turns back to straight-down-the-line folk-country songs. It was recorded in Nashville, with largely the same team behind Dan Auerbach’s recent solo record, Waiting On A Song, including sound engineer David “Fergie” Ferguson, alumni of such classics as Dusty In Memphis and Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds, and
the chief Black Key himself himself, who co-wrote three tracks. Where Auerbach’s album has a magnificently quirky, timelesspop air, this one has its moments, but somehow never quite catches fire. Opener How Soon The Dawn ushers in a melancholy end-ofsummer vibe, with an easy slo-mo beat, ambling acoustics and bittersweet ivory-tinkling. In The Event Of My Demise seems to be
IT’S AN ALBUM THAT HAS ITS MOMENTS, BUT SOMEHOW NEVER QUITE CATCHES FIRE.
heading in the same direction, until it shifts up into a remarkable West Coast folk-rock chorus. Also great, Waiting guest-stars Noah Cyrus, sister of Miley, for a lavishly orchestrated soul-ballad duet. Elsewhere, though technically top-drawer, there’s simply a lack of spark. Still only 23, Bugg has abandoned his Nottsobservational lyrics for more universal, and, frankly, less interesting verbal fodder. In all senses, Hearts That Strain needs a Lightning Bolt. HHH ANDREW PERRY Listen To: How Soon The Dawn | In The Event Of My Demise | Waiting
FOLK-ROCKER STRUGGLES TO MAINTAIN YOUTHFUL MOMENTUM.
KAYA KAYA, OUT NOW
WARP, RP, O OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
Scandi double-act give synth-pop a surreal makeover. Their artist name isn’t going to win any prizes for creativity, given that Helsinki’s Jaakko Eino Kalevi and Sami Toroi are indeed both men and members of said duo. But this debut album from their latest alliance (following 2013’s wigged-out Amateurs de Vérité project) does find them stretching their musical muscles in new directions. Guided by a love of ’80s synth-pop, but feeding in elements gleaned from Chicago house and Italo disco, they come across like a Nordic Junior Boys. One Formula’s minimal pulse gives way to the baroque, soft-rock-inspired The Middle, while What If It Falls’s lyrics about “shaving, moisturising” shows off an unexpected gift for deadpan comedy. HHH RUPERT HOWE Listen To: One Formula | The Middle | What If It Falls
LOVE WHAT SURVIVES
Mogwai: the baggy revival starts here.
EVERY COUNTRY’S SUN
ROCK ACTION, CTION, OUT NO NOW
Glasgow post-rockers’ ninth. The last time that Mogwai worked with producer Dave Fridmann, whose more recent credits have included albums by Tame Impala and MGMT, was on 2001’s Rock Action. They reunite here and Every Country’s Sun offers an austere contrast to the latter two groups, built as it is around mostly instrumental, minimal rock band deconstructions with sparing electronics. The approach has its
NOTHING BUT TTHIEVES
FICTION, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
RCA, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
WAKE UP NOW
Mercury-nominated folkie thumps the social-conscience drum. On his 20144 debut First Mind, Nick Mulvey was an intriguing presence, conjuring acoustic Cuban-influenced reveries while nodding towards a laughing-gas seller. Three years on, his love of Paul Simon has moved on to Graceland in opener Unconditional, though it’s his desire to throw his arms around the world that is the biggest change: We Are Never Apart rails against fracking; Myela tracks the difficult progress of a refugee. Trouble is, particularly with the repeated, “I am your neighbour/You are my neighbour” refrain of the latter, it all descends into a bit of a toe-curlingly worthy WOMAD sing-along. More subtle and far better are gentle ballad When The Body Is Gone and lovely closer Infinite Trees. HHH TOM DOYLE Listen To: Unconditional | Infinite Trees | When The Body Is Gone
Noisy Southend quintet’s second album. In the middle ground between Panic! At The Disco and Muse lie Nothing But Thieves. Broken Machine, their second LP, is a fistpumping beast that unfurls escalating choruses (most dramatically on Get Better) and cascading guitar riffs at every turn. But while singer Conor Mason wails like The Darkness’s Justin Hawkins on I’m Not Made By Design, elsewhere, beneath the pomp and ceremony, they’re remarkably light and poppy on their feet. So Hell, Yeah and the surprisingly gentle ballad (“you just say I drink too much”) are genuinely affecting, while they don’t even bother to hide the irresistible, singalong poppiness of the opening I Was Just A Kid and Amsterdam. HHHH JOHN AIZLEWOOD Z ZLEWOOD Listen To: I Was Just A Kid | Hell, Yeah | Get Better | Amsterdam
appeal: the loose, grooving Crossing The Road Material brings rings echoes of Michael Rother, other, 20 Size takes molten guitars itars to the high plains and the title track expresses a grinding immensity that’s almost geological in scope. The rearranging of certain signature moves can instil feelings of déjà vu, though, meaning some listeners will wish they reached for the post-punk pop moment of ghostly vocal track Party In The Dark’s more frequently. HHH IAN HARRISON Listen To: Party In The Dark | Crossing The Road Material
SAV AVAGE: AV VAGE: SONGS FROM A BROKEN WORLD BMG, OUT 15 SEPTEMBER
Android In La La Land dreams about world destruction. It’s been more than two decades since Gary Numan completed his mutation from alienated synth pioneer to dark industrial rocker, and Savage remains largely within that genre. One track, Mercy, even completes the circle of influence by echoing Closer by Nine Inch Nails, whose Trent Reznor is an avowed Numanoid. The album has a loose sci-fi storyline, imagining a postapocalyptic world in which states no longer exist and water is scarce. Corny as that may sound, Numan and collaborator Ade Fenton complement the narrative with a sand-blown, Eastern gothic mood, featuring use of Arabic scales, which evoke a desert within the human soul as much as any hypothetical desert Earth. HHH SIMON N PRICE Listen To: Bed Of Thorns | And It All Began With You
Post-dubstep grooves get a post-punk shot in the arm. London-based duo Dominic Maker and Kai Campos might have come up through the dubstep scene, but they soon started adding extra ingredients to their agile electronica. As on 2013’s Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, their third album makes the most of some distinctive vocal cameos, including a scene-stealing return from gobby South Londoner King Krule on Blue Train Lines and a typically soulful turn by long-time friend James Blake for We Go Home Together. Still more tellingly, their sound is now driven by a tensile energy that sounds like they’ve been mainlining the early Factory catalogue, most tellingly on SP12 Beat’s Afro-dub soundclash and Delta’s minimalist electro throb. HHHH RUPERT HOWE Listen To: Blue Train Lines | SP12 Beat | We Go Home Together
OH SEES ORC
CASTLE FACE, OUT NOW
Nineteenth effort from prolific San Fran psych-rock troupe. With their newly shorn name (they’ve lost the Thee for this record), the Oh Sees return here meaning business. They might have 18 albums’ worth of mind-scouring psych-garage behind them but they clearly want to show they’ve lost none of their deranged enthusiasm for making it. Orc is an incredibly full-on record. It starts with the flailing intensity of The Static God, all squealing guitars and relentless two drummer assault, and it doesn’t abate from there. Mainman John Dwyer obviously wants to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his band’s existence with a bang not a whimper, and when he veers into the proto-metal overload of Animated Violence, you can safely say it’s mission accomplished. HHH JAMES MES H M HA ME OLDHA Listen To: The Static God | Animated Violence OCTOBER 2017
PROPHETS OF RAGE R
SECRETLY CANADIAN, OUT 22 SEPTEMBER
CAROLINE, OUT 15 SEPTEMBER
THIRTY TIGERS, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
MUTE, OUT 15 SEPTEMBER
MULT UL I-TA ULT -TASK
Melodic, wiry post-punk outfit’s second effort. Atlanta trio Omni offer a skewed take on post-punk that proved quite delightful on last year’s debut, Deluxe. Its successor is equally likeable: methodical but melodic, retro but refreshing. The influences – Wire, Devo, Television – are obvious and unapologetic but still Omni retain an urgency. Much of these songs’ power stems from Frankie Broyles’s guitar. While its tone remains consistent its contortions are unpredictable, and so one moment we hear it elbowing its way through First Degree, the next elaborately flourishing on Super Moon. Meanwhile Philip Frobos’s vocals stand some distance behind, as if making a wry commentary on proceedings, removed yet somehow compelling. HHHH LAURA BARTON B Listen To: Equestrian | Tuxedo Blues | First Degree
PROPHETS OF RAGE
Rap-rock veterans unite as the world descends into hell. Given the White House’s current incumbent, it wasn’t so much if Prophets Of Rage – Rage Against The Machine fronted by Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Cypress Hill’s B-Real – would turn up, as when. Their debut album sets its sights on capitalism, racism and Donald Trump. The message is as subtle as a street riot – “No hatred/Fuck racists” runs Unfuck The World – but the delivery mechanism (’90s funk-metal, barked tirades) creaks with age. Instead they’re at their most interesting when they deviate from the obvious RATM/PE mash-up, as on the psychedelically-tinged pro-pot anthem Legalize Me. For all their talk, we’re still waiting on the first great protest album of the Trump era. HH D VE VE EV EVE ERLE DA E RLEY Listen To: Legalize Me | Living On The 110 | Who Owns Who
WE’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE Austin-based singer saves his best for fourth. An old-school road dog, Ramirez recorded his previous albums when he could snatch time away from touring. For We’re Not Going Anywhere he took long enough to properly catch his breath, holing up in a residential studio, and the extra time was well spent. His last LP, 2015’s Fables, pointed to greatness just over the horizon, and …Anywhere delivers on that promise. Self-critical songs where he spends most of his time apologising to lovers, friends and family are his bread and butter, but there’s a new political stance in that Ramirez finds himself questioning the USA he grew up believing in and the divided, unsafe and angry country he sees. Politics seldom sound this heartfelt and honest. HHHH ANDY Y FY FYFE FE Listen To: Twins | People Call Who They Wanna Talk To | Time
HOLIDAY A DESTINATION AY 1965, OUT NOW
MODERN SKY, OUT 15 SEPTEMBER
NONESUCH, OUT 15 SEPTEMBER
BEFORE THE APPLAUSE
Chinese trio take a great leap forwards. Watch Out! Climate Has Changed, Fat Mum Rises… in 2009 established Beijing’s Rebuilding The Rights Of Statues as skewed post-punks with a sense of adventure, a fistful of TV On The Radio albums and a more subtly developed sense of fun than being the state-sanctioned pioneers of the so-called China Rock Explosion promises. Almost a decade later, Re-TROS have exploded all on their own with a synth-propelled follow-up obviously in thrall to Battles and Trio, but which sparkles with innovation: Pigs In The River mixes melodica, grizzled vocals, buzzsaw guitars and what sounds suspiciously like depth charges. There’s minimalism on 8+2+8 II, while the 12 minutes of At Mosp Here re-defines marching music. Extraordinary. HHHH JOHN AIZLEWOOD Listen To: At Mosp Here | 8+2+88 II 108
Complex, rewarding solo debut from ex-Vampire Weekender. Since leaving Vampire Weekend last year, Rostam Batmanglij has emerged as a kind of Mr Fixit for alternative pop, putting his talents at the service of Frank Ocean, Hamilton Leithauser and Haim. Yet this enigmatic solo debut shows he’s far from played out, creating a stylistic hall-of-mirrors that refracts modern styles (R&B, electronica) through classical arrangements and Eastern percussion. Unsurprisingly, fragments of VW-like melody still glimmer, not least on Bike Dream, but from the wild saxophone that punctuates Rudy to the way the blurred, allusive vocals on Gwan contrast with the lyrical precision of former bandmate Ezra Koenig, it feels like a step into a brave new world. HHHH RUPERT HOWE Listen To: Bike Dream | Wood | Gwan
Politically charged NorwegianPakistani-Geordie’s third album. When Nadine Shah asks, “How you gonna sleep tonight?” on Holiday Destination’s title track, it’s less a question, more an accusation based around holidaymakers on the Greek island of Kos moaning that refugees had ruined their break. It sets the tone for an angry album that takes on nationalism, mental health, Syria and, on its Nadine Shah: “blending fury and musical craft.”
Ex-Sonic Youth guitarist concentrates on his songwriting. After the daring innovation that defined Sonic Youth for three decades, Lee Ranaldo’s solo career since they split in 2011 has been more about conventional singer-songwriter dynamics. Electric Trim boasts the odd sample, and occasional electronic beats supplement the drums of former old bandmate Steve Shelley, but by and large this isn’t a radical departure from 2013’s Last Night On Earth. But what it lacks in surprises it makes up for in songcraft: Moroccan Mountains is an atmospheric opener; Last Looks, a duet with Sharon Van Etten, builds to an uncharacteristically euphoric climax; Uncle Skeleton is brilliantly restless. In short, a welcome return from one of alt-rock’s most singular talents. HHH PHIL MONGREDIEN Listen To: Uncle Skeleton | Moroccan Mountains | Last Looks
sleeve, Gaza. Short of laughs it may be, but it’s not short of ideas. Vocally, she’s part Alison Moyet, part Polly Harvey, but musically Shah throws in everything from a Middle Eastern twang on Place Like This to big balladry on Jolly Sailor and the brooding Yes Men. Shah isn’t doing anything especially new here, but she is blending 2017’s concerns, with unalloyed fury and genuine musical craft. HHH JOHN AIZLEWOOD Listen To: Holiday Destination | Out The Way | Jolly Sailor
The National: “a band in possession of innate emotional and musical intelligence.”
CLASS ACT UNPICK THE HUMAN CONDITION DITION ON FIRST ALBUM IN FOUR YEARS.
THE NATIONAL NAT SLEEP WELL BEAST 4AD, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
Elegant, classy, subtly detailed: at times, it’s difficult to describe The National without making them sound like a high-end men’s fashion spread. Their lack of unnecessary or modish adornment is, however, central to their appeal, their songs cut with the same timeless weight as a pure wool overcoat, their emotional warp-and-weft expertly spun. Fans might have been uneasy, then, when the band recently started talking about their
seventh album, the first since 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me, as having a “wild” and “experimental” side. Yet that appears to have been an unusual example of The National overstating things. Sleep Well Beast is undoubtedly richly textured, but it still demands the listener lean in, rather than grabbing attention with flashy
theatrics (swashbuckling guitar solo on The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness and Turtleneck’s ragged Nick Cave imagery aside). The mood remains one of grown-up regret and quiet anxiety, Matt Berninger’s impeccably phrased vocals so under-the-covers intimate it feels as if you are listening to the title track’s muffled electronics
THE MOOD REMAINS ONE OF GROWN-UP REGRET AND QUIET ANXIETY.
through ough a glas glass against the wall. Berninger’s lyrics (again worked on with his wife, editor Carin Besser) navigate rough, foggy terrain, Guilty Party softening a relationship breakdown with dreamy aftershocks, Day I Die examining fragile masculinity and hidden patterns. Sometimes, such wide emotional spaces lack immediate connection, but Sleep Well Beast once again shows a band in possession of innate emotional and musical intelligence. That never goes out of style. HHHH VICTORIA SEGAL Listen To: Day I Die | Walk It Back | Guilty Party OCTOBER 2017
The Killers: they’ve got their “groovy swagger” back.
MAIN OFFENDERS BRANDON FLOWERS’S GANG ARE STILL IN FULL BLOOM.
WONDERFUL WONDERFUL ISLAND, OUT 22 SEPTEMBER
Last month, The Killers were innocent bystanders in a Twitter rant from Ryan Adams directed towards The Strokes. “Maybe The Strokes should’ve got addicted to writing better songs,” he wrote in reference to the New York group’s former drug problems, “too bad The Killers did it for them.” But Adams accidentally summed up exactly what it is that makes The Killers tick. Their leader Brandon Flowers is addicted to writing better songs: a teetotal, workaholic frontman obsessed in his quest for stadium-pop
precision. Unlike some of their peers in the early-noughties indie boom, becoming successful was never a problem for The Killers. They got big and immediately asked themselves how they could get bigger. Battle Born (2012) took them to new heights as a live band, the peak being a sold-out Wembley Stadium show, but it did sound like the sort of record men make
in their 30s to prove that they are men now and they’ve done some manly stuff. Wonderful Wonderful is a glossy indie-pop album with sonics as slick and glistening as a brand-new Vegas skyscraper. It re-injects all the silly bits that make The Killers brilliant: the needless Auto-Tune at the start of Rut, which sounds like a cross between U2 and the Chariots Of Fire theme, the groovy swagger of
THE SONICS ARE AS SLICK AND GLISTENING AS A BRAND-NEW VEGAS SKYSCRAPER.
The Man, a spoken-word bit in The Calling by Woody Harrelson and a blatant re-appropriation of the hook from Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain on the title track. The album finishes with a guitar solo by Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler on a song called Have All The Songs Been Written?, for Christ’s sake. Amid all the air-punching anthems, the Brian Eno co-write Some Kind Of Love is one of their most beautiful songs. Five years since their last LP, over 13 since their debut, The Killers have never been happy just surviving. They are still flourishing. HHHH NIALL DOHERTY Listen To: Some Kind Of Love | Rut | The Man
MUST BUYS The essential albums of the last few months The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding
Everything Everything A Fever Dream
Adam Granduciel continues his quest to find not only the perfect sound, but the big things like love and truth and self-knowledge on this fourth LP. It’s a lusher, more expansive proposition than last time, hitting that cosmic AOR sweet spot between the classic and the futuristic.
A disparate, intricate eclecticism has always been these restless Mancunians’ sonic calling card, so it’s a welcome surprise that the songs on this fourth LP sound so unified. Wedding warm electronica to a scruffy US-guitar-band fury, it’s their most human record to date.
Dizzee Rascal Raskit DIRTEE STANK/ISLAND
Dizzee’s superb sixth was consciously made with “no hands-in-the-air moments”. In contrast, the production is sparse, the atmosphere heavy, the man himself agitated and antagonistic as he rails against life’s injustices. His flow has always been phenomenal – but now it’s matched by weighty content.
Queens Of The Stone Age Villains MATADOR
Josh Homme’s winning formula – desert-dry guitars, motorik rhythms and his own toocool-for-school croon – has been tweaked just enough to keep things spicy on this seventh LP. Mark Ronson co-produces, bringing just a dash of uptown funkiness to the table, too.
RINGO STARR GIVE MORE LOVE
UME, OUT 15 SEPTEMBER
Through the looking glass: Sparks return to the pop fray.
Beatle’s 19th solo set with a little help from his friends. Just as he does on the road with his All Starr Band, Ringo Starr surrounds himself with top-drawer musicians in the studio. Give More Love reacquaints him with Toto’s Steve Lukather and soft-rocker Richard Marx; both of whom contributed to his last LP, 2015’s Postcards From Paradise. This time, they’re joined by random Eagles and, for two songs, Paul McCartney. The forgettable radio-pop of Laughable or Show Me The Way suggests a musician with nothing to prove having fun with his friends. After five songs, though, Give More Love nosedives into by-numbers country rock. Among the bonus tracks are Starr’s ’70s hits Photograph and Back Off Boogaloo; the last a cheery glam-stomp that knocks everything else here into a cocked hat. HH MARK BLAKE Listen To: Back Off Boogaloo
residencies where they played every LP they ever made, in full, and 2015’s team-up with Franz Ferdinand. What they haven’t delivered, since ’08, is a straight-up Sparks LP. Hippopotamus finally ticks that box, while still laced with all their latterday narrative leanings, Broadway arrangements and pastiches. As ever, there’s much fun to be had, in Missionary Position’s nudge-
nudge hilarity, and the sheer daftness of the title track’s series of rhymes for the titular water-borne beast. Yet ultimately, floating voters will lament the lack of a flat-out glam and/or electro-disco belter to rival their hits. HHH ANDREW PERRY Listen To: Missionary Position | Hippopotamus | Unaware
SUSANNE SUNDFØ SUNDFØR
THE WATERBOY WATERBOYS
CASTLE FACE, OUT NOW
BELLA UNION, OUT NOW
BMG, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
SACRED BONES, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
BMG, OUT 8 SEPTEMBER
US art-rockers play it straight, ish. For the past 10 years, Sparks have indulged their outside-the-box USP, branching out into concept albums, conceptual tours, live
San Fran econo-auteur’s eighth. Considering he just loves Echo & The Bunnymen, and even covered their Crocodiles LP in full in 2001, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Kelley Stoltz’s joining of the group’s touring incarnation last year might have sapped his will to record solo. Happily that’s not the case: with more dusty synths than 2015’s In Triangle Time, Que Aura presents his top-drawer songwriting in the form of new-wave psychedelia, smart guitar-pop and budget R&B. Some aspects, such as I’m Here For Now’s musing on universal energy, sound more than microdosed, while elsewhere, as on Empty Kicks’ threadbare disco moves, there’s a more cogent acceptance of life’s imperfections. But whatever the hurdles, his delight in song remains palpable. HHHH IIAN HARRISON Listen To: I’m Here For Now | No Pepper For The Dustman
MUSIC FOR PEOPLE IN TROUBLE A bold about-turn for Norwegian electro-pop singer. Susanne Sundfør’s last album, Ten Love Songs, was huge and melodramatic, raining fiery synths over big ’80s vocals. Her new one, the brilliantly-named Music For People In Trouble, is huge and melodramatic in its own way, too – it’s preoccupied with the void left when love is gone and covers it in a controlled, almost reverential, manner. Most accompaniments are stripped back to a single instrument, allowing her rich voice to shine before dropping out, frequently, into lavishly-textured instrumental codas. No doubt she is sick to death of being compared to Kate Bush but, vocally at least, it’s an apt comparison on eight-minute epic The Sound Of War. A beautifully unsettling album. HHHH KATE SOLOMON K Listen To: Mountaineers | Bedtime Story | The Sound Of War
OUT OF ALL THIS BLUE
Roots-rock troubadour’s purple patch continues. Mike Scott was combining anthemic folk’n’roll with a tweed-based wardrobe while Mumford & Sons were too young to pick up a banjo. Having swerved superstardom in the ’80s for life in rural Ireland, he continues to edge his way back to the limelight. This 23-track follow-up to 2015’s swashbuckling Modern Blues is a funkier, looser affair. If I Was Your Boyfriend and New York I Love You are so vividly drawn they feel like diary entries, while his enduring passion for language peaks in The Hammerhead Bar where, “Viv Stanshall turned up on cue/With a pickled skull in a jar”. Scott can’t help but overcook things occasionally but fans will gorge on this rich feast of country, soul and downhome rock’n’roll. HHHH P UL MOODY PA Listen To: The Hammerhead Bar | If I Was Your Boyfriend
Death drives electronic artist’s bracing fifth album. Nothing about this record indicates an easy ride, from its title (it means “shackles” in Slovenian) to its primary theme (death, whether desired or feared). Yet despite Okovi’s potentially smothering seriousness, creator Nika Roza Danilova’s gothic electronica doesn’t crush the life out of itself or the listener, preferring to handle the big, dark questions with astringent grandeur rather than industrial-style punishment. Recorded in the Wisconsin woods, close to Danilova’s childhood home, it still opens up some wide emotional spaces, suicidewatch torch song Witness or Soak’s ambiguous cleansing metaphors scouring a path through the gloom. There are moments when it becomes a bit Baltic Eurovision, but Okovi is as tender as it is tough. HHH VICTORIA SEGAL Listen To: Exhumed | Soak OCTOBER 2017
SONGS OF PRAISE THE MASTERPIECE THAT BROKE THEM.
URBAN HYMNS: 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITIONS VIRGIN/UMC, OUT NOW
Something very interesting happened to British music in 1997. The previous year had seen Oasis playing to 250,000 people at Knebworth, the highpoint of the giddy, celebratory moment known as Britpop – but inside 12 months, the best music was sounding an altogether more hesitant, questioning note. The songs on Primal Scream’s Vanishing Point, Spiritualized’s Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space and Radiohead’s OK Computer were a perfect case in point – but as pop culture fell into an almost palpable sense of comedown, the most inescapable sound was that of a band who had somehow put themselves back together and begun to achieve undreamt-of success. Being reintroduced to Urban Hymns after 20 years is a strange, often revelatory experience. Its key tracks are inevitably achingly familiar, but their remastering and sumptuous packaging tends to underline what titanic creations they always were. The opening notes of Bitter Sweet Symphony can be depended on to trigger a goose-pimple feeling, again and again; the ornate closing passage of Lucky Man, all ad-libbed vocals and strings, sounds huge; Sonnet is simply a brilliant song. Even The Drugs Don’t Work, which anyone halfway interested in British rock music will have heard at least 200 times, is newly revealed as a country-tinged, gospel-flavoured wonder, full of the almost unbearable sense of sadness that defines a solo Richard Ashcroft demo included among the supporting features. 112
The album reflects the story of its creation. Urban Hymns’ central quartet of songs was created with what Richard Ashcroft calls “more of a singer-songwriter approach” after the band officially split in 1995, and intended to deal with similar themes to such already-released pieces as On Your Own and History. Early work on them was done by a line-up that included new guitarist Simon Tong and briefly took in Bernard Butler, then on the rebound from Suede. Then, Ashcroft called departed guitarist Nick McCabe, and two things happened: the existing material was given added colour and spark, and other creations harked back to the band they had been before they broke up. The latter are easy to spot – their songwriting credits take in the whole band, rather than Ashcroft alone – and they really shine anew: Come On and The Rolling People are heavy, anthemic things, whereas Neon Wilderness and the long-overlooked Catching The Butterfly have the same abstract, shimmering quality and lightness of touch that surfaced on some of the best parts of 1993’s A Storm In Heaven. On the 5CD and vinyl versions, these two respective moods are reflected in a 13-track selection of B-sides, and such songs as Echo Bass (shades here of The Stone Roses’ Fools Gold), the swaggering Three Steps, and The Longest Day, which fulfils the promise of its title by suggesting a trance-like state that may well have threatened to go on forever. With the biggest editions of this reissue, the rest extends into the distance: radio sessions, remixes, live tracks taken from their homecoming show at Haigh Hall in Wigan, and thrilling footage from the same show. Just about all of it attests to what proved to be the biggest reason for The Verve’s success, before they once again imploded: the fact that they perfectly soundtracked their era by making music that was both ambitious and serious, in the best possible way. In that sense, Urban Hymns suggests a kind of Dark Side Of The Moon for its time, which is some achievement. HHHHH JOHN HARRIS Listen To: Lucky Man | Bitter Sweet Symphony | Catching The Butterfly
Field music: The Verve (from left, Pete Salisbury, Simon Jones, Richard Ashcroft, Nick McCabe, Simon Tong) in 1997.
ALSO OUT... D.A.F.
DAS IST DAF
GröNlaNd recOrds, OUT 29 SEPTEMBER
EDM trailblazers get the deluxe box treatment. While the techno cognoscenti have long bent the knee to Düsseldorf’s D.A.F., the band deserve a wider audience. This handsome boxset, which collects four of their key albums from 1980-82, along with a fine collection of remixes, should spread the gospel beyond the hardcore. Beginning with the bruising industrial clang of Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen before taking flight into the more streamlined electro of their later work, this all begs to be rediscovered. HHHH MART IN BOON M RT RTIN
THE ATCO ALBUMS COLLECTION rhiNO, OUT 15 sepTember
Prime years of the New Orleans witch doctor. Before he became a gruff, N’Orleans traditionalist, Dr John made music that was anything but. Neither Louisiana nor anywhere else had heard music like these early LPs, collected on this seven-CD boxset. Mixing Crescent City heritage with psychedelia, he conjured up a narcotic swamp of black magic and God-knows-what in the gumbo. Although they grew less discomfiting, by 1973’s In The Right Place he could still sing I Been Hoodood and convince you that yes, indeed he had. HHHH STEVE VE Y VE YATES ATES
THE ROLLING STONES
THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST UNiversal, OUT 22 sepTember U
’97 HEAVEN Three other great albums released the same year as Urban Hymns.
Primal Scream Vanishing Point CREATION
On which the ’Scream binned their cod-Stones affectations and embraced a darkened psychedelia, embodied by Kowalski and Burning Wheel. HHHH Supergrass In It For The Money PARLOPHONE
A lost gem, full of a depth and ambition light years from their debut. Richard III is godlike; the title track is nearly as good. HHHH Bob Dylan Time Out Of Mind SONY
Dylan hadn’t released any original material in seven years, but this ’97 comeback was in keeping with the era’s sense of encroaching darkness. HHHH
Vinyl box of Stones’ slightly iffy go at psychedelia. Peace and love was never going to sit comfortably with a group whose stock in trade was menace and controversy. The bad trip to Sgt Pepper’s Technicolor dawn, The Rolling Stones’ 1967 foray into flower power is a disorientating phantasmagoria of wiggy jams and snatches of through-the-looking-glass pop. By the following year they’d wisely refocused on what they did best, but while no one of sane mind would consider Their Satanic Majesties Request the Stones’ best album, it’s certainly their strangest. HHH CHRIS CATCHPOLE
STONE TEMPLE PILOTS CORE (SUPER DELUXE EDITION) rhiNO, OUT 29 sepTember
Silver anniversary reissue of a ’90s alt-rock classic. Despite its extraordinary commercial success, Stone Temple Pilots’ 1992 debut Core was chained to a critical whipping post. Accusations of cloning Pearl Jam were the least of their concerns when Sex Type Thing’s anti-rape sentiment was misinterpreted as condoning male aggression. Core’s innate quality has outlasted such misunderstandings – newly remastered, it shines here alongside demos and three gripping live sets. But it’s Creep’s self-recrimination that stands as late frontman Scott Weiland’s finest moment. HHHH GEO GE RGE GARNER
MANCHESTER: NORTH OF ENGLAND cherry red, OUT NOW
Exhaustive trawl through Manchester indie, 1977-’93. Such was the sheer volume of great, good and so-so “independent” music emanating from Manchester between 1977 and 1993, any nostalgic trip through its rich and varied sonic landscape will inevitably be a mixed (record) bag. That said, this 147-track box (plus 92-page booklet) is thankfully packed with predominantly greatt music: Factory’s dour young men in raincoats (Joy Division/New Order, A Certain Ratio et al) cast the largest shadows before the thrilling headrush of the Mondays, Roses and Oasis paint-splash the scene in glorious Technicolor. Only The Smiths are conspicuous by their absence. HHHH SIMON McEWE WEN WE EN OCTOBER 2017
ENO WOULD DANCE IN FRONT OF THE MUSICIANS AND THEIR JOB WAS TO INTERPRET HIS MOVEMENTS.
Mr blue sky thinker: Brian Eno mixes Here Come The Warm Jets, Air Studios, London, 1973.
Brian Eno LISTENING
Brian Eno is pop’s Mr Outside-The-Box. After grafting synth weirdness onto Roxy Music, he soon single-handedly overhauled art-rock, before inventing “ambient” as sonic wallpaper for airports and other public places. ANDREW PERRY charts his breathtaking arc from pop, to the avant-garde and back again.
THE POSTMODERN GLAM RACKET
HERE COME THE WARM JETS
AMBIENT 1: MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS
REGAI NI NG H I S VOICE
THE SHIP (WARP, RP, 2016)
Fresh out of Roxy Music after a falling out of love with the rock star life (and Bryan Ferry), Eno pitched into the world of improvisation, collaborating with King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp on 1973’s (No Pussyfooting). However, he soon returned to the pop song format for this solo debut, where he deployed avant-garde methodologies to reinvent glam. He would dance in front of that day’s selection of musicians, and their job was to interpret his movements in music. Eno himself would mouth along in nonsensical syllables, then translate these into words. Far from a recipe for disaster, this wacko process put Here Come The Warm Jets into the Top 30, and it remains an oddball, era classic. Listen To: Needles In The Camel’s Eye
After a car accident in the mid-’70s left him bedridden, Eno began mulling over perceptions of music. One day during his recovery, he crawled back from his record player, only to find on lying down again that he’d not turned the volume up sufficiently. He later revealed that, “This presented a new way of hearing music – as part of the ambience of the environment.” Nodding to French composer Erik Satie’s concept of “furniture music”, Eno duly toyed with synth abstraction on 1975’s Discreet Music (a favourite of David Bowie’s), but reached his eureka moment with Ambient 1. Its entwining tape loops and synths were tailored to be aired continuously, as a soothing aural backdrop in a busy airport terminal. Listen To: 1/1
Eno was working on a sound installation in Stockholm, when, in his words, “I discovered I could now sing a low C, which happened to be the root note of the piece – getting older does have a few fringe benefits.” The result was The Ship, the haunting 21-minute opener on his 19th solo LP, which evolved into his most vocally inclined record since the ’70s. The Ship mirrors the immersiveness of his installation work – but it’s capped off with a lovely cover of The Velvet Underground’s I’m Set Free. Lyrics were created by feeding pre-existing writings (a lifeboat survivor recalls the Titanic sinking, bottom-of-email disclaimers, etc) into a Markov text generator, and picking juicy sentences from what emerged. Eno’s pursuit of beauty in the random only intensifies with age. Listen To: The Ship
THE OBLIQUE MASTERPIECE
… AND PEOPLE ARE BORN TO AMBIENT
T H E C O M P I L AT I O N
TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (BY STRATEGY) (ISLAND, 1974)
GIJSBERT HANEKROOT/CAMERA PRESS
AMBIENT IS BORN…
Within 10 months, Eno was back with an even stronger collection of songs, devised by yet more arbitrary means. In the studio, he and visual artist Peter Schmidt created the legendary Oblique Strategies deck of cards, whose random instructions his four-piece combo (including Phil Manzanera and Robert Wyatt) would have to follow. Writing his lyrics by the same sounds-into-words process he’d employed on …Warm Jets, Eno inadvertently dreamt up several future band names, the best known being A Certain Ratio (see The True Wheel). Another song, Third Uncle, was a key evolutionary step between Krautrockers Neu! and punk rock two years later. This remains the pinnacle of Eno’s art-rock years. Listen To: Third Uncle
(ALL SAINTS, 1993)
Eno’s initial Ambient series ran to four instalments, but he would pursue the genre virtually to the exclusion of all else for two or three decades, often alongside repeat offenders such as Robert Fripp and Harold Budd. By the early ’90s, his influence had reached critical mass, after two of his protégés, Youth (from Killing Joke, sometime signatories to his label, EG) and The Orb’s Dr Alex Paterson (an A&R man at EG) began cross-pollinating ambient with house to make a blissful, post-ecstasy chill-out sound. Eno responded by sculpting some of his most beautiful ambient pieces, including this 57-minute, single-track album. In his liner notes, Eno explained its premise as “to reward attention, but not so strictly as to demand it”, and Neroli has been used in hospital birthing wards. Listen To: Neroli: Thinking Music, Part IV
ENO BOX 1: INSTRUMENTAL (VIRGIN, 1994)
When the CD boom led to the proliferation of single-artist box-sets in the early ’90s, Eno came up with a fittingly unique way of anthologising his work, entailing not one, but two boxes, divvied up into vocal and instrumental tracks. Where the former more or less collects his first few solo records in full, the latter serves up a more far-reaching and utterly indispensable sampling of his voice-free recordings. These include the odd notable collaborative piece with key figures such as Cluster, Fripp and Bowie, as well as soundtrack contributions and edits of longer pieces. Add in a healthy selection from Discreet Music and the Music For Films series, and this threedisc bonanza charts the blossoming of Eno’s abstract impulses in his first 20 years with rare definitiveness. Listen To: Dover Beach OCTOBER 2017
NIALL DOHERTY TESTS THE GIZMOS SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO.
From reassuring radios to light show-featuring speakers via Fab Four-themed turntables, we have all this and more in our definitive hi-tech round-up.
ROBERTS STREAM 93i £199.95 Roberts know they’re good, which is why the company tagline is “Reassuringly Roberts”. They evoke a comfy it’ll-all-be-OK-ness, like John Lewis, or old slippers. With so many different models out there, it’s a good time to revisit the award-winning Stream 93i. This excellent DAB radio has a slightly dated display and chunky build, but the rest is cutting-edge. The internet radio gives you access to hundreds of stations across the world and the Spotify Connect function means you can stream music via your Spotify account. HHHH
SONY SRS-XB40 £199 The Sony SRS-XB40 looks like Johnny Five from Short Circuit with a disco makeover. It has a built-in light show, which already makes it more fun than any of my friends, if I had any, and to be honest after that I’m not bothered what it sounds like: it has a built-in light w show. w. Vegas, baby! The sound is alright and it connects to two separate apps: the Sony SongPal app allows you to connect to multiple speakers, which is boring, but the Fiestable let’s you set the LED band to a custom colour and put it in Party Flash mode. SRS-XB40, you’re my bestest friend now and forever. Laters, humans! HHHH
1MORE EB100 £89.99
Isn’t running great? The wind in your hair, boxer shorts right up your arse, nipples chafing in the rain. Yeah, I just love running so much I do everything in my power to distract myself from the thought that I am running. Stuff like wondering what the bloke in front of me would do if I overtook him with my arms out pretending I was a plane, or manically waving into the camera of anyone I pass taking a photo. I suppose music is probably a better way to take my mind off it: these Bluetooth sport headphones have a very good sound and the battery lasts 10 hours, which is about the average time I run for. That or 75 miles, whatever I reach first. HHH
THE ESSENTIAL III: SGT. PEPPER’S DRUM £429 Sgt. Pepper’s Drum is a special commemorative turntable to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album by some band from Liverpool who split up, like, ages ago. This product, which costs about the same as a record shop in 1967, has the sort of stand-out design you’d expect, and it’s made to the same spec that made the original Essential III a special turntable in the first place. It might be one for Sgt. Pepper diehards, but they won’t be let down. HHH
AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-LS70IS £125
Ah, there’s so much lovable gumpf that comes with these headphones: stuff about the dual symphonic drivers, whose diaphragms are carbon-coated, and acoustic sound pipes made from high-durability resin – I wouldn’t tell that last one to my little brother, he’d probably try and eat it. Besides having George Lucas write their press releases, though, Audio Technica make very good headphones. This lightweight in-ear model has a fantastic sound, although the way the cable hooks round the ear can be a bit annoying. But on the whole, a very worthy purchase. HHHH
“What is this that stands before me...” YOU R N EW FAV OUR ITE ROC K M AG AZINE …
ISSUE 3 ON S A L E 0 1 .09. 1 7 F I N D O U T M O R E AT W W W. P L A N E T R O C K . C O M
CHOICE CUTS THE Q STAFF AND WRITERS’ TIPS OF THE MONTH.
4 5 KATE SOLOMON Q WRITER
“Seeing 1 WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME on my own in the rain the day after the Glastonbury festival was not my best move, but I’ve been on a Whitney Houston tip ever since seeing Nick Broomfield’s unauthorised documentary. A bit too caught up in the salacious rumours and drug-taking, the film forgets that Houston was actually, y’know, a pretty good singer. A rewatch of [animated sci-fi sitcom] RICK AND MORTY RTY belching their way around the multiverse RTY proved an antidote to the relentless balladry – season three started at the end of July. And that’s the waaaay the news goes!”
SIMON McEWEN PRODUCTION EDITOR “I may’ve arrived unfashionably late to the Elizabeth Strout appreciation party, but I’m doing my best to catch up with her brilliant short story collection, OLIVE KITTERIDGE. Strout’s gimlet-eyed view of life in a coastal town in Maine is mesmerising and packs an emotional punch so powerful I’m still reeling from it. Plus, thanks to a tip from my dub buddy Andrew Perry, I’ve been gently head-nodding to the deep tech-noise grooves of Berlin du0 4 PORTE R R RICKS’ first album in 18 years, RTE Anguilla Electrica, which is a lysergic take on fellow Teutonic minimalists Rhythm & Sound’s output.”
CHRIS CATCHPOLE FRONT SECTION EDITOR “Though it doesn’t betray the influence of any music made after 1971, San Franciscan ’60s fetishists 2 COOL GHOULS’s latest EP, Gord’s Horse, is an irresistibly enjoyable jumble of shaggy country rock and fried psychedelia. While probably not one for anyone who thinks music peaked shortly after the moon landing, I’ve also been intrigued by the handful of compositions that multinational eight-piece SUPERORGANISM have posted online so far. Inventive, kaleidoscopic pop whose squelchy beats and playful, cut-and-paste eclecticism recall Gorillaz and those sample-happy Australians, The Avalanches.”
TED KESSLER EDITOR “I’m really into the teenage intensity of 5 GIRL RAY’s [see New To Q on p12] lovelorn Earl Grey album. Singer Poppy Hankin is a 19-year-old North London Nico who’s written a concept album about the bittersweet cycle of first love that is wryly perceptive and reminiscent of Edwyn Collins with Orange Juice. A classic of the genre. Download Louis CK’s new series, HORA R CE AND PETE, from his RA website for 31 dollars and expect a new dose of excruciating comedy. Instead, be prepared for unusually intense tragedy, with added Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda and Laurie Metcalf.”
MARTIN BOON SUB EDITOR “As a lapsed Cosmic Scouser, I felt duty-bound to visit the 3 PINK FLOYD: THEIR MORTAL R RTAL REMAINS exhibition at London’s V&A Museum. The Floyd have a fascinating story to tell, from countercultural kingpins to inventors of modern-day stadium rock, narrated via a vast treasure trove of rock iconography featuring all the handsomely curated prisms, burning men and flying pigs a fan could wish for. Meanwhile, if you’ve never heard of the scientist Alexander Von Humboldt, Andrea Wulf’s addictive biography, THE INVENTION OF NATU A RE, will make you wonder why not.” ATU
LAURA SNAPES Q WRITER “I’m obsessed with the sweaty, clattering debut from Portuguese producer NÍDIA, ÍDIA, Nídia é Má, Nidia é Fudida, which seems to make me a more productive person. Also the latest from JEN CLOHER, who’s married to Courtney Barnett – she’s made an astonishingly honest record about the realities of having a more successful partner. I blitzed the ELENA FERRANTE RR RRANTE books on holiday and feel bereft now that they’re over, so I’m coping by reading 6 Grace Paley’s ENORMOUS CHANGES AT THE LAST MINUTE, which Matt Berninger recommended when I interviewed The National for this issue.”
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The Rails Other People new album and UK tour September
PLUS US GUESTS OCTOBER
28 EDINBURGH LIQUID ROOM 29 ABERDEEN LEMON TREE 30 DUNFERMLINE CARNEGIE GIE HALL
NOVEMBER 01 02 03 04 06 07 08 10 11 13 14 15 16 19 20 22 23 24 26 27 28 30
GLASGOW GARAGE NEWCASTLE O2 ACADEMY ADEMY LEEDS BECKETT STUDENTS’ UNION HOLMFIRTH TH PICTUREDOME SHEFFIELD LEADMILL MANCHESTER STER RNCM HALL LIVERPOOL O2 ACADEMY WREXHAM STATION TION CENTRAL BIRMINGHAM O2 INSTITUTE LEICESTER O2 ACADEMY WOLVERHAMPTON SLADE ROOMS NORWICH EPIC STUDIOS CAMBRIDGE JUNCTION BRISTOL O2 ACADEMY CARDIFF UNIVERSITY GUILDFORD G LIVE LONDON ULU LONDON ULU EXETER LEMON GROVE FALMOUTH PRINCESS PAVILIONS VILIONS BARNSTAPLE THE FACTORY ORY BOURNEMOUTH OLD FIRESTATION STATION
Mon 11 Tue 12 Wed 13 Thu 14 Fri 15 Mon 18 Tue 19 Wed 20 Thu 21
Glasgow - King Tuts Wah Wah Hut Leicester - The Musician Hull - Adelphi Hebden Bridge - The Trades Club Manchester - Deaf Institute Cambridge - The Junction 2 Norwich - Arts Centre London - Borderline Newbury - Arlington Arts
‘Other People’ is the long awaited follow up to The Rails debut album ‘Fair Warning’ that was voted Mojo’s No1 Folk album in 2014
Released on September 1st 2017 available to pre-oder now on vinyl and CD as limited signed or unsigned editions at http://smarturl.it/TheRailsOtherPeople tickets available at www.therailsofﬁcial.com
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☛ Talk to us: QMail@Qthemusic.com | Twitter.com/QMagazine | Facebook.com/ QMagazine | QMail, Q, Academic House, 24-28 Oval Road, Camden, London NW1 7DJ LETTER OF THE MONTH
time when he first met Paul McCartney. Apparently, Noel was wearing a Sgt Pepper-style tunic, and when Macca saw him in it he said: “Hello, Noel. Hey, you look like one of The Beatles.” And Noels replies: “So do you!” Tim Lee, Knaresborough
GURU JOSH Dear Q, thank you, thank you, for being the only music magazine to have the balls to put Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme on the cover and, at last, give the great man his (long-overdue) dues. The dude is a living legend – just count the ways: he invented stoner rock with Kyuss; wrote the greatest drug song ever with Queens Of The Stone Age’s Feel Good Hit Of The Summer; managed to even make a “supergroup”, Them Crooked Vultures, sound good; taught indie sops Arctic Monkeys how to grow a pair; helped make Iggy Pop’s best album in aeons… But, above all, Josh Homme needs to be saluted because he is not afraid to rock. Respect Josh, and Q! Pete Dewhurst, via Q Mail
King of Queens: Josh Homme is not afraid to rock.
“One and the same?” Really, Andy? Maybe if you’re on drugs...
LOOKIELIKIES? OOKIELIKIES? Gallagher and May: one and the same? Once you see it… Andy Johnson, via Q Mail
MORE NOEL MAGIC
Myy magic Noel moment [as asked by Q in the August issue] was when an interviewer once asked him if he was happy and he answered: “You’re ou’re asking if I’m happy? Listen, I’ve got 87 million in the bank, I’ve got a Rolls-Royce, I’ve got three stalkers, I’m about to go on the board at Manchester City, I’m part of the greatest band in world. Am I happy with that? No, I’m not! I want more!” Ha ha ha! Love him. Alexandra Lösch, via Q Mail I remember emember hearing Noel on the radio adio and he was talking about the
For me, it probably has to be that Noel wrote Live Forever on a Gibson Les Paul gifted to him by Johnny Marr. The same guitar was previously Pete Townshend’s before Johnny had it – and Noel managed to break it by hitting a stage invader with it at a gig in Newcastle! Gem Faulkner, via Q Mail
WRONG BRAND! Dearest Q, thanks for continuing to be the UK’s biggest and best music magazine. However, I must take umbrage with the inclusion of a Russell Brand Cash For Questions feature [Q374]. He is neither funny nor has he made any notably good music. If you are going to meander into the comedic field, then how about featuring Stewart Lee? Not only is he brilliantly funny, but he also writes and occasionally performs
Meet the world’s best-travelled magazine! David Currie, Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote
Jody Sparrow, Snowdon, Wales
Shan Wee, Gibraltar
ANDREW COTTERILL, ALEX LAKE, ALAMY, REX
The World of
Caption Competition Up for grabs: three of these resplendent-looking TIBO Alchemy Mini-Systems.
WIN! AN AMAZING TIBO ALCHEMY MINI-SYSTEM, WORTH £300. has teamed up again with the good people at TIBO Electronics to offer THREE lucky readers the chance to each win a brilliant TIBO Alchemy Mini-System, worth £300 each. The Tibo Alchemy MiniSystem is a fantastic piece of audio kit which boasts 2 x 50 watt RMS multiplay, four direct presets for internet radio and playlists, plus you can connect a line-in source and play in group mode. The Alchemy comes in a range of three beautiful finishes – Walnut, White Ash and Black Ash – and as well as being equipped for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming, it can
also be controlled by the FREE TIBO App (downloadable on to most iOS and Android devices) or remote control. And if that’s not enticing enough – all those readers who enter the special competition discount code tiboq25 at www.tibo-audio.com/qmag will
receive a 25 per cent discount on the Tibo Alchemy speakers. What a deal! ■ For more information on TIBO products, go to Tibo-electronics.com
THIS MONTH’S CAPTION CHALLENGE Here’s a photo of Liam Gallagher holding the leg of a paparazzo. Send your caption – one per person, and the funnier the better – including your address, caption to captioncomp@ Qthemusic.com or on a postcard to the Q address above. See below for Ts & Cs. Closes: 19 Sept 2017.
Q375 WINNING CAPTIONS
“Oh shit, I left my phone on vibrate!”
Mhairi Harris, Jamestown, West Dunbartonshire “How many knobs on this thing?”
Richard Scott, Weston-SuperMare Congratulations to Mhairi and Richard, who both win TIBO Smart Audio Amps and a pair of Legacy 1 speakers.
To win, email your caption to: captioncomp@Qthemusic.com or post to the usual Q address before 19/9/17. Three winners will be chosen by the panel. The winners will be notified, by email, 7-10 days after the closing date and must respond to Q within 14 days or another winner may be chosen. Q will not respond to questions about its chosen winners but will provide winners’ names and the home towns, provided a request is made to the usual Q address and accompanied with a SAE. One entry per person and you must be over 16 and live in the UK. Prize is non-negotiable with no cash alternative. Personal data will be collected by Q and passed to prize provider to process entries. See http://www.bauerdatapromise.co.uk for more details. Full T&Cs apply, see http://www.bauerlegal.co.uk/competition-terms.html. Any queries, email: QMail@Qthemusic.com
his own songs – Russell Brand’s Wedding being a very apt case in point. Nigel Tilbury, Copenhagen Sorry you weren’t keen on our Russell Brand feature, Nigel. We have fairly recently featured Stewart Lee in Q and will no doubt do so again soon. Stay tuned.
Q376 SPINE MESSAGE “Stop, stop, guys, it’s too loud” is a line delivered by Q cover-star Josh Homme when he made a cameo appearance in the series finale of Series 2 of Toast Of London in ’14. Steve Loraine, Maidstone Well done, Steve. Give yourself another pat on the back.
ADIEU, MACCABEES Thanks for featuring The Maccabees’ farewell shows in Q last month. I went on the final night at Ally Pally and it was emotional to say the least. Great band, great music… they’ll be sorely missed. Fingers crossed they’ll re-form sometime soon! Jenny Hanover, via Q Mail
’Bee’s knees: The Maccabees say farewell. OCTOBER 2017
Vince Staples: not one for vacations, temper-losing or getting lost.
“I don’t care about The Great Gatsby or any of those people. F**k them.” Vince Staples
YOU WOULDN’T INVITE HIM TO YOUR BOOK CLUB, BUT THE HIP-HOP VIRTUOSO KNOWS HOW TO KEEP ZEN AND MAKE THE PERFECT SALAD. hat was the last book you read? The last book I read was probably in the 9th or 10th grade, it was The Outsiders. That’s the only book I’ve ever fully read. I just used to read [book annotation website] SparkNotes so I could write a decent book report. I don’t wanna read books about people in the 1500s, that doesn’t interest me. I don’t care about The Crucible or The Scarlet Letter or The Great Gatsby or any of those people. Fuck them. When was the last time you had to explain to someone what you did for a living? I would never explain anything to anyone. I tell them my name and that’s pretty much it. I don’t tell them what I do. If they know, they know. If they don’t, they don’t. It’s pretentious, in my opinion, to tell someone, “Hey, I’m this or I’m that.” If you have to say it then you’re probably not it, so I just tell people my name. When was the last time you found yourself shouting at the news? I never watch the news. I never pay any attention to that kind of shit at all. I’ve been black my whole life so none of this is new to me. Everyone’s speaking about police hurting people and racism… but that’s my life,
cars. Going out sightseeing on tour is not really my thing. I don’t really roam the streets that often. I don’t know how wise it is to roam around remote parts of certain places while being black so I’m very calm with my wandering. When was the last time you cooked a meal for someone? The last thing I made back home was an arugula salad. I’m usually by myself for the most part though, I don’t like to be around other people. What’s the last thing you’d do if the world was ending? I’d drive to the In-N-Out Burger and get the last burger. And then I’d probably die.
WORDS: CHRIS CATCHPOLE. PHOTO: JAMES MATAITIS A ATAITIS
I’m the disenfranchised. I don’t need to see my life on CNN. There’s no need for me to watch it. I already know it, it’s a re-run. When was the last time you took a vacation? I’ve never taken a vacation before. Ever. It’s not really what we do. I would stay home if I had a week off, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere. I think that’s the best place to be. I can’t remember the last time I was home. It was January or maybe February.
When was the last time you lost your temper? I don’t really have a reason to be angry. I think I have a decent life. It could be a lot worse and getting angry doesn’t really do much, so I try to stay positive and forwardthinking. I don’t have the energy to be negative or angry so I’m pretty much on an even keel. I don’t really shift in my emotions. When was the last time you got lost? Right now, I have no idea where I am. I think I’m going to Austria. I was in Oslo at the weekend. Touring isn’t too confusing, it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it. It’s just airports, hotels and
N E X T
M O N T Hâ€¦
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