ISSUE SEVENTEEN | MARCH/APRIL 2015
SOUNDS | VISIONS | WORDS | VOICES
GANG OF FOUR
BEYOND ENTERTAINMENT! SCARLET SOHO MENSAH DEMARY CIGÙRI THE SKINTS JANET DEVLIN FIRE IN THE HAMPTONS
SOUNDS | VISIONS | WORDS | VOICES
The Artist D MANAGING EDITOR
Paula Frank CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Ann Marie Papanagnostou LITERARY EDITOR
Mensah Demary CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Andrew Ashley MARKETING & PROMOTIONS
Felicia C. Waters SUBMISSIONS
Serena Butler WEB DEVELOPMENT
Rene Trejo, Jr. EDITORIAL
Christine Blythe Serena Butler Frank Cotolo Paul Davies Paula Frank Marguerite O’Connell Derek O’Neal Mark Sharpley Annie Shove Darya Teesewell Felicia C. Waters
COVER PHOTO BY STEVE GULLICK © 2012-2015 Fourculture Magazine Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. 2 www.fourculture.com
ife is a coffee bean, a fifth of bourbon, bottles of wine, riding a loopy roller coaster and the highest mountaintop with you on it. Life can be fueled by standing in the scary ocean waves during a thunderstorm or baking on the grass during the hottest day. There is nothing like a high or a low and we are driven by each one of them at every second of our existence. To simply sit and be free of earthly constraints, drugs, caffeine, adrenaline rushes would be simply too much for the modern day human being. Ego craves exhilaration and an artist of any genre can peak behind the shiny curtain. Behind the curtain sits a small lump of hardened clay. Its name is Ego. It considers itself nameless and blameless. It needs to be loved. Ego craves identity and wishes you to mold it, to scratch upon itsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; dull sandy surfaces with your nails, with your drugs and with your loves. Art mocks what is behind the curtain. An artist must learn to absorb his, her or its talent at the arts or the lump known as Ego will win. Ego wishes to tear down the curtain and run free among your lifeblood. It will take a name and a face! It will carefully erect a white picket fence around your two-story home in the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;burbs. Art mocks identity in this world of ego lumps looking to carve themselves out of the dirt that surrounds them. For identity is but a joke in this swirling pile of good and evil where there is no such thing as any such thing. For those people who have discovered lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cruel hoax and survived are the winners. Those people are usually called artists, musicians and writers. They are poets, photographers, dancers, word rappers and raconteurs. They practice the art of living and are simply enthralled by how simply complex it all is. The lump of clay now sits with tear stains on its blank, smooth yet somehow sandy gray physique. It weeps for it cannot grow. The curtain remains glittery for the next passerby to peak and feed. Unless that person makes another mockery of identity. He, she or it whom erects monuments with their words, their hands and their beautiful speckled eyeballs. He, she or it whom is well aware that they are an artist and that is the only thing they need to be. Art mocks identity. Art unravels the hoax and keeps dull things weeping in their devout insanity called structure.
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PHOTO BY ANDREW ASHLEY
features Scarlet Soho....................... 6 Mensah Demary................14 CIGĂ&#x2122;RI............................. 16 The Skints......................... 30 Gang of Four.................... 34 Janet Devlin...................... 42 Fire in the Hamptons........ 50
regulars Adam D............................ 26 Darya Teesewell............... 54 Frank Cotolo..................... 56 Andrew Ashley................. 58
BY SERENA BUTLER
Does it seem like the songs on the radio just donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hit you like they used to? Do you find yourself yearning for the times gone by when music actually meant something to the listener? What about the sounds that makes you nostalgic for your childhood? Do you need music to make you feel alive again? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need a pop professional. No, you need Pop Professionals Scarlet Soho! Comprised of vocalist James Knight and bassist/synth player Scarlet, Scarlet Soho have been making electro-pop magic all across Europe for nearly 10 years. In 2004, the band released their debut album through UK indie label Human Recordings entitled Divisions of Decency. The album quickly grabbed the attention of such acts Razorlight, Delays, and IAMX all of who would ask the band to join them on tour. In 2009, the band would release their second full length album entitled Warpaint. The band would then join 80s legends A Flock of Seagulls and Zoot Woman on tour throughout the UK and Europe. After a couple of EP releases, this February marked the release of their third full length album entitled In Cold Blood. Before heading back on tour, we had a chance to catch up with the band to get behind the scenes on what makes them tick, get the dirt on their latest synth opus In Cold Blood, and more! So sit back and relax. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in the hands of true pop professionals. 6 www.fourculture.com
So for those who don’t know, you both met at the Reading festival after James’ band had recently broken up. What really drove you two to get together and form what we now know as Scarlet Soho? James: I had been seriously let down by previous band mates in other projects, so I tried to find someone who wanted to be part of something new, someone to share the journey with, and someone I could trust. I’m glad it worked out. When someone says the name “Soho,” a feeling of grandeur comes to mind. What’s the meaning behind the name Scarlet Soho? Scarlet: Initially it was just something that James and I came up with. We needed a name and wanted something that sounded a little bit glamorous, a little bit sleazy. Something that conjured up images of the dark underbelly of London nightlife, something that contrasted with the fairly clinical electronic music we were making. I find it quite funny now considering I was 16 at the time, lived with my parents, and knew very little about what actually went on in a district like Soho. But I think a band comes to embody their moniker. When someone talks about the Rolling Stones, you don’t think about the literal representation of ‘rolling stones.’ You think of a bunch of vibrant exciting young men in the 1960s making a racket or a shuffling group of pensioners cranking out the hits for cash, depending on how you look at it. To people that already know of Scarlet Soho, we are just Scarlet Soho. It’s clear there is a heavy 80s synth pop influence in much of your work. What drew you to want to create a similar sound? Who in particular would you credit with being an influence to Scarlet Soho? Scarlet: Both James and I started out in punk bands. Bands where you make a load of noise and just about hold things together, but we discovered we both had a secret love of all things pop. When you’re a kid it’s fun to be loud and draw attention to yourself by being shouty or controversial, but I think as you get a little older you are more inclined to want people to notice you for your brains. Writing pop music is hard. Writing a song that will cleverly weave its way around your head all day is something that takes time and effort gains my admiration and I think has more of a lasting effect. Don’t get me wrong. I love old school punk, a bit of metal, a bit of everything really, but being able to create something that can catch the imagination of an entire generation? That really is something else. Everyone has their phases of looking back into the past for inspiration and the 80s hit 8 www.fourculture.com
Photo by Jake Vรกrley at Mars Station www.fourculture.com 9 www.mars-station.co.uk
the nail on the head for me. At the time, it was all brand new technology! Sounds that people had never heard before! And some incredible songwriting, which I don’t think we’ve seen before or since. James’ older brother and sister listened to a lot of 80s classics whilst they were growing up. It trickles down I think. I think Duran Duran were a gateway band for me. I got into a lot of the darker Soft Cell stuff and finally Depeche Mode were the band where it all made sense. I was just gutted that I was born a little too late! A big thing that many of your fans will notice while listening to In Cold Blood is a richer sound, what I would call a higher production value comparatively speaking to your last album, Warpaint. Besides the noticeable details to the trained ear, how does In Cold Blood reflect your growth in sound? James: It’s hard to answer because you always approach the recording of an album with the best of intentions. I honestly hadn’t noticed a huge difference from old record to new record. I think we’ve worked not to layer too many sounds now though and that helps later on in the mixing process. We also know how we want the vocals to sound, so we don’t experiment as much as we used to with adding effects to them. Less is more! When approaching the studio, some artists go in with a vision of what they’d like the outcome of their release to be. When you went in to record In Cold Blood, what was your vision? Did you achieve that goal? Why or why not? James: We’ve made our best record yet and that’s all you can ask for. This is my favourite Scarlet Soho album to listen to, the most cohesive for sure. There were a couple of songs that didn’t make it onto the record in the end, which is a shame in a way, but they would’ve upset the balance of the whole thing. They might see the light of day one day! Lyrically, In Cold Blood has many of dark and somber themes including mortality and fatalism. We see samples of this in the singles “In Cold Blood” and “Two Steps from Heartache.” What inspired you to go this direction with the darker lyrical themes? Scarlet: We have always danced around some of the darker themes. We were labelled as a bit of a goth band in the early days and I think strived a little too hard to get away from that for a while. There’s something wonderfully British about singing and writing about miserable things with a big smile on your face. Everyone experiences peaks and troughs in their life. It’s 10 www.fourculture.com
part of the human condition. It’s something everyone relates to. If you don’t write about it you’re essentially just writing a radio jingle or a TV advert. A lot of bands lay it on a bit thick though. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be on tour in a death metal band. You must spend the entire time pissing around with your friends on the road having a whale of a time and then have to paint on a big angry sulk-face for the hour you’re onstage! And then talk to people after the show about death and pain and suffering and virgin sacrifices etc. The mind boggles. It just seems like peddling a lie. I think I am drawn to the darker side of life in literature and art and films and writing, but there
needs to be a sense of reality for it to mean anything. There needs to be balance. Bad things happen to people, it’s the inevitability of existence, but you just keep existing. On this album you had the chance to work with musician/producer/mixer Graham Laybourne (Falco, Depeche Mode, Boytronic) who has worked with many of your influences. How was that experience? Did you learn anything from him to use on future albums? If so what did you learn? Scarlet: We worked with some incredible people on this record. Graham is definitely “one of the good ones.” He and
James had a meeting early on to discuss the possibilities of working together and it began with him throwing back a couple of shots of tequila totally out of the blue, to get the bullshit out of the way. I like that attitude of “let’s ditch all the politeness and airs and graces and just TALK.” James is a huge Boytronic fan so he managed to eke out lots of good stories over the months we worked together. The way things work these days when making a record is that most of the actual legwork is done by emailing files back and forth between us and a producer. All of his technological secrets remain firmly intact.
most important thing is to do it right. Theoretically, we could have turned up to the shows, but it literally would have been turning up. Unrehearsed and not 100% healthy is not something that we’d be happy about presenting to an audience. I wouldn’t expect someone to pay money to watch that. It would also be misrepresentative of what we aim to do as a live band. Despite having a lot of ‘pop’ songs in our live set, we always make the live element of the band as in your face and exciting as possible. It’s the fun bit of being in a band! No one wants to see a band glued to the spot clutching their guitars. Thankfully James is on the mend though. We have started rehearsing. It’s sad because you always have one eye on where in the world you would have been had the tour gone ahead. But you just get on with it. We’ve kept a couple of UK shows in around the album release date, which we are working hard to make the best we possibly can. We are both raring to go! Across the pond - we’d love to! There are a few college radio stations and couple of radio shows out in South America who have picked up some tracks off the new album. Book us and we will come. :)
also perform live. What makes a great live band? What factor makes your show unlike anyone else? James: I think a good live band is very natural on stage. No huge demands or bullshit. Just the band and audience working as one for the time they have together. We always wanted to take the kind of energetic, powerful performances we’d seen on TV shows and bring them to the club scene. Too many rock bands think that small clubs are their domains, but when people are offered an alternative to they enjoy it much more. With your music videos there has been a similar black and white theme. Is there a particular reasoning behind this style? What can we see or may we see from Scarlet Soho in regards to music videos in the future? Scarlet: Everything looks better in black and white! Imagine all of those iconic Joy Division pictures by Anton Corbjin if they were in glaring Technicolor. It would just look strange. Saying that though, it’s always good to mix things up so maybe the next Scarlet Soho video should be full-on Day-Glo!
Unfortunately, you recently had to push back tour dates due to James being ill. First of all, how is James? Once James has received the all clear, what can we expect out of an impending Scarlet Soho tour? Any chance you’ll take your live show across the pond? Scarlet: James is good. Thank you. It was a really tough decision to pull the tour. We’ve never really cancelled any shows in the time we’ve been together so it really broke our hearts to do it. Especially with so little notice and having worked so hard to get it all in place and with so many wonder- In a prior interview, you stated that you’d One of my favorite parts about workful people who helped get it together. The like to be known as a band that could ing with Fourculture is getting behind
part originated. There were a few moments in the studio of “how sleazy do you want me to make it? Do you want it to go THIS far?” So it could have easily strayed into the realms of comedy. I really like it as a song. There’s a lot of strong imagery there, most of our songs feel cold. This one feels like it comes from a hot country to me. It’s arrogant without being brash. It’s angry, but has focus. It feels masculine and strong. My favourite Scarlet Soho songs always tend to be the ones where we look at each other and say, “Can we get away with this?!” It has been 10 year since you’ve released your first album Divisions of Decency. Many bands don’t last anywhere near the decade mark. What has kept you all together and sane through these years? What advice could you give for bands to make it through the rough spots? James: The fact we’ve been progressing and meeting good people along the way has been amazing. I think you need to do your best to keep the communication going within the band. You owe it to the kid who decided to start the band in the first place! It’s what he/she would’ve wanted. It’s best not to live in the past, believing your best days are behind you because to some extent you can mould and shape your future to be how you want it to be. I’m relieved we’ve not had a clear a moment of success that stands out in the eyes of the public and dates us as a 2004 or 2009 band. It’s ideal when you can keep your ideas fresh, and not look back on past glories too much.
the tracks that stand out to me. I have a notion that “Gigolo” will become the next Scarlet Soho fan favorite. How did the song come about? James: Most of the album was written and we felt we needed something with a groove and an injection of pace to compliment everything else. I can remember singing most of the demo into a Dictaphone whilst walking into town, but the words made little sense at that point! Only the chorus was cutting it. The lyrics Scarlet added gave it the glue to hold it together and tell a story.
synth-based dance-like tracks into the orchestral realm? What does the song mean to you? Scarlet: I think it’s your job as a musician to stretch yourself. Both James and I like quite a wide range of music. It generally comes back to synthpop, but there are elements of all types of music where we think, “I wanna bit of that.” We weren’t sure if ‘This Town Is Mine’ would work on the album, but we really wanted to give it a shot. It started out at a really basic demo with a vocal and an acoustic guitar. We were working with Toby Vane on the album and he happens to be a world-class jazz trumpet player. A The track “This Town Is Mine” is a clear good job really as otherwise you would be antithesis to the typical Scarlet Soho stuck with James making funny noises into sound. Why such a departure from the a Dictaphone, which was how the trumpet 12 www.fourculture.com
For being around for a decade, I’m sure there are many things Scarlet Soho still wants to accomplish. What do you see as your goals for the band for the release of In Cold Blood and the foreseeable future? James: There’s still so much we’d like to do with the band. Touring South America, Japan and Scandinavia would be pretty special I’m sure. Making a live album or DVD is on our list too. Maybe even an acoustic tour. Nothing would surprise me with this band. If you could live the life as one celebrity, dead or alive (as we have time machines at Fourculture too. Shhh!), whose eyes would you like to see through and why? James: I’d like to see through the eyes of the footballer Chris Waddle or Don Johnson from Miami Vice! I have no real reason for mentioning either of them. They just sprung to mind as my childhood heroes and I’ve not imagined what it would be like to be someone else since I was a kid!
ARE YOU LISTENING?
READING BETWEEN THE LINES BY THE ARTIST D
His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Atticus Review, Metazen, Little Fiction, PANK, Thought Catalog, Whiskey Paper, to name a few. Mensah Demary's writing mesmerizes me with its harmonious flow. Sometimes a kind of poetry that slams together situating itself into a storyline that makes complete sense. Creator of Specter Magazine and writer at Fourculture we have invited Mensah to join us in our artistic endeavor and bestow the title of Literary Editor. I got to know a bit more of our new Literary Editor in the following flowing interview. One thing that mystifies is the care free boy before us and the layers of thoughts which spark most spontaneous.
You are in Brooklyn now and seem to thoroughly enjoy yourself. What does this borough say to you? Change, I think. Sounds trite but moving to Brooklyn has helped me figure out where to go next in life. The city aids my writing, and it showed me the paths to a different life. A happier, more focused life. When I think Mensah I think literature. For some reason it seems to envelop you. Any ideas on what that reason is? Probably because I tweet about it incessantly. Hopefully this doesn't come off the wrong way, but a lot of writers talk about writing and publishing, or the act of having work published. Literature, to me, is so much more. It's the history of the written word, of books; it's the business of publishing; it is editing and translation; it's discovering authors, new and old, well known and emerging and long forgotten. I love the art form, even if it feels as if the love isn't reciprocated. What literature do you enjoy most? Personal essays and memoirs, at the moment. Literary fiction, sometimes. Poetry, rarely (despite writing poetry as a teenager and 20-something, long before I even considered prose).
The world needs something. It always has, but maybe more now than ever. Now is the best time than any, after all. What do wish the world would glean from us of the underground?
And what relaxes you into fearless bliss? You are a Buddhist born in the most hottest summer months. What does this mean to you?
Born in the early 80's, you grew up in New Jersey. What is a pinnacle factor of you becoming you?
Your own magazine started in 2011 is called Specter. This fabulous publication is said to be a literary platform for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. Why?
Now Literary Editor of Fourculture Magazine, you join the ranks of an amazing collective of dedicated people sacrificing life for art at regular intervals. What do you hope to bring to the masses through Fourculture?
Lastly, can one ever really read between the lines?
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TRANSCENDING ILLUSIONS BY MARGUERITE O’CONNELL
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IGÙRI is the Berlin-based French artist known for blending visual art, original costume designs, and dark electronic pop music to create powerful live performances. While she is the mystical on-stage persona and muse of singer songwriter Alice Paradisi, CIGÙRI is also the divine name given to the Infinite by the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. They believe that during a peyote-steeped shamanic ceremony, the spirit of CIGÙRI enables them to transcend the illusions of this world and see essential universal truths. For Paradisi the spirit of CIGÙRI represents the infinite possibility of a blank canvas; a creative space where she can discover her own truth and express it in her music and performances. Paradisi was a successful fashion designer in France before deciding in 2009 to move to Berlin and pursue her dream of a career in music. The release of her first album, Mare nostruM, in 2014 marked the debut of her dark electronic pop sound as well as the unique performance style of her artistic alter ego, CIGÙRI. Upon completing her first album, CIGÙRI had a renewed sense of inspiration and wrote more than fifteen new songs in less than a year. During this same time she joined creative forces with Kerta von Kubin — a post-industrial, Berlin-based guitarist and metal sculptor who makes her own steel instruments — and the two began working and performing together. Although eager to share the new music, it was too soon to start work on a second LP. So instead, CIGÙRI and Kubin made a live video EP. Time Lapsed Death was released on January 19th of this year. Time Lapsed Death was filmed during a secret performance on the underground stage of the Berlin club, Urban Spree by up-and-coming French director Robin Plessy (Boys Noize, aMinus, Ninja Tune). Before the EP’s January release date, CIGÙRI and Kubin went on the road for the Time Lapsed Death tour, playing shows in Belgium, France, and Iceland before returning to Berlin for the EP’s premiere screening. Time Lapsed Death perfectly captures the essence of, and power that is the CIGÙRI performance experience. Paradisi plans to spend three months in Corsica this spring to work on her second album, learn polyphonic singing techniques, and spend time near her beloved Mediterranean Sea. But lucky for Fourculture readers, she took the time to answer our questions about her latest release and future plans.
PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANCESCO CASCAVILLA
Tell me about your music and artistic background? Music was an early calling for me. I started taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old. I studied piano for 10 years and have been obsessed by music since I was a child. I’d listen repetitively to the same song till I knew it by heart from the lyrics to the last notes played by the strings. This is how I first learned English. People often ask me why I don’t write songs in French and I guess it comes from this. I wrote my first song when I was 13 and it was, of course, in English. When I was 19, I started my fashion design studies, bought my first industrial sewing machine, and spent my nights trying to understand what I was taught during the day. At the end of the first year, the brand where I was training hired me and paid for the last two years of my studies in exchange for part-time work. I then spent five years working as a fashion designer for them. When I arrived in Berlin at the end of August 2009, the only thing I had with me was the dream to create my solo music project. I had absolutely no knowledge about how to produce a music track nor did I have any idea what music software looked like. I am fully self-taught in this regard. It took me a bit more than four years from my arrival in Berlin to release my debut album, Mare nostruM, in February 2014.
people. But no matter how long I denied it, once this desire came to the surface, I can do nothing else. But making the choice to leave my secure former life was not easy. When you choose to develop an art or music project, you know that the most difficult thing waiting for you is the lack of money or job security and that it will probably be like this forever. Almost no one can live properly from just his art and this is a reality you can’t deny if you take this direction. But I didn’t want to live my life according to the dictation of a capitalist society. I kind of imagined myself waking up 10 years in the future, suffocating for not having followed my instincts. Even if my fears seemed like mountains to me, they were smaller than my desire. I woke up one day thinking Berlin would be the best place to start all this. And it was. What drew you to Berlin? Like a lot of other people, I was looking for a place surrounded by other artists, with an alternative culture, and a free and open mental climate where I could create something new. Berlin has been reborn from its ashes and people expect they can do the same when they come to live here. Berlin is not an easy place to start from scratch; new people are constantly arriving here to settle down, but not a lot of people stay. The city is moving and changing very fast. It takes time to find your own real family of friends and a good network to work in. Nevertheless, even though the winter is long and the language is difficult to learn, Berlin was and still is (maybe not for too much longer) the best compromise ever. The freedom we find here is more than the anywhere else.
What inspired you to decide to leave your home in Marseille and a successful career in the fashion industry to begin a career as a musician and performance artist? The desire to create my own music project has been burning inside me forever. I don’t come from a creative family and was What is your favorite thing about Berlin? raised in a traditional way. For a long time, I What do you miss most about France? thought that an artistic life was only for other Berlin is a battlefield for new ideas. I
feel like people can do whatever they want here, whether they have great big stupid ideas or brilliant ones. For decades, Berlin has been raising a magnificent family of new artists who have come from absolutely everywhere in the world and from many different schools of thought. This is a considerable wealth that you don’t find everywhere in Europe. The only thing I will always miss and can’t replace with anything else is the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve been diving since I was a child. The feeling of being underwater for as long as possible, my eyes wide open and surrounded by the big blue sea, is what relaxes me the most. There are caves, dark blue holes, and hidden places I know by heart in the Corsican sea depth. Your music has been described as a blending of mystical symbolism, melancholic pop, elaborate costumes, and complex sonic production. From where do you draw your inspiration? It doesn’t seem very complex to me because I can’t separate my visual imagination from the music. My visual inspirations come mostly from unknown pictures, postcards, photos, or random images that I find. I have a hidden secret place at home that is dedicated to drawing and watercolor painting. Some mornings I wake up, grab a strong black sugared coffee, and go there without a clock, a phone, or a computer, nothing but the music in my headphones. I really like the energy of the morning light. I feel brand new, like a blank page. I draw characters, naked, bleeding, or dressed with glorious outfits. When I am ready to make a new costume I take a look to all the drawings I recently made and then start to design one. I always travel with a scratch book and my watercolors. For me, drawing or painting is a time in between parenthesis maybe because I don’t take it seriously I feel like a child again. In my music studio there are a lot of pictures I have gathered, some I’ve had since forever, like of my grandparents. I regularly add new ones and throw away others. There are objects also hanging around, feathers, driftwood, a letter from a friend, masks, etc. It’s a visual potpourri. One day in Reykjavik, I found a collection of old, Icelandic postcards. Another time, I found a bunch of German theater magazines from the end of the 80’s in the street. Your finished works are multi-layered and complex. What is your creative process, from the earliest inspiration for a song through to a completed work? How does your approach differ if you are working on music in your studio or preparing for a live performance?
20 www.fourculture.com PHOTOGRAPH BY MAILIE VINEY
www.fourculture.com 21 PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANCESCO CASCAVILLA
PHOTOGRAPH BY MAILIE VINEY
Most of the time, it all starts with only voice and piano. I still don’t know (and don’t want to know) how we put melodies and words together to create songs. This is what I would call magic. I really respect the mysterious and uncontrolled moment that is creation. Writing songs or music is chance. Most of my songs are born from improvisations on my piano or from automatic writing. I compose the music that I hear in my head in order to tell the stories I see in my mind. It is like creating the original soundtrack of a short movie. I see composing the arrangement as giving strength or intensity to a melody. I wish one day I could compose the music for a real cinema movie. I work very meticulously and spend hours and hours in my music studio so maybe that is why my compositions tend to have lots of layers and details. Performing and composing are different parts of the process. It is beautiful to see a song evolve and get stronger after it has been played in front of people several times. The sensation of performing is something I can’t describe or compare to anything else. Being on stage is like participating in a martial arts event. You need to be in good shape, as strong as if you were actually going to fight, but at the same time you need to be soft, relaxed, and free from all bonds in order to abandon yourself. What is it you hope your audience and fans will take away from your recorded music as well as your live performances? I don’t really know what the audience will take away because the relationship one person has with my music will be totally different from what another person does. I personally find strength, hope, and joy through music. When it is my music, I try to always follow my feelings and instincts when composing and performing. I need to be true to myself in my life and in my art. I always seek sincerity in my music and don’t plan for a certain result when I compose or perform. I prefer to be spontaneous. I love to experience full feelings and intense moments and I guess people can feel this through my live performances. I try to be as honest as I can be during a show. I perform with the same intensity whether there is one person or many in front of me. A live show is the culmination of what we do and it is a massive honor when people to come out to see us. I feel that giving my very best is the least I can do. Tell me about your new live video EP, Time Lapsed Death. Where did you get your inspiration for this project? It took me more than four years to release my first album. The last year and a half of the process I was only doing the prowww.fourculture.com 23
PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBIN PLESSY
duction and mixing of the songs. To finish a first album is a very heavy process that you can compare with having your first child, you jump in with absolutely no idea what you are getting into. I was so committed to it that I couldn’t even compose anything new until I completed the album. When it was finished, I was so relieved that I wrote more than 15 new songs in less than a year that I wanted to share. And while I knew it was too early to start working on a second album, I also felt that an EP was not the right format either. Meanwhile, during this same time I had started playing with a talented friend, Kerta von Kubin. She comes from the postindustrial music scene and is also a metal sculptor. Kerta builds her own steel instruments and plays electric guitar. Our live performances have really evolved since we started playing together. With costumes, video projections, and self-made metal instruments, there are a lot of visual elements in our performances that you need to actually see to enjoy them. When we filmed our first gig, a secret concert in a basement that only 10 people attended, I knew right then that the next release would be a filmed performance.
nostruM, reinterpreted with Kerta. Although I made my first album almost completely on my own, now when I write a new song, I bring it to rehearsal with Kerta. She works out and composes her part and builds a new instrument, if needed. As for working with the director, Robin Plessy, he and I have wanted to collaborate for a long time. As soon as I called him about this project, he took over and made all the decisions concerning filming and editing. The same thing happened on the light design with my friend, Erika Sauerbronn. She has been working in contemporary dance and theater for more than 10 years and we have often talked about working together. I actually really hope we will one day go on tour together. It is a very new thing for me to so easily let other people into my artistic process. Yet it seemed for almost everything that Kerta, Robin, or Erika proposed, I completely agreed. We have followed and appreciated each other’s work for a while now and our collaboration on this project was the logical and natural next step.
With the release of Time Lapsed Death, what can your fans look forward to during the rest of 2015? Where is the best place for fans to keep up to date on your How does Time Lapsed Death differ schedule? from your previous album, Mare nosFor this EP we did the opposite of truM? How did you come to collaborate what is normally done. After we filmed with Kerta von Kubin and work with the it, we went on tour before the actual reFrench director, Robin Plessy? lease date. Of course we will play it again Time Lapsed Death is a live video EP. during 2015, but it will be sometime after In other words, this is a filmed concert with June. At the moment, I am working on four new songs and two tracks from Mare my second album. In fact, I am going
www.ciguri.net 24 www.fourculture.com
to spend three months in Corsica before the summer starts to spend time near the Mediterranean Sea and take singing lessons from an old polyphonic music singer there. I also want to record sounds underwater and create more new material for my album. Moreover, I have been writing songs in Berlin for five years and I think it’s time to try something different. I have invited several of my artist/musician/photographer friends so we can all learn from, get inspired by, and maybe work with one another. What was the most recent song or album that you purchased? Who are the artists you are listening to, and/or find inspirational these days?
At the moment the most recent one was Vulnicura by Björk. Recently, I’ve been listening a lot to the last Wildbirds & Peacedrums album, Rhythm, and the solo project of their singer Mariam The Believer called Blood Donation. I saw them perform live recently and it was unbelievable. I’ve also been listening to Blue by Iamamiwhoami, Zola Jesus’ latest album Taiga, Still Smiling by Blixa Bargeld and Teho Teardo, the Gazelle Twin EP Anti Body, and Too Bright by Perfume Genius. What are the four things you can’t or just don’t want to live without?
Definitely: LOVE, my close friends and family, making or listening to music and of course, the sea.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MAILIE VINEY
A MACHINE’S EYE VIEW OF 26 www.fourculture.com
BY ADAM D
What’s love got to do, got to do with it? Pretty big question. I’m not sure Tina Turner really got to the nub of the issue in her 1984 hit of the same name. As that sentence. Not that one. The first one. Without the repetition. Anyway, Tina didn’t write the lyrics. She may well have known precisely what love had to do with ‘it’. I’m taking ‘it’ as read. I’m assuming we’re all ok with that?
o for this particular ramble through some words that I know, sometimes being used in the right order, I would like to talk about the little-discussed subject of love. This has nothing to do with the impending (as I write) Valentine’s Day. Not much anyway. If it does, it’s sublimely subliminal. As all best liminal is. According to some songs on my iPhone, ‘love’ is the following things: A Bourgeois Concept, A Stranger, Blindness, My Condition, Rare (and yet also, All Around), The Drug, The End, The Rage and The Seventh Wave. So, it feels like it’s quite important. We’d best watch out though, because it also: Comes Quickly and Will Tear Us Apart. You may own Love Dogs or Lovecats, living in your Love Shack, in Lovetown. So all that means is we all have to deal with love taking on many forms and catching us unawares. It is difficult to define, clearly. Good news? That won’t stop me from writing about it. I said ‘good news’. Oh shhhhh. The thing is, love makes me behave differently. It brings me out of myself. It has taken my breath away. It has driven me to tears and made me laugh so hard I liked it better than the Pirates of Penzance. No, I’m not above making a schmaltzy film reference, this is love we’re talking about here. I don’t know where this is going, but I do know where it will start. At home. The home I grew up in. I know that we can’t take even a parents’ love of their children for granted, but I was fortunate to grow up in a loving household. What this means of course is that occasionally you feel so smothered with the stuff you can’t breathe. All those questions about where you are, who you’re with and when you’ll return. They drive a mopey teenager to distraction. Even before my teens I remember being out with my friends one summer evening. Let’s just pause for a second. I grew up in a very quiet, very middle class village on the outskirts of a largely quiet, largely middle class town. The village of Upper Poppleton. Yes, really. I think my love of rhythm comes from learning to say that name and
revelling in the meter of it as it trips off the tongue. It’s a drum fill of a name. So there I am, or was, out with ‘everyone’, charging around the playing field on bikes, and generally doing mid-70s pre-teen middle class things. Think the innocence of The Wonder Years only without the narration or the American Football and Baseball. It’s starting to get a bit twilighty. By that I don’t mean homo-erotic and undead, with vampires and....well you know what Twilight was. I don’t. It’s the other one. Usually without a capital ‘T’. Meaning the onset of night time. It’s a pretty magical time of the day, especially in summer in the UK. The light, the temperature, everything is just right. Then I hear a car. “I have to go” I announce. Yes, when I was 8 I usually announced things. Pretentious little git. “Why?” I like to think at least one person said. I think it was Richard Lawson. But it may have been John Hewitt. “That’s my dad coming to find me” “How can you tell?” “I know the sound of my dad’s car. Don’t you?” “Err, no. Anyway, I bet you’re wr...” “There he is! Coming Dad! See you tomorrow”. That last part is aimed at my friends. All of whom are looking slightly bemused that I knew the sound of my Dad’s car from a few hundred yards away and long before I could see it. I would allow myself to be impressed with myself, but I know that in the car sits an aggrieved parent. Dad hadn’t come looking for me to tell me off, per se. He’d come looking for me because Mum was constantly hassling him about where I was and he had run out of reasons to be able to defend me. It’s just a smidge of a glimpse into the typical expression of ‘love as worry’ that comes to a parent. At least, as experienced by the child. Me. All through my childhood (and, let’s face it, even now), it has been Mum rather than Dad who has expressed the concern, the disappointment, the prodding and poking to keep me going forwards. I turn to my Dad for the reassurance and the slightly less shouty words, but I know exactly where Mum is coming from.
So this aspect of love, whilst absolutely not something I ever took for granted, is clearly only one kind of love. It may not always be welcome at the time, but it doesn’t take long to realise just how much you would miss it if it wasn’t there. Anyone who has that parent looking out for everything they do: supporting, cajoling, and of course sometimes downright annoying you through your early life, and beyond. You know how good it feels. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m going to stay with my parents for a minute. They have been married for 54 years. Love can be long-lasting. Some say eternal. I suppose if you are still in love with someone when you die then you won’t let a trifling thing like death stop you. Sure they haven’t shared a bed for probably 20 years, but that’s mainly on account of Mum snoring like a whale. Wait, do whales snore? Snoring like a....like a...pneumatic drill. Drills can’t snore, any more than whales. Possibly less. But we all know what one sounds like. Not when it’s snoring. Are you mad? So maybe the non-bed-sharing is helping keep them together. Maybe it’s the breakfast in bed Dad makes for Mum. Every. Single. Day. It’s probably not the monologue of jobs and tasks Mum starts the day with and provides frown-faced interludes throughout. Dad’s going to do most of them anyway. The one’s he has no intention of doing usually only resurface casually over a period of years until they make the top of the list. Or until the washing machine finally does pack in. “Why didn’t you do that when I asked you to, hmm?” is probably as harsh as it gets in my parents’ household. Yes, long after the children have left, and you have got past the phase of wondering if you’ll still have something to say and do with your significant other, through the births and deaths of friends and relatives, the rolling of the years, the changing seasons, the arguments about whether the gas fire really needs to be on and ‘why can’t you just wear a jumper’ but ‘that’s what we pay the bills for’, through to ‘well I need a through draught as it’s so hot in here, but can you do something to stop the flies getting in’, to the setting of the sun on a day spent doing the crossword and ‘how about another cuppa?’ and ‘I was just thinking the same’ and tuning in and out of the monologue, the rising of the sun on a day that begins with the sound of burnt toast being scraped in the sink, the sound of a plate on the bedside table and the smell of marmalade on toast gently waking you from your sleep so you can ask if the bin got put out last night, the aches and pains and wheezing and ‘what are you still coughing like that for?’ and ‘no you can’t just go and lie down, you’re not an old man’, the occasional visits to the doctor or hospital, mercifully www.fourculture.com 27
being given the all clear, or at least the right medicine to resolve the issue, the exit and arrival of neighbours and the ‘well we don’t want to seem as though we’re being nosy but can you go over there and have a word about why they keep parking on the road and blocking us in’, the changing of the carpets ‘I don’t want the neighbours to think we can just spend money on new things when we feel like it, but I can’t look at this bloody carpet any longer’ through the chopping down and planting of trees, the practicality of buying a new car but the reluctance to get anything ‘too new’ because ‘well, what will the neighbours think?’ to the keeping quiet the night time aches and the waking up at 5 and not getting back to sleep because the shoulder and knees just hurt so much, to the painting of portraits and favourite family holiday scenes and ‘why don’t you sell your art at the local show, it’s so much better than any of that other rubbish?’ through the constant gossip about other family members and friends and names you no longer remember or are fairly sure you never knew and in any case all you care about is that your children and healthy and happy and there’s too much else going on to pay attention and all of this is going on and held together with happy silences and walking arm in arm in town or on holiday and knowing what makes the other person laugh or cry and whatever else happens you have always and will always have each other until such time as you don’t and we don’t talk about that but let’s face it it must be coming soon and anyway ‘i’ve had a good life’ and ‘you talk as if you’re going to drop dead tomorrow and stop saying such stupid things you do annoy me sometimes’. Who doesn’t want that? See how imperfect it is? But see how strong it is? When we are younger, we have an ideal of love, painted for us in soppy films and magazines and fantasy. That’s all it is. Life? Life is actually, most of the time, pretty mundane. Is it a coincidence we use the phrase ‘settling down’? It’s almost something to mock others with. ‘Have you ‘settled’ then?’ Like there’s bound to be something else out there. Something better. Or different. So you go ahead and chase that different thing. See how long it takes before it’s roughly the same as the last thing you had that you thought you wanted to run away from. Because every relationship you have will have one thing in common with all the others. You. Learn to love yourself first and
everything else will fall into place. Relying on someone else to make up for something you lack is not a road to sanity. If you’re insecure, being with someone else is only going to heighten that, as you’ll always wonder what they’re up to when not with you. If you’re not happy in your own company, you’ll never be truly happy in someone else’s. Or, in the words of the late, great John Candy, “If you’re not enough without that gold medal, you’ll never be enough with it”. Ok, so we’re not all on the Jamaican Bobsled Team, but you get my point. Love? What do you think it is? Of course it’s exciting. It makes your heart miss a beat. Several. It means you miss the person you love the second they have gone. It means you count down the seconds until they are going to return. Yet when they arrive you’re mournfully counting down the seconds until you know they are going to leave again. Love is a tricksy, one, that’s for sure. So it’s very difficult to define, yet we all know when we have found it. Why do we say that? ‘I’ve found love’? It’s not as though you can really go looking for it. I think if you chase it you may end up falling for it’s slightly smutty brother, lust. “It’s a question of lust, it’s a question of trust, it’s a question of not letting what we’ve built up crumble to dust”. If you don’t know where that lyric comes from, I’ll let you go and research it now. No hurry. I’m just playing that song in my head. You’ve got four minutes and eight seconds (I’m playing the 101 version). Yes. Lust. We often talk about the heart ruling the head, or vice versa. Well, there’s a third place that likes to have a say. Yep. The gut. What? I’m British. I can’t talk about anything below the waist. Some people have a tendency to mistake lust for love. Possibly on purpose. There can be the same burning in the heart, and elsewhere if you’re unlucky. But lust dies out far quicker. The flame is brighter yet more fleeting. A firework display, rather than a volcano. Lust is love without the substance. I want to focus on love, then. When you hear it from someone for the first time, there’s often a vulnerability that can melt your heart. It’s not something you can really shout out. You know you mean it. But when it comes to saying it to someone for the first time you’re almost asking as much as telling. “I love you....” The dots are part of the phrase. I may as well have just peeled back my skin to literally offer my heart to the other person. Will they accept it? What
if they don’t love me back?” Oh god. What if I’ve jumped too soon. The plane wasn’t high enough and now the ground is rushing up to meet me faster than I can open the parachute. Oh god, oh god. Why did I say that? Just look! I’ve stunned them. Eyes searching for the exit. Oh god, oh god, oh god. What was I thinking? This silence isn’t just awkward, it’s holding a gun to my head. The trigger finger is itching to pull. Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god. Please. Can I unsay that? No, of course I can’t. The words have floated around in the air, turned into an angry swarm of bees and now they’re headed straight back for my heart. I’m going to be stung to death as I stand here. “I love you too”. Wait. What? Did you....do you....? You do?! The swarm of bees turns into some jump leads and I am stunned back into life. Those words have engulfed me and I am now floating. No longer falling. I may never actually reach the ground. You. Love. Me. Too! Wow. Oh god. Whoo! What now? Oh look at me. Grinning like a village idiot. I want to bottle this moment. I cherish it forever. I will never forget this moment. This place. This time. It’s when everything changed. Be careful now. You’ve let love in. Love has family. Love has some pretty fucked up relatives. Lust, we know about. But there’s also jealousy. Love’s idiot cousin. Jealousy likes to masquerade as a friend. “Hey. Being jealous only shows I care, right?” Wrong. It shows you don’t understand. You’re on the lookout for wandering eyes. For mobile phone passwords. The smile on their face when they receive a text. “Who was that?” “Huh?” “Don’t play games. I’ve seen you. Smiling when you get a text. Hurriedly sending a reply” “What? So?” “So...who is it from? Are you cheating on me?” “It was from Jealousy. He’s coming over for a bit” At this point, love has decided to leave the party. Jealousy has the place all to himself and love can’t be bothered with all this shit. Jealousy sits between you on the sofa. Keeping you apart. Stopping the conversation. Love will be there in the morning and hope you remember. But jealousy usually sticks around on the periphery. Sending the occasional text. Hopefully with less and less frequency.
“We shouldn’t have to ask for something. We shouldn’t expect something. We damn sure shouldn’t get upset if we don’t get something.” 28 www.fourculture.com
The other member of the extended family is longing. Longing only shows up when your loved one is away. Longing isn’t like jealousy. Longing sends good vibes and warm feelings. Yet you can feel pretty miserable. “Can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you miss”. I know. You thought I was going with the 1970s free love disco sentiment, “love the one you’re with”. No. Don’t do that. Having someone to miss is great. Of course in this day and age we don’t really have much chance to truly miss someone. There’s face time and Skype and phones and other ways of keeping in instant touch with someone. Quite right too. But it can never beat the physical connection. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Just don’t turn into a bunny boiler. Newsflash. Love can make you crazy. Or at least you think it’s love. But somewhere along the line it got twisted. I don’t want to leave it there, but I don’t want to say too much more. Thousands upon thousands of pages have already been written about love. But unlike stories about vampires or boys in capes on broomsticks, this is a subject far better to experience than to read about. Quick Valentine’s Day update for you. I started this article before Valentine’s Day, and now it’s decidedly after it. Yes. Perfection takes time people. I received, as I do every single year. A card and a chocolate from... my Mum. I know plenty of people who pour scorn on Valentine’s. In some ways, that’s quite right too. We shouldn’t have to ask for something. We shouldn’t expect something. We damn sure shouldn’t get upset if we don’t get something. Being in love with someone has nothing to do with giving them a gift on Valentine’s. You can. But if that’s the only time you show your love for someone else, then all I can say, in the most American of ways, is....Yikes. All I’m saying is this. If you have ‘found’ love, then for god’s sake treasure it. Treat it with respect. Most of all, enjoy it. Take that person you love right now and give them a great big warm, lasting, hug. Not the kind of bromance hug where you stand at arms length, just close enough to reach round the back and pat each other like you’re burping a baby. No. Get in there. Really close. Kiss them on the neck. Breathe in deeply. Cuddle up together and tell them you love them. Really, really love them. Then shut up and hold them. Share this private, quiet moment. The universe melts away and it’s just you two. Together. Close. Warmed to the depths of your heart. Happy. And THAT, Tina, THAT is what love has to do with it.
Follow Adam D and Photostat Machine: www.fourculture.com 29
T H E N E W R E G G A E ROYA LT Y
BY DARYA TEESEWELL
www.fourculture.com 31 PHOTO BY TOM BARNES
was sitting in a booth in a bar a few years ago, and a member of an Irishroots band I had gone to see said, referring to the band just taking the stage; “I really don’t like reggae. I just don’t get it, it all sounds the same.” I tried, vainly, to explain why he was in error, including references to Toots and the Maytals, Peter Tosh, Sly and Robbie, Steel Pulse and the movie soundtrack to “The Harder they Come” without even mentioning Bob Marley. He wasn’t listening. Minutes later, a young kid with blond dreadlocks crushed a solo on his saxophone and people got out of their seats dancing and grooving; who feels it, knows it, and Jah guide. That Irish band is long gone. Reggae has continued to grow and thrive. Seldom does music that makes you care about social justice also make you feel so good. “Reggae” is not a monolithic style. Reggae has a vocabulary that contains roots, rocksteady, dance hall, dub, ragamuffin, reggaeton, as well as elements of other styles that constantly evolve. Reggae’s roots go back for generations; it exploded in the late 1960’s and 1970’s and has influenced music ever since, as well as being influenced itself by Motown, r&b, hip-hop and punk. British reggae has deep roots in the large Caribbean immigrant population in London. The Clash (whose name may have come from a song by the roots reggae band Culture), as iconic a British band as there is, recorded songs written by reggae artists, as well as hits such as “A White Man in Hammersmith Palais” and “Guns of Brixton”, rich with references to reggae. The Skints are four young East Londoners that Clash Magazine calls “the torchbearers for modern British reggae music”. They’ve worked hard and long to earn that praise, playing together in clubs and festivals for years and continuing to tour exhaustively, selling out venues and gaining fans. The band formed in 2005. The multi-talented Marcia Richards, sings, plays keyboards, flute, sax and melodica. Joshua Waters Rudge sings and plays guitar. The driving backbeat is provided by Jamie Kyriakides on drums and Jonathan Doyle on bass. Every time I hear a song they’ve recorded that is new to me, it sounds both familiar and fresh at the same time. They play music that draws on reggae’s roots and evolution with an effortless, tight intensity. They have an amazing vocabulary of styles but they never seem to overload the listener with all them at once. They are masterfully produced by dub master Prince Fatty, named, tongue-in-cheek, after King Tubby, the Jamaican Godfather of dub. King Tubby often partnered with artists like Augustus Pablo, whose ghostly melodica playing is a dub signature. Marcia’s melodica evokes this in several songs by the band. The Skints current release, FM, shows off their musical and vocal ability to blend styles while still saying true to musical ancestry. The album has a story, like albums of old. London is boiling hot on this day when imaginary London pirate radio station The Big FM / Frequency Murderation, 103.Skints, is playing requests and taking listener calls. The young band used to drive around London in guitarist Josh Waters Rudge's car, tuning in to the radio and trying to find new music. There’s something amazing about this band is that I realized watching their videos; they write their own stuff, they all play instruments masterfully and they still manage to sing, riff, rap and harmonize. Bands like this don’t come along very often. I can’t wait for them to come to the USA. Guitarist/vocalist Joshua Waters Rudge answered some of our questions in the meantime.
First of all, as a longtime fan of reggae, ska and dub, I must tell you I love your music! My first question is this: Britain and Jamaica are both islands with obvious contrasts, but with strong connections nonetheless. Do you see a connection between the original roots of your sound in Jamaica and your own personal roots in the East end of London? Thank you very much! I think it's kind of hard to find similarities in the origins of Jamaican music and our own personal beginnings. Obviously when we were all born in the late 80's and early 90's reggae music had already been dominating the globe for a good few decades. One thing that is for sure is that reggae music has definitely grown up in London as well as Jamaica, from way back in the mento and bluebeat days and you had the first few waves of migration from the Caribbean to England, and the music made the journey overseas with the people. So fast forward to when we are growing up, Jamaican music is already a firm and foundation part of the Greater London culture, as it is in Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester etc. Paul Simenon of the Clash grew up in Brixton, and the band covered Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves” and other reggae classics. Their music has strong references and rhythms with Jamaican roots and they were still classified as a “punk” band. Do you feel that your music gets defined and pigeonholed too easily by critics and others sometimes? For me, the older I've got, the less I like the titles and genres that have to be added to everything. That said, we've never had a huge problem with getting pigeon-holed and we don't really sound too much like any one band, so we tend not to just get lumped into one 'scene' as it were. We've toured with reggae bands, punk bands, hip hop bands, ska bands, and we've not had to change what we do to fit those crowds, which is cool. The industry and media is always going to have to put names on stuff, so you're not going to win anything getting angry about it. Like the Clash (here I go comparing you to them), many of your songs reflect the daily frustration of being forced to work in dead-end jobs and told to passively take it due to social, class and cultural forces. Anything you’d like to say about that? I would say that we are humbled by the comparison to The Clash. All of our songs come from ourselves and are always personal, so I don't want to say we've been "forced" to do jobs we don't like and whatnot, one, because we're not trying to
I don't know. The album isn't necessarily play the victims, and two, because there are an uncountable amount of people in a “growing up in London” story and it wasn't the world who have it far, far worse off than written as such. I'd like to the think that a listener could get a feel of the sounds and we do! environments that have inspired the recordIt’s hard to pick out one single influence ings and maybe feel sonically transported on your sound, especially with your lat- to that place, but that is definitely wishful est album. What’s obvious, however, is thinking! [laughs] your deep love and respect for all types of Island music, and your musical ances- Tippa Irie is a legendary DJ, obviously, tors. Are there a few who influenced you and his bits really set the album off. Horseman’s vocals seem to be a perthe most? I'm really glad that's obvious! Of course, fect fit with your band. Did you have fun we are always fully aware that the music we working with these legendary artists? Is play is Jamaican culture, and before that there anyone you’d like to work with in African culture, and we have to respect that the future? Definitely always an honour and a privihistory. If you love something, you must respect it! There have countless Caribbean in- lege to work with those two gentlemen! fluences on The Skints over the years, and We've been working with Horseman since we're still always discovering new songs 2011 at Prince Fatty’s studio, where he and artists. I'd say throughout the years, plays the percussion on our records, and and names the four of us agree on include out on the road and at studio we've always The Abyssinians, King Tubby, Johnny Os- just had jokes and little freestyles and jams bourne, Augustus Pablo, Roots Radics, here and there, ‘cause that's just HorseThe Mighty Diamonds, Barrington Levy, man. He's one of the most naturally musical Peter Tosh, Sugar Minott, Dennis Brown, people I know so it was a blessing to finally Black Uhuru, The Ethiopians, Jacob Miller, be able to write together and have fun making some songs. Tippa we've known for a Johnny Clarke, Tenor Saw...so many! couple of years as we went to Thailand in You incorporate lots of modern influenc- 2012 together along with Prince Fatty, Holes into your music as well. Any inspira- lie Cook, the Mutant Hi-Fi and Earl 16. He is tions that stand out there? I’m thinking one of the most energetic, creative people especially of your vocals…each of you is we've ever worked at studio with and it was a wicked learning experience. We've all so unique. Yes, definitely. Our influences stretch been listening to Tippa's music from when far and wide! Jamie brings in a big soul influ- we were much younger, so have to always ence, Marcia brings in everything from classi- give respect on a historical tip to the Tipp'. cal to chiptune and I probably donate a lot of the grime music we listen. We also love punk If I had to describe your music to somerock, hip hop and dancehall which all find their one, I’d say it’s lean, muscular and spare; never overproduced. The production way into the baking of The Skints cake. on your songs exceptional and there Even though your vocals are individual doesn’t seem to be a beat or a vocal that and identifiable, you seem to be able to doesn’t belong exactly where it is. Was find harmonies pretty easily as a band. that always a part of your sound? Thank you! That's a very kind and cool Is that a product of hard work, good thing to say. Obviously we strive to be the production or just a natural fit? It's definitely a product of a combina- best band we can be at the times of recordtion of hard work and natural develop- ing, but sometimes the subtle imperfections ment. When the band first started we never are what make things sound better and used to do three part harmonies, but over human. the years of creating together and playing together and LISTENING to how reggae I have to say, I love your dub-based music is made, it's something we're now pieces, especially “Can’t Take No More Dub” and “Ratatat Dub”. Again, you all beginning to hone. seem to find a way to push the boundarSome of us grew up listening to vinyl, ies while staying to true to roots. What’s and one of the great advantages of that the process like when you put them was the fact that an album told a story together? Full credit has to go to Prince Fatty as that the listener had to listen to in a certain order. FM has a definite story to it, far as the dubs go. He is the dub mix senand a real sense of place and time. Do sei and we are but humble students in that you think it gives the listener some idea respect. He goes in on the desk and tapes! of what growing up in East London was like?
Tell us about working with Prince Fatty. I love the fact that his name is a tribute to Prince Tubby: I hear solid dub roots in your sound and even a little bit of Augustus Pablo when Marcia plays the melodica. Again, thanks for the kind words. The Prince Fatty / King Tubby thing is actually a funny little story that people can find out if they check some Fatty interviews. We've always been huge fans of Augustus Pablo. I first heard Pablo on this dub tape my Uncle gave me when I was a young teenager and I thought dub was the coolest thing. I still do! We introduced the melodica into our sound quite early and that was definitely an Augustus Pablo influence. What were your early days like as a band? Were you always this tight? You’re as tight as any Reggae band I’ve ever heard. Our early days as a band were spent as friends in high school but our early shows were getting the tube and the bus with our instruments to go and play anywhere, to anyone, for nothing in and around London. We definitely weren't as tight as we might be now and we're always aiming to sound better and play better so I hope that's still improving. We've been playing music together as friends since 2007 now, and shared so much and been around each other so much, we're closer than a lot of people's families are! I think that has helped us get tighter as musicians as much as being on the road and playing the amount of shows we do. You tour harder than most any band I’ve ever seen. What can one expect at a Skints show? Any plans to come to the States? Yes, we're coming to the States for the first time in April/May! We're doing an east coast tour with Easy Star All-Stars and Fishbone on some shows and a west coast run with some festivals! You can check out all our shows on www.theskints.co.uk and you can expect some positive vibrations and a good time party in the dance hall. We can’t announce some of the west coast stuff officially yet, but keep an eye out, there’s more dates to be announced soon.
PHOTOGRAPH BY LEO CACKETT
GANG OF FOUR’S ANDY GILL ON WHAT HAPPENS NEXT BY PAUL DAV I ES www.fourculture.com 35
Bands and artists who have been around for decades have to adapt and adjust to stay interesting, especially those who are often cited as a great influence. Gang of Four’s 1979 debut album Entertainment! is rightly regarded as a cult classic, its sharp, angular yet danceable sounds shaped many of the contemporary bands you hear at 21st century indie discos. They return this year with their ninth studio album, What Happens Next, and following the departure of vocalist/lyricist John King just leaves guitarist Andy Gill as the only original member. Often the vocalist is the identifying factor in bands and a departure often signifies the end but Gang of Four were never about individuals and were more about the collective sound. Plus this is Andy Gill we are talking about, owner of that distinctive guitar sound that the likes of Tom Morello and St Vincent have recently waxed lyrical over. Andy spent some time with Fourculture talking about the process of putting together the album with new vocalist Gaoler (John Sterry) on board and a range of guests all contributing to the next chapter of Gang of Four. Despite featuring some more established artists, two of the album highlights, “When the Nightingale sings” and “Isle of Dogs” feature Gaoler on vocals and I start by asking how Andy decided on him to be the main vocalist for Gang of Four and whether he had auditions for the role. I did vaguely think, with some trepidation that I would have to do the whole audition process probably in Britain and America but, fortuitously, something completely different happened. I was discussing the need to get a decent singer down to the studio to do better, more in-tune versions of my rough guide vocals, and then Gaoler turned up one day and essentially he became a session singer for me over the next few months. As I got to know him better, I liked him more and more, and I really liked his voice and it seemed to be a natural thought to maybe try doing a gig with him. We did a little gig in London at The Lexington and it went very well and we’ve now been all over the world with him and I think he’s really great. The album features several guests including vocals by Alison Mosshart (The Kills, Dead Weather), Robbie Furze (The Big Pink), and Herbert Grönemeyer among others. With such a strong supporting cast it is interesting to find out how these artists were considered and approached. I had no particular plans about how I 36 www.fourculture.com
was going to move forward. I just knew that I would do a new record. I thought it would be a great opportunity to work with some different people. Working with some collaborators is something I have thought would be exciting and creative for some time. The process of working with the other individuals seemed to happen very simply — it was quite intuitive for me. It was not “thought out”. I had done a little bit of work with The Kills in the studio and Alison just sprang to mind when I was thinking about someone to sing “Broken Talk”. She was very happy to come down to the studio and sing a couple of the songs. I loved that song “Dominoes” that The Big Pink did a few years back. I got in touch with Robbie Furze and asked him if he wanted to sing on this track I was working on and he came down to the studio a few times and sang this wonderfully hard edged vocal. Gail Ann Dorsey is a very old friend and she, of course, has been in different Gang of Four lineups over the years as a bass player. She is a fantastic musician and a great, great singer. The song she sings on, “First World Citizen”, was simply crying out for her voice. Herbert Grönemeyer is a friend. I’ve known him at least 20 years (photographer Anton Corbijn introduced us back then). I was talking to Herbert about the new record, I guess about 18 months ago, and he wondered if I would like him to sing something on it. The particular thing that he does that I really love is those rather
PHOTOGRAPH BY LEO CACKETT
PHOTOGRAPH BY LEO CACKETT
‘angst-filled’, melancholy ballads. I knew I had to write a song which could incorporate that particular aspect of his character so, more than any other track, it really had to be tailor-made. I had to work at that and I went down a lot of blind alleys until I came up with the music of “Dying Rays”. It was quite an extraordinary experience hearing him sing it as I had heard it in my head — only, better than I had heard it in my head. Although Tomoyasu Hotei is not a singer like the others I need to mention his collaboration as well. He is Japan’s biggest rock guitarist; he spends quite a bit of time going round Japanese stadiums. Anyway, he’s always been a big fan of my guitar playing, and we got to know each other. Eventually, we decided to write something together and the opening riff of “Dead Souls” is pure Hotei. So by having a number of different guests on the album, was there any concern that the album may not have a focus or even sound like a ‘Gang of Four’ record? 38 www.fourculture.com
The band has had so many bass players and so many drummers so I guess your question is essentially: Gang of Four was basically me and Jon King so is it still Gang of Four without King? I was the musical director and produced all of the records, so yes, absolutely. I had no hesitation to carry on with the band and band name. The interesting thing is, as all the reviewers listen to the record and publish their reviews, they seem to be coming to the same conclusion. It’s satisfying to note that Gaoler is receiving accolades for his phenomenal As the only original member on this vocal performances and one reviewer even album what were your thoughts on still claimed recently that Gaoler “owned” this recording under the name ‘Gang of record. Four’? Well, the trouble is I’ve always been You are of course more known for your all too happy to come up with everything: guitar role and influence in that respect. the beats, the guitar lines, the tunes, find You were also involved in ‘programming’ sounds, engineer it, produce it, mix it. on this album. Can you elaborate on this Lyrics were usually, to an extent, a collab- role? Have you tried anything new on orative process between Jon King and me, this album? Are you still learning with though many tracks I wrote solo and I’ve each release? Well you are right. I am known principally enjoyed writing on my own on this album. There was definitely a point when I worried that the different songs with different singers may sound not of a piece. I worked on quite a few of the songs at the same time pushing one song forward and then working on another and so on. As the songs progressed in the later stages, I realised I had nothing to worry about and the songs felt like they were coming from the same point. Having Simon Gogerley mix them all with his approach to that also added to the sense of them coming from the same place.
as a guitarist, but I’m just as much a songwriter, arranger, musical director and producer and many people think of me as a producer before they think of me as a guitarist. Programming can mean a number of different things. In this context, it means working with synths and various sound generating devices you’re triggering and recording from an electric keyboard. On this record, I was particularly enjoying programming heavy bass synth parts which work alongside the bass guitar parts. We are working on playing these things live at the moment and Thomas McNeice on the bass guitar can handle everything. On What Happens Next we have song titles like ‘Isle of Dogs’, ‘England’s in My Bones’, and the river Thames is referred to and featured on the back cover, all of which suggesting a local focus but the songs are more about global issues. Can you elaborate on this? Well, London is a special case… It also happens to be where I live. There are not really any other cities in the world, not even New York, that are quite so international, so cosmopolitan. There are people from every country in the world here, every language is spoken, every culture represented. In certain ways, it almost seems to be a microcosm of the world — there is poverty here but also extreme wealth. Money from all over the world flows through it, just as the Thames River flows through it. It’s modern, but everywhere you see the past. In the east part of the city, there are literally Roman walls sticking up between modern financial behemoths. I’ve always been a huge fan of Joseph Conrad. His Heart of Darkness has already inspired one Gang of Four song, “We Live As We Dream Alone”, which is actually a line from Heart of Darkness. But more recently, I was thinking about how that book describes the Thames flowing out to the world and it inspired the song “Isle of Dogs”. As an aside, Herbert Grönemeyer and I did a long interview in Berlin recently and the subject of the anti-Muslim marches in Germany came up. The subjects of tolerance and getting on with each other were brought up and Herbert pointed to London as an example of where that seems to happen month in/month out. Does it annoy you that most of the issues that Gang of Four covered in the late 70s are still present in the modern world? I think a lot of us thought in the 60s that there would be ongoing steady progress in all areas of life. We would all live longer and suffer less and less with diseases as science found the solutions to things. www.fourculture.com 39
PHOTOGRAPH BY STEVE GULLICK
is imbued with all kinds of political themes and sexual politics. People should be less worried about flogging tons of records and should be a bit more interested in making things that are important and radically new.” A lot of new bands now label themselves as ‘post-punk’. The original post-punk era was very varied and experimental. Is there a danger that the term has been cheapened with a lot of copycat bands? The original post-punk era was varied, as you say, incorporating Gang of Four at one end and Joy Division at the other. Perhap it does sometimes seem as if Gang of Four is taken as a blueprint for how you should go about music now. Even though the way we discover new music has changed there is still that obsessive collectability factor out there and anniversary deluxe editions of classic albums are all the rage. Are there any unreleased gems, or even footage in the archives that may see the light of day in a 40th anniversary edition of Entertainment!? I really haven’t thought about any anniversary edition of Entertainment!, but it sounds like a good idea. I’m up for it! Planes and rockets and everything would go faster and faster and further and further; we had been to the moon and shortly we would be inhabiting other planets. Society would become more liberal and progressive — prejudices would slowly disappear as we understood each other better. Women would be treated equally to men and be paid the same, racism would disappear... We now know that history is not a process by which the world inevitably gets better and better and we were wrong to imagine that that would be the way it would go. The world goes round in circles, or sideways. Things go backwards as much as they go forwards. What were the highlights for you of that early period? I remember the two nights we did at the Hammersmith Palais in the early 80s with Alexi Sale as our support act. Good nights! A few of the standout “interesting” events would be getting thrown off BBC’s Top of the Pops for using the word “rubbers” (a lyric in debut single “At home he feels like a tourist”) and having our single “I Love a Man in a Uniform” banned from the BBC as
British troops went into the Falklands to do battle with the Argentinian troops. It was also a much more lively time politically — Gang of Four was very prominent in rock against racism activities, rock against sexism, and at anti-Nazi league rallies as Britain began to embrace multiculturalism. It’s an important year politically for the UK (and beyond). Do you think there should be more of a focus on politics in modern music? Do you think newer, up-and-coming bands are reluctant to do this? It does seem like new bands are less inclined to be involved with anything to do with politics. I think people are possibly afraid they might end up boring the audience. I sometimes think these things are rather fashion-led, and politics is not “in fashion” It’s different now, and the political agenda has moved on. It’s a less straightforwardly polarised world now than it was in the late 70s early 80s. I really like Sleater- Kinney — obviously not a brand-new band but still comparatively young and their music and approach
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So it isn’t something you have considered? Do you prefer to look forwards? Well I do prefer to look forward and to get on with things in the present and the future, but I have also been involved in putting together compilations. For example, the Rhino special retrospective edition which is called 100 Flowers Bloom was put together entirely by me including doing the artwork, helping put the booklet together and sourcing photographs and so on. So what influences you now? How have your musical influences changed since the late 70s (if at all)? I listen to a lot of different music and I am often exploring what other people are doing, and some records get me quite excited. So all of those things feed into what I do when I’m constructing new material. But also other stuff keeps coming into the cultural soup, swirling around me, like reading the books Dead Souls and Moby Dick in the last couple of years and pinching quite a few phrases. Other influences: things you hear on the telly, catchphrases from adverts — all the same kind of things which informed Gang of Four’s writing back in the day.
Fourculture is proud to announce its first music compilation featuring 20 amazing independent artists from around the globe
FEATURED ARTISTS: Noblesse Oblige
My Personal Murderer
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Proceeds from Fourculture: Beyond the Mainstream will support OnAirTunes.com, the network who hosts Fourculture Radio. www.fourculture.com 41
The Artist BY MARGUERITE O’CONNELL
www.fourculture.com 43 PHOTOGRAPH BY ROSIE HARDY
anet Devlin first caught the public’s attention when the shy, but feisty, 16-year old auditioned for The X Factor (UK) and wowed the audience and judges with her emotional rendition of Elton John’s “Your Song.” (The video of her 2011 audition has over 18.5 million views on YouTube.) Growing up outside the village of Gortin in County Tyrone, the flame haired singer’s affinity for music was obvious from a very young age, and she played violin and tin whistle in traditional music bands as well as regularly rode the bus into nearby Omagh to go to the local record stores. But it was the music of bands like Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers that inspired Janet to sing, write her own songs, and learn to play guitar while alone in her parent’s shed. Describing herself as sound shy and socially awkward, Janet says she would hide out in the shed so that no one knew what she was doing or would hear her sing. However, Janet is definitely not the type person to let her nerves get in the way of her dreams. When she wanted to learn to play drums and her parents refused to buy her a drum kit, Janet determinedly stepped into the spotlight and entered local singing competitions to earn the money. And when a friend heard Janet sing and gave her a camera for Christmas, Janet made and posted videos of cover songs on her YouTube channel. An immensely talented singer/songwriter, it is this endearing mix of soft-spoken moxie, self-effacing sweetness, and resolute individuality helped Janet gain a large and unexpected following on her YouTube channel; made her an audience favorite on The X Factor — she received the highest number of votes for four consecutive weeks, giving her the most first place finishes of any contestant that season; and makes her refreshing folk-driven pop music such a welcome addition to the alternative/indie music scene today. After The X Factor, Janet declined offers of a recording contract in order to retain creative control of her music and career. Her determination to find and express her own artistic voice resulted in her debut album, Running With Scissors. Full of Devlin’s original material, as well as tracks co-written by Newton Faulkner and Jack Savoretti, the album reached #1 on the UK Indie Breakers chart, #43 on the UK pop charts, and was just recently released in North America. The trend on top 40 radio towards more sound, wrapped in ever more production, often results in tracks with more sonic clutter, rather than any added depth. Bucking the trend, on her debut album Janet displays a refreshing and soulful sound enhanced by a polished and restrained production. Running With Scissors strips away any excess and thereby allows the listener to enjoy her unique vocals and strong song craft. I recently spoke with Janet who was in London at the time preparing for her trip to New York. Our phone conversation ranged from growing up in Ireland, to the release of her debut album and new EP, and plans for 2015. We also covered our shared Irish heritage and the challenge of remaining professional when your inner fan-girl is screaming in your head. And as we talked, I found myself falling a little further under the magical spell that Janet Devlin’s talent, unique voice, self-deprecating wit, and genuine likeability, weave. 44 www.fourculture.com
www.fourculture.com 45 PHOTOGRAPH BY ROSIE HARDY
Tell me how you came to audition for The X Factor. A friend bought me a video camera for Christmas because she had heard me sing and I used it to start my YouTube channel of cover songs. When I found out you could audition for the show by video, I sent in one of my YouTube videos with the most views and I got through. What was your musical background? You’ve said that when your parents refused to buy you a drum kit that you entered singing competitions to try to win the money for one. Did you take lessons or play any instruments? Yeah, I did [laughs]. I actually didn’t really start singing until I was about 11 or 12 years old. I grew up playing in traditional music bands and I used to play tin whistle and violin. I also dabbled with guitar and tried teaching myself to play. And then I started playing drums when I was about 15 or so, but my parents wouldn’t buy me the drum kit. So I started doing singing competitions to start earning the money. I never won any singing competitions unfortunately, but I did somehow manage to get some money to buy them. [Laughs] I started a drum kit trust fund to get my drums! You’ve described yourself as sound shy and socially awkward and you used to hide away in your parents shed to write songs and sing so that no one would hear you. How do you balance that shyness with performing? I was quite sound shy and until this day I only play when there’s no one in the house. I just don’t like people hearing me be loud, I suppose. It’s quite a hard thing to balance. I always feel like a bit of an adrenalin junkie when it comes to singing live because I still get so nervous about performing, which makes it quite tough to do. It’s like a weird little addiction to be so scared of something you do all the time — like you’re achieving your own little Everest every time you go out on stage and getting a good little buzz out of it. But it’s more the talking part of a show that’s hard for me, really. You go into your own little world when singing, but during the talking parts of a show you actually have to interact with other humans. [Laughs] I struggled with this in school as well. I think I almost had an asthma attack once when I was asked to read out loud. [Laughs] But being shy doesn’t inhibit your ability to sing in public? It does and it doesn’t. It is its own thing. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the shyness, but you just learn to adapt and go with it. For me, I’ve got my band mates on stage and I trust them. We get on well as a team 46 www.fourculture.com
and we’re all friends. So it’s nice when you perform because even though you’re really scared, you’ve got your friends on stage with you and that makes you more comfortable. And you know that the people in the audience are there to see and hear you, and that also makes you feel better. So it’s still fun and I still enjoy it, even though I’m nervous. It’s a good thing. I don’t know how it works, really. It sounds like it shouldn’t, but it does [laughs]. Had you ever written songs with other people artists before you started working on your first album? Yes, with a guy I used to do little gigs with here and there before X Factor. So yeah, I had experience working with other people and writing with other people before the show. But then after the show I got to travel the country writing with these people that I’d always wanted to write with, which was eye-opening and incredible. It’s not just you, in your room, writing with yourself anymore, but instead you get to share opinions with these other talented people. And it was really, really cool and really fun. Would you rather collaborate or write songs by yourself? Well, what I like is a bit of both to be honest. Essentially it is a collaborative thing, but I do have these journals that I write my poetry and ideas in. So I already have that part of my writing done when I go into the collaborative part of the process - when we take my feelings and poetry and put them to music. And that can be quite cool because you get other people’s opinions like, “Oh yeah, but that bit might be better if it goes there.” And also, I have a really short attention span and sometimes it’s nice to have someone else there to go, “Janet! Get back to work.” And I’m like, “Alright! Cool.” [Laughs] How did you come to collaborate with Newton Faulkner? I have absolutely no idea how that came about. But I remember getting a phone call asking me if I wanted to collaborate with Newton Faulkner and the fan girl in me exploded. After I hung up the phone, I remember just jumping around my bedroom going, “Oh my God, I’m going to be writing with Newton Faulkner!” Because I listened to so much of his music when I was younger, and I still do. I still have all of his albums. So that was just surreal. And after working together, he even came on-stage in one of my London gigs and performed with me. That was really cool. And then I did vocals on his album. So not only is he a super talented writer who helped me learn how to write, but we developed a friendship through it, a PHOTOGRAPH BY ROSIE HARDY
musical friendship, and that was really cool. first album independently. Why? I never thought that would happen. It’s an At the end of X Factor, I was offered a honor, to be honest. recording contract. However, no one was offering to let me be creatively in control. I have to laugh because now I have this So I decided to make an album by myself image in my head of you sitting down to and fund it through a PledgeMusic camwrite with Newton, or one of the other paign, instead. I wrote and recorded an artists, and being all professional while album titled Hide & Seek, but sadly didn’t the fan girl inside you is yelling, “Oh. like the final product enough to release it as My. God!” [Laughs] my debut album. I did give this album via [Laughs] Yeah. I was like, “Oh my God, digital download to the pledgers who had I’m so scared!” But as soon as you realize ordered a digital copy. But then I went off that they’re human beings as well, and get and made the album I did release, Running to know them on a personal level, then they With Scissors, in just six weeks time. It was become another person to you. Newton very intense to do, but the whole sound and was really chill and really nice. But yeah, feeling of the album better represents me when I left the writing session I was like, “Oh as an artist, so it was worth it. And those my God, I was just in a room with Newton who ordered a physical copy of my album Faulkner writing a song. What is life? I don’t through PledgeMusic received Running With Scissors. know anymore.” [Laughs] You gave a very frank interview after X Factor about what it was like to compete on the show. And I’m wondering if you still feel that there’s a certain stigma attached to being on this type of show? It’s changing now, a little bit. In America there doesn’t seem to be such a negative stigma towards starting out on a television show, to be honest. But over here in the UK, there is a massive stigma. People won’t listen to my album just because I went on the show. Some people just ignore me because I went on it whereas with you guys over in the States, it doesn’t seem as bad. People seem to be more able to open their ears and give the album a chance, which is really nice. There doesn’t seem to be so many closed doors. The stigma thing is so weird, really. But my view at the moment is that the only way I can break the stigma is by proving to people that I’m an artist, songwriter, singer, and performer. And the only way to prove to people that I’m not just someone off a TV show is to make and write the best music that I can. So hopefully some day people will see me, not as Janet Devlin from X Factor, but as Janet Devlin, the artist. The stigma really is strange because these shows provide a much-needed platform to help people get heard as well as a springboard into the music industry. Yeah, that’s how I wanted to use it. I wanted to start performing as soon as I possibly could and X Factor’s a great steppingstone to get into the industry. Now I’m 20 and I’ve got so much music already done, and I’ve got so much more left to make, but I still have so much time. It’s all really good.
Do you have a favorite track on Running With Scissors? Whiskey Lullabies, I think. It’s the last song on the album and it’s about childhood, growing up, and acceptance, and those kinds of things. And I honestly love it. I even decided to do an Irish version of it. I spoke Irish as a child and I don’t know why — maybe because the song is about childhood — but I decided to do this song in Irish. So there’s an Irish version of it as well. I want to ask you about social media and “The Devlinators,” your on-line fans. What do you see as the pros and cons of using social media? Do you find it helpful? Oh, I love all the names for fan groups! [Laughs] Social media is the new forward with music, really. And I do a lot with it. I have Facebook and Twitter, of course. And I’m actually going to start doing a podcast, which will be very fun. I also have my YouTube channel, which is not just for music videos, but I also post vlogs and other random bits of filming, song covers that I’ve done, and live sessions that we’ve filmed at the office. A lot of artists complain about social media like, “Oh, I can’t be bothered to update my socials and things” and I’m like, “Why?” You’ve got people out there that want to interact with you and want to engage with you. Why not just say hello to them? Just a little hello means a lot to them and it’s so easy to do. It’s a way to keep in contact with fans and provide something personal. And it’s not only about gig and album updates, either. People just want to communicate and talk. That’s where the ‘social’ part of social media comes in. [Laughs]
You didn’t sign a recording contract right You also just released an EP of covers, after the show, but instead undertook a Duvet Daze that contains a cover of an PledgeMusic campaign and made your Ed Sheeran song, is that right? www.fourculture.com 47
Yes. It “Duvet” obviously as in blanket or cover, so yeah, it’s a cover EP. [Laughs] And I did cover “I See Fire” from The Hobbit, because I’m a massive fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and that song is just unbelievable. I love Ed Sheeran. Would you like to collaborate with him? I have to say that as I listened to Running With Scissors, I actually thought about what a totally dynamite collaboration the two of you would be.
Oh my God, I would die. I’ve seen him perform twice and he is amazing. I would have to do the same thing I did when working with Newton where I had to be like, “Okay, they’re a person, a human being.” But I would love to. I’d marry him tomorrow if I had the chance as well, but ... [laughs]. So, if you’re ever talking to Ed Sheeran, feel free to just chuck my name in there [laughs].
Absolutely. [Laughs] Other than Ed, what three artists would you love to collaborate with?
Wow! That’s quite hard because I listen to so much music and it’s a really eclectic mix. There’s a guy, and he’s actually taking off in the States at the moment, Keaton Henson. I like his music a lot. His lyrics really get to you, like they’re proper hard-hitting stuff. So I’d love to write with him. And Lorde would be very cool to work with. City and Colour would be amazing to work with, as well. His music is just so good.
The press has compared you to Kate Bush, you’ve been romantically linked to a member of a very popular boy band, and Courtney Love believes you’re related to Kurt Cobain. What goes through your mind when you hear or read these things? Does it seem surreal?
[Laughs] I think you’re talking about Niall Horan from One Direction. He apparently said he had a crush on me, or something like that, to the press. And of course when it is reported that one of the biggest celebrities on the planet wanted to date me, I was already in a relationship. So you know, “Good job, Janet! You go. Thanks.” [Laughs] And the Kate Bush thing really is surreal because she’s an icon and to be compared to someone so amazing, is just kind of strange to me. It’s cool because I like to do my own thing and obviously, Kate Bush does her own thing and is famous for doing her own thing. So it’s a really cool comparison. I’m not going to complain about it. But it is all very surreal.
By the time this interview comes out, you will have made your American debut performance in New York City. What else can your fans expect from you in 2015?
As far as plans for America in 2015, I’ll be getting my album out to fans and getting people to listen to it. Hopefully I’ll be doing some more gigs, meeting some American fans, and also doing some writing there. Just spreading my American wings properly.
Who are you listening to these days? Okay, last question: What are your four What tracks are currently on your favor- favorite things, the four things that you couldn’t, or maybe just don’t want to, live ites playlist? I know I’m very late to the party, but without?
I’m listening to a lot of John Mayer at the minute. I also got Taylor Swift’s new album and it’s amazing. And I’ve finally figured out how to use iTunes properly and actually got to download all the stuff that I bought ages ago. So there’s a lot of older music as well, like Fall Out Boy. So yeah, I’ve been listening to just everything [laughs].
Oh wow. That would have to be my journals, music in general, caffeine - any form of caffeinated beverage of the low calorie kind - it’s actually quite sad as I’m quite addicted to sugar free energy drinks and coffee. And I couldn’t live without the Internet. I spend so much time on the Internet. I even manage to do Internet gigs.
49 PHOTOGRAPHwww.fourculture.com BY ANDREW ASHLEY
FIRE IN THE HAMPTONS The Fire Has Only Begun BY SER EN A BUTLER www.fourculture.com 51
For many, the thought of a fire can seem dangerous, scary, and even life changing. When your accomplishments are burning hot within the public eye, there is no reason to be afraid. The world needs to see you glow. When a band is on fire, there is no reason to put out the flames. For the Los Angeles based band Fire in the Hamptons, their flames have only begun to rise. In 2010, Zack Arnett (lead singer) connected with award-winning producer/composer, Bert Selen. The two combined their eclectic vision and nearly a year later completed the Fire in the Hamptons full-length debut album, F.I.T.H. Upon the release, it wasn’t long until music from the album was used in television shows, advertisements and online promos such as: “Feels So Good,” “Gossip Girl,” “Awkward,” “Jersey Shore,” “Snooki & Jwoww,” Verizon, Logitech, and USPS. In 2012, Zack Arnett realized that he needed to take this act on the road which would lead to the formation of the five-piece Fire in the Hamptons we know today. The band is comprised of Zack on vocals, Aaron Bilyeu on drums, Ian Dowd on guitar, Emvy Venti on synth/piano, and the newest addition Johnny Whitlock on keys/ vocals has been gaining a buzz with their shows across the Los Angeles area. After a whirlwind of shows, they had the chance to perform at the indie music festival, “Echo Park Rising,” and headlined Monterey’s festival, “First Night Monterey”. If that wasn’t enough, they headlined at Project Ethos, and Gen Art fashion shows during fashion week, and were selected to perform on a KROQ Locals Only Showcase with Young Blood Hawke. In late 2014, the guys would release their Kickstarter funded ep entitled “Chosen Ones.” With an already impressive start it’s hard to say where the flames will spread to next. In order to find that out, we had the chance to talk to Fire in the Hamptons’ Zack Arnett to see where 2015 will take them, what really inspired their music and much more that only Fourculture has the guts to ask. So put down the fire hose. We have it all under control. It’s time to see Fire in The Hamptons burn brightly.
On the Chosen Ones EP, you got the chance to work with producer Carlos De La Garza (Young The Giant, Neon Trees, Tegan & Sara). What drew you to his work that made you want to use his talent on this EP? What would you say was your most favorite experience while working with Carlos? A friend recommended we meet with Carlos. He had experience as an engineer on records that were making noise at the time so I thought it would be a good fit. We When did you know that creating music had some strong differences of opinion, but despite the hurtles I’m happy with the way was what you wanted to do? There was never one clear moment that the record turned out. I can recall that made me want to do music. It was more like a long string of things In your biography states that “on stage, throughout the years that led to all of this. the music comes alive with enough enThe one common thread that played out in ergy to make venue security dance.” If my life was music. Once I quit my day job you can compare the energy that you and dove in head first, it became very real. want the audience to feel leaving your show to anything on the planet, what That was the turning point, no doubt. would it be and why? What is the feeling What sound defines Fire in the Hamp- you get from being on stage in such an tons? What differentiates your sound energetic environment? I don’t want them to feel like they’re on from other artists out there today? Electric Hip Rock, that’s what we are. the planet at all. I want them to feel like they I’d like to think I’ve pulled pieces of many just laced up their dream lover in a space genres to create our sound. Hip-hop is a ship headed to the unexplored distances of huge influence. I learned how to write songs the universe, that kind of energy because as an emcee in a hip-hop group, that’s the that’s how I feel on stage. best training camp there is in my opinion. I don’t discriminate when it comes to inspi- Every Friday in October you guys celeration. It can come from anywhere, which brated the release of the new EP by havis why I’m always observing life and the ing $3 beers and free bowling in LA. This players involved. Maybe it’s the constant has to be one of the more unique launch awareness and desire to evolve and push party ideas out there. How did this the envelope that differs FITH from the rest. brilliant idea come together? How do you top it for your next release? We don’t like boxes. We enjoy party-party time. We’re excelYou’ve stated in your Kickstarter write lent bowlers and even more accomplished up that “It’s up to the artist to make it. drinkers. The next release will be epic. The day of the traditional record label is Don’t you worry; there is only one way to on its death bed, and we’re knee-deep in find out for sure though. a very exciting new path that will forever change the music industry as we know One of the coolest things for an artist, in it.” What makes you feel that the crowd my opinion, is probably hearing yourself sourcing route be the “way of the future” on the radio or the television. Most recently your track “Glitter and Gold” was so to speak? It’s all about involving your fans in the featured on the E! promo for the Ameriprocess. It’s not enough just to make music can Music Awards. What it’s like to hear and give it to them. They want more than your music on an advert? How does ever these days and if you don’t give it to one’s music become used in an adverthem they will move on. The fans have be- tisement? It’s always a good feeling when people come the rock stars now. The artist must cater to their needs and feed them full with want to use the music to rep their product attention and activities to participate in. or passion. We’re grateful for the opporThings are changing ever so swiftly within tunity to be heard on the big screen. If you the music industry and crowd funding is one make songs that have a universal theme that positive thing to emerge amongst a laundry evokes emotion while maintaining authenticilist of negatives. It’s a good lesson in humil- ty, you’re a good candidate for ad placement. ity to do what we do. The key is to stay positive and adapt, never hold on to the past For those who don’t know, Zack had and don’t expect the world to hold on to you. been in a hip hop group prior to forming First of all, we have to start with the question that everyone asks. We know it gets redundant. How did you get together with your band? What was it like to start Fire in The Hamptons? The band formed shortly after I recorded the first record. Putting a band together is much like forming an army, an army of weirdo’s that get along and have a taste for the same poison. It’s a lot of work, but the payoff is huge when you get it right.
Fire in The Hamptons. You stated that you wanted to experiment in a more melodic direction. What drew you to creating the synth-based music you do today in lieu of continuing in hip hop? I was inspired at the time by bands like MGMT, Phoenix, Miike Snow, Kenna, Passion Pit. I liked the playful use of structure and rhythms. It was a perfect bridge from Hip-Hop into the rock world. It’s important for me to ride a fine line between what’s expected and what’s never been done. I’m fine with being under the indie rock umbrella, but I don’t want to be folded into the typical sound that’s expected of that classification. I have a lot of experimental tracks that are unreleased because I don’ know if people would get it. Time will tell. What is this I hear about breaking an ankle during a performance? Then you follow that up with performing with a broken ankle? How does one both break an ankle and continue with their routine performance schedule? One must be a true warrior to be successful at this game. I jumped from a table back on stage and tripped over a floor monitor. I snapped my ankle, fell to the floor and finished the song then I stood up and wanted to play more until the pain kicked in then I needed strong drink. We had to keep playing no matter what. I wasn’t going to let my leg stop us from performing. I like to think the energy can be felt regardless of if I’m standing, sitting, or lying down. Fourculture previously covered the release of the lyric video for the single “Chosen Ones.” Can we expect any video for the track coming up? If so, what could we expect? Yes! We are currently in pre-production for the “Chosen Ones” official music video. We can’t wait to show you. Lasers, smoke, space. It’s going be great, we promise. What is the meaning of life? Tacos and the consumption of their flavors as well as procreation and stuff. What are your plans for 2015? We want to tour a lot! We’ve played most of our shows in LA. It’s time for us to get out and share the FITH dream with the world.
Esutorogen Hikachuusha (Estrogen Injections)
エストロゲン注射 BY DARYA TEESEWELL
The locker rooms at Lydia’s were nothing luxurious. Each room had three makeup stations, a toilet, a sink, lockers on the walls, a chair, a bench, and a full-length mirror. A locker that was roughly 30 inches by 18 inches cost $65 a month when I was there.
However, that locker payment bought you access to the room by push button code and that meant a safe space for male-born persons to transform themselves into the woman they always wanted to be for a few minutes or a few hours any time of day or night. There were those of us who were weekly regulars and some people who came by once every six months when business brought them to town for a few glorious feminine nights. Some of us were struggling financially and others of us were well off, but the rules were egalitarian; if you paid for one little locker, you had as much right to be there as anyone. Some people had more than one locker and paid more. If you didn’t pay for 90 days, regardless of who you were, the bolt-cutters came out and your stuff got cleaned out. For a short while we even had a certain criminal element that broke into other people’s lockers and stole stuff. The break-ins stopped when three girls, all locker roommates, were at 7969 one night and noticed a particularly odd and unstable sister locker mate wearing an assortment of their items. They knew they could reclaim their stuff in the 7969 ladies room, which was always a somewhat anarchic free zone, but not without risks. Instead, over some umbrella drinks, they chose a more strategic approach. They knew that the offender always went to the Yukon Mining Company after the club closed so they staked her out. Her transportation was always sketchy so the most likely scenario had her being dropped off, which turned out be the case. Since one of the three was a vision in catlike latex that evening she acted as the
bait. She seductively asked the culprit if she wanted to snort some coke and “get acquainted.” The culprit agreed, naturally. She was escorted to the darkest part of the parking lot and surprise was with them as three of them relieved her of her wig, corset, shoes, breast forms, and purse, whose contents, including several condoms, they dumped without ceremony into the parking lot. She was squealing at them like a feral pig as they piled into Cat Girl’s large American sedan and made good their getaway. None of them recognized the breast forms, but they figured she stole them from someone anyway; street justice is imperfect. We heard later that she’d moved to Kansas City. Don’t mess with a girl’s corset, boobs, or hair. We had one locker mate known simply to most of us as “The Girl from Japan.” She was adorable: petite, with a tiny waist, no beard problem, and translucent white skin. She spoke little to no English; wherever she worked over here, it apparently wasn’t required. We had one girl who spoke both English and Japanese and she filled us in. “He” was over here for weeks at a time and then would fly back to Japan where “he” was married and had an infant daughter. She didn’t drive or, let’s put it this way, we never saw her drive. She would usually indicate to one of us that she needed a ride to the Queen Mary Show Lounge, which was usually where we were going unless we were headed over the hill to the jungle of 7969. I often drove her there in polite smiling silence. She tended to wear tight fetishy stuff, heavy on the PVC, which belied her soft, submissive manner. The guys were always on her instantly. I rarely gave her a ride home. I often speculated how her evenings would end, how she got home, and how she made it back to work the next day. I sort of admired her ability to put herself into an uncontrollable situation and depend on the kindness of strangers; a very gentle sort of wild thing. It did go south for her occasionally. We took her to Silverlake for Dragstrip 66 one night. She was probably confused when we she asked for a ride with us. I saw a kind of wordless, primal panic on her face as the freeways began looking unfamiliar. She was looking all around her, like a caged cat on a trip to the vet. Once she got there, she relaxed around the other girls, Queens, and abundant attention. Dragstrip was usually 80 percent gay boys and Drag queens, but there was a hard core of tranny-chasers who would
make the trip. I saw one buying her an infamous DS66 mixed drink, heavy on the drink, light on the mix. She was passed out on a couch by one, and her ardent lover boy was nowhere to be seen. I argued that we needed to take her back to the lockers, and the girl who had been driving said that she didn’t want her getting sick in the car. As a compromise, she was placed in the back section of her hatchback on a furniture pad she happened to have. She was so tiny and compact it wasn’t much of a problem to tuck her in next to the spare. I left her on the floor of Lydia’s with her vinyl jacket over her, hoping for the best. Next time I saw her, she was all smiles and asked for a ride again. I must have an honest face. Her real claim to fame was something she did that elevated her to Sandy Thomas/ Fictionmania novel status; the stuff of Cross dresser fantasy. She was living a double life, but wanted to try female hormones, like about 90% of trans people do, whether they admit it or not. There were several ways to do this in Los Angeles in those days. Most legitimate Medical Doctors back then required a letter from a mental health professional before beginning treatment, including the best guy in town, who was over on the West Side next to Cedars. There was another guy who didn’t and he was indeed a legitimate Doctor, albeit one with a revolutionary method at the time; he created a small flap in the lower back and injected estradiol pellets for timed release, eliminating the need for twice-monthly injections. He was doing a booming practice here in the US and internationally for that reason and his offices were conveniently near L.A. Airport. I’ve had friends who went to him and they told me that he would assess a person’s health and then ask them how quickly they wished to proceed. These aren’t my words, but a friend said it was essentially asked in terms of “Regular, Premium, or Racing Fuel?” Now imagine my adorable, English-challenged, culturally polite friend smiling and nodding her head as he asked her the equivalent of that question. She got Racing Fuel, meaning seven-plus pellets of the hormone that makes young girls into women in her tiny body, and a prescription for Spironolactone, a Testosterone-blocker. She was delighted after two weeks, as she began to see her skin smooth out and complexion clear; she was probably happy about the early tingling in her breasts and the first few changes in her nipples. However, she was due to go
back to Japan in a few weeks and her breasts were growing inexorably toward B-cup handful status, she couldn’t get an erection to save her life, and she was growing some nice hips on the natch. “Oh my god, I’m turning into a WOMAN!” is what the fantasies would write about this stuff, but she was living it. Japanese wives back then still clung closely to a tradition of not asking too many questions of their husbands, but neglecting his husbandly duty in the bedroom would be noticeable and considered hurtful. She was terrified of a horrifying re-entry into Japanese life where in spite of a healthy cross-gender tradition on the wild side of things, she would bring scandal and shame onto herself and her family, and when that ball got rolling socially, things got ugly fast. She apparently went back to the doctor and paid to have the remaining pellets removed, stopped the Spiro and tried to finagle a way to stay in the States longer. I’ve heard several versions of what happened next, but whatever happened, she managed to go back without much incident, at least any she was willing to share with our Japanese-speaking friend. Sooner than later, we saw her again at the Queen Mary, dressed adorably and being fawned over by men on a regular basis. Everything was back to normal. She was to have one more legendary moment, however. She showed up at Lydia’s on a Saturday night and it was dead quiet, which was unusual, since that was the night that the Queen Mary would bust loose. She had found a way to call for a cab when she needed to, so she dolled herself up, grabbed her purse, and handed the address to the driver when he showed up at about 10 pm. He dropped her off at the corner of Whitsett and Ventura Court after she had paid his fare. She clip-clopped in her heels toward the back bar entrance, but noticed a little too late that the parking lot was empty and the doors were closed. That was the weekend in June of 2004 that the Queen Mary shut its doors forever without announcement or warning, and thrust our community into a prolonged state of mourning. I can visualize her there before the painted neon lady of Ventura Boulevard, now dark, cold and silent, clutching her little purse tightly in her tiny hand with carefully painted nails. At that moment, the Japanese girl symbolized all of us; all dressed up and no place to go.
DINNER with the DONNERS PART TWO
BY FRANK COTOLO
In part one it was the 1840s and my ancestor, Augusto Cotolo, was in America. This was long before my family’s appearance in the states was documented. Augusto went to Ohio to elude the law for crimes committed in New York. Augusto faked being a mapmaker in Ohio and in 1846 he sought to connive the Donner brothers into paying an exorbitant amount of money for a quick (and phony) route for their long and arduous destination of the west coast. Unexpectedly, after Augusto received his payment, he fell in love with a member of the Donner party and wound up traveling with the part too long. Winter set in with a vengeance and the folly of his map placed the Donner part in severe peril. George and Jacob Donner were worried, especially since the snow was falling at such a rapid pace it nearly blinded them. They had seen Nell frozen stiff in Augusto’s arms and watched as some Donner-party members became so cold the parch of their lips mutated into the letters of the few words they could speak. After noticing the parch mutations avoided vowels, George fell to his knees and screamed. “This is no time to pray aloud,” Augusto said into George’s ear. “I’m not praying,” George struggled to say, “my legs gave in.” “That gives me an idea,” Augusto said as he leaned Nell’s frozen body against a wagon’s side. “I have matches. We got to start a fire.” “What will we burn?” said George on his knees. “What will we burn?” said Jacob, who had fallen to his knees beside George. “A wagon,” Augusto said just before he grabbed Nell’s body by the shoulders and swung her around like a nine-pound hammer, slamming her frozen legs into the side of a wagon. The wagon’s wood was so frozen that it scattered into shards and strips. “Is Nell all right?” said George, still on his knees. “How’s Nell?” said Jacob, also still on his knees. “She’s a fine axe and she won’t crack,” August said, placing his lips on one of her buckram breasts, “she’s too damned hot.” Nell was so hot, even while being frozen stiff, that Augusto got the matches lighted by scraping them against her thigh—even as the snow continued to traverse the entire mountain. Augusto set fire to a pair of wagon wheels and shielded the flames from the wind with one of the wagon’s covers. Then,
Augusto punched George and Jacob in their noses to get them off of their knees and onto their sides. Then he set fire to their legs and once they felt the heat they stood erect. “Burn everything you can,” Augusto shouted. Everyone still able to move began to destroy wagon pieces. The fire grew so intense that Nell defrosted and stayed close to Augusto as he took command of everyone and everything and once in a while punched George and Jacob in the nose just to make sure they still had a sense of feeling. Time passed but the storm ensued. After the first week, Augusto still couldn’t figure out a way to escape and by week three, as the final morsels of food disappeared from the party’s stock and the tall, retrousse snowdrifts amassed, all seemed lost. “If we could just outlive the storm,” said George as he watched one more member of his party fall, hit the side of the mountain and shatter into countless pieces. Augusto and Nell were making out to keep their lips and tongues warm when suddenly Augusto stopped, stood up and looked around at the glaciated carnage. He punched George in the nose and said, “We can stay alive,”and he whispered into George’s rigid ear, proposing the cooking and eating of the dead. With each word, George’s expressions displayed horror, repugnance and loathing. Reluctantly, mostly due to hunger, George agreed. He told Jacob. “Do what?” Jacob said, surprisingly expressing his own opinion. “That’s unholy, it’s inhuman.” Augusto punched Jacob in the nose. While spread out in the thick snow, Jacob hallucinated and saw his wife’s body sitting on a rock frozen until she turned into a roast turkey dripping in its own juices. He looked
up at Augusto and shouted, “Great idea, Auggie.” Nell was more impressed with Augusto than she had been when he told her he was the King of Italy. She asked him how he came up with the disgusting but lifesaving plan. Augusto almost told Nell that eating human flesh was the reason he had to leave New York City. However, when he looked into her glassy eyes and realized he was madly in love with her, he lied. Nell contributed with a great idea. She said, “I’ll label all the dead folk so no one winds up eating their kin. Maybe that’ll make eating them easier to stomach.” (She must’ve not realized the irony of that figure of speech.) Christmas of 1846, living members of the Donner party had dead members of the Donner party for their holiday dinner. It turned out, according to what survivors reported in 1847, that those dining easily consumed the meals. Also, it was discovered that Jacob was a leg man and George a thigh guy. All in all, the Donner party was stranded for five months. Recorded history reveals four rescue parties brought back survivors from George and Jacob’s contingent. The uneaten dead and living were identified, with the exception of Nell Anvoid, who was missing all together. Nell and Augusto mysteriously surfaced in Naples in August, 1847, where she changed her name to Sophia, married Augusto and was convinced she was the Queen of Italy. She had eight children: five boys—two that died at childbirth—and three girls—one that lived at childbirth. Sophia outlived Augusto, who, although he survived many assassination attempts from enemies, was shot down by Vatican guards in 1899, at seventy-five. Suffering from dementia, Augusto left Naples for Rome, swearing that he would kill and eat the Pope as a penalty for the pontiff’s refusal to condemn meatless Fridays. It was Sophia who passed on the tale of Augusto and the Donner party to her children and made them swear to keep it in the family because she felt t was not a fit history for royalty, as well as because she never entirely believed the human remains were fully cooked, blaming some of the party’s deaths on her culinary stupidity. By breaching my family secret as the author of this story, I will never be able to walk down the street without looking over my shoulder because Augusto Cotolo’s penchant for cannibalism is the shame of the bloodline. As well, I fear the authorities may hound me incessantly concerning the disappearance of some neighbors. www.fourculture.com 57
A Photographer in New York by Andrew Ashley 58 www.fourculture.com
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