Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 85 / the alternative music tabloid
Man Vs Indie
Kevin Morby | Drahla | Chastity Belt Dave Gahan | The Bug Vs Earth
drahla – 12 kevin morby – 14 chastity belt – 16 wesley gonzalez – 20 dave gahan – 26 the bug vs earth – 30 Reviews – 35 - 48 party wolf – 50
Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 85 / the alternatIVe musIc tabloId
Man Vs Indie
Kevin Morby | Drahla | Chastity Belt
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Dave Gahan | The Bug Vs Earth
c o v er p h o t o g raphy j o n a n g el o M o l i n ari
I’ve ruined football for myself by overthinking it. You can do that with anything you love, although my advice is don’t give it a go, just in case I’m right. Really, my childhood and teenage love affair with football was over long before I cynically started picking apart the business of it – like how if everything about a club has changed a hundred times since you started supporting them, from the players to the manager, to the owner, to even the ground they play in, what the fuck are we actually bankrolling here, and would supporting a different team each year really be such a treacherous thing to do? My friend Ben tells me to shut up when I say things like that. Of course, football seems no more absurd than anything else does once you pull at the loose thread of it, but for a time I’d return to the same thought – of all those thousands of men in replica shirts with names of 22-year-olds on their backs. I couldn’t shake how everyday it was, not because it’s predominantly guys hero-worshiping guys, but because professional footballers are so much younger than most of us suckers watching them. At what point, I thought, is it a bit weird to be idolising those who are younger than us? And then, shit – I started applying the stupid anxiety to music. It was my age that was the issue, wasn’t it? I was getting older, panicking about the things that I thought were slipping away from me, and looking up to musicians was one of them. It felt so natural when they were older than I was. All of this is a very long way of saying that I met Wesley Gonzalez for this month’s cover feature. He’s a guy I’ve followed since his band Let’s Wrestle’s very first single in 2007, when I was starting to feel old. I was 8 years older than Wesley (still am), but either I put my big question of age to one side back then, or simply answered it by still finding the music of these 16-year-olds inspiring. Now Wesley is convinced he’s a grumpy old man, although he’s hoping his anti-rockist solo album with spark a revolt against boring indie guitars. Stuart Stubbs
fo unde r & Editor - Stu ar t S tu b b s Art Dir e ction - B.A.M. DIGITAL DIRECTOR - GREG COCHRANE Sub Editor - A le xandr a Wilshir e fi lm e ditor - Andr e w ande r son Bo ok Editor s - L e e & Janine Bu llman
T his M o nth L &Q L o ve s B a r ba r a cha r o ne , dunca n j o r da n, F r e d M e l l o r , J a m e s H e a the r , j o e p a r r y , m a tthe w fo gg.
The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari ly reflect the opinions of the m agazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2017 Loud A nd Quiet LTD . ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by S har man & C om pany LTD. Distributed by loud and quiet LTD. & forte
Before Brix Smith Start moved to Manchester and joined The Fall she had a rough time at 16, only to be saved by music
rix Smith Start: I remember looking forward to being 16 for so long because it seemed like such a grown up age, but then when it happened everything turned upside down. It was probably the most tumultuous year of my life – a pretty horrific year for me, where my entire life was flipped a billion different ways. It’s not pleasant reading for anyone, but basically I was disowned by my father, had to live with a foster family and then my mother came and rescued me and brought me back to Chicago. Then I started school in a new place. Being forced to change my life like that, and all of this trauma that happened, it was actually the year that I really seriously got into music. It was the thing that saved me. The school I went to in L.A. was what you’d call a free school, very progressive, and then I went into a preparatory school in Chicago, which was extremely academic, and although I was really smart, I wasn’t that sort of kid. I was a real free spirit, so it sort of fucked with me. I went to this school and became part of the marginalised group of outcasts – we were just completely into punk music: Buzzcocks, Ramones, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Blondie,The Clash. We went to our local record store, Wax Trax!, and we’d get all the British import records.They were a lot more expensive but they were the really cool ones. That was the year I got my name too; it was a year of change. I absolutely hated Chicago at the time. I loathed
As told to daniel dylan wray it and didn’t want to be there. It was such a horrible year that I can’t even tell you. Now, of course, I love Chicago. I can’t blame the city for the way I felt at the time – it was how I felt inside having been rejected by my father. I was pretty much a broken child. Most of the girls in my school were what you would call preppy girls, they were extremely straight and wore chinos and boating shoes, with hair bands and polo necks. I was a girl who would colour my hair and roller skate to school. I had this little group of friends and we were very naughty – we would go out clubbing but the legal age to drink was of course 21 so we had fake I.D’s. God knows how my mother let me do this but I could drive and had a car and so we would go deep into Chicago and go to all these different clubs. There was one called Exit that was like a punk club. This picture was actually taken at a completely illegal club in the meatpacking district of Chicago, like a derelict old abattoir. It was an important time because I was starting to identify myself and my personality through music and fashion. I really began to experiment with clothes and by the time of this photograph I had already found my look – it’s quite a strong look for a 16-year-old. My mum loved clothes and had been a model in her younger days and when I was really young, like 5-years-old, she would take me shopping and say, ‘pick out anything you want and
put it together however you want.’ She said there are no rules, stripes with tartan is cool. That freedom to experiment had an impact. In this picture I’m wearing a fake fur leopard coat and guess what I wore last night? It was a great way to express your personality. It made you different from all the other kids who were listening to Billy Joel. I remember one time going to some girl’s house and she put Billy Joel on and was like, ‘isn’t this fantastic?’ and I was like, ‘this is the most heinous thing I have ever heard and I have to leave your house.’ Making music was my fantasy then, but not in a million years did I think that I ever would because I didn’t think I was good enough. What I thought I would be doing was acting or writing, although around 16 music did overcome me so I had to teach myself how to do it. Loads of cool bands were cropping up everywhere and you thought if they can do it, so can I. I mean,The Ramones, they were like my heroes because it was three chords and you knew that you could make it work. I joined a neighbourhood band around this time that did cover versions and we played parties but it was so bad, I can’t tell you; it was horrific. Thank fuck I can’t remember what we were called. And I don’t know why they had me as the singer but we would cover Blondie and The Police and stuff. A few years later I taught myself bass at college and then that was it.
books + ANYONE CAN PLAY GUITAR
Hugh Laurie Reef Younis catalogues the curious music careers of mega celebrities. Illustrated by Josie Sommer. / selling UK blues album of 2011 (I’m not making this up), shift 192,000 copies, peak at number 2 in the UK album chart and top the US Blues, Argentinian and Austrian album charts, respectively. Two years later, ‘Didn’t It Rain’ arrived, but this time Laurie mixed it up. Away from its blues foundation, it ventured into jazz, R&B and tango with similarly mixed results in the style of its predecessor. Slightly less successful on the chart front (it only reached number 3 in traditional Laurie strongholds of France and the UK), the album at least had critics complimenting his taste in music and his ability to recreate it to a standard that can be described as ‘pretty decent’. But while he was shifting units for a major label, and closing the Cheltenham Jazz Festival with his quintet, Laurie was also giving something back with the aforementioned Band From TV. Comprised of various musician actors from American TV, you can find Laurie playing high profile charity events alongside the likes of James Denton aka Mike Delfino from Desperate Housewives, Teri Hatcher aka Lois Lane from The New Adventures of Superman, and, of course, Jesse Spencer aka Billy Kennedy from Neighbours. Oh starry night!
In America, he’s best known as the narcissistic curmudgeon Dr. Gregory House. In the UK, he’s recognisable as the foppish, upper class twit, Prince George from Blackadder. But somewhere in between, we get blue note Hugh: a jazz-playing, blues-loving singer and multi-instrumentalist. From playing piano as a special guest on Meat Loaf’s 2010 album ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’ to playing keyboard and singing in charity group Band From TV (more on that later), Hugh Laurie’s never been shy about showcasing his musical talents on stage or screen – when you’re a pianist, guitarist, drummer, harmonicist and saxophonist, you’re entitled to prove that your aptitude for instruments is up there with your acting chops. After musical dabbles on A Bit of Fry & Laurie (his comedy double-act with Stephen Fry) and House (the doc was in session on a Gibson Flying V, Les Paul and Hammond organ at various points), Warner Bros. Records came calling. In 2010, Laurie signed a contract with the label and released the first of his two albums, ‘Let Them Talk’, a year later, roping in Tom Jones, Irma Thomas and Dr. John as guests. Picking up solid if unspectacular reviews, the album’s even take on rhythm, soul and blues saw it become the biggest-
by j a nine & L ee bull ma n
Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti Faber and Faber
In Art Sex Music, the artist, musician, stripper, member of Cosey and Chris andThrobbing Gristle, Cosey Fanni Tutti, looks back over a career unlike any other. Denied the chance to go to art school as a teenager who grew up in Hull, Tutti made the world her canvas and, along with her fellow travellers, made the most of a society still able to be shocked (so outraged in fact that she and her compadres were once declared ‘wreckers of civilisation’, in Parliament no less).This is an open and honest look at a fascinating life and career. The writing throughout is sincere and engaging and thanks to its reliance on diaries kept at the time, manages to make the story feel intimate, heartfelt and immediate.
Age of Anger: A History of the Present By Pankaj Mishra allan lane
These days we’re all furious, the news is all fake, social media is seething and comments sections are awash with anonymous vitriol. We’re angry at each other because of how we vote; we’re angry with our leaders; with inequality and powerlessness; we’re angry at politics and the establishment and the elites and round and round it goes. In Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra tries to put our modern rage culture into context and reveals that, rather than it being something that has shown up from nowhere, the mood has been heading this way for a while. Mishra’s book has some interesting things to say about where the hate has come from, and draws some uncomfortable conclusions.
Dig If You Will The Picture by Ben Greenman faber and faber
Funk, Sex and God were the holy triptych of driving forces behind Prince’s forty albums, close to one hundred singles, 2000+ live shows and a slew of pretty decent movies and pop promos, without which the world would be a far duller and much less sexy place. Ben Greenman, who has previously written biographies of Funkadelic, Parliament and Brian Wilson, got his first copy of ‘1999’ in 1982 and makes no apologies here for the fact that he has been a diehard Prince fan ever since. Greenman’s enthusiasm for the Purple One is infectious and his knowledge of the man and his work impressive. The result is a diligently researched tribute. Dig If You Will The Picture is a fitting homage to an earthshaking talent.
getting to know you
Noodle Never mind that The Gorillaz are the world’s first virtual band – their guitarist has taken our Getting To Know You questionnaire. Seems the Japanese former child assassin is still into killing, Grace Jones, spontaneous combustion and hamster arses / The best piece of advice you’ve been given “Don’t lie down after a meal or you will turn into a cow.” It’s a Japanese saying. I’m still human, so there must be truth in it.
The one song you wished you’d written ‘Anaconda’ by Nicki Minaj. She owns her narrative in that song. I think she tries to subvert what society forces on her, which I admire.
Your favourite word ‘Serendipity’. How it sounds and what it means. Because life is chaos and that can be frightening, but chaos also brings beautiful, unexpected things. Like Mavis Staples on a Gorillaz record.
The most famous person you’ve met Kanye West, on tour in America. He believes he’s a misunderstood genius, just like Murdoc. Needless to say, they totally blanked each other.
Your pet-hate People who blindly follow trends. Be what you are. Unless what you are is a total dick. If you could only eat one food forever, it would be... This is messed up. What kind of nightmarish dystopia would enforce that law? I’d spark a violent uprising like in The Hunger Games and change things. But if the revolution failed, I’d pick soba noodles. The worst job you’ve had Being a child super-assassin. A lot of night ops, and everyone who sees you wants you dead. A bit like working the Friday night shift at McDonald’s. The film you can quote the most of “I’m sorry, Wilson. I’m sorry! WILSON! WILSON!” Cast Away came out the year I joined Gorillaz. 2D would watch it five times a day. It really spoke to him; he even drew his own Wilson onto a watermelon. Murdoc butchered it with his battleaxe. Then juiced it. Maybe he was jealous. Favourite place in the world Ryōan-ji, a Zen temple in Kyoto. Every day, under the cherry trees, the abbot rakes little pebbles into lines. It shows the mystery of life. Something we are not meant to understand, but that we should try to contemplate. Like Humanz. Your style icon Grace Jones. She pilots her own spaceship far above the worlds of gender, race and fashion stereotypes, always going somewhere brave and new and beautiful.
The thing you’d rescue from a burning building My bonsai tree. It grows out of the decapitated head of Cyborg Noodle. I never knew my parents, so the tree represents my roots; a link with home. It’s my happy place. Your guilty pleasure Hamster butts. Really big, fluffy ones. It’s a Japanese thing. There are many fans. Please Google it immediately, otherwise you’ll think I’m not well in my head. Your first big extravagance Probably my M134 Minigun. 5,000 rounds per minute. Give or take. Perfect for splattering advancing zombie hordes. She can get very hot. I call her Motoko. The worst present you’ve received A Judas Cradle. It’s a medieval torture device. Murdoc is only good at buying presents he himself wants. The characteristic you most like about yourself The way I pick myself up after I’ve been knocked down. Or blown up, like during the video shoot for ‘El Manana’. Your favourite item of clothing Right now I’m into mixing urban camo and utility wear, so I really love my MA1 flight jacket. Your biggest disappointment Finding out that Queen don’t rule Britain. As a kid I loved Freddy Mercury. He would have made a good leader. But then I found out the real person
in charge was a man called Rupert Murdoch. Don’t worry, he’s on my list. ;-). Your biggest fear Spider-clowns. The best book in the world A Brief History of Time. People’s biggest misconception about yourself That I’m cold. I’m not. I just take a while to warm up. Like the sea. What is success to you? Not worth losing sleep over.
What talent do you wish you had? Time travel. Especially backwards. There are several people I’d like to assassinate. Mostly men, but that’s history for you. How would you choose to die? Spontaneous combustion. I’ve always wanted to go supernova. What is the most overrated thing in the world? Cupcakes. The icing promises so much, but the cake part is always really bland. They are inherently disappointing. What, if anything, would you change about your physical appearance? I would like a big, fluffy bum like a hamster. What’s your biggest turn-off? Bullies. What would you tell your 15-year-old self? How to win the Cyberdemon boss battle in Doom 3. I wasted months on that. Your best piece of advice for others “If you never enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub.” It means you will never succeed if you are too afraid to try. Another Japanese saying. Please stay away from actual tigers, though.
Drahla A turn around the Hockney exhibition with Leedsâ€™ most alluring minimal punk band Photogra phy: matilda hill-jenkins / writer: dominic haley
op p o s i t e: (L - R ) Mi k e ain s l ey , R o b R i g g s & Luci el Br o w n a t t h e tat e b r i t a i n , L o n d o n .
ven though it’s Saturday lunchtime, Tate Britain isn’t all that busy for a change.That said, I’m slightly concerned that I’m going to struggle to pick out the members of Drahla from the groups of similarly dressed art students clustered around the steps leading to the main entrance. I needn’t have worried. Turns out the Leeds-based three-piece are instinctively easy to spot. Bounding up the stairs in their leather jackets, vintage t-shirts and angular haircuts, they are three people who look like they should be in a band. Having played Camden’s Lock Tavern the night before, they’ve decided to make a weekend out of their first visit to London, to check out the Tate’s acclaimed David Hockney exhibition. “For me and Lu, he’s been a massive inspiration, artistically,” says guitarist Rob Riggs. “He’s always trying to look at art in all these different ways and is always trying to find new ways of creating. For him to have this massive retrospective, I just knew that I had to come down and see it.” “I find him incredible,” adds bandmate Luciel Brown as we walk through the heavy-set front doors and into the Tate’s gleaming neo-classical rotunda. “It’s amazing that he’s still coming up with these amazing new ideas. If you look at the work over his career, it’s pretty astounding – I like pretty much everything he’s done ever and the work varies quite a bit as well. I’m really excited to be able see it all in one space.” In some ways Hockney’s work and Drahla’s music are strikingly similar. They both produce work that is deeply personal in nature and both are fiercely committed to doing things in their own way. Like Hockney, Drahla’s output also has a strange, existential darkness lurking just below the surface. With a sound that recalls Sonic Youth, The Breeders and cult Glaswegian post punks Life Without Buildings (without really sounding like any of them), they’ve perfected a broiling, bass-driven version of minimal punk that is both alluringly hook-laden yet simultaneously dangerous. As a recent review on Norman Records observed, the three-piece stand aside from most of today’s indie acts by “having their own sound and not simply coming up with a facsimile of something that has already occurred.”
New single ‘Fictional Decision’ is a case in point. Rejecting the contemporary fashion for layered, fuzz-pedal driven psychedelia, it’s an exercise in pure, stripped down menace. The trio’s first solo single after a spate of split EPs and live videos, its sparse, machine-like drums, wiry guitar squeals and spluttering talk-sung vocals take aim at dogmatic thinking and the authority figures who advocate it.
inding the clatter of plates and teacups in the Tate café a bit too much we decide to relocate to the Royal Oak, a short walk through the red-brick estates that back onto the rear of Tate Britain. Claiming a table on the opposite side of the pub to the group of burly Chelsea fans shouting at the horse racing we get into a conversation about the single’s bluntly religious themes. “It’s about questioning the things that are presented to you,” explains Brown thoughtfully. “A lot of people just seem to accept what they’re told without batting an eyelid. They read something and take it as gospel, but is everything real that has been fed to you?” The conflict between blind faith and skepticism is a reoccurring theme in Brown’s lyrics and stem from a childhood spent at a traditional, catholic school.“I ended up questioning a lot of the things I was subjected to,” she tells me in what I realise is her typically straight forward manner. “You have these figures who are in a certain position and who you respect, but I found myself asking why? Who are they? What’s real? Why do they believe the way they do? It’s something that comes up a lot in my life, and I think it comes mainly from my time at school – it’s always kind of there.” “It’s also a song that almost didn’t happen,” adds the band’s drummer, Mike Ainsley. “The idea was to create this song along to this beat to the keyboard, but because we were in this shitty practice room we couldn’t really hear it properly. In the end, we decided to try and replicate the drums live, and it all kind of built from there.” ‘Fictional Decision’ has been something of an evolution for Drahla, both in terms of their music and their
way of working. Having released a couple of home recordings on various splits, the band decided to mix things up and enter the studio with Hookworms’ front man and Leeds producer MJ. Yet despite having one of the city’s most forward-thinking talents in their corner, Drahla seem slightly out of step with the music scene in Leeds; at least for the moment. In a city that’s more synonymous with experimental psych rock and tough guy metalcore, their melodic blend of art rock and post punk leaves them sticking out a bit. “It took us a while to really get into the scene, as it were,” muses Riggs as we talk about the group’s experience of the city. “I still feel a bit like outsiders to everything that is going on in Leeds. In fact, I kind of like being ignorant to all of it. I don’t really know what’s going on with bands in the city; I just concentrate on what we’re doing.” “Saying that, we’ve been billed with a lot more similar bands recently,” counters Brown. “There’s a band called Mush that we’ve played with a few times and we fit really well. It’s been really good to play with a band like them and realise that there really is a bit of a scene in Leeds that we sort of fit into.” Even if they are a bit out of place for now there’s no denying that Drahla are benefitting from the renaissance that is currently sweeping through the North of England’s music scenes. As life in the capital becomes ever more unforgiving, I get the impression that many musicians are choosing to start bands in the provinces these days. Both Riggs and Brown spent a few years in London before moving back to West Yorkshire to start Drahla, and I’m interested to find out if their relocation has helped. “It’s made a massive difference,” says Brown, leaving me with no illusions. “There’s no time limit on everything. We have the time to experiment and develop our sound without thinking ‘how much is this costing us?’ I think we’ve managed to achieve more by being back in Leeds. You just have a bit more freedom than you do in London.” It’s a sentiment that Riggs agrees with wholeheartedly. “It’s so much cheaper! Even though living in London gave me a bit of a musical education
and turned me onto a lot of late seventies punk bands, in Wakefield you can afford not to work as much and still have a decent standard of living. If you live down here it seems that if you want a decent house you need to be slogging it out at work all hours you’re given.” A better sense of work/life balance is clearly one of the main reasons why many bands are choosing to ditch London for the provinces.When they’re not recording or on tour, the members of Drahla work in call centres, libraries and, in Brown’s case, visual merchandising. All are jobs that allow them the time and freedom to pursue their music without the threat of eviction or having to survive on 20p cans of beans for months on end. “I’d love to live in London but I feel like you need to be established before coming. It seems so full on,” explains Riggs, the member who is currently working in a call centre. “It’s a job that doesn’t take any brainpower whatsoever, so I can kind of sit around and daydream about stuff. Certain things will pop up and I’ll compile it and use it later when we’re writing songs.” As we wrap up our interview, we end up half joking about Leeds and Wakefield becoming the next creative hub – a new version of ’70s New York or late ’80s Manchester. “I don’t know about that, it’s pretty grim and craggy round there,” smiles a skeptical Brown. “Yeah, I mean, aside from Saltaire, it’s kind of grim,” agrees Ainsley, “but maybe creativity always comes out of grimness?”
Kevin Morby A thank you to Lou Reed, Television and all the worldâ€™s great cities Photogra phy: heather mccutcheon / writer: ian roebuck
op p o s i t e: K ev i n Mo r b y in s h o r ed i t c h , L o n d o n .
e can still talk about hotels,” says Kevin Morby, after a last minute location move from London’s Ace Hotel to an office down the road. “I’d actually love to talk about hotels,” he continues, with unexpected vigor. “I am on kind of a crazy trip right now. I have done South by Southwest, then two weeks solo and then I flew straight here to do press so I have been kind of burning it.You do end up staying in so many hotels.The sterile hotel, everyone knows the ones I mean, right, it feels like you are in a Kleenex commercial or something. The air is so weird in these hotels and the smells that come from them… I don’t sleep well in these places.” Later on Kevin tells me he is pretty tired, despite staying in an OK hotel, but he never loses his passion across a variety of subjects, mostly of his choosing. Painting, Portugal, his new album ‘City Music’ and of course hotels get zealously covered in equal measure. Kevin’s been in two notable – and great – Brooklyn bands, Woods and The Babies, before embarking on his solo career that’s already three albums deep. I ask him if it still seems strange travelling on is own. “Yeah, at certain times,” he says.” I always say I like the solo work and being in a band equally as they both feed into each other. I like to be alone for periods of time, and then suddenly I’ll want to go out every night for a month.” I am unsure which Kevin is in front of me today but he seems accustomed to life on the road. “Well, I have two homes right now,” he says. “I have a place in L.A. and I bought a house in Kansas City where I am from. I split my time between them – it depends on my mood where I’d rather be. If I am just coming off tour then I prefer Kansas as it’s way quieter. If I have down time I prefer L.A. as it’s easier to be entertained there.” Right now he seems perfectly happy with a simple chair in East London. ‘City Music’, Morby’s fourth album, comes right off the back of 2016’s autobiographical collection of songs, ‘Singing Saw’. Both are widescreen love letters to landscape, but if ‘Singing Saw’ was mountains and desert, ‘City Music’ is inspired by the metropolitan experience through America and beyond. The differences are remarkable, despite the creative
spark for each occurring at an identical time. He tells me that it was quite intentional. “I am trying to think of a good analogy,” he says. “Like, if you were cooking food and you were making something that is sweet and something that is savoury, you know? From the moment you got all the ingredients together it became kind of apparent, I had a batch of songs and I thought, well there is a lot of salt here and a lot of sugar here, maybe I should make two separate things. I was writing so much at the time and I was writing these kind of Americana, canyony type songs that really reflected what I was doing but I was also writing these songs that were meant for the electric guitar and speak to New York. The moment I noticed that I thought, well, let’s make two different records that speak to each other but they are opposites.” ‘City Music’ feels like a man cutting loose, I tell him. He smiles. “It’s almost like ‘Singing Saw’ is a conversation with my everyday listening, like Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone and Neil Young. Whereas ‘City Music’ is more like Patti Smith or Lou Reed; also bands that I used to listen to a lot but don’t so much anymore, like Television or The Ramones. I want to pay homage to them, just to let you know that all these bands meant a lot to me. ‘City Music’ is my thank-you for that. I love ‘Singing Saw’ so much and I am very proud of it but I have had moments where I am like…” He goes uncharacteristically quiet for a second. “It’s pretty meditative and quite slow and sometimes live you just want to let go and rip into a song!” A more surprising influence has also taken Kevin away from Patti and Bob – Pablo and Vincent. “I got really into painting at the end of last year,” he tells me. “I was spending a lot of time by myself painting and I would love to have more time to do that. On the road it’s fucking tough; it’s the hardest thing in the world not to just look at your phone all day. “Painting is for my own personal use at the moment. I would like to have some sort of show or put them online. I thought maybe there would be some fans out there who would maybe want to buy them. I had a painting party recently with Ty Segall – he’s also got
really into painting; his work is insane, really fucking good. They’re crazy, kinda abstract, he has this character called Assman. It is just insanity but really good. I feel like a lot of people in LA, particularly my circle of friends, they’re getting into stuff like that.”
espite having his roots in Kansas, Kevin seems overcome by big city buzz, a feeling he relentlessly tries to capture throughout his new album. “It’s more of a thing where you are touring these cities, right? Like London, for example. I have never spent a long time here but I have been here so many times. All these places become characters in my annual life. I just love cities, they are fascinating and there are a lot of things that make a city a city and each city shares those things but each place is very different. From the cobblestones to the water fountains, they are all unique and they are all neat.” Surely one has made an impression beyond the others. “I can see myself living in Porto in Portugal,” he buzzes. “I stayed there for two weeks once and I really loved it. I saw my girlfriend there for like 5 days and then I was alone for the remainder. There was a show promoter there who is now a very good friend of mine and he contacted me on social media and said he would love to show me around. It quickly became my favourite place. He was like Mayor of Porto or something – it’s a small city and everyone knew him. ‘Are you a friend of Andre’s?’ people would say. I have seen him many times since. He asked for what it’s worth do you want to play a show. I told him I’m on vacation but in the end I said why not and he set up a solo show in a café and made it free. The whole tour was like 50 to 60 people per venue but 150 people came to that one, everything about that trip was amazing!” We discuss the pros and cons of social media, and the fact that meeting Andre wouldn’t have happened without his phone. But Kevin’s vehement belief in limiting time online keeps cropping up. “Social media is probably, like, 80% horrible for our brains,” he calculates, “but
something like the protests at the airports in America for the Muslim ban, that was all social media, that was the first time I noticed the big picture of people using social media for good. To be able to organise a protest within 24 hours is impressive.” Recently Kevin’s become more vocal in his political views, too – something he seems keen to discuss here. “I have chosen a life as an artist so that in itself is kind of political,” he reasons. “Whether you want it to be or not it’s a radical thing to do. You are siding with the beats of the world and you’re stepping over that line. I think I have just become politically conscious in the same way everyone has recently because of the turn of events with world leaders, which I think is a good thing.What’s happening is horrible but it’s not too much different to what was happening before, it’s just exposing it. “Trump has highlighted how crazy it is. Take these bombs in Syria, it is so fucked up but Obama was doing the same thing – difference was we trusted the guy. Those drone bombs were just as fucked up. So yeah it’s really horrible what’s going on and Donald Trump is a psychopath but I am hoping for change. We are going to get rid of Trump and the way we have been living for many years. There is a tide of progression that will eventually take over. “It’s getting heavy,” Kevin jokes so I ask him for some travel tips, y’know, from the mouth of the expert. His reply is instant. “Have your outfit for the next day ready to go next to the bed for the morning. Like, the suitcase shouldn’t need to be opened, it should be closed and ready to go. Sleep naked and be ready.”
hatting to Julia Shapiro is like catching up with an old friend. She greets me enthusiastically as we bemoan the 8-hour time difference between us, and how near impossible it was to set this interview up because of it. When I ask how she’s doing, she’s understandably excited about the release of Chastity Belt’s new album, ‘I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone’. “I just listened to our test pressing of the record, it sounds good!” she says. She’s not wrong: Chastity Belt’s third full length captures the band at their best, with a sound that’s more realised than previous efforts. While 2013’s ‘No Regrets’ honed in on a propensity for melody and a penchant for partying, its follow-up (‘Time To Go Home’) seemed like a darker, more cynical counterpart. ‘I Used To Spend Time Alone’ blends the best of both worlds, and Shapiro agrees that it’s what they’ve been aiming for all along: “I think it’s a bit darker, we’ve all gotten better at writing songs and so with that I think it’s easier to write stuff that we actually want to be writing”, she explains. One thing I’ve always found most appealing about Chastity Belt’s music is that they are innately great at combining light pop melodies with heavy subject matters – a theme which is retained on ‘I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone’. I ask Julia if the contrast between light and dark is something that particularly appeals to her. “Yeah,” she says. “I’d say that’s what interests me in most things, beyond music even. I’m interested in how happy and melancholy can interact. My favourite songs have both a happy/nostalgic feel to them with something darker going on underneath. I get that feeling from a lot of Elliot Smith and Beach Boys songs.” We both find a kinship in our love for happy melancholy. I recommend a song to her – ‘You Should All Be Murdered’ by Another Sunny Day, which I’m confident she’ll like because of its similarity to The Smiths’ brand of jolly cynicism. For context, Jonny Marr once complimented the band on their guitar sound, and revealed himself as a fan. Fittingly, there are tinges of Morrissey’s tongue-in-cheek lyricism in Shapiro’s words, too, and they’re refreshingly devoid of cliché unless it’s knowing or intentional. I get the impression that she is meticulous – cautious, even – when it comes to writing lyrics. “I’m pretty picky when it comes to writing lyrics,” she agrees. “A lot of things make me cringe. I try really hard not to write anything too cheesy, because I’m going to have to live with singing the lyrics night after
r i g h t : (L - r ) L y d i a L u n d , Gr et c h en G r i mm, Ju l i a Shapiro & Annie Truscott i n S ea t t l e, wa s h i n g t o n .
night when we’re on tour. I have to try extra hard not to write cheesy lyrics when a song already sounds kind of emo already.” I talk to Julia about a couple of my favourite songs on the new album, one of which being a track called‘Complain’, about looking at things pessimistically. I ask her to elaborate. “Yeah, ‘Complain’ is sort of about me being a negative Nancy. Not that I’m like that all the time – I still go out and have fun – but it’s about being angry and not being able to have fun and wanting to complain about it,” she laughs. “I get in moods like that especially when it’s been raining nonstop for three months straight, maybe that’s it. You guys get a lot of rain there, too, right?” Shapiro explains that the rise of ‘tech bro’ phenomenon is partly to blame for nights out not being so fun anymore, with it being particularly pervasive in Seattle where the band reside. Unfamiliar with the term, I ask her to explain what ‘tech bro’ meant, and she replies with baffled resentment: “Do you not have tech bros in the UK? You are so lucky! They are computer programmers who move here to work at Amazon or Microsoft without any sense of the culture of the city.They live in nice condos that were recently built to accommodate how many people are moving to Seattle for tech stuff. It’s happening everywhere, but it’s especially extreme in places like Seattle and San Francisco. Some of them are really oblivious and obnoxious and a lot of them don’t tip very well.” Despite this, Chastity Belt are still heavy party-goers. Their first album in particular focused primarily on getting wasted and having fun. But while the likes of, say, Best Coast depicted partying with near child-like simplicity, Chastity Belt have a tendency to make the subject sound almost profound, yet playful. Shapiro’s lyrics are smart, literate and completely devoid of the usual platitudes that many of their contemporaries are guilty of using. There’s a song that reminded me of myself on ‘I Spend So Much Time Alone’ called ‘5am’. It’s about being drunk, and that desperate search for gratification to make the night worthwhile. We talk about the sadness we feel when we know the night is over and everyone goes to sleep. “I’m glad you got that from 5am,” she says. “That’s totally one of the feelings I was trying to express. It’s like; whenever I’m fucked up I’m searching for some kind of answer that will make me satisfied and able to go to sleep feeling like I accomplished
Chastity Belt Seattleâ€™s hard-partying band are growing up, but not too much Photogra phy: kyle johnson / writer: hayley scott
something. I wasn’t sure how many people felt like that, so it’s cool that you’re able to relate!” “A lot of the time, when I get to a certain level of drunkenness, I’m only trying to have deep conversations – cut the bullshit; I want to talk about something meaningful. I have a couple of friends who will get down with me, but a lot of people are like, what the fuck, I’m just trying to have a good time here.”
hastity Belt are a band who like to challenge gender stereotypes and address feminist issues in their songs. They’re unashamedly ‘female’, in that they are uncompromising and defiant in their confrontational approach to feminism. I ask Julia if she consciously writes specifically to reach out to other women. “I don’t think it’s that conscious or deliberate,” she says. “It’s just that usually the sort of things I want to write about are relatable to other women”. She agrees that it’s important to discuss these things, but she suggests that it shouldn’t define the band because it’s not the main focal point of their music. “I also think a big part of feminism is being free to make art about stuff other than women’s issues,” she reasons. “So I get kind of upset when people only want to talk about the two songs on our last album that had really blatant feminist messages. I think our other songs are good too, and there’s more to unpack than just the same story every reporter wants to
write about…’these girls make feminist music!’.” Julia reiterates something that’s always troubled me – not only music journalism’s casually patronising or faux try-hard approach to feminist bands, but the troubling way in which a lot of journalists write about women making music. We discuss our mutual hatred of the emphasis on gender to denote a strength in women that’s seen as a novelty. For example, it’s always of note if a front woman happens to have attitude; she’s ‘badass’, or ‘sassy’. Whereas, if it’s a guy, it’s not particularly anything worth mentioning, because it’s seen as normal, or they’re ‘strong’ and ‘charismatic’. Julia asserts that it’s something that definitely bothers her, saying: “I scoff at headlines that are like ‘10 badass female bands’, or whatever. Being labelled a ‘badass female’ is so embarrassing. I would be embarrassed to be featured in an article called ‘10 sassy female bands’... Gross. “If you look for them, there are subtle sexist/racist things everywhere. It’s just how society has shaped everyone to be. I’m sure I even say sexist things by accident, it’s fucked up.” The conversation takes an even bleaker turn as we begin to talk about the current political climate in the US. It’s a frightening, unnerving time for America and the world as a whole. People argue that one positive to come from political/societal upheaval is that it opens up opportunities to create more powerful art that’s born from anger and frustration. Julia somewhat agrees. “I would say more than anything, it’s bringing communities
together and people are becoming much more politically active, which is cool. I don’t know if it’s directly affecting our music, but there’s definitely a general feeling of doom going on right now.” Feeling a sense of dejection from Julia, I move the conversation to the subject of Seattle and its current music scene. I ask if there are any bands she’d recommend. “Versing and Big Bite are cool,” she says. “So Pitted and Jenn Champion (formerly called S) are great – they’re both playing our record release. I recently played with this band Strange Ranger from Portland, they’re really good but not from Seattle. Oh! And this band Hoop is really good; they’re about to release a record (not to be confused with the band Hoops).” I ask Julia what she has learned most since the recording of Chastity Belt’s first album, now that they’re about to release the best music yet. She replies, overwhelmed: “Wow, so much. I guess one thing we have learned most is to not be afraid of voicing our opinions, and try to hold onto as much creative control as possible. I feel like we’re all really understanding people and we don’t like conflict, but sometimes conflict is necessary in order to stick up for what we need.” With that in mind, I ask if she would say ‘I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone’ is a more ‘mature’ version of the band. “Yeah”, she laughs, “I’d definitely say so.” One thing is certain – I can’t imagine Chastity Belt singing about early nights and sobriety any time soon. Chastity Belt have hit a
pinnacle in their career, their maturity manifested in musical self-assurance and generally just knowing what they do best and going with it. What’s next for them, then? They have a couple of US tours planned this summer, and a U.K. and European tour in September. I mention the time I saw them at The Brudenell in Leeds. Julia bleats, excitedly: “I love that venue! We’ve played there twice now and we’re booked there again in September.” We make plans to hang out at the show, once again reaffirming that it’s less of an interview, and more of a conversation between two friends. These are the best kinds of interviews of course. Later, I replay ‘I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone’. Much like our conversation, the album elicits the warm, comforting presence of that friend you can always rely on. It reaches out to those experiencing the grievances – trivial or not – of being in your midlate twenties, still trying to figure stuff out, but grappling with the notion of what it is to be an ‘adult’, and still trying to find the meaning of life during drunken late-night conversations. That’s the great thing about this band. They’re relatable, but not overly familiar. We’ve not heard what Julia sings in countless other pop songs. The subject of love, for example, is forgone in fear of sounding too formulaic, or ‘cheesy’, as she says. Julia elicits the mundane; the everyday in a way that manages to sound interesting. Yet Chastity Belt also get tantalisingly close to guitar pop perfection.
Stop the rock Wesley Gonzalez spent a decade playing in an indie rock band – now he wants to kill the genre with a solo album he’s recorded without any guitars Photography: jonangelo molinari / writer: stuart stubbs
At a time when he was still playing guitar, Wesley Gonzalez walked into a guitar shop on Denmark Street in Central London, pointed at a Fender Jaguar and asked to buy it. The thing was, he didn’t want to try it first, and that really pissed off the guy making the sale. This 18-year-old kid walks in, asks after the Jaguar and doesn’t want to check the tone?! It’s funny what upsets the people who work in specialist shops, but in 2009 Wesley Gonzalez might as well have spat in the guy’s beard. “I fucking hate guitar shops,” he says today. “I never felt like I fitted in at school, and there was a guitar shop near where I grew up, so I thought, ah, maybe that’s the kind of place where I could fit in, but I felt even more out of place there.They’re so fucking rude!” He tells me this as we stand in a guitar shop on Denmark Street. I should probably be confused, but I’ve followed Wesley’s unapologetic career since 2005 and the beginning of his DIY band Let’s Wrestle. To do that is to be aware of his straight honesty and an incorrigible mischievousness that, in his younger days, he’ll admit was plain snotty. Still only 26, Wesley is preparing for the release of his debut solo album, and today he’s had an idea. He’s called the record ‘Excellent Musician’, so let’s go and play it to some excellent musicians who work at the guitar shops of London. Confirmation
at last, as to whether Wesley Gonzalez is as good as he thinks he is. Never mind that ‘Excellent Musician’ doesn’t feature any guitars – in fact, that’s even better: a bonus kick from an extra layer of absurdity, like posing for photographs in front of a wall of instruments that you’ve come to loathe, in sunglasses. It doesn’t take us long to get nowhere with this plan. Wesley is convinced that everyone we play new single ‘Telescope’ to will be appalled by his efforts. He almost wants them to hate it and he welcomes the criticism and the awkward moment when it’s delivered. But while guitar shops aren’t short of forthright dudes presumptuous of your talents and budget, there are some nice guys around too. These are the ones that entertain our folly – the others tell us in no uncertain terms to fuck off and stop wasting their time. Even with every store we go in being completely empty, they do have a point. The feedback we glean from this exercise, then, comes from people like Tom, who concentrates intently, tells us that he doesn’t listen to any music made post-1980, and that he’s mostly a fan of prog-rock. Still, he compliments ‘Telescope’’s production and Wesley’s singing, who points out to him that his band’s debut album was called ‘In the Court of Wrestling Let’s’ in homage
to Crimson King. Ramires across the street is more begrudging as he confirms, “Yeah, it’s fine. I mean, I don’t hate it,” while a young man who asked to not be named in print picked up on the track’s Korg synthesiser, compared it to Mystery Jets (inaccurately) and then complimented Erol Alkan. While Wesley waited outside the final store we tried, the friendly guy behind the counter said to me: “Oh, I know Wesley Gonzalez. Not personally, but I know his music because my friend Euan plays in his band, so I’ve heard it a lot from Facebook and stuff.Yeah, you definitely shouldn’t play that in here – it would make everyone feel super awkward.” Wesley howls when I tell him that, happy that they knew who he was. His three albums with Let’s Wrestle would have stood a far better chance on Denmark Street – the sound of three childhood friends finding their way around 1980s US college rock for the first time: the charming, rudimental chug and clunk of Pixies and Dinosaur Jr, together with rougher British cult bands like Swell Maps and Wire. Wesley could have told the guys around here how his band recorded their second album with Steve Albini. Two years after disbanding Let’s Wrestle, ‘Excellent Musician’ is a man distancing himself from the indie world he at first wanted to conquer
and came to despise. “It’s called ‘Excellent Musician’ as a joke on being a rockstar and all this stupid bullshit,” he says. “That’s the main thing I’m fighting against – this concept of rock.” So he taught himself the piano by learning Stevie Wonder, Al Green and his beloved Beatles (Wesley has always been a vocally proud fan), and composed his entire album on an analogue synthesiser that gives it a skewed mania. Full of dark humour and diary-page lyrics, it’s both completely accessible and hard to pin down. At times it sounds like Todd Rundgren sound-tracking the waltzer on Blackpool pier. “Small grandeur,” is how Wesley puts it. He says he’s always just wanted to make pop music, “but people don’t use that word… and then people start calling it indie-pop, which I FUCKING hate. Indie pop is my least favourite genre. I can’t stand it.” Wesley might be one of the best swearers I’ve met. An angry young man, he speaks almost in continual tirades that are heartfelt and impassioned but don’t seem spiteful or overly heavy, even when he’s talking about depression or drug abuse. Maybe it’s because he laughs a lot, too, or perhaps it’s because he appears to reserve the same exasperated fury for people who namedrop the Velvet Underground as he does the sociopolitical horrors of our times.
He’ll rant and then end on an incensed what-are-you-gonna-do exhale, which isn’t a million miles away from Ricky Gervais; an opinion I keep to myself. Over a lunch of burritos I ask Wesley what have people got wrong about him in the past. He stops to think. “The main thing that really fucks me off is when people think it’s a joke of some sort. I’ve had it a couple of times doing shows for this new record. I remember this guy came up to me afterwards and said, I really liked the show, you reminded me of Har Mar Superstar, and I called him a cunt to his face. ‘I’m a bit fat so I’m a bit like Har Mar Superstar, am I, you jebend!’ I hate that, because it’s not a joke, and I think it’s people’s own fear of something, where they’ll decide that it’s a comedy routine, and it’s not at all. I realise that I can be funny and take things as a joke, because I don’t want to take things seriously, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no emotion in it – I find that hurtful. “People always find it funny when a fat guy’s dancing, but I just want to get on with it. It’s fun to get revved up for something, and I never did that in Let’s Wrestle, so I want to do that now. “If someone tells me I’m like Har Mar Superstar again I’ll fucking deck them. I’m not a bald egg!”
taking drugs, but I always saw it for what it was, even when I was like, urrggggghhh [he grunts and mimes ferociously shoveling gak up his nose].” The experience produced two of ‘Excellent Musician’’s high points – ‘Don’t Try and Take Me Down’, a sober ballad about paranoia and bad friends that features Wesley’s greatest vocal take, and ‘Not That Kind Of Guy’, which marks the moment when he decided that hard drugs weren’t for him, and neither were the people he was taking them with. “I had a few people who I was mates with who had this bully mentality, and part of me making this record was me going, fuck that – I can be odd and eccentric in myself and not feel put down. It’s a freeing thing, but it’s also me being quite angry and getting a lot of that
stuff off my chest.” Other songs like ‘Snake In The Grass’ and ‘Just The Same’ (‘A song to sing / A song to be blunt / When did you start living life as a cunt?’) are about “one particular nasty bloke who shall remain nameless.” These days Wesley makes rent by working at a record shop in Soho. He lives in Brixton with his girlfriend and feels the most settled he ever has. He’ll candidly speak about all aspects of his life, including his mental health issues, telling me that he started going to therapy halfway through making ‘Excellent Musician’, which helped him learn to not be scared about what he likes. “Because I’m not cool,” he says. “I can’t put on an act for that long, because I grow tired of it, quickly. And I have had periods of time when I’ve thought, yeah, I’m a cool Dalston guy, going out
esley started writing ‘Excellent Musician’ whilst managing a pub and taking too many drugs. The band that had been his life since he was 15 had finally fallen apart after the release of their third album. For a time he did nothing but work, drink heavily and take too much cocaine. He was no longer interested in playing guitar and his confidence in songwriting was beaten. He’d get hammered and tell people how he was done with music, but on the side he’d been teaching himself piano as an escape from rockist clichés; a new avenue of working. “Making the record started with me taking a lot of cocaine,” he says, “and then by the end of it, it was me going, ‘I can’t take anymore cocaine.’” He attributes the saxophone on the album – a starring role – to him wanting to make “a real coke record – over the top, moneyed, ’80s, jacket sleeves rolled up, living in Malibu,” although he admits that the end result doesn’t really sound like that. “I don’t think I ever got to the point where I was addicted [to coke],” he says. “I’m too much of a neurotic person to be fully gone. I was very aware of it, and I’ve been around a lot of addiction. That’s what made it interesting, writing about it while being so self-aware of it. You’re in a dingy room taking a lot of drugs with people who’ve also been up for days
to these places that T4 presenters go to. But it’s shit, and it’s not in me. I’m too honest a person to pretend that I can keep up with that stuff.” While noting that a number of songs on his new record are about meeting his girlfriend (most notably the sweet ‘Telescope’ and the XTC-ish ‘Exhibiton Song’), he calls it “a melee of depression” with another wide laugh. “I’m always up and down,” he says, “although the last few months I’ve felt pretty stable, I think because of how unstable the world is. It’s so nihilistic I’m finding it hard to care.Things are so fucked up it’s almost freeing.” He enjoys working at Sister Ray Records – a job that satisfies his curiosity for all the types of music he enjoys, from African highlife and reggae to jazz, soul and funk, and a
fa r l eft : wesl ey g o n z a l ez sel l s his wa res in t he g uit a r sho ps o f D en ma rk St reet , cen t ra l l o ndo n .
newer obsession with Omar S and house music. And then there’s the indie rock – the music he wants gone. He says it’s funny working in a record shop and seeing the clientele for rock music in general – “it’s so unappealing; so oppressively white male that it doesn’t really speak to me that much anymore.” “That’s what I used to like,” he admits, “and I still like The Beatles and Bowie and all that stuff, but I think it’s a case of catching up. I did Let’s Wrestle for such a long time and was focusing so much on that side of music. There was always dance stuff I really liked – Squarepusher and Luke Vibert – but recently I’ve got into house music because it’s so alien to the music I’ve been making… I just want to be excited about music, and it’s hard sometimes.” For those who’ve been paying attention, what we’ve seen is Wesley Gonzalez grow up and discover music like the rest of us have. On the B-side of Let’s Wrestle’s very first single, on a track called ‘I Wish I Was In Hüsker Dü’, he denounced indie music for the first time with droll lines that would become his calling card – ‘I’ve spent too many years listening to Lambchop’; ‘I wish that I could play like Thurston Moore’; ‘Damn that M Ward / I like his new record way too much’. Come the chorus, a 16-year-old Wesley spoke-sang: ‘This is the death of an indie-pop fan / I wish that I was in Hüsker Dü’. It laid out Let’s Wrestle’s adolescent plans, and some would say they got pretty close pursuing their new interest in tougher guitar music from the US. Few 26-year-olds listen exclusively to the same records they did when they were 16, though, and Wesley Gonzalez has moved on. It leads to the obvious question of who he imagines buying ‘Excellent Musician’ when it’s released at the end of June via the Moshi Moshi label. “Oh, indie fans,” he nods. “I mean, I’m really into saying that [about indie music] but I thought that last Whitney album was fucking brilliant, and there’s always good stuff that comes out of that genre – I just think a majority of it is… I saw this thing the other day that FACT put up about Slowdive. It said, ‘Slowdive share tour playlist featuring Can, Kraftwerk and The Velvet Underground.’ And I commented underneath saying, ‘The music world is shocked that shoegaze
band like krautrock and the Velvet Underground’. I felt so smug about it. I just hate stating the fucking obvious – of course you like the Velvet Underground; who the fuck doesn’t like the Velvet Underground?! I’m so sick of hearing about the fucking Velvet Underground, and it makes me HATE them.” His rage gets going. “If someone talks to me about the Velvet Underground I’m most likely to say, ‘I fucking HATE theVelvet Underground,’ which is absolute bollocks, but I’d say that just to prove a point, because I don’t want to talk about it. It’s like going to a party and people always asking what you do – I just start making shit up, or I say, ‘I’m sick of talking about that. How about this – what’s your most irrational fear?’ And that’s my problem with indie music – a lot of it is fine, but it’s so deep set in those core influences that it’s just dull. “And living with indie boys,” he vents, “you put on a dub reggae record and they’re like, ‘eerrrrrr, I don’t know if I like this.’ And you can tell that a lot of the time there’s a very slight racism there as well, of, I don’t like black music. So I don’t hate indie music, but it’s the core values that it represents in my mind that I don’t like.” He pauses for brief second. “I hate the idea of not looking forward. There are no indie records about iPhones and that pisses me off, because everyone’s got an iPhone!” I note that he has one on his album sleeve (which depicts three kids taking a selfie with a waxwork version of himself). “Yeah, I’ve got a selfie stick on the cover. I don’t want to be going around with a selfie stick, but it’s modern culture. Some people want to be living in the ’60s, and it makes me feel sick.”
t’s always more unusual than it should be to meet someone who’s lived in London their whole life, and Wesley’s been here forever. He grew up in Camden in the 1990s, where crust punks would smash in the windows of his family home with bins. Sick of it, his mum – a working class single parent – moved the pair of them further north to the leafy, posher suburb of Muswell Hill, where Wesley would attend “a weird state school” alongside the kids of Paul Weller. He found the change a bit of a shock. “Going to bed and not hearing police sirens, I didn’t like it.” When I ask him if he was a shy or confident kid he pauses before quietly saying, “a mixture of the two.” He had a half brother and half sister, “but I
didn’t have a very nice time growing up. I don’t think about it much.” It’s the only time in the day that Wesley isn’t forthcoming with animated conversation, and it’s clearly something he’d rather not discuss. He describes Muswell Hill life as an outsider who never felt like he fitted in; a feeling he’s carried through life ever since and a recurring point in the stories he tells, like when he surmises ‘Excellent Musician’ as “a record about not being sure of yourself,” or when he says, “I’ve never felt any age, I’ve just felt uncomfortable.” As a boy he was always swearing and considered a bad influence on the other children. “I remember being referred to as the poor kid, once,” he says, although he never considered himself working class either. When another kid at school said he was a bigger Beatles fan than him, Wesley was fuming. The next day he brought in a quiz to test the audacious little squirt. “I was like, ‘you don’t know jack shit!’” he remembers. “I’d do things like that and be really cocky, and I’d think that that would make me friends, and of course it wouldn’t. My slightly autistic brain would remember all these facts, and I thought it would impress people, and of course no one is impressed with that – you’re a wanker at a school telling everyone you’re smarter than them.” Getting a band together, he decided, was his quickest route back to the thick of the city. Let’s Wrestle lasted ten bumpy years of fighting each other and practically everyone else. For all their bratty fury (they were kicked off of their first tour at their petulant best; in a more serious mix of tour fatigue and wasted abandon Wesley once attempted to push bassist
Mike Lightning off a roof), they got the job done, releasing three albums while burning across Europe and America. They seemed to be out there on their own, too. London was a city awash with DIY bands around 2009/2010, all with a shared love of early Sub Pop grunge, Dischord Records, 1980s US punk and hardcore, and lo-fi, tape-hissing indie. Let’s Wrestle’s influences certainly fitted in with a community all reading from Our Band Could Be Your Life, but as much as they were close friends with groups like Male Bonding, they were never really considered part of the same close scene. You didn’t have to look far to find a knockout bill that featured a rotating cast of Fair Ohs, Mazes, Veronica Falls, Teen Sheikhs and Graffiti Island, to name only a few, but Let’s Wrestle rarely seemed to be in the picture. “I always felt very welcome,” says Wesley, “but I don’t think I was cool enough. We were never cool, and I was too opinionated. It’s not a new thing; me saying, ‘oh that’s shit, it’s awful, I hate it,’ and I think they’d be like, ‘ok, he’s banging on again.’ I can see that I’m doing it, but I can’t turn it off.” Yet of all the groups in London it was Let’s Wrestle who managed to record an album with Steve Albini – 2011’s ‘Nursing Home’.Wesley’s biggest regret. “I’ve never felt part of a scene,” he says, “and I think at one point I desperately wanted to. I think that us doing the second album with Steve Albini was us trying to be a bit cooler. And I think that’s the biggest mistake I ever made, because I fucking hate that record. We were all falling out, in Chicago with grumpy old Steve Albini – oh my god, he’s very grumpy – and now I can’t listen to it. It’s so Americanised. The idea of listening to a lot of that US indie stuff now fills me with despair, but at the time that was the thing that I was into. I guess it served its purpose – it was something I wanted to do as a kid, and I got to do it. “It was one decision that was motivated by wanting to be cool. It’s the only time I did that and I really hate that I did it, and I feel really ashamed of it. But it’s all a learning curve. You go, ‘ok, I did that because I wanted to be in a scene, and I’m never going to be – I’m not part of anything.’ But that’s better, and it’s more interesting to not be part of anything.” Let’s Wrestle’s farewell show at the 100 Club in July 2015 was characteristic of the band’s life – a boozy display of self-assured punk that ended in a fight, between Wesley and a kid in the front row. “That’s my one big regret from the show,” he says. “It
was just before the last song and I had drunk a lot and this kid went like that to me [he waves his hand towards himself in a beckoning motion], and I went, ‘yeah, what?’ And he was like, ‘you remind me of the kid from About A Boy.’ And I over reacted, because I was off my tits and I was full of adrenaline, and I just went, ‘GET THIS CUNT OUT OF THE FUCKING VENUE,’” he screams in a whisper. “And I feel so regretful of it. There’s video footage. I’ve seen it and it was horrible. And I feel horrible for that kid. If I met him and it was him, I’d really apologise. “It’s the worst thing you can do – to quietly go up to someone and say something quietly that fucks with them. He fucked with me. But also, in a way, that kid [Nicholas Hoult] is now a very famous actor and is quite handsome. But I just lost it.” We finished our food a long time ago, but one thing always comes to mind when I think of Wesley Gonzalez – his age. I’m never not impressed by the amount he’s already achieved and – more than that – the dogged, independent fashion in which he’s achieved it. In part, at least, it must come down to his combative/hilarious balance of humour, anger, selfawareness and self-belief, a point illustrated when I ask him if he ever allows himself to look back and enjoy his accomplishments from 15 to 26. “I’m very restless,” he says, “and I think it’s unjust that I’m not more popular. I really should be – I’m a great laugh.” If ‘Excellent Musician’ was half the record it is, I probably wouldn’t bet against it. Not in taking down indie music by itself, but in proving Wesley Gonzalez to be an artist of his own volition, able to flourish in a small area of pop music he’s created for himself. “I prefer it when people tell me what they really think,” he says of the guys working on Denmark Street. “It doesn’t knock my confidence – I just think they’re wrong. I’m incredibly confident and cocky. I think it’s a very classic musician thing – you want to kill yourself, you hate yourself, you think you’re a piece of shit, but then of course when you think about it, it’s like, I’m fucking brilliant! And the album name is ironic in inverted comas, because I really do think I’m an excellent musician.”
“I’m so sick of hearing about the fucking Velvet Underground”
tell me about it
Dave Gahan The Depeche Mode singer does all the talking, about shit gigs, addiction, escaping death (twice) and how new album ‘Spirit’ reflects our lost times Photography: anton corbijn / writer: david zammitt
Dave Gahan is stationed in the basement of the swanky Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge. As I wait outside his room in music journalist purgatory, waiting for an interview with some other mag to round up, I’m told that it shouldn’t be long but, well, unfortunately, Dave is enjoying the conversation so much that he wants to keep chatting. Maybe we’ll get on really well too, I think. When I am finally beckoned in, Gahan welcomes me to the conference room that’s become his office for the day. He is warm, full of smiles, and even offers me a smoothie. Radioactive green, it’s a sign of the journey from Gahan’s dark days in the late ’80s and, well, most of the ’90s. It’s fair to say that the rider requests for a man who’s come through heroin addiction and bladder cancer is a little different these days. With hair slicked back, pencil moustache neatly groomed and a silver skull ring nestling on his middle knuckle, it’s hard to equate him with the 19-year-old Epping boy in the oversized suit who nervously bopped his way through ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’. Of course, a lot of well-documented water has passed under the bridge since Gahan and Depeche Mode arrived with the synthpop agendasetter ‘Speak & Spell’ in 1981. Fourteen studio albums is a pretty solid achievement in itself, but when you hear the context of the hurdles that had to be negotiated in order to do so, it pulls the feat into sharper focus. Through ailing health, substance abuse and a couple of run-ins with the law, Depeche Mode have somehow stayed united. Depsite the chaotic highs and creativity-sapping lows, the release of their latest LP, ‘Spirit,’ continues a run of at least one album every four years for the last 35. Impossibly, Depeche
Mode have become one of British music’s most reliable forces. As Gahan speaks in staccato – all full-stops and short and rapid-fire sentences – he flits from topic to topic and I may as well have left my nice, crisp A4 sheet of questions at home, because I barely say anything. Jumping from the band’s recent gig at Glasgow’s Barrowlands to the merits of theatre and the ethic behind Depeche Mode’s ‘depressing’ sound in the first five breakneck minutes, at 54 Gahan is full of energy. But while it can be hard to keep track, Gahan’s passion is the thread that ties our conversation together.
“The Barrowlands is a smelly, dirty old venue”
There’s not many of them left like that. We just played there for BBC 6 Music festival, but we first played there in the early ’80s – someone told me it was 1984. I remember at the time it was pretty heaving. The stage moves a bit because the floor moves a bit. So once it gets going… It was fun to do that show last week, which was maybe an hour long – much shorter than the two-hour show that we usually do. I got a couple of texts from Bobby Gillespie that said: “perfect time.” For performing, an hour is the perfect time. We had a beautiful few days in Glasgow. To be in England or Scotland or Ireland and it to be good weather, you actually get to see how beautiful it is, really. And I love the people up there. People in the hotel and on the street – everywhere. Good people! “‘Why is your music so depressing?’ is a really lame question”
I recently saw the play Buried Child by Sam Shepard. I love all Sam Shepard’s stuff. They’re usually based in the American heartland and what it’s really like – not the American Dream. Buried Child is about a child who wasn’t wanted and ended up being buried in the garden and haunts the family, spiritually. So everything they do for their drunken lives is haunted by that. Some people would say that it’s a miserable story, but stories like that, to me, are real life. It’s like, the question I’ve had to answer many, many times, is where
people are like, ‘Why is your music so doomy?’ First of all, it’s a really lame question, but the answer is always the same – ‘Well, I don’t find it like that.’ I just never have. I don’t. I get that some of the subject matter is quite dark, and musically it can be quite dark, but I’ve always felt that if the lyric was really black and if we were going into some weird, dark place, there’s a melody or a sound or something there that lifts you out of that. Like in a good book, or a film – there’s a story there. I tend to dwell there quite a lot. And it’s OK because I find that it’s the only place you can find any real light anyway.You’ve got to dig deep because all the surface bullshit – all this stuff [he lifts up his iPhone and shakes it] – is where we seem to waste our time. “We still care about reviews”
Of course we care. The thing about reviews is that someone told me a long time ago that if you believe the good ones you’ve got to believe the bad. There’s always a bit in both and it’s all opinions. What I liked about one review I read of the Barrowlands show was that the person was actually reviewing the sentiment in the feeling in the moment, and how they felt. And that was undeniable! If he had said anything else about that night – that he didn’t like my trousers or something – it would have been ridiculous because it was a special night. But they’re not all like that – trust me! Sometimes someone will give me a newspaper in the morning and we’re off to the next gig, and I know it’s been a shit show the night before, or that it wasn’t quite right. The moment wasn’t
above : dave gah an i n ne w york, July 2 0 1 6.
really there, and someone’s seen through it. And you read it and you’re still like, ‘Fuck you!’ But they can’t all be gems. Over the years you learn that [once in a while] you have this special feeling and you look around at each other and you’re all floating on air, but most of the time you’re getting through a song and you’re thinking about something else. Well, not most of the time. But quite often towards the end of the show I’ll be thinking about whether there’s room service. “I remember launching six or seven bottles of wine at the wall because I couldn’t drink it”
There was one time when we made the decision not to tour and that was with the album ‘Ultra’  because I definitely was not healthy enough to tour. I was trying to convince everybody
that I was, and I had all good intentions but, put it this way, six months into the recording of the album, after a big session we did in New York, I went back to L.A. and then stuff happened and I ended up in jail [Gahan was arrested after overdosing on a speedball at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in 1996]. So it really was a good decision. After that album I think we put out a greatest hits – 1998, I’m thinking. And we did some shows. For me, that was the best and the worst tour we’ve ever done because I don’t think I was in any of those performances. It was all new for me. I was no longer drinking any alcohol or using any drugs and I was like an open wound; a bag of nerves trying to fake it ‘til I made it. I had no business being on the road and I had a few moments in dressing rooms. I remember launching six or seven bottles of wine at the wall because I couldn’t drink it. That was my share and if I wasn’t going to be
able to drink it then it was going to go against the wall. While the band were all in the dressing room as well. It must’ve been quite scary, thinking about it. I was not happy at this idea of being sober and that I would have to do this for the rest of my life if I wanted to keep on living. And that’s nearly 20 years ago, which is incredible in itself, although it’s not been without its bumps and bruises along the way. It’s been a real mind opener – much more than any drugs or alcohol. “Physically, I couldn’t sing for longer than five minutes”
I remember being back at my home in L.A. after being arrested. I got a phone call – and I never picked up the phone – and it was Martin [Gore], kinda angry and kinda pissed off that we were in the middle of recording an
album and I was not going to be able to leave Los Angeles for two years. If I got into trouble, I was going to jail. So they carried on working on stuff and then created sessions for when I was allowed out of this place I was in, which I’d checked myself into. I ended up staying there for six months – I was terrified of going back home because I knew what I was going to do. I made some good friends there and I went to the studio with someone who was watching over my shoulder, but it saved my life. I couldn’t sing at that point. I mean physically, I couldn’t sing for longer than five minutes. And it was not good. There were times when I thought I was good during the first half of the making of that album, but I was probably high. I thought I was Frank Sinatra when I was up at the mic, but listening back it was like, ‘Jesus!’. So they made me work with this amazing vocal coach, Evelyn. She would only work with me – because I was a real scumbag at the time – if I would go to
this church with her in downtown L.A. in a pretty rough neighbourhood in Inglewood, somewhere where she would do this thing every Sunday working with the choir. She said: ‘You come with me and sing with the whole group; you’ve gotta be part of a team!’ She was so nice and gentle with me and gave me a lot of her time. She kinda brought my voice back to me. And that album got finished. “My wife was like: ‘What are you looking at pictures of your tumour for?’”
B e l o w : D ep ec h e mo d e ( L - R ) M a r t i n g o r e, d av e g a h a n & A nd y F l et c h er i n N ew Y o r k .
During the making of ‘Sounds of the Universe’  I’d not been feeling good. I had no energy a lot of the time. I would have enough energy to do the sessions in the studio and I’d get home at night and say to the wife that I was so tired. I was kind of crashing out at 9 in the evening, and I wasn’t really telling the guys. But then it all made sense when I was diagnosed.
I used to say to, Jen, my wife, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do these shows.’ So then we were in Athens and I was having excruciating pain in my gut. Well, it felt like my gut but it wasn’t. So that night the doctor came to the dressing room, five minutes before we were due on stage. I’d been throwing up a bit – I hadn’t been talking about that. Little bit of blood in my urine – I hadn’t been talking about that. I just thought all these things were wear and tear. But I got rushed to hospital and while the doctor was doing an ultrasound he looked at me and looked at the screen again. I said: ‘I know I’m not pregnant!’ and he said ‘Well, I see something and I have to get someone else in.’ So I said: ‘What do you see?’ and he said: ‘I see a shadow.’ I’ve heard that in movies. It just so happened that there was an oncologist there and I got on the MRI and they said that they could do the surgery there and then. You have a sac in your bladder and you have another sac on the inner sac, and the cancer hadn’t got through the walls yet. It’s an amazing looking thing! My wife was like: ‘What are you looking at pictures of your tumour for?’ But it looked like a sea urchin with all these alien tentacles! It’s an amazing thing. But if they go undiagnosed and it goes into other organs you’re done, really. “We seem to be pretending we’re not, but we’re fucking lost!”
‘Spirit’ is more of a social outlook on humanity itself, and we’re lost. We seem to be pretending we’re not, but we’re fucking lost! It’s a bit apocalyptic and bit post-apocalyptic in places, this record; ‘Cover Me’ being postapocalyptic, ‘Fail’ being now, ‘Poison Heart’ being, you know – ‘You’re the devil and we all know it, but you’re in power!’ And then there are songs like ‘Going Backwards’ or ‘Scum’, which are just horrified at humanity, at ourselves. Where’s the spirit? Where’s the spirit in really caring? And people say, you know, ‘It’s easy for you guys in your fancy houses,’ but like Martin has said, just because you’ve had some success it doesn’t mean you have to stop caring about what you see and feel. And you do the best you can. The way we can portray how we feel is through music, through art. And ultimately we’re here to entertain you but to maybe entertain you with a sense of reflecting. This is not a record that’s ramming something down your throat. This is not Billy Bragg.
The Bug Vs Earth
Kevin Martin and Dylan Carlson discuss their first collaboration together – a record about the isolation and underbelly of Los Angeles, called ‘Concrete Desert’ Photogra phy: p hil shar p / writer: daniel dylan wray
op p o s i t e: (l - r ) k ev i n martin aka the bug & the c r e a t i v e f o r c e b eh i n d e art h , d y l a n c a r l s o n .
hen I first listened to Earth I just didn’t know what the fuck it was at all. I was just like, ‘woah, this is crazy shit.’ I knew a lot of noisy slow music but that took the biscuit.” So says Kevin Martin of a time when he was working as a music journalist and ‘Earth 2’ landed on his desk. The primary man behind record and band is Dylan Carlson. Earth – from Olympia, Washington – specialised in a strain of drone metal so slow, brooding and gargling it essentially tore apart the concept and notion of what both metal and ambient music could and should be, creating a new genre in the process. Years later Carlson would have his own life changed when he met his wife to be at a King Midas Sound show, which is one of the many aliases Martin works under, as well the revered The Bug, for which he is most well known and celebrated. Through such projects and collaborations, Martin has genre-hopped from dub to jazz to dancehall to hip hop and in his own way, much like Carlson, has become a king of his own sound and genre through the destruction and melding of pre-existing ones. On their debut collaborative album, The Bug Vs Earth’s ‘Concrete Desert’ – inspired by the alienation modern L.A. can instil – they have, unsurprisingly, created a new world entirely between them. It’s a vast and exploratory record that absolutely utilises the pair’s strongest abilities aptly. It’s a lingering, looming, occasionally ominous record that creeps and scowls and hisses. Big bellowing drones and rumbling ambience stalks the undercurrent of the record like an eerie presence, and yet it’s also an album rich in melody, restraint, space and beauty. The combining of the two worlds of Martin and Carlson has sparked a project that feels informed by previous work but results in something new altogether, driven by the feelings a city as sprawling and paradoxical as Los Angeles can create in a bloke from Dorset. Here the pair talk about those experiences and the process that led to ‘Concrete Desert’.
Daniel Dylan Wray: Given this is a new project and collaboration, are you both pleased with the end results? Kevin Martin: When you make an album you’re always more aware of the mistakes or the things you wish you’d done differently but with this record there really isn’t much I wish I’d done differently. With each consecutive listen I can ease into it more. Dylan Carlson: Because I didn’t work as long on this as Kevin did it’s easier for me to appreciate it a little more than my other work.Yeah, I’m pleased with it. KM: Phew. Thank god! DDW: How did your worlds collide? DC: I guess I first became aware of Kevin when King Midas Sound opened for OM at the Scala in around 2013. I also remember because it was the second time that I ran into Holly, who would become my wife. So I was originally aware of him through that but then Simon Fowler (who did the artwork for ‘Concrete Desert’) turned me onto [The Bug’s] ‘London Zoo’ record. KM: I’ve known Dylan’s music a lot longer. I was working as a music journalist and got sent ‘Earth 2’. The first listen, I just didn’t know what the fuck it was at all. It took me a few listens to get my head around it, but it’s one of those classic records for me in which you’re not really sure if you like something or not. Ermmm... how would I say? DC: It’s a grower not a shower. KM: Yes! It’s as much about the listener as well, about your own listening tastes. I went back to it and I really liked what it did and then laughed when I heard Sun O))) following it. I then got more and more into un-metal metal. I want to like metal but something holds me back a lot – I had a sort of guitar phobia for years due to my mum having speakers in every room pummeling out heavy rock when I was a kid. So, if anything, Earth were one of those artists that brought me back into listening to heavy guitar music, alongside groups like Swans and Butthole Surfers. Then, as I kept up with his records, I got more and more besotted with them. ‘Hex’ is my
favourite Earth record. Then you have the pretty records too with gorgeous melodies. I just like his approach to guitar playing. DDW: Did you butt heads at any point during the creative process? DC: Just when I tried to do two handed tapping solos over everything! KM: It’s funny, I think you kind of have to know someone longer to get to the stage where you feel open enough to argue. DC: There was really no reason to butt heads. To me, if you’re butting heads in a collaboration then something is not working. KM: I worked with Justin Broadrick in Techno Animal for 15 years, on and off, and we only ever had one heavy discussion, as we called it. We were in a studio recording an album and he was playing a guitar piece I wasn’t too sure about and I tried to sway him from it. I remember him saying, ‘look Kev, the difference between you and me is I like Hawkwind and you don’t.’ But Dylan hasn’t come out with any of those lines yet. DDW: And how about the mission statement for this record and the collaboration as a whole – was there one? DC: I think Kevin had a mission statement inspired by his time in L.A. but I don’t think you can be too tight with a mission statement on a record because music conveys a lot. We’re both interested in the way that environment influences musical output and it was interesting for me because I’ve lived in L.A., so to hear his take on that city and being able to understand why he had this take on it, and looking at the similarities to my take on it, was interesting to me. DDW: If you read just the track listing to this album, with titles like ‘Snakes Vs Rats’, ‘Hell A’, ‘Broke’, ‘Agoraphobia’, there’s a real undercurrent of fear and uneasiness to them – they’re quite unsettling titles. DC: Yeah. I think any interaction with the city means there is fear. That’s what’s interesting about music to me, that it can convey all this information at once, so with a city there is the beauty
of it, the negative aspects, fear – it’s all influencing you and pressing on you and invoking a reaction from you. There’s always going to be a sense of fear in any big city; we’re biologically programmed that way and we’re surrounded by people we don’t know, what their plans are or what they’re up to. The city is always a bit fraught that way. KM: With L.A. in particular, it promises a lot on the surface: sunshine everyday, wealth, comfort, luxury, but when I was there I didn’t see much of that. I just got set adrift in L.A. without a car and without a phone and just sort of wandered haphazardly through the city. I didn’t know before making the record that L.A. would shape it as much as it did. I realised in the production and post-production that I wanted to craft something that was reflective of the atmosphere I felt in L.A. walking around.Yet nobody walks in L.A. and I’m trudging through the streets being looked at like I’m some nut case because I’m walking for hours. It’s so shocking to me that I would be stumbling over massive amounts of homeless people in what is meant to be fantasy USA where the American Dream is promoted so heavily through the movie industry, yet actually its underbelly is quite sour and it became apparent that there’s just no safety net in America. If you’ve got the gold and glory you’re fine, but anyone that falls foul of that is actually just totally fucked. I had a friend who is in a wheelchair for life now after getting hit by a taxi and he had to get people to play shows for him to pay his hospital bills. There’s a tension in L.A between what is promised and what is delivered. Unfortunately, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, so I generally pick up on the vibe of people who are as broke as me. The L.A. I found wasn’t the glistening Hollywood, it was more like Hollyweird. DC: It’s definitely a city of stark contrasts, compartmentalisation and alienation. DDW: Would you say this is a political record?
KM: Not that it was in any way thought to be. It’s more like an anthropological study of complete alienation and destitution, really. It was in no way thought about in any way prior to it, but it is a political comment if you’re talking about a concrete desert, because it’s about culture. I like to meet people face to face in places and interact; I just got the feeling in L.A that people lock themselves in their car or condo – the interactions seem very controlled, very elitist and very contrived. DDW: The track ‘American Dream’ is a real centre point to this album – what does that term mean to you both? DC: It’s the belief, even though it’s palpably untrue, that I’m going to be part of the rich one day. This belief that I may not be in the 1% now but one day I’m going to be there. I think one of the most pernicious myths of the so-called American Dream is this idea that of the self-made man and these rich guys thinking they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and doing it all themselves and that other people can too but they’re just lazy and blah blah blah – it’s so untrue. The
people in America who have benefited most from society refuse to pay their fair share of putting back into it. KM: It’s like some of my working class Scottish relatives who would vote Conservative because they aspire to the wealth that they believed the Conservative party could get them. DC: Yeah, like I don’t want the rich to pay proper taxes because I might be rich one day. It’s just total madness. KM: The whole thing for me is that the American Dream is built on nothing but fantasy. DC: The whole country is built on fantasy. I’m just continually fucking gobsmacked by how backwards America is. DDW: We’re not doing too great in the UK right now to be honest. KM: The world is in a fucking mess right now. DC: We’re in the end game, definitely, of post-capitalism or whatever it is. It’s not even capitalism anymore; it’s just wealth extraction. DDW: Kevin, your music often has a very indoorsy feel, like club music or the pulse of the inner city. Dylan, yours is often very vast, like a landscape. The
title ‘Concrete Desert’ seems like the perfect amalgamation of these two. KM: The ‘Concrete Desert’ came as an idea before we even made any music because I tried to imagine what a collaboration between me and Dylan would sound like and it made sense. It’s interesting that you say that as I just read a review on Pitchfork and the writer said what you said about me dealing with inner city claustrophobia and Dylan dealing in open space. I’d never really thought about it like that before but I guess it might be true. DDW: This album seems to be able to exist wonderfully if played on a constant loop, feeding back into itself over again. Was this something you considered? KM: Lately with The Bug I’ve been very much dealing with songs and structures, having begun very much hating structures and conventional songs. I hated melodies – I was anti-song, really. Then when I worked with Dylan I felt it needed to go somewhere else and L.A. made me feel displaced, so I wanted that sense of journey through sound. It sounds like a cliché but I hope that’s what we can
achieve with the album. It’s like a different chemical formula. Working with someone else to achieve something else, that was the goal. DDW: Can we expect future collaborations from the two of you? DC: I enjoy doing it, Kevin enjoys doing it, so never say never. KM: I feel exactly the same way. Working with Dylan has been really refreshing in terms of my sound palate and me questioning what I want to hear from a record. So I’m really happy to work on more stuff. We’ve both discussed about how we’d like to score movies actually but it’s a perilous area because you have to deal with shit politics because you’re working in the industry. Dylan has scored a movie but I haven’t and I love the idea of scoring a movie with him. I think we’d be a really interesting team.
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Gorillaz Humanz par l op h on e By j oe g ogg i n s . I n sto re s ma y 5
Whatever you think of Damon Albarn, he clearly isn’t a subscriber to the old idea that too many cooks spoil the broth. His appetite for joint creative endeavours has never been clearer than in his output with Gorillaz and when the deeply impressive list of collaborators for their fifth album leaked a few days before it had even been confirmed that the record existed, nobody really questioned the validity of it. From DelTha Funkee Homosapien on their 2001 self-titled debut to the late, great Bobby Womack’s turn on their last LP, ‘Plastic Beach’, the defining characteristic of Gorillaz has never been Albarn’s writing or even Jamie Hewlett’s cartoon band, for that matter – it’s that the name really acts more as an umbrella term for whichever colourful cast of acclaimed artists have been assembled that time around.
Albarn measures out Gorillaz less in terms of records and more with regards to “phases”, and ‘Humanz’ bodes well for Phase Four. As usual, it’s thrillingly ambitious and as usual, it’s tremendously kaleidoscopic in terms of its vision. What sets it apart, though, is a palpable sense that Albarn is facing firmly forwards. This is a record that not just reflects the temperature both of the musical and political climates, but – at its best – sounds positively futuristic. The first track proper, ‘Ascension’, packs in an energetic Vince Staples turn alongside a gospel choir. ‘Momentz’ brings back the recently resurgent De La Soul and pairs them with double-dutch chants over a thumping beat and sprinkles of glitchy electronica. The only thing not utterly chaotic about ‘Charger’ is the perennially unflustered Grace
Jones, icy as ever. More so than any previous Gorillaz album, ‘Humanz’ feels so rammed with different ideas at every turn that it’s hard to escape the feeling that the wheels might come off at any given moment. The difference is that this time, you suspect Albarn meant it that way. Hectic music for hectic times. A positive to that is that the slower moments, when they do arrive, are all the prettier; the achingly lovely ‘Busted and Blue’ is mostly just Albarn with synths that sound like the Blade Runner score on downers. The drawback, though, is that occasionally there’s experiments that don’t come off – the off-kilter dynamic of ‘Let Me Out’ just makes it sound like it’s been pieced together, and ‘Sex Murder Party’ never quite seems to take off like it threatens to throughout. Closer ‘We Got the Power’ could really, really have done
without Jehnny Beth from Savages, too, who sounds almost comically out of place (a shame because you know Beth would have nailed a more suitable track). Still, ‘Humanz’ is largely an impressive showcase of how Albarn’s eclectic tastes are something he’s more than capable of harnessing and tying together with intelligence and nuance. On ‘Plastic Beach’, he weaved a convoluted and jarring throughline and you wonder whether that’s because he was trying to compensate for the lack of purpose in the music. This time, there’s a consistently industrial flavour to the sound of the record and an unremitting sense of disarray that suggests Albarn is subtly holding up a mirror to the world around him. What he saw reflected back was ripe for a project as deliberately disparate and all-encompassing as Gorillaz.
Ho99o9 United States of Horror toy s h ave po wers By dan i el dy lan wra y. I n sto re s Ma y 5
Ho99o9’s sonic palate, a seething collision of anarchic hardcore punk rock and industrial charged death rap, has always been an unpredictable, coarse and volatile one. So it makes sense the L.A via New Jersey duo of theOGM and Eaddy have worked with multiple producers on their debut album to bring out their many, many.TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek is one such notable producer. The resulting album, whilst intentionally jarring, discordant and vicious in parts, actually flows with real purpose and intent.The brutality of the electronics that feel like they’re set to burst, the ground-shaking bass and the manic vocals create a template that is
surprisingly adaptive to the multiple genres that Ho99o9 blitz through with often equal parts dark humour (the album opens with a recording of a child pledging allegiance to the United States of Horror) and savage vigor. The group are at their most potent, effective and progressive when in rap mode, as opposed to the familiar thrash of metal-tinged hardcore punk, and the weighing up of the tracks suggests they are aware of this, too, with the guitar-led numbers less prominent than on previous EPs. The ferocious ‘Knuckle Up’, for example, with its almost Nine Inch Nails-like backing of sputtering rhythms, captures the visceral
intensity of the group that the rapidfire ’80s hardcore just can’t quite muster (as on misfire ‘New Jersey Devil’).The contemporary twitch and rattle of ‘Hydrolics’, which even employs autotune, is then a leap-out highlight with rich bass that sends a deep vibration humming through the core of the track as the vocalists leap in and out of one another, moving from a restrained and melodic flow to a wild and violent spit. The album’s 17 tracks generally fly by at asteroid pace, greatly aided by some of the intriguing and interludes that connect the tracks throughout. One such moment, ‘Feels Like…’, is the most groove-driven and traditionally hip-hop the group has
ever been and it works startlingly well, offering a brief glimpse into yet another side of their capabilities. Ultimately, though, the pace, intensity and frequent brutality of ‘United States of Horror’ (see the nightmarish ‘Dekay’ for some nosebleed intensity) can feel like being locked in a basement and having your senses tortured – a bonus for these very literal horror fans. The real skill that this duo has managed to display here is in creating a distinctive sense of personality around whom they are and what they do whilst operating in a self-imposed ever-shifting musical landscape, in which standing still appears to be a crime.
For some ineffable reason, only a handful of bands have successfully welded together electronica and clearly distinguishable guitars and made it sound good. Kite Base, a band consisting of two bass players (one of whom is Savages’ Ayse Hassan) are now one of those bands. For their debut album the duo have assembled a set of slick-yet-spiky, polished-yet-pleasingly-raw-feeling songs; an album that portrays, above all else, a cast iron intention to make the music that they want to make.
And in doing so, ‘Latent Whispers’ is something of a gem. Opener ‘Transition’ (previously released as the group’s first single) has cold, steely vocals over an eighties-tinged electronic pop backdrop, while ‘Dadum’ is buzzy and robotic, the sound of industrial gears meshing. A high point comes in the coldly indifferent ‘Blueprint’, which gradually gathers momentum like the sonic equivalent of an empty motorway rushing by at night. ‘Soothe’ is then like Elastica coated
in liquid aluminium – a buzzing heavy metal riff cutting through the noise, and kind of playful. Perhaps as you’d expect, the basslines are often the starring role, which here and there carry with them hints of Joy Division, and there’s a very industrial edge to all aspects of this records. It’s the soundtrack to the post-apocalypse; it’s music swathed in darkness, while the polished, practically conventional sounding vocals shimmer in the shadows.
Kite Base Latent Whispers li t t l e s omet h i ng By c h r i s watk eys. I n sto re s ma y 26
Albums 0 7/ 1 0
L.A. Takedown II
Perfume Genius No Shape
Joan Shelley Joan Shelley
(Sandy) Alex G Rocket
R i bbon
mata d o r
no q u art er
By d avid z amm itt. In sto re s may 12
By k ati e be s wi c k . I n st o r e s ma y 5
B y s a m walt o n. I n s t o r e s m a y 1 9
B y alex w i s gar d. In s t o r es m a y 1 9
Black Dice’s Bjorn Copeland once described L.A. Takedown as, “Baywatch Krautrock.” And indeed it’s tempting to leave the review at those two beautifully accurate descriptors but, not being blessed with such succinctness, I’ll try to flesh his summary out a little further. A seven-piece masterminded by Aaron M. Olson, L.A. Takedown make music that is both ethereal and teeming with grooves; sober at one turn, absurdly exuberant at the next. They throw the time signature shapeshifting of Tortoise at Giorgio Moroder’s crunchy disco synthpop and blend XTC-esque new wave with Tangerine Dream’s ambient kosmische. I’m still not eclipsing Baywatch Krautrock. Ok, standout ‘Bad Night At Black’s Beach’ could be the theme tune to a Sega Mega Drive beat ‘em up, while ‘City of Glass’ is BadBadNotGood with the melodrama jacked up and a couple of dollops of Emerson, Lake & Palmer guitar solos thrown in. This is the sound of musicians enjoying themselves while they push themselves sonically and musically. It’s Baywatch Krautrock, like.
I shouldn’t have first listened to Perfume Genius’ fourth album with a hangover. In this depleted state all ‘No Shape’ does is push the burgeoning headache around my brain, very slowly, producing a sensation like thin metallic worms boring right into the grey matter. It’s all those whiny string sections and the plinky-plonky piano music. Then again, maybe it’s not the hangover after all. This is an album that’s trying too hard to contrive depth. It improves with a second listen (I can just about bear ‘Every Night’, which has a melodic, cinematic quality and ‘Die 4 You’, which I imagine would work for the slow dance at an Emo wedding), but only slightly. There are tortured, drawn-out instrumentals, baffling pseudo intellectual lyrics and, on ‘Go Ahead’ (the worst track here) a vibrating helicopter sound that buzzes irritatingly in the background for 40 seconds in the middle of the song. I don’t know whether this is an attempt to produce sonic pleasure, and it could very well be it’s a move that works on some listeners, but it doesn’t do it for me.
It’s difficult to innovate within a genre as well-worn as acoustic singer-songwriter folk, and at no point does Joan Shelley try to do so here. Despite that, though, a handful of moments across its eleven tracks, via a melody, arrangement or simple musical approach, contrive to provide something never heard before. Accordingly, quite how Shelley discovered the gorgeous chorus for ‘Where I’ll Find You’ seems like an impossible magic trick in the same way as the album’s opening and closing tracks combine porchside intimacy and studio poise with naturalistic elegance, or the brooding genius of ‘The Push And Pull’ conjures one of the finest, most concise and eloquent displays of songwriting you’ll hear all year. Combine that with a gentle articulacy, warmth and calm romanticism that would rival ‘Pink Moon’ or ‘Court And Spark’, and the outline of a future classic emerges. Like Nick Drake or Joni Mitchell, Joan Shelley the musician appears to have total mastery of her art; ‘Joan Shelley’ the album exploits that mastery with a grace all of its own.
Immortalised (ish) in a Cymbals Eat Guitars lyric, and responsible for the heart-stopping guitar intro to Frank Ocean’s utterly perfect ‘Self Control’, (Sandy) Alex G’s profile couldn’t have been higher in 2016. ‘Rocket’, his kaleidoscopic second album for Domino, is his first release since then, but keeps itself to itself, picking up where 2015’s unsettling ‘Beach Music’ left off. Where his fellow bedroom Bandcampist Car Seat Headrest deals in maximalism – all blown-out sounds and structures – ‘Rocket’ was home-recorded in the piecemeal fashion that defines his catalogue. Its mix of found sounds and slacker Americana shows an artist ill at ease with what he’s doing until he’s doing something else. Less fragmented and mangled-sounding than its predecessor, ‘Rocket’ still contains forays into cocktail jazz, ambient R&B interludes and breakbeat punk. However, the triumphant country flourishes act like a returning theme on tracks like ‘Bobby’ and ‘Powerful Man’. It still sounds like G is refining a sound of his own on ‘Rocket’, but hearing him do it in real-time is still a thrill.
How does an Aussie psych band stand out amongst the Bland Realms, the King Gizzards and the Tame Impalas, especially when you’re formed of members of the latter, but not Kevin Parker? Where others (i.e. me) would have had a total identity crisis, Pond have kept their heads to simply enjoyed the thrill of jamming out some thick-ass riffs. On ‘TheWeather’, they’ve stepped outside their comfort zone to make something… political?This project is being pushed as a concept album
“on all the weird contradictory things that make up a lot of colonial cities.” Swirling psych riffs + social commentary? YES PLZ. Sadly, it’s mostly business as usual, with dismal news bulletins spliced throughout to tie the noodling together. Though tangible, textured and constantly propulsive thanks to well-oiled musicianship, sluggish songwriting means the album fails to reach its ambitious premise. ‘AB’ is pure King Gizzard worship; ‘Edge of the World’ parts 1 and 2 turn into
ballad soup almost immediately. The lyrics are a saving grace. On ‘Sweep Me Off My feet’, Nicholas Allbrook comments on gender anxiety with quick wit, fear hiding behind a nasal yelp: ‘I’m not him / Between my penis and my chin is Camembert and shame / I used to be elegantly thin.’ The album fully realises its panic and frustration on ‘3000 Megatons’, a lighter-wielding call for the apocalypse with a climax that’s swallowed whole by bass and reverb.
Pond Weather marat h on By s te ph en bu tchard . In st o re s may 5
Reviews 0 7/ 1 0
Eyedress Manila Ice
At The Drive-In in•ter a•li•a
The Mountain Goats Goths
mer g e
By s us an dar l inton. In store s m a y 12
B y jo e goggi ns . I n s tore s m ay 1 2
By g re g cochrane . I n s to r es ma y 5
B y r eef you n i s . In s to r es M a y 1 9
Girlpool’s debut was the sound of teenage friends navigating selfidentity, gender and growing up. The lo-fi bass and guitar that opens Harmony Tividad’s and Cleo Tucker’s second album suggests that not a great deal has changed in the two years between releases. It turns out that this is an intentionally deceptive move as 50-seconds into ‘1 2 3’ a drum kicks in. The addition of Miles Wintner on percussion helps to define the tone of the release. The songs remain constantly shifting and short – most coming in under the three minute mark – and have the awkward folk-punk charm of Waxahatchee.There’s nonetheless a sense of the duo pushing for musical self-development. Now less of a bedroom concept, more a traditionally structured band, there’s the introduction of dissonant guitar on ‘Soup’, while the dual vocals and darker, shoegaze lines on ‘Sleepless’ suggest mid-period Lush. It maintains enough of Girlpool’s naïve charm to carry forward their early fans, although ‘Powerplant’’s real success is in its ambition to extend the duo’s core appeal.
Idris Vicuña – a guy who’s spent the last four years sporadically dropping tracks online, always to a little buzz – is apparently nervy on his debut album proper as Eyedress, wrestling with the joys and difficulties of having just become a parent for the first time at 26. He’s also claiming to be looking for some relief from the political events engulfing his hometown, which is name-checked in the album’s title. The latter is the more believable of the two; ‘Manila Ice’ feels like pure escapism, vibrant in tone and so laid-back in mood as to be almost horizontal (the frantic ‘Separation Anxiety’ aside). There’s a nod to hip hop in calling the record ‘Manila Ice’ and as dreamy as Vicuña’s vocals are – very much a staple of this kind of bedroom pop – the beats are indebted to old-school rap, especially on cuts like the standout ‘Sofia Coppola’. This is a sprawling LP and that might be to its detriment (it feels quite directionless) but there’s enough of a fresh perspective here also, perhaps due to its Filipino gestation, to mark Eyedress out as a beguiling prospect for the future.
For 17 years it seemed likely that the final, twitching notes of ‘Non-Zero Possibility’, the closing track on 2000’s ‘Relationship of Command’, would be the last we’d hear from At The Drive-In. That’s because the El Paso group didn’t disband, they imploded following the release of that now seminal album. It took 12 years to patch things up, another five to write new material (minus one founding member, Jim Ward). In 2017, the jeans aren’t as tight, the scissor kicks not quite as high, but the urgency and their iconic afros remain. For a band mythologised for their chaotic live shows, it’s an achievement to conjure that discordant spirit on record almost two decades on. The production’s slicker, but it’s all still built around Omar Rodriguez-López’s spidery guitar work and Tony Hajjar’s pummeling drums. ‘No Wolf Like The Present’, ‘Governed By Contagions’ and ‘Hostage Stamps’ are the standouts in a set that’s recognisably ATDI, but also wilfully tries to open a fresh chapter. For the whole slew of copycats, it’s a relief to discover that still no-one does it better.
Now sixteen albums in, The Mountain Goats’ meandering path over the last 25 years or so has seen leader John Darnielle shift from solo performances and lo-fi recordings to fronting a big band setup. Up from one to a party of four in its current iteration, ‘Goths’ (despite the gloomy connotations of the title) has the band at their genial best. Where tracks like ‘Unicorn Tolerance’, ‘For the Portuguese Goth Metal Bands’ and ‘Andrew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds’ allow for witty, wordy playfulness, ‘Wear Black’ is a soulful little slice of fluid bass, layered harmonies and lounge piano, and ‘We Do It Different on the West Coast’ drifts like a California breeze. With Darnielle’s wry lyricism and the band’s polished sound, it’s a familiarly elegant exercise in tenderness and humour as capable of washing over you as it is catching you unawares with a subtle line. But sit with ‘Goths’ long enough and you’ll come to respect The Mountain Goats’ patient craft as much as their clever comedic touch. That is, if you didn’t already.
The title of Mac DeMarco’s last release was telling of the content within. 2015’s 8-track mini album, ‘Another One’, felt like little more than a stopgap; something to tide over a hard touring musician sick of his set; not bad; typical; you know, ‘Another One’. He just about got away with it, still running on the fumes of the ever so slightly sharpened – and brilliant – ‘Salad Days’, but he must have known that he’d have to switch things up for his third album, for himself and for us.
‘This Old Dog’ is just that – the first record not to feature a photo of Mac on its sleeve, and the first to be written since he relocated to Los Angeles.Those points are subliminal to the music at best, and more likely completely circumstantial. You could sense that DeMarco’s tempered new pace was coming from the sparkling synth on ‘Salad Days’ slow favourite ‘Chamber of Reflection’. Here, ‘On The Level’ and ‘Baby You’re Out’ are close decedents – the difference is, they’re also the two of the least
mellow moments. For most of ‘The Old Dog’, Mac brings the mood all the way down to beanbag listening. It’s not his unplugged album, but it’s pretty close, where his pitchy electric guitar has become a warm acoustic one. On the title track he sings so slow and clear that he starts to resemble DamonAlbarn.Throughout, you can hear the romance in his voice, as well as the tiredness. It feels a touch weary by the end, but the guy had to change, and now your mum’s going to like him too.
0 7/ 1 0
Mac DeMarco This Old Dog C ap tu r e d tr a c ks By r ach el r edf ern. In store s ma y 5
Moon Duo Occult Architecture Vol. 2
Los Angeles Police Dept. Los Angeles Police Dept.
Sophia Kennedy Sophia Kennedy
Si l ent C ul t
sa cred b one s
p a mpa
By gu i a cortas s a. In st ore s ma y 19
B y d av i d z amm i tt . In st ore s m ay 5
By ch r i s wat ke ys . In s t ore s a pr il 2 8
B y g u ia c o rt a s s a . In s t o res a pr il 2 8
What would Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’ sound like, had it been played by Interpol? The answer is in Loom’s self-titled debut album.That is where Tarik Badwan’s band has been standing so far, at the intersection between the angriest commercial grunge and the darkest post-punk revival. Over their 5 years of activity, the British combo gained notable props for their disquieting attitude inspired by the likes of GG Allin and Misfits, creating a powerful, angry sound. The evolution of their style, leaning towards an ever-growing abrasiveness, can be heard in the 10 tracks of this album, featuring their classics ‘Bleed on Me’ (their first ever single, here at its 3rd release) and ‘Hate’, plus ‘Lice’, ‘Salt’, ‘Get a Taste’ and ‘Seasick’ from their 2013 EP ‘Lice’, and some new tracks, creating a triangle crossing the line between hard rock and metal with the 3 closing songs ‘Nailbender’, ‘Barbed Wire’ and ‘Slowly Freezing Heart’. If revivalism is what they admit to fearing the most, maybe the guitar-driven fury of their sound isn’t the best ways to make the statement.
I said I’d get back to you regarding the second volume of Moon Duo’s ‘Occult Architecture’ series and here we are, just five months on. Where ‘Vol. 1’ sought to explore the group’s yin – their darker energies – this time they are embracing the brightness of their yang. Mixed separately from its older sibling at the height of summer in their hometown of Portland, it immediately feels like a much lighter piece of work, and at five sprawling tracks averaging eight minutes apiece, it is an absorbing and genuinely uplifting journey. While Suicide were indelible influences on ‘Vol. 1’, this time it’s more ‘Dream Baby Dream’ than ‘Ghost Rider.’ But the production is also crisper, the beats bigger, so that Air, Cut Copy, and Black Moth Super Rainbow’s sunnier moments are much more accurate antecedents, while the guitars on ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Sevens’ again recall those gorgeously weightless wah-wah sounds created by early Neu!. Apparently the album is supposed to reflect the, “hidden energies of rainclouds and sunshine.” I think they’ve done a fine job.
Ryan Pollie clearly wants a strong naming convention for both his band and his music. While his 2014 debut was called ‘L.A.P.D.’, this follow up expands that all the way out to ‘Los Angeles Police Department’. Musically, there’s not been so much expansion since the expansive California pop of the first record. ‘Grown’ shimmers with the familiar/ predictable hazy purity of West Coast songwriting – a piano, a clear sweet voice deftly carrying the melody, and an unfussy four-four beat. Here and there Pollie’s music recalls the balladeering of Elton John, and there’s a classic love/hate ode to contraband on ‘Drugs’, of which he sings they’re “my only real love”. Sometimes the laid-back simplicity tips over into a slight dullness, as on ‘Plane 2’, or the ponderous fairground music of ‘The Birds’, but Pollie is clearly a very skilled songwriter and there are a handful of great songs on this album, the hazy semi-epic closer ‘Spent’ amongst them. There are few surprises here, but it’s a warm bath of an album; something to soak in and to best not overthink.
Sophia Kennedy’s self-titled debut was announced by Pampa Records as “the label’s first ever ‘songwriter’ record”. It’s an interesting remark, because the American-born, Germany-based musician’s debut album stands as far as possible from the singer/songwriter accepted meaning, thus giving the genre a new, contemporary direction, hard to tag using traditional boundaries. Kennedy’s voice, with its impressive range and jazzy colours, is the main character of the 11 tracks, singing melodies even in the most experimental and unusual tunes. And melody is key for this record: underlying all the songs is a sense of McCartney-esque pop writing, enriched by different arrangements, setting the tone for each different sound. Whether it’s electronic beats (as in ‘3:05’), the ballad piano in ‘Will in the Windowsill’, restless ethnic percussion (the hammering Tabla’s of ‘Kimono Hill’) or ‘Dizzy Izzy’’s frantic, abstract strings melding into a bass and synths line, there’s no disruption of the songs’ unity. A very interesting starting point for a talented musician ready to go.
From the off, Thurston Moore’s fifth solo album seems like a posturing, macho affair; a rock and roll anachronism, even, filled with lengthy guitar epics. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find something of substance. Thematically, ‘Rock N Roll Consciousness’ focuses on love and nonviolence in a way that’s not the idealised notion of hippies at Woodstock. This album also acts as the tense, darker counterpart to Moore’s 2014 LP ‘The Best Day’.Take
the deceivingly placid ‘Exalter’, for example, which soars into a sprawling 11-minute long opener that veers from woozy and psychtinged to outright malevolence. Contributions from My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley put us on familiar ground. And while Moore’s tamer, quieter moments on 2011’s ‘Demolished Thoughts’ were compelling, retreating back into the comfort of noise here is a good move. On that note, ‘Rock N Roll
Consciousness’ succeeds most when it’s melodic but noisy, and it’s the nuances that make this album as captivating as it is, like on the gentle melancholy of the beginning of ‘Turn On’, which clashes brilliantly with the skewed, belligerent ‘Aphrodite’. Unsurprisingly, this is not an album full of Sonic Youth songs, but the usual hallmarks are still there – strange guitar tuning and unorthodox time signatures – with Moore utilising a sound that defined him and then experimenting with it.
0 7/ 1 0
Thurston Moore Rock N Roll Consciousness E c s ta t i c P e ace By h ay l ey s cott. In sto re s apr il 28
Reviews 0 7/ 1 0
0 1 /10
She Devils She Devils
Tangerines Into The Flophouse
sec r etl y c an a d ia n
Ho r ny
Black Lips Satan’s graffiti or God’s art?
By kati e be swi ck. In sto re s ma y 19
B y fre d mi k ardo -gre ave s . In s to re s may 1 9
By Li am k o ne mann. In s to r es Ma y 1 2
v ic e B y a lex w is g a r d . I n s t o r es m a y 5
‘Come’ is the opening track of SheDevils eponymous debut album – when it was self-released as a single at the end of 2015, its electronica ’60s sound quickly established an aural aesthetic for the Canadian duo. Now signed to Secretly, Kyle Jukka and Audrey Anne Boucher re-emerge on the music scene with a bold and eminently listenable effort that playfully conveys those fickle first days of a budding relationship. ‘Darling’ is a dreamy surfer lovesong, where vocalist Audrey sounds like a hot stoner with a spliff and bikini, pleading teasingly with her new lover who’s just about to walk out the door. On ‘How Do You Feel’ she’s rubbing herself against him, a long red dress dragging along the floor, the crackle of old vinyl in the background, attempting the impossible feat of getting inside someone else’s emotions. And then there’s ‘Blooming’, and she’s changed her mind, or might be about to, because maybe they’re not ready for this after all. Whatever, it’s a woman’s prerogative, and as such ‘She Devils’ is a playful listen, at times totally captivating.
From the 150-second ‘Fyre Balls’ (lmao) to the 9-minute-long ‘Satanas’ (lmfao) every track on ‘Ball’ is built on one or two lumpen riffs that are performed without charm, guile or wit. Or sex for that matter, beyond a sort of grizzledpintman-at-the-bar lechery. They are repeated ad nauseam, with zero dynamic variation, and one of three things happens: Mr. Ball chats about “riding through the night” or “fire” or some other bollocks; the band mess about with ‘weird’ sounds, which the average Meatloaf fan would find passé; or someone plays a battle-ofthe-bands-ass guitar solo that lasts f o r e v e r. The six tracks here are essentially not music for 2017, but rather dated semiotics of music – specifically of the very heteronormative, very conservative, very masculine rockist canon. I’m sure Ball are having fun, but this is the aural equivalent of a flaming skull on a t-shirt. The press release promised me ‘a nightmare of revolting sounds’, but revulsion would require some degree of sonic exploration or a desire to challenge the listener.
London band Tangerines have pretty clear influences. There’s the Rolling Stones swagger and Bob Dylan vocal, and the T-Rex guitar that is fittingly clearest on their track ‘Glam Glam’. ‘Into the Flophouse’ could be a 21st century reimagining of ‘Exile on Main Street’, seen through the lens of all the rock and roll icons of the last fifty years. The problem, of course, is that there’s a line between being complementary and being derivative, and Tangerines have stepped a bit too far across it. There are moments of promise, and they’re a band with a sense of humour, too. ‘Glam Glam’ is laid back and summery with a rich bass line, while the pogo rhythm and ’70s style guitar work on ‘Uptight’ lets the band show off their technical skills. ‘Lovers Night’, too, dances with cheery guitar riffs, before losing the thread. Two and a half minutes in, the track descends into disarray as the instruments fall out of sync. Tangerines are continuing the great rock and roll swindle, but they should remind themselves that people are getting wise to the con.
Just as prolific as their fellow Atlantans Deerhunter, Black Lips have been content to plough their ‘flower punk’ furrow comfortably under the radar. Two albums ago the band roped Mark Ronson in to work on ‘Arabia Mountain’; ‘Satan’s Graffiti…’ is helmed by the bettersuited Sean Lennon. As such, the production on this eighth album is cleaner and more ambitious than ever. There’s an overture and two interludes, and some intriguing genre exercises. ‘Can’t Hold On’ is reminiscent of the reckless swagger of ‘Monomania’-era Deerhunter before descending into a murky New Orleans funeral dirge, while ‘Crystal Night’ goes full Ween, setting an opulent fifties ballad to lovelorn lyrics set during a major Nazi bombing campaign. It doesn’t always gel – ‘Got Me All Alone’ apes the Delta blooz a little too slavishly, and the garage onslaught gets repetitive by around track 12. But this is still a significant step forward. ‘Satan’s Graffiti…’ isn’t quite God’s art, but Black Lips are getting closer each time.
With each new record, Jane Weaver’s magnetic pull is harder to escape. The Manchester-based artist debuted with starry-eyed folk stories on 2006’s ‘Seven Day Smile’. Since then, she’s been widening her scope without losing sight of herself. Glam sparkle, Krautrock tension and psych exploration have been absorbed into her whirlpool of sounds. Even in winding compositions, the humble heart of a folk singer remains at the forefront. On ‘Modern Kosmology’, she travels
the chasms of space to look deeper inward. This latest, ninth album follows the jet-fuelled spectacle of her criminally overlooked ‘Silver Globe’ of 2014. ‘Modern Kosmology’ is just as cinematic, but sharpened into a tighter experience. Songs melt into one another, merging from breathless prog grooves to aching balladry and back again. Weaver is offering something deeper than nostalgic noodling. Songs like ‘Slow Motion’ creep up,
its melody bending out of sight until it’s looping around your organs. Her vocal performance rarely lifts above a strained whisper, but her words and melody do all they need to. “We can disappear / I can disappear,” she sings, pulling out romantic notions of escape and anxious thoughts of complete disintegration in a single breath. When the stars align on moments such as this, it’s a journey that justifies the cosmic ambitions, and Weaver’s best record yet.
Jane Weaver Modern Kosmology fire By ste ph en but cha rd. In sto res ma y 19
Feist Pleasure pol y dor By sam wal t o n. In sto re s a pril 28
A sentence is appended to the very end of the blurb that accompanies promotional copies of ‘Pleasure’ informing listeners that Feist “boasts the second-most-watched video in Sesame Street history.” The information is part of a final paragraph listing all the Canadian musician’s career accolades, but nonetheless, in the present context, the idea of Sesame Street’s people hearing something as abrasive as ‘Pleasure’ and deciding its composer was the best candidate to sing a sweet melody about counting up to four while surrounded by muppets is utterly absurd. It is also, however, indicative of exactly how far Feist has come in the
past ten years, from the sequinjumpsuited 100-person dance routines of ‘The Reminder’ in 2007, via 2011’s lushly muscular and perfection-approaching ‘Metals’, to this: an hour of scratchy, rhythmic, wilfully raw dark-night-of-the-soul music full of scabrous repeated mantras about lost dreams, meditations on self-belief and, in one of the oddest guest appearances in recent memory, Jarvis Cocker doing his best impression of Vincent Price’s ‘Thriller’ cameo. Perhaps the album’s most pervasive characteristic, though, is its menace. Never before has Feist played her guitar so hard as on the title track; her percussion has never
clanged with such clout as on ‘Century’. Her singing voice, too, normally resembling gusts of notes that billow poignantly around a song, develops into full gales on ‘Any Party’, turning a potentially rather romantic sea shanty into something far fiercer. Even the sparser tracks here saturate their spidery-ness with a sort of coiled-spring tension. However, while there’s admirable nuance and an impressive wildness to even the most rugged parts of ‘Pleasure’, a strong constitution is required to digest meat this tough in one sitting: songs seldom end with any intent but instead simply stop, often mid-phrase (or, in the case of ‘A Man Is Not His Song’, are usurped
by a final ten seconds of thrash metal), beautifully acrobatic melodies that Feist would once have exalted are here soured by obfuscatory sound effects, and the album’s lurching structure, exciting at first, becomes disorientating over the long haul. All that said, though, there remains something beguiling about ‘Pleasure’, its studious obstinacy almost daring you to dislike it while simultaneously drawing you in, like food at first repulsive but then slowly delicious – indeed, like the kind of fare that’s definitely not suitable for kids. You get the impression, after an hour of ‘Pleasure’, that that’s sort of the point.
Like most of us, Matthew Barnes aka Forest Swords is unsettled by these fractured times. And while ‘Compassion’ isn’t an ode to the fissures and fallout of Brexit, Trump and the chaos in the Middle East, it captures the uncertainty and insecurity perfectly, manifesting itself as an incongruent collection of tracks that seep deep. From the long electronic exhale of ‘War It’ to the more pointed ‘Panic’ and its simple refrain of “I fear something’s wrong / The panic is
on,” the doubt creeps in from the outset, permeating the field recordings, indistinguishable vocals and clattering beats. You hear it on the Nostradamus drama of ‘Exalter’ with clanging percussion and twisted monastic blasts; sense it on the mournful ‘Sjurvival’; feel it on the layered menace of ‘Vandalism’ as eerie harmonies, heavy-handed drums and sad brass solos bleed together to create something arresting in its austerity.
The soft static and rolling melody of ‘Border Margin Barrier’ briefly hints at a brighter day, its sweeter vulnerability temporarily carving through the gloom, but as the rumble of battle drums and plaintive piano of album closer ‘Knife Edge’ sets you up for a breakdown that never comes, and ends heavy with anticipation, it’s the perfect conclusion to Forest Swords’ complex slow-show that owes as much to hope as it does to just hanging in there.
Forest Swords Compassion N i nj a t u ne By r eef y ou nis . In sto re s m a y 5
The Loud And Quiet podcast with Mac DeMarco
Reviews / Live
Jarvis Cocker The Barbican Centre London 23 / 0 3 / 20 17 wr iter : woody ce ci lia Ph otogr a ph er : Ma rk Alla n
With both arms behind his back, Cocker stomps on stage, dragging behind him a long-haul suitcase. “Alright?” he shrugs. Bell bottoms, blazer, tie and Cuban heels – it’s his usual attire. Costumes aren’t necessary when you’re Jarvis Cocker. The crowd chimes, as if met by a family member. Welcome to ‘Room 29’, the musical entertainment project created and performed by Chilly Gonzales and Jarvis Cocker that’s based around the Chateau Marmont, the famous Hollywood hotel located on Sunset Boulevard. It’s served guests including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had a heart attack across the street, and Jim Morrison who fell off
its rooftop. John Belushi died there in 1982. Names are dropped by the dozen, each with a story weightier than the last, and it’s in Room 29 where at least one of these mishaps happened. Room 29 is infamous. It’s LA’s sweet suite of debauchery. Tonight, Cocker and Gonzales have gone about creating that world in detailed fashion. On entering the Barbican Theatre ticket-holders are met with a concierge who hands over a key (to room 29 – or the auditorium to the less imaginative). Immediately, each member of the audience is part of the experience. Rather than being onlookers, we’re in the hotel room, part of it, under the bed sheets (well, nearly). Across from our seats is a
grand piano, a bed and a cupboard. Gonzales, clad in plush dressing gown and slippers, stays put at his ivory saloon for the night, while Cocker romps about on stage serenading the crowd, taking full reign of the hotel room’s furniture. As ever, his performance is all about the silhouettes. He dangles his elbows at puppet-like right angles as he conducts us visitors through the hotel’s history. References to Howard Hughes, Clara Clemens and Jean Harlow make for an educational induction, while frequent comedic detours are but a phone call away. He’s a good host. Asking the crowd what they’d like from room service, he orders The Kaiser Quartett, a
string section from Hamburg.They’re no chocolate gateau, as one member of the audience suggests ordering – but, none the less, they are the perfect seasoning to a night of musical brilliance. It’s a run through of the album they’ve just released, led by Gonzalez’s coasting piano that hums gentle exhaustion. Cocker exhales over the title track – “Help yourself to pretzels, help yourself to the minibar. I couldn’t help myself. I read a selfhelp book, now I’ve gone too far.” It’s a sophisticated soiree, not without wit. As it comes to a close, Cocker wraps it all up with a marvel: “This whole place was built on a lie… But what a lie!”
Manuel Göttsching Barbican Centre London
Father John Misty Rio Cinema, Dalston 2 4 / 03 / 2 01 7 w r it er : R o bbie S a n t in o
23 / 0 3 / 20 17
P h o t og r a p h er : Lin ds a y M e lb o u r n e
wr i ter : ed gar s mith
It’s Friday night at the Rio Cinema and a new picture is showing. It’s a comedy, a tragedy, a story about global destruction. ‘Pure Comedy’ is Father John Misty’s dizzyingly ambitious new creation, and before he plays it for the first time in the UK he wants to show us the film he’s made about its making – a black and white snapshot of an enigma at work. “Hi, it’s me, from earlier,” says Josh Tillman when he walks on to play with only an accompanying pianist. Boiled down to their essence, the songs from ‘Pure Comedy’ seem all the more engrossing. No strings, no choirs. Tillman is funny, relaxed, and perhaps not the exaggerated caricature some people might expect. “I want to say thank you to BBC6 for battering you around the head with this,” he says dryly before ‘Ballad of the Dying Man’ – an arresting moment in a night full of them.
The soda laced with LSD, the fields with naked bodies – techno’s parentage is naturally an open question but Manuel Göttsching is in the picture thanks to 1984’s ‘E2-E4’. The man-machine interface, an obsession ranking with Cream and Hendrix for the Kosmische scene he came from, is raised here to polyphonic genius that also passes as studio frippery – “a silly recording with big sequencers,” he says, that he’d never imagined could be recreated live. Two Macs, always frustratingly inscrutable on some level, help thread together an original and later version tonight. They’re then cast aside for the early Ash Ra Tempel work. While Tim Leary’s bits on ‘Seven Up’ have to be rethought without Ariel Pink, the elf-like sunshine pop maverick isn’t missed for rapturous, full-length hits of Tempel’s debut and ‘Schwingungen’.
Jonwayne Jazz Cafe, Camden
Thundercat Heaven, London
16/ 0 3 / 20 17
28/03/ 2 0 1 7
wr i ter : g r eg cochra ne
wri te r: S am wal to n P hoto g ra p he r: D an Me d hurs t
Rapper Jonwayne isn’t a crowdpleaser. By that I mean there are no appeals to “make some fucking noise” or “put your hands in the air”. That’s put into focus by the support act tonight; a young grime artist, practically reading out the book of beat-show clichés. In contrast, Jonathan Michael Wayne, the 26-year-old from California, goes in for none of that. He’s the independent artist who came through L.A.’s Low End Theory scene (the club night attended by Flying Lotus and The Gaslamp Killer) whose appearances are more like poetry slams than hiphop concerts. He doesn’t race on stage, he strolls. He cues his own beats, holds a steaming tea in one hand and kicks his shoes off to air his feet. The focus is on his delivery – a deadpan fusion of El-P and Kate Tempest. It’s unhurried and spellbinding.
Thundercat is a feline of few meows. For most of tonight’s performance, he confines himself to a simple “thank you” every five songs or so, letting the words jut out humbly from brief lulls between breakneck jazz bass workouts and stomping, swaggering neo soul. He shouts down a joke heckle with a mum cuss and goes into another burst of insouciantly virtuoso bass-playing that has more in common with Squarepusher’s thousand-notes-asecond mad scientist act than it does with any of the ’70s soul touchstones that characterise his latest LP. Thankfully, though, Stephen Bruner clearly understands that the allure of such muso wizardry lies in its short doses, and so for every minute of deadly technical, freakazoid fusion there’s another five of both melody and musical wit, from a musician in complete control of his art.
Car Seat Headrest Gorilla, Manchester
serpentwithfeet Hoxton Hall, London
24/ 0 3 / 20 16
1 3 / 04 / 2 01 6
write r: joe gogg ins
w r it er : F r ed m ik ar do - gr eav es
Photographer: Ma x Phyth ian
Serpentwithfeet begins his first London show by centring himself. The one born Josiah Wise paces the stage for a few seconds, silently asking for the crowd to stand on ceremony. As the delicate harp of ‘Blisters’ pipes through the PA, he begins singing softly at the root note. Anchoring himself here for several bars, he soon pushes off into the further reaches of his range. Come the pagan gospel of the song’s close his voice has unfurled enough for him to perform a series of dynamic runs. The rest of the concert is characterised by a similar stürm und drang. Wise’s masterful command of pitch, mode and harmony allows him to dictate the show’s ebb and flow. Halfway through, an audience member faints. It might not have been anything to do with the beauty and power of Wise’s singing, but it could have been.
Car Seat Headrest’s diary suggests they’re a band in a hurry, and they play like one too. Tonight, Will Toledo (a man who’s already made 13 albums) and his group batter through their set with purpose, opening with an incendiary one-two of ‘Fill in the Blank’ and ‘Vincent’ – a couple of tracks that could have been singles from 2016 breakthrough album ‘Teens of Denial’. Elsewhere, they’re not afraid to experiment, and for all of Toledo’s on stage reticence – he doesn’t have much to say to the crowd – he’s happy to mix things up, as ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ is extended and rounded out with a hectic outro that interpolates ‘Plane Crash Blues’. The fast and loose encore of ‘Connect the Dots (The Saga of Frank Sinatra)’ descends into out-and-out improvisation, with a raucous take on Patti Smith’s ‘Gloria’ worked in for good measure.
in the UK and as the breakdown for the song slows down, it reignites with the joint cry of “RTJ3 Motherfucker” that sends the crowd into a frenzy for the first of many, many explosive instances. The clarity of the sound means the precision of the words are often lost amongst the overall noise, meaning the political bite that runs through the core of much of the duo’s work becomes a little blurred and between song chat can often be tricky to understand. But what’s lost in comprehensibility is made up for in fury and intensity. The new material slots into the prime position left by their first two albums, and songs like ‘Panther Like A Panther’ feel like they are destined to have the same longevity of tracks like ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)’, a song which makes the room pop to almost bursting point. “We understand the feeling of someone bear hugging the planet and running off the edge of a fucking cliff with it,” says El-P at one point to a crowd almost manic and united by anger, the stage often being filled with tossed shoes, shirts, hats and even socks.
Run The Jewels Albert Hall, Manchester 3 1/ 0 3 / 20 17 writer: da n i el d ylan wra y Photog rapher: Ethan Weathe rb y
For most acts, walking out onto the stage and nodding along in approval as Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’ plays would seem at best presumptuous and at worst catastrophically egotistical. In the hands of Run the Jewels it fits perfectly, as the entire room stands and screams along in unison. It sets the tone for an evening in which fun and igniting the crowd is a central part of the process. “We’re RTJ and we came to fuck shit up,” EL-P says before DJ Trackstar drops ‘Talk to Me’, an album highlight from ‘RTJ3’ that surprise-dropped on Christmas day. The beat immediately rattles intensely and the bass shakes the room as Killer Mike and EL-P seamlessly glide into and between one another’s words, crisscrossing on stage. This is the first instance of the pair performing the new material
W r i te r : A n d re w A n d er s on
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
When it comes to band films there’s one that takes the lead and leaves all the others as mere backing tracks – the standout soloist of the species. No, it wasn’t the first, the most expensive or even the most listenable, but, as critic Andrew Sarris put it, it is “the Citizen Kane of Jukebox Musicals.” I am of course talking about The Beatles’ first foray into film, A Hard Day’s Night. Shot over a few weeks in March 1964 on a budget skinnier than a guitar string, it was never intended as an amazing piece of art. Rather, the Beatles’ team saw it as an extended promo piece for their new LP – a chance to exploit the bands’ explosive rise to the top before the whole thing burnt out and got boring. The film’s premise is pretty simple; A Hard Day’s Night follows a typical day in the life of the band. Not much happens: they travel on a train, trip around a TV studio, piss about in a park and, of course, play a few songs. That said, a few themes and motifs do emerge. Firstly, The Beatles are portrayed as overgrown schoolboys. They torment their teachers (or rather, their various managers), tease one another, pull silly faces, put on funny voices and generally prat about. This makes the fact that they’re being chased around by twelve-year-old girls slightly less disturbing – although it is still a bit disturbing –
and, since it all feels so natural, it’s a lot of fun to watch. Secondly, The Beatles undermine or overthrow all authority figures. From TV directors to train passengers, no one escapes their withering words and scouse sendups – class, privilege or having more pounds in the bank won’t win you any favours from the fab four. In the drab (and apparently still black and white) world of 1964 this made them as refreshing as washing your personal parts in minty mouthwash. Thirdly, the whole thing is done with unadulterated joy. John, Paul, Ringo and George can’t stop smiling (and not because of copious cannabis intake, unlike in the follow up Help!), and deliver their lines with infectious élan. Considering the whole film was a cynical attempt to make some quick cash this is quite an achievement. Much of this is down to the superb script of Allun Owen, who followed the Beatles around for a week, not only to get sense of their speech but also a feel for what it was like to be on the inside of Beatlemania. It was a far more mundane experience than you might imagine – all studios, cars, stages and hotel rooms rather than anything truly exotic – a truth that Owen’s kitchen-sink script sticks to. Let’s also not forget the fact that this film is a comedy, unlike many other films reviewed in this column,
which are just comically bad. From the Spike Milligan-style puns (reporter: “How did you find America?” Lennon: “Turned left at Greenland”) to the great put downs (The Beatles are described as “pimply hyperboles”) there’s loads to laugh at and, surprisingly, the jokes have actually aged well… perhaps because they were corny to begin with. Of course, the songs play an important role too. The title track is killer (or gear, to use the correct Beatles parlance), as is ‘Can’t By My Love’, ‘And I Love Her’, ‘Any Time At All’ and ‘If I Fell’. And while the songs might be a bit silly and nowhere near as sophisticated as later efforts – even the tracks on Beatles For Sale, which came out later that year, feel far more mature – they brim with the energy and enthusiasm of youth. Countless other bands have tried this style since, but few (if any) have ever done it as well as The Beatles. No wonder they made people piss themselves. As for the cinematography, A Hard Day’s Night looks stunning – genuinely. Shot mostly with hand held cameras, it captures the cool feel of French new wave films like Breathless, while at the same time having a harder edge akin to Brit flick The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Furthermore, the fact it was shot in black and white – something
that was originally done for budgetary reason – adds a timeless class. There are few things that look finer than the mop tops in monochrome, their crisp Savile Rowcut suits creating hard lines of light on the cinema screen. The bit where Ringo gets lost and walks along a lonely riverbank is particularly striking (his mood and look apparently abetted by a truly heroic hangover). The songs, the script, the themes and the style all played a part in making this supposedly throwaway film a critical success. However, these alone don’t fully explain the true attraction of A Hard Day’s Night. After all, almost all of these elements were present, and in many cases improved upon, in Help! – and that film hardly holds the same place in our collective conscience. No, the reason A Hard Day’s Night is so special is because it captures The Beatles at a very specific moment in time. This is The Beatles before they dug Dylan, before they got tired of touring, before the claustrophobia of superstardom cramped their style, before they smoked cannabis, before they grew up and got old and got crap and started rapping about veggie sausages. A Hard Days Night is The Beatles as we’d always like to remember them: innocent, irrepressible and iconic.
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FanFIction: Can I stop being Keith Lemon now? Judith, and you’re kind of proving my point.” Judith tried in vain to convince Leigh otherwise, but he was adamant – he’d record the next episode of Celebrity Juice as himself. Keith Lemon was dead. Chapter 2
The agent of Leigh Francis was laughing hard. Classic Keith, she thought – boy does this guy keep me on my toes. Leigh stared back at her. Judith howled all the more. She’d just noticed that for the first time in 15 years Keith wasn’t wearing an animal print shirt beneath a blazer. He’d even shaved off his ginger moustache. Brilliant! “I’m serious, Judith. I don’t want to be Keith Lemon anymore.” Judith slowly spluttered to a halt. “Wait… Keith, are you shitting me right now?” “No,” said Leigh. “I’m sick of everyone thinking I’m actually Keith Lemon. My house phone rang the other day and I answered ‘Leigh speaking’, and the person on the other end said, ‘Sorry, I must have
dialed the wrong number,’ and hung up. It was my fucking Mum, Judith!” Judith suppressed a snigger. She knew this was pretty serious. “I mean, c’mon,” said Leigh, “don’t you think the whole thing has run its course? I’m not saying it wasn’t funny the first 20 odd times I made a joke about Eamonn Holmes having anal sex, but he’s on the show again this week and I just can’t do it anymore. We’re just making the same crass gags again and again.” “I’d hardly say that,” Judith protested. “That game you played a couple of weeks ago – I’ve never seen that done on TV before. The one where Emma Bunton had to guess the old golfer’s ages from only their bare arses.” “It was called ‘Hole In Bum’,
“I think it’s really brave what you’re doing. We all support it.” Holly Willoughby really is as nice as everyone says she is, and Leigh appreciated her words of encouragement. “Yeah… I guess,” said Fearne Cotton, who was later heard saying to a makeup artist that Leigh’s sudden change of heart was “pathetic” and would “land us all in the shitter.” On his way to the set, Leigh passed all the same familiar faces he always did – the runners, the camera operators, catering and something called ‘the grip’. They all seemed to smile at him like his wife had just died. “Have a good show Kei… Leigh,” said one junior assistant who was instantly dismissed. He turned left into the green room, sensing the nerves of everyone involved. Best to reassure the team that things were going to be ok, he thought. The two most professional guests, Holmes and Caroline Flack, put a brave face on it and tried to lift the room with talk of how it was the start of a new era. Rylan from Big Brother’s Bit OnThe Side made a catty comment about Leigh being less fabulous than Keith, but you could tell he was onside. Everyone thought it best not
to mention it to Joey Essex at all, who told Leigh, “you look kind of familiar, innit, like a geezer I’ve been on a panel show with.” As was the case every week, Will Mellor was told that he wouldn’t be needed for this episode but thank you once again for volunteering to come down in case. Fearne Cotton muttered something about Rufus Hound getting into the “idiot’s” head. As the show began to film with the warm up comic announcing, “Please welcome your host, Leigh Francis,” hardly anyone in the fevered audience noticed the name change. A man in a ‘Bang Tidy’ T-shirt cheered furiously. This was it. Free at last, Leigh calmly walked out to finally be on TV as himself. The first, new, straighter buzzer round eventually crawled to an end, having only had a smattering of laughs at Joey Essex’s expense. “And the scores are…” said Leigh. “You’re suppose to say ‘Shit-ting’,” shouted a bloke four rows a back. “Oh, I’m not doing all that now, cheers mate,” said Leigh. “What?! Why?” shouted another. “Y’know, it’s just a bit boring, isn’t it, the whole Keith Lemon thing.” “You look more of a lemon now, bruv,” yelled a third voice to the recording’s biggest laugh yet. Leigh exhaled and looked at the buttons on his plain blue shirt. Then he looked at the kind face of Holly and the orange face of Rylan. He took a minute and then a deep breath. “Only kiddin’, you Ding Bats,” he yelled in a trademark Keith Lemon lisp. “Eamonn, have you smashed anyone’s back doors in recently?” The studio erupted.
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious
Photo casebook: The unfortunate world of Ian Beale
No, so I’m gonna have this little guy, and then I’m just going to meet Peanut for one, and that’s it. Home.
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