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I RELAN D’S MUSIC PAYLOAD
C O V E R I L L U S T R AT E D F O R S TAT E B Y B R E N B
I S S U E 0 9 M I G H T W E L L CO N TA I N . . .
INCOMING On the plus side: Passion Pit, The Brighton Port Authority, Annie Mac, Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring and Guns N’ Roses. On the negative: Miriam Makiba RIP, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Juliette Lewis and The Others.
MUSIC IS MY RADAR Serial Thriller: best-selling writer Alex Barclay on why she’ll forgive a mingin’ melody if the lyrics are up to scratch.
CIRCUIT BREAKERS Meet the squad who set out to rescue rock ‘n’ roll, one night at a time.
B LO G S TA N DA R D Songs for streaming lovers.
INPUT Your complete guide to what’s out there. Albums: Into the Kanye West; . DVD: Band Of Brothers goes Blu-Ray; the ’80s revisited. TV: the best and worst of festive fare . Games: the big guns revealed.
ANGER MANAGEMENT Mince pie-eyed? Festive unfit? Welcome, one and all, to the season of badwill.
THE 50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008 From Adebesi Shank to Wild Beasts, the definitive records of the year. Plus we join Glasvegas on the long road to becoming an overnight sensation and why Transylvania is the place to make a Christmas album. SEASICK STEVE The rise and rise of Seasick Steve: or how one grumpy old man with three strings and the truth became an international obsession.
20 L I T T L E J O Y Why a beaten up van is the perfect place for Strokes’ sticksmith Fab Moretti and his new friends. 24 Q - T I P From A Tribe Called Quest to his sterling solo output, to Annie Mac’s bedroom wall (see pg. 12) , few hip-hop artists remain as influential as Tip. 28 1 2 N I G H T S T O C H R I S T M A S Phil Udell talks to Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry to head our preview of the month’s urban festival, which includes State’s very own Yuletide celebration. 32 C O L D W A R K I D S Mama gave birth to the soul children: politics, unity and isolation. 36 O N E D A Y I N T E R N A T I O N A L How to create one of the finest albums of 2008 without anyone knowing your name. 38 T I M W H E E L E R John Joe Worrall travels to Nashville to hear the Ash frontman’s confession.
Webulars O N S TAT E . I E T H I S M O N T H Live reviews of MGMT, The Walkmen, Goldfrapp, Cut Copy, Fleet Foxes, Cass McCombs and Wolf Parade, Lykke Li tells us why she’s fed up, Autamata share their Austin City Limits Diary, a full report on the horror that was the MTV Music Video Awards plus all the usual, including news, gig announcements, mp3s and listings. Get on it.
So, how was it for you? 2008, we mean. Every year we seem to reach December and while some proclaim it the best in living memory, others insist that the music that we love is going to hell in a handcart. We decided to ask those who know best, our team of amazing writers, and have come up with the definitive guide to the best albums of the year. What the results gave us was an insight into why State has turned into the kind of magazine it is. Inside these pages, you’ll find the nod given to punk, classic American rock, hip-hop, soul, singer-songwriters, folk, electronica and much more, including the magnificent darkness of our interviewees and cover stars Glasvegas. What you won’t find is many albums from the so-called major names, not because we cling to any notion of being cool or underground (Exhibit A: our mighty Abba cover) but perhaps because they weren’t really that good. From Metallica to Madonna, the superstars
came, yet we found solace instead in the likes of Lykke Li, Santogold, Cadence Weapon and Fleet Foxes, the act that came in overwhelmingly as our critics’ choice. Some did fly the flag for the old guard – Nick Cave, Sigur Rós, Portishead, David Holmes, Coldplay – but they were all the ones who either stepped out of their comfort zone or just upped their game. In the new climate, resting on your laurels is simply not an option. Which is why we gave our beleagured art director a break on the cover and got the awesome BRENB to Illustrate our 50 Best Albums front. Don’t feel bad about slicing it off and putting it on your wall – this lad is an embarrasment of rich talent. At home, Ireland produced what could well be the most exciting generation of musicians for years. Fight Like Apes spearheaded the assault for sure, but there were many who followed closely behind: Messiah J & The Expert, Heathers, Ham Sandwich, One Day International, Jape, Halfset, the list goes on. There are more to come too,
SIMON ROCHE ROGER WOOLMAN NIALL BYRNE AOIFE McDONNELL
art director publisher assistant editor & web editor operations manager
advertising and marketing enquiries – email@example.com heart
Feargal Ward Works as a press photographer/documentary filmaker in Dublin. Has recently opened ‘The Joinery’ - a gallery/workspaces/photostudio/ experimental space with photographer Miranda Driscoll on Arbour hill in in Stoneybatter.. Favourite obscurity of 2008? Have been listening to a live recording of Electronic Sensoria Band with Damo Suzuki from a couple of years back and it’s great nuts. Damo Suzuki colours in outside the lines with fat crayons. Rock, paper or scissors? Paper
~ John Walshe and Phil Udell
CONTRIBUTOR VS CONTRIBUTOR
with a host of names already tipping the State radar for 2009. But we reach the end of 2008 feeling pretty chipper about Ireland’s musical future. We’re especially delighted to welcome Annie Mac to the team, who will be tipping us off to the greatest tunes and trends in her world on a monthly basis, as well as representing Team State in London. We’ll even be breaking out of the office to host the State Christmas Party at the Think Tank in Dublin on December 19, featuring DJ turns from Fight Like Apes and Super Extra Bonus Party: it could be boozy; it may be festive; it could involve the State team trying their hand on the decks; it might even see two grown editors try to recreate their youth on the dance-floor. It will be fun.
contributing writers dan hegarty, tanya sweeney, john joe worrall, maia dunphy, saoirse patterson, dave donnelly, jennifer gannon, ciara o’brien, shane galvin, martin mciver, david o mahony, durell connor, ciarán ryan, jenna wolf, david mclaughlin, jeff weiss, warren jones, kara manning, sinéad gleeson, johnnie craig, bobby ahern, cian traynor, louise healy, paul byrne, joe crosby, chris russell, tia clarke, sean feeny, elaine o’neil, shane culloty, pamela halton, miles stewart, kate rothwell, hilary a. white, darragh mccausland, aoife mcdonnell, michael dwyer, patricia danaher, niall crumlish, olivia mai, aiden fortune, alexandra donald, jack higgins, anna forbes, paula shields, alan reilly
photographers richard gilligan, lili forberg, marcelo biglia, scott ‘n’ goulden, zoran orlic, liam sweeney, loreana rushe, feargal ward
brenb, nathalie nysted, christian kirkegaard, wulff & morgenthaler
Simon Roche Our art director used to want his design work to be a mix of the style of Portishead and the smarts of Julian Cope, now he just want to finish the bastard albums section. He lives in Copenhagen and creates State every month using Pritt Stick and magic. Favourite obscurity of 2008? ‘My Get Up And Go Just Got Up And Went’ by Swedish oneman-band Ass. Includes a mello, bearded version of the Escape From New York theme. Rock, paper or scissors? Scissors
State Magazine Ltd, 4th Floor, Equity House, 16-17 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7.
State is published monthly by Tel: (01) 888 0660 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.state.ie issn 2009-0897 All materials © State Magazine 2008. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any part of the magazine without the written permission of the publishers is
RESULT: SIMON WINS. (And didn’t even need to cheat! Haha.)
strictly prohibited. Although State Magazine has endeavoured to ensure that all information is correct, prices and details may be subject to change. The opinions expressed are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of State Magazine Ltd.
Ease Yourself In
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
Responsible for one of the most infectious songs of 2008 in ‘Sleepyhead’, this Boston band’s buzz has grown from a seed into a beanstalk with the release of their Chunk Of Change EP and appearances at US industry festivals like CMJ. Theirs is a sound of sweet melodious electropop with a smidgen of the eclecticism that made Avalanches so exciting, finished with a dollop of The Postal Service. Listen to the oscillating synth hook 80 seconds into ‘Sleepyhead’ and defy the goosebumps. Listen: ‘Sleepyhead’ Click: http://www.myspace.com/passionpit
100 ALBUMS TO AVOID BEFORE YOU DIE
MIRIAM MAKEBA It is a terrible irony that, at the end of a year that has seen African music continually referenced by the likes of Vampire Weekend, Damon Albarn and Franz Ferdinand, it should also lose one of its most inspirational figures. Born in South Africa in 1932, the woman known as Mama Africa found herself exiled in 1960, after her outspoken criticism of the apartheid regime. Subsequently granted honorary citizenship of no fewer than 10 countries, she went on to record with Harry Belafonte, husband Hugh Masekela and Paul Simon. She returned home in 1990 on the personal request of Nelson Mandela and continued performing right up until her death last month, fittingly after a concert organised to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Italian criminal organisation, the Camorra.
If any band demonstrated the fickle nature of music press patronage it was The Others, the gobby London indie outfit fronted by icon/idiot Dominic Masters. Mates with Pete Doherty, the NME unsurprisingly adored him and helped hype his band to a deal with Alan McGee’s Poptones label. When it arrived in early 2005, their debut album rapidly exposed the flaws in the plan. Hearing the Somerset born Masters bellow his way through
the likes ‘This Is For The Poor’ appalled everyone, apart from a small section of the London media, with the public at large so disinterested that the album failed to reach its contractual sales targets. Subsequently dropped, the band are still in existence, while Masters also presents a show on a local radio station in Essex. Don’t download: ‘Stan Bowles’ If you hate this don’t listen to: Babyshambles, The Horrors
PP BY ELIZABETH WEINBERG
No. 9 THE OTHERS: THE OTHERS
FUELLING THE STATE ENGINE FROM THE PRESENT…
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
THEIR HEARTS WERE FULL OF SPRING Cut Copy W : Hearts On Fire Relive the ’80s without the unemployment and depression… oh.
Kanye West: Amazing Hip-hop just got courageous again.
Still Flyin’: Good Thing It’s A Ghost Town Around Here Upbeat pop methadone for our Glasvegas addiction.
TV On The Radio: Golden Age It just keeps getting better. Those horns and violins are orgasmic.
Mr. Scruff: Kalimba Although it’s been dubbed “Nu Jazz”, don’t let pesky pigeonholing deter you from giving this a well deserved listen.
& FROM THE PAST… Steeleye Span: Lowlands Of Holland If you were wondering where Fleet Foxes got it from, this is a good place to start.
The wonderfully named Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring formed a couple of years ago, when Marcus, Matth, Vicky, Maeve, Emmet and Ian stumbled across each other in one of south east London’s more unsavoury drinking dens. Two of them (go on, guess) were born in Dublin, but geography doesn’t matter when you make glorious indie pop like ‘New Favourite Band’ or ‘A Question Of Trust’, their 2007 debut single,
which attracted the attention of a certain Steve Lamacq. Life-affirming and melancholy, often in the course of the same song, they’re equal parts The Smiths and The Magic Numbers. Their live show is described, albeit by themselves, as “a fancy dress food-fight at an afternoon funeral”. Listen: ‘A Question Of Trust’, ‘Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind’ Click: www.myspace.com/theirheartswerefullofspring
WULFFMORGENTHALER: by Wulff & Morgenthaler
Yello: Oh Yeah Best ’80s song ever. Fact.
Ryan Adams: When The Stars Go Blue Heartfelt and heartbreaking ballad from the alt. country king, before he became boring.
Justin Vernon: Hazelton Before the wood cabin made him Bon Iver, he was still fuckin’ great.
Bananarama: Robert De Niro’s Waiting The ultimate girlie pop for your instant nostalgia fix.
Incoming MY ROOTS ARE SHOWING: SIMON ROCHE
A JULIAN COPE /NICK CAVE C90 Arriving in college from a relatively quiet and distinctly un-edgy youth, my outward appearance pretty much gave the game away on what was in the tapes and CDs that I brought with me. My projected image was of Axl Rose, plaid shirt tied around the waist mostly, torn jeans and long (ish) hair. What others actually saw was Liam Ó Maonlaí as a lumberjack. Bar one alternative mix tape I had picked up in a post-leaving cert course, the music that fuelled my youth was always middling, chart bothering stuff like Steve Windwood, maybe the Pixies, but always the newest Hits album. Though I listened to Dave Fanning’s show, I never had the confidence to go out and seek out the stuff I liked, preferring to sit on the fence, listening to stuff that most people liked until home taping saved me. A girl I met in my class surprised the life out of me by actually wanting to ‘get involved’. From a midlands town, she had somehow tapped into a more interesting vein of music and talked of The Velvet Underground and names I’d never had the cojones to buy. She did what all young couples do for each other: she made me a mix tape. Well, not exactly a mix tape, but two albums on one C90 cassette. One side was her pick from Julian Cope’s opus to Mother-Earth-On-The-Edge, Peggy Suicide, and the other was Nick Cave & The Bad
Seeds’ The Good Son. It can’t be over-estimated how mind expanding this was. From listening to Marty Whelan’s 10pm Radio 2 show on my bedroom’s clock radio, to now letting Cope, the ‘Archdrude’ (pictured), take me through a trippy and haunting album of delights that I felt like an archaeologist just discovering Pompeii. ‘Double Vegetation’, ‘Las Vegas Basement’, the epic ‘Safesurfer’, all stunning and the sheer genius of the lyrics put most of the landfill I was listening to in the shade. Then there was Nick Cave. All black and angular, but thankfully post-Birthday Party, who I could never relate to. The album pours fire and
brimstone in parts (‘The Weeping Song’, ‘The Hammer Song’) but then you find ‘The Ship Song’ and ‘Lament’ tucked in there and it’s all so fucking miles apart but it all fits and it occurs to me that both these artists have had albums out before this and why was I only hearing this now? Looking back, I wasn’t so late, and there’s been plenty more in both artist’s careers that I have eagerly followed. In the 13 years since college ended, I have been lucky enough to meet both Cope and Cave but I never met her again. I still have the ticket stub from The Bad Seeds concert we went to in the SFX, November ’91, and somewhere in my old boxes, I still have that tape.
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
NOW WE KNOW THAT…
When our editors finally retire, we definitely won’t be giving Peaches Geldof the job. MTV seems to think that Europe is part of America. We also know that Jared Leto is not a great presenter. Neither is Katy Perry. Boyzone (WTF?) became the first boy band to have a gay band member kiss in a video. Twitter rocks! Follow us: twitter.com/statemagazine Scandanavians have mashed R&B instrumentals and minimal techno to create Synthetik Skandinavian Funk or ‘skweee’. The new Animal Collective album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, is going to blow you away in ’09.
Being hailed the future of your particular style of music at the age of 21 is daunting enough for anyone. For Jim Moray, it was compounded by the fact that the English folk world at large wasn’t particularly pleased that its future lay with a young man who was as happy using laptops and loops as he was fiddles and squeezeboxes.
Undaunted, he has continued to push forward to the point where he can release a record that can comfortably feature members of Art Brut and British-Ghanian rappers as it can some of folk’s brightest names on a cover of XTC. Listen: ‘All You Pretty Girls’, ‘Low Culture’ Click: www.jimmoray.co.uk
RTE’s 2XM is freakin’ awesome. Steven Spielberg and Will Smith are remaking the fucked-up Japanese film Old Boy? How exactly is Hollywood going to get around an incest scene? Lads?
ER LAN PAUALCOCHOLIC NON
Incoming MY FAVOURITE WORST NIGHTMARE: DAVID MCLAUGHLIN
JULIETTE LEWIS: NATURAL BORN DIVA Telephone interviews can be fraught with difficulty at the best of times, especially when you’re limited to an almighty 10 minutes while connected to a tour manager’s cell phone in a noisy backstage area during a bloody soundcheck across the Atlantic. Usually though, there’s an unspoken understanding between interviewer and interviewee in such circumstances, that whatever problems technology throws at you, both parties will try their utmost to make the best of the situation. I have done hundreds of phoners with bands and artists down the years and many have been conducted through gritted teeth thanks to a crackly line and intermittent reception problems, yet most of them have ultimately been a pleasure and worth the effort. Never, though, have I experienced one so cringeworthy as the phoner I had with Juliette Lewis in 2004 to promote her band The Licks’ debut Irish shows. Juliette was clearly having a bit of a diva moment and from the off, I sensed it wasn’t going to be easy. The first clue was the curt exchange between her and the TM just before we started. “Do I have to do another interview?” she snapped like a petulant kid. Some muffled words and a pregnant silence later and she picked up the phone and greeted me with a sigh and a laboured “Hi”. Keen to keep it professional and to soften her tangible edginess, I explained the nature of the interview and stressed how it wouldn’t be anything too taxing. Halfway through my first question, she interrupts me. “Gawd, do we really have to do this?” she whined. “Of course not, if now is inconvenient for you, we can reschedule?” I offered, despite having spent the guts of the previous two weeks securing this precious 10 minutes with her PR. Cue a long silence, followed by another sigh. “Let’s just get it over with quickly,” she replied. And so we did, with things continuing in much the same vein for the remainder of our time; my straightforward questions being met with agonisingly long pauses and one word, glorified grunts as responses. Oh and of course the connection decided to cut out every 30 seconds to make it that little bit more enjoyable for us both. Did I mention the Dictaphone I was using somehow managed not to pick up a single word of the conversation? That was a pleasant surprise when I sat down to transcribe it later that evening.
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
THE MAGIC WANDS All the way from an uncharted island called Fantasy and with a strong penchant for unicorns come Chris and Dexy, who played punk 2000 miles apart, unbeknownst to each other. Then the duo hooked up in Los Angeles, subsequently moving to Chris’ hometown of Nashville: now, they make lovely dreamy pop music together, like the sublimely slinky ‘Black Magic’, a simple psychedelic tune with an undeniable guitar hook and an MGMT-style falsetto. Right now they have two seven-inches to their name but February will bring a new EP and a new legion of fans to the already burgeoning Magic Wands army. Listen: ‘Black Magic’ Click: http://www.myspace.com/themagicwands
While I wasn’t exactly taken by Juliette’s band, I admired the balls it took for her to ditch the acting and try her hand at rock ’n’ roll. Something about it seemed genuine and less of a vanity project than previous slashys who dabbled in the music world (hello Keanu). Plus, she always seemed nothing less than interesting, from the unique movie roles she chose, that I really wanted her to succeed in music too. I could even forgive her membership in the Church of Scientology. She was still after all, the charismatic actress who played Mallory Knox in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers and the prodigious young talent the Academy saw fit to nominate for an Oscar for her turn in Scorcese’s Cape Fear remake. How disappointing then to discover that someone so obviously gifted and ostensibly cool could turn out to be so rude, cranky and ultimately a big fat let down.
IREL AND’S MUSIC PAY L O A D A L S O H A S A R AT H E R F E T C H I N G ONLINE SISTER. AND THE SWOT EVEN WO N A N AWA R D !
IRISH WEB AWA R D S B EST MUSIC SIT E OF 2008
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FROM OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: PAT O’MAHONY IN
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
THE BRIGHTON PORT AUTHORITY
Anyone familiar with London’s favourite weekly listings mag, Time Out, will know of the pages upon pages of live musical riches permanently on offer in this great metropolis. It’s not quite, of course, that all tastes are completely catered to each and every night, but if seeing a diverse range of acts in the flesh is your thing, then you’d need to be the fussiest of fusspots to not find four or five minimum from the hundreds of gigs each week of more than passing interest. So why then do I and most of my mates here not go to as many live performances as, deep down, we probably feel we should? I remember back in Dublin, I’d hit at least three a week – often many more – and look at the size of poor tiny little Dublin in comparison and its consequently substantially smaller gig rate. Is it that, over here, we’ve got complacent? Are we now spoiled rotten? Could it be we just can’t be arsed? Or are we just getting old? Well, while I’d certainly have to admit to aging apace, y’know, I’m not sure it’s that simple. OK, all those years ago I never paid in anywhere, so it was easy: working in RTE did have some benefits. But I guess I was doing more music-related jobs then, be it filling in for Fanning, reviewing albums or presenting and producing a long-forgotten radio series on the music biz, so going to see bands live was all part of the deal. Today, while I still work in the meeja, it’s generally in the more grown up world of television documentaries so my guest-list-friendly contacts are far thinner on the ground. Like everyone else, I now first weigh up the bill’s potential bang for my buck before parting with any hard-earned cash. But, apart from dosh, often the biggest factor in deciding whether you head out for the night is geography. If you don’t already know, London really is a sprawl. Because of the Underground, getting around is generally fairly easy, but jeez, it can take forever. And if the venue happens to be off the beaten track and reliant on buses to gather up its audience, then unless it’s local, forget about it. I saw the delightful Lambchop last week, for instance, but then the Union Chapel – a breathtaking beauty of a venue – is only 10 minutes away on the 393. Later this week, I’m off to The Black Keys in the Brixton Academy, way down the other end of the Victoria line in deepest darkest sauf Lahdan, a commitment that typically requires a certain degree of planning and organising. In this town, understandably, traipsing from one side to the other, except for a big major act, is usually a no-no. As for spur-ofthe-moment spontaneity, hah, don’t make me laugh. Having said all that, a mate’s just texted with a spare ticket for Goldfrapp in the Brixton Academy in a couple of hours and I’ve said yes. I know, how fucking crazy am I, huh?
What do Dizzee Rascal, Emmy The Great, Iggy Pop, David Byrne, Justin Roberston, Jamie T and Martha Wainwright have in common? They’re all wanted by the BPA. Who the hell are the BPA? Ask Norman Cook, the brains behind the whole thing. Sightings have been few so far, a Pop fronted track on the latest Heroes soundtrack and two singles but there’s much to suggest that Cook’s decision to leave his Fatboy alter ego behind may be a smart move. Listen: ‘Seattle’ Click: www.thebrightonportauthority.com
COME IN YOUR TIME’S UP
GREEN DAY A lot has happened in the four years since Green Day grew up in public with the all-conquering American Idiot album, not least the US regime change that they were so desperate for. The band too have kept themselves busy in various forms (Foxboro Hottubs, Pinhead Gunpowder, The Network, collaborating with U2) but a new Green Day record has risen and fallen on the horizon. Currently in the studio with Butch Vig, their website promises details of a world tour “soon”. How now is soon? We can only guess.
Incoming DAN HEGARTY
THE WAR OF THE ROSES
MY HEADPHONES WHAT REAL FOLK ARE LISTENING TO
LITHUANIAN, LIVING IN IRELAND FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS What kind of music do you listen to? Indie-rock like Kings of Leon and The Killers. All that kind of stuff. If aliens landed on earth and decided to analyse the history of rock music since its birth in the 1950s, there would be quite a few things that would baffle them. The first might be: how the hell did anyone ever think that Ocean Colour Scene and Whitesnake were any good? Coming in a close second would have to be, how did it take Axl Rose/Guns N Roses the best part of two decades to follow-up the Use Your Illusion albums? November 2008 was a momentous month for GNR fans because it finally saw the release of the long, long, long overdue ‘Chinese Democracy’ single and album of the same name. As I write this, I’ve heard the single (which isn’t bad) plenty of times, but am still awaiting the album. To say that there’s a great deal of expectation about Chinese Democracy is a huge understatement. Depending on how you view it, GNR are in a lose/lose or win/win situation. This album is going to have to solve world poverty (and the greenhouse effect) if it’s going be able to justify the extensive amount of time that it’s taken to complete. I’ve often referred to myself as having a rhythm deficiency when it comes to music: I sing out of key, and I’m a lousy dancer. But even I could have put together an album and released it in a shorter period than this. Admittedly, it would have been crap, but at least I would have had something to show for it! In 2008, Guns N Roses is Axl Rose minus Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum, and any of the other members that were in the band in
their late ’80s/early ’90s heyday. There have been rumours that the original line-up with the aforementioned McKagan and Slash (with Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler) are to reform, but this is unlikely. You can seen how these rumours start: Scott Weiland leaves Velvet Revolver, and somehow people think that Velvet Revolver’s former Roses are coming home. But why would Axl Rose and his current GNR cohorts release an album that none of his former bandmates had anything to do with if there was any chance of them regrouping? If that doesn’t quash that story, maybe this will. When I interviewed Slash a few years ago, and asked him whether a Guns N Roses reunion was out of the question, his reply was clear: “Oh yeah! You’ve got to understand, there’s a lot of resentment that built up between Izzy and Axl, myself and Axl, and Duff and Axl, so when we parted, I don’t think any of us had any intention of ever going back. I haven’t spoken to Axl in eight years, and I’m not looking forward to the day I have to, so the concept of having a reunion isn’t at the forefront of my mind!” Getting back to the facts, Guns N Roses, if only in name, are back, and I’m glad. Are they the centre of my musical universe like they were many years ago? Not even close! My main curiosity is wondering how many versions of the album were recorded before this definitive one was decided on?
What are you listening to right now? At the moment, it’s Keane’s new album. How is it? It’s very good. Have you been to any good gigs lately? I went to TV On The Radio in Tripod. It was really good. What are your favourite music websites? I usually check NME.com and bands on Myspace. Who are your favourite artists? I would say Kings of Leon and Bloc Party. What about Irish bands? The music is cool. It suits my taste at the moment. My favourite is Ham Sandwich. I don’t know that many apart from the few I’ve heard in Whelan’s. Anything you’d like to say to your fans? Keep listening?
Tune into Dan Hegarty’s Alternative To Sleep on RTE 2fm, weeknights from midnight to 2am.
Incoming AVERAGE WHITE BAND
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
ANNIE MAC’S CHART OF EXCITEMENT
Dublin born DJ Annie Mac, known for championing cutting edge music on her BBC Radio 1 show The Mash Up, begins her monthly column of lifeenhancing odds and ends which thankfully should point our humble lives in the right direction for a while. 10. Hot Ports Perfect for the onset of cold weather and a lovely way of spending an evening… 9. Liberty Dunks Liberty of London flowery prints on Nike Dunks. Heaven. http://url.ie/xnb 8. DJ Mehdi: ‘Pocket Piano (Joakim remix)’ The most gorgeous uplifting piece of house music in the world right now. 7. Oh My God It’s Techno Music! T-Shirts I’ve ordered two of these. www.myspace.com/omg_itm You can pin a lot of things on the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Funk metal. Baggy shorts. Limp Bizkit. Double albums. What you could never accuse them of is making music that is consistently imaginative, interesting or engaging. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are just there, like a reliable old sock hanging from your appendage. Their first three albums were, let’s be frank, useless: a jumbled up collection of funk riffs in search of a decent tune. Getting George Clinton, the king of such folly, to produce them was clue enough. Then the Chilis did what they’ve always done and flattered to deceive. Mother’s Milk wasn’t a bad record, had a couple of killer tunes in the form of ‘Knock Me Down’ and ‘Higher Ground’ and suggested that maybe there was more to this lot than cheap tricks and tattoos. It’s a pattern that has continued throughout their career. Take Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik. No please, take it. Sure, ‘Give It Away’ and ‘Under The Bridge’ are fine tracks but as a whole, double at that, album it’s pretty tiresome. Have ‘Suck My Kiss’, ‘Funky Monks’ and ‘Mellowship Slinky in B Major’ gone down in musical history or are they just more examples of the band’s self indulgent nonsense? I think we all know the answer. One Hot Minute was simply rubbish throughout and need not bother us again. And then, well then something weird happened. They remembered that they were men of a certain age (although to look at some of Anthony Kiedis’ wardrobe decisions, you wouldn’t know it) and decided to write songs to match. When they got it right, they were amazing: when they didn’t, they were just the Red Hot Chili Peppers. What is so frustrating is that they can get it right, often when John Frusciante is at the helm. The By The Way album was the closest they’ve come, dumping the funk and showing off for a record of proper songs. Hopes raised, they were promptly dashed by the sprawling folly that was Stadium Arcadium. Normal service having been resumed, the band have disappeared on an indefinite hiatus. We won’t be holding our breath.
6. A-Trak The man who introduced Kanye West to Daft Punk. Winner of DMC championships when he was 15: now, head honcho of Fools Gold and amazing producer in his own right. 5. The Tenori-On As played by Little Boots. http://url.ie/xnd 4. Toddla T 21-year-old skinny white bwoy from Sheffield who specialises in ragga, two step, electro jump-up sounds. 3. The Wire Completely addicted to the perpetually expanding layers of crime and corruption that Baltimore has to offer. Season 3 is ridiculously good. 2. Q-Tip The only man I would hang a picture of on my wall: well, along with Josh Homme and Simon from Biffy Clyro. It’s so nice to not be let down by a comeback album. The Renassance has a permanent place on my iPod. 1. The Hype Machine My favourite online music library. The door to the world of exciting music. www.hypem.com Annie Mac can be heard on BBC Radio 1 every Friday 9pm – 11pm or check out her weekly video podcast at http://tinyurl.ie/325. The ‘Annie Mac Presents...’ Tour comes to Dublin Andrew’s Lane Theatre on Saturday, December 20.
Incoming THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
Cathy Davey Venues nationwide – Dec 4-27 One last lap around the country for Ms. Davey and band, before it’s time to get back to recording a new album. Cathy will be celebrating a year in which she won a Meteor Award, was nominated for the Choice Music Prize and gained many a fan thanks to 2007’s Tales Of Silversleeve.
Other Voices St. James’ Church, Dingle - Dec 5-9 Filming for the seventh series of the series takes place with confirmed acts including: Emiliana Torrini & Duke Special (Dec 5), Billy Bragg, Liam Finn and Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Noah & The Whale (Dec 6), Elbow, Richard Hawley & James Morrison (Dec 7), Lisa Hannigan (pictured), Christy Moore with Declan Synnott, Steve Reynolds & Mick Flannery (Dec 8) and the final night with Kila, Imelda May, Eric Bibb & Jape (Dec 9). Buraka Som Sistema Twisted Pepper, Dublin - Dec 11 Purveyors of kuduro (basically filthy sounding global booty music), Portugal’s biggest band will be doing a special DJ and MC only set in Bodytonic’s new venue in Abbey Street.
They may be one of the many “one to watch” bands coming out of the US ahead of 2009 but, on the strength of their self-titled EP, they should be all over alternative stations and channels in the coming months. Their sound is brutally kaleidoscopic rock, think The Mars Volta meets Wolf Parade. Those with their curiosity tickled only have until February to wait. Listen: ‘Until The Sun Dies (Pt 2)’ Click: www.myspace.com/crystalantlers See: Pavilion, Belfast (Jan 31), Roisin Dubh, Galway (Feb 1), Upstairs in Whelan’s, Dublin (Feb 2) and The Whiskey, Cork (Feb 3).
Stereolab The Pavilion, Cork - Dec 12 / Tripod, Dublin Dec 13 / Black Box, Belfast - Dec 14 Having released another cracking album in August, we get three rare yet wonderful opportunities to hear Sadier, Gane and company play, thanks to Maximum Joy and friends. Modeselektor Live Twisted Pepper, Dublin – Dec 18 The bad boys of German techno return after their incendiary Electric Picnic set, which was a lot more minimal and progressive than their most recent and banging album Happy Birthday.
Music is my Radar
A L E X BA RC L AY Best-selling thriller writer Alex Barclay on her love of Nick Cave, her Death Cab For Cutie obsession and her singing debut. JOHN WALSHE BRENDAN DUFFY
As told to Photography by
“I like a real mix of stuff: Aerosmith, Maria Callas, Johnny Cash. I buy a lot of individual songs for my iPod. I’m almost entirely an iPod person now, unless I see an album that has really beautiful artwork. If I’m somewhere and I hear a song I really like, I’ll Google the lyrics and then buy the individual track. If there’s a beautiful melody and the lyrics are really bad (not weird, ‘cos I love weird lyrics but really crap), I just can’t listen to it. But if the lyrics are beautiful, I can forgive the melody being awful. Certain lyrics from songs really hit me. Death Cab For Cutie are my obsession at the moment. I missed going to see them play the other night and I’m very bitter about that. I think their lyrics are brilliant: I just got the new album, Narrow Stairs, and I can’t stop listening to it.
“I’m a huge Nick Cave fan. I always feel the most romantic songs are written by singers and bands who have more of a darker side. I think ‘Straight To You’, ‘Into My Arms’ and ‘The Ship Song’ are the most beautiful love songs ever written. And he’s so sexy. I saw him at Electric Picnic and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He’s amazing to watch: this tall, dark, brooding, energetic performer. There’s so much to be said for lyrics that do not go where you’re expecting them to go. For that to happen in a novel is amazing but for that to be pared down into a song, where, like poetry, your words have to be so well chosen, is incredible.
“The first music I can remember is the soundtrack to Grease. It was the first movie I went to, and there is a tape of me at home, singing ‘Summer Loving’, aged four. I also sang the school choir. I remember our Confirmation mass: myself and three others sang ‘On Eagle’s Wings’. We had a verse each. That doesn’t mean I’m any good, though. I sang ‘Black Is The Colour’ recently and I didn’t do a very good job: I claim to have had a sore throat.
“I was old coming to gigs, 17 or 18, and the first gig I went to was Lenny Kravitz and he was brilliant. But I think gigs can surprise you. I remember being at the MTV Europe Awards in Dublin and the best performance of the night was Britney Spears. If I stumble on gigs, then I will go but I’m trying to go to more. Last year,
I saw Aerosmith in Paris, which was absolutely brilliant, because of the music and because I fancy Steven Tyler. Two of my favourite gigs ever were Yann Tiersen and Philip Glass in Vicar Street, which happened around the same time. To experience somebody at the top of their game, creatively, is just amazing and once you’re sucked in like that, it blows your mind.
“I play a lot of the Inspector Morse soundtrack when I’m working: I couldn’t be without it. Adagio Mozart is another one that I could listen to forever, or Johnny Cash’s Wanted Man and Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits. If someone had come up to me when I was a teenager and said I’d be into country, I’d have said ‘Get a grip’, but now I look at my collection and there’s a lot of country there and I tend to have a lot of soundtracks. I like some of the new quirky female singers, the type that would show up on the Gray’s Anatomy soundtrack or on Zack Braff’s magical music selections – any time he does a movie, I’ll always like three or four of those songs. I’m also a huge Serge Gainsbourg fan: I think he’s a genius. I love John Prine and Dropkick Murphys, and both of them have given me permission to use lyrics from their songs in Blood Runs Cold, which is totally cool. My other desert island discs would be Nevermind by Nirvana and disc two of The Essential Simon & Garfunkel. And I love Goldfrapp: ‘Strict Machine’ has to be one of the best and baddest songs ever.” Alex Barclay’s third novel, Blood Runs Cold is out now through Harper Collins.
ONE ~ Words by
An electric fan,F attached E A R G A L W A R D to a thin wire cable, sweeps across the length of the second level atrium in New York’s Museum of Modern Art in lazy, everaltering arcs. The mesmerising and vaguely there’s something of santa’s grotto about this dressing room. the dublin weather outside is just frightful but inside, down a cold, meandering little next corridor, next Photography by
there’s a warm, welcoming glow from a fire. Beside it sits a jovial old man, stroking his
white beard; beside him, a table of goodies that some kind soul has left out for him. Slightly gingerly, he pours himself a tumbler of red wine and sits back in his chair. Of course, it’s not a roaring fire beside him, it’s three-bar plug-in affair, and the old man ain’t no Santa Claus: this is Seasick Steve, the former train-jumping hobo with the blues, the unlikeliest musical phenomenon of 2008. His third album, I Started Out With Nothin’ And I’ve Still Got Most Of It Left went Top Ten earlier this year, bringing this most unassuming of gents fame and fortune beyond his wildest imagination. Plucked from relative obscurity to appear on Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny in 2006, Seasick Steve has now become a cosily familiar figure on mainstream radio and TV. Still, in such an image-conscious era, it’s hard to believe this old guy, who, in his overalls and cap, looks a lot like Uncle Jesse from The Dukes Of Hazzard, is such big star. To say that life, if not his dress sense, has changed for Steve Wold in the past two years is to seriously understate the case. “They tell me I’m a rock star, but just the fact that I got a job is pretty novel,” he humbly notes, in his endearing, grumbling drawl. He takes another of his many sips of wine. “I just keep thinking I’m going to wake up under a bridge with a bottle, thinking, ‘Well, that was a funny dream I just had.’ Might as well just keep working until I wake up.” If Steve’s modesty belies a suggestion of quiet satisfaction about his lot in life, it’s partly because it’s taken him 50-60 years to become an overnight success. In fact, it’s a remarkable triumph over adversity that he’s even here. Four years ago, he suffered a heart attack from which he almost died. “I take medicine now: I try to take care of myself as much as I can,” he says, stuffing dried fruit and nuts through the hole in his beard. “But mainly I try to eat better. And I try to drink wine.” More so than whisky? He pauses to regard the bottle of JD on his table. “Yeah, more than whisky.” Steve doesn’t care to dwell on the story of his early childhood in California (he won’t even tell you when exactly that was), but it’s true that he left home at 14 to escape a violent relationship with his stepfather. The final straw came one day when he was thrown through a closed window. As he picked himself up amidst the shards of glass, Steve decided against revenge: instead, he packed his bags and fled. Even at that tender age, the young Steve saw this enforced change as an opportunity rather than a problem. “A lot of people had the same experience,” he shrugs. “The only difference between me and other kids who left home was that I was determined to do something. I wanted to work.” His journey took him across states on trains, doing as many odd jobs as he could find, mainly casual farm-hand work. “Living that life of train riding, it has its own world, you work in certain places. In America, no one gives a shit whether you ride a train or work on a farm, it’s like, so what?” Over here, the life of the American so-called hobo does get somewhat romanticised. “Ain’t nothing romantic about that,” he says firmly. “Everything is romantic once in a while, and we had some good times, but you just get stuck in a life, you know? I was busy trying to earn money and find places to live, I don’t remember thinking nothing romantic about it. Actually, it’s quite boring.”
The one constant that drove him on through the decades was music. He becomes far more animated and demonstrative (to the point of throwing his wine around) when he talks about his introduction to the art form, and genre, that would (eventually) make him famous. “My dad always played piano, boogie woogie piano,” he enthuses. “When I was a kid, I liked The Ink Spots and The Mills Brothers: in the ’50s, I liked Hank Williams. My dad had a lot of old boogie music: Pinetop Perkins, Jelly Roll, all the boogie piano stuff, but I didn’t really understand that it was blues. I mean, I liked the old black vocal groups, the doo-wop blues stuff. I also liked Elvis and Carl Perkins. But in the ’60s, I got to hear Son House and Mississippi Fred McDowell play: then I was lit up.” It was this process of lighting up that set him, literally, on the road to being a performer, although he quibbles over the terms of what he is. “I’m not much of a great musician, that’s for sure, so I must be something else. I feel like an entertainer. I played on the street a lot when I was a young soul. Everyone who plays on the street is an entertainer, and how well you do depends how much you get in the hat. So the fact that I’m doing really well now means I think I’m a pretty good entertainer.” Even so, he says he’s not worthy of his Delta blues idols. “I don’t think I really play the blues. Hell, I’m not sure I know what the blues is. I certainly know what it’s like to be blue.”
Steve started playing guitar as an eight-year-old, “but I never thought of being a musician making money back then.” Naturally, for someone without a home, the rite of passage that is buying and playing records was lost to him. “I did hear music all the time… in cars, or when I’d work in carnivals when I was a boy. I had opportunities, but not as much as people who went to school had. Sometimes I’d live in someone’s house who had a TV, so I was always running into something. I wasn’t ignorant of what was going on. I certainly knew Elvis was around. I mean, I couldn’t relate myself to that, but I could relate it to making money on the street. In a way, I was always a working musician.” The man we now know as ‘Seasick’ Steve (“not just seasick, but car sick, everything. Don’t bother me on no rockin’ chair, though”) is still plying his trade with a selection of very old guitars and homemade instruments, like his infamous onestringed ‘diddley bow’. Isn’t it time to invest some of his fortune in new instruments? “I don’t like guitar shops,” he grumbles. “I go once in a while, if I have to buy a slide, but I get confused because I don’t like guitars. I wish I did. I’ve had one for 45 years – it’s like a friend. If you get a new one, you have to get all used to it again… oh man, I’ll just keep these. I figure that my time in the limelight is probably limited anyway, so they’ll probably last me the duration.” It’s a remarkably savvy observation about fame’s fickleness. He learned something about it from spending much of the ’60s in the dead-centre of the San Francisco music scene, where, he says, he was able to “live like a bum in style. There was free everything, especially music. All the bands and artists lived within a couple of blocks of each other. You had Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin’s group, Jefferson Airplane, they all lived within walking distance. I didn’t know at the time how special
~ “I don’t got time to make records for other people, trying to guess what other people might like. Shit, I might be dead in a week or two, I got no time for that bullshit. They told me I had to have producers and all that shit, I told them to fuck off.” ~
that was, I found out later. I thought that stuff like that was going on all over the world.”
Despite his innate wanderlust, the less than weary traveller got married to Elizabeth in 1981. Yet, even with a comfortable new abode in Norfolk, England, he’s still unable to feel settled. “I can’t find that feeling of home,” he concedes. “But I’ve been married to this gal for a long time, I realise she is my home. Wherever she is, we’re good. Last year, I was gone 149 days on tour, and I was thinking, this music thing ain’t that fun. She was working at an old people’s home and I said to her, if you don’t come with me, I’m gonna quit because I don’t wanna be away from you. So she comes with me now.” Can we trust that she’s a fan of her husband’s music? “She’s a fan of me. I don’t know, she don’t come to the gigs hardly ever. She’s heard me sit and play the guitar like this for 27 years: the fact that other people all of a sudden like it is a little odd for her.” Steve brought several lifetimes’ experience to bear on his first two records, Cheap from 2004 and Dog House Music in 2006, both of which were recorded for next to nothing. Yet, despite a record deal with Warner Bros, he was determined that I Started Out With
Nothin’… wasn’t going to be a slave to money or technology. “This was my fancy record,” he jokes, “but it was still recorded on an old analogue machine. I read somewhere I’d got all these session musicians working on the record: there was no-one on there! On the Nick Cave song, Jim played drums, Warren played violin; and on another song, KT Tunstall come and played a little rhythm, just for fun. But every song has pretty much one guitar and that’s me. I made the last record in my kitchen. I might make the next one in my kitchen too but I wanted this one to be at least different.” It seems to have worked for him. If nothing else, he’s shown that, even in this hi-tech, multimedia age, one man and a threestring guitar can still, somehow, go mainstream. “Yeah, I’m real happy about that,” he says, before his tone changes to amused exasperation. “I don’t got time to make records for other people, trying to guess what other people might like. Shit, I might be dead in a week or two, I got no time for that bullshit. They told me I had to have producers and all that shit, I told them to fuck off. I told them, you go talk to your kids about that kind of stuff: I’m older than all of you put together. I’ll do exactly what I want. If you don’t like it, I’ll take my toys and go home. That record is exactly what I wanted to do. I’m really glad some people like it, God darn it.”
DRUM SOLO ~ Words by
fabrizio moretti is driving across pennsylvania. the strokes’ sticksmith has more on his mind than the road, however, as Fab has a new band to
tell State about, the rather wonderful Little Joy, whose roots stem from an encounter with Rodrigo Amarante from Brazilian band Los Hermanos some while back at a Portuguese festival. “My brother lives in Rio and sends me new music and Los Hermanos were one of those bands,” Fab explains. “We always talked about the idea of making music together. Back then, it was more of a joke, well not even a joke – more wishful thinking. Then he arrived in Los Angeles and we met up and made a record.” Is it different forming a band with someone you meet as a fellow musician, as opposed to a friend? “To be honest, we didn’t have a clear cut plan to make music,” he confesses. “We came together for the sake of friendship. When he came to Los Angeles to work on Devendra Banhart’s record, he called me up to have some time off from thinking about music and just to hang out with a fellow Brazilian. We started to get to know each other and it was probably inevitable that we would start working on music because we got along so well. It was further down the line that we decided to start playing though.” So what was Fab doing with his own downtime? “I was just living a quiet life and writing songs on the side,” he sighs. “Once Rodrigo and Bink came along I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to present these songs because they didn’t sound very Strokes-ish.” ‘Bink’ is LA musician Binki Shapiro, the third part of the Little Joy puzzle. It was Shapiro who has been credited with bringing the project into focus, although Fab isn’t so convinced: “Like Rodrigo, our friendship and professional relationship coincided, neither came first. We would hang out all the time, I’d wake up and call her, she’d come and pick me up in her Honda and we’d go and have breakfast somewhere, just chatting. I started to get more and more comfortable with her and more at ease at playing her my songs.” His Little Joy cohorts helped Moretti to feel more comfortable as a songwriter: “They both played an integral part in my confidence. I think that Julian [Casablancas, Strokes] is an amazing songwriter and maybe I was a little apprehensive to play him my songs. I figured my role was the drummer and I’m very proud of that role. I can’t wait to get back to it. Little Joy has helped me see that this is a different line and that life isn’t all about one thing. It’s about trials and accomplishments or failures.” Little Joy is anything but a failure. Despite Fab’s thoughts, it does have a strangely Strokes feel, albeit a quaint, homely one. It’s a great little record, probably by design. The final results certainly don’t sound that far removed from demo recordings. Fab agrees.
“One of the songs, ‘With Strangers’, which sounds like it was recorded on a bar piano with a bunch of drunk people in the background; that was recorded at home. We tried to re-record it but it didn’t have the same feel, so we kept that one. If that song doesn’t sound like a sore thumb on the record, which I don’t think it does, it means that we tried to keep the quality of the demos.” We’re not sure what a sore thumb actually sounds like, but we get his point. The album came out last month but you might have been hard pushed to notice as there seems to have been a conscious decision to avoid a big fanfare around its release. “Absolutely,” he avows. “There’s a real focus on starting over. I’m very proud and very thankful for The Strokes and I don’t think certain opportunities would be as readily available to us, but at the same time, I appreciate the chance to see this as a respectable band and not a side project. It’s inevitable that people will see it in that way but as long as people see that we’re honest and enjoying the opportunity, rather than selling myself between recording with The Strokes.”
The band have immediately set out on a fairly gruelling tour of the US. “It’s pretty crazy. We’re playing virtually every single night, which is something I haven’t done in a long, long time. We’re driving in a van that stinks of stale food and body odour. Our tour started in Minneapolis which was a 35-hour drive from Los Angeles. I have a terrible memory so reliving this stage is nice because it forces me to remember.” How does it compare to the early days of his other band? “It’s harder than I remember it, especially compared to the fact that The Strokes were able to go around and play to 500 people based on an EP of five songs,” he recalls. “That was a crazy buzz. With this band, some nights we’re playing to no more than 15 people.” That, we offer, must be pretty soul destroying? “It’s not at all. It’s actually really exciting,” he gushes. “Everyone feels uncomfortable when the place is empty: it’s not just the band but the people who came to see you. You wonder why you’re only one of 10 people who knew about this band. If we can woo a crowd that small, make them feel like it’s some cosy little secret, that’s great. You get them to approach closer and get a dialogue going with them, they become part of something. Rock ‘n’ roll music shouldn’t be a measure of success; it should be a measurement of joy.”
Circuit Breakers Words by
STRICTLY CO M E DA N C I N G Ireland’s most innovative club promoters, The Rock ‘N’ Roll Rescue Squad, on 14 years of Strictly Handbag, the changing face of clubbing in Ireland and why David Bowie and Bono are just like any other punter. were very much a reaction to all that.” With DJ Tonie Walsh appearing at the opening night in a wetsuit, Strictly Fish soon caught the Dublin imagination. Ironically, once its original venue, Power’s Hotel, was sold, the club found itself moving to the last place you might have imagined. “I was quite happy to go to the POD,” admits Martin. “It was a great space to make a mockery of. Every Friday, we’d dress the fuck out of it. The big screens had aquariums on them; we’d cover the Chocolate Bar with those horrible strings of disco lights and Gingham table cloths. John Reynolds would walk around, grimacing. We did that for about a year and brought in a crowd that wouldn’t go to POD and didn’t go back once we’d left.”
martin thomas and rory o’keeffe are looking remarkably fresh-faced when state meets them for lunch on a grey frustration at what was on offer. Tuesday afternoon. Last night may have been a Monday but, as has been the case for 14 years, that means a Strictly Handbag club night. Two things about last night were different though. One, it was the last ever Monday night for Handbag, and two, it just happened to be an after-show party for MGMT. With a guest list that included Dirty Pretty Things, The Kills and Har Mar Superstar, it was an unavoidably late night for The Rock ‘N’ Roll Rescue Squad. It’s the end of one era and the start of another for Dublin’s longest running club night. It all stemmed, says Thomas, from a
“In 1994, POD and The Kitchen had just opened and they meant nothing to me, so I went and started a club (Strictly Fish) that totally took the piss out of those places. That was the specific reason for doing it. It was a reaction to (a) being broke and (b) going ‘how can we do better than this shit?’ There was a bullshit door policy in these places and music nobody wanted to hear - POD had Jon Pleased Wimmin doing a residency, which was just bizarre. It was wanker music for men in spangly Dolce & Gabbana t-shirts who weren’t even gay and orange women. We
Once Strictly Fish became established, Thomas started looking around for a new venture. He soon found one. “At the time, Monday was my favourite night for going out and the only thing that was on at that time was the Ju Ju Club, which was an absolute pile of wank. We went after them primarily because I hated it so much and I always ended up there. We were playing new wave and ska and within a couple of months, that was rammed. Out of that came Strictly Handbag. People weren’t really sure what it meant. In the UK, it was house music but over here, it meant nothing. Within a month, there were 400 people there.” From there, the empire grew. New nights were launched, from Sassy Sue’s GoGo Inevitable to the rock ‘n’ roll karaoke of Songs Of Praise. Of course to some, Thomas and O’Keeffe are the enemy –
tempting people away from live gigs with the offer of something a lot less risky. So has the clubbing scene had a detrimental effect on live music? “I think it initially killed it,” agrees Martin, “but in the last few years, some of the bands who have come out of the city have re-invigorated the live scene. Also, I think people have become bored of clubs: they want to be entertained. That’s why Songs Of Praise works very well, it’s entertaining.” Rory is well placed to judge, having made his name as the singer with The Ultra Montanes. “There is no ‘clubbing’ and ‘live’ in different boxes, there’s just being entertained. Clubbing didn’t kill live music anywhere else. People who decided to replace bands with a DJ booth in the corner because it was cheaper, killed it. The future is in surprising people.” Even though Rory came to the Squad later on, their clubs were always on his radar, as he explains. “This city is very short of interesting people who are willing to put their heads above the parapet and be loud or extreme in any way. There are a lot of loud people but not many who are trying to define themselves outside of the very clearly defined strata of Irish society,” he opines. “Going to Martin’s clubs, I adored dancing to Dandelion’s Northern Soul even though I was a Dead Kennedys and Cure fan. The idea that there was an inclusive club with
no bullshit and no VIP area was great. That’s always been the ethos, that the entire club is the VIP area and that the most interesting person doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who rang ahead to tell us they were coming down. We run plenty big guest lists and we’re more than happy to encourage musicians to come along but once they’re in, that’s it. David Bowie was sat with Bono in Rí Rá, waving security away and shaking people’s hands. “As a punter going to these clubs,” he continues, “I never perceived them as ’80s clubs, never as a school disco night: all I saw was an absolute obsession with proper tunes. That was the most important thing about any Handbag event. It’s the kind of club where people come up to the DJ every third song to find out what it is.”
With success comes, shall we say, imitation, as Martin is fully aware. “I give people a chance: I phone them up first. When Strictly Fish was going and Strictly Handbag was the most popular club in the city, a lot of people started their own ‘Strictly’ nights. I own that name: any club called that in Ireland is mine. If they argued, then the lawyers got involved but mostly they backed off straight away. I scan the internet once a month, seeing who’s ripping off the name.” One thing that always caught the eye was how they presented themselves.
(Above) Martin Thomas, guest dj Kevin Rowland and Rory O’Keeffe; the GoGo Inevitable at full tilt; Songs Of Praise and somebody’s 15 minutes.
“We definitely raised the bar promotionwise for clubs,” reckons Martin. “Before I started, people thought a circular flyer was a big deal. You have to have a brand, whether you’re a band, DJ, venue or promoter. I always wanted a person to look at the thing and go ‘That looks like fun’. The fact that it was cool was irrelevant. It was cool because it was but that shouldn’t matter to a punter. People would get their Handbag flyer on a Monday night and make up their handbag. By the time you’d finished making it, you’d probably decided to go to the club.” Given that they started with the aim of making a difference to the Dublin club scene, how do the pair think they’ve fared? “Most clubs, when you’re 22 years old, you’re lucky to be in the door,” muses Rory. “You’re lucky not to be humiliated in front of your friends and you’re lucky to be dancing to any music at all. And that’s bullshit.” Martin agrees. “If I’ve done anything, it’s that the promoters who’ve come up behind us, and Bodytonic would be a very good example of this, have placed great value in the customer. They don’t take them for granted and they appreciate them. I don’t think that existed in general for a very long time.”
OF THE GODS ~ Words by
the last ten years of kamaal ‘q-tip’ fareed’s life didn’t quite go according to plan. not that he let it bother him too much. While the path to
the release of his new album The Renaissance is littered with record company knockbacks and creative control power plays, Q-Tip took it all in his stride. “A lot of stuff has gone down..,” he tells us but his patience is paying off with the release of his new album The Renaissance. Artists who have formed legacies as part of a seminal group always find it difficult to shake. And if the group is as important to a genre as A Tribe Called Quest is to hip-hop, then even moreso. Their first three albums might be between 15 and 18 years old but they still crackle with the possibility of positivity and pleasantry in a genre now much maligned for manufacturing carcinogenic cartoon caricatures. Just listen to the beautiful flow and ambiance of 1993’s Midnight Marauders LP, a perfect example of Tribe’s jazzinfused hip-hop and intelligent wordplay. When the following two albums’ degradation in quality and focus led to the group splitting in 1998, Q-Tip wasted no time in launching a solo career: the following year, he released the J Dilla produced Amplifed. Much to the surprise of Tribe fans, it marked a shift in sound to a more pop-orientated direction and is notable for its two infectious hit singles ‘Breathe And Stop’ and ‘Vivrant Thing’. The album was certified gold, selling over 500,000 copies in the process. With success under his belt, Q-Tip began to explore his musical boundaries, working with a live band on what was to
become his second solo album Kamaal The Abstract. The album sees Tip extend his ouevre by adding an admirable singing voice to his musical palette. It had an organic jazz-lounge, moonlitfunk vibe and he was joined on all of its 10 songs by a live band. It contained some wonderful evocative songs but Kamaal The Abstract is an album that’s closer to Norah Jones than Noreaga in terms of atmosphere, so Tip’s label Arista weren’t too happy with the outcome. It was shelved just before release in 2002, despite critical acclaim, on the grounds that the album was “uncommercial”. “Y’know, you take it with a grain of salt because you just do the music and you get frustrated and shit if it doesn’t happen for you when you want it to happen, but it teaches you humility and teaches you vigilance,” Tip tells State, down the phone from the quiet streets of New Jersey, where he currently resides. “I love what I do, I’m an artist. That’s my lifelong thing, that’s my destiny. I don’t waver from what I want to do, y’know? No matter what one other person may say.” Just two years later, Tip was again knocked back by his new label J Records when he submitted an album called Open in 2004 which, while not as unconventional as Kamaal The Abstract, certainly retained that album’s eclectic leanings, featuring guest appearances by Common, D’Angelo and another rap entertainer and innovator, Andre 3000, who in the previous year with Outkast had released the dizzying sex rap funk album The Love
~ “I’m just an everyman kind of a guy. I’m not like one of these rappers with a whole bunch of shades on and loads of money, saying ‘I’m the shit’. I’m more of a working class hero, like John Lennon would say.” ~
Below. Q-Tip didn’t let his focus slip, however, and he estimates he recorded over 500 songs in the last nine years, finding time to reunite with A Tribe Called Quest for some shows in 2006. “I’ve been working on music the whole time. I stay on it. I’m really sharp and I just keep going. I just don’t slow down,” he explains.
coming up which are good, whether that be Amanda Diva, Wale, or Pacific Division. Artists like these are like inspiration,” says Tip, thumping his chest. “Totally inspiring.” The Renaissance is not, however, a 180 degree turn from those shelved albums. While it does move away from the live band setup in favour of more MPC-assisted sampling, it retains the same effortless cool. It also shares three songs in common with the shelved Open and the last collaboration between Q-Tip and the State has clearly caught Q-Tip during a tired moment at the legendary and rightfully-lauded producer J Dilla, who died of an end of a tiring day. He pauses a few times throughout our short incurable disease in 2006. conversation to accept compliments from fans and a Jamaican “He is part of the fabric for me. It’s crazy,” Tip says mournfully. elder, with whom Tip briefly corresponds in Jamaican Patois. He is “I kinda brought him in the game. It makes me feel weird in a way gracious in taking compliments and it is obviously heartfelt. The that’s he’s not here.” PR lady who connected the call had mentioned that he was up late Q-Tip feels that lyrically the album is disparate with what last night, was very tired and had done a lot of interviews that day: came before. “I feel like it’s different because it’s of the times, it shows. He’s despondent throughout the interview and asks for where we’re at politically and socially, where were at with this questions to be repeated occasionally but when he talks, like when administration, the things I’m saying. I’ve got rhymes on there he raps, you take notice. Talk turns to how his life has been in the that are saying stuff about…” he pauses for a second and begins to last five years. recite a rhyme from the opening track ‘Johnny Is Dead’: “My life has changed,” he admits. “I’ve been deepened by “Magazine debris or shit you have to see / I’m no different from you music. I play a little piano. I have some music theory, so my / I goes through it too / Through the page / I don’t come of age / I’ve not a understanding of what’s happening in a musical scope has deity / I’m far from perfect, see.” increased. I’m still on a search for a loving partner in my life. So Tip is insistent on explaining his mindset before his tired self y’know, I’m just an everyman kind of a guy. I’m not like one of leaves for home. these rappers with a whole bunch of shades on and loads of money, “When I was making the Tribe albums and I did the first one, it saying ‘I’m the shit’. I’m more of a working class hero, like John was like a canvas. I took colours and just threw them on the fuckin’ Lennon would say.” canvas, right? Without any regard of anything. I just wanted to It shows. The Renaissance is about as far as you could get from put some colours on the canvas. That was the first album. Now the Lil Wayne in hip-hop terms in 2008. It took him eight months second album, I’m looking at it and starting to put a line and shape to make and was released on Universal/Motown on November 4. to those colours: bleed the colours so it makes more of a formation. State points out it ties in with another rebirth that took place on On the third album, I put another colour on there and I finished the same day this year, involving one Barack Obama. the painting. So it’s a three album process for a certain kind of “Yeah, it does actually,” he laughs. “I named the album because sensibility , a certain sound. I feel like this album, The Renaissance I felt that hip-hop music is in a renaissance. There’s been a lot of is the beginning of a new painting for me. I feel like this painting stuff about misogyny and bling but there are some groups that are is the going to be a very nice thing when I get done with it.”
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