The Stool Pigeon March 2011â€™s issue of the free music newspaper
------ Forwarded Message From: Commander-in-chief <firstname.lastname@example.org> Reply-To: <email@example.com> Date: Monday, 7 Feb 2011 04:29:33 To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: 88 pages, including: Delivery provided by various couriers <http://www.barnesvanhire.co.uk/index.htm> <http://www.specialistmags.co.uk/> thestoolpigeon has sent you a file Subject: 88 pages, including: P Diddy Lykke Li Marianne Faithfull British Sea Power <http://www.britishseapower.co.uk/> Esben And The Witch <http://www.esbenandthewitch.co.uk/av/> Wanda Jackson Katy B A Stool Pigeon interview with Memphis rap pioneer DJ Spanish Fly <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R90KF2M-p5Y> And not forgetting the now-famous 8 pages of comics.zip <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5l3j0lMpLU> Size: 11.04MB
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The Stool Pigeon number thirty
“You might have the milk but there’s a long way to go to get to the cheese.” Lykke Li
Contents 06 07 09 11 26 27 28
leaders pigeon post miss prudence trog news business news court circular certificates
31 32 34 36 37 38 41
british sea power lykke li marianne faithfull esben and the witch katy b p diddy comics
50 52 56 60 61 62 64
wanda jackson dj spanish fly travel horrorscopes tea break arts print
67 68 72 74 76 84
moving images albums demos classifieds subscriptions sports
Subscribe: A paltry £15 for one year (six issues). Please see thestoolpigeon.co.uk Stock: Become a stockist. Please email email@example.com for more info
Small Print Editor: Phil Hebblethwaite firstname.lastname@example.org Creative Director: Mickey Gibbons email@example.com Contributing Editors: Alex Denney Intern: Jordan Bassett, Emma Powell Published by: Junko Partners Publishing
Address: The Stool Pigeon 21a Maury Road London N16 7BP UK Online: thestoolpigeon.co.uk twitter.com/pigeontweets facebook.com/pages (search Stool Pigeon) myspace.com/thestoolpigeon General enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0)208 806 0023
Words: Jeremy Allen, Jordan Bassett, Angus Batey, Simon Butcher, Daddy Bones, Ben Cardew, Billy Childish, Alex Denney, John Doran, Ash Dosanjh, Tom George, Rory Gibb, Ben Graham, Phil Hebblethwaite, Ben Hewitt, Kev Kharas, Alex Marshall, Mental Marvin, Garry Mulholland, Niall O’Keeffe, Ross Pounds, John Robb, Hazel Sheffield, Son of Dave, Miss Prudence Trog, Cian Traynor, Luke Turner, Thomas A. Ward. Photographs: Magnus Blikeng, Macomber Bombey, Sam Christmas, Sam Collins, De Koon, Autumn De Wilde, Dave Ma, Richard Johnson, Jasper Peebles, Owen Richards, Sakura,
Erika Wall, Thomas A. Ward, Norman Wong, Jonny Wright. Comics, cartoons and illustrations: Krent Able, Richard Cowdry, Mickey Gibbons, David Ziggy Greene, Lewis Heriz, Martin Kellerman, Daniel Locke, Paul O’Connell, Katie Shields, Steve Tillotson. Advertise: Contact Phil on email@example.com or +44 (0)208 806 0023 Printed at: The Guardian Print Centre, Rock Roberts Way, London, E15 2GN
Fired Up At least there’s one band that shines light like a luminaire
The Stool Pigeon
What’s Lord Sugar got to do with music? Nothing, thankfully. But I was contemplating his evil business model in relation to Arcade Fire and London venue The Luminaire, which, aside from a few forthcoming farewell shows, has closed its doors. The two gentlemen who run/ran The Luminaire, Andy Inglis and John Donnelly, are pals of The Stool Pigeon and among our most staunch supporters. The ink was barely dry on issue 1 when Andy got in touch to say he’d take as many papers as he could handle (20 bundles of 50 copies), making The Luminaire easily our biggest stockists. Both Andy and John worked to a philosophy of treating punters and bands with respect. Consequently, musicians loved playing The Luminaire and music fans loved going there. But the venue failed, and that’s depressing. Wankers get to the top, it seems, and those that fight your cause don’t stand a fucking chance. About the same time The Luminaire announced its closure, Arcade Fire played two sold-out shows at the O2 in London. I attended one as a half-fan, but now count myself among their most potty worshippers. Musically, they were astonishing, but there was greater voodoo at play that might explain why their audience comes across as being so… cultish. As far as I know, the band have never colluded with big business — sold a song to advertising, or whatever — and that’s commendable. The point is that you can stay pure and be successful, even if that then means the only venues capable of accommodating your tribe are sponsored by frigging telecommunications companies. Doesn’t matter: Arcade Fire, your messages are being gladly received.
Sugar & Spite
At the end of the day, it don’t matter about customers, really.
Send me another letter and I will blow up your house.
Remember when kids used to idolise David Bowie? Me neither, but I’m pretty sure if I was a nipper today I wouldn’t have Alan Sugar posters on my wall. A recent poll placed him fourth in a list of people boys aged 8-14 look up to, a fact made immeasurably more hideous by bell-end of the millennium Jeremy Clarkson coming second. Youngsters, don’t worship Alan Sugar. He’s a prick who espouses such lovely business ideals as ‘always piss in the face of your customers’. “At the end of the day, it don’t matter how good the tour is, really — the task is about selling a lot of tickets,” he proclaimed during the last Apprentice. “The business model is ‘go out and sell tickets, get the cash in pocket, people on the bus… and that’s it.’” Winner Stella later went on 5 Live to announce she was looking forward to making a “healthy profit” selling IT solutions to the education sector for her bastard new boss. Charming! Respected former Tottenham striker Jurgen Klinsmann — a “Carlos Kickaballs”, as Sugar liked to name foreign players — got it right when he called him “a man without honour” and said: “He only ever talks about money.” Sugar was the only representative of the five big clubs in 1992 who wanted Sky (not ITV) to have television footy rights. And guess who was developing satellite dishes for the broadcaster at the time. Amstrad. Thanks, dickhead! Before Christmas, a man was caught jerking off into Sugar’s autobiography in Crawley Library, West Sussex. The papers made him out to be a freak, but that dude’s not a perve — he’s the number 1 person this paper looks up to!
Back to the dark side now and a story that has everything — a Bond-style villain, porn, cyber terrorism and mass civil disobedience. I’m referring to the ACS:Law ‘speculative invoicing’ saga that ended recently with the boss of bent solicitors firm ACS:Law, Andrew Crossley, dropping all cases and fearing for his life. In a nutshell, Crossley worked out that he could turn a juicy profit — perfectly legally — by demanding a settlement from people who had illegally downloaded copyrighted material. Their other option? Court. Sensible businesses, like most record labels, gave up this method of achieving compensation for file-sharing ages ago — it doesn’t solve the grander issue of piracy, of course, and it’s terrible PR. So Crossley was mostly left with pornographers as clients, which turned out to be pretty good for business. A lot of people (about one in five, as it happens) will quickly write a cheque for £400 — whether they’re guilty of the claim or not — if it means they’ll never be sent another letter concerning Freddie’s British Granny Fuck (actual title!). Many, however, won’t — including one man who emailed Crossley the following: “If you send me another fucking letter, I will rape your mum against the wall, and I will blow up your house and kill you all in a terrorist attack.” And how do we know that message was sent? Because the pro-file-sharing Anonymous/4Chan ‘hacktivist’ dudes smashed ACS:Law’s website to pieces — twice — then put a whole load of very private information online. In doing so, they created the greatest data protection leak in British internet history. A story of our times, people! Read more on page 27!
The new BRIT award.
Leaders & Letters 6
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
Pigeon Post Sir, Lemmy? Yeah, okay, but an arse-breath. Angus, Via email Sir, got some nifty writers there, have you? I can appreciate how hard it must be to earn a living from recycling press releases so I’ve got an opportunity that some of your scribes may be interested in. I’m putting together a book for which I need a certain amount of facts regarding the End of the world (notice the capital ‘E’ on End). If any of your writers (or readers) believe that now is the End of the world and you have solid facts to back it up, I will buy that info, paying separately for each fact. I need a total of 200 solid, believable facts which, I don’t need to tell you, could add up to a pretty tidy sum if you know your Armageddon from your Apocalypse. I should make clear that I am not looking for prescriptions for humanity. Please do not email me facts until we have come to an agreement. Yours, Jon Derbyshire, Fife Sir, ‘When Cheryl Cole Cries’… by Lorna Irvine 1... A hundred animated bluebirds sing. 2... It’s no surprise. 3... I want to kick my telly. 4... A new ballad comes out, purportedly NOT about Ashley. 5... Ashley curses the advent of the mobile phone. 6... The chattering classes drown her out. 7... A kitten dies. 8... L’Oreal question if that’s their mascara running. 9... Grown men masturbate. 10... The tabloids fete her “bravery”. 11... Piers Morgan gets a “special feeling”. 12... Hollywood considers a Geordie remake of Stepford Wives. 13... Nadine yells “pull yourself together! I was talent!” 14... Simon Cowell smiles, wryly. 15... Alice Cooper praises her look. 16... The words ‘nation’s sweetheart’ are bandied around. Again. 17... An angel gets its wings. 18... She never looks particularly convincing. 19... Fashion experts hail ‘victim chic’. 20... Kleenex looks on, rubbing their hands. 21... A million other people change their channel. Sir, I was wondering if you could help clear up a healthy academic debate surrounding your ‘art director’. While your (presumably ghost-written) leaders have hinted at various aspects of his character over the years — a toothless madman with a fondness for fried egg sandwiches and prison dramas — we really haven’t had much to go on. As
such, those of us in the art world have been uncertain of the true intent behind his work — its sheer randomness undermines any pretence of a definitive vision. There has been talk that Stool Pigeon 28, colloquially known as ‘The Salem issue’, was his last known recorded work; that he has been replaced by an imitator; that the recent design change marked his final gesture of guidance for mankind on the eve of a potentially permanent descent into madness — brought about, no doubt, by a quest to unearth the most obsolete font in the history of printing. However, I see from a recent post on your Twitter account that he is still very much kicking about and functioning lucidly, allowing us readers to eagerly await your next issue, which will we squint through with caution. Kelvin, London, EC1 Sir, picked up your Dec issue and noticed the ‘Ye History of Rock’ column. Now while someone needs to give mindless nostalgics a kick up the arse (specifically those who go to see nothing else but cover bands and pay silly prices for bootlegs of the same songs they already owned 30 years ago), John Robb has clearly missed the point here, for his criticism of the original punk explosion seems to boil down to mere chart success (or lack of it). Yes, David Soul may have outsold major punk bands, but did he have to contend with an army of hostile DJs blacklisting his music? The music press too (apart from Sounds) treated punk like a contagious disease. So it really was some achievement that punk bands got near the Top 40 at all. The reason punk was successful is not because of sales; it is the impact it has left decades on. It taught the listener to think for him/herself. If I’d never discovered punk, who knows? I could easily have been a Sun-reading sheep who believes that asylum seekers get given people carriers and flatscreen tellies, the disabled are all football referees, and that everyone on strike is a greedy, idle motherfucker who should be brought down to my level of minimum wage misery. But I’m not, because punk taught me THE ESTABLISHMENT WILL LIE TO YOU. Don’t go equating success with money and fame. Think of it as John Lydon being stabbed for insulting the Queen, Crass appearing on MI5 files and the millions of ordinary people it left with a whole new outlook on life. There will never be another movement like it, and in case you’re wondering, I say all this as someone who is forever looking for good new bands — none of which I have found in the NME or HMV. Trev Hagl, Negative Reaction fanzine, Co. Durham Sir, I see that you are now putting new issues online. This is a good thing as I do not always manage to get hold of a paper copy. However, please do not stop printing hard copies of the paper... ever! Too many of my favourite fanzines are just webzines now, and it’s very difficult to read those while queuing at the doctors. Paper is still my medium of choice. Keep up the good work. Ed Menzies-Kitchin, Ipswich
Letters The Stool Pigeon March 2011
Razorlight have gone beyond the thunderdome! November 16 Oh my Christ, I can’t believe it! Prince William has finally gone and done the decent thing and promised to make an honest woman of Kate Middleton. Can you imagine all those years they’ve been together and they’ve still not done the wild thing? Of course they’ve done it, silly, I’m just kidding with you. He takes after his mother in every way and she was never short of a pearl necklace, if you hear what I’m saying. One minute she’s rolling her eyes at Martin Bashir and complaining there’s three in her marriage, the next she’s being fisted by an orderly queue of rugby boys while she makes menacing phone calls to any aristocrat who can prove he’s got a private wealth management account and a yacht in fucking Cannes. It makes you sick. Candle in the Wind? Barnfucking-door in a gale more like. November 23 So the royal wedding is going to be on April 29. I don’t care when it is as long as I get a day off. I’ve got so much work at Negative Press at the moment that I’m probably not going to be finished until then anyway. Bang goes Christmas, Easter, the rest of my life. I’m going to end up like Mrs Havisham at this rate and I’ll never meet my prince. He doesn’t have to be actual royalty, though I wouldn’t say no to a bit of Prince Harry on me while I slap his naughty crimson lugholes, the wiry little bastard. I guess I’ve slept with all kinds from all different backgrounds if I’m
honest, but I’ve never had a royal. I’ve had a corgi lick my foo foo clean but that’s a story for another time. December 16 Julian Assange is a sexy, wee bastard and no mistake! He’s a young silver fox and I wouldn’t half mind a ride on his foxy front tail. I imagine having sex with him is the complete opposite of watching snooker. Snooker is the most boring game on earth and you get to hear David Icke wittering on without seeing the weirdo, whereas seeing Julian Assange sweating on top of you going up and down would be thrilling as long as he shut his paranoid fucking cakehole. December 28 What a happy Christmas it must be for Elton and David now they’ve a child of their own. Awww. It’s a surrogate baby but they’re keeping mum about who’s the daddy. Must be David, because if he can get it up for Elton he can get it up for anyone. January 22 I’m not really entirely sure what a ‘bunga bunga’ party is but I’m dying to have one! When I first heard Silvio Berlusconi was attending these events, I thought he’d been going to ‘cowabunga’ parties. What’s wrong with hanging out with a few amphibians in superhero costumes? At least with him, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello and the other one in the room they’re not going to fuck up ordering the pizza. But then Silvio
would start getting anxious because he’s not got his dick wet for 15 minutes. ‘Ou est la senoritas?’ he’d snap. ‘Arrivederci!’ He’d be about to storm out in a big show of posturing, but then knowing Silvio he’d mull it over for a minute and then think to himself, ‘Why not change fucking species for the night?’ The dirty bastard. Berlusconi would even fuck Splinter once there were enough tadpoles back in his sack. January 23 Oh Jesus, have you seen that new press picture of Razorlight? I’ve not laughed so much since my best pal Demelza said her favourite actor was Danny Dyer. I guess they must have got a new stylist in, who apparently hasn’t been up to much since working on Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. I’ve not been out much, but I had no idea Paul Hogan chic was doing the rounds down in Dalston. They look like fucking IT professionals who started dressing like they were in The Matrix during the dot-com boom, even though they all lived at home with their mums because they couldn’t put their own fucking trousers on the right way round. I can’t stomach Razorlight — every song sounds like it was written to be in an advert. Ever since I saw that frigging photo I’ve been walking around singing that bloody tune: “In the morning, you know you won’t remember a thing...” They could market Rohypnol with that one.
January 25 They’ve sacked Andy Gray and quite right, too. He’s a sexist loudmouth — no better than Jim Davidson and actually he looks a bit like Jim Davidson. In fact, if you scalped Jim Davidson and then pulled the skin from his rancid face over a giant fucking Weeble he’d look exactly like Andy Gray. Red card, you chauvinist cunt! January 26 Get in! Richard Keys has gone as well. I’d roll my sleeve up and smash it given half the chance. See the little hairy turd with his feet up making smutty comments to the other fit boys in the studio? Oh my Christ, what if Keys and Gray spit-roasted prostitutes while holidaying together in the Algarve? Or impressionable young girls who only wanted to be on the telly? These sick fucks should be executed, now! How these vile men got into such positions of power I’ll never know. It makes me and everybody else shudder, but it’s endemic in the game and I’m hoping this will finally be the catalyst football needs to rid itself of the prejudiced, mindless oafs once and for all. January 31 Maybe things are moving quicker in football than I thought! What a momentous day. I saw on the news earlier that Liverpool FC have signed Carroll for £35m. It’s been a long time coming but I wholeheartedly wish her all the best. She’s gonna need it!
Miss Prudence Trog The Stool Pigeon March 2011
Song birds FIRE Alarm STOKE NEWINGTON, London. No harm in asking, you’d think, but it was alarming when a crazed-looking man turned up at Stool Pigeon HQ in December asking our landlords/building-mates, indie label Fire, for a record deal. Said loon had no demo and was hoping to sign on the very dubious strength of being the man responsible for punching pop strumpet Leona Lewis in the face during a book launch in October 2009. He was turned away, doors double-bolted.
ip hop-loving ex-Gowns singer EMA only able to keep brave front up overnight Words Alex Marshall
Erika M. Anderson, EMA, is the sort of person you expect to give a serious interview. Her debut single is called ‘The Grey Ship’ and it’s a seven-minute track about Viking funeral boats coming to take someone to the next life. It starts off as a conventional rock tune, until you get halfway through and a massive bass drop marks the point the ship arrives. The press release talks a lot about “sonic signifiers”. The B-side is an even-better 17minute cover of the blues song ‘Kind Hearted Woman’. And there’s also the fact she used to be in Gowns — one of the most haunting bands of recent years, whose songs were full of disaster, drugs and little else. Web Images Groups News more >> But when she picks up the phone, there’s little seriousness in sight. She johnny cash rushes through a couple of sentences about those “sonic signifiers”, a couple more about “palettes of sound”, but mainly hides any comment behind a string of punch lines. “I guess with Gowns, I thought we made pop records,” she says at one point. “Maybe it was because we were hanging out with people who only did harsh noise. So that’s kind of how I felt about this one, too. This time I really made a pop record. Oh wait, the track’s 17 minutes long. Maybe keep trying.” She carries on like that for half an hour, telling anecdotes about her childhood in South Dakota and her desire to move back. Then she gets onto hip hop. She’s obsessed with it, loving producers like Kanye and the
fact they chuck out new ideas every week. She wants to be one, so much so she’s even started dressing like a rapper at photo shoots. I try to get her to talk a bit more about the record — what’s changed in her life that means her music’s no longer so fragile — but every time we get going, she switches back to rap. I put it down to the fact she’d just had a lot of coffee to wake herself up from a two-day hangover. But the next day I get this email: “You’re right about the fragility... you’re right about [me having more] bravery. Don’t know why I couldn’t talk about those things. “After the last Gowns record, I had to read reviews about me whispering, wheezing, shivering, haunted, possessed, on the edge of tears, on the edge of a breakdown and being so fucked up on drugs people wondered how I left the house. And all of this without the benefit of an interview. “The new songs may sound less noisy, but the darkness is still there. ‘Grey Ship’ is a death fantasy. Making ‘Kind Hearted…’ was so traumatic I basically quit music. But these things can be hard to talk about. “I kinda wanna try out a new narrative, ya know? Maybe that explains my current obsession with rappers. I like how they front.”
KILBURN, London. We were gutted when prized venue and our biggest stockist, The Luminaire, announced it was shutting. Plenty of things about the place were remarkable and, in death, they remained laudable. Pigeon writer Alex Marshall called in December about tickets. Their answerphone message? “If you want to hire the place; too late we’re closing down. If you want to book a gig; too late we’re closing down.” As Alex noted: “You’ve got to admire their gallows’ humour.”
BLUNT Comments WILTSHIRE, probably. Did you know James Blunt’s real surname is Blount? Neither did we until his mother embarrassingly posted on the BBC website, defending her son’s right to be a posh musician. The Guardian picked up the story, leading to some choice comments. “I don’t hate his music because he’s middle class, I hate his music because it’s shit,” wrote ‘mehheh’. More creatively, ‘alfirin’ managed: “Your son is a prat. His music is like chewing on a cactus while being stabbed in the ears with faecescovered knitting needles.”
PINK Power WEST END, London. The release of idiotically titled Show Us Your Hits by Bloodhound Gang (complete with impeccably shit cover art of a woman half-revealing her breasts) reminds us of when the band tried to take on nightclub G.A.Y. at the now-deceased Astoria. Annoyed that they were given a 10.30pm curfew to allow clubbers to use the venue afterwards, the band persuaded their fans to chant “G! A! Y!” Promoters responded by hitting the ‘end of the night’ button hours early and releasing thousands of pink balloons on the surprised crowd.
News The Stool Pigeon March 2011
JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD AIMING FOR MORE THAN RELATIVE SUCCESS Words Jordan Bassett Photograph
Jeff The Nashville’s Brotherhood — brothers Jamin and Jake Orrall — are huddled together in a leaking, shitty backstage shed at Brixton venue The Windmill. This might seem like a pretty unglamorous start to their first European tour, but it’s really not so bad: sure, it’s freezing cold, but the beer is mercifully warm. There’s no room for negativity, however (or room for anything — it’s tiny in here). Heavy Days — a blistering mix of grunge, slacker punk and kraut rock — has just been released in the UK and it’s their sixth album. Jamin
and Jake are 22 and 24 respectively. “It depends what you call an ‘album’,” says Jamin. “We’ve been making ‘albums’ since we were really young, but we were just making them for, you know, whatever.” Indeed, they were 11 and 13 when they put out their full-length debut, I Like You. “We released it ourselves,” continues Jamin. “And that was when we started our record label.” That label’s called Infinity Cat and the brothers co-own it with their dad, veteran producer Robert Ellis Orrall (he wrote a bunch of songs for Taylor Swift). Quickly dismissing accusations of nepotism, Jake says of the band’s bid for stardom: “We realised we had to be financially independent from our parents, so put everything
into touring to make money out of being in a band. In March 2008 we quit our jobs and moved out of our houses. We pretty much lived out of the van from then on.” After an adolescence spent loudly recording and quietly releasing a string of albums, playing local shows and doing stints in other bands (each was an early member of Nashville punk outfit Be Your Own Pet), Jeff The Brotherhood got serious. They recorded Heavy Days and headed up to the Big Apple with a clear game plan. “We were like, ‘Let’s go to New York and back twice a month until we can get a booking agent,’” explains Jamin. “We’d go to New York and do five shows,” adds Jake. “Basically the
whole idea was to make the entire city aware of us, so it’s like, ‘I keep hearing about this band Jeff The Brotherhood — they’re playing every single fucking venue.’” The hard work paid off. Jamin and Jake secured a booking agent, as well as the attention of respected UK indie Stolen Recordings — home to Pete And The Pirates, Bo Ningen, and Let’s Wrestle, among others. With a seventh album already in the can, Jeff The Brotherhood are staying prolific. But Jamin says the workload is too much fun to become tiresome. “There’s no way you could play the amount of shows we play without having a good time. We’re not the kind of people who would do a job we don’t like.” You probably don’t have to do any job if your dad’s bezzies with Taylor Swift. Still, during the show later on, Jake mounts a table and starts cock-rocking his guitar at some poor girl, and it’s hard to deny that Jeff The Brotherhood might just be the real thing.
Found Sounds “After all, what were all those tricksy, arrhythmic beats, found sounds, and samples of wheezing Balkan brass bands about in recent techno history if not an attempt to put man at the heart of this superhuman music?” Tony Naylor, The Guardian. “I was interested in recording found sounds that could function in a rhythmic way, so on the record there are insect sounds, footsteps, windshield wipers, rain.” Julia Kent, The Village Voice. “Javelin is George Langford and Tom van Buskirk, highly gifted artists that organically mesh together found sounds to produce the most memorable collection of songs.” Navi Lamba, The Varsity.
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
Son of Dave Never think of the future — it comes soon enough, and is probably here already.
Damned solar panel isn’t working again. House in darkness. I can hear the yahoos in their speed boats getting too close to my island. Another blast of buckshot through the trees and into the water should keep them away. When I found this house on the lakes near Musyoka, 30 years ago, there were no other people for 10 miles. Now it’s pink with assholes. In 2010, I had driven for hours to find the gig in the Southern Ontario lake district — just past where the urban sprawl ended and the great wilderness began. The normies were advancing by 1000km/squared every decade. The population density then was third behind California and New York — similar to southeast England. You had to drive far to find good freaks like Peter who built a venue in his garage, and Andrew Currie’s Curiosity And Musical Store, where I found a stack of great singles. On a hungover afternoon after the show, I boarded an 1887 steamship and putted out past electric autumn colours and huge old wooden homes only accessible by boat. I wiped the mould off the records and played them on my portable. ‘The Mouse’ by Señor Soul, ‘Memphis Soul Stew’ by King Kurtis, ‘Bring It To Jerome’, Bo Diddley. The moment was made surreal and will stick with me forever because of the Chinese businessman whistling along. Everything he whistled sounded like he was playing the erhu. He whistled a Cantonese ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and surveyed the luxury homes and my records. He didn’t smile. He wanted to own everything. In fact, the other 30 passengers on board were all Chinese. What the hell? Dr. Henry Norman Bethune was born in Muskoka in 1892. After serving as a doctor in World War I, the Spanish conflict, and basically inventing mobile blood units and the notion of free health care for the poor, he went to China to help them on the front lines against the Japanese. Mao Zedong honoured him personally with poetry and statues. He died of a toxic cut from a scalpel in that war. Over three million Chinese were killed. He was recognized as a hero in China, Canada, and around the world, but not in the USA, where he is known as a commie traitor. Tens of thousands of Chinese come every year to visit Bethune’s
birthplace. They transformed the area. Now in my elderly years some of them come to find me in my hermit hut to ask for records, but the shrunken heads on the dock scare them off. Someone just blew up Bethune’s Memorial. Probably American fundamentalists. They send death threats here every Thanksgiving. I tried to warn everyone. Don’t fly into the bug zapper, but no. They gave us minimalism, brushed steel interiors, retro chic, functionalism, Starbucks-ism, Ikea-ism, casual outdoors, sampling, synthesizing, Dolce & Gabbana, P Diddy… It’s all ugly and misled. Now, copies of Western culture have replaced Western culture. In a tax-free industrial zone somewhere there is a mock James Brown and J. D. Salinger. They make Fords and zoot suits and Gaugins for cheap. The originals are gone — long ago discarded, or bought up by Sultans or collectors. Damn the collectors. The grandson of Charles Saatchi just paid ten million for an Elmore James. A hundred million for an Elvis. Blues is a scent by Hilfiger. Only a lucky few have land and things that were made before repro. Civilizations that took 20 centuries to make were suckered into something modern, then charged for re-admission to a shitty theme park resembling their past. Home of Da Blues, step right this way. I’m sitting here on my mouldy treasure chest and I just want the damn lights back on so I can find my teeth in the last of the earth’s wilderness. It’s not profound, it’s pathetic. Fuck ’em all. I’m taking all this crap with me when I go... All of a sudden there’s a knock on the door. I’m tempted to blow a hole through it. “Who is it? Don’t come in!” I yell. “It’s your editor. You owe me another book.” “You hate these records, so you are welcome in, Phil. I hope you brought rum.” “You’re the last of the semi-genuine bluesmen, Son of Dave — we deserve another tour and book.” “I’m tired, Phil, I can’t find my own pecker in the dark. What they call society now is just a weird race of aliens who’ve inherited the earth. I don’t owe them shit.” “Let’s talk about it. I have a new paper...”
Sampling freaks Demdike Stare look backwards in order to move forwards Words Rory Gibb
ancient records is Sampling a black and arcane art — a process of resurrecting long-lost ghosts trapped in recordings and giving them a new and spectral lease of life. Demdike Stare know this; it’s an aesthetic that permeates everything Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty do, from their sublime, occult-referencing artwork to the amorphous spaces their music inhabits. Obsessive record collectors, the duo turn the fusion of old and new into a sort of modern witchcraft, layering samples into dense and darkly beautiful noise. “It’s almost like a spell,” enthuses Whittaker over the phone from Lancashire. “You get a load of ingredients, throw them all into a cauldron, set fire to it and see what happens.” The pair debuted with 2009’s Symbiosis, a self-described “soundtrack to a nonexistent horror movie”, but last year took a sudden prolific turn, releasing three albums, now compiled as Tryptych. What’s immediately striking about the whole collection is how utterly immersive it is. Whittaker’s background in techno as MLZ sends dubby, electronic ripples through shifting seas of drone and library music, occasionally punctuated by the headfuck thud of a kickdrum. The result is an entirely genreless creation that unites samples through shared atmosphere rather than sonic similarity. In doing so it blurs the lines between mixtape and ‘proper’ release, a boundary Whittaker says they’re interested in dissolving entirely. The duo are perplexed by recent press comparisons to witch house and Wire-touted hauntology, and it’s easy to understand why. Despite the huge range of music they sample from — ‘Hashashin Chant’ is pure Arabesque — their music taps into a peculiarly British musical history tied far more closely to folk lineages than current buzzwords. “Two hundred years ago people like us would have been writing folk music and singing about local myths,” says Whittaker. “Where I live is steeped in witch culture — I can walk for a mile in one direction and reach a stone circle, and a mile in the other direction there’s a Roman fort.” Both are fascinated by the way in which new meaning can become attached to old recordings — an attitude which informs the ghostly nature of their music. “We look for old records that are relevant now,” Whittaker concludes. “It’s the passing of time that makes things relevant. We look backwards in order to move forwards. That’s definitely at the heart of what we do.”
Shopkeepers of the world unite 06:45. Sunshine permeates the gossamer curtains into my chasmal, ocular voids. Familiar feelings of despair return and I decide not to work today. I’d call my boss to say I’m depressed, but I am the boss. You’d be miserable as well if you’d reached the very zenith of the UK retail grocery trade. I’m thwarted by my own success, bound by my brilliance, unable to circumvent a glass ceiling of my own making. 07:00. Oh, spare me Bill Turnbull, you interminably cheerful trumpeter of piss. I put Life Is Sweet into the VCR and graze on Farley’s Rusks. It’s a relief to be free. 08:10. I can’t rest. I fax Carol, my underling, to check everything is running smoothly. I remember Carol has a dental appointment this morning and won’t be at work until 10am. She can make up the time in her lunch breaks. 08:35. The supermarket format is enjoying the strongest growth in the whole retail sector — up 3.2 per cent — but I mustn’t become complacent. I decide to head into work surreptitiously, but I’ll need a disguise so I can spy on everybody. Luckily, I’ve still got a burka I wore to my acquaintance Jonathan’s Halloween party, and there’s still some boot polish left. I don’t get to wear my 18-holers much these days. 09:15. A Bengali on the platform tries to talk to me in an alien tongue. I pretend to not hear the foreigner and bury my head in a copy of Metro, and therein I read they’re remaking Brighton Rock. As I depart the train, I glance back at the track and think, “Throw your fat body down, son.” But then I remember I read somewhere that it takes on average around 45 minutes to die. Remember that the next time there’s a body under a train delaying your journey. 09:25. I expect to find Boz the butcher smoking over the cruellyculled carcases, or Andy the cigarette vendor smuggling the last of the international Playboys into his sports bag. I slip into my office unnoticed. This place could run itself without me. Oh, woe. 28 Days Later. I’ve just been released from Stoke Newington Police Station. I was arrested and held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
News The Stool Pigeon March 2011
Lungfish singer Daniel Higgs helping wrong-inthe-head Swedish group The Skull Defekts further deform hard rock
Ye History of Rock
Words John Doran
he late, great music writer Steven Wells had a particularly amusing amount of bile saved up for indie bands who were so lacking in imagination that they would name themselves after objects visible in their practice room. He said there was no worse band name than something like The Plugs or The Radiators or The Dirty Windows. One can’t help but think, however, that he would have given the completely un-rubbish, Swedish noise rock unit The Skull Defekts a pass. The Stockholm-based band, who kicked off in 2005 mixing up primitivist, hypnotic rock that calls to mind Scratch Acid, Fugazi and Shellac with atavistic but punishing electronics, have always practised where their drummer works his day job out of sheer necessity. Daniel Fagerström (guitars/ vocals/electronics) explains how their name was right under their very noses the whole time they were rehearsing: “It started with Henrik (Rylander, drums/electronics) who was working as a photographer. He has, for many years, been photographing the skull defects of people with really harsh dental issues such as cleft palates and split skulls. We rehearsed at his studio, which was in a dentist’s building so we’d see a lot of these photographs hanging there as we were practising. And we wanted to spell it with a ‘k’ so the name itself would have a defect.” The four piece, also featuring Joachim Nordwall (guitar/ vocals/synths) and Jean-Louis Huhta
N T LEMA N
MANCHESTER his fine and freezing month, I turn
(percussion/electronics) have just released their best album to date, the electrifying Peer Amid. The visceral impact of the record is certainly focused by the messianic presence of Lungfish frontman and internationally renowned tattoo artist Daniel Higgs (pictured right) as guest musician and vocalist. It’s clear that both parties have a particular love for hypnotic, meditative ragas, riffs and drones, but it wasn’t this that they first bonded over, as Fagerström reveals: “I met him in 2005 in Spain at a festival where Lungfish played. We just started talking and bonded because we had the same first name. And then I lent him my shoes. After that we really got on well.” One of the tracks on the album is the apocalyptic ‘Gospel Of The Skulls’, which will be released as a single soon… but with a difference. The guitarist explains: “The Gothenburg
String Theory orchestra got in touch. They invite a band to work with them and then arrange orchestral parts to go with their song. They asked us if we wanted to do it and we said, ‘Yes of course,’ but that meant we had to get Daniel Higgs in because we wanted him to do ‘Gospel Of Skulls’. It was really powerful with two grand pianos, 15 string players, brass and orchestral percussion.” The Skull Defekts are a very individual band, despite their deceptive simplicity. But it is this repetition of basic riffs that is key to their effectiveness: “The songs can get you into a trance. That’s how it works for us when we record the songs, at least. With playing the riffs on and on, you just get into the feeling. You can call it ritualistic or trance-like if you wish — it definitely connects to something in the inner brain.”
Tmy gimlet-like glaze to the fine
city of Manchester. Having spent some time there in my galloping youth, I feel I have an inside knowledge of this sprawling conurbation — a conurbation more readily associated with kagouls and just-so hair, but actually with a fine tradition of foppish and somewhat eccentric behaviour. After all, where else could Morrissey, Pete Shelley, Howard Devoto and even Mark E. Smith possibly come from? What confuses me, though, is that the more I read about it the less I understand, which sounds a bit like a song title from that poetic chap Morrissey. The history of Manchester music seems to have been somewhat condensed into a very fast resume that goes something like this: 1976 Sex Pistols gig that everyone said they were at (urban myth, I believe), Joy Division, Factory Records, Hacienda and, er, that’s it. And while I am the first to admit that Factory was a great label with a whole rabid pack of great releases from lesserknown bands like Section 25 and the Stockholm Monsters, and that the Hacienda was a quite remarkable institution where its key DJs pioneered what was then known as acid house — the greatest dance craze since the cha-chacha — I am at a loss as to how that has became the whole story. I am sure The Smiths and Stone Roses and The Fall were part of this very northern adventure as well, and I know they get scrolls of great press, but they don’t seem to be part of the Mancunian musical history. There were lots of other key players who had brief but very important moments — The Chameleons for one. All those pale-faced American bands that turn up on the crest of fashion’s fickle and vicious wave still copy them to this day! And then there was 808 State, who turned dance music into a band experience a long time before Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers. There was also Oasis, who seem to have been written out of the whole thing altogether. There is a grudging consensus that they were only any good for an album-and-half when they were actually good right to the end. It seems to be unfashionable to state a case for the band now, and they have perhaps acted in a way that didn’t endear them to the serious student of music, but they cannot be ignored because their faces just don’t fit, can they now? That would just be sulky.
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
FAST-RISING BAND SUUNS C E L E B R I T Y HAVE ZERO B A R B E R TOLERANCE FOR No.18. PORN STARLETS JUSTIN BIEBER
Words Jordan Bassett
has it that a porn Rumour star once tried it on with Suuns guitarist Joseph
“You ever heard of Bobby Charlton, sonny?”
Yarmush at a Best Western hotel in Hicksville, USA. Joseph gets all coy at mention of the story. “It’s, uh, unconfirmed, really… her occupation,” he says. “We had to make a stop on tour in some small town and this woman started shadowing me for 20 minutes while I was trying to check in. But we don’t know... someone thought she might be a porn star, but it’s, uh, unconfirmed.” Joseph should get used to walking on the wild side, as life might just be about to get stranger still for the Quebec band. The four-piece’s debut, Zeroes QC, is a headfuck of an album. It locks you in a dark room with marching prog, electro squall and hair metal riffs — and then ends on a ballad. Having met at a party in winter
2007, Joseph and frontman-to-be Ben Shemie found they shared a common interest: making loads of noise. They took to a dingy basement and plugged in their guitars to see just how much noise they could make. Joseph admits those early sessions weren’t exactly a lesson in classic pop. “We’d make these 10-minute songs that didn’t really go anywhere or do anything,” he says. Ben recruited some jazz school friends and with Liam O’Neil on drums and Max Henry on keyboards, Suuns stripped back the excess. They spent the next three years honing their sound. Suuns were named Zeroes before the album came out, but switched to the Latin equivalent for legal reasons (there’s some eighties hangover also named Zeroes). Nothing unusual there, but it’s a footnote that’s raked over in almost every Suuns article — including, admittedly, this one. Naming their first EP ‘Zeroes’ and first album Zeroes QC, though, weren’t they asking for it? “I recognise it might be overkill a little bit,” Joseph sighs, “but it was honestly pretty difficult to just settle on a name for the band. As soon as we’d done that it was very difficult to come up with another name for the album. It’s an homage to our old band. As far as ‘zeroes’ goes, that’ll be the end of it.” As they shed the past and move ahead, Suuns look set for a very odd year indeed. Who knows what awaits them in the Best Western foyers of 2011.
Italian man Banjo Or Freakout makes a fine job of blowing the bloody doors off culture Words Alex Denney
leisurely at his Sipping cappuccino in an East London café, Banjo Or Freakout’s Alessio Natalizia is thinking about culture, and the lack thereof. “The situation in Italy at the moment is complete shit,” he says. “Berlusconi has been changing the culture for the last 20 years now — that’s a long time. I just feel we’ve become a little bit numb. In the seventies it was different. People were dreaming of doing something interesting — there was a new Italy going on. It had been a new republic for maybe 30 years, which
is nothing. But at the moment there’s no hope.” It’s precisely this sense of possibility in pop which Natalizia aims to reconnect with. Moving from his homeland to London in 2007 after stints in various punk-inspired outfits failed to catch fire, the seeds of Banjo Or Freakout were sown in his girlfriend’s flat, when he discovered the wonders of Garageband on her laptop one listless afternoon in his adopted city. Early Banjo shows were noisy affairs with just a hint of the melodicism that was to come, Natalizia hiding onstage behind his
computer with an arsenal of sonic trickery at his disposal. Then last year he hooked up with Allez Allez producer Sam Willis for Walls’ much-admired debut on Kompakt, and Banjo’s flight path took a turn for the poppier. “It was good for me to stop and do Walls, ’cos if I was gonna come back with Banjo exactly the same way as before what’s the point, you know?” he says. “It’s good to give it new life in some way.” His self-titled debut for Memphis Industries is excellent, combining pillow-soft soundscapes owing a debt of influence to kraut pioneers
like Neu! and Faust with hooks that speak to his love of more conventional songwriterly fare. “I was listening to a lot of krautrock and loop-based music, but also stuff like Arthur Russell, Dennis Wilson and Robert Wyatt,” he explains. “That’s the kind of thing I genuinely love. And Broadcast. They were number one for me, they had such an intelligent way of making pop music.” But what would Berlusconi make of it all? “The thing is he owns TV channels, he owns newspapers and that way you can really control the culture of a country; it’s like a dictatorship in some ways. But it’s funny, now he’s gonna end up finished because he had sex with an underage prostitute instead of all these things he’s done as a politician. “In Italy, if you don’t sing in Italian you don’t go anywhere. Whereas in countries like Sweden or Canada, their governments pay bands to go and tour around Europe and that’s amazing. I don’t think Berlusconi’s going to pay for me to do my thing... unless I get some underage girls in the band.”
The Stool Pigeon Fifth Anniversary Books
The collected writings of our longest-serving columnist, Son of Dave. 78 pages, £4.99
The best Stool Pigeon stories from the first five years. 166 pages, £7.99
Buy both volumes for £10 from thestoolpigeon.co.uk Also available from Amazon and selected independent record stores across the UK, including Rough Trade and Sister Ray (London), Rounder (Brighton), Jumbo (Leeds), Swordfish (Birmingham), Rise (Bristol) and Diverse (Newport).
Snooping Songs by John Doran
SIX OF THE BEST
THE PHOENIX FOUNDATION
P H O N E TA P D A N C I N G
A Kiwi band who might now be called ‘Amethyst Wallpaper’
A rock solid case against Andy Coulson
THOMPSON TWINS ‘We Are Detective’ (1983) Perhaps the most uncool band ever to have lived (readers under the age of 30 should just imagine three CBeebies presenters at a 1983-themed fancy-dress party if they want to have an idea of what they looked like). Perhaps the only accordion synth pop song about surveillance in existence, its title was perhaps meant to remind people of Philip K. Dick but just inspired them to sing ‘We Are Defective’ instead.
ROCKWELL ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ (1984) This awesomely daft Michael Jackson pastiche contains several things you never hear any more. Rappers and (in this case) pop/disco singers never have a verse where they start speaking like a bewildered member of the English aristocracy. Why is that? Here’s hoping that there’s a verse on the new Dre album where he sounds like Winston Churchill apropos of nothing.
THE FALL ‘Telephone Thing’ (1990) Easily the funkiest song about phone hacking and probably the best, too. The Fall are in a nasty mood, with snide wah wah guitars and Smith barking balefully through a loud hailer as guests Coldcut scratch up a storm in the background. “I’m tapped!”
THE BUG ‘Invasion of Privacy’ (1997) Before Kevin Martin gave extreme dancehall a shot in the arm with London Zoo and gave the newly emergent dubsteppers something to think about with Pressure, the first incarnation of The Bug was him and Ninja Tune mainstay DJ Vadim. Their 1997 album Tapping The Conversation, which straddled the genres of industrial, dub and instrumental hip hop that re-imagines the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation about a spook going mad. It is a rare treat.
DIRE STRAITS ‘Private Investigations’ (1982) You can tell what rock stars think of the idea of people listening in on their phone conversations by the daft, spooky sound-effects and insanely angst-ridden voices they put on when singing about surveillance. This song starts with the usual raft of sinister synthesizer lines before descending into a Raymond Chandler/spurned lover narrative. Not that this applies to Mark Knopfler, but what shocking truths are most rock stars afraid would be uncovered about them? “Unbelievable report here from Agent Smith, sir. It turns out that a famous guitarist has taken cocaine and had sex with women.”
It’s 11pm in Wellington, New Zealand and Sam Flynn Scott, frontman of indie-poppers The Phoenix Foundation, has just got in from the pub. His band’s fourth album, the universally acclaimed Buffalo, is awaiting its European release, and he seems more than happy to talk about it. The Phoenix Foundation formed fresh from school way back in 1997 and are named after the fictional spy organisation in American TV show MacGyver. Their 2003 debut, Horsepower, brought swift recognition in their homeland, but it was in 2009, when they released third album Happy Endings, that the rest of the world began to take notice. Word of the sixpiece has since been creeping steadily overseas and recently things have blown up big; blogs and broadsheets alike have been bustling to declare their love for Buffalo’s lush, summery harmonies. All signs point towards 2011 being The Phoenix Foundation’s year. Sam is in understandably high spirits, saying that 2011 is the perfect year for The Phoenix Foundation to broaden their horizons: “It’s a great time for us to be making it out there, because we’ve been given a chance to develop in our own way and learn more of our craft.” In the age when a Mac-savvy kid can stick tracks online and get the blogs buzzing overnight, such a slow-burn seems increasingly unusual. But, reckons Sam, most of that is smoke and mirrors. “I think this idea of people just putting something on the internet and it suddenly becoming a sensation is a bit of a myth,” he explains. “The people who do seemingly appear out of nowhere, like The xx, are actually masters of their craft who’ve spent months or years working out their sound. You can get this idea that
something’s magically become part of the blogosphere but, y’know, that’s just the moment people have paid attention.” Sam lists influences as eclectic as you’d expect from someone whose full-time job has always been making music. “We’ve been inspired by soundtrack music, Ennio Morricone and Angelo Badalamenti — that sort of stuff,” he says. “Bands like Sparklehorse or E.A.R, mellow Beck songs or maybe the trippy song at the end of a Supergrass album. A song like ‘Pot’ is inspired by Paul McCartney’s Ram or something considerably uncool like that.” Indeed, all of these reference points — cool and uncool — are detectable in the woozily atmospheric Buffalo, an album that’s winning them new fans on a daily basis, though some have confusedly Googled the other Phoenix Foundation. “Yeah, they’re this full-blown, Finnish hardcore band,” Sam laughs. “If we could go back in time and pick a different band name...” He pauses. “In fact, my wife ’s just emailed me this chillwave name generator website.” For those with short memories, this is the website that threw together two random words to name your mates’ chillwave band last summer. Sam has a go: “‘Amethyst Wallpaper’. We should change our name to ‘Amethyst Wallpaper’.” Sleep on it and have a think in the morning, perhaps. After four albums in eight years, The Phoenix Foundation have finally risen. World domination seems certain. WRITTEN by Jordan Bassett
Connecticut’s Stepkids in bid to reinvent soul music by adopting psychedelia Words Daddy Bones Photograph
ROTTING CHRIST’S COUNTRY LAMB EXOHIKO Prep:1 hour. Cooking: 2 hours Serves 4 INGREDIENTS.— 2 1/4 lbs (1kg) leg of lamb 7 tbsp olive oil 7 oz (200g) kefalotyri (white cheese) or regato 1 lemon, squeezed 1 clove garlic, minced 1/2 lb (225g) fresh broad beans 1/2 lb potatoes Salt Pepper Oregano Greaseproof baking paper sheets PREPARATION. — Wash and clean the lamb leg. Cut the meat into small cubes. Marinate the meat in olive oil, lemon juice, seasoning, and the oregano for about 1 hour. Wash clean potatoes and beans, and cut potatoes into small cubes. Lay out 4 sheets of baking paper, brush them with oil, and divide the meat into equal amounts onto each of the sheets. The same procedure is followed for the beans, the potatoes, the garlic and the cheese — which is also diced into small cubes. After putting all the ingredients onto the sheets of baking paper, roll them into a cylindrical shape. Bake in an oiled baking pan in the oven for about 1.5 hours at 350ºF (180ºC). Serve in the greaseproof paper cylinders. Taken from Hellbent For Cooking, Brazillion Points Publishing.
Stones Throw label really has been on a roll with fresh signings this last couple of years. The latest addition to a family that already includes brilliant new soul artists like Aloe Blacc and Mayer Hawthorne is The Stepkids, a fascinating trio of virtuosos that are perhaps their most interesting act yet. Their album, though finished, is not due until autumn, but the chunk of it that’s already online — a shimmering alloy of hallucinogenic funk and folk harmony vocals — just reeks of talent. These boys are clearly no greenhorns. In fact, guitarist Jeff Gitelman, though not yet 30, only recently quit Alicia Keys’ touring band. “After college I landed an audition for Lauryn Hill,” he tells me from his Connecticut home, “and from working with her I landed jobs with Bobby Brown,
Jaheim, Pharoahe Monch and then Alicia Keys. I have plenty of stories regarding why I left — stories that might not be appropriate to relate here. I’ll just say that the good times were really good, but the bad times...well, they were bad.” Jeff’s an alumnus of Boston’s Berklee College of Music and a veteran of the East Coast jazz scene. Playing pop R&B exclusively for years started to diminish his love for soul music, he says: “I started to hate R&B, but when The Stepkids formed and recorded ‘Brain Ninja’, I knew that I still loved soul and that, through psychedelia, we have a potential to reinvent soul music.” Cementing the group with longstanding jazz cohort Dan Edinberg (bass and keys) and drummer Tim Walsh gave him the strength to sack off what most professional musicians might term ‘a dream job’ to forge something richer and more leftfield in their Bridgeport studio, as Fleet Foxes and
Hendrix albums fogged their airspace. “Bridgeport is an interesting place,” Jeff muses. “Though it’s considered one of the worst US cities for crime and poverty, neighbouring Fairfield county is maybe the richest in the country. That creates an odd dynamic.” It’s precisely this dichotomy that spawned the languid, pulsating ‘Suburban Dream’, the video to which sees The Stepkids in their live guise — a quartet (Fred Dileone doesn’t just play keys here, he’s even invented a new kind of electric piano) dressed in all-white and bathed in hypnotic light projections. Oddly, the one influence not readily apparent in their dauntingly accomplished show is the hard jazz that Jeff and Dan were immersed in for so long. “I’m glad you say that,” he says. “If we spent years studying music, we spent even longer getting rid of that academic feeling. You know, getting rid of that...that smell.”
The Memory Remains
Ja Ja Ja
If Metallica are some kind of monster then Bill Hale’s photographs of the band in its 1982-84 infancy are like the first pictures to emerge of the Loch Ness beastie, only these mawfuckers is real. You can see the snaps — featuring the metal overlords’ original line-up including Ron McGovney and Dave Mustaine, plus his usurper Kirk Hammett — at Camden Proud Gallery’s Fade To Black exhibition until April 3.
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A C H I N G LY BEAUTIFUL
“Better still is Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, as Orpheus: when he sings, ‘Wait for me, I’m coming,’ he distills all the anguish that made his album For Emma, Forever Ago so achingly beautiful.” Maddy Costa, The Guardian “Our guide cooked a rich stew over the fire, after which he played achingly beautiful music and invited us to stay.” Róisín Sorahan, The Irish Times “…AQP certainly does work in this City Opera production, despite a few embarrassing bits of dialogue. Quite often an achingly beautiful phrase actually tugs at the heart strings.” Humphrey Burton, The Guardian
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March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
TONETTA SCREEN PLAY
His bizarre videos, recorded in perfect seclusion, have made him a YouTube sensation. Cian Traynor taps into his creative lair.
What the hell is going on in that apartment? A masked man in drag prowls about with menacing promiscuity, grooving to funk as filthy as he is, sounding like Captain Beefheart breathing down your neck. This is the lair of cult YouTube hit Tonetta, and getting a peek behind the scenes is not exactly straightforward. Once Tonetta has agreed in principle to an interview, there’s a three-hour window, late at night, during which he’ll screen calls and possibly answer. “This is how it works with him,” explains his publicist Dirk Knibbe, offering tips on how to make an introduction. Sure enough, midway through leaving a message a frantic voice cuts into the line. “You’ve seen my stuff, ay?” For one day a week, Tonetta is a 63-year-old upholsterer from Toronto named Tony. But since his wife left him in 1983, he has lived a reclusive existence. That was the year he stopped watching TV, quit listening to music, and began recording songs using cheap guitars from the sixties and a vintage drum machine pumping the same strutting beat. Nearly 30 years later, there has been so little interference from the outside world that it’s impossible to tell the new songs from the old. “I really believe I’ve got a different sound,” he says with a sharp intake of breath. “I don’t know what it is. People say it’s weird, crazy music. What is it? I don’t even know what it is. I don’t know what it is. What is it to
you? I... how does it sound to you?” Tonetta is still adjusting to the idea of having a following. Since 2008, he has been physically posting videos to someone who uploads them to YouTube, where they’ve gone viral. Even one of his two sons, neither of whom he has seen since 1983, immediately got in touch. But then Tonetta upped the sexual deviancy with gusto. Viewer comments imagining how horrifying it would be to see him entering the backdoor to your house at night embarrassed his son, who severed contact. “I’m not gonna stand there in a shirt and tie; I tried that. People said, ‘We wanna see hide! We wanna see flesh!’ I guess they like a slutty look. So I guess it’s a bunch of guys or gays... Perverts watchin’ me! What do I care if it turns them on?” Occasionally he’ll pop to the library, where he checks in on the worship and vitriol his oddball performances generate. “I should be flattered, right? Interviews are good, I guess. Right? People must be interested if they want to talk. When you’re lookin’ at me on YouTube, do you think I’m a nut? ’Cause some people think I have dead bodies in my apartment. They say, ‘What’s behind that curtain? He’s a sickie.’ You know what I mean? They’re not reading it right.” One person reading it right was Knibbe, who offered to release the material on his label, Black Tent Press. 777 Vol. I and 777 Vol. II, released last May and December, compiled tracks from 26 years of prolific output, combining bursts of poignant pop genius (‘Drugs Drugs Drugs’, ‘Big Rig’ and ‘G & B Showers’)
with repetitive tales of depravity. The omission of fan favourites has led some to speculate whether these anthologies are lovingly curated or merely taking advantage of Tonetta’s popularity. While Tonetta admits he doesn’t get paid, if he wants a guitar or a mask, Knibbe will send it — and that’s enough. But he won’t be lured into giving a live performance, despite interest from as far away as Russia. “I don’t know if I could,” he mumbles. “I don’t have the nerve. I’m not sure of myself.” Throughout, every question is followed by an uneasy silence. Whenever Tonetta replies, “I don’t know,” he sounds painfully lost and vulnerable. Moments like these conflict with the freakish abandon displayed on YouTube and Tonetta is quick to agree. “It’s easy when you’re behind curtains. There’s nobody there to judge you, to throw eggs or tomatoes.” Yet when it’s pointed out that L.A. band The Growlers currently play a well-received Tonetta tribute set, complete with masks and dresses, he concedes there’s another reason. “Damn planes. Too many musicians died in them. John Denver... and what’s his name. I don’t trust pieces of metal in the air. The only way is down. You’re not goin’ to live.” Tonetta is content to stay at home, where the monotony of the world compels him into cranking out tunes with a pair of tights on his head, gyrating blindly towards inspiration. “I think I was born with a gift, ay? I don’t think I could stop if I wanted to. All I know is when I die, I don’t want my music to die. When I die I want my kids to know what I was all about.”
News The Stool Pigeon March 2011
Song birds FUNKY Chicken IOWA, USA. Flavor Flav has launched what he hopes will become a nationwide fast-food chain. The first Flav’s Fried Chicken opened in the inauspicious surroundings of Clinton, Iowa. At the launch, Flav regularly excused himself to go “season the chicken” while an MC hyped the food, dissed the Colonel and blasted expletive-laced jams. Flav called it a “historical event”, adding: “Within the next year this is going to be huge.” Don’t believe the hype — he set up shop right next to a KFC.
The Curious Case of
A R N AU D F L E U R E N T- D I D I E R A FRENCH charmer on the look out for women of childbearing age. We t a l k o f L a R e p r o d u c t i o n a n d h i s u n u s u a l way of telling his parents that he loves them.
HUNGRY Heart DUBLIN, Ireland. Four women having dinner spotted Bono at a nearby table. Wishing to be polite, they waited until Bono and his companion finished their meal before asking for a photograph. “No problem,” said Bono, posing dutifully. His friend offered to take the shot. When it was time to pay the bill, the waiter informed the women that it had been taken care of. “That was nice of Bono,” one woman remarked. “Oh, it wasn’t Bono,” says the waiter. “His companion, Mr Springsteen, paid.”
KURT Response L.A., USA. Psychedelic nineties comedy caper The Ren And Stimpy Show featured cult space-jazz lunatic Frank Zappa in its cartoons shortly before he popped his clogs, but there was no room for Kurt Cobain, not too long before he popped his. “One day this scraggy kid came in and said he wanted to write a song,” says Billy West, the voice of codependent idiot feline Stimpy. “They said, ‘Yeah, that’s great,’ and threw it in the wastebasket.” The bloated sacks of protoplasm!
GOING Strait ONTARIO, Canada. ‘Money For Nothing’ by Dire Straits has been banned, 26 years after its release. In Canada, at least. In the same way people suddenly realised Gollywogs and Jim Davidson weren’t fit for modern consumption, so eagle-eared authorities at the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council suddenly twigged that the song features the ‘faggot’ pejorative three times. Perhaps Mark Knopfler could go back and overdub the word ‘faggot’ with something more acceptable, like ‘moose-fucker’.
rnaud Fleurent-Didier is sitting in his Paris studio talking about the song that’s made him justifiably France’s most hyped artist — a situation he’s finding rather amusing given he’s 36. he song’s called ‘France Culture’. At first listen, it’s little more than Arnaud reciting a monologue over an analogue synth and swirling, spiralling strings. But then you see a translation of the lyrics (there’s a subtitled version online) and you realise the man’s a genuine talent. They’re essentially a list of his parents’ faults: everything they did and didn’t teach him growing up; everything they stopped him doing; his disappointment about how they started out as student radicals but ended up middle class playing “little tricks to pay less taxes”. It may sound overly emotional, but it’s funny, moving and a little bit provocative. he list goes from the trivial — “They didn’t let me watch Apocalypse Now, but said I could read Heart Of Darkness. I didn’t.” — to the absurdly French: “She didn’t intend to hide, more omit, Rousseau’s existence.” And then, as the strings die away, he adds this payoff in reference to his mum: “We didn’t speak of Catholics, Jews or Arabs. There were no Chinese. She used to think black people smell. She didn’t like smells.” And you wonder what on earth his parents did to deserve it. I think I’ve written something very neutral, no?” he says. “I talk a lot about my parents failings, yes, but there’s also a lot of good things in the end. And a lot of love. In France, you don’t say, ‘I love you dad.’ I know you don’t in
England either. But in America — in the movies — everyone is always saying it. So this is what I used to say that. It’s my way of saying to my parents, ‘I love you.’ ow did they react when they first heard it? Oh, badly,” he says, laughing. “It was a bit hard for them to take — these accusations of racism and so on. In the first place I told them it was the parents of the hero of my record. But now it’s okay. They understand. A year after.”
rnaud says his father has become seriously mentally ill since the song came out and the two can no longer communicate. I ask if he would have written the song any differently if he knew that was about to happen? “I think so,” he says. “For sure.” rnaud should really have broken through a long time before now. He started writing music in high school where he played in a band called Notre Dame and was friends “with the two Daft Punks”. Their bands supported each other a few
times, but when they “started to go to rave parties at Euro Disney”, Arnaud stayed at home and discovered Brel. I think I missed the train,” he says. “That kind of marked me as an old-fashioned guy for about 10 years.” n his twenties, he plugged away as a solo artist and became good friends with Air and Phoenix. But as their careers took off, the train left without him again. ‘France Culture’ and the great album it comes from, La Reproduction, almost seem like attempts to make up for those lost opportunities. rnaud is a joy to talk to about the record: interesting, funny and honest. He’s even happy to admit that, when it comes down to it, it’s all about sex. When I was 25 all the text messages I received were like, ‘Hey man, I’m writing a book,’ or, ‘I have a new girlfriend,’ or, ‘I’m off to live in Afghanistan.’ Very exciting stuff. But when you are 30, it’s only, ‘I’m getting married,’ or, ‘I have twins.’ It’s like it’s raining children. That’s where the record started: ‘I like to fuck, I could make a child, but what can I teach it? What do I have to give it?’” hat’s what ‘France Culture’ is about, too, he adds — looking at what his parents gave him to pass on. ask whether he actually has any kids himself. No, but maybe I am more at peace with the idea now. I will be a bad father. I will be a good father. I will be a medium father. I just have to wait for life to impose one on me. And find a good wife.”
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Wo r d s A . M a r s h a l l . I m a g e D e K o o n .
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
Katie Stelmanis quickening beat and pulse with new project Austra Words Hazel Sheffield Photograph
at the opera Sometimes they show subtitles above the stage on an LED sign, even when they’re singing in English. That way the story’s not lost in the costumes and dramatics of the production.
Pop music doesn’t have to keep to such a strict aesthetic. Recently, escapism and glamour in pop has won high praise in austere times, but huge, Gaga-esque production can also serve to distract from lack of content. It’s harder to concentrate on the meaninglessness of a song when it’s presented by a woman with flame throwers on her boobs, dancing on a grand piano in her pants.
Toronto’s Katie Stelmanis might only just have signed to Domino as electro-pop outfit Austra, but her own personal narrative runs a lot deeper. She started singing with Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus aged 10 and ripped up stages with political girl-punk band Galaxy when she was still in her teens. In her twenties she worked solo, releasing an album on Toronto’s Blocks Recording Club in 2008 and a split single on Vice/Loog in the UK a year later. But nothing really happened. Not until Austra.
“We changed our name,” Katie explains. “Part of the purpose was to put more thought into the visual aspect of the project. Before I had no idea what I was doing.” An intense, eight-part YouTube video filmed in a library last year suggests otherwise. Armed only with a keyboard and her huge voice, Katie bewitches an audience from a piano stool. Now she’s seeing if she can do the same without the piano to hide behind. “Even when I was performing solo, I always thought, ‘Okay, when we have an audience it’s going to be crazy, there’s going to be costumes and lights.’ I think I just realised that we have to start now.” The album, out in spring, will build on recent single ‘Beat And Pulse’. B-side ‘Young And Gay’ makes clear her sexuality, though she doesn’t want to be defined by it. “I’ve always identified more with music scenes than any gay community,” she says, while admitting to loving the gay parties she played on tour. As a live band of up to six, including Toronto twins Tasseomancy on backing vocals, gothic costumes and some tentative dance moves, Austra strives for spectacle. Not like Gaga, who Katie doesn’t “really believe”, but like her heroines Björk and Fever Ray, and the great operas that taught her how to sing. Only if the LED screen was up, you’d still see plenty going on behind the lights.
The MINAH Bird. Soul superman CEE-LO GREEN on The Stooges’ Raw Power “Iggy reminds me a lot of me. And it’s all in that name; it’s all in the title of that album. It’s raw power, you know? I like the funk that David Bowie was able to get behind Iggy. Believe it or not, I first saw an image of Iggy Pop at church. They were talking about secret messages and backward masking, and they had a picture of Iggy looking crazy. I didn’t get into it until later, but I think how I was introduced to it was ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’. And what I like about Iggy is it’s just genuine raunch. The album seems like it’s all done in one take. With his energy on stage, it seems as if the studio was just destroyed after that album — or at least you’d like to believe that. I just love ‘Search And Destroy’ and ‘I Need Somebody’, as well.” As told to Ben Hewitt As told to Luke Truner
Hot producer Rory Gibb Dro Carey inspired by It’s milder climes Words
disconcerting, chatting across time zones. I’m speaking to Sydney’s Dro Carey on a freezing cold morning in North London. It’s a summer evening there, and in the background a fan whirs audibly. “It’s hot here,” he offers by way of apology. There’s something quite apt about such a spatially displaced conversation.
the the damp damp wet wet world world is is real real why shouldnt i become robert walser or kurt schwitters who says that my hart isnt next to theirs or indeed inside theirs or christs or van goghs for that matter
in a sence its a fellows duty to love his heros and become them just as a child plays at war or knows that animels talk or that the damp wet world is both real and unreal
While his music has started to gather serious interest in the UK, he’s still largely unknown in Australia. “The scene here’s quite different,” he explains. “I guess it fits with the sunny weather and vibe. But that’s not what really resonated with me; it was gloomier London and Detroit sounds.” What’s exciting about Carey’s music is how it manages to transcend its influences. Despite releasing records through several London-based labels — a limited 12” on Trilogy Tapes, plus upcoming material on Ikonika’s Hum & Buzz imprint and Ramp — he deftly synthesizes any number of different genres into something that doesn’t quite fit anywhere geographically. Instead, it occupies virtual space. Alongside hip hop artists like Lil B and Odd Future, he’s part of a generation of net-savvy musicians carving out individual niches online; his Brain-So-Soft Tumblr is packed with his own tracks alongside film and photos — an entire personality expressed in hyper-reality. Carey’s is true music of now — a mutant spawned by the web’s capacity to scatter scraps of sound across the world’s surface. His ‘Venus Knock’ EP is grainy in texture, like an old photograph, but it’s equally in thrall to dubstep and dirty south hip hop. His creative process accounts for its mongrel nature — it’s assembled almost entirely from samples, though he tries to avoid obvious references. “If things are still too recognisable they haven’t really served the purpose of reappropriation,” he says. Though Carey’s slightly puzzled by
instant R&B comparisons and wary about its current surge in popularity, he’s frank about its influence. “I’m into saccharine, sugary melodies as much as interesting synths,” he continues. “I like to think I appreciate it as a genre, rather than some sort of cultural platter to pick from!” And while it’s submerged in many of his tracks, that attitude surfaces on upcoming single ‘Hungry Horse’. Pitchshifted vocals bristle and interlock, stammering like slo-mo footwork, equal parts aggression and celebration. It’s a heady mix, one that sends invisible tendrils snaking from his bedroom to grasp dancefloors on the other side of the globe.
CITIGROUP CONTROL EMI BUT DEAL MAY YET PLAY INTO HANDS OF TERRA FIRMA farewell Guy Hands, you lovable bear of a man. You might be money-grabbing private equity scum with your reputation in tatters but you look like you give the best hugs. The protracted Terra Firma saga is finally over, and the fleeting love-in between EMI and the equity beast became problematic almost as soon as the relationship was consummated. One moment Hands was showing off to his friends that he’d bought the most iconic record company in music history, the next Lehman Brothers fell and the world was a volatile, terrifying place. If it were a marriage then Terra Firma had unwittingly bagged a drunk, a gambler and a shagger, running up huge losses, indulging in outof-control excesses and urinating on old people sat eating Battenberg cake on park benches.
Major labels trying instant pop in bid to stop the rot may have noticed things are speeding up. The last decade, for instance, was only six-and-a-half years long. Also, with the advent of the internet, mobile phones, news that doesn’t have any news in it, soundbites and the ‘Like’ function on Facebook, it means our attention spans are damaged irreparably. In olden days, granddad would read a Dickens and it might take him a year, and he’d shake his fist when the The Word came on the box, complaining that, “Terry Christian’s gunner rot yer brains, ya daft yoong coonts.” How we laughed as we glugged back another Ritalin before forgetting where the bathroom was. Pop was omnipresent. You’d hear your favourite tune in your own bath, at the swimming baths, or if you visited Bath. It was illegal not to play Radio 1 in all public places. Finally ‘Tarzan Boy’ by Baltimora arrived in shops, 18 weeks after it had first penetrated your consciousness. You and all other kids would storm Woolies and snap up the hallowed 45 on its first day of release, then you’d rinse it for another week-and-a-half back in the solitary confinement of your bedroom where spunk-encrusted socks would stand to attention. Then you’d copiously vomit through aural overindul-
Business News 26
So Terra Firma finally succumbed after sticking with EMI through sickness and weeks of good health, acquiescing to Citigroup, the company Hands sued unsuccessfully last year. Handbags surely could have been averted, and all parties must look back and hang their heads regretfully at the losses sustained and the characters tarnished. Ironically, the £3.4bn debt became unsustainable, though the painful streamlining EMI underwent under the tutelage of Terra Firma means it is an attractive acquisition target once again. So Citi says it’s business as usual but without the colossal debt. Chief executive Roger Faxon and those still in jobs can breathe a sigh of relief for now, but at the end of the day financial services giants know about PMI, not EMI. “The recapitalisation of EMI by
Citi is an extremely positive step for the company,” said Faxon. “It has given us one of the most robust balance sheets in the industry with a modest level of debt and substantial liquidity. With that solid footing we are confident we can drive our business forward.” Faxon, however, admitted to Billboard that EMI will inevitably be sold “in due course”, the question is how long and to whom? BMG, Warner, KKR and others will circle when the day comes, and they may only be interested in constituents rather than the whole business, meaning EMI will be broken up. The outside money is on Guy Hands. Rumour has it he’s already spoken to backers about raising the necessary £1.6bn, and that despite the acrimony, Citi would consider an offer. And who doesn’t love a happy ending?
TOP UK SONGWRITERS OF THE YEAR 2010 1. Simon Neil (Biffy Clyro) — Warner/Chapell 2. Patrick Okogqu, aka Tinie Tempah — EMI 3. Timothy McKenzie, aka Labrinth — EMI 4. Alexander Grant, aka Alex Da Kid — Universal 5. Elton John/Bernie Taupin — Universal 6. Plan B — Universal 7. Take That — EMI, Farrell, Sony/ATV Universal 8. Roy Stride — EMI 9. Roll Deep — Bucks, EMI, Sony/ATV, Universal 10. Wayne Hector — Sony/ATV
11. Elliot Gleave, aka Example — Pure Groove/Universal 12. Steve Mac — Peermusic 13. John Truelove — Truelove 14. David Bowie — RZO 15. Jim Eliot — Sony/ATV 16. Ellie Goulding — Global Talent 17. Jonny Lattimer — Warner/Chappell 18. Olly Murs — Universal 19. Steve Robson — Stage Three/BMG Rights 20. Florence Welch — Universal
Based on shares of the UK’s 100 biggest-selling singles of the year. Source: MW research/OCC data.
BREAKDOWN OF TOP 100 SINGLES OF 2010
crumbs Dog’s Strife If HMV was ‘top dog’ for music, it is now reduced to a life of scrabbling for the contents of overturned wheelie bins, giving tourists rabies and running away from dog catchers in an attempt to prolong extermination with Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ playing in the background. Nine of the chain’s stores have just closed and it will be 40 come the end of 2011. It’s enough to make you lick your own balls. HMV GROUP
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Sony Corpse Three hundred folks in Pitman, New Jersey are about to be out of a job now that Sony Corp has decided to close one of its key North American CD pressing plants. That’s right kids, we’ve arrived in the future, and though compact discs tenaciously cling on, their consignment to the wastebasket of history awaits. Gordon Brown is in there. Peter Andre somehow escaped.
Calmer Chameleon Having put his troubles behind him and his dildos in a safe place so he can’t attack any male escorts if they pop round, Boy George is looking positively to the future again. In fact, next year is going to be Culture Club’s year — in his head anyway. The band have reformed and they’ll be doing “a proper huge world tour” heading off in all directions... Northfleet, Southend, Eastbourne and Weston Super Mare.
Cult Concern 59 21 10 10
Songs part-written by featured recording act Not songs not written/co-written by featured recording act Self-written by featured recording act Cover versions
gence and pray Mr Baltimora would fall unceremoniously from his evil tree trunk into a pit of hungry donkeys. So anyway, in a bid to cut down on piracy, Sony and Universal have hatched a plan that surely cannot fail: they’ve decided from now on to release all singles so that they hit the shops and get their first radio airplay simultaneously. Clever, huh?
Sony Music is paying Lily Allen £100,000 a year to run her own record company, and what does she go and do? Puts out a right bunch of cults. Cults, the New York noiseniks, re-release their ‘Go Outside’ single on February 20th via Allen’s In the Name Of imprint. In the name of what? In the name of the father? You’re right: Keith is a shit name for a label. The idea behind this radical new strategy is to stop the larcenous X Factor generation copying tunes from broadcasts ahead of their release to blare through tinny speakers on the 141 bus. Will it make a difference? In these desperate times, surely anything is worth a shot. Pop, after all, has eaten itself and is now limbering up for a poo.
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by Jeremy Allen March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
ACS:Law man decides to no longer share his files with judge THE credibility of those trying to sue internet users for illegal filesharing has taken another battering in a war where there can surely be only one winner. The triumphant will hit their bedrooms to celebrate with a Caligulan free-for-all to end all downloading orgies. The culpability, according to many mainly angry geeks with IT superpowers, should be laid at the doorstep of Andrew Crossley of ACS:Law — a man who not only shot himself in the bell-end but also exposed the naïve fallacy that all law firms are fastidious and unimpeachable in matters of legality. ACS:Law had been employing controversial ‘speculative invoicing’ — putting the wind up web users by sending letters of intimidation on behalf of copyright owners (some small record companies, but mostly agents for pornographers). Thousands received frightening letters, quite arbitrarily in many cases, threatening court action unless they settled out-of-court for downloading, in one example, Freddie’s British Granny Fuck. Faced with such an angry epistle, one can assume many would pay up no-questionsasked, rather than risk further embarrassment. Wayne Rooney, on the other hand, would settle his bill without any embarrassment at all. In a fit of hubris, Crossley decided to take 27 of the accused to court, and it was here he was hoisted on his own petard. Not only was he more inept in court than Bez representing himself, but the moral high-ground was lost forever as it became strikingly obvious his motives for entering the suethe-fans domain was not to uphold copyright as a matter of principle but to make lots of dubious moolah from terrified halfwits scared of their own shadow. Crossley’s appearance was so shambolic that Judge Colin Birrs called a special hearing to review the whole system employed by ASC:Law. Crossley then suddenly decided he would withdraw all lawsuit infringements, though M’lud decided to press ahead anyway. Cyber-attacks on ASC:Law’s website and apparently threats on Crossley’s life lead him to issue this statement: “I have ceased my work. I have been subject to criminal attack. My emails have been hacked. I have had death threats and bomb threats. It has caused immense hassle to me and my family.” The judge called Crossley’s behaviour “absolutely extraordinary.” The case continues, despite Crossley’s change of heart.
NOTICE. The public are informed that
the re-opening of a case of...
Up Before The Beak PUFFED Up
It’s an easy life being a peeler. You drive around in a flashing car feeding your face on donuts and pretending to be in The Sweeney, you get to go undercover in covert operations sleeping with environmental protesters while calling yourself Pungent Eamon, and when you’re assigned a case to investigate, if you don’t investigate it thoroughly enough, you get to do it all over again! No wonder the Laughing Policeman couldn’t stop laughing — he was taking the piss out of us all. The News Of The World phone hacking scandal is a topical case in point, and over in LA there’s still the small matter of Biggie Smalls’s death to solve. The LAPD have been given another crack of their own whip.
Reports have come through that P Diddy is being sued by a woman for $1 trillion for allegedly raping her 24 years ago. Valerie Joyce Wilson Turks claims Sean Combs sexually assaulted her in 1986, then returned 18 years later to sexually abuse her children. And there’s more. She has called for a restraining order on Diddy, who she also claims colluded with Rodney King to blow up the Twin Towers. Won’t see you in court.
The murder of Notorious B.I.G. is apparently being proactively investigated once again after Los Angeles police confirmed new evidence had come to light that has “reinvigorated” the case, nearly 14 years after his murder. CNN, the rolling news channel you only watch on holiday because all the other channels feature impenetrable game shows presented by perma-tanned dudes speaking in foreign, has submitted the intriguing development to the authorities. Obviously police are keeping mum about what this revelatory nugget might be while inquiries continue. East Coast Biggie, real name Christopher Wallace, was gunned down on March 9 1997. Conspiracy theories have inevitably abounded, with many giving credence to the accusation that police on the case were somehow involved with the murder. There was even a film made by Nick Broomfield where he found out nada, bottled it and shat his drawers when he interviewed Suge Knight, also implicated in the murder as the late Tupac Shakur’s label boss at Death Row Records. Bernard Parks, chief of police at the time of the original investigation, branded charges of a cover-up “absurd”.
If things aren’t bad enough at EMI, it appears they now have to deal with a rodent infestation. Ross Bagdasarian is chasing the big beast for unpaid royalties for his father’s animated plop group. That’s right, when the chips are stacked against you, the Chipmunks come a-knocking. The Chipmunks, if you’re unaware, are an animated singing troupe who were created when Bagdasarian Sr had the genius idea of speeding up his voice in the 1950s. “What is this sorcery?” his friends all exclaimed.
Jackson death trial unlikely to be a thriller SINCE the latter part of the 20th Century, many celebrities have become more famous in death than in life: Lady Di, Corey Haim, Raul Moat... to name just a few titans to have boarded the Stygian ferry. None will have more of a bearing from beyond the grave in the coming months than Michael Jackson, though, at least not until the royal wedding, when The Daily Express will again have an excuse to put Princess Di on the cover every day. Jackson, who ironically signed the biggest record deal of his career with Sony recently while absent in the spiritual Neverland, will soon be on the lips of every child, man and woman around the world in possession of a telly or an internet as the trial of the century takes place. Dr Conrad Murray stands accused
of love in the first degree. Actually he doesn’t — you can’t go to jail for that or even get fined. Dr Conrad Murray stands accused of criminal negligence. Whether found innocent or guilty, the quack who has stuck with his not-guilty plea for administering Propofol to Jackson as a cure for insomnia, will feel more than anybody that he is being haunted. It was the Propofol what done him. The trial is due to start on March 28 and the case could last months. The judge said he was inclined to allow proceedings to be filmed, though if not BSkyB can get someone to act it out melodramatically, like they did for the trial of last century when Jackson was accused of child molesting. The lawyer for the defendant, J Michael Flannigan, who sounds less like a solicitor and more like a Riverdancer, believes Dr Murray could be in luck. “I think our case is really solid,” he said as his legs involuntarily did the fast-forward ‘Hokey Cokey’. “We were very pleased with the way the evidence went at the preliminary hearing.” How can you be pleased? A man is dead.
Vince Neil of Motley Crüe has been given a pair of weeks doing bird to contemplate his own stupidity, after being caught speeding in Las Vegas while under the influence of boozepiss. Stoical about the decision, the rocker said he has had his eyes opened, thankfully. “I have recognised you can’t drink and drive at all. I take full responsibility for my actions and will learn from this experience”.
Bono and Larry Mullen Jr of the Irish pop combo U2 were up before the beak recently for a long-running litigation dating back to 2000, over an interview with Brazilian magazine O Globo. Mullen Jr claimed the group had not been paid by promoters Bruni for series of gigs in 1998. As it happens, they had, but were short of publishing fees, which the promoters said were out of their hands. Mullen, the journalist and O Globo are all liable for $480,000, while Bono walks away on frigging water.
Court Circular The Stool Pigeon March 2011
by Jeremy Allen
Announcements Please email your announcements to firstname.lastname@example.org
Forthcoming Engagements MR TOM CRANE & MS SARAH HARDING. The engagement is announced between Tom, DJ, and Sarah, Girls Aloud singer. MR JADE JONES & MS EMMA BUNTON. The engagement is announced between Jade, chef, and Emma, former Spice Girls singer.
Marriages MADDEN — RICHIE. On December 11, The Good Charlotte frontman, Joel, married socialite Nicole in Los Angeles.
Births BARÂT — LANGLEY. On December 9, to Libertine Carl Barât and Langley Sisters singer Edie Langley, a boy, Eli. TREADWAY — MORISSETTE. On December 25, to Grammy award-wining singer Alanis Morissette and rapper Mario Treadway, aka Souleye, a boy, Ever Imre Morissette-Treadway.
composer and singer b. 25.12.1942, d. 13.12.2010 Remmy Ongala, singer and guitarist b. 10.02.1947, d. 13.12.2010 Rusty McNeil, folk singer b. 12.02.1929, d. 15.12.2010 Don Van Vliet, Captain Beefheart b. 15.01.1941, d. 17.12.2010 John Alldis, choral conductor b. 10.08.1929, d. 20.12.2010 Teena Marie, singer-songwriter b. 05.03.1956, d. 26.12.2010 Maureen Lehane Wishart, mezzo-soprano b. 18.09.1932, d. 27.12.2010 Billy Taylor, jazz musician b. 24.07.1921, d. 28.12.2010 Bobby Farrell, Boney M singer b. 06.10.1949, d. 30.12.2010 Frankie Campangna, Spector 45 singer, b. 21.10.1986, d. 01.01.2011 Mick Karn, Japan bassist b. 24.07.1958, d. 04.01.2010 Phil Kennemore, Y&T bassist b. 20.10.1953, d. 07.01.2011. Bobby Robinson, R&B/hip hop producer b. 16.04.1917, d. 07.01.2011 Margaret Whiting, country singer b. 22.07.1924, d. 10.01.2011 Alex Kirst, rock dummer b. 1963, d. 13.01.2011 Harvey James, Sherbet guitarist b. 20.09.1952, d. 15.01.2011 Joe Forrester, bluegrass pioneer b. 21.03.1919, d. 16.01.2011 Steve Prestwich, Cold Chisel drummer b. 05.03.1954, d. 16.01.2011 Don Kirshner, music publisher/producer b. 17.04.1924, d. 17.01.2011 James O’Gwynn, country singer b. 26.01.1928, d. 19.01.2011 Betty Smith, saxophonist and singer b. 06.07.1929, d. 21, 01.2011 Bhimsen Joshi, Indian vocalist b. 04.02.1922, d. 24.01.2011 Gladys Horton, Marvelettes singer b. 1944, d. 26.01.2011 Charlie Louvin, country music icon b. 07.07.1927, d. 26.01.2011 Dame Margaret Price, soprano b. 13.04.1941, d. 28.01.2011 Milton Babbitt, electronic music pioneer b. 10.01.1916, d. 29.01.2011 Doc Williams, country music legend b. 26.06.1914, d. 31.01.2011
Divorces REYNOLDS — JOHANSSON. The divorce is announced between Ryan, actor, and Scarlett, actress and singer, after two years of marriage. MELLENCAMP. The divorce is announced between John, American rock musician, and Elaine, model, after 18 years of marriage.
Deaths Monty Sunshine, jazz clarinetist b. 09.04.1928, d. 30.11.2010 Peter Andry, classical record producer b. 10.03.1927, d. 07.12.2010 James Moody, jazz musician b. 26.03.1925, d. 09.12.2010 Enrique Morente, celebrated flamenco
John Barry, a composer who scored 11 James Bond films and won five Oscars, has died aged 77 following a heart attack. He was born in York in 1933 to a mother who was a pianist and a father who ran a chain of cinemas. His exposure to film at a young age, particularly to the Hollywood soundtracks of the 1930s and ’40s, shaped his musical aspirations. Barry trained as a classical pianist but, by the late 1950s, he had formed his own jazz-rock group, the John Barry Seven. He soon found success with a string of UK pop hits including ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ and ‘Hit And Miss’ (the theme
from the BBC panel show, Juke Box Jury). His reworking of Monty Norman’s James Bond theme for Dr. No in 1962 led Barry to score 10 more in the series, including Goldfinger and Thunderball. Yet it was with scores to films such as Born Free, Out of Africa, Dances With Wolves and Midnight Cowboy that he found the most success. As one of the most celebrated film composers of his generation, Barry revitalised the sound of action films, a legacy he once reflected on by saying: “When I look back on it, I think, ‘How the hell did I do all this?’”
SHOCK AS NEWS OF TRISH KEENAN’S DEATH IS BROADCAST could be a Broadcast scary, sometimes foreboding beast musically. But
Gerry Rafferty, who had hits both as a solo artist and with the band Stealers Wheel, died on January 4 following kidney failure. He was born in Paisley, near Glasgow, in 1947. In the 1960s he formed The Mavericks, a Beatlesinspired four-piece who performed in and around the local area. After the Mavericks split, Rafferty joined Billy Connolly’s folk band, The Humblebums. They split, too, and Rafferty began a solo music career, gently advising Connolly to move into comedy. After a relatively successful debut solo album, Rafferty formed Stealers Wheel with former Maverick Joe Egan. Their eponymous debut contained ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’, a UK and US top 10 hit. The band released two more albums and then, in 1978, Rafferty released his second solo album, the platinum-selling City To City. It contained ‘Baker Street’, a hit that would make him £80,000 annually for the rest of his life. Rafferty’s solo career continued, with gradually diminishing returns, but alcohol was the main influence on his last 20 years. It cost Rafferty his wife, his home and his health. This is the second time Gerry Rafferty’s death has been reported. In February 2009 he disappeared from London’s St Thomas Hospital, where he was being treated for liver failure, and was rumoured to have died. He soon released a statement announcing that he was alive and well and living in Italy, although it transpired he’d actually moved to Dorset. His death also lays to rest an old myth — that Bob Holness played sax on ‘Baker Street’. He didn’t. The part was taken by a Scottish man named Raphael Ravenscroft.
if there was always warmth and light at their heart it was largely due to the voice of Trish Keenan, who died last month, aged 42. The band were formed in Birmingham in 1995 by Keenan and partner James Cargill. The earliest Broadcast songs were full of spaceage sixties pop cool and Stereolab were an obvious point of comparison. Even back then, though, Keenan’s voice — a thing of incredible clarity and expression — was enough to set Broadcast apart. The band signed to Warp and released their debut album, The Noise Made By People, in 2000. It contained what was probably their signature track, ‘Come On Let’s Go’, a melancholy swoon of a song up there with the very best of the decade. If they had stuck in this vein, sales may well have followed. But ever keen to mutate, 2003’s Haha Sound, saw the band throw everything from jazz to Velvet Underground-style filth into the mix. “Haha Sound was like a jewellery box, full of sparkling things,” Trish told The Stool Pigeon in 2005. But for their next album, 2005’s Tender Buttons, they “turned off the jewellery”. “We needed to do something that was more us, other than in the shadow of all the sixties bands,” Trish added. The band’s last record — a genuinely unsettling collaboration with The Focus Group grandly entitled Broadcast And The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age — was released in 2009. It was during a tour of Australia that Trish got sick. Rumours started to surface at the start of the year that she was hospitalised, gravely ill with pneumonia. Warp announced that she had tragically died on January 14. The reaction was extraordinary: Graham Coxon, Flying Lotus and Zooey Deschanel all paid tribute, while everyone from The Daily Mail to The New York Times ran with the news. “I don’t know where we stand. We get good reviews but nobody buys it,” Trish also told us in 2005. “There is the promo world that exists and there is life in this house. It’s weird that there are these posh photos, but I look around my bedroom and it’s a mess.” Ben Cardew
Gerry Rafferty, rock singer-songwriter, b. 16.04.1947, d. 04.01.2011
Trish Keenan, Broadcast b. 28.09.1968, d, 14.01.2011
John Barry, film score composer, b. 03.11.1933, d. 30.01.2011
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
Words by BEN GRAHAM
Photograph by DAVE MA
Oceans Apart Brighton’s British Sea Power on not being a protest band, or rapey. “I remember seeing Iggy Pop on children’s telly, shagging a furry animal,” British Sea Power singer Yan muses nostalgically. “That was good. But back then you couldn’t just go, ‘Oh, Iggy Pop, Google.’ It was like, ‘Who is this Iggy Pop man?’ I wonder what’d happen now. You can just see everything you want, can’t you? Make rapid development instead of slow progress.” I’m in the pub with exactly half of British Sea Power, talking about the past and the present. The past, because this year marks the 10th
anniversary of the band’s debut single, ‘Fear of Drowning’, and the present because their new album, Valhalla Dancehall, largely eschews such typical BSP subject matter as historical figures and remote natural phenomena in favour of often-ironic observations on contemporary society. This has led some critics to (wrongly) label it their ‘political’ album. “I think the political thing comes from having ‘Who’s In Control’ first and it mentions protesting, so people play it and they go, ‘Oh, it’s the
political album,’” says guitarist Noble. “If we’d put that in the middle then maybe it wouldn’t be.” The key line in ‘Who’s in Control’ is, “Sometimes I wish protesting was sexy on a Saturday night.” Written 18 months ago, it’s nevertheless been perceived as a comment on recent student demonstrations. Indeed, as 2010 rolled into 2011, it was as though protesting did actually become sexy on a Saturday night. “It’s weird how you can write one line, just ’cos it amuses you, and it leads you to being invited to go and
play some rock music off a boat at the House of Commons, with the optional extra of going on to a bonkers rave protest party and getting arrested,” says Yan. “I’m just glad they didn’t pick up on the other side of it. The rape angle.” Noble and keyboard/cornet player Phil Sumner look momentarily horrified. “Er, what’s that angle?” Noble asks. “Well, protesting about something sexy that you don’t like happening to you… someone might be invading you”.
“Which is where ‘Nude Intruder’ comes in,” Phil adds, referring to one of Valhalla Dancehall’s possible alternative titles. “Don’t get me wrong,” Yan insists. “It’s NOT a rape song. Can I just make this clear? I’ve never done that. And I never would.” Changing the subject, it seems it took you a long time to really nail the energy of your live shows on record... “Yeah, I’d agree with that,” says Yan. “With most bands they’re usually the other way round, aren’t they? They sound spot-on on record, and then you hear ’em live and you think, ‘That’s not as good.’ I think we were slightly the other way. We tried to push so much into it some-
times, that… I still like the atmospheres, the ideas, the words and things, but sometimes the music was third on the list, really.” “I think on Valhalla Dancehall there’s a lot more sounds and textures, and I think it’s one of those records that’s more rewarding the more you go back to it,” says Noble. “I don’t think we were able to do that with Open Season and Do You Like Rock Music? I don’t think there was enough time spent on that element.” I tell them that when I’ve seen them live, they’ve played some of the best gigs that I’ve ever seen, and some of the worst. But what makes the good gigs really special is
that sense of barely controlled chaos; that it could go either way. “It’s what we brought to Brighton, that was,” insists Yan, his native Yorkshire accent broader than you might expect. “Northern endurance of spirit. Take it a bit too far, and then hope for a good bit. I used to deliberately do something really wrong and see what would happen.” Noble: “He’s still doing that.” Yan: “It does happen. You get a feeling, like the other day… I’ve forgotten what film it is, but it’s like a martial arts action-comedy and this man’s got a drunken martial arts style. It popped into my head the other night at the gig, so I start-
ed copying that. But in a musical instead of a karate fashion. That’s why I was falling over.” That’s what Iggy Pop would do. That’s what you want, isn’t it? “Yeah, ’cos he used to go with it; Julian Cope, as well. It could work, it could fail.” Open yourself up to divine inspiration. “But I’ve got to say that at the same time, the Pet Shop Boys was the last proper gig I saw. I thoroughly enjoyed that. So it’s not the ultimate ideal. Or it’s not the only one, anyway.” Valhalla, they are coming! The paths are many, but the Dancehall is open all night.
Features The Stool Pigeon March 2011
Fortress In conversation and on her new record, Swedenâ€™s Lykke Li is in fighting form. Alex Denney hears the singersongwriter out on her right to be complicated, and making cheese. Photograph by Sam Christmas
Lykke Li is on her guard. We’re in an empty hotel bar with the Swedish singer-songwriter on a freezing day in December and conversation is haltingly awkward. Maybe it’s the impersonal surroundings, maybe she’s tired and not in the mood to take any shit, but it’s as if the 24-year-old musician is trying to make her intelligence seem somehow remote — self-contained. There’s a song on Li’s new album called ‘Get Some’, written after a Murakami novel in which a female
go to YouTube and watch one of my videos, 90 per cent of the comments are about the way I look, or that I’m ugly or whatever.” Clearly, this is a thorny subject for Li. It’s been three years since the feather-light, auteur-pop of her debut Youth Novels presented a coolly intelligent, sensual new voice to a world she thinks has been quick to misunderstand her, and since then she has wrestled with the ‘emptiness’ of touring, bouts of insomnia and a sense
tises warring sides of Li’s personality: the incurable romantic versus ambitious young lady craving independence, and the starry-eyed gal hooked on the ideal of love’s first flush versus an adult acknowledgement of the need for temperance and commitment. Li’s vocals are more forceful, less pretty-pretty than before. She expresses a certain horror at hearing herself sound like a “young white girl” on Youth Novels, which makes sense from an artist who can, in her
one that hurts me a lot.” That romantic streak is what led her to contribute a track, ‘Possibility’, to the second instalment in the Twilight film franchise, an opportunity Li says she grabbed with both hands: “I haven’t seen the film, to be honest, but I was so happy to have the chance to be exposed to that kind of die-hard, broken hearts club. I love that audience. They still believe in love, they’re not broken and they still have hope. If you ask somebody around 45 or 50
detective psychologically exploits a guy’s sexual fantasies about her in order to extract information. We wonder if this idea about ‘prostituting the mind’ to get what you want from men is a bit, well... condescending? The notion that menfolk are all so haplessly obsessed with sex they’re rendered complete idiots by it? The temperature in the room plummets to somewhere just below zero. “I think it’s fair enough,” Li says, making her doe eyes look hard and
of injustice at those who mistook — or wilfully misconstrued — her emotionally candid style for little-lost-girl coquetry. Of course, it’s also true that Li is a beguiling, slightly alien-looking beauty for whom image forms an undeniable part of her repertoire. She is, after all, a pop star. So what? she argues. “Don’t a lot of men have that, too? I think it’s interesting when you do something that’s pure — that’s primal and from the heart
“weaker moments”, be found sporting Flavor Flav gold chain watches onstage, and now sings about having the “rich kid’s blues” with a proportionate sense of irony. “I’ve always been an old soul,” she says matter-of-factly. “But I was too young to let that shine through the way I wanted with the first record. I couldn’t really express what I felt through the microphone.” Wounded Rhymes is also to some extent an unveiling of the mature
what true love is they might say something about making the relationship work or whatever, but when you’re 17 you think it’s like an ocean coming over you. I don’t think that’s sad necessarily — it’s just different perspectives. But I feel like with youth, you’re always gonna have that within you to an extent.” Writing for the record was a tortuous process and, admittedly, there are moments in which Wounded Rhymes clunks where it should glide
glassy. “If we see it in the grand scheme of things it’s like, ‘How many insulting comments do I get for being a woman?’” Where do those comments come from? “It’s what people choose to focus on when they talk about me. It’s like, ‘If you’re a woman you’re always gonna be in the women’s category, but if you’re a man you can be spoken about as a great artist — a great songwriter.’ I just think that’s bullshit. If you
— and it gets talked about in a sexual way just because you’re a woman. “When I think about artists today who are considered pop I don’t think I sound like them. I mean, it’s very traditional the way I write songs — either on guitar or piano — and in the future I’d like to strip away all the production and let my songs stand as they are. But [as a woman] everything I do is so sexually weighted; it has all these undertones that I haven’t particularly chosen. So we’re far from being equal;
Lykke Li, though not in the humdrum sense of the expression: “I just went one step deeper, dug deeper within myself, got into heavier experiences. I feel like the more you put into a situation, the more you put yourself at risk with everything you do. It’s like the highs are higher, and the lows are deeper ’cos there’s more at risk.” Poetic perspectives aside, though, the title begs a question: who’s been wounding who, exactly? “I feel like we’re all wounded and
— a by-product, perhaps, of Li’s pursuit of a darker, more intense sound. “For me I didn’t even know if this record would ever see the light of day,” she says. “It took so long, I was always crying and scratching my head. It was like I couldn’t capture the magic. Then I started getting pieces, and I would think, ‘Well, okay, nothing else is there but at least I have this.’ It was just finding something to grab onto ’cos it felt like I was going insane. I was sleepless in Stockholm, just holed up in the
it’s not an equal society.” This much is true, you suspect. With the feminist impulse seemingly all but washed-up on the rocks of shallow exhibitionism and ‘feeling good about yourself’ — i.e. the way you look — misogynist feeling is rarely far from the surface, it’s just we’ve learned how to camouflage it better. “Exactly,” says Li, remaining perfectly still in spite of her obvious irritation. “And we shouldn’t be happy till it’s gone. It’s about allowing yourself
we can carry wounds throughout our lives,” Li says. “It can be small incidents that happen, or the soul you’re born into. I’ve always thought I carried this heartbreak since the day I was born. And I’ve been throwing myself into situations where maybe people didn’t have my best interests at heart. The record’s really about the loss of innocence, the loss of youth, the loss of hope. All those things, you know. It’s about realising that life is hard, but also easy — it’s beautiful.”
studio not talking to friends, working on this crazy project all the time. And I still can’t believe that it’s done.” Done it remains, though, and Wounded Rhymes does hit upon some intoxicating highs: ‘I Follow Rivers’’ swooning chorus hits with trance-like intensity, and ‘Sadness Is A Blessing’ is a great, melodramatic R&B ballad worthy of Roy Orbison in his pomp: “Sadness is a blessing, sadness is a pearl / Sadness is my boyfriend, oh sadness I’m your girl.”
to be complex as a woman. People are always saying you’re either like this or like that, but I want the right to be complicated.” In the timespan separating Youth Novels from Wounded Rhymes — her second album on self-owned label LL Recordings — Li has toughened up her act considerably. From the aforementioned, combative opening single (“Like a shotgun needs an outcome / I’m your prostitute, you gon’ get some”) onwards, the record drama-
One can’t help but wonder if all this heartbreak’s made Li more cagey in matters both public and private (she compares herself to a “fortress” on ‘Get Some’), but she’s adamant that this is not the case when the question is raised. “I can’t really help myself,” she says, “because I want to be open and I feel it’s that openness that allows me to be creative. I’m such a sensitive soul and I work a lot on intuition, which can be my best trait but it’s also the
Such moments vindicate Li’s patience entirely, and give hope that, behind the fortress battlements Li has constructed around herself, a bruised, beating heart still lurks. As the lady in question puts it, during a bizarrelyworded moment of levity: “You can’t fake this, it has to be real. It’s like if you’re making cheese. You gotta make it from scratch, you know? You gotta let it age and dry — all those things. You might have the milk but there’s a long way to go to get to the cheese.”
The adversity never ceases for Marianne Faithfull, but she somehow always manages to slide through life on charm.
Word by Garry Mulholland Illustration by Kate Shields
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I interviewed her face-to-face in 2002 for her Kissin’ Time album, which featured collaborations with Blur, Beck and Nick Cave. And I asked her then about the indiscreetly-placed Mars Bar at The Stones’ Redlands drugs bust (it never happened… the Mars Bar, that is), Mick Jagger (it was a long time ago, people) and living on a wall (she lived on a wall — what could she say that would make that fact any more weird?). So today’s questions are, mostly, about today. The lady deserves some respect because, no matter how many times love affairs have been bad for it, her work has always been pretty great. And she’s a charmer, too, with her mix of showbiz grand-dame and rock’n’roll street chick, and a speaking voice that reminds you of Fenella Fielding in Carry On Screaming purring, ‘Mind if I smoke?’ What have you been doing since 2008? I was touring a lot. First Europe, then America, then Australia… all over the place. Was the Horses And High Heels album developed while you toured? No. It started last year. I started writing in February with Doug Pettibone. Then Hal [Wilmer] and I started to discuss it, but we really only fixed it just before we went to New Orleans to record. He came over here to Paris and we went through our ideas and it seemed that what we were doing — separately but also together — was going to be a sort of seventies album. Or late sixties/seventies kind of thing. You had writer’s block for a long time. How does that manifest itself? It just means that I can’t write. Or, rather, I don’t feel like it. And that’s really why I made Easy Come, Easy Go. We took that opportunity to make a retrospective of songs we love. But I was very relieved when I started to write again. When I’m blocked I don’t even try. I don’t use a word processor — I write long hand. But… it had been a difficult time. I was feeling better then, François fell in love with another woman, and… it was all very painful. I didn’t have the perspective yet. You’re not the sort of person who can use writing as therapy, then? No. I need to do that either before it’s happened or afterwards. The album seems quite informed by your break-up with François… Well, yeah… let me think. ‘Why Do We Have To Part’ is definitely part of that. That’s the song I really wrote about it. But I don’t know if the whole thing is informed by break-ups. It’s just that, since I’ve said that, it’s such a strong statement that obviously one then wants to look at the other songs and see if they connect. The thing that really connects is that love doesn’t always last. And that love is very important. ‘Why Do We Have To Part’ has a classic, mature diva, ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’/‘I Will Survive’ feel to the lyric… Does it? Yeah, well, I am grown-up enough to survive these things and walk away. You said in a recent interview, with Kris Needs for Record Collector, that you sang the last line about love — ‘It will never happen again’ — from ‘Past Present And Future’ so well because you meant it. Are you really saying that you’re never going to allow yourself to fall in love again? Ha ha! Well, I’m not sure. But, as I said in that interview, I’ve had an awful lot of love, and adoration, and great times, all my life. And I don’t mind having a break. But who knows? I might fall in love again. It doesn’t seem likely. I think I know too much. What is New Orleans like now, post-Hurricane Katrina? It’s not back together, really. I mean, its superficially back together, but I think everybody who went through it was incredibly traumatised. I’ve seen pictures of bodies floating down the street. The thing that really happened, which I think was a great shame, is that an awful lot of people just moved away. And they went to live in unlikely places where I wonder if they could be happy. Actual New Orleans people going to live in Texas? Unlikely. The best thing about it is that the pool of musicians you can draw from is fantastic. Dr John I’ve been friends with for years. But getting George Foreman Jr from The Meters to work with me is something that can only happen if you record in New Orleans. That was a great treat. He helped me a lot when I was nervous about the soul songs on Horses And High Heels. And he’s just a brilliant bass player. Are you more confident about your singing voice these days? I think I am, yeah. I’ve got used to it. I rather like it. And I made Hal push it much more upfront. Do you listen to your back catalogue?
No. I should, because it would give me a real sense of accomplishment. I do… sometimes. What’s your favourite Marianne Faithfull album? Kissin’ Time. I think it’s wonderful. But there’s a few. I like Vagabond Ways  very much, too. Is Broken English too difficult for you to listen to now — a reminder of what you were going through? No, I love Broken English. I still do a lot of songs… well, not a lot, but I perform three songs from that album: ‘The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’, ‘Broken English’ and ‘Why’d Ya Do It?’ Lou Reed and The MC5’s Wayne Kramer are both on the new album. What are they like to work with? Heavens, I can’t really say, you know, because they didn’t come down to New Orleans. You’d have to ask Hal. Lou I know very well. I always see him when I’m in New York. He’s Hal’s best friend and I’ve known him for years. I really wanted Lou because he’s most famous for brilliant writing and great performing. But I think he’s the most wonderful guitarist if you like his style — and I love it. I wanted him on this record ’cos I needed more rock’n’roll. Call in Lou Reed! And Wayne Kramer’s the same kind of figure… Yeah — incredible. And actually, I’ll be touring with him. When I come to England, Wayne Kramer will be in my band. I have to ask you about Keith Richards’ book. How do you think it turned out? Really well. He writes brilliantly and interestingly about his childhood, but the best bits are when he’s writing about music. A lot of the rock’n’roll anecdote stuff that the media focuses on is really overfamiliar. But Keith Richards on playing guitar is priceless… It’s every rock writer’s dream! To be able to express what Keith is actually feeling about writing songs and playing guitar and performing. I’ve had the same feelings but I’ve never seen them put into words so well. I wanted to ask about something else you said to Kris Needs. You said that you felt your beauty had distracted you from your talent. In what way? I thought that was a very interesting line, too. I think it’s been a factor. Because I got involved with people and it took my attention away. Love affairs are not always a good thing for the work. Particularly for me because I was always confused about all this stuff. Not sure of who I was, what I was or what I could do. My capabilities were always being questioned by me. I think you have to be quite ruthless. Look at Polly Harvey. You have to be stern with yourself. You’ve been clean since 2004, and have since suffered from, and recovered from, depression and breast cancer. It all begs the question: how have you survived all the mental and physical crises you’ve been through? Oh, I’m very lucky that I’ve had a lot of help. It was very good that I wasn’t using drugs or drink with the depression. That really makes it all worse. But I had to cope with all that and it was difficult. [Pause] Actually, what happened was that I had to go back into treatment in 2007 because I ended up with a sleeping-pill addiction. Which also makes you very depressed. This happens quite often — you get off the big, bad things and you fall into another one. I went to that place that Eric started — ‘the crossroads’… Sorry. Eric? Clapton. [Pause]. Sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry! That’s very naff. That’s okay. Eric. Crossroads. Should’ve guessed. Wasn’t likely to be Eric Morecambe, was it? No, no, you shouldn’t. That was appalling! Anyway, I went there and I did get off, and I came back… and then I got depressed. And, of course, it coincided with François falling in love with another woman. Which didn’t help. But all these things — pain, joy, everything — really come from in me. I don’t think it’s really that connected to outside circumstances. So I know what to do then. If I couldn’t see that and control my emotions accordingly, I would be opening a very dangerous door. Final question. You told me in the interview around Kissin’ Time that the song Jarvis Cocker wrote for you, ‘Sliding Through Life On Charm’, absolutely summed you up. Do you still think that? Ha! No. I don’t think I am anymore. Well… maybe a bit. A bit of charm never hurts, does it?
Grand Allusions The references in their songs might be all Greek to many, but they haven’t prevented Esben And The Witch’s fairy tale rise to glory.
Words by Ben Hewitt Photograph by Richard Johnson
and you name your band with an ‘and’ in the middle, there’s a big pot people can chuck you in,” says Daniel. “Like, ‘They sound like Marina And The Diamonds.’ I don’t want to shout at anyone, but that’s crazy.” Crazy it most certainly is. But then the BBC’s infernal Sound Of [insert annus horribilis here] poll is enough to drive even the most rational into twitching lunacy. Esben’s inclusion on this year’s list has, they admit,
ditions on ‘Argyria’. If there wasn’t an intention to be purposefully impenetrable, then such reference points could have been a deterrent or attracted accusations of pretension. Thomas shakes his head. “We knew what we wanted to write songs about, and there’s no reason why we should feel guilty about doing that — there’s no reason why we should have to explain ourselves.” “It would have been fraudulent to
ensured that, “There are a lot of people who may listen to Violet Cries almost based on these odd recommendations who wouldn’t otherwise. There are a few things about us that have led people to some skewed, distorted preconceptions.” Perhaps that’s why Violet Cries is so surprisingly dense. Early singles ‘Skeleton Swoon’ and ‘Lucia, At The Precipice’ didn’t make the final tracklist, and for a band who once included
do anything else,” says Rachel. It’s left to Daniel to have the last word. “It’s the absurd cynicism and distrustful nature of people,” he says. “‘You don’t know about that. You’ve written about it and you don’t know about it. Why have you done that?’ I don’t claim to; it’s just something I found unbelievably inspiring and intriguing, so I wrote about it. I didn’t do it so you can ask me about it and I can show off my knowledge of Francis Bacon’s work.
And The Witch are sitting in a café off Redchurch Street, sheltered from the growing darkness and hordes of yuppies roaming the Shoreditch streets outside. If you gave any credence to the notion of them being dark overlords of some UK neo-goth revival, you’d half-expect them to be shuffling out there in the gloaming, too. Right now, though, they’re supping on vintage ale and gleefully destroying all of
Brighton trio’s tales of ancient battlefields and slaying werewolves that first grabbed The Stool Pigeon’s attention nearly 18 months ago, when one of their early demos plopped onto our doormat, there’s nothing ‘goth-lite’ about Esben And The Witch. Their debut album Violet Cries shares just as much common ground with the lofty intellectualism of British Sea Power and I Like Trains as it does the gloomy soundscapes of Bauhaus and the
a cover of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Confide In Me’ in their live sets, there aren’t many choruses you could whistle along to; instead, there’s an abundance of opaque, brooding backdrops, the inclusion of which could easily be interpreted as a reaction against the hype… “It’s the sort of thing you just don’t concern yourself with,” says Daniel. “You’re on a hiding to nothing — it’s a fool’s errand to start paying too much
“This is one of my stock rants, but the word ‘pretentious’ has been coopted and completely misused. If we’d have toned down any sort of reference to anything intellectual, that’s pretentious. You’re pretending to be something else. This bizarre, cynical, horrible fashion where, if you’re alluding to something intellectual or seem to take yourself too seriously, then you’re pretentious… it seems like an out for people who don’t want to be chal-
those misconceptions. “There’s definitely a fine, but crucial, line between goth and gothic,” insists singer Rachel Davies, as the foppish Daniel Copeman nods in agreement. “There’s a difference between celebrating things that are ornate and grandiose, and slightly macabre,” he says earnestly, “and celebrating things that are just dark.” So while it may have been the
Cocteau Twins — and despite the oftnoted similarities between Rachel’s voice and Siouxsie Sioux’s, it’s the similarly-structured moniker that’s their closest tie to the Banshees… “In a way, the name’s been the worst decision we ever made,” sighs third member Thomas Fisher. “The amount of times I get called ‘The Witch’…” adds Rachel. “That’s been shouted at me a few times.” “When you have a female singer
attention to everything that happens around you. It’s only going to undermine what you’re trying to achieve and there’s no way it can be particularly beneficial. If someone says you’re great and you start thinking you’re great, that’s not helpful. And if someone says you’re rubbish…” On a different tack, there’s the highfaluting influences, too, with the allusions to Francis Bacon and Aeschylus on ‘Eumenides’, and horrific skin con-
lenged. It drives me absolutely crazy.” So there’s your escape route if you need one: forget about high ideals, high concepts and high art, and hitch your lumbering wagon to whatever dumb frigate your typical garage-rock band are currently towing around. And everyone else, gather your wits about you and get ready to take up Esben And The Witch’s challenge: even if you’re not clued up on your Francis Bacon, it’s still one you should be taking.
e aren’t enough songs about how brilliant London is. Whether it’s the cosseted, media-class likes of Lily Allen telling us to mind the dog turds or Professor Green waiting to get shivved in Hackney, it seems there’s simply more mileage — or street cred — to be had in portraying the capital as a ruinous shithole than risking an admission that you might actually quite like the place. her debut LP for Rinse FM’s label offshoot, Peckham chart-stepper Katy B aims to change all that. There are no skyscraping, Alicia Keys-style odes to what is probably, in the words of grime upstart Devlin, “the best city in the world when everybody’s not shanking”. But ‘On A Mission’ does offer a credible take on inner-city London life as experienced through the eyes of a regular, club-going teen. for all the ‘Queen of Funky’ platitudes that keep getting thrown about just now, a refreshing air of normality is absolutely key to the now-21 year old diva’s popular appeal. Her two singles to date — ‘Katy On A Mission’ and the Miss Dynamite-assisted ‘Lights On’ — are clubland rhapsodies with an irresistible, unassuming air that will surely resonate with anyone that’s enjoyed melting into the crowd of a Saturday night. It’s soulful, in an everyday kind of way. what of the ‘real’ Katy B, born Kathleen Brien in Camberwell’s King’s College Hospital in 1989? With dubstep finally breaking big and both the aforementioned singles going Top 5 towards the back end of last year, people have been falling over themselves to proclaim her the best thing that’s yet to happen in 2011. Isn’t there a danger of all those accolades going to a young girl’s head? managers keep telling me off ’cos I like to ride my bike around London,” says Katy, in the South London bar where she recently celebrated her 21st birthday. “Like in Brixton I might go to McDonald’s at two in the morning and they’re like, ‘You can’t really do that,’ ’cos someone might think I’ve got loads of money or something and I’ll get kidnapped. till think of myself as Katy from Peckham — my life’s exactly the same. I think it’s a compliment for people to say I’m going to do good
things in 2011, but I can’t start thinking I’m this amazing person, ’cos it’s not like I’m saving anyone’s life really, is it?” he casual eye, it may appear as if Katy’s success has come out of nowhere — the happy byproduct of a guest spot on Magnetic Man’s Top 20 breakbeat cut ‘Perfect Stranger’ from last summer. Alternatively some have fancied it as the result of her tenure at the nowubiquitous BRIT School in Croydon, whose music industry connections are well-known. t turns out, her route to fame has been far more organic, more satisfyingly ‘normal’ than that. Katy first sang on a track produced at home by a friend’s brother, subsequently going on to lend her casually soulful stylings to a string of garage and grime tunes before she’d even attained legal clubbing age. , in 2006, a UK funky track she’d done with DJ NG (‘Tell Me’) proved popular with the pirate stations across London, and Rinse FM boss and producer Geeneus got in touch about working together. Originally, the idea had been to use Katy’s voice as a common
thread on an album showcasing the various production talents at the much-loved pirate station, granted a community licence in June last year. However, that record was scrapped in favour of a more streamlined approach featuring just a handful of producers, most notably Geeneus (who also doubles as Katy’s manager along with partner Sarah Lockhart) and drum’n’bass veteran DJ Zinc. eus and Sarah obviously take a hands-on role in managing their young charge’s blossoming career, fussing like solicitous parents over Katy’s hair during the shoot and discussing with their PR how they can land her into the pages of the women and celebrity weeklies. t Gee likes to do is support new music,” says Katy. “It’s been such a blessing to have him on my side, ’cos he takes something from its raw form and just elevates it to new heights. Plus Gee and Zinc have their own studios so we can go in when we want — there’s no pressure and I feel really comfortable working with them. They know how good I can be, and they know how rubbish I can be.”
’s first love in music was R&B, and she cites Erykah Badu and Jill Scott as heroines for the weighted simplicity of their lyrics. Clearly, EMI thinks highly of her talent: they signed her as a songwriter to their publishing arm last year. In fact, rumours of a major label move have persisted from almost the outset, but Katy swats away at the question with an admirably straight bat: ryone keeps saying I’d been approached by major labels but I’ve been with Rinse from the beginning. I think when I first started making music with them the labels started sniffing round a bit, but it wasn’t like there was a bidding war going on or anything. There are loads of people that get signed and nothing happens for them anyway — I’m not naïve to the fact. You’ve just got to do what you’re happy with — that’s the name of the game.” ouldn’t have put it better ourselves, really. Perhaps best of all about this particular success story is that, after what seems like decades of sorry-ass celebs assuring the great unwashed they’re just everyday Joes like you and me, Katy B makes being normal cool again.
Capital Radio Rinse FM’s Katy B is keeping the lights on London.
Words by Alex Denney Photograph by Jonny Wright
MAKING TRACKS Sean Combs claims he became an artist while making new album, Last Train To Paris. Did he? Angus Batey meets a man whoâ€™s always had ideas above his station.
may not be the size of crowd he’s used to surveying when on stage, but Sean Combs isn’t one to miss milking the grand gesture. As he looks out across the parking lot to the rear of El Capitan theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, the 41-year-old — who has at various times been best-known as a record producer, a music mogul, a movie actor, a vodka, restaurant and couture impresario, and a rap star, under names including Diddy, P. Diddy and Puff Daddy — decides to make an announcement. Twenty minutes ago he was inside the El Capitan, on a different stage, chatting amiably with Jimmy Kimmel as the promotional campaign for a new LP clicks up another gear. The show’s live band performance finale is taped outside, under a bank of lighting and a tarpaulin-and-steel canopy, in front of the TV audience who’ve been shepherded out of the studio. And while the new band is a threepiece, with Combs taking his place alongside singers and songwriters Kalenna Harper and Dawn Richard, it’s clear who’s the boss. The cameras are off, the tape is in the can, but the cumbersomely monikered Diddy-Dirty Money carry on playing. After three songs from their Last Train To Paris album, the slick live band backing the vocalists pile into the bombastic 1997 anthem ‘Victory’, and after a verse and a chorus, Combs decides it’s time to lay his cards on the table. Staring impassively over the heads of the couple of hundred TV audience members, he hams up the mystery quotient but gets to the heart of his current creative condition. “I go by many names,” he says, cracking only the hint of a smile, “but tonight I’m Puff Daddy.” And for the next few minutes, he and his band run through a condensed and concise greatest hits collage, songs such as ‘Mo Money Mo Problems’ and ‘Bad Boy For Life’ harking back to the late-1990s, when things, in retrospect, seemed so much simpler. True, Diddy/Puffy/Sean was still recovering from the murder of his friend and most acclaimed protégé, Christopher ‘The Notorious B.I.G.’ Wallace, and was some way from living down the wrong-headed accusation/supposition that his fanning the flames of a war of words with Marion ‘Suge’ Knight’s Death Row had played a part in Biggie’s death. But back then, Puffy was all about the music, and whether you loved it or hated it — and if you hated it, chances are that was because you felt it was simplistic, soulless, contrived and conniving — you knew that music was what he did. The intervening decade-and-a-half have certainly been kind to Combs. He’s a multimillionaire with something of a Midas touch, his commercial projects and business ventures as successful as they are numerous. The East/West beef is now ancient history, the animosities it fed and which fed off it rendered almost quaint with the passage of time, and he can now turn up to play a gig in Los Angeles without a security team of presidential proportions. And, if not being able to treat it as just any other city, at least he can approach it with sufficient emotional distance from the tragedy of that March night in 1997 to be able to make the performance feel like a celebration rather than a commiseration. He’s become part of the furniture here, after all — an almost constant presence on one or another of the billboards or building-high painted ads up and down the Sunset Strip (tonight, in fact, his face is plastered on the side of a hotel, 18 storeys high, in an ad for Flip cameras, though he’s managed to cross-promote his new LP at the same time). But there’s been a price to pay, and it’s come out of his music-making. Between June 2001, when he released his third LP, The Saga Continues…, and December 2010, when the startling Euro-flavoured, electronica-inflected Last Train To Paris came out in the US, he managed to release only one LP: and that record, 2006’s Press Play, sold, by his stratospherically high standards, pretty poorly. There was a label realignment to take care of, which delayed the Dirty Money project for half a year, but it often looked like Diddy’s heart wasn’t in the music game any more. Too busy hosting parties on his yacht during Cannes film week; too busy preening for cameras shooting ads to show on video billboards in Times Square; too concerned with building Brand Diddy to be worried about the piffling business of making records, particularly as the economic underpinning of the music industry crumbled. So the arrival of Last Train To Paris is a surprise in several ways. It shows he still cares enough about music to make a record, full stop. It’s also a record that,
while not quite free of the calculated commerciality that is his recording lifeblood (you don’t get to be as big as Puff, as assured as Puff in the studio, as successful as Puff in the boardroom, without the bit about giving the people what they want being an innate part of your being), nevertheless sees him taking risks. It’s a concept album, for one thing — about star-crossed lovers chasing each other across Europe. “I think this is the album where I became an artist,” Diddy says the following day, slurping his way through a plate of Chinese chicken in a bungalow at the Beverley Hills Hotel. And he kind of has a point. “I think I became more of an artist on this album, honestly. The decisions weren’t made to have this be played on radio, but to try to sound more artistic, or to keep it real.” He’s decided he’s come up with a new genre — train music. This sounds like one of those convenient little marketing-meeting promotional bullet-points (which, of course, it is too), until you hear him explain the concept of the sound, and its genesis: growing up near both the New York subway and the Long Island Railroad, Puffy took plenty of trains until the first-class lifestyle became his new reality, and he reckons the percussive propulsiveness of the record sounds like a train, evokes motion and helps power the sense of movement and journey that the story behind the lyrics describes. You don’t get this shit from Rick Ross (though he, and a compact constellation of current hip hop stars, appear on the LP as guests). “I’m a hip hop artist,” he says. “In the most bravado industry, the category of music with the most bravado is hip hop. And me sayin’, ‘Well, I’m makin’ a love story,’ already is like you’re swimmin’ against the tide. But that’s what an artist does, you know? I think that ‘keepin’ it real’ goes to the music, goes to the record. That’s the only loyalty. The only thing you should keep it real to is the actual record, and what you’re trying to get across.” Puffy’s detractors — and he’s had more than his share — will snort in derision. How could the man who sounded like he spent more time counting his money than he did recording his verses have the nerve to start talking about artistic credibility? To them, Puffy’s the anathema of art — arguably the first big star to come out of hip hop (a genre where selling-out has always been a good thing) who made the business seem as if it was of more consequence than the music. It’s an understandable view, to a point, but it misses some of the man’s innovations: not only did he invent the hip hop-soul movement through his management and direction of the early career of Mary J Blige, not only did he alter hip hop’s history irrevocably with his patronage of and work with Biggie, but on his debut album, No Way Out, Puffy was probably one of the first rappers to introduce introspection and soul-searching to rap’s thematic vocabulary. His critics might have dismissed the self-laceration of the track ‘Pain’, but you had to think Combs was made of stone — or money — to not hear its honesty. “On that album I was definitely an artist because I was so vulnerable,” he says now, of a record assembled in the weeks following Biggie’s murder. The fact that it was his first record actually enabled that degree of emotional honesty — and success made it more difficult to repeat. “It was so new to me and I didn’t really know nothin’ else to do,” he admits. “And then, after you sold 10 million records, it just changes. Then you start tryin’ to do things, and you lose the artist part of yourself. I think this album was when I regained it — and I regained it in a way that didn’t have nothin’ to do with a tragedy.” And to regain it he not only had to reinvent his musical process — “I used a special technique, combining digital and analogue,” he allows, cautiously. “I wanted to experiment, bouncin’ stuff back from two-inch tape to digital, because I wanted some of that energy, but the digital sound, to me, lacks soul” — he had to find a new creative machinery he could work within. He could have done the stereotypical rapper thing of hiring the 10 hippest and biggest-hitting producers to craft him a selection of state-of-the-art beats, and tried to locate his muse in his lyrical responses to those, but where’s the challenge in that? Instead, he linked up with Kalenna and Dawn — both with lengthy track-records, the former as a songwriter whose work has been sung by everyone from Christina Milian to Aretha Franklin, the latter in the group Danity Kane, who were put together on Puffy’s reality TV show, Making The Band, and have had two number 1 albums in the US — and has sincerely tried to do something new...
all had journeys here,” says Dawn. “I didn’t just have a second chance — I had a third chance. I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana; I had just lost everything. I was not supposed to be singing. We had two platinum albums, we was openin’ up for Christina Aguilera, and then my group dismantled. I was not supposed to have another career! Puff didn’t have to see me — he’s the American Dream. He had his own album. He didn’t have to care. But there was a reason why this man chose me to still be able to sing.” Dawn and Kalenna are big on belief. So is Puff — and understandably so, given the bullish self-confidence that earned him his nickname and has carried him from a mailroom internship at MCA’s Uptown label to two decades of music business pre-eminence. Yet it’s still hard to digest the line that all three push about turning dreams into reality using only the power of certitude. “They told [Kalenna] when she had a kid she’d never sing: ‘You have your child, it’s a wrap,’” Dawn says. “There is the power of prayer and the power of belief. Now, I don’t know ’bout anybody else, but us three believe it and we’re standing on stage together. So, I mean, it is possible.” “Yeah, you do have to see it, though,” Kalenna says. “I was a military brat, my father fought for this country and for our freedom, so he was somebody that I looked up to. He lost his father and just grew up wantin’ to be more than he could ever imagine, or more than what his circumstances said he could ever be. He used to tell me this trick, and it made sense. He said, ‘You wanna be a songwriter? This is what I need you to do. I need you to close your eyes and think about the story before you even write down a word. Think about you walkin’ through the door, think about what the people are doin’, what the atmosphere’s doin’, what it smells like...’ So that’s the way I lived my life.” “It’s not just about saying it,” Dawn says. “You have to put the heart and belief behind it.” “Oh, the power of faith and belief is somethin’,” Puff attests between mouthfuls of chicken. “When you truly believe, you know? And when it’s not workin’ out the way you think it’s gonna work out, you gotta be still.” “Ooh!” chimes Kalenna. “What you say? ‘You gotta be still.’ Did you hear that?” “Still,” Puffy repeats. “You gotta sit there an’ wait.” Okay, even if we were prepared to accept that there’s some sense to this — that it’s possible to will a reality into being simply by wanting it hard enough — being still during the hard times is a tough piece of advice to swallow. Between the business meetings and the private jets and the train rides (all three rode the Eurostar from London to Paris in the autumn, listening to the completed album on the way, because “We had to,” according to Puffy. “We can’t have the album if we never took the train”), there can’t be much time for stillness. Patience, yes — that’s got to be a component part of any successful business — but surely as driven an individual as Sean Combs hasn’t spent much of his life waiting idly for opportunity to land in his lap. “No, no, no,” he protests. “That’s a part of believin’ — that you know it’s gonna come true. That’s the thing that fuels you when nobody’s there and nobody’s believin’. So that’s the thing that fuels you when you’re workin’, because you believe it’s gonna happen. That’s the thing that motivates you. It’s like bein’ in a place of darkness — there’s no light, and you keep walkin’ an’ walkin’. And you walk because you know. When I talk about bein’ still, that just means ‘don’t panic and start runnin’’, because you won’t see the light. You gotta believe that it’s gonna come.” It must be hard to maintain that belief when things get really tough. “I think, for me, that’s one of my gifts,” he says. “When everybody’s, ‘Help! My God! We’re gonna die!’ I’m like, ‘Chill — chill out.’ ‘But I can’t breathe!’ ‘Just chill — two more seconds, it’ll be alright.’ You know what I mean? That’s always how I been.” So up there on that curious little stage, in the city which must hold such a complex place in his head and his heart, Puffy seems to be declaring more than just his fealty to the part of his past that produced the biggest hits: he gives the impression of having made a conscious decision, after some years of demurral, about who he is and what he’s here to do. And the decision he’s reached — to put art first — is going to surprise people: not least among them, Puff himself. “Take the way my voice is soundin’ on this record,” he says. “It’s not as monotone, and when I’m singin’ it’s weird and dusted. But you can tell I’m not tryin’ to sing — it’s that that’s the way my voice sounds, and I’m usin’ it as an instrument. It’s things like that — all these things that I’ve deprived myself of. I’m only just realisin’ — ‘Oh! That’s what artists do!’ Heh heh. You know?”
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t’s the day after the X Factor final and in Shepherds Bush’s KWest Hotel, Rebecca Ferguson is posing for a quick photo with a fan in the lobby. The runner-up in this year’s increasingly shrill, money-reeking bonanza of televisual trumphalism is on her way out after last night’s show, witnessed by nearly 17 million viewers across the UK. Up on the first floor, we pass feisty young Cher Lloyd, the 17-year-old schoolgirl with a hip hop attitude now taken under her father’s wing as she
gathers up her belongings and peers outside after a career which may or may not lie in wait for her. Good luck Ms Lloyd, we hardly knew thee. Later, we discover that all the contestants for the ITV1 programme have been shacked up in the West London digs for the evening — barring winner Matt Cardle — but The Stool Pigeon knows something they don’t: it’s W anda J ackson ’s world, Simon Cowell just lives in it. That’s not some kind of stock reality show indictment, just a statement of bald fact — we all live in
Wanda Jackson’s world, and presently we’re about to go and give thanks for it. Born in Maud, Oklahoma in 1937, Jackson moved to California with her family aged four, first picking up a guitar at her father’s encouragement two years later. There, she was first exposed to country pioneers like Spade Cooley, Tex Williams and Bob Wills, and the seeds were sown of an enduring love affair with music that would launch Jackson’s career, and help light the torch paper under Western popular culture as a whole. Jackson’s first taste of
ip t W O R D S by ALEX DENNEY
success came in 1954, six years after her family moved to Oklahoma City. Honky tonk legend Hank Thompson heard her singing on a local radio station and asked her to perform with his band, the B razos V alley B oys. Recording a string of songs on their label, Capitol Records, Jackson signed as a solo artist with Decca and embarked on a touring schedule — following her graduation from high school — that continues to this day. Managed by her everwatchful dad, it was on her travels that Jackson first discovered a singer by the
name of Elvis Presley, with whom she would later strike up a brief romantic dalliance. But first, there was his music. “When I first heard rockabilly I loved it but then I don’t remember anything else — I was a teenager myself at the time,” says Jackson at the end of a tiring, day-long press junket (she’s now 73). Her voice is like slow molasses, and she has the uncanny ability to transform a bland hotel suite into her own personal throne room. “I’d just got out of school and Elvis was the first guy I toured with. And
P P H O T O G R A P H by AUTUMN DE WILDE
There’s always a party going on with magic WANDA JACKSON, forever the Queen of Rockabilly.
I didn’t know about him, I just thought he was another country singer I’d never heard of. “I was shocked when I saw his performance that night, ha ha! Nobody knew what to call it. We didn’t have a name, it was just ‘S tuff like Elvis is doing ’. Back then ‘hillbilly’ was something you got called if you played a guitar and sang Hank Williams, we didn’t use the word ‘country’. Everyone used to have titles, and Elvis in the beginning was the ‘Hillbilly Cat’. He dressed different, so he was a cat. And when
that word ‘rock’ came up we got termed ‘ROCKABILLY ’.” As for so many others her age, seeing Elvis perform live was a revelation for the young Jackson, but the full significance of this exhilarating new fusion of country and rhythm’n’blues styles didn’t become apparent until later on. “He [Elvis] used to talk to me about singing this kind of music, because I’d never done anything but country. And I didn’t think I could even sing it. But he explained the business side of it to me and my dad. He said to both of us that this is
the new big music, and it’s the young people who love it and are buying the records. “He kept saying he thought it would be the biggest thing to come along, and that we needed to get in on this. And there I was singing all these songs about marriage going wrong and trifling or whatever, because that’s all there was.” Jackson would have been around 18 at the time and, in hindsight, perhaps Elvis saw in Jackson just a dash of something wicked required to convey rocka-
billy’s raw, feral feeling. On stage the singer wore high heels, long earrings and fringe dresses made by her mum — all of which would have been considered seriously immodest by the country standards of the time. Jackson’s father grasped the importance of what Presley was saying, and with a new deal inked with Capitol in 1956 , the young performer went on to cut a number of songs mixing country and rock’n’roll throughout the period. It was these tracks — including ‘Hot Dog! That
Made Him Mad’, ‘Mean, Mean Man’ and ‘L et’s Have A Party ’, belatedly Jackson’s first Top 40 hit — which helped establish the singer’s burgeoning reputation as the ‘Queen of Rockabilly’, the foremost female in a scene dominated by such giants of the American folkloric canon as Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and, of course, Elvis. And that is why it’s Wanda’s world we’re living in. In helping establish the rock’n’roll imprint that laid the foundations for pretty much the entirety of youth
culture as we know it, Jackson deserves her place among the greats, and that she did so as a woman in a climate as staunchly con1950s servative as America’s , well, it’s... “…outrageous?” offers Jackson, with a dirty laugh. “But I didn’t realise that it was against me, as a woman. That was probably the reason. I was just doing it because I loved the music — I wanted to sing this music at my shows.” It’s amazing how supportive your parents were in building your career, though, given the atmosphere of moral panic rock-
’n’roll created in its early years. “Oh, I know it! I don’t know what planet my parents were from. My dad couldn’t believe the things that newspapers and radio were saying about it. Whereas my mother didn’t know so much about music, she just knew if she liked it or not. But daddy was the one that taught me to play guitar and encouraged my singing.” Without doubt the most famous weapon in Jackson’s arsenal as a performer is her incredible voice, capable of flying from country-gal pine to incen-
diary snarl in the flip of a 45. Was there a moment where you could let fly with the vocals? “I remember finding ‘HOT DOG! THAT MADE HIM MAD ’, and really it was more of a blues. But the title line, I was singing it [makes guttural noise at the back of her throat]… you know I was getting that growl. Later I did a song called ‘Mean, Mean Man’, which is probably the first one I did the growling stuff on properly.” Jackson went on to record a slew of smokinghot rockabilly classics at the turn of the decade, including ‘Savin’ My Love’
and ‘Fujiyama Mama ’, an atom-bomb referencing track which Japanese fans went bizarrely nuts for. But her record company was never sure how to handle her, and eventually Jackson focused her attentions on the country music of her youth, even turning her hand to gospel after a conversion to Christianity in the early seventies. Then with the rockabilly revival of the early eighties Jackson’s oeuvre began a slow creep back into the public consciousness and, in 2003, she cut a firecracker disc with latter-day luminaries such as The Cramps
and Elvis Costello. Finally, she was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame in April 2009 as an ‘Early Influence’. Some would call that a case of ‘about time’, but Jackson is unflinchingly modest. “About time, yeah,” she says, laughing. “Well, not for me, but maybe for my husband [Wendell Goodman, also Jackson’s manager since her father’s passing]. He began thinking several years ago, ‘Well, why aren’t you in the Hall Of Fame?’ And I thought it was because I never had that long string of hits — I never had a
number one, even. He said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t care, you were the first one to do it, you should be in there.’ “So he started talking it up, and when Elvis Costello was inducted and he found out that I wasn’t in it he got upset, too. He wrote a letter to the powers that be and said, ‘You know the guitar of mine you’re wanting to hang in the hall? You won’t get it until it can hang next to Wanda Jackson’s.’ But in the end I was more shocked than anything, because I didn’t really think I’d ever be in it.”
Now Jackson is back with The Party Ain’t Over, a colourfully varied collection of songs produced by long-time admirer Jack WHITE , who has previous in this kind of thing — he famously gave country legend Loretta Lynn a contemporary makeover in 2003, with the excellent Van Lear Rose. “After we made our initial contact with Jack I picked up the record he did with Loretta,” says Jackson. “It was a good album — cute. Of course I’m not as big a name as Loretta Lynn, but Jack’s
purpose with me was to introduce me to a new generation of rock’n’roll bands. I guess he thinks they’re going to like my music, too. I don’t know! “He’s a fantastic guitarist. It’s the new style — kinda distorted but, my goodness, what he does with the guitar. I read one of his interviews where he said, ‘I don’t just play a solo, I attack it,’ and that’s right!” It’s a decidedly leftfield set, with covers of Bob Dylan’s ‘Thunder On The Mountain’ (chosen by the old coot himself, and
described by Jackson as “very wordy”) and Amy Winehouse’s ‘You Know I’m No Good’ (with one explicit verse rewritten by White in accordance with Jackson’s wishes) among the most eye-catching turns. The more you think about it, the more White seems an apt collaborator for Jackson, as an artist better equipped than most to understand rock’n’roll’s position in American culture as the uniquely contradictory meeting point between liberal and conservative impulses. But what did she think of him?
“When I met Jack I was quite impressed,” she says. “He was just so genuine, real cool and laid-back. But when we got in the studio it was something different. He was so focused and he knew the feel or the performance he was trying to get out of me, and I wasn’t able to stop short of that. “He pushed me right into the 21st century ,” she says, and laughs her throaty, comforting laugh. Whatever White’s achievement in bringing her into the new millennium, Jackson’s bountiful legacy precedes her.
The Stool Pigeon interview a proto-crunk originator, Memphis’s legendary DJ Spanish Fly By Phil Hebblethwaite ver hear the one about the pioneer who had the imagination and did the hard work, yet never got the props or money? It’s not exactly like that with DJ Spanish Fly, but you can’t deny a man his hardcore and his story hasn’t really been told — not outside of Memphis. He does get his shouts there, especially from the city’s most successful hip hop group, Three 6 Mafia, who were making a clear point when they flew him out to their adopted home of Los Angeles to drop a verse on ‘First 48’ — a Memphis legends track from their 2008 album, Last 2 Walk. It’s the internet, however, that’s truly forcing catch-up on this neglected originator. A series of raw and innovative mixtapes that DJ Spanish Fly cut in the lateeighties and early-nineties have found their way online in recent years and they’re blowing people ’s minds. “The MP3 dorkosphere got Memphis on lock,” one blogger writes, and it’s about time. As the total absence of any Memphis artists from last year’s VH1 Hip Hop Honors: The Dirty South proves, the largest city in Tennessee is being written out of the rap history books, despite being the home of crunk. Ask DJ Spanish Fly to define the early Memphis sound and he ’ll say, “It was a wicked, 808, slow, dope groove,” just like his own music. Add to that his scattergun, repetitive lyrics, heavy basslines and gangsta lean and you pretty much have a definition of early crunk. No one could claim that Spanish Fly invented the genre (he certainly doesn’t), but he made a significant contribution to its formation, not least by introducing an essential track to Memphis — ‘Drag Rap’ by New York group The Showboys. It’s from there that the ‘triggerman’ beat is taken, which also became an absolute staple of New Orleans bounce. There’s more. He says here that the buck jump dance — later known as gangsta walking or jookin’ — took shape in the club he first DJed at, Club No Name. Now, because of YouTube, jookin’ has gone global and the incredible video for Janelle Monáe’s breakout hit, ‘Tightrope’, featured three Memphis jookers. DJ Spanish Fly, real name Antonio Kimbrough, still performs in Memphis and for years he had a slot on the local hip hop radio station, Hot 107.1. You sense, though, that we ’re about to hear much more from the self-named “granddaddy” of Memphis rap (he ’s 40). Old songs like ‘Smokin’ Onion’ and ‘Going To Mr Z’s’ still sound potently original and they’re continuing to prick interest on the internet. Two Spanish Fly tracks, ‘Uzi Tool’ and ‘Wassup Nigga’, were finally made available through iTunes in 2009 (his first official releases after a long history of having his tapes dubbed, now file-shared) and there ’s since been talk of British label Lex Records putting out some newly recorded songs, and hopefully a full album. So, expect plenty more “raw, stank-ass onion evil from Memphis” to come, as one guy online perfectly calls DJ Spanish Fly’s supremely pungent flavour.
The 1986 track ‘Drag Rap’ by New York’s Showboys became an influential song in Memphis. Tell us about it.
It’s a song I can remember. I was buying records back in the day and of course I’d pick up almost anything on Profile or Jive and at least listen to them. Often they had an 808 kick and that’s what I was looking for. Songs with the 808 kick is songs that I really targeted and really wanted, and those songs you couldn’t hear on the radio or nowhere. That was a song that I went to a record shop and I picked up, gave it a listen and when it got the part where the 808 came in I was like, ‘Wowwwww!’ So I started putting it on my mixtapes and my mixtape was basically a DJ Spanish Fly mastermix production. I’d make a song back in my bedroom — like ‘Smokin’ Onion’ — and put it at the beginning of the tape; sneak it in. Then I would grab songs that was not played on the radio; songs that weren’t even heard of; songs that would just give me a chill in my heart when I heard the 808 kick; songs that just was dope. Showboys’ ‘Drag Rap’ was one, also Triple M Bass, LL Cool J, Scarface, Geto Boys, Ice T… The Triggerman song [‘Drag Rap’] was dead and gone, really — it wasn’t even discovered. It came out and it didn’t hit in New York, but I put in on my mixtape and people started liking it. Back then I was editing with a cassette deck — we used to call it cutting. We had turntables but I used cassette decks and I looped the hell out of parts of that song, like, ‘lock him in a trunk / yeah, that should be fun,’ or, ‘ratta tatta tatta tatta tatta tatta BOOM!’ Everybody would just go crazy. And now when The Showboys come to Memphis they always come find me and thank me, because I gave that song life.
The song travelled, especially to New Orleans…
Yeah, it went to New Orleans. A lot of people from Memphis went to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the Freaknik in Atlanta and to St. Louis, and they’d carry my mixtape with them on the road. People would hear them and it’d be like, ‘Wow, that’s that Memphis music,’ and they’d start dubbing it. If you got your hands on a Spanish Fly, you’d need to dub it — that was the thing back in the day, because you couldn’t buy them unless you were in Memphis, and even then you’d have to go to a little shop like Mr Z’s, or you could catch them at the Club No Name for a dollar up in the front booth, or from some guy selling them out the trunk. You did a song called ‘Going To Mr Z’s’. But it’s not a record shop, right?
No. Mr Z’s is a car stereo shop, beepers, alarms… I went to get my music sold in there — just a few tapes, and then he kept ordering bigger and bigger and bigger. At first I didn’t know he had stores out of town, and he was putting them there as well. [laughs] So I made a song just for him. It was a radio commercial originally: ‘I’m going to Mr Z’s to get my beeper hooked up…’ But he wanted it to be a long song that he could give away to his customers as appreciation for when they buy stuff. How would you describe the Memphis sound in those early days? What made it Memphis?
It was a wicked, 808, slow, dope groove. It was a dope beat… it was dope. When you were doing your edits on your cassette deck, you were slowing songs down, looping them, extending them to sometimes seven or eight minutes... And that’s what gave them that Memphis flavour?
Right. Looping them and not necessarily slowing them down but making tracks that were 60bpm or even less. That’s that Memphis sound. It’s the 808 and the cowbell — that dope groove. Take us back to the really early days — the mid-1980s — when you first started out.
It started out as this little crew in the hood — in Clementine [South Memphis]. I was probably 15 or 16. We were called the True Blu Cru and it was me — the DJ — Mighty Rappin’ Fishbone, who was originally from Chicago, and three others. But it was me and Mighty Rappin’ Fishbone who were really the active cats and we ’d do things like sell blood [at blood banks] just so we could throw parties and get refreshments for the people. In Memphis, we were the closet thing to New York. I was beatboxing, breakdancing, I had the fat laces in my Adidas, the big radio… Every time you saw me I had a radio, even on the school bus. Eventually the True Blu Cru entered a contest at this club, Club No Name. There was a rapping contest and a DJing contest. Mighty Rappin’ Fishbone was going in the rapping contest and I was going in the DJ contest, but the day of the show, and I mean the evening of the show, Mighty Rappin’ Fishbone went to jail for some drug stuff. He got busted. I won the DJ contest. Then it came around and it was time for the rap contest. I had this rap I always said and I beatboxed behind it, so I entered and I won that, too. After that night the club asked me to be a DJ there. They had to have me, you know what I’m saying? [laughs] I was the mixer. DJ Spanish Fly was the New York dude in Memphis and everybody knew it. Was Club No Name the first club in Memphis to play hip hop?
Yes. Back then it was called rap music and rap music was only supposed to last about three years. Even I thought it wasn’t going to last long. The TV was saying, ‘Ban 2 Live Crew’ — before they really got big — so we thought we ’d have fun with this thing while we could. I put some 2 Live Crew songs on my mixtape — ‘Ghetto Bass’  — and blew them up in Memphis, too. Anything DJ Spanish Fly put on his mixtape you needed to be bumpin’ it, trust me. If Spanish Fly picks it, play it. Just-Ice outta New York — I picked him — N.W.A., Schooly D… Memphis was not up on them. The only thing Memphis was up on was Con Funk Shun, The Commodores, The Bar-Kays… When I started playing songs in Club No Name, I would start fights. It was a
big problem. Everybody loved me, but we had to figure out when Spanish Fly could come up and do his thing. This club was a dance club — not a rap club. My partner at the club would play Con Funk Shun and SOS Band earlier and then I would play rap songs and people would do the buck jump. It was called the buck jump because the music, in some kind of way, made these cats move in a certain way. It was really walking. If people buck jumped to other DJs, they’d be told, ‘Look, y’all don’t do this during my set. Wait till Spanish Fly comes up, then you can do the buck-jump, because y’all are fuckin’ up my dancefloor.’ They’d say that in the microphone. When I came up, I’d be like, ‘Is everybody ready!? Is everybody ready to do the buck jump!?’ And the music they’d buck jump to was always the music on my mixtape. What happened next was the buck jump changed. It was a walk that people started doing in a line. Then people were going around behind each other, and they started adding other little pieces to it — they started twisting with it; twisting their necks. Each week or two, something would change about it. The dancefloor was about half the size of a basketball court and eventually people started going round in a circle. If you can imagine a hula hoop… it was like that, and there was another hula hoop outside that one, going around in the same direction. Sometimes there were as many as six, seven, eight, nine rows of people. We was packed. This dance is catching on! And no one knew anything about the buck jump dance outside of Club No Name. Nobody knew! I’m serious, brother. It blew up and I wish we ’d kept footage of this thing. Man, listen, sometimes you actually could feel the wind coming from these kids. You would think they were on skates! They wasn’t going that fast, but they was moving and you could actually feel the drag. Another thing: Memphis had concerts back then — bringing in The Fat Boys, Whodini, LL [Cool J], Dana Dane… all these cats I put on my mixtape. That meant we started getting them to come to the club in person. The owner would get a limo and he ’d let me and the other cats ride in there, and we ’d take them to the club — LL, The D.O.C., N.W.A., Ice Cube, Fresh Prince… we took them all to the club. And when they came, they’d wonder, ‘What is this dance!?’ LL, especially. He ’d remember now, I promise you. All of it created so much attention. The newspaper here did an article on me and they called it ‘Scratching For A Living.’ What is this man doing!? [laughs]
Twilight Zone on there!’ He wasn’t a hella-fine guitar player — a beginner — but I was like, ‘Wow!’ Then when I got back home, I just wrote to it: ‘Smoke the weed, the onion…’, ’cos I was smoking a lot of weed back then. Onion is a slang word for weed in Memphis!?
That’s what I named it. I named it ‘smokin’ onion’ and everybody loved it. I could play that song right now and everybody would start dancing to it. Different versions of that song seem to exist, all done by you.
I had to move on from the radio station here in Memphis because I was on the air for five years, full-time. They wanted to play it, so I decided to go into the studio and make a radio version and an up-to-date version. I’ll remind you that I made music with tape decks and each time I would record the bass, and the keyboards, and the vocals, I would lose quality. But I love the analogue sound. To me it’s perfect — a real, live sound. DJ Paul [Three 6 Mafia] always wants me to get my records out the attic because he knows I got that old sound, and I got all my old tapes up there — a vault. Man, they still sound fat — all them records that never hit, like ‘Drag Rap’. [laughs] And Lord Tasheen! No one knows about Lord Tasheen yet. He ’s got some hard tracks. I swear he ’s there for an artist like Lil Wayne to awaken from the dead. I want to ask you more about ‘Drag Rap’ and your take on it, ‘Triggerman’. The original is an old gangster tale from New York, which The Showboys say is true, and what you’ve done with your version is sample it, rap over it and extend the story. Is that right?
Yeah. I took ‘Drag Rap’ to be a retaliation song and I adopted it to something personal that was going on in my life. My cuz and I had to get a Lexus and take out Triggerman. We gotta take him out, and there’s only one way we can do it. You use a terrifying loop from ‘Drag Rap’ — ‘on your way back, bring me his son’ — but your tale doesn’t take place in New York, it takes place in Tennessee and Texas. It’s a great bit of story-telling.
Yeah, I opened up a whole can of worms. Who is Triggerman, then?
The buck jump came to be called the gangsta walk, and then jookin’. How did that happen?
The dance was the buck jump and my partner in the club and myself noticed that the cats that was doing it — the cats that originally started the buck jump, the real buck jumpers — they was dope boys; they were selling dope. They were the cats in the Fila jogging suits, but they were also the boys who was buying all of my mixtapes. They were the original ones who supported it from the beginning, and they were also the ones who named the dance the gangsta walk. We was gangstas then. Everyone was gangstas. That wasn’t meaning we were out killin’ nobody — it was just a word. We would watch gangster movies all the time and say, ‘I’m a gangsta, okay, I’m a gangsta!’ In this day and time, it’s a little dangerous; it’s out of hand. We didn’t know what we were creating back then, but we created it and our dance was called the gangsta walk. And I made a song called ‘Gangsta Walk’.
Triggerman is just a guy. Like I said, something happened in my personal life. But you give the story a twist. You reveal that Triggerman used to be your right-hand man.
That’s right. And that’s one thing about DJ Spanish Fly — DJ Spanish Fly can create a story. I’ve been doing it ever since I was little. And I put it all together — all the stuff with the skating rink and so on. Songs like ‘Triggerman’ and ‘Smokin’ Onion’ are huge achievements that still sound fresh today. More, it seems like these tracks and your mixtapes have been very influential on the larger picture of hip hop — on the birth of crunk and so on. Are you proud?
I am. A lot of people tell me I should be richer and I just tell them that I’m rich in soul and heart, because I know what I did and it wasn’t really about the fame. It was about me having fun.
Tell us how the music eventually moved out of Memphis.
I heard people say that Jazze Pha [soon-to-be super-producer] moved from Memphis to Atlanta and took the crunk sound with him — to Lil Jon who came out with the song ‘I Like Dem Girlz’, and Jazze Pha had a lot of production to do with that. People told me Jazze Pha, and maybe some others, went to Atlanta with the Memphis sound and they stole it and called it crunk music. But, trust me, I don’t know how true that is. You’ve spoken about your mastermix productions but there are other mixtapes online from the late 1980s and early 1990s, like I’m Da Nigga and A.B.C.D.E., which feature you producing and rapping – they’re not megamixes of other artists…
Right. What happened was that a lot of my own songs started taking off — songs that I’d sneak onto DJ Spanish Fly mastermix productions, like ‘Smokin’ Onion’. That kicked fast. I looped the beat from the Beastie Boys just to have a beat, because I didn’t own a drum machine at the time. But I had a Juno-6 keyboard, which is a hardass, old school synthesizer — wish I had one today — and I did the bassline on that. Once I did that right there, I had a white guy called Geoff play guitar on it. We actually made a commercial from this track — a Club No Name commercial. We had a studio at Club No Name and the owner had a studio at his house. We made the commercial off just the Beastie Boys loop at the owner’s house and then I took the track home and I was just vibing off the loop. So I started putting the bassline to it, recording cassette deck to cassette deck, because I didn’t have a four-track. All I had was cassette decks and a Juno keyboard. I took it to Geoff ’s house and he put that guitar on there. I was like, ‘Man, that’s badass! You put the
Do you think you’ve been given your props?
I think it could be way better than what it is. It wouldn’t hurt anybody. But the true, deep down Memphis core really knows the background and they know I’m a legend and they do respect me here. And they know that I haven’t been approved, or whatever. Three 6 Mafia have mentioned your role in Memphis rap many times. What’s your connection with them these days?
I can call them up — I talked to them the day before yesterday — but the thing is they’ve got projects already lined up with Lil Wayne and Frayser Boy, and the Three 6 Mafia project. Their hands are kinda full. DJ Paul wants to get my album out — he definitely wants to do it — it’s just they busy. That’s the only way I can tell it — they busy. For real. But we have a great, wonderful connection. I got a connection with all the guys outta Memphis — 8Ball, Yo Gotti… — and they don’t mind doing any favours for me. It’s just a phone call away. I keep it like that and it’s something that I try to let them know — that I am the granddaddy. A long time ago, I wouldn’t even take the praise. Like I said, I was only having fun, but now since I been talking with Will [Lex Records], I’ve become more aware of things that I did. I’m one of the originators and it is what it is. What’s your thing with Lex Records? Are they going to put a record out?
Right. That’s all coming. I’ve been back in the studio doing new stuff. I’ve been talking back and forth with Will for two or three years now and we’ve built a relationship that I’m very comfortable with. Now it’s time to move. We ’re going to work now and pretty much that’s where we at.
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Is a blue-collar work ethic enough for a band to win a fanbase anymore? Does it help going on tour with a mega-band? We take to the road in Germany with The Whigs, Kings Of Leon’s almost official support act. Words and photos by Thomas A. Ward
December 7, 11:15am and a black, two-tiered Mercedes tour bus is being cautiously pulled into the car park of the Columbia Club, Berlin. Yesterday, six inches of snow fell and it’s still –4ºC, but roads are clear and traffic moves smoothly.
the past eight hours, while being driven 650km from Munich, The Whigs — a three-piece rock outfit from Athens, Georgia — have been hidden from the gelid conditions in coffin-like bunk beds that line the bus’s shell. They’re waking now and nursing the effects of their own ventures from the night before. Less than 12 hours ago, Parker Gispert (lead singer and guitarist) was being “savagely beaten” at table tennis by Caleb Followill backstage at the Olympiahalle, a 14,000-capacity venue that Kings Of Leon sold out as part of their current world tour. The Whigs were supporting.
cally removes half of the core of an apple with a Biro before forcibly piercing its skin again at a right angle so the two channels meet in its centre. “It’s way safer like this,” Parker says as he’s handed nature’s unassuming bong. He loads up the top of the apple with a bud, introduces a flame and inhales. He holds the smoke in his chest for a few seconds, then sinks back, exhaling slowly and ritually at first, only to cough out the last with a lung-cleansing splutter. A herbal fug invades the bus like an airborne influenza virus. “You want some?” he offers. “I haven’t had breakfast yet.” “Want an apple?” Today, Kings Of Leon are having a day off in Munich. They will have a chance to see the city’s sights and recuperate in their hotel rooms before they board a private Learjet bound for Hamburg tomorrow. The Whigs (Parker, drummer Julian Dorio and bassist Tim Deaux) will meet them at the city’s O2 World arena for the show, but they won’t be able to enjoy such repose between now and then, despite Parker’s leisurely start to the day.
cial entity. The Whigs started out as a college rock outfit in 2002 and are still seeking recognition, not least in Europe where they’re largely unknown. “They are in the position where they can do whatever they want, and we obviously benefit from being able to have such great exposure,” explains a business-minded Julian. However, it’s still questionable as to how much this exposure is rewarding the trio. Ahead of their show tonight, supported by The Jim Jones Revue, there have been no advanced ticket sales. “The only problem is always the question of how many people are we going to play to,” continues Julian, matter-of-factly. “With Kings Of Leon you kind of fast-forward, and instead of playing to 25 you’re there in front of 13,000 people each night.” The Whigs have been signed to Dave Matthews’ ATO Records since 2006, shortly after Rolling Stone magazine labelled them “perhaps the best unsigned band in America”. Their debut album, Give ’Em All A Big Fat Lip, had been released independently the year before.
Interviews with independent website bunch.tv and 100.6 Motor FM have been organised to aid publicity for the trio and their own headline gig in the capital this evening. They’ve been booked to play the Crystal Room of the Columbia Club, a humble 150capacity venue quite unlike the grandiose arenas they’ve been sharing with Kings Of Leon. It’s a potent reminder of where the band finds itself at this point in their career, in comparison to the Kings. “We are friends and we hang out,” begins Julian. “We have mutual respect for each other’s music and that’s a huge deal for us.” He says he’s still bewildered by the situation The Whigs find themselves in with Kings Of Leon, even though they’ve become something of an unofficial support act since 2008, when the Followills achieved commercial domination circa-Only By The Night. And regardless of opinions many hold on the band post-Because Of The Times, to have the respect of Kings Of Leon is a big deal. They band netted a reported $9.9 million on the road in 2010 as they became a progressively more commer-
was humiliating,” Parker says sleepily, before slumping back into the bus’s cream-coloured leather chair and splaying out his appendages like a Marionette puppet that has had its strings cut. His lank, greasy hair sticks to the outline of this gaunt face. A pair of black Wayfarers hides his eyes. “Where’s that nug?” he mumbles, patting himself down like a club doorman. “Dave [Price, tour manager], have you seen that nugget?” Dave steps onto the bus and pulls a sweetly scented, respectable eighth of dope wrapped in cellophane from his coat pocket. He hands it to a smiling Parker, sitting upright like an obedient dog waiting for a treat. Dave then surgi“Our debut became a kind of declarative statement,” explains Parker while waiting for the radio interview to be set up. Following a brief spell signed to a ‘development deal’ with RCA in 2004, the band parted ways with the label six months later — tainted by the experience. “It was the kind of thing where they were saying: ‘We love the band! We think you guys are great! But why don’t you change your songs around? Why don’t you sound a little bit more like this…’ It would have probably made more sense if they had signed another band.” With two further albums-worth of material packed into their suitcase (2008’s Mission Control and 2010’s In The Dark), they have toured the world consistently since 2005, but nearly always as a support act — to The Black Keys, Drive By Truckers, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Band of Skulls, The Hold Steady, The Kooks, Tokyo Police Club, MGMT and Dead Confederate, as well as Kings Of Leon. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride? It certainly seems as if their headline gigs are more like registry office services that take place at clubs on days off
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
between arena, theatre and stadium shows with others. “We’re not a huge band in the States,” Julian explains as they unpack the bus for soundcheck at the Columbia Club. “We drive around in a big 15-passenger van and pull a trailer with all our equipment. We don’t have a bus like this [gifted to them by Kings Of Leon for the tour] and we work our butts off for every penny. You really appreciate and understand the value of a tour like this and we don’t take it for granted.” “I can’t imagine what we would do if they hadn’t taken us under their wing,” continues Julian. “It’s such a bizarre thing for a band that big to have a band like us open up for them this much — tour after tour.” Picking up his guitar, Parker leads the way into the venue. “Here’s the room of missed ambition,” he japes as we walk through the first set of doors into the main room of the Columbia Club. (Its capacity is around the 600mark, with a six-foot high stage cordoned off by a security barrier. The likes of Bloodhound Gang, Thin Lizzy, Fu Manchu and Gang Of Four are due to play in the coming months.) “And this is us,” he mumbles as we walk through another set of doors and into the Crystal Room. At one end is a one-foot high, 10-metre wide stage and two sets of four flashing lights. Twenty paces towards the opposite end of the room is a bar. Backstage, various cheese-based sandwiches have been spread out across a table accompanied by a bowl of fruit and snack-sized chocolate bars. A fridge stocked with Beck’s, energy
The Stool Pigeon March 2011
drinks and water glows brightly against the wall. Tim pulls out a bottle of Beck’s and examines its label. “No fucking way,” he spits. “I guess that’s what you get if you win a Grammy.” The label reads “Phoenix Amadeus Wolfgang” — the name of Versaillesbased band Phoenix’s fourth album, which caused their sudden rise to fame. “It’s not as if they don’t deserve it,” he shrugs. “They have worked hard for it — toughed it out, toured hard.” Julian is on the sofa busying himself on his laptop. A few weeks before they set out on tour, the band amicably parted ways with their manager. Julian, although he will not subscribe to the title ‘manager’, has taken over the role. He’s busting his balls to make things work. “The people out there don’t care about these things,” he explains. “They just want to be impressed and that’s why they pay a lot of money to come to the shows. They don’t care what it’s taken to get you here.” During soundcheck, one of Tim’s bass pedals blows a fuse, shorting out the whole backline and rendering his bass amp useless for the show. “All these things become part of a todo list that doesn’t stop,” says Julian. “You mark off 10 things, and then there are 10 more to contend with.” Their show, which ends up pulling a crowd of 60 locals, goes without fault. For a three-piece band, they’re louder than the sum of their parts. The small venue struggles to contain their enthusiasm, and a sound that unashamedly straddles the line between eighties American stadium rock and nineties grunge — full of hooks, hollers, sound,
showmanship and simple pop aesthetic. It’s entertaining and enjoyable, and you can see and feel the appeal of their high-energy performances. Maybe touring is their best opportunity of making it. They’re a rock’n’roll band, after all, and they don’t shy away from the fact. “There are a lot of steps between where we are and where Kings Of Leon are, but the band absolutely wants to get in that place,” says Julian. “We have never tried to be obscure or underground at all. We play the music that we want to play and we don’t compromise it for anything.” Having spent over an hour packing all their gear away, the band takes rest in the lounge area of the tour bus — a horseshoe-shaped booth centred around a table on which is what’s left from the backstage rider. The applebong makes another appearance. Julian: “I thought that the crowd was, well… I couldn’t quite figure them out at first. I liked them. Maybe I’m stating the obvious, but it was such a contrast to playing to 10,000, which is really a wonderful thing that the Kings have let us do. But even at the loudest, those people could have been… it would not have been the same.” Parker: “I couldn’t tell how many of them were fans of ours.” Julian: “Some newcomers for sure. I mean it’s our first time here, so you don’t expect much.” Tim: “There was a point tonight when I was just like, ‘Damn, I wish we could have been playing in an arena.’ Shit is so much easier. Nothing breaks.” Parker: “I know. We have played
those kinds of places a million times and it’s cool, but we’ve just done it a lot. I just wish we could play sweet, cool places more.” The Whigs’ tour bus docks alongside the O2 World arena in Hamburg the next day. The Kings Of Leon’s crew (40 in total) have been on site since 7am constructing the stage and hoisting lights into place with military timing and precision. Tonight’s show is being filmed in 3D for MTV and it is the first time the Followills will do their own soundcheck on this tour. Tina Turner’s ‘Two People’ blares from the speakers to test the levels. Backstage, a maze of brightly lit, white corridors lead to cordoned-off rooms for the bands and management. Kings Of Leon have their own personal games room that only they are allowed access to. It’s stocked with gaming equipment for their downtime. A table tennis table has been set up in the centre, a dartboard with three darts placed in the bull’s-eye stands beside it (there’s a score marked up in chalk on the board showing the Followills being beat at 301 by ‘Coleena’). Another table has a Spalding basketball, two Wilson American footballs, five dice, a Frisbee, two left-handed baseball mitts and a baseball. There is also a full-length mirror, an empty fridge and a sauna that is not turned on. Directly outside the room, four Segway personal transporters are being charged waiting for the quartet’s arrival. Opposite the Kings’ green room is a canteen that continually serves food throughout the day for the bands and crew. It’s decent grub, too: sweet
potato and coconut soup, meatloaf, fajitas, seared cod, chocolate cream puff, fresh fruit — the list goes on. Julian eyes-up what there is on offer. “It’s pretty impressive, huh?” he comments, before picking out a banana and pouring himself a coffee. Later, he says: “The three of us… we are ambitious, but the glass is always half empty for us. We are hard on each other and we are hard working, but we understand what a privilege and opportunity this is. All we want to do is capitalise on this tour as much as humanly possible, so going out there and playing an okay gig is not okay because we are not some new band… You don’t want to be an opener all your life — you want to be a headliner, in a big way.” As The Whigs make sure of their levels for the show, a set of side doors open to the arena floor. Caleb and Jared Followill enter royally on their Segways and begin to circle the sound desk like vultures around prey. Nathan soon follows (wearing a dentist’s surgical mask that he has to wear due to a bacteria infection) with Matt being last to join the boy’s parade. He is more cautious. His heavyset figure wobbles unsurely on its opulent/lazy mode of transport and his face is fixed with the concentration of a child trying to learn to ride a bike to keep up with his peers. The venue will soon be opening for the show and the band start to discuss a plan of attack with their merchandise. It’s decided that they will sell their new album In The Dark for the small sum of 5 euros. “There is no
profit,” points out Julian, “but it’s a bird in the hand.” There are a few thousand early and eager Kings Of Leon fans waiting to watch their set. They play with all the energy and enthusiasm of the night’s previous gig, but this time they have something to feed off. The crowd slowly warm to their presence, and applause builds with every song. Then the unthinkable happens. As they lead into ‘Dying’ — their final track of the night — the backline drops out as Tim steps on his ill-fated bass pedal once again. Julian is left holding an acoustic beat. The look on Dave’s face turns from one of a proud father watching his sons take their first formative steps to winning over another crowd to one of shock and dismay as they fall flat on their faces in a bloody, embarrassing mess. The sound fizzles back in for a few seconds only to fail again. The crowd show their support by clapping and cheering, but this isn’t a rock’n’roll ending. The band leave the stage and head straight to their dressing room with their heads down. They are pissed off and confused. Julian peels off his sweat-drenched shirt and slumps back in a chair. “I thought it was the least energetic crowd of the tour,” he mutters, refusing to take any positives from the show. “I wanted the power to go out, come back in, we finish the song — ta-dar.” He waves his hand like a magician performing a trick. “You know, we have that little moment that we share [with the crowd] and it’s unique. But then it went out again.
People are still walking in and that’s what’s hard because… you don’t want to look like amateurs when you’re playing in the major leagues.” Outside the entrance to the backstage area, four chauffeur-driven Mercedes S350s with tinted windows are waiting with their engines running. The Kings Of Leon have only just started their set. “I just want to give a big thank you to The Whigs for joining us on this tour,” begins Caleb as the Kings return for their encore. “They are a great band and like brothers to us. Show your support.” They break into ‘Sex On Fire’. The Whigs regroup and head out to the merchandise stand in the hope that they can put “bird in the hand”. For a good 45 minutes they chat to fans, have photos taken, shake hands and sign merchandise, and you can see that it really means something to both parties. The Kings, obviously, are nowhere to be seen. They have proven that they can sell themselves on the night — after all, that’s why everyone is here in the first place — but there’s the feeling that the bigger they get, the more detached from their fans they become. The Whigs shift 255 copies of In The Dark. There are but a few CDs left by the end of the night. Is this a small battle that they’ve won in the big war for recognition and a shot at fame? Is this their pay off? “It definitely feels good to know that someone is listening and getting into what you are doing,” Parker chirps as
he walks away from the merchandise table. “At the end of the day I can’t afford to pay rent, but we really can’t afford to do anything if it weren’t for these people responding positively to us. “When I got off stage I was actually really happy and I think that’s because a huge part of rock’n’roll is that it’s not all roll: there are always problems which are going to come up that you are going to have to deal with. Like turning tonight into something to our advantage. You just try and make the best of it and people can relate to that.” He’s a heady mix of drunk and high as he circles the arena’s foyer trying to find his way to the backstage area, but his stumbling sentences piece together the big jigsaw puzzle that is The Whigs. A band too close to the big time to quit, yet so far away from being able to say that they’ve made it. Every night that they play under the wing of the Kings, they see success, fame and all that comes with it, and they want that for their future. This is their job, their profession, their business, and their legacy. They’re willing to fight for it, and share it with those that care to listen. “It’s kind of like if there is a fight at the bar,” concludes Parker. “People are eager to get on a side and rally a lot of the time. So when something goes wrong or if there’s a conflict, a dividing line is drawn and people are forced to support it or be against it. If you can give them a reason to rally on your side and be with you, then that is huge. Because that’s definitely the reality of what happened tonight.”
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
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“I DON’T KNOW WHAT ORDER THEY COME IN, I JUST FEEL THIS SHIT”
Do you remember when toilets had tracing paper to wipe your arse with? What evil in God’s name thought of that!?
LIBRA SEPTEMBER 24 - OCTOBER 23 The least-trodden turd is the biggest. At first this seems banal, but pondering on this over a cup of tea, the turd sentence started to open up all sorts of philosophical conundrums… I lay this one on you to ruminate, Libra.
GEMINI MAY 22 - JUNE 21 Find the tomb of Harold Blue-Tooth in east Jutland. Perhaps a great adventure awaits…
SCORPIO OCTOBER 24 - NOVEMBER 22
CAPRICORN DECEMBER 23 - JANUARY 20
You are lucky, dear Scorpio, for I am giving you my first consultation via channeling, or clairvoyance, as it was commonly known. Give me a short while to relax and let my outer senses turn to my inner senses… Shit! This is hard. Got to relax. Stay with me, reader — don’t turn the page. Wait, it’s coming…. relax. Come on, for fuck’s sake. Wait, here it is… humpth.. ahh… dribble… sqima… blah…. “Hello, this is Rex calling master, it’s nice up here — nice green fields and lots of other furry people. I’m happy and run around all day with my chums — a bulldog called Winston and a poodle called Bob. Balloons never burst up here! And… ah… qusk… bla… dribble... Blimey, ahh, wipe mouth ….that was heavy.
Wake up a friend or foe with a bumface attack. Both will be equally appalled or delighted by this rude awakening. Whether man, woman or child, the bum-face attack could only fail through lack of artistic talent. Purchase a cheap wig from any halfdecent prank store (I find the clown wigs in various fluorescent hues of green or orange add a nice horrific touch and can be more easily seen during the darker mornings of winter). Tie a thread of elastic to either side, like a mask, and then strap to your lower back, so that the wig is secured above the arse. Now with a the aid of a mirror, face paint and some artistic flair, carefully colour around your bum crevice so as to create a monstrous pair of Daliesque Lips. Then add the eyes to either side of the buttocks. If you are a man, paint uncle knobby yellow then add black stripes (I find this gives the impression of a tie or cravat). Walla! A truly surreal face should now be gawping at you through the mirror. Make sure the victim is in deep sleep, and, best you can, try to get your arse just above his or her face.
CANCER JUNE 22 - JULY 23 I’m going to attempt to make love to you through this here rag, nay! Got some Phil Collins on and a sage stick purifying the air. Lord, have I got some wood? Ushht! Want you so bad. Rip this page out, scrunch it up and pop it down your trousers QUICK! Now,
Number 1 ANSWERS Across 1: WALK ME 4: ZUTON 7: BELONG 8: SWIM TO 9: RENI 10: AIREDALE 12: ONEREPUBLIC 17: HOMEWARD 19: KORN 20: MOTOWN 21: EMETIC 22: ARGUE 23: BESIDE Down 1: WHERETO 2: LEONINE 3: MAGDALENA 4: see 18d 5: TYMPANI 6: NOOSES 11: ROUND HERE 13: NAME TAG 14: LYKKE LI 15: CURSIVE 16: RHUMBA 18, 4d: WOWEE ZOWEE
dammit! Oh blimey, I’m losing the cosmic connection, it’s… it’s gone... Shit, how dare you, I’m not making this up. WHAT! I should pull my toe out and start writing some proper star signs!? Well, you should know the true meaning of that phrase... ‘Pull your toe out’ (usually followed by ‘young man’ or ‘young lady’) was a phrase bandied about by angry fathers during the Victorian period. Wealthy young layabouts wanting to explore their sexual desires but not wanting the scandal of pregnancy would meet in public places, popping a toe under dress, trouser or habit and engage in erotic footsie. This became so popular that responsibility soon fell to the wayside for some young men and, as a consequence, a stern telling off was dished out by the harsh Victorian parents, thus the phrase, “Pull your toe out, young man!”
LEO JULY 24 - AUGUST 23 Beware of squirrels.
PISCES FEBRUARY 20 - MARCH 20 An anxious bleak and strange time of year this can be for the sensitive bulgy eyed Piscean. Lord Swordcock puts this down to the old rituals of solstice being bundled clumsily underneath the invading Christian beliefs, which confuses our powerful ritualistic spirit. From the Coca Cola-created fat Santa to celebrating Christ’s birthday on the 25th... Um, how do we know that!? Fuck me with a cooking apple, no wonder we’re messed up (I’m a bulgy eyed Pisces, too!). It’s all a strange hodge-podge. Well, it’s time to get clear-headed and focus. Soon spring will kiss our spirits with renewed life and joy! Oh yes, the spring rituals of old will sort you out! Gather some friends to dance the maypole in the new golden light
when spring arrives. Be patient my bulgy, these bleak grey days will soon be over.
TAURUS APRIL 21 - MAY 21 Slag.
VIRGO AUGUST 24 - SEPTEMBER 23 February’s a good month for you, lucky slag. Yes, you heard me! Slaaaag.
SAGITTARIUS NOVEMBER 23 - DECEMBER 22 I heard the wind moan and the sea wooshed and frothed high on noble cliff Tintagel aloft. Now just a shadow Of old blocks and stone But once there great kings sat high on golden throne
ARIES MARCH 21 - APRIL 20 If you’re reading this in Foyles, ask the handsome, large camp man with the underground tattoo on his forearm for a shitty chai tea. He knows. Trust me, your day will blossom. If you’re not, then forgive my London-centric reading this issue, it’s just I’ve been at an emergency top secret conference of the Magic White Order. Apparently Taneth Porkton (an esteemed member) was having some cosmic colonic irrigation while attending a goddess conference in Glastonbury and, lo and behold, what did they find up there? Some sort of goblet. Now don’t ask me what the hell it could be or what its importance is — all I can say is this is big stuff. I mean, not the actual goblet… which, Lord in heaven isn’t small, come to think of it. The mystery is: why is this up there! It is obviously a cup of some importance, maybe even… could this be, dare I say it? This story will continue.
CRYPTIC CROSSWORD ACROSS
1 Shirtless but soulful, Wilson strikes boundary. (6) 4 see 13d 7 Male holding accessory but dropping man, six, and
2 Life is a… distressed tear after a taxi? A form of
demon. (3-3) 8 Green and Monster object to swallowing baby harpist; how to atone? (6) 9 see 10a 10a, 9a, 14d Friend of Curtis Courtney to divide America. (4,4,4,2,5) 12 In reality, and with sleigh bells, crown-less friend of doctor grunted ‘oh no!’ (2,3,6) 17 Like Carmen, Don Giovanni manipulates irate cop. (8) 19 Friend, like Vonda Shepard’s friend’s friend. (4) 20 Texans’ object neon-stripped by sub-continental. (6) 21 In the middle of the snakes and the syndrome, something fatal. (6) 22 Revolutionary within fallen in with friend of Arcade Fire. (5) 23 Hold tight to metal object, and pedal! (6)
1 Inert pill? Meds object. (7) entertainment? (7) 3 Greenbelt developed by German composer, then by Arnold Dorsey. (9) 4 see 16d 5 like Zorba twisting in Grace Jones’ hair dye. (7) 6 Southern 20s electronica and ‘Mayan’ hip-hop star in which community? (6) 11 21 drugs for The Germs and Cold. (9) 13, 4a Does thinning change foreigner’s greatest friends? (2,3,2,5) 14 see 10a 15 Why why why… change ill head? For hair-cutter? (7) 16,4d Unbroken object concerning numerous Canadians due to their milieu. (6,5) 18 Once more, Lady Gaga into some 10… (5)
Cryptic Crossword No.2 compiled by Samuel Kirwan
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
QUICK CROSSWORD #30
1 Leader of the 23rd Turnoff who released
1 Mick, Brian or Edgar (5) 2 They release Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will
Michael Angelo in 1967 (5, 8) 6 Original Artyfacts from the first psychedelic era 8 _____ and the Halfway to Discontent, Clinton (5) 9 The Head brothers post Pale Fountains band (5) 10 They were Up For a Bit in 1987 (7) 15 _____ and Sods, rareties album by The Who (4) 16 Saxon, leader of The Seeds (3) 17 Label home to Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada (4) 20 The destination of Roger Miller's mission (5) 22 _____ Pink, released Before Today last year (5) 23 Sun Kil Moon's kind of promises (7, 4)
this year (6) Ian Bavitz, member of The Weathermen (5, 4) Resurrecting album for Patti Smith (6) Zan, electronicist on Moshi Moshi (5) The Mighty Quinn was one (6) Dylan's lustful 1976 album (6) David, if he could only remember his name (6) Tame _____, Australian four piece (6) What Ian Brown wanted to be (6) Johnston, troubled American singer (6) Birthplace of Toumani Diabaté and Ali Farka Touré (4) _____ Man _____ Biscuit, John Peel's favourite Birkenhead band (4) 21 Released Maya in 2010 (1, 1, 1)
3 4 5 7 8 11 12 13 14 18 19
XXIX SOLUTION: ACROSS 1. WAVE PICTURES, 5. DINOSAUR JR, 9. SUZUKI, 10. VOODOO 15. CLOUDS, 16. IGUANA, 17. PARLIAMENT, 18. HAPPY MONDAYS DOWN 2. AVI BUFFALO, 3. EXODUS, 4. RA RIOT, 6. ACID, 7. RAVI, 8. HOOTENANNY, 11. SUB POP, 12. USSR, 13. VICI, 14. BUMMED
Crossword No.XXX compiled by Ed Mugford
Spot The Difference
C A N YO U F I N D A L L 1 0 D I F F E R E N C E S ?
1. no smoking sign 2. cows fucking 3. just say no 4. dairylea cheese 5. meat pie 6. gravy stains 7. come-over 8. bird’s nest 9. tea lady 10. Mrs Huggett
D O C E
V A A A
F M P
V M O O V A
E O T C O E
R M U
R O A H
E N O E G A
N O U
R W H
H A A
E M R
L M E N Y N
E O A O
N E G B
H C O N
E O E
E O R
U D E
A N A
E G B
V D A N
E M U
A A N
P C R
E W O
U O R
V H E
A O F
C C E
U N K
E D R
O V E
E D A
LOVE IS IN THE AIR, SO STILL YOUR BEATING HEARTS AND FIND THE CAPITAL LETTERS IN THIS LOT
S O T
A V O A D R
S M D
ST. VALENTINE’S WORDSEARCH
N M O E
The Modern LOVERS Hot CHOCOLATE
HEART LOVE My Bloody VALENTINE The RAPTURE The Stone ROSES
SWEET The BELOVED
Bullet For My VALENTINE Dogs D’AMOUR
KISS The LOVIN’ Spoonful LOVE and Rockets Modern ROMANCE Brandon FLOWERS Black HEART Procession Rose ELINOR Dougall
Tea Break The Stool Pigeon March 2011
The Beats go on and on Beat year begins quietly with a photo exhibition of the original hipsters.
Written by Izzy Molina C
arolyn Cassady, 87-year-old second wife of the great Beat hero Neal, always says that interest in the Beat Generation writers happens in fiveyear cycles, and she can judge how hip they are by the number of interview requests she receives. And so it was that she recently wheeled out the same old tales about her husband, her lover (Jack Kerouac) and their friends (Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs…) to a hack from The Guardian in preparation for what will undoubtedly become Beat year. There’s a feature film on Ginsberg poem ‘Howl’ in cinemas soon (see page 67), and then the biggie: Walter Salles On The Road movie, out later this year.
o ease everyone in slowly to what might easily become Beat overkill, the National Theatre in London is running an exhibition of stunning photographs, mostly taken by Ginsberg in the 1950s and often featuring his hand-written notes on the subjects. They’ve been seen a billion times before, but they still perfectly capture the righteous intimacy of these highly mythologised characters in their post-war/pre-hippy heyday. Along with Caroyln’s own shots of Neal and Jack in denim shirt and grey sweatshirt respectively, they’re iconic.
ANGELHEADED HIPSTERS: IMAGES OF THE BEAT GENERATION
National Theatre South Bank London SE1 9PX
Until March 20
Images courtesy of Corbis and The Allen Ginsberg Trust.
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
GODSPEED: THE KURT COBAIN GRPAHIC Barnaby Legg, Jim McCarthy & Flameboy
Montage of Heck
ast year, someone published a comic with Lady Gaga as its heroine. And what did she do? Thatâ€™s right, she sued their arses. Not much chance of Kurtâ€™s estate doing the same to Omnibus Press, who are simply re-publishing this bonkers graphic biography in small format. Besides, it seems a fitting tribute to a band that history has already turned into something of a cartoon.
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
33 REVOLUTIONS PER MINUTE: A HISTORY OF PROTEST SONGS Dorian Lynskey Faber
Given how good this voluminous book on popular recorded protest song is, it feels almost churlish to draw attention to the fact that John Lennon’s sharp-featured profile takes up more space on the cover than Billie Holiday, Chuck D and James Brown in combination. But once you’re past considerations of graphic design and marketing, this is an intensely satisfying read. Lynskey, a Guardian music journalist, has put in the hours at his local library doing the kind of job which is all too rare in this age of cut-and-paste atrocities. (Leaving aside the fact that no one needs a book on MGMT, literally how good can one be anyway, if it’s rushed out less than four months after an album?) The fact that the appendices, sources and epilogue run to 120 pages should speak volumes alone. Any trepidation you have before diving in is forgotten almost immediately. (200 pages on folk music? Sweet baby Jesus save me!) This reader probably enjoyed the sections on the singers and acts he cannot abide more than the rest. The author’s trick is to convincingly win back important musical figures, some of them genuine revolutionaries, from jabbering talking-head, TV filler shows and their songs from the defanged and whimsical soundtracks in which they have been used as signifiers for years. His knowledgeable, hard-boiled prose is slashed through occasionally with fine razor cuts of vivid description which jolt you out of any reverie you may have slipped into: it’s a good read but it’s not an easy read. The chapter on Nina Simone reveals how she was unable to keep on ignoring the burgeoning civil rights movement, after the KKK bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed and injured 14 black kids. The author describes it: “As the bomb detonated and rafters buckled the teacher shrieked: ‘Lie on the floor! Lie on the floor!’ [One of the children who died] Cynthia’s father Claude would recall, ‘Even as she screamed, the faces of Jesus in the church’s prized stained-glass window shattered into fragments.’” And then we are left with Simone, who is almost tipped over the edge by the event, angrily trying to build a zip gun from household items so she can go into the street and kill a stranger. Instead we got the shocking ‘Mississippi Goddam’. And shocking it becomes again when rescued by the context. John Doran
SMITH Amendment Bookish proto-punk survivor Patti Smith is currently working away writing a detective story, based on and inspired by the popular St Gilesin-the-Fields church in London. What it’s about exactly we’re not sure, but it could involve supersleuth St. Giles trying to work out where all the fucking fields have gone. Smith announced at a recent Royal Geographical Society event that it was “68 per cent ready”. One presumes her phone line will go dead when she tells her publisher she’s busy doing 69.
DOMINO Effect Those shrewd chaps at Domino are diversifying the business, with a new book label, cunningly called The Domino Press. First up in what will no doubt be a whole library of excellent works is It’s Lovely To Be Here: The Touring Diaries Of A Scottish Gent by James Yorkston. We look forward to reading it, but should probably first get around to listening to one of his records.
KEL End THE CELSTIAL CAFÉ Stuart Murdoch Pomona Books
The Stool Pigeon March 2011
Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch is less a pop star than a cult leader. His followers are a distinct tribe: frumpily dressed indie kids, consumed with childish wonder as they lead their gentle lives. Yet there’s a hint of steel to Murdoch when he performs: he’s confident and commanding, and by no means the wallflower that his songs suggest. Sadly, this book reveals that Murdoch’s devotion to all that is kitsch and twee runs deep. A collection of blog postings dated between 2002 and 2006, it could have as easily been written by a precocious child as by an adult, such is its simplicity, naivety and general sunny optimism. The journal is Murdoch’s means of escaping band business to ruminate aimlessly. It’s full of meandering accounts of bicycle rides in the countryside and teashop debates with friends. Gradually, Murdoch is revealed to be enslaved by three obsessions: artistic credibility, religion and Glasgow. Some news: musical snobbery is alive and well in the archly named hangouts of Scottish bohemians. The Celestial Café indicates not only Murdoch’s obsessions with Felt and The Smiths, but also his deep insecurity concerning his taste. At one point, he recounts a “disturbing” conversation in which two peers admit liking Del Amitri. “I don’t know where I stand!” he writes. “I owned a copy of ‘Sense Sickness’, which has released in 1983 and sounded like early Orange Juice.” Got that? Orange Juice: untouchable deities. Speaking of which, if you didn’t know Murdoch was a committed Christian and sometime church-hall caretaker, you certainly would after reading this book. There’s plenty of parish business here, but rather less on why Murdoch loves the big madeup man in the sky — aside from a mention of his Damascene conversion as a 13year-old suffering a long bout of illness. Glasgow, however, seems on a par with God in Murdoch’s affections. Rapturous odes to the city fairly gush from his quill, to an extent that gets irritating when his international travel brings on homesickness. While in Los Angeles for recording, he writes: “It’s Sunday and I’m feeling penitential because I missed church and football.” Might cult stardom be wasted on this guy? Ultimately, what sinks The Celestial Café is that it’s boring. “I had a nice time last night. I went to watch Snow Patrol at the Barrowland,” begins one tale. A later entry opens with “The world seems a particularly drab place tonight,” and is followed by one that leads off on this: “I’m in Dublin with little to report.” Killer scene-setters are plainly not Murdoch’s strong suit. And there’s only so much wide-eyed, Famous Five innocence you can take. Anticipating a European tour, Murdoch offers: “I hope we get to meet up with some nice groups and have some good games of football and legendary Frisbee sessions.” Elsewhere, he offers this tragic assessment of his audience. “I’m talking to you about set lists? I should be talking about puppies and kittens, or something equally pleasant or diverting!” Suddenly, Keith Richards’ memoirs gain allure. Niall O’Keeffe
Some people go to India to find themselves, whereas Kele Okereke is moving to New York to lose himself in fiction. The Bloc Party man is off to finish what might be an “erotic memoir”, a solipsistic collection of short stories he’s spoken about previously based on his sexual conquests. If you have any interest in where Kele Okereke’s cock has been, go knock yourself out.
WAITY Tome Tom Waits is to release his poem ‘Seeds On Hard Ground’ via his label Anti as a limited edition, pocket-sized booklet with proceeds going towards homeless services in his hometown of San Diego. It’s no wonder Tom Waits wants to try and help the homeless — he made a whole career out of them. The singer says he wants to draw attention to the growing problem and will help in anyway he can, unless it’s a music journalist homeless, in which case he’ll draw his sword and piss in their wounds.
Moving Images ROB EPSTEIN AND JEFFREY FRIEDMAN (DIR.) Howl Match Factory/Soda This is the first of two Beat Generation-related films being released this year (Walter Salles’s On The Road is due for autumn) concentrates on the controversy surrounding the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl And Other Poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookshop/imprint in 1956. To say that the little volume blew up in their faces is something of an understatement: it led to an obscenity trial that many pop cultural historians believe was the defining ‘freedom of expression’ case of its era. It certainly created a new generation gap that would be further widened by the coming of the hippies in the next decade. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman do the right thing here: they use court transcripts and interviews with Ginsberg as the raw material for their story. The material gives the film historical weight, but the directors are almost equally concerned with styling and flights of fancy. Cue many readings from ‘Howl’ recited over animated sequences that seem to hint at Ginsberg’s love of William Blake’s visual art (as well as his writing). James Franco playing Ginsberg is solid and something of a deadringer for the poet in his younger years (as indeed is Todd Rotondi playing Jack Kerouac). And, holy shit, that’s Don Draper playing Ferlinghetti’s defence lawyer Jake Ehrlich. His scenes in court are wonderful, not least because the debate thrown up by the case (what constitutes literary merit, what’s obscene…) still resonates, and would later become a red hot topic in British courts as editors of Oz magazine went up before the beak on similar charges in 1970. It’s a fun film in many respects about an age of almost unbelievable innocence — when mention of arse-fucking and dope-smoking could terrorise America. And, of course, it’s about the power of youthful idealism and how raw self-expression will forever be capable of challenging established order. Izzy Molina
BORIS Live In Japan DVD Southern Lord Crashing gongs, the stifling power of deep bass, endless shredding on headless double-necked guitars, and the whole thing filmed through a haze of flailing long black hair and dry ice: this DVD, filmed in Tokyo at the end of Boris’ 2008 Smile world tour, undoubtedly captures the Japanese avant titans doing what they do best. It’s a well-shot documentation of Boris’s live set, and for that it should be praised. Nevertheless, it does leave you wanting a little more — interviews, or perhaps some insights from the home crowd: it’d surely be fascinating to know how Boris are perceived in their homeland, where they rarely play. As it is... what’s the Japanese for Ronseal? Luke Turner
LEMMY 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son Of A Bitch Damage Case/Three Count Lemmy has a simple premise: Cameras follow Lemmy Kilmister around as he goes about business in Los Angeles. The eminently quotable Motörhead legend doesn’t let us down on that front, and he’s supported by a who’s who of rock’n’roll, and some self-important dullards like Henry Rollins. There’s good and bad to be had. The relationship he shares with his son is revelatory, the scenes with Metallica and the execrable jam they share live on stage is best fast-forwarded. Then there’s the small matter of his memorabilia of the Nazi variety that brings to mind the most harrowing scene in Falling Down. It’s worth a watch, as long as you remember there are some idols you’d rather weren’t demystified. Jeremy Allen
DAVE TRAVIS (DIR.) A History Lesson Part 1 Historical Records This study of mid-1980s LA psychedelic punk looks like it was taped together one night on Windows Movie Maker. Director Dave Travis combines original 1984 gig footage of The Meat Puppets, The Minutemen, Redd Kross and Twisted Roots with more recent talking-head-style band interviews to make an early contender for Ugliest Film of the Year. At one point, Meat Puppets’ bassist Cris Kirkwood’s face is horribly bloated by an ill-proportioned split-screen. Most of the live footage is wobbly and of abrasive sound quality. Lucky, then, that the film’s subject matter is so immersive; this amateurish aesthetic is an effective extension of that DIY sprit. Like a wizened old punk, it’s not much to look at, but could just teach you something. Jordan Bassett
Winnebagos BEARING Widnes
In the same way the majority of American baby-boomers claim they were at Woodstock, so half the North of England reckon they saw the Stone Roses at Spike Island, Widnes in 1990. They’ll be able to keep up that pretence further when they go and see a movie based around the happening, scripted by the bloke who played Bez in 24 Hour Party People. Tom Green says his film is “set to the greatest record ever made”. But what’s Born To Do It by Craig David got do with anything?
Following a documentary about Creation Records last year, Alan McGee is in talks to make the story of the label into a biopic. “The big film guy I’m meeting is a good guy,” said McGee. “He’s good for a laugh and is interested in making a feature about Creation.” Casting for McGee hasn’t yet been discussed, although those in the frame are thought to include Max Branning, an angry potato and Ian Dowie’s penis.
Dave Grohl is being lined up for a new Muppets movie, where he will stand in for Animal on drums when Animal has to take time off due to ‘exhaustion’. Miss Piggy will start shooting up and mouthing off to anyone who’ll listen and Kermit will spiral into depression before blowing his own brains out with a shotgun. Croak. That’s one of the storylines being discussed, probably.
Speaking about a biopic of his life that’s in the offing, Elton John recently said: “Obviously, it’s not going to be your normal, run-of-themill film because my life has been kind of been crazy.” Coming from an ex-coke snuffling, duck-suit wearing, shoe-hoarding, begonia-buying, openly-gay former football chairman and occasionally brilliant songwriter who couldn’t be arsed to pen a new tune when Princess Diana tanked and is actually called Reginald Dwight, it’s hard to disagree.
News The Stool Pigeon March 2011
Albums Reviews by Jeremy Allen, Alex Denney, John Doran, Ash Dosanjh, Kev Kharas, Phil Hebblethwaite, Ross Pounds, Luke Turner and Thomas A. Ward.
ÆTHENOR En Form For Blå DHF
Big noises in the doom and avant-rock scenes, Stephen O’Malley, Daniel O’Sullivan and Kristoffer Rygg from Ulver, and improv drummer Steve Noble have reunited around the cauldron for this impressive record, their finest yet. Previous Æthenor albums were let down by the wheedling vocals of Current 93’s David Tibet, who sounded like he was singing an ode to a Games Workshop figurine. Stripped of his presence, En Form For Blå has genuinely sinister potency, like falling down a rabbit hole into a terrifying grotto lined with shells and bones. Plus you can’t beat song titles like ‘Laudanum Tusk’. Proper horn, that.
BLANCMANGE JAMES BLAKE
James Blake is struggling with a dual identity. Who does he want to be? The post-dubstep pioneer who counts Burial and Ramadanman among his close friends; the creator of two fantastic, forward-thinking EPs in ‘CMYK’ and ‘Klavierwerke’; a man notorious for his eclectic, obtuse DJ sets, veering wildly from chain-rattling dub to blasts of noise to nineties R&B. Or a boy barely out of his teens who covers Feist songs, comes second in both the BBC Sound of 2011 poll and BRIT’s Critics’ Choice awards, and appears in or on the cover of innumerable magazines. The answer, somewhat inevitably, is somewhere between the two. James Blake is an odd album — a dichotomy, and home to some of the strangest songs likely to get played on the Scott Mills show this year. It’s an album that hangs in limbo between his past life as an underground tastemaker and his current calling as a chart-bothering, tremulous-voiced pop sensation and leader of the ‘lovestep’ generation. This mix doesn’t always gel. For a start, despite it being perfectly passable, Blake’s voice was never his strongpoint. It works better, as on opening track ‘Unluck’, when passed through various effects, distorted and warped, falling somewhere between Jamie Lidell’s crippled croon (another who tried, and failed, to make the step-up from experimentalism to the mainstream) and Kanye West’s autotuned delivery on 808s & Heartbreak. On other tracks, the aforementioned cover of Feist’s ‘Limit to Your Love’ or the piano-led ‘Give Me My Mouth’, for example, his pained, slightly wet vocal moan quickly becomes tedious and eventually grating. The likes of Tom Krell’s How to Dress Well project have proved that one can meld a piercing, idiosyncratic voice to defiantly strange sounds with some success, so it’s a shame that Blake’s vocals seem too wrapped-up in affectations and quirks — annoying intrusions — when the quality of the production, and specifically the use of space, are outstanding throughout. The sudden and surprising emergence of The xx has opened a lot of doors. Jamie Smith’s use of space and silence on their eponymous debut has been talked about more than enough, but without his work on that album it’s highly unlikely that something as avant-garde and sparse as Blake’s second single ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ would get such heavy daytime radio play. ‘I Never Learnt To Share’, too, with its repeated refrain of “I don’t blame her” and ascent into a cloud of noise before dropping into a monstrous beat and finally into a simple organ line is beguiling, wonderfully and wilfully bizarre, and quite possibly the best thing here. James Blake is an album that revels in sparsity; in its paucity of sound. It’s a debut coated in speaker-shattering bass and walls of noise — the work of a man obviously in love with sound and its myriad possibilities, but also the work of someone perhaps being pulled in directions he shouldn’t be going. Flawed, certainly, but a work of considerable promise nonetheless. RP
English synth pop duo Blancmange were always defiantly un-exotic, un-seedy and unfuturist, placing a large gulf between them and the likes of Gary Numan, Soft Cell and Depeche Mode. Instead they possessed a warm mix of British melancholia and gentle humour, somewhere between Monty Python and Alan Bennett, with booming MOOGs and Indian percussion thrown in for good measure. A standout here is ‘The Western’, which sees them re-united with Pandit Dinesh on tablas and ultimately the spirit of smash hits ‘Living On The Ceiling’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’. Perhaps unexpectedly, they outshine similar recent comeback albums by OMD and The Human League.
BRIGHT EYES The People’s Key Polydor
As the White Stripes, The Streets and Gary Neville call it a day, the 2011 zeitgeist already decrees splitting up. Bright Eyes are retiring the name, though Conor Oberst will continue to release torrents of material that the devoted will cherish while the rest of us ask where the quality control’s gone. With Wilco a going concern, mourning the demise of Bright Eyes is like turning over Godfather II to watch Snatch on ITV. Nevertheless, The People’s Key is a good place to bow out — a low-key affair with some very fine songs. Let’s hope ‘One For You, One For Me’ tacked on the end, with its ‘Streets Of Philadelphia’ drumbeat and Bono-like self-importance, isn’t an ominous sign of things to come.
THE DEATHSET Michel Poiccard Counter Records
The DeathSet suffered a darkly ironic loss in September 2009 when founding member Beau Velasco finally succumbed to an overdose caused by his crippling drug addiction. Kudos to his musical partner Johnny Sierra for carrying on and drafting Baltimore’s XXXChange in for production duties on this new album. While the record’s not a failure by any stretch of the imagination, it is one of peaks and troughs. ‘Slap Slap Slap Pound Up Down Snap’ is a snappily-titled, Beastie Boys ‘Sabbotage’ for 2011, cramming an unseemly amount of obnoxious electro punk piss and vinegar into just 1 minute 54 seconds. Elsewhere Diplo and Spank Rock show up to add swagger to proceedings.
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
CURRO FUENTES & THE BIG BAND CUMBIA
You Stand Uncertain
Remember the first time you realised other people had opinions about you? I do. I was about 12. It was like someone cut the top off my skull and shone a torch in it. Drew ‘FaltyDL’ Lustman’s obsession with UK garage is similar to this because he’s from New York. The ‘how’ part of this conversation is intolerably boring (man on internet finds music he loves but isn’t near to, etc.) but the ‘what’ part is more interesting. Made at distance, Lustman’s music can’t help but sound abstracted, frustrated and lone. If anything’s underpinned his music to date, it’s a sullenness that’s always lurked beneath skipping snares and bass loom. This is a good thing. ‘You Stand Uncertain’ feels like a culmination of that mood. Acclaim has meant that the sound of FaltyDL isn’t as bound in solitude as it once was; he’s a fairly regular fixture now on London listings and the people that make his music are his friends. That’s why it’s good that tracks like ‘Gospel Of Opel’ and ‘Open Space’ are arriving now, while the mood’s still a little dark. Every time Drew goes back to his apartment in New York it must feel like the end of some colossal party. His music is the sad stuff that’s left in your body once dawn sun comes and dreamland has evaporated. The most startling development from his earlier work is the addition of real human voices. The tracks Lily McKenzie (‘Brazil’, ‘Waited Patiently’) and Anneka (‘Gospel of Opel’) crop up on are the highlights here: the way their UK voices struggle to calm haywire snares and synth aggro reminds me of girls trying to calm their drunken men on a Friday night. Amid that clamour is where Drew Lustman wants to be. It’s the desire rather than the realisation that makes this album special. KK
The SS Soundway once again sets sail for warmer climes, dropping anchor at the tropical coast of South America, or in the harbour of Colombian town of Cartagena, to be precise. This compilation focuses on the family-run Disco Fuentes label which was established in the 1940s, enjoyed a rich 1960s, and still operates today. The dancefloorfriendly selection comes from a period in the label’s history when it was rejecting the supposed sophistication of European fashions and mixing cumbia, salsa, porro and fandango with traditional Afro-Caribbean and big band styles. The songs may be cocktail-hour smooth but they’re powered by furious timbale monster rhythms. Effortlessly suave.
GAY FOR JOHNNY DEPP What Doesn’t Kill You, Eventually Kills You Shinebox
Bands that start out predominantly to entertain themselves more often than not lose their allure once they actually learn how to play. The opposite is the case with Gay For Johnny Depp, who although always capable of aneurism-inducing eruptions of volcanic magnitude are now also tighter than a virgin curate’s sphincter. The song titles are still hilarious (‘No, I’m Married to Jesus. Now Keep Your Fucking Hands Off Of Him’, ‘Humility Is For People Who Don’t Comprehend Their Own Mortality’), though the delivery is even more sadistic, if that’s possible. Unless you’re a Christian couple running a guesthouse in deepest, darkest Cornwall I ask you, what’s not to love?
Let England Shake
Too Beautiful To Work
‘No se puede... Yo lo vi...’ ‘One cannot look... I have seen it...’ The Spanish painter Francisco Goya was in an ideal position to comment on The Peninsula War of 18081814. As his country stood on the brink of becoming overwhelmed by Napoleon’s armies, the elderly painter was himself becoming overwhelmed by madness and disease. His pictures from this period (The Disasters Of War) are perhaps the most potent pieces of war art the world has ever seen. One of these plates, Great Deeds! Against The Dead! shows severed body parts hanging obscenely from a tree’s branches. It is no coincidence that ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ from Polly Harvey’s latest album Let England Shake, opens with the lines: “I’ve seen and done things that I want to forget / I’ve seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat / Blown and shot out beyond belief / Arms and legs were in the trees.” This superior statement of protest is weirdly part-‘Surfin’ Bird’, part-English folk song, part-reverb-stunned Cocteau Twins and part-colliery marching brass band. The West Country icon delivers her ice-cold lines with a compellingly child-like delivery suggesting that, like Goya, she needs to distance herself from the horror — she cannot, as an adult, look directly at it. When she has long time collaborator John Parish sing, ‘What if I take my problems to the United Nations?’ in the style of Eddie Cochran’s ‘Summertime Blues’, it provides a moment of almost hilarious catharsis and reveals exactly how little hope she has that things are going to get better any time soon. In 2007, Harvey burst out of a mid-career plateau with White Chalk and now with Let England Shake she has shown that not only is she her generation’s pre-eminent songwriter, she is also still in her ascendancy. JD
The Luyas hail from Montreal, are best pals with Owen Pallett, and deal in pleasingly melodic multi-instrumentalism that you’d lose in the snow. More fucking Canadian indie rock, eh? Not quite. As the title suggests, there’s a certain cheeky insouciance about Too Beautiful To Work, their second album. ‘Just Mentioning’ is an appropriate title for a track with odd drums and Broadcast haze, while ‘Moodslayer’ is as batty as a white-haired and decaying spinster in tie-dye. The rich, psychedelic half-dream of the uncomfortable, sleep-defying ‘Spherical Mattress’, and indeed the music throughout, succeeds in deflecting occasional moments where Jessie Stein’s vocals start to cloy.
J MASCIS Several Shades of Why Sub Pop
Would you be shocked if J Mascis turned his hand to gabba-paced acid techno? Of course you would: the Dinosaur Jr veteran’s name is synonymous with virtuoso, gnawing guitar solos. Thankfully, he hasn’t put his six-string aside for this debut solo album. What is surprising is that ‘Several Shades of Why’ is not an exercise in fret-shredding fuzz, but something more subdued and thoughtful. A mix of acoustic guitars and swirling strings is predominant, as on the fragile title track. Meanwhile, Mascis’s distinctive raspy vocal reveals a bruised heart on ‘Not Enough’ and naked vulnerability on ‘Very Nervous And Love’. Something rubbed off during those years spent with the moody one from Sebadoh.
Reviews The Stool Pigeon March 2011
PARTS & LABOR
Melbourne trio My Disco are constantly pushing forward, with each release demonstrating a shift of gear. Perhaps this has to do with a sense of overcoming adversity — the band’s 2006 Cancer LP dealt with vocalist Liam Andrews’ experiences of conquering the disease. Little Joy, though, sees them taking a more reflective step. That’s not to say that their music has any less impact — the sharp tom funk of ‘Young’ resembles a collision between This Heat and Nirvana’s ‘Senseless Apprentice’. But there’s more variety — swing instead of monochord punishment. The minimal ‘With Age’ is a madman scratching at your window, ‘Rivers’ a Steve Albini sex dream. Yes, that’s a good thing.
Ten years and five albums into their career, Brooklyn-based Parts & Labor are still a vital, if criminally underrated, force in modern music. Having long since established a unique sound that lies somewhere between Hüsker Dü, Wire, Lightning Bolt and Sonic Youth, they here consolidate their artistic position waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. ‘A Thousand Roads’ is a psychedelic wash of sunburst electronics, which producer Dave Fridmann has so overloaded with firework dynamics that the listener could be forgiven for missing the fact that there is a rock solid, top tier classic rock chassis underneath it all.
Boys and Diamonds
Following close friends Beach House onto Sub Pop after the best part of a decade spent toiling in San Francisco’s psych-pop margins, the perfectly-named Fading Parade finds Papercuts principal Jason Quever’s star shining brighter than ever. He flew the nest of his home recording studio to lay down part of the album in Sacramento with Sparks producer Thom Monohan, helping tracks like ‘Do You Really Wanna Know’ and ‘Chills’ sing with soft-spoken urgency that recall his seaside compadres’ heavy-lidded soul while also adding a twinkling, old-school sense of craft that’s completely his own. At times the guy’s almost too subtle for this own good, but this is quality stuff nonetheless.
It’s hard to keep faith in bands that float around on different labels (LA’s Manimal and London’s Merok in the case of Rainbow Arabia) without anyone prepared to truly back them. For this husband and wife team, however, not only does Germany’s Kompakt seem a perfect destination, their trans-global voyage is appropriate. Their debut album finds them melding afro-beat and Middle Eastern rhythms, synth pop, bossa, house and El Guincho-style tropicália. Collage pop, if you like, that somehow achieves cohesion across the long-player. Further evidence of how, in an internet age, all music has become a fusion of sorts, but that needn’t mean it’s diluted.
Computers And Blues
It’s the death of The Streets. Soon people will start surveying Mike Skinner’s legacy and find a defunct record label, The Mitchell Brothers, some trainer adverts, flings with Rachel Stevens and Cheryl Tweedy, a handful of Mercury Prize robberies, Jamie T, Just Jack and Zoo Kid, and reams of pop-grime talkers with less to say and frequent excursions into inanity. The reason they’ll excuse all that is simple: 10 years in, and Skinner’s still an incredibly likeable man. Likeable’s hard to do today. The internet’s taught everyone that the best way to make people respond to you is to sensationalise and troll, but Skinner’s never needed to resort to that. Not many could have spent a decade telling everyone about all the drugs they’ve been doing without sounding a berk. Computers And Blues isn’t a huge break from the norm for Skinner. He remains likeable while moaning about comedowns and, musically, the thing still walks the tightrope between incisive and banal, and tumbles off several times in either direction. ‘Outside Inside’ is a case in point. “Weed makes me not want to be in new places” is the sort of line Skinner delivers best — i.e. it’s one ponces would spend a whole song wrapping their tongues around whereas here it’s laid out plain in Skinner’s unique Brixton-via-Brum burr. Disregarding the 71 seconds of grime-lite sulker ‘ABC’, things are fairly sedate throughout. Not that that’s a bad thing — the modesty of tracks like ‘Soldiers’ and ‘Trust Me’ allows Skinner the time to take his heart out and attach it neatly to his sleeve, and if Computers And Blues makes a lasting impression, it’s one of elegance. That’s not something you’ve always been able to say of The Streets. Skinner might think he’s outstayed his welcome, but it’d probably be better for everyone if he didn’t fuck off now. KK
Most pop genii’s creative wellsprings tend to run dry well before the age of 40, but Super Furry man Gruff Rhys just keeps on trucking, throwing disparate styles under the psychedelic steamroller of his talent as middle age throws open its creaking doors. Granted, last year’s Tony Da Gatorra collaboration The Terror Of Cosmic Loneliness was a bit of a misfire, but Rhys’ third album as a solo performer — taking its title from the collection of miniature shampoo bottles he’s swiped on his travels throughout the years — returns him to firmer pop territory. It’s a languid affair with all the warmth and poignancy of late afternoon sun.
RINGO DEATHSTARR Colour Trip Club AC30 Shoegaze has had something of a spit-andshine resurgence in the last 12-months, which means Kevin Shields is either getting a nice little paycheck to keep him quiet, or he’s summoning all the legal powers of darkness to sue every Tom, Dick and Ringo Deathstarr over intellectual property infringements. Colour Trip at times sounds like a colourby-numbers take on MBV circa-Strawberry Wine, but more often than not, the Texans are willing to draw upon their own kaleidoscopic pallet to polish things off. It’s a textured, weighty listen, where instruments undulate and daub a soundscape that has been trodden before. But, with its own pioneering vision driving its direction, it is definitely worth the trip.
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
GIL SCOTT-HERON & JAMIE XX
TORO Y MOI
We’re New Here
Underneath The Pine
The way people go on about Jamie Smith, you’d think his shit don’t stink. There’s no doubt that his work with the day-job proved visionary, but he leaves much to be desired as a solo entity outside of The xx. What’s the point of remixing an album that already sounds like a remix album, due to Richard Russell’s hefty role in its production? And why would you give the job to a boy who’s just too nice to take on cracky old Gil? He never stood a chance in the first place, so he guessed — threw shit at the wall, which doesn’t stick, and accidentally turned a very dense, inspired and soulful record into some bullshit dinner party soundtrack across which Gil’s voice wafts utterly aimlessly.
A prime shaker in the chillwave stakes, Carolina native Chaz Bundick’s second LP sees him reaching beyond that genre’s hazy frontiers for a more traditionally instrumental approach. It works, too, with ‘New Beat’, a lip-smacking groove that could’ve been lifted off Thriller’s more, dare we say, chilled-out moments, and the likes of ‘Go With You’ and ‘Got Blinded’ flirting with the kind of Europhile exotica Stereolab made their own before calling it a day. The back end suffers a little from the kind of formlessness that blighted much of the genre he helped create, but there’s plenty of evidence here to suggest that, while fads come and go, great songwriting remains.
12 Desperate Straight Lines
Smoke Ring For My Halo
When his long-distance relationship was fizzling out in 2009, Seattle’s Michael Benjamin Lerner holed up in Berlin’s warehouse district, treating songwriting as a 9-5 job. Unsurprisingly, then, this starts with brush-off bitterness couched in power pop chords, melancholy skilfully channelled into bubblegum rock — and kicks on relentlessly. It’s louder, darker and tighter than his 2009 debut Telekinesis!, but even when the songs peel back, as on the end of ‘I Cannot Love You’ and ‘Fever Chill’, the bare bones are just as infectious. While a feelgood break-up album is nothing new, Lerner has produced a well-crafted and oddly uplifting shrug at life’s downers.
Kurt Vile is already revered as some kind of genius among know-it-alls like Kim Gordon and Bradford Cox but the rest of the world, it would seem, is loathe to catch up. They’ll have a second stab at doing just that with this second disc of wonderfully expressive Americana from the Philadelphian, often compared with the likes of Springsteen and Tom Petty but in truth more closely evocative of the late, great Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s mature output. ‘Society Is My Friend’ does hella-dark, stadium folk lushness, ‘Runner Ups’ demonstrates Vile’s flair for rain-washed expanse, and ‘In My Time’’s soft-falling hooks crown as complete a song as Vile’s yet written. Frequently sublime.
One Little Indian
Under the mirrorball dance two men, one dressed in a sequin space suit (complete with fishbowl helmet) that even Elton John at the height of his pomp would have considered too outré. The other, wearing nothing save a thong and a giant bow tie, looks across the dancefloor to a woman draped in feathers, one of her breasts dislodged from her dress. This is one of the milder photographs that comes with the latest four discs in Harmless Records’ essential Disco Discharge series, all compiled by a mysterious figure who goes under the nom-de-guerre Mr Pink. Also featuring naked copulation in transparent baths with nylon-clad folk looking on, and images of swinger orgies, these images add a certain colour to a period and a genre that time has been so unkind to, for they capture the joy, innocence, liberation and inclusivity of the disco movement. It’s that spirit which is celebrated on these wonderful compilations. Grouped under the titles Euro Beats, Cruising The Beats, Mondo Disco and Disco Fever USA, they showcase the best of Italo, hi-NRG and so on — basically a few thousand nose-tingling light years away from the racist wigs and provincial disco hell of popular cliché. Just how pioneering disco was is shown by tracks like Twins’ ‘Desert Place’, which sounds like Gary Numan and David Bowie being forced to copulate by a massive black man in leathers. The template for much of eighties pop can be heard here, from Pet Shop Boys to Madonna, New Order to Duran Duran, and then what was to become house. If pushed to pick the best disc, the dong gong has to go to Disco Fever USA. Alongside the smooth roll of Fern Kenney’s ‘Baby Let Me Kiss You’ there’s the deliciously fruity Boys Town Gang and, for those who demand a disco staple, Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘Boogie Wonderland’. Now where did I put my leotard? LT
The Stool Pigeon March 2011
Say what you like about Jacques Derrida as a philosopher, he’s had a major hand in shaping some of the most mediocre indie bands of the past 10 years. First appearing as Ex-Lion Tamers in 2008 and plying their trade in ‘angular’, ‘post-structuralist’ riffing and other such adjectives made popular some three years’ previous, this Londonbased quartet rebadged themselves as Wild Palms and now deliver their debut for One Little Indian. It’s virtually a dictionary definition of the word ‘meh’ (popular in 2007), vaguely resembling the post punk-ular likes of British Sea Power and Foals, with maybe a dash of Wild Beasts thrown in for good measure. But smelling of no conviction whatsoever.
YUCK Yuck Fat Possum/Pharmacy
For a moment back there, it seems there was confusion about London grunge kids Yuck. On the one hand, here they were being feted as bright new hopes of 2011’s musical calendar. And on the other, some of them used to be in Cajun Dance Party. But lingering concerns about their generic volte-face should be largely blown away by this punchy debut, which raises the spectres of nineties alt.poppers like Sparklehorse and Dinosaur Jr with tunefulness to spare. The slower stuff’s a bit sucky, but with the hulking, seven-minute grind of ‘Rubber’ they’ve created a thing of strange and immovable beauty. Have a bonus pigeon.
Reviews by Kev Kharas
Let’s get this over and done with, then.
say this is music, but it feels more like an old war battle re-enactment. ALBERTO VETO, put your guitar down, mate, it’s not as light as you think it is and anyway it’s been a hundred years and you still ain’t learned how to sing yet. myspace.com/albertoveto
Like a sort of oblivious indie Pinocchio, every time Johnny Marr lies it ends up on a press release. This time he’s been saying that El Gazelle are “REALLY GOOD. THEY SOUND LIKE A GROUP FROM THE SIXTIES — VERY NUGGETS”. Quite obviously this is a complete load of shit. I wonder if he ever bitch slapped Morrissey? myspace.com/elgazelle When Robert Lindsay dies THE MANIC SHINE are the band who will be playing at his funeral. myspace.com/themanicshine I quite like TWO HAWKES and I don’t care who knows about it. soundcloud.com/two-hawkes http://tinyurl.com/curtiswhitefinger. myspace.com/curtiswhitefinger I’m aware of the huge influence this column has upon the music industry, but even I didn’t expect the musicians of the UK to be so feckless that they’d rip off the only band to have ever
made it ‘big’ after being ‘discovered’ here. CURSES sound almost entirely like Esben And The Witch trapped in Professor Burp’s Bubble Works, aka land of dreams. curses.com I’ve never understood why the bands with the stupidest names are the ones that take themselves most seriously. OF SPIRE & THRONE are one of those pointless dirge bands that sound like they’ve got a dungeon they keep innocent people in. I think this musical style is called ‘doom’. It’s fucking shit. Why does anyone pretend it’s not? Their cocks must be the wrong colour. myspace.com/ofspireandthrone If TOM NANCOLLAS continues to insist on recording his music while living his boring life his songs are always going to sound like my comedowns. myspace.com/tomnancollas When you type their name into Google, MATT BEE AND THE LEVERAGE actually come up as an autofill option. This surprises me — not because I’d underestimated Google’s formidable retrieval skills, but more because Matt Bee and the Leverage make the worst music I have ever heard. I know I say that every couple of months, but I think I even mean it this time. People don’t exist for very long. People don’t exist long enough to make this music anything other than an insult to all intelli-
gent life. myspace.com/mattbeeandtheleverage That lass from Skunk Anansie and the guy who got Rage Against the Machine to Christmas Number One last year both liked HUGO FRUSSLINKY enough to award them second place in a battle of the bands competition r e c e n t l y . myspace.com/hugofrusslinky
CITIZENS make that sort of guitar music that only men like, which is weird ’cause all those bands sound like they have hard-ons where their heads should be. Then the men all get together in a room and they shake their hair around and they attack each other but call it dancing and then after that they go home. myspace.com/citizensuk If the rest of this demo pile has so far been cholera, then MARK CORBETT is the light covering of phlegm he seems to be gargling when he sings. Music this innocent deserves better than me. markcorbettmusic.com
DIRTEE DOGGZ believe that there is “a current lack of ‘hard rock’ music that is energetic, passionate, and is being played by a young band.” I can only think that they’d write me a letter telling me this if they believed that the accompanying CD contained an anti-
dote to this perceived paucity. If Dirtee Doggz are old men they are also total fucking liars. myspace.com/dirteedoggz Nice of Mike from FLATLANDS to send me a teabag with his demo, but if he’d thought it through properly he would have sent arsenic. myspace.com/flatlandstouristboard Whenever I hear a band as bad and as blatantly paedophilic as alphabet backwards (no caps, the pussies) I find myself scanning the press release until I come across the word ‘quirky’. ALPHABET BACKWARDS use it in the second sentence, which is quite nice of them, actually, because it let me file them away in my brain as wankers and get on with the rest of my day. myspace.com/alphabetbackwards Jingle jangle weep weep music. myspace.com/pilotsmusic I’m immediately fond of THE FRAGRANT VAGRANTS. Musically they’re all over the place, but they have the air of men whose lives are spent trying to keep the shit as far away from the fan as possible. I can identify with that. We go to print in 20 minutes, and The Fragrant Vagrants can ‘win’ this week purely because of the relief I now feel knowing that the last of the shit has been shovelled. myspace.com/thefragrantvagrants
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THERE’S NO AXE TO GRIND GRIP RICHARD HIPSTER TIPSTER He’s always on the hunt for a steamer The Hipster Tipster once had to make his own bread. That’s right, when I used to work for a living, before I became a totally swag tipster, I toiled away in an office. And all those tedious nonversations around the water cooler I had to endure every day would get a little easier around this time of year because even your squarest, most uptight fucking HR android knows what the BRITS are all about. Try for yourself. “Do you remember the time Elton John duetted with RuPaul?” you should say to gauge how switched on they are. “That was totally wack!” Or, “What about the time when Undercover were the best of British, covering a one-hit wonder with Bob your Holiness on the sax?” “And then there was that time when that sick fucking monster from Fleetwood Mac fucked it all up with the help of Samantha ‘No Blind Cave Salamander’ Fox?’ For your sake I hope disgraced football pundit Andy Gray isn’t tiding himself over with a little bit of temping at your place, because he’ll just lower the tone talking about her tits, comparing her areolas to the centre circles at Crewe Alexandra and Preston North End. The sexist cunt. And while we’re on the subject of football, Paul Jewell lookalike Plan B is the bookies favourite to take Best Male Solo Artist and I have a feeling they’re not wrong. Weller is a decent 20/1 with most betting shops, however, or better still Coral and Bet365 offer 16/1 for Robert Plant. That man does not take out his curlers unless he’s got a good reason to, you hear what I’m saying? Laura Marling is a piss poor 2/1 at Betfred but put your hope on the soap — Paloma Faith is 14/1 with most bookmakers — and while you’re there, see what odds the miser in the visor will give you for The xx taking Best British Group, British Breakthrough and British Album Of The Year. Internationally, your dude CeeLo will not deliver much green, though SKYBET are offering a preposterous 20/1 on Alicia Keys for Best International Female. Lock down your cock on that one.
Words Jeremy Allen Photograph
ANNA CALVI Hoxton Hall London guitar has had some bad press The of late but it has served us well. A means of getting one’s voice heard with entry level proficiency, it’s been driving popular musical movements since the 1930s — an affordable device of expediency for the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised. And while anything that egalitarian that can help make people express themselves better should be applauded, guitar music hasn’t half become stale in the 21st century. It has been almost exhausted, mined, drained, milked and bled of all possibilities. Unless of course you do something different with it. And by Christ, does Anna Calvi do something different. Calvi emerges amid a waft of dry ice holding a tattered Telecaster and the assembled in the intimate surroundings of the Hoxton Hall are hushed momentarily. And then the fingers and thumb of her left hand begin to oscillate and undulate over metal and wood and pickups in a circular motion and the sound surrounds us, clean with only a touch of reverb. It’s most unorthodox to watch but is nevertheless effective, with your gaze occasionally drawn to her other clenched fist throttling the fretboard neck into submission. Beginning with instrumental album opener ‘Rider To The Sea’ certainly takes courage, and it pays off. ‘No More Words’ follows, and the sparsity of sound remains with just drums and percussion accompanying. Notably there is no bass. And then she begins to sing. Calvi is a fan of Edith Piaf and if there’s a comparison to be drawn it is the fact that, while physically unimposing, she demands your attention with a voice that could crack the sky. She has a gaze, too, that is so intense one can only assume she is consumed in her performance. And then there’s her range: low and mysterious at times, and soaring and vibrating at others — a dynamism that paints pictures and tells stories, always captivating and never exhausting despite the heightened sense of emotion. Tonight is all about the launch of her debut album, and while other new artists have been bandied around as great future hopes, Calvi’s potential seems boundless considering just how potent the record is. The PJ Harvey and Jeff Buckley comparisons are inevitable but there’s so much more to her gothic, grandiose
and stirring compositions. You listen and you can hear the tragedy and the drama of Roy Orbison, the selfassured brilliance of Suede’s early bsides, classical overtures and Francophile undertones, and the hair-pulling passion and overt sexuality of flamenco. Take that all and put in on stage with a simple and evocative aesthetic, her pale skin set against blood red lipstick and silk red shirt, and the multi-sensory experi-
ence is complete. It’s easy to get carried away with the superlatives, but while we’re in the moment ‘Blackout’ sounds like the best pop song of the last decade, ‘The Devil’ is majestic in its sheer power and ‘Morning Light’, where her auxiliary percussionist moves to harmonium, is hymnal and enthralling and deeply moving. A member of the audience gasps audibly and involuntarily when it draws to its conclusion.
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
WITH ANNA CALVI
PUNK POET PATTI SMITH ENGAGES PATRICK WOLF IN A SPOT OF HORSES PLAY Words Ben Graham Photograph
Sam Collins PATTI SMITH De La Warr Pavilion Bexhill
was 16 when I first heard Patti Ibetween Smith. Working in an office in Leeds taking my O-levels and starting sixth form, I thought I was pretty hip to alternative music. Then one of my older co-workers gave me a tape. On one side was the misleadinglytitled Leonard Cohen’s Greatest Hits; on the other, Patti Smith’s Easter. Both sides had a profound, jaw-dropping impact. But it was Horses that I bought with my first wage packet. I’ve seen Patti many times since, but never without some incarnation of the original Patti Smith group — always featuring the indefatigable Lenny Kaye as bandleader and guitarist. Tonight, though, in this modest, seated concert hall on the Sussex coast, she’s backed by a kind of chamber trio, consisting of her daughter Jesse on grand piano, one Michael Campbell on guitar and vibes, and London’s own Patrick Wolf on harp and violin. But should this refined, mature, dignified set-up suggest Patti’s settling into some comfortable twilight as a bourgeois-bohemian cabaret turn, then check again. If anything, the minimalist backing allows her more room for manoeuvre, more space for the fire and passion to burn through and her charged lyric poetry to be heard. And in some ways, the sound comes closer to that of Horses than her rock’n’roll band has ever been capable of, as shown by tonight’s stunning performance of ‘Birdland’ from that same astonishing debut. Coming on alone, in ripped jeans and t-shirt, Patti opens with a short
reading from last year’s ‘Mapplethorpe ’n’ Me’ memoir, Just Kids, before pulling on an acoustic guitar for a solo ‘Southern Cross’. And while her flat strumming is never going to give James Blackshaw any sleepless nights, the voice is as powerful and distinctive as ever — like cramped limbs stretching out, a crow cawing and scraping before suddenly taking unlikely flight. With Patti it’s always been about the words and the voice — the latter so raw and real and uniquely emotive, capable tonight of raising pinpricks of tears to my face at least. Like Iggy Pop, if less dramatically so, Patti becomes years younger when she sings. This grey-haired grand dame is suddenly possessed by a young girl in her twenties; cocky, flirtatious and intense, the energy flowing out of her. A hypnotic ‘Ghost Dance’ is followed by a gorgeous reading of Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’, the yearning of ‘Dancing Barefoot’ and ‘Pissing In A River’ building to a celebratory ‘Because The Night’ and a supposedly unplanned encore of ‘Gloria.’ “Come on, Patti!” someone shouts from the crowd. She waits until the song lifts to an undeniable emotional plateau before spitting back, “Come on yourself!” Aged 64, Patti Smith doesn’t need anyone’s patronage. She’s still leading, inspiring, daring you to follow.
Steve Tillotson banalpig.com/blog
Calvi pauses between songs to thank her producer and the staff at her label, and for a moment the spell is broken. Her lack of confidence in speaking publicly belies the presence she exudes during song. But it comes as a welcome respite, oddly. For the encore she returns on her own for another instrumental, a cascading arpeggio piece called ‘Joan Of Arc’, before the three-piece resumes once more to batter through the Frankie
Laine classic ‘Jezebel’, also recorded by Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour. And with that she’s gone. Famously in 1967, Eric Clapton put his guitar away and didn’t pick it up again for nearly a week, depressed having seen what Jimi Hendrix could do with a Fender Stratocaster. One only hopes a multitude of ambisinister guitarists will witness Anna Calvi perform this year and put down their axes for longer than Clapton.
News The Stool Pigeon March 2011
RIGHT ROYAL LAUGH AS C.W. STONEKING ROLLS INTO LIVERPOOL Words
Tom George Sakura
can often seem like a cliché-ridden genre. It doesn’t help that its champions are often pony-tailed dweebs using the music as a platform for endless guitar workouts. But tonight’s headline act is here to remind us that before rock reared C.W. STONEKING its head, the blues was often a weird, jazzy mongrel of a thing that you could O2 Academy dance to. Liverpool C.W. Stoneking is an authentic blues singer who just happens to be 36, Australian and white. Wearing a bow tie and slicked-back hair in a nod to the Cotton Club era of Bessie Smith and Cab Calloway, he fronts a four-piece band, strumming banjo and guitar and singing in a voice that sounds like it’s coming out of the funnel speaker of a wind-up gramophone. His latest album Jungle Blues is a steaming gumbo of blues, jazz, ragtime and hillbilly influences. Stoneking and band play several of its tracks tonight including ‘Going Up The Country’ — a stomping 12-bar, with the small horn section wailing like a New Orleans marching band. Halfway through the band leave the stage for half an hour and Stoneking accompanies himself. On these sparse, solo numbers, his voice drops to a sleepy, slurring serenade that conjures up misty southern swamps and mosquitoes (C.W. has his own mozzie repellent for sale on the merch table!). He also gives full rein to his hilarious patter, with a 15-minute monologue detailing his adventures in New Orleans working for a fortune-telling hoodoo doctor, then being booked to play Coldplay songs on his banjo at the wedding of a crazed transvestite. It’s top-notch comedy, and also bolsters Stoneking’s vaudevillian hobo myth. The band return for ‘Love Me Or Die’ — a tango that would fit nicely into a Gogol Bordello set, and ‘I Heard The Marchin’ Of The Drum’, a piece of thumping, mutant circus jazz that Tom Waits would be proud of. Extra marks go to the trumpeter for constant witty flourishes, and the drummer, whose primal tom-tom patterns and brush work are brilliantly judged all night. Photograph by
You have described your style as ‘hokum blues’. Is that an established term?
It’s a real thing. You see, there’s many kinds of blues… hokum blues was music that was played in cities in the thirties; it’s not the same as Chicago blues. With hokum blues you always get a comic element in the songs, and usually a sexual innuendo to it as well. There is an element of theatre in what you do; for instance in the spoken introductions to some of your songs. Are you consciously building up a persona, or is it just you?
Well, that comes from some of the old records where they’d have this talking bit — you’d get a little skit or something before they went into the song… you still hear it today in hip hop, before they get to the first verse they’ll go, ‘Hey! Here comes so-and-so…’ and the gunfire goes off. I think it’s a tradition that’s kept on going. Do you find that a lot of people still have a clichéd idea of what blues it? Some people have a completely different
idea about it from me. I was always a bit different to the other fellas when I was starting out, but if I hadn’t been different I could probably never have made a living from it. Do you feel any affinity with contemporary artists who reference old blues music, for instance Jack White? You covered The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’, after all. That was for a radio show. They asked us to do a cover so I decided to do that. I enjoyed it but I don’t really listen to modern
music at all. Nah… I like the old stuff. You grew up on an Aboriginal reservation, where your Dad worked as a teacher. That must have given you a very different perspective from most white Australians. It’s hard to say because it’s all I knew, but the area where I grew up was incredible. It was a very ancient type of landscape — a very arid, barren place. I felt like there was a connection between the landscape and the blues music I was listening to.
OVAL MAN IN DECENT SHAPE AT ROUNDLY BRILLIANT SHOW Words Luke Turner
OVAL Café Oto London Popp’s face extends only about a foot over his large laptop at the front of Café Oto. His face contorts anxiously as he moves his mouse and hits key. Like a mime artist or a sucker of the sourest of lemons, his lips pout and move into words that are never sung. Suddenly, his hand flies back, as if throwing salt over his right shoulder for luck. It certainly adds a bizarre visual element to what can be one of the most arse-crunchingly tedious live experiences – the laptop gig in a venue full of precious folks of the middling sort. Thankfully, Popp’s physical tics and act as a curious organic counterpoint to his music, the gesticulations and grimaces part of this insidious enchantment. Emanating from the speakers is a digital, jazzy ambience and brittle sonic texture. Like the nylon strings of a classical guitar wound too tight and then plucked, there’s a quiet sense of forward momentum that’s half evocative of nature — the crystal clarity of a remote stream, leaves in a breeze — and half the inner workings of some fiendishly complex machine. Last year’s 90-track double album O, which featured titles from ‘Cottage’ to ‘Cyprus’, ‘Dynamo’ to ‘Flax’, ‘Big City Nights’ and ‘Panorama’, reflected this kaleidoscopic approach, and rendered live this has a curious effect on this crowd. One man, bare of knee despite the January cold, performs chair ballet hopelessly out of time with the precision-engineered but wonkily delivered beats. Another sits with fingers in ears and a rather smug expression etched on his face. Two more exchange wisecracks and heckles throughout, including that old chestnut, “You checking your email?” But Oval is not so easily dismissed. This is aptly and entirely rounded and coherent — hooky rather than overly abstract and glitchy, never obsessed with its own intricacies. The music stops suddenly, and Popp steps two metres from his laptop next to the venue’s piano, his face expressionless, hands in pockets, staring at the floor.
March 2011 The Stool Pigeon
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MASTERFUL ANIKA PERFORMANCE LEAVES NORTH LONDONERS WITH WET BEAKS Words Ben Hewitt
ANIKA The Lexington, London eyes in The Lexington are fixAll ated upon Anika: assorted members of Factory Floor, New Young Pony Club and Pulp number among those watching the willowing Nicolike figure swooning her way through a brooding dub version of ‘Masters Of War’. The half-English, half-German singer who has temporarily abandoned a career as a political reporter in Berlin to return to Bristol, released her self-titled debut album at the tail-end of 2010. Since then, she’s been causing quite the stir; tonight, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, whose Beak> project moonlights as Anika’s band, has been reduced to something of a side note in her presence. Earlier, Gyratory System had been in typically buzzing and hypnotic form, as Dr Andrew Blick (a
CHRIS & COSEY PLAY IT NICE FOR SLEAZY AT FIRST SHOW IN A DECADE Words Luke Turner
CHRIS & COSEY Cosey Club at The ICA, London
association between Chris Carter, Cosey Fanni Tutti and the ICA is a long one. It was here in 1976 that COUM Transmissions staged the infamous Prostitution event that led to Throbbing Gristle being termed “wreckers of civilisation”. Thirtyfive years later, TG alumni Chris &
Cosey play their first live performance in a decade, following the sad recent death of their collaborator in art and life, Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, to whom Cosey pays tribute at the start of the show. Yet from that moment on, this is all about the now. “Do you remember all these old songs?” Cosey asks. Looking around it’s pretty clear that most of this crowd are far too young to be able to do so. Carter uses two laptops, synths and Kaos pads to create a deep, rich bedrock of roomshaking beats and rhythms, over
man who juggles being a constitutional historian and a saxophone-honking dance-practitioner) and his dad Robin (who once fobbed off a friendly offering of MDMA by insisting that his son took care of the effects pedals) showcased material from their second LP New Harmony. But if their set was fraught and unadorned by theatrics, then Anika’s performance is swathed in drama: towards the end, one member of her backing band becomes embroiled in a shouting match with a punter and storms off, only to make a disquieted return moments later. If Anika on record sometimes feels like too much of a tread through other people’s former glories — all the tracks on her album bar one were penned by other artists — then Anika onstage is a very different proposition. Here, she seems more like a chanteuse lighting up a cabaret, finding some dark and hidden element within the likes of Yoko Ono’s ‘Yang Yang’ and Twinkle’s ‘Terry’ and stretching them out with her rich, boldly intoned vocal. Even the lengthier numbers, such as the sevenminute-plus version of the aforementioned ‘Masters Of War’ never fail to be anything less than utterly spellbinding. When Anika spoke to The Stool Pigeon last month, she confessed to feeling like she’d arrived at something of a crossroads; on this form, though, she’s definitely treading the right path.
which Cosey plays guitar and a tiny trumpet, exploring subversive love songs in her strange, bitter pop voice. It’s hypnotising, relentless, defiantly modern, and received with sweaty euphoria. Only Chris & Cosey themselves can decide whether this is a one-off testament, or the start of a new period of activity and shared creativity. But the magical atmosphere in the ICA as they leave the stage suggests that, should they want it, the future is theirs.
News The Stool Pigeon March 2011
88 pages including: P Diddy, Lykke Li, Marianne Faithfull, British Sea Power, Esben And The Witch, Wanda Jackson, Katy B