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Magazine Editorial South by Southwest Festival Last FM Blue Roses (I don’t wanna) Rock Cliche Duels Cribs DVD Launch Middleman Second Hearing - Your Demos! Album Reviews Single Reviews Live Reviews One for the Road - Danny North
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Trash, Bang, Wallop. Robert Bastard Peston. Robert Cocking Bastard Peston. I hate you, Peston. Take the banks down, take the manufacturing industry, take the shirt off my back. But as Roger Waters so eloquently put it, ‘Hey, Peston! Leave them kids alone!” I can cope with the continuous numbing paranoia surrounding my job, my girlfriend’s job, my friends’ jobs and pretty much everyone I’ve ever known’s livelihood. I can deal with the creeping paranoia and finger pointing, I can cope with the frothing hyperbole of the media, the skittish protectionism, the rampant speculation, the plummeting property market (like any music fan actually owns their own house when thy could invest in the entire Half Man Half Biscuit back catalogue instead); but why, Peston, why did you have to take Trash Bar? Was the entire banking system not enough for you? Trade? Industry? Did you not have enough ammo for your bizarre iambic pentameter with it’s randomly… …inserted pregnant… …pauses? It’s not so much the bar itself, although the collapsible toilets and unique ecosystem of the sofa always retained a certain fascination. It’s more the fact that in taking down Trash, Peston, you also took down the entire Vibrations demo pile! ARE YOU HAPPY NOW PESTON? So yeah... this was the month where the world’s only financial crisis named like a breakfast cereal finally hit home. It may be true that Trash could have had a side line manufacturing money trees from an eternal replenishing infinite forest in the kitchen, and still gone bust. But it still bought home the fact that local music is not necessarily immune from the factors effecting the rest of the world. And it also left us with something of a shortage in the reviewing department. I want to thank everyone who has sought the questionable opinion of this lil’ ol’ magazine by sending us their stuff over the past few months and would just add that if you don’t find your material reviewed in this issue, then please feel free to send it again as it’s quite likely we never got it. I hope never to have to use this phrase again, but this issue we were saved by an accountant from London. Ben from the newly opened Mr. Ben’s Bar who retrieved what demos had survived the changeover and passed them on. This is one instance when we were all very happy that all of a sudden the shopkeeper appeared. Thank you sir. In the meantime, please do keep sending them onto the same address until we can fix a new home.
But, after all that, we’ve made it. And I hope you’ll enjoy yet another fine edition of your favourite free music magazine, as I understand we are contractually obliged to say in medialand. I believe it’s called an assumptive close. You’ll notice we’ve made a few changes to the format this month and have bought in a few new regular features which we hope you like. You’ll also notice that we’ve made a couple of new acquisitions to the team. This issue we welcome back our favourite non-linear loose cannon Adam Benbow-Brown and welcome into the fold the obscenely talented Kate Wellham who – somewhat astonishingly – said yes when we asked if she’d like to get involved. One thing you may not necessarily notice, is that from next month we also welcome the outstanding Rob Wright to the backroom team as reviews editor. So in future, if we don’t like your demo, Rob’s yer man. I’ve given him the number of my regular glazier. Finally, on a personal note, an apology of sorts to one of this issue’s featured artists Duels. Regular readers will have noted my obsession with drummer James Kenosha’s excellent production on last year’s The Barbarians Move In. Well, it turns out that it wasn’t James Kenosha at all. It was the band’s bassist Jon Maher. However, in my defence, I have enthused gushingly to Mr. Kenosha when I’ve seen him out on a number of occasions about his excellent production on the record, and he is yet to correct me in person. Which either means he is commendably and unerringly polite in not wanting to embarrass me by pointing out my oversight, or was really rather enjoying the compliments. My faith in humanity assures me the former. That said I have heard a pre-mastered preview of a record definitely produced by the Duels drummer, and it is sounding very special indeed. With luck, we will be able to reveal all next issue. On that tantalising teaser, enjoy this first issue of 2009 and keep the CDs coming, we promise that everything gets listened to, and more often than not reviewed as well. Until next time, ATB, RPC.
The first thing you notice about Pat Fulgoni is that he’s absolutely enormous. I don’t mean, quite tall, I mean absolutely enormous. A good 6’5”/6’6” and built to make Martin Johnson look like Neil Hanson. The second thing you notice about Pat Fulgoni is that he is possibly the world’s most enthusiastic man. And instantly it makes absolute sense how he has managed to talk large swathes of people round to his way of thinking. He is commendably humble in acknowledging his tireless efforts to get Yorkshire on the world’s musical map. Most of this seems to consist of bounding up to anyone who’ll listen anywhere in the world and studiously, with encyclopaedic detail, setting out how their preconceptions about Manchester and Liverpool being the centre of all things musical are actually wrong. I’m almost certain that there is more to it than sheer force of personality, but meeting him is enough to suggest that this alone would suffice. His most impressive trick yet, is convincing the South by Southwest festival in Texas to hold a Yorkshire Bands Showcase. There is, quite frankly, nobody else out there championing Yorkshire on the world stage in the way that Pat is. And yet, neither he, nor his band (Kava Kava) or record label (Chocolate Fireguard) are household names. So how has he managed it? Pat, you appear to have pulled-off a minor miracle by putting together an all-Yorkshire showcase for the South By South West Festival. How did you manage that? Well there’s a buzz about Yorkshire music that’s for sure. So it was easier than before to the make the case for it. When we have local bands generating the kind of interest that the Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys and Corrine Bailey Rae have, it speaks for itself. Over the last few years I’ve developed a few good links with SXSW Festival and the British Music Embassy venue where we are now holding Yorkshire Launch Party. This year, there are quite a few bands from the area accepted for showcases, and these bands are really going places. For example Sky Larkin are signed to Wichita, Wild Beasts to Domino, Rolo Tomassi on Hassle Records and Paul Marshall with Bella Union. I re-engaged a rant I was having after the last festival about how there ‘should be this and that happening’ and made the case. Special props go to
Nicola Greenan who helped lobby for the sponsorship to pay for venue and PA costs! Liverpool Sound City have traditionally held the late Saturday slot at the British Music Embassy and we’ve managed to get our Yorkshire slot just before theirs to help showcase some of the best sounds from Yorkshire. For those who don’t know anything about SXSW, what’s it all about and why is it important for Yorkshire to have a presence there? South by Southwest is a set of interactive film and music festivals and conferences that take place every spring in Austin, Texas. The music element is one of the largest music festivals in the United States, with thousands of performers playing loads of venues around Austin over four days. It’s regarded by many as the most important US-based Music Conference relevant to British music and has been responsible for breaking many acts including Amy Winehouse. It’s a must for Yorkshire to have a presence there. The place is crawling with music industry. I’ve been told that there are also many labels, film and interactive companies attending from Yorkshire this year. If you are a band, showcasing there can really work. My band Kava Kava from Huddersfield played a few shows there in 2007. We have since managed to get our music into US TV shows, especially our single Tic - shameless plug to please check that out on itunes folks! - in shows like Dirt, John From Cincinnati, and a forthcoming Xbox snowboarding game called “Stoked”. I reckon the showcases really helped sell our music to the punters who pitched up. Isn’t SXSW just for major label artists and corporate suits? To be fair I’ve seen quite a few bands in suits! Mainly indie label recording artists too! You’ve managed to pull together a cracking line-up, did you hand pick the acts themselves? There’s a quite a few involved in the decision making process on both sides of the Atlantic, but you are right that this line up is pretty strong really. How did you get to be involved with going to SXSW in the first place? I’ve been out and about at a few Music Conferences over the last few years, largely because of my work with the Chocolate Fireguard label and performances I’ve done with various bands abroad.
It struck me that in the past some regions of the UK have been very good at drawing attention to their music industries and scenes, and while there are certainly a lot of inspiring labels and artists in Yorkshire, there didn’t seem to be any coordinated regional promotion. So as a side project I started to punt these West Yorkshire Record Label showcase compilations. Shoestring CDs which featured material from labels like First Word, Bad Sneakers, Dance To the Radio etc, and then expanded this into the “Independent Sounds Of Yorkshire & The Humber” CD series just to get things moving in the right direction. The Social Enterprise “Timeless Music Project” still existed even though we haven’t held Timeless Festival for a few years now, so it provided a good framework to pull down small pots of sponsorship to keep this idea moving forward. If people are interested, how can they get involved in SXSW? I’m hoping we get to do another Showcase next year. Band wise, the first step is to make an official application to play SXSW. You can apply via SXSW.com or Sonicbids. Also if you are a music business, this year there’s an official Trades Mission for Yorkshirebased creative businesses which can help with costs. If you are a music lover with no evil world domination plans or hidden agendas then it’s still a great experience! You can buy a badge just as you would at Glastonbury. Any tips for people attending for the first time? Get your sorry ass down to the Yorkshire Launch Party at the British Music Embassy featuring Sky Larkin, Wild Beasts, Rolo Tomassi, Talk To Angels and Paul Marshall! They may be playing other showcases but ours is best. Also, off the top of my head, keep a look out for appearances by Ralph Lawson’s amazing 2020 Soundsystem, The Officers and Your Vegas. They’ve been in touch saying they are playing this year. Budget well and go for the events offering free food and beer! Pick up a copy of this year’s Independent Sounds Of Yorkshire And The Humber CD which will feature Yorkshire bands playing at the Festival. My favourite large venue so far is Stubbs and Flat Stock poster exhibition deserves a special mention too. Also keep an eye out on www.timelessmusicproject.com vibrations 7
Fleecing on the Farm? It is generally accepted that the good people at Glastonbury do no wrong. But the gradual emergence of what appears to be yet-another-XFactor got us worried. Sam Saunders investigates... In December, Vibrations wrote about the New Wave of exploitation “talent” shows like Orange Act Unsigned, Battle of the Band events like Surface Unsigned, and vanity gigging (otherwise known as pay to play). We were generally a bit negative. As the print deadline came and went someone asked about Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Competition. Glastonbury! The good guys, who help the New Age Travellers, who dig wells in Africa, give millions to Oxfam, to Aids charities and Greenpeace, and who are generally on the side of the angels. What are Glastonbury doing, asking bands to pay £15 to enter a competition? I got in touch and asked them. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t really expect an answer. What I got however was a long and open-hearted conversation and a very detailed explanation. I spoke to Robert Richards who works in a variety of ways for Glastonbury (this seems to be the norm – the Glastonbury ethic is a strong motivator). His most well-known role was probably as producer of the classic festival documentary “Glastonbury” directed by Julien Temple and first shown in 2006. Robert had not long got back from work on one of the African well projects and explained that Glastonbury in general does not just send cheques. They also like to get involved and to make sure their work is making a practical contribution.
By 2004 Glastonbury knew they had to respond to the volume of submissions and after a lot of discussion decided to try to turn the problem into something positive by using a properly organised process to listen to and select some of the bands for a live event at Pilton and from there to find a winner to do the Festival itself. Eventually the idea of uploading the audition tracks to a web server (to be looked after by Q magazine) came along as a bonus in environmental terms – no more CDs and Jiffy bags! The process now is that journalists recruited by Q magazine listen to all of the tracks and make notes to select short lists. Each artist’s two tracks do get heard, in full. Robert Richards told me that the £15 entrance fee nearly covers the costs of that work and the expenses and fees paid to bands who are called to play. If a surplus did arise (the idea seemed a bit implausible to Robert), the charity work would almost certainly get the first claim. He thought that the general standard of music sent in had gone up as a result of the formality and the fee that was asked for. He was also astonished that I had never been to Glastonbury. I atoned a little by renting the documentary from Love Film and thoroughly enjoying it. I think I recognised some of the people at the 1970 debut from my time on the road in those far off days. Happy days! This years submissions are all up now at: http://www.qthemusic.com/glastonburynewtalent
He told me the story of the Emerging Talent Competition was like this: For years, hundreds, and more recently thousands of bands had been sending CDs in Jiffy bags, unsolicited, to whatever address they guessed was the Glastonbury office on the off-chance of getting booked, as if the organisers didn’t already have enough to do.
Rainbow Warrior Lots of my favourite pictures have policemen in them; there’s that one where those policemen are playing cards, and smoking pipes; and that one where the policeman is smiling, but you don’t know what he’s smiling about, it could be because he’s arrested a robber, or because he’s beaten up a one-eyed black lesbian man for looking at him funny - it is ‘an enigma’. So, when I found out about a new law that would make taking photos of policemen an offence under Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act - making all photographers terrorists - and that there was to be a protest, I was, like, right on it. Well, once I found out Mark Thomas was organising it. I love Mark Thomas. I mean, press freedom. It sounded quite flash mobby, all we had to do was stand outside New Scotland Yard and take photos for an hour. What could possibly go wrong? It’s such a perfect plan. Meet Ben in Leeds for the midnight coach, sleep peacefully for six hours, two seats each, in the gently rocking cradle-cumcocoon from which we will emerge at Victoria, sparkly and refreshed, just as the sun is beginning to come up at around 6.30am on the bright and empty streets of London. From there we will, I imagine, meet Jen, get coffee, read the paper, go sightseeing, feed some pigeons, and then make our way to New Scotland Yard for around 11am, do some terror, then go pub, and have another peaceful ride home, in bed by midnight. I’ve never been a terrorist before, I’m excited. However, this is not a musical. That Vaseline-smudged version of events did happen, but in some parallel universe. For us, a typically charming coach driver announces we will now be arriving into Victoria at 4.30am instead. Great news! Except... no, it’s not, is it. What in the light brown blazes are we going to do then? I’ll tell you. Because otherwise this would fall severely short of the word
count. The coach is horribly full, and it’s almost a relief to get off, even at 4.30am. We wander the freezing streets for a bit, looking for the EasyHotel, which my phone tells me with its dying breath is round here somewhere. On our directionless, slightly stoned wander, we meet a very posh man wearing a stripy jumper and a bobble hat, swigging from a bottle of vodka. He walks alongside us for some time, offering to show us where the hotel is. He tells us he is on his way to meet some bankers to get revenge, and talks about offshore accounts, and how he’s beaten the system. I’m scared, and waiting for the bit where he beats us, but instead he pulls a wad of cash from his back pocket and waves it around in front of our faces. Then we are at the hotel, as promised. He hasn’t tried to rob us at all, but neither has he offered us any cash, or vodka. Bastard. The EasyHotel room is a like a square orange, only bigger. Actually, no, it’s not bigger. My cold subsides somewhat though, in the brief kip we manage to get; presumably the walls are rich in Vitamin C. Meeting Jen outside New Scotland Yard, we’re stunned at the number of photographers who’ve turned out. Proper photographers, with big cameras. Jen pulls out her small camera. I pull out my camcorder. She’s going to take photos, and I’m going to film her taking photos, just to multiply the terror. Both our cameras stop working immediately. We put it down to performance anxiety at seeing some of the humongous lenses some of these
other guys have got (overcompensation much?). We’re reduced to pretending, just to be counted. There is a girl wearing a red boiler suit, with red hair, who stands next to the spinny sign, shouting vague things like “FREEDOM” and “PEACE”. She doesn’t seem to know why we’re here, but enjoys posing. I wonder whether she just does this every day, on the off-chance. Our slogans are less catchy, but better: “WOULD IT BE AN IDEA, PERHAPS, IF YOU’RE CAMERA SHY, TO NOT WEAR LUMINOUS CLOTHING?”, and “WHAT IF YOU’RE TAKING A PICTURE OF A WOODLAND SCENE AND A POLICEMAN IS HIDING BEHIND A TREE AND JUMPS OUT JUST AS YOU PRESS THE BUTTON?”. There are a few police hanging around, pretending to make sure we don’t get run over, but it can’t be coincidence that all the old, fat and greying ones are stood to one side, while the strapping rugby player bloke and the air hostess with a face made of make-up are the ones who’ve been charged with standing right in front of us. After an hour of not seeing Mark Thomas (who I’ve since seen from photos was right next to us the whole time) we successfully reach the pub. Terrorism is thirsty work, and we need a LOT of drinks. Perhaps this is why we miss the coach home. See, we’re clearly neither photographers nor terrorists, we’re not organised enough for either. Kate Wellham
Who ate all the Pi? According to Oscar Wilde, “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics”. But according to Chris Kamara “the table never lies…” We sent Professor Sam Saunders to collect some quantitative analysis from last.fm, the internet sensation amongst musos with an unhealthy fixation on statistical data and league tables. You do the maths… In a world where numbers are used as weapons and charts are flung in faces to prove hopeless cases, the last thing anyone wants is another list of statistics. Even so, the question “who are the biggest bands from Leeds?” is the sort of dubious enquiry that Vibrations ought to be tackling with some hard data and a forensic kind of mind. Exhibit One in this case will be data from last.fm. Last.fm counts and remembers scrobbles for all recorded artists, track by track, whatever their status or standing. A scrobble is one full play of one track anywhere in the world on something like iTunes, Windows Media Player or an iPod whose owner is linked to and registered with last.fm (25 million at December 2008). Myspace plays are not included. Fixing the numbers in the BBC charts is child’s play compared to fixing them in last.fm, so if The Kaiser Chiefs have 20 million scrobbles and The Fret have 150 it’s a fair conclusion that the two bands have radically different audience profiles. For each of them, of course, these numbers are only a fraction of all plays on all media by all listeners. Nevertheless, there is no reason to believe that the relative sizes (133,333 to 1) are out of proportion with the much larger “true” figures.
Chiefs – in a league of their own, appropriately enough for a band named after a football team.
on 159,473 and David Thomas Broughton showing up as the back marker on 122,928.
Approaching 20 million plays means 3 albums getting a good listening to worldwide and a life that was already in full swing before last.fm got going.
Non-League contenders were far more numerous and more closely bunched. Right at the top, but statistically adrift from the bottom of League Two, Your Vegas had clocked up 72,854 plays, and there were 112 others (in my roughly selected list of the most obvious contenders) between them and The Delian Mode on 220 plays - spread evenly with no clear breaks. A trailing group of Sunday Morning Leaguers below that had Die Plankton on 151 plays and the very newly formed Death At Ten Paces on 53.
In the Leeds Premiership, way below those heights, The Cribs lead on 5,112,752, with only Corinne Bailey Rae, The Sisters of Mercy, Gang of Four and The Pigeon Detectives in and around that level. The Championship has The Music on top with 1,858,586 plays and The Wedding Present, The Sunshine Underground, ¡Forward, Russia!, Hood, and I Like Trains jostling for promotion spots. Bearing in mind that all these figures relate to January 14 2008 (and could not claim to include every single artist from Leeds), Dead Disco (383,481 plays) were still at the top of League One, with The Mekons and Stateless their only competitors. League Two included The Research (186,279) at the top with six others below them These included Little Boots already
The figures change minute by minute, and the usual rules of interpretation, inclusion and exclusion apply. But a check on an artist’s last.fm profile might tell you something you would like to know. As a general tactic type http:// www.last.fm/music/Name+of+Artist into your browser and hit GO. No spaces - use the + instead. All-time Leeds league leaders in last.fm at January 14 2009:
Looking at about 140 artist profiles from Leeds and surrounding areas on January 14th 2008, I found it was possible to see six main groups. One was the Kaiser
Once you get into this kind of counting and measuring, all sorts of questions arise. One thing you can trace is the day-to-day increase in numbers of listeners or plays that would tell you if an artist is starting to get through to people. A venue promoter might look at the statistics to guess the size of crowd a band might draw. A label could look for signs of a surge in interest that would make their marketing effort easier. An artist might look to see if their newly released songs were having an effect on listener numbers or whether they were just increasing plays by the old faithful.
Which just goes to show that things are always much more complicated than they first seem. Little Boots, with not much time and not many recordings to play is racing ahead on a lot of national media attention, and looking to get promoted into The Championship ahead of The Research. Penny Broadhurst and The Maffikers – with an EP recently issued – are building quickly within a niche audience. Grammatics have had a lot of press for their imminent album and Sky Larkin have just started to get theirs out and about. Three from Leeds’ own-label “Heavy Mental Scene”
(The Old Romantic Killer Band, Dinosaur Pile-up and Pulled Apart By Horses) are on a bit of a surge following good press and some busy touring. The Cribs are on the road with Johnny Marr. The really big numbers (Kaiser Chiefs and co.) grow more slowly. There is a limit and growth gets harder to sustain. Audiences get more volatile and more fickle every day. With hundreds of good new bands emerging every year the space to be heard in gets tighter and tighter. It’s great for us listeners but life must feel tough to artists.
They might all be deceived, but the numbers aren’t random – there are patterns there that can make some kind of sense. For example, we just looked at a few artists with bigger than average increases in listeners and tracks played between January 14th and February 9th. Here are some artists with sharp rises in listener numbers over 26 days to February 9th 2009:
Talk to many in the know about those for whom 2009 is likely to be a big year, and two names youâ€™ll hear a lot are Laura Groves and Blue Roses. The fact that they are one and the same make her an even more exciting prospect. Gary Kaye catches up for a whirlwind stop in her hometown between hectic engagements.
(I Don’t Wanna) Rock Cliché To most of us, Spinal Tap remains a masterpiece of tongue-in-cheek satire mercilessly deriding the egotistical and deluded. To others, it is a gritty documentary to be dissected studiously as definitive career guide. So are rock n roll and cliche intrinsically linked? To test this hypothesis spokeCliché to Rob Galloway (I Don't Wanna)we Rock of The Yalla Yallas, to many the human embodiment ofmercilessly rock ‘n’ roll; andthetoegotistical Ric To most of us, Spinal Tap remains a masterpiece of tongue-in-cheek satire deriding and deluded. To others, it is a gritty Neale who isn’t. documentary to be dissected studiously as definitive career guide. So are rock n roll and cliche are intrinsically linked? To test this hypothesis we
spoke to Rob Galloway of The Yalla Yallas, to many the human embodiment of rock 'n' roll; and to Ric Neale who isn't. Question
Have you ever graffiti'd your own name/band logo anywhere?
Yes I wrote YALLA YALLA on my leg and let my mate tattoo over it. Rock n Roll. I once wrote it on a steamed up mirror in my bathroom.
I'd have to be pretty foolish to start scratching my own name all over venues. Whenever you see blokes' names written on pub walls they're usually followed by phone numbers and offers of blow jobs – which is not really what I’m trying to achieve.
Have you ever lost a band member after a fight?
Fatally? No. I had this kid start on me during our set at the HiFi Club. I pulled all the usual "hold me back" faces. He was escorted out by our female fan club.
Everyone involved in the Ric Neale musical universe is a lover not a fighter.
Has a rock-related injury ever prevented you from doing a gig?
Nope. The show must go on. I've even been electrocuted mid set before. I nearly went through the roof. Rock n Roll.
I once slammed my hand in a car door which made my guitar playing even worse than usual so I had to get a guy to dep for a while. I got very good at playing the accordion with one hand though.
Have you ever stolen another act's rider?
Yes. The Alarm in London. I wandered into their dressing room, nicked their last beer from the fridge, farted on the bass player's arm and yelled "New Shoes!"
I supported the Bay City Rollers once. They weren't very nice to us so we stole their Pringles – instant karma.
Have you ever played to Not with the band ... but what is worse I did fairly less people than are in the regularly when I was solo. I was, and still am, band? RUBBISH!
A large percentage of the gigs I've done have been solo, so it'd be pretty damning if not even one person turned up. There are usually bar staff and bouncers to push the ratio in my favour.
Even if I had I couldn't tell you - What happens on the road stays on the road.
We don't need transport; if we can't carry it on the train we don't carry it at all. No amps, no drum kits - One of the many benefits of acoustic music.
No, but I always nick the sewing kit.
I managed to sack myself and tell the band that its Have you ever fired a band over in an Axl Rose style strop. I then reformed member half way through a the band with a new drummer. I don’t know if tour? anyone has told the old drummer yet. Has anyone ever been Yes. His first application was unsuccessful allowed into the band because I didn’t like his old band. His second purely because they have application was accepted because he had a van. transport? Which he sold before the first rehearsal. No but I am banned from The Hilton in Leeds Have you ever thrown because I gatecrashed someone’s works party. I anything out of a hotel drank their free wine and then I wrote my name in window? sand on the carpet. Have you ever given a No. I want to give Lily Allen one though. demo to someone famous?
Have you ever used your Apart from free festival tickets and beer, nothing position as a musician to really. Oh I got a chair from Lewis at Beavercreek blag something audacious? Studios. Rock n Roll
I played guitar for Jason Donovan for a while. He demanded to pay for an album, which was nice considering how much he was paying me to play Stock, Aitkin & Waterman songs to deluded housewives. I'm not much of a lothario, but I've enjoyed the company of some fine lookin' ladies who wouldn't have given me a second look if I was a web designer. Total
What have learned? spirit roll is indeed intertwined with entertainingly What have wewe learned? That theThat spirit the of rock n rollofis rock indeednintertwined with entertainingly dumb-assed behaviour, butdumb-assed that acoustic troubadours behaviour, but that acoustic troubadours are more likely to use their soft and sensitive sides to beJames a hit Blunt. with the are more likely to use their soft and sensitive sides to be a hit with the ladies. Which explains the inexplicable popularity of Rock n Rollers throw strops, but are more than Bay City Rollers.ofAlso, playing alongside Jason Donovanthrow may pain your soul, is less pain than ladies. Which explains the pleasant inexplicable popularity James Blunt. Rock n Rollers strops, butbut are more tattooing your own leg, City and pays considerably Thealongside Yalla Yallas'Jason single "Retaliation" out now on your all good download Neale's new pleasant than Bay Rollers. Also,better. playing Donovanismay pain soul, but issites, lessRicpain than EP "Someone Else's Home" is out in March, more details from www.ricnealre.co.uk tattooing your own leg, and pays considerably better. The Yalla Yallas’ single “Retaliation” is out now on all good download sites, Ric Neale’s new EP “Someone Else’s Home” is out in March, more details from www.ricnealre.co.uk vibrations 19
ABB (Yeah, you know me…) The man for whom the term “non-linear” was invented returns to Vibrations to share forth his ‘uneditable’ thoughts. When big powerful Vibrations man Tony Wilby suggested I do a column, he proffered forth the indulgent carte blanche concept of not needing to mention music. But I really should, shouldn’t I? We’re a music publication, and I’m sometimes prone to being a bit of a Victor Meldrew (or a Doreen Mantle, as it were) – proclaiming any or all of the standard “There aren’t any good modern bands about”, “There’s not that much on for sad little know-italls me” lazy crapola-style outpourings. So I’m going to investigate local musical stuff that little bit more, in addition to a few facts and anecdotes (just to keep things nice and normal, something an old feller could gladly read without prior knowledge of genres such as powerviolence or post-hardcore). Jools Holland did his annual ‘Hootenanny’ thing again this New Year’s Eve. As my father is no longer a carelessly or ‘randomly’ social man, he chose to stay in and have Jools as the TV-based centrepiece of his scaled-down, mildly pleasant almost celebration of ’09 and it’s arrival. He said he enjoyed the program a little, but first and foremost the experience was tainted, ruined even, with the knowledge that the show was taped and not live. As the American folk say, he was well cheesed. My dad loves Roy Orbison. He loves him so much, that he still can’t accept his death. On 7th December 1988, the day after Roy sadly died, Jon Benbow-Browne wore a black armband to work. His AND my advice to you is this: if you haven’t already, get yourself onto Roy’s vibe. And don’t love the early stuff, like people so often tend to do - dig into the last two LPs, Mystery Girl and the posthumous King Of Hearts. Then you’ve got the immense supergroup that is Travelling Wilburys, who incidentally might have finally got me into Bob Dylan.
on Chinchilla Tone), there are wonderful new pieces of music floating around their aural hemispheres. They’re playing everywhere all the time (often at Hyde Park’s excellent Brudenell Social Club), so go and see them if you haven’t already. You might want to dance. I can’t really write without mentioning the recent sojourns back to my hometown, and in particular my reunion with the fortunes of its football team – now called FC Halifax Town. I attend these games with George and Corbett, and I can’t help but relish the curious experience of meeting in this enthralling world of passion, oft-dented hopes, fatty foodstuffs, groaning Yorkshiremen (I now realise that I’m one) and Nigel Jemson (yes he still plays football). When I came to Leeds just over four years ago, I began consciously avoiding Halifax like it was the plague or strong cheese. Now time has passed and I realise that the answers aren’t all in Leeds, or indeed anywhere, although they may be in Manchester, who knows. However, some of the musical answers may be in this city, and Vibrations may be able to help you as a unit (the unit refers to us, we’re not calling you fat or anything, although you probably are after all the food you needlessly ate over Christmas). The band Solus Locus recently decided to shut up musical shop. Keyboardist and general tall chap Wayne Smith is alive though, and lives in a world of absolute dubstep action. With the Bags Of Money collective he has
assembled, a release has been promised in the form of the ‘Safety Sessions Vol.1’ mixtape. Wayne was quoted as saying, “Wuurggghhhh! Unngggggg Tssssssss!” I couldn’t have summed-up the situation better myself. FACT: Crisps were invented via an annoying joke in a Paris restaurant. Thanks to David Kitchen for that one. FACT: Whitesnake once caused the burning down of a massive venue, whilst playing under the guise of Great White and getting well into the whole setting fireworks off indoors thing. Thanks Knyghtryder. FACT: Songwriters Les Reed & Barry Mason wrote a clutch of hits that PJ Proby was all set to turn into hits. Instead, this privilege went the way of Tom Jones. Annoyed by this, firey Texan Proby challenged the Welshmen to a singing contest (like a kind of ‘60s soundclash, if you will). Applying behaviour much like that of an intimidated baby, Jones backed away from the ‘sing-off’. Just for the record, PJ Proby’s still alive and touring. Adam Benbow-Brown
Onto more regional matters, in particular the band Cowtown. I’ve not always been their biggest fan; nevertheless, I’ve always been keen for repeat viewings and this has paid off! In addition to the songs you can no doubt find on their album (Pine Cone Express
Joseph’s Well, Chorley Lane
Wed 4th BHU Presents: Never Means Maybe / Thoughts Collide / The Ocean Between Us £4 Thu 5th BHU Presents: Dissolved In / Mid Term Break / We Are The end / Wait For Tomorrow £4 Fri 6th Beak & Wings – Various Bands And DJs £5 Sat 7th TDon alldayer – Various bands 3pm-11.30pm Mon 9th Various Band night £5 Wed 11th Beat promotions – Various bands and DJs £5 Thu 12th Comic Relief weekend – 8 bands - Comedians, Poets, Acoustic sets 3pm-12pm Fri 13th Comic Relief Weekend - 80s Night, Comedians, Poets, Acoustic Sets 3pm-2am Sat 14th Comic Relief Weekend – Big Saturday Bash Comedians, Poets, Acoustic Sets 3pm-2am Sun 15th Comic Relief Weekend – Comedians, Poets, Acoustic Sets 3pm-2am Tue 17th Elephants On Acid + Support TBC Wed 18th Trap Door Comedy Club Fri 20th Various Band Night Sat 21st Old's Kool - Old Skool House night with various DJs. (TBC) Thu 26th Mod night (Dark Arches) Fri 27th Rock Night Live Bands Sat 28th (daytime) Battle of the bands final Sat 28th (evening) Big Saturday Bash – Various Bands Josephs Well, Chorley Lane, Leeds, LS2 9NW....0113 203 1861 vibrations 21
Getting signed by a major label is many bands’ dream. But for the crafters of one of last year’s best records, it proved something of a nightmare. Not just once, but twice. “We’ve proved you can take the money and fail, then crack on and do alright” they tell Spencer Bayles. Photography by Bart Pettman
Cast your mind back to 2005. The Kaiser Chiefs were residing in the upper reaches of the charts, and all eyes were on Leeds to see what the city would give to the world next. While the likes of Forward Russia, iLiKETRAiNS and Napoleon IIIrd were setting critical tongues wagging (and would go on to experience success on varying levels), none of them had the pop crossover potential of Duels. Fast forward to 2008, and after a rollercoaster ride, the band’s 2nd album ‘The Barbarians Move In’ has proved a sleeper hit and is widely regarded as one of the year’s best records. It is just the latest step in a long and fluctuating career, the story of which reads at times like a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts for bands everywhere. The career trajectory goes like this: Duels’ form as SammyUSA around the turn of the millennium and a demo tape finds its way to Mary Anne Hobbs on Radio 1, which leads to a single being released on Fierce Panda, which alerts London’s A&R crowd, which leads to a bidding war between Sony and Universal. Not a bad start, by any means. “We played a gig upstairs at the Packhorse at 2pm in the afternoon for the head of Island,” recalls bassist/producer Jon Maher. “He didn’t really like us, but then he’d been in LA the day before meeting Beyonce.” Despite this, SammyUSA signed to Universal/Island, in the same month the label also snapped up Keane and Busted.
“It was suggested that if we wrote a ‘Yellow’, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.” They were effectively told to disappear for six months, play no gigs, and hole up at Hall Place Studio to get ideas down on tape. However, this just resulted in the band taking their collective foot off the gas and losing the momentum that had been building. “They should’ve said ‘Go and gig for a year, hone your craft, and then see what kind of album you want to make’,” suggests the erudite bassist. It wasn’t to be, and the dissatisfaction grew. “Once the novelty of being signed had worn off, we felt real frustration. We got to the point where we wanted to get out of it, and we’d seen other bands in similar situations, so knew there was life after the end of a deal. Our A&R man still believed in the band, but there wasn’t the support at the label. We were told we could stick around until we wrote a radio hit, or just draw a line under it.” They chose the latter. Duels was born at the end of the Island deal, new songs being kept from the label so they could start afresh. “The saddest thing,” adds guitarist Jim Foulgar, “is that nothing was released – it doesn’t exist in any form you can play. It would’ve been a really unusual record.” The band had an idea of what they wanted to be, and got back to basics by gigging, and embracing the instant response. “We had so much vigour; we were like a juggernaut,” recalls Jon.
You don’t get that from Busted.
They had no pop manifesto – all they knew was that they were comfortable with wanting to be liked. After a number of offers – Sony once again threw their hat in the ring – the band signed with the V2-funded Nude Records. The resulting album, ‘The Bright Lights And What I Should Have Learnt’ was a classic-sounding, Britpop-influenced pop record, full of big choruses and catchy riffs. A handful of strong singles were pulled from it, with Zane Lowe throwing his weight behind the likes of the punchy and paranoid ‘Pressure On You’.
However, with an air of inevitability the communication issues started to creep in. “We didn’t discuss what it was we wanted and they didn’t tell us what it was they wanted” he explains. But when the label eventually did get round to putting across directional ideas, it seemed to display a worrying lack of appreciation for their charges’ ideals
Everything was building to the release of the album’s trump card, ‘Brothers & Sisters’. “It was the most immediate radio song on the album,” says Jon. “We’d had great press leading up to it, promo CDs were pressed… and then they pulled it.” Whether the single would’ve been the breakthrough hit remains a ‘what if’ moment for the
“We were never going to be a priority for our A&R man” says Jon in hindsight, considering their erstwhile labelmates. “Musically we were all over the place, but we played powerful gigs, which is what the label tapped into. We’d project things behind us, and then for one song, we’d have people come on in masks to do a mantra.”
band, but bad timing meant that it was around then V2 was winding down; there was no money left for either the single or to fund a tour. Shortly afterwards, Duels found themselves out of a deal. Chalking it up to experience, ideas were already forming for the next move. “It was a beautiful time, when we started working on ‘The Barbarians Move In’,” recalls Jon. “We got rid our manager, and our publishing deal came to an end. It was just five of us and eight reels of tape.”
“We played a gig upstairs at the Packhorse at 2pm in the afternoon for the head of Island... He didn’t really like us, but then he’d been in LA the day before meeting Beyonce.” Recording in the monsoon summer of 2007, sessions had to be halted when the rainfall was too heavy. But aside from time-stamping the album’s genesis, the oppressive weather also adds to the overall anger and catharsis of its sound. Lead singer and primary songwriter Jon Foulger brought in a set of songs that lyrically reflected a lot of the frustrations in the band, which were set to a musical backdrop which Jon M describes as at times “schizophrenic and tribal”. This is certainly accurate when listening to the goosebumpinducing first single, ‘Regeneration’, complete with James Kenosha’s powerhouse drumming and Katherine Botterill’s impassioned, haunting backing vocals. At times apocalyptic, elsewhere merely peering over the edge, the lyrics combine with the allencompassing big production sound to paint vivid pictures of a society breaking down: “As we stand in line for our new homes / This new world built then boarded up / Tin pictures, hail Marys and crushing loans / Save what you can / We’re regenerating.” Despite containing more memorable hooks than your average pop record, vibrations 23
the equation. “After that, we said ‘let’s draw a line under it, and get on with album #3’.” With ideas starting to form for the next record, are Duels still seeking the elusive ‘hit’? “There are very few records where someone has sat down and said ‘I’m going to write a hit,” suggests Jim. “If you try to, you’re probably going to fail. If you go and do what you want to do, you’re more likely to get what you want, on the terms you want.”
‘The Barbarians Move In’ isn’t packed with obvious Top 40 hits. But that’s the point. As Maher states, “it just needed to exist as 11 songs on a record - an album rather than two singles and some other songs. There’s a certain reaction to the things we didn’t like about the first record, although the two albums aren’t as polarised as a lot of people think.” Once the album was complete, a licensing deal was inked with This Is Fake DIY Records, who the band had long-term links with. Duels had initially intended to just digitally release it themselves, so jumped at the chance to release the CD on a label that wasn’t piling on any pressure. “There weren’t any expectations regarding sales. We
were told there’s X amount of money to do what you like with, to make a video etc.” There wasn’t much touring to support it, indeed just four gigs were played around the album’s release. “It’s just because of what the band is now, it’s not the same part of our lives”, says Maher. “Gigging is less of a priority, and it’s no one’s passion to be in a transit van driving up and down the country.” So it wasn’t anything to do with not being able to do justice to the album’s immense sound in a live environment? “No, and the gigs we did were possibly some of our best ever; it felt visceral and for real.” Wider touring didn’t enter
And given the band’s experiences, how important would they view ‘being signed’ in this day and age? “It needs to make business sense,” suggests Maher, “and it should affect you as a band as little as possible. Whatever’s being offered should only add to what’s already happening. It’s a start line rather than a finish line.” “Getting signed is an achievement,” says Jim, “but if you’re good enough to get signed, you’re good enough to do it yourself. You see a lot less starry-eyed bands now because they know the mechanics of how it works. You need to be sure of what you’re doing, as there is no formula.” But Duels’ experience is of course unique to them, as Maher sums up: “We’ve proved you can take the money and fail, then crack on and do alright. There’s no question the Kaisers did a big thing for the Leeds scene, but success can’t just be measured by who plays Elland Road.”
The Cast: Ryan, Gary and Ross Jarman – The Cribs Nathan Clarke – Brudenell Social Club boss and co-promoter of Cribsmas Johnny GoGo – DIY promoter and founder of Strangeways, co-promoter of Cribsmas Tom Martin – Vibrations photo editor and the night’s exclusive photographer Patrick Stanton – American cameraman and long-time Cribs associate Tim Blackwell – Kaiser Chiefs’ resident cameraman Dan McEvoy – On-hand help who assisted on the day Mido – Emergency camerman Kaiser Chiefs – A local pop group from Leeds, West Yorkshire. Old friends of The Cribs Franz Ferdinand – Glaswegian art rockers who’s frontman Alex Kapranos produced the third Cribs album Kate Nash – Mega-selling singersongwriter and girlfriend of Ryan Jarman
Tell us how the idea for the event came about? Early in 2007 the band played here [The Brudenell] as part of a mini-tour to road test the second album. By that stage, they were playing circa 2000 capacity venues, but wanted to play some small shows to test out the material. When they came back, and saw their old friends, Ross was saying “we’d love to do something like that again” and it just spiralled from there. How did it go from idea to reality? One of the [Jarman] family has cystic fibrosis. So we got talking about ways we could raise money, but without doing it in such a blatant way. So the
idea came about after the third album of doing three albums in three nights. It started off being pretty low-key, but when management get involved, then so does the logistic side of things and a lot more became of it. But we still had a massive amount of control over how the event was going to run. Part of the legend of that night is down to the spectacular supports you managed to bag. How did that come about? The idea of supports was always to ask some friends. The original idea was to get some real old school bands. We were going to get The Real Losers, who were a band who influenced The Cribs massively. vibrations 26
Sonic Youth were another one. That got partly down the line, and they actually had a rehearsal in New York. I think some of the band were really up for it, but then they actually played a gig in New York and I don’t think it went that well, so it never quite came together. We knew straight away about [Kaiser Chiefs] because the bands get on so well and they helped each other out over the years with tours and stuff. So they were one of the logical supports. As Alex Kapranos had done the third album and they’d all kept in touch, they said to him “we’re setting up this event” and he said “well we played the Brudenell before, and we want to play there again”. The last support was pretty much down to Kate saying to Ryan “I want to play that as well!” She’d played here three or four months before that, just before she exploded and her songs were all over the charts. And she really liked the vibe here, how people sat on the carpet and had never seen that before, so said she wanted to play too. It was about a month before when we knew the final line-ups, but obviously everything had to be kept very much under wraps. I’d go as far as to say even on the night, the majority of people didn’t know who was playing. Once it was booked, did you look forward to the event? It got hard to keep the fun in it. Not during the nights at all, because we felt that we had control of the nights themselves. But it was hard in the run up though to keep the fun in it, without worrying about safety, or security, or people coming in. Were any of those fears realised? There wasn’t a problem at all until the stage barrier turned up! We’ve never really had a stage barrier here, but some people had concerns about the crowd going a bit mental. The last time [The Cribs] played here, for the last song we had about 50 or 60 people on the stage. It just turned into a total free-for-all, and I think the record company were a bit worried because there was a lot of gear, and therefore a lot of money on stage. But Ryan is one of these people who really wants to keep it DIY. He just didn’t like it, and was like “I’m not playing with a stage barrier” but he saw sense. Were they nervous about the shows? The Cribs played 52 songs over three nights, everything they’d ever written, and some of those songs had never been played outside of a practice room before. So it was daunting for them, and there was a
lot of pressure for them to get it right. Every day, the band would turn up around 10 and just run through the B-sets and main set. I saw each show around 6 times! It was good to see them experiment with the songs and bring in people like Russell from The Research and Jamie from Mi Mye and all the different people who’d been in touch back in the day. They wanted to make it good for the fans. How did the first night go? The Cribs would go on first and play the B-sides from that album. Then the support would go on. People had wondered whether Alex was here because he’d produced the last album. Gary walked on and announced “here are our next friends: Franz Ferdinand” and everyone just went mental! The only hiccup on the first day was Franz Ferdinand forgetting how to play Take Me Out. Their biggest song, and then half way through they just forgot it and had to start again! It was really funny. Did the recording come out OK? We had to make the sound recording out the back and on the Friday The Kaisers wanted to preview some new songs. A lot of these songs had never been played outside the practice room. They wanted to play Never Miss A Beat and they didn’t want it recording. They came on, played it and it went down a riot because it’s one of those repeatable songs that they do, there’s a simple formula to them! It went down really well because by the second verse everyone knows the words, but the sound guy who was recording it had gone out for a cigarette and left it recording. Their tour manager went in and found it all recording, all by itself, all this new material that they didn’t want leaking. So there was this big rush to make sure it all got wiped that night. How did you feel after it was all over? If you talk to any of the Cribs fans who were there, it was like a communion. Something that had ended. It wasn’t just like going to a gig, people had come from all over the world. There were people there who knew each other from the Cribs forum and knew each other on the internet, but then came over and stayed over at people’s houses or at hotels in Leeds and got to meet their friends from the internet who they’d never actually met before for three days and to get to meet the band. It was a real close community, and then it ended and people went back to wherever they came from. It was kind of sad that it ended in a way. The end of an era, but the fun we had!
Middleman aren’t where they should be right now. And I don’t mean I’ve coaxed them out of the studio with offers of beer and exotic crisps. More rightly they aren’t where we’d all hoped, even expected they’d be; in the national consciousness and out on the airwaves.
Photography by Tom Martin
We’ve all got an idea of how hard it must be to get noticed and make your mark in the music industry, no matter how effortless some make it seem. Few bands have seemed so tantalisingly close but just out of reach of that elusive goal for so long as Middleman. In an attempt to understand the problems faced by our home grown rising stars, Vibrations managed to shoehorn its
way into the schedule of Andy and Krish, singer and guitarist respectively, from one of Leeds most stimulating acts, to talk about the rocky road they’ve taken and the snags they’ve hit along the way. Before we get into a lexiconographic flap – and although Vibrations has never shied away from gleefully pouncing upon an open-goal punning opportunity where one inadvertently presents itself – it should be noted, with some irony, that seemingly Middleman have indeed fallen foul of a middleman. So far the band has released two singles on the Bad Sneakers label, Blah Blah Blah and Good to be vibrations 28
Back, “We’ve never had a problem with Bad Sneakers” says Andy, “We got exactly what we were aiming for from them.” The problems lay instead with their management, who they’ve now ended their relationship with rather acrimoniously after almost a year in limbo for the band. “We were put at a standstill for 9 months” he continues, “We had a lot of support building, really our management destroyed all the hype that had been created.” Krish agrees “Before we signed with our management last year we were getting airplay on Radio 1, now we’ve parted ways and we’re back where we started”. Indeed,
Zane Lowe was promoting them as far back as 2007, a time when Middleman were getting mentions in the NME and recorded a brilliant session at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios. Back then they were without a manager or a record deal and described themselves as a ’DIY’ band. They were riding high on a wave that petered out rather than crashed. It’s hard to fathom, but from the band’s perspective their erstwhile managers paid little attention to what Middleman had achieved and held them in limbo for almost a year. They decline to elaborate on specific issues, but when pushed, they describe their relationship with the management simply as “Definitely over.”
It is estimated that around 90% of bands who get signed in the UK do not make any meaningful impression on the charts and in fact are rarely heard of again. But despite that, signing with your first manager is still a daunting yet exciting time. As far as Andy and Krish are concerned, it may not always be your best interests that a manger’s looking out for. “We were fairly naive going into it.” admits Krish, Andy adds “When someone’s got fifteen years experience in the music business you tend to trust what they say.” With all this under their belts I had to ask what guidance can they give to anyone looking to take the next step in hindsight? “Just make sure the person you
choose is looking out for you” Krish advises cryptically. “Exactly,” Andy throws in, before adding with a sense of enigma “Find out if they genuinely like your music, you need someone who’s going to put in the same amount of effort that you do.” To their credit, and despite the clear disappointment at the situation, there’s no suggestion of a ‘we were robbed’ mentality. Middleman have learned from the experience and are ready to put in the hard work to launch themselves anew, this time under their own guidance. “I feel wiser for it and really positive now” says Andy “This time we’re doing it vibrations 29
our way. We feel a lot more comfortable making our own decisions, but it’s probably left us less trusting of management and the music industry.” He adds “It’s been so frustrating, putting in hours and hours of work and ending up getting let down.” Though they’ve taken control of their own direction now, Middleman are well aware of the problems inherent in going it completely alone. “In an ideal world we’d put out our own tracks, but it’s not really financially viable.” Krish tells me, “We couldn’t have done it so far without the backing that a label like Bad Sneakers has given
us, not with any real effect anyway. Without that it’s almost impossible to get known by the public.” They have had their successes despite the odds though. Both singles came highly placed in the download charts but, as Krish points out “There’s a mile of difference between the download charts and being on Top of the Pops. The download charts don’t make you a household name.” In this day and age with TOTP missing from our screens, what does a band aim for to get that leap into the public’s gaze? “Jools Holland, definitely, being asked to perform on Later
can do more for you than Simon Cowell!” Their latest single is the aptly titled It’s not over yet, nothing to do with the Klaxons endlessly overplayed cover, but a lightening paced, forceful but instantly accessible comeback being debuted on the next Bad Sneakers compilation. Andy tells me “It’s about being close to breaking point and carrying on regardless.” The lyrics are certainly emblematic of Middleman’s recent history and their continuing fight to break through “We’re close to the brink, it’s not over yet, nothing we can’t fix, it’s not over yet, we may be down
but it’s not over yet ‘cause we’ll never be out, IT’S NOT OVER YET!”. Putting their problems firmly in the past Andy and Krish seem more than ready to face the future “We’re taking it at our own speed but there’ll be a couple more singles and an album on the way this year”. Clearly their optimism is restored; but what do they think that they’re going to require, other than the continued support of their fans, to make a breakthrough in the next twelve months? “Luck, luck and exposure. As long as the music’s in place that’s all we need.”
SECOND HEARING Normally 20 words per track, this month just 20 words per demo. Still only two listens though. Keep ‘em coming... Coherantt You’re Still a Soldier Fantastic, clattering machine gun d&b, with occasional rib rattling sub bass throb. At six minutes, too long by half though.
The Brute Chorus She Was Always Cool Idiosyncratic, minimalist indie confident enough not to fill all available space with jangly guitar noise. The kazoo chorus works too.
Haunted Stereo In Bars Supposedly an experimental mix of indie and alt-folk, there’s no affinity with either genre, and no apparent attempt to experiment.
Rifle Fire Rifle
The Doppler Effect High octane, pumped up rock trio not doing anything different but doing it with panache and a considerable dynamic punch.
Jim Hickey Inside Outside Four unexceptional songs that sound like they’re dreary cover versions of tracks by much more gifted American bands and songwriters.
Steroid Freak Pussy Conquer and Divide The Eternal Metal Dilemma - ignore the crass lyrics and posturing to concentrate on the wild careering abandon of overdriven guitars?
Tokyo Heat Demo “The only way is to take more chances” shriek this defiantly anonymous lot, in perfect by numbers 60’s influenced punkpop.
Inventing the Pildo EP Quite obviously a bunch of gifted, internationally famous songwriters anonymously singing about cocks and shagging just for laughs? You decide....
Demo Harmonica solos: ever advisable? If you vote no, skip to next review, if you vote yes keep reading... Sorry. Incorrect.
Prego Answers Tasteful, well constructed, well played, adult orientated epic indie rock. My word, that really makes it sound dull doesn’t it?
Dr Haze and The Circus of Horrors An Evil Anthology This lot provide comedy-metal, glam-rock for an Archaos related circus thingy that you should see, but probably not listen to.
The Masked Musician Feel for Me Two slabs of awful, po-faced “comedy” metal bookend a widdly acoustic guitar workout. Elaborate, unnecessary, humourless and quite possibly delusional.
Simon Wiffen Life Support Young Si is one miserable fucker, what with his eternally crumbling relationships. Hey Si, get pissed, have a shag. Whatever.
Peace and The Presidents It’s Only Money Bleeping, melodic electro dance that probably makes sense if you spent a significant part of your youth wasted in Ibiza.
Vib Gyor Album Sampler Classy soundscapers, once “next big things” approach comfortable maturity outside the mainstream glare that once beckoned. Always a good thing.
Maximum Danger Project
Demo Dark stories told through skiffle while flutes flutter, strings sweep and accordions bring to mind dark Parisian corners. Surprisingly effective.
Leatherhead Demo Leatherhead? The leafy Surrey commuter town near Guilford? Blimey, the bankers really are angry. And in possession of Tool records.
The Brent Flood Pleasureseeker Tolerable torchlight indie-by-numbers from pretty boys with good hair. Nothing special, but worse records will sell more than this does.
Talk Less, Say More Go Lucky Atmospheric doodling from former Butterfly producer/guitarist. A bit Plastic Fuzz. Less tunes. May own Depeche Mode backcatalogue. Quietly hits targets.
REVIEWS ALBUMS Sky Larkin - The Golden Spike It’s nearly three years since I first saw Sky Larkin, and ever since I have been waiting for the definitive recorded version of what sounded like some devilishly cunning ideas.
Buen Chico Our Love’s Enormous I’ve always had a slightly uncomfortable relationship with Indie music. The swooning melodrama of Suede, the clanking by-numbers songsmithery of Ocean Colour Scene, through to the not enough meat or potatoes of Shed Seven. It always seemed to lack… well… balls.
They set their train running across the whole of America to get to Seattle for this recording, and it is even better than I had hoped. Comprising voice, guitar, bass and drums (and not a lot else) the sound is rich, varied, surprising and neatly balanced between spruced-up oldies and startlingly good newbies. John Godmanson (producer) seems to have had Nestor (drums) and Doug (bass) working very hard. With nowhere to hide they had to be flat out and spot on. And damn it, they are. The star, obviously enough, is Katie. The guitars, voice and lyrics are absolutely splendid. I don’t think she ever plays those stupid four-beat timekilling strums that pollute so many rock and indie bands. Chiming, moving, four note chords, on or off the beat, scrappy fills, tunes with open strings ringing, growls, splutters, slurs, reverberations and distortions flow out of every nook and every cranny. Ms Harkin’s voice purrs with dangerous intelligence. Her super-compressed lyrics are the distillate of those years of brewing plots and plans – with dreams of fossilisation, dismemberment, transcendence and the beguiling surface of things layered beneath – all boiled down into three word lines. The parts come together for the peek moment of new song “Matador”, standing proud as an exceptional achievement of what guitar pop can still achieve. It has the simplicity of Buddy Holly, the oddball musical fluency of Tortoise and the emotional depth of sincere belief in another person. I’m so pleased they kept us waiting. Sam Saunders
So this leaves me an issue with Buen Chico. Because there is – surely? – none more indie. I imagine them stitching the word “misunderstood” into their own knitting of a Friday evening. I see them reciting Shelly and Keates to each other. They make The Lodger look like Napalm Death. And if at least two of this trio don’t work in a library I would be most disappointed. They’ve also had their thunder stolen somewhat by some cheeky Monkeys about 40 miles South. Despite the unfortunate Chicos being around since the dawn of time (and yet still only looking mid-teens), the Yorkshire vowels telling everyday stories over frenetic scrappy telecasters sounds immediately familiar.
capella There’s No Machine. This album breathes new life into a genre that seemingly had little more to offer, without inventing a thing. Rob Paul Chapman
$lash Vega$ This Is Radio Revolution Christ alive, I’d completely forgotten people still made records like this! G ‘n’ R, Motley Crue, Poison… the days when real men wore spandex and the ozone layer proved the ultimate loser in the battle of the extravagant barnets. I imagine $lash Vega$ see themselves as a modern-day continuation of that genre, although I see little here that informs us of the 25 years that have passed since its heyday. Fronted by Ginna, the former drummer with Phluid – the peerless glam metalers who sadly folded after an accident left him unable to drum again – clearly this has pedigree. But whilst good fun within the confines of a fanbase warm to this sort of thing, Radio Revolution contains little of the invention and subversion of the Phluid days. It might seem harsh comparing current and former band, but if you’re going to make the leap out from behind the drum stool – even if driven by necessity – you’ve got to be pretty sure of what you’re doing. That said, this remains a perfectly acceptable and enjoyable lump of pop-metal with just the faintest whiff of Roquefort. Although the lyrical clichés are a bit ham-fisted at times, the sound pretty dated, and the songwriting hardly sparkling with inspiration; for anyone in touch with their inner big dumb rock fan, you’re likely to enjoy this more than you’d care to admit in polite company. Rob Paul Chapman
So with this in mind, it is fortunate that the songs are strong enough to carry their unspectacular generic setting. The crucial ingredient would seem to be a sense of warmth and humanity that flow from Morgan’s lead, with the subtle – yet vital – interjections of Kirsty’s backing. You rarely get anything like this kind of joy from Alex Turner’s holy fool. It’s difficult not to feel an immense sense of well-being listening to this record, from the blissful opener This Party through the rollicking Rag & Bone Man to the simply gorgeous a
The Scaramanga Six Hot Flesh Rumble Losing your producer to a debilitating and life-threatening heart attack and stroke just as you’re about to mix your latest and most ambitious album to date, not to mention effectively losing the recordings in the process would be enough to finish off most bands. But then, The Scaramanga Six are not most bands. So they dusted themselves off and started work on the next album.
In the meantime, to plug the gap, we have been gifted Hot Flesh Rumble, a compilation of session tracks drawn principally from two BBC sessions in 2004 and 2007. Or rather, two sessions recorded at The House Of Mook, with a view to being shoved in the general of the BBC for them to become BBC sessions, which they duly became. Well, if the mountain won’t come to Mohammed etc... There isn’t much ambition for this record beyond keeping the fans happy. But I am a fan. And I am happy. It would be easy to conclude these are just off-cuts and make-weights, but the scale of the songs in such a confined environment breaths new life into the recorded work. Plus, for the curious, this will probably the only chance for the foreseeable future to hear tracks such as Trouble and Last Roll Of The Dice, all due for inclusion on the ‘lost’ album.
Distortion Pedal, and the Mark E Smith-like vocal withering of Kroyd, who despite his clear lyrical genius, couldn’t carry a tune if it was nailed to his back. If this sounds horrendous, then you’ve clearly missed the point. Here we have four new offerings of varying stylistic endeavour (both the low-fi and the very low-fi are catered for) that are all equally excellent. White Hair is a punky-pop gem with the drummer seemingly playing along to a different record; The Families Of The Departed starts off a bit Interpol, but turns itself around nicely; The Bailiff’s Bravado is a gloriously skewed sentiment complete with fairground organ; while The Neutral Countries probably edges ahead of the pack on energy alone. More please.
In short, this is far more than a curio or a filler. Shorn of the bells and whistles, with the energy of a live performance, there is a strong argument for Elemental and Pincers to be considered the definitive recordings. In fact, I’m off to update my “Best of Scaramanga Six” playlist accordingly. Until the new album proper comes out that is, and I need to create more space. Rob Paul Chapman
SINGLES The Wind-up Birds In These Great Times I first saw the Wind-Up Birds circa 2003. They were bloody awful. Soon after I was passed a copy of Round Here, the first demo from the band. And to my complete amazement, it was, and remains, one of the most exciting and exhilarating moments committed to disc by any band. Since then, I have dutifully waited for the next slice of aural genius and have in one way or another been initially disappointed. I say “initially”, because given time I have grown to love whatever was on offer in it’s own way. For those not familiar with the band, the component parts are thus: A rhythm section playing with the precision and technique of a cabinet of fine china being booted down a spiral staircase; a guitar plugged into a 99p amp and Fisher Price My First
Rob Paul Chapman
The Smokestacks Damager/Kick One of the mildly depressing things about being involved in local music for any period of time is that sooner or later you see the stars that once shone very brightly, gradually fizzle away as the realisation that greatness does not beckon after all, finally sinks in. It’s a sad fact of the artistic world, that many of the greatest talents rarely break much beyond the friends and family circuit, while legions of the easily marketable, but ultimately bland go on to significant success. Depending on the way you look at it, you could class The Smokestacks as one of those that got away, as they release their swan song double A-side single, before sloping off into the night. However, fizzling away is clearly not on the agenda. Instead we are blasted by 2 of the punchiest, catchiest, most life-affirming pop tracks you’ll hear this year, before they collapse into an exhausted heap. Think Clapton/Bruce/Baker as excitable infants cracking open the Sunny Delight stash with slightly drawled Californian-leaning vocals. However the centrepiece is Tom Blyth’s astonishing Moon-flavoured drumming, which never lets the beat settle for a second. Glorious stuff. Missing them already…
LIVE Stuffy/The Fuses, Jennifer Gentle, Master & Servant, Paul Morricone @ Brixton Windmill Hang on a minute… Brixton? A little known but charming hamlet, perhaps just outside of Swillington? Alas no. But bear with me, because before you start worrying that we’re relocating and will be writing the words “bath” and “grass” with the wrong pronunciation, I can assure you that we were only there to mark the passing of one of our own. For those not familiar, Stuffy/The Fuses were formed at the sadly defunct Bretton Hall, Leeds University’s remarkable performing arts college that has given us Middleman, Napoleon IIIrd, Ric Neale, Steer and one Mr. Stephen Gilchrist. AKA Stuffy. As one of the founding artists of Huddersfield’s Wrath Records, it seemed somewhat appropriate to make the trip down South to mark the final gig of one of our former sons that has flown the nest. But before that, there is an unnaturally strong supporting line-up to consider. First is the delightful sight of a grimacing Scaramanga armed only with an acoustic guitar. One might assume that the multi-layered bombastic brutality of the Scaramanga Six back catalogue is not naturally suited to an acoustic setting, but it is remarkable how effective it is with Paul Morricone’s rich crooning baritone left to do the leg work. “This bloke’s voice is amazing” spluttered the bloke next to me. Yes it is. Although I can’t say I’d ever really noticed before. Master & Servant are next to bound on. 2 blokes, one on low-slung bass and keys (simultaneously), one on drums. Both on vocals. It is really rather excellent. Like a glorious combination of The Fall and New Order. Immensely likeable. Less easy to like, but worth persevering with are Italy’s Jennifer Gentle. A longhair with an impressive handlebar moustache makes interesting squelchy bleepy noises hunched over a variety of keyboards and samplers. Meanwhile an impressively ambivalent and smartly dressed fella with a rather fetching 335 guitar barks at the audience. Effective stuff.
Rob Paul Chapman vibrations 33
REVIEWS Which, leads us to Stuffy. It’s now uncomfortably packed as the man mountain with the afro ambles up to the drum stool and heaves himself onto it, while his distinctly more svelte colleagues assume their positions. An epic set follows drawing strongly on their Wrath debut Join Us Or Die, with smatterings from their Steve Albini produced follow-up Angels Are Ace. It’s ferocious, blissfully poppy and finds time for the sublimely tragic Waltz, and In The River, the most beautiful song about drowning ever committed to disc.
the sound balance was all wrong, with the amplified Franks and Walkington booming out over the saxophone and, especially, the drums. Certainly, as the set progressed, Freestone seemed increasingly reluctant to play anywhere near her microphone, virtually absenting herself from the music. And Smith at times seemed tentative and unsure about what he was supposed to be doing.
Whatever happened during the interval seemed to fix all the problems though, because new tune ‘Mr Mish Mash’ set a galloping pace at the beginning of a second set dominated by new compositions. The band played more cohesively, with Freestone much Encores including The Aaaah Aaaah more engaged in proceedings in her deceptively fluid and sinuous style. Song and Where’s The Captain? prove a fitting end to a career that has Franks moved easily between chiming regularly sparkled without ever crossing chords, churning spazz rock and rolling over into the mainstream as it might funk, while Walkington stayed solidly have done. But that doesn’t matter a jot direct all night while turning in some to the legions of Londoners belting out gritty but agile solos. Although an the words behind me, to varying degrees accomplished percussionist, Smith’s of quality. I even spot a couple of Wrath spiky improv tendencies sometimes Records T-Shirts in the audience. seemed at odds with the mostly amiable Makes you proud doesn’t it? settings. But by the jittering, edgy encore, the whole band were playing with firey purpose. Rob Paul Chapman Steve Walsh
Compassionate Dictatorship @ The Venue, Leeds College of Music Although the musical partnership of guitarist Jez Franks and saxophonist Tori Freestone is long standing (the pair have been writing and performing together since 1993), Compassionate Dictatorship was formed only three years ago to perform their compositions as a quartet.
Hiroshima Rocks Around, GI Joe, That Fucking Tank, Mucky Sailor @ The Countess of Rosse, Saltaire
Sailor boys cast off and had to take a peak round the corner to see just what the fuck was producing all this....this..... this stuff. Similarly, That Fucking Tank brought smiles to the faces of the surprisingly large crowd of fans, friends and rellies who already know and love their witheringly precise collection of monster riffs, while the regulars simply knotted their brows further. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that Ver Tank are, underneath all the noise, really just another prog-funk band who want to get everyone dancing. Sadly, once the local talent had finished shelling the hillsides, the crowd gradually dwindled away as the Italian fleet hovered into view. Although to be fair, Bologna-based drums and bass duo GI Joe’s spirited and enthusiastic thrashing quickly became a one dimensional trot round territory already firmly occupied by the likes of Lightning Bolt. Fortunately, GI Joe’s Roman buddies Hiroshima Rocks Around don’t really approach things from any kind of conventional starting point at all. The band actually managed to get a track on last year’s excellent Stench Of Muscle compilation, but I am happy to report that it sounds positively mainstream compared to the deranged squall they produce live. The guitar and alto saxophone are played through every kind of effect imaginable while the drums provide a solid if fairly abstract focal point in the glorious mess of noise. The saxophone wanders around as much as his contact mic allows, but at this late hour, he and the music remain a source of bemused fascination for the regulars still standing.
What has sleepy, leafy Saltaire done to deserve the musical ministrations of two of Leeds’ finest noisemongering duos? Not to mention two equally ferocious Italian exports who stab about in similar sonic pastures? Well, it would appear Franks and Freestone also happen to be that Ver Tank’s James and Andy actually Steve Walsh come from the place and like inviting on the teaching staff at Leeds College their incredibly noisy friends round of Music and Franks in particular has The Cribs @ Heaven, London the local boozer to make a racket and strong connections with the London based modern jazz outfit F-ire Collective. bemuse the regulars. That’s all. Their sophisticated and wide ranging Tickets trading for £45 online? Fans music fits well into the current modern desperately searching the pubs of Mucky Sailor have the privilege of jazz scene in Britain, but tends more firing the first volley across the bows of Embankment looking for a spare? After semi rural tranquility, although I have towards a low key, easy going style three lauded albums and a riotous a sneaking suspicion their deliciously than the likes of Polar Bear or Acoustic few years of nearly fatal award shows, delirious keyboards & drums-powered Ladyland. Glastonbury controversy, celebrity queasiness is, underneath all the noise, girlfriends and comedy turns on quiz The first set is made up largely of tunes just another dose of standard euroshows; have The Cribs finally registered from the quartet’s two year old debut on the public consciousness? Or have disco-prog. ‘Coup D’Etat’, but the band are clearly the people of London simply turned not at ease. This may be because up to look at Johnny Marr? There are Oh yes, the madness started early, they have a new rhythm section in the certainly a few more blokes in their and may even have caused the band’s shape of bassist Julie Walkington and thirties than you might normally see “Ship’s Wheel of Fortune” noise drummer Dave Smith, the latter possibly generator to malfunction. Certainly the watching the Jarmans, but other than even a very late replacement for the folk/blues band (rather surreally playing that, it’s inconclusive. quartet’s usual drummer cited in the in the other room between all the bands) programme. It may have been because stopped dead in their tracks when the
London’s Heaven venue is apparently becoming a player on the capital’s live music scene, but it’s still best known round these parts as a gay-friendly nightclub, and the pre-show party music happily reflects this position. After that however, it’s business as usual with a gig packed full of the standard components of a Cribs gig; the ubiquitous Wakefield (and now added Manchester) chants, the stage dives, the jokes. And of course the songs. Drawing heavily from “Men’s Needs…”, the set is typical of the tight yet chaotic performance that makes a Cribs gig such a vital experience. The new songs, particularly opener ‘We Were Aborted’ and ‘Cheat On Me’, fit seamlessly in with older numbers ‘Hey Scenesters’ and ‘Another Number’. Occasionally the guitars seem to drown out the vocals, especially during ‘Be Safe’, but it’s hard to know whether this is the weight of the extra guitar or sound issues. It certainly doesn’t detract too much from the night. So if it’s taking an ex-Smith for people to notice The Cribs then maybe that’s a good thing – they certainly deserve noticing.
clarity this brings to the sentiment of the songs; or their upbeat indie sensibility that makes this duo so charming and endearing. Energetic and sunny but not irritatingly so, they keep their feet on the ground enough to be engaging. As a duo they compliment each other well, remaining comfortably modest, without the posturing and taking-yourself-everso-seriouslyness that hinders many duos and indie set-ups.
Kong @ Brudenell Social Club This was a gig I went to with – it must be admitted – some trepidation; although the support list had me drooling. The magnificent screamy guitar-fuelled raging insomnia that is Chickenhawk got things rolling. Their heavy, angry, take-no-prisoners stuff pays more than tribute to early ‘90’s punk and left me and the numerous ‘ATP Nightmare Before Christmas’ veterans feeling the spirit of the Melvins in places. They were followed by the ear-splitting darkness of Humanfly, and the somewhat below par That Fucking Tank.
They played numerous favourites, dropped drumsticks, laughed at each other, and with us, and rounded up playing ‘Christmas TV’ without microphones. A bizarrely humbling experience in an otherwise self-affirming gig. Enter the madness that is Kong. It’s fortunate they’re in a band because Sophie Kemp in any other occupation their brand of
Slow Club, Paul Marshall, Mi Mye, Rosie Doonan @ Holy Trinity Church is the last place I expect to find myself at Christmas, but when mince pies, wine and Slow Club are involved, it’s hard to say no. Support act Rosie Doonan continues to surprise me – having seen her at numerous acoustic bits and pieces for the last two years I’ve developed the bad habit of forgetting and rediscovering her. Supported with strings and backing vocals, the acoustics of the church illustrate the compelling beauty of an often over-looked voice. She was followed by the slightly weird Mi Mye – I still don’t understand, but am warming to this off-kilter slightly ‘80’s pop-folk combination. Paul Marshall continues to go from strength to strength, playing some lovely new stuff from the as yet unreleased new record. He remains moody, introspect, contemplative, but uplifting, whilst his acoustic cover of the Fairy Tale Of New York proved something of a heartbreaker, although refreshingly different from the original. He was only outshone by the sparky sparklyness of Sheffield’s lovely Slow Club. It’s hard to know whether it’s the DIY low-fi approach to music, and the vibrations 35
REVIEWS mad cynical twisted inventiveness would probably be exceedingly dangerous if it wielded any sort of influential power. Which is not to say they aren’t a powerful band, although ultraviolent is probably nearer the mark. Going way beyond the excess of the sheer physical qualities of their sound – volume, screaming, feedback, unfathomable rhythms – they wield fear and insanity like something compulsively desirable. Akin to Monotonix in this respect they have the kind of mental attractive buzz around them which remains hard to describe outside of the circle who love having their ears and sensibilities assaulted. I’m not even sure why I find it so energetic and compelling. It’s impossible to know what they are singing about, except you know somewhere in your little black heart it’s true and worth dancing for. It’s punk, my friends, but not as you know it. Sophie Kemp
Eureka Machines, Grannys4skin, Normal Man, Little Elvis, Paul Morricone @ The Brudenell We tried. God knows we tried. We’ve made it all the way to the live reviews without a single mention of Eureka Machines. But with just before packing the issue off to the printers, this gig happened, and damn our weakness, it just needed writing about… This is the second mention of Paul Morricone’s solo show, and given that it’s the same as the London set, we’ll pass over it, except to say that the Gene Pitney tribute was gorgeous and the new Scaramanga Six material is
sounding very exciting indeed. The compare for the evening was the incomparable Little Elvis. For the uninitiated, Little Elvis is a 15-year-old Elvis impersonator who neither looks nor sounds like Elvis. However, he does have the moves. Plus enough charisma and confidence to win over everyone. It is hugely enjoyable.
does his best to upstage everyone with a cameo at the end, this show is largely a farewell to bassist Steve Morricone who leaves the band to concentrate on his new musical venture. Some band called The Scaramanga Six… Never heard of them, but I hope they’re as good as this lot. Rob Paul Chapman
Sadly, the same cannot be said for Normal Man. I really, really want to like them, but no matter how much I try to rationalise it I just can’t. The pedigree is exceptional, comprising the normally fantastic Noah Brown and Vibrations’ own Adam Benbow-Brown, who have gone for gone down the riffs and noise route. You get the impression this is meant to be challenging, and on a conceptual level subverting Noah’s reputation in hip-hop for metal could be really interesting. But it’s just not challenging enough. The fact that there are people perfectly able to conduct conversations with Normal Man soundtracking the background somewhat defeats the object. I’m sold on the concept, but the application needs a lot of work. I approach Grannys4skin in the opposite way. I want to dismiss this as puerile and juvenile, masquerading as some kind of ironic, subversive oh-so-knowing art-school bollocks, but is in fact just annoying look-at-me knob-gags. The reason I want to say this is because they have the worst name of any band in history; and the talent involved seems far too great to be wasted on a joke band. However I can’t say anything like this, because in actual fact G4S are utterly fantastic. Genuinely funny, contagiously enthusiastic, and – crucially – in possession of some mighty fine pop songs. Tremendous fun on every level. And so, to Eureka Machines and the chance to give the impressively sizable turnout what it wants. Say what you like about them, but you will not find a better drilled show band around. It is a very hard trick to choreograph every move and not seem remotely stayed or sterile, but it works. It helps when your starting base is a set of excellent pop-rock songs, but even someone who has bought nothing but Dido and Blunt or the last five years would get a thrill from this show. Although Little Elvis
Unpopular Music @ The Packhorse While the rest of Leeds was limbering up with some gusto for the festive season, Leeds Improvised Music Association (LIMA) stalwart Richard Ormrod chose the week before Christmas for the inaugural gathering of this new monthly LIMA offshoot. Essentially, the idea seems to be to gather together an octet made up of fully paid up LIMAites, in this case Ormrod on saxophones and clarinet, Helen Baines on clarinet and Paul Moore on double bass, augmented by fledging improvisers contributing electric guitar, drums, abstract vocalising and two more saxophones. Although there’s a tendency to adopt familiar improv styles, the excellent percussive contributions drop some unexpected way markers and the guitarist’s Fender Rhodes sounding tone adds a ghostly keyboard-feel to the ensemble. The guitarist’s amp, either by accident or design, produces a random static sputtering sound that helps to extend at least one improvisation beyond its natural life. Despite the strong collaborative approach to the evening’s music, the more experienced Ormrod and Moore inevitably, if subtly, lead and direct. After a series of improvisations built organically from quiet stillness, Ormrod stepped up and tore a saxophone line through the air that had everyone else clamoring to keep up. At one point, Moore became so compulsively immersed in a bass solo, he pleaded with everyone else to help him stop. Like much of LIMA’s output, Unpopular Music is a work in progress, the second installment of which will have taken place by the time you read this. Hopefully the four-strong audience in attendance for this gig will have expanded by then, along with the lines of intelligent musical inquiry being explored by these musicians. Steve Walsh vibrations 36
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One for the road The wisdom of this city’s most celebrated, distilled over the duration of a pint.
3. Appreciate your family while they’re around As my Dad was dying – and it took him 18 months to die – for the first time in my life, my Dad started to see me in a career that I was good at and was going somewhere. I worked for my Dad for the past 8 years before that, because it was the only job I could hold down because of the pain. I was starting to do well with my photography, but my Dad was getting incredibly ill. My Dad had always seen me as a boy, even into my twenties because I was just so fucking disabled. Every job I’ve done since then, every single shot, I’ve done it because I wanted to make my Dad proud of me. Every fucking one.
4. Don’t be a closed book I’m quite an open person. In fact I don’t like people who are emotionally closed-off. I find them very cold and difficult. The best way to get through life is with your friends and family and to be open. A friend in a band that I toured with lost his mum this year, and it’s really good to be able to share that moment, as horrible as that moment is.
Interview by Rob Paul Chapman Illustration by Simon Lewis
Right now life is pretty good for the city’s most cherished and impressively sweary rock photographer. However, It’s not always been so easy for a man no stranger to tragedy and adversity. Family death, horrific accidents and a debilitating leg condition that left him “so fucking disabled” looked certain to leave his talent unrealised. It’s amazing what you can do with the right motivation though… 1. 25 years is a long time in medicine When I took the Forward Russia Sandman cover for Sandman [regarded as Danny’s breakthrough picture], I was on morphine that day because of the pain. That was what my life was like then. I went to bed in pain, I woke up in pain. Then I had my 19th operation that I’d be saving up for 6 years for. And it was amazing. It changed my life. They reckon I’ve got 22-25 years worth of use out of it. With current technology I’d have to have my leg amputated after that. I was 26 years old when they told me that, and I absolutely shit myself! It was a very tough period, considering my options. But 25 years is a long time for technology to develop.
2. It never rains, but it pours I had the operation, and then three weeks later as I was at home still recovering, my Dad got diagnosed with leukaemia. Three weeks after that, I tripped while holding a cup of coffee and sliced my finger half off. I had to go in to hospital that day for an operation to save the nerves. I then got suspended from Leeds College of Music. It was a very difficult time.
5. If you don’t ask you don’t get I got involved with a band called Parisman because I absolutely loved them. We created a demo called The Answer To Example 1 which had This Is For Your Neighbours on it. Everyone in the band was really happy with it, everyone we played it to was blown away. So my next stop was to approach record labels. I went straight to the top! I rang up Sony and said “I’ve got a proper band for you!” and he told me to book an appointment for the following week in London, so I rang up Island and said “I’ve got an appointment with Sony on Monday for a band you seriously need to hear, because Sony are listening to them!” So they said “right well we better sort you out with an appointment!”
6. Do what you love, and don’t forget who you are The feedback from that was positive but not definitive. But rather than just concentrating on enjoying the band and being creative, everyone – including myself – started thinking about major labels. As a consequence, the sound of the band got diluted. Coz every time some proper nobhead A&R had an opinion, the band took it to heart. They just kept trying to turn it into something more and more commercial with every song that they wrote. By the time we’d stopped listening to everyone who had an opinion, that opinion had turned into “what ever happened to the Parisman that we loved?” That taught me a hell of a lot. So with my photography I’ve always applied the principal of just going out to enjoy myself. I never actually went to anyone looking for money. Work hard and love what you do, passionately. Don’t get beyond yourself. There is not a day that goes by when I don’t absolutely from the bottom of my heart fucking love my job.
7. Believe in the three ‘Ps’: Passion, persistence and psychosis! It was only when I took the Forward Russia pictures for Sandman that I thought, actually I’m alright at this! I think I’ll keep going and see what happens. A year later, the NME got in touch with me. It was just after I severed my finger and I couldn’t use my right hand for three months. I was over the moon when I got the call, but then I’d severed my finger.
When my hand healed I rang up and emailed them and I didn’t get any response. So, every week I would send them an email and call them. And then about 6 weeks after Christmas, I got a call back. I have a lot of love for Marian the photo editor. She really had belief in me. Maybe it was because I was slightly psychotic as well though! I was working at Leeds College of Music at the time, and even though I was already in with the NME, had my foot in the door, and was doing regular jobs with them, I was sending them an email literally every week telling them how much I hated my job, how much I loved photography and that if they gave me an opportunity to do more work I could get better. I never a got a single response to those letters, but I now know that they did read them. The enthusiasm paid off because behind the scenes they were like “fucking hell! Give him a job and shut him up!”
8. …but even passion should have limits In June 2006 I went to the first gig I’d ever been to without my walking stick, and I went fucking mental! It was Gogol Bordello. I even went right down the front and grabbed the mic off Eugene and starting singing Start Wearing Purple. To say I appreciated it would be an understatement. I even had a fight with a 16-year-old kid over a T-Shirt that Eugene threw into the crowd. It was only when I was pulling on it like a girl at a Take That concert that I realised that I was ten years older than this kid and that I should really behave! The excitement got to me.
9. To unlock your hidden talent… avoid homework When I left school, I was 15, and I didn’t know what to do with my life. I hated school, so all I knew was that I wanted to do a course with the least amount of homework! So the colleges come round to exhibit at my high school, and the course that came back with ‘almost none’ was photography! So I went home to my mum and dad and told them I wanted to do photography. I certainly didn’t tell them it was only because I didn’t want to do any homework!
10. Luck is relative I appreciate that what I do is something I’ve earned, and therefore I don’t feel lucky. I really hate it when people say “you’re so lucky…” But then again, I could be in that warehouse with an awful knee again. I’ve risen from the ashes and I’m really fucking enjoying myself. And there’s nothing more I could ask for.
Published on Mar 1, 2009
Bi-monthly print music magazine covering bands in Leeds, and West Yorkshire (UK) featuring Blue Roses, Middleman, Duels, Danny North