We come with baggage...
Festival Special Melvin Benn : Last Gang : The Leeds and West Yorkshire
Scaramanga Six : Alan Raw
Free June/July 2008
The Team The Editor
Rob Paul Chapman firstname.lastname@example.org
The Design Editor
Tim Metcalfe email@example.com
The Sub-Editor Charlotte Watkins Kate Wellham Tony Wilby
The Picture Editor
Tom Martin firstname.lastname@example.org
The Founders and Publishers Tony Wilby email@example.com Jack Simpson firstname.lastname@example.org
The Advertising Department
The Contributors Sam Saunders, Adam Young, Chris Dyson, Spencer Bayles, Gary Kaye, Helen Barlow, Ros Banks, Stu Hudson, Paul Morricone, Kate Wellham, Stevie Vigors, Chris Hutcheon, Rob Wright, Chris Thomas, Liberty Hutchinson, Tom Martin, Jack Simpson
The Contents 5 6 8 9 10 14 16 20 21 22 24 28 33 34 37 39
Magazine Editorial Festival Memories Featured Columnist - Sam Saunders Featured Columnist - Adam Young & Chris Dyson Festival Special The thoughts of the Chairman Stu The Scaramanga Six Wakefield / Bradford news Far from the madding crowd The Out-Of-Towners Last Gang Melvin Benn Second Hearing - Your Demos! CD Reviews Live Reviews Vibrations Recommends
Nelson email@example.com Jack Simpson
The Web Team
Simon Hollingworth www.vibrations.org.uk
Advertisers 2000 magazines seen by
music lovers across Leeds. firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlotte Watkins www.myspace.com/vibrationsmagazine
Classifieds Band mates wanted?
Vibrations is looking for…
Equipment to sell? Rooms to rent? Whatever. email@example.com
• Writers, Photographers, Artists, Sub editors and Designers
Come be a part of it. firstname.lastname@example.org
• Demos Send them in to: Rob Paul Chapman, Editor,
Vibrations Magazine, Trash, 9a Albion Street, Leeds, LS1 5AA
Pigeon Detectives cover by Tom Martin vibrations 3
How y’all doin’ out there Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeds? Welcome to this very special Festival Edition of Vibrations. So special in fact, that I felt it necessary to use a large "F" and a large "E" in "Festival Edition". As a rule, I tend to stay away from large "E"s, which explains why I can remember most of the festivals I've been to. And whilst I cannot speak for my learned colleagues, it appears that they also have fairly vivid memories too. On page 6 we've collected together some of their fondest recollections. Or in Rob Wright's case, the thing most embedded on his dark and addled mind, the mental scaring running deep to this day. Contains Daleks... It's not just us talking about ourselves you'll be delighted to know. Inside this issue we have Leeds Festival supremo Melvin Benn giving us an exclusive on the workings of this year's festival and much more besides. Anyone with even a passing interest would be well advised to listen to what he has to say. And even if you don't, he is able to pass on some tips on how to get notoriously work-shy be-kilted gingerhaired soft-rock prima donnas onstage. Needless to say, they are considerably less inclined to "get in the ring" when faced with a very large man from Hull. It's a good 'un. Talking of good 'uns from Hull (although admittedly less large in physical stature), we go tapping the microphone of BBC local music champion Alan Raw. At the risk of sounding irritatingly smug and selfaggrandising (we'll leave that to Q), those really are the two most important people around when it comes to the workings of the festival from a local band perspective. But festival season is not just about the corporate behemoths. From early May until late September you can’t move for festivals. Whilst some of these come courtesy of the PLCs, there are more independents than you care to shake a gazebo at. From the serious concerns such as Moor Music Festival and Kendal Calling, through to the MyBackGardenstocks. We sent the team out into the various middle-of-nowheres to track down the hardy souls who put their lives, livlihoods and livestock on the line for you to dance around on their land churning the cud in your ten-holes. It’s not just about festivals this issue. Controversially, we will also be featuring some bands. Stevie Vigors makes a passionate case for Last Gang (one that I imagine he’ll be recycling for the magistrate once
Sony’s lawyers come calling…), while Sam Saunders goes to Huddersfield to meet the critically adored, commercially untroubled Scaramanga Six. Talking of The Six… seeing them in action from the stage itself (with trombone in hand, desperately trying to extract a single percentage point of their coolness) at last year’s Leeds Festival whilst headlining the Topman Stage is probably my favourite festival moment. It was either that or getting a phone call from my then girlfriend who had managed to rather drunkenly persuade an “elderly long-haired American bloke” to lend her his mobile. Turned out to be Iggy Pop.
I’m yet to experience a rubbish festival. Come to think of it, I’m yet to experience rain at a festival, despite having been to one practically every year for the last fifteen. (Follow me people, I am your leader and will guide you to the promised land of sunshine…) [/pushing luck too far] But even if my freaky luck finally runs out and it buckets it down all weekend, there will still be fun to be had. It won’t though. I can feel it in the lay lines… man. Christ, it’s started already. Anyway, I’m off to spend £4 on a weak lager. See you down the front. I’ll meet you about three rows back from the bloke with the skull and crossbones flag parallel to the inflatable banana with “Penrith” written on it. If we get separated remember our tent is the one next to the Welsh metalheads, four down from the one that looks like it’s made out of bacofoil with the washing line of empty Skol cans outside. If in doubt just listen out for the small children thinking it’s still funny to shout “Bollocks” at four in the morning. I’ll be the one with my head in my hands wondering why I put myself through this every year. Until the sun comes up again and I’ve had my first cup of tea shortly followed by the first warm cider of the day. Then I’ll be right as rain! Damn. Must stop mentioning rain… ATB, RPC. vibrations 5
r e t in w e h t s a w t a Th of our Disco Tent… Memories are a very personal thing. Which is why we asked the Vibrations team to surrender all sense of privacy to disclose their favourite festival memories to complement our Festival Special edition. Here are some of their picks:
On escaping the intense mid-day sun at Phoenix I sought refuge against the advertising boards at the side of the stage. An American guy flopped down next to me and handed me a water-bottle, asking me if I wanted a swig, as I held it to my lips and knocked my head back he said “CAREFUL!” as the first of the liquid hit my lips, “that’s vodka!” Getting over the shock and laughing I handed the bottle back to him and said “Thanks”. Only to realise that it was Dave Grohl”. - Stu Hudson (columnist) James Brown at Glastonbury 2004. Two stars came out - one in the sky and one on the stage - a true legend and the perfect hangover tonic. - Stevie Vigors (writer) Seeing Fairport Convention upstage Jefferson Airplane at the first ever Isle of Wight Festival in 1968. Reports say the evening ended in light rain and that the toilets were not good. I don’t remember either of those things. In fact I don’t remember there being any toilets at all. There probably was some weather. - Sam Saunders (columnist, writer) Selling Ice T cigarettes in 1999 while his ‘minders’ gave me threatening looks. He wanted Camels but settled for Marlboro lights. - Tony Wilby (publisher, sub-editor) Spending all of Glastonbury 1998 sat in the Dr Who tent watching ‘Dr Who and The Daemons’ on an old black and white or seeing Orbital play ‘Satan’ in 1999 - Daddy, what does regret mean? - Rob Wright (writer) Dancing like a loon to Christopher D Ashley at Rough Beats 2007. - Ros Banks (writer, columnist) Catching Crowded House at the 1994 Fleadh Festival in London, joined by Maori log drummers and choir for a rousing finale of ‘Together Alone’”. - Spencer Bayles (writer) Watching the Futureheads at Leeds Festival 2005, not only got dripping wet in the pit but managed to come out with one less trainer and one less t-shirt. Awesome. Tim Metcalfe (design editor) Glastonbury 1994 - In the year that Britpop exploded my friends swooned to Pulp on the NME stage; I, however, witnessed the best gig in my life watching a rejuvenated Johnny Cash bask in the adulation of an adoring, sun drenched crowd. Even the Bishop of Bath and Wells danced along at the side of the stage. For one hour Cash was King. - Gary Kaye (writer, podcast editor)
The Bluetones’ Mark Morriss was carried off the stage, saluting, at the end of the band’s set by a man in a full white American officer’s uniform to the strains of ‘Up Where We Belong’; which will make sense to anyone who has seen schmaltzy Richard Gere vehicle ‘An Officer and A Gentleman’. - Chris Hutcheon (writer) Leeds ‘99 - My mate Luke ran up to me and a few of our friends in the arena, screaming and waving a bit of paper. When we’d slapped him a few times he showed us the front page of that day’s News of the World, which he’d found blowing around the campsite. It had some festival coverage on the front page, and a massive picture of my face to accompany it. - Kate Wellham (writer, columnist) Being in the front row of an ecstatic 500 strong crowd on a tiny Scottish island and being blown away by bagpipe led rock. - Chris Thomas (writer) Hearing James Zabiela at Global Gathering smash out an outstanding remix of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence while the Red Arrows did a daring display in the sunny skies above me. - Helen Barlow (writer) My best festival moment doesn’t have a right lot to do with music, but says a lot about the world. Between bands at last years Leeds Festival, I was sat on the grass soaking up a few rays, and got chatting to the couple next to me. “Where you from?” he asks “Leeds” says I, “you?” “Aye, Leeds n’all” “O yeah” says I “whereabouts?” “Halton” “No way” says I, “me too, what street?” “Cricklegate” says he “NO WAY! My granddad lived on Cricklegate” “Great street through the years” he says “I remember this old guy over the road called Fred used to give us the apples from his garden” “No way” says I failing to hold back drink fuelled emotion “Fred was my Granddad” Fred died on 12th December 1986. In a field full of 100,000 people from all over the country, you sit down next to someone who’s known the person that influenced your life more than anyone else. It’s a small world, and music brings people together. - Si Hollingworth (web editor)
Naming and Shaming What’s in a name, eh? Quite a lot if you ask Sam Saunders. Or Axl Rose… The book of Ecclesiastes has it that a good name is better than precious ointment. A good name gets you remembered and well-thought-of, even before you play. A good name just sits there in the tranquil recollection of thousands of minds, gently advertising itself when everything else has gone on holiday. Axl Rose, by any other name, would have smelt just as bad. But he wouldn’t have been so famous.
Some names are so good that millions of people still ask “I wonder what Haircut 100 are doing these days?” or “Is it time for me to dig out the Gang of Four back catalogue?” Even when they have no idea what the bands were like. And who can forget the really great names like The Electric Light Orchestra whose biggest selling tunes can be listed only by pub quiz champions? What was it that Pigbag, Kitchens of Distinction, The Waterboys did again? Names you have heard of, and definitely remember, but never got round to listening to. Just think how much bigger they would all have been if their music had been as good as their names. On the other hand, myth has it that a lot of good bands recklessly chose self-destructive names. They failed to make the mark they deserved because of a name that worked against them. Our psyches register red-alert, DO NOT LISTEN, warnings at some pretty harmless, even wonderful music because the artist wants to be called something selfdeprecating and crap like Prefab Sprout, Scouting For Girls or Biffy Clyro. I’ve whinged enough. It’s time for science. When you pick your next band name, use this handy check-list to guide you. If you want to call yourselves Chosen Name, make sure you say VERY TRUE to all of these statements before making a Myspace page. If you are a solo artist, go straight to Question 12.
1) We have had six rehearsals, we have a few songs and we have a vague idea what the whole thing is going to sound like. 2) We have typed CHOSEN NAME CD GIG BAND into Google and read the first two pages of results carefully. 3) We have typed CHOSEN NAME into the MUSIC search on www.last.fm, choosing the ARTIST option and have looked at all the results carefully. 4) We have typed CHOSEN NAME into the MUSIC search on www.myspace.com and looked at all the results. 5) We have checked http://www.leedsmusicscene. net/bands for local versions of CHOSEN NAME 6) We have printed a card with CHOSEN NAME on and shown it to a lot of people we don’t know but like the look of and asked them “do you think you might be interested in a band with this name?” 7) We have printed a card with SOMEOTHER NAME on and shown it to a lot of people we don’t know but like the look of and asked them “do you think you might be interested in a band with this name?” 8) We kept a record of how many marks out of 5 the people gave these names and we have compared CHOSEN NAME with SOMEOTHER NAME. 9) We have asked a lot of people “What sort of music would you expect a band called CHOSEN NAME would make?” None of them, except the drummer’s Dad, said “Ska Punk”. 10) We have asked our crayoning expert/design department if the name can be made to look good on a poster/t-shirt without making it illegible. 11) So far no one has said “I can’t remember what our band name is”. 12) Sorry, but you still have to do 1-11, using MY OWN NAME and ignoring the bit about the drummer’s Dad. Solo artists need a good name too. Colin Meloy just doesn’t do it. Alan Sparhawk is such a good name he should never have joined a band. The worst thing though is for you to be confused with someone else. Now internet searching is vital, being muddled up with another band could lose you the gig - even at a local level. Just don’t even think of keeping a name that is already being used. Sam Saunders
Guest Writer This issue we temporarily hand the keys to the Vibrations Executive Washroom to Adam Young and Chris Dyson - collectively Heads Divide - to guide us through Leeds’ underground Hip-Hop scene. Disco is back! It’s the hot word of the minute. Be you a record label, band or song, throw that word into the mix and you’re onto a winner! Way back at the tail end of the 70’s, a certain group of people started a movement, directly sticking two fingers up at the steady clean aesthetics of the Disco crowd. Later, the rest of the world would embrace it as Hip Hop. Not the broken toy tripe we are fed by the “media Hip Hop”, but the gloriously rich DIY kind found at the end of every block from here to Thailand. It lives within the people and speaks for them, and you can be damn sure it will still be here after the flash in the pan that is Disco recedes back into the shallow hole from which it came. The way in which Commercial Hip Hop is packaged today ensures it will be consumed by a mass audience. From magazines to films to music to fashion, the industry has imprints on all aspects of mass culture and the differences from when an artist is released and when they become commercially successful are vast. As an artist becomes more successful it seems the less creative control they have over their art.
The bourgeois imagery in commercial hip hop videos demonstrates the way that Hip Hop artists have adopted the values of the dominant class. A movement once representing rebellion now seems to serve as a microcosm of a modern capitalist society.
New Bohemia 4 years old and a permanent fixture at the Faversham on a Friday night. Playing host to the World’s best DJ’s and bands, this student-friendly night is now branching out to other cities and countries. Fresh Jive if you think Hip Hop was better before Eminem came along, this B-boy friendly brand should be your kind of place, with live shows and breaking competitions at the University and other venues Diff’rent Strokes underground acts and DJ’s who like to party - monthly at The Elbow Room.
Breaking the Illusion (co-founder of Lowlife) has been making music for most of his life and his debut album Mixed Messages is out now, blending Roots Reggae Rock with humorous lyrics. The live show with the fully-plugged band is guaranteed to have the most avid shoe gazer dancing away. Freyed Knot if you like your hip hop live and funky these guys from Bradford will whet your appetite for hip hop with live instrumentation. JND & Exp spit rhymes about life in Yorkshire and the highs and lows of a 20 something guy. Blessed House. One’s Blessed and the other’s House, these 2 emcee’s can make any lazy headnodder want to move their feet and shoulders with their big music sound and now with a new band in tow their live show keeps improving.
We therefore feel it our duty to school you lovely people on what’s good in Leeds before you all go out and max out your credit cards on neon underwear and Criminal Damage jeans. Hip Hop lives in Leeds, UK hip hop was born from the streets of Leeds, pioneers of the early UK scene were locking and popping outside the Merrion Centre when many of you were still wearing your He-Man pyjamas and sat watching Thundercats on a Saturday morning. The most important & recently defunct UK label Lowlife was dreamt up in a house not far from you LS6 dwellers. Many people think London is the spiritual home of UK Hip Hop but sadly I need to shatter your illusion and open your eyes to the wealth of underground talent and great little club nights we have in our city. vibrations 9
Itâ€™s officially festival season. WOO-HOO! And one thing is obvious: there sure are a lot of them. Vibrations sends out practically everyone it knows to bother some of the people who make them happen. Edited by Helen Barlow and Rob Paul Chapman. Interviews by Spencer Bayles, Gary Kaye, Helen Barlow and Ros Banks. Festival photography by Tom Martin
Fields Apart vibrations 10
At one end there are the global behemoths, where middle-aged men do deals with other middle-aged men on behalf of groups ending in ‘PLC’ run by middle-aged men, to bring other very rich middle-aged men with long hair and piercings to fields the size of middle-European countries for the enjoyment of 90% 14-year-old boys and 10% middle-aged men who complain that it isn’t like it was back in ’73 yet turn up every year; primarily, in the pursuit of making money for middle-aged men. Then there are the mid-tier independents whose rising profile and ever-improving precision planning start to edge them towards the competitive consciousness of the big boys. The acts get bigger, the organisation better and the weather almost always unremittingly grim. Yet quietly they plug away, eventually turning themselves into embedded institutions. Then at the other end there are the willfully organic, small-scale, Middle Of Nowhere Fests where Farmer Giles inexplicably agrees to keep Gertrude in the milking shed for 48 hours while the great unwashed descend to burn paper pint cups on the arable while taking in a headliner presumed dead for the past 15 years supported by a bunch of locals more frequently found in the Newt & Sproggit on a Friday evening playing to 8 people. Quite what Gertrude makes of all this, and why she agreed to marry Farmer Giles in the first place, remains unclear. The big boys are hardly short of the attention. Not least in this very magazine. Live music is currently big business, and big business is very much in with live music right now. But what about those aforementioned smaller and cheaper festivals dotted throughout the motherland of the north? And, almost as importantly, the hard working and/or clinically insane people who take on the task of organising them? Almost certainly fitting into both categories are brothers Michael and Dominic McSherry, proprietors of the increasingly name-droppable Rough Beats festival.
Fitting squarely into the Gertrude-inshed camp, Rough Beats gives a select few (around 800 at last count) the chance to take in Wild West saloons, London buses, Mexican themed bars and a spectacular array of music in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. At only £20 for the weekend including camping we estimate that this can only produce an income of £16,000. Roughly enough to pay for 12 minutes with Lars Ulrich’s on-tour therapist. Given these fiscal limitations, it would be a coup if they’d managed to get Chris the Briggate Busker, but somehow they’ve managed to attract the likes of Pitch Black, Polytechnic, Quip, The Scaramanga Six, Hot Club de Paris and the inspired Slow Club among many more over the last couple of years. This year
we’re promised Christopher D Ashley, UR Penetrators and 40 other acts across three stages, all of which, mercifully, are covered from the elements. “People enjoying themselves and feeling good about themselves is very rewarding” says Michael. “Especially when the music and people you’ve brought together – sometimes by accident, sometimes on a hunch – are making something really special that’s not happening anywhere else at that particular moment. If people enjoy putting them on, people enjoy going, it’s not an environmental or financial disaster, and it doesn’t set neighbour against neighbour, then it’s probably a good thing!” Unsurprisingly, the pair have been able to achieve this due to a DIY ethic and an ambivalent attitude to dealing with booking agents (“A parasite can only be a parasite” he adds), born mostly out of necessity. That and the learning experience gained from various inevitable technical hitches such as failing generators. “Champion Hire my arse!” he chuckles “We have backup this year I promise!” Laughing in the face of technical adversity whilst somehow holding it all together until the sun comes up again has become something of a speciality for Ash Kollakowski, operational brains behind the high profile Nastyfests. Now preparing for his eighth in three years, Ash has two notable advantages over the tents-in-fields festivals. 1: It’s held in the elementsheltering comfort of the Faversham, and 2: being that it’s in the centre of town, he gets to turf the crowds out at the end of the evening and get to bed. However, for the serious music fan it works well. Less ambling aimlessly around looking for the Healing Jazz Peruvian Folk World Tent, less monsoon rain/searing heatstroke (delete as appropriate), and less industrial cider casualties. “When you get more than 20,000 people it becomes just big and dumb and pointless” he reasons “I go for the bands not the beer, you can drink beer anywhere. I have no interest in running a massive festival”. Well, we say less cider casualties… “The only horror stories I have involve drunk bands and drunk tour managers” he sighs. “We encourage a shared rider, but The Black Lips usually have crazy demands.
By 6pm they’re usually so drunk you can pretty much give them a sandwich and some crystal meth and they’ll do a good gig!” It also appears that Vibrations’ previous assessment of Ash as a man capable of holding it all together may not be entirely accurate either… The Coral played an acoustic show here with hired vibrations 11
equipment for Radio Aire” he recalls. “It was naff and corporate and there was an immense buzz on the speakers and monitors, I went to the stage and told one of the band to unplug their D.I. and plug it into the one on his left, he did it, there was a massive pop and the sound went off. I fucked off upstairs for an hour till the heat died down!”
“We always want The Moor Music Festival to be a place where people come for the whole experience” he explains. “The location is second to none; the food and stalls are fantastically varied and use local produce as much as they can; anyone is welcome to come along and relax from young families to seasoned festival fanatics”
The lot of the fearless promoter, bravely running away in the face of adversity!
A few miles up the road he can take heart from the successes of Kendal Calling organizer Ben Robinson. Impressively ambitious, Robinson is only 27, and is the oldest person on the organizing team.
By way of contrast, and now in its 41st year, is Leeds West Indian Carnival. Reportedly the first of its type in the country, it was founded by Arthur France – a Leeds University student from St. Kitts who felt that the West Indian community needed to celebrate and remember its roots – and has grown each year. Similar to the celebrated Woodhouse Moor-based Unity Day, it is aimed at bringing together all sectors of the community. Also similar to Unity Day is the constant logistical and financial minefield. The man charged with navigating it is Carnival coordinator Ian Charles. He acknowledges that funding is the hardest part, but “that feeling when everything is in place you know it will be a great show enjoyed by many people is second to none” he enthuses. Closer to the established festival blueprint is the rapidly indispensable Moor Music Festival. Having endured a character-building few years that have taken in apocalyptic weather and rumored financial hemorrhaging, the festival now looks to have gained a foothold in the festival landscape. Despite an ambitious scale, it has managed to stay fully independent and impressively, almost militantly, local-music orientated. Joint-founder John Drysdale is “hugely enthusiastic about its non corporate, sponsorship free, independent nature” thinking of it as “an all round more personal experience for both the festival go-er and the performing artists”
“We were putting on gigs in Kendal and Cumbria, but with such a sparse population they weren’t proving popular. We came up with the idea for the festival partly to make people say, ‘Jesus Christ, that happened in Kendal!’ and partly to make it easier for people to see great local bands.” Like all small festivals, It’s been a hard slog to get going. “I was tough getting Headline acts because no one knew who we were. We were saying to these international agents ‘We’ve got a tent in Kendal, can we have a band?’ It’s been a lot easier this year, especially after having Dirty Pretty Things headline last year. They now know we can sell tickets. We started this so local acts would have somewhere to play, hopefully along with national acts. Now I get messages from people saying it’s the best festival they’ve been to. You can’t top that.” Indeed you can’t. From Big Boss at Mega Corp, to Farmer Giles prepared to go out on a limb to give a few long-hairs a good time, Vibrations salutes you all.
The thoughts of Chairman Stu
This issue the anti-think tank pitches in with his thoughts on Festivals. “Essentially you’re in a PoW camp, a few acres of open countryside more heavily policed than Harlem”. Expect to find him down the front, with the tories and transvestites. The first festival I attended was Phoenix in 1996, the first 4 day festival in the UK and right at the zenith of the Britpop era. Even now I look back at the line-up and laugh smugly, as nothing since has been able to compare: The Prodigy, Bjork, David Bowie, Cypress Hill, The Sex Pistols… erm… Kenickie....? the list goes on. It was a bakingly hot 4 days in July and water was the sweetest thing I’d ever tasted, I hardly ate for the whole festival as I was scared of the toilets which, by day 4, were literally mountains of turd. After it had all finished I slept for 16 hours straight and made the following, solemn vow: I would never go to another festival again. I mean come on, they’re a bit shit really aren’t they? 4 days in a field surrounded by students who couldn’t afford the air-fair to Ibiza, playing bongos all through the night and pissing up your tent because the queue for the portaloos is too long. Nobody really enjoys festivals, they just think they did in retrospect. Well not me, you wouldn’t be seeing me at another festival. Anyway, the following year I went to Glastonbury, the infamous year when one of the stages sank. My tent was in such a poor condition by the end that I just abandoned it (actually it wasn’t mine, it was my cousin’s, sorry Tracey!).
National Express refused to let me on the coach because of the condition I was in so I had to have a standing wash in the toilets of McDonalds in Bristol and buy some new trousers. I made the following, solemn vow: I would never go to another festival again. Apart from Reading later that year. And then Leeds a couple of years later. And then Latitude. There is a strange, primeval calling that draws the average music fan to a festival. Beer never tastes better than when it costs £4 a pint, comes in a plastic tumbler filled with bits of grass and is accompanied by the soothing strains of a band that you never, in your wildest dreams, pictured yourself watching; Slipknot, for example, or Shirley Bassey. Where a standard breakfast is a roll-up, a warm lager and a packet of molten hot Churros, where
you find yourself unable to sleep during the night due to the constant, background rumble of a million watts of outdoor PA yet you can easily drift off in the balmy, mid-day sunshine while some obscure Danish rock band blast through a set mere feet away. So what is the appeal? Some would say it’s the sense of freedom, but these people are sadly missing the irony. There is no freedom at a festival, you have to wear a wristband to gain entry to every section of the site, or at least those that you and the rest of the plebs are allowed to enter. Essentially you’re in a PoW camp, a few acres of open countryside which is more heavily policed than Harlem. And as for not having to worry about routine: well you spend most of your time glued to a guidebook, planning out your day with military precision so as not to miss a thing. You even have to plan going to the loo in advance as the last thing you want is to be wandering around a composting toilet in the wee (no pun intended) small hours of the morning. Festivals aren’t about freedom, or anarchy, or individualism; they’re about conformity, uniformity and fitting in. And therein lies the beauty of festivals, they’re a great leveller.
It doesn’t matter if you’re swanky or Swampy, for those few days everyone you meet is just like you: Dazed, confused and trying to smuggle a bottle of wine past security down their trousers. Only last year I found myself at 3’o’clock in the morning watching the Puppini Sisters while sharing a pint of red wine with a Brazilian transvestite and the layout editor from the Daily Telegraph and I thought to myself: “actually this is pretty cool.” So this year I make no promises I cannot keep. I’ll face the mud, insomnia and composting toilets because I realise now that festivals aren’t about sleep, or comfort, or even music. Festivals are about people, fleeting relationships that will last for minutes but stay with you for the rest of your life, long after the mud has flaked away from your underwear and the tinnitus has faded away. Stu Hudson vibrations 14
Wrath of the Mighty
The Scaramanga Six photography by Paul Morricone
vibrations 16 vibrations 16
Very few cult bands get as far as album number five. So as if to prove a point, the critically lauded Evil-Rock juggernaught that is The Scaramanga Six is about to deliver a double. “We’re like a brick-built shithouse” they inform Sam Saunders. Twelve years ago The Scaramanga Six played their first Leeds gig, in the upstairs room of The Packhorse pub on Woodhouse Lane. This year, on July 18th The Scaramanga Six will be starting a monthly series of performances at the same Packhorse under the title of Residence: Evil, at which they will work their way through four albums of repertoire. In late June 2008 the band will be playing (along with The Pigeon Detectives) at the Hove Festival in Norway. And by the winter a fifth Scaramanga Six album (“Pound of Flesh”) will be ready for UK and European release. In the meantime, the fourth album, the mighty “Dance Of Death” is in the process of being launched and distributed in Sweden, while the new single Walking Through Houses has just arrived in the shops. The word unique comes to mind. There are no categories that could make The Six disappear into the oblivion of genre or movement. The band that I met at their rehearsal room on a fresh Spring evening in April 2008 are a phenomenon unto themselves. Guitarist Julia Arnez, drummer Gareth Champion and singing guitarist Paul Morricone are already there waiting as shouty bassist Steve Morricone guides me across Huddersfield to a secret location in a mill yard. The band have their own post-industrial space behind a high arched doorway with glorious stainedglass decoration. Bands normally run late, but The Scaramanga Six are not normal and they are not late. Julia puts her finger on it at one point in the interview, when she reports her incredulity at how slowly some bands work and how little they get done. Only keyboardist/percussionist Chris Catalyst isn’t here tonight - and he has three other bands to feed, so he’s excused interview and rehearsal duties. Julia is reporting on accommodation details for Norway. Paul is busy checking the 2.5 days leave he has available this year to meet any new gig commitments in the diary. They talk, as they unpack and set up, about the pressure of organising band, life, work, family and priorities over their 13 years. But they’re cruising, revving gently while I prod them with the usual vacuities of non-questioning. They don’t need to explain. Being their own publicists, their own label, their own co-producers, agents and tour mangers doesn’t leave a lot of time for idle chat, so in the hour we have I generate a notebook full of quotes and a memory stick jammed full of recorded anecdotes, speeches, rants, philosophies and manifestos. The enthusiasm is infectious.
“Since getting Gareth we’ve had a certain stability which has enabled us to do a lot more and have a lot more fun” explains Steve “There’s a lot less stress in this band now”. Julia breaks in: “It is the most fun, in all the years, I think”. Paul agrees “It’s also the most productive. It’s rejuvenated the band.” Julia notes that the band have had “more drummers than Spinal Tap”. The fact that Gareth (recruited in Sheffield), is the Six’s sixth drummer seems to be a good omen. Paul goes on: “We’re the most musically productive we’ve ever been. We’re like a brick-built shithouse now - incredibly strong.” I wonder about the pressure on creativity itself, but Julia guesses that Paul actually needs to go to work to “meet a lot of annoying people” to get the content for what he writes. The song “Helvetica” is mentioned, and Paul’s frustrated rage at the lazy design types he bumps into boils up. “That song was very much about work. It’s about how obvious people can be. I can remember working with supposedly one of the most cutting edge design agencies. Their answer to everything was “Yeah! Completely plain! Little bit of design. Big Helvetica font!” You know, Business Card (he spits) “There you go! Minimal but brilliant!”. Paul snorts. “But here’s Public Image Limited’s “Album” cover from 1986 - plain cover with Album written on it ... in Helvetica! And they’re still doing it! Just how gullible are people? It’s an analogy that rings true in the music industry.
”Just the sheer lack of creativity and lack of effort that people put into things and that is so easily passed off as “Genius”. The word should be banished from the English language until it’s used correctly.” I wonder if the band have a candidate to deserve the term, and maybe I’m not surprised to hear “Tim Smith”, Cardiacs leader and Scaramanga Six coproducer. Paul is in awe of Smith’s ability to just do things as if they were easy and obvious, but whose origins are simply unfathomable. “He doesn’t even know how he does things himself. It looks effortless. But he’s amazing. A true genius.” It makes me think out loud about my own dream of a huge orchestral version of the Six. “Oh yes, we have dreams of working with a big orchestral stage show” says Paul, “And with pyrotechnics!” ... offers Julia with an excited twinkle... “Emerging from the sea!” Typical, I suppose, that they are way ahead of me. vibrations 17
We talk about the next album. “It’s done, just lots of mixing and a few more bits of recording to do” “The reason we are taking so long” says Paul, “is that we started out with a bunch of songs and then we figured out another bunch and then after that we thought “this isn’t quite ... it’s not quite balanced enough”. The art of making an album is very lost. People don’t think about albums these days they think about the Killer Track ... But an album has got to take you on a journey, hasn’t it? And you consider that journey and you really plan the journey from the start ... if, in the earlier stages, it’s not seeming like it’s going to go in the right directions you need to think about “what does the album need?”. This is why we started another bunch of songs: there were some things slightly missing. Is there a release date? “Well”, says Steve, “the end of the year, beginning of the next?”. I can tell they are too aware of the vagaries of the business to agree or disagree when specific dates get suggested. Two things look fixed, at least - it will be about 18 songs heavy and it will be a double album. We also talk about success and bump into the obvious point that five albums, houses to live in, and wide respect from people all over Europe is success by any measure. But what about that other kind of success? There is clearly no appetite for mindless gigging in tiny venues, just for the sake of it. Poverty and The Road just don’t appeal. Julia says “There are times when I’ve been really poor. And ... (laughing) it’s really shit and I never want to be poor again!” Steve senses another side to the question: “There’s always been this notion that because you run your own label and do everything yourself that you’re not interested in being successful. That’s utter rubbish! We want to be successful you know! I say to people “Do you think we are not trying ...?” Who do you think releases the records? Who do you think designs the records, puts the records together, puts them in envelopes, books the gigs, goes abroad, meets people, goes to international conferences, speaks to booking agents, speaks to PR companies ... ?” Paul warms to the theme: “Success is relative. We are successful. You’ve only go to look at our repertoire and our back catalogue. Personally I think every gig we do is a success. There are very few that we do when I don’t come off stage feeling like a giant. You know? And for me that’s very important. That’s all power to you. It’s your art, it’s your creativity. It’s our music.
“And if you can have a massive amount of fun and feel utterly exhilarated after you’ve played then, that is success. Massive success.” There’s no answer to that. As I left the building the band exploded into the first tune of their rehearsal. They weren’t going waste a minute. As I drove back through the Yorkshire evening I could visualise them as a hard scaly beast, ready to explode from their lair in the hills, throwing murderous riffs and pouring sulphurous blood, sweat and tears out into a ravaged musical landscape from Norway to the Urals. Sam Saunders Walking Through Houses/I Can See A Murder is out now on Wrath Records vibrations 18
This issue’s report from Way Out West looks at the fall and (hopeful) rise of the legendary Mill club. Kate Wellham investigates
Stevie Vigors brings us the news from Wakefield’s contributions to the festival season. Contains handy hint of alternative use of this very tome. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this issue of Vibrations has a faint smell of beer, piss and mud. Metaphorically speaking of course. You would have to seriously question the integrity of our printers if the rag in your hands literally smelled of - as you may have guessed what I’m referring to - a festival. If these three unwanted odours are tainting your reading of this magazine then you probably actually are at a festival and you are a boring bastard for wasting your time reading. Vibrations should only have made it into your rucksack as emergency toilet roll, not as reading material. Perhaps you are at Unity Day. Maybe you’re at Moorfest. Hopefully you’re not at Nastyfest (not because it isn’t a great festival at a great venue, but because the smell of mud and piss should be limited to outdoor festivals and not inside our lovely Faversham!). Maybe, but it is unlikely, you have travelled a few junctions down the M1 to one of the festivals in the merrie city of Wakefield. Clarence Park is Wakefield’s biggest festival and is taking place on July 26/27. It generally features a rockier line-up, perhaps akin to the Friday of the Leeds Festival, although I have been subjected to some rather awful soul bands, as well as the odd hidden gem. It is the atmosphere of the festival that makes it special. People in Wakefield love free stuff, so much so that they have to celebrate with the age old ritual of getting pole-axed on cheap cider. One place on the esteemed stages (yes, there is more than one) is reserved for the winner of a Battle of the Bands competition held at both The Jockey and The Snooty Fox, this year won by Wakefield’s own Bundesrats. Wakefield’s other major festival of the popular music variety takes place on Midgley farm on August 8, lying in the shadow of the towering Emley Moor Mast (the tallest man-made structure in the country fact fans). Last year The Research, Napoleon III and Last Gang played. Check www.midgefest.co.uk for all info and enjoy your summer of festivals!
Never let it be said that The Man will take any opportunity to stop us from having a good time. After weeks of hand-wringing it’s finally been decided that The Mill in Bradford will be allowed to stay open. Things are all back to normal. Phew. Except, of course, that they’re not. After 19-year-old Andrew Hook died after taking several pills at the venue, it would have been easy enough to condemn the place, regardless of the standard bag searches, the numbers of people coming in and out thanks to the smoking ban having just come into effect, and the door staff’s quick and sensible actions when Andrew became ill. Support for the venue has since flooded in, with letters and emails from punters, promoters, local celebrities, mums, dads and grandparents who enjoy going to the other friendly, bizarre and diverse nights that are the staple of the place. Even the local taxi drivers wrote in to praise the behaviour of the people they pick up from there. The result being that after a 28-day closure, The Mill will be allowed to remain open, with some sensible modifications – more cameras, more door staff and a drugs amnesty safe among them. The rumours are that there will be more live music from now on, and I’m sticking my neck out here, but with the sore thumb hard house night no longer taking place there, drugs are unlikely to be a problem because the truth is that people generally don’t take drugs to go and see bands. The venue’s existing bring your own booze policy, DIY promotion and atmospheric décor on the one hand, and thorough door staff, proper bar and decent sound mean it treads an ideal line between club and squat party. It’s been kept secret for far too long, but now the spotlight has been turned on it - and now that it has nothing to hide – it’s about time more gig-goers knew about it.
Far From The Madding Crowd
Still the ultimate broadcasting authority when it comes to new music in Yorkshire, he has been pounding the airwaves with his militantly pro-local manifesto with all the fire and brimstone of the late Ian Paisley with a distortion pedal. Doesn’t groove though. He is Alan Raw, and he is our hero. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Alan Raw. I’m a multi-talentless session musician. I play several different instruments, quite badly. I present BBC Raw Talent Introducing, and I’m also an aspiring music video director. I have proper jobs too, I’m a regional adviser for the New Deal for Musicians programme in Leeds and a Consultant for Pedestal Music ltd (not for profit social enterprise company)
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Loads of free CD’s, knowing I can do something practical to help artists, having an excuse to still go to festivals when I’m not performing, engineering the acoustic lounge sessions on Raw Talent, seeing my videos on TV and making my family watch them, working on the Leeds Festival Introducing Stage.
What do you enjoy least about what you do?
I get a lot of CD’s and only get to play 25% of them on Raw Talent. That’s 25 bands made happy and 75 who think I wouldn’t know a good tune if it was rammed into my ear. They then proceed to test that theory.
Ever been tempted to be “out front”?
No thanks, I don’t mind presenting and introducing bands cos I then walk off and they perform, but apart from that I’m a backing musician.
the scene better. If every recording artist in Leeds sent me a CD that would be good. If every promoter sent an email to Raw Talent with their gigs to be announced, I wouldn’t have to go looking for them. raw.talent@ bbc.co.uk
Never work with children, animals or musicians. Discuss.
I have run many workshops for small children, and work with musicians all the time. The only difference I’ve noticed is the size of the chairs. I’m always dumb to kind animals though.
When not “on call” what music are you currently grooving to? I don’t really groove much at all, as I’m not very groovy. I play a lot of traditional Irish folk music with my family as I always have done (see www.myspace. com/rawfamily). My brother and sisters are very talented as are my parents. So I have a soft spot for acoustic folky stuff. Having said that I don’t often go to folk clubs as I have an aversion to civil servants with tankards singing songs of famine experience and redcoats persecuting them, although it’s probably true that they have taken some on at Butlins, and they are probably bound for South Australia. www.bbc.co.uk/rawtalent www.myspace.com/alanraw
Is Leeds really as exciting as certain parts of the press would have us believe?
Yes. Yorkshire is the centre of the universe and producing fine bands & artists like a rampant expanding Viagrarabbit with new music entrepreneurs eagerly watching the new arrivals, choosing their moment to pounce. It is actually still understated in the press.
If you could change one thing about music in Leeds to make your life easier and the scene better, what would it be?
I can’t think of anything that would make my life easier and also make
rs The Out-Of-Towne
This month we focus on… well…. Pretty much everyone! Johnny Foreigner, Stevie Vigors muses the lack of influence in Leeds from those born within an LS postcode. From the editor of Vibrations to the chairman of Leeds United football club, the brewery city has become very open to people who can’t pronounce the word plaster, and it isn’t just Londoners who are invading our humble town. Folk from Leicester are pillaging our venues and raping our radio stations. Hoards of Midlanders have laid claim to our stages, sonically crushing us with disco explosions and stringed axes, while once, during a gig by a proper band from Leeds, I heard some girl speaking in a Welsh accent. Of course diversity is one of the reasons that Leeds is ace. Even many of the ‘local’ acts doing the rounds in Leeds over the years have actually come from a few junctions down the M1 or up the A1. Here’s a question for you – What would the music scene of Leeds be like without the two universities? How many bands wouldn’t have relocated here, or even been born here, if it wasn’t for Leeds being one of the country’s leading cities for higher education? Gang of Four, probably Leeds’ most influential band, became a ‘Leeds’ band when Jon King and Andy Gill came oop north from Kent to study fine art at Leeds University. A similar scenario has occurred with a more recent act, The Sunshine Underground, when their drummer brought the rest of the band with him from Shropshire while he was a student. These are two high profile examples, but there are dozens, if not hundreds of other examples on stages all over the city. Of course to a certain extent this is normal for a university town, but having studied in Manchester, it does seem that more students tend to settle in Leeds post-graduation than they do across the Pennines. Some reasons for this are rudimentary. John Keenan, who has brought the likes of Nirvana and Radiohead to play in Leeds, came here from Merseyside over 40 years ago and settled here with his wife.
era submerged within studentville. On closer inspection it is a diverse and homely venue that is welcoming to anything or anyone from just about every walk of life. Whether you want to play darts or listen to Dartz!, The Brudenell Social Club is great. Local lads like Micky P Kerr also celebrate diversity by welcoming genres as diverse as folk, hip-hop and radio-friendly pop into his music. Local record labels like Dance to the Radio and Bad Sneakers also abstain from prejudice (although neither is actually run by people originally from Leeds, which is part of the point). Despite what the national media may lead you to believe, Leeds is not just a meat and two veg indie rock town - It is a city full of outside influence. It think it was the editor of this magazine that said we should barricade the walls and burn the bridges with the rest of the land as everything is brilliant in Leeds and we don’t need anyone else, but if we did that then he wouldn’t be here himself! Of course what he wrote in this magazine last year was completely tongue in cheek, but the reason Leeds is currently so great is because of the bridges with the rest of the country. Because Leeds embraces outside influence so much, it hasn’t ended up being as self-obsessed as the likes of Manchester and Liverpool. Leeds has never had a big, world conquering band like The Beatles or Oasis that has permanently shaped the musical landscape, so we tend to look outwards for influences. Manchester and Liverpool both seem to churn out copycat bands that seem to reflect the idiosyncrasies of the cities, whether it be Merseybeat or Madchester. But Leeds has never really developed this kind of thing, which is a benefit to the town. Perhaps Leeds will gain a reputation for diversity? I certainly hope so.
“Leeds has always been hard work” he says. “People here like to poke things with sticks before they will buy. Mind you, once you’ve convinced them then they’re faithful for life.” But not everyone in Leeds can be tight-fisted, cynical sceptics, otherwise so many people from out of town wouldn’t stay here. What Leeds does have is folk like Nathan Clark at the Brudenell Social Club, who has been born and raised in the Hyde Park area of Leeds – a cosmopolitan district filled with students, working class locals, and a large south Asian population. The Brude, on the face of it, is an oasis of a by-gone vibrations 22
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Cruel and the Gang Launched! Signed! Hyped! Dropped! Back! Itâ€™s been a traumatic couple of years for Wakefieldâ€™s Last Gang. A possibly partisan Stevie Vigors investigates to find tales of broken promises, high expectations and uninvited lodging with popstars.
Last Gang photography by Tom Martin vibrations 24
The music industry is becoming an increasingly bleak money-driven machine, helpless to prevent its financial decline in a reflection of the wider economy. There is currently an unmerciful turnover of bands being chewed and spat out by various greedy executives based a long way away, both geographically and ethically, from the genuine soldiers in music. Too many bands are becoming cannon fodder. Are Wakefield indie-popsters Last Gang to be amongst them? This writer certainly hopes not. “It all happened so fast,” says bass player Maff Smith. “We’d been together 2 weeks, got signed to 48 Crash and got put straight out on the road.” This is over two years ago now when lead singer Kristian Walker, armed with a sack load of tunes, picked up two stragglers from The Blueskins, Ritchie Townend and aforementioned Maff Smith, and drummer Matt Knee. An anthemic pop single with a classic singalong chorus followed (Beat of Blue) and then things threatened to get ridiculous. Supporting The Cribs, appearing on Radio 1, supporting The Pigeon Detectives, signing to Columbia Records (Sony BMG), working with indie production legend Stephen Street and countless stories of dishevelled mayhem, some of which involved Ian Brown. It all seemed to indicate that Last Gang could well go stratospheric, but as Vibrations goes to print, this has not yet materialised. If anything Last Gang have taken one step back. As it turns out, signing to major labels isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “We got told stuff off Sony all the time, so we’d be telling us fans things like, ‘we’ve got a single coming out in February’ and then it wouldn’t go ahead and we’d end up looking stupid,” claims Walker. “In the end they just wanted us to be a different band. They wanted us to be more of a Hoosiers type of band,” says lead guitarist Ritchie Townend. Last Gang, part by mutual consent, and part due to the sheer stupidity of the clowns at Sony who are completely bereft of foresight, are no longer signed to Columbia Records. [The opinions stated in the previous paragraph are those of the writer and not of this magazine’s editorial staff or publishers. Some of this magazine’s best friends are clowns and we apologies for any offence caused to the circus community – Ed] For the last year Last Gang have remained stationary while signed to a label that boasts possibly the most esteemed roster of acts in 20th century music (Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley to name but two). When they put pen to paper there was a certain degree of hype around the band and there was certainly interest from other labels, but this has fizzled out as they were kept of the radar by a bunch of buffoons who dithered more than Gordon Brown, pulling tours and wasting Peter Ridsdale-esque amounts of money.
[As you may have noticed, Stevie is equally at home with political and sporting satire, and yet again he’s ploughing his own furrow here. So please don’t sue us. Feel free to sue him though, but good luck finding him. Hell, we never can around deadline time. Stevie isn’t even his real name. It’s Stephen. – Ed] The right thing to do would be to have released a single or an EP to test the water, preferably while Last Gang were still riding the crest of a wave, but instead Sony sent the band packing, specifically packed with an album recorded by Stephen Street (who has previously worked with the likes of Blur and The Smiths), free of charge. In both business and musical terms what Sony have done here is lunacy and goes to show how abjectly incompetent the major labels have become. Last Gang are now a very attractive product for any prospective interest. [For any record companies interested in hiring Stevie Vigors Creative & Strategic Consultancy ltd (impartiality not guaranteed), please note that he charges a very competitive day rate – Ed] Maff Smith compares their predicament to when Thierry Henry left Arsenal for Barcelona. “Get rid of the superstar and work better as a team” he says. “Everyone who’s on board now is going in the right direction, but before that Sony were hindering everything really.” Bands always go on about records labels being a pain in the arse, but basically we really did have different ideas. We’ve still got the booking agent, the press agent and all that. We’ve got everyone batting for the same team now.” Last Gang are now free from the metaphorical shackles attached to them by their label and can now concentrate on taking things forward. An EP, probably released by themselves, is pencilled in for July. In the three years since the band formed (named after The Clash song Last Gang in Town) they have transformed from a straight-edged punk band in the vain of London’s Calling era Clash, to an act soaking up many more influences, with one general theme running throughout – melody. “When you’re younger you try to get to a point straight away. It becomes frantic,” says the 21 year-old Kristian Walker. “The songs are much more crafted now.” It’s obvious really, that as people get older, particularly during the late-teens and early twenties, attitudes will change. The instant hooks are still there, but songs such as The Grim Reality of Life display an ability to mess around with progression that wasn’t there in the early days. Last Gang make no bones about the fact that pop is where their preferences lie. “We don’t write songs for anyone else, we write them for ourselves, although we do want to sell at least a million copies of our first album – and that’s just in the UK,” quips Smith, the elder statesman of the band.
The band, having been held back for so long, want their songs to do the talking from now on. “We want to be judged on merit. Come watch us or listen to us on the internet. It must be harder for journalists to influence music fans nowadays because bands are so accessible via the computer and for individuals to judge for themselves,” says Smith. Last Gang are a traditional group. Their music is not Kid A. It is verses and choruses done well, a concept lost on most of the painfully inept songwriters that somehow manage to plunder top 10 chart places. Maybe it is because musically they are more advanced than the likes of The Enemy. As Kristian says, they have “Magnet and Steel” for a rhythm section, and a lead guitarist and singer who have been practicing together for the best part of ten years (it also helps that Smith and Townend both toured Europe with The Blueskins, training them to become exemplary musicians).
player. Then I got escorted out of the hotel and went to Subway.” There are more stories like these, but as they willfully admit, music is what is important. Sony BMG would do well to remember that. [If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature, perhaps you are employee of a major record label? Perhaps you are a young impressionable start-up musician who now thinks the only way to be in a band is to attempt ‘hilarious hedonism’ in the vicinity of passing popstars? Perhaps you are a “painfully inept songwriter” currently unable to rationalise your top-10 success? Or perhaps you a traumatised formerly successful West-Pennine Simian-like “singer” still struggling to come terms with finding a waif-like Wakefield-based drummer in your hotel bed and are fairly sure that wasn’t what you ordered. If so, please write DIRECTLY to Stevie at the following address: Stephen Vigors, Sandman Magazine, Sheffield. – Ed]
Also adding to that classic band feel is the countless stories of hilarious hedonism that seem to follow them wherever they go. There isn’t enough space in Vibrations for each anecdote, so I’ll stick with the Ian Brown one. Matt Knee: “Sony had come up from London to see where we’re from so we went out in Leeds, which was a bit pointless really considering we were from Wakefield, and they were staying in the Malmaison and Ian Brown was there because he was playing in Leeds. So we had a few drinks with Ian Brown and then went out, came back at about 3am and passed out in the hotel lobby. The staff thought I was in Ian Brown’s band because we’d been in the bar with him, so they took me up stairs and tried putting me in his fucking bed! I just remember some bald guy shouting (in a bad manc accent) ‘you’re not fuckin’ with us mate! You’re not fuckin’ with us!’ It turned out it was Ian Brown’s bass vibrations 26
The Adventures of Mr Benn Melvin Benn photography by Tom Martin
He came from the North to sell beer to the southerners. Now Melvin Benn is running the largest festival empire in the UK and his influence in Leeds is considerable. Rob Paul Chapman meets him to talk “unsigned” music, the increasing role of the BBC, flammable toilets and ‘difficult’ artists. This year there will be some interesting twists… London Town: According to Dick Whittington, 'where the streets are paved with gold'. And frankly, if you've spent your entire adolescent life in Hull, you'd probably be sold by the word "paved". I don't know if Melvin Benn ever read Dick Whittington, but he astutely surmised that the streets of London weren't paved with gold, it was the arable land 40-odd miles west that contained alchemic properties. Rescuing the Reading Festival from soft-pop laughing stock (Bonnie Tyler and Starship anyone?) to crafting the global brand it is today and launching our own Leeds Festival. It’s been an eventful 19 years.
that I think is fantastic, and if we make money as well then great.
He is quiet, but very likable and seems to have a genuine passion for music. Most importantly, I believe him. Even when there's the faint suspicion of a corporate line being spun. Which means that he's either a really good salesman, or he means it. I suspect both.
It means that I’ll make less money, but it doesn’t mean cutting costs at all. Reading Festival had begun its days as “Reading Festival”, but [Leeds] has only ever had a Carling Weekend title before it, so I wanted to re-establish the names because that is what they are to the bands and the crowds. They are Reading and Leeds. There comes a time where it’s just not right for a sponsor to continue. Carling were the sponsors of the Premier League for a while and then it stopped and Barclaycard took over. The contract was up and so it was an opportune time for me to say, “Look I don’t want to go ahead with this any more”.
Festival folklore has it that Reading was in terminal decline until the early 90s when Nirvana played and the festival got its cutting-edge back. Was that how you saw things? I don’t think it was Nirvana per se, I think it was a combination of the team at Mean Fiddler, and one of those inevitable cultural shifts that happens in music. In the late 80s you had the underground rave scene, and the Reading Festival couldn’t have been further away from that, but some of the live bands were starting to incorporate it. That period was about a change from rock music meaning Meat Loaf to meaning things like British indie music. It reinvigorated the idea of guitar music, giving it a rawness and freshness and grittiness that the 80s had really forgotten about. It was shocking in the 80s quite frankly!
But surely it has to be a combination of both? Yes, of course, it does. But the intention is always to make a great festival, rather than to make money and then worry about how great the festival is. You’ve not got a sponsor this year, so obviously that means that you have less revenue coming in. Does that mean making compromises in other areas?
I guess that The Barclaycard Festival doesn’t have the same ring to it does it? [Laughs uproariously] Ha ha! No I guess it doesn’t! Although I imagine that’s how most people pay for it! The first time I remember the Leeds Festival actually ‘arriving’ on the national consciousness was when you secured Guns ‘n’ Roses to headline in Leeds only [Grinning through gritted teeth] Yeah.
What was the thinking behind launching Leeds Festival given that you already had the Reading Festival running successfully? Reading had been consistently selling out for many years, and it was sort of stuck. It’s not in the middle of the countryside; it’s in the middle of Reading! My general feeling on life is that if you stand still you die, so the only real way that we could grow it was to create a sister festival, which is what we did. They both exist because I want them to exist. I know that sounds daft, but it’s not about making money, it’s about creating something vibrations 29
I imagine that the events surrounding that must have given you a few heart flutters, finding out that they still hadn’t gone on, however late it was... Yeah, it was lively evening to say the least! But they got on Yes, they did get on. Although I have to say that did involve my hand being around the throat of their manager for a period of time in order for them to get on! How literally do you mean that? I mean literally! That’s not a figure of speech! He was up against the wall in my office with my hands around his throat and me saying “if this band does not go on stage now, you are not leaving this office!” It was that straightforward. I’d got the cops on one side, the council on another side and the crowd on the other side and there’s Axl Rose stood there in his Dressing Room smoking a cigar happy as Larry with absolutely no reason to go on at all. And that kind of attitude does wind me up, and I can get a bit cross! Did the small minority of trouble-makers in 2001/02 [who set fire to portaloos and bins amongst other things] cause you to think about abandoning Leeds and focussing just on Reading again? No it didn’t actually. One of the things about my life is that I believe in people and I have a lot of evidence to support the fact that most people are pretty good almost all of the time. It was just a minority, and I think perhaps they were influenced by our location and some of the issues that surrounded the festival [The festival was based in Temple Newsom before relocating to Bramham Park]. Certainly the media reporting was very much influenced by the people that lived locally, even though none of the issues that occurred spilled outside of the festival itself. Councillor Jack Dunne stuck his neck out and believed in the festival and I’d like to think the young people of Leeds have paid him back.
Leeds. And I think that’s the right way to go about it, to take it forward. Because as much as we try to get the industry to move north, we don’t succeed, and there will be more record company execs, more A&R teams, more agents, more managers etc at Reading than there will be in Leeds and it will be a great opportunity for the bands of the north to play down south as well in front of potentially interested A&R teams. The location of that stage is really important. Two years ago it was right by the entrance and attracted a lot of passing trade, but last year it was tucked away in a corner and really suffered because of it. Is that something that was noticed? It was noticed and was something that was slightly disappointing to me, and I am going to try to rectify it this year. I am changing that end of the site quite a lot this year. It [will have] that constantly passing trade. Not just of ‘people’, but of people that are interested in the bands of tomorrow. Does it feel like you’re making progress? Yes it does. I wanted Leeds to have its own identity. I wanted it to be a northern festival, and I make no bones about that as a person from the north that used to have to travel south to Reading. Huw Stephens summed it up for me three or four years ago. He said “the reason I love this festival Melvin, is that it isn’t about fucking jugglers, it isn’t about fucking fire eaters, it isn’t about the fucking arty farty, it’s about the music, and that’s why I love it!” And that is what it was about for me when I started, and that is what it is about for me now. And that is why I don’t think it will be influenced by any other model, because it is purely and utterly a music festival. You can read the full unedited transcript of this interview on the Vibrations website, including his thoughts on the future of the London Astoria, the future of festivals in general, why Leeds isn’t like Latitude, the rise of rock, the return of Rage and the confused nationality of The Pogues… www.vibrations.org.uk
I think the “Unsigned” Stage is now in its fourth year now isn’t it? Yes, it’s now called the BBC Introducing stage. As daft as it sounds, I think the Leeds Festival has really influenced what “BBC Introducing” actually is. It’s a BBC concept as a whole, but we created the model up in Leeds after public pressure. The format it is exactly the same except that in the past Sandman, Raw Talent and Futuresound would select 27 acts with a specific desire that all of the acts came from the north. This year they will select 18 acts and the BBC will select the rest of the acts. But the bands selected will get to play Reading as well as vibrations 30
SECOND HEARING Your CD-Rs deserve a second listen. So, we’ll listen twice (and twice only) and then type. 20 words per track Red Go Green Stop
Same Same: Oddly-accented, but up-tempo and infectious funky punk-pop underpinned by some silky synth as genre after genre is inventively jemmied in. Plug In: Starts all ‘Sexy Boy’, throws in some unnecessary saxy ska, then nods vaguely but pleasingly in the Long Blondes’ direction. Smooth It Out: Occasionally threatening to sound like Gwen Stefani, but about four hundred times less irritating with additional constant battering of cowbell.
Keep Your Distance: No messing about here, straight-to-the-point, tuneful rock. Errs towards the slightly formulaic but their ear for a melody is undeniable. Confidence Trick: Confident, focused and undoubtedly polished; thumping drums gel with a subtle piano hook perfectly complimented by a jarring, emotional vocal. Still Fall Down: A tender keys-drenched introduction sets the tone for a well-produced slower number; a further demonstration that this boy can sing.
If I Rain The Circus
Lydian I: A slick instrumental… actually scrub that, vocals arrive about a week in and sound like they’re sung through a straw. Track 2: Jeepers these cats are unhappy, even opening with some Smiths lyrics somehow made to sound more depressing. Neat riffing nonetheless. Arpeg: Progressive guitar-orientated rock that meanders a touch here and there, but otherwise pleasant, with a natty line in layered guitars.
The Hang Project
Against The Tide: Inventive percussion dominates a laid-back opener that recalls those heart-warming credit card ads showing lives seemingly improved by increasing debt. Get On: The Hang Drum and Cajon Drum again intertwine and it’s near-hypnotic, though all too easily it drifts into the background.
Beautiful Place: Lacking instrumental variety, it’s hard to tell where their previous tracks end and this one begins, despite the attention-grabbing gear-change.
Indecision: Wah-drizzled, catchy, retro-rock addressing the issue made famous by Bucks Fizz; i.e. making up one’s mind. I’ve decided it’s ok. Have I Got News For You: A blues-tinged, funky-rock rhythm section support an upbeat vocal, as Shrood, not unwisely, opt for entertaining as opposed to groundbreaking. Keeping It On The Down Low: A topsy-turvy bass-line maintains funkiness; it’s almost how Curiosity Killed The Cat might sound were they re-invented for 2008. Almost.
Love Is: Brassy and classy, with a military, rat-a-tat drum roll and a neat pace change for the chorus. File under ‘splendid’. Up And Down: Warning! If you cheat on Kid ID, they might call you a ‘two-faced, slutty cow’ in a bass-led, moody lament. Rat Race: A Mexican-sounding opening, evoking visions of a Bandito stand-off whets the appetite and the jaunty, smoky backroom remainder definitely delivers.
The Lazy Darlings
Life Is Easy: From its unassuming beginnings this quickly develops into a sun-kissed, lilting gem coursing with uplifting harmonies and cheery Hammond organ. See Her Smile: Gently marries soft, rhythmic piano and endearingly fragile vocals before building to a subtle yet soaring chorus, it’s a delight. A Girl Like You: Catchy, country-tinged Americana not a million light years from the Mojave 3. Beautifully elevated by the elegant lap steel guitar. Fancy your chances in the court of the second hearing? 20 words per track by a different reviewer each month. Send your demos with a covering note to us at “Second Hearing”, Vibrations Magazine, 9a Albion Street, Leeds, LS1 5AA vibrations 33
RELEASES and LIVE
Singles Grammatics - D.I.L.E.M.M.A. / Polar Swelling Dance To The Radio continue their valiant quest to provide the world with intelligent rock music, this time in the form of a double A-side from rising stars Grammatics. D.I.L.E.M.M.A is an unsettling listen (in the best possible way), with stabs of cello punctuating Owen Brinley’s impassioned vocal, while a disembodied female voice spells out the title. It ends in the kind of explosive orchestral blast the James Bond producers would snap up if they had the balls. Anyone who enjoys the tension and drama of Leaves, and maybe the quirks and time changes of Mew, or just wish Muse would cut down on the theatrics and have more heart this is very much for you. Polar Swelling is a much more subdued affair, some gorgeous cello having a meeting of minds with Grandaddy’s synths while Brinley sighs wistfully about finding God. Like its double A-side partner, it’s stunning. Spencer Bayles
Mercia Drift - The Be All And End All EP I’ve become Dr. Who. No, really. I’ve entered one of those Earth bound historical episodes. I’m Dr. Who and I’ve stepped out of my TARDIS in the 1980s hinterland between goth and the aggrandised pomposity of Simple Minds et al. Mercia Drift produce the perfect soundtrack to my adventure. I’m not fighting Daleks or Cyber Men, I’m fighting outmoded power drumming and the kind of soaring guitar sounds not heard this side of Tom Baker. The songs, including the melodic ‘All I Want To Be Is All I Want To Be’ and ‘Worlds End’ start their journey well, but then get lost on the way in a sonic cathedral of sound (Oh no, I feel like I’ve just wet myself in public). The end track, ‘Same Boat’, is an adequate review of this CD in itself. Set the dials for planet soft rock and be damned! Gary Kaye
Personal Space Invaders - Blame/Settle When described as the ‘Sound of International London,’ I am tempted to ignore this with impunity, but nothing is ever gained by being blinkered. And when it comes at me like a nu-raved up Nathan Barley, I do not flinch. Actually, on closer inspection it gets interesting. The flurry of beats are more of a speeded up Squeeze or Chas and Dave umpah than a full on junglist groove and William Wurza’s lyrics – though they possess all the subtlety of Interpol – are quite seductive in a new romantic way. After a break for bass, the vacuity is dispersed and ‘Blame’ comes out pretty blameless. ‘Settle’ continues ploughing in an Interpol furrow (“I had a dream I never met her/I had a dream I felt better.” Quite) and is as minimal as you like, save for the mathish tickly guitar intermission, made bleak by Timothy Walters keys. Danger! Deceptive pop! Rob Wright
Pushbike Army - Four From Alexandra Grove 3 is the magic number, it’s all angular with well-defined points. 4 is all to parallel lines and Huey Lewis lied when he said ‘It’s Hip to be Square’. 3 is all jagged edges and pointy and this hip 3 piece outfit from Leeds are spikier than a weekend’s camping in a field of thistles. Four From Alexandra Grove has the punch of a six fisted fighting machine and sits comfortably between a couple of other tensile trios: The Jam and New Model Army. The title song is a rallying call for a better Britain, though with a dash more subtly than many young politico bands manage. The chorus has the imagery and bravado of a gang about its business, though this gang are more Clash and less Droogs. Believe in the power of 3 and join the Pushbike Army. Gary Kaye
Venomous Tings - Like Summertime I will be the first to admit that the dance genres are woefully under represented in the Leeds music press and to redress the balance I am doing… one review. Venomous Tings hail from Leeds and ‘Like Summertime’ is a big old chunk of sunshine and love. The beats are big and simple as Duplo and the synths together with Imogene Lamont’s voice are nothing but ambient, creating a smooth blend of Morcheeba mellowness with 808 State danceability.
The remix by DJ Nito is… summertime for hay fever sufferers. Drum and bass beats batter the unsuspecting listener, the vox slip off key as druggy horns and epileptic bass-lines pick up the reins. A Spanish guitar completes the drugged-out melange and the vocals loop over and over, like a repeating head-cold. Suffice to say, I favour this mix, but for big beat easy listening in a warm place… this ain’t bad. Rob Wright
The Scaramanga Six - Walking Through Houses/I Can See A Murder Scaramanga Six reviews understandably often question the seeming anomaly in the balance between the band’s talent and commercial success and they are always positive. Always. Yet lurking in the shadows while others hog the limelight is where the Wrath Records mainstays remain as they release this, a teaser for forthcoming fifth long-player ‘A Pound Of Flesh’. Nevertheless, when your latest single is a dark, theatrical romp about stalking; then lurking in the shadows is a pretty apt location to hang your hat even if your record doesn’t so much skulk in unlit corners, as leap, screaming, out of them with a crazed expression on its face. Kicking off with a pulsing, razor-wire riff underpinning a moody vocal ‘Walking Through Houses’ expands like an angry pufferfish two minutes in, turning into a behemoth of bombastic pomp-rock, with its eyebrow raised and tongue firmly in cheek; as Paul Morricone bellows like the ringmaster at a Circus of Horrors. The rip-snorting ‘I Can See A Murder’ maintains the sinister edge. From the perspective of a nosey crow spying on a homicidal husband, it quickly gets to the point, stabs the point in a frenzied attack, before burying it in a shallow grave. Creepy crimes have never been so much fun. Chris Hutcheon
Deathretro - Night Terrors Deathretro seem to like mixing odd bedfellows. Their name for a start. You’d struggle to describe them as ‘death’ anything, and at first glance I’m not getting retro either… What you do get are some odd influences going on under the surface. There’s ska in the indie rock, then it’s strains of Bowie, Talking Heads, The Stranglers, The Cure, The Pixies… It goes on. And this is a good thing. There’s something different from one moment to the next, but it’s all hung on a recognisable framework. Interesting and individual, these tracks stick with you throughout the day. From the lyrical lethargy of ‘Butchers Hook’ to the shout-along punk sensibilities of ‘No Beauty in Routine’ Deathretro keep your ears peeled back and your brain awake. Chris Thomas
Heads We Dance - My Heart Is Set On You/ Love In The Digital Age When the first Heads We Dance demo dropped onto the Vibrations Family Household doormat – new Pete Wurlitzer vehicle (formerly of universally wonderful YSN) – there was much excitement. We gathered round the kitchen table – just like The Monkees, Sam Saunders in dressing gown, Rob Wright’s hair still in rollers, Tony in from the night before – and listened. And loved it. Except that is, a track called Love In A Digital Age, which to these ears was just tipping the kitsch-camp-pop fader up a wee bit too far. But no matter. Next, a couple of months back, the new HWD demo pitched up, which we were promised it would bear more than a passing resemblance to the new single. And we loved that too. Except, once again, there was Love In The Digital Age grinning out like a pug-faced gurner amongst the Storm Agency roster shoot. And so, the new single proper finally arrived this week… and… It’s that damn song again! There is at least some good news. Or bad news depending on how you look at it… It’s probably the better of the two songs on offer. The spit and polish applied by the A-list production team has had an instant impact. Where previous versions have sounded a bit limp, this is sharper and meatier and I am considerably less inclined to repeatedly punch the car stereo. That said, things do not work out as well for its flipside counterpart. My Heart Is Set On You opens suspiciously like the start of Flashdance, and never recovers. Where the rest of the HWD cannon subverts it’s courageously pop leanings with token chunky guitars, this ploughs straight into Eric Morales territory with wild abandon. I want to love this band. I want to love this single. I still love this band. But it’s despite, rather than because of, this single. Rob Paul Chapman
Brasil - What you Need There’s something very recognizable about Brasil’s debut single, and after one repeated chorus there’s something irritating too. Maybe it’s the nasal Gallagheresq vocals or the 1-2-3 perma-chord patterns but I’m not feeling the love here. Within seconds of pressing play I was flooded with memories of seeing The Lightening Seeds. You know, in 2008, that’s probably not a good thing. All three tracks are well recorded and written with obvious talent, but less than five minutes after I’d taken the CD out I realised I couldn’t tell you which was which. They are clearly competent musicians, but the lyrics are lacklustre and Oasis wannabes weren’t terribly interesting even when people cared about Oasis. Brasil tell us that this is ‘What you Need’. Is that so? It’s certainly not what I want. Chris Thomas
Albums Curtis Eller - Wirewalkers & Assassins Curtis Eller is not a man who makes life easy for himself. Let’s face it, the market for New York-based yodelling banjo players is pretty saturated. Plus, following up debut album, ‘Taking up Serpents, was never going to be a walk in Central Park. Indeed, upon first hearing the opening track of this second effort, the casual listener could be forgiven for considering it a slightly inferior version of the predecessor’s title track. But this would only be half the story. And Eller has a great many stories to tell. Curtis Eller is as much history professor as musical entertainer, a voice both fragile and fierce relating stories from the halcyon days of America’s youth. Tales such as the tragic ‘Hartford Circus Fire’ are supported subtly by a musical ensemble clearly keen to embellish rather than overwhelm the heartfelt lyrics and minimal banjo plucks. Slide guitar, double bass, accordion and soulful backing vocals add colour to Curtis’ black and white stories. Of particular note is Daisy Josephine, an ode to his new-born daughter who has so selfishly kept Eller from our shores for so long. Closing track ‘Save Me Joe Louis’ is a wonderful, haunting ballad with a chorus like a Naches funeral procession which, in the manner of all good closing tracks, only serves to leave the listener wanting more. This album could be twice the length and still hold you rapt. Thank you Curtis, come back soon y’all. Stu Hudson
The Rosie Taylor Project This City Draws Maps If ever a debut single laid out a band’s artistic intentions perfectly, it was The Rosie Taylor Project’s Black & White Films. Growing organically from acoustic guitar and gradually adding layers of gentle vocals, shimmering lead guitar and mournful trumpet; it was a minor triumph. The rest of This City Draws Maps follows the template, creating a carefree place you can completely lose yourself in while its 8 tracks and 31 minutes breeze by. This isn’t a band who trade in anthemic choruses – although the refrain from Anne Sexton may stick in your mind long after it disappears into the ether – preferring to let the oft-neglected art of subtlety do the talking. London Pleasures is the only even slightly frantic diversion from the set course. Jonny Davies’ gentle lead vocal is occasionally backed up by Sophie Barnes, for the most part not harmonising but singing the same melodies an octave apart, which is a nice touch. It’s the attention to detail that makes this album. Beautifully produced by Richard Formby, this is perfect music for passing summer evenings to, and highly recommended if the quieter moments of the GoBetweens or the Lucksmiths provide the soundtrack to your daydreams. Spencer Bayles
Elle Milano - Acres Of Dead Space Cadets Not Leeds as such, but seeing as they were formed in Leicester De Montfort and a) iLiKETRAiNS love Leicester, b) Leicester bands move to Leeds… sometimes… look, just read the review, why dontcha? It’s an album of three flavours, this one – audio Neapolitan – possibly caused by the guitarist doing one. On one hand, it’s a very new Britpop album – you can hear a bit of Arctic Monkeys influence on ‘Laughing All the Way…’ suffused with ‘Hey Bulldog’. Other pop tracks like ‘Meanwhile in Hollywood’ aren’t so complex, but ‘Wonderfully Wonderful’ is a lovely bit of Soho Dolls baiting with added cockney middleeightness. On a second hand, it gets a bit… mathy. This, I think, is what has been lost with the guitarist. ‘Carousels’ and ‘My Brother’ crank up the guitar like Wintermute, but the lyrics are a bit too Mary Poppins and the rhythms a bit… stationary. On the third hand, it shows itself to be somewhat pronky. ‘Katsuki’ and ‘Stepkids’ flourish unsettling minor switches and twitchy riffs and ‘This Is How It Ends’ even displays a dash of Cardiacs antheming. On the whole, not completely satisfying, but a hearty and intriguing buffet album. Rob Wright
The Lodger - Life Is Sweet There was a time when a band releasing an album per year was normal, and it’s a shame that even middling indie acts nowadays fall in with the 2 or 3-year cycle of album and touring before a new record appears. Hurrah for The Lodger then, with Life Is Sweet appearing a mere 12 months after their debut Grown-Ups. And while there’s barely a hint of their blueprint sound having advanced - aside from a touch of lap steel here and backing vocals from The Research’s Sarah Williams there - it’s possibly a more accomplished record than the first. This is 3-minute indie-pop at its finest, a set of cracking tunes bound together by Ben Siddall’s regret-heavy lyrics and deadpan delivery. The Good Old Days is destined to be a floor-filler, while The Conversation packs a similar punch to previous career high Many Thanks For Your Honest Opinion. vibrations 36
Siddall occasionally lapses into girl/world, hand/ understand lyrical clichés, but you can forgive him when elsewhere he hits hard with lines like “You’re crying, but all that it takes up is both of our unhappiness”. Likely to be the year’s most perfect bittersweet pop record by a long shot. Same again next year please. Spencer Bayles
Watch this Fire Spread - Picture House Soul Surely it’s impossible to review Watch this Fire Spread or their debut album without resorting to adjectives? Admittedly it’s practically impossible to review anything without those emotives of the lexicon, but I think I’m going to be using a lot here, and ones I rarely touch on. I may make some up too. ‘Beautiful’, that’s the first thing you think of when listening to the unexpected introduction to the wurlitzerunder-the-moonlight world of Watch this Fire Spread. Each track is different from the last and the album as a whole grows and flows in an organic way, one moment grandiose, the next small and tightly curled. The heady dark carnival air of tracks like ‘Misery and Wine’ contrasts sharply with the bright anthemia of ‘Light the Way’. With flavours and influences from Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave, The Eels and all things theatrical, this is undoubtedly an interesting and captivating album made by talented artists unafraid to be different. It’s well worth anyone’s time and money to find music this splendid. Chris Thomas
Cool Acoustics: Vol. 1 A medley of live performances with actual instruments. Five different contributors capable of conjuring genuine emotion. Although occasional hilarity is technically an emotion isn’t it…? ‘Vinnie’, is actually called Craig. Someone should tell Vin that a gypsy name does not a cool musician make. Nor does an American accent. Especially if it sounds like Hanson. Mmmmm… (bop). Some of his lyrics are genuinely amusing, enough for him to be better suited as an MC rather than singer. However, I can’t see the careers officer advising either in all honesty. Tracks like ‘Riding in a Spaceship’ could be classics with their random harmonica interference. Experienced with alcohol and friends this could be a cult triumph. This may or may not be the intention. It improves technically, with Hannah Wilson adding an Alicia Keys(ish) essence. The keyboard melodies and strong vocals work well, but the persona seems forced, skipping from Winehouse soul to Kate Nash inanity. A real musician, but probably best suited to a restaurant or bar. From there on it’s largely hippies singing Christian Vegan songs to ten long haired children… Michelle Plum: More by name than nature. A good soundtrack to doing the washing-up. Yes kids washing up can be fun… I’ve revealed too much.
Perhaps this would be good fun live, although booze may be required, but on disc I honestly can’t imagine purchasing any of this. Liberty Hutchinson
Live Reviews Brasil – Sweeney Todd’s @ Rios There’s a strong bill of fayre tonight, including, Rivers, Racine and Don’t Look Down. The house of SoundPeople Records is built with these well-shaped bricks and tonight, although some of the bricks are not quite the air-dried finished article, the evening is ably cemented together by DJ Tom Hingley (he of Inspiral Carpets fame). I challenge you to find any DJ, anywhere, who has ever had the balls to mix James Brown’s seminal floor-filler ‘Get Up (Like a Sex Machine) with Richard Burton’s booming delivery of Undermilk Wood’. At the centre of tonight’s wall of sound is a blistering set from Brasil. This is a band that is clearly building something special. They take various influences and mould them into a unique sound, enabling them to stand out from the usual post-Arctic Monkeys that one is used to seeing in the clubs of the North. Kicking off their set with ‘Keep On Walking’, with it’s passing nod to the Small Faces ‘Tin Soldiers’, one might have worried that we were in for an evening of noughties Mod, but Brasil refuse to be defined by any particular musical genre. ‘Unoriginal Sin’ is a slice of re-imagined New Wave and it soon becomes clear that it’s not what they play but the space they allow each other as musicians which sets them and their songs apart. Kenny’s vocals are unique and well matched to the emotional intensity of the songs, whilst Andy’s keyboards travel to interesting places. The solid rhythm section of Marc and Jim allows the freedom of expression to ooze out of these songs. The set is perfectly balanced with the single tracks ‘What Goes On’ and the memorable ‘You Can Talk To Me’ right at its heart. Brasil are a band that is confident in their stagecraft and on this showing they are rapidly going to be climbing the wall to success. Gary Kaye
Curtis Eller + Micky P Kerr @ The Bradford Love Apple
Micky P Kerr always looks like I ought to be giving him 70p for a cup of tea. I’d always be slightly worried that my 70p might not be going towards a cup of tea, but as long as that was what it was asked for, then I am happy to convince myself that the request was genuine. He’d be good at it too. The three stock vibrations 37
expressions of Amused, Bemused and Confused (occasionally an enlightened hybrid of the three) are effective emotional tools. And frankly I’m a soft touch. It is worth noting that Micky P Kerr neither requests nor requires 70p for a cup of tea. And there’s a good reason why he’ll never have to. When you have the God-given charisma of Kerr you’re unlikely to ever go hungry. He has a natural talent for tapping into a collective mainstream consciousness with wit, profanity and a charm that you can only get away with if you’re Micky P Kerr. Musically it’s unremarkable. The songs in the hands of anyone else would be painful. But when delivered by the bedraggled beardy one, it’s indispensable. Curtis Eller is also a man blessed with a unique and awe-inspiring charisma, but it’s channelled differently, which makes this a bizarre pair up. Whereas Kerr’s humour is broad and universal, Eller’s is barbed and considered, practically intellectual. Which is why he struggles somewhat with the football crowd bawdiness emanating from about half-way back. It’s a shame, as you feel that when he lurches across his metaphysical Big Top with his mic-less, speaker-stack clambering, contortionist addresses to the masses, the message is being lost somewhere in the acoustic ether, about half-way back. But no matter, because by way of compensation, he is cheered to the rafters – and at one point practically carried to the rafters – by the sheer passion and enthusiasm of the front half of the crowd who have turned this wiry, bendy, middle-aged, moustached yodelling banjo player singing songs about the formative days of the American travelling circus, into a bonafied rock star. “THE PRESIDENT OF AMERICA’S A LYING SACK OF SHIT” he spits to ecstatic whooping. They probably don’t realise he’s talking about Lincoln, not Bush. And that he’s in character. But it matters not. An additional inspired interchange with a suspiciously pasty “son of Hendrix” proves that the teething problems of the disinterested half-crowd have not crippled his humour. They threatened to derail the enjoyment of the other half, but when faced with a performer as electrifying as Eller, it’ll take more than a few meatheads to derail this circus wagon. Rob Paul Chapman
Jake Shillingford + Dan McGlade + Jason Wakefield @ The Cardigan Arms It’s about 7pm-ish and The Cardi is dark, dingy and sparsely populated. In other words, entirely perfect for the slight and impressively sinister grinning-imp perched at the ostentatiously grand digital piano placed centre stage. Seemingly in permanent oscillation, from cowed over the instrument’s frame, to bolt upright, head turned, eyes boring into the back of the crowd’s collective head while he screams, yelps, slams his fists to the keys and even more scarily, ‘looks a bit funny’ at his prey. Sorry… audience. It’s mesmerising. The tunes take shape like mini operas drenched in hysterics and theatrics. The presence of Wakefield himself is choreographically unsettling and stylisation runs deep. But it works. Brilliantly. Following this could cause a problem. But Dan McGlade has been gigging longer than Jason Wakefield has been un-dead. As front man of the currently resting Rent, there is a bountiful back catalogue to plunder. In fact, it seems about fifteen minutes before he even breaks, as one song segues into another to good effect. When the breaks do come, it’s ample opportunity for McGlade to charm with assured banter. It would be easy for the material to sound bland, stripped of 11-piece band and represented by a sole acoustic guitar and vocal, but he finds an extra level of frenetic aggression, thrashing the guitar about like he’s sawing wood at light speed. It’s to enough to ensure it’s more than passing curiosity. Which sets us up nicely for former My Life Story dandy-in-chief Jake Shillingford. That and some nice candles. Much like Jason Wakefield’s nasally Rufus Wainright whine, Mr. Shillingford’s enunciated estuary vowels and pronounced vibrato are something of an acquired taste. The arrangements are competent enough, but unlike McGlade, precious little thought appears to have gone into how to breath new life into epics stripped of their elaborate multi-faceted backing. As such, it’s the new solo stuff that works best, particularly former single Butterfly Wings. It is of course the MLS material that is most rapturously received by the modest, but enthusiastic crowd, but with the exception of the menacingly gentle Claret, it’s a bit patchy. None-the-less, it’s a perfectly pleasant bitter-sweet finish to a sumptuous three course feast, now made available in fun-sized format. Rob Paul Chapman
THIS ISSUE VIBRATIONS
He is our leader. Our glorious leader. All hail Jack Simpson: Vibrations co-founder, Trash promoter and sage-like zen warrior. Speaks a bit like Yoda. Smaller ears… I recommend, for those in bands, leaving in the bits that sound awkward/uncomfortable, these bits are probably the bits that sound truly of you. I recommend taking care of relationships, always laying it on the line for love, being a good friend (to those good to you). I recommend being positive if the worst happens, the fact that you predicted it won’t score any points and could’ve actually helped it along. I recommend reading 1984 and stepping your toe in with Animal Farm, Big Sur and knowing that falling apart from time to time is a passage of rights of any artist and indeed human. I recommend putting no value in money but avoiding debt - it’s hard to be free when you’re working someone else’s plan. I recommend recognising we’re all doing our best, because after all, why would any of us be doing anything other than that?
Vibrations’ newest hip-hop loving beat poet Liberty Hutchinson. WARNING: Conversation does not always lead to snogs… unless you look like Liberty Hutchinson... It can become commonplace to go the same common places. Don’t fall in the trap, spread the love of your presence far... but not too wide! Stuck for inspiration get off the sofa mofo! Socialising is the key and limitations non existent in this plentiful place. My story goes: • Shopping in HIP clothes = hearing about the ‘Leeds Hip Hop Scene’ website • Chilling and chatting in JUMBO records = Kano and Subdub tickets • Forcing drunken conversation upon unsuspecting locals in Townhouse = finding out about my new favourite spot Puro (The latter approach is highly recommended as if no information can be retrieved most probably a snog can) Venues are the icing on the cake facilitated by mingling in shops, bars and record stores all acting as a flurry of socially lubricating ingredients. Recognise your scene and don’t be shy now, get out there and let common sense prevail!
He was Last Night’s TV. He was bass player in Nikoli. He is Ric Neale’s fourstring accomplice. He is now working for us. He is Spencer Bayles. Has a thing for fireworks and trousers... ‘Regeneration’ by Duels: will there be a finer single released this year? This one puts a stupid grin on my face every time the chorus kicks in; brilliantly skewed pop music with a firework down its trousers. Jangly guitar pop: time to check out the underappreciated and sorely-missed Crowded Houseinfluenced NZ popsters The Mutton Birds, before frontman Don McGlashan releases a new solo album in the summer. Seek out their 1997 singles ‘She’s Been Talking’ and ‘Come Around’ on YouTube as a starting point. On a similar theme, immerse yourself in the Squeeze back catalogue in preparation for Glenn Tilbrook hitting the City Varieties in October. Cool for cats indeed. Kettlewell’s Scarecrow Festival: this North Yorkshire town’s residents dress up scarecrows to look like footballers, TV characters, scarily realistic maypole dancers and even John Prescott at its annual shindig. It’s not until August, but put it in your diary now.
Tom Martin: Vibrations’ Photo Editor. Likes loud angry music. Shame, he seemed such a nice quiet boy… Anchovy in the UK... Iron Maiden – Do the Artic Monkeys have a 50ft inflatable monster? Can Pete Doherty fly a Boeing 747? Do The Klaxons have their own fictional mascot that spends all his time murdering everything in sight? I rest my case. Maiden have about twenty albums and if you like rocking out then you can’t really go wrong with any of them. I Am Kloot – Indie ‘art rock’ three piece, soon to be gracing the Brudenell in a rare outing from their home city of Manchester, can’t think of another band who’s songs mean more to me than Kloot. King Of The Hill – Like The Simpson’s older, dryer cousin. Can’t really beat KOTH for its mix of fantastically subtle and not so subtle humour. Plus, Dale Gribble is clearly one of the most genius comedy characters ever created! Anchovies – On pizzas, or in pasta or whatever, I can’t get enough of the salty little freaks!
Embrace your inner-self; identify the spots and then its social plain sailing. Your city is waiting: Suck it and scene bitches. vibrations 39
Published on Apr 30, 2008
Bi-monthly print music magazine covering bands in Leeds, and West Yorkshire (UK) featuring Melvin Benn : Last Gang : The Scaramanga Six : Al...