An interview with Lions Of Tsavo

Despite the band being around for a while, ‘Traverser’ was the first album I heard from Lions Of Tsavo and it fair near exploded my skull. The band play a crushing mix of metal that offers up blackened shrieks, momentous sludge-outs, math-rock dynamics, progressive tendencies and a canny knack for seamlessly weaving all this disparate stuff together.  They are, to be frank, pretty ruddy impressive. Even though it took me ages to get my act together Ryan and Daine were good enough to answer some questions for the CZ…

Ok, so can we please start with the simple stuff: how, when, where and why did Lions Of Tsavo get started?

Ryan (vocals/guitar): Well, basically around 2003, Josh [Dawkins, drums], I and our original bass player Matt moved down to Austin, TX from Ohio to give Lions Of Tsavo a fresh start in a new city. I had been to Austin quite a few times by then, and thought it would be a great place to live and play music. We had all been in bands together previously, so we knew it could work, and I pretty much had the band name as well as the concept along with four or five songs written by that time to convince them. It took us about a year to get things rolling, but by 2005 we were recording our first record with Billy Anderson and playing shows pretty regularly. In 2008, Daine joined on bass while Matt switched to second guitar – that was around the time we recorded the ‘Swarm Of All Unholy’ EP, but that lineup only lasted about a year before Matt departed and we reverted back to a three piece again.

What was the initial plan for the band, and how do you think you’ve kept to (or strayed from) it?

Ryan: The initial concept tying into the band name itself was the idea of ‘nature versus humanity’, Mother Nature taking back and righting the wrongs of mankind’s tampering. We’re exploring the possible consequences of hundreds of years of environmental destruction caused by our hands, as well as pointing out the reality of already occurring events. We’ve kept that going as a common thread throughout our work, even as we grow and try new things musically and lyrically.

How would you say the band has grown and developed over time?

Ryan: I think mainly we have grown in our attention to detail/composition and the ability to execute our ideas better, especially when looking back at the almost blind fury and unchecked rage of our early material. ‘Traverser’ was a huge leap forward for us, as far as having a defined storyline/theme for the record, as well as the amount of time spent hammering out the song structures and the way everything flowed together.  Basically I see ‘Tsaunamicron’ as the record of a young band trying to find its feet and identity, ‘Firelung’ as the next logical step showcasing both the path forward as well as some dead ends, the ‘Swarm Of All The Unholy’ EP as an experiment in adding more progressive elements and seeing how much ‘heavier’ we could get, and ‘Traverser’ as the culmination of everything taken to a new dynamic level.

Daine (bass):  When I moved to Austin in 2007, ‘Tsunamicron’ was the only recording at that time, and I thought it was a very fresh take on heavy music. It was pummeling, but it wasn’t boring in that typical ‘metal band’ kind of way.  The writing was strong; you could hear some different influences but it was unique – that’s what personally drew me to the band, and I’d like to think we have continued building on those ideas.

What can you tell us about ‘Traverser’? What went into it and led it to be the way it is? Are there any specific themes or ideas running through the record?

Ryan: Long story short, the whole concept for the first half of the album is Mother Nature wiping the earth clean through various plagues and natural disasters save for one individual referred to as the “Traverser”. They are then reborn at the point where life began and forced to walk across the earthen landscapes, whilst seeing the horrors of humanity through the eyes of every creature in existence.  It is also kind of an ongoing story that I don’t necessarily see ending with these particular songs. I guess we embraced our inner prog leanings with this one, but the whole concept was a great inspiration to us finishing the songs and giving them purpose.

Daine:  The writing process for this record took a couple of years to complete, which helped to give diversity to the songs.  We were able to take time to grow as a band, and in turn to craft the best possible compositions while following a certain concept.  ‘Chemotrophs’ and ‘Sea Of Crises’ were the first to emerge, and then ‘Bestial Heavens’, which were all steps in different directions.  I think we all had the same idea, but wanted to experiment in how to convey the central storyline while still challenging ourselves in how we write music together.

To me, it’s a very ‘complete’ album: it’s not something you can necessarily dip into – you have to experience it as a whole piece of work. Was it conceived and written as such, or is this just a happy accident?

Ryan: It was very much conceived as such, and I intentionally sequenced the songs in a way that made the entire album flow together as a journey…something you had to experience as a whole rather than just a collection of individual moments. We also had the song order for the album pretty much set before recording even commenced, rehearsing the material in different combinations until we thought it worked best. We thought of the record being in two distinct halves, and that is actually how we ended up recording it.

Daine:  I hesitate to use the term ‘concept album’, but that’s basically what it is.  Every song progresses the storyline to its ultimate conclusion.  The idea was that on vinyl, the A side and B side would be quite different.

It also seems incredibly taut and well-regimented. Are these songs mapped out carefully and precisely, or is the process looser and more organic than that?

Ryan: A little of both. We spent a lot of time working on every aspect of every song, but a few of them came about pretty organically, through the process of improvising and exploring things that just ‘happened’ at rehearsals. Everybody put their input into the process as we structured the songs, and we were all very happy with the outcome as a result.

It’s obviously been a while since the album came out, so what have you been up to since then?

Ryan: We did some touring throughout 2014 as well as steadily playing shows in and around Austin, TX. We’ve also been working on new song ideas since ‘Traverser’ was finished.

Are you working on new material already? If so, how would you say it compares to the ‘Traverser’ stuff, and what did you learn from the writing/recording process?

Ryan: We are getting pretty deep into the writing process for the next record. So far everything is sounding massive and in many ways both more progressive and focused than ‘Traverser’. I personally see ‘Traverser’ as being shrouded in a melancholic and hazy atmosphere, and in a way I wanted to break out of that for the next one. Not just to have the songs be more ‘forceful’, but also to not repeat ourselves. The self-production on ‘Traverser’ was highly rewarding and beneficial towards making the album we wanted to make, but it was also very much a learning curve and certainly took its toll on my sanity in a way. At this point, I’m not sure whether we will be self-producing again or going into a studio and having someone else take control of the recording process, but I’m looking forward to getting it done regardless.

Daine:  We are always working on new things.  Even before ‘Traverser’ came out, we were already hammering out potential riffs for new songs.  We all love writing.  It’s my favorite part of playing music.

To me, the band lobs in a whole load of different influences from right across the metal spectrum. While there are plenty of bands doing this, Lions Of Tsavo do it in a way where it’s almost impossible to see where the joins are: there’s no sense that ‘this is the black metal bit’ and ‘this is the mathy bit’. Do you have to work hard to get the flow of things right, or is it an easy process and I’m just making too much of it?

Ryan: Honestly, we just write songs we want to hear. We don’t focus that much on incorporating too many obvious or direct influences into the material.  Sometimes the process is natural and sometimes it involves a lot of work to get to where we need the song to be. Also, there is a pretty wide range of influences between the three of us, so sometimes it might be that individually we are approaching certain parts from different angles, and that’s what makes it unique, hopefully.

Of all the genres you splice together, where would you say your hearts truly lie? 

Ryan: There are certainly common thread bands the three of us share, from the Melvins, Neurosis, Unsane, and Deathspell Omega to Pink Floyd, Rush, King Crimson and Black Sabbath, and even a lot of heavy 90s stuff like Kyuss, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Ministry, Godflesh, Tool, etc. I personally tend to gravitate towards the old Dischord (especially Hoover and Lungfish), Touch & Go, Amphetamine Reptile, and Gravity Records type of bands I grew up listening to, as well as post-punk stuff like Killing Joke and The Cure, but things like Failure, God Machine and 16 Horsepower/Wovenhand go hand in hand with listening to Voivod, Today Is The Day and His Hero is Gone…so I’m pretty much all over the place.

Daine:  There’s something about the songwriting in newer black metal that is extremely interesting to me; it’s basically taking all the previous unsaid rules of writing metal and throwing them out the window.  The freedom that you have with song structure, time signatures, chord progressions – it draws a lot from prog and even jazz to some degree, and I really tend to gravitate towards that.  But obviously nothing is better than the first five Sabbath records.

I have to admit, it was seeing one of you wearing a Kerosene 454 t-shirt in a promo pic that piqued my interest in the band. This is lame, I know. Some e-research (aka cyber stalking) then led me to discover that at least one of you had been in Ambassador 990, a band I really like. What was the journey like from that band to this one? Were A990 closet metalheads or has the metamorphosis been a gradual one?

Ryan: Haha, no man, that’s not lame at all! I love Kerosene 454, and I’m always stoked to talk to somebody who even remembers them. As far as A990 goes, at least Mike and I were pretty into metal at the time, and the stuff we were writing for the second record (which sadly never happened) was sounding a lot more Karp-ish and heavy. After we broke up, I ended up exploring some more ‘spacy’ sounds in bands and solo works before going back to heavy music. Also, Mike ended up forming Early Man which was full on heavy metal, so there you go.

What did your time in a DIY punk band ‘teach’ you, and have you brought any of those experiences to bear on what you do with Lions Of Tsavo? How would you say tastes, behavior and audiences have changed over time and between genres?

Ryan: It certainly gave me a foundation in the DIY ethic, that’s for sure. Knowing that touring and getting your music exposed is rarely a ‘luxurious’ experience, but it’s also one that toughens you up and makes any gains you happen to achieve highly rewarding. I don’t make this kind of music expecting to be sitting on a pile of money anytime soon or anything, I know these songs are a tough sell to certain people… but to me that makes it all the more rewarding when somebody actually ‘gets it’ and has the music affect them in some way.

What’s Austin like as a place to play music in? It obviously has an awesome history (Dicks, The Big Boys, Scratch Acid, Cherubs…), a bunch of great new punk bands and also Chaos In Tejas, but at the same time it has the whole SXSW rigmarole blowing through it which I Imagine must have altered things quite a bit as it’s such a big deal these days…

Daine:  I wasn’t here in the early days of the Austin music scene; in fact, the area where I grew up was the complete polar opposite of Austin.  So the opportunities this city provides are sometimes overwhelming – which is fantastic for young and underground bands – but can come as a bit of a shock to those who have yet to experience this sort of saturation.   Most folks are definitely aware of the cultural and musical history here, and it’s not uncommon to run into some serious musical legends (David Yow, Roky Erickson, even Robert Plant) while walking down the street.  It’s a crucible though, for local bands.  Even if you’re good by most standards, you have to stand out above the crowd – most of which have come from all over the world to be in a place that holds music in such high regard.  Austin is a town where working hard isn’t enough – you have to have something that people haven’t seen before, and even that doesn’t always guarantee success.  And yeah, South By Southwest is insane.  I can’t even begin to describe it.

What have been the best, worst and weirdest things about being in Lions Of Tsavo?

Ryan: The best and weirdest things would have to be that this music we’ve created has reached people around the world and allowed us to travel and meet so many other awesome bands and individuals. The worst thing would maybe be that we’ve yet to find a home at a record label with which we can build a lasting relationship with, and that could get our music out into the world even more.

Daine:  Josh and Ryan are two of the most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing music with, which really makes being part of this band an incredible experience.  But when you play a style of music that isn’t easily defined or fit into some sort of predefined genre, you’re really at an automatic disadvantage.  Music in the 21st century is unlike it has ever been in the past; instruments are cheap and easily obtained, so being in a band is easy – but it’s extremely difficult to sell your songs and recoup the costs of the process.  So I’d say the worst thing is dealing with finances and trying to make enough money to be self-sustaining.  The weirdest would definitely be some of the DIY shows we’ve played on tour.  Very strange things happen in small towns.

What’s next for the band? What are your short-term goals and what, if anything, would you ultimately like to achieve?

Ryan: Next things are to get the songs completed for the next album, do some touring to road test them a bit, and then hopefully get them recorded before the year is out. I can only hope that each record we make is better than the last one, and that we can convert more and more people to our particular brand of noise.

Daine:  Oh man, I’d love to see ‘Traverser’ get the vinyl treatment.  I think the artwork would look incredible in the bigger format.  Ideally we’d like to do a bigger tour, and actually have a booking agent instead of booking everything ourselves!  That would be nice.  Oh, and a split release with our friends in Inter Arma.  We’ve talked about it and I’d love to see that happen.

http://lionsoftsavo.bandcamp.com/

An interview with Miserable Failure

My first experience of French grind act Miserable Failure was their ultra-short ‘Hope‘ EP, which impressed me thanks to its deft mix of songwriting nous and utter savagery. Their guitarist Romain was kind enough to answer some questions via email about the band, their releases and their outlook.

Ok. Please start by telling us how, when and why Miserable Failure got together…

Romain (guitar): The project was born something like two years ago. Bleu [vocals] and I have known each other almost since childhood. I started playing in bands when I was a kid, and Bleu started an underground label at approximately the same time. Over the years, he released some of the records I played on and used to tour a lot with one of my previous bands. Eventually, we ended up working together at our regular day job. We were talking about a project for years, something different from the usual stuff (i.e. me as the musician, him as the label guy / touring buddy).

One day, at the cigarette break, we finally decided to set this up. I went back to my home at the end of the day, tried a few riffs with the guitar plugged into the computer and the day after, when he listened to the stuff I did, he said : “perfect, that’s what I was expected.” That’s how Miserable Failure was born.

What had you all done before this band? How do you think this impacted or influenced what you do with Miserable Failure?

Romain: I’ve played in various with my friends bands since my childhood. I had a hardcore band that offered me the opportunity to tour a lot all over Europe for eight years. Beside Miserable Failure, I still play in three other bands with my friends (all those bands are basically the same crew since I was 15) and I’m doing some black metal with one of my best friends when we both have a moment for that. I think all those experiences led me to do something very different with Miserable Failure. All of my bands are something quite hard in their own genre, but none is as uncompromising and extreme as Miserable Failure. MF is basically a distillation of everything I do with my other bands combined with my experiences in life in this strange world.

Grindcore, to me, should be one of the most ferocious forms of music around yet it’s one that I’m frequently disappointed by because of the lack of bile. Why do you think so few grind bands sound genuinely angry?

Romain: This is a very interesting question and I’m glad to talk to someone seeing grindcore the way I see it.

Basically the answer is, in my opinion, in the question. Because YOU HAVE TO be angry, you have to carry a burden and hold a grudge against something to play that music. That’s also one of the reasons we did Miserable Failure: because we did not find the grindcore we loved anymore – nothing was angry enough, nothing was dark and hateful enough to satisfy our needs.

Of course there are some exceptions, I instantly think of Pig Destroyer or Thousandswilldie but generally speaking, I agree with you, it lacks this anger and madness we grindcore fans are looking for. To me, grindcore is not metal, and that’s why it doesn’t appeal to most metalheads. Grindcore is a kind of music made by the depressive/angry/sad/despairing/mad etc. (make your choice…) for the depressive/angry/sad/despairing/mad etc. Not everyone is prompted to like it. We all have our limits of what is acceptable/likable and what is not, and I understand why most metalheads don’t like it. To me, you can’t make such extreme music for no reason and I see it in my daily life. Not just grindcore, but all the guys I know who are doing such extreme and uncompromising stuff cannot be considered 100% sane, including myself.

On the flipside, Miserable Failure sound incredibly pissed off. What would you say are your biggest grievances when it comes to modern life, and how would you say you address them as a band?

Romain: You know, we did not choose this name at random, we chose it because that’s the way we see ourselves: miserable failures at modern life. You’re talking about grievance; it’s exactly what it’s about. To name a few, I’d say living in a world where you can’t find your place, where the only choices you get are “eat or be eaten”, “suffer or make them suffer”, “plague or cholera” (even if things tend more toward ebola those days…).  Living a life where everything is conflict, where every human relationship is, in the end, completely blank and senseless, where each time you show an ounce of kindness toward your siblings, you are instantly punished… Like we say in France “trop bon, trop con.”

In terms of grindcore – or, indeed, any fast, aggressive music – what would be your five ‘go-to’ records when you need a quick blast of negativity? If you could explain your choices a bit that would be great.

Romain : Ahah, the hatelist ! lets go for it. Hard to pick up five of them nonetheless.

Teitanblood – ‘Purging Tongues’

That’s just pure HELL: an endless fall into a bottomless pit. It’s so ridiculously violent and completely mesmerizing at the same time that this record is some kind of mystery to me. It’s not just music, it’s an experience. Their music is technically very simple if you look at the guitar work for example, but they play it in a way that’s very interesting and the song writing is perfect. Writing a 15-minute track of such pure death metal stench the way they did is very impressive to me. Their latest release, ‘Death’ is a masterpiece too, but considering it’s a full length, it doesn’t fit into the “quick blast” category.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed / Insect Warfare – split

Seven minutes of pure hate. ANb takes the lead, four songs in five minutes, Insect Warfare closes with six or seven songs in two minutes. Everything is pure savagery, and so well done. If you like this kind of release, try Thousandswilldie if you do not already know them.

Integrity – ‘To Die For’

This is a full length, but things go pretty fast. This is Cleveland style at its best (even if Blind To Faith comes close second to me). They have done a lot of other releases that are great but I have a special love for this one. This is angry, the sound is tight, everything is harsh and hits you like a ton of rocks.

Regurgitate / Dead infection – split

The Regurgitate part of this split is vicious as fuck. The vocals are so harsh they tear out the speakers. It’s violent and at the same time, the sound has that mesmerizing vibe that make you dive into the atmosphere instantly and almost puts you into a trance. The punk/hardcore side of their music is especially apparent on this release and they combine it with their death metal side perfectly.

“The infamous” Gehenna – ‘Land Of Sodom

This is dirty; a kind of hardcore made in the depths of hell. Everything is raw and sounds like it’s recorded in a cave by the most angry guys on the planet with the devil himself behind the mic. I like the simplicity of their music, it’s straight forward and thought to be an like an insult to the listener but it flows incredibly well despite the dirty nature of their music.

To me you play a very stripped-down form of grind, yet there’s still a lot going on and some quite complex passages. Is it a conscious decision to balance these different elements? Do you find it challenging to be raging and interesting within grindcore’s limited time constraints?

Romain:  Once again, ; its so rare in here to find someone with such a deep understanding of grindcore, I feel that you have the same conception of extreme music as us. Come and do a track with us on the next one, you’re welcome.

Yeah it’s a complex thing for us. Everyone thinks grind is “stupid”, that it’s just random open strings played over repetitive blast beats. But it’s actually far more complex than that in most cases.

I’m trying to do a mix of everything I love in those short songs and my main goal is to balance things between the simple and the complex, so yeah, it’s a totally conscious decision. For example, we say “ok, now it was straight forward blast of hate for the last 30 seconds, we’re starting to lose grip and the thing will fall apart if we do four more steps of this riff, so now, let’s try do throw some dissonant stuff to regain the listeners interest.”

And, like you said it’s very challenging for us. Grindcore has short songs, it’s very fast and straight to the point. Adding different elements can easily be tricky, or even dangerous; and I can’t say we are 100% comfortable with it. But since that’s what we want to do, it’s all “trial and error.” We are taking the time to experiment and see what’s working and what’s not; and like a lot of things in life, finding the right balance is difficult.

Can you talk us through your releases? How do you think the band has developed or changed over time? 

Romain: Well, actually, our first release, the split with Infected Society and F Stands For Fuck You is the first songs we ever wrote. I’m satisfied with those because they represent our stuff pretty well. There is the brutal side, there is the punk hardcore side but it just lacks a little blackness for me.

Then we released a split with Total Fucking Destruction and four other bands that are our labelmates. It has the same pros and cons as the first one to me. I especially love ‘Martyr‘ on this record.

Then, once again, to me, I think things start becoming interesting with our EP ‘HOPE’. Its short, but the sound is very tight, and it’s the first release where we finally achieve the violence and aggression I was aiming for. This EP bears something special for us, as we wrote it, recorded it and finally released it in period of time that was bad for us in our personal lives. I think that’s something that can be heard on the record. The opener says it all regarding what you’ll find along the other tracks.

Then we released a split with Atara. And that’s the record I’m the most satisfied with. The overall violence and anger is really high, the darkness is here, and despite and the noise and blast and everything, the despair is here too.

As I mentioned in my review of the split with Atara, the guy you sample on ‘May You All Be Cursed Forever’ is a bit of an arse. How did you find that sample, and what’s your view of it now you’re more aware of the man behind the words?

Romain: Thanks for this review man.

I saw this guy on the news on French TV.

To me, music and what we want to illustrate goes first. I’m not saying that the “who’s the guy?” question is not important but only his words on the record count. You’re listening to a record and you’re listening to what’s happening, you dive into the atmosphere created by the band and, if some spoken words are thrown in, it’s just to reinforce the immersion. I know what you’re thinking right now: “But, if it was Hitler or someone like that?”  Answer: Yeah, but he is not Hitler. I mean, that’s not because we are talking about someone or something that we agree with what is/she is doing.

I mean, look at Slayer that we all love. Are they Nazis ? No. Do they fuck dead bodies? No. Do they actually kill people in excess of rage ? No.

I think the comment you did in the review is a bit judgemental toward us, but no prob, really. We are not kids, we know what we are doing and we know what we want to illustrate. This record had a theme, a theme illustrated in the title, and we built our song structure and general overall structure on this record according to that theme. If you understand the point of the record, then you’ll understand that there could not be better words to close this last track.

I’m not going to check everyone’s life or go back to fucking Jesus Christ each time I want to quote someone. In the next record, there will be quotes from ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by  Charles Dickens because I love this story, period. I’m not going to check if Dickens was left wing or right wing or if he cheated on his wife or if some of his descendants were in the Waffen-SS. Because that’s simply not the point, I’m just here to make music and make the few people who appreciate it dive into something different than this shitty world for five minutes. If your question was aiming at knowing my political opinions, here’s the answer:  I don’t care about politics, I don’t care about the world. This world can burn, all of those motherfuckers can burn with it, and me with them, I don’t give two shits.

One thing that the sample made me think of was the fact that both the UK and France (along with other parts of Europe) have seen far-right politics gain a thin veneer of respectability/acceptability over the last few years. Do you have any comment on this, or have you noticed how things have changed? If not, please feel free to skip this question!

Romain: You know, besides the fact that what you are saying is true, I will talk about France, because that the only placed I lived in all my life. This sample was here because of one major thing; Because I think that, nowadays, aside from the rise of the extremes, France lacks what I like to call “The 1789 spirit.” During this time that we call “The Terror,” the people was so fed up, hungry and desperate that they murdered their leaders in public places. We, 21st century French people, lack that revolutionary attitude our ancestors had. And I sincerely not understand how such things can happen nowadays without leading to a revolution. Because the words in this sample are true: “we, the people, are scammed, robbed, etc… all of this in the most disgraceful manner… by our leaders.” A month or two ago, a French politician was sued and charged for not paying his taxes. The reason was: “I forgot to pay my taxes, I have some kind of tax phobia.”

Seriously ? What kind of joke is this? Aren’t those people supposed to act as example for their citizens?

So now, MY question is: Why are we waiting to drag this fucker out of his golden nest and make him an example not to follow? My words may sound paradoxical to my general everyday attitude and everyone know that the extremes are not the best solutions, but, as simple people with no power except numbers, what solution do we have? The elections ? The suffrage? Like I said earlier, it’s choosing between plague and cholera. I guess that the human spirit is, at times, very simple and straight forward and that extreme conditions demands extreme responses.

What would you say are the biggest challenges of playing in a band like Miserable Failure?

Romain : I’d say that the biggest challenge is to find the balance we were discussing earlier. Keeping things interesting. I’d like to keep Miserable Failure like it is in the future, adding elements to the mix without denaturing it. That will be, to me, the biggest challenge.

What are your future plans for the band? Do you have any more releases in the pipeline?

Romain: We have just finished recording the new one. All the instruments are done. We are now working on the lyrics. It will be something… ”special”; still extremely violent, but going beyond pure grindcore this time. This EP will be a kind of appendix to our usual style, because we wanted to explore something else and I’m very satisfied with the result; I really can’t wait to release this stuff, hopefully next summer.

We have another split CD in the works and I’m also working on the full length… but this will take a little while.

msrblflr.bandcamp.com

facebook.com/msrblflr

An interview with Cowards

Cowards’ brand of heavy, gnarled, misanthropic hardcore fair near knocked my socks off when I first heard their ‘Shooting Blanks & Pills’ record for Throatruiner. Sludgy without being in hock to sludge ‘tradition’, metallic in the most caustic way and possessed of that numinous sense of believability that’s so hard to come by.

I meant to knock a review and interview together when the LP originally came out. Typically, life got in the way and time passed. Handily, though, Canadian label Secret Handshake have since reissued it, thus making my review and this interview a bit more timely.

Questions answered by the band as a hive mind.

Ok, let’s get the basics out the way first: tell us a bit about Cowards. How, when and why did the band get together?

Cowards: We all got together at the end of 2011 when some of us were completely out of the game and wanted to start something new. What started out initially as an instrumental doom/sludge project turned into what we are now.

There is a real sense of hostility and sickness running through the music. What kind of feelings are you channelling, and why is Cowards’ music so mired in negativity?

Cowards: Channelling might not be the appropriate word, it conveys too much of an esoteric weight. We just write and play the music that best reflects our feelings about the lives we have, what we see, hear and understand.

How does the music you make reflect the people who make it? If we hung out with you, would we find happy, well-adjusted young Frenchmen or are you as unhinged and hostile as your music?

Cowards: The best answer would be both. We’re all pretty much from a middle-class/upper middle-class background, we all have pretty decent education and manners, but in the end, it all comes down to what we have and who we have in front of us. There’s a lot of judging going on on our part, we’ll admit to that, and some of us take great pride in being scary judges of character.

Most of the time it all goes very smoothly, as you might already know, most people invested (really invested that is) in this trade turn out to be honest, passionate and down to earth folks. Really quite a lovely crowd.

But then, then you have the others, who are louder, more visible, full of themselves and ultimately full of shit. Those, we have a hard time making it work with. It happened before, once or twice, but really, not that much. Although when it goes south, it usually goes all the way there.

We’ve stated this before and we’ll gladly state it again as much as needed, we’re no more violent or hostile than anybody else, but we definitely are on the top tier of blunt honesty and this will not make friends with just anybody so easily.

What can you tell us about the LP? What were the circumstances around its creation and what does the title mean to you?

Cowards: The ‘Shooting Blanks & Pills’ LP is an exact photograph of what we were at that time, musically and personally, it is a reflection of the music we had, both created for that purpose and lying around from previous bands as well as some very old ideas.

In retrospect, it does sound a bit odd at times; that collection of songs with different moods, although the vocals make it whole in the end. But if we had to do it again that way, we would.

As for the title, I’m not going to dwell on the meaning although I’m willing to say it is as much a self-depiction as it is a tongue-in-cheek, below-the-belt jab at people we know, their lifestyles and their loud-mouthed, half-assed opinions on everything.

How did things change for Cowards between ‘Shooting Blanks & Pills’ and the ‘Hoarder’ EP? Do you think the band has evolved at all?

Cowards: The one thing that changed is, in the most unglamorous way, we became a band, for real. Previous to recording ‘SB&P’ we had never played together, not even spend real quality time, the five of us, and apart from the one guy who set it up, most guys didn’t really know each other that well. It almost led to our demise after our very first show, some of us realising they couldn’t stand the others.

That quickly changed after our first mini tour alongside ELIZABETH when we quickly rose to becoming probably the funniest pack of hyenas ever to hit the road.

Musically, we tried to do things different with ‘Hoarder’, as far as process go, other than that, business as usual. The only thing we try to achieve is not to be too redundant with ourselves and play the music we’d like to listen to.

Was it a conscious decision to merge the various sounds you have running through your music (hardcore, sludge, black metal etc.)?

Cowards: Others have said it before and as it turns out, it’s true, for us at least, we just wanted to play the music we like and would like to listen to. It just so happens that we like a whole lot of things including but not limited to those genres of heavy music and that’s just the way it all came down on us.

Of course it became obvious and conscious once we were done recording but we’re fine with that.

The defining bond being that it had to be very, very angry.

For some reason I think Cowards have a very urban sound: it’s very much ‘city music’. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Paris, what goes on there and how you think it influences you as people and musicians?

Cowards: For some reason nobody ever told us that before and for some reason it is a shame because if we ever did something consciously as far as the music goes, it was, and still is, to try and keep it very urban, so thank you. We are from the city after all and have always found it funny/depressing those bands who try and sound from the swamp of Louisiana, as if their best friends were alligators when in fact their best friends are the concrete pavements they work day in day out…

Having said that, we don’t have a particular relationship with Paris, we just live there. Some of us love this city, others hate it but we all share a sense of belonging, whether we like it or not, to The City, not particularly Paris, it probably could be any city, it is the urban atmosphere that appeals to us.

Considering you’re our closest neighbours I find it weird that we over here in the UK don’t seem to have a clear picture as to what’s happening in the underground scene over there in France. I’m aware of individual bands and labels (Throatruiner, Ratbone, Solar Flare etc.) but have no idea how cohesive it all is. What’s your view, and how do you think Cowards fit in?

Cowards: First off, don’t feel bad, apart from the very handsome guys at Oblivionized and their friends we shared the stage with when they had us over, we had no idea of what was going on in the UK, except for a strange feeling, that proved to be true, that British bands have a very professional feeling and extraordinary talent and skills, more so than most French bands, including us of course.

As far as cohesion, we couldn’t tell you. We do have some friends here and there, but we’re not feeling much love and/or interest for us, except for the indefectible support of Matthias (Throatruiner Records) and Alex (Deadlight Entertainment). That’s fine because we do have good allies outside France, be it only Pedro and Vitor from RVINS records in Portugal.

Whatever the reason, we’re not part of the scene so to speak. The funny thing is that we know people know us, because we hear them blabbing away, it most recently appeared that we are racists, violent, arrogant and destructive posers, how would anyone want us to be part of their scene? Haha. You’ve got to love when people talk, and who knows what we’ll be in a couple months, we’re anxious to hear it.

How – if at all – has France’s punk rock history (be it Kickback, the Stonehenge Records stuff of the 90s or whatever…) affected your outlook and the way you do things as a band?

Cowards: Except for Kickback (who we ripped off everything good we have apparently), and French black metal (Deathspell Omega to name one) we don’t have much interest for it all.

You toured over here earlier in the year – how did it go? Any strange or weird tales to recount?

Cowards: It all went very smoothly. People in France told us it would be hard: no audience, no money, no selling merch, no place to sleep, no food. They were oh so wrong. Zac (Oblivionized) set it all up perfectly, people showed up at every show and we ended up coming home with some extra cash, which is always good. Like we said before, lots of very good bands, very talented and so young it’s sickening. Plus Wetherspoon’s. Can’t go wrong with Wetherspoon’s every day.

Weird tales… Let’s see… We were invited over by a girl and her boyfriends, plural, to score some (which turned out to be cheap garbage) and she ended up fucking very loudly in her toilets with one of the dudes, while the other stayed with us, helpless. She claimed she was a Super Mario Champion and that she probably could make us all come under five minutes. Needless to say we were not interested. That’s the weirdest tale from our UK trek, so you see, it all went very smoothly.

What do you all do outside of Cowards?

Cowards: We try and make an honest living. One of us feeds people, another is a craftsman, the other teaches stuff…

What plans do you have for the band’s future? What’s happening next and how do you think Cowards will evolve over time?

Cowards: It just so happens that we’re going to hit the studio for five weeks beginning of October, to record the follow up to ‘SB&P’ and as soon as that’s done we’re going to set up a Euro tour with our friends in Oblivionized. We’ll try to go back to Portugal, maybe hit Spain, we wish we can come back in the UK sometime this year too.

‘SB&P’ has been reissued by Secret Handshake records up in Canada for North America and we also hope we can go all the way there and make new friends. Or foes.

As for us evolving, let’s pray we can get more and more people talking shit about us, because, let’s face it, there’s no such thing as bad press.

http://cowardsparis.bandcamp.com

The talking DEAD

DEAD @ Black Wire, Sydney 17/12/10

I recently reviewed DEAD’s brilliant ‘Idiots’ LP. Like most of bands on Eolian Empire they play horrible, heavy music but in a way that’s skewed and artful. Thinking man’s bludgeon, if you like. I was intrigued enough to ask them some questions, and they were kind enough to answer them.

Jem plays drums and Jace plays bass. Both have some thoughtful things to say.

 So, tell us about DEAD. How, when and why did the band get started?

Jem: We started in late 2010. We both played together in “Fangs Of…” and wanted a band that could tour more often. We thought about who else we could do this with and then realised if we operated as a two-piece then we wouldn’t have to rely on anyone else. I think we originally intended to try having a floating third member that could just make noise over the top of our songs. But we seemed to fill the sonic space ourselves pretty quickly without that.

Touring was a priority from the start. I booked our first tour before we’d even written a song. So the band very much was formed on the stage.

Jace: Basically we knew we were very compatible bandmates. I wanted to be in a band that could be creatively fluid and basically do MORE of everything, Jem was definitely on the same page about that. We both enjoy pushing ourselves artistically and we’re always trying to get more done than is physically possible. We’ve been great mates for ages, so working and touring together is a lot of fun.

What was the original idea behind the band? Did you set out to do or sound like anything in particular?

Jace: Volume! No. I write a lot of material and it’s rarely if ever planned and at the risk of sounding like a wanker, artistic freedom is way too important to me to set boundaries for myself. I listen to a lot of different music and I’d say it all influences me to varying degrees. There are definitely bands that I’d say we relate to sound wise in certain ways but I think that’s more due to an aesthetic rather than copying a style. I definitely look up to a lot of bands and musicians, and visual artists. I’m regularly blown away by what people have created which always pushes me to work harder.

Jem: The only idea was to have fun and make music together. We didn’t set out to make a particular sound but we definitely had ideas of things we wanted to avoid – mainly things that a lot of other two pieces use like excessive effects, delays, loops etc. I know I pushed that idea a lot. I wanted to exploit the rawness of the two piece format rather than try to compensate for it with gadgets.

I think Jace probably had to consider his sound and playing a lot more than myself being that he often is playing the role of a bass and of a lead guitar at once.

The idea of aiming for a particular sound has never appealed to me and I don’t think we’d be much good at it. I’m not claiming that we have an entirely unique sound of course, our influences are not hidden. But we never set out to make a particular kind of music.

Now that we’ve doing it a few years I would say we have honed our sound to a degree. But if we’re making a particular genre of music it’s news and I’d love to know which demographic we can sell it to!

There’s only two of you. Clearly. Was this a self-imposed limitation, or was it just too difficult to find other people who wanted to make music like this?

Jem: A bit of both. We wanted to be more active musically than we had been in our previous bands and not have to compromise on that based on other peoples’ availability or lack thereof. A lot of people seem to focus on the limitations of a two-piece format but I think every format has its strengths and weaknesses. The dynamic of a two piece is unique, it’s very intimate. It probably means we both have to work harder (both playing wise and as far as running the band) but we’re not afraid of hard work.

It still surprises a lot of people; the idea of a heavy two piece band. But for us, by the time we started this band, the precedent had long been set and I’d played in two other drum/bass bands already.

Finding other members wouldn’t be difficult but I don’t have any reason to believe it would improve the band.

We have plans for some recordings as a three-piece with an artist called BJ Morriszonkle but the idea is that the he won’t be locked into any long term commitments. This project is sort of an offshoot I guess.

Jace: We definitely floated the idea of having other band members but from pretty much the first rehearsal it felt exciting just having the two of us. We also quickly realised that there was no gaping sonic hole that needed plugging so why complicate things? It took a while for me to figure out my sound and a technique that I was happy with but the challenge was too good to pass up.

There’s a ton of people we’re both interested in collaborating with but at the moment I can’t imagine including anyone else permanently.

What can you tell us about ‘Idiots’? Despite the deceptively simple set-up there’s a lot going into it…

Jace: Compositionally the album is fairly unconventional a lot of the time so despite not being overly complicated I think it’s a relatively challenging listen.

Jem: Recording-wise most of those songs are tracked live on the first take. There is very little in the way of overdubs. We took this approach because we didn’t have the money to spend long in the studio (not in a decent studio anyway) and decided we’d rather highlight the rawness of the band than try and smooth it all over. Overdubbing can fill out the sound but can also squash the instruments. We go for a pretty big sound most of the time so leaving those sounds room to breathe in a lot of cases made it sound heavier, and more confronting than if we layered the sounds.

I made mistakes all over that recording but I think it still sounds good – it’s an honest account of where we were at there and then. Making a recording that, for the most part, honours our live sound made sense too since we were and are predominantly a live band.

Of course if we had more budget to work with we would love to make a more studio based album too – many of our favourite records are like that. That’s something that we have always wanted to do and hopefully we will do one day when we have the budget to do it properly.

What kind of themes or ideas do you explore on the album?

Jem: Jace writes most of the lyrics. For the most part I don’t quiz him too much about it because I trust him and it’s a personal thing. Jace doesn’t spell things out in his lyrics anyway. That’s one thing we both like to avoid for the most part. Being around a lot of punk bands we get very tired of singers lecturing us like we’re idiots. For us the voice is more about being an extra instrument at our disposal than trying to tell the audience something specific. I generally find that kind of approach condescending to the listener.

Any lyrics I write seem to be about racism or anxiety and I guess that’s because they’re close to me.  But we’ve never been concerned with pigeon holing our themes or spelling them out. That seems far too limiting to me.

Most of the music I have made in my life has been instrumental. For me I often find lyrics a distraction from the mood of the music, or at least they can limit the possibilities that music could have had. At the same time vocals can also be the most primal instrument of all so I guess we generally try and approach it with that in mind.

Jace: For the most part my lyrics are open to interpretation. It’s more important to me to create a mood rather than to directly describe something, that’s not to say they’re meaningless, I just like giving the listener space to engage in a non-linear way. Sometimes my lyrics are more like short stories that are probably easier to get a sense of but I still like them to be a bit of a riddle. Some of the singing is probably indecipherable which becomes more instrumental or textural which I also enjoy. I don’t mean to be evasive on this question, the lyrics can be found on our bandcamp page with every track so they’re there to be pulled apart if anyone has the energy.

The spoken word vocals on ‘Murder Hollow’ are great. Who is Linda Dacio and how did you get her involved?

Jace: The lyrics for this track are a short story so we wanted them to be very audible. I was Jem’s idea to get Linda involved, her voice really suited the track she did a killer job.

Jem: Linda J is a national treasure. I first saw her play when I was in High School and she sang ‘RX7’ with “Legends of Motorsport.” It’s well worth looking up the recording of that, it’s a great Australian performance in my opinion.

I originally asked Bliss Blood (Pain Teens) if she would do some vocals on that track but she declined. Which turned out to be a blessing ‘cos then we got Linda. Linda is an amazing singer. But I have always had a real thing for people who can sing well and choose not to over sing. Like Shannon from Cows or Bliss Blood – they were both great at blurring the line between singing and speaking. So I felt kind of bad when we got her in and I kept asking her to sing less and talk more. She is a great singer with a belter of a scream and a natural distortion. But she did a great job, a total professional in a very punk rock kind of way – her performance gives me goosebumps. I was really happy with it how it came out. The fact we all three sang on that song gave it a different dynamic, one that you just can’t get with only male singers.

Since the LP came out you’ve had a couple of split 7”s. How would you say your sound / songwriting has evolved?

Jace: This question is HARD! I’m constantly writing songs so I hope it’s evolving. I set challenges for myself when writing. I’ve been trying to incorporate more melody into our material whether it’s done vocally or instrumentally. I just try to write songs that will push our playing in some way so that they remain interesting and exciting to play.

Jem: The split with No Anchor was recorded before Idiots, during the demo sessions for Idiots actually. The Split with Vaz was recorded in Japan at the end of a tour there. Sound-wise I think we’ve honed it a fair bit since the beginning but I have no idea how different it sounds to the outsider. I know we started doing a bit more metal stuff. Metal in the traditional sense.

It’s funny we talk a lot about the kinds of songs we want to write but It doesn’t mean that what comes out the other end is closely related to what we discuss. It’s more of a starting point I guess. I just try and find our strengths and work on exploiting those.

How did these split releases come about? Also, have to say it – Vaz kinda seem like a perfect band for you to share a record with…

Jace: I’ll let Jem handle the first part of this question.

Jem: No Anchor are friends from long before we started DEAD. Got a lot of respect for the way those guys operate. They’ve managed to do everything on their own terms and despite making music that isn’t especially accessible they’ve developed a cult following.

Working with them seemed logical to me. I honestly can’t remember if it was their idea or ours though. I think it was theirs. Which just proves even more what good blokes they are; clearly not driven by popularity.

Vaz are just one of our favourite bands around right now. I love how every album evolves form the last. We played with them on our first US tour and they moved us a great deal. We invited them to Australia and they came over. The only bummer was the tour we did with them was really hard work. Everything that could go wrong did. It bummed me out ‘cos they are such a great band and deserved better.

Jace: We saw and played with Vaz on our first US tour. We both thought they were incredible. They were great to tour with, very experienced and professional and they didn’t whinge about the long drives. Seeing them night after night was a real treat, they’re all great musicians who have a unique take on their instruments.

Australia seems to have a funny old scene: loads of great bands who it’s relatively hard to discover, even today in this Glorious Internet Age. I guess it’s partly because overseas tours are scarce and it costs a shitting fortune to send records or t-shirts anywhere. Do you think this imposes a kind of insularity on Australian bands/musicians?

Jace: It probably does but I really don’t know what other bands think. I think that could probably be said about most countries in a way whether it’s geographically or self-imposed. Even ‘scenes’ within ‘scenes’ adopt insularity so I don’t think it’s special to Australia. I certainly don’t feel limited by living here, it’s just a different set of challenges.

Jem: It might. Probably less so than in the past as people have more and more access to overseas travel and the net. Most of the great bands down here you’ll never hear about because they won’t tour overseas and/or they won’t get support from an overseas label.

But I think yes a lot of people down here do exist in a bubble to an extent. Big fish in a little pond kind of thing. People acting like rock stars ‘cos their band is big in one or two towns. I’d like to think it also fosters a unique sound, and for some bands it does which is great. But it seems most bands are just mimicking the bands sold to us from the US and the UK.

How do you view your homeland, and how do you think you fit in with what’s going on over there musically?

Jem: I try not to waste too much time on this and I say that because I probably have wasted too much time on it. I think there is some fucking great bands down here. We lack a good touring culture here though so most of them rarely get out of their hometowns and don’t get to improve to the level they could if they could tour. The heavy music scenes are predominantly limited to the major cities here which is also a shame; it’s seems the regional centres struggle to sustain much of a scene.

I think for the most part the underground scenes here are very conservative, even if they would like to think otherwise. Even within more extreme forms of music it feels very segregated. Most of the bands I see getting celebrated are not especially original. And there is an obsession with nostalgia which is at the expense of embracing new and creative music that is happening right now.

We’ve always felt like outsiders from any of the specific scenes and that’s okay with me. I’ve always liked a broad range of music and I have no interest in subscribing to a particular sub culture. It doesn’t feel honest to me. I’ve been playing music long enough now to see how stupid people look jumping from one style to another. It’s nice to have somewhere to belong but not if it means limiting yourself.

As to where we fit in… well basically there are bands, promoters and venues all over the country we get along with. We don’t care what genre of music they make as long as they are passionate about it. And that’s how we like it. We’ve never aimed to find other bands who sound like us. We think of it as more of an extended family than scene.

Jace: I would say that to a large extent we don’t fit in, which isn’t something we seek or are bothered by. Obviously some kind of scene is helpful but we don’t really have a home that we fit neatly into. We realise we’re a relatively ‘difficult’ band sound wise so it’s just part of the territory. Also I’m old and who wants to hang out with an old dude right??!!?? I do find it funny that people who consider themselves cultural outsiders often fall over themselves to try to fit in but hey live and let live, the last thing I want to do is worry about other people.

Kinda related to the above: is there any sense that you’re continuing some sort of foul Aussie tradition, following the likes of Feedtime, Venom P. Stinger and X? In many ways it’s a peculiarly Australian sound: arty and considered, but also yobbish, aggressive and in-your-face…

Jem: Well I think you’ve described our sound better than maybe anyone else ever has. It’s exactly what we go for. I’d add to that list bands like Nunchukka Superfly, Dad They Broke Me, Pure Evil Trio, Warped and especially Midnight Oil.

I see so many bands who would fall into the “arty” category who are too fucking pretentious to play something primal and heavy. As if they are above that ‘cos they did an arts degree. And so many rock bands who snob anything that might be considered a bit intellectual or arty. I’ve never understood why the two can’t co-exist more. Through our label we just released a split 7” between The Hard Ons and The Necks. These are two bands who have complete respect and adoration for each other but a decent chunk of each other’s crowds would never give the other band the time of day.

For me my biggest drive in making music has always been to tap into the inner cave man/woman inside all of us. For some reason people confuse primal with limited or stupid though and that’s really far off the mark. I think one of the strongest primal urges is to discover new things and to learn. You can see that in babies all the time.

People always think AC/DC is simple but I challenge those people to try and play their songs half as well as them. You won’t find a tighter band. And they have no bullshit to hide behind. Or a band like Midnight Oil who made a lot of hard, driving music but there is so much going on it if you look under the surface.

So anyway yes our music is considered, we spend a lot of time thinking about it and trying to improve it. If we have a simple idea and we like it we will back it rather than try and cover it up with bells and whistles. And if the art wankers think it sounds like yobbos shouting then it’s their loss.

As far as continuing an Aussie tradition; well we are Australian. That’s just who we are, we would never try and be anything else. But we are not trying to emulate anything nostalgic. Those bands were great because they were innovative and that’s the main thing we’d want to take from them; an attitude more than a style.

Jace: I don’t feel like we’re deliberately continuing anything but I’d say we are somehow undeniably attached to that aesthetic. I’ve always really liked the tension between those kinds of elements. I’m a big fan of a lot of post-punk and experimental music but I also love AC/DC… have you ever studied their backing vocals?? Genius!!

I’ve never really thought about it being a uniquely Aussie thing but maybe it is. Having said that there are some current US bands like Rabbits and Drunk Dad who I think relate closely to this sound too.

What does the future – short and long-term – hold for DEAD?

Jace: Before we tour our new album in November we are doing a couple of support shows that we’re looking forward to, one with Torche the other with Windhand.

Other than that, we’re writing a ton of new tracks that keep us stoked.

Jem: We just released a new song on the Rock Is Hell 10th Anniversary 2×10” compilation………………

Right now we are writing our new record. We have a lot of material so I guess it’s a matter of picking what we like best. Or maybe we’ll record a double album if we can manage it. Sometime soon we will record the collaborative record with BJ Morriszonkle.

In November we will release our third album ‘Captains Of Industry’ and tour it in Australia. Early next year it will be released in Austria (Rock is Hell) and in the USA (Eolian Empire).

Mid-next year we will do our third US tour. And hopefully after that we can get to Europe!

www.deadsounds.com

 

The legalities and regulations in regards to opening a DIY venue in the UK (the JT SOAR model)

Joe Cee of Plaids / JT Soar / Subsequent Mastering / the internets wrote some things that you should know about running a DIY venue in the UK. Check it out…

Firstly, the JT SOAR model is:

  • Under 200 capacity
  • All Ages
  • No bar / alcohol sales
  • Can sell food once a month (regional laws may apply)
  • Shows end at 11pm

If a space used for music in the UK is under 200 capacity no music performance licence is required as of October 2012 : https://www.gov.uk/entertainment­licensing­changes­under­the­live­music-act

You CANNOT have music of any description after 11PM. Curfews are you main defence against any trouble. ( See above )

If there is no bar, there are no age restrictions and no ID check is required. Therefore “all ages”.

The space MUST conform to public safety laws and fire regulations, but this is REALLY easy.

https://www.gov.uk/workplace­fire­safety­your­responsibilities/who­is­responsible

Wilkos and Ebay can get you everything you need.

We have been cleared to prepare and sell food once a month with our local environmental office at the council. This may vary from regional council to council.

Once you have everything in place MAKE CONTACT with the council and fire department.

http://www.fireservice.co.uk/information/ukfrs

They can’t roll in and shut you down, and they are generally friendly people just doing their jobs. We organised meetings with both at the space and had a cup of tea and a chinwag. Everything was AOK.

BE AWARE of your surroundings, are they are legal restrictions to the surrounding streets/district? Can people drink on the streets? Make friends with your neighbours, like a good house party: don’t alienate anyone who might hear /f eel the effect of your events. Keep it above board, transparent and for god’s sake make sure people don’t urinate or leave trash outside your venue or on the way home!

Further questions: jtsoarspace@gmail.com ask for Joe or Phil

Live Review: Dads at the Kingston Fighting Cocks, 21/11/13

Shwin Bandari took this gig in, and came up with these words:

Ah sweaty basement shows, the deafening loud PA system, the longing for water and fresh air, the inability to move without being crushed against the tiny platform they call a stage, and the bruised elbows as a result of fending off stage divers. Nothing else like it eh?

Being the busy Uni student I am, I took some time out of my very busy schedule of self loathing and pity to see Dads at a venue 5 minutes away from my apartment block. While sadly I didn’t get there in time to watch Bluebird, I did get to see Hindsights, a four piece outfit from Berkshire with enough twangy guitar sections with distortion pedals and melancholy vocals to really hit you in the feels.  They played a variety of songs off of 12inch record that they released through Beach Community this year, and although the crowd reaction wasn’t anything special (other than a few obligatory nods) they left enough of an impact to warm things up and set the tone for the rest of the night.

Nai Harvest  for some reason are very popular with “hardcore kids” in the UK, which makes it somewhat amusing to see people wearing tough guy windbreakers and Breaking Point t-shirts angrily finger pointing along to fast paced and upbeat emo lyrics. They open with their title track off the latest release Whatever with everyone in the room courageously singing along without a care in the world, play 3 or 4 new songs that no one has a clue about yet, then finish with the classic ‘Distance Etc’. All in all a very enjoyable set.

And finally, Dads (9)  emerge, opening with their post-rock anthem My New Crass Patch, and then straight into Breakfast at Piffany’s,where a reasonably sized pit opens up behind me, and I fall onto Dads guitar pedal. Ouch. Not to worry though, they carried on regardless of my pain. Their drummer John Bradley comments on how the bartender did ‘the nicest thing ever’ by putting a lemon in his water, as well as the fact that their bass player George Bush wasn’t there at the show. Gosh darn it. Their guitarist didn’t speak much, but the noodly riffs encompassed in concluding tunes such as “Get To The Beach” and “Shit Twins” more than made up for the lack of on-stage banter.

Boilermaker interview

it’s almost 3 years now since Terrin passed away, and through the magic of the internet i am able to bring you this old interview from like 2001 or something that i did. it was a pretty weird afternoon, thinking back. Terrin and his wife were honeymooning in Europe and he called me up, asking if i wanted to meet up and do an interview. i had never spoken to him before, and being a terrible unsociable geek, was more than a little bit nervous about it. i shouldn’t have been, i had a tonne of fun, and i hope this interview goes some way to showing that. thanks to Terrin, you are missed.

this interview was conducted whilst sitting on a wooden bench on Elm Hill, Norwich. it gave us green butts. it was damn good fun, and i am very grateful for spending a couple of hours in the time of Terrin and his lovely wife Adrienne. they are the nicest folks, do ya hear! ok, here is what we talked about, i edited out a tonne of it because people don’t normally go around printing their conversations on the internet. so i just left in the stuff that i guess you could consider more ‘relevant’, and some of the fun bits that were almost relevant. whatever, it was all enjoyed. take it away…

terrin: (into dictaphone in cockney accident) brilliant

 

andy: right! ok, so introduce yourself and what you’re doing over here!

 

terrin: blahblahblah, this is Terrin from Boilermaker, i am on my honeymoon with my beautiful wife, Adrienne…

 

andy: who’s just disappeared off down the road somewhere

 

terrin: yeah, she’s just checking out the artists gallery

 

andy: the bear shop

 

terrin: and the stamp corner

 

andy: ok, we’re sitting down Elm Street here in norwich, a bit of old school Norwich to show the American tourists, and really impress them and let them see what England is all about

 

terrin: it looks like Disneyland (laughs)

 

andy: ok, we’ll start with the band… Boilermaker having just reformed… did you ever split up or was it on hiatus?

 

terrin: 2 years. it was a 2 year long tour where we didn’t play any shows, and we played for coming up 6 years, and we all went our seperate ways and started doing other things. our drummer moved up to san francisco, and i joined the Farewell Bend and was gone for a while, but that didn’t work out. so i came back, and then what basically got us back together again was that we got the rights to our old records back. we’d been waiting for about 6 years for that to happen, and i think we just went through periods of time in our lives where our music styles changed, and we had differences, though never any fights or anything like that. kind of all of us were going our seperate ways with music. and being away from it, it’s like we all went it routes of jobs and school, the guitar player went into school and had to drive 45 minutes to an hour to get to school for the last 2 or 3 years.

 

andy: just the kind of things that makes it hard for a band to get together.

 

terrin: yeah. besides all the other personal stuff in our lives, and doing music became the thing which we needed a break from.

 

andy: so is it all the same members back together?

 

terrin: yeah, all the same members, and a friend of ours called Mike who is sitting in and playing guitar with us at the moment, adding some stuff that we never had before into our shows. i don’t know, i think all of us being away from it, it made us all realise how much we liked playing music, and playing with other people, made us realise how much we liked playing with each other. we never really made any money, but it just worked. we felt that what we had always written together, even though we came from different aspects of music, that what made it work for us was the combination of these things coming together.

 

andy: were you still writing songs even when you were taking a break from things?

 

terrin: well, i was working probably between 10 – 13 hours a day, monday to friday for the last 3 years. and it was something that i thought about every day. not a day would go by where i wouldn’t think about writing new songs and thinking about music. i just never really found the time to put towards it. so after 3 years it was starting to get really frustrating, and i was itching to play music again. basically my job ended just at the exact same time that we were talking about making these 2 new songs, so it was perfect timing. we worked on the songs, and started writing them, and Tim (drummer) came down from San Francisco and then we got out our recording stuff, went to a friends house and recorded the drums. and then we had about a good month where we just would do the rest, working on vocals and adding everything. and we did it all at home, so it was the first time we really got to sit down and spend the time on each song, as far as what we wanted to add to it, rather than going and paying thousands of dollars for a couple of hours to record.

 

andy: where it’s more pressurised… so, do you think the music has kind of changed, or the same kind of direction that you were going in before?

 

terrin: these 2 new songs are pretty different, i think there’s, well, both of them are pretty slow. if you listen to like the old records, there’s some faster songs on them

 

andy: the records got slower from the first to the last…

 

terrin: yeah, but i that came from us getting older, so we’re all 27, 28 years old, when we started it was like 1992, and we were fresh out of high school, just getting out of our punk rock phase.

 

andy: (laughs) yeah, just make a noise…

 

terrin: yeah, we still had this noise, and not aggression, but we came from that punk rock…

 

andy: a bit more hardcore sounding…

 

terrin: yeah, even though i never considered us hardcore, or punk or anything like that. but we come from those roots.

 

andy: those were the kind of bands you were associated with, like you were on the Tree Records comp with all those other emo bands (Indian Summer, Embassy, Current…).

 

terrin: yeah, i mean that was maybe our 3rd or 4th song… so it was a natural progression that a lot of bands take as you start getting older. we don’t feel a need to play the hardest parts. it’s more about, i want to hear some music than i can relax to. i don’t want to feel that i am going crazy and on edge…. (pause) ….i don’t really know where i was going with that!

 

andy: that’s ok! you’ve played your first show back as a band, in San Diego?

 

terrin: actually, it was really really good. we played at this place called the Che Cafe in San Diego, and that was the place where i first started going to shows in high school. it didn’t even matter what bands were playing, we would just show up every friday night, ‘oh we gotta go to the che cafe’…

 

andy: just somewhere to hang out…

 

terrin: yeah, somewhere to hang out and see some bands we’ve never seen. so it was really comforting to come back and play our first show back in a place that we were really familiar with and a place that, for me, felt like it was my home. that was where i was seeing shows from day one. and it helped that it was a sold out show. people seemed really excited to see us again.

 

andy: it was encouraging that people still cared enough to come a long…

 

terrin: yeah, exactly.

 

andy: sorry! i just turned it off. (referring to the tape)

 

terrin: (into mic) unfortunately we went to starbucks. damn us! we try not to support corporate america.

 

andy: no! down with corporate america!

 

terrin: especially not a corporate america in europe!

 

andy: who don’t take your card.

 

terrin: exactly!

 

andy: we’ll go and fire bomb it later! (laughs) alright, so you’ve been over to europe with the Farewell Bend, very briefly. so how long were you over then?

 

terrin: we came over for a month.

 

andy: that’s quite a long time!

 

terrin: it wasn’t long enough!

 

andy: really? did you get to look around or just play, play, play?

 

terrin: it was pretty much like driving 8 hours from show to show. sit down and have dinner with people from the shows. when we first tried to come over we got stopped in dover, we didn’t have our working papers. and then finally they let us in. they sent us back from dover the first day – saying ‘no working papers, you’re kicked out of the country’. we paid something like $250 to get the ferry across. and then they sent us back and we spent the night in calais, france. and they put us in the holding cell for six hours in dover!

 

andy: like you’re an asylum seeker or something! (laughs)

 

terrin: we said to them, we’re not going to play any shows… but all of our places to stay are in the UK. so we can either go and sit in France for 6 days, or we can go and stay with the people we planned on staying with. so we lied, and played all the shows. and the only problem was, coming over to Europe this time. in my passport, it’s stamped that i’ve been denied.

 

andy: so you’re a marked man.

 

terrin: yeah, so the lady in customs was kinda giving us a hard time when we showed up.

 

andy: maybe she thought you were coming over to busk in the streets on your own.

 

terrin: yeah! she gave us the whole line of questionning on why we got kicked out before and she didn’t believe it! finally she gave Adrienne the 6 month stamp, and she looked at me, and, i don’t know, she wasn’t very nice… i don’t know where i am going with this story! (laughs) actually she asked if i had any friends in the UK, and i said, yeah, i have a friend in Norwich, but actually i pronounced it norwick. so she got mad! like ‘WHERE? WHERE DOES HE LIVE?”. i don’t know, Norwick, Norwich?

 

andy: yeah, it’s Norwich. it doesn’t look like it at all, a lot of people would say the same. it’s english names for you. (proceeds to talk about about Wymondham and Chichester)

 

terrin: ok, so i went to stonehenge yesterday, quite an amazing experience. we visited and saw all our hippy friends there (laughs)

 

andy: did they pass round any illicit substances for you?

 

terrin: oh, i wish! (laughs)

 

andy: dance around the stone circle…

 

terrin: oh yeah, pray to the druids. (there was then some random chat about these and woodhenge and seahenge too)

 

(terrin farts)

 

andy: i hope we got that! oh dear. erm, so are boilermaker going to start touring again?

 

terrin: i really want to. i think…

 

andy: (disgusted) that smells.

 

terrin: yeah, sorry about that. (laughs) we are actually supposed to do a US tour, and it seems like at the moment it’s not working out so we are kind of postponing that, and spending time making a new record. and i’m trying to work on getting something set up for europe. we’ve done the US like 4 or 5 times. i think touring over in europe with the Farewell Bend made me realise how awesome Europe is. it’s a different experience coming over to Europe. right next door you have people speaking different languages, and you can drive 2 or 3 hours to get to a different country. and it’s amazing coming over. today everythings so close because of the internet. but it’s just awesome to come over to different countries, and to have people who have heard of your music, whether it’s 1 person, 2 people, 20 or 100 people. it’s really a fantastic experience to know that somehow they’ve heard it. like we went to Prague, with Farewell Bend, and this kid who let us stay at his house… we were sitting there with nothing to do and i was flicking through his 7″ collection, to see what he was interested in. like what do kids in Prague listen to? and it was the weirdest thing, because i knew bands from every other record. like ‘i know that band’ and finally we got through and there was a Boilermaker 7″ in there. and i was ‘oh my god! how does this kind find this in czechoslavakia’ when there are kids 15 miles away from us who wouldn’t know about it. it’s amazing.

 

andy: cool. so you’re off to ireland, looking forward to that?

 

terrin: yeah, definitely. gonna go to dublin, go golfing! where it all originated.

 

andy: gonna get the big old trousers and funny hat.

 

terrin: yeah, Payne Stewart style.

 

andy: yeah, a bit of old school golf there.

 

terrin: we’re gonna go stay with Redneck Manifesto. give a shout out to Redneck Manifesto! bunch of great guys, fantastic band. they’re gonna put us up with a place to stay. stay a couple of days…

 

andy: sit in Irish bars? (laughs)

 

terrin: have some warm Guinness. (we then discuss beer)

 

andy: and then off to mainland Europe after that?

 

terrin: yeah, we’re gonna go pretty much all over. gonna stay with some people we met on the Farewell Bend tour. and we’ve rented a car and drive all round and sit in traffic.

 

andy: how do you find driving on the wrong side of the road over here? (laughs)

 

terrin: actually we weren’t planning on that! i think what made us rent the car was that we wanted to go see Stonehenge, rather than take a 6 hour bus ride. (we talk about driving and Terrin is proud he hasn’t driven the wrong way down any streets yet. then it all just goes all over the shop, talking about bowling alleys, and Toys R Us, Thunderbirds and Zippy from Rainbow, adverts before films, and it was all good fun but you probably don’t want to read this stuff!)

 

andy: so maybe you should start busking, put a hat down and people will come a long and pay you money. raise money for the rest of the tour

 

terrin: i thought about that. maybe that’s what boilermaker should do. a street tour.

 

andy: yeah! we get these guys coming over from Peru, dressed up in Peruvian gear with pan pipes and stuff!

 

terrin: would we need a permit for that?

 

andy: well it seems they let people in until it comes to the people who come to make money. there seems to be a kind of odd approach to it.

 

terrin: it’s because they want their cut. they don’t want people sneaking in and making money. (we then talk about VAT and taxes. woo woo! Terrin and Adrienne are pretty shocked at the 17.5% rate!)

 

terrin: screw the government!

 

andy: bring it down!

 

terrin: screw Starbucks, don’t eat at McDonalds, especially with all this mad cow going on. you just don’t wanna eat it.

 

andy: a bit of punk rock thrown in there.

 

terrin: 3 cheers for the punk rockers! (laughs)

 

andy: enjoyed norwich then?!

 

terrin: i loved norwich.

 

(terrin farts violently)

 

adrienne: eww.

 

andy: can’t take him anywhere. i hope your bed and breakfast room isn’t too small.

 

adrienne: we had seperate beds actually!

 

andy: did you request that? (laughs)

 

terrin: it’s all they had left.

 

andy: they didn’t give you the honeymoon suite? (laughs)

 

adrienne: no (laughs). the honeymooners have seperate beds (laughs)

 

andy: ok!

 

terrin: thank you very much!

 

andy: it’s been great!

 

terrin: thanks for showing us round norwich!

 

andy: awesome! (laughs)

an interview with What Price, Wonderland?

Interview w/ WHAT PRICE, WONDERLAND? was made 28 September 2009.

First published in JUST LIKE CAREBOO zine in January’ 2010.
Questions by Sergey and Anton.
Answers by Joe, Andy and James.

1/What is that “wonderland”? Tell us about it. How to get there and what is the price?

Joe – The wonderland doesn’t exist, the name infact was one of the many “hey that sounds kinda cool and as if it means something” type names bands have, it’s a chapter from a book. Andy will tell you more.
Andy – In all honesty, Joe summed it up pretty well. The name is a chapter from the book ‘Weaveworld’ by Cliver Barker, which is the same book the band On the Might of Princes stole their name from (their name is also a chapter in the book). Around the time we started the band, we were struggling for a name and i was reading the book, i saw the title of the chapter and thought… “hey, sounds good”. I suppose it has some kind of deeper meaning, but you can read what you want into it. I really and truly believe that half of the excitement in life comes from working those kinds of things out for yourself, even if your ‘interpretation’ isn’t the same as everyone elses.
James – Agreed in terms of what Andy was saying about interpreting the name for yourselves.  I mean, I’m sure we all have our own ideas about what it could mean – to me I like the ambiguity of it; of a so-called “wonderland” that people spend their time struggling towards, consuming and consuming, doing increasingly spurious and anti-social things.  It’s like, “what won’t some people do to get what they think they want?” – kinda like how I feel about the band name “To What End?”.  That’s what I take from it anyway, the idea I guess is to take from it whatever you want.
2/ Tell about your band. Your names, age, instruments you prefer… What are the other interests in your life except WPW? job, studying, your hobbies? And how did you get together?
Joe – Im Joe Caithness and I am a 22 year old who feels about 45. I play guitar, until recently I was a Youth Worker but I quit when becoming jaded/bullied from my job, and started Subsequent Mastering, a mastering house based in my home town of Nottingham, UK.
Andy – I’m andy hemming, i’m also 22. i play bass in the band and i just began training as a secondary school teacher (ages 11-18). life is pretty hectic with that right now as i am essentially a full-time student who also works in a school 8am-5pm every day also. it’s tough but really rewarding work. outside of that, i try to find as much time as possible for my girlfriend, drawing and to relax i’m a big video-game nerd. i still live at home with my parents, in a small village called studley.
Joe – How we got together is a long one, but basically me and Andy went to high school together and me and James were in a band when we were 11(!), me and James got chatting after years of not seeing eachother and realise we both liked At The Drive-In and Burning Airlines and started jamming. We must have been 14 or something, we’ve played under many different names: The Entropy Therapy, Boy With No Arms, The Snowman, (just) Snowman. Our first show was with The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Army of Flying Robots in Worcester, UK, we were dreadful!
Andy – but thankfully nobody watched us so no one remembers how bad we were!
Joe – I don’t think many people even want to remember their early teenage bands, we just happened to be really good mates so carried on playing, growing up and renaming ourselves bit by bit. It’s mostly because no one round our area liked good music, and the people who were “into” music were a bit pretentious for my liking.
James – That’s pretty much all the band stuff covered…I’m James Wright, I’m 22 and I play drums and shout at the back.  I recently finished a degree in History, focusing on West Africa.  I am currently looking for work, which is impeded by needing to do community service every Friday because the police hate me.  I am about 2/3s through 150 hours so far.  I used to be more involved with political activism, but since all of this police stuff, I have not been able to be involved recently – but  I also play drums occassionally with friends in London and I love reading and videogames.
2a/I know you’ve been together for a long time. What was your initial idea to get together? What kind of music you played at the beginning? Is what you are doing now a result of development of your music preferences or is it the music you always wanted to do?
Joe – I guess we got together out of boredom really, we’ve been going almost 7 or 8 years in some shape or form. Funnily enough the music we played to begin with is within the same “genre” we play in now, although we were REALLY trying to be Emo, not really influenced by any other music, whereas now I think our influences are more precise and at the same time more varied. What we are doing now just kinda “makes sense” to us I think, we learned how to make our instruments sound better, we worked out how to write better songs, and hopefully it shows. I REALLY don’t want to be in an “emo” band, to me the E word is a kinda wierd, it’s my favourite type of music, but people forget it’s a sub genre of a sub genre and it was a wave of music which has happened. I hate revivalism, and although I appreciated anyone liking our music, I hope too many people don’t think were trying to “bring anything back”. Andy Malcolm of Collective-zine hear our second LP (“it is true it is shakey”) for the first time and said “Whats up with all the “art-funk”?” and then a week or two later he said “nah I get it now”… I think that sums up what we’re going for! I find stuff like Desperate Bicycles, Scritti Polliti and Wire just as much an influence on WPW? as Mohinder, Assfactor4, Cap’n Jazz etc, which people seem to hear more. I love that raw, stripped down, dreamy but noisy punk. I don’t think we’re alone at seeing these two era of music as easily blended, just look at bands like Tubers, Reds and earlier on Calvary. Sorry, that’s a really long answer!
Andy – I think the music we’re making now is really a culmination of what all three of us have always wanted to do. When we were younger we argued a lot more about what should or shouldn’t go into a song stylistically and now I think we’re all a lot more comfortable and relaxed about making music so it flows a lot more nicely. The thing I absolutely enjoy the most about being in this band is that we constantly push each other to write better and more complex songs, it keeps things fresh and exciting. Not many bands of our style have stuck around for as long as we have, so I really see that as quite a huge achievement, it’s a testament to our commitment to making it work despite all our other commitments and the distances we live apart from each other. Frankly I suppose the very nature of the way the band exists (irregular practises and even more irregular shows) has contributed to that in a strange way, we haven’t had time to get sick and tired of it just yet.
James – Yeah, the distance and irregular practicing force us to push eachother to make music when we get together, but I think it also gives us time to stew in our own music tastes for long periods of time before we get back together.  Like Andy and Joe have said, practices used to be quite functional when we were teenagers – always about wanting to make a song that sounds like “x” band, or “x” style.  Now it is more like we appreciate that the roots of our band are in “emo”, but also not shutting out music, and embracing the wideness of it the older we’ve got and how our tastes have changed individually.  When we don’t get to play together much, the time is too short for us to just sit there and ‘force’ a song out in a deliberate way – nowadays the songs just kind of happen, and there’s enough of each of our own tastes in their to keep us all (mostly) happy with everything.  I also find it exciting to hear other bands’ take on things coming out of the moment, and really wanting to be involved in the interesting blends going on at the moment.  As Joe said, bands like Tubers and Reds, but also Brainworms, Dead Friends, Marc Antony…lots of bands who clearly like and listen to a lot of 90s emo, but have brought their own tastes down on top of it and have creative fun with it.
3/As far as I know your band is from Stratford-Upon-Avon. And you’ve got a song on your first LP devoted to the place where you speak rather unflatteringly about the town as far as I understood. Could you describe if there is really to much shit as you sing in the song? (“i walked through the shit / and it fucked my shoe”). Do you have any favorite places there? Do you want to move from there? And if you moved where would you live?

Joe – Well, the lyric in that song is actually about Nottingham, it’s a comparison, the song reads a direct comparison between my two “homes”, me justifying why I am leaving one for the other. Stratford is dead to me, it holds nothing for me now my parents have left it.
James – Me and Joe used to hang out and get drunk in Stratford a lot when we were younger – and I empathise with what he’s saying, in terms how the place holds nothing for us.  The “shit” is not so much physical – a lot of it is very pretty, and I would stress that the place has a lot of good memories for me – but we’re all just disconnected from it now.  It is more that it just represents to us a place where nothing “happened” – we tried to make stuff happen there, it didn’t work – it just felt like a place where if you stayed there any longer, you’d just vegetate and end up doing nothing, just being bored and getting drunk every Friday.  I guess lots of people have local towns like that – where you kinda feel like if you don’t leave now, you never ever will.
4/My favorite song from you record “Thirty With A Wink” is Staring At Shit Soldiers In A Shit Cave. At the beginning I did not distinguish that song until one of my friends translated the lyrics of it to me. Though I can’t understand the meaning of its title. What does it mean and what is it all about?
Joe – The song is another one of my lyrics. The lyrics was written in Derby, UK, where my girlfriend used to live, I was bored and walking into a Museum, which was free, then I realised how all this shit was paid for by our parents and past generations, and how they want us to know their past, and they have made it available to us and we should use it. It’s a very positive song.
Andy – shame you can’t play it without fucking up the intro!
James – LOL.  But yes, I agree – even in the most contrived monuments to our past, there’s real life there, there are questions to be raised and explored, and we should cherish what’s been left as something to examine and pose discussions, rather than just relics.
5/I have not translated the lyrics from your recent album. Can you describe what’s the difference between these records for you? In what conditions you’ve made both your first and second albums? What was your life background during the process of recording?

Joe – “Thirty with a Wink” was kind of the capturing of our youthfulness, it’s us trying to capture where we have got to until then. It’s a nice introuction, “Shakey” is more like: “ok well this is what we can do when we plan something from scratch”. Seperate people said we got “funkier”, “faster”, “slower”, “more hardcore, “less hardcore”… which I guess means we did something right on that record. I am really proud of it. It’s like 19 minutes long too! I guess “Shakey” had a little bit more “I want to do this kinda song..” from each member of the band, I think it’s a quite democratic record influences wise… almost all the vocals on Shakey are improvised too, which is how we do them now.
Andy – At least for me, Shakey was a lot more fun to record. There sort of came a point where we became infinitely more comfortable making music than we were when we recorded 30 With a Wink and I think that is really reflected in Shakey. The songs are kind of all over the place, but so are we as friends and as a band. So much of Shakey was more or less made up as we went along, we can’t play a lot of the songs anymore and one of the songs was even totally improvised from start to finish in the studio (Cacombs). It sounds like I’m saying that is a bad thing I guess but I absolutely feel the opposite way, I’m incredibly proud of that record as it really feels in some ways like we put a large part of ourselves onto the record without any pretentions or ulterior motives.
James – Definitely agree with both of you.  Like with Shakey as Joe pointed out, friends and people online and whatnot, would often be like “what’s with the change?” and all of this.  And its weird, because we can 100% say that none of us sat down and decided to make a different “sound” or force something new.  That LP is just the result of the three of us going off on our own, being busy, still loving music, coming back together as three friends when we could, and just seeing what happened – all of our lives were hectic and a bit messy, and I guess the inconsistency of the track styles reflect this.  Lyrically, there’s not a whole lot of difference.  We have always just written songs almost spur of the moment about something we’ve seen or thought about recently, or new feelings and changes in our lives.  I don’t think we have ever really tried to fit them to a “theme” of our the song worked musically – apart from maybe on the title track of Shakey, I guess – lyrically it is still just us venting on our own, and then desperately trying to separate those words into lines, and force them into the song structure.  I mean, there are a couple of tracks off Shakey, and other releases, that all stem from one long “song” I wrote when I was in a bad mood thinking about a lot of stuff, which we just cut about and used for different songs.
6/Do you like the band The Smashing Pumpkins? You music remains me of that band, it’s not about melodies but about some kind of spirit, the general mood. Do you listen to so-called main stream bands or you prefer only DIY-bands? What band was the main impression for you recently?

Joe – 1979 is a nice tune, other than that, don’t like em at all. Far from an influence to us. Oh man of course we listen to “main stream” music, I mean where is the dividing line even. “punk” is something we chose to operate with, it just makes sense, we havn’t conscripted to it, we don’t get a punk newsletter telling us what we can and can’t like. I like lots of pop songs, not so much albums, but I like that bat For Lashes song “Daniel”, it reminds me of Siouxsie and Kate Bush, two artists I admire. We all LOVE Alphabeat’s Fascination too, it makes me want to dance like a blonde Scandinavian indie girl.
Andy – I only really like the Smashing Pumpkin’s slow and dreary songs, which kind of sums up a lot of the music I like – miserable! I’m definitely with Joe on my ethos toward ‘punk’ music though, I enjoy a lot of it but I refuse to see it as some kind of rule-set to live my life. Not to say I don’t agree with and prescribe to many of the ideals shared by punks, but especially when it comes to music I tend to look much further for things to fill up my life. I can’t say enough about ‘Fascination’, what a song.
James – Definiely agree with Joe and Andy.  We all love punk and DIY – but to me “punk”, whilst acknowledging the musical connotations, is more than anything just a set of ideals, principles, ethics that all three of us broadly agree with and have a lot of time for.  I love the punk community and the sense of giving a shit, helping each-other out, not ripping each-other off and generally gearing our behaviour in a social-centric way when modern competitive society expects us all to accept a manufactured “dog-eat-dog” as some kind of definitive human nature or other bullshit.  Similarly to the other guys, whilst I listen to a lot of stuff within the broad “punk” scene, I certainly don’t limit my tastes to not liking the music of a band because they are not DIY – just because I might not like a band’s huge major label, doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t enjoy dancing to it.  And anyhow, with the internet, its not like you have to give them any of your money…
7/ On the covers of your LPs there are people without faces. On the first LP there is a man with a plate “product” instead of his eyes. And on the second LP there is a man with an octopus head. What does it mean? Is the cover design of your releases important for you? Who is the designer of your covers?

Joe – Andy will explain this best, although the octopus is a joke, we thought it would look hilarious but people might take it seriously. Pretty shakey shit eh?
Andy – The cover for 30 With a Wink was definitely one of those moments of artistic ‘happy accidents’, it was a doodle I did at Uni – Joe liked it, I brushed it up a little and ultimiately it became the cover for the record. When we were talking about the artwork for Shakey we talked about how it would be cool to keep a consistent ‘theme’ with our record covers and so the idea of having a ‘character’ on each record which obviously links to the artwork for 30 With a Wink. As far as the character itself, the whole record was kind of based on this semi-serious of idea of ‘shakiness’ which is to do with the way everything in the world is inherently shakey (electrons and all that good stuff), so we had the idea of some kind of crazy scientist. Joe said “can you make a dude with an octopus’ head, in a tweed suit going “HAROO!”?” and so I did. The real story behind the lack of human faces is mostly that I don’t like drawing faces unless I’m just drawing a face, so in any figurative work I have done in the past few years I’ve always used animal’s heads. There are definitely some elements of symbolism in there, but largely it is also just something I find aesthetically pleasing – not to mention I absolutely LOVE ‘Une Semaine de Bonté’ by Max Ernst.
8/Your band releases remain me of books by Jules Verne and Lovecraft (may be it comes from my association with octopus-head man). Did this authors influence you in any way? Do you like reading books and poems? What are your favorite authors?

Joe – I’ve never heard of them I’m afraid. I’ve probably read one and a half books in my life, I suffer from dislexia and find it impossible to read or write more than a page without getting angry and smashing stuff.. wierd eh…
Andy – I like reading, but I’m not much into fantasy writing so I haven’t read any Lovecraft to be honest. I also don’t read all that much, but I’d say my favourite authors are Haruki Murakami, Brett Easton Elis, Terry Pratchet and Charles Bukowski.
James – Similarly, I am not really into fantasy stuff…but am psyched on that massive MMORPG coming out soon inspired by the Lovecraft books if that helps…?  Probably not.  But I do love reading – I don’t read enough fiction or poetry, but there are people I like a lot – like DBC Pierre, Bukowski, Fante, Robert Frost, Salman Rushdie.  But in terms of the influence on the band’s stuff, the main influence I take to the band (bar just things which happen in my day to day life) are reactions and feelings I get to the stuff I read most – history/politics/philosophy/aesthetics.  I really enjoy authors who are pre-disposed towards uncovering the constructions that dominate the everyday patterns of life that we take for granted or passively resent – particular writers like Raoul Vaneigem and Hakim Bey.  I am also really inspired lyrically by the brave and trail-blazing writers in academia who break down the walls (WOAAAAAAH YEAHAHAHA) of “African” history, deconstructing the colonialist traits that have affected our knowledge of the continent for so long, and treating the subject matter and the people involved with respect and equality, and fundamentally, neutrality – particularly Inikori, Tom McCaskie, Basil Davidson…Sorry, this is going on for ages…I don’t think any of us deliberately read books for inspiration, but when something “clicks” its nice to have the band as an outlet for your opinion on what you’ve read, or what something’s meant to you.
9/How often do you take part in gigs? What cities and countries did you visit with shows? Do you communicate with the listeners after the shows with pleasure? Do grateful listeners buy you
beer?:)
Joe – Rarely, we all live in different cities, it’s nigh on impossible, we can write and record an LP in about two weeks though, so we mostly just do that! We did just do a sick mini tour with Leeds geek super heroes TWISTED, Jon from them writes some seriously sick tunes, you should check his old bands FACEL VEGA and STATE RUN too.
Andy – Not enough sadly. It is always nice to talk to people after we play, though it doesn’t happen that often – can’t say I blame anyone who doesn’t fancy talking to three sweaty guys though. I haven’t been bought a beer yet! Here’s hoping.
James – Haha, yeah, buy us beer if you don’t think we suck in your town!  In the rare times we get to play, we mainly play in northern England, but have been in Germany, France, Slovenia, Scotland, Belgium…touring in Europe was life-changing for all three of us – we had such a great time and I think we were stunned by just how friendly, helpful and well organised the shows were.  That’s not to say that that doesn’t exist in England, it does – its just weird for three friends to go all that way, to countries we have never been, and be treated as friends.  Up the punks.
10/Do you often get letters with some kind of feedback from kids who listened to your records? Do you take into consideration any criticism of other people? Or you prefer to create the music on your own absolutely intuitive according to the demands of you souls?

Joe – We get emails, yeah. We never take critism on our music, who does though? I produce our records so it’s not a matter of someone in that role picking the songs etc.
James – We don’t really get many explicit complaints or anything, but regardless – I think we’d be pretty unhappy people if we were just making music people told us to do.  What’s the point in being in a band if its not “yours”?
11/Can you describe your process of songwriting? Do you make lyrics and music separately?

Joe – We all write lyrics, often not together though. Songs generally start with an idea, and we improvise around it for a bit, argue about the time signature, then play it thru, deciede if it sounds shit, if it doesn’t we keep it and try it out live. We DONT have calculators for this…we’re not a “math band”. We were using a sheet of James’ lyrics for years, he can explain that one to you!
Andy – It’s generally a process of friendly, yet heated debate. An ultimately rewarding one though, since (at least for me) the thought process for writing and learning one of our songs is generally trying to get from “I ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT PLAY THIS SONG” to “I ABSOLUTELY LOVE PLAYING THIS SONG”.
James – That’s pretty much it, yeah.  As for that lyric sheet Joe mentioned, this was just this double side of A4 that I had scrawled all over upstairs when there was a house party in my old house.  I was in a bad mood for some reason, and wanted to write stuff down – that flowed over 2 pages, and not knowing what to do with them, decided they might be useful as lyrics, and typed all of it up.  To this day, as our songs are often only a few lines long, we still find stuff from that mass which we can use.
12/Thank you guys for the interview. Here you can say to the readers everything you want or to share with your latest news, anything you want.

Joe – Hopefully we’re writing our third LP now, we will see. We just recorded a split 7″ with TWISTED, it’s our fastest, shortest, most awkward sounding stuff to date. I want to make songs for people who like clever tunes to listen to drunk and bang their knees.
Andy – Hopefully once I settle into my teaching course we can practise again…
James – Excited for the TWISTED split, there stuff is sounding brilliant, and I am really happy with our stuff going onto it, so look out for that if you’re into that kind of thing.  I am mainly going to try and stay out of jail, and maybe try and get us to practice some time soon
From Anton: And the last: there is a video on youtube.com of you performing a “new song” as it is written there, its about 5mins. I really love it. What’s the title of it? Was it ever recorded or will it be? Could you please send me the lyrics.

Joe – That tune is called “Residence”, pretty sure it will never come out, it has a 8 minute plus outro.
Andy – I’m pretty sure that song is lost forever, but don’t tell James.
James – Pffff… IT SHALL RETURN.  Really glad you like the song Anton – I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find the lyrics though.  It is definitely called Residence though, and if I can find the lyrics/work them out, i’ll definitely e-mail them to you.  This is the problem with not being able to practice much..!

an interview with Mazes

it would not be over-exaggerating to say Mazes is one of my favourite UK bands at this moment in time. they are rather marvelous. they do DIY pop music of a sort. you can listen to them here if you like. and read about them below…

So, Mazes, who is lost within the friendly confines of Hampton Court?

We don’t seem to have settled on a line up really. The first things we recorded were just me, my girlfriend Claire, Jay and Jarin… then Jay left and Neil joined, Claire got too busy. And then now our friend Conan is gonna start playing second guitar…it’s transient I suppose, but that can be nice. I like to think we’ll hit on a formula soon.

How long have you been doing this music thing, is Mazes your first band that’s put a record out?

For all intents and purposes

Sex Is Disgusting is a clued up label, how did you wind up hooking up with those chaps?

Well we were based in Manchester initially and honestly there weren’t any like minded bands when we started or we didn’t really know any. A friend of ours Paul had a bizarre job ghostwriting a music blog for Alan McGee (true story) and he wrote about Mazes in a post about Wavves. I think James from Sex Is Disgusting stumbled upon it and liked what he heard. At that point we’d only recorded a handful of songs and we’d never played a show. They booked us to play with Wavves and Pens in Brighton and asked us to do a single…that was like 18 months ago.

Your latest 7″ is DIY / self released, why did you decide to put your own record out and are you hoping to release other bands music as well? How are you going about distributing it?

I’m fortunate enough to work for a really cool guy in Manchester who owns a place called The Deaf Institute… He was like ‘we should start a label’ so we did, the Mazes seven being the first release so I didn’t fuck up anyone else’s record. As far as distribution’s concerned I dunno…we just write people and see if they want it. We have sevens lined up for two Manchester bands called Former Bullies and Milk Maid and then a tape for Brown Brogues… there’s a vagues plan to do a Colleen Green seven which I’m psyched about.

You guys seem to be pretty out on a limb, I’m not sure there’s much around at the moment that you easily fit with. Which is a good thing! What other bands do you play shows with, is there a cross over with DIY punk and hardcore bands, or are you tending to get lumped in with the whole lo-fi indie thing?

We’ve got pretty picky with shows because we’ve played a load that have been promoted badly… we like playing with our friends bands but apart from that, we just need to not lose money and get enough beers to keep us happy.

What do you get out of being in a band, what keeps you going, and holds your interest?

Personally it’s become like a compulsion I spose and it just makes me really happy, most aspects anyway. We’ve had a couple of deals thrown our way and one in particular would’ve enabled us to do this a little more seriously… we’re not purist idiots but we pissed them off and they got sick of us. We had to have a big think about why we do it and what they could offer us just didn’t seem like something that’d make us happy… I mean we’re ambitious but not at the expense of certain things.

Trying hard to work out how to phrase this next one without coming across like a complete jerk – but it seems to me that whenever there’s a new trend in the US (i.e. Captured Tracks etc…) that a lot of bands can pop up in the UK doing kind of the same thing. Do you think that is a terrible blanket generalisation? Are UK bands a lot more autonomous than my gut instinct would suggest, or do bands trend hop?

Yeah maybe… but I think that’s the fault of the british music industry and the press…all that’s changing obviously and it’s getting to the point where we’re all on an even playing field. It’s just as easy for someone in London to hear a new LA band as it is for someone in LA. The DIY scene is the US has been around for years and now UK bands realise that that’s a good way of doing things…people are beginning to see that making music to ‘get signed’ is short sighted bullshit… and completely futile obviously.

This somewhat pointless penultimate question is a holdover from when I first did interviews on this website about 11 years ago… what is your favourite weather condition?

Muggy

What does the future hold for Mazes? Is there anything you’d like to add at this point? Thanks for dealing with this shit!

Gonna sort ourselves out…another seven soon, a 30 song tape album on Italian Beach Babes and then record an album proper over the summer.

an interview with Sauna Youth

sauna youth is a punk band, they have a 7″ out. they have a website. here is some words what i asked them and some words what they told me.

Sauna Youth. So, who’s sitting around in the steam with a towel on their lap?

We have Murphy, lounging back on a deep red number, thrown so carelessly around him as to barely conceal his dignity. Next to him Reza relaxes with an Azure shade wrapped around his waist, handling the coals, frequently and steadily keeping the temperature high and the steam strong. Lindsay, with his Aubergine towel, perched at the back keeps the conversation animated whilst sipping on an exquisitely constructed mojito cocktail. I, Richard, stand and sweat in white.

How did this come about? It would appear that several of you chaps did “time” in pop punk / melodic hardcore bands. How did you get from that to this, and why are you all bumming around in a DIY punk band, what keeps you doing this shit?

I once asked a man who had been working at CERN for the last 30 years how something like the Large Hadron Collider could ever be conceived, what is the starting point for something like that? and he replied, “2 people sitting around drinking coffee”. He also laughed in my face when I asked if anyone knew how it worked.  It’s all just different variations on pop songs really. I think the transition from what we were doing before was quite natural. With Sauna Youth we wanted to experiment more, not back ourselves into a corner with the music or lyrics, employ a more diverse range of things that actually influence us but it still be a punk band. Also, we really wanted to be in a band that sounded like the Undertones or The Ramones. I think we might be failing in this respect but i’m ok with that.  Why do we still do this? That is a very good question indeed! We’ve all done “time” in a number of other bands, I think there’s been a 2 week period of my life in 13 years when I haven’t been in a band. Often it can feel like bumming around for sure when you’re involved with DIY punk rock but it’s only when you peer outside it’s walls do you realise the freedom that exists within it. It’s good to feel like you’re a part of a network and community that can exist outside of the more conventional means.

The seven inch is based around the concept of youth. I want to ask you a bunch of questions about this! How old are the folk in the band and do you consider yourself youthful?

Ah, now that would be telling… I will say that ¾ of us are falling off the wrong end of our twenties though. I think we all still definitely consider ourselves youthful, the world still fascinates us and we all still collectively do something that we’ve been doing since we were teenagers.

Does one stop being youthful when they hit a certain age? How important do you think it is to maintain such an outlook? Can it conflict with growing up and is being mature a good thing? What if you’re like the Get Up Kids and still farting about in 10 years time, would the band name still be appropriate?

There’s that benjamin Franklin quote, “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing” I would stand by that wholeheartedly. My nan is 87 and still plays bowls, won her last 2 matches, and she works for her local meals on wheels delivering food to people that are 10-15 years younger than her. The conflict? I don’t necessarily think that there has to be one, maturity in my eyes is more to do with taking responsibility for yourself and learning that experience should come pretty early in life. It’s like if you’re a kid and you act like a dick and blame your behaviour on other people, your friends will eventually see through it and won’t want to play with you anymore. I think there’s a difference between that and running around and shouting just for the fun of it. If we’re about in 10 years time the band name would be wholly inappropriate but all the better for it.

I am fully behind the fact that you put your own record out. Was it a collective effort from all the band? How are you going about distributing it and how has the experience been?

Thanks. The whole thing has been pretty self-contained, down to recording, mixing, putting together & printing the artwork. We were going to scrape together the money ourselves but we played up in Cambridge for our friend and he heard about the record & said he would lend us the money to put it out, so that was great. It also has given us a good incentive to really work at selling them so we can pay him back. So far the experience has been great, especially as where I live, in Brighton, there are such a wealth of great record shops. Getting to wander about going into the Punker Bunker, Resident, Rounder and Edgeworld records hocking our gear and talking to the people that work there has been wonderful. It’s also good having distros and shops that we buy records from ourselves taking copies.

Good idea with the female backing vocals that feel wonderfully out of place. Who’s idea was this and was there any particular reason to add something that is perhaps not what people would expect to hear?

It’s either a very considered, well thought-out idea coming from a love of girl groups from the 50’s & 60’s with a view to eventually having a trio of singers on stage with us, or an off the cuff experiment in which an acquaintance was harangued into singing along to something she’d never heard before in her life. Or both. There are very particular reasons for adding unexpected elements to the music, we’re not attempting to introduce any new sub-sub-genres but we’d like to make things more interesting for ourselves. Also, eating peanut butter with celery AND/OR cheese and honey on toast.

Bizarre old question I used in a bunch of old interviews when the C was the most emo thing in the world: what is your favourite weather condition?

Sitting in the shade in a crisp sun-soaked park with a mild breeze flowing through.

Thanks for doing this. What next for Sauna Youth? Anything else you’d like to add? Stay youthful!

Thanks for the interview. We have a 3 song tape coming out on Suplex Cassettes in the next few months, called “MAD MIND”. After that there’s talk of doing a 7” with Sex is Digusting. We’re going to be recording our LP “DREAMLANDS” over summer and hopefully we’ll work out a way of putting that out soon after. Always!