Saturday, 13 October 2018

Active Slaughter: Back And Still Bothered.



Photo courtesy of AS. Photograph by Lara Homaidan.
Formed in 2001 Active Slaughter released two albums, Ave a Butchers (2003) and 4t2ude (2009) plus an EP Smash HLS (2002) before they disbanded and took an enforced hiatus in 2010. But they are back! Reforming in 2016 they released  the EP Tomorrow’s Too Late in 2017 with 3 tracks that confirm that Active Slaughter have lost none of their compassion, vision and sense of outrage. Prophetic in a society where a media savvy alt right have been mainstreamed and the destructive has been accepted Active Slaughter, now comprised of JJ on vocals, Trev on drums, Trystan on guitar and Mark on bass, are an important voice. With a new album on the way it seemed like a good time for an update on how things are going for the band!      

Could you give us an overview of Active Slaughter's story so far? There has been two chapters haven't there, 2001-10 and then you reformed in 2016 (1)?
JJ: Formed in 2001 and disbanded in 2010 just before I went to prison (Animal Liberation).  Reformed in 2016. I’m sure we would have reformed sooner but as part of my licence conditions I was not allowed to do Active Slaughter as we were seen as too political/extreme. So I was told by an anti extremist Scotland Yard officer, who was overseeing my probation, that if I did Active Slaughter whilst I was on licence my licence would be revoked and I would be returned to prison.
So reforming had to wait due to prison and licence conditions.
From the first era we released two albums and a single. From the second era we have released a single so far and we’re currently recording a new album which should hopefully be released for December.
The original lead vocalist didn’t want to do the band again so I stepped up to lead vocals since the reform. Previously I was on guitar and backing vocals. Trev is still on Drums, I’m not sure I could ever play with anyone else on drums, probably because I never have done!
When we reformed in 2016 Phil and Jeannie stepped in on guitar and bass but then we had a lineup change in 2017 and Trystan (Lost Cherrees) and Mark (Liberty) took over on bass and guitar. We have a solid line up now and they’re also really good friends of ours.

Are you all in other bands as well? Did I spot a Lost Cherrees and Mindframe connection?  
Trev: I’m in Mindframe (and Anthrax) and Trystan’s in the Lost Cherrees.

Trys: I’ve also just joined Left For Dead on bass cos I’m trying to be in as many bands as Trev!

What were the main reasons for reforming? Music, message, relationships?
JJ: All three of the above!

Where would you place Active Slaughter politically? Anarchist, or do different members hold different positions and political thought is always evolving so reluctant to attach a label to yourselves?
JJ: I would say as a band and each one of us hold a lot of views that could be regarded as anarchist views. Whether we’re all anarchists or not I’m not sure. I don’t really regard myself as an anarchist as such as I don’t really like to attach a label and I also think to be an anarchist you must have a lot of faith in the human race, I personally don’t.

Your most recent single 'Tomorrow's Too Late' came out last year on Grow Your Own Records, and you're playing on their Mini Tour later in the year. Are they a label you have a particular affinity with?
Trev: I’ve known Gary who does Grow Your Own Records (and who’s the vocalist in Anthrax) for about a million years and know that he’s a sound bloke, so when he started the label it seemed kinda logical that we’d be on it. It’s a great, completely DIY label that has quite a diverse set of bands on it, which is another factor I personally like a lot.

Your songs deal with a range of political and social issues, I think that most recent single engaged with animal rights (whaling and vivisection) and scandals around sexual abuse (1). Have you found your songwriting deals with different subjects since you reformed or similar subjects but different perspectives as it is six years on?
JJ: I think the same sort of views but I would say maybe some different perspectives, but only slightly, from the first era which ended 8 years ago.

Trev: Unfortunately a lot of the stuff we sing about hasn’t changed much in all the years we’ve been doing the band, so the subject matter is largely the same now as it was in 2000. The perspectives might change slightly but generally it’s stuff that we wish we didn’t have to be singing about nearly 20 years down the line.

What influences your lyric writing, reading, personal experience, discussion?
JJ: Lyric writing anything from the 1980s through to the modern era of anarcho punk. There have been and are some great bands.  

Trev: For me it’s a bit of all the above.

Is there much of a change in the Active Slaughter sound between 2010 and 2018?
JJ: I would say quite a bit yes. I enjoy the new AS a lot more than the old. I think musically we are a lot tighter and better now as well. Our music has slightly changed in that the sound is quite a bit more “harder” than it used to be.

Trev: The new line up pisses over everything we’ve done before.

Trys: I know this one is more for JJ and Trev, but since joining I’ve loved the way we’ve all worked together, and reckon any change in the AS sound reflects the way we’ve all been able to have an input on the songs old and new.




You were in the studio recently-can we expect a new Active Slaughter release soon?
JJ: Oh yes! It will be a 12” released on Grow Your Own Records.

As an anti-fascist band what do you think of the call by some, including John McDonnell, for a reconstituting of the ANL and RAR to combat the reemergence of the far right? Good idea or completely different situation to the late '70s/early '80s with a need for a different response?
JJ: I think as with animal rights, fascism and racism should be tackled on all fronts and everywhere. So anything that does this I support and can only be a good thing.

As a band who play all over the UK how do you read the political mood in Britain, have people realised austerity is class struggle, appropriation through dispossession, and are ready for a change?
JJ: I think if it wasn’t for the Daily Mail, The Sun and all the other scum I think the political mood of the country would be a lot better. But instead, these newspapers influence and brainwash a lot of the working class into thinking that immigration and Muslims are the reason why the country is in such as mess.
Of course there is still a massive opposition to all this and there are still many who believe in class struggle instead of race war but unfortunately it’s not enough to bring about the change we all desire.

Is the punk scene still something that encourages social/political activism, it's DIY ethic encouraging involvement in wider society or is it more that those already concerned find a 'home' in punk ?
JJ: I definitely think it does yeah. Not just in the U.K. but all around the world. There seems to be still a good load of the younger generation coming through as well. Of course those of that state of mind will also find a home in punk, maybe this is why we all did? But punk still encourages this sort of thing and I believe it opens our minds up, especially when we connect with other people who often have much to teach and tell us.

Which way round has it worked for you, did punk encourage you to stay engaged, Active Slaughter as a musical expression of the rest of your lives, or were you 'brought to consciousness' by punk?
JJ: I would say both of the above! Punk has had an influence on me definitely.
I would say though it’s actually been more the friends I have met over the years through punk than the bands I have listened too.

Trev: I think I was “brought to consciousness” by punk originally but Active Slaughter has definitely been a vent for the views, opinions and hopes that I have for certain things.

In an interview earlier this year a band commented that their radical politics had scared off local promoters and prevented them from getting gigs (2). Have you had any similar experiences?
JJ: I know for a fact previously (and maybe still today) our views on animal liberation has had an effect on not getting some gigs. But then again it has also got us a load of gigs. It’s always going to happen I guess when a promoter lets their views get in the way of putting on a gig. Of course to some extent though I guess we all have to do that sometimes!

Is there always a tension in the punk scene between those who see punk as inherently political and those who wish it was just vapid loud fast music plus fashion accessories?
JJ: I’m not sure if there’s a tension over this. There is often a tension though if the latter decide to spurt out racist, sexist, homophobic nonsense of course, or when they say they just sit on the fence (we all know which side that means they lean to!)

As musicians involved in punk for a couple of decades how is the DIY punk scene doing, have you been encouraged by it's evolution?
JJ: From what I’ve seen there are a lot of young people putting on gigs and playing in bands still. The punk sound with the younger generation seems to have changed quite a bit over the years, but the spirit still seems to be there.

What bands/musicians have you been enjoying lately?
JJ: I wish I could get out more often and see more bands but I’m quite a busy person so often the only gigs I can get to are those I’m playing at. I’ve really been enjoying Mindframe in recent years (Trev’s other band) we often play together so I get to see them play a lot and I never get bored with them. Their new stuff is fantastic as are all the new Anthrax releases, Bug Central, Shot, Jawless, Grand Collapse, Eastfield, Oi Polloi.... loads of bands. Hopefully Lost Cherrees and Liberty will have something new out soon, which I can enjoy also. Lads?!? 

Trys: Loads of stuff, and agree with all of JJ’s, and particularly like Grand Collapse when stomping to work and Eastfield when wandering home. Two of the best recent albums that spring to mind are the new Filaments, and Spoilers have just released a cracker as well.
Chaz Hayward’s Global Resistance Records HSA benefit 7” series is also awesome.
Other than that I can say that Lost Cherrees are currently writing and have 8 or 9 new tunes done. So there will be more to come.

What is the rest of 2018 looking like for Active Slaughter, are you out and about, are there plenty of opportunities to see you live?
JJ : We have a gig in Norwich coming up soon and a small tour of the north and Scotland in December. Currently open to offers of gigs, but right now I think all of our thoughts are on the new album, getting this right.
Thanks for the interview!

Photo/Logo courtesy of Active Slaughter. Photograph by Lara Homaidan. Logo by Iain Ball .

Bibliography.
(1)Brown, N (2017) Tomorrow’s Too Late - EP Review https://louderthanwar.com/active-slaughter-tomorrows-too-late-ep-review/  
(2)Interview: Art As Resistance: NurseOnDuty https://www.echoesanddust.com/2018/05/art-as-resistance-nurseonduty/
Also used in Intro https://activeslaughter.bandcamp.com/  and
Active Slaughter https://www.discogs.com/artist/1787438-Active-Slaughter

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

1 Weekend + 12 Musicians = Riot Grrrl Sessions!

 Cover artwork by Malin Ringsby. Photos by Anna Ledin Wirén & Emil Pilsäter.

Recently my partner and I spent a few days in Stockholm (awesome place and not necessarily expensive), our time there happened to coincide with the Stockholm Fringe Festival and on the programme was an exhibition of, and talk on, something called Riot Grrrl Sessions, this called for further investigation! Riot Grrrl Sessions is an ongoing music and art project in Stockholm, the brainchild of punk musician Canan Rosén who knew the world needed more Riot Grrrl music but was pondering over the quandary of how, when everyone was already so busy with their existing bands. The solution? One weekend in September 2017, one studio, a dozen riot grrrls from a variety of bands and genres writing, rehearsing and recording an album, with everyone involved in the project being women, non-binary or transgender people. The world’s first Riot Grrrl Sessions! The result? A 13 track album, suitably entitled The First Session, released in February this year to enthusiastic responses, one reviewer commenting ‘Unashamed and awesome, the Riot Grrrl Sessions brings together brutally fantastic melodies and awesome choruses that will get stuck in your head, the more you listen the more you love this album, 9/10 (1)’ and another that ‘The album captures everything that was riot grrrl during the movement’s heyday (2)’!
If good art is the successful transposing of the artist’s idea into their chosen medium then Riot Grrrl Sessions nailed it and in snatched conversations at the busy hub of the Fringe Festival I asked Canan if she would be happy to do an (online) interview about the project, she kindly agreed.  

Riot Grrrl Sessions is such an exciting, fully realised album! It’s amazing that it was written, rehearsed and recorded all in one weekend! Can you talk us through that weekend? Where did you get together, was everyone there the whole time?
Thank you and yes it’s such a huge and cool thing we did! We spent three full days, Friday to Sunday in legendary Swedish studio Riksmixningsverket (owned by Benny from Abba). We were 12 musicians and everyone was there the entire weekend. Also we had Linn, studio manager and head of recordings and production, Katharina, studio assistant and second recording engineer and Frida, studio assistant who later on did master the entire album. The studio is quite big which led us to possibilities to work parallel during the days. We made suggestions on which musicians that should play on which songs and then we made a schedule so when one line up was in the big recording room another one was finalizing songs and rehearsing in the kitchen area. On the second floor we recorded additional vocals, guitars and such. Everything at the same time. It was crazy work but lots of fun!

It must have taken a huge amount of organising?!
Hahahahaha TELL ME ABOUT IT! We also had two ”studio moms” making sure there was coffee, fruits and candy. They also went to pick up our food each day. You work so much better if you eat and drink! We also had two still photographers working shift documenting everything and also a film crew of four people recording every step we made. So a lot of people running around!

Had you all met previously?
Nope, for some people in the project it was the first time they met. It was like: “Hello, I am insert name let’s go record a rock song together!”

Was it easy for musicians from different bands and genres to get ‘in synch‘ with each other?
Almost every musician in this session has been active in the punk/rock/hard rock community which are genres that has quite a lot in common. One of the musicians, Katja, hails from the electronic scene, but she might be the most badass of us all making dirty, distorted superfast techno and such haha. All of us are professionals and very nice people so everything worked out super cool.

What was the key concept behind Riot Grrrl Sessions?
To make riot grrrl music in a very limited amount of time with a lot of musicians involved. And that everyone involved in every step of the project needs to identify as a woman, non-binary or transgender person.

Did the idea for the RGS weekend gradually take shape or did you know from the start that RGS would take that form?
Oh, I didn’t have a clue. At first I just wanted to start a riot grrrl band. But when I asked around people didn’t have time for that. They were too busy with their other bands, other careers or popping out rock babies so Riot Grrrl Sessions happened because I had something that needed to be solved. Because the idea of NOT making riot grrrl music wasn’t an option.

Was it a very organic, evolutionary creative process or did it have to be very quick and decisive in order to complete the album?
I think both. We didn’t have time for working with a lot of details but we still tried to keep a very open mind about everything since this was a very different process than what all of us are used to. I think the separatist take on the project made it easier for everyone to feel safe and focus on being creative rather than spending energy on claiming your space as a musician etc. We could get to work immediately so to speak.

How did the songwriting process work, did people come with rough ideas that the group then worked with?
We had rough sketches for almost every song. They were more or less finished. This was a real challenge I tell you. But if someone had an idea everyone was 100% more likely to say ”Yes, let’s do that” instead of hesitating, trying 1000 different ideas etc. I think that’s a good recipe for punk songs since the best punk songs (according to me) are very uncomplicated and straight forward.

What sort of subjects did the songs explore?
I think the lyrics really is what separates Riot Grrrl songs from ”any” type of rock song. The lyrics are in line with what the riot grrrl movement is all about. The fight for equality, the right to decide about yourself and your body, descriptions about how fucked up parts of our society is and how we’d rather want it to be, pro-masturbation songs etc.

Could you unpack ‘What I Want’, ‘Unicorns’ and ‘I Eat Boys Like You For Breakfast!
‘What I Want’ is a cool garage punky song with almost a spoken word verse. It’s like a long wish list on how we want this world of ours to be!
Every kid loves ‘Unicorn’. It’s like a kid song in a punk outfit. The message is powerful and empowering that you should always be yourself (unless you can be a unicorn of course). It comes with a bubble-gum powerpop outfit which some people love (and some people don’t haha).
‘I Eat Boys Like You For Breakfast’ is about dudes coming out as ”feminists” but doesn’t have the wildest idea what they are talking about. True posers that keeps on oppressing women thinking they are doing the exact opposite.

Has Riot Grrrl Sessions been ongoing? There was an exhibition and talk about RGS at the Stockholm Fringe and I think you are hoping to have a documentary out at some point…?
Yes, this is the aim of the project. We want it to be a platform where we can make whatever we want to make. I love the idea that riot grrrl isn’t just about music, it’s about all different art forms and ways that you could express yourself in. I want the project to be whatever we want it to be. A girls rock camp organisation here in Sweden, Popkollo, uses the saying DIT - do it together, instead of DIY - do it yourself. I think that’s pretty much sums up what I’m after with Riot Grrrl Sessions!

What has the response been like to RGS? Has it connected up with similar things happening in other places? Or inspired similar things…?
Well, the thing is there are no similar things like RGS. Not even in other rock genres (or maybe any genres). So this kind of WORLD UNIQUE THING we have made should blow the internet and media away. Which would have been the case if we’ve had thousands of cash money to spend on PR. Which we didn’t. So first and foremost: we did this thing for our own sake. When it spreads, which it has, it’s like a wonderful bonus. Riot Grrrls from all over the world have made contact with us praising our thing. I mean if I inspire one person it makes me happy so this is super cool! Also, it’s a great opportunity to grow a riot grrrl network. We have the internet these days you guys!!! Let’s get in touch goddammit!

How can people get to hear the album?
The album is streaming on all the common streaming services. But we also made vinyl! you can buy them from our record label’s homepage (https://www.gmrmusic.se/product-page/riot-grrrl-sessions-the-1st-sessions-pre-order-black-vinyl or contact us through mail or social media and we’ll figure something out).

So what is next? Will there be a Riot Grrrl Sessions II?
Next up is finalizing the documentary from the first session. When it’s finished we will be working on spreading the documentary. When word gets out it’s easier to sell records and merchandise which is the only way to finance another possible session! This goes for all bands. If you want musicians to keep going you also need to support them because in 99% of all cases bands and projects like these doesn’t make any money. Even though how much you’re in love with the world of DIY everything costs. An important reminder to all fans out there!

Check out the album here

Thanks to Canan for time and words.


 Bibliography.
(1)Caswell, V. (2018) ‘Review: Riot Grrrl. The Riot Grrrl Sessions’. https://thinkinglyrically.wordpress.com/2018/06/25/review-riot-grrrl-the-riot-grrrl-sessions/
(2)Decoursey, J. (2018) ‘Riot Grrrls, Riot Grrrl Sessions (The First Session) http://shockwavemagazine.com/riot-grrrls-riot-grrrl-sessions-first-session/

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Hekla: 'Constantly In Motion and Evolving'

Photo by Sigga Ella.
Let’s be honest most music you hear after a certain age can be slotted in alongside already known musicians and bands, placed into a rough category, your musical universe starts to assume a shape. For writers the ‘sounds a bit like’ go to is quite handy, nothing wrong with common points of reference, a common framework. BUT every now and then you hear something that is so utterly different that you can’t, and possibly will never be able to, slot it alongside something similar. Henry Cow from the ‘70s still sound unique to me, I’m yet to hear a comparative band, and now there is another, Berlin based Icelandic musician Hekla Magnusdottir
One Sunday night in August I was listening to The Freak Zone on Radio 6 when her track ‘Hatur’ came shimmering out of the radio, otherworldly, ethereal, music from another set of assumptions about the relationship between sound, structure and the human psyche.
The ethereal beauty of Hekla’s music is based around the combination of theremin (not an instrument many of us are familiar with) and her voice, the video to 'Ekki Er Allt Gull Sem Gloir' contextualising them within an Icelandic landscape.
Already Hekla has had two releases and music included in a French film Les Garcons Sauvages with her new album ‘A’ coming out in September on Phantom Limb.
Intrigued by her music and it's eerie, fragile beauty I contacted Hekla in Berlin, where she now lives with her family (1), to find out more...

I was listening to 'The Freak Zone' on Radio 6 when this enchanting, atmospheric beautiful music came on, it was 'Hatur' off your new album, some British readers may not have heard of you, could you tell us a little about yourself musically?

I started to learn cello at nine and then went to study composition in university. But I think my approach to composition is not classical at all. I just like to improvise and play with effects and also like to make drawings and patterns that I then try to play with various different outcomes.

I've only ever seen the theremin being played by John Otway! Could you tell us a little bit about it? Why did you decide to take it up as an instrument?  

The theremin is an electronic music instrument. You play it by using your hands to manipulate the electromagnetic fields emitted by two antennas, one for pitch and one for volume. It was popular in 50s science fiction movie soundtracks. I had heard about the instrument and when I saw it in a music store I just decided to buy it on a whim.

Have there been any artists or musicians that have particularly inspired you?

Pamelia Stickney, Clara Rockmore and friends of mine doing music. Especially female friends doing their own thing is most inspiring to me.

You are also part of an Icelandic surf rock band, Bárujárn (1), do you play the theremin when with the band? Are you looking to create very different sounds with Bárujárn than in your solo work?

Yes! Around 2008 I was at a bar and the band members just told me to go grab my theremin and I just did sound effects, I didn't even know the songs. I definitely do very different sounds with Bárujárn. When I play with them now I do less effects with them, it's more haunting melodies while by myself it is much more experimental so it has totally flipped.

How does a Hekla track come together? What is the creative process, or does it vary from song to song?  

It does vary, but usually I start with improvising for a while and I record that and then I work more on the pieces that I most like. Then I will do variations in different keys until I find the right spot. But then there are songs that just start from a nice sound that comes out of an effect and I try to build something around that.

What sort of subjects do your songs explore or is it more of a transposing of emotion into music?

They are more of a transposing of emotion into music. The lyrics are mostly about emotions and not stories.

You have an album 'Á' coming out in September on Phantom Limb, how did the recording process for the album evolve? Is it like creating a sound collage of different recordings and combining them? Is it a balancing act between improvisation and structure?

I recorded it by myself at home. I am not looking for perfection; I do enjoy imperfection. Some recordings are even from my phone; it is exactly like a collage of my favorite sounds from a variety of times. After I improvise I will add layers and layers on top of each other and some have absolutely no structure and others have maybe a bit but not a super clear one.

Your music sounds like abstract art, an ethereal sound sculpture or soundscape, do you think it has been influenced by Icelandic culture or terrain?

I am very visual at least, I really like having something like video art or movies or music videos in the corner of my eye while I improvise. I think Icelandic culture is definitely very open minded for the arts, but there could be more funding from the government into music institutions and more proper concerts venues.

Has your music changed at all since moving to Berlin (1)?

I have performed a lot more since moving. That makes me do more variations on my songs and so everything is always constantly in motion and evolving.

I love the idea of theremin hand motions being transposed to notation (1), it seems appropriate for your music to also have a visual expression! Could this be the start of a parallel career as a visual artist!?  

I already do some graphic notations! You can see them here: https://www.heklaheklahekla.com/notation.html I was thinking to offer some merch based on them at some point.

You recently played in Darmstadt in Germany, how did it go?

My Boss looper didn't work so I unfortunately had to skip two songs, but now that I got home it works again. I guess Darmstadt did not want to hear those two. Other than that I think it went pretty well!

When you play live is there a lot of improvisation or are you aiming to reproduce a song as recorded? Is it even possible for a theremin based song to be the same twice?

I really am not going to bang my head trying to do a perfect copy as it is almost impossible to do on the theremin and I would just find that so boring, also. I love that it is kind of alive.

When you play live does the immediate environment affect what and how you play at all? For instance the differences in atmosphere and architecture?

Your mood while playing can affect your performance, the theremin is very perceptive to the tiniest movement and having a good atmosphere and architecture can definitely improve your state.

One of your songs was included in a French film Les Garcons Sauvages (1)-how did that come about?  

I did one half of the soundtrack, mostly very atmospheric songs, Pierre Desprats did the other half. I met the director while he was doing a short in Iceland and I sent him some music. It then was about 3 or 4 years until I heard back from him. I sent him some more music and he seems to have liked it. I have yet to see the movie.

And a very important question, is there any chance of seeing you play live in Britain any time soon?

Aha! I am doing a release concert at the Servant Jazz Quarters in London the 15th of October! See you there?

Hekla also plays The Cube Microplex, Bristol on 16 Oct 18, much thanks to her for the interview.

Bibliography.
(1)Jonsson, S.G. (2017) ‘Playing The Air: Hekla, Her Theremin and the Possibilities’ https://grapevine.is/culture/music/2017/09/06/playing-the-air-hekla-her-theremin-andthe-possibilities/

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Glen Matlock: Interview.

Photo by Olly Andrews.
Original bass player with the Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock was co-writer of 10 of the 12 tracks on Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols before leaving the band in 1977 (1). That same year he formed Rich Kids with Midge Ure, Steve New and Rusty Egan, the band releasing Ghosts of Princes in Towers the following year (2). Subsequently he has played with Iggy Pop, The Faces, Primal Scream and The Damned, toured with Dead Men Walking, had his own band, Glen Matlock and The Philistines, and been involved with various other projects (1)!
Over the last 40 years Glen has constantly been on the move, trying new things and collaborating with a variety of musicians. Never content to be defined by his Sex Pistols involvement this year Glen has a new album out in September called Good To Go which reaches back to pre punk music for inspiration.
On an atrocious phone line from London (hence the proliferation of ‘...’) we had a chat about his musical past and present and the making of the new album.    
I’ve been doing a bit of reading up and the thing that’s struck me is that you are constantly evolving, constantly trying new things, not defined by the Sex Pistols, was that a deliberate decision you made to continually be trying new things?
Glen: Well yeah, but also the Sex Pistols were the Sex Pistols and it was the sum of the people that were in it, once you step outside of that and you’ve got different people it’s a different thing. If you try and copy that you’re either going to fail miserably or you’re going to be dishonest, pretending you’re something you’re not. There is a bloke I know, he is a really nice bloke and a good drummer and he was in the tailend of the Ramones but he goes out with a pick up van pretending he was the Ramones almost, and I just think that’s wrong.
So he has allowed himself to get trapped...
Glen: That’s the last thing I want to be, I know if I do a gig people want to hear a couple of songs, and I enjoy playing them but not everything. I know if I went to see David Bowie and he didn’t play ‘Heroes; I’d have been disappointed so it is a bit of a juggling act. But I’d rather do newer stuff within my idiom. On my (new) album most of the tracks have got Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats on, he’s got a very innovative style. And Earl Slick who played with David Bowie and John Lennon, it’s quite high calibre. The guy who engineered it is Mario McNulty who did Bowie’s album before last. We’re not mucking around!
Quite a collection of musicians on the album! Earl Slick, Slim Jim Phantom, Chris Musto, Jim Lowe, Neal X (3) -was recording quite an organic process or did you have a clear vision of what you wanted before you went in the studio?  
G: I had a good, rough idea. But I think there is a good adage from Nick Lowe who said “Slap it down and tart it up!”There are nine tracks that we cut at the same time and then three that we cut a little bit later with Chris Musto on drums and Neal X on guitar on two, I think, and I got my mate Chris Spedding to play on one of the songs on the album.
The new album  ‘Good To Go’ is out in September isn’t it? I was having a listen and it seemed almost pre punk, it was quite rootsy, seemed to draw on blues, country and rock’n’roll-is that fair? How would YOU describe it musically?
G: I did some shows that were just me which I really enjoyed doing and maybe about three years ago I went to see Bob Dylan at the Albert Hall, and while I can appreciate Bob Dylan I’m not much of a fan, I don’t even know why he does it! He can’t be short of money, he does 200 gigs a year and he just looks like he doesn’t want to be there! He doesn’t acknowledge the audience, you can’t recognise hardly any of the songs!  But the band he had were fantastic... and I had a word with Slim Jim and... suggested using Earl, that was the thinking behind it and because they are American we recorded in America, so there’s bit more of an american influence . I don’t want to pretend I’m the latest thing and I’m going to compete with Dizzy Rascal, it just ain’t going to happen. I see it as classic rock, kind of, but I also think it’s got quite a bit of skiffle in it. So if you want to call it anything...Skiffle. On the album,I’m supposed to be the bass player but I don’t even play bass, I think I play bass on one track, I play acoustic guitar, it’s the rhythm on most of it, I do that because I really like The Spiders From Mars where Bowie played all the rhythm on an acoustic guitar.
Yeah, I noticed on the video for the single ‘Hook In You’ you’re playing an acoustic 6 string- a recent switch of instrument for you?
G: I’ve always played it, I played it even before I picked up the bass, I mean not very well, but well enough. If you had Bert Weedon’s ‘Play In A Day’ they say a guitar is an orchestra in your hand!
What sort of subject matter do you engage with on the album?
G: Lots of things, general life, ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ that life brings you but also how you cope with them and rise above them, rise to the occasion, and perseverance through heartbreak somehow.
Are your lyrics informed by observation, personal experience or other resources like films and books?
G: Bit of everything really, but mainly life. I tend to try and write like I’m having a conversation with somebody. I get most of my ideas just walking down the street, you see something...that gets your mind going, you get a little catch phrase to hang it on, you start thinking ‘What does it mean?’ It’s funny songwriting, I don’t think any songwriter knows how to write a song, you just do it, y’know.
I was very interested in the video for the single ‘Hook In You’, because it cut from yourself playing guitar to footage and it seemed to be exploring themes of power and sexual exploitation and masculinity. I was wondering what gave you..
G: That song is my kind of tribute to Screamin Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put a Spell on You’, there is a great line in that song “I don’t care if you don’t want me. I’m yours”, not in a nasty way but ‘I’m not going to give up’ basically, and sometimes people have a mutual attraction that is predestined somehow. I don’t think it (Hook In You) was a chauvinistic thing and if it comes across as that that’s the last thing I want. But I really don’t think it is. It’s not what I meant and nobody else has picked up on that.
What about the clips of Soho and the reference to...?
G: It’s a bluesy kind of dance...it’s a blues club, and there’s sexuality and it’s not all flowers and boxes of chocolates.
I  was reading an interview you gave a year or so ago, I think to the Guardian, and you were saying that you’d grown up in a family with a sense of class identity, you weren’t particularly well off, your Dad voted Labour (4)-which I guess you expressed, to a degree, in the Sex Pistols-you seem to have maintained a sense of connection to ordinary people-not felt the need to develop a dramatic persona in any obvious way..
G: No. I’m a regularish kind of a bloke considering what I’ve done, I’ve still got my feet on the ground. Lots of people in the punk movement were against the Phil Collins types who probably made many millions...and became divorced from what’s going on around them. And I don’t think that the punks...ever will really...maybe it’s to do with the degrees of success they’re having, the punks who are doing really, really well have become a little bit divorced from things, but I think you could count them on one hand with a finger or two missing!...I’ve been an art student I like to check things out...last week I was in Mumbai, I’ve been in Korea, I played at the Peace Train Festival...near the border...they appreciated me going over to show a bit of solidarity with them, I’m not living in some ivory tower somewhere at all,and I enjoy it, I don’t think I’d enjoy being in an ivory tower watching daytime TV!
And you’re off to Sweden in September, aren’t you?
G: Yeah I’m touring over there, and I’ve (got a gig at 100 Club) on the 31 August, Earl Slick’s coming over and he is going to be playing with Chris and Jim Lowe who plays bass on (the new album).
You seem happy to have a go at new things and step outside your comfort zone-I read somewhere that you’ve been DJing for a while and have done some music teaching in a college (5), how did the teaching thing come about?
G: Somebody asked me to do it! You’re sort of passing on the baton a little bit…
And as a co-writer of some of the most effective songs of the 20th Century, why do you think early punk has had the longevity it has had?
G: Because it’s an important alternative to the main stream, and because it’s the voice of dissatisfaction...its the voice of reading between the lines, and it seems to have struck a chord all around the world to this day.
In the book Lipstick Traces (6) it talks about Dada and the Situationists and punk as art movements that really did change the world, that were disruptive and critiquing of society, do you think there will ever be another equally significant art movement in our lives?
G: I think a lot of the problem we have these days is everything’s been done a little bit and it’s very hard to do (something) new. There is a shop called ‘Topshop’ where the whole world seems to get their clothes from these days. It’s just a mish mash of different styles and that applies to music and lots of things really. People think that by putting of bunch of old things together they’ll make something new but I don’t necessarily think that’s true. So that’s why I’m deliberately a bit more classic really. Records by Elvis Presley-early ones- and say Gene Vincent sound as fresh and vital today as when they first came out. So I’m trying to capture a bit of that.
What bands and writers have you been enjoying lately-who should we be checking out?
G: Don’t ask me! But there is a whole wealth of older stuff that people haven’t even heard of these days, I still like Mose Allison, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band...Scott Walker, in fact I even cover a Scott Walker song on the album, ‘Montague Terrace (In Blue)’, I like the words in that song, kinda of pushing the envelope a little bit...  
You’ve had a really varied musical life, you’ve played with Iggy Pop, The Faces, Primal Scream (1). You’ve had your own band…
G: All those people, they’re all kinda pretty left field in a way, I’m not playing in a Chinn and Chapman kind of band (they made some good records).I’m quite proud of the fact that I’ve got to play with people that came prior to punk and people after who we’d influenced. I’ve (done) lots of different things but I only really do one thing and play my kind of brand of music.
And all these collaborations must have kept you stimulated, stretched, learning-have they been part of your evolution both as a musician and a person?
G: Well. I don’t know if I’ve evolved that much but ‘Yeah’. I think when people get to a certain stage of playing they tend to play like what their personality is, and their personality adds something to the rich broth of what you’re trying to do, hopefully. But you’ve got your influences and you’ve got somebody like Earl who has played with so many different people and they’ve all influenced him and that all comes out in his playing somehow.

Thanks to Glen for time and words.  



Bibliography.
(1)Glen Matlock https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Matlock
(2)Rich Kids https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rich_Kids
(3)Singleton, P. (2018) ‘Glen Matlock Interview and Album review Good To Go Track by Track’’ http://www.philjens.plus.com/rattle/GoodToGo_trackbytrack.html
(4)Padman, T. (2017) ‘Interview. Glen Matlock: ‘My Mum Got Called Mrs Sex Pistols, Which Really Upset Her’ https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/16/glen-matlock-my-mum-got-called-mrs-sex-pistols-which-really-upset-her
(5)Glen Matlock EPK http://yellowbrickmusic.com/glen-matlock-epk/
(6)Marcus, G. (2011) 'Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century', Faber and Faber, London.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Monstrous Machines by Night Kayakers Kill Again.


Wow! So many good bands around putting out so much good stuff. If anyone ever tries to point you to some golden age of music (normally when they were young), you know that 'back in the day' type stuff, don't believe them! There is an extraordinary amount of great music being made at any point, including now!
A while ago someone sent me a copy of Prepare Yourself for an Emergency a split CD of eight tracks; two each from The Fleas, Geezapunx, Brash Bullets and Le Snags. The two tracks by Le Snags (who seemed to have (had) some connection to The Snuggle Bugs) were excellent all distorted vocals over fuzzy guitar, slightly psyched out stuff, with a vaguely Hawkwindish vibe. Changing their name again to Night Kayakers Kill Again and with a new album Work Hard, Be A Good Citizen coming out next year, the band have picked 10 tracks from the back catalogue of Le Snags' stuff putting it out under the new band name, thus both creating a sense of continuity and marking the end of a chapter simultaneously. Clever.
So what is Monstrous Machines like? Initially confusing, especially in summer, as it starts off with the sound of one of those really loud, annoying flies that won't shut up! First track containing human sounds is 'We are the Enemy', which gets the album off to a flyer (see what I did there...), big drums with half heard vocals down in the mix, "You are the enemy, we are the enemy" before edgy guitar comes in, vocals exploring the mutually hostile class interests inherent in capitalism and the corrupting effects of living in a society based around competition, alienation and violence.
Next track 'Big Money' is all big chunky guitar sound and rapid fire vocals, Track 4 is 'Oi! Wot I Said', I remember this from Prepare Yourself for an Emergency and it sounds ace! Distorted vocals and a noticeable change of style, exploring feelings of social/political disempowerment and being ignored (as a means of control?)

"You're up there shoutin' down at me 
I'm down here but you can't hear me 
You took away our voice 
You took away our voice 
It's not like you left us no choice we ain't free 
I wanna know have you heard a word that I said 
I want you to tell me have you listened to a word I said".

A fuzzed out gem but some where in there is a pop song musicality, reminded me a bit of The Fleas in that way.
Track 5 is 'Hard Stop', the sound of a wild night encounter with the cops, intense. Great thing about Le Snags/Night Kayakers Kill Again, and a retrospective makes this clearer, is the sense of a band that can't quite stay still, that are too interested to stay in one place for long, which keeps them interesting!
'Assassins' slows things down a bit before 'Carpathian Warlord Pt.2/Enemy', I absolutely love the first part of this before it segues into 'Enemy', they need to rerecord this track and make 'Carpathian Warlord Pt.2' at least three times longer! Megaphone vocals come at you over fuzzed up guitar and sonic attack bursts, Bob Calvert would have loved this!
'Parliament Ltd' is an incisive analysis of career politicians, of the establishment. " dirty, crooked...you're in it for the money...lord it up with your OBE...look after each other...oh what a show"
'Last Refuge For A Scoundrel' is, I guess, a reference to the Samuel Johnson comment about patriotism (1).

"You tell me I'm the problem 
You tell me I'm to blame 
Saw you talkin' to me neighbour 'n' you were tellin' him the same 
Now I hate everyone 
And everyone hates me 
But some people get hated more there's no equality 
Lets blame the weak 
Lets hunt the weak"

Last track up is 'Nuclear Device (Bleak Outlook)', a concern newly relevant in the opinion of Noam Chomsky, 

"Surrounded by hypocrisy 
To you we're pawns to abuse 
The situation's out of hand 
It's a vicious circle it just goes round and round 
Are you gonna press the button 
For your own self destruction"


If you like your punk angry and psych tinged this would be well worth a try, I think they're selling the CD at gigs, but I guess they would send you a copy out. However if you are living in the South somewhere Night Kayakers Kill Again are hooking up with The White Skull Death Snakes of Death for a couple of gigs soon, definitely worth getting along to! Although how big is the poster going to have to be to get both those bands' names on?!

(1)http://www.samueljohnson.com/refuge.html
Lyrics courtesy of https://thesnags.bandcamp.com

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

'We Might Not Make Tomorrow' Video by Girls In Synthesis.

Photo by Bea Dewhurst.
Sometimes the unexpected happens and a band that you can't imagine getting any better manages to raise the bar even higher! When Girls In Synthesis released their four track EP We Might Not Make Tomorrow in May this year it seemed like the perfect realisation of the band at this point; intense, abrasive, confrontational, original yet somehow containing half caught glimpses of incendiary half remembered songs that helped bring you to musical life, formed the origins of your musical cosmos. 
In a time when we are encouraged to 'Calm Down and Carry On' and mainstream culture is often the soporific result of market forces Girls In Synthesis remind us of what art and music should be, should do! Listening to them is like grabbing hold of a live cable, like a mains jolt-WAKE UP- a dissident soundtrack to the urgent intensity of urban Britain in 2018. 
With the 'Fan The Flames' UK tour coming up in October/November they have now released an accompanying video to the EP title track, 'We Might Not Make Tomorrow', which manages to brilliantly compliment the feel of the song upping the ante through an art sensibility that shows what can be accomplished with intelligence, creativity and a DIY ethos. 
Here it is!! Oh yeah..make sure you are sitting down!!

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Know Your Place...? by Truth Equals Treason; Intelligent, Ferocious, Inspiring!

Courtesy of T=T.
Lincoln based Truth Equals Treason, whose name was inspired by whistle blowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, formed in 2015 releasing their first 5 track mini album It’s Got A Photo Of Thatcher, It Must Be As Punk As Fuck in early 2017a collection of hard core political punk diatribes that engaged with the corrosive effects of mainstream media, working class experience in 21st Century industrial capitalism (‘Lives are spent, live like drones-hand to mouth and payday loans’) and the plight of refugees and the West’s military involvements that so often lie behind their flight. It was a great debut album from a band on a mission, as guitarist Jam said in an interview for Echoes and Dust It’s Got A Photo Of Thatcher, It Must Be As Punk As Fuck is ‘Essentially modern life in microcosm, sadly. The title might also be a little dig at lazy ‘dad-punk’ that sometimes appears to think that wearing a pair of bondage trousers, surrounding yourself with the tired iconography of 35-40 years ago, and singing about puking your guts up after 20 pints and a kebab is all that punk’s about… I mean, I’m a fully-paid-up old fart myself, and we all wallow in nostalgia at times, but c’mon – punk used to shake the foundations of society for fuck’s sake! There are still plenty of battles to be fought here and now to try to make the world a slightly better place, so let’s have it!’ (1)
The rest of 2017 saw Truth Equals Treason release the Fifty Shades of Pain single and ‘Through The Cracks’ a benefit track with all monies made going to Punk 4 The Homeless; a band who put their money where their mouth is.
Fast forward to June 2018 (via a couple of compilations) and T=T have released their second mini album Know Your Place…? Now in rock mythology there is the idea of the ‘difficult ‘second album so it’s always interesting to see what a band comes up with once they’ve used up all their best, tried and tested material in their first release, does Know Your Place…? manage to build on It’s Got A Photo Of Thatcher, It Must Be As Punk As Fuck or is it IGAPOTIMBAPAF Part II?
Good news is T=T have managed to raise the bar in every way with Know Your Place…? It’s a cleverer, sharper, slightly more sophisticated, more variously textured album while keeping the anger, the compassion, the power of their first outing.
With Know Your Place…? Truth Equals Treason don’t even let you get the CD in the player before they’re having a go, making you think, challenging you about your own complicity in the militarised, neoliberal plutocracy that is the UK 2018. On the cover a group of six marionettes stand heads bowed with a seventh out front standing tall with cut strings and a pair of scissors in hand. Thoughts occur, ‘Where am I in that picture?’...’The lead marionette is wielding the scissors, no one has cut the strings for her/him...what resources do the scissors represent?
For those of you into such things you’ll be pleased to know it just keep getting better when you slide the CD out, it looks like an old school vinyl single! Nice touch! Plus lyric sheet. A lot of thought and love has obviously gone into this.
Know Your Place…? starts with a sampled speech ‘Today the top tenth of 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90%’ then the music starts while another voice dismantles trickle down economics. Brooding, ominous, setting the scene, the lull before the storm...then it hits! Think G.L.O.S.S., think Glamour, think your favourite old school hard core band, great riffs, great drums and incisive lyrics delivered with barely contained fury-Glen gives the impression that if he wasn’t singing ‘Crumbs from the Table’ he’d be in danger of spontaneous combustion
‘Sit up and fight - your blood it should boil!
Or lay down and suffer a lifetime of toil.
The system's a farce, you’ve got nobody fooled;
if you close our eyes, then they’ll always rule.
Aspiration to lies - all power is guarded;
they gave us nothing - why should the advantaged?
Sold an illusion - told we are free;
dangled a carrot - social mobility.

If you’re willing and able; you’ll get the crumbs from the table.
If you’re strong and you’re stable; and believe in their fables.’

Honestly punk doesn’t get better than this, great start!

Track 2 ‘Progress’ has an extended ferocious Intro before the vocals come in as more of a recitation than a song.
‘More people in the west now die as a consequence of our way of life, our standard of living, and our affluence, than are killed by natural disease. We slaughter them in road accidents; we kill them with fast food, smoking, and through alcohol abuse; we addict them to drugs and chemicals. A vacuous media diminishes their feeling of self-worth to the point where they kill themselves because they’re convinced that they’re too fat, too thin, too short, tall, or flawed in some other way. We drive them to think only of success and convince them that personal achievement overrides the needs or rights of others.
Does that sound like progress to you?’
Truth Equals Treason collective response? ‘FUCK OFF!’ before somehow Jam and Alan raise the intensity even more while Glen roars ‘Does that sound like progress to you?’ Brilliant!

‘Born Again Atheist’ takes aim at the dark side of religion, right wing Christians-isn’t that an oxymoron?- TV Evangelists fleecing the vulnerable, religious intolerance, religion as the co-opted priesthood of the status quo. Understandably T=T are a little put off by this litany of abuses and power plays, by religion as a means of social control, but cleverly, while stating their atheist position, they don’t take aim at the spirituality of the poor or the use of faith as a resource in the struggle for freedom (eg Liberation theology). Clever, nuanced song. This is no adolescent shock stuff, well thought out.

‘And the Bombs Keep Falling…’ is as hard core as you like, furious musically and lyrically if this doesn’t make you cerebrally/emotionally angry and physically excited then you probably need to take your pulse, you may be comatose.
‘A charred corpse kneels in supplication,
arms raised to shield against the fire.
‘Assets deployed’ to defend the nation;
piling fuel on the world’s funeral pyre.

Bad men’s bodies strewn amongst babies’ toys;
Predator’s feel no parent’s concern.
‘Collateral damage’ means more girls and boys.
Hellfire rains down and the bodies burn.

A father kneels and holds his lifeless child.
But death came not from terror’s hand.
Tries to remember his baby’s smile,
as her blood seeps away into the sand.

And the bombs, they just keep falling…’

All over h/c riffs that perfectly compliment the subject matter!

Track 5 ‘Blame Thy Neighbour’ is even better!! It starts with xenophobe Katie Hopkins arrogant twaddle before T=T’s riposte to the new mainstreamed, smartened up, media savvy alt right. Musically it starts off at a slightly slower pace before Glen's vocals/roar kicks in and the whole thing becomes an anthemic masterpiece! Are three people allowed to make this much noise?
‘Confront them on your doorstep; far too close to home.
Fuck the fascist, fuck the racist, sexist homophobes.
I see you on my doorstep; we’ll have it, toe-to-toe.
Fuck you fascist, fuck you racist, sexist homophobes.

Daily war from the street to the shop-floor.
Everyday war; we can’t afford to ignore.
Explain away all inequality;
blame thy neighbour, not those in authority.
Shut ‘em down; nothing but trouble.
Anti-fascist war; it’s an everyday struggle.
Vigilance: be eyes, be ears.
Dogs they prey on the slightest fears.’

Towards the end the sound of chanting ‘Alerta! Alerta! Antifacista!’ comes in, this is punk at it’s best! T=T manage to encapsulate all that makes punk important-intelligent, engaged, angry, compassionate. This album is the distillation of hours of reading, thinking, discussing, acting. I’ve just read Reminiscences of RAR this band carry on that struggle.

Last track up is ‘Four Million Watching’ on surveillance. Great way to end the album, musicality, lyrical intelligence, engagement with the Panopticon society, self policing, 1984, who watches the watcher?

Look I’ve pretty much run out of words to describe this album. It’s an exhilarating, exciting reminder of the world we live in, our responsibility to make it a better place and what made you love punk initially. My partner asked me to review Know Your Place…? while she was out as she knew it would involve loud, repeated playing but when I put it on for a reconnaissance listen she was dancing excitedly around in the next room! Buy It!! Go and see this band!

By the way if you're offended by swearing don’t buy this album, but if you're offended by injustice, inequality and oppression then buy it now!
  



Bibliography.  

(1)https://www.echoesanddust.com/2017/11/truth-equals-treason-punk-cannot-afford-to-stagnate-our-message-should-not-be-diluted/