Thursday, 24 December 2015

Charles Hayward: still exploring, still committed.

Photo by Lewis Hayward.
When I mentioned on Facebook to a couple of musicians I know that I was hoping to interview influential musician Charles Hayward one of them responded that they had seen him recently with Anonymous Bash and that it had been 'really good', the other messaged 'One of my favourite British drummers. This Heat and Camberwell Now (were great) bands'. This Heat's first eponymous album was released in 1979 (1), their second 'Deceit', described by Leone in Pitchfork as 'a confrontation of prog, free-jazz and contemporary electronic music', came out in 1981 (2). This Heat-1979; the Anonymous Bash gig-2015. Charles Hayward has spent over 35 years involved in ground breaking post-punk, experimental and art rock bands including Camberwell Now, The Raincoats, Massacre, Hot Chip and Monkey Puzzle Trio (3). Alongside his involvement with these and other bands Charles has also been involved with youth and disability music projects, community workshops and art installations (4,5,6). To be honest it would be ridiculous to NOT interview him!
Q: In 2014 you were the first musician in residence at 'Samarbeta', based at Islington Mill in Manchester. What is 'Samarbeta' and what was the experience like (6&7)?  

C: Samarbeta is a label and residency programme put together by Emma Thompson from Fat Out and The Burrow at Islington Mill and Riv Burns from Sounds From The Other City. I was the first residency so it was like new territory for us all. I’d played and hung out at Islington Mill a few times, and I’d always been knocked out by the whole creative vibe there, which seems to be in the brickwork. I wanted to sort of make a record which allowed me to be the outsider but to be close with the artists, like some sort of anthropology thing, like I was investigating a tribe or something and trying to make a panorama of that. There’s more than 20 musicians involved. 

Q: You recently played London with 'Anonymous Bash' which also includes some members of Gnod. Is Anonymous Bash connected with your time at Samarbeta? 

C: Yes, the record was called Anonymous Bash and a group has evolved out of that, seven or eight of us, we played the record which was a collage of the 5 day recording session, like folding time in on itself and then learning the result. Since then we’ve developed some new pieces and will record a second album in May.

Q: I noticed on  Facebook that you played a fundraiser for the PSC and commented 'This has to be done otherwise my music is empty.' In what ways do your politics shape your musical choices and involvements (8)? 

C: Usually I try to make my politics implicit in the music, the process, how its constructed, the lyrics, the technologies used; every so often I have to be explicit and ally my music with a specific cause, it almost always feels uncomfortable but it has to be done. 

Q: In 2008 'Drowned In Sound' named This Heat's 'Deceit' as one of their 'Classic Political Records' (9). We live in societies that are often an expression of the interests of the elite-would you see your music as a contestation of that, as an act of resistance?  

C: Absolutely, yes, while also realizing that the electrical supply, the manufacture and distribution systems are part and parcel of the problem and that it’s not a question of pointing fingers because we’re all compromised. The way forward is the important thing.

Q: Over the years how have the creative and recording processes you've been involved in tended to evolve?  Is it a balancing act between improvisation and structure? 

C: I think a successful improvisation constantly has its eye on structure, like the design and the execution are the same thing. My duality is more between order and chaos, and for me that can occur both inside strict composition and total improvisation, and finding ways to stay human within those 2 extremes, that seems to be the challenge for me.

Q: Have changes in technology affected the way you operate or is it much more about the mix of people

C: It's mostly about the combination of people but the technology obviously has a huge effect, especially in recording. My solo zigzag+swirl uses technology to open up uncertainty inside heavily organized songs, that’s the most pronounced influence of the technology in the music I make. 

Q: Western Society promotes a sense of self based in consumption, John Holloway talks about our sense of self emerging from our acts of collective creativity (10), as someone who lives in the UK but is immersed in the latter have you felt those opposing forces? 

C: If you mean some people don’t understand me because I live in so called social housing and don’t drive while at the same time I find people doing jobs they hate so that they can afford stuff very hard to understand too, although its definitely my job to try to understand them, as a songwriter I need to listen to people and to feel their sadness and joy.

Q: In 'Lipstick Traces' Marcus connects Dadaism, the Surrealists* and early Punk as movements that creatively disrupted and exposed (11). Would you be OK with being included in that lineage?  

C: Yes, Surrealism and Dada were massive teenage influences and I still love Duchamp, Ernst, Magritte, Tanguy, Schwitters.

Q: You have played in, and with, quite a range of bands from This Heat to The Raincoats to Monkey Puzzle Trio (3). How have these different collaborations changed the way you play and interact with other musicians? 

C: I usually try to build combinations that will bring out something new and special from each of us, so that there’s a feeling of discovery from the start. Each new exchange and project extends the possibilities; the challenge is to not become constrained by what is learned, to try and maintain a sense of not knowing.

Q: You have also worked with people with learning disabilities, in disability arts projects (4), how did that come about? Are you there as facilitator, as teacher or is it a learning experience for everyone involved? 

C: I taught for a long time at a music project, Lewisham Academy of Music, teaching drums, and that opened up a lot of connections, including with disability arts projects, especially a group called Entelechy, with which I’m still involved. We all consider the sessions a level field, using improvisation and an open aesthetic to eradicate the division between arts practitioners and the participants.

Q: What bands have you been listening to recently? What current musicians/bands excite you? 

C: Blood Sport. Barberos. Merlin Nova. Harmergeddon. Housewives. Snorkel. Negra Branca.

Huge thanks to Charles for his time and answers. 


(2) Leone, D. (2002) 'This Heat; Deceit'




(7) Charles Hayward Anonymous Bash  


(9) Tudor. A. (2008) 'Classical Political Albums; This Heat. Deceit'

(10) Holloway, J. (2005) 'Change the World Without Taking Power', Pluto Press, London and New York.

(11) Marcus, G. (2011) 'Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century', Faber and Faber, London. (* Apologies to Marcus; 'Surrealists' should have been 'Situationists').  

Monday, 21 December 2015

In Evil Hour-Intelligent Ferocity.

Photo by Helen Templeton.
(Just so you know this interview contains swearing.)
A few weeks ago a friend of mine posted 'Predators' by North East punk band In Evil Hour; an intelligent, ferocious critique of Drone warfare which reminds me a little of Rise Against. Trying to find out more about them I came across their Facebook Bio where they self describe as 'a breakneck assault of melodic punk rock and searing 90’s bay-area hardcore'. Their songs expressing '..a continued frustration at the wilful destruction of our shared planet, as well as a general disgust levelled at our plutocratic, militaristic society where social constructs such as class, nationality and gender still dictate the opportunities human beings have access to in life'(1).
Their 2013 album 'The World Bleeds Out' was described as a 'classic album from an extremely impressive band'(2) and 'immensely powerful'(3).  Excited I contacted them for an interview.

Q: Can you give us an overview of the 'In Evil Hour'? How long have you been together? How many releases? Your name is from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book isn't it?

Gareth: We’ve been playing as In Evil Hour for around 4 years now but myself, Al and Gib have played in bands together for over ten years now. We released two EPs and an album so far with the most recent being six tracks for Built on our Backs which came out in August 2015. In terms of the name you’ve rumbled us! We took it from the title of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s first novel, he’s one of my favourite authors. 

Q: During an ATR gig I was at in Berlin a few years ago Rowdy was shouting during one song 'Wake Up! Wake up! Wake the Fuck Up!' Is that something you would aim for with your music, that it would wake people up?

Gareth: I think it would be possibly selling the punk audience short and overstating our own importance to presume it would wake them up. I don’t think there is any kind of bolt of lightning situation happening when we play or you listen to us. I guess it’s maybe more about… I mean we would hope that people may identify with the things we sing about and there is a hope that around certain issues maybe it makes them take more interest or at least think about them if they haven’t before. I guess in an  ideal situation the subject of songs would be a conversation opener, a way of starting a kind of dialogue with someone, opening them up to another view point or ideas rather than trying to tell them how they should think. I find one of the most powerful things music can do as well is to offer reassurance to people that they’re not ‘alone’ in being frustrated and pissed off with the chaos of our world.

Q: In a society that is increasingly shaped to suit the interests of corporations is your music an alerting to that or an act of resistance? Can the punk DIY/proactive ethos itself be a counter to late capitalism's consumerism and commodification of all things?

Gareth: I think the importance of music and if I can use the term without sounding too pretentious, the importance of any art, is to present ideas or engage/encourage their formation. I honestly don’t know if it in and of itself can really counter something as all-consuming as the neo liberal capitalism that we now have as I guess we are also a small part of it being consumers and selling our music. That commodification is insidious, kind of like dry rot, and I think sadly it is everywhere. Trying not to be horrendously pessimistic though I think the DIY punk ethos definitely creates spaces where positive and alternate ideas can be shared.

Q: Al, how have you found being a woman in punk? Often in mainstream pop women's physicality seems to be emphasised. Have you experienced much sexism and gender stereotyping or have you been pleasantly surprised by your experience?

Al: I’d say for the most part my experience has been very positive, it’s obviously limited to punk but I’d say that as a scene it’s probably one of the most diverse and accepting out there – one look at the Rebellion lineup for example shows a higher concentration of bands with women in them than almost any other scene. Any negatives I have encountered I feel are more related to issues in society at large and certainly aren’t limited to the scene itself. There’s the usual stuff – getting directed to the merch stand rather than the stage when you’re first in for soundcheck, getting asked by venue staff which band you’re WITH rather than which band you’re IN. The times it gets to me most are when it’s more insidious. The bassist from a support band who complimented me on my “very sexual performance” after I came off stage was a bit of a stand out moment, simply because 1. It wasn’t and 2. I doubt he would have drawn the same conclusions if I were male. I think it’s the idea that’s been present throughout history that as a woman in a public space you’re somehow advertising your sexual availability, so you’ll always get the guys who’ll try to touch you or feel the need to comment on it – sadly though I think you tend to find them everywhere. And there’s the “backwards sexism” that occurs when a (male) sound engineer assumes you don’t know what you’re doing and shows you how to work your microphone, or the men who apologise for swearing backstage because there’s “a lady present.” I don’t think any of these things would have occurred if my gender were different but thankfully they’ve always been rare, and I’ve never encountered anything really sinister in my time with the band. One overarching frustration I have is the notion that “female” is a genre all by itself. I’ll get the same comment from both men and women almost every gig, that they “don’t normally like female [bands/singers/performers] but I thought you were really good!” Of course they mean it as a compliment but change the gender in that statement and it highlights just how ridiculous it is. It’s the same reason that I will always ask any promoters who list us as “female fronted” to take it down. We’re not a female fronted band, we’re a band. Whilst I feel that the idea of “women in punk” is still a relevant question and that it’s important such a traditionally male-dominated space as music explores experiences different to the norm, my hope for the future is that eventually the idea of a woman doing the things I do isn’t seen as something especially “other” and will become something that people don’t even feel is worth focusing on.

Q; Your songs are driven by a strong political position-how did your politics take shape? What were the influences? Where would you place yourselves politically or is it always evolving?

Gareth: Personally mine have come like most peoples in part from my family and where I’ve grown up. My Grandfather was a coal miner and an ardent supporter of the socialist workers party so that side of things I think has just been passed down to me. I think for everyone it is an evolving spectrum. I’ve been influenced by writers like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Primo Levi, Simone De Beauvoir and music from people like Propagandhi, Rise Against, Manic Street Preachers, Subhumans etc…The list is endless really because I think most things we read listen to or watch, as well as the conversations we have with other people be it positive or negative, help to shape, reinforce or change our existing ideas and opinions.

Q: What range of issues have your lyrics engaged with? The artwork of 'Built On Our Backs' depicts industrial capitalism's exploitative and oppressive nature and the EP includes the track 'Predators' about Drone warfare...

Gareth: The things we tend to write about are usually triggered by something be it a book, a news story or documentary or something we have experienced from environmentalism to social and economic disparity.  I think we just pick up on things that frustrate/anger us in the hope that we can write something that is at least a half decent song so that people a. want to listen to it and b. hopefully relate or are interested in the sentiments being expressed. Our main focus is to try and be informed on issues and not present a half-baked populist ‘Fuck the government’ statement. Not that I think we’re doing anything particularly deep I just think you can tell when you read a bands lyrics whether they are really trying to express something that matters to them or just repeating a slogan or statement verbatim.

Q: What is the grassroots rock scene like in the North East-are there plenty of venues and opportunities to play-or is it more 'got van will travel?'

Gareth: There are some great venues in the North East but we're big fans of just getting in the van and going places, meeting new people and playing new places we haven’t been before.

Q: Obviously the internet has changed how people access music, do you notice any other effects on how people 'relate' to a band? Do you think it has helped dismantle hierarchies? For grassroots bands has it been a positive or a negative?

Gareth: I think the internet has reinforced the hierarchy more than anything else. I think now many people see paying for music as an imposition as it is so readily available for free. I think it has ultimately hit the smaller/medium sized musicians the hardest as it has made it more difficult for them to dedicate time to actually playing music. If you’re against any form of capitalist influence in music then I’m sure ideologically it has been great but I don’t think in real terms it has led to a more egalitarian music scene.

Much thanks to Al (vocals), Gareth (guitar), Gib (bass) and Mike (drums). 

Predators Video.



(2) Ringmaster (2013) 'In Evil Hour-The World Bleeds Out'

(3) Newall. P. (2013) 'In Evil Hour The World Bleeds Out-album review'.


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Lola Colt; Evolving and Exploring.

Photo by Ruth Nitkiewicz.

Described by as sounding like 'Sergio Leone meets the Velvet Underground covering Johnny Cash with Patti Smith and Siouxsie Sioux on vocals' six piece band Lola Colt formed in 2009. Their first album 'Away From The Water' was released in 2014 to enthusiastic reviews. Aligned by some with the neo-psychedelic scene it seemed a good idea to find out more about them. Matt and Gun kindly agreed to an interview.

Can you give us an overview of Lola Colt? Your first album, 'Away from the Water', was released in October 2014 wasn't it- how long had you been together beforehand? Had any of you collaborated previously?
MATT: We released Away From The Water on the 27th October 2014. Exactly five years earlier, during a particularly spiteful Tuesday night downpour I first met Gun in a pub in East London. We quickly discovered our freakishly similar taste in music, and sometime thereafter began writing together. The initial idea being to compose a film score for an imaginary movie. Our movie. That we may or may not subsequently attempt to make. It was a year or so later that we first discussed forming a band and playing music live. We met different people along the way and eventually became the six-piece you see/hear today. 
I think your name is taken from an old Western? Do you draw on a wide, eclectic range of art forms for inspiration and influences?
MATT: Our namesake is a somewhat obscure 60s spaghetti western staring a black female showgirl-turned-gunslinger. Film has always played a roll in driving us to create. Imagining scenes, projecting our own lives into some grander, more elaborate plot. It's about exploring ourselves and trying to conjure up a sound track for our own lives, as a way to try and make sense of it all. Any form of art or literature can work the same. Breath it in, filter it down through your own being, let it affect you, manipulate it to your own ends and then release it back out into the night, a new beast with new wings - your own warped response. Will it be good or evil? Impossible to know, just move on. 

Did the idea for Lola Colt's music gradually emerge or did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to create from the off?
MATT: We knew exactly in the beginning. Clear as the moon. Gun and I would sit up all night drinking wine, discussing what the creature should and shouldn't be. How it would smell, what it look like etc. We'd draw things and scribble frantically on paper while listening to our favourite records and endlessly critiquing them. We really were obsessive about it back then and I think that's why we're able to be so free when we're writing now, because we have this common grounding, like an understood language that we can always fall back on. The band that exists today writes quite differently, and the music has spiralled out of control into something we'd never have imagined in those early days. More people have a say in shaping it but it's always fine when you truly understand your roots.
Do you prefer the studio or playing live-which context suits your music best or do the different situations emphasise different aspects?
GUN: We like playing wild, collecting blue marks from tambouring, and we're quite ready for this again now that we've been tucked away for so long recording. After having toured the last album, we needed to regrow our limbs and be zen in our studio. There's a lot of energy that flows from the live experience into the studio and vice versa. 

Your music has been compared to a wide range of bands, and some people have associated you with the psych scene. How would you describe your sound?
MATT: People will always try to compare music with reference to something they already understand, but to us our sound is just the culmination of these particular six individual's unique experiences in life, channeled through the kind of sounds we feel represent them and brought together in ways we feel give them a new life. As for the Psych scene, it's an interesting development. It's something that has grown up with us as a band. Our association with it is born out of being part of something that we could define, rather than something that would define us. It's the only 'genre' broad enough to afford us total creative freedom. We're happy to sit in that circle if people need somewhere to find us. They're universally good people forging their own camp - kings and queens of the underground all.

Your second album is due out in 2016.  How did the creative process compare with the first album?
MATT: In some ways it was very similar, and others utterly different. Writing for us doesn't follow a predictable path anymore, it's evolving - or rather we are twisting it - constantly. Everything still goes through many iterations, versions, explorations - writing and rewriting to a point where an idea can be unrecognisable from the initial spark. That has remained the same. The main difference is that the new album is written very much in response to the first one. By which I mean, in a way we are now more influenced by ourselves - our past selves - than anyone/anything else. Because we're trying to push what we've done further than before. Build on it. Expand on some themes, destroy others. React to ourselves and try to be true to our own imaginings. It's a liberating feeling that's new to us
Does any one person write the lyrics, what sort of subjects have your songs covered? 
MATT: Gun writes all the lyrics, but is protective over their exact meanings. The language is always disguised, sometimes with a thin veil, sometimes with all her might, but they're all there, written on the record sleeve waiting for anyone brave enough to dive in.
I first came across you at Hackney Wonderland in 2014-what is it like playing festivals-where a lot of people may not be familiar with you-compared to your 'own' gigs? At Hackney Wonderland the venue seemed to fill up for you!
GUN: Hackney is a wonderland. Festivals are unpredictable; as a band you are less in control of what you get, the sounds blow with the wind and the audience you meet. We are not the easiest band to tumble into I think, as there is so much going on, but so far we have had nothing but good vibrations. And backstage you meet lots of other bands. They are usually nice to us.
What bands and other figures have influenced you as a band and individuals?
MATT: I don't know that I could single anyone out for this accolade, it's more of a constant stream of discovery. Anyone that's focused on creating rather than following. Anyone that's working tirelessly to see the world through their own eyes and vomit out chunks of beautiful, unique, honest to their own weird souls art. Those people. And Bill Murray.  

Andy von Pip (2013) 'Views From a Gun-Lola Colt Interview'

Friday, 11 December 2015

Lorelle Meets The Obsolete; Intelligent Psychedelia.

Photo by Fernando Nuti.

Lorena Quintanilla and Alberto Gonzalez are Lorelle Meets The Obsolete, a psychedelic band originally from Guadalajara in Mexico. Their music has been described as a 'hot pot of shoegaze and Krautrock bubbled through a psych filter'(1), though they self-describe as 'pattern music'. They have released three studio albums 'On Welfare', 'Corruptible Faces',  and 'Chambers' and in April 2015 they released the excellent 'Vocablo No.1' as a split single on God Unknown with Cloudland Canyon. When contacted this summer they were kind enough to agree to a wide ranging interview.  

Q: You are originally from Guadalajara in Mexico and moved, via Mexico City, to California in 2013 (2). Would you see your music now as a synthesis of two places/cultures; coming from a place of overlap?

Alberto: Absolutely. We actually moved to Ensenada, a small city, in Baja California that is still Mexico but only a few kilometers south of the borderline so this synthesis you mention I see it as the influence of coming from two structurally different places. Guadalajara and Mexico City are chaotic cities that had an abrasive effect on us and Ensenada with not even a fourth of Mexico City’s population and its laid back way of life presented as an opportunity to seclude and really focus on being a musician. 

Q: Has moving to California with its accompanying culture had an effect on your creative process and expression?

Alberto: Rather than the cultural richness of the area what really had an effect was the way of life we adopted here. We live on a very restrained budget, we barely go out, we don’t have many friends and we basically live in the outskirts, close to the hills. This made our creative process more focused.

Q: I was reading an interview you gave to ourvinyl.TV (3) and was interested that you mentioned the importance of having a similar ideology to other band members and your disappointment in seeing other bands being inconsistent in their 'ethics and ideology' (3). How would you describe yourselves in terms of your own ideologies? 

Alberto: This is a question we make ourselves quite often because we keep shaping our ideology but in its core we just try not to think a lot in ourselves. We try to cooperate as much as possible with the entities around us to build a sustainable structure for everybody. 

Q: Talking about your album 'Chambers' (2014) Lorena commented that you felt more comfortable expressing yourselves by making music at that time (5). Would you see your music as a type of abstract art, a transposing of concepts/emotions into sound?

Lorena: Yeah, I do enjoy translating concepts and emotions into music.  What happens is that I always need more time to communicate my ideas and any activity that gives me enough time to think and elaborate what I really want to express is great for me. I also think with music I can ‘suggest’ thoughts rather than ‘impose’ them. 

Q: Earlier this year you released an excellent track 'Vocablo No.1' on a split single with Cloudland Canyon as part of God Unknown's Singles Club series. How did that come about?

Alberto: Thanks! We played with Mugstar in an all-dayer show in Leeds and some months after, the bassist, Jason Stoll who also runs God Unknown invited us to the series. We got super excited when he mentioned we would do the split with Cloudland Canyon as we love and deeply respect their music. Plus Kip Uhlhorn is always a great host when we have played in Memphis. We may record with him at his studio someday.

Q: In Relational Aesthetics the art is completed by the contributions of others, do you find that it is in collaboration and/or live that your music finds it's fullest expression? Do you enjoy collaborating with other musicians? 

Lorena: I think our music just can’t be complete without the listeners and the live show is the moment when we present our work to them. Working with other people is one of our favorite things. All our live guests are friends and musicians that we deeply respect and they change our whole perspective of our own songs. Through our different live lineups we’ve adapted the songs in terms of their own identity as musicians instead of forcing them to play them exactly as they sound in the records. This way each lineup sounds completely different and we get to collaborate in a true sense.

Q: Lorena, how have you found being a woman in rock music? Often in mainstream pop women's physicality seems to be emphasised. Have you experienced much sexism and gender stereotyping or have you been pleasantly surprised by your experience? 

Lorena: It’s been very nice so far. I don’t think people treat me any different in general and I don’t see others and myself through gender either so I definitely don’t contribute to that. I have felt in the past and in some cities in particular some kind of condescending/idealizing attitude towards me that I thought was gender related and my reaction, at that time, was that I tried to dress more like a guy but then I realized it wasn’t necessary because it was an issue beyond me, it wasn’t my problem and maybe I just needed to hang out more with people who shared similar points of view with me.

 Q: What cultural resources (including writers/thinkers/musicians) have you drawn on, and been influenced by, as musicians and people?

Lorena: It is really difficult to answer that question but I think I can sum it all up in Julio Cortázar, Rubert De Ventós, Albert Camus and Michael Azerrad’s ‘Our Band Could Be Your Life’.

Q: What artists are you currently excited by?

Lorena: We are really excited by our friends bands like: Disappearing People, Adam Payne, Carlton Melton, White Manna, Late Nite Howl, New Candys, Has A Shadow, Spectres, Father Murphy, Ttotals, Bitchin Bajas. And artists like Julio Le Parc, Leandro Erlich, Urs Fischer.

(1) quoting 'Raven Sings the Blues' blog.
(2) Rathert, R. (2013) 'Lorelle Meets the Obsolete Interview with Lorena and Alberto.
(3) Tracy, D. 'Lorelle Meete the Obsolete-An Interview'
(5) Tuffrey, L. (2013) 'Listen: New Lorelle meets the Obsolete'

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Cafe OTO 26-10-15. Demian Castellanos and Tomaga.

Poster by Tim Drage.

Café OTO is a smallish venue tucked away just off Kingsland High Street in Dalston, and the night I went it had a friendly, busy vibe- with sofas and no stage it feels a bit like going to your hip neighbours for a gig in their living room! Unfortunately for me tonight it's a 149 to Liverpool Street and then a long train journey home so I had to leave early and missed last band up of three, Bitchin' Bajas, but caught Demian Castellanos and Tomaga.   
A man, a chair, a guitar, a pair of pointy boots and lots of pedals. Demian Castellanos is better known as The Oscillation's songwriter, singer and guitarist but earlier this year released a solo album 'The Kyvu Tapes' which is a collection of solo material from the 90s. I had only heard one track 'The Lizard Raga' which is quite chilled so didn't really know what to expect from a live show 17 years after the last track on the album was recorded but hoped it would be interesting. It was much more than that, it was exciting, atmospheric, visceral and far rockier than I had expected. At times it reminded me of the best bits of Rubycon by Tangerine Dream which is some achievement for one person irrespective of how many pedals you've got! When I wasn't staring at Demian's guitar playing the visuals by Antonio Curcetti (and others) of desolate landscapes in indeterminate places complimented the set adding to the experience.

Like radio messages from a distant constellation alerting us to the existence of artforms we had barely imagined Tomaga are a thing of wonder! Ignoring anything as mundane as genre or pauses between sections multi instrumentalists Valentina Magaletti and Tom Relleen create sets that perfectly balance structure and improvisation, a mesmerising collection of sound sculptures-cum-music, fluid, rhythmic, organic. Seeming to ignore any genre delineation whenever I see them they have metamorphosised again, a recognisable sound but with the components being constantly reconfigured and added to, this evening at Café OTO continued the exploration. It was at this point in the evening, after Tomaga had been on about 5 minutes, that no stage stopped being quirky and became a definite disadvantage as the guy at the front was sizeable and blocked my view of the band-although one positive consequence was that I did more fully appreciate Tomaga collaborator Ross Adams' visuals which as ever were spot on. Whenever I see this band live I'm convinced they might be the most innovative band around. In the mid 70s Bruce Springsteen was labelled the future of rock and roll by an excited journalist, fortunately he was wrong, the future is far more intriguing.


Friday, 16 October 2015

Disappears: No Fat, No Filler.

Photo by Zoran Orlic.
Chicago based band Disappears formed in 2008 and have already produced five albums and an EP (1), they've been described as Krautrock but their albums have such a sense of moving on, seem so distinct and subtly varied that any one label isn't going to come anywhere close to describing them. Their last album 'Irreal' saw them stripping everything back, quite different from the post punk sound on their third album 'Pre Language'. At The Lexington in February their set was built around 'Irreal' and was close to terrifying; sparse and foreboding (2).
Intrigued by a band who seem to produce such honed, complete albums and then shift again I contacted founder member and singer Brian Case who kindly agreed to answer a few questions.      

Q: I was trying to describe your music to a friend ahead of your gig at The Lexington earlier this year and ended up (lamely) with something like 'They're amazing- post modern rock with echoes of Magazine and early Psychedelic Furs!' Would you be OK with that? How would you describe your music? 

I'm definitely OK with that, great bands! I usually say we play minimal rock music, or post punk? I don't know it's hard - it works so differently when you're on the inside.
Q: When I was a kid I saw a film called 'The Man with the X-Ray Eyes', as far as I remember near the end of it all he can see is light, everything else has been stripped away. Is that what you were aiming for with 'Irreal', the removing of all extraneous content, music stripped back to its barest component parts?

Yeah, that's something we really focus on - stripping away as much fat as we can and having this direct hit. In my mind it usually falls into a black hole but I'm glad someone is seeing some light in there.
Q: Disappears have had a few personal changes, have those changes affected the creative process within the band. Do changing collaborations bring out different facets of the musicians, cause you to explore different aspects of the music? Do those different dynamics help keep things fresh?

Yeah, they all effected the band in different ways, but always positively. They've all pushed us to adapt which is really useful when you release records at the rate that we do. I'd say it's been pretty essential to pushing us into the sound we've arrived at.
Q: This November you are performing the album 'Low' at the 100 Club in London, about a year since you first performed it at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (3).  How did that original idea and performance come about? Were you asked to play that album or was it your choice?

We chose the album, the MCA was hosting the US premiere of the 'David Bowie Is...' exhibit and wanted some bands to interpret his catalog. We had just finshed (or were finishing) recording 'Irreal' and were just about finished touring 'Era' so we had the time to really focus on it.
Q: That original evening is being released on vinyl and tape-was it difficult making the music 'yours' or did you try to stay as close to the original as possible?

It kind of just became ours based on the decisions we made about how to handle the material. The A side has some really nice moments, it is straight forward but there's still a lot to interpret. Once we figured out the B side and decided to do it without keys it was a lot easier to get our head around it. you just find the important parts and build around them. I'd say some of the songs feel like original music, that was a great feeling.
Q: The vocals are an important part of the Disappears sound- what kind of subject matter do you enjoy exploring lyrically?

Mmmmm...they're fairly existential I suppose, really I'm just asking a lot of questions or commenting on something I can't fully understand. They become how I deal with things or sus out what's in my head.
Q: When you play a gig do you aim to replicate the studio recordings or use them as a 'launch pad' to work out from? Does the immediate environment-the audience/ building-affect what you play or are you fairly self-contained?

We're self contained in the respect that we know how to push though the set and songs no matter what the situation is, but we all try and absorb the atmosphere and let the environment take over. If you're playing live I think it's really important to be effected by those things, make it about that moment and space.
Q: On her Twitter page Nic Endo comments that 'There is purity in noise (that) can serve as a very direct way of communicating emotion...'(4). Is Disappears music a transposing of emotion into sound or more conceptual?

I think it's both - we're definitely approaching things with certain concepts and ideas but the songs start organically and really only take shape when we have an emotional response from each other. I think it's pretty moody music so yeah, emotion is a big part of it - despite it's starkness.
Q: What cultural resources (writers/thinkers/musicians/etc) have you been influenced by, as people and musicians?

So many - but right now I'm reading the Philip Glass book and he's a really inspiring guy. Even the things he did to continue making music and surviving until he got recognition, he deals with them with such grace and unique perspective that it's hard not be completely charmed by everything he's saying.
Q: Do you have any plans for the coming year-a new album?

Yeah, we're writing it now, we have about half of it written? I don't know - it's hard to know where we're at or what it's sounding like at this stage. I never know until we're done mixing what we've got - I think I thought 'Irreal' was pretty light hearted when we were writing it and then after mixing I was surprised it was such a black hole. we're not recording until later in the year so I think we'll have a lot of material to work with which is not the usual scenario.


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Presolar Sands-Evolving Stardust.

Photo by Victor Mengarelli.

In September I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in Oslo which included catching 'White Hills' in a (literally) underground venue-Revolver- near the city centre. First up that night were the very impressive Swedish psych rock band 'The Presolar Sands' consisting of  Jessica Mengarelli (Vocals, Guitar), Charlotta Paulin (Bass, Vocals), Wilhelm Tengdahl (Drums) and Micke Pettersson (Guitar) who have recently released a couple of tracks on Lazy Octopus (1). After the gig they agreed to an interview.
Your first release was in May 2015- how long had you been together beforehand? Had any of you collaborated previously in other bands?
J: We had been playing together for about a year, although me and Wille were playing together in another constellation before that, Wille on drums and me on tambourine, and that´s actually how we met Charlotta as she was on the front row at one of our gigs, being the most radiant person at the party.
C: At that time I was playing in Serious Mysterious and Body.
M: I came around in August 2014. My other band is called Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus.

What sort of response have you had to the 2 tracks you've released and your live shows?
M: ”Wow it sounds nothing like the 7inch when you play live, in a good way” must be the most common response.
J: I think people have been surprised to see that we are so straight on. We were rehearsing for 8 months before we had our first show, although we talked a lot about our band. I think they probably expected us to be softer.
W: People were very curious about what we had been doing and it felt very exciting to finally show them what we´d been working on. Especially, we notice it when we play live. ”The hype was real, it was worth waiting for” is probably the best compliment I´ve been told.
J: Someone actually thought we were just pretending to be a band.

'The Mad Mackerel' detected echoes of The Stooges, Spacemen 3 and Asteroid #4 in your sound (2)- but how would you describe your music? Did the ideas for The Presolar Sands' sound gradually emerge or did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to create from the start?
J: Those are bands I really love and feel connected to. But we were very clear from the beginning to try not to be defined by a genre. It doesn´t excite me to recreate other peoples music. Of course nothing can be created that hasn´t been done before but I´d rather not go into something new planning exactly how it should be and feel and what it should generate.
M: I just need to ”destroy” the sound so it won´t get into radio charts. You don´t want to be there.. so I just try to make the highest and weirdest noises there is to (not) get there.
W: We sound a bit harder and more noisy now than when we started. This is evident in the new recordings compared to our premiere release. We are a constellation from different backgrounds and our music is very reflected of it. The Presolar Sands sound has evolved into what you hear today, and will probably evolve even more in the future.
Photo by The Presolar Sands.
What is the grassroots rock scene like in Sweden-are there plenty of rock venues and opportunities to play? I saw you in Oslo-do you play a lot outside of Sweden?
M: It sucks. It´s reduced to just have venues in the three biggest cities in Sweden.
J: There are loads of bands and people interested in different kinds of music, but unfortunately I feel that there is not a lot of creativity in getting new exciting venues going. At least Stockholm is playing it a bit safe, following the trends of bigger international movements. I wish there was more of a daring transboundary cultural scene. I guess that´s why we are looking forward to play a lot outside of Sweden, to get in contact with other ways and ideas.
C: Well I think there are quite a few places to play in Stockholm on a grassroot level, I can think of 20 something places. Rest of Sweden I don't know really, but there is at least one place in every city I think. But there should and could really be more! I guess it´s not profitable enough.
W: The scene in Stockholm is really not that limited, however it feels limited, given the crowd that goes to our gigs. It feels like we know all the musicians and music fans within our crowd, so it´ll be the same people who go to the same gigs, which means that you have to watch out a bit to not play too often. You don´t wanna become one of those bands that never leaves Stockholm, who just gets stuck and plays on small venues. That´s why we want to come out and play. To come to Norway feels great, and to get to play in Denmark in a couple of weeks also feels absolutely amazing. And that is exactly what we want. We don´t want to get caught up in Stockholm. Actually, we want to get away from there.

Do you prefer the studio or playing live-which context suits your music best or do the different situations emphasise different aspects?
M: I´m more of a live guy. It´s too much pressure in the studio, it feels like my freedom of playing however I want is taken away from me and the only thing you´ve got left is the technique and the abillity to be on time.
W: The most fun is definitely playing live, but also, while it´s great and all, you can always have those days when you are standing there, backstage, swine nervous and wondering why the hell you have chosen this. But after the gig you always know why.
C: I´d go for live also – any day of the week! It brings another dimension that you can´t get from playing one at a time. (I never recorded live yet though but I´d really love to!)
J: Not to forget is the lonely aspect of pre production that I really enjoy and need. But live is something else. Writing, and building songs up together is like dreaming, while playing a show is like living.

The vocals are an important part of the sound-what sort of subject matter are you engaging with lyrically?
J: I tend to write a lot about everything's finiteness. And usually that comes with the vision of an infinite state on a bigger scale, though not in a religious way but rather in a scientific sense, the fact that we are stardust and that nothing in the world can ever be created or destroyed fascinates me a lot. I also write about corruption. Corruption of the mind caused by desire or destructive patterns.

What are your plans for the next year? An album on the horizon at all?  
W: We have a new EP which we will release within a close future, that we recorded this summer. Next year we have plans for an album and to go on a larger tour.

 Who would you cite as influences both as people and musicians?
C: Nina Simone, she had to fight unbelievably hard to do what she wanted musically and in her personal life. She didn´t care if she went against the grain, she was a radical, (she was even pro violence when it came to stop the racism and attacks against black people). She was also a fucking brilliant pianist and singer (obviously). Her playing was hard and wild and dead confident. And most important, she seemed completely free on stage.
J: Well the music of the 60s and 70s has become such a big part of my identity that it must effect everything I do musically. I admire bands who try to stay out of a genre, that pushes boundaries and take influences from different contexts. I find that in people like Syd Barrett and in the music of Sonic Youth and  Soundtrack of our Lives. I look up to musicians that seem sympathetic and honest, like Ty Segall, Iggy Pop, Graham Coxon...
M: Fred Sonic Smith, Slash and people who plays really loud guitars.
W: I grew up with the lovely mix of indie pop / rock and garage. Radiohead, The Strokes, Nirvana and the Swedish band Broder Daniel were present throughout my youth. I am inspired by artists who don´t care what others think and just go their own way.

and what current bands are you excited by?
J: Black Market Karma, Quilt, The Wands, Dead Skeletons, Ty Segall and Dungen.
C: Hanged man. I love everything about that band; its kind of eerie childish weirdness, its vocals, the lyrics, the darkness, I could go on and on..
W: The best new band right now is Moon City Boys. Otherwise, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Swedish band Solen are always exiting! And I´m stoked to hear the new Dungen and Libertines record!
M: Sleep, always Sleep.

Big thanks to The Presolar Sands for their time and answers.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015


As we head into autumn the thoughts of many anarchists in the south of England turn to the Anarchist Bookfair, being held this year at Central St Martin's near Kings Cross Station, a highlight in the anarchist calendar for many. One of the regular stalls at the Bookfair intrigues some, confuses others and annoys a few so it seemed a good idea to find out a little bit more about the Catholic Worker Movement and why they align themselves with anarchism. I contacted Scott Albrecht for an interview and he kindly agreed.
Q: Scott, most anarchists haven't heard of The Catholic Worker Movement, and the word 'Catholic' isn't great PR at the moment. Can you tell us a bit about it. How did it start, what are its values, what does it do?

The Catholic Worker was started on May Day 1933 by Dorothy Day, a former communist, and Peter Maurin, a learned man of the road. They decided they wanted to explode 'the dynamite of Catholic social teaching', ideas such as Distributism, Subsidiarity, Unions, Voluntary Poverty, Non-violence (although the catholic church as you rightly suggest has been violent, in the last century violence has had its primary roots within the nation state). Dorothy Day promoted pacifism, in fact immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbour the headline of The Catholic Worker Newspaper claimed “We are still Pacifists” The Catholic Worker lost 70,000 readers.  

Within the Catholic Worker Movement are Houses of Hospitality for those who have been made destitute by government policy.  I live at The Catholic Worker Farm where we empower women and children who have fled internal and external conflicts, human trafficking, bonded servitude, FGM and domestic violence. We offer 23 of them food, shelter and clothing to start.  Then we offer therapies, Psycho, Group and Dance. We help them get solicitors, GP’s and dental work, put their children into school and generally support them as we share the same dignity.

But it doesn't stop there.  We engage with the State, non-violently. Many of us have criminal records, I have four! I've been in jail over a dozen times. We’ve poured litres and litres of red paint on Government property, dug graves, blockaded and marched against Climate Change, Nuclear Weapons and all of the invasions. We have engaged with the DSEi Arms Fair, the MoD, Northwood Military Headquarters, The Home and Foreign Offices, MI5, and still keep on 'ploughing'.

Oh yeah,we also Dumpster Dive and grow organic vegetables!  

Q: I first came across you at the Anarchist Bookfair in London, maybe about 10 years ago, where you had a stall. I remember you saying that you had a crucifix on it to express the idea that you don't follow a god who wants to dominate. Are the Catholic Workers inherently anarchist-or is that your take on it? Can Christianity be anarchist? Do you really see a similarity between the teachings of Jesus and anarchism?

Dorothy Day taught that we believe in “the Anarchism of Kropotkin”  It is at the heart of all we do.  We are not a Registered Charities, and take no government funding.  We are trying to build something 'new in the shell of the old'.  Something with human proportion, with human need at the centre. Zones of liberation.

Many christians are unaware that the earliest christians were pacifists and had a anarchist orientation towards the state.  It wasn't until the Edict of Toleration in 324CE that Christianity was made legal.  Prior to that, the state kicked the shit out of christians for not worshipping Caesar, the State and not joining the military.  To be radical can mean to go back to one's roots.  Christians need to go back and read early christian history.

Jesus taught that the “Archons” (rulers) lord their authority over others and make their presence felt.  He taught that If one wants to lead. one should become a slave of all.  He gets on his knees before the crucifixion and washes his friend's feet, a role typically reserved in that culture for women or slaves.  There are many passages in the Old Testament that forbid the establishment of a kingship; whilst all the other nations worshipped them.  In the earliest passages, from Genesis, the Rabbi’s are claiming that all humans are created in the “Image of God”. Quite a radical perspective since all of the other surrounding religions taught that the King alone is the Image of God.     

Q: The dominant expression of the Catholic Church has historically been reactionary, patriarchal and often on the side of the oppressor, the antithesis of anarchism-how do you see yourself in relation to that Church?

I see myself as a challenge to that church. While I may believe in its Dogmas, I believe we must challenge injustice in the church as well. The church is always the last to change. It’s moves to pay a just wage, to stop pedophile priests are reactionary. Like any institution, it reacts slowly and largely under pressure. The truth is though that we expect more from those who talk the talk but don't walk the walk.  

However the church is a voluntary association, unlike the State. It gives honour to the role of conscience. The state couldn't care less. It needs us to remain sedated, support violence or live in fear.

Q: You have been arrested a few times for anti-state/anti-militarist activity- can you tell us more about that? Does christian anarchism emphasise anti-militarism? 

I was conned into the military at an early age.  The recruitment officers were wining and dining me.  Prositituting themselves in order to score me.  I was young and believed in the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).  We had the fear of a Russian nuclear attack hanging over our heads as children.  Having become a christian while in the military, I was then confronted with a new doctrine, “Love your Enemies”!  This hit me hard and I went to my commanding officer and said that I would refuse to take direct orders, work on F111 Fighter planes, load Nukes, the lot. 

I now understand that the discipline, sense of community, orientation towards a higher goal has been the catalyst for my activism now.  Those values (experienced in the armed forces) are still there, just redirected to enrich human life, not to destroy it.   
Every Christian Anarchist I know is a Pacifist.    

Q: You have spent a lot of years in activism and engaged with social issues-how have you managed to avoid burn out and becoming jaded?

Im not so sure that I've avoided burn out completely. I have been tired and the responsibilities of the farm are immense.  Prayer and trying to allow a revolution of the heart are equally important to me.  What's it all about if we create utopia and yet know that we are feeling like crap inside?  I have an old black punk shirt that says, “ all anarchists are pretty” Id like to think so. 

One of the issues I have though hard on in terms of Direct Action is this. When we close down the gates at Northwood Military Headquarters, do the military not use that as an opportunity to increase their mobility and focus?  If we could stop one bomb from dropping on Iraq, a friend said, it’ll have been worth it.  The problem is, as I see it, If we could stop them from dropping one bomb, the military would still be largely effective.  They either thrive on adversity or ignore it.  

So where does that leave us?  Symbolic actions have the power inherent in them to move consciousness. Think of the hammering of the Berlin Wall.  The Prophet Isaiah said, “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks and study war no more.” I like that, weapons into agricultural implements so that we can feed people.       

Q: What thinkers, writers etc do you find interesting and inspiring? 

I enjoy reading Chris Hedges, Jacque Ellul, Tolstoy, Ched Myers, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky, who was willing to Skype us during our Christian Anarchist Conference last year, but he couldn't get into his office!

Q: What do you think is the most important lesson christianity can learn from anarchism, and vice versa?

That together we’re stronger.  Anarchist can teach christians from their own texts, cause we are largely illiterate!  While christians don't have a monopoly on it, christians can share their thoughts on the primacy of Love and its power to move immovable objects. I believe in Ghandi’s Truth Force and Jesus’ 'The truth will set us free', but we need to understand reality first, on its own terms.  Then we need to embrace and bare the burden of it.  Only then can we change the course of it.