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'