Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Christopher Nosnibor

They say you should never meet your heroes, but having interviewed – if not necessarily met – a fair few of mine, I’ve either been extremely fortunate, or have chosen my heroes wisely. I’ve been a fan of Raymond Watts’ work as PIG since I first clapped eyes and ears on the band supporting Nine Inch Nails on the Downward Spiral tour in 1994, and I’ve spent the intervening years hunting down as much PIG material as possible.

I tell him this by way of an ice-breaker, as much as anything to get the fanboy shit out of the way early and to shake off some of the anxiety.

He looks – and sounds – genuinely surprised, with an astonished ‘no! You are kidding?’ when I tell him I’ve been a fan for many years, and a ‘wow!’ when I tell him how I came to be aware of his work. ‘That was the last time we played in this country! Shouldn’t we have grown out of this shit by now?’ he laughs. Never! It’s all about showing the kids how it’s done, I tell him.

We’re in York, and we’re seated on a big, plush, red leather-upholstered sofa in a corner of a ‘gentleman’s club’, which is situated above the Fibbers venue. It isn’t yet open, so the place is empty and the only noise is the throb of the soundcheck going on downstairs. The lighting is low, and red in hue. There’s nothing subtle about its reproduction vintage sleaze.

Raymond Watts is a tall man. A very tall man. I am not a tall man. Yet despite his towering presence which is more than purely physical, he has a most charming, disarming nature, which sets me at ease immediately. Even so: in getting down to business with the recording rolling, I look at my printed A4 sheet of questions. They seemed far wittier when I compiled them than they do now as I squint in the half-light. But hey, go for the Q&A, and see where it goes, I think.

I start with a gentle opener, asking what it’s like playing to a ‘home’ crowd, as someone who can genuinely say they’re big in Japan?

“Well, I can – was – maybe. I haven’t been there for a long time, but that’s where the natural constituency used to be. And then of course it became America, because my label, Wax Trax! was in Chicago. But there seemed to be more purchase in Japan, and I was also more interested in Japan. I liked it. It felt weirder. It was so fucking weird: it was like Blade Runner – why is there a train disappearing into the middle of that building? But how does it feel to be playing in the UK? Very weird. I was initially quite trepidatious about doing it. I never worked it so hard here, I lived in Berlin… And then you stop being so up yourself and someone asks you to come and do something. It’s fairly modest, but it’s great fun.”

PIG - Gospel Cover

It’s immediately clear that when he forewarned me there’d be a lot of editing required in my transcription, he wasn’t kidding. But then again, the digressions make for far more interesting interview matter than anything a direct answer might provide. I ask how this double-header tour with Mortiis came about.

“The reason why PIG is doing stuff again isn’t because I’ve been striving away at the coal-face for years and years. It’s been on the shelf for over a decade, as I was doing other stuff, for McQueen and all sorts of fashion houses”, he says. This explains the big furry Cossack hat he’s thrown onto the table and the audacious black faux-fur jacket he will later walk on stage wearing: Watts is a stylish man with an obvious sense of theatre. “…and looking after my kids, and doing other things, and having a full-on fucking ramped-up drug problem, the whole thing was a full-time job not doing music of the PIG variety. This weird series of events collided, which ended up with me being invited to do a little festival in Canada last year.”

One show became five, and thanks to his booking agent, five became twenty, at which point the need for some product to promote became an issue. Following a few phone calls between his label, Metropolis records, and various musicians, lo, ten days later, The Gospel was created. One thing led to another, and, ultimately a tour where the two artists could bear the responsibility and burden on a jaunt around the less obvious venues of the UK. As such, the latest burst of activity, as represented by a brace of EPs, The Gospel, a tour-only collection of offcuts and remixes and an upcoming remix EP is only partially reflective of the actuality. This brings me to the question of the PIG back-catalogue, which is diffuse and widely-dispersed, and almost impossible to track down in its entirety. How much of an impact did touring as the support for Nine Inch Nails in ‘94 have in terms of the band reaching a wider audience?

“It’s very difficult to find our stuff”, he acknowledges. “We’re almost the most wilfully obscure band you could possibly fucking come across. I’m always amazed when people come up and say ‘I’ve got all your things,’ and I say ‘how the fuck did you find your way to that?’ I mean, I haven’t even got all my shit! I haven’t got an American version of fucking Wrecked, for example, ‘cause there was one version in Japan and they have different tracks and I always made things incredibly complicated: ‘I’m going to release that song over here and that one over there…’ Talk about underground. We are genuinely under the fucking ground, it’s very difficult to get our shit.”

He has a habit of leaning close and extending his hands as if to guide his words directly into his interlocutor’s mind, but it’s by no means an aggressive manner or a delivery which suggests a desire to dominate. And while he swears prodigiously, and clearly has a penchant for ‘shit’ as a substitutive noun, he’s effusive and extremely well-spoken and articulate.

I’m wondering if he has a 12” promo for ‘Fountain of Miracles’, which features the amusingly puntastic ‘anal-log’ and ‘anal-hog’ mixes, like the one lurking in my collection, but instead ask about his having been a touring member of Foetus back in the late 80s. JG Thirlwell was involved with a couple of early PIG releases, and I’m curious to know just how much of an influence the mighty master of disaster has been on Watt’s work and his approach to composition.

“Yeah, that was a great band,” he enthuses. “He’s influenced me massively. I mean, if you’re going to be influenced by shit, be influenced by the best shit. He obviously carries an enormous stylistic truckload of things… that whole train wreck of musical styles: he’s got a whole great thing going on, and always has done. I met him when I was doing sound for Neubauten, ‘cause I used to knock around with those guys a lot. I met him in New York, and before I knew it, I was in his band with some of those guys from Swans… It was very fertile territory, working with him on some of the Steroid Maximus stuff. I’d already done PIG and KMFDM. It was good influence.”

I try to read out my next question as naturally as I can, and find myself compelled to suppress an inner wince: Wordplay – particularly alliteration and punning – is a prominent feature of all things Pig. It seems a uniquely English thing, and it never grows tired. What is it about the audacious porcine puns that you enjoy so much?

It raises a chuckle, and I’m relieved. “I like that fact that, honestly, it sounds good.,” he says. “Very simple. But also, it punctures pomposity, without meaning to alliterate again.” It seems he can’t help himself. “I didn’t plan that honestly,” he laughs. “I think when you say it’s quite English, you’re right, I hadn’t thought about that before, but it is quite an English trait. I can’t imagine it coming from an American, ‘cause it’s got low self-esteem and grandiosity rolled into one. It’s daft: it’s pompous, but it’s daft. So it’s got that duality. And it just sounds good. You can say a lot with ‘find it, fuck it, forget it’, ‘red, raw and sore’, ‘prayer, praise, profit’, or ‘vitriol, vice, and virtue’… I’ve always been attracted to slogans. Advertising. Red-tops. The Sun, The Mirror. Imagine being a headline writer: what a fucking job!

Is it fair to say that despite the dark subject matter, there’s a certain element not only of humour, but of parody to your work and its delivery? It’s something that runs a thread through all of your work under the PIG moniker, but the video to ‘Found in Filth’ seems to really revel in the absurdity and excess of rock clichés.

“Yeah, there’s a tremendous attraction in, say, the kind of fluff and nonsense of glam rock: we’re attracted to it. Like the foot on the monitor thing, were attracted to it, but t’s completely daft.

But you have to do it, because you’ve got the chance to do it…

“Exactly!” he ejaculates. “But don’t believe it too much. We’re all too old for that. Do it, but you have your tongue in your cheek. Dark subject matter is incredibly rich and fabulous, but it can get fucking tedious if you’re completely obsessed with it, and you have to puncture your own obsession every now and again.”

He’s one of the only men I’ve ever met who can say ‘fabulous’ and not sound like a cock. It isn’t campness, but there’s a certain flamboyance which radiates from Raymond that has hints of David Bowie it’s accompanied by a glint in the eye which betrays a wry humour and self-awareness.

“Also, it becomes incredibly preachy if you’re just obsessed with pointing the finger or droning on about yourself without any sense of puncturing your pomposity.”

I ask if it would it be fair to describe The Gospel as a concept album, or more as a themed work. On this, he’s unequivocal and concise: “No.”

“A lot of these things are quite happy accidents,” he explains. “It wasn’t all formed, like (adopts butch, brawling cockney tone) ‘right, I’ve got this idea!’ It was much more organic, and I changed things right up to the last minute.” It transpires that ‘Diamond Sinners’ arrived at the eleventh hour, and this was pivotal in the shaping of the album, providing not only the opening track but an idea for how the album should look. “It seems to look like a fully formed concept, but it wasn’t,” he concludes, honestly.

After he explains the very different approaches to album-making in comparing Praise the Lard and The Gospel, it seems appropriate to comment on the evolution of PIG sound and I ask if there a particular period or album he’s especially proud of.

“Like a ‘golden era’?” he asks, amused. “A lot of people say Wrecked was the definitive PIG album of the orchestral industrial metal hybrid thing that was done at that time, that was the most fertile period of this genre or whatever. To me, it’s no different, no better, or worse, than the other ones. I think I took my eye of the ball a little bit at the height of my substance abuse round about 2003, when I did Pigmartyr [issued initially as a Watts solo album, then re-released, rematered as PIG album Pigmata] , which was a bit of a fuck-up, and I didn’t even care it wasn’t the best mastered album in the world, but I was going through some of the words the other day and I was thinking ‘I should rerecord these!’”

I don’t push for the details of his substance abuse: it’s part of the backdrop, the context, but it’s not the headline here. It’s history, and speaking to Watts, who it alert and in good shape, I’m reminded of William Burroughs’ (quite baseless) claims for the regenerative powers of cyclical addiction and withdrawal. But more importantly, Watts doesn’t lend himself to a narrative of a man who faced hell and retuned from the abyss to re-emerge as a glorious renaissance man.

“I’ve become much more word-orientated than I used to be. I think the word is king.”

We continueriffing a good ten minutes after I’ve stopped recording and the interviewis over. After the show, which was ace, he hands me a PIG-branded condom, and I realise I’d omitted my question about this unusual line in merch. Still, I leave happy, and with the enduring impression that Raymond Watts is one of the most thoroughly decent chaps I’ve ever interviewed.

Christopher Nosnibor

This conversation happened. It didn’t quite happen as was originally planned, but shit happens and storms happen. Maidstone-based pop-rock quintet Weekend Recovery may have been late – way late, after storm Doris fucked all things traffic, meaning the journey to Leeds took an insane eight hours – to their own show on first night of their first headline tour, but they still made it on stage in fair time and finished on time, played like pros and rocked the house down in the process. All of which is to say, they may be a relatively new act, and they may be young in years, but they know how to conduct themselves, and demonstrate an admirable work ethic and commitment to what they do.

These are not easy times for being in a band, and the economics of the music industry in the twenty-first century mean that music-making can only be a sideline or hobby for most. But the way to make it is to treat music-making like a full-tie job: it takes 110% just to get off your arse and tour without label backing. Weekend Recovery – with a bit of crowdfunding assistance have taken the enormous leap from local band occasionally venturing further afield, to proper touring entity, in order to promote their new single ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’.

AA: Before becoming Weekend Recovery in April last year, you and your fellow band-members were the Lauren Forster Band. Why the change?

LF: We changed it because I didn’t feel like being called Lorin Jane Forster Band. Credit to my band mates who work very bloody hard – also it’s really tricky to get higher up a bill when people think you’re an acoustic act.

So more about making clear you’re a proper band, rather than a solo artist with backing?

That’s exactly it.

Why Weekend Recovery?

Well, I personally wanted Ninja Pandas, but I got voted out, she explains. I can’t help but laugh. Ninja Pandas would have been ace. But perhaps not as easy to be taken seriously with. It actually comes from my guitarist Jordan’s favourite band The Darkness’ song ‘Friday Night’.

Ok, so I do find it difficult to digest the fact that The Darkness could be anyone’s favourite band – other than perhaps Justin Hawkins’ mum, but I let it ride. Because there’s a time for music snobbery and being a twat, and time to rein it in. Weekend Recovery don’t sound like The Darkness, or any other second-rate Queen tribute, or any other overblown pomp-rock.

You describe yourselves as pop rock. Pop is often a dirty word in rock circles, and pop-punk tends to be lame as, but Weekend Recovery have some serious nuts on the evidence of your first two singles. Musically, who inspires you – and why?

Personally, I love Paramore. I’m sure that’s obvious and Katy Perry is my hero! But I love Bikini Kill and Slaves as well, so a real mismatch.

In context, those seemingly incongruous juxtapositions work well, and yes, they do come through in the music. For my money, I’d take Weekend Recovery over Paramore (too obvious, and Hayley’s voice grates) or Katy Perry (too bubblegum and lacking in substance) any day. Here is a band with some substance, not to mention a singer with a decent voice. But I’m curious: how about the rest of the band, and to what extent do they contribute to the songwriting and development?

They love a variety of music – Artur likes funk; Jordan loves The Darkness; Sean, Aerosmith, and Matt metal and Little Mix. I write the songs, lyrics and melody, but the lads jazz ‘em up.

That’s one hell of a range, and no mistake. It shouldn’t work. I daren’t ask if she’s having me on about metal and Little Mix, but then, I have a hefty stack of albums by Sunn O))) and Godflesh in a collection which also houses records by A-Ha, Duran Duran, and even a Stefan Denis 12”. What would you say distinguishes you from other bands?

It’s hard to say, because there are sooooo many bands. She had a point. We’re at band overload, a point of saturation beyond saturation. I receive in the region of up to a hundred releases a week to check out, and in truth, half of my emails don’t even get opened. And so it comes down to bands putting themselves out there and pushing like hell. We work really very hard and not afraid to fail, she says. And perhaps that’s it, in a nutshell: fearlessness is the key.

Image: how important is it? I’m aware of the fact I’m asking this question of a woman who strolled nonchalantly into a tiny venue wearing a calf-length animal-print coat and then performed in a crop-top on a wild night in Leeds in February. It’s not that she radiated ego, but a sense of occasion and role.

I think it’s important that the crowd know who the band is and doesn’t just think it’s a random person off the street – if that makes sense.

Weekend Recovery 1

It does: jeans and t-shirt bands just look like they don’t care and could be just anyone. Everyone’s anonymous: we need bands who look like bands, rather than guys who’ve wandered on stage after a shift in some IT department. So I push a bit further. Women in rock: there are many, and yet I still get the impression it’s not an easy ride. What’s your experience so far?

I rise to it, like I’ve had the looks and the ‘oh here we go’ but I’m more of a bloke than most of ‘em.

I can believe this. She may be smiley and affable, but it’s abundantly clear that Lorin has colossal balls, at least metaphorically. You’ve toured and played support to other bands – notably Hands Off Gretel – but this is your first proper headline tour: how does it feel?

Scary as hell! If it weren’t for Hands Off Gretel I probably never would have had the kick up the arse to think ‘hell this can be done on your own without help of agency or pluggers, etc.’ – but we love it, love meeting other bands and seeing the country and what every city’s music scene has to offer!

From the live clips I’ve seen on-line so far, and from your show in Leeds on the first night of your tour, I get the impression you’re a band who thrive on playing live: is this the case, and what does playing live mean for you?

You get such a different atmosphere from playing live than a recording, the energy is something that you can’t expel to your fans from playing in a studio – I think anyway – it’s an experience you can only share to a live audience. Also, I love meeting people that like our music!

Weekend Recovery 2

What’s in the pipeline for Weekend Recovery once you’re done with the tour?

Well, we’re supporting Skinny Girl Diet, which I’m super amped about, then it’s back in the studio I imagine, and then take over the world!

No two ways about it: Skinny Girl Diet is an ace support to bag. And I always say that ubiquity is the key to world domination.

It totally is! Yes, we’re supporting them at the Lady Luck on 30th March, which is funnily enough where we supported HOG.

It’s funny what goes around comes around, and perhaps this is fate. Weekend Recovery aren’t only a hard-grafting band, but a band who are intent on driving their own career path and making their own luck. Armed with a bunch of killer tunes and a go get ‘em attitude, if ever a band did deserve world domination, it’s Weekend Recovery.

‘Don’t Try And Stop Me’ is out now.

Christopher Nosnibor

Doing what I do, I get to hear a lot of music. I’m talking 30 or so CDs in the mail each week, and at least twice that in terms of emails offering downloads and streams. It might sound glamourous, but actually, with time, it gets increasingly dull. So many dull, derivative bands, all being hailed by their PR and labels or themselves as the next big thing, the most exciting band to emerge in a decade or whatever. On first hearing ‘Sick’ by Mannequin Death Squad, I found myself getting properly excited for the first time in a while.

On meeting the Australian duo, consisting of Daniel Cohn and Elena Velinsky – who surely have one of the best band names around – just before their gig at Santiago in Leeds, as main support to Hora Douse, I was immediately struck not only by how down to earth and thoroughly pleasant the duo are, but by their insuppressible enthusiasm and the fact they’re so genuine. We meet in the downstairs bar of the little venue and sit around a table. The idea is that I’ll do a five to ten-minute quick-fire Q&A, but we end up chatting and talking around stuff instead. El is the ultimate rock chick, sporting a faded Led Zep T-shirt, shades perched on top of her head, and immediately I get a sense that these people were born to do this. They may be about to play to room with a capacity of 100 or so, which looks and feels like someone’s living room, but they’re rock stars irrespective of sales or fanbase. That said, on the strength of tonight’s outing and their Eat Hate Regurgitate mini-album, they won’t be playing venues of this size for long.

I ask them how their first trip to the UK as a touring band has gone so far.

‘Good,’ they both reply without hesitation. ‘I think the Adelphi’s probably been our favourite show so far,’ El expands. ‘It’s a cool, real, dirty venue…’

‘…and a big community,’ Dan adds.

I’ll admit I’m slightly surprised, but then, Hull is a surprising place. It’s not the first place that springs to mind when you’re listing cities with buzzing music scenes, but as the City of Culture for 2017, there does seem to be a lot going on there these days.

‘It’s amazing. It’s a lot like the scene back home in Newcastle,’ Dan says. ‘It’s got a strong community, and big bands…’

‘Everyone takes care of each other, and likes each other’s music and supports each other, it’s cool’ El adds.

They’re archetypal Australians, in many ways: they’re paid back, and say ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’ a lot. They also finish one another’s sentences in a way which shows a real synchronisation and intuition, and I feel that I’m witnessing the key to their music-making in action.

Mannequin Death Squad 1

They’ve been equally impressed by the reception of their shows in London, and in Brighton, at the Hope and Ruin. Their tour has certainly taken them to some of the country’s less obvious cities and venues: not only Hull, but also Scunthorpe… Still, that gig (along with a second Hull date) was supporting Slaves, which a big deal and remarkable exposure for a band with only two singles to their credit. I’m eager to find out about how they scored that slot on their very first trip.

‘We had a gig booked in Scunthorpe, at the Café independent, which clashed with theirs,’ Dan begins

‘…so they wanted to book it,’ chops in El.

‘They listened to our music and they liked it, so they asked us…’ and being rather a music-starved backwater, the show went down particularly well, ‘They really appreciate musos coming up that way. I think it’s like an ego thing for those big cities that are really highly rated with music, that people take it for granted, and then at the other end of the spectrum, you go to small towns and everyone makes the most of it.’

How have you found UK audiences have differed from audiences at home?

‘They’re pretty similar,’ El observes.

‘We were getting a good response in Melbourne just before we left,’ adds Dan. ‘We’re a relatively new band, kinda like a year of playing gigs, but we’re getting really good responses here, probably even a bit better.’

‘We’ve got a lot of our friends back home, so it’ always going to be a good response,’ El says with a laugh.

It’s a fair observation: the test of any band is how they go down when playing to strangers and non-fans. The reactions of audiences on this tour indicates it’s a test they have nothing to worry about. El talks about the number of people going up them to compliment them on their sets – particularly the diversity of their style – afterwards, which is gratifying.

‘We’ve got a good mix of songs in there, there’s only two of us, and people seem to like them all differently, evenly.

They certainly do have a good mix: the band pitch themselves as existing in the space between The Melvins and Taylor Swift, which I suppose is a fair summary of their balancing sludgy riffs and magnificent pop melodies. Are their individual tastes conflicting or simply diverse?

El laughs. ‘Well, actually, I listen… he’s like the heavier guy, but I do heavy too, but he actually loves ‘Shake it Off’, and I like Melvins, but we both like Melvins, and we both like I all sorts. We listen to things that are heavy and poppy.’

‘We listen to absolutely everything,’ Dan confirms. ‘It helps to break the monotony of one genre.’

‘Slaves are awesome, because they’re so heavy, but when you look, they’ve got really catchy, poppy choruses,’ says El.

Dan feels compelled to explain the Taylor Swift thing in more detail: ‘The Taylor Swift thing came from when we were backpacking in Thailand and we went and did karaoke, and I absolutely smashed that ‘Shake it Off’ song…. Terribly’, he adds at El’s prompt.

They throw an eclectic and quite unexpected mix of acts into the ring when listing other artists they listen to: (Led) Zeppelin, (Pink) Floyd, Breeders, Hole, Marilyn Manson… ‘Going back to my roots, I used to be a thrash metalhead,’ Dan adds, and we love grunge. But we love pop as well. I’ll like something completely left of centre and not be embarrassed to say it.’

England has a strange perception of Australia, filtered through Neighbours and Home and Away, and internationally, Australia has been represented by the likes of Kylie and Savage Garden. How do you reconcile that with the actuality of bands like yourselves and, say, DZ Deathrays? I imagine they, and you, are more representative of what’s actually going on…

‘For sure!’ Dan says.

El gives some cultural context: ‘Neighbours and stuff is for, like, stay at home mums, I mean, you can watch it, it’s a good show and all, but…’

Dan: ‘The whole country’s obsessed with AC/DC still, but…’

El: ‘…we’ve got this whole buzzing music scene in Melbourne, we just keep going to gigs and there are so many awesome bands…’

Dan: ‘It’s an amazingly diverse scene in Melbourne. You can find anything in there: there’s an underground punk scene where everyone’s playing in squat houses that no-one knows about, you have to know somebody, there’s this rock scene that’s happening in all the bars, and little grunge scenes…’

Do you think, in your experience, that music scenes have fragmented and that there’s more underground than there ever was but you really have to seek it out?

‘Yeah’, they reply in unison.

Dan: ‘There are so many venues in Melbourne, that you’re spoiled for choice. There’s this avant-garde thing happening…’

El: ‘There’s a good gig guide, and if you go on the gig guide in Melbourne, you can just see all these bands, and you can just choose one and go and I’ll always be pretty cool.’

Dan: ‘There’s always something on. We’ve been all around Europe and we’ve tried to catch gigs, and haven’t really taped into the underground bands, but we came here and playing in Hull, and there are all these good bands. We went back to the same venue the next night and have drinks at the Adelphi, and all the bands are great. It reminds us of back home in Melbourne, there’s talent everywhere.’

I suggest that in terms of getting bands to an audience outside their local catchment, the Internet, far from killing the music industry, has simply made it different, particularly where small bands are concerned.

El concurs. ‘I think it’s made the game more creative,’ she says. ‘And we certainly have more access to bands.’

Do you consider yourselves primarily a live band? How do you enjoy the studio work?

‘’Cause we’re really new,’ El says, her voice going up at ‘new’, ‘we’ve only done one studio session, for the EP, so we’ve played live more. But we love both. I think you have to play live if you’re recording an album, that’s the fun part.’

‘We love all aspects,’ Dan adds. ‘Our favourite thing is to record a song, listen to it back, and change it, and experiment, but then, there’s nothing like playing a show, either. But even promoting can be fun, putting so many different mediums of art into it.’

MDS_picBW1

They’ve certainly been creative with their own promotion. ‘Sick’ was a hell of a debut, and the video is fucking brilliant. How did the ‘zombie’ video come about?

El: ‘Well, we had a different idea, and it kind of failed… and then we came up with this idea really quickly, ‘cause the lyrics are “cigarettes and soda pop” and we wanted to pretend that it’s really easy to sell something like that…’

Dan: ‘It’s a bit of stab at consumerism in a way, and how everyone’s pretty easily manipulated by branding. It goes for everything, where you like stuff because you’re told to like something: don’t be a sheep and figure it out for yourself.’

El: ‘And then we came up with the branding thing, like a stamp…’

Dan: ‘It wasn’t supposed to be zombies, but kinda just escalated really quickly, and it worked.’

El: ‘It was fun, a lot of fun. My brother directed that one.’

So you’ve got elements of social commentary and criticism in there, and there’s a certain venom and angst in your songs. Are you angry? Or is the music just a release?

El takes a moment to consider this. ‘I think it’s more… it’s fun. It is fun, yeah!’

‘From my side, it’s pretty much all expression,’ Dan says. ‘We like just getting in a rehearsal space and just jamming songs, and it’s good fun: you’ve got good vibes going round…’

El again: ‘We’ve got older songs that I wrote where I was upset about something, as well, and then you put them in, and it’s sort of attitude behind it…’

Dan: ‘Lyrically, usually there’s a lot to be said…’

‘Yeah, it’s definitely a release,’ El concludes.

That release is clearly apparent in the medium of the live show. They explain how they like to layer things up, with bass tracks and additional guitars to create a full band sound, something which isn’t possible on stage, however much instrument-swapping they engage in. Still, this gives the live sound an immediacy and when cranked up loud, it works a treat. And, of course, such multi-instrumental capabilities afford them a lot more flexibility than the average two-piece. How do you decide who plays what on which track?

‘It’s kinda like who writes the guitar part does guitar and sings’ El explains. ‘And then if I have an old song, I’ll bring it in and if he has one, he’ll bring it in, and I’m like “right then, I’m drumming for this song”. We work together to make the song, though. We try to make it equal, but at the moment, I’m doing more guitar than him, so he’s going to get at some writing.’

‘That’s our opposite instruments, too’, says Dan.

‘I’m originally a drummer,’ El confirms.

‘I’ve only been drumming for about a year,’ Dan admits. ‘El smashes it on drums. It’s good to mix it up.’

So, finally, the burning question: when can we expect an album proper?

Dan hesitates. Can they say?

El steps in: ‘We’re going back to Australia – ‘cause we have to, and we’ve got gigs set up after this tour – and the we’re going to start writing. We’ve actually already got about half the album done…’

‘…about six tracks,’ Dan confirms.

El: ‘…yeah, about six tracks, so we only need a few more. So once we get back, we’re going to save up money to actually do the album. We might even try to do a Kickstarter.’

Dan: ‘Yeah, maybe.’

El: ‘Yeah, I think an album by the end of the year.’

Dan: ‘Hopefully, next time we come here we’ll be promoting it.’

Here’s very much hoping. Meanwhile, the mini-album Eat Hate Regurgitate is a blistering five tracker, and it’s out on October 7th through Integrity Records.

MDS_album_frontcover

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s the hottest day of the year so far: the mercury’s teetering in the top twenties and I’ve had a hectic and predictably crap day at work. The train from York to Leeds is fucking rammed, and I almost melt as I make my way from the station to the little underground space that is Leeds’ primary dedicated rock venue, The Key Club. At least I can attribute my heavy perspiration to atmospherics rather than anxiety over interviewing full-throttle sludge metal masters Raging Speedhorn. The simple fact is, I don’t know what, or who, to expect.

In the event, tour manager Jim is as welcoming and affable guy as you’re likely to meet, and while I’m amazed just how busy it is backstage – it seems the entire world ants to interview Raging Speedhorn tonight, and the press are out in droves for video interviews and other kind of features – things are simultaneously organised but laid back. It’s not surprising it’s busy: the release of their first new album in nine years, which also sees Frank Regan return to the fold, has reignited interest in the band.

I’ve been booked in to chat with drummer Gordon Morison, and I’m reminded of the first interview I conducted with a ‘proper’ band, (the local bands I shot the breeze with for the local paper back in the 90s really don’t count) when I waited an age outside The Well in Leeds to interview Rolo Tomassi and was given some five minutes with drummer Edward Dutton. In the event, he was cool and eloquent, while I was shamefully anxious and anything but cool.

Settling into some big leather sofas at the back of the venue’s extended backstage area – really, the backstage area is bigger than the public space, but then, there’s a lot of kit in for these bands, and I expect that’s not uncommon – I immediately feel at ease: there’s no pretence or celebrity bullshit here. Nevertheless, I promise a quickfire Q&A, not least of all because I like to get in and out as efficiently as possible, and without outstaying my welcome. Besides, I have to transcribe the exchange afterwards, and wading through over half an hour of audio is a real chew. And so, with the thunderous drums of By Any Means soundchecking, we quickly get down to business:

AA: You’re back on tour: how have the shows gone down so far?

GM: Really good. It’s just been really nice to get back out and play some more shows. This is the longest we’ve been out, probably the longest tour since we’ve been back together, so it’s hard – we’re not used to it any more – but…

AA: Does it get harder as you get older?

GM: I think it does, but…

AA: Everything does?

GM: Yeah… I think the alcohol numbs the pain until the next morning, and then you’re feeling it again but yeah, it’s been really, really good.

AA: You’re playing some pretty small venues this time around, but you’ve also played some big festival sets since returning to the live arena. Do you enjoy the intensity of the more intimate shows, getting up close and personal with the fans?

GM: Yeah, we’d rather play the small venues, to be honest. But sometimes it’s not really up to us. We’ve got to work with our agent, and it’s got to be about the fees and stuff.

AA: Well, you’re not going to turn down a major festival show.

GM: No, I mean, the major festivals, we’ve been blown away by what we’ve done… headlined a stage at Sonisphere, headlined a stage at Download this year… So it’s moving in the right direction of where we want the band to go. We’re getting back to where we want the band to be now, and it’s better now, because we’re in charge of the whole situation. There’s no-one telling us we have to do this, or we have to do that. We decide as a group if we want to do it or not.

AA: Your new album, Lost Ritual, was crowd-funded through PledgeMusic and smashed the target. How does that feel?

GM: Awesome. Amazing. I mean, it was just a little idea, like ‘should we do a new record?’ and it just… It took a while to get to the target, and we were a bit nervy about it, but then as soon we get to the target, and then it went ‘Boom!’ and it went crazy. I think the crowdfunding this is the best way, especially for our band, because we’ve been signed to these big major labels and sometimes it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.

AA: There’s no question that the Internet has revolutionised the music industry? A lot of people – a lot of them major artists and industry people – complain about it, but you’d say that for some people, like yourselves, it’s a change for the best?

GM: Yeah. I think that PledgeMusic is the best way for bands to do it. It’s quite stressful, and if you’ve got a manager it’s easier, but me and Jim manage the band, so we have to deal with day-to-day stuff. And it’s great, because you actually see the product from nothing to having it in your hand, and that’s amazing.

AA: And the end product is amazing. Lost Ritual is a belter, one seriously intense record. Historically, you’ve a reputation for songs about nihilism drugs of various kinds. What was the inspiration and driving force behind the new album?

GM: The only thing we really wanted to do was go back to our roots, like the sound of what made the band successful in the first place, the first two records. Especially ‘cause Frankie’s come back into the band.

AA: What was it like being back in the studio with the original twin vocal assault reinstated? Was it a powerful feeling?

GM: Yeah. To be fair, I love Kev, and he’s still one of my best friends now, but it was never Raging Speedhorn without Frankie being in the band. And I think he needed the break, and I think we needed the break, not from him, but other things were going on at that time. It’s just the best thing we’ve done. we all got in a room and practiced, and finally thought ‘this is gonna work’. So yeah, it’s great.

Raging Speedhorn

AA: You emerged from the Nu-Metal scene, but were never actually a Nu-Metal band. How do you think the metal scene, particularly in the UK, has changed since you first started out?

GM: It’s changed a lot, definitely. I think it’s changed… I don’t know if it’s changed for the better. I think it’s a lot better for the UK bands now because they seem to be getting out there a lot more than when we first started, it was all American bands coming over here.

AA: It also seems a lot more grass roots now, with bands emerging from local scenes with bands getting up and doing things for themselves.

GM: Exactly.

AA: So the drive has changed, with things moving from the bottom up. And I think in the current climate, people are angry, and metal is a response to that in a way.

GM: Certainly, especially with what’ going on. I think it’s going to turn out some fucking bangin’ bands. There’s amazing young bands coming out, not only in the metal scene, but in the rockier scene as well. I see it a lot because I work with bands, I tour manage bands. I have my own splitter van company [vanmorisontours]. So I see it first-hand, seeing bands going from no-one really giving a shit to being quite biggish bands, and it’s great. There’s a band called Milk Teeth now, they’re more grungy, and they’re fucking great. I work with them quite a bit, and it’s just so good to see these bands just doing it on their own.

AA: What do you think it is about Raging Speedhorn that sets you apart, and has been the main factor in your enduring appeal?

GM: I think it’s just because we’re completely different. I mean, there are bands around like us, but we’re just lucky we got through the mainstream and had that for a while, I think it’s just that in this scene, there’s no one-one really sounds like us. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a band that sounds like us.

AA: And perhaps the ferocity gives you the edge?

GM: Yeah, I think it’s the attitude. I just don’t think people get what we’re all about, and I don’t think we know what we’re all about. We’re just a bunch of six guys out to have a fucking good time. But then, I read an interview the other day that said we’ve got a ‘yobbish’ attitude, and it made me laugh because I’d never thought of it in that way. Basically they said that we were like six chavs playing metal. I suppose it could be seen as yobbish ‘cause we don’t really care.

AA: Who wants middle-class metal?

GM: Exactly, and that’s just it. We’re all from complete working-class backgrounds, so we’re just who we are, and we don’t really care if anyone likes it or not. But luckily people do, so I think that must be the appeal, I think it’s ‘cause we’re just normal people. When you go to these big festivals, you see bands going backstage and they won’t go out front and don’t hang out with people, we just go straight out, we’ll go and see our mates in the camp, we don’t really care. The only thing that’s different between me and the people watching us is that I’m up there playing drums, so why the fuck shouldn’t I go and speak to people? It’s stupid, really.

AA: Your Facebook page describes the band as a ‘12 legged, beer fuelled hate machine’, which I’d take over an 8-legged groove machine any day. But what’s your beer of choice?

GM: Oh! There’s too many now. I’ve really go me and James, our guitarist, really into ales now. It’s unbelievable. I love it all, to be fair. There’s not really many beers I don’t like. I love Brewdog stuff. I live in Wales, so there’s loads of really nice ales. I like more pale ale kind of vibes. But I just love it all. We were drinking white Russians last night till five in the morning. Frank literally hasn’t stopped since we got out, so the last five days…

AA: Got to keep the momentum.

GM: Yeah, you’ve got to, ‘cause if you don’t then you crash and burn. This morning I was thinking ‘I’m going to be fucked today’, but I feel alright again now. But they’ve just been drinking. Jim, our tour manager, and Frank, came with these big stein glasses. We’d stopped at Morrisons earlier on, then they had a bottle of… something, and poured it into these steins, and then orange juice, strawberries, in the van. Fucking hell. They’ve already started smashing it. Idiots!

He laughs. I applaud the band’s commitment to living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle on the road. It seems a good time to wrap up, not least of all because it’s sweltering and all this talk of beer is making me all the more thirsty for a pint of something fresh and hoppy.

The show was a barnstormer.

Lost Ritual Artwork

Lost Ritual is out now.

Polyartists have always had a hard time: we exist in a culture obsessed with pigeonholing, of ascribing a single genre or a medium. Brion Gysin’s ultimate failing could be aligned to his unwillingness to commit to any one mode of creative output, and over 50 years on, creatives exploring multiple outlets seem to sink beneath the radar simply by virtue of their evasions of prescriptive categorisations like ‘musician’, ‘painter’, ‘writer’ or ‘sculptor’.

Casey Deming – born  in Owatonna, MN, USA, and resident of the Twin Cities (that’s also in Minnesota, and unrelated to any kind of Lord of the Rings-type fantasy world) – has spent a career straddling multiple outlets, ranging from collage to experimental music.

John Wisniewski recently pitched some questions to him about his work for Aural Aggravation.

JW: When did your career in music begin? Were you trained as a musician?

CD: I started making music about 10 years ago. I’ve never had any formal training. It started when I connected with the improv / experimental music scene in the Twin Cities after completing my undergrad degree at the University of MN. I began to collaborate with people involved with the Tuesday Series which was holding weekly concerts at cafe in my neighborhood. Primarily I was just doing small percussion stuff with whatever objects I had at hand. Later I bridged into bending circuits on tape players which was kind of hip at the time. Now I almost exclusively work with tape loops.

caseydemingcedarmarketing700

What inspires you to create new sounds?

Listening to everyday sounds. Sometimes simply taking a walk is enough to inspire me: church bells in the park, wind chimes on front porches, traffic. My baseboard heaters are making this great clicking sound as I write this. Both my visual and sound work are collage-based, there is so much content out there that I’d rather focus on selecting and organizing material as opposed to composing it.

Who are some composers who are influential to you?

Arvo Pärt, Henryk Górecki, Tim Hecker, Ben Frost (especially his album with Daníel Bjarnason), John Cage, John & Alice Coltrane, Miles Davis, Laurie Spiegel, Ekkehard Ehlers, C S Yeh, John Wiese, Ernst Reijseger, Harold Budd, Krzysztof Penderecki, Mica Levi, Angelo Badalamenti, Wendy Carlos, Giacinto Scelsi, Johnny Greenwood, Fennesz, La Monte Young, Fe-mail …

What is the response from the audience to your compositions?

Often curiosity. What am I hearing and why? It’s nice to elicit such responses, I find it kind of boring when musicians focus too much on portraying a certain aesthetic or identity. I try not to create work that’s veiled too much in my own ego. I think it’s important to challenge your audience, make them ask "is this music?".

Have you composed any film soundtracks?

Unfortunately no but it has often been alluded to in my work. The improv noise band I play in Squid Fist (with Bryce Beverlin II & Tim Glenn) has performed along with experimental 8mm & 16mm films but we have never purposely composed something for film. The tape collage project Visions of Christ (with John Jerry) lends itself more to scores because it’s not very interesting to watch us play. John and I have performed along with a light organ setup in the past and hope to employ more visual elements in the future like projecting found slides or pantone colors. Someone remarked that my CS release with Justin Meyers could stand in as an alternate soundtrack to Tarkovsky’s Stalker.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/5404328

Squid Fist Live at Organ Haus from brycebeverlinII on Vimeo.

Do you listen to alternative music or rock music all?

My tastes are pretty eclectic although not that obscure. I listened to a lot of classic rock growing up but have mostly left that behind, besides an occasional nostalgic trip with the Stones. Bob Dylan is maybe the most important musician in my life, rarely a day goes by without me spinning something of his. Most "rock" music that I prefer skews weird, however I hold a lot of old americana and soul in high regards. Early Staple Singes records are in heavy rotation. I’m currently obsessed with Gene Clark’s No Other and also love his records with Doug Dillard. A lot of Townes Van Zandt these days too. Besides Dylan there are some great Minnesota artists like Michael Yonkers and Spider John Koerner. In many ways I’m indebted to my good friends Clint Simonson (De Stijl Recs) and Chris Berry (Soft Abuse) for exposing me to so much gold over the years. Without them I would have not discovered Peter Jefferies, Ed Askew, Mad Nana, Michael Chapman, Bobby Charles, Charlie Tweddle, Black to Comm, King Darves, Mayo Thompson, Neil Michael Hagerty, and Steve Gunn. I was lucky enough to see Wolf Eyes play last night; they’ve always been inspirational to me. I dig their respective side projects as well: Henry Hazel Slaughter, Regression and Stare Case. They’re so wonderfully evocative of such greats like Throbbing Gristle, The Velvet Underground, and Suicide.

Which of the arts is most important in your creations?

They all play their key roles. I’m reading Leonard Shlain’s book Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time & Light and it keeps giving me ideas for sound and visual projects. I probably expose myself the least to theatre and dance though they have both affected me profoundly in the past. Perhaps it’s a lack of exposure. I have definitely engaged with literature the most in my life and am forever blown away by people like John Berger, César Aira, Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Denis Johnson, and Cormac McCarthy. I’m currently tackling Ta-Nehisi Coates’s memoirs and am loving them.

Will you be playing any live dates?

I recently completed a commission at the Cedar Cultural Center that was funded by the Jerome Foundation. It was a collaboration with John Jerry, Davu Seru, and Jonathan Kaiser for tape loops, percussion, and cello. Justin Meyers and I played a couple weeks ago and hope to make another recording together in the near future. I have another tape and synth project with John Marks and we self-released a CS a few months ago. I am trying to refocus my energies on visual work, getting ready to be part of a collage show at Chicago’s Lula Cafe in May and apply to grants in hopes of funding the purchase of a risograph printer. Jugging all these things has become an art form in itself.

Casey Deming Online