Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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.’


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.



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.


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.

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