Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Madame So: War on Conformity.

Photo by Crawford Blair.

A while ago I was reviewing the compilation album Loud Women Vol.1 when I got to Track 15 by someone called Madame So, the song was ‘Black Is Beautiful’, and having listened to it a few times I wrote ‘this is really very good indeed! Multi layered pop rock, great languid vocals, chiming guitar, inventive, captivating’. Other people have written equally complimentary, though far more insightful, things about Madame So’s contribution. Checking out her music online it turns out that track is the tip of an iceberg which includes her recent release, a mesmerising version of David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’
A while later at a social centre in North London I caught her live, performing as a two piece with drummer Giova, and again the quality of her song writing stood out in a set of scuzzy guitar rock/pop. Afterwards we chatted about punk, cultural expectations, The Tomboys and getting an interview together. Which we then did!    

Could you give us the backstory on Madame So? How long have you been making music? When did you 'become' Madame So?
Well, I used to write for various magazines, reviewing gigs and interviewing musicians...I thought that was the closest outlet there was for me to get exposed to as much music as possible. During that time, I got to hang out with some buzzing bands on the London scene at the time and I kind of developed an itch for performing my own stuff. I played my first ever gig circa 2011 and have played ever since. I recorded my first demos in the summer of 2012, then they developed into 'The Sell-by Date EP' which I put out in 2013 under the stage name of Madame So, even though, this is not so much a stage name as such as my parents have called me that since I was about three years old.

Who would you list as musical influences?  
Foundations in my musical make-up include Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Garland Jeffreys, Patti Smith , Billie Holliday, Fats Domino and all that cool indie stuff like The Replacements,  Liz Phair, The Lemonheads, L7 and Hole, as well as some French music (Serge Gainsbourg, Renaud, Christophe Miossec)


Did you have a fairly clear idea of the sound you were aiming for from the start or has it evolved?  
Not really. When I was performing the acoustic circuit in London, my stuff was already branded "punk" by promoters and other bands who associate acoustic guitar solely with the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Nick Drake... While when writing a song I never had "punk" in mind: for me it was just me writing a song on the guitar. I like guitars. I did not have any particular "sound" in mind, I just wanted to flesh my songs out into a full -band performance, and I got to work with musicians (of the band Paintings of Ships)  who got my vibe  and  with whom I recorded 'The Sell-by Date EP'. On 'It's Not Even A Colour', my  second EP, I had the likes of Gang Four and Lush in mind.

Starting with 'The Sell-By Date' EP in 2013 you've had about 10 tracks out in various forms, what sort of subject matter do you explore in your music?  
The narrative of my songs tend to revolve around the themes of alienation, addiction and the war on conformity.

What inspires and influences your lyric writing? Books, films, your own experiences?
A mixture of these three. I'm a big daydreamer with a keen interest in words and poetry , so lyrics are something I  give high importance to in a song. I like to dig out the poetry in/from the grit, and a genius at that was my favourite-ever author, Charles Bukowski. I have just finished his book of poetry, 'On Love' : it's brilliant.

Your song 'Black is Beautiful' seems to explore the pressures to conform with expected cultural norms-is that what it's about?
Yes, that's one way of seeing it. Ultimately, it's a big shout out about the fact that being black doesn't have to be one-dimensional. Not every Black person is brought into this world as an all Beyonce/Rihanna/Tyler Perry's films loving package just because they are born Black. And that it's OK to be Black and choose guitars over beats and spits . As we speak, a pillar in Rock Music has died (Chuck Berry) and fair to say a lot of melanin ran in his blood!

Did you have to fight hard to resist those pressures? The conflating of culture and skin colour...!?
I don't see the combination of being Black  and liking guitars as a pressure or a contradiction per se at all - that again, is a mainstream concept . Yes, when it comes to being a musician today, I could have, like I have been suggested to by Black and White friends and acquaintances alike, have gone the easy, predictable and expected R'n'B/Hip Hop route; but I am a musician, not a poseur, so best make music I can genuinely express myself through instead of being a fraud to my own self. The only pressure, if we want to call it that, is being faced with people's narrow-mindedness and simplism.

Earlier this year you released a very interesting rearrangement of Bowie's 'Let's Dance'. How did you decide on that reinterpretation? Was your decision to release it as a single a kind of homage?  
I was playing a couple of shows in Paris in 2015, and wanted to stretch my set a little. I've always loved this song ever since I was little, and for me the best covers are the ones that go in opposite directions from the originals (a band like Nouvelle Vague is a master at that so much so they based their entire career on making covers) . For me, it would have been way too predictable to have recreated the saxophones and kept the song "danceable". I just wanted to focus on the brilliance and purity of Bowie's songwriting less the flashy production however great it is. When I recorded this cover in spring 2015, I had no idea what he was going through but my own mother was undergoing chemotherapy...  She passed four months before him. So it's an homage to both of them, really.
Photo by Lore Sabau.
Originally Riot Grrrl was a reaction to the US punk scene being predominantly straight white male, with all the attendant problems that brings. How have you experienced the UK DIY/punk scene, is it an easy space to be a (black) women?
Well, from my perspective the scene still is very white and very male. I played an Indie Rock all-dayer gig the other day and as expected I was the only woman and Black person on the line-up, and of course I had to open, just like girls are expected to, I suppose... I do indeed still occasionally, get the looks of surprise, intrigue and even discomfort from white boys territory pissing,  but it still hasn't fazed me.

A lot of female musicians seem to experience a degree of sexism, an essentialist assumption that because they are a woman their musicianship will be less than a man's! What's your experience as a musician in the grassroots DIY scene been like?
Yes, like I hinted earlier, it does still feel that being a female musician means that you're only owed to perform support slots, open for supposedly more worthy male acts. Plus, there always seems to be this air of surprise every time a female musician is actually proficient at their instrument...  this ancient idea that musicianship is the territory of the alpha-male ....  Or the patronising comments about my music being "sunny" just because it is melodic ... the usual nonsense.

It seems to me that there has been a real upsurge in feminist punk bands and Riot Grrrl over the last couple of years-is that true or was I just missing it!?
Yes, possibly. While it's great to see people being interested in seeing more women on stages, I feel these two terms are being overused, engraved in nostalgia and somewhat redundant, every time women pick up guitars and have something to say through songs they actually do write.  As an artist, I do not feel the need to brand myself as a feminist or a punk or a riot grrrl, really : I make music for people to listen to if they are so inclined-full stop, without the need to justify myself for it.

What are your plans for 2017 -are you going to be out playing live, what plans do you have for releases..an album?
Yes, I'll keep on performing live, currently with my drummer, Giova, and then we'll expand the line-up into a four piece for bigger gigs, hopefully festivals, and aim to have recorded that long-overdue debut album by the end of the year.

Big thanks to Solange. To find out/hear more go to http://www.madame-so.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/madamesomusic/

Monday, 20 March 2017

Abode: Intelligent, Well Crafted, Riff Laden-What's Not To Like?






Photo by Richard Reines.
There is a famous story about a music journalist who went to see Buzzcocks supported by Gang of Four. He was so amazed by Gang of Four that he left at the end of their set, missing Buzzcocks, so that nothing would diminish the significance of what he had just witnessed. In about 2004 I went to see punk band Capdown supported by Douglas but first up on that night was a band I had never heard of, Adequate 7. I was so impressed that I went to see them another ten times before they split up in 2006! The moral of the above stories is obvious-get to gigs early, if you don’t who knows what you might miss!
In early March I made the journey to Colchester Art Centre to see Idles on their UK tour. Getting there early I happened to hear first band up Abode soundchecking and was really impressed, but that was one song, could they keep it up for a whole set? A while later I had my answer..'Yes they could'! A tight, exciting band they never let the energy level drop in a set packed with well crafted, musically interesting riff laden tracks. For some reason I haven’t put my finger on yet (look, sound?) they reminded me at the time of Rush!
Afterwards I chatted with singer/bass player Max about trying to get a band interview together and they kindly obliged!     
Could you give us an overview of Abode? How did you meet? When did you start?
Max: We all knew each other from high school and all lived around Manningtree. Since then we kinda thought it’d be cool to jam together a bit. We spent some time in the college studio just messing around, which is where we first did anything musical together. We properly formed as a band around April 2015 when we decided who was gonna play what, and we remember having a go at a song I wrote in high school and it sounded surprisingly awesome! There was something so invigorating about collectively creating a cool sound with your best mates.
Had any of you been in bands before?
Max: Our drummer Tim’s been in a couple of previous bands that started to build a reputation locally and further a field, but not for the rest of us. I had a funny experience playing guitar for my high school’s pop choir band, which was a pretty exciting thing at the time as it was the first time I’d ever played in front of anyone, let alone in a band. Thankfully I got some important experience of it! Sam (synth) previously produced under his own solo projects in his spare time, but nothing to the likes of being in a band.
Has the line up stayed pretty stable?
M: Yeah pretty much! We had a couple of members at the beginning drop out but we’re really happy and tight, and couldn’t ask for anything better!
I saw you supporting IDLES in Colchester, what is the music scene like in that area? Are there plenty of opportunities for young bands to play?
M: Thanks for coming down to see us! We had a great time. Colchester is a really nice place, it’s got some great venues (our favourite is the Arts Centre) and great bands. It’s kind of a weird one because almost all our friends are from the Suffolk area, so we’ve always had a great reception in Ipswich, but we’re super glad to be getting into the Colchester scene! There are lots of great opportunities for new bands in Colchester, such as The Bull’s Jam nights and the Art Centre’s showcase nights.
It looked like you've built up a good following when you played the Art Centre!
M: It’s great to see all these people come along to see us, there’s nothing more exciting than getting to do what you love in front of such enthusiastic people.
Are you pleased with how things have been going, I noticed on your Facebook page that you had played Camden and Milton Keynes recently?
M: We’re overwhelmed, in fact that’s an understatement! We’re so happy with how everything’s going at the moment - supporting AIRWAYS at Camden Assembly was a fantastic experience. The crowd were just phenomenal, and so were AIRWAYS! Having these opportunities have been great to grow as a band, and just shows that you should never stop pushing. These recent shows have developed a demand for merchandise, something we’ve never done before and always wanted to do.
Who would you list as musical influences?
Sam: My musical influences come from a more of an electronic background. Three of my favourites are Pendulum, Nero and Muse. These groups have definitely influenced my style of writing and playing.
  
Max: I grew up listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin, Muse, Radiohead and Rammstein, which I think probably shapes a lot of my song writing.
Adam: The 1975 and Being as an Ocean are a huge influence on me as an artist, with a lot of their sonic aesthetic blending into my style of playing.
Tim: My influences range from a diverse background. Ranging from Big band music to modern chart music. My main influence as a drummer would have to be Dave Weckl. His style and technique is something that I will continue to strive to achieve. My guilty pleasure would have to be either Memphis Mayfire or Enter Shikari.  
When we spoke you said that members of the band had various musical interests including rock and techno. Have you tried to synthesise them into your sound?
M: Yeah I guess! The electronic side mainly comes from Sam - he’s very much into stuff like Pendulum and Nero, and uses a lot of sounds inspired by those groups.
Did you have a fairly clear idea of the sound you were aiming for from the start or has it evolved?
M: Not really actually, we started off with just the fun of creating music together, and kinda just let the ideas flow. From there our music just naturally developed, which is really cool to think about considering how we started!
You've a couple of tracks up on Bandcamp, what are they about?
M: ‘The Manipulator’ came about after reflecting upon past friendships, and kinda grew from there, delving into the psychological processes that can leave a once strong relationship nothing but a memory. ‘Wanted’ is a much more positive song that focuses on the feeling of procrastination, and how overcoming it can be a massive breakthrough in one’s life. I wrote this song when it was super sunny last summer, and I just felt the crazy urge to go outside and enjoy myself! Kinda cheesy really, but I guess we felt it carried weight!
What sort of subject matter do you explore more generally in your music?
M: I think at the moment lyrically we tend to focus a lot on finding out about the psychology behind human emotions in social situations. However, who knows, that may change at any moment! We really like to focus on the instrumental aspects of music really, I guess for me at least, I find music itself the most amazing thing known to man, and it’s power can be absolutely crazy.
What sources do you draw on in lyric writing? Books, films, your own experiences?
M: I guess a lot of it comes from our own experiences, and for me movies can be a big influence as I’m a massive movie guy. Overall though I think it’s other music that inspires us the most by far - for us, music has the strongest voice.
How does the creative process work in Abode? Is there one main songwriter or is it very collaborative?
M: It kinda comes from different places really! For instance, one of us may come up with a cool riff, and another will find a chorus that works well with it. I guess I structure most of the parts together, but it’s definitely a group effort.
Live or studio-which do you prefer? Or are they complementary?
M: Sam and Adam say they like them both equally, but I definitely prefer live! I honestly find it the most fun and exciting thing to do in life, so I guess you can’t really top that!
Tim: Like Sam and Adam I don't personally have a preference with live or studio, they both have lots of pros and cons but we enjoy both. But you can't beat the feeling of performing your music live to an appreciative audience.
What are your plans for 2017 -are you going to be out playing live, what plans do you have for releases?
M: We definitely want to release a lot this year as well as hopefully playing loads of new cool places!
What bands and writers have you been enjoying lately?
Adam: I have been enjoying a band called Cloakroom and another called TTNG.
Sam: I’ve been extremely enjoying a band named Arcane Roots ever since I saw them at Brixton. A band named ‘Fightstar’ recently, their latest album is ridiculously good. I’m also really excited about the Pendulum Reunion activity.
M: I’ve been listening to a lot of Half Moon Run, who have a really chilled out musical sound. Also been listening to a lot of Northlane as well, they’ve got some awesome riffs and synths!

Big thanks to Abode. Find out more here https://www.facebook.com/abodeband/

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Meinhof: 'a mix of punk, metal and a mountain slide'

Photo by Robak.

I was lucky enough to catch three piece punk band Meinhof in full flow at The Cavendish Arms, Stockwell in the middle of February. A few weeks earlier I had decided to travel down to London to see one band in particular although by the day of the gig that had grown to two, which was good as I looked at the timings list and realised the main reason for coming down couldn’t make it! Anyway that is where Meinhof come in, they were more or less unknown to me, I had heard a few bits and bobs online, and they were absolutely amazing! Struggling to convey the power and force that Meinhof are live I ended up describing them to a friend as sounding at times like ‘Motorhead on speed’, which is probably doing them a disservice. Comprised of original members guitarist Jarek and Rosy on bass and vocals and now Davide on drums they have been going since 2006. Their first album, The Rush Hour of Human Misery came out in 2007 with subsequent releases including Endless War in 2016  After their set I was able to have a chat with songwriter and guitarist Jarek including asking whether they would be interested in doing an interview, fortunately they were.

Q: Could you give us an overview of Meinhof? I think you are from three different areas of Europe, how did you meet?
Jarek: I immigrated from Poland a decade and a half ago. Rosy is Spanish and Davide comes from Italy. All of us have a common interest which is punk, the idea that also bring some sort of people together. Basically, I met Rosy at a punk gig a time ago, we both are the original members of the band. Davide is our new drummer, I knew him before, but first we got into a friendship because our other passion, tattooing. Then I discovered, that he can also play the drums, so he naturally joined the band when our previous drummer could not cope with all the commitments anymore.
Davide: I joined Meinhof less than a year ago...I’ve seen them playing through the years in London...  
Q: When did you start? Has the line up stayed pretty constant?
Jarek: We started around 2006. The line up hasn't stayed constant, we used to have many different band members, even Rosy was just singing at the beginning, then she also adopted some bass guitar skills, which helped to establish some sort of stability in the band.

Q: Had any of you been in bands before?
Davide: I was playing in a band before joining Meinhof but we split up just before and we never did more than some fucked up gigs in London squats. Also a couple of weeks ago I joined two friends and we just started playing together in this band called Slap.
Jarek: I got my first punk band in late 80's... I used to play for two bands that managed to gain some sort of popularity on the DIY punk scene in 90's Poland, Silna Wola and Guernica Y Luno. Rosy: My first band was back in the 90's...I've play for different bands as a vocalist which gave me experience in performance and writing.  

Q: Was having different musical/punk cultures to draw on useful? Have you managed to synthesise those different influences? Or is that a stupid question because punk styles are universal and transcend cultural boundaries!?
Jarek: I think that you can be both right saying that being raised in different cultures requires to synthesise the different influences on some level, but on the other hand, punk style is pretty universal thing, and you can quite easily communicate and understand through it with people who live in far away worlds from each other. This is what happens when we travel with the band! You meet people who share with you some similar views and passion, and even when you talk to them for first time in your life, you feel that special connection between you and them, they seem to be your friends long before you even knew them... That's the beautiful part of punk!  

Q: How would you describe your sound?
Jarek: I think it is rooted in so called "d-beat", influenced by crust... Recently we are experimenting with adding a bit of thrash metal into our sound... I don't know, it is pretty hard to answer this question, haha... We are trying to achieve something unique, however without some strict classical formula it wouldn't be punk music anymore, would it?
Davide: I think our sound is something like a mix of punk, metal and a mountain slide...  

Q: Are any of you in other bands as well as Meinhof?
Rosy: I'm playing with Kill Bitches To Dress Foxes which is all female band and I also sing in Erege which is band formed in Brazil a long time ago.
Jarek: Not me, I am sort of not capable of being really devoted to more than one project...

Q: I think your first album The Rush Hour Of Human Misery came out in 2007, what sort of issues were you singing about on that album?
Jarek: The Rush Hour Of Human Misery was a pretty experimental thing, because we have recorded it without a real drummer, instead we used the drum machine, however there was no intention to cover it up, so you can easily recognize that the sound is pretty "digital" on this record. In general, we are trying to be politically aware, and that's reflected in our lyrics, I guess. You know, singing about loads of issues, very often repeating and bringing up subjects which were already raised by many other bands many times... I believe, that as long as these problems are existing in the world, there is no valuable reason to stop singing about them, in hope of change...  

Q: Three albums and roughly 10 years later you have released Endless War, are the subjects you engage with on the different albums similar but from a slightly different positions as you are older and wiser or do you tackle different subjects completely?
Jarek: Five albums... Yeah, I can say, that the majority of subjects remain the same... Do we really see a meaningful change around us to abandon the need of voicing out our ideas and hopes? Is our rage smaller than a decade ago? Not really... Well, everybody learns all his life, we can even discover that what we believe and stand for is not relevant to a changing world anymore... For example, this is what happening to me when I think of religions... I am in a constant war within myself how to treat the subject, sometimes I think we should allow people to believe in whatever the fuck they want, and as long as they don't harm others, it is completely OK to believe in any sort of bullshit, but sometimes I think, that our sacred tolerance should be limited for the sake of humanity...

Q: What sources do you draw on in lyric writing? Books, films, current events, your own experiences?
Jarek: It can be anything, really... I am a big fan of movies, so they inspire me a lot! But I think, that the most of subjects come from your daily experiences, observation and reflection.

Q: How does the creative process work in Meinhof? Is there one main songwriter or is it very collaborative?
Jarek: At the moment, I am the main songwriter. I am in the band from the very beginning, in fact I projected a style and the way to express the band's music format even before Meinhof was a performing act... The band is very important part of my life and I understand that it can be sometimes difficult for some to comply with my ideas, but with the passing of time I am more and more open to others opinions and suggestions. At the end, the band consist of three people, all of them possess a unique set of skills, which is crucial for the final result.
Davide: I have nothing to do with the making of songs and lyrics but I'm enjoying both as we all  feel quite the same way about what is around us. For sure I would be happy if these lyrics could wake up the minds of some people...  

Q: Your songs are driven by a strong political position, how did that politics take shape? Is your politics constantly evolving?
Jarek: Well, my politics are evolving all the time, as you are constantly exposed to new informations, to say the least. However I am a liberal, sympathizing with anarchist and antifascist ideas, which builds a base for my political stance.

Q: Do you hope that your music would wake people up to notice what is going on around them politically and socially?
Jarek: Would I still do it if I don't hope for that?

Q: I guess Meinhof would be classed as anarcho-punk, how would you say that scene is doing? Is it quite strong and healthy?
Jarek: To be honest, I don't know anymore... Punk is still a noticeable part of social culture, but on the other hand, it has lost its potency throughout the last decades... And anarcho-punk is just a fraction of what we call DIY punk scene, so let's be honest here, contemporary anarchists have a very marginal influence on what is happening in the world. Is it a real strength capable to effectively change the reality? I'd like to believe that, of course... Healthy? Well, nobody is perfect, also there is no single political or social idea perfectly right about fucking everything! Anarchism is just one of possible ways, and it would have to evolve and adapt to some circumstances if confronted with practice. I know a few people who call themselves anarcho-punx, and they are utter assholes, haha...

Q: Claudia Mesch wrote in ‘Art and Politics’ that mainstream culture is market and media driven (1) do you think the punk community with its ethos of DIY art and grassroots participation can be a site of resistance to passive capitalist consumption? Can the punk scene be something that encourages activism?
Jarek: I believe the punk community is a resistance to capitalism consumption, otherwise I wouldn't be a conscious participant in it! On the other hand, being part of resistance doesn't mean that we always win... We live in a particular reality, and there is no ultimate escape from it. Obviously, sometimes capitalism consumption can spoil our scene, we can see some examples of it... But the real fight is a struggle where you wrestle with the world you oppose, and where is struggle there are also compromises... Of course the punk scene encourages activism, and that's clear, however punk is a dying thing, so the activism is not to scale it used to be, in my honest opinion. -
Davide: I think punk can encourage activism but is not enough by itself to make it happen... I think activism is something even deeper in the personality then music...

Q: In the book 'One Chord Wonders' Laing comments that first wave punk created space for women to deconstruct and explore gender (2). Do you think that is still true of the punk/DIY scene or have gender stereotypes reasserted themselves?
Jarek: It depends... On one hand the punk scene is strongly influenced by feminism and female emancipation, but there are still some cases of sexism present anyway. It really does depend on individuals. Our scene is not perfect, it never was and never will be, but I can proudly say that it is still a kind of safe haven for women... Especially if you compare it to the outside world which is full of sexism, male dominance and brutal abuse towards women.  

Q: A lot of female musicians seem to experience a degree of sexism, an essentialist assumption that because they are a woman their musicianship will be less than a man's! What has your experience been like in the anarcho-punk/DIY scene? Is it a better place for women than other sub-cultures?
Rosy: I believe that anarcho-punk/DIY scene is a better place for women as we've opened our minds to more information than the newspapers or tv provide, and this give us a bigger view of how the real world is, but despite this there always will be some ignorants you can find in the way.
Davide: I guess women find a man-built society anywhere they are, but I don't see much of this assumption in the punk scene... In the contrary I think bands with girls are quite welcomed... But that's also a kind of sexism!

Q: Overall are you encouraged by the punk scene over the last 10 years? Do you think it has survived, thrived and developed in a positive way?
Jarek: Well, I will be a part of the scene even it will be long time gone, haha... It definitely survived, but unfortunately I wouldn't be so positive saying that it is developing... it is rather declining... But fuck it, we are still here aren't we?
Davide: I don't think the scene is improving or developing much, we are in London and there are quite a few of places where gigs are going on, but still, I think it is always less and less. I don't think the anarcho-punk is doing so well in London, there are a lot of bands but the amount of gigs on the full DIY spectrum are just a few, especially since the criminalisation of squatting...

Q: You are a band that plays all over Europe, what would your take be on how people are responding to the class war of neoliberal austerity being imposed all over Europe?
Jarek: Not that it is so important to mention, but we also played in Asia and South America... Well, that's a difficult question! You can see some protest and resistance, however I am afraid, that a wider activity or political awareness of people is suppressed by the most powerful weapon they have, consumption. When politician manage to secure the basic needs of their citizens, then nobody even ask for freedom anymore... That's why nationalism is on the rise worldwide! You could think that the working class would be the most resistant to those devastating tendencies, but here lies the surprise. The 19th century classical meaning of class war where workers fought to liberate themselves from capitalist oppression is not the characteristic of the today's world. To the contrary, nowadays the working class is the motor for nationalism, xenophobia and racism, fueled by political populism and ignorance. Look at Brexit…
Davide: I think since this new crisis people in Europe are fighting back less and less because they have much less time, energy and hope to change things as many are struggling to get to the end of the month... Also together with the austerity there's more police oppression and violence.  

Q: You have spent 10 years stimulating others to thought, how have you avoided becoming jaded?
Rosy: Music is among the things that give sense to my life so if one day I can't do it anymore that will be my last day in this fucking world!
Jarek: Well, I guess, the reality bites you each and every single day, so how could you possibly  be emotionless, unconcerned and bored?! Hahaha...  

Q: What are Meinhof's plans for 2017?
Jarek: There are some, I don't know if they are worth mentioning... But maybe a new album that we are planning to record this year...  

Q: What musicians, thinkers, writers have you been particularly influenced by? And who have you been enjoying lately?
Rosy: One of the bands I really enjoy back in the 90's is Minor Threat but I'm a very open person who like loads of bands and different styles of music. I love to read better than watch movies and George Orwell is one of this writers that make me see things how they really are and have a big influence in my way of think about this world. Now I'm reading a book about science by Richard Dawkins call "The Magic Of Reality" which is very interesting.Talking about thinkers,definitely Erich Fromm is among others,one of the most interesting that I've had read. Jarek: Well, too many to mention! I don't have any particular mentors to be influenced by... I am reading a biography of Ulrike Meinhof right now! We don't admire her and have never supported terrorism as a form of struggle for a better world, as it even sounds absurd, but she was a very interesting case and yes, I am enjoying her story, hahaha…


Bibliography.
1) Mesch, C. (2014) 'Art and Politics; a small history of art for social change since 1945', I. B. Tauris, London & New York.
(2) Laing, D. (2015) 'One Chord Wonders; Power and Meaning in Punk Rock', PM Press, Oakland, CA, USA.
Photo by Robak.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Brian Case: Tense Nature.


Photo by Zoran Orlic .
In a 2015 interview Brian Case, the frontman of Disappears, commented in response to a question about the band's last album Irreal, 'Yeah, that's something we really focus on - stripping away as much fat as we can and having this direct hit...'.That philosophy has carried on into his first solo album which, while very different from Disappears musically, has that same sense of pushing at boundaries. Brian's album Tense Nature was created by reordering and reworking guitar samples and small drum loops and is an unsettling listen, its twelve tracks closer to sound sculpture than traditional ideas of music. It is also an album that amply rewards the attention and time needed from the listener to access its intelligent sophistication.
Brian kindly agreed to an interview to discuss this work.

How long has the gestation period been internally for Tense Nature, is it a realisation of something that you've been thinking about a long time?

It's was about a year or two maybe? The first set of material I was playing solo ended up becoming another project I am involved in called Bambi Kino Duo with EVI player Justin Walter. That group of music needed something and was based more on live performance, it needed to react with another person and instrument. But I still wanted to do something by myself so I started sampling my guitar and editing those samples in random ways. From there it was a matter of figuring out how to make those samples interesting, figure out how to add some other elements to them.

Were there any people or bands that helped give you a sense of what you were trying to create?

Structurally I wanted to group things like Music For Films or some of the Moebius soundtracks, small pieces making a larger whole. There's also this Will Sergeant soundtrack called Theme's for "Grind" that works a lot like that. 

You have been in several bands and obviously that involves collaboration and,I guess, negotiation. What was it like working solo?

It's cool to have a vision and see it through, but I really love the collaboration in a group setting. It's exciting to think you know what's going to happen with a song or idea and have it come out completely different. This was a little more about trusting that these small pieces were going to form some kind of whole picture, so it had it's own twists I wasn't expecting. The two processes are really different from each other.

It sounds like an extremely complex album, was it difficult to realise technically?

Not so much. I guess you have to be able to edit yourself which is the hard part, but I've gotten pretty good about that in recent years. I mean, when something isn't working I feel like it's really obvious. I think the harder part is not giving up on something that you know has a place somewhere, even if you can't see it in front of you.

Is Tense Nature a realised vision, did you know what you creating from the start or was it more evolutionary than that?

It all came from hating playing solo, I hate it still. But I thought it was important to do something like that, to get uncomfortable and see what happens. I want to have the ability to do music on my own and these songs are the beginnings of that. They evolved from some pretty terrible shows!

In 2015 Disappears toured and released an interpretation of Bowie's 'Low'-I wondered whether covering 'Side 2' of Low was helpful in any way-such a musical shift for Bowie-did it encourage you?

Maybe inadvertently - I think everything you're processing, studying, creating gets into you in some way. But I think I'd started down this road a bit before then - I've been trying to play solo for years and I think it just pushed it's own way out.

Have you any plans to perform the album live-where would be most suitable, art gallery or club?

Good question - it'd definitely be better in a space where people can focus on the subtle nature of it, maybe that's not a rock club with a bar and a huge stage with a guy pushing buttons on a box. But sonically it requires something that can push some really low sub frequencies and that's usually not how galleries are set up. I'm still figuring it out....I'm doing some shows in Europe in the fall (2016) and they'll be opening for a band so it will be more rock situations for now. 

This is your debut album, can we hope for any more to come?

I've got some new stuff I'm working on and I've changed my set up a bit so that always leads to new music. I'm hoping to have some sort of release planned for early 2017.

Thanks to Brian for his time and words. Tense Nature is out on Hands in The Dark Records.